Handoyo Puji Widodo


Handoyo Puji Widodo has published extensively in refereed journals and presented his works at international conferences in the areas of language teaching methodology and language materials development. He also has co-edited several volumes in these areas (e.g., Recent Issues in English Language Education: Challenges and Directions, ICT and ELT Research and Practices in South East Asia, Innovation and Creativity in ELT Methodology, Moving TESOL beyond the Comfort Zone: Exploring Criticality in TESOL, The Lincom Guide to Materials Design in ELT). He is currently preparing co-edited volumes for Routledge, Sense Publishers, and Springer. He is also a reviewer for peer-reviewed international journals (e.g., Asian ESP Journal, English Australia, Foreign Language Annals, TESL-EJ). Dr. Widodo’s areas of specialization include language curriculum and materials development as well as language teaching methodology. He can be contacted at handoyopw@yahoo.com

January interviewer: Madhukar K.C.

  1. Handoyo, thank you so much for being our guest on our blog. Could you please tell us a little bit about your linguistic, academic, and professional background? What inspired you to be an educator, especially a teacher of English?

You are welcome. It is a great pleasure for me to share my experience and expertise with you and of course with readers of this professional blog. Linguistically speaking, I am a multilingual; I speak three languages: Javanese, Madurese, and Bahasa Indonesia. I firstly acquired Javanese in early childhood when I was a toddler. Then, when I began my pre-school education, I acquired Madurese, another local language, and Bahasa Indonesia, a national lingua franca. I really feel blessed with my multilingual repertoires. Of course, as a global citizen, I am also a speaker of English. I enjoy learning other languages, such as Sundanese, Osing, Spanish, Hindi, Dutch, and German.

Well, in terms of my academic background, I pursued four higher education degrees in four different countries: Indonesia, Singapore, the United States of America, and Australia. I completed my BA in English Education at the University of Jember based in East Java Indonesia in 2001. Then, in 2006, I continued my studies for a Postgraduate Diploma in Applied Linguistics with the Jack C. Richards Scholarship. Soon after the completion of my postgraduate diploma program, I undertook an MA in TESOL at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a Fulbright Scholarship and completed this degree in 2009. Two years later, I pursued my Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics at the University of Adelaide based in Australia. My PhD studies were fully funded by this university under the scheme of Adelaide International Scholarship (ASI). During my Ph.D. studies, I worked on the development of vocational English materials, in which I adopted systemic functional linguistics as social semiotic theory and that guided this project. Methodologically speaking, this project was anchored in a participatory action research (PAR) design.

Professionally speaking, since 2001, I have taught English as a foreign language (EFL) or English as an additional language (EAL) in different educational contexts, such as primary school, secondary school, college, and university. Since 2004, I have been involved in language teacher training and mentoring all over Indonesia. I have given workshop/seminar/conference talks on language curriculum and materials, grammar in discourse, second language pedagogy, and language teaching methodology. I also have given public lectures on these areas at universities that offer language teacher education programs. Recently, I have given workshop talks and public lectures on language assessment intended for language teachers. Thus, my 14-year professional journey has shaped my multiple identities as an English instructor, teacher, lecturer, teacher educator, researcher, academic advisor, and mentor in different schools and universities. My teaching and research interests lie in English Language curriculum and materials development, methodology in English language pedagogy, English for Specific Purposes (ESP): English for Academic Purposes (EAP) and English for Vocational Purposes (EVP), Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) in Language Education, and Language teacher professional development. Of course, these teaching and research interests will continue to evolve as I engage in the TESOL profession.

In response to your question, what inspired you to be an educator, especially a teacher of English?it is my parents who have been an inspiration to me though they were not teachers. When I was growing up, my parents told me to become an educator. They named me Handoyo Puji Widodo, which socio-historically means a person who supports education. This was a sort of prayer that might come true in the future. Additionally, becoming an educator means a calling for me to educate and empower people. In particular, I was inspired to become an English teacher because I was an unsuccessful learner of English when I was in secondary schooling. I wished to challenge myself by making a decision to pursue an undergraduate degree in English Education. In the third year of my undergraduate program, I was appointed as an assistant lecturer. This experience ignited and sustained my passion for becoming an English teacher.

2. How did you become inspired to write for national/international publication(s)? Please share with us your voyage into academic publishing over the years.

Soon after I completed my BA degree in English Education in 2001, I started working as an English instructor at The Language Center of Jember University and worked as a part-time English instructor at one of the College of Islamic Studies based in Jember. Some of my colleagues challenged me to write for scholarly journals; I just smiled because I did not feel confident in writing such pieces in English. In mid 2003, I received a fellowship to attend a short course to become a language specialist in Language Curriculum and Materials Development at SEAMEO-RELC based in Singapore. It came as a surprise that Professor Jack C. Richards granted me this fellowship. I never thought that I could study with an internationally-renowned scholar whom I knew from reading his books. Upon the completion of this short course, I was motivated to write for national and international journal publication. My Guru, Jack Richards, has been an inspiration to me. He mentored me on how to write and publish scholarly articles when I undertook my postgraduate diploma in applied linguistics at the same center in Singapore. During this program, Jack Richards asked me to read his books regularly. I learned a lot from reading his books and broadened my knowledge of language curriculum and materials development. I was really blessed to have him as my academic mentor. Under Jack Richards’s three-year mentorship, I finally could publish three articles in refereed international journals and one article in a nationally-accredited journal in 2006. My academic publishing voyage continued to evolve when I pursued my MA degree in TESOL at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania where I met such prolific scholars as Jerry Gebhard, Ian David Hanauer, Lilia Savova, and Gloria Park. They also have been an inspiration to me because I learned a lot from Jerry Gebhard’s reflective language teaching, David Ian Hanauer’s educational poetry, Lilia Savova’s language materials design, and Gloria Park’s narrative inquiry and language teacher identity. One of my MA lecturers, Dan Tannacito, also encouraged me to write high quality term papers for his courses so that I could publish them in refereed international journals. I could publish several term papers drawing on my MA courses. Since I completed my MA degree, I have been committed to publishing regularly because this showcases my academic expertise.

3. How does writing contribute to bringing innovation to the field of ESL/EFL teaching and learning contexts, and professional teacher development? Please highlight the specific benefits of academic writing with regard to your experience of writing for various publications.

I would say that both reading and writing contribute to bringing innovation to the field of English language learning and teaching and teacher professional development. By reading a lot of resources such as books and articles, I can learn different perspectives from different people. For example, before I pursued my MA degree in TESOL, the goal of my teaching was to help my students achieve native speaker English proficiency. It was my belief that native speakers of English were role models that my student had to follow. When I read David Ian Hanauer’s work, I was fully aware that I had to change my teaching orientation, which had to be contextually situated to my students’ ability. Non-native English speaking teachers and people could be role models for those who would like to learn English successfully. Both reading and writing could energize our professional development because we have a lot of ideas to share with other teachers and scholars. Talking about the benefits of academic writing, we can keep ourselves up to date on issues in English language teaching (ELT). We are able to know what issues have been studied recently. Because in academic writing, we have to read a lot of resources,we can broaden our understanding of what language, language learning, and language teaching are, for example. Writing an academic article for scholarly journal publications, of course, builds our expertise and engages us in scholarly conversation with other scholars. This scholarly engagement will probably also broaden our academic and professional networks.

4. You have extensively published in peer-reviewed international journals, such as International Journal of Innovation in ELT and Research, English Teaching: Practice and Critique, English Teaching professional, Asian EFL Journal, and presented at several national/international conferences and workshops in different countries. What are your main areas of interest for research, publishing, and presentation? How many research papers, book chapters or books have your written for international publication so far? In what ways do you think your academic publishing and your presentations at national and international conferences contribute to the literature of NNEST issues, World Englishes, and EIL?

So far I have written and presented works, which fall into the areas of language teaching methodology, language curriculum and materials development, teacher professional development, and systemic functional linguistics in language education. I have published more than 50 papers in refereed journals and edited volumes. By engaging in academic publishing and presentation, I feel that as a non-native English speaking scholar, I have been able to contribute my expertise to the field of ELT. In this respect, the voices of non-native English speaking scholars are well represented in the academia here.

5. Could you share with us your vivid memories of some of the challenges you have encountered as a consequence of your international identity, more specifically of having an NNES identity as an international graduate student, an ESL/EFL professional in the US, in Australia, and in other contexts? How challenging is it for NNES professionals to get their writing published, especially in international publications? Did you experience any sort of discriminatory practices in the world of academic publishing?

 In some case, I experienced a sort of discriminatory practice in the world of academic publishing. For example, some editors always emphasize that “your article should be proofread by a native speaker of English.” This, of course, does not recognize my expertise as a legitimate scholar. This editor did not specify who the native speaker of English is. I doubt that this native speaker of English has expertise, which is relevant to mine. The hegemony of native speakerism also does not recognize linguistic choices. Well, during my studies in MA and PhD programs, all the faculty members respected me as a scholar who has expertise and consider my English as an additional language (EAL) ability as bilingual creativity.

6. It is generally believed that writing for international journals/publications is one of the most daunting tasks. To what extent do you agree with this? As a well published NNES professional, could you share with us your experience about the most challenging parts of writing (e.g., experiencing writer’s block) and publication, especially in peer-reviewed international journals?

 Writing for international journals (publications) is a complex and demanding task because it involves multimodal competencies, including:

Academic Reading: This includes extensive, critical, and annotated reading. We need to read relevant articles extensively. This also encompasses identifying what has been discussed or researched in the literature.

Academic Writing: This includes (a) summarizing, (b) paraphrasing, (c) synthesizing, (d) quoting and citing, (e) documenting & referencing, (f) voice, and (g) plagiarism.

Research Methodology: This is a solid understanding of approach and design, which suits our research project.

Fieldwork Management: This competence requires us to collect data in collaboration with our participants if human participants are involved within a particular time frame. This management skill is required.

Language Competence: This embraces solid knowledge of vocabulary and grammar (lexico-grammatical resources). We need to be able to re-appropriate a range of lexico-grammatical choices in a particular publishing outlet style.

Academic Literacy: We need to be aware of digital and auto plagiarism, genre sensitivity, the use of technology, scholarly database, and scholarly contribution.

For me, the most challenging task is that I need to identify scholarly contributions through conceptual, empirical, and practical lenses. This requires me to survey relevant publications, which support my claims or arguments. Sometimes, I experience writer’s block when I write something new and I am less familiar with the topic (e.g., language policy and planning) I am writing. To overcome this, I have to read what scholars in this area have discussed, debated, and researched. Another challenging task for me is how to respond to reviewers’ comments when I receive the status of “Revise and Resubmit” for my manuscript submission. In this case, I need to attend to their comments. If I agree with them, I add some details to the manuscript, but if I do not agree with the reviewers, I write some rejoinder arguments to convince them because the reviewers might be unfamiliar with the topic I have written about. In addition, I might ask a second opinion from my colleague who is familiar with this topic to assure that I am on the right track. For me, these challenges when publishing internationally are part of professional learning and help me grow professionally.

7. In the job market, there still prevails the ‘myth’ that native speakers are better than nonnative speaker professionals, and thus many academic institutions seem to give privileges to NES over NNES professionals. What’s your view on the native/non-native dichotomy? Have you experienced any forms of discrimination being an NNES professional while pursuing a PhD degree in Australia?

As I have observed so far, regarding job recruitment, at present, many institutions recognize NNES professionals’ expertise. A few educational institutions in Japan and Korea still prioritize NES professionals. I would say that the native/non-native dichotomy is still practiced in the academia. Therefore, we need to promote the discourse of bilingual creativity that recognizes non-native speakers of English who can creatively use EAL. I did not receive any discrimination for being an NNES professional while pursuing both MA and PhD degrees. As pointed out earlier, being a non-native speaker of English means that we are blessed with bilingual creativity. Of course, we have rich linguistic resources that monolingual native speakers of English might not have. I have witnessed the fact that some native speakers of English are proficient in other languages. This can enrich our linguistic ecology discourse.

8. How would you like to see our special sub-field in applied linguistics (NNEST and EIL issues) evolve in the next 20 years? How do you hope to contribute as an NNES professional? (Question by Terry Doyle)

In our field of applied linguistics, the issues of NNEST and EIL have been widely recognized. I have seen the fact that many NNEST scholars have published their works and contributed to the development of NNEST and EIL discourses. In the next 20 years, I would like to see more work on the special issues of bilingual creativity and linguistic ecology as social practice in order to recognize NNES expertise. We already have such journals as Asian Englishes and World Englishes as outlets that can publish research on these issues. This empowerment movement plays a pivotal role in recognizing the expertise of NNEST and EIL professionals. As an NNES professional, I always invite NNEST professionals to co-edit volumes with me and to contribute a chapter to my book publications. Additionally, because the use of English involves linguistic creativity, I would argue that bilingual creativity will need to be socialized into our academia more intensively.

9. Do you have any advice for TESOL graduate students, EFL teachers, or aspiring writers who would like to be promising writers in their careers, to help them become better writers, especially for international publications? Could you recommend any good resources for them to develop their academic writing skills?

For new writers, I would suggest the following:

  • writing up a proposal or an abstract.
  • communicating this to editors as gatekeepers to demonstrate your expression of interest in publishing with them.
  • consulting with the editors about the proposal whether they are keen on publishing the piece.
  • If the editors signal the green light, write a full length manuscript based on author guidelines.
  • indicating when you will submit the manuscript.
  • Ensuring that you understand the review process. Writing up a proposal and consulting about it with the editors save time and energy because what the editors expect can be clearly unders

Additionally, new writers will need to:

  • stay up-to-date with current issues.
  • get started to co-author (co-authorship) with more experienced writers
  • ask an experienced author, editor, or reviewer to give mentorship (collegial mentorship).
  • build professional networks with NNEST scholars who publish extensively
  • get work published in a less rigorous screening system, such as Asian EFL Journal, Language Education in Asia, and Asian Accents.

The best way to develop academic writing skills is reading scholarly articles extensively along with critical language and genre analysis.

10. Please tell us about your current writing projects. As a busy TESOL professional, a researcher, and a writer, how do you balance your professional and personal lives? 

At the moment, I am working on some edited volumes and finishing off some articles for international refereed journals; at the same time I am working on a digital storytelling project funded by Cambridge University Press. My main agenda is to turn my PhD thesis into two monographs, such as action research and language materials development. As a busy scholar, I need to balance my professional enterprise and personal life. It is a matter of time commitment. I have 24 hours a day. I always manage time zones: reading-writing and family work. For instance, in the morning, I cook for my family and do dishes as well as do housekeeping work. My wife and I take turns cooking. After my children go to school, I do some readings and writings. When my son arrives home, I play with him until my wife goes home from school. Because my daughter is already 12 years old, she can manage herself, but I accompany her to study at night. At weekends, I always spend a great deal of time with my family visiting some areas of interest and eating out as well as visiting our relatives. While tied up with professional commitments, I still do cooking and go traveling. Because my family understand my professional commitment, my wife and I always share some family responsibilities, and we are committed to spending time with our children as well.

Thank you very much, Dr. Widodo, for spending your time to answer these questions and share your experiences and opinions with our readers.

Wishing a very Happy New Year-2016 to all our esteemed readers of the NNEST of the Month blog!!


One thought on “Handoyo Puji Widodo

  1. Kailani

    This is truly inspiring story where a scholar can balance his professional life, family life and social life.


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