Author Archives: cristinasmartin

Nathanael Rudolph

Nathanael Rudolph

Thank you for participating in this interview. As editors of the NNEST of the month blog for a few years, we have had the opportunity to learn about the experiences of self-identified “Non-native” speakers and teachers of English from all over the world. For example, they have shared their pedagogical practices and ideas, perceptions on the challenges of hiring practices, and their scholarship and interest in continuing advocating for the need to expand views of what we mean by “English teaching.”

In addition, we have had the pleasure of participating in evolving conversations pertaining to the goals of the Non-native Speakers of English Interest Section (NNEST IS). Because of our own positionalities as teacher-scholars across institutional and geographical settings, disciplines, languages, and other aspects, we are particularly interested in making the conversation about the future of the NNEST IS more accessible to other teacher-scholars.

Interview by Cristina Sánchez-Martín

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Elvira Ambite


Elvira Ambite was born in Ávila, Spain, in 1991. She loved English since she was a little girl, and she’s taught it for almost ten years. After living abroad for several years, she went back to Madrid in 2015, where she works at a language school.

Could you please tell us about your educational and professional background?

I completed a degree in English Philology from the University of Salamanca. I had spent several summers teaching English to teenagers in my town. After that, I wasn’t really sure about making a career in education, so I decided to move to The Netherlands and work as an au pair (babysitter) while I made up my mind.  I ended up staying in Amsterdam for two years. During that time, I learned a great deal about teaching from my host family’s children, and it was then when I realized that education was my true calling.

I came back to Madrid to get my master’s degree in 2015. While the experience of studying that particular MA from the Complutense University was, to put it lightly, soul-crushing, I was incredibly lucky with my internship, which involved teaching English at a secondary state school. My mentor was an amazing professional and I cherished every moment I spent there.

Since then, I’ve worked as an English teacher in many contexts, including high-end companies and language teaching schools like Kids&Us. I always keep learning and trying to get better at my job.

Your story was recently featured in the Spanish edition of the Huffington Post in an article after you published several tweets about the challenges of being a non-native English teacher in Spain. What drove you to write those tweets? What was your goal? Did you expect the response you received?

To be honest, I didn’t have any goal other than to get some of the anger off my chest. I’d been looking for a better job for almost a year and this issue with the native teachers is a constant barrier. I was particularly disappointed that day. I could never have imagined the impact of my message. I remember writing the tweets, turning my phone off and falling asleep in my friend’s car -we were going to the beach for a few days. When we arrived at our destination, I saw hundreds of responses to my tweets, so I got a little overwhelmed. I’m not used at all to that kind of online attention. I am very happy that my vindication reached so many people and the fact that, at least, it started a conversation.

As a self-identified non-native English teacher, what do you find more rewarding and challenging? How do you navigate both the positive and negative responses to your work?

The most rewarding thing in the world is observing actual progress in my students. For example, when a middle-aged engineer that one year ago could barely produce a sentence is able to have a successful conversation with a client on the phone; or when children overcome their shyness and can narrate a perfectly coherent story without even realizing it.

In the context where I teach, I guess the most challenging thing is the quality of the contracts. For example, oftentimes, teachers feel the necessity to get several jobs to be able to survive, which means they have very limited time to prepare their lessons. In general, it is a context where teachers are required to function with constant exhaustion; therefore, they struggle to concentrate on doing their jobs. It is really draining.

In order to handle the responses to your work, communication skills are key, in my opinion. A lot of people want immediate results and you need to be able to earn their trust without patronizing parents and adult students. If you like your job, if you plan your lessons properly and you are willing to communicate with the group, you will navigate successfully through any potential obstacle.

From your experiences, how do you envision the future of English teaching in the context where you teach? Is there anything you would like to see changing?

I think there are a lot of misconceptions to overcome. The popular belief that the best English teacher must be native is seriously damaging our work. Not only our work conditions as non-native English teachers but also the quality of the services provided to students. And I think employers and consumers are both to blame for this situation. I do understand some of the causes of the issue. First, I understand that learning English seems an urgent need and an imperative for most job positions. I also understand the mindset of many English-speaking young people who, when they live abroad in a non-English speaking country for a year, prefer a teaching job over a job that requires more physical labor, even if they have not been trained to do it. What I do not understand, and I certainly do not support is the fact that many English-speaking companies and language schools are bypassing their duty of educating their students. There are some relieving examples. For example, Kids&Us explains parents why native teachers do not have any priority, and they do it in an effective way. But this is an exception. As long as language schools keep hiring people by looking at their passport, the problem is going to be there and results are going to be just as mediocre. Most of these native teachers do not meet the requirements to perform their job. Chatting with the students is not an English lesson, and some of the stronger learners can gain fluency from it, but it means leaving behind those who have more difficulties or need more specialized support.

What would you recommend to non-native English teachers who are starting their professional career?

Persevere. Beginnings are hard but better opportunities will arrive. Our profession is wonderful. It can be fun, challenging, rewarding, hard, intense, fulfilling, all of that in one lesson. Keep educating yourself, there is always something left to learn. Make the effort of empathising with your students. Learn how to motivate them, every group is different and discovering how to bring them in is as rewarding as teaching them learning strategies, there is always a way. Plan your lessons carefully and always have a plan B in case the first plan doesn’t work for that particular group of people. And, if you genuinely have fun, they will too.

You hold an MA degree in linguistics from Trinity College. In your opinion, how does the scholarship in applied linguistics and adjacent fields contribute to the professionalization of English teachers? Is there anything you would have liked to learn that you didn’t have the chance to in your MA degree?

       I don’t. I spent a study abroad year in Dublin and I was lucky enough to study in Trinity College Dublin (TCD). Since the degree of Philology does not exist per se in Ireland, all subjects related to linguistics belonged to the MA degree. In my view, the level of that MA was significantly below my knowledge as an undergraduate in Salamanca. However, the focus of the program was better-aimed and, as a student, I felt more stimulated. I cannot say that the program was more teaching-oriented, but it gave students a much more accurate idea of how English works as a language and, since the groups are smaller, a very exciting opportunity for debate. Besides, the fact that students are evaluated mainly through essays, where they have to show that they have actual, deep knowledge of the subject, I find far more interesting and rewarding than being assessed through tests.

Dr. Jorge Diego Sánchez


Interview by Cristina Sánchez-Martín

Hi Jorge, thank you for participating in this interview and sharing your experiences with us. To begin with, could you please tell us about your background?

Hi, Cristina. Thanks for getting in touch with me. I graduated in English Studies, and I have a PhD in Postcolonial Studies (Indian diaspora cinema and literature). Nevertheless, teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL) as well as English for Specific Purposes (ESP) is a passion I have been developing since an early age.  I enjoyed an Erasmus experience (European programme for foreign study) in Dublin (Ireland) in my third year, and I was a Teaching Assistant (hence TA) for courses in Spanish at the same university I was studying at. I really enjoyed the experience and so I decided to repeat the experience as a TA and went to London to teach at a private high school.

Then I started as PhD candidate, and some of the undergraduate courses in general English language required teaching. I had been doing EFL tuition since I was 14 years old to friends and other children/students, but this experience at college enhanced the possibilities as students in college were more enthusiastic. I realised the benefits of changing approaches, motivating students, and fostering a motivating approach to oral skills. I continued teaching these courses after completing my PhD at two other universities in Madrid (Spain). These were ESP courses for students doing degrees in International Relations, Medicine, Engineering and municipality’s officers.  I must confess, it was a challenge in the beginning because I had to develop new material and, at a turning point, I became aware of the fact that that I had to change the whole scope and make the students the ones creating their own material. I became a facilitator of specific real contexts and materials (I organised meetings with ambassadors, patients and showrooms) so that students could see the feasibility of real experiences where English and a high degree of motivation was expected. Lack of motivation was in fact the burden I could find in every group (no matter which age or background).

I came back to teach at University of Salamanca two years ago, and I have been teaching English courses (both EFL and ESP) trying to implement those strategies. High number of students in class (for instance, last year groups gathered 220, 127 and 91 students) havebeen the problem I have found in this new experience. Nevertheless, throughout the implementation of collaborative projects in teaching innovation, these classes have been a delight to participate in! Some colleagues wonder how I feel splitting my academic life between postcolonial studies and EFL/ESP teaching, and I must confess that it is a great balance to handle!

You have recently been granted a project on teaching innovation, could you please tell our readers about the project?

Yes, this year I applied for a project for the EFL course I teach for first year undergraduate in the Degree of History. It is called “Promotion and Transversality of English Language in the Degree of History: Interdisciplinary Proposal around the Concepts of Resilience and Precarity” and it departs from the necessities and areas that I thought could be implemented after teaching a similar course the previous year. The course is a B1 standard (Common European Framework), and it gathers a high number of students (this year 91) with different levels in oral, writing, listening, communication and ethical and cultural attitudes.

The project departs from a similar experience that was developed last year in a ESP course for the fourth year Medicine degree students in two groups of, respectively, 227 and 48 students. A group of experts in different sections of medicine collaborated with a set of experts in linguistic to design a real context (International Conference for Young Practicioners of Medicine) so that the whole course was developed and assessed as part of this Conference. Writing of abstracts, presentation and discussion of work in progress, and writing of a scientific paper and academic presentation of this research project were the activities of assessment. The project aimed at strengthening oral skills in real context for these students. The experience introduced new trends of the field, such as Medical Geology and Rheumatology, as an attempt to implement new areas to motivate students. Oncology and Dermatology were the other two areas out which students were expected to pick a topic. Rubric for assessments were designed and produced for every activity by both groups of experts to guarantee that the medical context and competences were integrated in the linguistic requirements of the course.

This year’s project agglutinates a group of experts in History, Cultural Studies, Journalism and ESP to organise the contents of the course around the topics of Resilience and Precarity. The reason to choose these two topics was that they were very contemporary and could be used as critical terms to look at the present/past/future of History.

For that project, you gathered a significant number of non-native English teachers from different disciplines. What led you to that idea? What steps did you take to implement the idea into an actual teaching and research project?

Yes, in the project there are members from Australia, Canada, India, Spain and the UK. The non-native teaching lecturers do teach EFL and ESP courses as well as modules in literature, history, gender and cultural studies. There are also 6 members graduated in History who are teaching at state schools which offer the subjects of history in English. There are also journalists with a high knowledge of English that they have had to use in real situations, such as how to describe a historical event for a catalogue in English, how to interview a historian and the sort of situations. The problems we non-native teachers face are ideally shared with the students, or at least are taken into account to prepare the material of the lessons.

In terms of research, what are the benefits and drawbacks (if any) of working collaboratively with scholars and teachers across languages, disciplines, and institutions?

I am very lucky to have gathered a group of professionals who believe that any research of innovation in teaching project is devoted for students and society, not for the members or the main researcher. Nowadays, I have noticed that some projects are excuses for groups or individuals to cultivate themselves instead of offering and sharing something. Members of the group agreed to come on board when the idea was merely sketched and agreed to help as much as they could with ease and gratitude. I am a huge fan of team-work, so the main benefit of structuring the course according to the advices and recommendations of the members truly adds to the course.

I am particularly keen on the collaboration between non-native and native speakers from different regions because it is particularly enriching for everyone. I wish I could devote more time and attention to this interaction in upcoming years. Also, a lot of knowledge from different perspectives is shared on relevant contemporary issues and lots of interaction take place in meetings, emails and the sort of communication. From a personal perspective, I count on an interdisciplinary group which is able to provide answers about any topic as well as is eager to devote time to outlines, discussions and perspectives. I know that some members of the group have started to think about resilience and precarity since the project was awarded and they are working about the topics with their students (both at high school, undergraduate and post-doctorate level).

The experts have been given suggestions for those topics (they shared their own choices from their own fields), have assessed the adequacy of the choices and the development of students’ work, worked on the production of rubrics, etc. Besides, there have been two activities organised by the project that have aimed at disseminating the English language in real contexts making students talk English outside their classrooms (their comfort zones): a Film seminar showing films in English showing specific moments in history presented by experts of the topic. English is given visibility for the students of History, and these students meet undergraduates of Philologý as they have enrolled the seminar. It is a five-part seminar and 74 students joined. Also, the project has collaborated with the International Conference entitled “Women, Visual Arts, Literature and Human Rights” which was organised by the International Seminar of Contemporary History on Human Rights at University of University of Salamanca to commemorate the International Day of Women (March 8-9th, 2018). Some of its members, as international respected academics do participate in the project and so we organised two parallel activities. The former is a film in the previous seminar and the latter the meeting with an artist that is exhibiting at the painting show that the Conference commissioned. Students will have to create a leaflet, review or podcast script of the exhibition (as training for their final assessment) and they will interview the artist.

The drawbacks of working with such a big international team (25) is that sometimes emailing takes a bit of time, but that is a minor drawback in this year’s team because all of them are very committed and involved in the project. Also, lack of funding is a burden that we inventively try to bridge with creative alternatives, such as online meetings and Skype calls. Nevertheless, some funding to invite a writer to interact with the students or to bring a person from overseas to teach an interactive seminar could enlarge the outcomes of the project. Also, I tried to arrange a collaborative work with a national museum. A real visit was not possible because of lack of money and so a virtual tour was done… but the students missed the opportunity to interact with the people in charge of the educational programmes to which they were outlining activities in English. The same problem in the access to facilities for transportation is involved in the impossibility of students to visit the High Schools (with associated teachers within the project) to present their activities and interact in real life with classes that they might be teaching in a few years’ time.

What are the expectations for the project in terms of research?

Intellectual outputs involve Rubrics that have been designed taking into account the interdisciplinary nature of the project as well as the design of activities for EFL teaching using original material. A proposal to explain the benefits of teaching EFL through films in a conference for teaching innovation has been accepted. Results in relation to the understanding and analysis of reality and history through the concepts of resilience and precarity are expected together with a corpus-based review of the date collected in the writing tasks. I personally hope that the project gets further dissemination in the specific areas of research and work so that people can enjoy the work of students as well as the suggestions of the group!

What projects are you currently involved in related to the teaching of English?

The research project, as previously stated, aimed at organising the contents of the courses according to the topics of resilience and precarity. According to different writers (Susan O’Brien, Tabish Khair, Judith Butler, Marianne Hirsch…) these two terms allow to evaluate the functioning of cultures, politics and socio-economical contemporary issues. The course if a B1 EFL and we have made a selection of moments in history, characters, books, films, paintings, performances… that refer to historical moments. They are used to practice the contents of the specific level and for the final presentation where students need to present one of these topics orally in a formal context besides producing a writing submission in one of the following templates: a leaflet for a museum, a script for a podcast and a review for a newspaper. There are rubrics that have been produced taken into account the feedback received from all experts to ask for real contexts where English language will be demanded.

Finally, what advice would you give to other teachers and scholars interested in carrying out projects with colleagues from different parts of the world and whose disciplinary and institutional backgrounds are not exactly the same as yours?

Just enjoy the group, the course and the management of as well as the specificities of some intellectual outputs! And organise the project for the students because, ultimately, you teach for students, not for your own merits!

Thank you Jorge and congratulations on such an interesting project!

Thank you Cristina for this interview and for being such an active member of the team!

Ju Seong Lee


photo Ju Seong Lee

Ju Seong  (John) Lee has recently defended his doctoral dissertation at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). His research interests include English as an International Language (EIL), Informal Digital Learning of English (IDLE) and Computer Mediated Communication (CMC).

Interview by Cristina Sánchez-Martín

Thank you John for taking the time to do this interview with us. You have recently defended your dissertation, so congratulations on your accomplishments! To start off the interview, please, tell us about yourself.

I was born and grew up in South Korea. During early childhood and adolescent, I had a deep interest in the world outside my home country, and discovered English as a means to learn and explore the world. I also enjoyed teaching others and helping people learn. So, I majored in English education and TESOL for my B.A. and M.A degrees, respectively. In addition, from 2000 to 2014, I gained hands-on experience by teaching ESL/EFL, Korean as a foreign language (KFL), computer literacy, and physical education in a variety of educational (public/private university, secondary school, primary school, community/private language school, cram school, summer camp) and multicultural contexts (USA, New Zealand, Korea, Mongolia, and Thailand) for diverse students (4 years old, K-12 students, university/graduate students). I am currently pursuing my PhD degree in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction with a specialization in Second Language Acquisition and Teacher Education (SLATE) at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). Recently, I have defended my dissertation, titled “Informal, Digital Learning of English (IDLE): The Case of Korea University Students.”

Your research interests include English as an International Language (EIL) and Informal Digital Learning of English (IDLE) within Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL), how did you become interested in these areas?

I built up a foundation in EIL when I took a course in English and English education in Japan in the age of globalization with Dr. Yuji Nakamura during Spring 2014 at Keio University, Japan. During my time as a doctoral student at UIUC, I completed the certificate program in SLATE and took several linguistics courses including Ling. 500: Sociolinguistics 2 Theory and Practice (taught by Dr. Rakesh M. Bhatt), which solidified my foundation in EIL and broadened my grasp of theoretical issues in language use. Currently, I am a proponent of Matsuda’s (2017) conceptualization of EIL – “a function that English performs in international, multilingual contexts, to which each speaker brings a variety of English that they are most familiar with, along with their own cultural frames of reference, and employs various strategies to communicate effectively” (p. xiii). This definition encompasses many diverse perspectives known under different terminologies or referred to as ‘critically oriented scholarship,’ such as English as a Lingua Franca, Global Englishes, English as a Global Language, and World Englishes.

In respect to IDLE, I traveled to Morocco in May of 2014 to work with my advisor, Dr. Mark Dressman, to plan his Fulbright Senior Scholar project on English learning at three Moroccan universities. During this trip, I was surprised by the fluency and communicative competence of nearly every Moroccan student with whom I spoke. How could this be? Dr. Dressman and I wondered how under-resourced Moroccan university students excel in oral communication whereas fully resourced Korean students struggle to speak, despite similar colonial histories, English language policies, and EFL contexts. Although several variables (e.g., geographic location, learning style) may influence the English acquisition of Moroccan students, the preliminary data suggest that they actively engage in IDLE activities independently of their teachers, while Koreans are heavily dependent upon formal in-class learning (Dressman, Lee, & Sabaoui, 2016). In a broad sense, IDLE can be understood as ‘self-directed, naturalistic, digital learning of English in unstructured, out-of-class environments, independent of a formal language program.’ For example, EFL students autonomously write on or view others’ Facebook walls in English for the purpose of connecting with others. But a teacher does not affect this behavior.

With the advent of new technology and its enormous pedagogical benefits, recent studies have begun implicating the pedagogical benefits of CALL on the development of EIL competence among EFL learners. However, past studies have been conducted in formal educational contexts, leaving out an in IDLE context, an emerging CALL territory. Hence, I have decided to examine the under-researched relationship between IDLE and various dimensions of EIL competence.

As a collaborator in the article “Effects of videoconference-embedded classrooms (VEC) on learners’ perceptions toward English as an international language (EIL)” (2017), you argue that Videoconference Embedded Classrooms have positive pedagogical benefits in students’ learning English as an International Language.  Could you describe how other English teachers could implement VEC in their contexts? What hypothetical drawbacks could they encounter?

Recently, Dr. Yuji Nakamura (Keio U.), Dr. Randall Sadler (UIUC) and I have noticed two significant gaps in current EIL knowledge: (1) EIL studies with detailed overviews regarding how to implement EIL pedagogy are few, and (2) fewer empirical studies have been conducted. To address these issues, we have taken an interdisciplinary approach by tapping into the fields of EIL and CALL. More specifically, since 2014, we have established and hosted a virtual roundtable six times, in collaboration with 18 internationally-renowned TESOL/applied linguistics scholars from 15 universities. Additionally, using this online platform, we have also developed and implemented an original pedagogical design, “Videoconference-Embedded Classroom (VEC),” with the goal of helping Japanese EFL university students improve their EIL awareness level.

Pedagogical details (consisting of three stages) are described in the paper: 1) pre-videoconference task (VT), 2) during-VT, and 3) post-VT. At the Pre-VT stage, students engaged in both in-class and out-of-class tasks by reading EIL-related materials and having follow-up group discussion facilitated by an instructor. At the During-VT stage, the instructor set up the videoconferencing using an LCD projector, the Internet and audio-visual equipment in collaboration with the university staff. Students could interact with EIL scholars and other students from inner, outer, and expanding circle countries during the videoconference. Based on the Pre-VT and During-VT, the students wrote reflective essays at the Post-VT stage. As a consequence of VEC, students could engage in critical thinking by reviewing diverse opinions on EIL themes during Pre-VT, comparing/contrasting a particular issue from various perspectives discussed by the EIL experts (and users) during During-VT, and coming up with their own original opinions in the form of a reflective essay and final presentation during Post-VT.

We also provided a practical guideline for how to overcome potential challenges based on a series of our trial and error. For example, the coordinator should identify the tech-environment and logistics of each participant (e.g., Wi-Fi-connection, microphone, web-cam etc.) and constantly troubleshoot a range of unanticipated technological issues. Additionally, since the participants reside in different time zones, the coordinator has to consider those different time zones in addition to academic schedule in each institution and individual schedule.

Having defended your dissertation recently, what advice would you give to other PhD students as they move on in the different stages of their dissertation (data collection, data analysis, and writing activities)?

During the early stage of a doctoral program, it is important to choose a topic you are deeply passionate about and you can be the best at. However, it is also crucial to choose a topic that your advisor may find interesting or at least relevant to his or her research areas. In my anecdotal experience, by selecting the topic (that closely aligns with my advisor’s), I have become involved in his various projects; Consequently, I can spend an ample amount of time with him, developing my personal relationship with him, while getting direction, advice and feedback related to my academic and professional issues. That’s why it is important to choose a topic that is closely aligned with your advisor at the beginning stage.         

During the data collection and analysis stage, a thorough preparation is required for making both processes smooth. For example, I received formal letters of invitation to collect the data at three investigation sites and obtained approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB). At the research sites, I also needed to arrange several meetings with my gatekeepers (and collaborators), administer surveys, conduct interviews, and observe classes. And the list goes on and on. Many times, I also had to be flexible and “thick skinned.” In retrospect, every step was not easy. But throughout these processes, my advisor was a tremendous help for its preparation and implementation through constant help, feedback, support, and encouragement. Another piece of advice is to start writing while collecting and analyzing data. My advisor said one common mistake many doctoral students make is they tend to first collect data in their third or fourth year of the program and then wait. After that, they start analyzing and writing it up. This is not a recommended practice because it takes longer to complete the work. PhD study is full of a series of unexpected personal and professional delays and interruptions.

In respect to writing activities, the “divide and conquer” technique worked best for me. I think writing a dissertation is like climbing a high mountain or running a marathon. It is long and boring. And it is often exhausting! Based on my experience, I highly recommend that you divide your writing tasks into small segments and work on your daily task one at a time. Putting differently, you should strive for tiny, daily advances rather than attempting to do everything all at once. It is also important to reward yourself when you meet your short-term and long-term goals, which help you sustain your writing without being burnout. At the time of writing, you may not feel like much progress is being made, but this will become big improvement after one, three, and six months of your continuous work.

During the final stage of your doctoral study (a.k.a. ABD), you need a high level of personal motivation and ability to work independently because now you must work in “unstructured” environments. Personally, my support (and inner circle) groups such as my wife, parents, Dr. Dressman, and Dr. Nakamura have helped me keep focusing on the completion of the dissertation. At this stage, I suggest you learn to pace yourself and take advantage of your support groups who love you and whom you trust.  

You have been an active member of the NNESTs of the Month Blog and TESOL International, among other associations, in what ways have these professional development opportunities influenced your work?

I firmly believe that my current scholarly work is the sum of all that I have known (and met) through NNEST-of-the-month blog and TESOL International. This NNEST blog community has helped me learn and disseminate the EIL concept and its pedagogy and establish professional networks with EIL-oriented scholars around the world. This has led me to get more actively involved in TESOL International by serving as a proposal reviewer on World Englishes and NNEST research strand as well as an award reviewer on Albert H. Marckwardt Travel Grants and The Ruth Crymes TESOL Fellowship for Graduate Study at the TESOL International Convention and English Language Expo.

I highly recommend graduate students attend national and international TESOL conferences where they can meet scholars in their areas of specialization. You can meet with them, have a meal together, and ask for their counsel on your research and career on several formal and informal occasions. You can gain a lot of practical advice and wisdom from senior and junior scholars who have gone through this process. So, please show initiative and talk to them. Sometimes, it only takes a conversation and a follow-up email to someone else to start collaborations, too. These professional activities have had a significant influence on my work.

Finally, tells us about your future plans in the field. What research and teaching projects are you going to be involved in?

At present, there is no validated EIL measurement scale. So, my collaborators and I developed EIL Scale (EILS) that is theoretically underpinned and empirically validated through exploratory factor analysis (EFA) and confirmatory factor analysis (CFA). This process generated a four-factor structure with 14 items. However, this new instrument has been validated only in a single country (i.e., South Korea), which limits its validity and applicability in other cross-cultural contexts. So, for future projects, we want to examine the factor structure of EILS among other EFL students and examine if EILS can be considered as a validated assessment tool for measuring EIL competence in broader cross-cultural contexts.

In addition, my recent studies (Lee & Dressman, In press; Lee, Accepted) investigated the relationship between the quality of IDLE activities used by Korean university EFL learners and their English outcomes. It was found that a diverse use of IDLE activities by participants contributed to greater willingness to communicate (WTC) online and higher productive vocabulary scores. But we want to further explore the relationship between different language outcomes such as English writing and reading abilities and IDLE activities. We also want to delve deeper into how personal sources of variance such as students’ majors, study abroad experiences, or family socioeconomic status may affect the English learning outcomes in relation to IDLE activities.


Dressman, M., Lee, J. S., & Sabaoui, M. A. (2016). Paths to English in Korea: Policies, practices, and outcomes. English Language Teaching. 28(1), 67-78.

Lee, J. S., Nakamura, Y., & Sadler, R. (2017). Effects of videoconference-embedded classrooms (VEC) on learners’ perceptions toward English as an international language (EIL). ReCALL. doi:10.1017/S095834401700026X

Lee, J. S & Dressman, M. (In press). When IDLE hands make an English workshop: Informal digital learning of English and language proficiency. TESOL Quarterly.

Lee, J. S. (Accepted) Informal digital learning of English (IDLE) and second language vocabulary outcomes: Can quantity conquer quality? British Journal of Educational Technology.

Matsuda, A. (Ed.). (2017). Preparing teachers to teach English as an international language. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Tanita Saenkhum


Dr. Saenkhum is Assistant Professor and Director of ESL in the Department of English at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She has recently become the TESOL Second Language Writing (SLW) interest section chair-elect.

Interviewer: Cristina Sánchez-Martín

Thank you for joining us on NNEST-of-the-month blog. Could you briefly tell us about your linguistic, academic, and professional background and how you got interested in becoming a second language writing specialist and ESL educator?

I am pleased to be joining the NNEST-of-the-month blog. Thank you for the invitation!

I was born and raised in Thailand, and I grew up speaking Thai as my primary language. My formal exposure to the English language was when I began studying English in Grade 5. I received my undergraduate degree in mass communication, majoring in journalism. While I was working on my master’s degree in journalism, I worked as a columnist for a women’s magazine. I also spent five years working as a journalist for an English newspaper in Thailand. As you see, my background had nothing to do with teaching. However, as I wrote in my book chapter (Saenkhum, 2015),

Through many years of such experience, I discovered how much I loved writing, even though it was challenging to write in a language that was not my mother tongue. As a journalist, I worked under deadlines and pressure, writing on variable subject matters for a wide audience (p. 112).

Reflecting on my career path, I told myself: “Being able to write as a journalist was a big stepping stone to my other career goals” (Saenkhum 2015, p. 112). Then this happened:

… I thought about changing my career since I no longer wanted to write as a reporter; rather I wanted to pass on my knowledge of writing to those who were interested. All of a sudden, the idea of teaching came into sight; I wanted to be a writing teacher. But I did not have a teaching degree; ‘How could that be possible?’ I asked myself (p. 112).

As you may imagine, I decided to quit my job and pursued my second master’s degree in TESOL at Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC), where I first learned about second language (L2) writing and “the serious journey of my academic career began” (p. 112). After two years at SIUC, I continued my doctoral studies in Rhetoric, Composition, and Linguistics at Arizona State University (ASU), where I specialized in L2 writing with a focus on writing program administration for multilingual writers. At ASU, I had various opportunities to broaden my L2 writing and writing program administration scholarship. For example, I served as ASU’s Assistant Director of Second Language Writing and Associate Chair for the 2009 Symposium on Second Language Writing.

I graduated in Spring 2012 and secured a tenure-track assistant professor position in the Rhetoric, Writing, and Linguistics program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. At UT Knoxville, in addition to researching and teaching, I have served as the university’s ESL Writing Program since 2013.

In your book Decisions, Agency, and Advising: Key Issues in the Placement of Multilingual Writers into First-Year Composition Courses (Utah State University Press, 2016) you report on a study on the placement of multilingual writers in first-year composition courses. In the study, you found out that students’ attitudes towards their placement in composition courses varied from acceptance to negotiation. You also argued that students’ self-assessment should be a component of their placement. What would an ideal placement process look like? Are there any negative aspects regarding students’ self-assessment?

As I argued in my book, students’ perspectives should be included in the programmatic placement of students into writing courses. We should listen to our students. An effective placement procedure/process should include related placement stakeholders, including students, academic advisors, writing teachers, and writing program administrators. Essentially, students should be informed of all necessary placement information so that they can make well-informed placement decisions.

In my book, I also demonstrated “the essentials of self-assessing in placement decisions” (Saenkhum, 2016, p. 52) to make a case for students’ own agency in their placement decisions. Self-assessing, for example, is an act of agency that students performed while they were in the process of choosing a first-year writing course. For students to be able to self-asses, they must receive complete placement information distributed by various sources, including academic advisors and writing programs.

You are currently the director of the Department of English’s ESL Program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. You also teach graduate and undergraduate courses on ESL, second language writing, writing program administration, etc. What have you learned from both administrative and teaching responsibilities? What practical advice would you give to graduate students who would like to follow your career path?

My research informs my teaching and my writing program administration (WPA) work. I use a writing program as a site of my research (Saenkhum, forthcoming), and I have applied what I learned from my research to streamline the placement procedures for multilingual writers at my current institution. In the same book chapter (Saenkhum, 2015) mentioned above, I discussed how I developed some strategies for negotiating the workloads as a tenure-track assistant professor who takes on administrative responsibilities while working toward tenure. As a researcher, teacher, and writing program administrator, “I am learning to strike a balance between research (working on my writing), administrative work, and teaching; at the same time, I want to make sure that I have a well-rounded, healthy life” (p. 123).

My advice for graduate students who are interested in WPA is to understand the nature of the work WPAs do. Ask yourself the following questions: How do I see myself in the next five years? Where do I want to work/teach? At a teaching institution? At a research university? What is my research interest? If you have answers to these questions, you will know what you want to do in your career!

You co-authored the article “Writing Teachers’ Perceptions of the Presence and Needs of Second Language Writers: An Institutional Case Study” (2013) with Paul Kei Matsuda and Steven Accardi. How was the experience of collaborating in writing the article? What advice would you give to emerging scholars who are trying to publish their work in prestigious journals like the Journal of Second Language Writing?

Collaboration is fun and provides great writing experience for me as a researcher and writer. I enjoyed working with Paul and Steve and learned a lot from working with them. I value collaboration and would like to encourage collaborative work. Getting to know the journal you would like to publish your work with is one of the most important things. Also, understanding the nature of work published in such journal is essential. Try co-authoring and submitting to your dream journal!

In that same study, you call for the improvement of teacher training in regards to multilingual writers, since teachers “identified various resource needs, including more professional preparation opportunities, common curriculum and materials, and common diagnostic tools” (p. 81). From your experience, what are the most essential skills that writing instructors should develop in order to work with multilingual writers?

First and foremost, writing instructors should know who their students are. Second, they should be able to address individual students’ needs in the writing classrooms. Third, they should be willing to spend more time working with their multilingual writers.

You are currently working on a study on the history of English writing instruction in Thailand. What are the implications from your study for English teaching?

This is an ongoing project that consists of different phases of data collection. The goal of this study is to generate an understanding of second language writing and the teaching of second language writing in Thailand by considering the country’s development of English language learning and teaching from a historical perspective. I hope the results from my study will provide some implications for English writing instruction in the country.

Finally, congratulations on being the TESOL Second Language Writing (SLW) interest section chair-elect! In your opinion, what are some of the ways in which scholars in the NNESTs and SLW interest sections can work together towards developing scholarship and more just pedagogical principles for the English classrooms?

Thank you! Collaboration between the interest sections should be encouraged. In the past, SLWIS has worked with the NNESTs, putting together panels for InterSection sessions at TESOL. I also think we can collaborate on research projects that seek to understand L2 writing/writers from NNEST perspectives or vice versa.


Matsuda, P. K., Saenkhum, T., & Accardi, S. (2013). Writing teachers’ perceptions of the presence and needs of second language writers: An institutional case study. Journal of Second Language Writing, 22(1), 68-86.

Saenkhum, T. (2015). Choices in identity building as an L2 writing specialist: Investment and perseverance. In K. McIntosh, C. Pelaez-Morales, & T. Silva (Eds.), Graduate studies in second language writing (pp. 111–125). Anderson, SC: Parlor Press.

Saenkhum, T. (2016). Decisions, agency, and advising: Key issues in the placement of multilingual writers into first-year composition courses. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press.

Saenkhum, T. (forthcoming). Working toward being a tenured WPA. In P. K. Matsuda, K. O’Meara, & S. Snyder (Eds.), Professionalizing second language writing. Anderson, SC: Parlor Press.

Hyejeong Ahn

Dr. Hyejeong Ahn

Dr. Hyejeong Ahn works as a lecturer at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Her teaching experience spans from teaching English for academic purposes, English as an International Language to intercultural communication skills in professional and academic contexts. Her research interests relate to the field of educational linguistics with a clear focus on teaching English as an International Language (EIL) and World Englishes. Dr. Hyejeong Ahn has published her work on the evaluation of teachers’ awareness of and attitudes towards the inherently evolving pluricentric nature of English. She has argued for developing teacher training courses which inform the current socio and linguistic landscape of English and a reassessment of the notion of English competency for the era of globalization.

Interviewer:  Ju Seong Lee (John)

You were born and raised in Korea but you also spent a great deal of time in Australia for your graduate work. You are currently working in Singapore. What a dynamic career (and life) trajectory! Could you tell us a little bit about your professional background and how it was informed by the different contexts you have lived in?

Yes, I have so far lived and worked in three different countries. I spent my “rough” teenage years in South Korea, a very competitive society. Then, I kind of wanted to escape from the fierce competition for a while and decided to travel around Australia. I instantly fell in love with the country and resided there for almost 15 years. Finally, I moved to Singapore with the added adventure of a new life with my husband.

I graduated with a bachelor of Education from the University of South Australia and started working as a primary school teacher in Adelaide, Australia. I had many challenges to overcome in finding an initial teaching job as a newly graduated non-Australian teacher. I worked at a local school in Adelaide for two years and also at an International school in South Korea for about two years. When I was working in Australia, I felt somehow discriminated against possibly because of my foreign accent, my name or appearance, even though students and staff benefited from my diverse background. When I worked at an International School in South Korea, I felt once again appreciated as well as discriminated against by Korean search committees as they might have been looking for “native” English speaking teachers for their school, at the same time they realized the perks that they may get in employing a Korean Australian teacher.

After working two years at an International School in South Korea, I decided to move back to Australia to complete my Masters degree in TESOL, where I found a passion for English language teaching. Studying the TESOL degree and working as non-native teacher motivated me to pursue a PhD in the area of English as an International Language within the sociolinguistic of World Englishes. After completing my PhD, I was very lucky to gain a job in Singapore.

In my new auto-ethnography chapter (forthcoming) entitled, “Help me”: The English language and voice from a Korean Australian living in Singapore, I talk about the challenges and prejudice that I had to overcome while working in three different countries where “native speakerism” is pervasively and deeply embedded in education, particularly in English language teaching. I give a heartfelt explanation of how I went through the process of constructing and continuously reconstructing my multiple identities which were interwoven with my perception of what an ideal English speaker is and myself as an English language specialist working in Singaporean educational context.

In all of three countries, to different extents, I was both advantaged and disadvantaged by being a non-native speaker of English and I will talk more about this in the answer to the following question.

In two of your recent studies (Ahn, 2013; 2014), you mentioned that a form of Standard English such as American English still appeared to play a significant role in norm orientation among Korean EFL learners. In your opinion, what factors may have informed this phenomenon?

Well, my studies suggest that not many English teachers in South Korea are aware of other varieties of English, and they repeatedly stated that they had only had the opportunity of engaging with American English (AmE). All other varieties of English were considered somehow “wrong” or “deviated”, except for so called “Queen’s English”.

Most of my participants in the studies (high school English teachers) mentioned that they thought all “native” English teachers were associated with America and even Korean English teachers that they had met were either second generation Korean Americans or Koreans who had studied in America. They also reported that Korean people with good “American” English skills, tended to graduate from one of the top universities in Korea and had highly paid and socially well-respected jobs, wearing immaculate suits and dresses.

This probably has led most Korean English teachers to regard AmE as a default variety of English to teach and to learn, although they were never specific about which variety of AmE that they were thinking of. I guess it has been uncritically assumed amongst Korean English teachers that teaching and learning English in Korea means teaching and learning AmE.

More recently, you discussed the important role that English teachers play in influencing the students’ attitudinal changes toward other varieties of Englishes (Ahn, 2015). In reality, however, TESOL practitioners struggle with teaching EIL in their classrooms due to language ideologies, Inner Circle-preferred teaching models, American English-oriented pedagogies, high-stakes English tests, and a lack of opportunities to understand the experiences of diverse EIL users. What pedagogical suggestions do you have for teachers who are interested in implementing EIL?

Needless to say, it is absolutely necessary for teachers of the English language to receive sufficient and systematic professional development training to raise their awareness of varieties of English and the socio-linguistic reality of English speaking context in today’s era. They need to be clearly informed about the skills their students need if the goal of learning English is to become a proficient speaker of the language in international contexts.

It is important to develop a knowledge of the lexico-grammar of a particular variety of English but it is also as critical to have the ability to communicate with millions of bilingual English speakers whose first language is not necessarily English. What I am trying to say here is that having the knowledge of the lexico-grammar of AmE and its cultural values as “teaching a language and its culture should be taught simultaneously” will not be sufficient information for Korean students to become proficient speakers of English as an International Language. Teachers of English in South Korea need to be aware of this, hence, teacher training courses must be comprehensively informed and designed according to rapidly changing student needs.

Regarding the issue of the pervasiveness of language ideologies, I believe it is largely to do with the goals of English teaching. In the case of South Korea, the goal of English education has long been closely associated with “preparing for several English tests” that only include the Inner Circle varieties, particularly AmE, therefore, it may have been appropriate for them to teach the variety that helps students to achieve the high scores for these tests.

However, if the goal of English teaching is to prepare students to communicate proficiently with millions of English speakers, who are most likely bilingual speakers of English they should, as mentioned above, be knowledgeable about what skill sets they need to teach their students and focus on the developing an awareness of the current linguistic landscape of English speaking situations.

The negative attitudes towards Outer and Expanding Circle varieties English have been deeply rooted in South Korea, therefore, it needs a steady and systemic approach to change the attitudes of students and teachers of the English language. In order to do so, as the first step, teachers need to be clearly aware of the changing dynamics of English language speaking contexts such as who their speaking partners are likely to be, what topics they are going to discuss, and what kind of greetings they are going to exchange etc.

Many of my English teacher participants in my studies shared embarrassing experiences of not being able to communicate with taxi drivers or shop keepers in India or Singapore, for example, while their husbands or wives who often went overseas on business trips were much better and more proficient at this type of communication . I think sharing these kinds of “real and authentic experiences” would help teachers to understand the need for exposure to varieties of English and knowledge of the features of the English these speakers are using.

Your book (Ahn, 2017) “Attitudes to World Englishes: Implications for teaching English in South Korea” was just released. What are the main messages you are trying to convey to stakeholders such as program administrators and policymakers?

I was hoping to create an awareness in a majority of English teachers and students in South Korea of the following three points: 1) being able to speak AmE well and communicate well with AmE speakers does not mean that you are a proficient speaker of English as an International Language, 2) the importance of raising awareness of varieties of English speakers and English speaking contexts and, 3) the necessity for the re-examination of the hidden discursive practices embedded in the English education policy in South Korea.

Could you tell us what it is like working in Singapore? What advice would you give to TESOL professionals who are interested in working in Singapore and wish to succeed as instructors and researchers there?

First of all, Singapore is a great country to work in. In particular, for TESOL professionals from so called “Western Countries”, Singapore is a “soft-landing”. Singapore has a lot to offer many TESOL professionals as it is a melting pot of Asia surrounded by varieties of cultures and languages. It is truly a multilingual country.

Social respect for teachers is also great and I also enjoy the pay and low taxes too. I can confidently say that Singapore is one of the best places to work in Asia. Also, one of the greatest perks of living in Singapore is that you can easily travel to many countries in South East Asia. Traveling overseas from Singapore is very easy and affordable.

I have also found Singapore to be very safe. Whenever I happen to finish work late, I have never felt threatened about walking home alone. The streets are well lit and people here tend to watch out for each other’s wellbeing.

Almost all Singaporean students speak English fluently as they grow up speaking English and the working language of schools in Singapore is English but they do need to be taught the features of academic writing. This is where the demand is. If you are interested in teaching English in Singapore, I would say, look for EAP related TESOL positions.


Ahn, H. (2013). English policy in South Korea: A role in attaining global competitiveness or a vehicle of social mobility? Journal of English as an International Language, 8(1), 1-20.

Ahn, H. (2014). Teachers’ attitudes towards Korean English in South Korea. World Englishes, 33(2), 195-222.

Ahn, H. (2015). Awareness of and attitudes to Asian Englishes: A study of English teachers in South Korea. Asian Englishes, 17(2), 132-151.

Ahn, H. (2017). Attitudes to World Englishes: Implications for teaching English in South Korea. New York, NY: Routledge.

Shannon Tanghe


Dr. Shannon Tanghe is the Program Director and Associate Professor in the Master of Arts in ESL program at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. Prior to this, she spent approximately sixteen years teaching in South Korea. Her current courses focus on international perspectives of English language teaching and reflective language teaching. Her ongoing research focuses on collaborative co-teaching, World Englishes, and internationalizing teacher education. She was recently recognized as the 2016 TESOL Teacher of the Year and was named as one of “30 Up and Coming” emerging leaders in the TESOL field.

Interviewers:  Ju Seong Lee (John) and Cristina Sánchez-Martín

You were the recipient of the 2016 TESOL Teacher of the Year Award recognized by TESOL International Association. Congratulations on your recent achievement! To start, please share with our readers a little bit about yourself, and how you became interested in TESOL as a field and as a professional organization.

Thank you! I spent the first half of my life in rural Minnesota, and most of the second half in South Korea. When I was a university student at the University of Minnesota–Morris, I had the chance to have two transformative teaching/learning experiences which had huge impact on my future. The first was a semester I spent working as an English language teaching assistant in a kindergarten classroom in Cairo, Egypt. During that experience, I fell in love with teaching English. The next year, I was able to do my student teaching in Georgetown, Guyana, an experience that solidified my decision to teach internationally. I spent several summers teaching at a summer camp in South Korea, and in 2000 I moved there and stayed for more than 16 years, until recently returning to Minnesota last summer.

I was a member of the local TESOL organization in Korea (KOTESOL) for about a decade before I became involved in the international TESOL organization. I benefitted from the local focus that KOTESOL offered, which was exactly what I needed at that time. As I continued teaching, I began to explore more international perspectives and resources through involvement with the international TESOL organization.

In your study “Integrating World Englishes into a university conversation class in South Korea” (2014), you introduced how language teachers can incorporate World Englishes perspectives into English language teaching and raise students’ perceptions of different varieties of English. Could you briefly explain how teachers can implement this practice in their own instructional contexts?

I think this begins with first re-evaluating traditional ideas about language education and focusing on TESOL pedagogies that can meet the needs of diverse learners in a particular learning context. In the piece you mentioned from English Today, I describe in detail several of the activities that we did in that particular course–including a Quirk/Kachru debate, visual re-constructions of Kachru’s concentric circle model, reflective voice blogs, and cumulative video projects. One resource I really appreciate is Jennifer Jenkins’ “Global Englishes” textbook (2015). I have used this book in graduate courses and have found it to be a great combination of information integrated with pedagogical implications. Aya Matsuda’s “Preparing Teachers to Teach English as an International Language” (2017) is another recommendation, which also includes an extensive resource collection.

Teacher educators and teachers alike benefit from developing an understanding of language in connection to learners’ particular contexts, and to appreciate learners complex and multi-faceted identities, which are shaped by personal lived histories and educational experiences. When an educator focuses on his/her teaching context, one can seek out and usually find spaces to create opportunities for all English language learners to use the language, and to transfer beyond the classroom. Including social justice inquiry projects, critical language awareness activities, and integrating deep level thinking, questioning and communication processes into language education can open spaces for discussions about World Englishes.

You served on the Committee for the “Reintegration of Multiculturalism into Korean Public Middle Schools.” How did you become interested and involved in multilingual and multicultural education, and what specific suggestions can you offer to teacher education programs to promote critical racial awareness in their programs?

Yes, I was fortunate to have been invited to join this committee, which I thoroughly enjoyed, especially because there were many opportunities to meet and talk with middle school teachers about challenges and opportunities for integrating multiculturalism into the national curriculum guidelines.

My advice for teacher education programs is to prioritize the messages and concepts that are modeled through delivery in each program, in addition to considering the curriculum and content focus. “Teaching about” critical racial awareness, for example, is very different than actually promoting and implementing critical racial awareness (really “teaching” it), which needs to be modeled and integrated throughout a program. These critical issues need to inform teaching in all areas, and can not be add-ons that can be checked off through a one-day session or a stand-alone unit focus. These philosophies need to be intentionally interwoven throughout a program, not only in word but more importantly, through action. Incorporating aspects of critical pedagogies in daily teaching, and encouraging learners to question their own beliefs and practices while seeking out possibilities for transformative action can open spaces for new ways of thinking and seeing the world. In teacher education programs, I believe it is important for graduates to know and understand ideas that have informed education and the TESOL field, but even more crucially, for teachers to leave a teacher education program being prepared as reflective educators, confident in their abilities to practically apply these concepts in their own individual teaching contexts.

In your recent TESOL blog post, “Making (and Keeping!) New Year’s Resolutions”, you wrote about five strategies TESOL professionals could engage in professional development, namely, joining local and international conferences, taking online courses, engaging in reflective journal writing, being involved in interest groups, and setting concrete goals to stay focused on your interests. How do you implement these practices in your own contexts? What benefits or challenges do you notice with the different strategies?

All five of these are strategies that I shared because I have found them to be very effective in my own personal and professional life. Two of the easiest to begin with are goal-setting and reflective journaling. Goal-setting and working toward specific visions has always been a strategy that I have found very helpful in many different aspects of my own life, and highly recommend. Goal setting is something that anyone can do, and with practice and success in achieving smaller goals can be a powerful motivating.

Of the five I mentioned, I think the one that has had the most significant impact on my own personal and professional growth is reflective journal writing. Each semester, I like to focus on one particular course I am teaching. As the class progresses, I often jot down notes (which I find makes me even more aware of what happens in the class) and then after the class ends I immediately sit down and type my thoughts about what happened (or didn’t happen) during that class. I usually focus on things that went differently than expected, ideas that emerged from the class, possibilities for extensions, and reflect on successes as well as ongoing challenges. I have found this process to be a fantastic way to go back and re-examine the class in a more leisurely manner, processing what happened, thinking more carefully about comments that were made and about interactions during the class. The process of writing also allows space for me to consider alternative possibilities—things I might have done differently and things that I could try in a future class. When I started, this would sometimes take just a few minutes, but as I have continued, these reflections sometimes extend on for more than an hour and have become a process I really look forward to. In writing, I find the introspective process draws out some subconscious attitudes and open new avenues of exploration.

Another form of journaling that I have tried and have become an advocate for is collaborative journaling. Though this can be done in many different ways, I will share a couple of my favorites. I first tried this with a colleague in South Korea, when we taught within the same graduate program, but were each teaching separate courses. We would each keep an individual journal about our individual class, but did it in a collaborative online space, sharing our journals with each other. In the journals, we each focused on personal teaching/classroom goals we were working to improve as the semester progressed. We would read each other’s journals and offer comments and suggestions on particulars we were each struggling with. The outside perspective that someone else was able to offer provided fresh insights and ideas that could be implemented in the classroom and then continually reflected on.

This collaborative journaling experience expanded when the two of us co-taught a semester-long course together. We again used a collaborative journal as a way to plan and reflect on the class. It proved to be a very powerful space which encouraged a lot of reflections that often extended beyond the scope of the class. At the end of the semester, I believe we had about 80 pages of journaling. This also turned out to be great records and data for research, as we were able to publish some of the work we did in that class in a TESOL Quarterly article (Porter & Tanghe, 2016).

In your recent study (Tanghe & Park, 2016), you explore how an international collaboration project between graduate students in the US and South Korea helped students develop intercultural competence, move away from essentialized notions of culture and identity, and rethink their beliefs about educational systems. What suggestions do you have for student-teachers who do not have access to such initiatives but who would like to develop similar principles?

Great question! Here are a few suggestions for student-teachers to get some great experiences in a variety of areas:

  • Connect with an organization that facilitates teach abroad opportunities. One of my favorites is
  • Explore hands-on teaching opportunities within your own community. Seek out organizations and volunteer with recent immigrants, refugees, or community members.
  • Attend local conferences and educational meetings—meet people, hear new ideas!
  • Get involved in online telecollaborations. Consider partnering up with a teacher, friend, or student in another country or region. If you don’t have an available partner, there are several websites that specialize in matching collaborating partners, iEARN or, for example.
  • Use the resources available online. There are far too many to list, but here’s a couple of places to start:
    • Connect with Facebook groups—Teacher’s Voices or iTDi (International Teacher Development Institute) for starters. These two communities are fantastic mixes of novice and experienced educators from all over the world always willing to share ideas and resources.
    • Read blogs from teachers and students around the world, or better yet, start your own!

What research and teaching projects are you currently undertaking? What advice would you give to us and other Ph.D. students trying to publish their work?

In July, I accepted a new position as the Program Director of the Master’s of Arts in ESL at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. One of the aspects of this position that I am really enjoying is having the opportunity to influence overall program structures. My own teaching and lived experiences have led me to see many possibilities and benefits associated with internationalizing higher education. I am currently focusing on increasing opportunities available for international student teaching, short-term supervised teach-abroad programs embedded in teacher education programs as a form of “teaching to learn”.

My advice to Ph.D. students trying to publish their work is to keep at it! I am still fairly new to publishing, but I have spent a lot of time writing, re-writing, re-writing and re-writing, and know that I have benefitted enormously from the guidance and support of mentors in the field. Having had opportunities to learn from and conduct research together with more experienced researchers has been very helpful, both in providing guidance through the sometimes overwhelming process and also in increasing my confidence to publish on my own. One hugely influential mentor in my own academic journey has been Dr. Gloria Park, my dissertation advisor and mentor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. I have learned so much from the way she models and demonstrates a genuine ethic of caring with her advisees, investing lots of time and energy to help develop teacher-scholars in the field. I encourage people to find and connect with others who share your interests and passions. Get involved and network at conferences, connect with other graduate students and presenters who share similar interests as yourself. Collaborate and talk with others, listening to and learning from experiences.

Also, persevere! The first time I submitted an article to a journal, I remember being very discouraged when it was returned, heavily marked up with all kinds of criticisms. I put it away for awhile and when I got back into it, I could really see how valuable the reviewers’ comments were. I could literally feel myself growing and developing as a writer I worked through re-writes. Every piece that is published (and also those that are not), offers tremendous space to learn and grow from multiple perspectives on your own written scholarship.

What advice do you have for graduate students wanting to enter the job market outside of the U.S./U.K., particularly in the Korean context?

If you have been educated in a very different educational system than the one that you are teaching in, take some time to reflect (and perhaps even articulate in writing), on how your own ideas and experiences with education will influence your teaching. Acknowledge that your experiences, whatever they were, may have been fantastic, may have been terrible, but they were your own personal experiences. Whatever context you were educated in as a young learner is likely very different than the context you are teaching in. I would argue this is true even if you are teaching in the very same school that you attended as a young learner.

Digital literacies, migration patterns, generational gaps, different educational philosophies and expectations continue to change the educational landscape. Dan Lortie (1975) talks about the “apprenticeship of observation” describing how teachers spent thousands and thousands of hours in an apprentice-like mode—in their formative years as students, observing and participating in a particular model of education. Without conscious, intentional efforts to examine the impact of these lived learned experiences, one is likely to teach as one has been taught, for better or worse. Decide to make a conscious choice to reflect on the impact of your own experiences on your teaching. Being open-minded and open to new ideas is a great place to start.

When teaching, keep the main focus on the learners—by first focusing on who the learners are and what their needs are, then by considering how to create opportunities that will encourage to meet their own goals and address their personal needs. Be ready to learn from others around you. Seek out a mentor, perhaps another teacher in your school, who is more experienced in that particular context and who may be able to offer you insights that are not immediately apparent to you.

Also, it is important to be aware that what you have learned in your US or UK teacher education programs may have given you a solid foundation, but all elements may not be immediately applicable to your particular teaching context. As you learn in graduate schools anywhere, dive in, learn about the experiences, theories, and philosophies of TESOL and education scholars, but at the end of the day, you, as a frontline teacher are in the best position to determine what will be beneficial in your own teaching context and how to provide those opportunities to your learners.


Jenkins, J. (2015). Global Englishes: A resource book for students. New York, NY: Routledge.

Lortie, D. (1975). Schoolteacher: A sociological study. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Matsuda, A. (2017). Preparing teachers to teach English as an International Language. Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.

Porter, C. & Tanghe, S. (2016). Emplaced identities and the materials classroom. TESOL Quarterly, 50(3), 769-778.

Tanghe, S. (2014). Integrating World Englishes into a university conversation class in South Korea. English Today, 30(2), 18-23.

Tanghe, S. (2016). Promoting critical racial awareness in teacher education in Korea: reflections on a racial discrimination simulation activity. Asia Pacific Education Review, 17, 203-215.

Tanghe, S., & Park, G. (2016). “Build[ing] something which alone we could not have done”: International collaborative teaching and learning in language teacher education. SYSTEM, 57, 1-13.