Experiences for English Language Teaching

How I Got Involved in Teaching English for Academic Purposes

I have been very fortunate to be involved in an area of English teaching for the last few years which I find incredibly fascinating and extremely rewarding, especially when you see the progress that undergraduate and post-graduate international students make within a period of time. In this post and video, I share my experiences of how I got involved in the teaching of English for Academic Purposes (also known as EAP).

Before I share how I discovered this element of academic English and EAP, I really need to focus on what started my journey within the field of English language teaching. I first discovered the English teaching profession by chance when I moved to South Korea to teach English to young learners at a small private after-school institute. It was this that ignited my passion within English teaching and motivated me enough to undertake an initial teacher training certificate – the CELTA – after a year of teaching to these wonderful young learners.

After teaching in South Korea for 3 years, I returned to the UK in February 2009 and wished to continue my English teaching career. I went to a well-established local language school, where my wife undertook her general English course many years before, for an interview. Needless to say, my interview was unsuccessful, yet I was undeterred and went to another school with renewed enthusiasm and willingness to succeed. I landed the job in the winter months where I was thrown into the deep end of teaching English to an Elementary group of Arabic speakers. I was stressed, worried and had to restart my learning all over again, as the students were very different to the students that I had taught in South Korea.

A year passed and I decided that it would make sense to learn more about English language teaching, so I got in touch with a local university that was running a Master’s programme in English Language Teaching. I went to informally meet with the course convenor to talk about the programme and to discuss about my experience and opportunities post-MA. Before I knew it, I was registering and starting the course in the Autumn months of 2010.

It was an incredibly rewarding and invaluable course which offered a fresh perspective within the English language teaching field, something different to the private English teaching industry and was encouraged to get involved with a summer course and teaching a closed group of Japanese learners. Furthermore, I was able to complete a Diploma-level qualification (much like a DELTA or a Trinity DipTESOL) as part of my MA and graduated with two qualifications. I suppose this was a success but I was more interested in teaching abroad and my time associated with my university ended, as I moved to Romania to work with the British Council in Bucharest.

I arrived in Bucharest in January of 2012 and was involved with teaching adult and young learners. The British Council were offering their teachers a chance to complete a young learner extension certificate with Trinity: Trinity Young Learner Extension Certificate (TYLEC). So, I decided that I would do this course over a 9 week period. Unfortunately, my time in Romania ended earlier than expected as my wife and son were in the UK and this time away was straining our relationship. By September, I was back in the UK and returned to teach at the private language school where I started after returning from South Korea.

During the spring months of the following year (2013), I was asked if I were interested in being involved to be Young Learner Co-ordinator with this private language school. I enquired how long the position would be offered and the school told me that it were for just the summer. I told them that I would not be interested unless they offered me a permanent position. There was a lot of negotiation over the coming days but this permanent position was offered. I signed the contract and my new position started in April 2013.

I found myself having to supplement my income more and more over the coming years as my salary was not reviewed for a period of time. In fact, when I approached the directors about this, it was suggested that I had in fact received an indirect pay increase as the company were contributing to my private pension. I was naturally unhappy with this explanation and returned home one lunch time to write up my resignation and hand it to my Director of Studies. I felt that if my salary were not to be considered then it was time for me to move on. This position was advertised and a number of people applied for this, but the successful candidate took on my role for a lower salary. I remained in this position until April 2019.

After my wife suggested that I get in touch with my previous university, I sent an email to who I assumed was the equivalent of the Director of Studies enquiring about possible teaching posts. It turned out that this person was now the Director of the Department and he forwarded my email to the relevant person. I was invited in to teach a short eight-week course to a closed group of Chinese learners. I also was asked if I would consider teaching a pre-sessional course in the summer months and an interview could be arranged. I was thrilled. A pre-sessional is a preparatory course for international students who require support in developing the necessary skills required to successfully complete an undergraduate or post-graduate degree at an English speaking university.

I arrived at the university one day to attend the interview and for this I had to review a student essay and to recommend suggested areas to focus on with future teaching sessions. I was very nervous and my knowledge related to EAP was very limited. Thus, I researched a lot online, found some relevant websites and wrote up a suggestion of possible future areas of focus with this possible student in relation to their academic writing. I was asked a variety of questions about what possible aspects could international students in the UK may find difficult in relation to their home-based university. I focused on the culture of academia and possible differences associated with this and the interviewers were nodding – always a good sign. After a week or so, I received the fortunate news that I was accepted on to teach a summer pre-sessional course and this was in the summer months of 2019.

I thoroughly enjoyed the pre-sessional course and I was helped my some highly experienced colleagues. I must have been doing something right as I was asked to get involved in 2020 with an online pre-sessional course and fingers crossed for this year. I am now trying to learn more and more about this fascinating subject and my entrance within the EAP profession was essentially down to luck – being at the right place, at the right time.


Thank you for reading this rather long post and I also appreciate those that watched my corresponding video.

If you are involved within EAP, do you remember how you got involved within this area of English teaching? Are you a teacher who is keen to experience EAP? Share your thoughts and views in the comments.

2 Comments

  1. Martin. A great reflective post and video as always. Firstly, I think I was teaching in South Korea around the same time (2007-8) as you. Secondly, you did your MA around the same time as me, too (2011-12). Furthermore, I also got into EAP at a similar time, although I tried one in 2013 but didn’t last the pace. I was hired in 2014 but never made the journey, something I always regretted. I eventually plucked up the courage to reapply in 2017 and completed two successive summers on the INTO UEA pre-sessional. That is where I develop a love of EAP. Last year, I was in Sheffield, as you know, teaching on their fully online pre-sessional.

    Now, like many others, we are waiting to find out if there are enough students enrolled with Sheffield this coming summer. It’s a nail biting wait for a job offer. I am not going to apply anywhere else, unless no offer comes… hoping to hear something by the end of March!

    Phil

    • Martin Sketchley

      Good luck Phil with your EAP journey. I have found the whole experience incredibly rewarding. I am sure you are aware, but you can find other employment opportunities (if you need to) on the BALEAP website: https://www.baleap.org/jobs

      I am sure there will be enough students for the summer pre-sessional.

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