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Cristina Sanchez-Martin

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Cristina Sanchez-Martin has recently earned her PhD in English Studies from Illinois State University and will begin her job as assistant professor in applied linguistics at Indiana University of Pennsylvania in the 2018 Fall semester. Her work revolves around investigating how humans understand and navigate composing and language practices across languages and in transnational contexts.

  1. Could you tell us about your personal and professional background? What led you to pursuing your doctoral study at Illinois State University (ISU)?

I was born in Salamanca (Spain), a region traditionally associated with standard language ideologies in Spanish. Since I was little I started to become interested in “non-standard” language practices by listening to my grandparents and people from a small rural town. After high-school, I decided to continue pursuing a career in the humanities. The university of Salamanca offered the option to complete two BA degrees simultaneously in Hispanic Philology and English Studies, which took a bit longer than a traditional program, but it was worth it. Retrospectively, I think that experience helped me to see the types of things that scholars in one area study as opposed to the other one. In other words, I started to realize the overlaps and gaps within a field of study. In my third year, I applied for a study abroad program called Erasmus in Durham University (UK). This study abroad program was funded by the European Union to facilitate mobility in Europe, not just to promote student exchange but also the exchange of knowledge and expertise. Once again, it was an extremely rewarding experience at the personal and educational levels. It was interesting to see what English Studies meant in the context of the UK, as opposed to Spain. And, the other way around: I noticed the types of things that students of Spanish Philology (which was called Hispanic Studies there) learned in the UK, which needless to say, added new and distinctive aspects to what I was learning in Salamanca. I feel like I started to make sense of learning as situated, and to look for the dualism and networked aspects of transnationalism to understand my own growth as a language user. Thanks to one of my mentors, Dr. Izaskun Elorza, I started to become involved in organizing conferences and to participate in scholarly events related to language and mobility. I took her advice and completed an MA degree in Translation and Intercultural Mediation, the closest field of inquiry to what in the U.S. is rhetoric and composition. With my mentors Dr. Ovidi Carbonell and Dr. John Hyde, I learned about the linguistic aspects relevant to “translating the other” (Carbonell, 1997). I began to investigate the relationship between language and composing/translating from a social justice standpoint. I also completed a MA degree in English teaching, which prompted pedagogical questions regarding all the other dual experiences I had had before. Connecting the dots between previous experiences is what led me to apply for the PhD at Illinois State University. In particular, the work of Dr. Lisya Seloni clicked with me. An interdisciplinary program, where I could bridge together my previous experiences in English teaching, translation, writing, and linguistics, seemed perfect to continue looking for answers (and to pose more questions!).

  1. As a professional development coordinator in the writing program leadership team at Illinois State University, you have been mentoring international graduate students. What major challenges do they face? What strategies do successful international students employ to cope with these challenges?

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work for the writing program at Illinois State University in the capacity of professional development coordinator. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Joyce Walker, director of the program, for having provided the space for practical grounded pedagogies that enable productive conversations on language diversity. The philosophies of the writing program centered around the idea of writing research in the world from a Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) perspective, and its pedagogical application (Pedagogical Cultural Historical Activity Theory -PCHAT) certainly facilitate the work of international graduate students and instructors. The idea is that there isn’t one type of writing that is “good writing”, in the same way that there isn’t one type of language that works for all situations. In other words, instead of telling students “this is what good writing is like” and “this is what proper and good language is like”, we help students to become researchers of situated writing and language practices that are meaningful to them. For international instructors, this approach allows them to illustrate to students their own writing and language identities as they as used to navigate unexpected and new situations across languages, borders, modalities, etc. And perhaps more obviously, the experiences of international instructors who speak more languages than English contribute to challenging language ideologies like the myth of linguistic homogeneity (Matsuda, 2006) and monolingualism (Horner et al. 2011). However, we all have previous knowledge that enables learning as well as knowledge that prevents or blocks it. For example, some of the recurrent challenges that I have encountered have to do with what we think learning and teaching are like. Sometimes we have ingrained ideologies regarding the roles of students (they are supposed to receive the knowledge from the teacher) and teachers (the ones who provide objective answers to students). To create and maintain a productive learning environment, we have to identify these ideologies and engage in meaningful conversations in the classroom. From my experience, for international instructors, especially if they have learned English in Foreign Language contexts, this might be a challenge. If they have learned to use standard language in their essay writing (or other school genres frequently included in the curriculum of English language courses), they might feel unprepared to respond to students’ non-standard language and writing practices if they understand their role as teachers in traditional ways. In other words, they might not feel legitimized to help students with their writing (especially if students are users of mainstream Englishes). Finally, their identities as a minority international graduate students and speakers of other languages intersect with other identity markers of difference, so learning about how one’s identities are taken up in the classroom space is essential to become reflective teachers.

  1. What recommendations do you have for language instructors and language program coordinators to better assist international students?

To me, it is essential to attend to their (academic) socialization, which moves beyond academic settings and it takes place through participatory practice. The work of scholars like Sandra Zappa-Hollman, Patricia A. Duff, and Lisya Seloni (among others) provides great insights into socialization, which I see as an “innovative, transformative, and sometimes contested process” (Kobayashi, Zappa-Hollman, & Duff, 2017, p. 293). In addition, as Zappa-Hollman and Duff’s 2015 study demonstrated, the framework of “individual networks of practice (INoP)”, which builds on the theoretical constructs of community of practice and social network theory, was useful to investigate how INoP places the student at the center of his/her socialization process in relation to unique networks and contexts. Through this framework, the authors found that students’ academic literacy development was significantly influenced by “humans and other forms of support” (p. 25) beyond their professors and classmates, demonstrating the “complexity and unpredictability” of language socialization (p. 26). If this is part of students’ learning, classrooms pedagogies and programmatic initiatives have to account for it through realistic activities, projects, learning outcomes and assessment practices. The volume Collaborations & Innovations: Supporting Multilingual Writers Across Campus Units (2017) edited by Kim, J.Y, Hammil, M.J., Matsuda, P.K. (2017) offers great ideas for the types of cross-unit collaborative practices that can be implemented in and in between different classroom spaces and other settings/institutions on campus.  Finally, international students have a lot to offer, particularly in the context of increased internationalization and/or diversification of U.S. institutions. If we listen to their experiences, we can all become more knowledgeable of what learning is like in the 21st century.

  1. You have recently completed your dissertation “Teaching writing through transformation: Linguistically diverse writing teachers’ enactments of transactional writing and linguistic diversity”. What is your core message that you want to convey?

My dissertation was a qualitative study in which I used constructivist grounded theory and multiple ethnographically-oriented case studies to investigate what linguistic diversity looks like in first-year composition courses mostly populated by so-called “native speakers of American English”. Specifically, I investigated how linguistically-diverse (“non-native”) English instructors used their previous knowledge of languages and transnational writing to teach composition. The results of my study indicated that the classroom becomes a contested space, where language as a concept is reconstructed and redefined based on lived experiences. These case studies showed that instructors understand linguistic diversity in divergent ways, embracing their own lived experiences as subjects with intersectional identities (as well as their students’) as learning opportunities to theorize language and writing practices. The data also suggested that linguistically diverse writing instructors disrupt the myths of linguistic homogeneity and monolingualism in composition in various ways. However, challenging these myths did not happen without obstacles. Some of the issues that linguistically diverse writing instructors must deal with are the dichotomy between native and non-native speakers, a deficit mindset, and the tokenization of linguistic diversity. In general, engaging in discussions about these aspects proves to be transformative and contributes to their growth as reflective teachers and their students’ learning.

  1.  During your doctoral studies, you taught “Gender in the Humanities”, and attended a professional seminar “Strategies to address the challenges of female educators” at ISU. How did you become interested in gender issues? Can you share a couple of strategies that can be applicable to NNEST issues?

As a transnational scholar, I have had to think about how my identity influences how I navigate academic spaces and vice versa. At the beginning, I wasn’t sure about why I felt uncomfortable and unwelcomed in some situations, but as I started reading feminist scholarship, I realized what was going on and that other minorities go through similar issues. In multiple occasions, I have had to account for myself while others didn’t have to. For example, during my graduate career I worked as an English teacher at the English language institute in a public university in the U.S. and as the ESL specialist at a liberal arts university. In both cases, I was frequently identified as a “non-native” English teacher or writing specialist through unproductive statements and questions, which to me, was an indirect “inspection” of my pedagogical, linguistic and writing skills. If no productive conversations follow and there isn’t an honest desire to learn from each other’s experiences, those situations become othering practices. Feminist scholarship has helped me to position myself and to identify discriminatory ideologies and behaviors that do not contribute to the promotion of equality regardless of the identity traits used to mark people (nativeness, gender identification, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, class, ability, language, etc.). Therefore, the strategies I recommend are 1) become familiarized with some feminist scholarship and with the work of linguists like Kubota, Belcher, Park, Seloni, and Pavlenko (among many others), 2) identify your own privileges as well as oppressions, 3) document, or at least, identify how you move across spaces (including classrooms) and what your body tells you about those spaces and who inhabits them, 4) share your experiences with your support networks and mentors, and 5) be a reflective human!

  1. Could you tell us about your current and future projects?

I am interested in integrating Pedagogical Cultural Historical Activity Theory (PCHAT), the practical application of Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) (Walker, 2017; Prior, Walker, and Riggert-Keiffer, 2019), in writing courses for multilingual students. In terms of writing teacher education, I plan to contribute to conversations around the potential of transdisciplinarity as a methodological and pedagogical lens to understand the relationship between language, writing, and mobility for the 21st century.  Finally, I hope to develop a feminist mentoring initiative for and by linguistically diverse students and to add to conversations on (academic) socialization.

Thank you!

References

Carbonell, O. (1997). Traducir al otro. Traducción, exotismo, poscolonialismo. Cuenca: Ediciones de la Universidad de Castilla la Mancha.  

Horner, B., Lu, M. Z., Royster, J. J., & Trimbur, J. (2011). Language difference in writing: Toward a translingual approach. College English73(3), 303-321.

Kim, J.Y, Hammil, M.J., Matsuda, P.K. (2017). Intensive English Programs and First-Year Composition: Bridging the Gap. Collaborations & Innovations: Supporting Multilingual Writers Across Campus Units, 121-135.

Kobayashi, M., Zappa-Hollman, S., & Duff, P. (2017). Academic discourse socialization. In P. Duff & S. May (Eds.), Language socialization. Encyclopedia of language and education (3rd ed.). New York: Springer.

Matsuda, P. K. (2006). The myth of linguistic homogeneity in US college composition. College English68(6), 637-651.

Prior, P., Walker, R.J, and Riggert-Keiffer, D. (2019). Languaging the Rhetorical Tradition: Pedagogical CHAT in middle school and college. Forthcoming.

Walker, R.J. (2017). CHATPerson and the ANT -The Story of Pedagogical CHAT. [Handout]. Retrieved from http://isuwriting.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/CHATPerson-and-the-ANT-The-Story-of-Pedagogical-CHAT.pdf

Zappa-Hollman, S. & Duff, P. A. (2015). Academic English socialization through individual networks of practice. TESOL Quarterly, 49(2), 333-368.

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Dr. Jorge Diego Sánchez

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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!

Prof. Li-Shih Huang

Dr. Li-Shih

An Interview with Prof. Li-Shih Huang, University of Victoria, British Columbia

Interviewer: Madhukar K C

 

  1. Thank you very much for joining us on the NNEST-of-the-month blog. Could you briefly tell us about your background and how you got interested in learning language and becoming an educator, especially a teacher of English?

Thank you for the kind invitation and the opportunity, and above all, for what you and the NNEST-IS members do in your advocacy work for NNEST in our profession. Since I am someone who tends to shy away from talking about myself, I will instead focus on the serendipitous occurrences in my life that led me to where I am today. Before specializing in second language education, I had worked in the advertising industry and subsequently for a prestigious group in the hospitality sector for seven years. During that time, I was also teaching EFL at private schools any time I got a chance. While moving through the organization’s ranks, working long hours on all the major holidays because of the nature of the business, an opportunity arose for me to take on teaching English for Specific Purposes at a hospitality university, which I took. Discovering that teaching, and not the success of climbing the corporate ladder or securing major sponsors for hosting over a hundred events a year, was what really spoke to my heart, I decided then to return to Canada to pursue a master’s degree in education, enrolling initially in the comparative education program. But then one evening while waiting for my class to begin, I decided to sit in on a class in second language learning taught by Birgit Harley, and that evening changed the trajectory of my life. The next day I switched to another program, and, as the saying goes, the rest is history.

 

  1. What are your main areas of interest for research, publishing, and presentation at conferences? How do you think your academic publishing and your presentations at conferences contribute to the literature of NNEST issues, World Englishes, ELF, and EIL?

My interests in research and scholarly dissemination extend quite broadly, including areas such as EAP needs and outcomes assessment, corpus-aided teaching and learning, learner strategies in language learning and language testing, and reflective learning. Gratefully I’ve had support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), the Educational Testing Service (ETS), and the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) for my work in these areas. In publishing and presentations, I try to devote my attention to both scholarly and professional audiences, perhaps the latter more, as I expressed in this op-ed, which I authored a few years back. This choice is also evident in the nearly five dozen articles or posts I have published for teaching purposes. I’m not certain how much I have contributed to the areas you specify, but an area I have devoted regular attention to is raising the awareness of learners and instructors about ways to support NNES learners and teachers. Over the past decade, these efforts have included 291 presentations and workshops I have delivered across 25 units, both within and beyond my institution.

 

  1. Could you share with us your memories of some of the opportunities and challenges you encountered as a consequence of your NNES identity while working as a language-teaching professional in Canada?

I am fortunate because I have been afforded opportunities to continue to develop my skills and expertise, and I rarely, if ever, have felt that my differences impeded me from pursuing what I do. Although it’s been pointed out that pronunciation may be the linguistic feature that faces the most judgment as it is the most noticeable, such that one’s accent can easily evoke bias in others, people’s perceptions about who we are do not define us. Rather, our accents and linguistic backgrounds are part of who we are, as I have often shared with my students since the late 1990s, when the “native-like” pronunciation model and accent “elimination” reigned supreme. I intentionally, and critically, use pedagogical tasks in my own teaching to question previously held assumptions, to honor my students’ voices, and to shift how learners view themselves as they come to see that differences are not deficiencies to be eliminated but rather can enrich our voices and facilitate our development. To me, perhaps the biggest challenge lies not in teaching the what-and-how of communication, but in expanding the ability to suspend judgment and to question our own assumptions and interpretations, since these assumptions, which are often deeply rooted in our upbringing and experiences, are critical to transforming our perspectives. Challenges surely abound in what we do every day, challenges that may relate directly or indirectly to our NNES identity and, by extension, to our qualifications to meet our students’ learning needs. Challenges, however, often come with meaningful and rewarding moments that let us know that what we do matters, that we are making a difference in the lives of language learners. My position has indeed enabled me to see the challenges of learners from the viewpoints both of someone who has been trained to tackle those challenges, and someone who has gone through those challenges herself. These perspectives have in turn uniquely benefited me in designing and implementing various research and service programs in my areas of specialization.

 

  1. You were awarded the Mary Finocchiaro Award for Excellence in the Development of Pedagogical Materials by TESOL International owing to your expertise and creativity in designing pedagogical materials. You were also the recipient of the 2014 Humanities Teaching Excellence Award and the 2017 TESOL Award for an Outstanding Paper on NNEST Issues. Could you highlight the main thrust of your research paper on NNEST issues to our valued readers from TESOL community and beyond?

In my research under one of my current SSHRC grants, I am working to contribute to refugee resettlement efforts by developing culturally sensitive language training, which is critical to integrating refugee learners into the Canadian workforce and society. Faced with limited funding and resources, Canada is having to address enormous challenges related to language training as it seeks to resettle an unprecedented influx of Syrian refugees. As headlines have reported, over 36 cities across Canada are encountering critical problems related to language training for refugees. My work, which draws on approaches to teaching language that are backed by the most up-to-date theories and research, aims to identify the language-learning needs of the Syrian refugees and integrate them into a language-training program that builds on their own rich linguistic and cultural backgrounds. The project incorporates several sources of data to capture their specific needs, including needs assessment surveys, interviews with learners and teachers, and learner corpora. This work will also help practitioners working with refugee learners, and will be extended to any instructor interested in developing lessons or units that are grounded in theory and empirically substantiated, and that draw on learners’ own languages to scaffold English-language learning based on task performance. The final phase of this work will involve empirically substantiating the instructional materials and approach.

 

  1. You are currently an Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics and the Learning and Teaching Scholar-in-Residence. What courses do you teach for graduate programs at UVic? As an NNES teacher educator, what opportunities and challenges have you experienced working at your university so far?

I teach mainly core courses that survey key areas in the broader field of applied linguistics and research methods. A great deal of my time in the graduate program is devoted to mentoring the students’ research projects required for their doctoral candidacy papers or theses/dissertations. These have involved a wide range of topics, including testing and assessment, learner strategies, refugee resettlement, EAP needs, instructional approaches and methods for French as a second language, language-teaching methods in language revitalization, Japanese pedagogical material development, second language writing, game-based learning, and vocabulary learning in Russian. For me personally, one of my biggest ongoing challenges, as for many of us in our line of work, revolves around work-life balance. I am often asked whether or not I sleep! Maintaining a high level of engagement and time commitment to do the job well and meet personal and professional expectations is time consuming. Being an NNES instructor and imposing high standards of work on myself often doubles the amount of time I need to complete my work. There are also the issues posed by the growing evidence for inherent gender and race-related biases, whether explicit or implicit, in student evaluations. So being acknowledged by awards for pedagogical material design, teaching, and research and being placed in the category of “a very small, very exceptional coterie of professors who earn top ratings from students” has been truly uplifting and heartening. As an NNES teacher educator, I see a great many opportunities working with the next generation of teachers and teacher educators. This past term, for example, among three articles published by ELT journals in 2017 that I offered as options for my students to choose one to explore (following my approach detailed in my article), the group selected the article about equity and enrichment in the TESOL practicum. The wonderful discussion that ensued inspired in all of us a great deal of hope and optimism about the progress of the profession in the hands of these future teachers, NES and NNES alike, with whom I have had the privilege to work. Raising awareness is a first step to creating ripple effects that can transform our own individual and collective practices, and thereby change the state of our professional community.

 

  1. What advice would you give to your NNES students at UVic and TESOL professionals who wish to succeed as EFL instructors and researchers in Canadian schools/colleges/universities? What advice would you provide to graduate students (Master’s and Ph.D.) trying to publish their research works in peer-reviewed journals?

I’m not sure I have the best advice to offer those wishing to succeed as instructors and researchers in Canada because this work has been a life-long quest of my own. In my work of training future ELT professionals, my deep commitment to connecting theory, research, and practice is known to any student who has taken my courses. These courses are carefully built around facilitating various tasks and activities that require students to experiment throughout the term, so they can learn experientially how to apply the theories and discussions they have read in research articles written for practitioners. Specifically, they make the application through their own experimentations in a recursive and cyclical process involving feedback, reflection, and revisions, as they build their professional practical knowledge and repertoires. Never stop experimenting with your approaches and methods, and never stop challenging your own assumptions, are not only words of advice for my students, but are also what I practice personally. For practicing teachers, I would go a step further to encourage them to share their discoveries with other instructors, whether informally or through presentations and publications, as I have also sought to do over the years. For instance, I have written many posts for various trade publications that are the fruit of such experimentations.

It’s fair to say that in order to connect theory, research, and practice in this way, I believe that practitioners must stay abreast of the literature and research on pedagogy so they can make informed decisions. I am a firm believer that no one can tell you unequivocally what will work best for you in your own teaching contexts, or that there is a one-size-fits-all solution to your teaching challenges. And certainly, no study in the sea of literature can tell your particular story or directly answer your own teaching-related questions. It is only through experimenting and testing our own hypotheses—whether informally through trial and error, or formally if your institution supports such professional development through action research or SoTL (scholarship of teaching and learning)—that we can continue to reflect on our experiences and improve our practices. Seek out peers or colleagues who share similar interests and would be interested in collaborating on research directly relevant to your own teaching. Then mobilize or translate that knowledge so that those who share similar challenges can benefit from your insights. For early career teachers, my advice would be to seek out opportunities to hone your skills and develop your expertise. Speaking from my personal experience, the countless hours I have put into developing a lesson, course, series, or program, whether remunerated or not, cannot be replaced by any amount of training, classroom learning, or textbook reading.

For graduate students trying to publish their work, there is no shortage of advice offered by those who have dedicated their lives and work to helping other emerging (and established) scholars publish (e.g., @write4research, @ThomsonPat, and @explorstyle). This is a complex area that deserves more than a brief response, but if I had to choose one piece of advice from which I would have benefited during my early career (and as I look at the manuscripts I never returned to!), I would encourage these students to look at “revise and resubmit” in a positive light. (This is one reason I encourage graduate students in all my courses to revise and resubmit their work as many times as they like.) Take heed of the astute advice offered by Robert MacIntosh and the wise words of Robert Graves: “There is no such thing as good writing. Only good rewriting.” Writers have different approaches to writing, and there are no right or wrong answers; find out what works optimally for you—when, where, how, with whom, and why. Learn to deal with (even harsh) rejections because they come with the territory, and write your own story of perseverance.

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  1. We often come across discriminatory job advertisements on social media, websites of various ELT/TEFL/TESL industry (i.e., universities, colleges, private language and training schools) that tend to perpetuate the ideology of native speakerism. Could you shed light on Canadian EFL/ELT academic contexts with regard to hiring policies and practices? How do you think ELT/TESOL educators should address this prevalent issue of bias and discrimination to bring social justice and professional equity?

This is a really challenging, sensitive, and emotionally charged question for many, and one that is difficult for me to respond thoughtfully and succinctly. I cannot speak to the Canadian ELT context with regard to hiring policies and practices because I do not have the expertise, nor have I immersed myself in the literature enough to form an objective viewpoint. However, I do think it fair to say that it is not uncommon to come across or experience discriminatory practices. My most recent encounters have been related to, in one case, serving on a search committee where I experienced overt biases that for me shattered the façade of the hiring process. Another case relates to a hiring post listing “no Asian face” and “native speaker only” as among the qualifications shared by an admirable, outspoken twitter user. The eye-opening experience was the number of responses arguing that there was nothing wrong with making “native speakers only” one of the eligibility criteria, which underscores the challenges ahead of us. Having said that, I also recognize that in recent years, because the ideology of native speakerism has risen to the surface, our collective consciousness of its ramifications has also increased considerably, thanks to scholars and practitioners whose work has prompted reflection and a call for change. Various professional bodies have also taken a strong stance on equity issues related to our profession. My own awareness of these issues, though not necessarily related to hiring, has also greatly increased because of recent life occurrences heightened by the current geopolitical climate. I’ve learned that statements about diversity, inclusion, and equity are not enough, nor are they sufficient in combating implicit or structural bias and discrimination. In the post-secondary context, it is, however, encouraging to see the work by Frances Henry and other race-focused and social justice scholars who have joined forces to push us to think and examine more deeply the ways that race and racism play out on Canadian campuses over issues related to equity in pay and hiring, the lack of visibility of racialized faculty, and racial discrimination. These have been treated using empirical evidence in their work titled “The Equity Myth: Racialization and Indigeneity at Canadian Universities” (2017).

Certainly, we still have a long road ahead to affect changes at the micro- and macro-levels, but I also believe in my heart of hearts that, first and foremost, one does not have to engage in discriminatory practices in order to be an impediment to equity in our profession. Silence will do it. Silence is never neutral. As Nelson Flores has encouraged us: “Disrupt the notion of right/white ELT qualifications by sharing experiences of racist nativism in order to prompt reflection” (2017). Above all, I hope that we will all consider lending support to our less privileged colleagues. It’s one thing to proclaim to care about equity and diversity, but another thing entirely to put such a proclamation into action. To borrow the words of Deb DeHass, “It is everyone’s responsibility, every day and at every level, to create the culture that can make [inclusion] happen.” It starts with me, with you, and with the voices of many other people.

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Work cited in order of appearance:

Huang, L.-S. (2012, October 2). There’s a disconnect between “scholarly value” and how we reach audiences who need research. LSE Impact Blog. The London School of Economics and Political Science. Retrieved from http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2012/10/02/huang-disconnect-scholarly-value-audiences/

Flaherty C. (2016, January 11). Bias against female instructors. Inside Higher Education. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/01/11/new-analysis-offers-more-evidence-against-student-evaluations-teaching

Huang, L.-S. (2015, September 25). Getting the horses to drink: Three ways to promote student ownership of reading assignment. Faculty Focus. Retrieved from https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/effective-teaching-strategies/three-ways-to-promote-student-ownership-of-reading-assignments/

MacIntosh, R. (2018, February 1). Career advice: How to handle ‘revise and resubmit’ requests. Times Higher Education. Retrieved from https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/career-advice-how-handle-revise-and-resubmit-requests

Henry, F., Dua, E., James, C. E., Kobayashi, A., Li, P., Ramos, H., & Smith, M. S. (2017). The equity myth: Racialization and indigeneity at Canadian universities. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press.

Flores, N. (2017, September 20). Not having the right/white qualifications for English language teaching. Retrieved from https://educationallinguist.wordpress.com/2017/09/20/not-having-the-rightwhite-qualifications-for-english-language-teaching/

Wittenberg-Cox, A. (2017, August 3). Deloitte’s radical attempt to reframe diversity. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2017/08/deloittes-radical-attempt-to-reframe-diversity

Nicola Galloway

 

Dr. Galloway

Dr. Nicola Galloway works as a Lecturer in Education (TESOL) at the University of Edinburgh, where she teaches a course on Global Englishes language Teaching. She has written two books on the topic and is currently finalising her recent monograph, Rose, H and Galloway, N ( 2018). Global Englishes Language Teaching. Cambridge University Press.

Interviewer: Ju Seong (John) Lee

1. Thank you for joining us on NNEST-of-the-month blog. Could you briefly tell us about your personal and professional background?

I began my teaching career as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) on the JET (Japan Exchange Teaching) Programme in Japan, where I worked for two years as a ‘native’ English-speaking teacher. After gaining my MSc in TESOL in Scotland, I returned to Japan to work at a university. After six years, I moved to one of Japan’s first English Medium Instruction (EMI) universities, where I was responsible for EAP curriculum design and evaluation. During this time, I completed a PhD at The University of Southampton in the field of Global Englishes. I then joined The University of Edinburgh in 2012 to take on the role of a Lecturer in Education (TESOL). I am also the course co-ordinator for a course on Second Language Teaching Curriculum and Global Englishes for Language Teaching (GELT).

2. Your research interests include English learners’ attitudes towards English and ELT, Global Englishes (GE) curriculum design and materials development. How did you become interested in these areas?

My research interests in the pedagogical implications of Global Englishes stem from my experience on the JET programme. I initially completed a joint MA degree in Geography/Politics, not in Education. Despite having a future goal of becoming a teacher (a primary school teacher at that time), I had no experience of teaching English and did not have any teaching qualifications. During my time in Japan, I soon felt very inferior to my non-native speaking counterparts, as they had a much superior knowledge of the English language, teaching experience and knowledge of the students’ mother tongue and educational context, and I could not speak one word of Japanese at that time! I began to question my role in Japan – why I was being asked to change my Scottish accent and write in American English, why I was generally being used as a tape recorder – “Stand up Nicola. Read from…. Students, repeat after Nicola” and why all of these Japanese students were imitating a Scottish girl trying to speak with an American accent. I also started to wonder why my students were learning English in this small mountain village, who their future interlocutors would be and why there was this focus on America. Basically, I was questioning why I was there and whether I was of any real use to the students.

I returned to Scotland to further my education and to embark on a career in TESOL. My MSc dissertation focused on the employment of ‘native’ English speaking teachers in Japan (Assistant Language Teachers in Japan: Imperialism or Empowerment?). My interest in this area increased further when I returned to Japan to work in a university setting, where I taught content-based courses and EAP courses in English. I began asking myself more questions, such as: How do my students use English outside of the classroom?  To what extent is the native English-speaking model, which is being taught by a native English speaker, meeting their needs? What are their attitudes towards English and their teachers? What is their understanding of the role of English as a global language? Is there a more appropriate way to prepare them to use English as a global language? As I researched the topic, it became evident that the lack of an extensive body of research at the classroom level was problematic.  Theoretical developments were outpacing research and I felt that practitioners may need, and benefit from, more practical suggestions. This encouraged me to embark on a PhD at The University of Southampton with Professor Jennifer Jenkins. I examined students’ attitudes towards English and ELT in an Expanding Circle context from a fresh perspective. My study looked at their attitudes towards English and learning the language, what factors influence these attitudes and how a course in Global Englishes could influence these attitudes. In a sense, it was an action research project and I initially hoped that my doctoral research would not only contribute to theory, but also help inform my own teaching practice. However, after submitting my thesis, I returned home to Scotland and took up a post at The University of Edinburgh. I introduced a course there on Global Englishes Language Teaching and have recently become interested in incorporating Global Englishes into teacher education as part of a bigger aim towards instigating a paradigm shift in the field of TESOL away from native English speaking norms.

 3. You have consistently encouraged English teachers to consider incorporating GE into ELT. What are the most rewarding and challenging aspects of implementing GE?

The rise of English as a global language has changed the foundations of how the language is taught and learned. The pedagogical implications of this have led many scholars to call for a paradigm shift in the field of TESOL. This shift is necessary to ensure the TESOL classroom is reflective of the new sociolinguistic landscape of the 21st century. Several concrete proposals for change have also been put forward, and these have been grouped together into a Global Englishes Language Teaching (GELT) framework (Galloway, 2011; Galloway & Rose, 2015). GELT is not a prescriptive model for ELT. It aims to emphasise the diversity of global teaching practices and the diversity of students’ needs around the globe. It is a student-centered framework for curricula that aims to enable TESOL practitioners to critically evaluate their curricula in relation to Global Englishes. It emphasizes the need to raise awareness of the issues associated with the spread of English and to prepare learners to use English in various global and local communities of practice. By promoting a more global ownership of English it is hoped that GELT will help emancipate non-native speakers from native speaker norms.

However, instigating a paradigm shift is a challenging task. Despite the growing debate on the need for a critical examination of ELT/TESOL in relation to the globalization of English, the industry continues to focus on native English norms. Teacher training manuals and ELT materials continue to focus on static representations of English and constrained representations of future use of the language with native speakers in inner circle cultures. This is unfortunate, given that ELF is now the most common use of the language today. The movement towards GELT requires a conceptual transition, in terms of both how the language itself is viewed and how it is taught. Many ‘barriers’ have been identified (Galloway and Rose, 2015) and it is important to acknowledge the various environmental constraints to implementing change that may exist in different contexts. Testing is one of these barriers and there continues to be a mismatch between the English used by test-takers and the English they are assessed on. Measuring test-takers on their intercultural strategic competence and their ability to use ELF in international situations may also be daunting for TESOL practitioners who are used to testing students on ‘errors’ or deviations from the ‘standard’ norm. A further ‘barrier’ relates to the attachment to the idea of a ‘standard’ English and such a deeply ingrained ideology is difficult to challenge. Many TESOL practitioners, and students, cling to ‘standard’ norms and have fixed ideas about how English should be taught.

 4. You are currently involved in a research project with our previous guest, Dr. Heath Rose. How do you think GE can be incorporated in teacher education?

Heath and I are currently finishing our monograph with Cambridge University Press, Rose and Galloway (2018) Global Englishes for Language Teaching, that will be published later in the year. It aims to build on the growing literature on the pedagogical implications of Global Englishes research, which includes a number of edited books devoted to the topic of ELT (e.g., Alsagoff, 2012; Matsuda, 2012) and articles in language teaching journals (e.g., Jenkins, 2012)(Jennifer Jenkins, Cogo, & Dewey, 2011). It also aims to widen the debate on the need for change in ELT practice in light of such research, by offering a detailed examination of what GELT, or incorporating a Global Englishes perspective into the ELT classroom, would look like.

In order to achieve the paradigm shift towards GELT, it is crucial not to alienate experienced teachers by telling them that their current teaching practices are irrelevant and outdated. It is also important that calls for change are grounded in classroom-based research, and not on moral or theoretical arguments. In order to bridge a theory practice divide, we call for more research carried out by practitioners in our book, and we also report on three empirical studies, one of which involves pre- and in-service TESOL practitioners undertaking a GELT course on an MSc TESOL programme. It is important that GELT teacher education raises pre- and in-service practitioners’ awareness of the fact that there is an alternative way of thinking about English and that the most common use of the language today is as a lingua franca. In TESOL books aimed at practitioner researchers and teacher trainees, language is still characterized by norms of ‘standard’ varieties, rather than the diversity and plurality of ELF interaction. They also need the opportunity to examine the pedagogical implications of the global spread of English, and opportunity to revisit fundamental TESOL theories and concepts in light of Global Englishes research. However, it is important not to tell teachers what to do, or to suggest that the pedagogical practices familiar to them, and those on the programme as a whole, are wrong.

By advocating the inclusion of GELT in TESOL practitioner education courses, we are not suggesting abolishing current content. Rather, we want to encourage a critical examination of key concepts and theories through a Global Englishes lens, particularly for those working in contexts where students are likely to use ELF. We also want to encourage them to see themselves not as passive receivers of an education, but as important agents of change in the curriculum innovation process, hence our call for more action research in our upcoming book.

5. What are the advantages of learning GE for EFL students? If any, do you think there are any drawbacks?

GELT is a student-centered framework for curricula that aims to enable TESOL practitioners to critically evaluate their curricula in relation to Global Englishes. Based on the proposals for change in the literature, this perspective of ELT emphasizes the need to raise awareness of the issues associated with the spread of English and to prepare learners to use English in various global and local communities of practice. It is early days for GELT, yet the growing body of studies examining the impact of GELT on learners’ attitudes show that learners have positive attitudes. There is also a growing body of studies reporting positive responses to incorporating a GELT perspective into TESOL practitioner education programmes. Practitioners and curriculum planners will always want to know why an innovation is better than what they have at present, and this growing body of research on GELT is helpful to communicate the benefits of GELT.

Global Englishes research highlights a mismatch between what is currently taught in the ‘traditional’ ELT curricula and how the language is used as a lingua franca. It showcases, for example, that ‘errors’ and ‘mistakes’, often highlighted in mainstream ELT materials and assessments, do not necessarily result in a communication breakdown. Such research provides insights for curricula planning. We do recognize that not all ELF users have the same needs and ‘native’ English norms may still be appropriate for some learners. Indeed, GELT is based on the context-sensitive nature of such communication, and aims to increase learners’ choice, recognizing the diverse needs of learners today. Whilst students’ desire to learn native English should not, of course, be dismissed, it is important for researchers, and practitioners, to explore these attitudes, and students’ needs, in more depth. An effective GELT curriculum should not only be based on an understanding of learners’ goals and motivation for learning the language, but also on their needs.

6. GE studies and resources for teachers seem to be in great demand but quite limited in volume. Could you recommend materials and resources for those who are interested in implementing GE-oriented pedagogical ideas at the instructional level?

 Some recent publications lesson plans and activities. There is also an increasing number of GE texts that include practical suggestions and ideas (e. g., Alsagoff, McKay, Hu & Renandya, 2012; Bayyurt & Akcan, 2015; Cogo & Bowles, 2015; Galloway, 2017; Galloway & Rose, 2015; Matsuda, 2012). Useful resources can also be found on the following website: http://www.routledgetextbooks.com/textbooks/9780415835329/

7. How do you think GE will develop in the language learning context in the future?

In order to achieve macro-level change in ELT, it is important to recognize that the implementation of ELT curriculum innovation is complex in itself and even more so with regards to GELT. The process has to be planned properly and planners have to take into account various factors, which may influence successful implementation. Careful consideration of the various factors (outlined in Rose and Galloway, 2018) will enhance the potential for successful and sustained long-term innovation. It is also crucial not to alienate experienced teachers by telling them that their current teaching practices are irrelevant and outdated. Giving adequate consideration to these factors and also to the context within which practitioners are working will help reduce the possibility of them being resistant to change. GELT aims for a bottom-up approach to curricular innovation that values both teacher and learner agency in the curriculum innovation process. However, I do not wish to be idealistic and do recognize that this will need time and support. It is also important that calls for change are grounded in classroom-based research, and not on theoretical arguments. We need more research carried out by practitioners.

8. Could you tell us about your current and future research plans?

Currently, I am finalizing the chapters for the new book. I am also writing several papers reporting on GELT in relation to teacher education and am planning further work examining the attitudes of key stakeholders in the field with the overall aim of contributing to GELT curriculum innovation. My aim is to address the scarcity of research that offers practitioners concrete suggestions on how to implement change.

I am also conducting work within the context of the internationalization of Higher Education. My British Council funded project focused on the growing global phenomenon of EMI at the higher education level. I am particularly interested in how the expanding international student body, and the use of English as an academic lingua franca, is shaping higher education.

I am also currently working with a computer software company as part of a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) to contribute to an online educational platform for young learners in China. The project finishes soon, but we hope to continue with the work.

References

Alsagoff, L., McKay, S. L., Hu, G., & Renandya, W. A. (2012). Principles and practices of teaching English as an international language. (L. Alsagoff, S. L. McKay, G. Hu, & W. A. Renandya, Eds.). Bristol: Routledge.

Bayyurt, Y., & Akcan, S. (2015). Current Perspectives on Pedagogy for English as a Lingua Franca. (Y. Bayyurt & S. Akcan, Eds.). Berlin, München, Boston: DE GRUYTER. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110335965

Cogo, A., & Bowles, H. (2015). International Perspectives on English as a Lingua Franca: Pedagogical Insights. https://doi.org/10.1093/elt/ccw085

Galloway, N. (2011). An investigation of Japanese students` attitudes towards English. PhD Thesis submitted to The University of Southampton.

Galloway, N. (2017). Global Englishes and change in English language teaching: Attitudes and impact. Global Englishes and Change in English Language Teaching: Attitudes and Impact. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315158983

Galloway, N., & Rose, H. (2015). Introducing Global Englishes. Routledge.

Jenkins, J. (2012). English as a Lingua Franca from the classroom to the classroom. ELT Journal. Retrieved from http://eltj.oxfordjournals.org/content/66/4/486.short

Jenkins, J., Cogo, A., & Dewey, M. (2011). Review of developments in research into English as a lingua franca. Language Teaching, 44(3), 281–315. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0261444811000115

Matsuda, A. (2012). Principles and Practices of Teaching English as an International Language (New Perspectives on Language and Education). (A. Matsuda, Ed.). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Rose, H and Galloway, N. (2018). Global Englishes language Teaching. Cambridge University Press.

Heath Rose

Dr. Heath Rose is an Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics in the Department of Education at the University of Oxford, UK. His research interests include Global Englishes, second language pedagogy, language learner strategies and the teaching and learning of Japanese as a foreign language.

Interviewer: Ju Seong (John) Lee

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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.

References

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

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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.

References

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.