Diane Schmitt, lecturer in EFL at Nottingham Trent and Baleap chair, explains what the group is all about
As a long-standing member of Baleap and the current chair of the organisation, I have become accustomed to explaining who we represent and what we do. A good starting point is always the pronunciation of our organisation’s name – it is easy to remember if you picture a sheep jumping, we are baa – leap.
Historically, the letters stood for the British Association of Lecturers in English for Academic Purposes. However, our decision to become a registered charity in 2010 corresponded with the exponential growth in the delivery of English-medium instruction (EMI) worldwide and growing interest in our activities from colleagues in Europe, Asia, North America and Oceania. Thus, we decided that it no longer made sense to limit our focus only to EAP provision and EAP practitioners working in Britain. Now our strapline demonstrates our aim to be a forum for EAP professionals worldwide.
What does Baleap do? Our main area of activity is teacher development. Although the number of people learning English worldwide is huge, until relatively recently teaching EAP was a small niche area in the larger field of EFL. As a result, EAP received little attention in teacher education courses.
According to the OECD, the number of students studying internationally has doubled since 2000, with over 39 per cent choosing to study in the major English-speaking countries. Coupled with the increasing number of universities in non-English-speaking countries offering courses and degrees through EMI, this means we are seeing a shortage of teachers with appropriate EAP experience or qualifications. Most practising EAP teachers learn on the job and many struggle to develop the relevant know-how to provide targeted academic English language instruction to students either preparing for, or already engaged in, degree-level study.
Baleap has been a lifeline for many teachers because it offers a community where they can come together to develop and share good practice in EAP programme design and delivery, materials development, classroom teaching, assessment and increasingly EAP teacher education and research. We exchange teaching ideas and research findings via a lively email discussion forum, one-day seminars held three or four times a year and our biannual conference.
To encourage research in EAP, we run a research training series and offer an annual award for the best MA dissertation on an EAP topic. We also work closely with the Journal of English for Academic Purposes, which is the flagship journal in our area.
In 2014 we launched the Teaching English for Academic Purposes Portfolio, which is an individual practitioner professional accreditation scheme. The aim of the scheme is to enhance the quality of the student academic experience through facilitating the education, training, scholarship and professional development of those in the sector. While the portfolio does not replace academic qualifications, it aims to support already practising teachers in their development as EAP practitioners through its link to the Baleap Competency Framework for Teachers of English for Academic Purposes. The scheme offers three levels of fellowship status for teachers at various stages of their careers.
Quality assurance of EAP programmes is another key area of Baleap activity. The Baleap Accreditation Scheme is a peer review quality assurance and quality enhancement scheme designed to establish and sustain the standard required of specialist courses in English for academic purposes. The label ‘Baleap-accredited’ is a recognised symbol for students and their sponsors looking for high-quality EAP programmes and for teachers looking for work on such programmes.
Accreditation focuses on EAP course design and teaching and learning with specific reference to the institutional context, course management, course design, learning and teaching and assessment, evaluation and progression. Accreditation is open to institutions worldwide.
Baleap members are passionate about EAP and about students studying through English as a second language. If you share our passion or advise students aiming to study in an EMI environment, please go to www.baleap.org to find out more.
The next Baleap conference will be at the University of Bristol 7–9 April 2017. See http://baleap2017.org for more information