Sunday, December 27, 2015

Time-consuming materials design

I haven't written a post for a while - the longest I've ever gone without doing so. In fact, the third anniversary of this blog was 30 November but I was too busy preparing lessons and correcting assignments to even think about it, let alone be inspired to write something.

I spend a lot of my working time preparing material and lessons (especially the kind of material I've been uploading on this blog), which I'm sure is true of most - all? - other teachers of ESP. I love the work because it's creative (for me) and relevant (for students), so it combines what I think is valuable in teaching. But it is, of course, time-consuming.

I think this is an issue that all teachers of English for Specific Purposes deal with. "Relevent" is a key word for me when I'm preparing lessons, but unfortunately much of the published material - both textbooks and online lessons - are not directly related to my students' specific areas or needs. The "English for Engineers"-type textbooks, even when well-prepared and well-written, do not necessarily focus on the specific aspects of my students' fields or aren't suited to their various language levels.

It is, of course, the nature of published materials that they tend to a "one size fits most" approach - even when they seem to have been created for a specific field and level. This is the main reason that my university doesn't use textbooks for our courses.

Tom Hutchinson and Alan Waters, in their text English for Specific Purposes: A learning-centred approach, focus on this in the chapter "Materials design." They write:

"Materials writing is one of the most characteristic features of ESP in pracice. In marked contrast to General English teaching, a large amount of the ESP teacher's time may well be taken up in writing materials."

Among the reasons they mention:

"A teacher or institution may wish to provide teaching materials that will fit the specific subject area of particular learners. Such materials may not be available commercially. In addition to the profusion of subject specialisms, there is also a wide range of course types."

In my institution there is certainly a wide range of "course types" - not only different areas of engineering, but different course designs and schedules that differ in number of hours devoted to English each semester.

So many - most? - ESP teachers end up creating their own material. That's why, in fact, I created this blog in the first place. As long as I'm already finding material to use with my students, then perhaps other teachers could use it as well. Or, if it doesn't suit their needs, they might still find the website, text, or visual useful - or might be inspired by the types of exercises or activities I use with the material.

Happy 3rd Anniversary!

In any case, I enjoy the work I do and enjoy the creativity of designing materials. So as I begin my fourth year writing this blog, I will continue to enjoy sharing my ideas and the variety of texts and visuals I find with other ESP teachers.

No comments:

Post a Comment