March 2013
TESOL HOME Convention Jobs Book Store TESOL Community

Melanie Rockenhaus, Scuola Normale Superiore

Presentation Time and Location

March 21, 2013
10–10:45 am
Convention Center - C147

Copyleft, a play on the word copyright, refers to materials which are freely available to all, to be used as they are or modified, providing the materials remain freely available. I discovered the quantity and quality of Copyleft materials available for ESP courses when I was asked to teach the English language module of a specialized training course preparing technicians who would apply home automation technology to the interior design of recreational vehicles (RVs).

My original training was in teaching adults, and for many years I worked in the private sector organizing and delivering courses for companies across Italy, where I have lived for more than 25 years. Many of these were ESP courses in various fields, including English for laboratory employees, for phone technicians, and for owners of small hotels or bed and breakfasts. For the last 10 years, however, I have taught English to undergraduate and graduate students at the Scuola Normale Superiore, a university located in Pisa, Italy.

I enjoy university students but often miss the more complicated, multifaceted adult learner, so I was pleased to have an opportunity to teach an ESP course to adults. Moreover, because it is estimated that nearly 85% of the Italian production of RVs takes place in what is referred to as the Tuscan Camper Valley (Ciuti, 2004), RV production is an essential part of the economy where I now live. The course, however, presented a scenario all too common in ESP.

The 12 participants were carefully chosen based on education, work experience, familiarity with design and/or information technology, and motivation; English language competence was not among the selection parameters. Although subsequent language needs assessment revealed that knowledge of English varied considerably among the students (from false beginner to advanced), the English module consisted of only 20 hours out of a total of 800. In addition, it responded to demanding, field-specific outcomes predefined by the organizers. Specifically, students were expected to know how to consult technical texts in the area of home automation, to speak about a project in English, and to face a job interview in an international context. A final assessment of attainment of these skills was also requested, and there was no budget for specialized materials.

In my practice-oriented session, I will introduce colleagues to the Copyleft materials I used to manage this frustrating situation and the sites where they can be found. Samples of ESP materials from a number of other specialized areas, which can be downloaded or used directly online, will be reviewed and considered for suitability. We will also see how these materials, combined with task-based communicative methodology and electronic wordlists, proved to be a positive classroom solution for a difficult ESP challenge and permitted all the students to face their final assessment with confidence.


Ciuti, I. (2004). Tutti in vacanza in camper boom dell' industria toscana (Everyone on vacation in a camper: a boom for the Tuscan industry). La Repubblica. Retrieved from

Melanie Rockenhaus holds a BA in English from the University of Dallas, an MA in American literature from Emory University, and an MA in TESOL from Sheffield Hallam University with training in the preparation for language exams, in distance teaching and business English. She holds a postgraduate diploma in translation in humanities and literature from the Chartered Institute of Linguists, London, and has translated websites and books. She has taught in private schools, companies, organizations, and universities, including the Università Popolare di Siena, the Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna, and the University of Maryland, where she periodically works as an adjunct professor of English.

« Previous Newsletter Home Print Article Next »
Post a CommentView Comments
 Rate This Article
Share LinkedIn Twitter Facebook
In This Issue
Search Back Issues
Forward to a Friend
Print Issue
RSS Feed
ESP Presentations at TESOL
Click here to view the entire list of ESP Presentations at TESOL in March.