Teaching "critical literacy" and "language" in EAP courses: A Hong Kong experience

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In a second language context, the balance between "critical thinking" and "language" in a first-year EAP course very often comes from a long process of curriculum formulation, implementation, revision and refinement. In the context of Hong Kong, some English teachers share the view that "language" is a "proficiency" indicator of one's grammar and vocabulary and that "critical thinking" can be effectively taught only to those students who are very proficient. On the other hand, some teachers think that it is important for first-year university students to learn to express their ideas critically and that "ideas" should come before "language" in course design and assessment. This presentation focuses on how the EAP courses in a teacher training institution in Hong Kong attempt to address the categorical distinctions between "critical thinking" and "language". Two pilot EAP courses were developed to cater for discipline-specific needs of two academic disciplines: "English for English majors" and "English for Liberal Studies majors". "English for English majors" was developed to ensure that it was not a course on "English Literature" despite its use of literary texts as a springboard for critical literacy. "English for Liberal Studies majors", on the other hand, was offered to a group of students who were relatively more accustomed to training in critical thinking given the nature of their discipline. The discipline-specific EAP course was designed to ensure that "critical thinking" would serve as a springboard for language-rich learning activities without losing sight of "language" being the main learning objective. In this presentation, aspects related to course design and material development of these two discipline-specific EAP courses will be shared. Curriculum theories on EAP have revolved around discussions on the role of the "target culture" in EAP courses (e.g. enabling students to join the Western academic community), the role of "native culture" in EAP courses (e.g. helping students to find their own "voice"), and the role of discipline-specific learning needs (e.g. how discipline-specific should an EAP course be?). This presentation will suggest how EAP teachers can help first-year students "talk or write about their own culture and discipline in English".
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2014


Chu, W. K. (2014, November). Teaching "critical literacy" and "language" in EAP courses: A Hong Kong experience. Paper presented at The Joint Australian Association for Research in Education and New Zealand Association for Research in Education Conference (AARE-NZARE 2014 Conference), Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia.


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