AL Forum

AL Forum News, Volume 24:1 (November 2003)

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In This Issue...

From the Chair, Steven McCafferty
From the Chair-Elect, David Olsher
From the Editors
Pedagogical Frameworks for Learning the English Article System
Action Research: Some Responses to the Challenge of Status
A Model for Research on Context-Based Language Learning
Call for Submissions: The AL Forum Welcomes Your Contributions!
Leadership Positions
About This Member Community

From the Chair, Steven McCafferty

Dear ALIS members,

The news about the loss of TESOL Journal proved to be a major item of contention at the TESOL's 2003 convention. Many were upset at the loss of a valuable resource for practitioners and an important source for publications, particularly for those members working in community colleges. Moreover,TESOL Journal was ranked as the top publication in its category and enjoyed a wide subscription. Although a strong protest was registered at the Interest Section (IS) Council meeting, and the matter was taken back and voted on at each of the IS meetings, where it met with unanimous support for continued publication, those protests appear to have been to no avail. Members will receive a new magazine called Essential Teacher along with their membership.

Another change concerns the IS newsletters: As of the current issue, all newsletters for this and the other ISs are likely to be electronic. However, many members do not have regular access to the Internet. Therefore, members who are still interested in receiving a hard copy can request one This issue will come up for a vote again in 2004.

Of further note concerning the TESOL convention: For the first time, the Applied Linguistics Interest Section (ALIS) now has an e-list (ALIS-L). I have received a printout of ALIS members who have subscribed; however, the list is still rather short, and I want to encourage you to sign up. You can fill out a form online ( or send a blank e-mail message to (You can, of course, unsubscribe at any time.) Hopefully this will prove to be a valuable communication tool, allowing a timely discussion of issues that relate to ALIS and TESOL as a whole.

Also, although I realize that most of you already have many things going on professionally, if you want to keep abreast of some of the organization's goings-on, I would suggest browsing the TESOL Web site ( and looking into those topics that interest you. You will undoubtedly find much to delve into and, of course, the organization needs your support.

The 2003 ALIS meeting at TESOL's convention in Baltimore was attended by those who usually attend, which is definitely a good thing. At the same time, however, I would like to encourage more of the membership to come. The IS meetings are held on the Wednesday night of every convention. At these meetings, members attend to various business concerns, debate issues of the day, elect officers, and so on. In addition, one of the main concerns ALIS has every year is adjudicating proposals for the next year's convention. I want to thank those who volunteered this year for that duty and to ask other members to help out next year. (This year, most who participated in the adjudication process filed complaints about the proposal adjudication software. However, this software will not be used again.)

TESOL's 2004 convention will take place in Long Beach, California, in the United States. ALIS received approximately 100 abstracts and each was read, scored, and commented on by three reviewers in addition to me. At the time of filing, ALIS had selected 2 colloquia, 1 demonstration, and 26 papers. Eight papers are also listed as "potentials" should more slots open up or substitutions be necessary. David Olsher, the ALIS chair-elect, secured the full allotment of Discussion Sessions for ALIS and has been busy setting up the Academic Session for next year as well. The selected presentations and Discussion Sessions for this year are from a variety of theoretical perspectives and, overall, represent a fine sampling of current and ongoing research in the field. I believe this to be a positive reflection of the breadth of interests represented in the ALIS membership.

Applied linguists have always had a leading role in TESOL. Indeed, they contribute greatly to the necessary unification of theory, research, and practice within the organization. This brings up a very serious issue that now faces those who have typically attended both the TESOL convention and the American Association for Applied Linguistics (AAAL) convention. As many of you know, 2004 marks the end of efforts by AAAL to shadow TESOL by holding its conference a week before TESOL's convention. As a result, many members of both associations are faced with the unpleasantness of perhaps not being able to attend both conventions. Some of us are concerned that TESOL's convention will be attended to a lesser degree, owing to AAAL's status as the leading research organization within the field and thus the prime venue for presentations associated with building a successful academic career. I would like to make a plea that members facing this dilemma stay active in TESOL. This does not require attendance at every convention, but it does entail recognition of the need to keep applied linguistics as a vital concern in TESOL and to participate in various ways.

Steve McCafferty photo.

Hope to see you next year in California.


Steve McCafferty

From the Chair-Elect, David Olsher

Dear ALIS Members,

As the new chair-elect, I am very pleased to have this opportunity to introduce myself to you. Some of you may be familiar with me because I am taking on this position after 3 years as co-editor of the newsletter (in its former, paper incarnation). To all members of the Applied Linguistics Interest Section (ALIS), let me say that I look forward to serving this IS and representing your interests and perspectives.

My interest in TESOL and language education goes back all the way to my childhood. When I was growing up in Los Angeles, my mother was an ESL teacher, and I had opportunities to visit her classes made up of adult immigrants and visitors from countries around the world. I was impressed by the sense of community among such diverse groups and the ways the students shared and taught each other about their home cultures while learning English together. It was many years later, after I had graduated from college and tried a few other kinds of work, that I began teaching ESL in the Los Angeles Community Adult Schools, first being mentored by an experienced teacher and then completing my Adult Education teaching credential and teaching ESL to adults from many parts of the world. Next, I taught EFL at a college in Japan for 5 years, where I also coordinated an English program and developed teaching materials and curricula.

With my interest sparked by my language teaching experiences, I began taking graduate classes in TESL, first at Temple University in Japan and then at UCLA in California to complete my MA in TESL and PhD in applied linguistics. Throughout my studies, I continued to gain experience with language teaching, curriculum development, and teacher training. Based on my experience in language education, I have written an EFL writing textbook, Words in Motion, as well as articles on language pedagogy. Through my study of spoken discourse and talk-in-interaction, I have written articles on broadcast news interview talk and small-group-work interaction in language classrooms. I coedited a special issue of Issues in Applied Linguistics on nonnative discourse, bringing together research on the talk of language learners, and I have contributed to a forthcoming volume on this topic, Second Language Talk. The close analysis of the talk and interaction of language learners, both in and out of the classroom, continues to be a strong interest of mine. I believe this kind of research can inform our practices as language educators.

Currently, I teach in the MA TESL program at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, where I also supervise a TESL teaching internship and coordinate the ESL program. A strong theme in my development has been a shared commitment to language education and research on language use. That is why I consider it an honor to be able to serve as chair-elect of the ALIS, which is itself dedicated to making connections between applied linguistic research and ESOL practice around the world.

For the ALIS Academic Session at the upcoming annual TESOL convention, I have organized a panel called "Micro-Interactional Research and Language Classrooms" that brings together researchers from a variety of research perspectives. Panelists will discuss ways in which the study of classroom talk from the perspectives of the ethnography of communication, discourse analysis, sociocultural theory, and conversation analysis can inform language educators. Emerging research in these areas is increasingly relevant to language teachers, so I felt it would be valuable to bring them together for TESOL. For the discussion sessions, a combination of invited and submitted discussions will focus on a wide range of areas in which applied linguistics research intersects with the practical interests of language educators, including research on computer-based language learning, corpus linguistics, and content-based language teaching, to name a few.

The ALIS is not only one of the larger interest sections but also one of the most diverse in terms of the geographical distribution, teaching contexts, and interests of our members. Providing continuity is always a challenge, and in this time of global tensions as well as tight budgets and administrative pressures within the profession in general and the TESOL organization, representing the interests of ALIS members presents particular challenges. I hope that my work for the IS will provide a voice for your interests and, toward that end, I encourage you to send me your ideas and suggestions about our IS and TESOL issues. I look forward to seeing you in Long Beach in 2004.

David Olsher photo.


David Olsher

From the Editors

This issue marks the beginning of an electronic era that will help us reach the membership more quickly in order to improve the communication among our members worldwide. Starting with this issue, AL Forum will be distributed electronically twice a year, in November and February, in will be called an "E-Section."

In this issue, we would like to thank Peter Master for his article on the effects of using different pedagogical frameworks in teaching the article system to nonnative speakers of English. We would also like to thank Ann Burns and Joan Kelly Hall for contributing the summaries of their papers from the Applied Linguistics and Research Intersection panel on "Research Contributions to Understandings in Language Learning."

Finally, this is Stefan Frazier's first issue as coeditor, and we (Isaiah and Stefan) want to thank David Olsher for his work on the newsletter for the past 3 years.

Pedagogical Frameworks for Learning the English Article System Peter Master, San Jose State University, San Jose, California, United States;

This article reports on a pilot investigation of the effect of using different pedagogical frameworks in teaching nonnative speakers of English the article system. The investigation used a quasi-experimental pretest/posttest design. It was quasi-experimental because the subjects were in intact groups (i.e., classes) rather than randomly assigned to the control or experimental groups. The subjects (n = 75) were international students in an intensive English program (IEP) at a large urban university. Table 1 shows the language backgrounds of the students, the majority of whom came from Asian countries. All the students were at the intermediate level of proficiency.

Table 1: Language Background of Subjects
Chinese 25 Thai 4
Korean 18 Indonesian 3
Japanese 9 Arabic 2
Spanish 7 French 1
Vietnamese 5 German 1

Table 2 provides background information on the subjects. The gender of the subjects in the study was fairly evenly divided, and the other data show that the participants were fairly typical of those who populate intensive university ESL classes.

Table 2: Subject Data
Gender Male: 35 Female: 40
Average Age in Years: 24.11
Average Reported Years of English Study: 7.18
Average Reported Years in the United States: 0.45

All subjects were tested for their initial knowledge of the article system with a 15-minute, 60-item test. This instrument was first trialed on three community college ESL classes (n = 82), the results of which were analyzed for reliability using the Kuder-Richardson 21 formula, producing a reliability of .7. The test asked the subjects to supply missing a, the, or Ø in sentences of four categories: generic (n = 12), shared knowledge (n = 12), ranking adjectives (n = 12), and postmodified noun phrases (n = 24).

The experimental groups received three treatments, each of which represented a different pedagogical framework for teaching the article system. Treatment A, summarized in Table 3, taught the binary system (classification vs. identification) as presented in Master (1990).

Table 3: The Binary Framework Table 3.

Treatment B, summarized in Table 4, taught the effect of information structure on article usage as described in Master (2002).

Table 4: The Information Structure Framework Table 4.

Treatment C, summarized in Table 5, taught the six-question approach described in Master (1994).

Table 5: The Six-Question Framework
1. Is the noun singular count (a/an), plural count (Ø), or noncount (Ø)?
2. Is the noun definite (the) or indefinite (a/Ø)?
3. Is the noun postmodified (a/the/Ø) or not (a/the/Ø)?
4. Is the noun specific (a/the/Ø) or generic (a/the/Ø)?
5. Is the noun common (a/the/Ø) or proper (the/Ø)?
6. Is the noun in an idiomatic phrase (a/the/Ø) or not (a/the/Ø)?

Altogether, there were four treatment combinations: Group 1 received A alone; Group 2 received B alone; Group 3 received A and B together; and Group 4 received C alone. Group 5 was the control group, which received no treatment. The instructor of that class agreed to deflect any questions or concerns about the article system with that group until the study had been completed. Treatment combinations were applied in separate IEP classes, all at the intermediate proficiency level. Each of the experimental groups received 1 hour of treatment per week in 3 successive weeks. Each group also spent an additional 1 hour per week working with their regular instructors on article exercises from the packet of materials each subject had received (this was an effort to duplicate the 6 hours of treatment provided in Master, 1994). The same 15-minute article test was administered 4 weeks later (any practice effect was considered to have been effaced by this time). The test was administered again more than 5 months later but, unfortunately, because only 6 students volunteered to take it, it provided no indication of the longer-term effect of the treatments, as had been hoped.

Results and Discussion

The results of the study are provided in Table 6. Table 6 (Line 6) shows that the mean differences were positive for each of the five treatment groups, confirming other studies (e.g., Master, 1994) that showed incremental improvement in article use even when no instruction was provided (i.e., in the control group). The differences were highest for the binary system framework, followed by the binary system plus information structure frameworks, the information structure framework alone, the six-question framework, and finally the control group.

Table 6.

The results were subjected to the following statistical analyses: analysis of covariance (ANCOVA), mixed analysis of variance (ANOVA), and paired t-tests.

The ANCOVA addresses the question: Was there a mean difference among the five groups (levels of an independent variable) on a posttest (dependent variable) after the posttest scores are adjusted for differences in pretest scores (covariate)? The main assumptions regarding ANCOVA were met: (a) there was a relatively equal distribution of subjects within each group, (b) the homogeneity of the variance was not violated for either the computed means for pre- and posttest scores by group or the interaction between group and pretest, and (c) scatterplots of the subjects as one large sample were nice and linear. There was a statistically significant correlation between the pre- and posttest scores. However, group differences in the posttest after adjusting for the ANCOVA covariate (posttest score) were not statistically significant [F= 0.67, p>.05].

The mixed ANOVA addresses the question: Was there a difference between mean pre- and posttest scores? The results showed that there was a significant testing effect [F = 23.95, p<.05], so there was a significant difference in pre- and posttest scores across groups. The mixed ANOVA also addresses the questions: Was there a mean difference in posttest by group, and were the effects of testing independent of group? There was no significant group effect [F = 2.03, p>.05], nor was there a significant interaction effect [F = 1.86, p>.05]. However, if the dataset (see Table 6, Line 1) is quadrupled (i.e., total n = 300), the results become significant.

Individual paired t-tests on the mean pre- and posttest differences in each group resulted in significance (p < .05; two-tailed) for Group 1 (binary system) and Group 3 (binary system and information structure) and significance (p < .05; one-tailed) for Group 4 (information structure)--.0987 (two-tailed), which becomes .049 one-tailed and would therefore be significant at the .05 level (see Table 6, Line 8). Such significances are not valid, however, because they violate the injunction against multiple t-tests on the same data set. However, the Bonferoni rule (Bland & Altman, 1995), which requires that multiple t-tests be held to a significance criterion divided by the number of t-tests applied (5), would reduce the p criterion to .01 (.05/5), which Group 1 (binary system) achieves (p = .0033; hence the asterisk next to this number in Line 8) and Group 3 (binary system and information structure) comes close to achieving (.0137).

The binary system (Group 1) thus appears to have produced the only significant increase in posttest scores, while the binary system in conjunction with information structure (Group 3)came close to doing so. In Master (1994), I found significant improvement by the experimental group on a different article test using the six-question framework that was part of this study. Unlike the 1994 study, which attempted to teach all aspects of the article system in 6 hours of instruction administered over 10 weeks, this study focused only on a subset of article usage (generic, shared knowledge, ranking adjective, and postmodified NPs) in 3 hours of instruction and 3 hours of in-class exercises administered over 3 weeks. Under these conditions, the six-question framework did not fare well, providing improvement on the posttest that exceeded the control group but no other, although this result was not significant. Nevertheless, I would not recommend the six-question framework unless the binary system and information structure frameworks were unavailable.


The binary system appears to have produced the greatest pedagogical effect. The binary system in conjunction with information structure produced the second greatest effect, though it did not quite attain statistical significance. Information structure alone produced the third greatest effect, though it also did not achieve significance. It is tempting to argue that information structure, which attained a lesser effect by itself, interfered with the positive effect of the binary system and dragged it down, though this is not possible because neither Group 2 nor Group 3 achieved significance. One could surmise that two overarching frameworks were too much for the intermediate proficiency groups that were the subjects of the study but, of the two, the binary system was more effective.

In the future, I hope to repeat the study using 300 or more students so that the relatively small increases found can attain statistical significance. It would also be preferable to provide 6 hours of treatment rather than 3 treatment plus 3 teacher-guided hours (many complained that too little time was allowed for the amount of material). Finally, I hope to carry out the study in an institution where the students will stay for a longer period of time to allow for follow-up and thus assess the longer term effect of the treatments.


Bland, J. M., & Altman, D. G. (1995). Multiple significance tests: The Bonferroni method. British Medical Journal, 310, 170.

Master, P. (1990). Teaching the English articles as a binary system. TESOL Quarterly, 24, 461-478.

Master, P. (1994). The effect of systematic instruction on learning the English article system. In T. Odlin (Ed.), Perspectives on Pedagogical Grammar (pp. 229-252). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Master, P. (1997, March). Acquiring the two zero articles in English. Paper presented at the annual conference of the American Association for Applied Linguistics (AAAL), Orlando, Florida.

Master, P. (2002). Information structure and article pedagogy. System, 30(3), 331-348.

References for my other work on the English article system may be found at

Action Research: Some Responses to the Challenge of Status Anne Burns, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia;

Over the last decade, action research (AR) approaches and philosophies have increasingly informed debates in applied linguistics on teacher research, professional development, and teacher education. Elsewhere (Burns, in Cornwell, 1999) I have defined action research as a

self-reflective, systematic and critical approach to enquiry by participants who are at the same time members of the research community. The aim is to identify problematic situations or issues considered by the participants to be worthy of investigation in order to bring about critically informed changes in practice. Action research is underpinned by democratic principles in that ownership of change is invested in those who conduct the research. (p. 5)

There is now evidence from both the general education literature and the field of applied linguistics that AR has a positive impact on teacher researchers in terms of greater consciousness in problematizing and reflecting upon practice, increased skills in carrying out research, deeper understanding of classrooms and interactions, and building personal theories about learning and teaching (e.g., Burns, 1999; Edge 2001; Freeman, 1998).

The Challenge

Nevertheless, questions and doubts about the status and value of AR clearly remain strong in the minds of many in the field. Witness this recent statement that appeared in the TESOL Research Interest Section Newsletter:

The Board of TESOL does seem to recognize the value of carefully conducted hypothesis-based empirical research, but they also emphasize (even overstate) the limited usefulness and accessibility of such research for professional teachers. Their solution is to get professional teachers to think of themselves as researchers--not by training them in research techniques that would help them carry out rigorous, publishable studies that would be of value to the entire profession, but by expanding the definition of research to include reflecting on and theorizing about one's own teaching for the purpose of improving one's own teaching . . . . Whether action research really does (or can) consistently lead to better teaching practices remains an open empirical question that has not yet been resolved and I (as well as many fellow members of the RIS) feel that all of the hype about action research in the TESOL organization is simply not warranted at present. (Jarvis, 2001, p. 2)

The author's main arguments seem to be as follows:

  1. It is scientific and "hypothesis-based empirical research" only that should inform the practice of professional teachers.
  2. Hypothesis-based empirical research is "carefully conducted."
  3. AR is defined as "reflecting on and theorizing about one's own teaching."
  4. AR does not include "training in research techniques that would help teachers carry out rigorous, publishable studies."
  5. There is no empirical evidence for more effective teaching practices as a result of AR.
  6. Discussion of ways of doing research relevant to professional language teaching other than scientific and hypothesis-based empirical approaches is "hype."

Given these kinds of criticisms, which apparently are held by "many fellow members of the RIS," those of us who believe that AR holds promise in leading to more effective classroom practice will need to continue to be active in addressing the following kinds of questions:

  • Should AR conform to existing academic criteria in order to manifest rigor? How can AR be shown to have its own form of rigor that may nevertheless be different from the rigor of scientific hypothesis-based research?
  • What are the standards by which AR is to be judged, and are they the same as for other forms of research?
  • What are the major arguments for the notion that teachers, typically untrained in research, are appropriate people to conduct AR?
  • What ethical considerations should be brought to bear on research that is highly contextualised in practice?
  • In what forms should AR studies and findings be disseminated?
  • What tensions exist between the quality of AR and its sustainability by practitioners?
The Responses

In short, the major challenge remains how "to define and meet standards of appropriate rigor without sacrificing relevance" (Argyris & Schön, 1991, p. 85). I now briefly explore two possible responses to this challenge.

Throughout the 1990s, the notion of teaching as highly contextualised practice (Clarke, 1994; Kumaravadivelu, 1994; Prabhu, 1990) emerged as a powerful theoretical argument. Consonant with this notion, it could therefore be argued that the key features or indicators of effective TESOL practice should be investigated within their specific educational contexts. The extent to which the processes and findings of AR investigations resonate with the internal dynamics of the educational context contributes to the rigor of AR. In more practical terms, have the researchers

  • identified research issues clearly seen to be relevant to the educational context?
  • employed investigative methods that directly address the issues?
  • redirected, as necessary, the focus of the investigations, according to evidence from the data?
  • displayed the data in such a way that reasonable and fair conclusions about changes in practice can be made?
  • developed new teaching practices that other competent members (e.g., teachers elsewhere) would affirm on the basis of the data from that specific context?

In other words, it is the purposiveness of the practice in the specific context, the meaningfulness and trustworthiness of the data (Mishler, 1990), and the resonance of the practice with other members of the community of that practice that contribute to rigor in AR.

A second response to these challenges lies in the notion of iteration, or cyclical repetition, a process central to AR. Iteration involves repeating the cyclical processes of AR. It takes the research into deeper or new directions by building on the findings of previous cycles. Typically, iteration in AR is seen as iteration within a single study. However, iteration works in numerous ways to strengthen the rigor of AR

  • The evidence for more effective forms of practice builds on evidence from previous cycles (not intuition).
  • The scope of the study can be expanded continually, based on evidence from the data.
  • New findings can be tested against previous iterations of the cycle.
  • Instances or cases can build on previous instances or cases.
  • Methods, researchers, and theories can build on previous methods, researchers, and theories, thus triangulating the data while still retaining the focus on specific contexts.
  • The bias inherent in cross-sectional research can be avoided because of successive cycles.
  • Where the iterations are conducted collaboratively and not individually, findings and outcomes can be cross-referenced across multiple research activities and data.

I invite others interested in discussing the issue of rigor in AR to contact me.


Argyris, C., & Schon, D. (1991). Participatory action research and action sciences compared. In W.F. Whyte (Ed.), Participatory action research. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Burns, A. (1999). Collaborative action research for English language teachers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Cornwell, S. (1999). An interview with Anne Burns and Graham Crookes. The Language Teacher, 23(12), 5-10.

Clarke, M. A. (1994). The dysfunctions of the theory/practice discourse. TESOL Quarterly, 28, 9-26.

Edge, J. (2001). Action research. Alexandria, VA: TESOL.

Freeman, D. (1998). Doing teacher research. From inquiry to understanding. Boston: Heinle & Heinle.

Jarvis, S. (2001). Research in TESOL: Sunset or new dawn? TESOL Research Interest Section Newsletter, 8(2), 1-7.

Kumaravadivelu, B. (1994). The postmethod condition: Emerging strategies for second/foreign language teaching. TESOL Quarterly, 28, 27-49.

Mishler, E. (1990). Validation in inquiry-guided research: The role of exemplars in narrative study. Harvard Educational Review, 60(4), 415-442.

Prabhu, N. S. (1990). There is no best method--Why? TESOL Quarterly, 24, 161-176.

A Model for Research on Context-Based Language Learning Joan Kelly Hall, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, United States;

This is a brief summary of my presentation as part of the AL/Research InterSection on Research Contributions to Understandings in Language Learning at the 38th Annual TESOL Convention in Baltimore, Maryland, in the United States.


I present in this article a four-dimensional model for understanding and designing context-based research on language learning that I feel has great potential for TESOL (Hall, 2003, p. 174). Based on a map for doing social research proposed by Layder (1993), the model is predicated on an understanding of language learning as social practice. From this perspective, the goal of research is not to reach an understanding of language learning divorced from real world contexts of use, but rather to understand language learning from within these real world contexts.

Discussion of Model

The model is composed of four overlapping dimensions linking more locally situated aspects of language use and language learning to the more macro issues of social institutions, beliefs, and ideologies. The most comprehensive dimension is Sociocultural Structures. This includes large-scale, society-wide worldviews encompassing beliefs, values, and attitudes toward social phenomena, including group identities such as social class, gender, and ethnicity; social constructs such as competence and agency; and social issues such as linguistic rights and language education policies. The concern of research on this level is to explicate the worldviews embodied in official documents of a community or group for the purpose of raising public awareness of how language is used to create particular viewpoints and particular representations of the world, and in so doing, help create clear pathways to social change.

The second dimension is Institutional Contexts, which refers to the social institutions within communities and groups in which people hold memberships, including families, schools, churches, civic organizations, places of work, and professional groups. In terms of language learning, the concern of research here is to identify and characterize the communicative practices and activities of particular educational contexts, along with their constitutive communicative resources, and examine the patterns of participation by which individuals' roles and responsibilities as language learners are produced and regulated.

The third dimension, Communicative Activities/Language Socialization Practices, gives more microanalytic attention to specific communicative activities within a particular learning context for the purpose of identifying and describing the locally situated meanings of the communicative actions by which individuals jointly produce their encounters. The focus then is not on individuals within their activities, but on the activities constituting a particular learning context that shape and are shaped by individual involvement.

The final dimension is Individual Experiences. Interest here is in the "intersection of biographical experience and social involvements" (Layder, 1993, p. 9). Research in this area focuses on the ways individuals index and construct their own social identities and roles and those of others in light of the kinds of identities and roles to which they ascribe or into which they have been socialized. In addition, attention is given to the ways that individuals in their interactions with each other create social concepts such as motivation, affiliation, and competence.


In highlighting the multiple dimensions of research contexts, the model not only helps people conceptualize the varied layers of their social worlds, but also provides a guide for identifying possible topics and questions for undertaking research. I would like to conclude with two implications for language teachers arising from this model. First, doing good research on context-based language learning is not dependent upon one's professional standing. That is, one does not have to be a university professor to produce high-quality work. Instead, good research depends on one's degree of research expertise. Among other knowledge, skills, and abilities, this involves being able to articulate one's epistemological assumptions, ask relevant questions and choose the most appropriate tools for answering them, be rigorous and systematic in the analysis, and adhere to ethical standards of professional behavior throughout. These are skills in which anyone can be trained. They are also, in fact, skills that good teachers use on a daily basis.

The second implication has to do with people's understanding of language teaching. As the model makes clear, language teaching is an important social practice. The activity environments teachers create in their classrooms are a primary source of students' language learning. For it is in and through the processes of teaching, and more specifically the processes of appropriating learners into the communicative activities of their learning environments, that the conditions for and substance of learning are given shape.

Close examinations of the social practices that create socioculturally situated classrooms are essential to understanding language learning. Such understanding provides a principled basis for designing learning environments that give direction to learners' development in ways that are considered adequate and appropriate to their specific social, cultural, communicative, and other needs.


Hall, J. K. (2003). Teaching and researching language and culture. London: Pearson.

Layder, D. (1993). New strategies in social research: An introduction and guide. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Call for Submissions: The AL Forum Welcomes Your Contributions!

The Applied Linguistics Forum welcomes your submissions of articles, opinion pieces, announcements, reports on conference presentations, and book reviews in any area of applied linguistics research that is of interest to our diverse IS membership. Your suggestions and ideas are also welcome. Submissions may be edited for length and style. For more information, please contact Isaiah W. Yoo ( or Stefan Frazier (

Leadership Positions

The Applied Linguistics Interest Section (ALIS) would like to invite volunteers to run for the following positions:

E-List Moderator

The elections will be held at the annual business meeting at the 38th Annual TESOL Convention in Long Beach, California, in the United States. Candidates should expect to attend the business meeting because that is where voting will take place. A 2-year commitment is expected. If you are interested, have some expertise or experience, and have time to devote to contributing to TESOL, please contact Virginia LoCastro at or Steven McCafferty at

Here are some brief descriptions of ALIS leadership positions:


The chair-elect serves for several years, first as chair-elect, then as chair, and then as past chair, with different duties for each job. The chair-elect is expected to attend leadership meetings at the annual TESOL convention the year he or she is elected and again the following year. The main duties as chair-elect are organizing the academic session panel for the annual TESOL convention and, in cooperation with the chair, organizing the discussion sessions. This involves inviting a variety of discussion leaders to supplement submitted proposals.


The position of chair provides an opportunity to play a leading role in TESOL. The chair concentrates on the collective impact we have as an IS in relation to the yearly conference, putting together the Academic and Discussion Sessions as chair-elect and overseeing the adjudication process of submissions for presentation at the up-coming conference as chair. However, TESOL as a whole needs to hear the chair's voice, particularly in regard to representing the membership and providing guidance for the direction of the organization as a whole. The chair is also expected to attend organizational meetings at the convention and vote on important issues that affect our IS. Overall, it is important to keep in mind that serving as chair of the ALIS is a meaningful way to represent our concerns as applied linguists.

Past Chair

The duties of the past chair revolve around helping the chair-elect and the chair when input is needed. The past chair follows up on decisions and action plans voted on at the IS business meeting at the TESOL convention and acts as a proposal reader during the vetting process for the following year's convention. The past chair is also responsible for proposing a slate of candidates for the ALIS leadership positions that will be voted on at the following year's convention.

About This Member Community Applied Linguistic Interest Section (ALIS)

Applied Linguistics explores language learning and communication. Members apply research and theory to real world contexts through discussion, information exchange, and joint research.

Chair: Steven McCafferty,
Chair-Elect: David A. Olsher,
Newsletter Coeditor: Stefan J. Frazier,
Newsletter Coeditor: Isaiah W. Yoo

Member discussion e-list: Visit to join ALIS-L, or if you are already a subscriber.