ESP Project Leader Profile: Shahid Abrar-ul-Hassan

Hello, ESPers worldwide!

In this ESP project leader profile, you will read about Shahid Abrar-ul-Hassan. Shahid is a seasoned EAP educator, academic researcher, professional development consultant, and official ESOL examiner (speaking, writing) based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. He has also worked as section editor of TESOL Journal (Scopus-indexed) and as associate editor of the TESOL Encyclopedia of English Language Teaching (a pioneering work of the TESOL International Association and Wiley Blackwell). Shahid is an alumnus of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (California, USA). He was a recipient of the Charles Wallace Fellowship (British Council/Charles Wallace Trust) and the Fulbright Fellowship (U.S. Department of State). He has also received a Best Teacher award for excellence in research and teaching from Sultan Qaboos University (Muscat, Oman). Shahid has led commissioned/invited professional development workshops in Albania, Canada, China, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, and Turkey.


Shahid Abrar-ul-Hassan
Vancouver, BC, Canada

How would you define leadership?

Leadership, in ESP contexts, sets professional and academic standards as well as supports practitioners in effectively reaching those targets. Most importantly, leadership is expected to demonstrate in practical terms how to put the latest research into action; that is, promoting research-informed practice. Those who assume leadership roles MUST be aware of the current trends and developments in ESP research and, clearly desirable, be able to publish their practiced-based research in mainstream or top-tier publications. In my view, just years of experience here and there does not complete the skill set for an ESP leadership portfolio. Thus, the leadership role entails specialist expertise in two domains: theoretical knowledge base grounded in the current research and practical application of the research-based best practices.

As we are aware, EAP has become remarkably widespread as an offshoot of ESP in the wake of globalization and adaptation of English as an International Language (EIL). It is safe to surmise that EAP represents the great bulk of ESP practice in terms of number of students, practitioners, research productivity, teaching materials, and geographical coverage.

ESP leadership (e.g., at ESP-IS) stays abreast of the developments in the field beyond their local teaching context. For instance, our PD sessions need to represent new realities that challenge the traditional conceptualization of EAP instruction. EAP is not the mother tongue of any individual, and the advanced or L1 English language proficiency does not make anyone well-versed in academic discourse, which is situated as opposed to being detached or generic. University and college students are members of multiple discourse communities, and academic discourse communities are populated by users of English from across the world. Thus, multidialectical competence is desirable. Moreover, plurilingualism is a natural linguistic resource that can be tapped in order to make EAP instruction effective. And, EAP-like programs focused on honing general language skills are limiting and contrary to the fundamental principles of ESP approach.

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?

Of the numerous projects, both local and international, one worthwhile project grew out of my leadership tenure with ESP-IS. A set of FAQs were posed by ESP practitioners both old and new every year at our TESOL convention sessions: What is and isn’t ESP? How is ESP different than CBI, CLIL or GLT? What is ESP pedagogy and assessment? What specifically are ESP best practices? Although these questions still don’t have definite answers, I attempted to pen an article that synthesized and examined the ESP approach in its entirety based on the current literature in the field. It was a daunting task, but I was able to develop a full-length article (“The Ins and Outs of English for Specific Purposes”) after reviews by expert ESP peers to ensure its authenticity. The article delineated the ESP approach and tackled the key questions for practitioners.

The next step was how to communicate with the wider ESP audience across the globe, who were the prime stakeholders. ESP-IS membership is substantial and varied, but it does not reach out to most ESP practitioners in the world. So, I chose IATEFL’s ESP SIG journal Academic and Professional English as a venue to disseminate the article. This journal is reputed as a practitioner-oriented and open-access publication, which is edited by well-known ESP scholars. The article was published in the 2012 issue and is readily available online from my site.

The article has been a bestseller, with hundreds of views/downloads thus far. I feel gratified that it has helped orientate practitioners into the ESP approach, and while focusing particularly on the pedagogy, it offers a methodological framework for designing and implementing ESP courses. “This article captures the development of the ESP approach and specifically examines how ESP is differentiated from general English teaching.” Since I published the article, phenomenal developments have taken place in the field and continue to be with the incorporation of EAP in higher education in TEIL settings. So, more focused work is needed of the ESP leadership in terms of theoretical positioning as well as practical implementation of efficacious ESP courses.

As I read Shahid’s responses to the two questions above, I recalled a conversation that Shahid and I had at a TESOL convention. He was telling me how he had written his article after the ESP PowerPoint (Knight, Lomperis, van Naerssen, & Westerfield, 2010) had been created in order to provide a stronger academic foundation for the PowerPoint. Shahid’s article can also be accessed in the TESOL ESPIS library in the TESOL Community Network.

In addition, Shahid’s conceptualization of leadership refers to professional expertise that provides for the shaping of the vision of who we are as ESP researchers and practitioners and where we are to go in the future.  (See Candlin on expertise and Richards on creativity.) In my own leadership research, one leader shared how he strongly believed that technical competence in a field would cause others to defer to the decisions of the “expert.” I also believe that it is the ESP professionals with expertise in multiple fields who can provide us with their creative insights.

Do you have questions or comments for Shahid? Please post those below!

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. E., 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.

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.
This entry was posted in TESOL Blog and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to ESP Project Leader Profile: Shahid Abrar-ul-Hassan

  1. Aqsa Tahir says:

    Sir you are an inspiration for me to excel and be a part of this ESP world. thanks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.