English for Specific Purposes (ESP) Modules in the Self-Access Learning Center (SALC) for Success in the Global Workplace

Kevin Knight, Kanda University of International Studies

Knight, K. (2010). English for Specific Purposes (ESP) Modules in the Self-Access Learning Center (SALC) for Success in the Global Workplace. Studies in Self-Access Learning Journal, 1(2), 119-128.

Paginated PDF version

Introduction – Preparing Students for the Global Workforce

University students must prepare themselves to be successful members of the global workforce, and this paper introduces one way for a self-access center to support such preparation by students outside of the formal classroom environment. In this paper, it is proposed that the Self-Access Learning Center (SALC) at Kanda University of International Studies (KUIS) provide ESP (English for specific purposes) modules intended to prepare students for their future careers. Within these self-study modules, the following should be recognized and incorporated:

  1. The principles of ESP
  2. Elements of outcome-based education
  3. The relationship between leadership, learning, and teaching

In describing such ESP modules, this paper also proposes the development of self-access materials that could be made available to facilitate the independent study.

SALC Modules

In addition to the other educational opportunities available on campus for career preparation, KUIS students have the option to use the SALC at the time and in the way that they desire. In addition, students can elect to take a self-study module. The aim of these modules is to promote learner autonomy and enhance the learning experiences of KUIS students. Students taking modules are assigned to a learning advisor who helps them to develop skills such as goal setting and encourages them to reflect on the learning process (Noguchi & McCarthy, 2010).

Need for English for Specific Purposes (ESP)

Undergraduate students who are preparing for careers in the global economy by taking courses in English that focus on business communication and business content are in need of English for specific purposes (ESP). Gatehouse (2001) cites Dudley-Evans (1997) in stating that “ESP is defined to meet specific needs of the learner.” Although ESP has often been divided into English for academic purposes (EAP) and English for occupational purposes (EOP), Knight, Lomperis, van Naerssen & Westerfield (2010, p.7) further clarify ESP when they divide language learners who need ESP into two categories:

1.      Language learners who are in the process of developing expertise in their fields need English communication skills as tools in their training.

2.      Language learners who are already experts in their fields need English communication skills as tools in their work.

Undergraduate students often fall into the first category. They are in the process of developing expertise that will enable them to succeed in their future internships and future jobs. They need to master business communication skills and business content in English. ESP modules in the SALC can assist them in this regard.

Outcome-based Education (OBE) to Meet Needs of Students

In order to meet the specific needs of students for business communication skills in English, certain elements of outcome-based education (OBE) seem to be a promising part of a “training mix” in an ESP module in the SALC. Good & Brophy (1995, p. 169) provide the following definition of OBE:

Education that is outcome-based is a learner-centered, results-oriented system founded on the belief that all individuals can learn.

In this system:

  1. What is to be learned is clearly identified.
  2. Learners’ progress is based on demonstrated achievement.
  3. Multiple instructional and assessment strategies are available to meet the needs of each learner.
  4. Time and assistance are provided for each learner to reach maximum potential.

In other words, the specific skills that are needed for success in the workplace can be identified, and learning strategies can be selected for the acquisition of these skills.

Developing Learning and Leadership Skills through Teaching

In the business world, it is recognized that leadership, learning and teaching are strongly interconnected, and the views of “13 of the most influential scholars in the world of leadership today” on the importance of teaching as a part of learning and leadership include the following (Liu, 2010, pp. 15-16):

[A] leader’s primary role [is] that of a teacher: if you are not teaching, you are not leading. In a teaching organization, everyone teaches, everyone learns, and everyone gets smarter everyday….Being a teacher also means being a learner. It isn’t only that you learn first and then teach, but that you learn through teaching.

Falchikov (2001, p. 5) cites Goldschmid and Goldschmid (1976) as arguing that peer teaching in particular “maximizes student responsibility for learning and enhances co-operative and social skills.”

Based on these perspectives, it can be argued that having students learn through teaching (i.e., the sharing of what they have learned) is a promising approach for preparing students to succeed in the global workplace where leadership, learning, and teaching skills are highly valued.

Development of ESP Modules for the SALC

Principles and Parameters

Any ESP module implemented at KUIS should be in alignment with the principles of the SALC. In particular, Cooker (2008, p. 21) states that “self-access learning should be truly self-access” (i.e., not a required, teacher-led activity) and emphasizes that the self-access center should be a place where learning is “fun” and where students “choose to be.”

Additionally, in regard to the development of SALC modules for future career and business internship preparation, it is proposed that three other principles be added in view of the principles of ESP, outcome-based education (OBE), and the relationship between leadership, learning, and teaching:

  1. The specific needs of learners should be clearly identified.
  2. Learners should have clear, specific and achievable learning goals/objectives based on their specific needs.
  3. Learners should be provided with opportunities to teach what they learn to others in order to both deepen their learning experience and demonstrate their proficiency.

Objectives of ESP Modules

In view of the needs of students, ESP modules in the SALC should be designed to provide students with opportunities and resources to do one or more of the following (Figure 1):

  1. To pursue their interest in business content and business communication skills in English
  2. To improve their performances in the classroom
  3. To prepare themselves for their business internships and careers

Role of the Learning Advisor

A learning advisor is a qualified language educator who does not usually teach in a classroom but instead works with individual learners and often in a SALC (Mynard & Navarro, 2010). The role of the learning advisor in the SALC is of the utmost importance, and it is suggested that the learning advisor, with the aim to be a bridge to a student’s learner autonomy, provide support for the student in the following areas in the case of ESP modules:

  1. Needs analysis – What does the student need/desire to learn?
  2. Learning objectives – What are the specific learning objectives?
  3. Resources – What resources are available to the student to achieve the learning objectives within a specific timeframe of his or her choosing?
  4. Performance – What opportunities are available to the student to demonstrate what has been learned?


It is proposed that the activities within an ESP module be designed to support and bridge the needs analysis and performance stages. In addition, the available self-access materials should serve to enhance the experience of the students and facilitate the accomplishment of their relative activities in the ESP module. The types of materials required can be divided into the following categories that support the learning interaction cycle (Figure 2):

  1. Learning needs and objectives
  2. Learning resources
  3. Performance

Materials for Needs Analysis

The materials used to conduct the needs analysis can come from a variety of sources, and it is proposed that the student complete the needs analysis independently to the extent possible prior to a meeting with a learning advisor. If a student is interested in learning business English and/or business content in connection with a future job, the student could complete a chart to determine the industry in which the student is interested.

Learning Objectives

It is important that the learning objectives be as specific as possible and that learning outcomes be written clearly. A chart such as that in Table 1 (adapted from material in Richey, 2010) should ideally be completed by the student prior to a meeting with the learning advisor and can be used by the learning advisor in the following ways:

  1. To increase the student’s awareness of what a subject (e.g., customer service) entails for the purpose of identifying learning objectives.
  2. To confirm the desired learning outcomes of the student (although it is recommended that the actual learning outcomes be more clearly and specifically stated than they are in the chart).
  3. To confirm the degree of proficiency that the student desires to obtain.

Learning Resources

It is proposed that learning resources in the context of ESP modules be defined as those resources that can be used by the student to learn the content and/or communication skills needed to achieve the learning objectives and specific outcomes. From this perspective, learning resources include materials, human resources, and facilities. It is therefore suggested that the learning advisor help the student to create the best “learning resource mix” (Figure 3).

Sekiya, Mynard & Cooker (2010, pp. 29-30) describe various types of materials in the SALC including the following:

  1. Commercially produced books including teacher guides, answer keys, workbooks, and video/audio materials
  2. Materials created (original) or adapted for self-access use (e.g., commercially produced books cut up and made into laminated worksheets after obtaining permission from the publisher)
  3. Authentic texts with training materials to increase student accessibility to the authentic texts (e.g., worksheet for a CNN video)

It is suggested that these types of materials also be made available to students taking the ESP modules and that students be assisted by the learning advisor to access these materials in accordance with their needs and learning outcomes.

Moreover, it is proposed that the learning advisor become familiar with business-related materials in order to help a student to locate authentic texts such as the online tutorial on financial statements offered by the City University of New York (CUNY) at Baruch College (http://www.baruch.cuny.edu/tutorials/statements/).


In the proposed ESP module, learning outcomes are drafted by the student (with the possible assistance of the learning advisor), so it is recommended that the student’s performance be assessed in regard to those learning outcomes.

The means by which the student demonstrates proficiency can vary and may include the following:

  1. A dialog (e.g., between a flight attendant and a passenger) written by the student.
  2. A lesson or training session (e.g., in which the student teaches and/or performs what a flight attendant should say and do).
  3. A role play (e.g., in which the student takes the role of the flight attendant) video recorded or performed live.

In conclusion, the main aim of the ESP module is to promote learner autonomy while at the same time providing various types of support to meet the learner’s specific, identified needs and objectives. The modules supplement and build on classroom work through individualized learning opportunities that address the needs of students that cannot always be met in the classroom.

Notes on the contributor

Kevin Knight develops curriculum and teaches in the Career Education Center and the Department of International Communication of KUIS. After completing graduate degrees in Pacific International Affairs (MPIA) and Business Administration (MBA) in the United States, he is pursuing a PhD in Linguistics (Professional Communication) with a focus on leadership at Macquarie University in Australia.


Cooker, L. (2008). Some self-access principles. Independence, 43, 20-21.

Falchikov, N. (2001). Learning together: Peer tutoring in higher education. London, UK: RoutledgeFalmer.

Gatehouse, K. (2001). Key issues in English for specific purposes (ESP) curriculum development. The Internet TESOL Journal. Retrieved at http://iteslj.org/Articles/Gatehouse-ESP.html

Good, T.L., & Brophy, J. (1995). Contemporary educational psychology. White Plains, NY: Longman.

Knight, K., Lomperis, A., van Naerssen, M. & Westerfield, K. (2010). English for Specific Purposes: An Overview for Practitioners and Clients (Academic and Corporate). PowerPoint presentation submitted to Alexandria, Virginia: TESOL Resource Center. Retrieved at http://www.tesol.org/s_tesol/trc/uploads/Other/119485/1564_Knight_ESPPPTforTRC.pdf

Liu, L. (2010). Conversations on leadership: Wisdom from global management gurus. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Mynard, J., & Navarro, D. (2010). Japan Association of Self-Access Learning Forum: Dialogue in self-access learning. In A. M. Stoke (Ed.), JALT 2009 Conference Proceedings. Tokyo: JALT.

Noguchi, J., & McCarthy, T. (2010). Reflective self-study: Fostering learner autonomy. In A. M. Stoke (Ed.), JALT2009Conference Proceedings. Tokyo: JALT.

Richey, R. (2010). English for customer care. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Sekiya, Y., Mynard, J., & Cooker, L. (2010).  学習者の自律を支援するセルフアクセス学習 [Self-access learning which supports learner autonomy]. In H. Kojima, N. Ozeki & T. Hiromori. (Eds.), 「英語教育学大系」全13巻中の第6巻「成長する英語学習者―学習者要因と自律学習」大修 館書店 [Survey of English Language Education: Vol. 6. Developing English learners: Learner factors & autonomous learning] (pp. 191-210). Tok


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