Constructionist Experiential Learner-Enhanced Teaching in English for Academic Purposes

by Dietmar Tatzl (Author)
©2016 Textbook XIV, 268 Pages


This book offers a macrostrategy for teaching English as a foreign language to students in tertiary degree programmes. This teaching strategy has been developed from various methodological currents in higher education and language didactics. The volume provides inspiration, ideas and practical examples for ESP and EAP professionals anywhere in the world and hopes to motivate learners across disciplines. It takes subject-specific requirements into consideration and is a methodology handbook open to the diversity of EAP teaching contexts. It may serve as a textbook in applied linguistics, English studies and teacher education.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • About the Author
  • Acronyms and Abbreviations
  • Introduction
  • 1. Defining the Field
  • 1.1 ESP and EAP
  • 1.2 Literature Review
  • 1.3 Rationale for the Book
  • 2. Disciplinary Significance Exemplified
  • 2.1 Institutional and Disciplinary Diversity
  • 2.2 STEM Disciplines
  • 3. Constructionist Experiential Learner-Enhanced Teaching
  • 3.1 The Constructionist Approach
  • 3.2 Experiential Learning
  • 3.3 Learner-Enhanced Teaching
  • 3.4 Instructional Principles in CELET
  • 3.5 Assignment Output Types
  • 3.6 The Roles of Teachers
  • 3.7 The Roles of Learners
  • 3.8 The Needs of Learners
  • 4. Project-Based Discipline-Specific Writing
  • 4.1 Rationale for Designing CELET Projects
  • 4.2 Aeronautical Student Research Project Assignment
  • 4.3 Aeronautical Student Research Project Materials
  • 4.3.1 Peer-Reviewing Guide
  • 4.3.2 Project Rating Scale and Assessment Criteria
  • 4.4 Aeronautical Student Research Project Outcomes
  • 5. Components of Technical-Scientific Writing
  • 5.1 Scientific Writing Module
  • 5.2 Defining Complex Concepts and Terms
  • 6. Language Learning Strategies and Study Skills
  • 6.1 Vocabulary Learning Strategies
  • 6.2 Coping with Vocabulary in Technical-Scientific Texts
  • 6.3 Academic Reading Strategies
  • 6.3.1 Reading Subject-Specific Monographs and Textbooks
  • 6.3.2 Reading Subject-Specific Research Articles and Papers
  • 6.4 Information Processing Skills
  • 6.4.1 Working with Books
  • 6.4.2 Working with Research Articles
  • 6.5 Library Literacy and Digital Literacy
  • 6.6 Technical English Learning Log
  • 7. Constructionist Experiential Learner-Enhanced Tasks
  • 7.1 News from Industry
  • 7.2 Shared Insights
  • 7.3 Triple Talk
  • 7.4 Student Experts
  • 7.5 Mathematical Formulae
  • 7.6 Graphical Translations
  • 7.7 Specifying Equipment Requirements
  • 7.8 Welcoming a Visitor
  • 8. Constructionist Experiential Learner-Enhanced Meeting Role Plays
  • 8.1 Fuselage Design
  • 8.2 Avionics
  • 8.3 Fleet Planning
  • 8.4 Engine Selection
  • 8.5 Airport Noise
  • 8.6 Airport Revenues
  • 8.7 Airline Alliances
  • 8.8 Airline Economics
  • 9. Implementing Constructionist Experiential Learner-Enhanced Teaching
  • 9.1 Recommendations
  • 9.2 Aviation Laboratory Inventory
  • 10. Conclusions
  • Appendices
  • A Students’ Specimen Project Report Extracts
  • B Students’ Selected Technical English Learning Logs
  • C Materials for Meetings
  • References
  • Subject Index

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This book is dedicated to E., C. and M.

I would like to thank my family and especially my wife for their patience and support during the past years. My daughters, through their eagerness to grow and learn and thrive, have engendered my intention to write a book that preserves such curiosity and longing for improvement in advanced and adult learners.

I would like to extend my thanks to the library staff of the FH Joanneum University of Applied Sciences, Graz, Austria, who have been very helpful with library orders and the provision of literature.

I am also grateful for the partial funding of this publication by the Province of Styria, Department of Science and Research, and in particular for the kind assistance of Martina Rupprecht. Furthermore, I would like to thank my colleagues at the FH Joanneum University of Applied Sciences, who have been a source of motivation in the past years, for their efforts to advance science, research and education for the benefit of our graduates.

Special thanks go to Alexandra Marciniak, Richard Breitenbach, Annette Reese, Anne-Kathrin Grimmeißen and the production team at Peter Lang, who have kindly contributed to the publication of this book with their professional assistance. Last but not least, I am grateful for students’ active participation in my courses and their written agreement to the inclusion of extracts from their work in this publication.

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About the Author

Dietmar Tatzl is a faculty member of the Institute of Aviation, where he has taught English language courses to aeronautical engineering students for 13 years. He received his doctorate in English Studies from the University of Graz, Austria. His research interests include English for specific purposes, English for science and technology, engineering education and technical communication.

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Acronyms and Abbreviations

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Higher education has become an increasingly challenging field for teachers. In addition to the ever-present complexities of teaching and learning, modern-day instructors witness growing student numbers and a diversity of groups entering universities:

Widening participation means that today’s academics are also expected to deal with an unprecedentedly broad spectrum of student ability and background. They can no longer rely on students having detailed previous knowledge, especially in mathematics and science. Attainment in literacy, the primary generic skill, often leaves much to be desired. One in five students in the United Kingdom, and one in three in Australia, will drop out. Yet most of these very same students are contributing substantial sums to their education and are working to pay their way. They have grown up with the expectation of staying connected to a customer-focused, instant, 24-hour, 7-day week service: why should a university education be any different? Today’s undergraduates are at once harder to teach and less indulgent towards indifferent teaching. (Ramsden, 2003, p. 4)

Despite those changed circumstances, learning remains a complex and fascinating matter. As Ramsden (2003) has noted, on the one hand, an “individual lecturer’s teaching and assessment methods will influence the quality of his or her students’ learning” (p. 77), but on the other hand, “[n]o one can ever be certain that teaching will cause students to learn” and “excellence in teaching cannot guarantee that students will understand” (p. 78). Learning is of a volatile nature, depends on a multitude of factors and is situated in diverse contexts, among which formal learning in classrooms is only one. All informal learning that takes place in addition to formal learning is open to many influences which may also have considerable impacts on students’ experiences in classrooms (Tatzl, forthcoming). Moreover, as Tatzl (2012, p. 107) has remarked, it remains difficult to determine the actual moments when any learning, whether informal or formal, happens. In other words, “learning is unobservable and hence requires that inferences be made” (Anderson et al., 2001, p. 245). Yet already Dewey (1929/2011) noted that educators “deal with situations that never repeat one another” (p. 65). As a consequence, he concluded, “[e]xact quantitative determinations are far from meeting the demands of such situations, for they presuppose repetitions and exact uniformities” (p. 65). This is still true today, and therefore teachers must show great flexibility and versatility in their practices on the one hand, while learners must be given some freedom of choice within a pedagogic setting in order to cater for individual needs and preferences on the other. ← 1 | 2 →

Ramsden (2003) has defined good teaching with a focus on a hierarchical progress through subject matter: “good teaching involves an equivalent process of change from simple to complex, from absolute to relative, from the unquestioning acceptance of authority to a search for personal meaning, from discrete techniques and right answers to the expression of skills within an ordered but provisional system” (p. 252). This definition may apply to content subjects rather than language, yet even there it is questionable whether learning takes place in a linear form from simple to complex. However, the presentation of content from simple to complex seems to be necessary to lay the foundations for more explorative methods. Learners of foreign languages are usually not exposed to a rich linguistic environment where the target language pervades their lives, which is why this lack of exposure needs to be compensated for by teacher guidance, learning materials and provision of rules to facilitate efficient progress.

It is necessary to consider the question in how far languages differ from content disciplines in order to devise appropriate learning strategies. An understanding of the differences and similarities may enable a sharper look at course design, lesson planning and learning support:

This means that the main difference compared to content subjects is that language learning also happens unconsciously through mental processes over which teachers have little control. This again necessitates the realisation on the part of instructors that they need to design educational environments which allow for both implicit and explicit learning.

In higher education, it is important to make the distinction between language study and language learning. Most tertiary learners of English do not study the language as a discipline to become linguists, translators or teachers. Instead, many tertiary learners are enrolled in content disciplines where the role of language learning serves a specific purpose, such as improving academic writing or preparing students for the professional workplace. The main difference compared to learning English at secondary level is, therefore, that in higher education English language learning is driven by a more concrete motivation and is usually put to more immediate use. ← 2 | 3 →

English as a language for study and professional purposes has gained importance in today’s globalised world. Even in countries where English is no dominant language in society, students at higher education institutions need receptive and productive English skills for mastering scientific content in coursebooks and examinations, to name but a few instances. This book treats the teaching of English as a foreign language (EFL) to tertiary students whose main studies reside in content-area disciplines, offering a fresh and independent consideration of this particular educational setting from a practitioner’s perspective.


XIV, 268
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2015 (December)
Language Methodology Communication Higher education Constructionism
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2015. XIV, 268 pp., 9 b/w fig., 33 tables

Biographical notes

Dietmar Tatzl (Author)

Dietmar Tatzl is a senior lecturer at the Institute of Aviation at FH Joanneum University of Applied Sciences, Austria. He teaches English language to aeronautical engineering students. His research interests include English for science and technology, engineering education and technical communication.


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284 pages