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Showing posts from 2015

Teaching English in East Asia: 10 Year Anniversary

The New Year marks our (my wife and me) 10th anniversary of leaving South Korea, where we both taught English at Sookmyung Women's University.  I taught in the TESOL certification program for in-service and pre-service English language teachers and she taught in the General English Program for undergraduate students.  Except for my summer job in 2011, we haven't been taught English in East Asia since December 2005.

What has changed in the last 10 years? Although I haven't taught English in Japan and South Korea for 10 years, which is double the amount of years I taught in those countries, I have been keeping up to date through research and social media.  The research has helped me better understand the English language policies of both countries, but social media has been more informative regarding the cultural and professional experiences of English language teachers.

Social Media By the start of 2006, most social media platforms did not exist or were in their infancy.�…

Developing a Mindset for Coordinating a Curriculum

Nearly halfway through my first year as curriculum coordinator at an intensive English program (IEP) in Southern Illinois, I've had the opportunity to view English language curriculum and instruction from multiple angles.  My first year requires me to teach through most of the levels of curriculum from beginners to advanced language learners.  I've been absorbing the ideas and opinions of my faculty colleagues, my administrative colleagues, and my students.  These viewpoints have helped me gain a better understanding of what the current curriculum is and what the current curriculum should be.

Positive Teacher-Learner Relationships  A positive relationship between a teacher and a learner is more important than any curriculum.  This idea is definitely reinforced at where I work, and it is the key component for learner success.  I want my colleagues to know that I value this more than any adherence to the curriculum.  Besides, the curriculum should be designed for the students an…

My Cultural Adjustment Process to Teaching in an IEP (again)

I've learned from personal experience, research, and the literature that transitioning to a new place as a teacher can be and usually is hectic.  I just started teaching at the Center of English as a Second Language (CESL) at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale (SIUC) as part of my duties as the curriculum coordinator.  Teaching represents at least half of my duties the first year, but then it should be reduced afterwards when I assume more coordinating duties and responsibilities.  Although I learned a lot about CESL during my first few weeks before teaching, I knew I would be in for a bit of what I call unintentional hazing when I met my first class.

My dissertation focused on the cultural adjustment of English language teachers abroad, but I believe I can apply some of the models and theories to my experience here.  Even though I did not move abroad, I was faced with a larger proportion of students from the Middle East than I had before.  For most of my career, the major…

Reading Strategies Revisited

William Grabe's Reading in a Second Language: Moving from Theory to Practice has proven to be a great resource to help update the curriculum at CESL.  It's helping to bust some myths about speed reading and to clarify the concepts behind reading strategies.  Part of Chapter 10 and all of Chapter 11 go into depth about reading strategies that support comprehension and becoming a strategic reader.

For those with access to the book, a quick look at tables 10.3, 11.1, 11.2, 11.3, and 11.6 will help language teachers get the gist about reading strategies.  I'd like to focus on table 11.1 (page 224), which lists the metacognitive processes for comprehension as it is most relevant for our upper-level students at CESL.  These processes help students develop autonomy concerning the improvement of their own reading strategies that, when mastered, become reading skills.

Set (or reset) reading goals Expect to build a coherent interpretation of a text and establish the main ideas of …

My Reintroduction to TESOL Methodology

From 2003 to 2007, TESOL Methodology was my thing.  I taught it as a teacher trainer at Sookmyung Women's University in Seoul, Korea and as a Senior English Language Fellow in Russia.  Before earning my PhD, those two jobs were the high points of my career.  Now I am in a position that combines those experiences with my newer (raw) skills as a researcher, coordinating curriculum for an intensive English program.  One thing I love about this job is that I get to revisit literature on TESOL methodology through the lens of a researcher.
Shocked Not Shocked
As I'm updating myself on the developments of content-based instruction (CBI), I was shocked how much of the literature is based more from the qualitative side of research than quantitative.  Then again, I had to remind myself about education research in general, that's it's quite difficult to conduct ethical and valid "experiments" in the classroom.  I remember that deflated feeling early in my coursework that…

Models of Inquiry-Based Professional Development

This is my second blog post in response to my reading of Second Language Teacher Education: A Sociocultural Perspective by Karen E. Johnson, specifically to Chapter 7 on Inquiry-Based Approaches to Professional Development.  This chapter is really important to me because it combines my research interest on the professional development of English language teachers with my current position as curriculum coordinator at CESL, where one of my roles is to support and provide professional development for our faculty.

Chapter 7 describes five models of inquiry-based professional development, which I am reviewing as options to implement.  They are as follows:
Critical Friends GroupsPeer CoachingLesson StudyCooperative DevelopmentTeacher Study GroupsCritical Friends Groups
This model focuses on "exploring and analyzing the dynamic nature of student learning" through the use of protocol-guided conversations, which provide the participants (teachers) with a lot of structure.  A great re…

Coordinating Curriculum at CESL

Earlier this month, I began my new role as curriculum coordinator at the Center for English as a Second Language (CESL) at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.  I am very excited to be back in my field and to put all my experiences, observations, and research into action.  This was an excellent time to thoroughly read Karen E. Johnson's book Second Language Teacher Education, published in 2009, the same year I started my PhD studies.  Unfortunately for me, I became aware of this book halfway through my dissertation project.

In Chapter 6 of the book, Dr. Johnson introduces Engestrom's human activity system as shown in the figure above.  This nice triangle with arrows helps illustrate my mindset in terms of coordinating curriculum and professional development.  Let's enter this figure by concentrating on the subject (middle left), which is the learner of the community (bottom middle).

For English language teachers, their students are the subject.  In my positio…

In Transition

I will not be posting any new blog posts for the next two months as my family and I are in the process of moving.  I have accepted a job that is more relevant to this blog, so I plan to increase both the quality and quantity of future blog posts starting in August or September 2015.

Work Frames of English Language Teaching

What does this figure mean? This is one way the work of English language teaching can be framed, according to Pennington & Hoekje (2014).  This appeals to me as both a practitioner and a researcher because attention to English language teaching is often simplified to only instruction.  The other parts of the frame sometimes influence learning and pedagogy more than direct instruction.  To learn how so, I will review the peripheral parts of the frame that support instruction.

Disciplinary Field Pennington & Hoekje (2014) claim that the three disciplinary fields had the most affect on English language teaching curriculum:  linguistics, psychology, and education.  They also claim that the "home discipline of ELT" is applied linguistics, where studies on second language acquisition are in the heart of the profession.  Coming from two graduate programs in education, I am much aware of the differences linguists, applied linguists, and educators bring to English language t…

Adrian Holliday

In January 2015, the University of Warwick (UK) hosted a lecture by Dr. Adrian Holliday, whose work has greatly influenced my dissertation.  The lecture was recorded and can be viewed at http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/al/research/groups/llta/activities/events/hollidayIf you are interested in watching the video, I advise that you wear headphones as Dr. Holliday was not wearing a microphone.  For this blog, I briefly summarize the video, highlighting what I found most provocative.  Following that, I explain how Holliday's work has influenced my research and teaching philosophy for the past 5-10 years.

Summary of "Revisiting appropriate methodology, BANA, TESEP and 'contexts'"

The main purpose of this lecture was for Holliday to reflect upon his book Appropriate Methodology and Social Context, published 20 years ago by Cambridge University Press.  In this lecture, he integrated criticism from another professor whose research I admire, Dr. Suresh Canagajarah, w…

Earn Points! Moving Towards a Competency Based Grading System

There's been a noticeable move here in Iowa towards Competency Based Education.  It's slowly gaining traction in the PK-12 system, and it may eventually affect the way we learn and teach in higher education.  What I like most about it is that it rewards competency more than seat time, the passive version of attendance.  I have sat through many classes in which I learned very little because I knew most of the content already.  As a teacher, I've had students that I recognized passed my course way before the class was complete, so I had to find ways to make the class more engaging without "over-preparing" them for the next course.


For a class to effectively embrace competency based education, I believe the whole program, in which it is a part of, needs to adopt the approach, otherwise other teachers and students may find that the competency based approach may be unfair.  I'd be happy to expand on this later, but I'd like to present an interim solution for t…