This post is dedicated to (a very few of) the books/articles/presentation that have facilitated a fantastic amount of genuine (Tony Gurr style) LEARNing for me this past summer. LEARNing which has made me eager to get back into the classroom and continue my personal LEARNing journey through the practice of teaching and reflecting critically.

The following sources of learning are followed by short summaries of my personal learning from each.

Donald Freeman’s presentation on teacher development 

July 2014

Freeman’s presentation was phenomenal and rich. He spoke of teacher development, specifically how content is defined in a TESOL classroom. Thanks to this presentation I have found a way to clearly define some of the fuzzy thoughts that have rolled around my head since my career began. As I have learned well this summer, making what is tacit, explicit is a critical skill (a skill this blog is meant to assist me with).

Instead of coming to class with a suitcase full of language, I try to bring an empty suitcase (Freeman’s metaphor). I am then prepared to take that suitcase and close it around content autonomously chosen by learners. I want to take that content and manipulate it in order to orient learner attention to the form, meaning, use of language. Skills involved in these tasks include: using information garnered from interaction with and among students to design/provide engaging contexts, highlighting the pragmatic qualities of use and implications of intonation, matching learner needs with course requirements, analyzing the usefulness of learner errors and adjusting tasks to meet the needs of learner, persistence in requesting feedback. When learners lose engagement with content, change the content by mining learner output and explicitly requesting feedback from learners.

—–Find openness to question self

“Social Identity, Investment and Language Learning” (Norton Pierce 1997)

Norton Pierce produced a stellar piece of research which really helped inform my thoughts surrounding learner identity and it’s effect on language learning. The author here convincingly reconceptualizes current second language acquisition (SLA) theories conceptions of the individual.

A binary view of learner motivation is inadequate when the multi-faceted and fluctuating nature of identity is understood.

“confusion arises because artificial distinctions are drawn between the individual and the social, which lead to arbitrary mapping of particular factors on either the individual or the social, with little rigorous justification”

Thanks to understanding found in this article I now hope to find new ways of facilitating learner investment in their learning journeys by helping them acquire tools needed to enter and maintain conversation, namely by focusing on increasing phatic and pragmatic competence. It is my theory that if these skills are honed, learners begin to feel they own the language they use. That is when the magic happens.

“Going Beyond the Native Speaker in Language Teaching” (Cook 1999)

Cook was instrumental in helping me make sense of my thoughts surrounding English as a lingua franca.

A few snapshots of my notes:

– The native speaker is not a monolith

– The native speaker norm intimidates learners

– Considerations of learner mulit-competency should be a component of task/lesson creation

I’ve always considered unattainable goals demoralizing and agree with Cook in believing we should redefine the Native Speaker/Non-native Speaker paradigm as L1/L2 users of language. Each user of the language owns their own version of it. Learner goals should reflect learner need and context.

“selections from the work of Earl Stevick” (2015)

Stevick was perhaps the most enjoyable of resources I encountered this summer. His ideas on the roles of the teacher and learner were very enlightening. If you haven’t yet encountered his work, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

What I pulled from the first two chapters of this book:

– if what reinforces your self image contradicts/detracts from mine, mine is threatened

– the stakes in any social encounter are high

– deep experiences draw more energy from our “world of meaningful action” and in turn help to shape that world

– critical self plays a negative role when the performing self fails to meet expectations

– Students need to know that choices offered them fit into the teachers overall plan and that they are not presented with them out of teacher weakness

Reading Stevick has helped me better define how to find a holistic understanding to language teaching. His ideas on teaching and the classroom have provoked an immense amount of personal reflection and have helped to orient my attention to aspects of teaching that I had previously been blind to. If I recommended one person to read, it would be Earl Stevick.


It was a remarkable summer and these tidbits don’t come close to highlighting all the wonderful resources I encountered (some of which I hope to cover in future posts).






4 thoughts on “takeaways

  1. It seems like I’d been waiting months and months for this update on what you’ve been learning. Thank you for sharing the snapshots. I have found nothing to disagree with here, but would wonder whether you (or your course) gave thought to the L2 user as a model for language learners and also the old debate about at what point a person can say they are bilingual (a question that’s always piqued my curiosity). And now I’m going to go read your next post. 🙂

    • Thanks for dropping by Anne, glad you got something out of it. I had been meaning to write something up for ages, but that age old bugbear apathy reared it’s head. I’m glad I had started this post though, as it forced me to get back to it, review some notes and re-ponder some of what I read this summer.

      Always glad to hear you’ve nothing to disagree with (although I treasure the fact that you always are willing to disagree!)

      I definitely gave some thought to the L2 user model, and the whole idea of what makes a person bilingual (actually did a poster project on just that). I promise to try and get something up in the near future, and I’m sure there will be plenty to digest and disagree over ;P


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s