ESL students' use of academic skills in content courses

H. D. Adamson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


The recent emphasis on content-based ESL instruction is motivated by research showing that English proficiency does not correlate with academic success. Case studies of fifteen ESL students in content classes with native English speakers suggest that one reason for this lack of success is that the ESL students lack effective academic skills. The students in the case studies showed a wide variety of strategies for taking notes, reading, using dictionaries, speaking in class, and personal organization. Both effective and ineffective strategies were used. When the students were given assignments for which they lacked adequate background knowledge or academic skills, they adopted coping strategies for completing their assignments without fully understanding the material. The case studies suggest that academic skills are best taught in connection with authentic content material, so an experimental precourse was set up in which college students in a theme-based ESL course attended an undergraduate linguistics course for three weeks. An analysis of the students' quizzes, papers, and other materials suggests that such a course is an effective way to teach academic skills.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-87
Number of pages21
JournalEnglish for Specific Purposes
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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