A good pathway program needs to guide students towards proficiency in not only academic English, but also the host country’s academic culture. In the USA, emphasis should be placed on student-centered learning, peer collaboration, and independent thought as these concepts are generally understood in the U.S.
Many students come to the U.S. educational system with little experience in skills that many U.S. instructors take for granted, such as analyzing rather than merely summarizing texts, engaging in the essay writing process from initial brainstorm to polished final draft, and honing a focused thesis statement supported by properly cited research.
A good pathways program provides a safe place for students to make mistakes not only in their English specifically, but also their academic performance more generally. Common problems include passive learning styles, absenteeism, and plagiarism, all which should be addressed candidly and directly by the pathways program.
These academic skills cannot be learned in the students’ home countries and cannot be adequately assessed by standardized tests such as the TOEFL iBT. Rather, these skills can only be developed and evaluated in the context of an academic pathways ESOL program in the U.S., ideally one that maintains relationships with partner universities.