Critical English for Academic Purposes: Theory, Politics, and Practice

By Sarah Benesch | Go to book overview

PREFACE

Critical English for Academic Purposes: Theory, Politics, and Practice combines two fields that have much to offer each other: English for academic purposes (EAP) and critical pedagogy. EAP grounds English language teaching in the cognitive and linguistic demands of academic target situations, tailoring instruction to specific rather than general purposes. It therefore provides informed and focused instruction, based on needs analysis. Critical pedagogy, on the other hand, is concerned with institutional power relations, studying how students' and teachers' multiple identities complicate teaching and learning. It seeks ways to democratize societies by engaging students in decisions affecting their lives in and out of school. It questions the status quo: Why are things they way they are? Who decides? What are other possibilities?

Although EAP attends to the social construction of knowledge, it has, for the most part, overlooked sociopolitical issues affecting life in and outside of academic settings. The goal has been to study how academic discourse communities construct their tasks and genres, so they can be taught more effectively to EAP students. Yet, calls for greater attention to the wider social context have been made by Dudley-Evans and St. John (1998), Master (1998), and Swales (1994) to move EAP beyond its traditional pragmatic orientation. By merging EAP and critical pedagogy, Critical English for Academic Purposes: Theory, Politics, and Practice answers that call. It outlines the theories of EAP and critical pedagogy, discusses their relationship in critical EAP, and offers examples of experiments in critical EAP in linked general education undergraduate courses at a U. S. college.

Critical EAP engages students in the types of activities they are asked to carry out in academic classes while encouraging them to question and, in some cases, transform those activities as well as the conditions from which they arose. It takes into account the challenges non-native English speakers (NNES) face in their content classes while viewing students as active participants who can help shape academic goals and assignments rather than passively carrying them out. By encouraging students to consciously engage in academic life, critical EAP aims to increase their participation in the workplace, civic life and other areas.

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