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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The Canadian language benchmarks and English for academic purposes : a socio-semiotic approach Lima, Adriana Monteiro


In the British Columbia context, English for Academic Purposes (EAP) curricula have been articulated and aligned to the Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB) in an attempt to facilitate transference nationwide (See the Articulation Guide for English as a Second Language Programs in the British Columbia Post-secondary Transfer System, 2008). Because the CLB is designed to be used as a standardized framework to assess ESL learners' proficiency across Canada, learners may need to achieve CLB levels 8-9 to enter mainstream academic programs. Nevertheless, CLBs have only partially impacted on curricula. This study examined EAP programs in relation to the CLB in a local BC college. It investigated the use of the CLB in the EAP program syllabus and its influence on curricular decisions. I interviewed teachers and administrators using structured-questions that targeted their perceptions of a) the CLB concept and critiques and b) theoretical and practical issues that affect the functionality of the CLB when used for academic purposes. The findings show that some of the reasons for implementational shortcomings seem to involve the uncertainties and ambiguities of the CLB Theoretical Framework. In addition, participants voiced their concerns about the usefulness of CLBs for preparing learners to achieve academic readiness, questioning the benchmarks functionality in such context and adopting other frameworks. Thus, I explored some of the dilemmas participants face having to assess how learners function from the CLB 'can do' standpoint in relation to a given, more generic context, i.e. English for academic purposes. Nevertheless, the findings revealed that the CLB has partially impacted on the syllabus of programs, which also prepare learners to enter mainstream post-secondary courses, namely Applied programs. For this reason, I claim that if a socio-semiotic approach would be taken in account, examining the contexts where communication takes place, these practitioners could be better equipped to achieve the goals of the program, as well as those of the learners. Additionally, because the CLB outcomes are not goal-oriented, if a clear purpose were to be achieved, one could be able to foresee implementational demands in relation to contextual needs.

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