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

By Sarah Benesch | Go to book overview
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Chapter 3
Debating EAP Issues:
Pedagogy and Ideology

This chapter presents two major debates about EAP that have emerged in the last two decades. Each critique of EAP is followed by a discussion of the published responses to it in the EAP literature. The first debate is between L2 compositionists and EAP specialists, centering on what should and should not be taught to non-native speakers of English, especially those enrolled in ESL university writing classes in anglophone countries. It is an exchange about the most appropriate pedagogy and content for postsecondary composition courses. The second debate revolves around ideology, that is, the political implications of EAP's pragmatic approach to research and teaching. One purpose of discussing these debates is to demonstrate that EAP is a contested field in which openness to questions raised by critics strengthens its theory and practice. The other is to set the stage for chapter 4, where I outline a theory of critical EAR.


ESL compositionists Raimes, (1991a, 1991b), Spack (1988), and Zamel (1993, 1995) question EAP's premise that ESL college instruction should be guided by the specific demands of academic content courses. Instead, they view ESL writing courses as places where students can become better writers no matter what personal, academic, professional, or rhetorical situation they might encounter. That is, they favor general over specific English language teaching. In addition, they oppose EAP's reliance on academic genres as models of writing, believing that literary texts along with a variety of nonacademic articles and documents serve as better models for student writers. For these authors, then, ESL composition is a liberal arts course, part of students' formation in the humanities, preparation for an uncertain future.


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