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Why a Learning Centered Approach?

According to the definition in English for Specific Purposes (Tom Hutchinson and Alan Walters, 1990 - CUP), ESP is an approach to language teaching in which all decisions as to content and method are based on the learners’ reasons for learning.

Escola Politécnica is the Engineering Faculty of Universidade de São Paulo. It is a small universe, as it has 15 academic departments as well as an administrative body. The needs for using English are varied, as are the people involved.

Tailor-made on Basic and pre-Intermediate Business English (secretaries and administrative staff), Reading Skills (specifically designed for each segment, such as the Purchasing and Computing areas, usually involving secondary level of learning), Intermediate Level Conversation (for lecturers as well as masters and doctors working in laboratories), Preparation for the TOEFL and, as demanded by lecturers, Conversation (including "brushing up" and presentation skills for seminars and congresses) and Writing (papers and letters) besides "Survival Files", have been designed.

The learners have different learning backgrounds, from secondary to doctorate or post-doctorate levels and the needs vary from segment to segment, so different approaches and techniques have to be used. All of the learners need to use a specific area of the English language in the shortest term possible (the other aspects of language should not be ignored!). Therefore, after identifying a target situation - the need for a specific segment at the College - the learners have to be identified; their situation and the target situation are then analyzed. The learners’ potentials are identified, as well as the skills and knowledge needed to attain the target situation - taking constraints, such as aptitude, time and technical resources, into consideration. With these data in mind, a course is designed and the materials are then chosen or specially designed. Evaluation is a very important tool so that strategies can be redefined and results improved.

In conclusion, it would be very difficult to make learning really effective in such a varied context without taking the aspects mentioned into consideration.