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How to Grade Essays Meticulously

As I was revisiting textbooks on how to teach writing for academic purposes a few months ago, I realized how much emphasis is on describing and explaining the varieties of essays. However there's very little on pedagogy. I've asked myself, "Should the writing teacher spend more time lecturing, consulting, or marking. Lecturing makes little sense to me as a writing teacher, but many ESL programs set up their writing courses the same as their courses on the other skills. The textbooks I've been reading don't really address this issue at all.

I believe (I wish I had more evidence than my own experience and observations) that the teacher's main role in an EAP writing classroom, if it's necessary to have a classroom, is consulting or tutoring to help the student craft their essay. But how much time should an EAP writing instructor take to mark papers?

I've been noticing more tweets and blog posts about this issue these days, so I wanted to write a snarky b…
Recent posts

I Left My Heart in Brazil

The loveliness of Iowa seems somehow sadly gray
The glory that was Chicago now makes me ill
I've been terribly alone and forgotten in Carbondale
I'd love to go down south and teach in Brazil

I haven't been blogging that much because over the past month I have been dedicating most of my professional life to the leaders of several Binational Centers in Brazil. This opportunity came to me through a grant I worked on with partners at Global Ties, World Chicago, and CIVIC (Council for International Visitors to Iowa Cities).

Purpose & Goals
The purpose of this program is to support a faculty exchange program for supervisors, coordinators, and teachers from the Brazilian Binational Centers. These participants have been chosen to make a lasting impact on the Brazilian ESL education system. Our program specifically focuses on English as a Second Language (ESL) and English Language Learner (ELL) programs. By the end of our program, participants will understand the different structure…

Update: Second Language Writing, part 1

When I left my previous position as curriculum coordinator, the curriculum revision process was incomplete. One of my roles as coordinator was to make sure the IEP's teaching practices were aligned with research. Most of this research was a literature review of ELT textbooks within the past decade and scholarly articles within the last five years. We successfully completed the whole revision process for reading and half of the process for speaking and listening, which means I was able to conduct a literature review of those three skill areas. Unfortunately, the committee dissolved before we could get to the writing literature. Thus I left the position feeling out-of-date with my understanding of L2 writing pedagogy.

Fortunately, I am a contributor to ELT Research Bites, which is a collaborative blog that provides bite-sized portions of scholarly articles on English language teaching, and writing is the language skill that is covered most. I thought reviewing ELT Research Bites…

The Horror! A Listening Curriculum for English Language Learning

I've been inspired by Clare Maas' blog post, which was inspired by Dr. John Field's TEASIG/CRELLA talks, to share my shock at the listening curriculum of an intensive English program where I previously worked. To be fair, this listening curriculum was designed twenty years prior and my job was to lead faculty efforts to revise it. Unfortunately, the program went through financial difficulties and leadership changes, resulting in the "non-renewal" of most of the curriculum committee members.
Upper-Level (EAP) Listening (B2-C1) Listening was relatively equally integrated with speaking and reading skills in one course set apart from another course that focused much more on writing. This was the case for the two highest levels for students who intended to matriculate into the university as undergraduates. The highest level was not dependent on any one coursebook, so all of the listening material had to be collected by the instructors. When I was the curriculum coordi…

Integrating Extensive Reading into Intensive English Programs

Last week at the 2017 INTESOL Conference, I gave a presentation with my colleague, Emi Zlatkovska from the University of Southern Indiana, on extensive reading at our respective IEPs. Below are excerpts from the slides from my half of the presentation.

What is Extensive Reading? ER is a pedagogical approach in which teachers help and allow learners to choose what they want to read, and they act as a role model of a reader to enable learners to engage in the specific type of reading: ‘fluent, sustained, comprehension of text as meaning-focused input; large volume of material; reading over extended periods of time; and texts are longer, requiring comprehension at the discourse level’ (Waring & McLean, 2015, p 165).

The Effect of ER Programs on Learners Overall reading proficiency – small to medium effect (Jeon & Day, 2015; Nakanishi 2014)
Highest effect with adultsOne year of ER had a higher effect than one semester of ER  Easier materials are more beneficial (Yamashita, 2015)

Research in the ELT Profession & Industry

My career has taken me to the uncomfortable and sometimes exciting spot in English language teaching or education in general: middle management, a term I dislike. As an advocate of teachers, I find my direction and passion by supporting teachers, helping them make their jobs more meaningful. Unfortunately, I have had to work with supervisors that didn't understand or share this vision. I'm not sure if they saw me as someone to "manage" teachers, but it often felt like it. If you don't know what middle management jobs are, and there are a lot of them, they go by many different names. Match any of the words in the left column with the words in the right column to create a job title that can describe the same job.

It seems that most of these job descriptions do not include research, which I believe is essential in developing curriculum and professional learning. It also seems obvious to me that a background in pedagogical research (and for ELT, research in applied …

Back to Writing for Academic Purposes with a Twist

I haven't been blogging over the past month because I started a new teaching job at a community college. This job is a refreshing change for me because I haven't been focusing on improving student writing in my career for a while. In my previous position, I was leading the curriculum committee at an intensive English program in an effort to update its curriculum. We thoroughly analyzed the reading curriculum and were nearly done analyzing the listening and speaking curriculum before the department made drastic personnel cuts, which included me. If none of these cuts were made, the committee would be focusing on the writing curriculum right now. Instead, I am teaching two rhetoric and composition courses to first-year community college students. None of them are international students or English language learners, so that's a big change.

Is my ELT training relevant to first-year college students? The quick answer is somewhat because the ESL and EFL students I have worked w…