Learning from ESPers Around the World

Hello, ESPers worldwide!

One of the things that I value most about being involved in TESOL is the opportunity to connect with ESPers around the world. Accordingly, I have been asking myself the following questions:

  1. In what contexts do we meet other ESPers?
  2. What do we learn from each other?

Let’s start with the first question. Where do we meet other ESPers? In my own case, three places come to mind:

  1. Workplaces
  2. Associations
  3. Publications (including websites)

In workplaces and associations, I am able to interact with other ESPers face-to-face (e.g., project meetings, training sessions, conventions) and online (e.g., e-mail, Skype, and forums).  Further, participation in TESOL has given me the opportunity to connect with ESPers in other associations (IATEFL, TESPA, LSPCA, AAAL, AILA, ASTD, etc.).

In connection with the second question, What do ESPers learn from each other?, consider how you would respond to the questions below.

  1. What is ESP?
  2. How do you do ESP research?
  3. How do you use ESP research for program development?
  4. How do you do a needs analysis? Who do you talk to? What kind of information do you collect? Why?
  5. How do you evaluate the performance of students? Why?
  6. How do you choose teachers and teaching materials? Why?
  7. How do you record and report the content covered in classes? Why?
  8. How do you negotiate the above? With whom do you negotiate? Why?
  9. Do you train teachers? If so, how and why?
  10. What challenges do you face in your contexts? How do you overcome those challenges?
  11. How do you show to stakeholders that you are providing value? Why do you do it that way?

The 11 questions above result in conversations with other ESPers that become a professional development activity. I also learn from other ESPers by watching them in action. At conferences, it can be helpful to see videos of the types of issues that other ESPers address in their workplace settings.

Publications provide relatively one-sided ways for me to connect with other ESPers. I may be writing for other ESPers (e.g., an article, a book chapter, a blog post), or I may be reading something written by one or more ESPers.  Consider the following:

  1. Anne Lomperis is a former EOS representative of the TESOL ESP-IS. In her article in the TESOL ESP-IS Newsletter, she shares her insights about “strategic engagement at high levels of decision making.”
  1. Evan Frendo is one of the two English in Occupational Settings (EOS) representatives on the Steering Board of the TESOL ESP Interest Section. On his useful website (on ESP and business English), I was pleased to come across a page titled “One day in the life of…: Days in the lives of business English and ESP practitioners.

Reading the above and writing about the above (in this TESOL Blog post) are both learning experiences in which I connect (mentally) with other ESPers.

My own students may show me how I can be connecting with other ESPers. For example, one of my undergraduate students is a leader of two different student groups (or “circles”) on campus. He told me that he wanted to interview the other 70+ leaders of student groups to find out how they lead. He was especially interested in applying what he learned from them to his own leadership roles. I approved his proposal, and, during class, he reports in English the contents of his Japanese interviews. It turns out that these leaders being interviewed have wonderful ideas that all of the other 70+ leaders should hear. Accordingly, the student is now involved in getting stakeholder agreement to create the first leadership workshop for all outgoing and incoming leaders of student groups on campus. His plans for the workshop include a guest speaker on leadership and feature several student leaders as speakers. Further, in the workshop, he will be able to collect research data on improving leadership of such groups. He plans to write a report on the workshop and his findings.

As described above, my student’s research (semi-structured interviews) of other leaders will hopefully result in a leadership workshop for all group leaders; i.e., leaders learning from other leaders. We need to be ESPers learning from other ESPers worldwide. For that reason, I am planning to create at least one online global discussion for ESPers in 2015 as I did when I was chair of the ESP-IS (e.g., 1. joint discussion between the IC-IS and ESP-IS; 2. joint discussion between the ESP groups of IATEFL and TESOL).

Finally, in regard to the importance of making connections through the Internet, a recent TED video comes to mind: Want to innovate? Become a “now-ist” (Joi Ito). Good luck in engaging in learning exchanges with other ESPers worldwide! I look forward to connecting with and learning from you!

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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