Number one for English language teachers

Approaches used in EAP for the 21st century learner

This article provides a guide to the award-winning EAP (English for Academic Purposes) series from author, Aylin Graves.

Approaches used in the series

This is an academic English series for university students. It is based on the following 21st-century themes and skills needed by today’s university students to function as effective citizens in an increasingly globalized and complex world:

21st Century Themes

  • Global and Multicultural Awareness
  • Social Justice Awareness and Humanitarianism
  • Economic, Business and Entrepreneurial Literacy
  • Civic Literacy
  • Health and Wellness Literacy
  • Environmental Literacy
  • Scientific Literacy

Life and Career Skills in the 21st Century

  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking
  • Problem Solving
  • Self-Direction and Initiative
  • Leadership and Teamwork
  • Effective Communication

University Learning Skills

  • Listening to Lectures and Note-Taking
  • Preparing for Exams
  • Using Effective Written Communication
  • Giving Public Speech
  • Synthesizing
  • Persuading
  • Referencing

The 4 Cs Approach

In order to function as effective citizens in an increasingly globalized and complex world, students must master the 4 C’s – critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity.

Critical Thinking
Scriven and Paul (2003) define critical thinking as “the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information …” Critical thinking is also known as “complex thinking” or “higher-order thinking” and is a prime quality that today’s employers are looking for. As 21st century teachers, we should support students in moving from basic comprehension to conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing and evaluating. For this to happen, we need to regularly exercise higher order skills in the classroom. EAP for the 21st Century Learner gives students opportunities to do this. For example, in Lesson 1, students read about the Slow Movement and are then asked to apply its principles to their own hometown.

Good oral, written and digital communication skills are essential for 21st century learners. Oral communication skills may be developed by giving students opportunities to engage in class discussions, debates and presentations. Written communication, on the other hand, may call for explicit writing instruction (as some cultures do not emphasize this in their schools) and for relevant, meaningful and diverse writing tasks. Today’s students are also expected to be good at digital communication, which can be exercised by using digital assignments and finding digital venues for student work. For instance, blogs may be used to showcase student writing. EAP for the 21st Century Learner gives students opportunities to improve their communication skills. For example, Lesson 4 is based on the anatomy of academic paragraphs. It gives students explicit information about how an English paragraph is organized and written.

Today’s university students will eventually find themselves working in teams that transcend geographic, cultural and linguistic borders. They need the ability to integrate seamlessly into such teams, where they may encounter people with perspectives widely different from their own. For many students, university offers the first opportunity to interact with diverse views and to learn how to nurture a team. Academic English for the 21st Century Learner encourages collaboration skills. For example, Lesson 3 focuses entirely on teamwork. Students learn about different aspects of successful teams and engage in teamwork.

Creativity is defined in myriad ways. My favourite definition is Brian Clark’s: “Creativity is seeing the intersection of seemingly unrelated topics and combining them into something new.” Even though it is an ambitious goal to teach creativity, we may at least help foster it by regularly practicing activities in the classroom. EAP for the 21st Century Learner provides for such activities. For example, in Lesson 7, students are asked to work in teams and design a crowdfunding project of their own.


Glocalization, a term derived from the words global and local, is a core belief at the heart of EAP for the 21st Century Learner. While a common global culture may be an important achievement, so is preserving and celebrating our different local cultures. Khondker (2004) defines glocalization as erasing the fear of difference, but not the differences themselves. This series aims to promote glocalization by focusing on lesser known cultures (for instance, Lesson 2 presents the story of Victor Ananias, a Chilean Turk working towards a green future) as well as asking students to share various aspects of their own cultures (for example, Lesson 2 asks the students to share their national food cultures). These activities are suggested in the teacher’s notes under the heading “glocalization idea”.

Vocabulary in Academic English for the 21st Century Learner

The vocabulary covered in the series is based on Averil Coxhead’s (2000) Academic Word List. Each unit culminates in two-word lists: Key Words and General Academic Words.

Key Words are topic based words that are essential to comprehension and to speak/write about the topic. These are, therefore, introduced at the beginning of the lessons.

General Academic Words are high-frequency words from Coxhead’s list. These are academic words needed to express abstract concepts such as ‘factor’ or ‘theory’; descriptions such as ‘ethnic’ or ‘unique’; processes such as ‘evaluate’; and aspects of academic tasks such as ‘define’ or ‘contrast’. Students do not study these words explicitly but are exposed to them throughout the series. There is a Review section for these words at the end of each lesson As they are not essential to comprehension, they are not introduced at the beginning of the lessons but practised at the end.

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Readers' comments (9)

  • Hello Anonymous,

    There are no audio files for this particular article.

    Best wishes and happy teaching,

    The onestopenglish team

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  • Are there any audio files? I can't see them!

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  • Hi Stu,

    The sound files on here are mp3s. If you are not able to play them directly on the lesson page, you can download the file by following the steps below:

    - right-click on the audio file and select the 'Save link as ...' option
    - save that file to a location of you choice on your computer
    - right-click on the saved file and select the option 'Open file with ...'
    - once the file has been downloaded, you will be able to play iy

    If you follow these steps and you are still experiencing issues, please contact our technical support team at

    Best wishes,
    The onestopenglish team

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  • Hi there,
    Looks really interesting. What format or player does one use for the sound files. I can´t seem to play them.


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  • Hi Jean,

    Yes fair point. I've popped it in the top bit of this article to clear things up but you are correct it's English for Academic Purposes. Hope that helps!

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  • I think I just worked it out - it's "English for Academic Purposes" right?
    Still would be nice if you would explain all these abbreviations somewhere.

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  • Hello,

    What does EAP stand for?

    (You should really have spelled it out somewhere- not all of us have undergone formal English as a Second Language training....)


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  • Hi there,

    Thanks for the lovely feedback. Look forward to hearing how you get on.

    Best wishes,
    The onestopenglish team

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  • Wonderful! I am excited to try this method with my 8 and 9th grade and university students next year.
    I will let you know what we think.

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