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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 Thus I left the position feeling out-of-date with my understanding of L2 writing pedagogy.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)
Li…

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…

Engagement with Research as Professional Development

Last Thursday, I was reviewing literature for a research project that is just underway, and I came across a couple tables that resonated with me so much that I had to share it on Twitter. The tables come from Simon Borg's 2010 article "Language Teacher Research Engagement."


These tables would have come in handy if I had found them prior to my research project with teachers at an intensive English program (IEP) in the United States. They would have supported my professional learning and curriculum development philosophies as an administrator because I believe these two areas, professional learning and curriculum development, should have strongly overlapping goals as an English language teacher. Furthermore, I believe that it is in the best interest of an institution to support this in order to improve the curriculum. This belief is based on the assumption that curriculum is not static because is based on the needs of the learners, which are dynamic, as well as the resear…

Is Wikipedia Too Difficult to Read?

Image from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Afghan_man_reading_Wikipedia_article_in_Kandahar.jpg
The short answer via statistical analysis is yes.  For more information, read Lucassen, T., Dijkstra, R., & Schraagen, J. M. (2012). Readability of Wikipedia. First Mondayathttp://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3916/3297
Wikipedians are aware that the open online encyclopedia may be too difficult, and there is a discussion of its reading level at https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Reading_level. Much of this discussion took place over a decade ago, but the gist is that many contributors write at or for the college level. What appeals to me most is at the end of the page, where Wikipedians are discussing accessibility and what it means to be open to all. Here's my screenshot (in case it gets edited later).


What does this mean for English language teachers? I was interested in seeing how selected Wikipedia articles range according to the CEFR scales. I looked throu…

Revisiting Multiliteracies & Moving On

I have been interested in a multiliteracies approach to English language learning and teaching for almost a decade now. I've been blogging about it since 2010 and I gave a presentation on this for two conferences in Iowa. I decided to put this interest aside so I could complete my dissertation on another topic and search for jobs. Now that a few years have passed, I'd like to share how my interest has changed.

The foundation of my interest is best represented by the Prezi I made (below) for my 2010 MIDTESOL Conference presentation:



My primary reference was Stuart Selber's 2004 book Multiliteracies for a Digital Age, published by Southern Illinois University Press. While working for the Kirkwood Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (KCELT), I found some similarities between my highlighted concepts from Selber's book and the Framework for 21st Century Learning, which you can view at http://www.p21.org/our-work/p21-framework. The third category (Information, Med…

When You Can't Teach, Administrate

There's a somewhat famous expression that most teachers find insulting - "He who can does. He who cannot teaches." It implies that teachers cannot function or "produce results" in the "real world" but they know enough to tell or direct others how. And this implies that education is mainly about skill building (for jobs) and not about knowledge or character. I could go on and on about this, but I wanted to discuss HL Mencken's addition to George Bernard Shaw's quote:
Those who can't teach - administrate. Those who can't administrate - go into politics.
I heard this quote way back in late elementary school or junior high school and it struck a chord. It especially rings loudly in my mind as I have spent the last few years of my life in administration rather than teaching in higher education. And sadly I have to confirm that many administrators can't or won't teach. Yes, it makes me sad because I am an educator and I believe that …

My First Job: Was I Good Teacher?

To go along with my new blog theme of praxis, I thought it would be fun to evaluate myself when I was a new teacher nearly 20 years ago in Japan. More specifically, I explore what made me a bad teacher, a mediocre teacher, and a good teacher. But first a little context: I started my English language teaching career shortly after graduating from college in 1998. I took a full-time teaching position for the most famous eikaiwa in Japan at the time, Nova. Back then, there was no social media: no Facebook, no Twitter, no YouTube, and not even blogs. When I wanted to learn about teaching English in Japan, I used my Netscape browser to do a search using Yahoo! because Google didn't exist yet. I wasn't even aware of Dave's ESL Cafe yet if it existed back then. I had no idea was I was getting into, but I was fortunate enough to have a generally good experience even though I wasn't the best teacher.


What Made Me a Bad Teacher? That's an easy question to answer: lack of teac…

The Tao of Praxis

Last week, I started reading The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff to my daughter as part of her bedtime regimen. I bought this book years ago after a colleague recommended it to me when he learned I was interested in Taoism. Since then I have embraced much of its philosophy, but I stop short of calling myself a Taoist. I didn't realize until now that Taoism has deeply affected my attitudes and beliefs towards English language teaching and scholarship, especially concerning the concept of praxis. Below are some examples.


The passage above comes from Chapter 3: Spelling Tuesday, page 26. It's not a subtle attack on academics, specifically those whose goals are to get published to be accepted among an elite circle of scholars. This is particularly striking to me because, at this point in my life, I would like to gain acceptance among this elite circle, which I perhaps naively equate to tenured professors. However, I strive to make my life's work beneficial to English language te…