October 2016
ESP News



Greetings all in the English for Specific Purposes Interest Section. It has been quite some time since we have sent a traditional newsletter, and I am thankful to Kevin Knight for starting it up again. If you are in the United States, you are probably adjusting to a new school year, and if you are elsewhere or in a corporate setting, you are likely in the middle of a session. Either way, now is a time for refreshing and reinvigorating yourself. What better way to do so than by interacting with your ESP colleagues? You can give new life to yourself and the IS.

All the interest sections will undergo a change in the coming years, with some shrinking and becoming more nimble and others growing and becoming more professionalized. Our EPSIS is one of the most unique niches in the field. Combining business and academia, as well as specialized curricula with broad EAP goals, we are a diverse collection of coherent, tight-knit groups, all trying to design programs to meet targeted needs.

In order for our field to grow and remain relevant, we need an active interest section. I’m inviting you all to volunteer to lead in this coming year. Elections will be held in a few months, and we need energized and dedicated candidates. Not only will you be able to shape the annual TESOL convention, but you will also determine the future shape of the ESP field. Email me at rconnor@tulane.edu if you are interested.

We had 80 proposals for convention slots this year, and we were only able to accept 20. Increasing the acceptance rate of ESP proposals at TESOL was one of the reasons why the IS started. Without an active IS, our acceptance rate would be even lower. I would encourage everyone to present their work at regional conferences in order to spread the ESP field to the local level.

Robert Connor, PhD, is chair of the ESP-IS and the director of ESL at Tulane University. His interests include academic English and intensive courses for professional schools. Lately, he has been experimenting with massive open online courses (MOOCs).



Academic writing, videos and ESP—combined to form an in-class writing activity in Moodle. Crazy idea, right? This article will show how to take ESP-related videos and create an in-class writing assignment to strengthen students’ writing abilities using the IMRD (Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion; Swales & Feak, 2012, p. 278) writing format. IMRD is also known as IMRAD (Day & Gastel, 2006, pp. 21–22) or TAIMRAD (Title, Abstract, IMR and D; Maher, 1992, p. 32). Moreover, the embedded videos, assignment instructions, and submission will be provided using Moodle, a very popular open-source course management system. The following ESP academic writing exercise was developed for third-semester students in the master’s degree program Health Care Informatics to help them prepare in writing their respective master’s theses in the fourth and final semester.

There are many excellent textbooks (e.g., Swales & Feak, 2012; Day & Gastel, 2006; Maher, 1992) that focus on academic and scientific writing, and they provide excellent exercises and examples. However, most books show sample engineering texts that do not correspond to medical engineering/informatics, or are, in the case of Maher’s (1992) book, designed to meet the needs of medical scientists, students, and doctors. One possibility to specifically target tertiary-level medical engineering/informatics students is to use the vast amount of video material that is currently available on the Internet and develop writing exercises to meet language learning objectives (e.g., IMRD, abstract writing, titles) as well as better match the ESP interests of the students.

I like to use medical-related podcasts focusing on the Mayo Clinic’s Medical Edge podcast and website, such as “Guillain-Barre Syndrome-Mayo Clinic (Mayo Clinic, 2009), found on YouTube. I especially like the mix of language of the three main characters (narrator, patient, and medical doctor) in the Mayo Clinic Medical Edge podcast. Additionally, the videos are relatively short, averaging 3 minutes, and include professional graphics to illustrate anatomy and technology used in treatments. Moreover, the streaming video (YouTube channels) can be integrated into Moodle (or other course management systems) to develop online exercises as well as in-class activities.

The Genesis of an Idea and the Desired Requirements of the Assignment

I have been teaching the course Academic Writing for Graduate Students for a number of years now, and I was trying to come up with an idea for an activity at the end of the semester. During my daily commute to the university, I started to watch a Medical Edge video podcast from the Mayo Clinic and to take notes. Based upon the notes taken, I wanted to see if I could develop a “quick” outline of an IMRD paper during this 30-minute commute. I could, and I liked the results, so I decided to define the exercise to fulfill the following criteria.

First, the exercise should be introduced, explained, and completed all in a 90-minute lecture. Why? Because at the end of the third semester, students need to complete a number of different projects and/or take their final exams in their engineering and information technology courses, and another English writing assignment in the form of homework is, to say the least, not well received. Second, I wanted to introduce medical topics, preferably videos that illustrate technology that medical engineers might use or diseases that might be treated or diagnosed using software applications. Third, I wanted the students to analyze the video in the terms of IMRD and develop a “draft” academic paper outline. This outline would include an “academic” title, a table of contents, and an abstract. Moreover, I wanted to incorporate the videos and the assignment in Moodle to allow the students to have a larger selection of medical topics (i.e., videos) to choose from; give them the ability to watch and stop the video as often as necessary for note-taking; and provide the exercise for students who were not present. Note: this type of assignment assumes that all students have brought their own laptops with headphones to the lecture.

Step 1: Create the Moodle Assignment (Introduction)

There are many useful modules in Moodle, but one of my favorite is the “Assignment” activity. In this activity, you can provide the instructions, add file attachments, set the deadlines which in turn send out automatic notifications to the students, download the students’ homework, or grade online (fully integrated in Moodle 3.1) and provide feedback. This can be seen in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Mayo Clinic video to IMRAD assignment with video links and instructions online and as a downloadable PDF.

Step 2: Demonstrate the Activity (Methods)

Many people believe that content and learning management systems are simply used for distance learning or blended learning, but I use Moodle in almost all of my face-to-face lectures, especially when I utilize video/audio materials for in-class activities. For this activity, I opened the assignment, reviewed the instructions, and then showed the Mayo Clinic video that I had watched. I also showed my own notes to the video and how I developed an IMRD outline with academic title, abstract, and table of contents. This has, in my opinion, a dual benefit: 1) students realize that they can have section titles that are not called Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion while using IMRD format, and 2) I receive useful feedback if my instructions are unclear. This took approximately 15 minutes, which allowed more than enough time for step 3.

Step 3: Start the In-Class Activity (Methods)

“Let ‘em go at it.” In this step, ensure that the students have a laptop and headsets to access the Moodle assignment. We have installed a so-called bootstrap theme in our Moodle, so the videos can also be viewed on smartphones and tablets. Even if the students do not bring a laptop to class, which is a rarity at my university, they most certainly will have their smartphone with them. In Moodle, I used the “Page” resource to embed the YouTube videos from the Mayo Clinic, so students can view all three videos on the same page and quickly choose which one they find most interesting and best meets their ESP interests. The “Guillain-Barre Syndrome” video was only selected once (a less technical video), whereas the “Pacemaker for Epilepsy”and “New Cardio Monitor” were the most chosen (four times and five times, respectively).

Figure 2. Mayo Clinic YouTube video streams embedded into a Moodle page.

While the students worked on the assignment in class, I was able to discuss and answer questions on a one-on-one basis with them during the lecture time. Thus, the majority of the students (who attended) were able to complete the task during the lecture itself.

As mentioned previously, a number of students were not able to attend the lecture. Because all instructions, all materials, and the deadline were in the Moodle assignment and associated resources, I did not have to prepare any extra work for those missing students. Moodle automatically sent out a notification that there was an assignment due (with all instructions and video links) to those students who had not submitted their assignment.

Step 4: Grading and Feedback (Results)

I prefer the “old-fashioned” method of grading: I like to print out homework and provide feedback in the form of hand-written notes. So using the “download all submissions” option in the Moodle assignment, all student files were downloaded in a ZIP file, and the individual student name was added to the file name. After manually grading the homework, I scanned in the individual graded papers and then entered the grade and uploaded the individual scanned files to the Moodle assignment. Moodle automatically notifies the student that I have provided a grade, and the student needs only to click on the enclosed link to view the grade and download their scanned, graded papers. This process alone saves an incredible amount of time compared to my pre-Moodle days of sorting out emails, saving and most often renaming attachments, annotating grades to an Excel file, and then emailing each individual student their respective grades and feedback.


Utilizing the theoretical explanations and textbook examples of IMRD from previous lectures and the assignment instructions (plus, online English-German dictionaries), students created very good practical results that (hopefully) will prepare them to write their final master thesis, and they were not bogged down with yet another long English writing assignment. Here are a few student examples of the IMRD assignment:

Student Example 1: original video is titled “New Cardio Monitor” on YouTube.

:Mobile Remote Security Technology to Monitor Cardiac Arrhythmias

Table of Contents:

1. (introduction) Heart Period variability (Cardiac Arrhythmias)

1.1 Symptoms
1.2 (methods) Technology
1.3 (results) Patient at home
1.4 (discussion) Outlook

Student Example 2: original video title is “Guillain-Barre Syndrome” on YouTube.

: Guillain-Barre Syndrome – An Investigation of an Unpredictable and Rapid Progressing Neurologic Disease

Table of Contents:

1. (introduction) Guillain-Bare Syndrome

1.1. Symptoms
1.2. Causes
1.3. Progress

2. (methodology) Disease Pattern

2.1. Progress
2.2. Treatment
2.3. Recovery

3. (results) Recovery Study at Mayo Clinic

3.1. Women
3.2. Men

4. (discussion) Further research topics

4.1. Investigation of other possible causes for the disease
4.2. Studies on course of illness


To summarize, this academic writing activity fulfilled the criteria that I originally set: It was a short assignment that could be completed in class, utilized ESP materials that matched students’ needs, reinforced the IRMD format in a practical exercise, and was available online without any additional work. Moreover, as the assignment was only one to two pages, I could grade and provide feedback in a relatively short turn-around time. Thus, not only were the students happy with the assignment—but so was the lecturer.


Day, R. A., & Gastel, B. (2006). How to write and publish a scientific paper (6th ed). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Maher, J. C. (1992). International medical communication in English. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.

Mayo Clinic. (2009). Guillain-Barre Syndrome-Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDspLPFhkS4

Swales, J. M., & Feak, C. B. (2012). Academic writing for graduate students: Essential tasks and skills (3rd ed.). Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press.

Marvin D. Hoffland is a senior lecturer of English and economics at the Carinthia University of Applied Sciences in Klagenfurt, Austria. He teaches ESP/EFL courses in the areas of business, medical and technical English, and he is the Moodle administrator at the CUAS. His degrees include an MS in economics and a BA in German and economics.


Over a year and a half ago, I coauthored the article “EOP and Technology: Beating the Pain Curve” (Gishbaugher & Eckhart, 2015) about the challenges that arose from developing an online English language training course for automotive manufacturing. In year three, a successful program is emerging phoenix-like from the ashes of several iterations that have come and gone in the interim. Each iteration solves old challenges and presents new ones, getting us one step closer toward the ultimate goal—effective learning in a digital landscape. Here’s the problem: That ultimate goal is a moving target. Technology platforms change rapidly as do users’ expectations of interaction with them. So the real challenge is finding a way to manage inevitable change in a way that aligns us with sound learning.

Different bodies of knowledge have tackled learning in the digital frontier, coming up with guidelines and rubrics by which to measure course architecture. However, I believe none has gotten closer than ELTjam’s Nick Robinson in his article “We need to talk about LX” (2016). His simple diagram shows how the overlapping of high-quality content, human interaction, pedagogy, and user experience creates an amazing learner experience. This model has become central to decision-making for our program, especially when it comes to choosing technology that is not just on trend but also on point when it comes to our learners’ needs.


Needs analysis remains at the heart of content development for English for occupational purposes (EOP), but finding a way to make that content more fun and dynamic is nearly as important when the learner is engaging it alone. Fun and dynamic usually translates into budget-busting technology and talent, making it difficult to stand out against international language services even if the content more accurately fits the learners’ needs. Creativity, however, can be an effective stand in, especially if you have a whole team of multitalented instructors like I do.

Speaking Practice

I mentioned in the last article that we planned on using Michigan State University’s Rich Internet Applications to allow for asynchronous speaking practice. Since then, we have successfully integrated the (free!) technology into the program. Learners can read and listen to dialogues from their self-study lessons and then watch a video of their instructor (in authentic costume and character, of course) performing one half of that dialogue. The learners record themselves filling in the other half. Instructors are able to watch and provide detailed, written feedback on pronunciation and fluency. We’re still refining this practice and looking at new technology options that allow instructors to provide video-based feedback. Free video chat apps like Glide offer similar functionality and may facilitate learner-to-learner engagement as well.


Our self-study lessons contain vocabulary lessons and practice, but stakeholder feedback revealed that our lower-proficiency learners needed additional vocabulary acquisition support. Now, we’re in the process of developing eflashcards using Articulate Storyline 2 that learners can practice any time and place.

Audio and Video

With the help of talented Theatre Department students and state-of-the-art sound studios at our university, our self-study lessons now contain professional-grade audio recordings of authentic dialogues, the importance of which cannot be underestimated in language learning. In a YouTube culture, though, we are planning on adding videos for live-action role-play and grammar mini-lessons. We’ve already developed one promotional video using VideoScribe, and we’re exploring other animation software such as Powtoon,GoAnimate, and Moovly.

Human Interaction

Human relationships provide essential support, motivation, and accountability, but finding ways to bring learners and instructors together in real time can be challenging both in terms of technology and learner apprehension. Decisions must be made to force that interaction from the outset and to construct the learning path so that subsequent meetings are linked to program progress.

Intake Interview

Intake interviews at the start of the program allow instructors to establish a critical instructor-learner bond as they seek information about the learner’s proficiency level, goals, and current communication needs based on their job. It also enables instructors to develop a personal relationship by asking about learners’ families and interests. The learners book an appointment through youcanbook.me.com and then meet their instructor in real time via Adobe Connect for 20 minutes. This first interview is also aimed at reducing learner anxiety about interacting in a digital platform. The instructors use a detailed, interactive PowerPoint presentation to show learners how to use the program features and how to troubleshoot audio and visual problems.

1-on-1 Interviews

We also use this one-on-one space to conduct mini-lessons for TOEIC preparation. We configured the self-study lessons so that they release only after the learners have completed the mini-lesson with their instructor. This interaction provides critical test strategy monitoring and immediate feedback that could not occur through self-study alone.


The instructors write twice-weekly blogs as yet another way to connect with their learners, albeit asynchronously. Blog topics vary from North American holidays and culture to language and test-taking tips. Instructors write from personal experience and often share stories about their families. Learners, in turn, can leave comments and even use these blogs as conversation starters with their local coworkers.


Steering and motivating learners successfully toward learning objectives can be daunting without the constant dialogue of a face-to-face classroom. Steps must also be taken to ensure that learners know why they got a question right or wrong, what criteria they must meet to move on to the next lesson, and where to go once they’ve completed a lesson. Without instructor presence in the traditional sense, even praising learners’ achievements becomes problematic.


This element was missing from our self-study content in its earliest stages, and our learners let us know. Their frustrations led us to put in immediate feedback for each question in both English and Japanese. These lessons now allow learners to get three tries for each question. They receive feedback about the question on the third try whether they get it right or wrong. They also have the opportunity to review all of the questions in a lesson after they complete it.


We recently took a cue from the world of gaming and decided to incorporate digital badging into our program to see if it positively impacts learner motivation. The badges are varied and cover accomplishments like content completion, blog commenting, score achievements, and leveling up.

User Experience

Taking a course online means treating it more as a product and less as a service. If the course feels broken to a user because the navigation is too cumbersome, the audio quality isn’t good enough, or an answer is automatically scored incorrectly, he or she will stop using the product and never come back. Many resources must be devoted to quality control throughout the lifetime of the product.


Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk famously stated, “Any product that needs a manual to work is broken” (Valdes-Dapena, 2013). And he’s 1,000% right. We traded in our lengthy PDF manuals for one simple infographic (below) to help learners get started in the program. Easy-to-use infographic creators like Piktochart help make course navigation a breeze and meet the expectations of users who are used to a plug-and-play lifestyle. To continue support for learners throughout their studies, we also built in seamless how-to tutorials that take learners on a click-by-click tour of their lessons. The interactive tutorial remains in the background as a constant resource just in case it’s needed.

Quality Control

This is the area where my team and I have grown the most in the past year. We’ve learned that good quality begins with good project management. Each of the innovations discussed above needed to be thoroughly explored as a team so that we had clear expectations of tasks, performers, and target end dates. Getting creative with new technology platforms is exciting, but it can quickly turn against a program as well if allowed to balloon without parameters. We now rely heavily on work breakdown sheets, incident reports, and user testing to ensure we offer a high-quality product.


Being mindful of these four elements—content, human interaction, pedagogy, and user experience—has helped this program keep the moving target (serving a tech-savvy learner population while staying on course with effective language learning practices) in our sights. We’re also acutely aware of the need for data to back up these decisions and to prove program effectiveness. These data need to come from careful collection of both the quantitative and qualitative impact each new technology or model change has on our learners. This information helps us to show return on investment to our client through increased participation and effective communication.

Most importantly, we need to build the body of knowledge about developing EOP online courses so that research-backed best practices exist to help EOP practitioners communicate technology needs that complement the four areas above. The digital landscape of EOP teaching and learning is shifting. Using these elements as a compass and having a little creativity, a willingness to retool (project management skills are key!), and a lot of informed trial and error can help us navigate every new turn.


Gishbaugher, J., & Eckhart, R. (2015, February). EOP and technology: Beating the pain curve. ESP News. Retrieved from http://newsmanager.commpartners.com/tesolespis/

Robinson, N. (2016, February 9). We need to talk about LX. ELTjam. Retrieved from http://eltjam.com/learner-experience-design/

Valdes-Dapena, P. (2013, April 26). Tesla offers idiot-proof battery warranty. CNN Money. Retrieved from http://money.cnn.com/2013/04/26/autos/

Jaclyn has been working in the field of English for Specific Purposes (ESP) for eight years in an array of professions including: medical care, law enforcement, and manufacturing. She is the Immediate Past Chair for International TESOL's ESP Interest Section and the Director of the Automotive English Program at Ohio State University. Prior to this opportunity, she was a US Department of State English Language Fellow in Jakarta, Indonesia for three years where she developed an English training curriculum for the National Police that is now being adapted for several other countries in Southeast Asia. Jaclyn has also taught English in refugee resettlement and at the Intensive English Program at Akron University, her alma mater.



In English for occupational purposes (EOP) there are different contexts, or levels, of buy-in, as well as different concepts to be conveyed for “content” buy-in. The most familiar level of buy-in, to those who provide EOP programs directly to clients, is, clearly, the buy-in of that given client—first, its management at different levels, then the actual participant learners at their levels within the organization. What may be less familiar, though, are EOP initiatives at broader, often national, levels when stakeholders may begin to recognize some kind of overarching infrastructure need to improve the English of the labor force in a given country, but they don’t really know how to go about this.

In both cases, the individual client recipient of a program or the group of stakeholder planners for a national initiative, the parties need to buy in to the very basics of an EOP approach—as opposed to that of general English. Further, they need to buy in to the concepts or principles behind the best practices (Friedenberg et al., 2003), such as to appreciate that a sound program design is needed first, based on conducting an organizational needs assessment (ONA), not just customized materials based on carrying out instructional needs assessment.

Finally, there is a third focus for buy-in. As a corollary to the focus on the “trainee” side—that is, any client receiving an EOP program or any group of stakeholders planning an EOP initiative, there is also the “trainer” side—that is, the EOP teacher. Teaching EOP requires considerably more training beyond teaching general English. Yet very few, if any, English teachers have had dedicated, robust, and practical (on-site, workplace-venue) training in EOP itself (not just English for academic purposes [EAP] or English for specific purposes [ESP] overall). Hence, clients and stakeholders must also buy in to the mandate for EOP teacher training.

The Basics for Buy-In of EOP Over General English at the Instructional Level

Foundational to all EOP buy-in is to gain recognition and adoption of the basic tenets of ESP: customization to need through stakeholder collaboration. Customization immediately distinguishes ESP (EAP and EOP) from general English. However, general English may be the only experience, if any, that stakeholders may have had with learning English, so they may be very insistent on a general English approach. Or at least they may insist that a certain level of general English must be achieved first, before introducing any “complicated, technical vocabulary.” The key, countering guideline here is to show, for example, that for some standard concept in industry, such as safety, or for some standard grammar point in language teaching, such as prepositional phrases of location, it is more efficient to teach to the specific client context than to any general English context. Further, this context-specific content can be taught from a beginning level of proficiency and up.

Consider the necessary specificity of the following cases from different industry sectors for effectively addressing high-stakes incidents. Note that these communications are not interchangeable, as one might teach generic safety expressions in general English: Stop! Be careful. Wear PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).

A. Civil Aviation
We have minimum fuel (first level notification).
We have emergency fuel (final level of notification).
(NOT: We’re running out of fuel. This is a general English expression that does not match insider terminology.)

B. Oil Exploration
How many valves do I open on the Christmas tree?
(To prevent a blow-out of oil being pumped up through the bore to the surface structure that captures and directs oil flow into pipelines)

C. Cruise Line
Take Stairway 7 to Lifeboat 42.
(To quickly evacuate the ship from a given section of a particular deck)

Recognizing that every industry has very unique emergency communication requirements leads to buy-in for the customization of EOP. To teach the lesser specificity of general English expressions would be inadequate, inaccurate, and irresponsible.

Likewise, for a standard grammar point such as prepositional phrases of location, why teach “in-at-on-between-beside-across from-next to” through the typical, general English downtown street map of post office, bank, museum, school, grocery store, bus stop? One can just as easily, and much more relevantly, teach the location of industry-specific features, such as the layout of:

  • A hotel guest floor: odd/even room numbers, guest elevator/service elevator/pool elevator, ice machine, vending machines, house phone, emergency exit stairs
  • Hotel guest services: front desk, concierge, business center, restrooms, fitness facilities, swimming pool
  • Hotel outlets (that generate separate income): gift shop, coffee shop, fine dining restaurant, bar, self/valet parking, self-service laundry machines

After presenting such “real live” examples, summary documents provide key frameworks for the distinctions across general English, EAP, and EOP (Lomperis, 2010, pp.316--321). To further explain how customization is done in EOP, the list of best practices (Lomperis, 2010, pp. 321-323), another key framework, breaks down characteristic steps: instructional needs assessment, curriculum design, materials development, and delivery of training. These key framework, summary documents have proven effective, over and over, around the world, in clarifying the differences in language teaching approaches and in making the case for EOP to achieve buy-in.

Best Practices for Administrative Level Buy-In

In addition to buy-in needed for customized instruction, as above, administrative buy-in is needed at the management level for customized program design. Now a different set of the best practices (Lomperis, 2010, pp. 321-323) becomes relevant: business plan, marketing, ONA, program design, proposal/contract, and program administration and staffing. (For chapters of content related to each listed best practice, see Friedenberg et al., 2003.) In particular, ONA leads to sound program design.

Case studies of problematic program designs (i.e., those that were “doomed to fail”) because ONA was not carried out illustrate the importance of informed planning. Thus, buy-in to sound planning can be achieved in a backward, but actually striking, way when stakeholders realize that some feature they may never have thought about turns out, in fact, to have truly negative impact.

Consider problematic program design factors in the following project in Afghanistan.

  1. Length of EOP Training Cycle: In a World Bank/ Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO)/ national government ministry project, international experts were going to provide technical training in English to government ministry staff for 6 days. English training to understand the technical training was also set at 6 days. However, this parallelism did not take into account that longer language training would be needed, given the incoming level of English proficiency/literacy of the ministry staff and the exit level of English that they would be required to master.

  2. Selection of EOP Teacher/s: Further, in reference to buy-in for EOP teacher training, the World Bank insisted that the English teacher for this project had to be an expat native speaker (the author). As a preferred alternative, the author tried to make the case for Afghan graduates of an EOP training program she proposed within the MATESOL program a U.S. university was running at Kabul University. Local national English teachers would be much more sustainable in the long run than a one-time, project-related native speaker, even though the Afghans were going to require upfront EOP teacher training. So, the case could really be made for buy-in to local national EOP teacher training to build long-term, human resource capacity for the country, as opposed to losing an expat EOP teacher after a too-short, 6-day English program.

Again, this makes the case for the positive-impact alternatives of EOP customization and investment in EOP teacher training—for overall buy-in to EOP.

One more positive feature of good program design that achieves rather instant buy-in at the administrative level is the compelling track record that effective EOP programs yield in return-on-investment (ROI). One such ROI resulted in a 531% savings in budget that was previously lost, before two 10-week cycles of a highly customized but effective EOP program were put in place (Martin & Lomperis, 2002). No administrator wants to keep wasting considerable money that could otherwise be saved by making a much smaller investment in the cost of a good EOP program.

Large Scope Buy-In Through Strategic Networks

Now, for the least familiar, but largest scope, buy-in of stakeholder groups interested in the level of national EOP initiatives, the relevant Best Practices are the Business Plan and Marketing. Out of the business plan process of SWOT analysis—that is, examining strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in the market of EOP program providers—the focus here is on identifying the widest network of contacts possible. Likewise, in the initial, soft-sell, educational phase of marketing, as opposed to the later “harder” sell of actually talking contractual terms, developing as far-reaching a network of contacts as possible is also the means to buy-in.

In this context of English needed at the level of the national labor force, the relevant framework for EOP professionals to become immersed in is a given country’s economy. To be savvy and sophisticated, the professionals educate themselves about how English is actually needed for economic development in that country by learning from a wide network of contacts who are extremely knowledgeable about the national economy. They research well the economic trends in which stakeholders are operating. What are the specific, current events and economic issues, as well as long-term goals, they are dealing with and may even be leading causes about? Often English is the “missing piece in the puzzle,” which gives EOP great advantage and leverage.

In fact, the beauty of developing such networks at this level is that, more than likely, many of these contacts have already recognized this “missing piece” need for English in the labor force. They themselves can identify documentation of the need from national sources, which indicates that initial buy-in is already in place. The EOP professional then picks up with the argumentation laid out above for buy-in to customization and following best practices.


Friedenberg, J., Kennedy, D., Lomperis, A., Martin, W., & Westerfield, K. (with van Naerssen, M.). (2003). Effective practices in workplace language training: Guidelines for providers of workplace English language training services. Alexandria, VA: TESOL International Association.

Lomperis, A. E. (2010). Issues in language policy for the labor force in developing countries. In M. Gueldry (Ed.), Consistent incorporation of professional terminologies into the world’s languages: The linguistic engine of a global culture (pp. 311–341). Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press.

Martin, W. M., & Lomperis, A. E. (2002). Determining the cost benefit, the return on investment, and the intangible impacts of language programs for development. TESOL Quarterly, 36, 399–429.

Anne Lomperis specializes in language planning and language policy for the labor force in developing countries. She is introducing a business model to address training of EOP teachers, EOP consultants, and EOP clients in partnership between home-base U.S. universities and local national universities in project countries.


Bhatia’s (in press) focus on genre as “a means to an end” has caused me to reflect on the importance of genre in the approaches used in the TESOL English for Specific Purposes (ESP) Interest Section (IS) to conceptualize ESP. Such conceptualizations of ESP have included those that have been technology-mediated (e.g., online forums, PowerPoint presentations, blog posts). Accordingly, genre has been a factor that has influenced how ESP has been conceptualized. Further, in view of the various genres as means to ends, ESP conceptualizations have been coconstructed by stakeholders for different purposes in connection with the stakeholders’ motivational relevancies. Consider the genres listed below which appear in an account (Knight, 2016a) of my TESOL International Association experiences that address the question: “What is English for specific purposes?”*

1. PowerPoint Presentation

As a newcomer to the ESPIS, I collaborated with three veteran leaders of the interest section—Anne Lomperis, Margaret van Naerssen, and ESPIS cofounder Kay Westerfield. We worked entirely online to create “English for Specific Purposes: An Overview for Practitioners and Clients (Academic & Corporate).” The PowerPoint was eventually published in the TESOL Resource Center in 2010 and presented at two different TESOL conventions.

2. Online Forum

When I was the ESPIS chair from April 2011 to March 2012, the TESOL Community Network had just been launched. It was an ideal time to have month-long professional development discussions about ESP. There were five discussions in the TESOL ESPIS Community Discussions 2011–2012. Discussions were led by David Kertzner, Najma Janjua, and Ethel Swartley and me (coleaders). The fourth discussion was a collaboration between two TESOL ISs: ESPIS and the Intercultural Communication IS. The fifth discussion, which has had more than 19,500 views to date, was the “TESOL ESP IS & IATEFL ESP SIG Joint Online Discussion” (you must be a member of the TESOL Community for access). Further, in “4 Ways to Address the Question: What Is English for Specific Purposes” (Knight, 2016a), I mention the ESP reading group in the TESOL Community Network launched and led by Robin Sulkosky. For more information on that reading group, see the ESP Project Leader Profile of Robin below.

3. Blog

Twenty-two ESP Project Leader Profiles were published from May 2015 to September 2016 on the blog for TESOL International Association. In addition, the profiles have become a reference in TESOL’s ELT Leadership Management Certificate Program Online! If you want to understand the TESOL ESPIS leadership, read the profiles: 19 of the 22 leaders below have been on the ESPIS steering board, and 11 have been chairs.

  1. 5 May 2015: ESP Project Leader Profile: Kristin Ekkens
  2. 2 June 2015: ESP Project Leader Profile: Charles Hall
  3. 14 July 2015: ESP Project Leader Profile: Ronna Timpa
  4. 11 August 2015: ESP Project Leader Profile: Evan Frendo
  5. 8 September 2015: ESP Project Leader Profile: Jaclyn Gishbaugher
  6. 6 October 2015: ESP Project Leader Profile: Anne Lomperis
  7. 20 October 2015: ESP Project Leader Profile: Ethel Swartley
  8. 3 November 2015: ESP Project Leader Profile: David Kertzner
  9. 1 December 2015: ESP Project Leader Profile: Margaret van Naerssen
  10. 15 December 2015: ESP Project Leader Profile: Marvin Hoffland
  11. 12 January 2016: ESP Project Leader Profile: John Butcher
  12. 26 January 2016: ESP Project Leader Profile: Karen Schwelle
  13. 23 February 2016: ESP Project Leader Profile: Esther Perez Apple
  14. 8 March 2016: ESP Project Leader Profile: Kevin Knight
  15. 5 April 2016: ESP Project Leader Profile: Shahid Abrar-ul-Hassan
  16. 3 May 2016: ESP Project Leader Profile: Robert Connor
  17. 17 May 2016: ESP Project Leader Profile: Jigang Cai
  18. 14 June 2016: ESP Project Leader Profile: Ismaeil Fazel
  19. 28 June 2016: ESP Project Leader Profile: Yilin Sun
  20. 26 July 2016: ESP Project Leader Profile: Tarana Patel
  21. 23 August 2016: ESP Project Leader Profile: Prithvi Shrestha
  22. 6 September 2016: ESP Project Leader Profile: Robin Sulkosky

In connection with the creation and contents of the first 20 profiles above, I gave a presentation at the Joint International Conference, ESP in Asia: Frontier and Advancement, The 8th International Conference on ESP in Asia & The 3rd International Symposium on Innovative Teaching and Research in ESP in Japan (Knight, 2016b). In between the publication of the profiles on the TESOL Blog, I have also considered the conceptualization of ESP. For example, consider how ESP (i.e., EOP) is framed as leadership in “ESP Best Practices in View of Leadership Conceptualization” (Knight, 2015).

4. Webinar

I have been involved in two TESOL webinars that have addressed ESP. The first, which was coled by David Kertzner, Ethel Swartley and me, focused on “principled ESP.” The second was a collaboration between the TESOL ESPIS and the IATEFL ESP SIG titled TESOL-IATEFL Online Discussion About How ESP Projects Can Create Positive Social Change. The discussion leaders included Andy Gillett, Kristin Ekkens, Ronna Timpa, Jaclyn Gishbaugher, Anne Lomperis, and Margaret van Naerssen. I was the organizer and moderator.

5. Newsletter

ESP News is another place where conceptualizations of ESP are presented. As you read the articles in this newsletter of the ESPIS, please keep in mind how this genre is a means to an end; in other words, what is the purpose or function of a newsletter in TESOL International Association? You might also ask yourself guiding questions about the following: stakeholders, why an article is being written, and the discourses. Your analysis of the professional communication in ESP News (and in the other genres above) may help you in your role as an ESP practitioner or researcher.

In the light of the above, it is clear that TESOL International Association has provided the opportunity for ESP practitioners and researchers to share our stories. In this connection, the ESP PowerPoint listed above was informed by another TESOL-related genre: a book published by TESOL (Friedenberg, Kennedy, Lomperis, Martin, & Westerfield, 2003/2014). From a reflective stance, the conceptualization of ESP that has been promoted in the TESOL ESPIS has been the one in the ESP PowerPoint. (Can you see the connections over time?) In the future, as I enjoy learning about ESP in various genres, I will be asking myself, “What is actually going on here?”

*Note: The content of this article is adapted from Knight (2016a).


Bhatia, V. K. (In press). Critical genre analysis: Investigating interdiscursive performance in professional practice. London, England: Routledge.

Friedenberg, J., Kennedy, D., Lomperis, A., Martin, W., & Westerfield, K. (with van Naerssen, M.). (2014). Effective practices in workplace language training: Guidelines for providers of workplace English language training services. Alexandria, VA: TESOL Press. (Original work published 2003)

Knight, K. (2015). ESP best practices in view of leadership conceptualization. The TESOL Blog. Alexandria, VA: TESOL International Association. Retrieved from http://blog.tesol.org/esp-best-practices-in-view

Knight, K. (2016a). 4 ways to address the question: What Is English for specific purposes? The TESOL Blog. Alexandria, VA: TESOL International Association. Retrieved from http://blog.tesol.org/4-ways-to-

Knight, K. (2016b). TESOL ESP project leader profiles for professional development of ESP practitioners worldwide [Featured presentation]. Joint International Conference, ESP in Asia: Frontier and Advancement, The 8th International Conference on ESP in Asia & The 3rd International Symposium on Innovative Teaching and Research in ESP in Japan. Tokyo, Japan: UEC.

Kevin Knight (PhD in linguistics, MBA, MPIA) is associate professor in the Department of International Communication of Kanda University of International Studies in Chiba, Japan. His research interests include leadership conceptualization and development, English for specific purposes, and professional communication. (See The Leadership Connection Project.)



Statement of Purpose/Goals

The English for Specific Purposes Interest Section (ESPIS) is open to TESOL members who are interested in research and instruction designed to meet the unique English language needs of students and working adults in specific areas of study and employment by providing special training beyond that which is normally acquired by the average English speaker. The ESPIS fosters the sharing of ideas, expertise, and specialized curricula among ESP practitioners to promote quality research, education, and professional development in ESP.


ESP has long been an international movement with great strengths in research and teaching in many parts of the world, including developing countries. Establishing the ESPIS both indicates and validates TESOL's commitment to its international responsibilities.

Daphne Mackey, Kay Westerfield, and Adrian Pilbeam initiated the work to establish an ESPIS at the 1990 TESOL convention in New York. Meetings were well attended by participants interested in promoting the international sharing of ESP experience and expertise.

The proposed IS was given proposals to review for the 1992 TESOL convention in Vancouver and was allotted slots for presentations and discussion groups. The petition to recognize the ESPIS was overwhelmingly approved by the Interest Section Council in Vancouver and was ratified by the Executive Board shortly thereafter. Kay Westerfield was appointed chair (1992–1993), with Laraine Kaminsky as chair-elect. Mary McSwain and Roberta Rettner became the first editors of TESOL ESP News, and Peter Master, the first editor of the TESOL Matters ESP column. In fall 1992, the IS was also awarded its first TESOL Special Projects Grant, submitted by Angela Castro with IS support, to establish the Directory of ESP Professional Services. Today, the ESPIS enjoys active participation from an ever-increasing membership and continually explores better ways to serve ESP professionals in more efficient and effective ways.

ESPIS Community Leaders

Chair: Robert T. Connor
Esther Perez Apple
Past Chair:
Jaclyn J. Gishbaugher
Newsletter Editors:
Roberta Diamond, Kevin Knight
Community Manager:
Tarana Patel
Karen Schwelle
Christina DeCoursey, Robin Sulkosky, Marvin Hoffland
English for Occupational Purposes Representatives:
Elizabeth Mathews, John Butcher
English for Academic Purposes Representatives:
Julie MacRae, Andrew Millford