Meredith MacAulay
Transition and transfer: Impacts of an EAP direct entry course on students’ discussion skills at university

The significant growth in international student enrolments at Australian universities has driven the demand for EAP courses in ELICOS centres, particularly Direct Entry Programs or DEPs. Despite this growth, there is limited research into the impacts of DEP courses on students’ performance at university. One lens through which to measure such impacts is learning transfer. Learning transfer refers to the process of using skills or knowledge learned in one context in a novel context. EAP teachers and course writers often assume that students will automatically apply the language, skills and strategies that they learn in their course to their tasks at university but a number of researchers in learning transfer indicate that this is not always the case.

This presentation will discuss a small exploratory case study which investigated the perspectives of EAP pathway graduates about the speaking demands of their MA programs and how well-prepared they felt by their DEP for these demands. The study focussed on a group of six students from one cohort graduating from a ten-week DEP. The data, based on a series of interviews, revealed that four main types of speaking tasks were required of these students in their first six weeks of university. Students also transferred a number of skills from their DEP course. The presentation will discuss factors which influenced transfer and will provide recommendations for future research. The session will conclude with a discussion of methods to promote the transfer of EAP skills to students’ tertiary courses including ‘Bridging’ and ‘Hugging.’

Meredith MacAulay teaches EAP at UNSW Institute of languages where she also works as a teacher trainer. She has taught English and LOTE in a number of contexts in Australia, the US and Japan for 20 years as well as being involved in language testing. She has a Bachelor of Education in Primary Teaching and LOTE, a Cambridge DELTA and an MA in TESOL. Her interests involve learning transfer as well as academic writing. The research referred to in this presentation was carried out for the capstone project of her MA TESOL at UNSW.