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Showing posts from 2014

My Professional Learning Pathway

Reading through a lot of literature about the professional development or professional learning of teachers has inspired me to reflect on my participation and beliefs concerning my own professional learning.  Before I do this, I'd like to distinguish between the two terms: professional development and professional learning.  According to Gibson and Brooks (2013), professional development is a deficit model implying that teachers need to develop in order for their students to meet certain achievement scores and institutional goals.  It fits the narrative that teachers are what is wrong with the schools and education system.  Professional learning implies ongoing growth and is part of the narrative of the growth mindset popularized (at least among educators) by Carol Dweck.  For most people, the terms are interchangeable and "professional development" is still more widely recognized.

Professional Learning as a Newbie ELT

I became an English language teacher after graduating…

Developing Intercultural Competence

My experiences teaching English abroad plus my research investigating the culture learning of sojourning English language teacher have helped me gain a deeper understanding of intercultural communication.  During the past year and a half, I have been developing my skills to become an intercultural communication trainer as an instructional designer at Kirkwood Community College.  Although I have achieved a lot with Kirkwood's Culturally Responsive Classroom course, I was still uncertain if my intercultural communication training skills could be applied elsewhere.  I found a good opportunity to interact with other intercultural communication trainers was to attend the 2014 SIETAR-USA Conference in Portland last month.  I learned about SIETAR through my literature review for developing the Culturally Responsive Classroom, which is what I and a colleague presented on at the conference.  Below is our presentation, which represents a portion of what we shared with our participants.

At t…

Designing Quizzes

As promised inmy previous posting, here are some of my ideas regarding quiz design for English language learning following the tips suggested inMake It Stick:  The Science of Successful Learning.

Tips Frequent quizzing Create study tools that incorporate retrieval practice, generation, and elaboration Reach back to concepts and learning covered earlier in the term Space, interleave, and vary topics

If I could go back and include more quizzes in the English language courses I taught at the ESL Institute at the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse, I would start the class with a quiz every day for courses that were offered twice a week and every other day for courses that were offered four times a week.  Although I would design the time of the quizzes to be completely predictable, the content of the quizzes would be less so.

I would prefer that the quizzes take no more than 10 minutes of the class.  If all of my students and I had access to the technology, I would try to use assessment tools l…

Make English Language Learning Stick

Over the summer, one of my favorite reads was Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel, published earlier this year by Belknap Press.  This book was very helpful in summarizing studies I have read and heard about as a graduate student and it also helped clarify the teaching techniques and learning strategies that have sufficient evidence in their efficacy.  I believe this book should be included in introductory courses in teacher education programs.

For this posting, I'd like to go through the book's Tips for Teachers (pages 225-228) and apply them to English language teaching and second language acquisition.

Tip #1 - Explain to Students How (English Language) Learning Works
If students are finding that English language learning is difficult that may indicate that they're improving their learning.  The language will be easier to use and components of the language (grammar rules, vocabulary, ways to pronounce, etc.) should be easier…

Instructional Design in Applied Linguistics

A few weeks ago, I attended my first American Association of Applied Linguistics (AAAL) Conference.  I first heard about it during my first year at the University of Iowa as some of my colleagues went there.  They described it as a more intimate and research-oriented conference compared to the International TESOL Convention, which is now held immediately after AAAL in the same city.  As a new PhD student, I still preferred the practitioner-oriented TESOL Convention as many of my ideas were in the mindset of a teacher.  I went to a couple TESOL Conventions until my graduate studies and dissertation crowded out any opportunities for professional conferences.  Now as my dissertation is near completion, I got my first opportunity to attend AAAL and it was really worth it.
I came to AAAL wearing two hats.  The first hat was my PhD candidate hat.  With it, I attended presentations and roundtables about language & culture and language planning & policies.  My second hat was my instr…

Google Hangouts for the Language Classroom

Today at the University of Iowa's Tête-à-Tête Professional Development Workshop, I facilitated an expository session about Google Hangouts for use in the foreign language classroom.  The digital handout for this workshop is provided at

I discovered Google Hangouts during my still ongoing hiatus of not teaching English language learners, so I don't have direct experience.  However, in a professional and educational context, I have become more accustomed to and confident with Google Hangouts as both a consumer and producer of this free and easily accessible internet video conferencing (IVC) program.

Google Hangouts as Consumer

I knew about Google Hangouts for about a year before I realized its full potential.  I was in the participant selection process of my dissertation project when I found Victor at is an English language teacher in Nagoya, Japan who uses Google Hangouts with other English language tea…

Another Argument for Research on the Sojourning ELT Experience

One reason that I am not posting so often on this blog is that I am busy with my PhD dissertation.  At this stage, I have written the first draft of my data analysis (Chapter 4) and I am in the process of revising my introduction and purpose for the study (Chapter 1).  I'm at a crossroads in terms of the latter.  I have made the smaller revisions as suggested by my dissertation committee.  However, there were some suggestions, not shared by everyone in the committee, about reframing the purpose.   So the purpose of this posting is to share my brainstorm for this possible reframing.

This research project has been guided by my experiences as a sojourning English language teacher (ELT) in Japan, South Korea, and Russia.  At the turn of the millennium, when I was new to the field, there were not many ways to learn about the experiences of sojourning ELTs as compared to now.  I first prepared by reading travel and history books and watching videos about the target culture.  Later, I en…