Inspired by Bill Acton’s recent blog post on the TESOL Convention held in Toronto last March, I’ve decided to write up a few of my own thoughts and impressions about AAAL and TESOL (see photo gallery for pictures of my trip).
2015 AAAL Conference:
This was my first AAAL conference. It’s a different “crowd” at AAAL than the one that attends TESOL, and the sheer amount of empirical research presented at the event was a bit overwhelming and almost impossible to process at times. Nevertheless, I very much enjoyed the experience. I was fortunate to present some of my doctoral research, and I received valuable feedback from the audience. The morning and afternoon refreshments (or what they “call morning and afternoon tea” in Australia) were simply amazing, especially given the relatively low registration fee for full-time students. The coffee, juice, sweets, fruit etc was not only a welcome way to replenish some of the energy spent pondering over research and various applied linguistics-related issues, but also a wonderful opportunity to network, socialize and chat with some of the experts on whose work I draw in my own research.
One thing that was interesting was that relatively few sessions included any sort of classroom application (I felt the same way at AILA last year). I realize that the focus of AAAL is generally more on research than it is on the pedagogical side of things. Sometimes I wish, however, that presenters at these research-focused conferences would make explicit connections to the classroom, because the bottom line is that research in applied linguistics informs practice (and vice versa).
2015 TESOL Convention:
At TESOL, much like at AAAL, identity and teacher cognition were prominent topics (in fact, identity was the AAAL conference theme). The timing was ideal, as I’m currently working (with Amanda Baker and Honglin Chen) on a paper exploring the identity formation of pronunciation instructors. Thus, several of the sessions focusing on identity and/or cognition allowed me to gather some new ideas and references I may be able to incorporate into our paper.
One of the highlights of the conference was a session I attended on TESOL’s new research agenda. During the session I was fortunate to discuss my research with two fellow PhD students and with former TESOL president Jun Liu. Jun gave us some excellent feedback on our doctoral studies, and then each of us was given 1 minute to present to a group of about 40 people how our doctoral research aligned with TESOL’s research agenda.
The haptic workshop several colleagues/friends and I did went really well. We used tennis balls to train the audience in various haptic pronunciation teaching techniques. It was a blast and the people loved it! My research-based presentation on Thursday afternoon was received well, too. This was the session for which I received the “TESOL Award for an Outstanding Paper on NNEST Issues.” Receiving that award was definitely one of the most significant events of my career so far. The paper is currently under review; hence, I hope to get it published soon.
During my week in Toronto, I had many excellent conversations, and I was able to catch up with numerous friends and former colleagues. Attending AAAL and TESOL was tremendously inspiring, and I gained a lot of energy from talking to all these knowledgeable and passionate practitioners and researchers. Unfortunately, it appears that the two events won’t be piggybacked anymore. Not having the conferences back-to-back in the same town is going to be a real shame because (if I continue to live in Australia) it’s unlikely that I’ll be able to make it to both events in the same year. Keeping AAAL and TESOL separate may make sense logistically, but I don’t think it serves the language teaching profession well.
Lastly, spending time in Toronto was simply amazing. I’d never been to Toronto and I must confess that I’d always considered Toronto to be a boring place (in comparison to Calgary and Vancouver). Having spent an entire week there, however, I’ve had to come to the conclusion that Toronto is a vibrant city with many exciting things to do. I’d love to return in the summer (when it’s not -18C).
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.