Nurturing the Vocabulary Studies Tree

We recently published Vocabulary Theory, Patterning and Teaching edited by Paweł Szudarski and Samuel Barclay. In this post the editors discuss their book’s contribution to the flourishing field of vocabulary studies.

Let’s step back in time. It is the 1940s and we are sitting in the back of an English language class. The teacher is standing at the front reading a dialogue aloud. After listening, we voice first one character and then the other before completing substitution, transformation, and chain drills. Forty-five minutes later we recite the dialogue perfectly and leave the classroom smiling.

Cut to thirty years later, the 1970s, and the teacher has embraced the communicative approach. We are interacting with our classmates, completing discussion and problem-solving activities. We are encouraged to focus on transacting meaning and communicating fluently, and after another, slightly noisier, forty-five minutes we stand up to leave.

These two scenarios represent markedly different views of language, learning, and learners and yet they are similar in one very important way: neither adopts a principled approach to the teaching and learning of vocabulary. In 2021, although many curricula may still lack a systematic process of vocabulary selection, instruction, and recycling, the picture looks, on the whole, lexically richer, at least when it comes to empirical findings and a growing interest in this area. Vocabulary plays an increasingly central role in language teaching, and research into lexical studies has flourished over the past few decades. The field then, is in a healthy state.

This situation has not come about by chance but rather is the result of the consistent endeavour of a handful of individuals. These researchers nurtured the foundations of the field, providing the roots upon which current research activity proudly stands, actively cultivating the field from an overlooked sapling into the position of prominence it holds today. One of these scholars is Professor Norbert Schmitt, in whose honour this edited volume is written. Anyone who knows Second Language Acquisition and Vocabulary Studies knows Norbert from his considerable research contributions over the last 30 years, and perhaps also the colourful Tigger t-shirts he wears to conferences. He has written about various aspects of the field – teaching and learning, formulaic language, assessment, theory – and, crucially, for a variety of audiences – from textbooks for students and introductory books for instructors, to research manuals and reports for those who are more research oriented. In doing so, he has helped to ignite and sustain research interest in vocabulary, while nurturing the next generation of scholars and ensuring that students of applied linguistics have a positive educational experience.

This volume is, however, much more than an extended thank-you letter to Norbert. It presents cutting-edge research from prominent scholars in the field. There are nine experimental chapters organised into three sections – theory and assessment, formulaic language, and teaching and learning. Each section also contains an opening chapter written by leading scholars in the field of Vocabulary Studies, where they offer their perspective on the reported findings, their place within the wider area of lexical and applied linguistic research, and also make suggestions for future studies. In this way, the volume acts as a microcosm of Norbert’s career; it contains thought-provoking and innovative designs and methodologies, but also seeks to foster future research activity. There is also a fascinating preface written by Michael McCarthy and a hilarious afterword penned by Zoltan Dornyei, both of whom were Norbert’s colleagues and collaborators during his career at the University of Nottingham. The volume represents, to continue the metaphor started above, that the vocabulary tree is strong and healthy. It has solid roots and is growing ever bigger, expanding in different directions, and becoming denser in certain key areas. Thankfully, the more it develops, the more ground it has the capacity to influence, the more nutrients its products feed into the educational ecosystem. The image on the front cover of this volume is this tree and we hope that the reported findings sufficiently contribute to the foliage. We may have stretched the metaphor a little too far now, so let us make one final point before wrapping up.

This volume would not have been possible without our gracious contributors. Specific thanks go to Ana Pellicer-Sanchez. Not only has she co-authored a chapter, but she also suggested we contact each other when first I (Paweł) and then I (Sam) called her to discuss an idea for an edited volume. What started as an innocent chat in a small café in London has now turned into an academic publication we are deeply proud of. It has been a great pleasure to have worked together on this volume for the past three years. It has not been all hops and barley, but our work as editors was made easier by the energy and positivity of all the collaborators. It is a sign of the esteem in which Norbert is held that each and every person we emailed about contributing to the volume replied enthusiastically. We hope that you are similarly enthusiastic about the volume and look forward to hearing your thoughts. Happy reading!

Paweł Szudarski and Sam Barclay

For more information about this book, please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Perspectives on the L2 Phrasicon by Sylviane Granger.

Vulnerabilities, Challenges and Risks in Applied Linguistics

We recently published Vulnerabilities, Challenges and Risks in Applied Linguistics edited by Clare Cunningham and Christopher J. Hall. In this post Clare explains how the book came about, as well as its main themes.

Our new edited book Vulnerabilities, Challenges and Risks in Applied Linguistics was born out of the 2018 BAAL meeting held at York St John University. The theme was Taking Risks in Applied Linguistics, chosen in recognition of the need for focused discussion of risk in applied linguistics, given rapid change and consequent uncertainty both in world affairs and in the discipline itself. As we worked more on the book, though, it became clear that the theme of ‘risk’ often spilled over into the semantically related fields of ‘vulnerabilities’ and ‘challenges’. In the end, the contributors all approach the concepts of vulnerability, challenge and risk in different ways, playing with the multiple and nuanced meanings of the words.

At various points in the collection, risk is construed as an individual matter – perhaps the potential physical or psychological risks taken in innovative or even dangerous research, such as Kate Barber’s. Risk-taking can also be face-threatening or offer the potential for reputational damage, perhaps in the classroom, as explored by Sal Consoli and Michael Hepworth. Within our discipline, it can be risky to approach one’s writing in truly innovative ways, as Hanna Ennser-Kananen and Taina Saarinen do in their chapter, taking a flight of the imagination in Finland. But risk-taking is also institutional, in curriculum policy developments such as Liana Konstantinidou and Ursula Lanvers’ chapter. The risks of taking positive action such as these can be set in contrast to the risks of inaction, of not moving with the times, as Ursula Lanvers’ work on language policy in Anglophone countries shows.

The concept of vulnerability runs alongside these risks throughout the book. Individual researchers and teachers in applied linguistics make themselves vulnerable through innovative research design producing groundbreaking work as a result. But following Judith Butler’s lead, there is a tendency throughout the collection to acknowledge the value and affordances of vulnerabilities in marginalised communities for kick-starting the action and the work that leads to social change, as seen as Helen Sauntson’s, Luz Murillo’s, John Bosco Conama’s and Kristin Snoddon and Erin Wilkinson’s chapter.

The challenges faced in our society and for applied linguistics are well known – a lack of resources and of political will for change to deal with societal ‘wicked problems’. Applied Linguistics as a discipline also has the challenge of throwing off some of the shackles of the past and there remains much work to do to ensure that all voices are heard equally and respected. Of course, it was impossible for this collection to address all of the significant challenges of the future we face as a society. We only briefly (in our introduction) discuss the way the world has been affected by the Covid-19 global pandemic, and the even more pressing challenge of the climate emergency but we have hope that, with the examples of some of the fine research and practices in this book, our discipline is ready to offer what it can to tackle the impact of some of these immense challenges.

Clare Cunningham

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Decolonising Multilingualism by Alison Phipps.

“Being There” vs “Being Here”: Behind the Scenes of “English Learners’ Access to Postsecondary Education”

We recently published English Learners’ Access to Postsecondary Education by Yasuko Kanno. In this post the author takes us behind the scenes of the research presented in her book.

The hallmark of canonical ethnography, as Clifford Geertz once opined, is “being there”: You immerse yourself in a far-away place for months, even years, in order to document the cultural life of a group. But what if you are a full-time faculty member at a university with all the usual obligations of teaching and service? What if you also have a young child at home? Disappearing from the face of the earth to focus entirely on one’s ethnographic fieldwork doesn’t exactly fit into the reality of a working-parent academic. We need to be “here” teaching our classes, attending committee meetings, feeding our children while also trying to spend as much time as possible “being there.” It is under those conditions that I conducted my fieldwork for English Learners’ Access to Postsecondary Education.

I must say that the “balance” part of the (field)work-life balance went out of the window as soon as fieldwork began. For one thing, high schools in the United States start early. At Brighton High School (pseudonym), the site of this ethnography, the first class started at 7:46 am. To make it to the first class for an observation, I would wake up around 5:45 am, pack a lunch box for my eight-year-old, feed him breakfast, get ready myself, and leave home by 7am. Then, a typical fieldwork day would look like this:

7:35 am: Check in at the security desk at Brighton to get a visitor’s badge

7:46 – 9:05 am: Observe Alexandra in her geometry class

9:10 – 10:29 am: Dash to another room to make it to Carlo’s American Literature class—only to find him absent that day (once again!). I observe the class anyway.

10:34 am: Walk to the other end of the school building to Ken’s study hall classroom, pick him up, and we walk together to the library for an interview.

11:15 am: Finish the interview. I stay in the library and add to my fieldnotes before I go home.

I made it a rule never to leave the school premises for the day until I finished augmenting my fieldnotes because I knew that as soon as I left the field site, my second and third shifts as a faculty member and as a mom were waiting for me. When my fieldwork ran late in the afternoon, I would sometime arrive at my son’s school just barely before the afterschool care ended. I would then pick him up, drive home, make dinner, and then head out again for his soccer practice. While waiting, I might read an article for my next class—or if I was truly desperate, grade some papers. At night, after my son went to bed, I would finish up the outstanding emails for the day, noticing that other mom colleagues of mine with young children were also emailing after 11 pm.

But is an ethnography produced by the “new me” who has so many other responsibilities inherently worse than work by “PhD student me” who had the luxury of devoting weeks at a time to fieldwork? The answer is an emphatic no. For one thing, I am now a far more skilled and experienced ethnographer. I can detect, much faster and with far more clarity, how emerging patterns fit into a developing narrative and subsequently adjust my data collection to confirm or deny these initial assertions. For example, I was able to notice, early on, that high-level academic courses such as honors and advanced placement (AP) courses were essentially inaccessible to my participants because they were ELs. My early detection of this pattern then led me to observe honors and AP classes to find out what kind of learning my participants were excluded from. Also, my interactions with students and educators who hold vastly different worldviews from mine has, over the years, led me to become more self-reflective of my own biases. In this study, I worked with two very low-performing ELs, Carlos and Eddie, who were constantly at the edge of dropping out. Seeing their struggles to receive any kind of career guidance that did not involve college caused me to re-examine my own deeply-held bias that a college education ought to be a goal for everyone. I now firmly believe that effective career and technical education at the high school level can benefit students like Carlos and Eddie, who were not motivated to go to college but who had other talents and interests.

So, although starting another ethnographic project always throws a wrench into my already precarious work-life balance, it is the thrill of discovery and learning that takes me back to “being there” again and again.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Educating Adolescent Newcomers in the Superdiverse Midwest by Brian David Seilstad.

Volleyball – An Ethnographic Drama

We recently published Volleyball – An Ethnographic Drama by Adrian Blackledge and Angela Creese. In this post, the authors introduce their uniquely-presented research.

Volleyball – An Ethnographic Drama is made out of selected audio-recordings, video-recordings, field notes, interviews, summaries and vignettes. It is also made out of imagination. The drama is not naturalistic. In Act I, unable to keep the attention of a government minister, three academic researchers burst into passionate, rhythmic discourse about the game of volleyball. Throughout, the researchers speak directly to the audience, removing the ‘fourth wall’ which conventionally separates stage and audience. Dance is introduced into the drama, as the volleyball coach and players briefly become characters in a Broadway musical chorus line, or a ballet company. The researchers speak aloud their observational field notes, which in performance are spoken stage directions, pre-empting the actions of the players. At times, the researchers speak simultaneously with the character of the player or coach they are observing, completing their lines. They also synchronise their movements with the actions of players and coach.

Simultaneous action and speech show the researchers showing the action to the audience. The play script is principally to be performed rather than read. It is not a literal or realistic account of ethnographic research conducted in the sports hall with the volleyball team. It is an artistic means of making visible the social practice of ordinary life, and revealing it to the audience. By creating an artistic representation of social action, ethnographic drama intensifies and clarifies observed experience. It is here that drama has rich potential for the future of ethnographic research.

This is theatre which removes the illusion of the audience as the unseen spectator at an event that is really taking place. The presence of the researchers on stage emphasises that the audience is being shown aspects of human relationships and practices, and enables the audience to take a critical position in relation to them. In considering the most appropriate means of showing the multifaceted social action of a volleyball team, we saw that ethnographic drama offers a way of showing that can do more than the conventional research monograph. Ethnographic drama seems to offer a creative and critical means of representing the outcomes of ethnographic research.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like the authors’ previous books: Voices of a City Market and Interpretations – An Ethnographic Drama.

How Can Educators Promote School Success for Immigrant-Background Multilingual Learners?

We recently published Rethinking the Education of Multilingual Learners by Jim Cummins. In this post the author looks at how best to promote educational success among immigrant-background students.

Population mobility is at an all-time high in human history. The movement of people across national boundaries has resulted in significant increases in linguistic, cultural, ‘racial’, and religious diversity among school populations in countries around the world. Many of these students, whether born in the host country (second generation) or outside the host country (first generation) are experiencing academic difficulties according to multiple large-scale studies carried out over the past 20+ years by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Unfortunately, despite an abundance of research data on the nature and scope of underachievement, there is still no consensus among policymakers, educators, and researchers about which instructional practices will be effective in reversing the academic difficulties experienced by immigrant-background students.

In my recent book Rethinking the Education of Multilingual Learners, I proposed a framework that identified a series of evidence-based instructional strategies that educators, individually and collectively, could pursue to promote educational success among immigrant-background students. A first step in rethinking these issues was to ask the obvious question: ‘Which groups or categories of students are underachieving in our schools’? If we exclude students with special educational needs, international research identifies three groups that experience educational disadvantage: (a) students whose home language (L1) is different from the language of school instruction, (b) students from low socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds and (c) students from communities that have been margin­alised or excluded from educational and social opportunities because of discrimination in the wider society. Not surprisingly, students who fall into all three categories experience the most persistent educational disadvantage.

The relevance of this for educational policies and instructional practices is that teachers, individually and collectively, must go beyond simply linguistic support and respond also to the constriction of students’ opportunities to learn brought about by economic exclusion and societal discrimination. Unfortunately, however, no consensus has emerged among researchers or educators about how schools can ‘push back’ against the societal conditions that give rise to ‘opportunity gaps’ associated with poverty and racism.

With respect to socioeconomic disadvantage, the OECD research suggests that schools could push back about one-third of the negative effects of low-SES if they could maximize students’ access to print and engagement with reading from an early age. For more than 20 years, the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) has documented strong relationships between reading engagement and reading achievement, but unfortunately, these findings have been largely ignored by policymakers, and even by the OECD itself.

Schools can also counteract the effects of racism and other forms of discrimination by implementing identity-affirming instruction focused on decolonizing curriculum and connecting instruction to students’ lives and the funds of knowledge of their communities. The essence of this instruction is that it challenges coercive relations of power operating in schools and society.

Additionally, language support should include not just scaffolding of L2 instruction but also engaging students’ multilingual resources and reinforcing their awareness of how academic language (ideally both L1 and L2) works across the curriculum.

These whole-school instructional directions are not just ‘theoretical’ – they are derived from inspirational instructional initiatives implemented in countries around the world. These initiatives reflect teachers’ role as knowledge generators working collaboratively with university-based researchers both to promote identities of competence and confidence among multilingual students and to enable them to use language powerfully to support their learning, and ultimately make a difference in their worlds.

An Integrated Approach to Testing and Assessment

This month we published Multilingual Testing and Assessment by Gessica De Angelis. In this post the author explains what inspired the book.

Most education systems around the world have dealt with the problem of accommodating immigrant children into their classrooms and teaching academic content using languages that children do not speak or speak very little. The challenge becomes even greater when immigrant children live in multilingual communities and attend bilingual or trilingual programs, as teachers must find appropriate ways of introducing content in different languages, and children are asked to learn several languages from an early age.

Although immigration has helped bring to light many issues related to testing and assessment in school settings, and particularly in multilingual school settings, immigrants are not the only multilinguals for whom testing and assessment practices need to be improved. Having observed assessment processes in multilingual contexts for many years, I have found that multilingual language minority students are often invisible subjects, particularly on standardized tests which are not set up to accommodate their language backgrounds nor exposure to different languages in the living community. It is my work with these populations that led me to look into multilingual testing and assessment further and ultimately inspired this book.

In recent years, I have worked on a project that focused on how multilingual children in primary and lower secondary school develop narrative skills in three languages of instruction. The project took place in Ladin trilingual schools of South Tyrol, Italy. As the students in the schools were either of immigrant origin or local minority language children, this work led me to reconsider the boundaries posed by monolingual testing practices typically found in standardized tests, as well as those of holistic approaches to testing and assessment, which call for the inclusion of all students’ languages in testing. Because none of these approaches seemed inclusive enough for the population of students I was working with, I began to think of alternative ways of conceptualising testing and assessment that would be better suited to a broader range of multilinguals. This led me to propose the integrated approach to testing and assessment which is presented in the book – an approach that shifts the focus from how students use language in everyday communication to who the students are, what their language background is, and where they live.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Assessment for Learning in Primary Language Learning and Teaching by Maria Britton.

How Meanings are Made and Why They Matter

This month we published Transmodal Communications edited by Margaret R. Hawkins. In this post the editor introduces the main concepts covered in the book.

As applied linguists, we explore how language works in the world.  More recently, a number of us attend to languaging – seeing ‘language’ not a named, monolithic entity, but rather as a mobile, fluid resource leveraged in communication (in tandem with many other resources), replete with intentions, actions and effects. Central to the work of many is semiotics, or how meanings are made, which expands a focus on the act of leveraging resources to create (or assemble) messages to include the ‘arc of communication’ – or the ways in which messages are assembled, travel across time and space, and are received, interpreted and negotiated interactionally. While these aspects are always present in communication, they are perhaps especially prevalent (and generally less well attended to) in our current era of globalization, where messages move with increasing frequency and speed, through ever-changing modes and media, and across greater distances and diversities of people.

A central premise of this book is that communications matter, because they are the foundation of relations between people. And, as is perhaps obvious at the moment, relations between people (both translocal and transglobal) are rife with mistrust, misunderstanding and bias. We are all positioned by and within every communicative act – at both small and large scales – based on representations and interpretations, who interactants perceive themselves and others to be, and how these play out in situated interactions. All of these interactional components are in part shaped by our histories and trajectories, and our communicative means and modes, as well as by outside forces and ideologies that ascribe differential values to varied ways of knowing, being, believing, inter/acting, and so on. We (all contributing authors) start from a social justice stance – that communications and research across diversity must have the goal of fostering equitable and positive relations. We call this critical cosmopolitanism – we work to foster stances of openness, inquiry and care toward others both near and far.

Two additional concepts that this new book introduces (in addition to critical cosmopolitanism) are transmodalities and transpositioning. Transmodalities, at core, provides a framework for exploring and understanding communications among diverse interlocutors, including in (although not limited to) digital environments. It is comprised of five ‘complexities’, attending to the ways that human and material resources are fully entangled in communication; the above-mentioned arc of communication; and the centrality of both culture and context (including place and space) and of power and positioning in the construction of meanings. It is a conceptual structure that sees meaning-making as the totality of ever-shifting signs and symbols, fully entangled with people and things, moving across time and space, and continuously re-interpreted within and across multiple contexts. Each thing/person/sign/context is imbued with its own history and trajectory that shape what it is and means. We posit that each entity is caught up in these movements and mobilities, and is continuously positioned and re-positioned vis-à-vis one another. This is transpositioning, and its role in communications and relations is vital from a social justice perspective.

The book is comprised of multiple chapters that explore semiotics and relations through the lenses of critical cosmopolitanism and transmodalities across a range of domains, illustrating transpositioning in action and its implications. Chapter authors are part of a global research team, live in disparate geographic locations, and are connected in various ways to a project (Global Storybridges) that connects youth in sites across the globe to digitally share and discuss their lives and communities through videos and chats. While the first chapter lays the conceptual groundwork, each chapter thereafter (except the coda) utilizes different theoretical framings and ethnographically-informed exploratory approaches to consider data from the project – both site-specific and transglobal – to examine, at micro- and macro-levels, what exactly constitutes and impacts meaning-making, emerging notions of self and others, and the construction of relations among youth, among youth and adults, and among researchers. In this volume we demonstrate both how we might come to know and why it matters.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Figures of Interpretation edited by B.A.S.S. Meier-Lorente-Muth-Duchêne.

How are EAL Teachers Educated Around the World?

We recently published The Preparation of Teachers of English as an Additional Language around the World edited by Nihat Polat, Laura Mahalingappa and Hayriye Kayi-Aydar. In this post the editors explain the importance of studying teacher education in different settings.

The Preparation of Teachers of English as an Additional Language around the World fills a critical gap in this highly neglected area of educational research: international teacher education. No doubt, this is an area with great potential for the cross-pollination of ideas and actions. Why shouldn’t an innovative approach in teacher education in another country (e.g. in Finland) be adopted, appropriately reconditioned (as per contextual and sociocultural particularities), and utilized in other places (e.g. the US)?

Wouldn’t we all benefit from how the ideas of the great critical pedagogue Paulo Freire are incorporated in EAL teacher education in Brazil? Or, in Finnish and Korean EAL teacher education, how societal values such as trust, autonomy, and professional identity, are promoted? What about how, in nation-states like Greece, Russia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, EAL teacher education is considered critical for socioeconomic success and inte­gration (in science, technology, etc.) with the rest of the world. Or, how in Canada, New Zealand, and the US, multicultural and pluralistic values (e.g. cultural identity, sensitivity to contextual par­ticularities) are emphasized as part of ‘culturally responsive pedagogy’?  We can hear you say ‘Da?’ Indeed, there is no good reason for this not happening! Yet, unfortunately, this has not been the case.

With this goal in mind, this book focuses on the preparation of EAL teachers in 11 countries (Brazil, Canada, China, Finland, Greece, New Zealand, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Turkey and the USA). All chapters are built around four critical areas of comparison: policy, research, curriculum, and practice. We have taken this multicultural and multifaceted approach because we believe that a true understanding of high-quality teacher edu­cation is possible only when all major factors contributing to its overall strength are explored simultaneously.

All chapter authors, great researchers and teacher educators, took the same mul­tidimensional approach (and same chapter format) to the kind of data sources (e.g. policy documents, curriculum) that they utilized in writing their chapters. So, this volume will help teacher educators, policymakers, researchers and state education professionals, as well as teacher candi­dates and in-service EAL teachers, learn more about how EAL teachers are educated in different settings around the world. Our hope is that readers will use this volume to improve EAL teacher education in their setting. From national policy about EAL teacher recruitment, compensation, credentialing, quality benchmarks to curriculum mandates about knowledge, skills, dispositions, as well as clinical experience, and accreditation, this volume is truly a gold mine, with great potential.

For more information about this book please see our website

If you found this interesting, you might also like Preparing Teachers to Work with Multilingual Learners edited by Meike Wernicke, Svenja Hammer, Antje Hansen and Tobias Schroedler.

How Can Language Education Be Adapted for Senior Language Learners?

We recently published Insights into Senior Foreign Language Education by Marek Derenowski. In this post the author explains the particularities of working with senior learners and how teachers might alter their approach accordingly.

World society is constantly aging and in the next three to four decades the number of people who are over 65 years of age is going to triple. Population aging should be considered as a story of success. However, we need to remember that the process of aging should be accompanied with security, dignity, respect, avoidance of negative stereotyping, and complete social inclusion. If these conditions are met, longer life creates a unique opportunity to pursue new activities such as further education (lifelong learning) or long neglected passions.

In some cases, seniors attend education in order to compensate for lost opportunities in their younger life, to avoid social exclusion (e.g. non-citizens, immigrants), overcome the feeling of loneliness, and prevent depression. Others see learning as a perfect way to ‘exercise’ their memory and strengthen their (cognitive) thinking abilities. Regardless of their individual motives, seniors are constantly increasing their educational activity. This in turn creates new challenges for educators who need to create sufficient learning conditions for their older learners.

Teachers who work with senior learners often find this experience exhilarating. Senior learners are wonderful partners in the educational process. They are equipped with a wealth of life experience and are willing to share it in the classroom. They come to the classroom full of positive energy. Furthermore, seniors present a mixture of increased motivation and anxiety. On the one hand, they are afraid to present their private opinions in public. On the other hand, they are extremely motivated to participate, never skip a class, or forget their homework.

Working with senior learners requires a different approach and often focuses on building their confidence and reducing potential stress. In order to do so, teachers may:

  • Create and promote a friendly and relaxed atmosphere
  • Provide senior learners with more time during activities
  • Avoid traditional testing and think of alternative forms of assessment
  • Find out more about their motivations and reasons for joining the course
  • Develop techniques based on positive psychology in order to create empathy
  • Focus on providing positive feedback
  • Cater for any problems they may have with active participation

The relationship created between teachers and learners is always unique, regardless of their age and teaching/learning experience. Senior learners appreciate teachers who are well prepared, provide their learners with clear guidelines, and use a variety of teaching techniques. Furthermore, senior learners appreciate approachable teachers who value their life experience and are sympathetic. It is important to notice that senior learners do not pay attention to the age of the teacher who is usually younger than their learners. As long as the educator pays attention to their needs, caters for their well-being in the classroom, and organizes interesting lessons, seniors are willing and ready to engage.

David Bowie once said: ‘Aging is an extraordinary process where you become the person you should have always been’.  We should not see the passing time as a reason to hurry up and try to make up for all the lost opportunities. We should look for new challenges, also educational, and enjoy every moment of our lives. In the words of 20th century American baseball player Satchel Paige: ‘How old would you be if you did not know how old you are?’

Marek Derenowski, Adam Mickiewicz University Poznań/State University Konin, Poland
derenosiu73@gmail.com

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Third Age Learners of Foreign Languages edited by Danuta Gabryś-Barker.

Communication as Emergence and Possibility

This month we published The Transformative Materiality of Meaning-Making by David Parkin. In this post the author explains the book’s focus.

Words, and other forms of communication such as bodily gesture, facial expression, tone of voice or written text, are never innocent. They may hurt or soothe, please and enlighten, often in unexpected ways. They may also invite responses which may counter or reinforce the emotion expressed in the utterance, whether negative or positive. Or the speaker may expect silence as validating his/her authority over the listener. The listener may reject the speaker’s status and so redefine him/her and therefore themself.

The many choices involved in communicative exchange tend to fall into patterns depicting hierarchy, equality, competition or cooperation. Speakers’ and listeners’ utterances and responses can usefully be understood as transactions. Like the exchange of gifts, they can evoke many different sentiments, follow set rules or deploy various strategies to get round these rules.

By looking at human communication cross-culturally, we see that such patterns broadly exist everywhere. But their details vary and we may regard communicative transactions as ontological variations on a range of recognizable themes. By defining and redefining identities and prompting sensory responses, communicative exchange has material effect as well as itself made material through semiotic transactions.

The chapters in the book use ethnography to illustrate the themes of communicating as ‘becoming’, the transformational dynamics of political speech and rhetoric, and the hidden power behind allusion and similar ambiguities. We can look ahead to future work on this materiality of meaning-making. For instance, when people communicate bodily through gesture, eyes and face as well as through voice, noise, silence, texts, objects and spatial position, they experiment with the different senses that such materiality can evoke. Multi-modal communication is thus multi-sensory.

In communicating with each other, humans may conform to expectations but often experiment in how they can affect outcomes. Poiesis is a concept that captures this creativity. It connotes something emerging from a previous state: someone communicates in an unexpected and even outrageous way and effects a new mode of meaning and interaction.

We ask here what makes language and communication generally change. ‘Chance’ variations of syntax, grammar, phonetics, lexicon, topic and the influence of wider events trigger structural change. But what role do the senses play in transforming how humans communicate above and beyond structure? And do the senses mediate and reconcile interpersonal communication and impinging world contexts?

For more information about this book please see our website

If you found this interesting, you might also like Chronotopic Identity Work edited by Sjaak Kroon and Jos Swanenberg.