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!
At the end of June, I had the privilege of traveling to Vietnam (with several colleagues from UOW) to attend the 2nd Mekong TESOL Conference. Prior to the conference, we were able to spend two days in Ho Chi Minh City, which is, without a doubt, one of the most vibrant and chaotic places I have ever been to. The traffic is relentless and the place never sleeps; yet, exploring the city was fun, and we made sure to include plenty of stops at local coffee shops (love the weasel coffee!). The conference committee then organized a coach for us to travel down to Can Tho where the conference was held. The 4-hour drive through the countryside was stunning, and spending three days in Can Tho was exciting. I can’t remember the last time I ate that much food, including Pho at the floating market and several enormous lunches and dinners to which we were invited.
The conference, with its theme Think Globally, Act Locally, generated stimulating and interesting discussions. It was an ideal venue for local English teachers to explore a wide variety of relevant language teaching and research issues. The ~350 attendees provided some great networking opportunities, too. Unfortunately, the day after the conference I felt pretty crook. The timing was definitely not ideal, as I was scheduled to deliver an all-day workshop at Gaviet Language Center for Vietnamese English teachers on how to teach pronunciation to young learners. In spite of feeling a bit off, the workshop went well, and the participants seemed to enjoy the opportunity to learn about pronunciation instruction. The next day, five of us flew to Phu Quoc Island where we spent four relaxing days. We snorkeled, fished, and explored the island by car (we had a driver). The beaches, the night market, and the seafood were incredible, but the rapid resort development, the simple lifestyle in some of the local villages, and the ever-present garbage lying around were a bit of an eye-opening experience. It made my sore stomach and emerging toothache feel almost irrelevant.
Overall, the 11 days in Vietnam were an incredibly enriching experience. I learned a lot about this fascinating country and its friendly people. I’ll be back, for sure!
I’ve just returned to Australia after spending seven exciting weeks in Japan. Having gained extensive experience and further education since leaving my teaching job in Japan in 2003 has enabled me to observe English education/teaching in Japan somewhat differently and more critically. Having three children attend Japanese public school this year has also provided me with fascinating insights. These are not ground-breaking observations, and they are meant to be factual and not judgmental in nature:
My 12-year old son is attending junior high school in Japan this year. Even though his first language is English, he is required to sit through all of the English language classes. My wife met with the school principal a few weeks ago to discuss an alternative option, but she was told that there was nothing that could be done. Initially, attending English class seemed to be a total waste of his time, but then I realized that this was in fact quite an interesting context. How often does a kid who is highly proficient in a language need to sit through a beginning level class while his classmates don’t speak the language at all? So, to explore my son's perspective on English teaching at a Japanese junior high school, I’m going to have weekly (5-10 minute) interviews with him. I’m really not sure where this little project is going, but here are a few interesting points he has mentioned so far:
Johnston, S. (2002). A Japanese 3rd grade classroom: The individual within the group. Childhood Education, 78(6), 342-348.
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.