There is a stigma attached to the notion of teacher talking time. We seem to have inherited a belief from EFL that student talking time is largely always good and that teacher talking time is largely always bad.
If we conceive of EAP as primarily concerned with language learning then there is a danger we see student production only as language work, as an opportunity for work on either ‘accuracy’ or ‘fluency’. In this view, the practice of maximising student talking time and minimising teacher talking time is likely to mirror that in EFL teaching. We thus retain a dichotomy between the two.
If we conceive of EAP as also involving apprenticeship into the kinds of practices required of students in their academic departments, however, then what students say becomes far more important. Learner interpretation of text, in particular, is core to the academic process for many disciplines and the EAP teacher willing to engage with this content can serve as a powerful intermediary between text and student understanding. Indeed, our own experience suggests that autonomous learner engagement with academic reading in the preparation of writing may often be ineffective without teacher-scaffolded interaction during class.
EAP teachers don’t just talk; they mediate learning. A more refined view of how they can do this is needed. We do not have to choose between being ‘a lecturer’ and ‘setting up and getting out of the way’. Drawing on insights from teacher practice and on extracts of EAP teaching materials, I show how recognising the functions of teacher talk enables us to scaffold learners at point of need, engaging them in teacher-mediated discussion that serves to create a crucial third space between the unhelpfully dichotomised notions of student talking time and teacher talking time.