Pronunciation and listening both have been described as orphans in second language (L2) teaching. While this might have been true two decades ago, I think the real orphan has been – and still is – TOUCH!
Bill Acton, Amanda Baker, and I will be giving an IATEFL PronSIG webinar in November in which touch will feature prominently. I’m also working on a new paper with the goal of bringing neuroscience, especially touch, into the classroom. Here’s a paragraph of an early draft of that paper:
Neuroscience postulates that touch is the most common and powerful sense for people to interact with their physical environment. The skin and its receptor system send information to the brain through touch and therefore touch is fundamental in people’s engagement with the physical surrounding. Touch also enhances learning and produces detailed, lasting memories (Hutmacher & Kuhbandner, 2018). Research also revealed that touch increases learner confidence more effectively than vision does, particularly in ambiguous phonological situations such as students trying to distinguish between the English vowel sounds [iy] and [ey] (Fairhurst et al., 2018). Yet, touch is …”surprisingly little used as a vehicle for conceptual learning, particularly in higher education” (Shaikh et al., 2017, p.2). With the exception of instructors clapping to help L2 learners’ pronunciation (Zhang et al., online first), touch is more or less an unexplored area in language instruction. From an embodiment point of view of L2 teaching and learning (Holme, 2012), touch must be present because it complements movement and gestures in the creation of meaning, making L2 learning more memorable.
How L2 instructors use touch and incorporate it into their teaching repertoire will be discussed in the implication section of that new paper, and so stay tuned!
I’ve been invited to write a book chapter on the development of my professional identity. This is not area in which I’m specializing but given my relatively complex (and hopefully interesting) cultural and linguistic background, I gladly accepted the invitation. The title of the chapter is From ESL Student to Teacher Educator: Reflections on Transnational and Transcultural Professional Identity Development. Having crossed national, cultural, and linguistic boundaries on several occasions, the idea is to narrate and reflect on my journey from initially being an English language learner to becoming a teacher educator and, at the same time, to make sense of my professional identity construction with the goal of contributing to the understanding of effective language learning, pedagogy, and teacher education. To keep things manageable (and within the given word limit), I explore three specific time periods that have had a profound impact on my developing professional identity from a number of perspectives and lenses, including key events, people, and formative experiences: (1) studying ESL in New Zealand, (2) learning to teach English in Japan, and (3) being a graduate student in Canada. The second part of the chapter then brings everything together and discusses implications for teachers and teacher educators.
I’ve just completed a first full draft and there’s still a lot of editing left to do, but I really enjoy working on this chapter. It gives me the opportunity to think about my 20-year journey and who and what influenced me along the way. It also allows me to reflect on who I am as an educator and makes me examine my positionality in English language teaching and Applied Linguistics while connecting the narrative to current literature and research on identity formation. This has been an enriching process which has led me to a renewed realization that being an educator is a privilege and that the process of becoming one is not stale or linear but dynamic and complex. I hope that future readers will find the chapter useful. If it inspires a few educators to engage in some form of reflective writing to better understand themselves and improve their pedagogy, I’ve done my job.
Having been involved in the field of English language teaching first as a second language learner (more about this in a forthcoming book chapter), then as a teacher, and now as a teacher educator and researcher, I think I have a pretty good understanding of the hectic lives most teachers live. They are often too busy to read lengthy articles or they don’t have access to papers hidden behind paywalls. In an attempt to help teachers navigate these challenges, I’ve decided to create my own YouTube channel with the aim of providing short 3-5 minute summary videos of my publications. I might upload other videos too (e.g., conference talks), but for now each video will feature a brief introduction, followed by an overview of findings, and a discussion about practical suggestions and implications, as well as a link to the article (without infringing copyright).
I named my YouTube channel the “ELT Research Garage” because I've spent a substantial amount of time in my garage since the COVID-19 pandemic hit earlier this year. In fact, my garage has become somewhat a sacred place where I quietly write, read, and mull over research and its practical implications for L2 teachers and L2 teacher educators. I’ll start posting videos (recorded in my garage, of course) in the coming weeks and so please check in periodically, share some of the clips, and perhaps even subscribe to the channel. Stay tuned for more info from the garage:
I had the privilege of attending and presenting at the JALT Conference in Nagoya this past weekend. The convention was an excellent opportunity to share parts of my longitudinal study on L2 teacher learning and some preliminary findings of a yomikikase (shared story reading) study I’m working on with Aaron Sponseller. Here are a few thoughts on the conference:
I'll be giving a couple of talks at the Japan Association for Language Teaching Conference in Nagoya this coming November. This will be my first time at JALT! Below are the titles and abstracts of my presentations. Let me know if you’re in Nagoya. It would be great to catch up over a coffee.
Exploring a JTE’s Pronunciation Teaching Journey
Monday, November 4, 10:25-10:50:
This paper presents a longitudinal study that was conducted with the aim of exploring the 5-year trajectory of a Japanese teacher of English (JTE) learning to teach English pronunciation. While the JTE's pronunciation teaching competence gradually improved, the findings also showed that several contextual factors impacted the teacher's learning process. The session concludes with a brief discussion of the implications for teacher educators.
Japanese Mothers' Thoughts on English Yomikikase
Shared storybook reading (yomikikase) is a common activity for parents, teachers, and children in L1. MEXT's current course of study now suggests this should be included in the elementary English curriculum in Japan. Japanese mothers (N = 305) were surveyed regarding their opinions of English learning in elementary school generally, English storybook reading in the elementary classroom specifically, and their thoughts on trying to engage in English storybook reading with their own children.
I’ve made it back to Wollongong after being in the air for more than 20 hours! Atlanta is a long ways from Australia and coffee will be my middle name for the next few days, but the two conferences were definitely worth the trip. Here are a few thoughts on the two events:
I'm giving a talk at the AAAL Conference and then two more at the TESOL Convention in Atlanta next month. Below are the titles and abstracts of my upcoming presentations. For more details see the TESOL convention agenda and/or the AAAL conference schedule. Stop by and say hi if you're in Atlanta!
An Exploration of the Longitudinal Process of Learning to Teach English Pronunciation
Sunday, March 10, 2019: 10:10-10:30
Research has demonstrated the positive impact of second language teacher education (SLTE) on student teachers’ beliefs and knowledge (e.g., cognitions) about pronunciation teaching and learning (e.g., Authors, 2017). However, few longitudinal studies have examined the development of teaching competence with second language (L2) teachers’ graduate education (e.g., Gu, 2013; Mattheoudakis, 2007), and none have focussed on L2 teachers’ pronunciation teaching competence.
The present paper aims to address this issue by investigating the development of four L2 instructors’ cognitions and practices over a period of five years. The study consisted of three phases. The first took place during the participants’ graduate course on pronunciation pedagogy in 2013. The second was completed in 2017 and involved narrative frames (Barkhuizen, 2015) to elicit the teachers’ self-reported cognitions and practices at the end of their novice teacher stage. In the third phase, carried out in 2018, semi-structured interviews, observations, and student questionnaires were triangulated to elicit participants’ current pronunciation teaching competence. All of the data were collated and participant profiles were created for each phase. Comparing these different profiles enabled the researchers to obtain an in-depth understanding of the longitudinal process of learning to teach English pronunciation.
Findings revealed a notable spike in cognition about pronunciation at the end of the four participants’ graduate studies. This spike then tapered off as participants began to teach; nonetheless, a gradual improvement in all teachers’ pronunciation teaching competence was evident over the 5-year period. The data also demonstrated that learning to teach pronunciation not only entails an individual and complex trajectory due to various factors limiting and/or enhancing teachers’ implementation of knowledge acquired during graduate school, but that these factors also influence practitioners’ selection of techniques to meet their learners’ specific pronunciation needs. The session concludes with a brief discussion of implications for SLTE.
Pronunciation Teacher Education: Developing a Rubric to Track Teacher Learning
Thursday, March 14, 2019: 13:00-13:45
Based on research from an innovative four-year longitudinal study, this presentation showcases the development of a rubric used to track the progression of teachers learning to teach pronunciation. Following a presentation of the overall study and the subsequent design of the rubric, implications for language teacher education are discussed.
Essentials of Haptic Pronunciation Teaching
Thursday, March 14, 2019: 14:00-15:45
This workshop presents a set of haptic (movement + touch)-based instructional techniques for presenting and correcting English L2 pronunciation, applicable for intermediate English language learners and above. Guided by recent research on kinesthetic approaches to L2 pronunciation instruction, participants will leave prepared to use the instructional techniques in their classrooms.
As noted in some of my previous blog posts, I’m conducting a longitudinal research project on second language (L2) teacher learning. The study is in its fifth year now and what was initially my doctorate examining the development of student teachers’ cognitions during a graduate course on pronunciation pedagogy has evolved into a more complex study that follows the long-term learning trajectories of five L2 teachers. As such, the project no longer focuses only on pronunciation instruction, but also explores aspects of professional identity formation, the impact of contextual factors on participants’ cognitions and practices, and the intricate relationship between the teachers’ careers and their personal lives. The study has generated several intriguing findings (which I'm in the process of writing up); at the same time, carrying out the project has allowed me to learn a great deal about doing longitudinal research. Here’s a brief overview of some of the insights I’ve gained in the last few years:
This is just a short list that I put together while waiting for a flight at Sydney airport. Please add any other points if you feel that I’ve missed something.
I'm giving a talk at e-LINC, Kansai University, on December 7th (18:00-19:30). Info (in Japanese) is available on the Kansai University website at http://www.kansai-u.ac.jp/calendar/archives/2018/12/post_1731.html.
The title of my talk is Exploring the Long-term Trajectory of Learning to Teach English through the Lens of Innovative Pronunciation Pedagogy. Granted, this is a real mouthful but as the following abstract outlines, I’m basically presenting parts of my longitudinal research on L2 teacher learning:
In this session I will present research that I conducted on the longitudinal process of learning to teach English pronunciation. The five year study explored student teachers' perceptions of innovative pedagogy during a graduate course on pronunciation pedagogy, and then examined the participants' actual use of innovative pronunciation instruction during the beginning years of their teaching careers. The session concludes with a discussion about implications for L2 teachers and teacher educators.
If you're in the area and you feel like spending a Friday evening talking about research, head to Kansai University on December 7. It would be great to see you there!
During my last trip to Japan (last July) I needed to see a dentist because of a pretty nasty toothache. I can communicate in Japanese at a conversational level, but to see a dentist I required an interpreter that could assist me with asking and answering questions. My 12-year old son is proficient in both languages and so I asked him to come along. Not being able to communicate clearly and relying on my child made me feel rather helpless. Yet, that’s exactly how many refugees must feel in Australia. Without the necessary English skills, many depend on their children to get daily chores done. I would have preferred not to drag my son to the dentist, but this experience really helped me better empathize with the struggles that refugees might encounter in an affluent country such Australia. That dentist incident in Japan also made me (much more) realize how privileged I am in Australia. I'm now thinking about developing a research project that explores the lives of refugees in the Illawarra region. The aim of the project would be to narrate the stories (and to foreground the voices) of people who were forced to leave their home country. The study would definitely increase awareness of the challenges that refugees typically face, but it may also lead to recommendations that could be used to improve the lives of the marginalized in our communities. I have an idea about a particular research focus, and so stay tuned for another blog post in the near future!
I am a Senior Lecturer in TESOL at the University of Wollongong in Australia. This blog is a reflection of my journey as a researcher, L2 teacher educator, and language teacher.