HEIS News

Volume 24:1 (March 2005)

by User Not Found | 10/20/2011

In This Issue...

  • Leadership Updates
    • Letter From the Chair
  • Articles
    • Missing Elements in MA TESOL Curriculum?
    • EFLAC: A Model for Language Courses at German Universities
    • ESL for University Students: Beyond a Support Group
    • Practical Tips for Teaching Telephone Use in English
    • Review of "The War Against Grammar"
  • Convention Updates
    • Getting Involved With HEIS at the TESOL 2005 Convention
    • HEIS/ALIS InterSection: Corpus Research and Teaching Academic Writing
  • About This Community
    • HEIS Steering Committee (PDF)
    • About the ESL in Higher Education Interest Section

Leadership Updates

Letter From the Chair

By Sue Lantz Goldhaber, HEIS Chair, Slgqc@aol.com

Now that the new year and, for many of us, the new semester have arrived, it is time to plan our trips to San Antonio for the TESOL Convention. This year promises to be an exciting opportunity to share ideas and discover new approaches to teaching and research-in essence, to teach learning and learn teaching. Two of the sessions I wish to highlight focus on what we strive to give our college/university ESL students. The Academic Session "Revisiting the Reading/Writing Connection: Research and Applications" on Thursday morning brings together top experts in the fields of reading and writing to discuss new trends and their applications in our classrooms and in our own research. Later in the week, on Friday morning, an exceptional collaborative effort between HEIS and Applied Linguistics links two key areas of interest: "Corpus Research and Teaching Academic Writing." In this session, a panel of experts will provide both new and long-time members with the latest in corpus research and its implications for applications to the teaching of writing (see the HEIS/ALIS InterSection announcement in this issue).

As always, each day provides a host of stimulating sessions, beginning with the Discussion Groups each morning. These groups will explore various issues in higher education, including Generation 1.5, teaching content to ESOL learners, the question of support for dialect learners, and activities for cross-cultural awareness. At special Hot Topics sessions, panelists will address issues related to teaching and learning reading/writing, teaching and learning grammar, action research in TESOL, sociocultural contexts in teaching, TESOL and the assessment movement, and corpus studies in TESOL. Details about these and other topics are available online at http://www.tesol.org/planner; search for "Hot Topics." These sessions will include 30 minutes for audience participation. Throughout each day, of course, there will be a multitude of sessions to meet your needs and interests, and we hope that you will take every opportunity to attend, learn from our presenters, and share your experiences.

Don't forget about our HEIS meetings. They will take place throughout the week. This is your opportunity to become an active member of TESOL and the Higher Education Interest Section. We need your ideas, experience, and inspiration. At these sessions, we will make plans for next year's convention and decide on issues that you wish to address and explore.

Thus, I urge you to begin planning your trip to San Antonio as soon as possible. You can use the online planner (http://www.tesol.org/planner) to decide which sessions you wish to attend and help us plan for the coming year. Don't forget to visit the HEIS booth at the convention. If you wish to volunteer at the booth, please sign up for a slot. Even an hour will be helpful, and you will get to meet your colleagues when you do!

I look forward to seeing you all in San Antonio and wish you a safe trip!



Articles

Missing Elements in MA TESOL Curriculum?

By Deborah Crusan, e-mail: deborah.crusan@wright.edu

Matsuda (2003) argued that the “teaching of writing was not a significant part of the ESL teacher’s preparation at least until the late 1950s” (p. 17). I would like to extend that argument to the present and contend that, for many ESL teachers, the teaching of writing is still a neglected facet of their education.

Lack of Course

After a careful review of the current Directory of Teacher Education Programs in TESOL in the United States and Canada 2002-2004 (Garshick, 2002), I was surprised to find that only approximately one third of the programs listed offer a course in the teaching of second language writing. Fewer require a course.

  • Some list the course as the teaching of writing and grammar.
  • Some list the course under special topics (not offered on a regular basis).
  • Some list the course as TESOL Reading and Writing (not a problem in my eyes).
  • Many offer a course at the graduate level only, leaving undergraduates and certificate and endorsement students without a course.

From my review then, might we conclude that there is a lack of importance given to the teaching of second language writing in the field at large? What other reasons could exist for so many programs failing to provide a course specifically aimed at the teaching of writing? Perhaps programs find themselves without a qualified person to teach the class? Perhaps curricula are already filled with so many required courses that the addition of another required course would be burdensome? I am uncertain of the rationale behind the exclusion of so important a course. However, and I am certain readers will agree, writing is an important skill. After all, written English plays an international role in the academic context, and writing is integrated into all aspects of academic communication in English.

Support for Such Courses

So, why should a course in teaching second language writing be a requirement of TESOL teacher preparation? I’ve thought of a number of reasons, which include but are not limited to the following:

  • Courses aimed at teaching need to be an integral part of any program that includes teaching in its title (I noticed a distinct leaning toward weightier, more theoretical courses in many programs, but realize that these courses may be for those in PhD programs).
  • The teaching of writing is equally as important as the teaching of speaking but often takes a backseat in many TESOL teacher preparation programs.
  • The teaching of second language writing requires a unique set of skills not adequately covered in L1 composition methodology courses.
  • Teachers need theory to inform their practice.
  • Teachers need to be equipped to prepare students for the expectations of the academic discourse community.
  • Employers will certainly expect teachers to know how to teach writing.

Perhaps you can think of many more. I’m sure you can.

As I was examining other programs, I took a closer look at the program in which I teach. In it, all teaching assistants (MA COMP & RHET, MA LITERATURE, and MATESOL) take an intensive two quarters of training in composition methodology; those who are MATESOL also take a course in L2 Reading and Writing. However, at the undergraduate TESOL level, training is focused generally on speaking and listening and the absence of preparation for the teaching of writing worries me. I am not suggesting that no training exists, as the teaching of the four skills is treated in the methods course; however, I question if this is enough when I think of the kinds of jobs many graduates of our programs obtain.

As we consider the results of my hardly scientific data-gathering expedition, we should be reminded that we have much work to do. We need to examine our programs and push for the inclusion of a required course in the teaching of second language writing if one does not already exist. We need to engage in dialogue with our colleagues, presenting them with reasons to develop a course and include it in their programs. We need to inquire about other programs and stress the importance and value of such a course. We need to present at our local, state, and regional TESOL affiliates’ conferences, calling for a reexamination of curricula and required courses.

A Place for Assessment

But that’s not enough. In addition to the teaching of writing, teachers need to know how to assess writing. Often, I find that teachers are unaware of the development and scoring of assessments of writing. Many first-time teachers of writing are naïve about assignments and the assessment of writing. I remember the first time, as a very green teacher right out of a teacher education program at a small western Pennsylvania university, I gave a writing assignment to my L1 developmental writers. When the students handed in their work, I was stunned with the realization that I had not the slightest idea of how I would assign a grade. Clearly, I was unprepared for the task before me. I had established no criteria by which I would assess what my students had written. Worse yet, I was not sure where I might find help. I quickly realized that I had little expertise in the teaching of writing and still less proficiency in the assessment of writing. I felt slighted by my teacher preparation courses, especially the testing and measurements course in which the professor had spent nearly the entire semester teaching us to write “good” multiple-choice questions! How many of you have found yourselves in similar situations? And how many of you want the teachers you are helping to prepare to suffer a similar fate?

Therefore, I would like to propose that assessment of writing should be incorporated within a Teaching Second Language Writing course. Often, second language writing teachers attempt to assess their students without a clear understanding of the implications of their assessment decisions. The writing assessment field has evolved substantially over the past few decades, yet it seems to me that few outside the assessment community have implemented the pragmatic aspects of the assessment of writing. Certainly in the academic world, writing assessment is critically important; however, teachers often feel they are outside the realm of assessment, blocked by the language of testing professionals, stymied by quantification, and confused by rhetoric from the standardized testing community.

Teachers need both a strong practical and theoretical background. They need to be cognizant of the history of L2 writing, seminal publications in the field, methodology, and assessment. Within the assessment of writing, teachers should be knowledgeable about the different kinds of assessment and the different reasons to assess: for placement, for exit, and for in-class purposes. Further, teachers should be familiar with different kinds of rubrics--holistic, analytic, primary trait, and multiple trait--and should be able to train and norm raters. They need to be able to create prompts and rubrics. Finally, teachers should be savvy test consumers; they need to know about standardized testing and be able to intelligently articulate their objections to it. White (1996) reminds us that if we are not knowledgeable about assessment and control it within our programs, those outside our programs will control it. I believe that I can speak for most teachers when I say that no one wants those outside our classrooms to control what goes on inside our classrooms, where certainly teachers know best.

References

Garshick, E. (Ed.). (2002). Directory of teacher education programs in TESOL in the United States and Canada. Arlington, VA: Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages.

Matsuda, P. K. (2003). Second language writing in the twentieth century: A situated historical perspective. In B. Kroll (Ed.), Exploring the dynamics of second language writing (pp. 15-34). New York: Cambridge University Press.

White, E. M. (1996). Power and agenda setting in writing assessment. In E. M. White, W. D. Lutz, & S. Kamusikiri (Eds.), Assessment of writing: Politics, policies, practices (pp. 9-24). New York: The Modern Language Association of America.

Editor’s Note: Want to keep this conversation going? Interested in putting together a session at TESOL 2006 on this topic? Feel free to e-mail the author with ideas, information, and examples from your own programs.

Deborah Crusan is associate professor of TESOL and director of ESL Programs at Wright State University, Dayton, OH. Her research interests include writing assessment particularly for placement of ESL students, directed/guided self-placement and its consequences for second language writers, and the politics of assessment.


EFLAC: A Model for Language Courses at German Universities

By Michael Morrissey, e-mail: mdmorrissey@t-online.de

What is known as Writing Across the Curriculum was originally aimed at improving the writing competence of native English-speaking college students, but both the idea and the acronym, WAC, have spawned similar developments in foreign language education known as LAC (Language Across the Curriculum) and FLAC (Foreign Languages Across the Curriculum) and now, I propose, EFLAC (English as a Foreign Language Across the Curriculum).

The underlying principle in all of these ideas is that language skills, whether native or foreign, are best developed in the context of subject matter based elsewhere in the curriculum. This context provides the essential motivation to develop language skills not for their own sake, in a vacuum or an artificially constructed context, but as an integral part of the process of acquiring knowledge in some specialized field. It would be an oversimplification to say that it emphasizes content over form, but the idea that both are important, and in fact inseparable, is the common thread among many ideas that have gained currency in recent decades, including English for special purposes, content-based instruction, content and language integrated learning, whole language, Fluency First, bilingual education, communicative competence, and project and problem-based learning (cf. Morrissey, 2005).

Here in Germany, although all of these notions are well represented in theory, in the literature, and in the university curricula and have seen widespread implementation at the primary and secondary level, language-teaching practice at the universities remains highly traditional. Sprachpraxis (language practice) courses are normally taught by native speakers who are highly qualified (MA or PhD) but not professors, and these courses have a lower formal status as Übungen (another word for practice) than do content courses, which are called Seminare (seminars) or Vorlesungen (lectures). The situation is not unlike that in the United States, where EFL and writing instructors tend to be lower-ranking faculty.

The inadequacies of such a curriculum begin with the fact that traditionally the seminars and lectures, even within the foreign language departments, are held in German. How is one to practice what one learns in a seminar or lecture given in German? The situation has improved somewhat in recent years, as the number of German professors with practical foreign language skills has increased, but there is still virtually no coordination between so-called language courses and content courses. In the online course catalogues, the Anglistik/Amerikanistik departments list a variety of courses on interesting themes, many of which are offered wholly or partly in English, and far down the list is found another set of courses with rather less scintillating titles such as Writing 1, Writing 2, Translation, Conversation, Grammar, Oral Skills, and Pronunciation. These are the Sprachpraxis courses.

Bear in mind that the incoming students of English at German universities have normally had nine years of English at school and have already acquired high intermediate or advanced proficiency in the language. According to a recent study by Cambridge ESOL of 436 students from 89 high schools in Bavaria, 85% of these high school graduates are at the level of C1 on the Common European Framework (Cambridge ESOL, 2004). This is equivalent, according to ETS, to 560 TOEFL (220 CBT). The Bavarian results may be exceptionally good, with the nationwide average more likely between B2+ and C1, but it is clear that German students of English begin their studies with a degree of language proficiency that their American counterparts studying German or French reach only in the final phases of their studies, if at all.

This is a striking difference, and all the more striking in that the German universities have failed to exploit it. They have failed to achieve what the educational ministries of the various states have worked long and hard to achieve at the secondary level--a fairly uniform standard of language proficiency for graduates. Thus, in the last two years of high school (grades 12 and 13), students are offered not discrete-skill language-practice courses such as at the universities, but thematic units such as Science and Technology, Work and Industrialization, The (Post-)Colonial Experience, Power and Politics, Globalization, and The Free Market System using fully authentic texts by authors such as Sherwood Anderson, Alan Sillitoe, James Joyce, John Knowles, and Alvin Toffler.

In other words, English courses in the last two years of German high school are much like courses in the last years of German or French majors at American universities. What a pity that the German students, having achieved this level of proficiency at school and finally having an opportunity to interact with native speakers at a challenging intellectual level, find themselves “practicing” again. One might well ask, What for?

This structure, which relegates Sprachpraxis with native speakers to a lower and presumably more basic level of the curriculum, not only flies in the face of the facts but also betrays the underlying motivational force that has brought the learner to this point: the prospect of communicating with native speakers in a meaningful and challenging environment. To put it bluntly, the learner has not studied English for nine years and reached C1 proficiency to arrive at university and do grammar exercises--either with natives or with nonnatives.

The German dilemma, then, is essentially political, and no different from the situation elsewhere in the world except perhaps for the fact that the proficiency level of the students (in English) is somewhat higher. How does one integrate language courses taught by lower-ranking, nonprofessorial staff with content courses in the rest of the curriculum?

There are three possible approaches. One is top-down, whereby the professors and other content experts take on some of the functions of the language teachers. The other is bottom-up, whereby the language teachers take on some of the functions of the content teachers. A third possibility would be both:bidirectional. These correspond to the three LAC design variants that Stephen Straight described in his 1998 paper “Languages Across the Curriculum.”

Of the three, I think the second one, bottom-up, is the only realistic alternative. Top-down would meet insurmountable resistance from the top, as it would hard to convince content faculty that they are not demeaning themselves by working on language. The American experience with WAC shows that these attitudes can be overcome only with extraordinary diplomacy and years of hard work and administrative support. Bidirectionality or, as Straight put it, “a partnership between language and nonlanguage faculty,” is highly unlikely for the same reason, as it would require partnerships that are inherently unequal (professors and nonprofessors) and therefore bound to go sour.

That leaves us with bottom-up. This works, and there is great potential for development in largely uncharted territory if it is allowed to take its course. (I am looking forward to some interesting exchanges during the EVO session that María Jordano de la Torre and I are moderating, and which HEIS is sponsoring, this year [Morrissey & del Torre, 2005].) The idea is extremely simple, but like all simple ideas it runs the risk of being sabotaged by overdevelopment, not only by misguided administrators but also by students who are too used to being spoon-fed. In other words, given the traditional structure, however illogical and counterproductive it is, removing it will leave what is perceived as a vacuum by some. This means there is a lot of work to be done in educating people about the value and necessity of autonomous and collaborative learning, self-discovery, and so on.

On the whole, however--and this again reflects positively on the German secondary school system--I find that students, when left alone to write and talk about what they are interested in, will gravitate in the right direction, which is communicating with each other, and with me, about interesting and meaningful subjects, especially (because this is what I encourage) the subjects they are studying. The students keep a double-entry online journal about their reading in their other classes and discuss in class what they and others have written. This leaves me free to comment on language problems as I see fit, but also to concentrate on the exchange of ideas, which is the motivating force behind all learning. The sheer variety of topics militates against anyone, including me, claiming expertise, which is an advantage in that it encourages questions and independent inquiry. In any case, my language-teaching goal is achieved: the learner is actively engaged in meaningful communication with others, including a native speaker, at an appropriately challenging intellectual level.

This I feel is the right direction, not least because it maintains the current hierarchical structure and steps on no one’s toes, and at the same time provides an optimal learning environment for advanced learners.

References

Cambridge ESOL. (2004, March). Bavarian gymnasiasten. CAE Report. Circulated by http://www.cambridge-exams.de/.

Morrissey, M. D. (2005). English as a foreign language across the curriculum. Retrieved February 7, 2005, from http://www.mdmorrissey.com/eflac.

Morrissey, M. D., and del Torre, M. J. (2005). Electronic village online. Retrieved February 7, 2005, fromhttp://www.geocities.com/ehansonsmi/evo2005/EFL_curriculum.html.

Straight, H. S. (1998). Languages across the curriculum. Center for Applied Linguistics Digest, Oct. Retrieved February 7, 2005, fromhttp://www.cal.org/resources/digest/lacdigest.html.

Michael D. Morrissey has taught EFL at the University of Kassel, Germany, since 1977. He has also taught in Iran and the United States.


ESL for University Students: Beyond a Support Group

By Ruth Reynard, e-mail: rreynard@trevecca.edu

Editor’s note: This article introduces a project started this past fall at Trevecca Nazarene University. The article was originally submitted for the August newsletter issue, but time constraints made its publication impossible at that time. Thus, the author has added an epilogue to update readers on the progress of this project.

Background

The Academic Support Center (ASC), through which this study took place, provides a variety of academic support services for students at the university to help them realize their desired educational goals. Through tutoring assistance for developmental courses, peer tutoring, individual instruction, and counseling, the center works with students to empower them to be successful in academics. The center also provides academic support services to students with disabilities. The center supervises the process of earning academic credit though alternate methods other than traditional classroom instruction. The center has been in existence since the institution began offering academic tutorials for struggling students; however, it has been only within the past four years that the services have expanded to include the services described above. All services can be made available only to students who self-identify or, in the case of math and writing, students whose entrance scores are lower in those areas. The ESL students have typically been identified through the remedial classes and not through other tracking procedures at the university. In that regard, the concern of the center is two-fold:

  • How can we better identify ESL students?
  • How can we provide language-learning support that increases academic proficiency?

The plan of the center this fall was to work with ESL students in a class and tutorial setting as well as provide self-directed learning supports through technology. Though the ESL students are involved in a remedial English class, they are also enrolled in other general education classes. The center provides support throughout the general education core courses in the hope that most students are ready to move into their major study area by year three (of a four-year academic degree program). As this pilot study began this fall, the following questions were posed:

  • What kinds of learning supports are most used by ESL students?
  • What changes should be made in the course construction to better prepare ESL students for major study areas?
  • What resources do course instructors need to make available to ESL students as they progress?
  • How can the progress of the ESL students be supported within a language-learning framework while they are still involved in a remedial setting?

Theoretical Framework

The ideas behind the project are based on two concepts:

  • The importance of raising confidence in language students so that they see themselves as language rather than remedial students (i.e., language proficiency and use being addressed from an access-of-meaning perspective, rather than a standards-based approach).
  • The importance of providing authentic language use from actual course content, rather than a vacuous language practice session that does not support the academic language-acquisition process.

Each of these concepts emerges from a theoretical background. The importance of understanding the process of language acquisition and the part that authentic language use plays in that process has been consistently supported by major theorists in the field. Krashen (1981) distinguished between what he sees as the process of acquisition and the more complex processes of learning, where the learner not only becomes familiar with language parts and structures, but also becomes proficient in authentic use and application of the language learned. Language cannot be effectively acquired without an authentic context of learning within which the language is acquired. Knowing the parts of a language is not sufficient to acquire it for authentic use. Using the language authentically focuses the process of acquisition on actual language performance. It will also, in turn, raise the level of confidence in the learner when the language used is appropriate and authentic and, in our case, academically proficient. Krashen (1985) also promoted the notion of comprehensible input to suggest that when input is comprehensible to the learner, acquisition of the language will be maximized. Language progress will also be more effectively measured when the language learned is demonstrated meaningfully.

The notion of communicative competence was promoted by Canale and Swain (1979) and, later, Swain’s (1985) notion of comprehensible output suggests that competence in a language cannot be demonstrated without meaningful performance in that language that results from meaningful input (learning context). The challenge is to maximize comprehensible input while providing meaningful performance opportunities for language learners—performance that directly applies the language learned to authentic use. Cummins (1984) promotes the notion that a further distinction should be made between communicative and academic uses of a language, as each involved different processes of learning. Cummins (1984) described these distinctions as basic interpersonal communication skills (BICS) and cognitive academic language proficiency (CALP). The problem is that though this distinction is relevant to a university setting where academics is the goal, most language support, even for first language users, is not directly tied into academic language use. More often, language support deals with the mechanics of the language and/or writing style rather than the actual academic acquisition process. Sometimes that is because the input (in most cases, reading) is not consistent with the output (academic papers and discourse).

In a university setting, academic language development is the goal. Interestingly, most ESL students entering university from the school system have had only communicative language support and find it difficult to progress academically. ESL students at the university, however, represent different mother tongues and races. Some students are international students whose English language skills are static and they have no authentic language use experience.

Challenges

For this study, embarking on a trial program that does not alter the current program or entrance procedures has presented specific challenges to all concerned. The major challenge has been to identify a need. Though the university has had ESL support in the past, it has been mainly on an as-needed basis and has grouped the students together in communicative language-learning classes. Therefore, as students come into the university with a language need, something has been organized to address that need. As described above, the only ESL students identified are those whose entrance score is low enough to qualify for remedial help. What happens to students who score too high for the remedial classes and yet do not have adequate academic proficiency in the language or language-learning capability that will support their learning at university? Also, can a remedial class in English (designed for mother-tongue speakers) really address the challenges of students learning a second or third language?

In addition, challenges exist in the limited resources and funding available. The challenge is to do more with less and to remain within the existing organizational structure and course planning which means that second language students can be addressed only though remedial programs. In a small university, all learning challenges must be addressed through the support office, but that office has limited personnel and, currently, no one actually trained in ESL teaching and learning.

Use of Technology

My involvement with this project lies in the area of technology use. If resources are limited, can technology provide a personal learning space for language learners without diminishing the work of others? Research projects I have already worked with in the area of adult ESL distance learning students would suggest that individual learning styles and individual learning resource selection can be supported by the Internet (Reynard, 2003). In effect, individual learning spaces within the larger class community can be achieved. Cummins (2002) has also created an Internet-based language-learning support calledE-Lective to enhance academic language learning. This program allows authentic text to be analyzed and categorized in order to access meaning more effectively. Instructors and students can digitize actual texts and create academic vocabulary and sentence structures directly from the text in order to analyze language use and application. Through the asynchronous (different place and time; e.g., discussion boards, e-mail) and synchronous (same time and virtual place; e.g., text or audio chat) capabilities of the Web as well as the hypertechnology (embedded links) of the Internet, students can self-direct learning choices and instructor intervention, thus enabling the learning experience as meeting individual learning needs (Reynard, 2003). Each of the varieties of Internet uses allows for greater self-direction for the learner, great self-selection, and ultimately a level of authoring that supports authentic language use. Therefore, rather than the instructor presetting learning parameters, each student can self-direct his or her own learning and customize his or her own learning environment (even within a larger community of learners). This also means that when an instructor is aware of the potential of technology, courses can be multidimensional and multipurpose in design. Mother-tongue and second language students can learn together without either’s experience being diminished. Specific learner needs can be better met by empowering learners themselves to become front and center of the learning process. Achieving this level of learner autonomy is very conducive to effective language learning (Kramsch, A’Ness, & Lam, 2000; Reynard, 2003; Voller, 1997).

An Integrated Plan

This fall (2004) the university with which I am working embarked on a pilot study of an integrated plan of instruction for ESL students. Though the intake procedures remain the same, and, therefore, the students still form part of the remedial program, efforts have been made to provide individual learning spaces for each student. Although the support-group concept can provide a necessary support for students, the purpose of this study is to move beyond that support to provide an effective learning environment for a diverse student group. The basis of the study is to integrate technology in learning while providing access to an instructor and peer tutoring from other students. Each ESL student is assigned a language mentor to meet with weekly and work on assignments and practice using the language in academically focused discussion and writing projects. Each student also has access to an online resource center that provides access to a language program, such as E-Lective, and an online dictionary and translator. Students can also access an online discussion board and have e-mail access to the instructor. Another experiment that is being used primarily for the remedial English students is a blog. As part of the class, ESL students use this tool to journal and develop a personal voice throughout the course. Differences in the use and results of this tool will also be analyzed in relation to language learning.

During class sessions, the ESL students have the opportunity to participate in the regular course assignments; however, the instructor will modify specifics when needed. The study will run for the fall and spring semesters. The details and results of the study will be submitted for publication in the summer of 2005.

Summary

This purpose of this study is to help identify what kinds of supports and programs should be made available for ESL students at the university. It is also hoped, however, that if the study supports this notion, ESL students can become a part of the mainstream more quickly and their academic language development will be an integrated part of their university experience.

The Study So Far—An Update

Thirty international students were identified as possible participants and contacted by the support center. Of these 30, eight came to an initial meeting in the support center. The support center also sent an e-mail about the meeting to all faculty and students requesting anyone with interest to attend. Four students were freshmen in the Introduction to Writing class, and the rest were in various stages of their academic careers. Responses also came from students and faculty interested in helping in some way. All of the eight students who came to the initial meeting seemed very interested in having some sort of regular meeting with tutors. Two students in the Teaching of Writing course (senior class) worked one-on-one with two of the ESL students. The tutors seemed to benefit greatly from the experience and wish to continue next semester. This initial group of students has demonstrated some interest in the program; however, we want to find a better way of locating the students who would benefit from the program rather than working from preset administrative lists. Each student was asked to attend a brief face-to-face interview with the instructor and to write a summary page of personal information, interests, and language needs. Six of the eight came to the interviews. The idea was to have a way of discovering spoken, written, and applied language needs though this process of speaking and writing. Of the six who attended the interviews, only three actually submitted writing samples. The group of eight, however, did establish a blog ring to keep in touch with each other.

Comments from the instructor: I think we need to get a copy of an ESL testing device so that we can start a formal process of identifying who needs help. So far we have been using self-identification for the most part. The students seem to be very positive about wanting ESL support. I asked the original eight students to write down where they were from and have identified two from Korea, one from Germany, another from Asia, two from South America, and one from the Sudan.

Plans for Next Semester

  • Reestablish the initial group of ESL students and organize regular work sessions with them
  • Identify a better system of language testing
  • Provide training for assistants so that actual language-learning support can be provided
  • Identify possible technological supports in learning. Blogs will continue to be encouraged as a means to self-reflect and to communicate with other language students.
  • Encourage each student to create their own web page with access to two support software programs for translation and language use.

References

Canale, M., & Swain, M. (1979). Theoretical bases of communicative approaches to second language teaching and testing. Toronto: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

Cummins, J. (1984). Bilingualism and special education: Issues in assessment and pedagogy. San Diego, CA: College-Hill Press.

Cummins, J. (2002). e-lective language learning: Design of a computer-assisted text-based ESL/EFL learning system. Retrieved February 7, 2005, fromhttp://www.iteachilearn.com/cummins/elective.html

Kramsch, C., A’Ness, F., & Lam, W. S. E. (2000). Authenticity and authorship in the computer-mediated acquisition of L2 literacy. Language Learning and Technology, 14(2), 78–104. Retrieved February 10, 2005, from http://llt.msu.edu/vol4num2/kramsch/default.html.

Krashen, S. (1981). Second language acquisition and second language learning. Oxford: Pergamon Press.

Krashen, S. (1985). The input hypothesis: Issues and implications. London: Longman.

Reynard, R. (2003). Internet-based ESL for distance adult students – A framework for dynamic language learning. The Canadian Modern Language Review, 60(2), 123.

Swain, M. (1985). Communicative competence: Some rules of comprehensible input and comprehensible output in its development. In S. Gass & C. Madden (Eds.), Input in second language acquisition (pp. 235–253). Rowley, MA: Newbury House.

Voller, P. (1997). Does the teacher have a role in autonomous learning? In P. Benson & P. Voller (Eds.), Autonomy and independence in language learning(pp. 98–113). London: Longman.

Ruth Reynard, associate professor and director of instructional technology at Trevecca Nazarene University, has been involved in ESL technology innovation and research for 12 years in Canada and the United States. She recently developed a graduate ESL program for school teachers.


Practical Tips for Teaching Telephone Use in English

By Karen Stanley, e-mail: karen.stanley@cpcc.edu

On the TESL-L e-mail list during August 2004, a Canadian teacher (Ed Fobes) wrote in to ask how he could best help his intermediate class of six adults practice everyday life situations that involved using the telephone in English.

In response, Barry Bakin suggested looking into toll-free (800/888 numbers in the United States and Canada) sites that use voice recognition technology. This requires students to speak "clearly enough for a computer to recognize the response and proceed through a series of menu items. My feeling is that since students don't have to actually talk to a person they won't be as nervous and if they ever get completely flustered they can just hang up and start again without fear of insulting anybody or getting in trouble." He gave an example of an airline number: "The instructor can use the website to select a specific flight that is already in transit (picking one of several hours' duration) to a specific location. The instructor would then have the students call the 800 number to ascertain the expected arrival time. The students would have to listen to the recorded message, responding to the prompts from the computerized system, which say things like: 'Say the flight number' or 'I don't know' or 'Is that for departure or arrival?' If they respond appropriately, they will eventually get the flight arrival information including time of arrival, gate at the airport, and even where to pick up baggage. They would have to fill out a simple worksheet for each flight."

Amanda Parmley, in Taiwan, was able to give practical exercises for EFL environments. She had her students use their cell phones, dividing the class in half and sending them to different rooms to telephone each other. She also had her 50 students call her as homework. "They had to call within a certain time, and I would answer the phone 'Gateway Travel. This is Cynthia. How can I help you?' They were supposed to plan a trip with the details I would ask for and questions they needed answered before they called. After this, I called them right back and they had a 'role card.' I was calling to make an appointment with their boss."

Mert Bland also suggested having students phone each other from different rooms. He provided an example exercise from the Defense Language Institute: "[T]here was a sand box in each room, one set up to show a town, roads, canals, defensive gun emplacements, etc., and the other was bare (with the toy houses and such on the side). Team one was supposed to give directions to team two to allow the latter to replicate the sand table setup. At the end of the exercise each was allowed to check out the sand table in the other room to see where communication broke down if it did."

Karen Stanley wrote in with exercise examples for different proficiency levels:

"(1) Beginning level: I find telephone numbers that have prerecorded messages. I try to choose numbers with useful information for the students, such as the local science museum. I make a tapescript with missing information, and students must listen and fill in the information about cost of tickets, where to park, hours, etc. For a more advanced class, instead of a tapescript, you could just write general questions, such as 'How much does an adult have to pay to get in?,' and rely on the students to figure out where that information is answered in the recording.

(2) Intermediate level: I have students make an audio tape for their telephone answering machine. You can also have them make a tape leaving a message about a certain activity for someone else's answering machine. (These ideas are adapted from Sue Miller's Targeting Pronunciation. We usually generate possible messages together in class (or in small groups), then have them turn in the written message (in case they're actually thinking of putting it on their machine-to avoid errors for real-life listeners) for correction, then have them turn in the audio tape with the written message. I provide audio feedback on the tape before returning it to the students.

(3) Advanced level: We find different businesses you might actually call for information, such as a car rental. In class, we generate the types of information you might want to know, and write the questions you would ask to find out that information. Then I ask them to call an actual car rental. (I tell them if the car rental asks if they want to make a reservation right then, just to tell them that the call is to gather information.) They are supposed to ask at least three questions during the conversation. They turn in a report that gives the questions they asked, they answers they got, what they thought was difficult about making the call, and what went well."

Finally, Michael Swann had ideas for classrooms in which the students have access to computers with microphone-equipped headphones. "[Y]ou can simulate phone calls with Microsoft NetMeeting on a LAN (local area network) or through the Internet with the voice chat option of most instant messaging programs. NetMeeting is standard on most versions of Windows." He also suggested incorporating real-life classified ads as a part of the exercise.

Reference

Miller, S. (1999). Targeting pronunciation: The intonation, sounds, and rhythm of American English. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

Karen Stanley teaches academic ESL in the Foreign Language Division at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA.


Review of "The War Against Grammar"

By Craig Machado, e-mail: CMachado@ncc.commnet.edu

Teaching English grammar explicitly has long been a source of contention and controversy. Traditionalists lament the decline of students' reading and writing skills and impute it to their inability to understand how language works, whereas modernists dismiss the traditionalists' grammar angst and think that teachers need to focus more on stylistics, critical literacy, and self-expression in helping students write better.

At my college the English department recently inaugurated a one-credit Grammar for Composition course because many students could not identify or explain things such as dependent clauses or gerunds, concepts some writing teachers feel students need to know to help them analyze and improve their writing. Several foreign language instructors have also noted that many students don't know basic parts of speech, useful reference points for embarking on the study of the grammar of another language.

In my own area of ESL, grammar has been, at least since the era of the structuralists in the 50s, a staple of most programs and curricula. Publishers have followed the proliferation of people learning English worldwide with hundreds of books devoted to prescriptive grammar lessons, though some leading lights in ESL/EFL education are now calling for a shift away from book-based grammar to a study of usage via the spoken language.

David Mulroy, a professor of classics at the University of Wisconsin, enters the grammar fray with his well-argued book, The War Against Grammar (David Mulroy; Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2003; 128 pages), the title of which is intended to send a message of alarm and raise the call to bring grammar teaching back into the fore of K-12 English teaching. To bolster his argument Mulroy cites the phenomenal growth of remedial English at the college level, the decline in foreign language study, the lower verbal scores on the SAT, and an ETS report on adult literacy that showed that the United States ranked poorly against other high-income countries in reading ability.

Mulroy retraces the roots of our present-day notion of liberal arts to the Greeks who developed formal systems of inquiry in grammar, rhetoric, logic, mathematics, and philology: "The liberal arts are the ground rules of thought, not its end. In Aristotelian terms, they are not speculative disciplines, aimed at learning ultimate truths, but practical ones designed to serve ulterior purposes. Their value is instrumental" (p. 35). This practical aspect of liberal arts training can still be seen today in many college curricula where core requirements include composition, public speaking, introduction to literary analysis, and mathematics.

As an ESL practitioner I recognize that most (second) language acquisition goes on idiosyncratically outside the classroom, yet within structured learning classes students need and want to understand grammar and be able to apply it to communicate effectively in speaking and writing. Though Mulroy acknowledges that native speakers of English have an intuitive and largely unconscious sense of correct grammar, he feels one should not dismiss the value of explicitly teaching parts of speech, what constitutes complex sentences, and the purpose of subordination. According to Mulroy, having grammatical and analytical tools at one's disposal enables students to take on complex texts such as Shakespeare or the Bible as well as to learn another language.

As always, in debates of this nature, it is important to keep perspective, lest an absolutist position blind one to other legitimate concerns. Few would quibble with Mulroy about the importance of grammar, though he may be too lightly dismissing other factors influencing a person's literacy such as race, socioeconomic class, and access to good schools. The War Against Grammar is the kind of text that could provoke some very thoughtful discussion among English, ESL, and foreign language educators as well as those involved in training tomorrow's teachers.

Craig Machado is ESL program director at Norwalk Community College. The program was recently honored by the National Council of Teachers of English for outstanding work in the area of developmental English.



Convention Updates

Getting Involved With HEIS at the TESOL 2005 Convention

1. Search programs and events.

Visit http://www.tesol.org/planner to search for sessions and presentations.

2. Volunteer to staff the HEIS booth--a great place to sit, relax, and network.

E-mail Guy Kellogg, gkellogg@hawaii.edu, for details.

3. Mark your calendars for these special sessions:

HEIS Academic Session:
Revisiting the Reading/Writing Connection

Thursday, March 31, 8:30-11:15 a.m.
Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center/207

HEIS/ALIS Intersection:
Corpus Research and Teaching Academic Writing

Friday, April 1, 9:30-11:15 a.m.
Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center/217C

4. Come to the HEIS Open Meeting to network and plan events.

HEIS Open Business Meeting:
Networking Sessions and Planning for 2005-2006
Wednesday, March 30, 5:00-7:00 p.m.
Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center/007C

HEIS hopes to use this meeting time to increase networking among members. Come meet colleagues with similar pedagogical and administrative interests, discuss issues, share best practices, and choose topics and foci for HEIS 2005-2006 projects and plans. Contact Guy Kellogg, HEIS chair for 2005-2006, atgkellogg@hawaii.edu if you have ideas to share but cannot attend the meeting or the convention.


HEIS/ALIS InterSection: Corpus Research and Teaching Academic Writing

Join the ESL in Higher Education and Applied Linguistics Interest Sections for this special event:
Friday, April 1, 9:30-11:15 a.m.
Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center/217C

Session Overview: Panelists, including researchers and classroom language educators, will provide an overview of corpus research, highlight findings relevant to academic writing, and present practical applications for teaching English for academic purposes. Issues include grammatical features common to particular genres and formulaic phrases used to construct academic texts.

Lexical Bundles in University Written Registers
Douglas Biber, Northern Arizona University 
Recurrent lexical expressions--lexical bundles--serve important functions in the construction of discourse. The present talk surveys previous research showing how lexical bundles in textbooks differ dramatically from those in classroom teaching. It then extends earlier studies by describing the typical lexical bundles found in institutional writing (e.g., university catalogs) and textbooks from different academic disciplines.

Title TBA
Eli Hinkel, Seattle University
Because producing good written text takes more than organizing ideas (incomprehensible text will render the best organization moot), the teaching of L2 writing needs to rely less on methodologies developed for native students and focus more on teaching the language tools needed in learning a second language. This study investigates 68 syntactic, lexical, and rhetorical features of NS and NNS (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indonesian, Vietnamese, and Arabic speakers) academic text in English (432,000 words/1,458 essays) and compares their L1 and L2 uses. The results have wide-ranging implications for L2 grammar, vocabulary, and writing instruction.

Providing Teachers With Training in Phraseology and Semantic Prosody as Background to Changes in Instruction, Materials, and the ESL/EFL Curriculum
Patricia Byrd, Georgia State University
Research in corpus linguistics reveals underlying structural patterns at the intersection of word+grammar+meaning, including phraseology and semantic prosody. But work with these features is not yet part of standard grammar or linguistics training for most ESL/EFL teachers. The presenter suggests practical ways to help classroom teachers implement changes in grammar and vocabulary instruction necessitated by corpus linguistic studies of English-in-use.

Grammar Meets Vocabulary in Academic Writing Classes: Corpus-Based Verb Instruction
Jan Frodesen, University of California, Santa Barbara
Margi Wald, University of California, Berkeley
Pedagogical grammar emphasizes how vocabulary and grammar interact in learners' development of communicative competence and academic literacy. To date, few advanced academic writing instructional materials draw on insights gained from corpus research. As one way to help writers work with vocabulary and grammar patterns, presenters demonstrate analysis and production tasks related to verbs in academic discourse. Handouts provided.



About This Community

HEIS Steering Committee (PDF)

Click to view the article. [PDF]

About the ESL in Higher Education Interest Section

ESL in Higher Education Interest Section

TESOL's ESL in Higher Education advances effective instruction, promotes professional standards and practices, influences and supports policies of TESOL and other associations, determines needs, and considers all other matters relevant to ESL in colleges and universities.

HEIS Community Leaders 2004-2005

Chair: Sue Lantz Goldhaber, e-mail slgqc@aol.com
Chair-Elect: Guy R. Kellogg, e-mail gkellogg@hawaii.edu 
Editor: Margi L. Wald, e-mail mwald@berkeley.edu

Discussion E-List: Visit http://www.tesol.org/getconnected to subscribe to HEIS-L, the discussion list for HEIS members, or visithttp://lists.tesol.org/read/?forum=heis-l if already a subscriber.

Web sites: http://llc.msu.edu/elc/heis/ and http://www.tesol.org/heis