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THE ROLE OF ESP PRACTITIONER

2.10 The ESP Teacher/ Practitioner Role


The ESP teacher needs to have a great deal of flexibility, be willing to listen to learners, and to take
an interest in the discipline or professional activities the student are involved in. they must be ready
to change tack in the lesson to take account of what comes up, and to think and respond rapidly to
events. ESP teachers must also be happy to take some risks in their teaching. The willingness to be
flexible and to take risks is one of the keys to success in ESP teaching. (Dudley Evans and St John
2001:14)

The on going development of the field of ESP requires special teachers who are
better qualified to effectively perform in ESP classes. Numerous are the characteristics
and functions of ESP practitioner. Ranging from professional to relational functions, an
ESP practitioner is supposed to have many features that strongly influence the
performance of the teacher in an adults class. Many researchers have provided special
profile of ESP practitioners. In this section, I am going to discuss the special features
which distinguish the role of the ESP teacher. In addition, I shall pinpoint the main
characteristics of a successful ESP practitioner suggested by many authors such as
Dudley-Evans and St John (1998), Robinson (1991) and Hutchinson and Waters (1990).
Many authors such as Dudley-Evans and St John (1998), Zoumana (2007),
Robinson (1991) to name but a few use the term practitioner rather than teacher. The
vocal reason behind the choice of such a terminology is to emphasize that ESP work
involves much more than teaching. ESP practitioner can have several other roles that
transcend the profession of teaching in its traditional connotations.
The absence of a unique profile and special training for ESP practitioners leads
many authors to highlight many different or sometimes complementary characteristics of
ESP practitioners. The role of the ESP teachers or practitioners is highly complex simply
because no specific training is formally provided. To operate effectively, ESP practitioners
have to perform five key roles according to Tony Dudley Evans and St John (1998):
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teacher, collaborator, course designer and materials provider, researcher and evaluator.
Hutchinson & Waters (1990) and Jackson (1994) highlight a number of qualities and
skills for success in teaching ESP practitioner such as flexibility, adaptability,
creativity, resourcefulness, well developed organizational and leadership skills,
effective interpersonal and cross-cultural communication skills, and mature problemsolving and decision-making skills. Robinson (1991) stresses only one quality which he
considers as the key quality needed by ESP practitioners. This paramount value is
flexibility. He believes that the key quality needed by ESP teacher is flexibility: The
flexibility to change from being a general language teacher to being a specific language
teacher, and the flexibility to cope with different groups of students, often at very short
notice. In the same line, Jordan (1997) reveals that ESP teachers obviously have much in
common with any language teacher. The ESP teacher needs to take account of
developments in linguistics and learning theory, aims to keep up with current views on the
place of learners in the education system, and has to confront the new technologies
offered as aids to improve pedagogy.
The definition of the ESP teachers complex role has two implications. First, being
an ESP teacher comes necessarily at a later stage after being a general language teacher
which indicates the influence of the first experience on the teaching attitudes of the ESP
tutor. So according to Robinson, ESP teachers must have a considerable teaching
experience in the field of General English teaching. However, many other researchers
believe that the teaching experience in General English is not essential if the ESP trainer
has a good pre-service training in ESP teaching. In addition, not all the General English
teachers are qualified to teach ESP regardless of their long teaching experience. Secondly,
ESP teachers should be ready to familiarize themselves with the requirement of the new
area of teaching. They should be brave enough to face the new challenges and to orientate
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themselves to a new environment for which they have generally been ill-prepared or not
prepared at all.
Similarly, Jarvis (1983), cited in Robinson (1991), sums up the overall abilities
needed by an ESP teacher. The following table contains the essential characteristics and
abilities that the practitioner should be acquainted with.
1. Analyze SP language and situations;
2. Evaluate textbooks and other sources;
3. Evaluate learners attainment;
4. Devise performance objectives for learners;
5. Design or interpret syllabuses;
6. Design or interpret schemes for work;
7. Devise teaching and learning strategies;
8. Devise individual but interrelated teaching sessions;
9. Produce materials;
10. Organize teaching/ learning sessions;
11. Assess achievements of objectives.
2.10.1 The ESP Practitioners Competence: Language and Content.
Practically, the ESP tutors should have a sufficient content awareness about the
subject matter of their teaching. In many cases, the learners know more about a special
academic discipline than the teachers. In this case, the ESP tutor is supposed to successfully
elicit information about the subject matter from the learner and try to gather information
about the subject matter to perform better in the following stages. To operate effectively,
the ESP practitioner as Dudley Evan states should not only be aware of the linguistic

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competence, but also he should be fully or at least partly aware of the working area of his
learners An EAP tutor needs to research and assist students in understanding and
constructing texts in their disciplines and to actively engage with the disciplines (DudleyEvans and St John 1998). To study the effect of special field knowledge on the performance
of the ESP practitioners, Zoumana (2007) conducted a study on pre-service ESP teacher
training and thought that a basic knowledge in the technical field is required to make an
ESP teacher operational. If not, ESP tutors seem as if they are forced to teach what they are
unfamiliar with. As they do not know the content knowledge of the field, they are not
competent in the language in which this content has been encoded. So, they are described
as novice learners of academic English or to use Robinsons terms an educated layman.
In contrast, many authors strongly believe that content knowledge can never be a
serious hindrance to ESP practitioners. They believe that any EGP teachers can effectively
perform and monitor an ESP class. They claim that any EFL teacher should welcome the
opportunity to teach an ESP course as a chance to perhaps learn something new and
increase their own knowledge span. Scriveners (2005) argues that teaching ESP is similar
to teaching EGP. It is a simple process of teaching in which the teacher is required to use
lexis, examples, topics and contexts that are, as far as possible, relevant to the students and
practice relevant specific skills. Yet, no one can deny the importance of technical and
professional awareness of the ESP practitioners. Knowledge of the technical area will be of
great help to the language trainer and it will, at least, serve as an element of confidence for
the tutors psychology.
Defining the ESP teacher as a Practitioner whose role transcends the profession of
a teacher implies that teaching ESP requires a basic knowledge of the subject matter.
Teachers should be aware of the content of their courses rather that providing merely

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linguistic input to their learners. The absence of professional training creates a serious
problem for most ESP trainers. As a matter of fact, the ESP practitioner should be willing
and ready to continuously develop his knowledge span in relation to the course content.
ESP practitioners do not have to be experts but they are encouraged to do the best they can
in order to enhance and develop their content knowledge. Smoak (2003) very clearly
discusses the step-by-step development and teaching of ESP.
New ESP teachers seem to have to go through the same stages of development
personally that the field has gone through since the 1960sbeginning with an urge
to teach general English with technical vocabulary, moving to an awareness of the
importance of sub-technical vocabulary and needs analysis, and emerging
eventually to recognition of the need to use discourse analysis and linguistic
corpora. At this point, they understand what ESP is.

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