ESP Project Leader Profile: Marcelo Concario

Hello, ESPers worldwide!

In this ESP project leader profile, we travel to Brazil to meet Dr. Marcelo Concario at São Paulo State University, who was introduced to me by ESP project leader, Dr. Gina Mikel Petrie. Marcelo’s research and teaching in the areas of content-based instruction (CBI) and content and language integrated learning (CLIL) include strands of ESP as students learn the language they need to know for other courses and are prepared for specific activities that involve communication in English. Please read Marcelo’s bio :

Marcelo Concario earned his PhD from Unicamp (Brazil) and has been a visiting researcher at Eastern Washington University (Cheney, USA), and Universität Wien (Vienna, Austria). He is assistant professor at São Paulo State University (UNESP), School of Architecture, Arts and Communication, Bauru (

Leaders in the TESOL ESP Interest Section have written that ESP is not synonymous with CBI, which can be considered one approach to ESP (e.g., Abrar-ul-Hassan, 2012; Knight, Lomperis, van Naerssen, & Westerfield, 2010). In Marcelo’s interview responses, he shares his experience of using CBI  (and strands of ESP training if you look carefully) to motivate learners and faculty and lead them to seek ESP solutions to the communication challenges that they face.

Dr. Marcelo Concario
São Paulo State University
São Paulo, Brazi

Define leadership in your own words.

In my experience, leadership has to do with an ability to mediate relations among people and the use of resources. A good leader will help individuals in a group focus on what they can do best, and this can be extremely challenging. I have seen excellent professionals become frustrated in their jobs as a lot of their time and enthusiasm was taken by activities they were not cut out for. Leadership, therefore, involves an interest in understanding and supporting individuals in a group. It is a strategic and managerial skill that facilitates the execution of tasks. This does not mean that leadership is more important than other competencies; in fact, it is one factor among many that can affect the result of teamwork.

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?

When I joined my university in 2010, the required English language courses in our Social Communication programs were under attack: program administrators argued that the courses did not contribute to the general education of our students; some faculty members claimed that our students already knew a lot of English and, therefore, other courses could be offered instead; and our students themselves were becoming less and less excited about “English for Specific Purposes.” However, from a specialist’s viewpoint, there were other problems affecting the teaching of English in our programs. For many years, the fact that the courses had been taught by temporary, substitute teachers did not allow for long-term projects to be implemented. In addition, “English for Specific Purposes” back then was understood as the teaching and practice of reading strategies without a clear focus on what our current students need and already know.

As a recently hired faculty committed to classroom research, I started working on a project to investigate the possibilities and challenges associated with the implementation of content-based instruction (CBI) in our English language courses. The different approach involved reviewing the syllabuses of many courses in different programs, buying and studying textbooks in English dedicated to a range of fields pertaining to social communication, and carrying out needs analysis and surveys with students. Between 2011 and 2014, documented data revealed that students became much more motivated in the classrooms, and program administrators noticed a marked change in how the language courses were perceived by students and other faculty members. Between 2013 and 2016, research and extension projects benefited from institutional support, and another permanent faculty with significant experience in ESP was hired.

Despite the more favorable climate at present, continuing classroom research suggests that CBI does not lead to significant gains in terms of the learning of language as forms. Tests, recordings of oral presentations, a corpus of written texts, and journal entries collected with students show that there are persisting errors in their production, such as inadequate use of articles and verb tenses, poor sentence and paragraph structure, lack of planning and editing of texts, among others. However, there is robust evidence that the impact on motivation and satisfaction is very positive. In addition, the new approach has caused many students—and even faculty members—to look for language courses in and outside our college. Other documented benefits of CBI in the words of students are the opportunities to learn new things or remember what they need to know for other courses they take, and the fact that many of them have become less anxious when they need to deal with written or oral material in English. To me, this is indicative of success in the project because progress has been made, especially as far as institutional change has been noticed. Program administrators have understood that classes with fewer students are necessary in language courses, and that IT resources are required to make courses more attractive and efficient.

As I read Marcelo’s account of program development, the following quotation brought to mind the need for ESP training:

“…the new approach has caused many students—and even faculty members—to look for language courses in and outside our college.”

This made me think that they were looking for language training that would help them to meet immediate and specific needs for English language communication skills as a tool in their training or in their work; in other words, they were seeking ESP training.

Dr. Margaret van Naerssen, who is also an ESP Project leader, has worked hard as a TESOL ESP Interest Section former chair to make ESP practitioners and researchers aware of the differences among ESP, CBI, and other acronyms. Recently, she was working for the U.S. Department of State:

[Her] EL Specialist project was prompted by a relatively recent policy change from the Ministry of Education (MOE) in Vietnam calling for institutions of higher education to begin delivering course work through English as a medium of instruction (EMI).  As such, van Naerssen led intensive workshops during a national conference to reflect on current policies and practices in ESP/EMI education, key challenges facing the stakeholders in delivering ESP/EMI education, and the visions and outcomes of ESP/EMI education in different contexts within Vietnam.

Marcelo’s account may reflect this movement toward ESP/EMI education, and ESP teacher-training would be valuable.

Do you have questions or comments for Marcelo?  Please feel free to contact him directly!

All the best,


Abrar-ul-Hassan, S. (2012). State-of-the-art review: Revisiting the ins and outs of ESP practice. Professional and Academic English, 39, 4–11.

Knight, K., Lomperis, A., van Naerssen, M., & Westerfield, K. (2010). English for specific purposes: An overview for practitioners and clients (academic and corporate). PowerPoint presentation submitted to Alexandria, VA: TESOL Resource Center.

U.S. Department of State. (n.d.). English language specialist conducts workshops on English for specific purposes and English as a medium of instruction in Vietnam and Cambodia. Retrieved from

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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