ESP News

ESP News, Volume 13:2 (March 2008)

by User Not Found | 11/08/2011

ESP News

In This Issue...

  • Convention Updates
    • Steering Board Nominations Sought
    • Key ESPIS Events at the 2008 Convention
  • Articles and Announcements
    • Writingmatrix, an Experience of the English Virtual Community Using Web 2.0
    • Book Review: Academic Writing for Graduate Students: Essential Tasks and Skills
    • Sally Jacoby (1949-2007): Her Contribution to LSP Needs Assessment
    • A Case of Indigenous Assessment Criteria

Convention Updates

Steering Board Nominations Sought

Karen Schwelle, ESPIS Chair (2007-2008),

One of the main orders of business at the ESPIS Open Meeting (Thurs., April 3, 5:30-6:30 p.m.) will be to elect members to open positions on the ESPIS Steering Board.

Each interest section’s Steering Board plays an important role, but the ESPIS Steering Board is especially significant because the ESPIS is such a diverse interest section. ESPIS members (as of February 2007) hail from 57 countries, work in a broad variety of teaching settings, and serve English language learners in a multitude of fields of work and study. When the ESPIS chair or chair-elect is called upon to speak for the interest section, plan programming for the conference, or undertake other initiatives on behalf of the ESPIS, the views and interests of this diverse membership must be taken into account. Members of the Steering Board provide insights into these views and interests.

Members of the Steering Board include the past chair, the newsletter editor, two representatives for English in academic settings (EAS), two representatives for English in occupational settings (EOS), and a member-at-large.

Positions that will be filled at the 2008 conference are

  • One EAS representative, to serve until 2010
  • One EOS representative, to serve until 2010
  • Chair-elect, to become chair in 2009

If you would like to nominate yourself or a colleague for one of these positions, or if you have questions about the responsibilities involved in any of these positions, please contact Karen Schwelle ( or Oswald Jochum ( Members’ comments and questions about the governance of the ESPIS are always welcome.

Key ESPIS Events at the 2008 Convention

As you plan your itinerary for the 2008 TESOL Convention, please note the following ESPIS events.

Thursday, April 3

8:30-10:15 a.m., ESPIS Academic Session: “Empowering East African Women Through ESP” (Oswald Jochum, Alice Murray, Ruth Petzold, Ethel Swartley, and Kay Westerfield)
Hilton, Bryant Suite
What is the impact of English for specific purposes training on increasing economic opportunities for women? This session explores the intersection of gender, economic development, and targeted language training in the West African context through the personal stories of three West African ESP practitioners.

10:15-11:15 a.m., ESPIS Academic Session: “Language Policy in the EFL Labor Force” (Oswald Jochum, Anne Lomperis)
Hilton, Bryant Suite
Data are presented from a survey on language policy in the educational system and labor force of EFL countries. Future agendas are discussed for shaping policy and associated professional development of workplace English trainers to meet the demand for a qualified labor force in priority industry sectors.

5:00-6:00 p.m., ESPIS Open Business Meeting
Sheraton, Park Suite 2
Elections will be held to fill open Steering Board positions, and ESPIS activities during the 2007-2008 year will be discussed.

6:00-7:00 p.m., Memorial Tribute to Sally Jacoby
Sheraton, Park Suite 2 (same location as the Open Business Meeting)
Colleagues and friends of longtime ESPIS member Sally Jacoby, who passed away in 2007, will honor her contributions to the field of ESP.

Friday, April 4

7:30-9:15 a.m., ESPIS Planning Meeting
Sheraton, Park Suite 2
ESPIS activities for the 2008-2009 year, such as a possible application for special project funds, will be discussed. We will make every effort to wrap up in time for ESPIS members to attend the 8:30 a.m. InterSection with the TEIS.

8:30-10:15 a.m., InterSection with the Teacher Education IS: “ESP Principles and Practice and Teacher Education” (Hilda Fanta, John Flowerdew, Adelaide Parsons, Margaret van Naerssen, and Kay Westerfield)
Hilton, Sutton North
Focus is on the importance of and strategies for including English for Specific Purposes (ESP) in graduate-level ESL/EFL/ELT teacher preparation programs. Particular emphasis is on the value of hands-on practice illustrating theory and best practices outside academic settings to better understand needs assessment, the core principle in ESP.

Saturday, April 5

8:30-10:15 a.m., InterSection with the Speech/Pronunciation IS: “Incorporating Listening and Speaking in ESP Instruction” (Angel BishopPetty, Robert Engel, Marvin Hoffland)
Hilton, Rendezvous Trianon
Listening and speaking skills in English are critical to the success of professionals in aviation, medical, and medical technical fields. However, these skills are often neglected in materials designed for these professionals. The presenters share examples of materials that help ESP learners become proficient at interacting in job-related contexts.

Articles and Announcements

Writingmatrix, an Experience of the English Virtual Community Using Web 2.0

Nelba Quintana,

I have moderated an e-group since 2001. It is called English Virtual Community, or EVC ( I created it to gather people together who are learning, teaching, or just interested in the English language. The aim is to practice the language and inform members about events in English. In order to practice the language, any member can propose a discussion topic.

At the beginning of 2007, I suggested summer reading as a topic to discuss on the EVC list. Vance Stevens, a participant in the list, invited participants to post their writings on blogs and find each other’s posts through tagging. Unfortunately, EVC members did not follow up on Vance’s suggestion.

Some time later, in a chat session, Stevens told me he would like to carry out an intercultural project using blogs and applying the concepts of aggregation, tagging, and RSS. I was interested in the idea. The project was called Writing Matrix.

Little by little, a team of six facilitators from different countries was formed: Vance Stevens (Abu Dabi), Doris Molero (Venezuela), Sasha Sirk (Slovenia), Rita Zeinstejer (Rosario, Argentina), and me (La Plata, Argentina). We are all teachers of English involved in ICTs.

The Project

All of us asked our students to blog, but blogging would not be used to do homework. So that participants’ writing would be fresh and personal, we asked them to blog about any topic that interested them. If every participant’s blog were different in content, others were more likely to be attracted to them, and reading them would not be tedious. Because teachers and students were from different countries, the experience was intercultural and much more interesting.

Writingmatrix in EVC

All facilitators invited their own students to work on the Project. But in order to get participants for my group, I sent an invitation to the members of the EVC list. Some people answered promptly.

This group is different from the others in Writing Matrix project because I never meet my participants face to face because they are not my students. I do not teach them in an ordinary face to face course. On the one hand, this may be considered a disadvantage because there is no body language or eye contact, which helps communication as in face-to-face classes. On the other hand, this situation may be considered an advantage for this project because it gives participants practice using chat and e-mail.

Not only do EVC participants belong to different parts of the country, but they also are of different ages, have different occupations, and are at markedly different levels of Internet knowledge. They have different levels of English, ranging from pre-intermediate to intermediate. Although they are of different ages and have different levels of English and computing knowledge, they all share the same interest: exploring Web 2.0 using a second language.

Participants in my particular Writingmatrix group in 2007 were Matías (Ensenada), Bárbara (Bahía Blanca), Jorge (La Plata; student at the School of Languages), Eugenia (La Plata), María Luján (Mar del Plata), Rosaura (Magdalena), and Ksenia (Russia).

The Way We Worked

We usually worked in the following way: I used e-mail during the week proposing activities for their blogs—for example, writing about certain topics, inserting an image or a video, or adding a tag. At the same time participants may ask me questions about these activities if they have difficulties while doing any of these activities. Once every 2 weeks, we meet in a chat session to talk about our achievements, visit each others’ blogs, and make comments on them.

Some participants of Doris Molero’s group from Venezuela have joined our chat sessions, making these interactions culturally enriching.

The Writingmatrix project has been very challenging because our contact is completely virtual, and takes place either by synchronous chat or by asynchronous e-mail. Constant feedback and fluent communication are the keys to success.

From the project, participants have learned

  • how to blog,
  • how to insert images and videos,
  • what bookmarking and tagging mean and why they are important, and
  • how to open an account in Bloglines, Technorati, and

Also, two participants started exploring the pingback and trackback features inherent in some blogs.

In general, all participants are very motivated to blog because their writings have a real audience and they are very happy when they receive comments in their blogs from people from other countries. They also learn collaboratively because they are involved in each other’s learning and progress.

For me, the teacher, it has been a very satisfying experience from both a professional and personal point of view. Through working with this project, I have become more confident as a leader of an online group. The project has motivated me to research topics pertaining to the social networking aspects of blogging and tagging, and I am able to transmit that knowledge to the participants.

The project goes on. There is a lot to explore in Web 2.0.

My Blog:

Nelba Quintana is a teacher of English language and literature at the National University of La Plata. She has been involved in ICTs since 1998, developed different online projects, and written articles about technology and education for different educational supplements (Clarín, Buenos Aires Herald, TESOL Magazine). She also manages the virtual environment of the ICAB (Instituto Cultural Argentino Británico)-La Plata and gives workshops on Web 2.0 tools applied to education.

Book Review: Academic Writing for Graduate Students: Essential Tasks and Skills

Frank Smith,

Swales, J., & Feak, C. (2004). Academic writing for graduate students: Essential tasks and skills (2nd ed.). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. ISBN:0-472-08856-4

As part of the growing English for Academic & Professional Purposes (EAPP) series from the University of Michigan Press, the second edition of Academic Writing for Graduate Students: Essential Tasks and Skills is an excellent classroom text and resource for upper-level academic writers and instructors. Though the text is targeted to a multidisciplinary graduate classroom, and I used the first edition in that context, I recently used the second edition in ESP Legal English classes for students in the Master of Laws (LLM) program at the Indiana University School of Law, Indianapolis; I found the second edition equally useful in a “monodisciplinary” classroom. Though resulting conversations have been technically less diverse, they have been no less rich. While the students are studying in the same program and taking some of the same classes, they have different legal interests and are in different legal tracks. As a result, classroom discussions are lively, and the students contribute from differing perspectives.

The additions and alterations to the second edition are welcome, though the core structure and direction of the second edition are fundamentally the same. The new edition addresses the natural issue of aging that is endemic to most textbooks by updating data sets and most of the time-bound readings. Similarly, to keep up with the impact of communicative technology in academia, the authors expand a discussion of e-mail practices and etiquette, an increasingly vital, inescapable mode of communication between professor and student, particularly at the graduate level. In addition, as the text is designed primarily for the multidisciplinary graduate writing class, the types of disciplines addressed in the various activities and readings are further diversified, now including areas such as marketing and nursing. However, the most functional aspects of this text remain quite intact. Though cohesive, this text easily lends itself to selective use, and though the writing and language skills are explored through readings in various disciplines, the focus always returns to students’ disciplinary needs.

Each chapter focuses on the various types of writing that one finds in some upper-level undergraduate classes and most graduate classes. The early chapters address issues of idiom and organization that are likely to be somewhat familiar to students: the formality of academic writing, patterns of general to specific and problem/solution writing, definitional structure and usage, and general process papers. The fourth chapter, which the authors describe as “the crucial link between the earlier and later units,” is a sophisticated exploration of how to manage and express interpretations of and commentaries on data. Especially important in the fourth chapter are the numerous activities that explore how to write about data, from accurately qualifying the strength of claims to cohesively referring to and integrating information about data in a commentary or paper. The final four chapters are dedicated to more advanced writing tasks: summaries (including comparative summaries, an invaluable resource for graduate students), critiques, and fundamentals about research papers. The latter section addresses information about writing papers when using others’ research and when using the student’s own research.

Much of this book is simply gold. The text deftly facilitates necessary cohesion in a class of students with diverse research interests. The most obvious, natural way to use this text is for the class to work through the activities and then apply the skills addressed to examples of writing and/or articles in the students’ own discipline. Not only does this method emphasize the shared qualities of effective writing across multiple disciplines, but it allows the ever-busy graduate student to return focus constantly to his or her field, or, in the monodisciplinary class, the student's research interest. The readings and activities are of manageable size, so the average graduate student need never feel overburdened or too distracted from her or his academic focus, a complaint EAP students often have when engaging in language study. In addition, it is natural to use this text in combination with whatever writing or readings the student is currently engaged or has already written or read in his or her core classes. Such usage inevitably increases student interest in the skills, the text, and the class.

Each chapter also contains multiple “language focus” sections, which typically address grammar or language structures in a way that is clearly focused on improving writing beyond the basic undergraduate level. These sections are extremely useful in both increasing understanding of the language structures the students read and assisting them in developing a more academically appropriate tone in their own writing. However, depending on the skills of the students in the individual class, many of the language focus sections may require grammar supplementation and scaffolding for the student. For example, a language focus section in chapter two deals with the reduction of relative clauses in the grammar of definitional structures. The explanations, examples, and activities in this section are clear, though the instructor may find that, depending on student knowledge, it is necessary to first review restrictive and nonrestrictive relative clauses, passive voice, and active/stative verbs.

A distinct strength of this book is that it does not attempt to be all things writing to the graduate student and writing instructor. Rather, it provides an essential framework for exploring what makes graduate academic writing effective in a fundamentally flexible way. Indeed, the authors note in the introduction that “AWG is a text that instructors should use selectively. . . . Instructors should be encouraged to substitute activities and, more particularly, texts more suited to their own particular circumstances.” As such, though easy to use as a primary text, this book is not intended to be the only classroom resource used; were it to attempt to be all things to all graduate students, it would be sprawling, unwieldy, inefficient, and prohibitively expensive.

Finally, an additional strength is that the text approaches academic writing as needing to be effective, sophisticated, and clear rather than focusing on the “right” or “wrong” way to express ideas in writing. Though “answers” to the activities can be found in the Instructor’s Commentary (a separate but valuable text), the approach of the commentary is to stimulate student thinking about effective possibilities rather than provide answers that are “right” or “wrong.” Often the authors relate multiple student perspectives from their own teaching experiences in answer to a question rather than provide a black-and-white answer. This kind of “answer” may initially be maddening to students (although I find that the legal English learners love these debates/discussions), but it is a necessary step in helping students both elevate and free their writing from simpler, more basic expression to writing that is rhetorically effective, precise, nuanced, and at a level typically required of upper-level and graduate writing students.

Sally Jacoby (1949-2007): Her Contribution to LSP Needs Assessment

Margaret van Naerssen

Sally Jacoby, who had careers in the theater, English as second language, and the academic community, died on July 27 from cancer-related complications. Her pioneering work developing the concept of indigenous assessment criteria was a significant, research-based contribution to language for specific purposes (LSP) needs assessment. Unfortunately, communications between researchers and practitioners are frequently not sustained, so I feel it is important to reinforce her work at this time for those in ESP.

She drew criteria for assessment of communication skills from the community individuals she interacted with, not from linguists or testers imposing standards from outside. She went beyond the formal standards for performance within a specific job context (e.g., supervisors’ checklists, professional standards) to capture the informal evaluative comments regarding performance (See A Case of Indigenous Assessment Criteria elsewhere in this newsletter).

The TESOL Workplace Program Standards Task Force included her work in the chapter on instructional needs assessment in Best Practices in Workplace Language Training (submitted to TESOL, 2000). (See excerpt below.) Language assessment experts such as Tim McNamara and Dan Douglas became interested in her work, collaborating with her on publications. She presented some of her research and introduced ethnolinguistics in an ESPIS Academic Session at a TESOL convention.

Because research done using tools from ethnomethodology is time-consuming, LSP/ESP practitioners may wish to establish a collaborative effort with those doing ethnolinguistic research (for theses, dissertations, or ongoing research). Researchers could see a “real world” application of research, and LSP/ESP practitioners could enrich their ongoing needs assessment and materials development with insiders’ perspectives of one aspect of the professional community and culture of their learners.

Selected References on Indigenous Assessment Criteria
Douglas, D. (2000). Assessing languages for specific purposes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Jacoby, S. W. (1998). Science as performance: Socializing scientific discourse through the conference talk rehearsal. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles. Jacoby, S. W., & T. McNamara. (1999). Locating competence. English for specific Purposes, 18(3), 213-241.

Excerpt From Best Practices in Workplace Language Training Featuring Jacoby’s Work

Section VI: Conduct an Instructional Needs Assessment
Best Practice 4: [The workplace language training provider] identifies approaches and strategies for the needs assessment

Identification of indigenous assessment criteria.
Jacoby (1998) proposed that it is not enough to ask the specialist directly about criteria as this may not capture some of the detailed insider criteria a specialist might use. We need to look at what insiders say and do all the time as part of their professional culture. These insider criteria can be identified through detailed observations of evaluative communication in a workplace/professional culture between trainers and trainee/novices/newcomers to a field or to workplace tasks. The researcher focuses on the routine responses (verbal and non-verbal) a trainer makes to routine workplace/professional performance by trainees. These responses categorize the performance as being competent or less than competent. (Also see Jacoby and McNamara 1999, cited in Douglas 2000.)

Glossary entry:
Indigenous assessment criteria: criteria made explicit by experienced insider members of workplace cultures when socializing novices to insider professional and communication competence and when formally or informally assessing the professional and communication performances of workplace apprentices.
[Glossary entry as approved by Jacoby, personal communication

TESOL Workplace Program Standards Task Force members: Margaret van Naerssen and Kay Westerfield (Cochairs) and Joan Friedenberg, Anne Lomperis, and William Martin

A Case of Indigenous Assessment Criteria

Margaret van Naerssen

A researcher trained in ethnomethodology is studying interactions in a nursing class. The researcher and an assistant are videotaping a class using two video cameras. This is your class.

You are a nursing educator.
You are working with a group of nursing students
Your class is focusing on communication skills with patients.
The class has done some role-playing, some students acting as patients with specific symptoms. Some are acting as nurses. The role plays have been videotaped.
Now you and the class are viewing the videotaped role plays.
You are making comments on the role plays, and subconsciously you are giving non-verbal feedback.
Nursing students are adding their observations/ comments and noticing your non-verbal feedback.
You are also responding to their contributions.

Later you also replay the video of role plays back in your office. As you view/evaluate each role play-- you are using an evaluation form containing rubrics that you have developed and regularly use to grade role-plays.

Later the researcher analyzes the videotape, focusing on the evaluative comments that you’ve made, paying special attention to your comments and non-verbal communication as they relate to 1) problems the “nurse” in the role play had with appropriate communications with the “patient”, and 2) evaluative comments about the contributions from the students. The researcher groups the instructor’s verbal and non-verbal feedback to identify what professional values were being revealed. The researcher is identifying indigenous assessment criteria that emerge from your interactions with the nursing students about their performance.

Later the researcher asks to look at your evaluation forms, your grading of each role play, and notices that in the formal evaluation form certain criteria were given more weight than others. In the analysis of the actual interactions with the nursing students other (and even new) criteria appeared to be highlighted by your comments and non-verbal communication. The researcher feels that it could be interesting to observe more role play classes to see if these differences continue. If they do, then these may be the unstated values that are being promoted, at least by this instructor, as the nursing students are being socialized into their profession.