Language Teacher Agency Matters!

This month we published Theorizing and Analyzing Language Teacher Agency edited by Hayriye Kayi-Aydar, Xuesong (Andy) Gao, Elizabeth R. Miller, Manka Varghese and Gergana Vitanova. In this post the editors explain how the idea for the book came about.

We witnessed scholars’ and teachers’ growing interest in language teacher agency throughout the process of producing this volume. This book idea was hatched over dinner at AAAL (2016 in Orlando, Florida) before a colloquium on language teacher agency in which we editors had all participated. The colloquium attracted a large number of keen attendees and ended with a lively discussion that we all enjoyed. It became clear that many of the attendees were also doing research on teacher agency, and we decided that it was important to bring these developing research studies together into an edited collection. A few months later we posted a Call for Papers, and we were overwhelmed by the response: we received more than 100 submissions! Language teacher agency clearly matters everywhere as these submissions include studies based in urban schools and rural schools, in university classes and church-based volunteer-provided classes, located in diverse national contexts including Australia, China, India, Japan, Mexico and the US. Now, several years later, we are delighted to see a good number of these submissions developed into chapters.

Language teacher agency is not easily defined, in part, because it is always contextually mediated. It thus seems inevitable that scholars will use different methods and focus on a range of topics in order to understand teacher agency in the particular contexts they are exploring. The chapters in this book explore teacher agency in relation to social justice and equity efforts, teacher identity and professional development, teacher evaluation processes, curricular decisions and innovations, and the creation of new teaching practices. It is likewise clear that scholars will adopt different theoretical approaches to help them make sense of the on-the-ground practices and activities that they observe. In this volume, authors draw on ecological theory, sociocultural theory, actor network theory, critical realism, and positioning theory. Our book is not prescriptive in nature; in other words, we do not tell teachers what they should do to be an agent. However, through systematic data collection, the chapters successfully document the complexities associated with language teacher agency in strikingly different contexts, which we believe offers unique insights, implications, and strategies for language teachers. Given the range of perspectives offered in this collection, we are hopeful that it will spark new and continually diversifying research approaches and methods.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Language Teacher Psychology edited by Sarah Mercer and Achilleas Kostoulas.

 

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.

From Principles to Practice in Education for Intercultural Citizenship

This autumn we are publishing From Principles to Practice in Education for Intercultural Citizenship edited by Michael Byram, Irina Golubeva, Han Hui and Manuela Wagner. In this post, the editors describe how the book came together.

From Principles to Practice in Education for Intercultural CitizenshipThis book is the outcome of several years of collaboration among language teachers and researchers interested in the integration of language and culture in their teaching. We call it teaching ‘intercultural communicative competence’. We are part of a much bigger group called ‘Cultnet’ who have supported our work in many ways.

The concept of teaching intercultural communicative competence is not new. The ideas have circulated among language teachers for more than 20 years and are beginning to take root in curricula, in textbooks and in teaching. What is new is the introduction of ideas from citizenship education.

Citizenship education is attractive because it ensures that learners do not only learn about citizenship but also get directly involved in their community as they are interacting in the classroom and in communities. This is what we introduce into language teaching and learning.

However, citizenship education is inward-looking. It prepares people as members of their own societies and communities i.e. a national perspective. In contrast, foreign language teaching is international in its outlook, teaching the languages and cultures (the ‘languacultures’) of other countries. So combining citizenship education and foreign language education leads to a focus on ‘intercultural citizenship’ (not ‘international citizenship’).

Intercultural citizenship means language learners at school and university – from elementary/primary school to advanced learners specialising in languages – can work together on citizenship problems and plan together a response which is not inward-looking but benefits from a broader perspective.

For example, the book has chapters describing how young learners in schools in Denmark and Argentina work together on environmental issues, or older learners in England and Argentina work on historical and political issues which are highly sensitive, and gain a new understanding through their intercultural, cross-Atlantic cooperation. All this is facilitated by use of the internet.

The book also explores how learners and teachers understand intercultural citizenship. There are chapters from China and Korea as well as the USA, which describe how learners think they can be ‘active in the community’ or ‘global citizens’, a much-used term in education and beyond.

We think this approach excites learners and gives them something important and intellectually – and sometimes emotionally – demanding to do with their languages, in the here and now. We have seen this happen among older and younger learners, with advanced and with modest levels of language competence. They find themselves ‘making a difference’ in their communities in ways they would not have thought of if they had not worked with people in other countries and continents. At the same time their language competence improves – this happens because they are concentrating on what they can do and not only on the language they are using to do it.

If you would like more information about the book, please see our website.

Exploring the identities of female English teachers in Japan

This week we published Diane Nagatomo’s latest book Identity, Gender and Teaching English in Japan. In this post, Diane explains the issues faced by Western English teachers in Japan and how they form both their personal and professional identities.

Identity, Gender and Teaching English in JapanIn a nutshell, my research interests generally lie in trying to find out what makes EFL teachers tick. In other words, what makes them do the things that they do in the classroom and their beliefs on how they should go about doing them.

For Identity, Gender and Teaching English in Japan, I focused on the personal and professional identity development of one group of language teachers: foreign women who are married to Japanese men. The ten women portrayed in this book range in age from their mid-twenties to their mid-sixties, and they teach in formal and in informal educational contexts. As wives and mothers of Japanese citizens, they have established deep roots in their local communities throughout Japan. And yet, as non-Japanese, they are not entirely insiders either. In addition, expectations that they should conform to Japanese gendered norms that place priority on the home and the family have shaped nearly every aspect of their lives. Nonetheless, all of the women in my study have demonstrated extraordinary resourcefulness, resilience and resistance in constructing their English language teaching careers.

My goal in writing this book was to let the women tell their own stories: how they operate English conversation school businesses; how they juggle numerous classes in multiple teaching contexts; and how they assimilate into their workplaces as full-time teachers. But I first wanted to situate their stories within the broader sociopolitical context of Japan in the introductory chapters.

So in Chapter 2, I discussed the historical background of language teaching and language learning in some detail, starting with the appearance of the first Europeans in the 1600s and moving to the economic miracle of the 1980s. In Chapter 3, I described the different educational contexts (conversation schools, secondary schools and tertiary institutions) that foreigners generally work in, and I discussed how ideologies toward the teaching and the learning of English in Japan have shaped, and continue to shape the careers of foreign and Japanese teachers. In Chapter 4, I looked at interracial relationships from a historical perspective and from a current one. Attitudes that consider Western men to be ideal romantic partners for Japanese women, but on the other hand, do not consider Japanese men to be ideal romantic partners for Western women, have influenced the experiences of all Westerners with Japanese spouses. In addition, I write about how these gendered attitudes have carried over into the classroom and how they shape the learning experiences of the students as well as those of the teachers.

The stories that are told by my participants in this book are uniquely their own. However, as a foreign woman with a Japanese spouse who has been teaching in Japan since 1979, they strongly resonated with me, and I believe that they will resonate with other expatriate teachers, male and female, who teach English abroad as long-term and/or permanent migrants as well.

Dr. Diane Hawley Nagatomo, Ochanomizu University, Hawley.diane.edla@ocha.ac.jp

Exploring Japanese University English Teachers'€™ Professional IdentityFor more information please see our website or contact Diane at the address above. You may also be interested in Diane’s previous book Exploring Japanese University English Teachers’€™ Professional Identity.

Teachers as Mediators in the Foreign Language Classroom

Teachers as Mediators in the Foreign Language Classroom

This month we are publishing
Teachers as Mediators in the Foreign Language Classroom by Michelle Kohler. In this post, Michelle discusses the background to the book and how she became interested in this topic.

I have been curious since my own teacher education about the nature of teaching and learning, and mediation, perpetually trying to hone my practice, helping students to genuinely make sense of what they are learning. For many, learning a language is largely a utilitarian pursuit with the goal being to develop the skills to communicate with native speakers. During my years teaching secondary school students, I began to question communicative language teaching as I saw more students resist what they perceived as pseudo-communication and irrelevant language learning, and express a desire for a more meaningful and personal language learning experience.

For me, intercultural language teaching and learning offered a new approach: starting with an integrated view of language and culture that attends more deeply to language, meaning and interpretation. It made sense to me since it positions the student as central and transformed by their language learning, something that resonated with my own experience as a language learner and as an educator. Coupled with my perennial interest in mediation, I wondered how language teachers might practically enact such an approach.

This book then is the result of my curiosity about the interface between theory and practice, and in particular the mediatory role of the language teacher. It is presented through the cases of three language teachers who, through a participatory action research approach, reveal their thinking, practice, reflections and changing understandings over time.

I have been particularly influenced by the notions of a bilingual/intercultural speaker (Byram & Zarate; Kramsch), languaculture (Risager), static and dynamic culture (Liddicoat), intraculturality (Papademetre & Scarino), symbolic competence (Kramsch) and more recently, critical intercultural citizenship (Byram). I have tried to expand the concept of mediation, taking into consideration the perspective of language teaching (where it has been largely viewed as a translation skill) and sociocultural learning theory using ideas such as the zone of proximal development and scaffolding (Vygotsky, Lantolf, Wells).

In the world of (language) education, many claims are made about the humanistic benefits of language learning for students and society more broadly. This book opens up the world of classroom language teaching and goes some way to revealing just how language teachers can and do enable their students to learn new ways of being. It highlights the complexity of language teachers’ work, of the highly personalized nature of intercultural language teaching and learning, and its transformative power for students and teachers.

For further information, please contact:
Dr Michelle Kohler
Lecturer, Indonesian and Languages Education
School of Humanities and Creative Arts, and School of Education
Faculty of Education, Humanities and Law
Flinders University
Email: michelle.kohler@flinders.edu.au

European Association of Language Teachers for Healthcare

We have recently been collaborating with EALTHY, the European Association of Language Teachers for Healthcare, who have an interest in several of our titles. Here, Catherine Richards, President of EALTHY gives us a bit more information about the organisation.

A couple of our crossover language and health titles
A couple of our crossover language and health titles

EALTHY is the members association for language teachers and other professionals working in, or with an interest in, the healthcare and medical sectors. The only association of its kind, it was formed at the 1st European English for Healthcare conference held in Locarno in 2013.

In our global, 21st century world, effective cross-cultural communication is key, particularly so within the healthcare setting. Foreign language teachers involved in the training of healthcare professionals have the responsibility to produce personnel who are effective and accurate communicators in a second language. The importance of the task shouldn’t be underestimated: the significant impact of healthcare professional-patient communication on health outcomes has been well documented and non-native speakers face particular challenges.

EALTHY offers its members high-quality, downloadable teaching material. The association is also a source of the latest information on published materials, book releases, networking and professional development opportunities. In addition to the English for Healthcare Conference (the next conference will be held in Bern in October 2015) EALTHY will also organise specialist workshops and seminars in the field of language training for healthcare and medicine.

For more information about EALTHY please see their website: www.ealthy.com.

The Applied Linguistics Interest Section of TESOL Turned 40 in 2014

We were pleased to be able to support Professor Bob Kaplan in attending the Applied Linguistics Interest Section (ALIS) at TESOL this year in Portland. Here, Eli Hinkel, Chair of ALIS 2013-2014, tells us a bit about the background to ALIS.

Bob and ALIS editors (Jana Moore and Benjamin White)
Bob and ALIS editors (Jana Moore and Benjamin White)

ALIS turned 40 this year, and it is the oldest interest section (IS) in TESOL. This was a major benchmark that was celebrated during the TESOL Convention in Portland, Oregon, USA. In its current form and as an Interest Section of TESOL, ALIS dates back to 1974, and its original early members included Robert B. Kaplan and Bernard Spolsky. At the time, ALIS served as the only applied linguistics venue for pedagogical and research activities in the United States. During the ALIS Open Meeting in Portland, around 50 IS members and guests took part in a bit of a reception to mark this important event and partake in cookies and soft drinks, provided by TESOL. We clanked our plastic drink containers and celebrated in earnest.

Bob's talk
Bob’s talk

To mark the occasion, Robert B. Kaplan graciously accepted our invitation to join us. Professor Kaplan received a commemorative plaque to celebrate his four decade-long service to the profession and the association. Marianne Celce-Murcia’s well-crafted and carefully presented remarks to highlight Professor Kaplan’s numerous professional achievements and contributions were warmly received.

Bob and Marianne Celce-Murcia
Bob and Marianne Celce-Murcia

Later, Professor Kaplan made a presentation titled “What Teachers Need to Know: ‘I’ve Never Metaphor I Didn’t Like’.” The point of the talk was to emphasize that when teaching a language to students from another culture, it is essential for instructors to be aware of the ways in which the target language has been shaped by its speakers. Furthermore, speakers of some other languages, equally, have been shaped by their first languages. In this light, if the learners are unfamiliar with the shape of metaphors in the target language and if the teachers are unaware of the gap thus created, teaching becomes an unnecessarily difficult undertaking. Success in language teaching, however, is more likely when metaphors and other linguistic devices are addressed in teacher-preparation courses, which can be revised to include the work with metaphors that are needed for both teaching and learning.

Our thanks also goes to Tommi Grover and Multilingual Matters for helping us organize our reunion with Robert B. Kaplan on this momentous occasion. Thank you.

We look forward to ALIS’s next 40 years in the business.

Eli Hinkel, Chair 2013-2014, ALIS

Language Learning Motivation in Japan

A couple of months ago, we published Language Learning Motivation in Japan edited by Matthew T. Apple, Dexter Da Silva and Terry Fellner. Here Matthew gives us a bit more detail about how the book came together.

Language Learning Motivation in JapanLanguage Learning Motivation in Japan began to coalesce as a feasible book project during preparations for a conference in Tokyo, in June 2011. We had already contacted and arranged for guest speakers from both inside and outside Japan, and all six graciously offered to contribute chapters to the book project.

Ultimately the conference attracted over 200 participants from around the world. Given the difficulties those of us based in Japan had recently experienced following the triple disaster of 3-11-11, it was extremely motivating to encounter so many dedicated language teachers and researchers. After the conference ended and the book project began in earnest, the response was overwhelming. We initially received well over 50 chapter abstracts but narrowed this down to eleven chapters to be included in the book.

We asked the authors to review each others’ chapters and encouraged them to refer to similar or contrasting concepts and findings in other studies in the book. By doing so, we believe the resulting book presents a clear, coherent snapshot of language motivation at various levels of education in Japan. Chapters touch upon salient issues related to motivation such as autonomy, cultural and personal identity, self-efficacy, intercultural competence, communities of practice, and the role of the teacher.

A key feature of the book is the inclusion of a roughly equal number of studies implementing quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods data analysis techniques. The main reason for this was our desire to encourage SLA researchers to look beyond the stereotypical quantitative-qualitative false dichotomy that often paralyzes and prevents communication among researchers and teachers. By including studies from statistical modeling to in-depth interview case study to diary study, we hoped to convince readers, whether established researchers and teachers or those in training both inside and outside Japan, to view such research approaches as complementary rather than conflicting.

Finally, as editors who consider ourselves teacher-researchers, we were keenly aware of the gap that exists between those in the field of SLA who see themselves as more or less pure researchers and those who regard themselves as down-to-earth practitioners at the chalkface. In our view, the teacher-researcher divide is just as much a false dichotomy as qual-quan. Both roles and both ways of approaching language education are essential: they are complementary rather than mutually exclusive. We therefore encouraged authors to consider how their research could inform practice in the language classroom, and we hope the results will prove useful from both a pedagogical and a theoretical point of view.

While the research is tightly focused on language learning in Japan, we believe that teachers and researchers around the world will find value in every chapter. This focus, rather than reducing the applicability of the findings, further illustrates the multifaceted, dynamic, nuanced, and incredibly complex world of language learner motivation, and also brings up intriguing questions regarding the influence of “culture” on learners’ attitudes. Additionally, much recent world news about Japan has been rather negative: we hope that the research and teaching theories, research, and practices discussed in Language Learning Motivation in Japan provide positive examples of an active, growing community of language learners and educators.

For more information on this title and for ordering information, please visit the book’s page on our website here.