Transitioning EAL Students from EFL Classes to EMI Programs at the University of Iceland

Birna Arnbjörnsdóttir*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The growth in English medium instruction (EMI) programs in Nordic higher education has exposed the limitations of traditional English as a foreign language (EFL) pedagogies in preparing students for studying in programs that require academic English (Arnbjörnsdóttir and Ingvarsdóttir, Language development across the life span: the impact of English on education and work in Iceland. Springer, Amsterdam, 2018b). This chapter describes a project that mapped the characteristics of English education at secondary level in Iceland and measured the findings against the expected functions of English at university. It outlines the divergence between the official status of EFL and the actual use of English as an additional language in Iceland. The findings are supported by results of a survey of almost 1100 university students about their use of English, two thirds of whom report difficulty in working with English at university. Many students claimed that instruction in secondary school did not prepare them for academic study in English. Finally, the chapter outlines a genre-based instructional approach that addresses identified challenges in writing English at university. The approach draws from a range of pedagogical traditions to operationalize a set of core competencies to improve writing in a single semester. Comparison between pre- and post-intervention surveys of over 800 participants from different language backgrounds and disciplines revealed improved perceptions of writing skills.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEducational Linguistics
PublisherSpringer Science+Business Media B.V.
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Publication series

NameEducational Linguistics
ISSN (Print)1572-0292
ISSN (Electronic)2215-1656

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, Springer Nature Switzerland AG.

Other keywords

  • Academic writing
  • English medium instruction
  • Instructional practice


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