I’ve just returned from the Applied Linguistics Conference in Auckland (NZ) where I presented my latest research on learning to teach English pronunciation. Here are a few highlights and thoughts on the conference:
As mentioned in a previous blog post, I’m presenting some preliminary findings of my latest research project on learning to teach English pronunciation at the upcoming Applied Linguistics conference in Auckland, New Zealand (November 28, 2017). Here are the title and the abstract of the session:
Learning to Teach Pronunciation: A 4-Year Study
Research has provided evidence about the positive impact of second language teacher education (SLTE) on the practices, and beliefs and knowledge (i.e., cognition) of in-service and pre-service teachers (Busch, 2010; Farrell, 2009; Kurihara, 2013; Lee, 2015). Studies have also shown that preparing second language (L2) teachers to teach English pronunciation can be effective (Baker, 2011; Burri, 2015, Burri, Baker & Chen, 2017; Golombek & Jordan, 2005). However, research has yet to examine how novice L2 teachers’ pronunciation teaching practices develop longitudinally and how that development relates to their postgraduate studies. Such research is needed to demonstrate the long-term effectiveness of SLTE on teacher practice.
The longitudinal study presented in this session examines the cognition development of three instructors teaching English as an additional language in Australia following their study of a postgraduate subject on pronunciation pedagogy. Specifically, the research compares the teachers’ current pronunciation-oriented cognitions and classroom practices with the teachers’ previous cognitions about teaching pronunciation formed during their university study four years earlier. Questionnaires, interviews, assessment tasks, focus groups, and observations conducted during the participants’ postgraduate studies, as well as narrative frames (Barkhiuzen, 2014) to elicit participants’ perspectives on their current practices were collected and triangulated to compare data over a period of four years.
Findings showed that learning to teach English pronunciation is a dynamic, individual and non-linear process; one that goes beyond postgraduate education and well into L2 teachers’ professional career. Teachers reported using their classrooms knowledge about pronunciation acquired during their studies; yet, external factors exerted powerful influences on their practices. These factors limited teachers’ implementation of acquired knowledge, which led some of the teachers to return to practices and cognitions held prior to their postgraduate studies. The session concludes with a brief discussion of implications for SLTE.
Farrell (2015) suggests that second language teacher education (SLTE) often lacks effectiveness in preparing second language (L2) instructors. He argues that programs do not prepare “teacher learners adequately about how to deal with the realities of teaching in the classroom” (p.2). Farrell proposes for programs to align their content with prospective L2 teachers’ needs more closely to ensure that content presented to student teachers was relevant to their future teaching contexts. He goes on to say that L2 teacher educators should continue monitoring the development of graduates’ pedagogical skills once they are teaching in their L2 classrooms. This would allow teacher educators to create cases of practicing instructors that could then be incorporated into SLTE programs to facilitate reflection and student teacher learning. Exploring these cases would enable future teachers to attain insights into the realities, challenges, and issues that are typically involved in L2 classroom teaching.
I like Farrell's suggestions, as they resonate with one of my ongoing research projects. In this longitudinal study I am exploring how L2 teachers’ pronunciation teaching practices and their current beliefs and knowledge (i.e., cognitions) about English pronunciation relate to what they learned during a graduate course on pronunciation pedagogy. Examining this connection should yield important insights into L2 teacher learning and into the effectiveness of SLTE. I am presenting preliminary findings of this research at the Applied Linguistics conference in Auckland, New Zealand (November 2017). It would be great to see some of you there, but in case you cannot make it to Auckland, I am going to make the presentation abstract available on my blog a couple of weeks prior to the conference.
Farrell, T. S. C. (2015). Second language teacher education: A reality check. In T. S. C. Farrell (Ed.), International perspectives on English language teacher education: Innovations from the field (pp. 1-15). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
Contrary to some recent blog posts I’ve read, I think second language (L2) instructors are quite keen on reading research. One of the problems, of course, is that many instructors often lack the time (and access/resources) to read papers, and so here’s a brief summary of an interesting study I’m using in my postgraduate oral communication subject/course.
Kayi-Aydar’s (2014) examined how two talkative students (Tarek and Ahmad) learned an L2 in their classroom. One member was accepted, whereas the other one was isolated. Kayi-Aydar’s asked why, and explored factors that contributed to students’ social status in the classroom. So what did Kayi-Aydar’s find? Tarek represented a leadership position. He was the oldest student and acted like a teacher. He told other students what to do and dominated classroom activities/events. Tarek blurted out comments instead of raising his hand (other students raised hands). Other students considered his behaviour “disruptive.” Ahmad, on the other hand, talked a great deal. He was more proficient in speaking than other students in class. Initially he portrayed himself as a learner who didn’t understand, but soon took on a competent student position. In pair work, although he would state that he didn’t know an answer, as soon as a partner provided an answer, he supplemented with additional information, thus demonstrating his competency. Other students seemed to lack a desire to communicate with him. Ahmad was positioned as the “arrogant” or “inconsiderate” student.
Over time, Tarek’s status changed from “outsider” to “insider.” He was accepted by the class because of the use of humour. He built friendships, and became less disruptive. His positional identity changed from merely “outspoken student” to “funny student.” In terms of teacher talk, there was flexibility with Tarek (the teacher laughed at jokes and encouraged him to speak), but with Ahmad there was less flexibility (the teacher stopped him from speaking several times to give others a chance to speak). Interestingly, the differences in how the teacher treated the two students may have directly impacted the degree to which the rest of the class “accepted” these 2 students in class.
Questions for Reflection:
Kayi-Aydar, H. (2014). Social positioning, participation, and second language learning: Talkative students in an academic ESL classroom. TESOL Quarterly,48(4), 686-714 doi: 10.1002/tesq.139
Albeit a bit delayed (due to the mountain of marking on my desk), here are some of my thoughts - and facts - on the 2017 TESOL Convention held in Seattle a couple of weeks ago:
I spent Friday and Saturday at the TESOL Research Colloquium, hosted annually by the University of Sydney. I always enjoy going this free (!) event. This year, I attended for the first time a Friday pre-colloquium workshop: Gary Barkhuizen’s excellent 3-hour session on narrative inquiry. It was a very informative session that provided me with several new ideas for how to explore L2 teachers’ cognition about pronunciation pedagogy. The next morning, Gary did the colloquium’s opening plenary in which he discussed narrative frames. In essence, a narrative frame is a tool that guides the story teller. That is, a frame contains several language gambits (i.e., short phrases) that provide the narrator with some structure to follow. The result is a coherent story that is relatively easy analyze. Of course, like any research instrument, narrative frames are not without flaws, but as Gary convincingly argued, they hold tremendous potential for qualitative research. My next task is now to read some of the papers/references that were mentioned in the two narrative sessions, and then contemplate how to integrate narrative inquiry into my research agenda. I’ll keep you posted!
I'm preparing a lecture on L2 vocabulary teaching/learning for the postgraduate course on TESOL methodology I'm teaching this semester. Vocabulary is something I've always been interested in, particularly the difference between contextualized and decontextualized vocabulary learning. I'm pretty sure that the majority of L2 instructors (and quite possibly researchers as well) generally believe that vocabulary is best learned in context. Now here’s the kicker: context might be relatively irrelevant when it comes to vocabulary acquisition! To illustrate this, here is a short section I've taken from a book chapter that Amanda Baker, Bill Acton and I have co-authored and is included in Tamara Jones’ (2016) new book on pronunciation instruction:
…current theory on optimal instruction and acquisition of vocabulary proposes that it is generally best learned in context, using a more task-based approach (Nunan, 2004.) This theory, however, has recently faced an interesting twist. File and Adams's (2010) work, for example, demonstrates that in some situations less contextualized vocabulary instruction may lead to an equal or even higher rate of retention than does more integrated instruction. Additionally, research examining and comparing the effectiveness of top-down (i.e., learning words in context) and bottom-up (i.e., learning words in isolation) approaches to academic vocabulary instruction to Chinese learners of English revealed that students in the bottom-up group slightly outperformed their peers in the top-down group in terms of "vocabulary size and controlled productive vocabulary knowledge" (Moskovsky, Jiang, Libert, & Fagan, 2014, p. 271). Such research partially vindicates more traditional, form-based practice that places emphasis on the use of word lists, grammar, synonyms and antonyms, and attention to derivational (prefixes and suffixes) forms and word-family association. Research suggests, in fact, that intermediate-level learners may benefit even more from paradigmatic, form-focused vocabulary work (Elgort & Warren, 2014). From a practical, teaching perspective, of course, being flexible enough to work with both word usage in context and a word’s structural and semantic properties is ideal (Burri, Baker, & Acton, 2016, p.19).
Burri, M., Baker, A., & Acton, W. (2016). Anchoring academic vocabulary with a “hard hitting” haptic pronunciation teaching technique. In T. Jones (Ed.), Pronunciation in the classroom: The overlooked essential (pp.17-26). Alexandria, VA: TESOL Press.
Elgort, I., & Warren, P. (2014). L2 vocabulary learning from reading: Explicit and tacit lexical knowledge and the role of learner and item variables. Language Learning, 64, 365–414.
File, K., & Adams, R. (2010). Should vocabulary be isolated or integrated? TESOL Quarterly, 44, 222–249.
Jones, T. (Ed.). (2016). Pronunciation in the classroom: The overlooked essential. Alexandria, VI: TESOL Press.
Moskovsky, C., Jiang, G., Libert, A., & Fagan, S. (2014). Bottom-up or top-down: English as a foreign language vocabulary instruction for Chinese university students. TESOL Quarterly, 49, 256–277.
Nunan, D. (2004). Task-based language teaching. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
Even though pronunciation teaching is regaining its prominence in second language (L2) teaching (Levis, 2015; Thomson & Derwing, 2015), most L2 instructors continue to lack confidence in their ability to teach pronunciation in their classrooms (e.g., Couper, 2016; Foote, Holtby, & Derwing, 2011; Macdonald, 2002). Finding ways to help and, ultimately, empower teachers to include pronunciation in their classrooms is currently one of my main interests (among several other areas, of course). Instead of regurgitating some of the papers I've been working on, here is a brief overview of aspects (derived from my doctoral research) that I think teacher educators should consider incorporating into their programs:
This list is just a start.....It would be great to hear your thoughts on what else could be done to help L2 instructors make pronunciation a mainstay in their classrooms.
Acton, W. (2015). Haptic-integrated clinical pronunciation research. Available at
Braine, G. (2010). Nonnative speaker English teachers: Research, pedagogy, and professional growth. New York, NY: Routledge.
Couper, G. (2016). Teacher cognition of pronunciation teaching amongst English language teachers in Uruguay. Journal of Second Language Pronunciation, 2(1), 29-55. doi: 10.1075/jslp.2.1.02cou
Derwing, T. M., & Munro, M. J. (2015). Pronunciation fundamentals: Evidence-based perspectives for L2 teaching and research. Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamin Publishing Company.
Foote, J. A., Holtby, A. K., & Derwing, T. M. (2011). Survey of the teaching pronunciation in adult ESL programs in Canada, 2010. TESL Canada Journal, 29(1), 1-22.
Grant, L. (Ed.) (2014). Pronunciation myths: Applying second language research to classroom teaching. Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press.
Jones, T. (Ed.). (2016). Pronunciation in the classroom: The overlooked essential. Alexandria, VI: TESOL Press.
Kang, O., Thomson, R., & Murphy, J. (Eds.). (forthcoming). The Routledge handbook of English pronunciation. New York, NY: Routledge.
Levis, J. (2015). The journal of second language pronunciation : An essential step toward a disciplinary identity. Journal of Second Language Pronunciation, 1(1), 1-10.
Macdonald, S. (2002). Pronunciation – views and practices of reluctant teachers. Prospect, 17(3), 3-18.
Morita, N. (2004). Negotiating participation and identity in second language academic communities. TESOL Quarterly, 38(4), 573-603.
Reed, M., & Levis, J. (Eds.). (2015). The handbook of English pronunciation. Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell.
Thomson, R., & Derwing, T. M. (2015). The effectiveness of L2 pronunciation instruction: A narrative review. Applied Linguistics, 36(3), 326-344.
A couple of days ago, an interesting discussion on accent in L2 teaching took place among some of the members of the AusELT Facebook Group after a link to a pronunciation course was posted. Accent has been a hot topic in L2 teaching because of its connection to, for example, speaker identity. However, something that research has been able to establish quite clearly is that a speaker can have a strong accent yet be perfectly intelligible and comprehensible (i.e. easily understood). Instead of summarizing research papers published in this fascinating area, I've decided to post a few references for your perusal. This list is, of course, not exhaustive, and so feel free to add any (accent-related) articles you think would be worthwhile for L2 teachers and researchers to read.
Bao, Z. (2003). Social stigma and grammatical autonomy in nonnative varieties of English. Language in Society, 32(01), 23-46.
Buckingham, L. (2015). Shades of cosmopolitanism: EFL teachers' perspectives on English accents and pronunciation teaching in the Gulf. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 1-16.
Hayes-Harb, R., & Hacking, J. (2015). Beyond rating data: What do listeners believe underlies their accentedness judgments? Journal of Second Language Pronunciation, 1(1), 43-64.
Lev-Ari, S., & Keysar, B. (2010). Why don't we believe non-native speakers? The influence of accent on credibility. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46(6), 1093-1096.
Munro, M. J. (2003). A primer on accent discrimination in the Canadian context. TESL Canada Journal, 20(2), 38-51.
Munro, M. J., & Derwing, T. M. (1995). Foreign accent, comprehensibility and intelligibility in the speech of second language learners. Language Learning, 45(1), 73-97.
Murphy, J. (2014). Intelligible, comprehensible, non-native models in ESL/EFL pronunciation teaching. System, 42(0), 258-269.
At the end of January I had the privilege of attending/speaking at the 1st Mekong TESOL Conference in Can Tho, Vietnam (see Photo Gallery for photos). The conference theme "Tailoring English Teaching to Regional Needs" nicely captured what our field has been working hard to establish in the past couple of decades: every context is unique and a one-size-fits-all method, as was assumed with CLT in the 1980s and early 90s, does not work. It was great to see the conference being organized by local practitioners and researchers engaged in second language (L2) teaching in Vietnam. This was very much a conference by locals for locals. Overall, this experience gave me a renewed appreciation for L2 teaching in Southeast Asia. It also helped me better understand the challenges many L2 teachers face in Vietnam. In fact, I would really like to return to the Mekong region in the near future to conduct research on local teachers' practices (particularly on pronunciation pedagogy and speaking strategies) and what these practices mean for their students and their L2 learning process (although, granted, this would be an outsider's perspective on local practices). But for now, I'm going to incorporate some of these new insights into the graduate course on TESOL methodology I'm teaching this coming semester.
Interested in local pedagogy? Here are two books I think every instructor/researcher/administrator involved in L2 teaching needs to read:
Kumaravadivelu, B. (2006). Understanding language teaching: From method to postmethod. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
Canagarajah, S. A. (Ed.). (2005). Reclaiming the local in language policy and practice. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
I am a Lecturer in TESOL at the University of Wollongong in Australia. I blog about L2 learning, L2 teaching, L2 teacher education, and research.