“Teaching English or teaching academic skills: Who are we, what are we doing and why?” by John Harbord

Keynote speech from International seminar 2021 organised by CLIL-HET project.


Title: Teaching English or teaching academic skills: Who are we, what are we doing and why?
Presentation by: John Harbord
Recorded on: 11 March 2021


Since 1989, the trend in HE in Central and Eastern Europe, for better or worse, is often seen as moving towards or through English language learning. Local languages find themselves becoming repositories of traditional perceptions of learning: refuges for those who either cannot make the grade in English or reject the global in favour of the local. Academic skills, especially writing, are increasingly seen as a part of foreign language learning, and those who succeed on the international track often lack confidence or skill in their first language. Those who support students to succeed in English language higher education thus see themselves primarily as teachers of English for specific purposes. I will argue that this perception is not optimal, either for syllabus design, for collaboration with content teachers, or for the career satisfaction of those who work in the field. Instead, I propose that support staff rethink themselves as trainers of transferable academic skills, skills that, pace the concerns of contrastive rhetoric, can empower students in more than one language.

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