Power and Meaning Making in an EAP Classroom

This month we are publishing Power and Meaning Making in an EAP Classroom by Christian W. Chun. In this post, Christian discusses the background to the book.

Power and Meaning Making in an EAP ClassroomLong before I became an academic researcher, I had taught English as an additional language and English for Academic Purposes (EAP) for over 15 years in Los Angeles. My own classroom and teaching practices were shaped not by any graduate course curriculum – I didn’t even begin my MA in TESOL studies until my 12th year of teaching – but by my own students’ lived experiences they shared with me. One seminal, searing moment that set my pedagogical and research approach on the present path was the 1992 uprisings over the Rodney King verdict, one year after I had started teaching. On April 29th 1992, four Los Angeles police officers (among others) who had been video-recorded beating and kicking a motorist who had been stopped – Rodney King – were acquitted of all charges. Many in the communities who had suffered police brutality revolted by burning and looting their own and adjacent communities. One such community affected was where many of my students resided and worked; some of them lost their livelihoods as a result. They came to class that week and the following weeks understandably angry and demanded to know why this had happened to them. My classroom was thus immediately transformed into a space in which critical pedagogy was called into being not by me or some agenda I wanted to impose, but by my students themselves, who began to articulate their lived identities and practices that attempted to connect their language use, culture, education, and politics to the society in which they were now living.

It was this event that has since informed my work on critical EAP examining how both teachers and students take up and talk about the dominant representations and discourses that attempt to frame and narrate our everyday lives in society. These ways of talking about and understanding the world are important, for they help shape not only how students use language in their engagements with new and unfamiliar texts, discourses, and academic language, but also just as importantly, in talking about topics and issues that traditionally have been avoided in the English language classroom (e.g., politics, race, economic issues, and religion to name just a few). These students, therefore, have ample opportunities to exercise academic literacy skills so crucial to success in tertiary studies.

Critical pedagogy in education and in English language teaching in particular has been much theorized as well as debated and contested. However, there have been very few case studies of critical pedagogy approaches in action by practitioners themselves. My book is a move to address this, for it has been described by Brian Morgan as “the first close examination of pedagogical relationships and practices within an EAP setting.” Working closely with the participant instructor for nearly a year, we explored how she could put the beginnings of a critical literacy pedagogy into her classroom practices. By implementing critical theories into classroom practices, Power and Meaning Making in an EAP Classroom: Engaging with the Everyday is not only addressed to researchers, but also teacher educators and practitioners with its accessible written style. By featuring our lived experiences and identities in our research discussions and the instructor’s accompanying changing teaching approaches and the ensuing enabled meaning makings by her students, I hope this book will contribute to new directions and developments of critical pedagogy that is much needed in our 21st century world.

For more information about this book please see our website.

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