EAP or genre-based? A comparison of two curricular approaches to the preparation of international students for university

16 July 2020

In research on onshore English Language (EL) Centres, there is ongoing debate regarding the academic and linguistic (including written) outcomes of international students for whom English is an Additional Language (EAL). There is little research, however, on the outcomes of EL Centres’ pedagogical approaches, despite its potential to improve outcomes. The present study aimed to compare two courses at a university-based EL Centre: an English for Academic Purposes (EAP) course and a genre-based (GB) course, ‘Reading to Learn’ (Rose & Martin, 2012). The article describes a collaborative study between an EL Centre, the university’s Learning Centre and a university faculty. The primarily postgraduate students (N = 171) wrote an essay and answered a questionnaire about their perceptions of university preparation. The essays were assessed in terms of the MASUS (Measuring the Academic Skills of University Students) Procedure (Bonanno & Jones, 2007) and the resulting scores and questionnaire responses for the two strands were analysed in terms of descriptive and correlational statistics. The results for writing show that, in the total cohort, the genre-based students significantly outperformed the EAP students overall and in grammatical correctness but differences were not found either on Address for correspondence: Bronwen Dyson, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Senior Lecturer and Postgraduate Academic Writing Adviser, Room S352, John Woolley, University of Sydney, NSW, 2006; Email: bronwen.dyson@sydney.edu.au University of Sydney Papers in TESOL, 11, 31-66. ©2016 ISSN 1834-3198 (Print); ISSN: 1834-4712 (Online) Page 32 University of Sydney Papers in TESOL some measures of ‘at risk’ writing or in the cohort recommended for university. The results for the questionnaire show that the genrebased students perceived aspects of their academic and language preparation in a significantly more positive light than the EAP students. A close look at four students’ writing and the comments of all students on the questionnaire reveals individual strengths and weaknesses in both groups. In considering the implications of the findings for the English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS) industry, the article concludes that, to improve written outcomes, EL Centres should introduce a genre-based approach, with fine-tuning to meet the needs of all EAL students.