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ELI Research Agenda

The following list of sample research topics is not by any means exhaustive – it is simply intended to stimulate thinking and encourage investigations that would be of immediate assistance to the ELI or directly inform the policy and practice of ELI staff. For a more up-to-date research agenda, please contact the ELI Director. Please keep in mind that our primary mission is to our students, and our secondary mission is to provide professional development opportunities for our instructors. Research is our third core mission.

Revised June, 2023

Curriculum in general

  • Research on or a survey of existing “modular” curricula in English for Academic Purposes programs
  • What are current developments in curricula in each of the skill areas?
  • How can our curriculum be better tied to students’ content courses? 
  • Research on integrated-skills courses 

Needs Analysis

  • Overall and skill-area needs analyses, on an ongoing basis
  • How can end-of-term evaluations better serve the needs of students?


  • What makes a successful ELI instructor?
  • How to teach in an engaging way that does not involve lecturing?
  • Technology? To what extent does learning via technology (and learning how to use the technology) enhance and/or subtract from the kinds of language learning ELI students need?
  • In what ways can instructors use students’ multilingual backgrounds to enhance teaching?
  • Research on group work vs. whole-class work

Teacher development

  • What can the ELI do to help beginning GA instructors? Continuing GA instructors? Prepare GAs for future opportunities?
  • How can the ELI improve its training for instructors?
  • In what specific ways, and in what areas, does teaching in the ELI assist GAs’ professional development? (How or in what areas could improvements be made?)
  • What are the relations between ELI staff and research? Consumers, producers, transformers…?
  • How can ELI activities help instructors develop their teacher portfolios?
  • How can the end-of-term evaluations better serve the needs of teachers?
  • Research on developing effective mentoring relationships in the workplace.

Curriculum– Listening/Speaking

70 = Intermediate-level listening/speaking course; 80 = Advanced-level

  • Developing a diagnostic test for 70 & 80
  • Materials review or development of enriching materials/activities.
  • Supplemental materials for developing listening, especially for 70
  • More activities/materials on pronunciation
  • Materials/activities for developing discussion strategies
  • Use of existing materials on the web for developing listening skills
  • Materials for teaching interview skills 
  •  Development of model academic presentations
  • Materials which teach spoken pragmatics for English for Academic Purposes

Curriculum– Reading

82 = Advanced-level

  • Materials Development for:
    • Developing students’ academic vocabulary
    • Students to evaluate internet sources
    • Critical reading activities
  • Any other fluency-building or vocabulary-related activities appropriate for 72 (or 82).
  • Research on methods and materials for helping students develop their ability to read beneath the surface
  • Research on reading speed and efficiency

Curriculum– Writing

75 = Intermediate-level writing course for graduate and undergraduate students
83 = Advanced-level writing course for graduate students
100 = Advanced-level writing course for undergraduate students

  • Developing and improving the 73 curriculum
  • Developing separate curriculum “tracks” within 73 for the graduate and undergraduate students
  • Research on types of feedback (both teacher and peer feedback)
  • Research on how students incorporate feedback and their views about the usefulness of different types of feedback on their writing
  • Genre-analysis for writing instruction

Curriculum– Online Courses

  • A survey/review of existing online English for Academic Purposes courses/materials similar to those which match the ELI needs.
  • Evaluation of ELI online courses
  • How equivalent are the on-campus ELI courses and the online courses?
  • How can the online teacher more efficiently manage the class?
  • Research on web-based EAP instruction in a university setting.


  • Research on materials for self-study
  • Survey or review of existing English for Academic Purposes materials appropriate for the ELI’s needs
  • Research on the use of authentic materials in EAP context


  • Given the constraints on the ELI, what can be done to raise student motivation?
  • Which courses (or skill areas) are typically more motivating for students?
  • What is it that successful ELI teachers do to motivate students?
  • What can be done to make the ELI a more comfortable, yet also more academically stimulating environment for ELI students?

Testing & Assessment

  • How can we effectively computerize our ELI placement test?
  • How to make the ELIPT more efficient, but remain fair?
  • Does the ELIPT reflect what is done in ELI classes? To what extent can we develop resource-efficient ELIPT components that better fit with students’ needs and ELI courses?
  • To what degree are the individual items on the five ELIPT tests (i.e., the Academic Listening, Dictation, Reading Comprehension, & Writing Sample tests) effective in terms of item difficulty and discrimination, and how reliable and valid are the current scores? Also, how should these ELIPT tests be revised and updated to make them more effective and efficient, and how reliable and valid are the scores on the revised tests in terms of ELI placement decisions being made with them?
  • Research on portfolio assessment
  • Research on students’ self-assessment
  • Research on other forms of in-class assessment


  • How does ELI students’ performance in university compare with the performance of students who were exempted from the ELI?
  • Development of systems for tracking or monitoring students efficiently
  • How can the end-of-term evaluations better help with administrative decisions?
  • Literature reviews of how many other ELIs have gotten their universities to grant students credit toward graduation for ELI classes, and how they went about it
  • Research on how to go about persuading UHM to grant students credit toward graduation for ELI classes, and/or life-experience credit for their first languages as meeting the foreign-language requirement.


  • How do issues of anxiety, culture shock, etc., affect our students? Are the ELI’s responses to problems in these areas adequate?

Research on institutional advancement

  • How can similar university English language programs remain innovative with limited resources?
  • The role of community connections in university English language programs’ support and development