Read, Research and Write: Academic Skills for ESL Students in Higher Education

May 28, 2009

Author: Caroline Brandt

Edition: First

Publisher: Sage

Pages: 248

Price: £60.00 and £19.99

ISBN 9781412947367 and 7374

Calling all lecturers: your jobs depend on books like this. You know that international students are a vital source of money for UK universities. Many of your masters courses - the ones you really enjoy teaching - would collapse tomorrow without students from around the world. This book is about how to help these students succeed.

It's also an innovative and well-crafted piece of work, interesting in its own right. We all want our students to read academic books and articles intelligently and critically, to write well, and to document their work properly and avoid plagiarism. Caroline Brandt provides some excellent resources here that are designed to achieve this. The material is the result of careful research and it looks convincing to me.

ESL (English as a second language) students are those whose education is - or is about to be - in English but who come from a non-English language background. These students need support with academic English, and often with other aspects of university study. Most UK universities have a special unit that provides this help, either before students embark on their main course or throughout their period of study. The people who work in these units, it has to be said, are often on casual contracts, put up with poor pay and conditions and are undervalued by their colleagues.

That is one reason why the innovative part of this book is good news. The English for Academic Purposes (EAP) community has its own research journals, conferences and scholarly networks: this book draws on the EAP research literature as the gateway to its subject matter. Each chapter begins by reproducing a research paper - a particularly good one reports on a survey about attitudes to plagiarism in one university - and then suggests exercises and activities that build on it.

The book takes pride in the intellectual capital of the EAP community and uses it as teaching material. After chapters on reading, writing and thinking critically, the final one is called "finding your voice": it starts with a superb piece by Frank Cioffi about how to construct an argument in an essay. Any student could benefit from reading it, and that's another important point about EAP teachers: a lot of their expertise applies equally well to home students. This is 21st-century EAP.

The old amateurish type - think of Kenneth Branagh as the well-meaning but emotionally stunted Guy Pringle in Fortunes of War - is no more. We need today's professional EAP teachers more than we realise, and books of this quality are evidence that they also deserve our respect.

Who is it for? EAP teachers, but every academic could learn from it.

Presentation: Excellent.

Would you recommend it? Only to people who genuinely want their students to succeed.

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