Tuesday, 23 June 2009

A wish-list for ESP course design

Over the last 6 months I've done lots of presentations to promote the books in the ESP series I edit, Cambridge English for ..., which were launched at the BESIG conference last November. (In case you haven't noticed them yet, they're on proud display down the side of this blog).

Mostly these presentations have been on the topic of finding out and providing exactly what ESP students need. I built the presentations around the idea that there are some quick and easy (Q&E) techniques for ESP course design (e.g. creating a lesson out of a text from the internet), and there are other techniques for designing more useful and authentic materials (e.g. creating a credible dialogue to introduce and teach essential functional language for a given area of ESP). Unfortunately, these are much more difficult and time-consuming to produce, which is why I call them wish-list techniques, i.e. things we as teachers would love to do for our students if we had all the time and energy in the world.

So it may come as a surprise to anyone who saw my presentations that, so far, the lesson ideas in this blog have been from the Q&E side.

The reason is simple: most of the lessons that I write for my own teaching are actually very quick and easy to produce. I seem to be permanently rushing around, juggling with scary deadlines and trying to squeeze in a bit of quality time with my children, so I don't often have the luxury of spending four hours to create a one-hour lesson.

That's where the books come in - the ideal ESP book should, in my opinion, provide all those wish-list things like authentic and useful dialogues, leaving me as a teacher to supplement it with Q&E topical and personalised materials for my students. That at least has been one of the guiding principle behind the Cambridge English for ... series.

I'll try to work my way through some of the techniques from both sides over the coming months in this blog. There are quite a lot of them - my BESIG presentation had over 100 slides, which I tried to squeeze into a 45-minute presentation. (Yes, I know that was a silly thing to do).

But expect to see quite a few Q&E lesson ideas too - every time I create something for my students I'll blog about it.

In the meantime, I'll hand over to you. What's on your wish-list? What would you love to do with your ESP students, if only you had the time?

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