Provision of in-sessional EAP in British HE institutions: Some problems and solutions

Andy Gillett

University of Hertfordshire

This talk was about some aspects of organising In-Sessional English Language Support Classes. I looked at some of the problem areas and some of the possible solutions. I then gave some of the solutions to these problems that BALEAP member institutions have found.

One of my favourite books on ELT is Earl Stevick’s Images and Option in the Language Classroom (CUP, 1986). Stevick is mainly interested in the teacher in the classroom but the main point of the second part of the book is that teachers have a lot of choices in every aspect of their teaching. He says that the purpose of the book is to “show some of my fellow … English teachers the rich possibilities that they were overlooking in their … materials.” So one of my objectives was to try to make people more aware of the range of options available in organising in-sessional classes.

What I said was based on my experience working at several universities in the late 1980s and early 1990s and trying to set up In-Sessional classes at UH – pretty much from zero - at the beginning of 1994 plus results from a small e-mail survey that I did before Easter 1998 (21 BALEAP members).

I think my basic question was:

How do you get the students who need it to come to the support classes?

OR

How do you organise support classes so that students can/will come?

So I’ve looked at areas where I think we have options, tried to offer a range of solutions, and tried to give you some idea of what BALEAP members are doing based on 21 responses to my e-mail questionnaire.

Category Range of options   BALEAP solutions (from survey)

Status

Credit bearing

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Not credit bearing

Mostly non-credit bearing
 

Voluntary/optional

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Compulsory

Often some kind of compulsion: conditional offers etc.
 

Free/centrally funded

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Someone (student or department) pays

Most centrally funded

Subject

Language skills

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Study skills

Both, but much counselling/advice.
 

General English

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EAP

Mostly EAP, skills based.
 

EGAP

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ESAP

Good mixture, tending towards ESAP when possible.
 

Immediate needs

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Long term needs

Many people mentioned need to address immediate needs.
 

Integrated skills

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Single skills based

Mostly single skills and mostly writing.
 

Pre-defined syllabus

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Syllabus negotiated

Some negotiation is preferable.
 

Textbook based

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Students’ materials

No mention.
 

One textbook

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Many textbooks

No mention

Course

Organised dates

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Drop in

Usually dates are published in advance but students join late.
 

Classes

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One to one

Most people had both.
 

Register

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No registration

Several people mentioned registration, but usually not.
 

General timetable

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In students' dept. timetable

Cooperation with subject departments useful (essential?) but difficult.
 

English rooms

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Subject rooms

Cooperation with sujcet departments useful but difficult.
 

Usual times

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Unusual times

Mostly 5.00-7.00, Wednesday pm, Lunchtimes
 

Entry test/assessment

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No test

Many people mentioned some kind of initial proficiency or diagnostic testing.
 

1 hour classes

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3 hour classes

A mixture of one-hour skills based classes and more general longer classes..
 

1 year

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3 days

Short intensive classes in vacations useful.
 

Lectures

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Workshops/Seminars

Lectures can accommodate more people but need following up.
 

Students limited

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No limit

Usually some limit is necessary.

Students

One subject/dept.

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Mixed subjects

Departmental specific courses useful where possible.
 

One nationality

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Mixed

Depends - arguments for both.
 

All students together

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U/G & P/G separate

Useful to separate u/g and p/g.
 

All students

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Only overseas

Some only overseas, most accept ERASMUS/SOCRATES too; including home-students is increasing.
 

One language level

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Multi-level

Ideally classes would be one language level.

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