Preparing Your Learners for the Unexpected

Hello, ESPers worldwide!

In the training that we do as ESP practitioners, we are often preparing our students to do something that they will be expected to do. For example, we may be preparing students for presentations that they will need to give at a meeting or a conference. However, how do you prepare your students to cope with the unexpected? In this TESOL Blog post, I will share a couple of my own experiences on this matter.

Business Internships for Undergraduate Students

In the International Business Career major in the Department of International Communication at Kanda University of International Studies in Chiba, Japan, many of the students participate in internships internationally during the school breaks. When they return to class, I ask them to share their stories. Through such stories, I have learned about the English language related challenges that they have faced and the strategies that they have employed to overcome those challenges. For example, one student explained that she was unexpectedly asked to train the staff in a hotel how to provide better customer service for Japanese guests. She was young, shy, and without hotel experience. So, what did she do? She explained that she first took the initiative to become friends with the hotel staff and to learn about their jobs. Eventually, the staff accepted her, and, after that, she was able to teach them something useful about Japanese customers.

Job Interviews for Unemployed Professionals

In the HelloWork programs sponsored by the government of Japan, unemployed professionals have the opportunity to participate in training programs that can prepare them to find a new job. In such programs, my role is to focus on: 1) English language communication in the workplace, and 2) English language job interviews. One of the most exciting things for me about these courses is when the students report that they have been hired! What should a student do if he doesn’t understand the accent of the interviewer during a job interview?

Some time ago, I heard one student explain that the recruiter (who was familiar with the accent) provided some scaffolding by initially helping the interviewee to understand the questions (by writing them down during a phone interview). By the end of the long interview, however, the interviewee could understand the employer’s accent and did not need the recruiter’s support. The interviewee was hired for the job. In this connection, I was recently told that the interview practice we do in class is very important and helpful.

What do we do in class? After the students have practiced asking and answering questions several times in one-on-one situations, I have each student sit at the front of the class and answer questions from their classmates. We tear apart and try to improve the answers using our own experience and also the advice that you could find in a career center of a university in the United States.

Preparing Students for the Unexpected

How do I prepare my students for the unexpected?

  • My sharing of stories such as those above with my students can be helpful.
  • Having students tell their own stories to other students is even better.
  • In my classes, I also talk about leadership as achieving a goal or vision in collaboration with others. In this connection, I try to get my students to be aware of and focused on the big picture, such as what they want to achieve in a business internship or a job interview. Then I train them to be positive, confident, and flexible in their approaches to achieving the results that they want.
  • Further, I like to have students self-monitor their own performances; for example, the students are encouraged to record their own interview responses and to listen to those recordings after class.

One more thought…I came across this video on leadership psychology and peer coaching at Harvard University. The video contains some very exciting material that is applicable to the above!

What do you do to prepare your students for the unexpected? Let us all know!

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

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.