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EL Research

EAP – The medium or the message?

English for academic purposes (EAP) is the branch of ELT that concerns itself with the study of English in, and for, higher education, Claudia Civinini writes. We wanted to have a taste of the research that powers teaching practice in EAP, and we went right to the source: the courses that prepare future EAP instructors. We talked to Professor Sue Wharton, course leader of the MA English language teaching – EAP and ESP at the University of Warwick, and Dr Heath Rose, course leader of the MSc Teaching English Language in University Settings (TELUS) at the University of Oxford. Their responses focus on the ever-increasing use of English as a medium of instruction (EMI) in higher education, and the changes brought by the use of English as a lingua franca (ELF).

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Neuroscience meets linguistics

letters

Claudia Civinini looks at a review trying to connect neurolinguistics and the classroom

Knowing what a P600 is might not be at the top of a teacher’s priorities – except to make sure that it is not yet another requirement of their school’s nightmarish bureaucracy. Certainly, the fact that the P600 is a type of brain response often associated with syntax violations could make it very interesting to language teachers. It would be even more compelling if they could use this knowledge in class. But can neurolinguistics inform classroom teaching, and if so how?

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A Compass To Navigate Education

Claudia Civinini presents an overview of a substantial body of research which analyses the evidence behind many educational practices and interventions

 The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) is an independent grant-making charity founded by the Sutton Trust whose mission is to close the attainment gap for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. It aims to do so by collaborating with research institutions to test educational practices and interventions, and provide evidence about which of these work best – and at what cost. They then collect their results in the Early Years and Teaching and Learning (5–16-year-old) Toolkits ‘so that schools have the best possible evidence on which to base their own professional judgements’.

The Toolkits list practices and interventions such as ‘Teaching Assistants’ or ‘Block Scheduling’ (longer lessons but fewer of them), and for each of these they indicate the cost, strength of the supporting evidence and average impact measured in terms of months of learning they can add – or subtract – to the student’s education, from +8 to -4, taking average pupil progress over a year as a benchmark. In our bid to dedicate more space to evidence-based teaching, we believe the tools offered by EEF can make a good compass for teachers and policy-makers alike. On this page we offer an overview of what works really well with very young learners and students aged 5–16, and for the latter group we also show you which practices we thought would work wonders but actually don’t, which practices don’t work and which ones can be potentially damaging. Overall, the evidence points to something that we all know, but that curiously doesn’t get the same attention as the latest technological gadget: teachers and their expertise are the greatest asset in a school.

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EL Young learners: Creating a Clil controversy?

Lucélia Ribeiro Sandy

Claudia Civinini reports on a controversial new study investigating bilingual education in Spain, while Bilingual Teaching Association president and study authors join the discussion

While many studies highlight a positive link between bilingual programmes (Clil) and foreign language learning, it is not yet clear what impact these programmes have on the learning of the actual content of a subject course taught in a foreign language.

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Research round-up

Two topics animate newsroom discussions at the Gazette: one is politics, the other is language learning. While it’s hard to imagine us running out of issues to discuss in politics, keeping our language learning debates alive and relevant requires some research. That is one of the reasons why we, in our editor’s words, read an ‘inordinate amount’ of research papers – mostly in the field of applied linguistics and education – and survey academics. The other more serious reason is that current research is the lifeblood of classroom practice. With our Research News in Brief we wish to inspire teachers and foreign language aficionados alike – and the section will grow as we dedicate more space to evidence-based teaching.

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