Has EAP instruction at Canadian
universities been successful?
by Robert Berman
Because most universities in Canada are engaged in aggressive programs of internationalization, and Canadian immigration has increasingly drawn from language groups other than English, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of students using English as a second language in undergraduate university programs. This increase has resulted in: 1) changes in policies regarding language admission requirements; 2) a heightened concern over the use of language proficiency testing in the selection of students for university admission (Clapham, 2000; Simner, 1998); and, 3) a proliferation of support programs that are either available to or required of L2 students as part of the undergraduate admission process. What these support programs share, according to the guidelines provided by the Canada Language Council, is their overall intent to prepare L2 students to use EAP at university level and to help with these students’ transition to Canadian general academic and discipline-specific culture. However, a survey of EAP programs across Canada (Berman, 2002) reveals little consensus on fundamental approaches, designs or procedures within these programs, and an absence of research to document their effectiveness. There is little research regarding specific EAP program outcomes at university level (Berman, 2002; Cheng & Myles, 2002; Fox, 2002) or how much time is required to support L2 students with such programs while they adjust to the demands of academic study. Given the increasing number of L2 students in undergraduate programs at Canadian universities, the varying nature of EAP approaches and the lack of studies, particularly large-scale comprehensive studies regarding the key causal factors that account for success or failure, this study is of critical importance at this time, not only to Canadian universities and society, but internationally as well (Hyland & Hamp-Lyons, 2002).
Funded through a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) researchers from three Canadian universities, the University of Alberta, Carleton University and Queens’s University, set out to answer six questions, the first two of which will be answered in Phase One of the study, or its first year, and will be addressed here:
1. Is EAP important in L2 students’ success in their undergraduate studies?
2. What other key factors contribute to (or impede) the success of L2 students?
3. What are the stages in the inter-cultural transition of L2 students?
4. What role does EAP play in the transition of L2 students to undergraduate study?
5. What pedagogical interventions best meet the needs of L2 students in the process of transition?
6. What EAP program support has the greatest benefit for the least cost?
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