ESP Project Leader Profile: Elise Geither

Hello, ESPers worldwide!

The 42nd ESP project leader profile features Elise Geither, who gave a presentation at TESOL 2018 in Chicago in an ESP-EFL (English as a foreign language) intersection session. In addition to being an ESP practitioner, Elise is a multitalented teacher and novelist, who supports students with disabilities:

Elise Geither, PhD, has been teaching for over 20 years. Geither has taught English, ESL, and Education and set up programs for K–12 school districts and universities. She works closely with students in higher education as they transition to university life and navigate their way to success. Geither is the author of a book on academic writing and support for students on the autism spectrum, and her young adult novel, The Deer, was released in 2017. She continues to research how to best support international students, students with disabilities, and specifically students on the spectrum as they make their way to American universities. Geither lives in Ohio.

In her interview, Elise describes her role as leader of an English for legal purposes course related to a Master of Laws (LLM) program at a university in the United States.

Elise Geither, PhD
Associate Director of Spoken English Programs
Case Western Reserve University

Define leadership in your own words.

I have had many opportunities to engage as a leader and observe leaders in action. In the area of ESP, I have found that observing our graduate instructors, mentors, and supervisors as they work toward becoming better teachers and leaders has been most interesting and educational. Because much of my background is in teaching, I am always looking at the skills that my students and paraprofessionals are developing in terms of educating others.

The areas of Best Practice for ESPs also cross into the areas and skills needed to become a good leader and teacher. For example, identifying and assessing client needs helps any leader become better informed in how to move forward with a project or class. I encourage our ESP instructors to use formative and summative assessment to learn more about their students and clients. Then moving toward a better program design becomes easier.

Leadership, in my eyes, is helping others learn and engage in experiences that will then help them to become better leaders and share their expertise with the next wave of instructors, supervisors, mentors, and leaders.

Tell me an ESP project success story. Focus on your communication as a leader in the project. How did you communicate with stakeholders to make that project successful?

Our most successful ESP project has been an ongoing course that we build on each year. Having the ability to work on this program for a number of years has helped it develop into an engaging course for the students and one that provides the school with the outcomes they require of their students. This is an English for legal purposes course that is part of a summer program for the LLM program at our school.

We are lucky in that our courses are embedded into a larger program that is highly supported by the law school. The overall program includes lectures and classes by instructors from the law school along with our classes in spoken English, which complement what students learn in the law sections.

Over the years, we have been able to develop the pre- and postassessment for the program so that we are gathering the most useful information on student skills and needs in an easy-to-use and easy-to-manage format. This has required numerous attempts and changes over the past few years. In addition, we have developed a highly successful instructor training program, as we use graduate students as well as professionals as instructors.

Much of the success, I believe, comes from the support of the law school and their administration. As they see the importance of language and communication skills as an integral part of the success of their students, we can work together to provide the best program.

Elements that have made this program successful include our assessments, instructor training, unique and flexible materials, a program design that is negotiated by our course instructors and the law school, curriculum that has been tested, and an environment that provides a positive learning experience for the students. Again, we have been lucky to have the time, resources, and support to watch this program develop into one of our best programs on campus.

As the lead in this project, I think that my experience as an educator has enabled me to view this program through a unique lens. Understanding student needs and student “wants” along with what the law school sees as the outcomes for the course has helped me to work with the instructors to develop curriculum that works. However, by also turning leadership over to instructors and periodically student supervisors, we have also gained valuable insight into how to make the program work.

By looking at the current pieces of this successful program, we are able to look at other ESP programs we have on campus and move to make changes that will help those programs become more successful as well. Finding out how the best practices of ESP programs meet the unique needs of each program helps us make important changes as we move toward greater program success.

Elise provides us with a leadership vision of how ESP practitioners can become “change agents” using ESP “best practices principles” to improve curriculum campus-wide. It was interesting to read how various stakeholders are involved in program development, which means that there are multiple negotiations involved in the creation of what eventually is offered as a course. I also liked the focus on continuous improvement, which is certainly an important part of an ESP program at a university or in the workplace.

Do you have any questions or comments for Elise? Please feel free to contact her directly!

All the best,

About Kevin Knight

Kevin Knight
Kevin Knight (PhD in Linguistics, MBA, MPIA) is an associate professor in the Department of International Communication (International Business Career major) and has also been working in the Career Education Center of Kanda University of International Studies in Chiba, Japan. In the TESOL ESP Interest Section (ESPIS), he has served as chair and English in occupational settings (EOS) representative, and he is currently the ESPIS community manager. He was also a member of the Governance Review Task Force (GRTF) appointed by the board of directors. In addition, he has been a TESOL blogger in the area of English for Specific Purposes (ESP). He has more than 30 years of professional experience working for private, public, and academic sector institutions including Sony and the Japan Patent Office. His doctoral research on leadership communication (i.e., discourse) as a basis for leadership development was under the supervision of Emeritus Professor Christopher Candlin and Dr. Alan Jones.
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