How to Teach Adult Second Language Learners with Limited Literacy

This month we published Teaching Adult Immigrants with Limited Formal Education edited by Joy Kreeft Peyton and Martha Young-Scholten.

Adult education for learners of a new language has always been an extremely diverse sector, with classes taught in different contexts, from universities and community/further education colleges to community and faith-based organizations. Adults also have many different life situations along with varying goals, aspirations, and needs. Most diverse are adult immigrants with respect to their home language as well as educational background and literacy skills. Their diversity presents challenges for teacher training and professional development, challenges which are greatest for full-time teachers as well as part-time teachers and volunteer tutors who work with adults with limited formal education and literacy.

A practitioner survey was conducted by the 2010-2018 EU-Speak Project. Results revealed that limited opportunities exist in most countries for dedicated training or professional development to impart the knowledge and develop the skills needed for effective work with these learners, and it was on this basis that EU-Speak designed six online modules in five languages. These modules continue to be offered by a post-EU-Speak project team and are self-standing and independent of the volume emerging from the project, Teaching Adult Immigrants with Limited Formal Education, which provides readers with more in-depth coverage of module topics, particularly in terms of relevant research. Readers of the volume will discover that there is a dearth of research on these immigrant adults’ language acquisition and, to a somewhat lesser extent, their literacy development. An expectation of the editors and chapter authors is that the volume will inspire readers to contribute to this research base. Accordingly, the online modules facilitate contact with chapter authors, who are also module designers and lead modules when they are delivered.

When all six modules were offered twice from 2015 to 2018, feedback from practitioners was as the EU-Speak team had hoped. Module participants reported that they felt “compelled to explore and research each of the topics” and “happy with the possibility of sharing the resources I found and that some people liked”. They found the content that addresses “the phonological components of language and the books for pleasure reading” especially useful. And they noted they feel much better prepared for their work and have more confidence and more tools.

The project ended in August 2018 and, since then, the EU-Speak team has continued to deliver modules. Most recently (winter 2019), the team delivered ‘Acquisition and Assessment of Morphosyntax,’ adding a sixth language, Italian. Egle Mocciaro, who recently completed her PhD on the Italian morphosyntax of immigrants with limited literacy, helped lead the module with chapter authors and module designers Martha Young-Scholten and Rola Naeb. From May to July 2020, ‘Reading in a LESLLA Context’ is being delivered, led by chapter author and module designer Marcin Sosinski, assisted by Enas Filimban (whose recent PhD addresses immigrant adults’ early reading development in English) and Martha Young-Scholten. Fall 2020 will see ‘Bilingualism and Multilingualism,’ led by chapter author and module designer Belma Haznedar; and in winter 2021, ‘Vocabulary Acquisition’ will be offered, led by chapter author and designer Andreas Rohde with his team in Cologne.

Larry Condelli says about the book, “While there is voluminous research on how children learn to read in their native language, [research on] the learning process for adult second language learners with limited literacy is sparse. [… ] Those who work with adult migrants, to improve their literacy and language skills and integrate them in their new countries, need research-based knowledge to understand how to teach these learners and help them improve their lives. The chapters of this book provide current and insightful research on the reading development process for adult migrants with limited literacy. Each chapter brings to light new research and unique insights into the reading process and fills a void in previously unexamined areas for migrant adults with unique characteristics.”

Martha Young-Scholten, Newcastle University, martha.young-scholten@newcastle.ac.uk

Joy Kreeft Peyton, Center for Applied Linguistics, Washington, DC, joy@peytons.us

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Educating Refugee-background Students edited by Shawna Shapiro, Raichle Farrelly and Mary Jane Curry.

Global Englishes in Asia: 10 Things for Language Teachers to Take Away

This month we published Critical Perspectives on Global Englishes in Asia edited by Fan Fang and Handoyo Puji Widodo. In this post the editors list 10 important things for language teachers to take away from the book.

As language researchers and practitioners, we frequently encounter the unequal use of languages where different languages co-exist. This inequality happens because some languages are deemed as dominant or major languages, while others are considered minor or underrepresented languages from socio-historical and socio-political perspectives. In more multilingual contexts, socio-economic and cultural globalisation exerts influence upon the status of a particular language. For example, English has gained popularity as an international language, a transcultural language, and a global lingua franca in which people of different countries with different linguistic and cultural backgrounds interact with each other for different purposes, such as education, business and tourism.

Critical Perspectives on Global Englishes in Asia reframes our English language education by situating the theory of Global Englishes into English language policy, curriculum, pedagogy and assessment. Here are 10 important things for language teachers to take away from the book:

  1. Raising a critical awareness of the global spread of English to challenge the ownership of English – as English is used as a global language, no certain country can really own the language
  2. Going beyond the prescribed language curriculum to experience real-life communication with people of different lingua-cultural backgrounds – it is important to go beyond classroom instruction and encourage independent learning for learners to discover linguistic and cultural diversity
  3. Engaging with both native and non-native English accents themselves and providing such accent exposure to students – this is of pivotal importance because many textbooks today still focus (only) on Anglophone varieties of English and may serve as an agent of the native speakerism ideology
  4. Focusing on communication strategies instead of teaching dominant English accents through drilling from a de-contextualised approach. Language teachers may teach students how to re-appropriate their own English accents
  5. Understanding and introducing local varieties and other varieties of Englishes so that students can increase their awareness of different Englishes used in different countries
  6. Designing curricula that fit their students’ needs and goals of English learning – it is important to contextualise ELT practices
  7. Designing testing and assessment that contextualise the situation of learning and reflect students’ needs. Language assessment can be New Englishes-sensitive
  8. Understanding linguistic and cultural diversity and respecting students’ use of L1 and translanguaging practices – learners’ linguistic resources should be recognised instead of reinforcing an English only classroom
  9. Challenging the fixed native speakerism model and norm of English language teaching – such awareness should also be developed in job application and recruitment processes
  10. Challenging the native/whiteness privilege and non-native/race marginalisation to readdress both teachers’ and students’ identities

This edited volume both theoretically and practically addresses various issues and involves both established and emergent scholars to present a critical perspective of English language education in the Asian context. We understand that such ‘things to take away’ may not be generalised in every context. The issue, however, is how language educators, policymakers, and recruiters view the English language from an ecological perspective to respect multilingualism and multiculturalism.

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like English as a Lingua Franca for EFL Contexts edited by Nicos C. Sifakis and Natasha Tsantila.

Using a Narrative Approach to Explore Teaching Practice

This month we are publishing Narratives of Adult English Learners and Teachers by Clarena Larrotta. In this post the author discusses her choice to use narratives to present a picture of adult language learning.

Working as a university professor of adult education and TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages), I came to realize there was not a book that could help the graduate students in my classes to grasp the reality of teaching English and literacy related subjects to adult learners. Similarly, interacting with volunteer adult educators who did not have language/pedagogy training and who volunteer as ESL instructors because they know the language and have time to do so, I realized there was not a book I could recommend for them to read and that captured the voices of both adult language learners and teachers. Therefore, this book was born as a response to these two groups of people when they asked, ‘what can I read to get a good picture of what is going on with regards to teaching adult language learners and non-traditional adult learners?’

Considering this audience, narratives and storytelling seemed to be the perfect medium to transmit a powerful and memorable message to them. I wanted them to understand that we need to go beyond theory and outside the classroom walls to include community and envision adult learners as whole human beings. Older learners are among the least studied groups in the literature and many of them take on new challenges as they migrate to a new country, and as they face the need to learn a new language-culture.

Providing an account of both narratives (adult learners’ and teachers’) aimed to inspire trainee teachers and practitioners in the field of adult education to become better and more reflective teachers. The book supports the idea of preparing trainee teachers for actual scenarios they are likely to encounter with adult language learners and colleagues in adult education programs. Likewise, the volume invites actual adult educators to reflect on their practices and contemplate the realities of the learners they serve. In summary, the book aims to honor the work of language learners and TESOL practitioners and to share highlights from their learning/teaching journeys.

The narratives in this book make accessible the stories shared by learners and teachers as they lived them in real-life settings. The book chapters and their respective stories contain a beginning, middle and end. The beginning provides the context and supporting theory, the middle presents the main issues to be considered and the end gives clo­sure to the reader. As a result, each chapter introduces (1) the participants in the story – teachers’ and learners’ experiences and their interactions; (2) the context, socio-political, and socio-cultural dimensions; and (3) the physical settings where the story is located -the program, the course, the language-culture and country of origin. The learners’ stories allow teachers to gain empathy and cultural knowledge. A narrative approach to exploring one’s teaching practice leads to a better understanding of that context and hopefully sharing this learning will promote change and encourage other teachers to make sense of and reflect on their personal teaching stories as well.

Clarena Larrotta, PhD
Texas State University
CL24@txstate.edu

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Educating Refugee-background Students edited by Shawna Shapiro, Raichle Farrelly and Mary Jane Curry.

What is the Role of Teachers in the US Struggle over Mexican and Central American Immigration?

This month we published Teacher Leadership for Social Change in Bilingual and Bicultural Education by Deborah K. Palmer. In this post she explains how teachers give her hope during the political struggle over immigration along the US southern border. 

I believe that in the United States we will look back upon these years as a dark time in our history. The political struggle over immigration along our southern border has led to more and more direct and blatant attacks on human rights, not only from angry reactionary citizens but from the government and its institutions. Since 2016 there has been an uptick in scapegoating of immigrants, Muslims, Latinas/os, and people of color. At this point, documented neo-Nazis and White Supremacists occupy official roles in the Trump White House and are running for public office in the upcoming election, and President Trump’s appointed attorney general Jeff Sessions – the official charged with protecting civil rights – has a long history of racist stances.

At the same time, for many years US foreign policy in Mexico and Central America has contributed to increases in gang- and drug-related violence, which in turn continues to drive more and more people – often unaccompanied youth and families with young children – to seek safety in the United States. Mr. Sessions and the Trump administration have moved toward a “zero tolerance” policy toward these immigrants and refugees.

I find this concept, “zero tolerance”, to be emblematic of Trump’s era in our country. Why would so many Americans, most of whose ancestors came into the country as religious or economic refugees, embrace an ideology of intolerance?

As a teacher educator and former bilingual teacher, I constantly ask myself what is the role of teachers – particularly bilingual teachers – in the face of “zero tolerance”? In truth, elementary bilingual education and ESL teachers offer me hope. These are professionals on the front lines of our immigration crisis, working every day with the children and families who are the target of the worst attacks. Critically conscious teachers engaging in culturally sustaining pedagogies, give their students a safe and welcoming space every day where they can learn and grow, where they are not merely “tolerated” but fully embraced and welcomed in the United States.

Teachers have long inspired me. Whenever I am concerned about the state of the world, I turn to critically-engaged teachers, and draw inspiration from their work. The work of teachers is complex and multi-faceted; teaching well, and teaching diverse multilingual communities of children, requires a wide range of skills and dispositions. In my work with experienced teachers seeking their master’s degrees, I’ve begun to notice some patterns: teachers who are successful at creating and enacting curriculum that will support diverse students’ identities and build their academic skills all seem to share at least the following characteristics: they are willing to take risks and take stands; they are deeply reflective and aware of larger systems of oppression and the tools to counter oppression; and they network and connect with other teachers, families and communities to find the resources they need.

For example, a pair of fourth grade teachers in Austin, Texas developed a curricular unit on the topic of immigration that integrates high quality multilingual/multicultural children’s literature with their students’ own families’ stories to engage students and their families in a month-long exploration of history/language arts/geography. One of these teachers, working with her school librarian, has developed a webpage offering resources for locating and using culturally-relevant literature for the elementary classroom. Another former pre-kindergarten teacher from Austin has moved into full-time activism as a union organizer and has organized resources to put on periodic citizenship drives for the immigrant community. A team of dual language bilingual teacher coaches from Round Rock, Texas (outside Austin) worked together within the leadership structures of their traditionally English-dominant school district to offer all their growing population of Spanish-speaking students – and many of their English-speaking students too – a strong, enriching dual language bilingual education program.

Teachers are so often the ones who build systems both within and beyond their classrooms to ensure their students can adapt and grow in their new homes. Bilingual teachers in particular are bridges; they are advocates for their immigrant students, and they are among our best ambassadors.

For more information about this book please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Restrictive Language Policy in Practice by Amy J. Heineke.

Exploring Feminist Pedagogy in TESOL

This month we published The Socially Responsible Feminist EFL Classroom by Reiko Yoshihara. In this post the author explains what inspired her to write the book and what we can expect from reading it.

The main purpose of the book is to explore feminist pedagogy in TESOL (Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages). Although I focus on the teaching practices of self-identified feminist EFL educators in Japanese universities, I hope to make connections to TESOL more broadly. To obtain a deep understanding of their feminist teaching practices, I explored the feminist teachers’ identities and teaching beliefs. The idea for The Socially Responsible Feminist EFL Classroom grew out of the frustration I experienced when I saw and heard of hesitation, resistance and accusations against feminist teaching from other ESL/EFL (English as a second language/English as a foreign language) teachers. What are our responsibilities as university ESL/EFL teachers? What can we do as ESL/EFL teachers to prepare students for their future? Should we teach only English grammar, vocabulary and linguistic information, and have students improve their English proficiency? I believe that our responsibility is to teach social equality and justice along with the language practice and to educate our language students to become socially responsible world citizens. To promote social equality and justice, teaching about global issues, environmental problems, and human rights and gender issues in ESL/EFL classes should be paid attention to.

In order to understand what is going on in the feminist EFL classroom in Japanese universities, I worked with eight participants who were self-identified feminist teachers (three American women, one American man, one British woman, two Japanese women, one Japan-born Korean women) who taught EFL at university level in Japan. To accomplish this goal, I conducted feminist narrative research. Drawing on poststructural feminist theory of identity, I examined the construction of their feminist teacher identities in social and cultural contexts. I also examined stories addressing the questions of what teaching beliefs individual feminist teachers held, how their feminist identities connected with their teaching beliefs and practices, and how they reflected their teaching beliefs in their teaching practices. This examination provided many major and minor ways of feminist teaching in Japanese university EFL classrooms. On the other hand, I found some incompatibility among feminist teacher identities, teaching beliefs and classroom practices. Poststructural feminist views helped examine incompatible relationships between identities, beliefs and practices.

My hope is that this book will succeed in establishing a new direction in language education research by drawing attention to a powerful, yet under-researched group of teachers. Readers with a passion for learning more about feminist pedagogy in TESOL will find inspiration and ideas for moving forward in this pursuit. In addition, I hope ESL/EFL researchers who are interested in feminist teaching will see this book as an invitation to continue the scholarly conversation and to build a research space for investigating feminist pedagogy within the TESOL field.

For more information about this book, please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Identity, Gender and Teaching English in Japan by Diane Hawley Nagatomo and Being and Becoming a Speaker of Japanese by Andrea Simon-Maeda.

What Will You Do With the Rest of Your Life? Consider Working With English Learners!

This month we published Sarah J. Shin’s book English Language Teaching as a Second Career which is the first book in our new series CAL Series on Language EducationIn this post, Sarah discusses the experiences of people who embark upon a new career as an English teacher later in life.

English Language Teaching as a Second CareerConsider the following statistics: A 45-year-old American woman who remains free of heart disease and cancer can expect to see her 92nd birthday; a 45-year-old man in similar condition, his 88th birthday. This means that today’s 45-year-olds who maintain reasonably good health can look forward to living another half of their lives. Throughout much of human history, 40 was regarded as a fairly ripe old age. But with extraordinary advances in biomedicine in the last century, longevity has become a global reality.

As a result of dramatically increased life expectancy, a new developmental stage has emerged in the life cycle. The period between the end of young adulthood and the onset of true old age can easily cover a span of four or five decades.

An important consequence of increased life expectancy is that people need to be able to support themselves financially for more years. A 62-year-old person today could easily require 30+ years of retirement income. This motivates people to work beyond the traditional retirement age of 65. Four out of five baby boomers expect to work well into what used to be known as the retirement years.

What distinguishes this new generation of adults in terms of work is that they are moving beyond midlife careers in search of a calling in the second half of life. They focus on what matters most and are no longer satisfied to work simply to bring home the paycheck. They look for deeper meaning in what they do and are more interested in having an impact on the world around them. Driven by a sense of ‘If not now, when?’, they are able to break away from their former limitations and break new ground on the kind of work they choose to do.

As an English as a second language (ESL) teacher educator at a university, I interact with a growing number of people in their forties, fifties and sixties, who find satisfaction in helping students learn English. Many are actively involved in tutoring and volunteer work with literacy organizations in their communities, where they interact with immigrants and refugees from around the world. These individuals are moving beyond midlife careers in search of a calling in the second half of life, and many consider teaching to be that calling.

In my book, English Language Teaching as a Second Career, I explore what is on the minds of these adults, what they are looking for in their work with English learners and what their experiences are like as they return to school to be trained for a career in education alongside folks in their twenties and thirties. I provide portraits of these individuals as they develop as teachers and describe the processes they go through to launch their teaching careers, and the evolving significance of their work in their overall life goals and achievements.

With longevity a new global reality, the trend we see today of adults returning to school to be trained for a different career will continue in the coming years. The question is how will we create a shared vision for lifelong learning that helps individuals to experiment with new ideas and different types of work, regardless of where they are in the life cycle?

Sarah J. Shin, University of Maryland Baltimore County

For more information about this book, please see our website. You might also be interested in the recent interview with the editors of the CAL Series on Language Education on our blog.

First and Second Language Use in Asian EFL

This month we published Ross Forman’s new book First and Second Language Use in Asian EFL which explores the issue of using students’ first language in the English language classroom.

First and Second Language Use in Asian EFLAnyone who has taught English in Asia will know that classroom practices and teacher/student roles are often quite different from what we might expect in Western contexts. In other words, I refer of course to the fundamental differences of pedagogy which exist between ESL and EFL.

When I first made the move from teaching ESL in Sydney, Australia to teaching EFL at a Thai university back in the 1980s, I found that so many of my assumptions had to be questioned. One above all struck me: the role of L1 in teaching. Then, as now, L1 use in L2 classes was generally curtailed or even forbidden by a number of Ministries of Education in Asia.

When back in Sydney, I kept in touch with Thai colleagues. And then, twenty years later in the early 2000s I took the opportunity to return to my former workplace, but this time as a researcher, to explore with bilingual local teachers how and why they made use of L1 in L2 teaching. Perhaps due to my existing relationships, and perhaps also due to my declared intent to ‘find out why’ rather than to problematise the use of L1, I was able to get fascinating data from nine local teachers through lesson observation and interview.

Teachers were able to speak of the pedagogic value of L1 – speed, accuracy, ensuring that all students could follow the lesson; as well as its affective value – how speakers of L2 ‘feel different’ in the foreign tongue, and how this affords feelings of anxiety, apprehension and joy. Every teacher felt that without some judicious recourse to L1, their teaching of English would be greatly diminished.

Looking at the bigger picture, time and again I was led to see how a newly developing L2 becomes embedded into the existing L1. There are flows of meaning which are multiplicative across two languages; their impact has been under-explored and under-valued to date. Looking specifically at Asian contexts, my book aims to give local EFL teachers a voice in explaining why and how they do what they do.

For more information about this book, please see our website

The Future of K-12 Teaching is Content-Based Instruction

This week we published Kate Mastruserio Reynolds’ book Approaches to Inclusive English Classrooms which attempts to bridge the gap between theory and practice to prepare teachers for the needs of English language learners (ELL). In this post, she gives us some background to the book.

“Greetings all, I am the ESL Department chair at NAME High School in CITY, TX, which is located in the largest refugee neighborhood in the city. Our current enrollment is 61% ELL, but we expect to be more than 70% ELL next year, so we are looking to expand our team. We have a diverse mix of students from all over South Asia, Africa, and Latin America, many with limited or interrupted schooling. We are looking specifically for TESOL or CELTA certified teachers with experience teaching teens or adults, and ideally with experience teaching English for Academic Purposes or for Specific Purposes, as most of our ESL classes are content support classes (English for Science, English for Math, etc.).”

This job announcement posted today on a jobs list might sound like gibberish for many pre-service educators or teachers just entering the job market. The knowledge of English as a second language (ESL) that inform this advert start with the acronyms, ESL, ELL, TESOL, CELTA and advance to ‘English for Academic Purposes and for Specific Purposes’ and ‘ESL classes are content support classes (English for Science, English for Math, etc.)’ Although this position is for an ESL specialist, increasingly content area educators (i.e. teachers of Math, Sciences, Social Studies/History, Literature and Language Arts) are called upon to work with learners whose first language is not English.

Approaches to Inclusive English ClassroomsBy 2050, US national statistics indicate that English language learners (ELLs) will be the majority of learners in the US K-12 public schools. Not only are many educators not adequately prepared for this change in the demographics of our school system, neither is our teacher preparation system. Pre-service teachers, those in the process of gaining teacher licensures at universities, rarely are provided any information or training on the ELLs they will encounter in their professional work. Many in-service teachers are confronted by this lack of preparation and need to gain more professional preparation in the field of ESL in order to sufficiently meet the unique linguistic needs of the second language learners.

It is not an easy fix. There is a lot to ‘sufficiently meet the unique linguistic needs’ of second language learners. Teachers cannot simply make one change to their instruction, like using cooperative learning, in order to scaffold instruction for ELLs. First, teachers need to be aware of how they communicate with students. They need to become culturally knowledgeable about the learners’ cultures and strive to make their own speech comprehensible to the language learners. Second, they need to be able to teach the skills of language—speaking, listening, reading and writing—as well as grammar and vocabulary. I’m not talking about the traditional grammar translation method here either. Teachers need to be savvy in their use of time to situate grammar into the content material they are teaching. For example, they need to teach how to write using regular past tense (–ed form) when describing the accomplishments of ancient China in Social Studies class.

Several models and methodologies to approaching the instruction of ELLs have emerged in the field of ESL/EFL, called content-based instruction (CBI). All these models (CALLA, SIOP, RtI, etc.) focus on various ways to engage ELLs and teach them content and language simultaneously. No one method is a cure all. All of them have their advantages and drawbacks. Some of them were developed for specific contexts and populations, such as the ExC-ELL model that emphasizes academic literacy for a non-native speaking population who have strong oral proficiency skills in English. Knowing which methods to employ and when with which population is one way that I would like to empower K-12 educators.

My book, Approaches to Inclusive English Classrooms: A Teacher’s Handbook for Content-Based Instruction, addresses these issues and more in a practical way that provides insight for pre-service and in-service teachers on teaching ELLs effectively.

If you would like more information about Kate’s book please see our website.

The Language of Adult Immigrants

Earlier this month we published Elizabeth R. Miller’s latest book The Language of Adult Immigrants. Here, she explains a bit more about how the book came about.

The Language of Adult ImmigrantsI am excited to have my research finally appear in book form. The folks at Multilingual Matters have been remarkably helpful, courteous, efficient, and professional throughout the long process.

I have been interested in learning more about the experiences of adult immigrants for a number of years and most of my publications draw on the things I have learned as I interacted with these individuals, in ESL classrooms and in interview conversations. I am repeatedly impressed by their ability to create lives for themselves and their children in situations where so much of the linguistic, cultural, and social activity around them is strange or inaccessible.

One woman whom I interviewed for this book told me that her husband helps out in her nail salon because of a workplace injury that had occurred a number of years before and that left him unable to do heavy physical work with his hands. She recounted that while he was fixing some equipment owned by the cement company he worked for, he cut his hand and arm badly. But instead of letting the injury heal properly, he took off the binding wrapped around his hand and went back to work because he was afraid he would lose his job if he didn’t. She said, “We don’t know and we don’t know everything and we don’t understand. We don’t speak English.” As a result of not knowing what he could or could not do in that situation, and fearing the worst, his hand and arm are permanently disabled.

It doesn’t take an applied linguist to discover that the lives of first generation immigrants are often difficult and marked by feelings of helplessness, as illustrated in my interviewee’s account of her husband. And yet the individuals whom I interviewed for this book had all managed to open their own businesses. In many cases they were rearing families. And all had managed to learn English—often not in ESL classrooms but through informal interactions in their workplaces.

How did they see themselves as able to pull off these accomplishments despite the daily difficulties that are part of the immigrant experience? That was one of the questions that motivated my attempts to better understand the notion of agency, especially in relation to their acting to learn English.

The understanding I have come to at this stage in my research is that it is problematic, sometimes dangerous, to “place” agency “inside” people.  But, as with all complex human experiences, there is another “side” to this perspective.  I have also come to understand that when we accept or perceive that we are agentive beings, we are motivated to take actions that are often difficult and require extreme effort. There is no simple, tidy explanation for agency and language learning. In fact, it took a whole book for me to grapple with it.

If you would like more information about this book please go to our website.

Collaborative Writing in L2 Classrooms

Earlier in July we published Collaborative Writing in L2 Classrooms by Neomy Storch. Here, Neomy tells us what inspired her to write the book.

Collaborative Writing in L2 ClassroomsMy interest in collaborative writing; that is, the co-production of a text by two or more writers, arose unintentionally. As an ESL teacher I frequently used small group and pair work in my classes in order to encourage my students to speak in the target language (English). I also used short editing tasks to encourage my students to focus on grammatical accuracy in writing. When I began research towards my PhD dissertation, I experimented with different grammar exercises and short writing tasks that the students were asked to complete in pairs. As I listened and observed my students working in pairs on these tasks, I became aware that the act of producing a text jointly elicited greater engagement than oral tasks, and certainly more focus on language choice and accuracy. Collaborative writing tasks also elicited some heated debates about ideas and about how to express such ideas, much more than grammar tasks. Clearly, there was a notion of text ownership at play, not present, for example, when the students completed editing tasks based on texts that they did not compose themselves.

My own subsequent research, research conducted by my graduate students, as well as by eminent scholars such as Professor Swain has shown that collaborative writing tasks, if carefully designed and implemented, can provide language learners with ample opportunities for interaction, for peer feedback and ultimately for language learning. Indeed I now strongly believe that collaborative writing tasks can provide more opportunities for language learning than oral tasks or solitary writing tasks.

Neomy Storch
Neomy Storch

In this book I argue for the use of collaborative writing tasks in L2 classes. Drawing on a range of theories of second language learning as well as empirical research findings I attempt to illustrate the merits of collaborative writing for language learning. I also discuss factors that need to be taken into consideration when designing and implementing collaborative writing activities.

Given the rapid developments in the field of computer-mediated communication, and particularly recent developments in collaborative writing platforms such as wikis and Google Docs, I believe that the book is very timely. Now, perhaps more than ever before, we need to be to be aware of how best to implement collaborative writing activities, whether in the face-to-face physical classroom environment or in the virtual computer mediated environment. I hope that the book can serve as an important resource for language teachers. I also hope that it encourages second language researchers to further investigate the merits of collaborative writing in different L2 contexts.

For more information about this book click here or if you’re interested in the other books in our New Perspectives on Language and Education series take a look at our website.