Uncovering EAP: How to Teach Academic Writing and Reading

Sam McCarter and Phil Jakes. Oxford: Macmillan Books, 2009. Pp. 9 + 176.

Reviewed by Sally Ashton-Hay
Southern Cross University
Tweed Heads, Australia

Uncovering EAP is a handy resource for teachers or lecturers who teach academic skills to students preparing for tertiary study, IELTS examinations, or those already enrolled at university. The focus is on English for Academic Purposes (EAP) reading and writing with useful tips for teaching these crucial study skills. New or experienced teachers will find this Macmillan Books for Teachers text full of practical applications for the classroom.

Ten chapters cover vital academic reading and writing skills: (1) writing and reading approaches; (2) understanding task questions and selecting ideas; (3) types of academic assignment; (4) academic writing genres; (5) critical thinking; (6) academic vocabulary; (7) giving feedback and redrafting; (8) reading academic texts; (9) research and referencing; and (10) moving from general EAP to subject-specific teaching.

Each chapter presents a brief theoretical overview, offers good practice case study exemplars, and a bank of learning-centred activities and photocopiable worksheets. The value of the book is enhanced by practical teaching tips geared to developing specific skills in academic writing and reading. Intercultural case studies illustrate common challenges faced by non-English speaking students at university with proven strategies for achieving success. The chapter materials are detailed yet easily adaptable for other contexts and disciplines. With over forty activities in the book, any teacher s tool kit can be readily extended.

Chapter five is a particular highlight because of the strategies for coaching critical thinking, often considered an unfamiliar or alien concept to many international students.

Structured, bottom-up approaches scaffold a developmental continuum and overcome the slippery dip of inexperience. Staged activities encourage recognition of fact versus opinion, analysis of text through verbal reasoning, and production of an opinion prompted by visual aids. Model questions investigate what students do not know or what they would like to know and extend judgemental and evaluative capacity while temporarily shifting the focus away from grammar. Chapter five concludes with two good practice cases and four purposeful activities linked to building the evaluative and analytical skills discussed. The activities clearly list aims, materials required, appropriate level, time required, and methodological steps to follow as well as an argument mapping worksheet to accompany an advanced pair or small group activity. The case study examples portray international students with little experience in analysis or succinct writing skills and advise specific approaches to improve understanding and achieve more successful outcomes. These case study dilemmas are beneficial and thought-provoking reminders for any teachers facing the challenge of teaching this skill to the uninitiated.

The McCarter and Jakes volume resonates with the voice of experience using tried and tested approaches to develop fundamental academic skills. Theoretical-based skill development, active learning, and good practice principles make this book a practical teaching companion. The only disadvantage is that there is little mention of technology or additional online website resources for extending academic skill development. Despite the lack of technological applications, the book is still a worthwhile contribution to the field of academic skills and recommended for any teachers bridging the double gap of academic English language skills and the challenges of higher education.