the primary purpose of this study was to explore the actual practices and cognitions of two groups of iranian eap teachers, i.e. language teachers and content teachers, with respect to teaching reading-comprehension and vocabulary. to this end, tehran university of medical sciences which authorizes both groups of teachers to teach eap courses was selected as the context of the study so that the possible effects of contextual variables could be controlled. next, three teachers from each group were randomly selected, each being observed for eight whole sessions to let the researcher tap on teachers established routines for a more valid comparison. different instruments including an observation checklist, field-notes, and semi-structured interviews were employed to triangulate the findings. furthermore, there were interviews with 18 learners to elicit their expectations from eap courses and teachers.
the results indicated that there were major differences in the practices and cognitions of the two groups of teachers, with the content teachers holding more divergent dispositions within themselves. while english language teachers conceived reading-comprehension as a skill and tried to make learners conscious of some text-decoding skills and strategies applicable across different academic disciplines, each content teacher drew on a different practice such as translation, elaborating on the meaning of specialist terms, or asking comprehension-check questions from texts already decoded by learners before the class. as the interviews revealed, content teachers had either no or inadequate conceptions of reading-comprehension. also, language teachers were found to be unaware of genre-analysis, and did not consider any specific methodology for esap courses. to them, the primary concern was to help learners leave their wrong reading habits developed at schools and to make up for the deficiencies.
as far as teaching vocabulary is concerned, contrary to language teachers who encouraged learners to guess the words from contexts and did not hold themselves responsible for teaching specialist terms, content teachers urged learners to develop their vocabulary knowledge and considered eap teachers responsible for teaching them. the common point between the two groups of teachers, however, was their unawareness of the existence of three levels of vocabulary in esp. indeed, they relegated academic words either to the general words or specialist words.
during interviews, learners acknowledged their low english language ability and seriously criticized the educational system in terms of the books, time budgeting, and school curriculum.
the findings then highlight the gap between the practices and cognitions of the two groups of teachers teaching the same course. this, in turn, calls for policy makers reconsideration of the way eap programs are designed and implemented in iran. the results may be applied by policy makers to make decisions for the future of eap program in iran, teacher educators to know about iranian eap teachers conceptions of these courses, eap teachers to reflect on their own practices and preconceptions or to use them as a kind of vicarious experience, and learners to be aware of their rights.