Private Sector VESL: Some Sources by Rick Simon
Dudley-Evans, Tony and St. John, Maggie Jo, 1998 Developments in English for Specific Purposes: A multidisciplinary approach. Cambridge University Press.
This textbook provides a comprehensive description of the theory and practice of ESP. It is based not only on extensive research, but, more importantly, the actual experience of the authors. The data in each chapter is both informative and practical; it not only makes you think, it shows you how to apply the ideas through real world tasks. I would evaluate this work as an excellent resource for students wishing to familiarize themselves with ESP, and an absolute necessity for any practitioner involved in program design, implementation or evaluation. The research is extensive, with over 300 citations in the bibliography. Dudley- Evans argues that the approach to teaching reading and writing in ESP programs is signifi- cantly different from school based approaches in that its focus is on providing immediate, practical and measurable outcomes in occupation specific areas. The major topics are simi- lar, but the instructional materials and methodology is quite different. According to Dudley- Evans there are four major stages in designing and implementing ESP programs: Needs Assessment, Course Design/Materials Selection, Teaching/Learning and Evaluation. The following articles in this paper parallel of each of these stages.
Stage One: Needs Assessment.
West, Linda. 1984 Needs assessment in occupational specific VESL. English for Specific Purposes Journal, Vol. 3, pp. 143-152.
This is a very practical approach to short term, occupation specific VESL training. The gist of West’s message is, “In ESP there is no room for ‘self-discovery’ or development of a ‘personal voice.’” She recommends a two-pronged approach to conducting workplace needs assessment: Use of specialized references such as the Dictionary of Occupational Titles and actual workplace observation.
The first step is analyzing how written material such as instructions, job procedures, memos, etc. are used on the job. Once the language materials are identified she recommends orga- nizing them into Content Areas (equipment, safety procedures, and quality control) and Language Requirements (vocabulary, situation, function, structures and register.) She con- cludes that a careful needs assessment prior to initiating training will avoid many problems down the road and ensure that the training focuses on what the students need to perform successfully on the job. Data is based on two sources: U.S. Department of Labor and other job market reference books and workplace observation.
Stage Two: Course Design/Materials Selection.
Litywick, David M. 1979 Procedure: The key to developing an ESP curriculum. TESOL Quarterly, Vol. 13, no. 3, pp. 383-391.
According to David Litwick textbooks are not available “off the shelf” to provide specific ESP. Instead, it is up to the employer to design specialized curriculum that meets his/her particular needs. His suggestions concur with the recommendations of West: “ …analyze trainee and job needs and detail specific performance objectives to meet these needs.” He also concurs with other authors I cite in this review regarding classroom materials: “…they should be based on authentic workplace documents and procedures…and adapted into exer- cises to teach vocabulary, grammatical structure and rhetoric.”
A complete lesson, for example will have a pre-reading stage which teaches vocabulary, grammar and rhetoric taken from authentic workplace materials, and the post-reading stage will evaluate student acquisition in the same areas. The final component, “Pilot and Revise Material” should contain a feedback loop so that the material can continually be revised and updated to improve the effectiveness of the instruction.
Stapp, Yvonne F. 1998 Instructor-employer collaboration: A model for technical workplace English. Eng- lish for Specific Purposes Journal, Vol. 17, no. 2, pp. 169-181.
This is a case study which focuses on how actual workplace materials were successfully used as the “textbook” for ESL reading and writing instruction. It describes how a course to train refugee immigrant workers was designed in a printing company around a “job ticket” which was used by the company to list all the details of each job. Key to the success of this program appears to be the cooperation/collaboration of the employer, the dedication and enthusiasm of the trainees and their fellow workers, and the creativity of the outside training staff.. Again, authentic workplace material was the textbook for the course.
1984 ESP for nursing assistants and home health workers. English for Specific Pur- poses Journal, Vol. 3, pp. 165-170.
Vivian describes a community college based VESL program to train limited English refu- gees with a 90 hour intensive program designed to qualify them for employment upon com- pletion of training.
The program operated in two phases:
A Preparation Course to teach general medical English with emphasis on technical vocabu- lary, and
A Language Support Course which provided vocational technical vocabulary, listening pro- ficiency, and study skills.
It is interesting to note that all three of the training programs described above had the same emphasis: curriculum designed around authentic workplace materials and employer in- volvement in the design and implementation of training.
Stage Three: Teaching/Learning
1999 Reading and the adult English language learner. National Clearinghouse for Liter- acy Eduation. ERIC Digest: ED433729
This article is a brief but well balanced review of the history of first language literacy re- search combined with specific suggestions to help ESL learners develop reading profi- ciency. Although it is in digest form, it covers all of the major approaches to reading in- struction and suggests some excellent methods to help develop reading proficiency in ESL students by paralleling the characteristics of fluent readers.
Phonics. The predominant approach to reading in the 1950s and 1960s was “bottom up,” based on the “phoneme” or smallest meaningful unit of sound.
Psycholinguistics. Through the late 1960s and 1970s, the psycholinguistic or “top down” approach to reading (where meaning takes precedence over structure) became dominant.
Interactive. Approaches that draw on schema or interactive theory: the reader and text inter- act as the reader uses prior background knowledge to derive meaning. Other variations view the reading process as the interaction of both bottom up and top down skills. They focus on word recognition, eye movement, and background knowledge.
Critical Literacy. In the 80s and 90s reading is seen as a social process that takes into ac- count the interaction between author and reader. Meaning flows from an understanding of the cultural, social, and political contexts in which the reading takes place.
VanDuzer argues that rather than agonize over which theory is correct, ESL teachers would be better off becoming familiar with the characteristics of fluent readers and tailoring their instruction around these principles. Fluent readers:
– read with a purpose and understand the purpose of different texts. -read quickly.
-interact with the text.
-evaluate the text critically.
-expect to understand the text. -usually read silently.
She then provides specific suggestions to help ESL learners become proficient readers: -Learners should read texts that meet their needs and are interesting.
-Teachers and students can choose texts that are relevant to the learners’ lives.
-Exposure to texts that students will encounter in everyday life: newspapers, memos sched- ules, instructions, magazines, etc.
-Teach strategies such as skimming for the main idea, scanning for specific information, predicting.
-Teach pre-reading activities that encourages learners to use their background knowledge. -Evaluate texts for implicit values and assumptions.
-Encourage extensive reading for a sustained, uninterrupted period of time.
VanDuzer concludes that by following the suggestions detailed above, teachers can tailor reading instruction to meet the needs and goals of adult English language learners regardless of their background.
Stage Four: Evaluation
Lazar, Meryl K. Lazar, Bean, Rita M. and Van Horn, Barbara. 1998. Linking the success of a basic skills program to workplace practices and productivity: An evaluation. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, Vol. 41, no. 5. pp. 352-362.
This article is also in a “case study” format, however the evaluation design was based on extensive research. In conducting this research the outside evaluators found that most evaluation programs of workplace literacy projects were seriously deficient and were based primarily on surveys and anecdotal reports. She cites one research report of federally funded workplace literacy programs which found that only six out of 29 met good evaluation crite- ria.
The evaluation design described in this article describes how a hospital, with the help of outside evaluators, designed a workplace literacy program which included evaluation crite- ria based on standards used by the hospital to evaluate job performance levels. All phases of the program design included stakeholder collaboration. As a result, the program met its goal of upgrading both employee literacy and job performance, particularly those job tasks that required literary skills. The design described in this article and the numerous references on which it is based is an excellent place for persons researching ESP evaluation to begin.
My original goal in writing this paper was to research the field of ESP in order to find arti- cles I could use to design a model program in private industry. To that end I was successful, however by the time I was finished I realize I had only scratched the surface and discovered many additional resources I could have included. Just as in ESP program development, this is a circular process. Needs Assessment and Evaluation provide additional information, and this feedback continually changes the program and improves the outcome. So, although the articles I reviewed in this paper were beneficial, they really only provide a foundation for further research.