HEIS News

Volume 27:2 (August 2008)

by User Not Found | 10/25/2011
In This Issue...
  • Leadership Updates
    • Letter From the Chair
  • Articles
    • Language-Learning Strategies and Attitudes of Achievers and Underachievers
    • ESL/EFL and Learners’ Identities: Analyzing Prejudice in Textbooks
    • HEIS Discussion Group: How to Raise Cultural Awareness
  • Reports on TESOL 2008 Presentations
    • Plagiarism in EFL: Students, Teachers, Solutions
    • English Language Training and English Language Materials Development in Afghanistan
    • Tactics for Part-Time, Adjunct, or Contingent Academic Labor
  • Articles
    • Language-Learning Strategies and Attitudes of Achievers and Underachievers
    • ESL/EFL and Learners’ Identities: Analyzing Prejudice in Textbooks
    • HEIS Discussion Group: How to Raise Cultural Awareness
  • Reviews
    • Book review of Making Productive Use of Classroom Technology
  • Computer Technology
    • Is “Online” the 21st-Century Version of “Correspondence”?
  • Announcements and Information
    • TESOL Position Statements
  • About This Community
    • Call for Submissions
    • Call for Book Review Submissions
    • Call for Computer Technology Submissions

Leadership Updates Letter From the Chair

José A. Carmona, HEIS Chair, 2008-2009, jose.carmona@erau.edu

Dear Colleagues,

I am very grateful to our members who participated in our open business meeting and discussions in New York. It was a very productive meeting with many new ideas stemming from the enthusiasm of participants new and old. My only disappointment was the small number of colleagues present. I have been told that every year the number keeps getting smaller; however, I have faith in all of you, and I know that I will see you all at the TESOL 2009 convention. I will be bringing goodies to Denver hoping that it will attract you to our meeting.

TESOL 2009 Preparations and Concerns
As this issue of our newsletter is being prepared, we are selecting an Academic Session and two InterSections for next year’s TESOL in Denver, Colorado. Our themes for the InterSections are based on program development.

Our proposal readers have also been finishing up their reading assignments. I want to thank the proposal readers, who read an average of 15 to 20 proposals each:

Maria Ammar
José A. Carmona
Christina Cavage
Jane Conzett
Eve Fonseca
Mary Beth Haan
Denis Hall
Kim Hardiman
Andrea Hellman
Kieran Hilu
Evian Ho
Alice Lee
Anne Martin
Susan Nissan
Adrienne Ochoa
Carol Ochsner
Rosemary Orlando
Maria Parker
Christine Parkhurst
Theresa Pruett-Said
Martha Sevier
Megan Siczek
Diane Silvers
Karen Stanley
Dara Suchke
Donald Weasenforth

Each proposal was read by at least three readers. However, I did notice that our proposals (over 180 this year) were down by at least 38 from last year. This poses some concerns about attendance at next year’s convention. By now, many school districts around the country have downsized their personnel. Here in Florida we have seen some large districts dismiss personnel in the thousands. I have also witnessed how many colleges in Florida have reduced or eliminated traveling for their instructors in some instances even if they are presenting at a conference. Maybe this is something we should address through our e-list or at the very latest at our next open meeting in Denver. How will we fund our conference travel and lodging expenses in the future?

HEIS Steering Committee Changes
At our meeting in New York, we also announced our new steering committee members based on our election earlier this year. First and foremost, I want to thank Soonhyang Kim, our immediate past chair, who worked very hard before, during, and after the New York convention. Thanks to her efforts, we will be having two InterSections in Denver. Soonhyang and Denis Hall have been my mentors throughout this process. I would also like to thank Frank Smith, 2007-2008 assistant chair, Miles D. Witt, 2006-2008 secretary, Ishbel Galloway, 2007-2008 web manager, and Kathryn Good, 2007-2008 member-at-large, for their valuable work with the steering committee this past year. Thank you, Guy, for taking an additional job managing the Web site at our meeting!

Our current HEIS leadership includes the following:
Chair:                             José A. Carmona
Chair-Elect:                     Shawn Ford
Immediate Past Chair:     Denis A. Hall
Assistant Chair:               Kim Hardiman
Secretary:                      Diane Silvers
E-list/Web Manager:        Guy Kellogg
Editor:                            Maria Parker
Membership Coordinator: Tracis Justus
Member-at-Large:            Sheryl Slocum (2007-2010)
Member-at-Large:            Goedele Gulikers (2007-2009)
Member-at-Large:            Alan D. Lytle (2008-2011)

We added a membership coordinator position to the steering committee at the New York open meeting because of the need for recruitment and more contact with our membership. I also want to extend a welcome to our new steering committee members from the membership. Shawn, Kim, Diane, Tracis, and Alan have joined our board with great enthusiasm. Please, come meet them in Denver. I also want to thank Denis, Maria, Guy, Sheryl, and Goedele for being willing to stay with us and continue to follow their ideas for a better IS.

I do want to challenge you not only to attend the conference in Denver but also to share your ideas with me or anyone on the steering committee through our e-list or in a more formal way through our newsletter.

Sincerely,
José



Articles Language-Learning Strategies and Attitudes of Achievers and Underachievers

Charito M. Aglaua, caglaua@ccp.edu

Introduction
The field of learner strategy research has grown dramatically in importance during the past decades. In his book, A Cognitive Approach to Language Learning, Skehan (1998) cited various studies to illustrate this point. The first major research, by Naiman et al. (1975, cited in Skehan 1988) found that very successful language learners attributed their success to the use of five general strategies: an active learning approach; realization of language as a system; realization of language as a means of communication; handling of affective demands; and monitoring of progress. Skehan (1998) also described studies by Wong-Filmore (1979), Rubin (1981), Politzer and McGroarty (1985), O’Malley et al. (1985, and Oxford (1990). 
The present study was aimed at determining the effect of attitude and learning strategies on learners’ level of achievement in language learning.

Theoretical Framework
Learning Strategies: Oxford's Model
Learning strategies are steps taken by students to enhance their learning. They are especially important for learning a language because they are tools or devices for active and self-directed involvement, which is important for developing communicative competence (Oxford, 1990). Other terms used includetactics, techniques, potential conscious plans, consciously employed operations, learning skills, cognitive abilities, information processing strategies, problem solving procedures, and basic skills (Wenden, 1987, cited in Oxford, 1996).

Learning strategies are divided into two major classes: direct and indirect. Direct strategies refer to those that directly involve the target language. They require mental processing of the language and are further classified into three groups: memory, cognitive, and compensation. Indirect strategies provide support and enable the learners to manage language learning without directly involving the target language. They are divided into metacognitive, affective, and social (Oxford, 1990).

Attitude
Attitude, according to Lardizabal (1988), refers to the learned emotional predisposition to act in a particular way in a particular situation or toward a particular thing. It is a positive or negative feeling associated with a specific psychological object, which is anything that a person reacts to. An individual has a positive attitude if he or she has the tendency to respond favorably in a certain way toward or away from a person or thing, or a neutral attitude if he or she tends to respond neither toward nor away from a person or object but remains indifferent. If the individual has an unsatisfying experience, his or her attitude toward the object involved in the experience will be unfavorable, thus creating a negative attitude toward the same object (Lardizabal, 1988). Brown (1994) and Oxford (1990) maintain that attitude plays an important role in the learning process.

Conceptual Framework
This study had one independent variable and two dependent variables. The respondents’ level of achievement in Communication Arts 1 (ComArt1)  served as the independent variable. The language-learning strategies employed by the subjects in learning English and their attitude toward English as a subject served as the dependent variables.

Methodology
Data were collected from 22 freshman students in two Communication Arts classes at De La Salle University, Manila (DLSU) who were classified into achievers (11) and underachievers (11). Their midterm grades in the class were used as bases for classifying students into the two groups: Those with grades from 3.0 to 4.0 were classified as achievers and those from 1.0 to 2.0 as underachievers. (Students with grades of 2.5 were classified as average and were not included in the study.) Both groups were taught by the teacher-researcher at the time the study was conducted.

The instruments used were the (a) Strategy Inventory Language Learning (SILL) for Speakers of Other Languages Learning English and (b) Attitude Scale. The SILL is an instrument designed by Oxford (1990). In this study, Version 7.0 (for speakers of other languages learning English) was used. The SILL uses a questionnaire format to determine students’ frequency of use of learning strategies. It is composed of strategy descriptions to be answered on a Likert scale of 1 to 5, according to the frequency of use by the subject. The strategy descriptions are classified according to the six categories of learning strategies: memory, cognitive, metacognitive, compensation, affective, and social. The points on the scale are (1) never or almost never true of me, (2) generally not true of me, (3) somewhat true of me, (4) generally true of me, and (5) always or almost always true of me. The SILL is self-scoring and provides immediate results to students.

The Attitude Scale was developed by the researcher in another related research study (Aglaua, 1995) previously conducted. Its content and statistical validity and reliability had been tested. The scale is a 15-item, 5-point Likert scale. The points on the scale are (1) strongly disagree, (2) disagree, (3) undecided, (4) agree, and (5) strongly agree.

The data gathered through the SILL were statistically treated using, among others, a 2 x 6 analysis of variance (ANOVA), with a .05 level of confidence. Those gathered through the attitude scale were treated using the t test for two independent samples, with a .05 level of confidence.

What language-learning strategies are used by achievers and underachievers? The mean scores in Table 1 reveal that both groups make use of all types of strategies—memory, cognitive, compensation, metacognitive, affective, and social. This can be explained by Oxford’s (1996) view that learners, whether achiever, average, or underachiever, tend to use a wide range of strategies. However, the achievers consistently obtained higher mean scores than did the underachievers, which means that the former make use of the strategies more often than do the latter. This can be explained by Oxford’s (1996) claim that the higher the level of achievement the students have, the more they are likely to use learning strategies at a higher frequency level.

Furthermore, as indicated by the rank of the mean scores, it is interesting to note that the most frequently used strategies by both groups are metacognitive ones, which allow learners to control their own cognition by centering, arranging, planning, and evaluating their own learning. This implies that both groups value learner autonomy, the freedom to control their respective learning processes.

But is there any significant difference in the strategies used between the two groups? The use of 2 x 6 ANOVA yielded an F ratio of 2.54, which is lower than the F-critical value of 2.29 at p > .05. This means that there is no significant difference in the learning strategies used between the two groups. Why do both groups make use of the same strategies of all types? Again, Oxford’s (1996) position that learners tend to use a wide range of strategies regardless of level of achievement may explain this finding.

Because there is no significant difference between the achievers and the underachievers in the learning strategies employed, apparently learning strategies do not influence level of achievement. This result is contrary to Oxford’s and Burley-Stock’s (1995, cited in Oxford, 1996) claim that there is a direct significant relationship between learning strategy use and language performance, with the latter measured through course grades, achievement, proficiency, placement results, teacher ratings, and student self-ratings.

 
 
What is the attitude of the two groups toward English as a subject? The computed mean scores of both groups (Table 2) are 47.27 and 48.45 (as against the perfect mean score of 75; 5-point scale x 15-item scale) for achievers and underachievers, respectively. These findings reveal that both groups tend to have a positive attitude toward English as a subject. One could theorize that because the students in the study are majoring in business, they realize the value of English in their future careers.

However, there is a slight difference in the mean scores between the two groups. The underachievers seem to have a more positive attitude toward English as a subject than do the achievers. It is possible that because the latter also most frequently use metacognitive strategies as mentioned earlier, they realize, based on their own monitoring and evaluation, that their level of achievement is not high. Hence, they are motivated to exert more effort in learning the target language.

In addition, as shown in Table 2, the computed t value of the respondents’ mean scores in the Attitude Scale is .76, which is lower than the critical value of 2.086. This means that there is no significant difference between achievers and underachievers in the attitude toward English as a subject. In other words, the attitude of students toward English as a subject does not influence level of achievement in an English class.  It should be noted that, as mentioned earlier, both groups of students have the same positive attitude toward English.

Summary and Recommendation
This study found that both achievers and underachievers employ all types of learning strategies. This suggests that when a language teacher designs a lesson plan or a syllabus, he or she may have to vary classroom activities to fit the various strategies that the learners use. Also, the most frequently used strategies by both groups are metacognitive ones, which allow learners to control their own cognition by centering, arranging, planning, and evaluating their own learning. Thus, the language teacher may have to be less imposing in class and may need to use teaching techniques toward a more individualized and self-directed learning.

The results of the study likewise reveal that learning strategies do not influence achievement. Hence, it may not be necessary to spend some class time for a discussion of or training students on the use of these strategies. After all, as was found by Skehan (1998), efforts toward strategy training proved only minimal gains if not nothing at all. Moreover, the study shows that that there is no significant difference between achievers and underachievers in the attitude toward English as a subject. Specifically, both groups have the same positive attitude. However, this seems to suggest that the language teacher needs to use teaching strategies or techniques that will sustain or enhance such an attitude.

Finally, because this study involved students from generally affluent backgrounds, conducting comparative research among university students of different economic background should provide further insights. Also, the use of a standard instrument to measure level of achievement is highly suggested for future research.

References
Aglaua, C. M. (1995). The effectiveness of the use of speech laboratory: An experimental study. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. St. Paul University, Tuguegarao City, Philippines.
Brown, D. H. (1994). Principles of language learning and teaching. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall Regents.
Lardizabal. A. S. (1988). Principles and methods of teaching. Quezon City, Philippines: Alemar’s-Phoenix Publishing House, Inc.
Oxford, R. L. (Ed.). (1996). Language learning motivation: Pathways to the new century. Honolulu, Hawaii: Second Language Teaching & Curriculum.
Oxford, R. L. (1990). Language learning strategies. What every teacher should know. New York: Newbury House Publishers.
Skehan, P. (1998). A cognitive approach to language learning. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.

Formerly assistant professor of English at De La Salle University in Manila, Philippines, Charito Aglaua is currently adjunct professor at Bucks County Community College, Community College of Philadelphia, and the University of Pennsylvania, where she teaches ESL, college, and developmental reading and writing courses.


ESL/EFL and Learners’ Identities: Analyzing Prejudice in Textbooks

Clara Lara Terrero, clara.lara23@yahoo.com

Introduction
It is generally agreed that there is an increasing effort to eliminate bias and prejudice from textbooks, including ESL/EFL materials. Although recently there has been an increasing attempt to include those in the periphery of the social wheel, mainstream identities continue to prevail in EFL texts, and different races, ethnicities, nationalities, creeds, and gender or sexual identities are still often misrepresented or ignored. For instance, although Spanish and Catalan society has opened up in the context of sexual orientation and gender roles, the textbook analyzed in this study ignores the reality of this social change.

It is through an exploration of values—that is, how one chooses to live one’s life and construct an identity—that we can better understand how students construct a sense of themselves. However, identities are also shaped by the social boundaries set by mainstream society through language, values, social conduct, and other variables.

Because with globalization and migration our classrooms are increasingly heterogeneous, it is vital to consider the social consequences and effects of such texts in the face of instructors’ attempts to create an inclusive and aware classroom atmosphere. I argue for representing the fluid, dynamic character of the multiple identities of our students.

Theoretical Framework
Language is an instrument that is used to categorize, to position oneself and others in a speech community, and to get things done. It is an inherent part of all people’s identities. These many identities of a person are shaped by broader interests concealed in language, which are produced and reproduced on the basis of power relations and the values dictated by hegemonic ideologies. Other studies have shown that identities are not fixed but fluid and negotiated between interlocutors and also that social norms, ideologies and systems of beliefs that are detrimental can be accepted or contested and changed A. Pavlenko and A.Blackledge  (2004), Lippi Green (1997), Urciuoli (1996), Jane Hill (1995), Cots, J. M. (2006).

Critical Discourse Analysis
Following Fairclough (2003), critical discourse analysis (CDA) is an instrument of language analysis, but it is also a teaching tool when incorporated in a class to examine texts from a critical perspective. Critical language awareness is relevant in the process of learning if we are to raise questions about power relations and social boundaries that exclude or discriminate against our students or others. CDA allows us to view language from a broader perspective—not language per se, but linking what is conveyed through grammar, vocabulary, and phonology with the ideologies that go beyond texts, that is, connecting the micro with the macro or examining what can be done through language. CDA was used as the base of this analysis because it is through language that identities are constructed, negotiated, or imposed unequally in society but it is also through language that social rules of exclusion can be contested and changed. 

Main Questions
In the past few decades, minority groups in Europe have gained official recognition of their civil rights; for example, same-sex marriage has become legal and the right of same-sex couples to adopt children recognized, the opportunities open to women have broadened, and more ethnic groups share the resources in their communities.

However, these developments are often not reflected in the textbooks available in the European market. This is a critical point because, apart from being teaching materials, textbooks influence students’ life in the ways they reproduce the worldview of mainstream society and practice power relations that exclude and include individuals. Although there is a clear intention to look cosmopolitan, texts do not always reflect advances in society. Moreover, students actively involved in their learning notice instances of bias in classroom texts. In my class, for example, a biography of Oscar Wilde notes that he “was arrested for immoral behavior, because of his intimate friendship with Lord Alfred Douglas,” but the fact that he was gay is not mentioned. Similarly, an article about why men don’t iron “explains” that the differences between men and women are wholly genetic. Yet another page describes the Amish as an unusual community of people who “can eat hot dogs but . . . can’t have TVs” which made a negative impression on students in my class. Instances such as these led me to ask the following questions:

• Why are our textbooks not in line with social changes in European society?
• Why are the life experiences of our students not reflected in textbooks?
• Why are minority groups still misrepresented or ignored in textbooks?
• What would happen if we, as teachers, discussed openly “controversial” issues such as racism and nonmajority lifestyles and sexual orientation in our classes?

The aim of this analysis was to demonstrate first that the language, images, and contexts used in English textbooks need to be modified, and second, how this can be done so that they portray and thus include a more diverse and realistic population.

Method
A qualitative critical perspective guided this research, which was conducted in 2000-2003. The book examined was English File. Although this book was published over ten years ago, it is still popular among EFL teachers for its grammar, phonology and vocabulary exercises. However, it does not reflect the social changes that Catalan and other European societies have experienced. Eight students and four teachers were asked a series of semi-structured open-ended questions such as, “What do you think about the role of textbooks in the life of students?” The interviews were recorded and transcribed, and a summary was sent to the students interviewed for triangulation. The same teachers and students also completed a questionnaire. In addition, a modified version of the same questionnaire was given to 75 students, including the eight students interviewed.

The participants were chosen at random from our classes. The students were undergraduate and graduate students from all the various college degree programs at a university in Spain who take English courses as part of their curriculum, as well as administrative staff members and the general public who register for English courses. Although mostly from Catalonia and the rest of Spain, students also come from other countries, especially Latin America. The proficiency level of the students participating in the study was C1 in the Common European Framework, or “proficient user.”

The participants were for the most part female, ranging in age from 19 to 50, with the majority between 22 and 26. Participants were not asked their sexual orientation, but some volunteered in the interview that they were gay or lesbian. The interviewer also noted that “the fact that I’m myself [a] Black immigrant could have influenced their answers because they show empathy in class when issues related to immigration, minorities, women, etc. come to the fore. Their evaluation of me as a teacher is normally very good, too.” 
 

The results from the interviews and questionnaire clearly demonstrate that it is through language that institutional ideologies and social rules are contested or complied with. The opinion of the participants was that in general this book has a deplorable image of nonmajority groups. Also, they think that books as mediators should promote a positive image of students and not denigrate or be detrimental to anyone.

Analysis
The illustrations, graphics, and photos analyzed indicate that men are still portrayed in more active roles than women and that some “races” are more talented than others. For instance, the illustrations depict women as homemakers for the most part and men, if at home, are illustrated as reading or watching TV but not cleaning, cooking, or taking care of children. In the chapter entitled “Men and Women: The Statistics Don’t Lie” there is an illustration of an Italian woman in an office standing in front of the computer and looking out at the rain as she wishes she “had brought the washing in” and thinking, ”why doesn’t my husband wash his own shirts?” Similarly, all the photos that show families are composed of two people of the opposite sex, so it was apparently still unthinkable to include same-sex couples, even though in most of Europe homosexuals have full civil rights. Also, photos of Whites, males, and heterosexuals in top positions prevail throughout the book; all the other diverse ethnicities and social groups in our classes are either ignored or offended by inaccurate representations, even though most Spanish and European cities are cosmopolitan. When Blacks and Non-white other groups are shown, they are Jamaicans smoking and singing or playing sports Finally, in the chapter entitled “Gender Difference?” it is explained that in karaoke bars, men’s favorite song is “My Way.” Women’s is “I Will Survive.”  
 
Discussion and Implications
The identity, orientation, and culture of our students could be openly expressed and discussed provided there is a respectful atmosphere fostered by teachers, classmates, and textbooks as well as other didactic material. I believe that instructional materials should depict the truth about our heterogeneous world and that not doing so means further marginalization of a large group of citizens. I suggest that the prejudices identified in the texts should be openly addressed in a supportive and friendly atmosphere where students do not feel threatened. What is more, if the perpetuation of mainstream roles continues, the negative impact only serves to more deeply condemn the life of a large sector of society.

Addressing Biases
Diverse groups in society should be included in TESOL course programs. If we want to eliminate the inequalities that appear in some texts, we need to

• Support ideas that affirm group identities.
• Facilitate discussions that encourage individual participation in class.
• Express disagreement in a respectful way and teach the necessary language for doing so.
• Analyze with students any prejudice reflected in texts.
• Analyze assumptions about different roles in society.
• Check materials for biased language.
• Reverse traditional roles and then talk about breaking boundaries.

Strategies for Creating an Inclusive Classroom Atmosphere
We need to ask ourselves how we can

• Reflect trust.
• Foster attitudes of respect.
• Contribute to making this world a safer and better place to live. 
• Create an atmosphere of willing openness which means being able to discuss any topic without feeling threatened.
• Promote feelings of warmth, closeness, and caring.
• Motivate students to express their identities if they so desire.
• Encourage acceptance and understanding of differences.
• Be affirming and not diminishing.
• Value diversity and heterogeneity.
• Represent groups without stereotyped images.

Conclusions
In conclusion, the invisible social forces that permeate our classrooms concerning the rights, personal and general growth, and language acquisition of all our students are to be questioned and thoroughly examined. A conscious effort should be made to eliminate prejudices from textbooks and instructional materials and at the same time foster a nonthreatening atmosphere in which all individuals are valued. Materials coordinators and teachers should be aware of the biases in the textbooks they select. Textbooks should be monitored for prejudice and strategies should be devised to counter omissions, distortions, or inaccurate stereotypes. Students have the right to unbiased information and to positive role models in materials. Finally, our cultural diversity should be reflected in texts; hence acceptance and understanding of cultural differences should be encouraged. I suggest that until we start seeing diversity as a legitimate way of living, life in peace cannot be guaranteed.

References
Cots, J. M. (2006). “Teaching “with an attitude”: Critical discourse analysis in EFL teaching. ELT Journal, 60(4), 336-345.

Fairclough, N. (2003). Analyzing discourse: Textual analysis for social research. London: Routledge.

Hill, J. (1995). Mock Spanish: A sight for the indexical reproduction of racism in American English. Retrieved 2007[from http//www.language-culture.org/colloquia/symposia/hill-jane/#intro

Lippi Green, R. (1997). English with an accent: Language, Ideology, and discrimination in the United States. London: Routledge.

Lara, C. (2007). Language in the construction of bilingual identity: An analysis of life story narratives. Unpublished master’s thesis, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain.

Oxenden, C., Latham-Koenig, C., & Seligson, P. (1997). English file. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Pavlenko, A., & Blackledge, A., (2004). Negotiation of identities in multilingual contexts. Clevedon, England: Multilingual Matters.

Urciuoli, B. (1996). Exposing Prejudice: Puerto Rican Experiences of Language, Race and Class. Boulder, Co: Westview Press.

Clara Lara Terrero is a PhD candidate in linguistics applied to the teaching of English from the Department of Language Philology at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Her research interests include identities and L2 teaching and learning, as well as bilingualism and its social theories. She has taught EFL at all levels in the Dominican Republic and Spain.

 


HEIS Discussion Group: How to Raise Cultural Awareness

Ann C. Wintergerst, winterga@stjohns.edu

Presented at TESOL 2008 in New York City, this HEIS Discussion Group was led by Ann Wintergerst and Andrea DeCapua. The presenters were colleagues who have frequently presented together and who have published on the topic of culture and cultural awareness. Despite the early 7:30 a.m. start time, the session captured the attention of an interested group of conference attendees who were not only attentive in listening to the content presented but also challenged in discussing their own experiences in this interactive session.

To get a sense of the audience, the presenters asked the attendees to introduce themselves and then describe the type of students they teach and the kind of program at which they are working. The audience was indeed a multicultural one, including attendees from Canada, China, Colombia, Haiti, Israel, Korea, Russia, and the United States. Following brief introductions, the presenters distributed their handout, which consisted of a number of questions on the topic of culture to stimulate initial discussion and some activities that the presenters had successfully used in their own classrooms.

In the ensuing question-and-answer period, group members tried to define culture from their own personal perspectives. Some characteristics mentioned were that culture is a general concept, it is universal, it is multifaceted, and it is all-inclusive. The presenters added their own definition of culture as referring to the beliefs, norms, and attitudes that guide the behaviors of a group of people as well as their ideas, practices, and experiences.

How these definitions of culture differ from the average lay definition was then discussed. The difference was attributed to a range of reasons, stemming from each participant’s view of culture as a result of personal experience to the common textbook definition, including “big C” and “little c” culture.

What, then, influences culture? Because culture influences how we perceive the world and how we use language to communicate, it was agreed that language and culture have a reciprocal relationship—each influences the other. In short, language and culture are inseparable, and both are lenses that shape the world of its members (DeCapua & Wintergerst, 2004).

Why should we be interested in developing cultural awareness among our students? The participants felt that if cross-cultural awareness was not developed in their classrooms, their students would find it difficult to communicate with students from other cultures because they would interpret their interactions from within the framework of their own culture without considering the cultural framework of others.

How can this cultural awareness be developed in the classroom? Once again a range of responses was given. One participant insisted that the teacher must be aware of his or her own culture before having the know-how to effectively instill cultural awareness in his or her students about their own culture and that of others. Another response was that a deeper understanding of what culture is all about has to be developed by teachers and students alike.  Still another participant added that the relationship between language and culture needs to be understood because what one says and how one says it reflect one’s lifelong culture.  The presenters cautioned that not only we, as teachers, but also our students, as learners, must develop the ability to observe behaviors so that any conclusions formed about cultural situations are drawn from observations and not from preconceptions of a particular culture and its members. To do this requires an understanding of cultural similarities and differences. We need to cultivate an attitude of tolerance toward cultural differences not only in ourselves but also in our students if we aim to develop effective cultural awareness in our classrooms.  

What activities would stimulate such cultural awareness? At this point of the Discussion Group, the presenters shared four activities included on the handout. These activities, which were taken from the presenters’ book, Crossing Cultures in the Language Classroom (De Capua, A., and Wintergerst A.C., 2004, highlighted different aspects of culture, societal roles, culture shock, and language use.

The first activity dealt with recognizing stereotypes in different cultural groups. The participants were divided into groups of four and asked to identify some stereotypes connected with each group of people listed on the handout, how they originated, and whether they differed cross-culturally, based on their knowledge of different countries and cultures. For example, do Chinese have the same stereotypes of Colombians that Americans have? The participants were engaged in meaningful dialogue as the presenters circulated from group to group. Each group subsequently shared with the entire audience insights gained from the many cultural perspectives presented.

The second activity highlighted the use of critical incidents or situations that present problems related to differences in cultural values and beliefs, in attitudes toward societal roles, and in rules of speaking, to name a few. Four critical incidents were included on the handout. Most participants were familiar with this activity type and felt that it was an excellent way to initiate discussion among their students because there is no right or wrong answer. The point of the exercise was to stimulate thought-provoking discussion regardless of language level in an attempt to become aware of and sensitive to cultural differences. The exercise also heightens an awareness of differences between one’s personal beliefs and one’s cultural beliefs. The four critical incidents used had the participants, who were now assigned to different groups, engaged in discussion, in listening, and in sharing and appreciating each other’s ideas.

Because the participants were actively involved in the first two activities, there was not enough time for the third and fourth activities. The third activity dealt with minimizing culture shock when one arrives in another country. This can be done by reflecting on routines or actions one no longer needs to think about when performing them. Routines that participants have experienced or heard about can be contrasted with U.S. practices and the differences can be discussed. The fourth and final activity dealt with language use and saving face, a serious cultural practice in Asian countries. Tasks on the handout ask the participants to rank each based on their willingness to undertake them. A discussion can then focus on participants’ rankings, the difficulty of ranking, variables that affected their rankings, the cultural influences that played a part in their decisions, and how their rankings differed from that of other participants.

The presenters concluded the session by encouraging the attendees to keep culturally informed and to use any activities and ideas that they found helpful in their own classrooms. After a round of applause, Ann and Andi were delighted that everyone had enjoyed the session, especially after the comment that a longer session would have been preferred in light of the interesting content covered and the useful handout provided.

References
DeCapua, A., & Wintergerst, A. C. (2004). Crossing cultures in the language classroom. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.

Ann C. Wintergerst is professor of TESOL in the Department of Languages & Literatures at St. John’s University, New York. She is coauthor of Crossing Cultures in the Language Classroom, editor of Focus on Self-Study: Evaluating Post-Secondary ESOL Programs, and author of Second Language Classroom Interaction. Her articles have appeared in System, TESL Canada Journal, CATESOL Journal, and College ESL, among others. She served as the 1993-1994 chair of HEIS.



Reports on TESOL 2008 Presentations Plagiarism in EFL: Students, Teachers, Solutions

Ruhina Ahmed, ruhi.ahmed@yahoo.co.in

The 14th International TESOL Arabia Conference 2008 took place March 13-15 at Dubai Men’s College, Dubai. The theme of the conference was “Finding Your Voice – Critical Issues in ELT.” The conference offered a wide variety of presentations and professional development opportunities. Plenary speakers from different parts of the world shared their experiences and views. In addition, those seeking employment could attend a job fair. Furthermore, book lovers enjoyed an exhibition with different publishing houses displaying books of different genres.

One excellent presentation I attended was on plagiarism, entitled “Why Do Students Plagiarize?” The presenter, Geraldine Kershaw, teaches ESP/EAP medicine at United Arab Emirates University. I was particularly interested in this presentation not only because the topic is perhaps the most debated one in ELT, but also because I believe this issue has not been discussed in a manner that helps teachers in the classroom.

I remember browsing a Web site long ago of a well-known university in the Gulf Region. I noticed that the English language center section included a long and detailed essay about plagiarism focused basically on what students should not do. At that moment, I wondered whether students actually know the answer to a more basic question: “What is plagiarism?” It is easy to tell students that plagiarism means that they are not supposed to copy from text and should write in their own words. But how many institutions around the globe hold workshops on plagiarism, in order to teach students how to avoid it? Although this topic has gained increased attention in the United States and other ESL settings, I feel this area has not been dealt with sufficiently in EFL teaching. Geraldine Kershaw’s presentation provided answers to some questions and addressed new issues too.

First of all, Kershaw expressed the opinion that plagiarism should address the students’ point of view. We should ask ourselves, “Why do students plagiarize?” According to her, they do so because they find the task boring. This issue is worsened further by uninterested teachers. Also, the students are not discouraged from plagiarizing when they are in secondary school.

Next, Kershaw said, let’s look at this from a teacher’s perspective. First, teachers feel that students plagiarize because they lack confidence in language skills. Another issue is poor time management. Some students tend to hand in assignments at the last minute and copy from sources in order to meet the deadline. Third—and an important issue—is that students are unaware of academic honesty standards. They do not know how to cite sources and quote from the text while maintaining the authenticity of their own work.

How to deal with this issue, then, is the million dollar question. The solution to the plagiarism problem, Kershaw stated, is to teach students the skill of paraphrasing. Students need to be taught how to write the same information in their own words. Also, they should be taught how to cite sources. Another strategy is to give students assignments, such as an essay, and specify the references they may use (e.g., one or two textbooks). Then, when students cite a source they should be able to justify why they chose it.

Last, how do we detect plagiarism? With increasingly easy access to the Internet, it’s very difficult to control plagiarism. One option is to ask students to hand in hard copies of their sources.

All these points, I feel, are very important for all students if we want them to stop plagiarizing. In conclusion, as teachers, we have a responsibility to guide our students to prevent them from committing this grave offense.

Ruhina Ahmed has an MA TESL from the Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages in Hyderabad, India. She currently teaches English at the foundation level to premed students in Oman.

 


English Language Training and English Language Materials Development in Afghanistan

Cathy Raymond, caraymon@indiana.edu

Well before the sun rose on April 1, 2008, I started on my journey from Bloomington, Indiana, to the TESOL conference in New York with my colleague, Snea Thinsan, and seven Afghan graduate students. Although we were all still groggy, I couldn’t resist spending the better part of the bus trip to Indianapolis introducing April Fool’s Day to our Afghan colleagues; the subsequent flight to New York was then spent fending off various and innumerable Afghan versions of April Fool’s Day pranks and jokes. (This particular group of Afghans loves playing jokes on each other and gleefully embraced a holiday that actually glorifies and honors “the prank.”) 

We were traveling to the TESOL conference to showcase some of the key developments of the Afghan Higher Education Project (HEP) that are related to English language training and materials development in Afghanistan. This project is part of an overall program to collaborate with the Afghan Ministry of Higher Education and 17 Afghan institutions of higher education that offer teacher-training programs. The Afghan HEP seeks to strengthen the capacity and sustainability of the Afghan higher education system and to improve access to quality education throughout Afghanistan. My particular role (as well as my Thai colleague’s role) on the project was to work as TESOL coordinator, program developer, educator, materials writer, and overall ELT gopher. 

These seven Afghan graduate students were chosen to participate in a master’s degree program in language education at Indiana University. To understand how uniquely motivated, dedicated, and remarkable these candidates are, it is important to remember that educational training in Afghanistan is fractured, underdeveloped, understaffed, and overcrowded. One of the results of this less than ideal teaching and learning situation is a generally low level of current content knowledge and training; the top candidates for a master’s degree program in the United States had predictably low TOEFL scores ranging from 380 to 500 (paper-based version). As if overcoming language and cultural barriers were not enough, these candidates also faced extreme social pressure to succeed in their studies.  The consequences of failing in the master’s degree program are too dire to even consider; suffice it to say that successful completion of a graduate degree program is the only viable option for all the Afghan candidates.

The initial academic preparation for this group was ambitious and included intensive English language improvement and familiarization with research and technology, as well as preparation for graduate school in the Unites States, which included exposure to and practice with “American” approaches to learning and critical thinking. One of my personal challenges initially was to assist the students in developing the ability to learn and think like successful graduate students in the American system without sacrificing their own unique spirit, background, and approach to learning and teaching. No small feat for anyone involved!

TESOL Poster Presentations
Our group was responsible for two posters at the TESOL conference.  The first one highlighted the overall state of affairs of English language training in Afghanistan and the second illustrated three sets of English language materials that we designed as part of an ongoing English language training program in Afghanistan. 

The State of Affairs of ELT in Afghanistan

For our poster on the current state of affairs of ELT in Afghanistan, we concentrated on the following key areas:

• historical background of education (including the effects of 25 years of war on training, learning, and access to education)
• the current structure of the higher education system
• challenges faced by teachers and students (including a dire lack of libraries, buildings, and materials; unqualified teachers; low salaries; and lack of security throughout the country, as well as multiple additional challenges facing girls and women in education)
• the purposes of EFL teaching in Afghanistan (including training secondary and higher education teachers of EFL, training translators and proficient English speakers, and training students and educators to understand and access English resources and materials)
• teaching methods and approaches (including a lack of consistency in methods, an outdated traditional lecture style, and teacher-centered approaches to teaching and learning)
• TEFL-related assistance from the international community (including several projects like the Afghan HEP, UN Development Program, UN Development Fund for Women, and so on)

EFL Materials Development for Afghanistan

Our second poster focused primarily on English language materials development in Afghanistan and highlighted three training packets that Snea Thinsan and I designed and wrote. 

These packets had the following goals:

• to provide a continuing learning opportunity for Afghan university teachers who attended a 3-month intensive English training program in Afghanistan that was offered by the Afghanistan HEP
• to address diverse issues of interest to Afghan educators through interesting readings and exercises
• to help the target audience hone their basic and advanced reading skills, increase their vocabulary, and promote their reflections on issues in their life and work

As part of our ongoing attempt to help participants continue with English language training despite a pronounced lack of access to training facilities and instructors, we chose reading passages that might be relevant and interesting to an Afghan audience. These passages were then modified and adapted to be more culturally sensitive and accessible and were accompanied by exercises to practice comprehension, vocabulary, basic critical thinking, and reflection in an interactive and engaging way. Answers to all exercises and questions were provided at the end of each passage. 

There were a total of three follow-up reading packets. Each packet consisted of two parts:

• Part One: Seven or eight general English reading passages with exercises and answer key (incorporating authentic materials such as menus, schedules, and advertisements)
• Part Two:  Each packet contained seven or eight reading passages on issues related to one of the following areas: TESOL, social sciences, and science and technology

Each packet followed this format:

• Before You Read (with prereading exercises and questions to activate background knowledge and raise awareness of the topic)
• As You Read (with guiding questions to reflect on content and vocabulary)
• After You Read (with suggestions for further reflection and future activities)

Reactions to the Posters
Both poster sessions were extremely well attended, and I was thrilled by the high number of visitors from all around the world, including Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, and other areas close to Central Asia. I was especially impressed by the high level of interest and the desire of the audience to learn more about the current situation of EFL/ELT in Afghanistan. It was a joyous occasion for me to see the positive flow of conversation surrounding a country that often receives negative coverage in the news media. My Afghan master’s degree students proudly shared their own personal achievements as well as recent developments in education in Afghanistan. Our experiences at the conference increased my conviction that education is power.

“Education is a human right with immense power to transform. On its foundation rest the cornerstones of freedom, democracy and sustainable human development.” 
~ Kofi Annan

Cathy Raymond served as TESOL coordinator for the Afghan Higher Education Project  at Indiana University–Bloomington.

 

 


Tactics for Part-Time, Adjunct, or Contingent Academic Labor

Karen Stanley, Karen.Stanley@cpcc.edu

During an HEIS Discussion Group at TESOL 2008 on part-time, adjunct, and contingent instructors (led by Lara Beninca and Karen Stanley), several issues emerged for which the session participants wanted tactics.


Captions:
Lara Beninca
Karen Stanley with Mark Algren

1. Lack of Office and Lack of Travel Reimbursement
One issue involved the fact that part-time teachers often teach at multiple schools or campuses and have no secure office in which to leave materials. A possibility is to see if the schools could at least provide lockers in which teachers could store some of their books and papers. Another type of help for people with multiple teaching locations is to get paid for mileage. Full-time instructors are often reimbursed for mileage when they teach at different campuses; it is at least worth an inquiry to see if mileage could be paid to adjunct faculty on days that they travel between different locations.

2. Medical Insurance
Another major issue is medical insurance. One participant reported that, in one state, there had been a class action lawsuit that resulted in part-time faculty being able to participate in the school’s medical insurance plan, although at the higher cost of $450/month. Karen had researched plans used by adjunct faculty that provide health care at a somewhat reduced cost than that for participation as an individual. The following were suggested:

• Freelancers’ Union: http://www.freelancersunion.org/

• A program sponsored by the California Part-Time Faculty Association (CPFA) (called SureHealth) operates in other states: http://www.cpfa-ptplan.com/

Also suggested through an e-list was the fact that people with businesses as small as three people can buy health insurance at a somewhat reduced rate. Perhaps a group of 20 people could get together and approach companies to ask about small business health insurance. Though state laws vary on this, whatever company you contact should know.  You can also call your senators’ and governor’s offices and see what suggestions they can make.  They keep a well-paid staff to field these questions. 

Also, TESOL has some plans available to members.

3. Sick Leave 
A related issue is the problem of sick leave (i.e., not getting any). In some institutions, especially if courses are credit-bearing, adjuncts can supply assignments for students to complete in lieu of actual face-to-face instruction. In programs where contact hours of instruction are required, some part-timers have been able to simply add a few minutes on to each class as a way of making up the time.

4. Pay
Rate of pay may vary from school to school, even within the same state or county system.  One possibility here is to hold discussion groups at TESOL affiliate meetings to gather information about different schools. One participant reported that at just such a meeting, a person discovered that although her college president had told her the rate couldn’t be changed because it was set by the state, another college within the same system was offering a higher rate of pay.  

Another tactic would be to start a Web site with comparative information about pay rates (and other benefits). For universities in Japan, Web sites offer a black list and a green list. The black list reports poor treatment of teachers. The green list applauds universities whose treatment of teachers has been exemplary.

Instructors at some schools have gotten grants that include pay for part-time teachers to attend meetings and training sessions. It would be good to be in touch with individuals at your institution who work on grants, and then to suggest this possibility. If possible, partner with full-time people who may be more aware of opportunities to get funding. At one institution, one source of professional development funding is open to part-time instructors, but many of the adjuncts are not aware of its existence. In addition, one institution has an hourly pay category for course development, but even administrators are often unaware of this option.

5. Important Overall Tactic
Perhaps most important of all, as Joe Berry mentioned at the Caucus on Part-Time Employment Concerns (COPTEC) colloquium, is to do things as a group. If, for example, 30 people call the media and go as a group to file for unemployment during the time between semesters, it is much more difficult for an institution to take action against them than it is to take action against one lone person who quietly files and has to fight the administration by him- or herself.

United we stand.

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



Articles Language-Learning Strategies and Attitudes of Achievers and Underachievers

Charito M. Aglaua, caglaua@ccp.edu

Introduction
The field of learner strategy research has grown dramatically in importance during the past decades. In his book, A Cognitive Approach to Language Learning, Skehan (1998) cited various studies to illustrate this point. The first major research, by Naiman et al. (1975, cited in Skehan 1988) found that very successful language learners attributed their success to the use of five general strategies: an active learning approach; realization of language as a system; realization of language as a means of communication; handling of affective demands; and monitoring of progress. Skehan (1998) also described studies by Wong-Filmore (1979), Rubin (1981), Politzer and McGroarty (1985), O’Malley et al. (1985, and Oxford (1990). 
The present study was aimed at determining the effect of attitude and learning strategies on learners’ level of achievement in language learning.

Theoretical Framework
Learning Strategies: Oxford's Model
Learning strategies are steps taken by students to enhance their learning. They are especially important for learning a language because they are tools or devices for active and self-directed involvement, which is important for developing communicative competence (Oxford, 1990). Other terms used includetactics, techniques, potential conscious plans, consciously employed operations, learning skills, cognitive abilities, information processing strategies, problem solving procedures, and basic skills (Wenden, 1987, cited in Oxford, 1996).

Learning strategies are divided into two major classes: direct and indirect. Direct strategies refer to those that directly involve the target language. They require mental processing of the language and are further classified into three groups: memory, cognitive, and compensation. Indirect strategies provide support and enable the learners to manage language learning without directly involving the target language. They are divided into metacognitive, affective, and social (Oxford, 1990).

Attitude
Attitude, according to Lardizabal (1988), refers to the learned emotional predisposition to act in a particular way in a particular situation or toward a particular thing. It is a positive or negative feeling associated with a specific psychological object, which is anything that a person reacts to. An individual has a positive attitude if he or she has the tendency to respond favorably in a certain way toward or away from a person or thing, or a neutral attitude if he or she tends to respond neither toward nor away from a person or object but remains indifferent. If the individual has an unsatisfying experience, his or her attitude toward the object involved in the experience will be unfavorable, thus creating a negative attitude toward the same object (Lardizabal, 1988). Brown (1994) and Oxford (1990) maintain that attitude plays an important role in the learning process.

Conceptual Framework
This study had one independent variable and two dependent variables. The respondents’ level of achievement in Communication Arts 1 (ComArt1)  served as the independent variable. The language-learning strategies employed by the subjects in learning English and their attitude toward English as a subject served as the dependent variables.

Methodology
Data were collected from 22 freshman students in two Communication Arts classes at De La Salle University, Manila (DLSU) who were classified into achievers (11) and underachievers (11). Their midterm grades in the class were used as bases for classifying students into the two groups: Those with grades from 3.0 to 4.0 were classified as achievers and those from 1.0 to 2.0 as underachievers. (Students with grades of 2.5 were classified as average and were not included in the study.) Both groups were taught by the teacher-researcher at the time the study was conducted.

The instruments used were the (a) Strategy Inventory Language Learning (SILL) for Speakers of Other Languages Learning English and (b) Attitude Scale. The SILL is an instrument designed by Oxford (1990). In this study, Version 7.0 (for speakers of other languages learning English) was used. The SILL uses a questionnaire format to determine students’ frequency of use of learning strategies. It is composed of strategy descriptions to be answered on a Likert scale of 1 to 5, according to the frequency of use by the subject. The strategy descriptions are classified according to the six categories of learning strategies: memory, cognitive, metacognitive, compensation, affective, and social. The points on the scale are (1) never or almost never true of me, (2) generally not true of me, (3) somewhat true of me, (4) generally true of me, and (5) always or almost always true of me. The SILL is self-scoring and provides immediate results to students.

The Attitude Scale was developed by the researcher in another related research study (Aglaua, 1995) previously conducted. Its content and statistical validity and reliability had been tested. The scale is a 15-item, 5-point Likert scale. The points on the scale are (1) strongly disagree, (2) disagree, (3) undecided, (4) agree, and (5) strongly agree.

The data gathered through the SILL were statistically treated using, among others, a 2 x 6 analysis of variance (ANOVA), with a .05 level of confidence. Those gathered through the attitude scale were treated using the t test for two independent samples, with a .05 level of confidence.

What language-learning strategies are used by achievers and underachievers? The mean scores in Table 1 reveal that both groups make use of all types of strategies—memory, cognitive, compensation, metacognitive, affective, and social. This can be explained by Oxford’s (1996) view that learners, whether achiever, average, or underachiever, tend to use a wide range of strategies. However, the achievers consistently obtained higher mean scores than did the underachievers, which means that the former make use of the strategies more often than do the latter. This can be explained by Oxford’s (1996) claim that the higher the level of achievement the students have, the more they are likely to use learning strategies at a higher frequency level.

Furthermore, as indicated by the rank of the mean scores, it is interesting to note that the most frequently used strategies by both groups are metacognitive ones, which allow learners to control their own cognition by centering, arranging, planning, and evaluating their own learning. This implies that both groups value learner autonomy, the freedom to control their respective learning processes.

But is there any significant difference in the strategies used between the two groups? The use of 2 x 6 ANOVA yielded an F ratio of 2.54, which is lower than the F-critical value of 2.29 at p > .05. This means that there is no significant difference in the learning strategies used between the two groups. Why do both groups make use of the same strategies of all types? Again, Oxford’s (1996) position that learners tend to use a wide range of strategies regardless of level of achievement may explain this finding.

Because there is no significant difference between the achievers and the underachievers in the learning strategies employed, apparently learning strategies do not influence level of achievement. This result is contrary to Oxford’s and Burley-Stock’s (1995, cited in Oxford, 1996) claim that there is a direct significant relationship between learning strategy use and language performance, with the latter measured through course grades, achievement, proficiency, placement results, teacher ratings, and student self-ratings.

 
 
What is the attitude of the two groups toward English as a subject? The computed mean scores of both groups (Table 2) are 47.27 and 48.45 (as against the perfect mean score of 75; 5-point scale x 15-item scale) for achievers and underachievers, respectively. These findings reveal that both groups tend to have a positive attitude toward English as a subject. One could theorize that because the students in the study are majoring in business, they realize the value of English in their future careers.

However, there is a slight difference in the mean scores between the two groups. The underachievers seem to have a more positive attitude toward English as a subject than do the achievers. It is possible that because the latter also most frequently use metacognitive strategies as mentioned earlier, they realize, based on their own monitoring and evaluation, that their level of achievement is not high. Hence, they are motivated to exert more effort in learning the target language.

In addition, as shown in Table 2, the computed t value of the respondents’ mean scores in the Attitude Scale is .76, which is lower than the critical value of 2.086. This means that there is no significant difference between achievers and underachievers in the attitude toward English as a subject. In other words, the attitude of students toward English as a subject does not influence level of achievement in an English class.  It should be noted that, as mentioned earlier, both groups of students have the same positive attitude toward English.

Summary and Recommendation
This study found that both achievers and underachievers employ all types of learning strategies. This suggests that when a language teacher designs a lesson plan or a syllabus, he or she may have to vary classroom activities to fit the various strategies that the learners use. Also, the most frequently used strategies by both groups are metacognitive ones, which allow learners to control their own cognition by centering, arranging, planning, and evaluating their own learning. Thus, the language teacher may have to be less imposing in class and may need to use teaching techniques toward a more individualized and self-directed learning.

The results of the study likewise reveal that learning strategies do not influence achievement. Hence, it may not be necessary to spend some class time for a discussion of or training students on the use of these strategies. After all, as was found by Skehan (1998), efforts toward strategy training proved only minimal gains if not nothing at all. Moreover, the study shows that that there is no significant difference between achievers and underachievers in the attitude toward English as a subject. Specifically, both groups have the same positive attitude. However, this seems to suggest that the language teacher needs to use teaching strategies or techniques that will sustain or enhance such an attitude.

Finally, because this study involved students from generally affluent backgrounds, conducting comparative research among university students of different economic background should provide further insights. Also, the use of a standard instrument to measure level of achievement is highly suggested for future research.

References
Aglaua, C. M. (1995). The effectiveness of the use of speech laboratory: An experimental study. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. St. Paul University, Tuguegarao City, Philippines.
Brown, D. H. (1994). Principles of language learning and teaching. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall Regents.
Lardizabal. A. S. (1988). Principles and methods of teaching. Quezon City, Philippines: Alemar’s-Phoenix Publishing House, Inc.
Oxford, R. L. (Ed.). (1996). Language learning motivation: Pathways to the new century. Honolulu, Hawaii: Second Language Teaching & Curriculum.
Oxford, R. L. (1990). Language learning strategies. What every teacher should know. New York: Newbury House Publishers.
Skehan, P. (1998). A cognitive approach to language learning. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.

Formerly assistant professor of English at De La Salle University in Manila, Philippines, Charito Aglaua is currently adjunct professor at Bucks County Community College, Community College of Philadelphia, and the University of Pennsylvania, where she teaches ESL, college, and developmental reading and writing courses.


ESL/EFL and Learners’ Identities: Analyzing Prejudice in Textbooks

Clara Lara Terrero, clara.lara23@yahoo.com

Introduction
It is generally agreed that there is an increasing effort to eliminate bias and prejudice from textbooks, including ESL/EFL materials. Although recently there has been an increasing attempt to include those in the periphery of the social wheel, mainstream identities continue to prevail in EFL texts, and different races, ethnicities, nationalities, creeds, and gender or sexual identities are still often misrepresented or ignored. For instance, although Spanish and Catalan society has opened up in the context of sexual orientation and gender roles, the textbook analyzed in this study ignores the reality of this social change.

It is through an exploration of values—that is, how one chooses to live one’s life and construct an identity—that we can better understand how students construct a sense of themselves. However, identities are also shaped by the social boundaries set by mainstream society through language, values, social conduct, and other variables.

Because with globalization and migration our classrooms are increasingly heterogeneous, it is vital to consider the social consequences and effects of such texts in the face of instructors’ attempts to create an inclusive and aware classroom atmosphere. I argue for representing the fluid, dynamic character of the multiple identities of our students.

Theoretical Framework
Language is an instrument that is used to categorize, to position oneself and others in a speech community, and to get things done. It is an inherent part of all people’s identities. These many identities of a person are shaped by broader interests concealed in language, which are produced and reproduced on the basis of power relations and the values dictated by hegemonic ideologies. Other studies have shown that identities are not fixed but fluid and negotiated between interlocutors and also that social norms, ideologies and systems of beliefs that are detrimental can be accepted or contested and changed A. Pavlenko and A.Blackledge  (2004), Lippi Green (1997), Urciuoli (1996), Jane Hill (1995), Cots, J. M. (2006).

Critical Discourse Analysis
Following Fairclough (2003), critical discourse analysis (CDA) is an instrument of language analysis, but it is also a teaching tool when incorporated in a class to examine texts from a critical perspective. Critical language awareness is relevant in the process of learning if we are to raise questions about power relations and social boundaries that exclude or discriminate against our students or others. CDA allows us to view language from a broader perspective—not language per se, but linking what is conveyed through grammar, vocabulary, and phonology with the ideologies that go beyond texts, that is, connecting the micro with the macro or examining what can be done through language. CDA was used as the base of this analysis because it is through language that identities are constructed, negotiated, or imposed unequally in society but it is also through language that social rules of exclusion can be contested and changed. 

Main Questions
In the past few decades, minority groups in Europe have gained official recognition of their civil rights; for example, same-sex marriage has become legal and the right of same-sex couples to adopt children recognized, the opportunities open to women have broadened, and more ethnic groups share the resources in their communities.

However, these developments are often not reflected in the textbooks available in the European market. This is a critical point because, apart from being teaching materials, textbooks influence students’ life in the ways they reproduce the worldview of mainstream society and practice power relations that exclude and include individuals. Although there is a clear intention to look cosmopolitan, texts do not always reflect advances in society. Moreover, students actively involved in their learning notice instances of bias in classroom texts. In my class, for example, a biography of Oscar Wilde notes that he “was arrested for immoral behavior, because of his intimate friendship with Lord Alfred Douglas,” but the fact that he was gay is not mentioned. Similarly, an article about why men don’t iron “explains” that the differences between men and women are wholly genetic. Yet another page describes the Amish as an unusual community of people who “can eat hot dogs but . . . can’t have TVs” which made a negative impression on students in my class. Instances such as these led me to ask the following questions:

• Why are our textbooks not in line with social changes in European society?
• Why are the life experiences of our students not reflected in textbooks?
• Why are minority groups still misrepresented or ignored in textbooks?
• What would happen if we, as teachers, discussed openly “controversial” issues such as racism and nonmajority lifestyles and sexual orientation in our classes?

The aim of this analysis was to demonstrate first that the language, images, and contexts used in English textbooks need to be modified, and second, how this can be done so that they portray and thus include a more diverse and realistic population.

Method
A qualitative critical perspective guided this research, which was conducted in 2000-2003. The book examined was English File. Although this book was published over ten years ago, it is still popular among EFL teachers for its grammar, phonology and vocabulary exercises. However, it does not reflect the social changes that Catalan and other European societies have experienced. Eight students and four teachers were asked a series of semi-structured open-ended questions such as, “What do you think about the role of textbooks in the life of students?” The interviews were recorded and transcribed, and a summary was sent to the students interviewed for triangulation. The same teachers and students also completed a questionnaire. In addition, a modified version of the same questionnaire was given to 75 students, including the eight students interviewed.

The participants were chosen at random from our classes. The students were undergraduate and graduate students from all the various college degree programs at a university in Spain who take English courses as part of their curriculum, as well as administrative staff members and the general public who register for English courses. Although mostly from Catalonia and the rest of Spain, students also come from other countries, especially Latin America. The proficiency level of the students participating in the study was C1 in the Common European Framework, or “proficient user.”

The participants were for the most part female, ranging in age from 19 to 50, with the majority between 22 and 26. Participants were not asked their sexual orientation, but some volunteered in the interview that they were gay or lesbian. The interviewer also noted that “the fact that I’m myself [a] Black immigrant could have influenced their answers because they show empathy in class when issues related to immigration, minorities, women, etc. come to the fore. Their evaluation of me as a teacher is normally very good, too.” 
 

The results from the interviews and questionnaire clearly demonstrate that it is through language that institutional ideologies and social rules are contested or complied with. The opinion of the participants was that in general this book has a deplorable image of nonmajority groups. Also, they think that books as mediators should promote a positive image of students and not denigrate or be detrimental to anyone.

Analysis
The illustrations, graphics, and photos analyzed indicate that men are still portrayed in more active roles than women and that some “races” are more talented than others. For instance, the illustrations depict women as homemakers for the most part and men, if at home, are illustrated as reading or watching TV but not cleaning, cooking, or taking care of children. In the chapter entitled “Men and Women: The Statistics Don’t Lie” there is an illustration of an Italian woman in an office standing in front of the computer and looking out at the rain as she wishes she “had brought the washing in” and thinking, ”why doesn’t my husband wash his own shirts?” Similarly, all the photos that show families are composed of two people of the opposite sex, so it was apparently still unthinkable to include same-sex couples, even though in most of Europe homosexuals have full civil rights. Also, photos of Whites, males, and heterosexuals in top positions prevail throughout the book; all the other diverse ethnicities and social groups in our classes are either ignored or offended by inaccurate representations, even though most Spanish and European cities are cosmopolitan. When Blacks and Non-white other groups are shown, they are Jamaicans smoking and singing or playing sports Finally, in the chapter entitled “Gender Difference?” it is explained that in karaoke bars, men’s favorite song is “My Way.” Women’s is “I Will Survive.”  
 
Discussion and Implications
The identity, orientation, and culture of our students could be openly expressed and discussed provided there is a respectful atmosphere fostered by teachers, classmates, and textbooks as well as other didactic material. I believe that instructional materials should depict the truth about our heterogeneous world and that not doing so means further marginalization of a large group of citizens. I suggest that the prejudices identified in the texts should be openly addressed in a supportive and friendly atmosphere where students do not feel threatened. What is more, if the perpetuation of mainstream roles continues, the negative impact only serves to more deeply condemn the life of a large sector of society.

Addressing Biases
Diverse groups in society should be included in TESOL course programs. If we want to eliminate the inequalities that appear in some texts, we need to

• Support ideas that affirm group identities.
• Facilitate discussions that encourage individual participation in class.
• Express disagreement in a respectful way and teach the necessary language for doing so.
• Analyze with students any prejudice reflected in texts.
• Analyze assumptions about different roles in society.
• Check materials for biased language.
• Reverse traditional roles and then talk about breaking boundaries.

Strategies for Creating an Inclusive Classroom Atmosphere
We need to ask ourselves how we can

• Reflect trust.
• Foster attitudes of respect.
• Contribute to making this world a safer and better place to live. 
• Create an atmosphere of willing openness which means being able to discuss any topic without feeling threatened.
• Promote feelings of warmth, closeness, and caring.
• Motivate students to express their identities if they so desire.
• Encourage acceptance and understanding of differences.
• Be affirming and not diminishing.
• Value diversity and heterogeneity.
• Represent groups without stereotyped images.

Conclusions
In conclusion, the invisible social forces that permeate our classrooms concerning the rights, personal and general growth, and language acquisition of all our students are to be questioned and thoroughly examined. A conscious effort should be made to eliminate prejudices from textbooks and instructional materials and at the same time foster a nonthreatening atmosphere in which all individuals are valued. Materials coordinators and teachers should be aware of the biases in the textbooks they select. Textbooks should be monitored for prejudice and strategies should be devised to counter omissions, distortions, or inaccurate stereotypes. Students have the right to unbiased information and to positive role models in materials. Finally, our cultural diversity should be reflected in texts; hence acceptance and understanding of cultural differences should be encouraged. I suggest that until we start seeing diversity as a legitimate way of living, life in peace cannot be guaranteed.

References
Cots, J. M. (2006). “Teaching “with an attitude”: Critical discourse analysis in EFL teaching. ELT Journal, 60(4), 336-345.

Fairclough, N. (2003). Analyzing discourse: Textual analysis for social research. London: Routledge.

Hill, J. (1995). Mock Spanish: A sight for the indexical reproduction of racism in American English. Retrieved 2007[from http//www.language-culture.org/colloquia/symposia/hill-jane/#intro

Lippi Green, R. (1997). English with an accent: Language, Ideology, and discrimination in the United States. London: Routledge.

Lara, C. (2007). Language in the construction of bilingual identity: An analysis of life story narratives. Unpublished master’s thesis, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain.

Oxenden, C., Latham-Koenig, C., & Seligson, P. (1997). English file. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Pavlenko, A., & Blackledge, A., (2004). Negotiation of identities in multilingual contexts. Clevedon, England: Multilingual Matters.

Urciuoli, B. (1996). Exposing Prejudice: Puerto Rican Experiences of Language, Race and Class. Boulder, Co: Westview Press.

Clara Lara Terrero is a PhD candidate in linguistics applied to the teaching of English from the Department of Language Philology at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Her research interests include identities and L2 teaching and learning, as well as bilingualism and its social theories. She has taught EFL at all levels in the Dominican Republic and Spain.

 


HEIS Discussion Group: How to Raise Cultural Awareness

Ann C. Wintergerst, winterga@stjohns.edu

Presented at TESOL 2008 in New York City, this HEIS Discussion Group was led by Ann Wintergerst and Andrea DeCapua. The presenters were colleagues who have frequently presented together and who have published on the topic of culture and cultural awareness. Despite the early 7:30 a.m. start time, the session captured the attention of an interested group of conference attendees who were not only attentive in listening to the content presented but also challenged in discussing their own experiences in this interactive session.

To get a sense of the audience, the presenters asked the attendees to introduce themselves and then describe the type of students they teach and the kind of program at which they are working. The audience was indeed a multicultural one, including attendees from Canada, China, Colombia, Haiti, Israel, Korea, Russia, and the United States. Following brief introductions, the presenters distributed their handout, which consisted of a number of questions on the topic of culture to stimulate initial discussion and some activities that the presenters had successfully used in their own classrooms.

In the ensuing question-and-answer period, group members tried to define culture from their own personal perspectives. Some characteristics mentioned were that culture is a general concept, it is universal, it is multifaceted, and it is all-inclusive. The presenters added their own definition of culture as referring to the beliefs, norms, and attitudes that guide the behaviors of a group of people as well as their ideas, practices, and experiences.

How these definitions of culture differ from the average lay definition was then discussed. The difference was attributed to a range of reasons, stemming from each participant’s view of culture as a result of personal experience to the common textbook definition, including “big C” and “little c” culture.

What, then, influences culture? Because culture influences how we perceive the world and how we use language to communicate, it was agreed that language and culture have a reciprocal relationship—each influences the other. In short, language and culture are inseparable, and both are lenses that shape the world of its members (DeCapua & Wintergerst, 2004).

Why should we be interested in developing cultural awareness among our students? The participants felt that if cross-cultural awareness was not developed in their classrooms, their students would find it difficult to communicate with students from other cultures because they would interpret their interactions from within the framework of their own culture without considering the cultural framework of others.

How can this cultural awareness be developed in the classroom? Once again a range of responses was given. One participant insisted that the teacher must be aware of his or her own culture before having the know-how to effectively instill cultural awareness in his or her students about their own culture and that of others. Another response was that a deeper understanding of what culture is all about has to be developed by teachers and students alike.  Still another participant added that the relationship between language and culture needs to be understood because what one says and how one says it reflect one’s lifelong culture.  The presenters cautioned that not only we, as teachers, but also our students, as learners, must develop the ability to observe behaviors so that any conclusions formed about cultural situations are drawn from observations and not from preconceptions of a particular culture and its members. To do this requires an understanding of cultural similarities and differences. We need to cultivate an attitude of tolerance toward cultural differences not only in ourselves but also in our students if we aim to develop effective cultural awareness in our classrooms.  

What activities would stimulate such cultural awareness? At this point of the Discussion Group, the presenters shared four activities included on the handout. These activities, which were taken from the presenters’ book, Crossing Cultures in the Language Classroom (De Capua, A., and Wintergerst A.C., 2004, highlighted different aspects of culture, societal roles, culture shock, and language use.

The first activity dealt with recognizing stereotypes in different cultural groups. The participants were divided into groups of four and asked to identify some stereotypes connected with each group of people listed on the handout, how they originated, and whether they differed cross-culturally, based on their knowledge of different countries and cultures. For example, do Chinese have the same stereotypes of Colombians that Americans have? The participants were engaged in meaningful dialogue as the presenters circulated from group to group. Each group subsequently shared with the entire audience insights gained from the many cultural perspectives presented.

The second activity highlighted the use of critical incidents or situations that present problems related to differences in cultural values and beliefs, in attitudes toward societal roles, and in rules of speaking, to name a few. Four critical incidents were included on the handout. Most participants were familiar with this activity type and felt that it was an excellent way to initiate discussion among their students because there is no right or wrong answer. The point of the exercise was to stimulate thought-provoking discussion regardless of language level in an attempt to become aware of and sensitive to cultural differences. The exercise also heightens an awareness of differences between one’s personal beliefs and one’s cultural beliefs. The four critical incidents used had the participants, who were now assigned to different groups, engaged in discussion, in listening, and in sharing and appreciating each other’s ideas.

Because the participants were actively involved in the first two activities, there was not enough time for the third and fourth activities. The third activity dealt with minimizing culture shock when one arrives in another country. This can be done by reflecting on routines or actions one no longer needs to think about when performing them. Routines that participants have experienced or heard about can be contrasted with U.S. practices and the differences can be discussed. The fourth and final activity dealt with language use and saving face, a serious cultural practice in Asian countries. Tasks on the handout ask the participants to rank each based on their willingness to undertake them. A discussion can then focus on participants’ rankings, the difficulty of ranking, variables that affected their rankings, the cultural influences that played a part in their decisions, and how their rankings differed from that of other participants.

The presenters concluded the session by encouraging the attendees to keep culturally informed and to use any activities and ideas that they found helpful in their own classrooms. After a round of applause, Ann and Andi were delighted that everyone had enjoyed the session, especially after the comment that a longer session would have been preferred in light of the interesting content covered and the useful handout provided.

References
DeCapua, A., & Wintergerst, A. C. (2004). Crossing cultures in the language classroom. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.

Ann C. Wintergerst is professor of TESOL in the Department of Languages & Literatures at St. John’s University, New York. She is coauthor of Crossing Cultures in the Language Classroom, editor of Focus on Self-Study: Evaluating Post-Secondary ESOL Programs, and author of Second Language Classroom Interaction. Her articles have appeared in System, TESL Canada Journal, CATESOL Journal, and College ESL, among others. She served as the 1993-1994 chair of HEIS.



Reviews Book review of Making Productive Use of Classroom Technology

Alan D. Lytle, dralandlytle@hotmail.com

Rost, M. (2007). Longman English Interactive [online version]. New York: Pearson Longman. http://www.longmanenglishinteractive.com/home.html

Introductory Overview
Upon visiting the Longman English Interactive Web site, at first glance viewers may notice that it features portals for both students and instructors, as well as a 30-day free trial. As expected with a trial, instructors may peruse the site to determine how well its components will fit into their classrooms. Even without registering, both students and instructors may view a description of the Web site, the curriculum, and the scope and sequence of the activities, as well as products available, purchase options (for American and British English), and virtual tours. In addition, the “Take a Tour” link offers an introduction to Longman English Interactive English language teaching materials not only in English (American and British) but also in Chinese, Spanish, and Portuguese. Another feature, the “Correlations” link, shows how Longman English Interactive corresponds to some of the most well-used ESL/EFL materials—TOEFL and TOEIC preparation, BEST, CASAS, Northstar, Top Notch, and World View—as well as to the Florida and California school systems and to the Florida adult education system. Thus far, the only drawbacks to the online version of Longman English Interactive is that individual licenses are limited to U.S. customers with a U.S. credit card (although, “if you have 50 or more students, you can purchase Access Codes that will be emailed to you. Contact your local Pearson Longman ELL specialist for more information”; http://www.longmanenglishinteractive.com/purchase.html). Web links to Pearson Longman ELL specialists “In the United States” and “Outside the United States” are provided but in the “Take a Tour” section, only the English versions offer the “The Student Experience” and the “Powerful Teacher Tools” portals.

Student Materials
Longman English Interactive provides more than 100 hours of instruction at four levels in the traditional language skills of speaking, listening, grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, reading, and writing, but with a few twists. For example, the site engages students in role plays with video characters to create realistic dialogue practice and offers a unique pronunciation feature that uses animation to help learners focus on word/sentence stress and intonation patterns. For writing, the site employs e-portfolios that allow students to write multiple drafts with revisions based on teachers’ feedback as well as automated feedback to guide students’ skill development. Throughout the site, culture notes help students learn and understand their new language within a broader social context, while native language support through translation in eight different languages—Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German, French, Korean, Japanese, and Chinese—is provided.

Level 1
Level 1, low beginner, is organized into three five-unit modules. Students learn skills necessary to communicate effectively in real-world situations, including how to complete introductions; exchange important information; describe people, places, and things; relay news; discuss current events and life experiences; and plan events and make schedules and travel arrangements. Level 1 also works with students to develop skills for interviewing effectively.

Level 2
Level 2, high beginner, is also organized into three five-unit modules, building on Level 1 language skills to help learners master important communication strategies. Students engage in activities on a variety of useful topics, including how to talk about work and other routines, give advice and provide recommendations, order items, read directions, use computer hardware and software, discuss travel and culture, and talk about personal experiences, health, and lifestyles.

Level 3
Level 3, intermediate, is organized into three four-unit modules. Course material is based on a video drama involving an aspiring journalist and a sports star accused of accepting a bribe. Through Level 3, students learn to make social plans, respond to news, propose an idea, express certainty and uncertainty, ask follow-up questions, and ask for and give opinions.

Level 4
Level 4, high intermediate, is also organized into three four-unit modules, continuing the video drama from Level 3. In this level, learners participate in activities related to everyday life and work situations, including how to show skepticism and sarcasm, end a conversation, identify problems and suggest solutions, talk about intentions, and give and accept compliments.

Student Activities
Activities in each course are skill-separative, meaning they focus on discrete point skills such as listening, reading, and writing separately, with the exception that cultural concepts are integrated throughout the lessons (although students must click on the “Culture” button to see a written description).

A useful feature in the student portal is the option to see objectives and unit summaries for each module. Many instructors may forget that students can use this information to enhance their learning. Another useful feature is the grammar concept, catering to the grammarians among us (instructors and students alike). One drawback of the student module is the absence of pictures and other visuals.

 

Instructor Materials
The instructor’s module offers a variety of features that can be tailored to individual students or to the class as a whole, including class management, assessment, tracking, and communication.

The lass management feature allows instructors to decide which units students may see and in which order, to set passing grades for the course by selecting the score required for “mastery,” and to receive alert notices of students who have been identified as below the set mastery score, thus enabling instructors to identify students who might need extra help.

Assessment gives students instant feedback on assignments and allows them to view progress via their own grade book.

Tracking allows instructors to immediately see how the entire class is progressing, as well as view progress on individual skills and tests, and see how much time each student is spending on each activity (time on task). An easy-to-read graph represents each student’s strengths and weaknesses.

Finally, the communication feature offers instructors opportunities to provide individualized feedback on student writing assignments by “marking up” assignments and giving comments electronically. Pearson notes that the e-portfolio feature allows instructors to spend time improving student writing, not worrying about paper or handwriting.

Instructor Resources
In addition to the features mentioned earlier, a grade book, communication with the student’s page, a tool to adapt materials, and error correction resources are also available to instructors.

A class statistics tracker allows instructors to understand how the class as a whole (or an individual student) is performing. This information can easily be printed or exported into a database program.

 

Conclusion
Overall, the online version of Longman English Interactive makes for a useful supplemental tool instructors might employ as supplemental information to classroom instruction or as out-of-class laboratory or homework assignments. I would even advocate that students who have just completed an ESL/EFL course or who want to “reactivate” some of their latent English abilities investigate Longman English Interactive as a potentially useful tool.

The drawbacks of the online version of Longman English Interactive stem not necessarily from this particular program, but from online programs in general. As with any online teaching/learning tool, the loss of face-to-face instruction and the potential failure of student access to adequate technology are issues. (This program, however, does have a few misspellings and grammar mistakes, though not glaring.) The usefulness of online courses as exclusive classroom materials, Longman English Interactive included, has not yet been convincingly demonstrated, mainly because—in my opinion—current technology is not yet at the level needed for personalization of activities (beyond simple “allow access/deny access”), leaving students potentially not getting what they need on an individual basis.

The online version of Longman English Interactive makes productive use of classroom technology, especially for the current generation of students who have never lived in a world without computers. Nevertheless, I hold to my belief that online learning in general should exist as a language supplement—a two-dimensional concept in a three-dimensional world. We are getting closer to what we, as professionals, envision, but are not there yet.

Overall, as a supplement, the online version of Longman English Interactive is worth the cost (US$30 per level). In email exchanges with Pearson Longman Representative, John Brenzinsky (John.Brezinsky@pearson.com) on July 27 and 28, I received the following response concerning the cost per level versus the length of accessibility:

We realize that different schools are set up on different calendars, and we wanted to ensure that students receive access that fits their school’s term. This is also why we offer 12 months as opposed to 6. The access to each level even continues after a student has moved on to the next level. We wanted to give students the option of referring back to previous work in much the same way they might use a textbook from a previous term.

Additionally, Mr. Brezinsky noted, “When a student moves up in level s/he must purchase access to the next level (just as the student has to buy new textbooks), but s/he retains access to the previous level until the 12 months run out on that level.”

For teachers and students who need extra instructional suggestions/materials, who may be suffering burnout, or who are “tech-interested,” the online version of Longman English Interactive is a tool that will keep everyone’s interest—instructor and student alike.

Dr. Alan D. Lytle, the teaching director of the Intensive English Language Program at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Arkansas, USA, has a background in second and foreign language education (ESL/EFL, German, and French) as well as 19 years of ESL teaching experience at all levels, in academic-preparation programs, conversation programs, English-for-special-purposes programs, and topic-specific programs.



Computer Technology Is “Online” the 21st-Century Version of “Correspondence”?

Alan D. Lytle, tesolcomptech@hotmail.com

Many of us, I’m sure, remember when correspondence courses were all the rage, and we probably took advantage of them when we were students. I myself did this. With the expansion of existing technology and with the advent of new technology, the hot new topic today is online courses. Most everyone and most every institution want to be involved in and use online courses as a way to meet new student demands and as a way to reach more students. My question, then, is the title of this article: Is “online” the 21st-century version of “correspondence”?

Students today are not patient when it comes to information access. They were not raised in a world where one had to go to a library and search through card catalogs, then find the book in the stacks or wait for a librarian to get it. Instantaneous access is the mode used by our students for information retrieval; this is one major way in which online differs from correspondence. With correspondence courses, students accomplished a task, then mailed the work to the professor who marked and returned it to the student. This cycle was repeated until the coursework was done. The only “live” interaction with a professor was at the end, when the student took an exam in the presence of the professor or proctor. The final grade was recorded when the course was completed. Professors could usually adapt their materials to this format, and just about the only difference was that students did not sit in front of the professor.

The online approach, by contrast, introduces the “immediacy factor.” Students expect immediate feedback to answers, quizzes, and tests. They expect to be able to contact their professor at any time of the day or night—even when the professor has established prearranged times in the syllabus. When their lives begin to interfere with completing the course requirements, they expect deadlines to be negotiable (at least in my experience).

Having been both language teacher and learner, as well as an administrator, I believe we need to be careful about jumping on the bandwagon. I see several major disadvantages to language classes offered online. First, obviously, is the nonquantifiable “lack of presence,” the perception that something is missing from a class that doesn’t require the students to be in front of the teacher. Both students and faculty have told me that they feel this “hole” in the experience. Because the concept is difficult to quantify, it is difficult to measure objectively. However, ample anecdotal evidence suggests that a class without face-to-face time seems somehow shorted.

Several other issues also arise, as I now discuss.

Consistency, Quality, and Ease
Many students, and faculty, for that matter, believe that online teaching is easier because they can choose when to “be” in class. Initially, this arrangement seems to address student, faculty, and institutional needs and schedules. In reality, though, online courses have some of the highest attrition rates in education (Carr, 2000). According to John Ebersole (2005),

Poorly designed, text-heavy, low-interaction courses are still developed and offered. Not surprisingly, completion rates are comparable to the correspondence courses of yesteryear (less than 50 percent). Frequently, learning outcomes for online students are still not validated in the same manner as in the classroom (objective, proctored exams), feeding a perception of qualitative difference. Additionally, a lack of participation in online course development and instruction by full-time faculty (for a variety of reasons, not necessarily out of opposition to the concept) has necessitated the use of adjuncts. This, again, contributes to perceived inequality (even though more and more adjuncts are used in the classroom).

The ease factor comes into play because many inexperienced online educators believe that teaching from home and having the comforts afforded with such an atmosphere make an online class much easier to teach. Also, from both the professor’s and the student’s standpoint, being able to access information and produce requirements (e.g., reading a text, watching a video, answering questions, recording a speech) at a convenient time allows for ease of scheduling. However, I would argue that unless a person is very disciplined in time management, without the necessity to “be somewhere” (i.e., in a classroom in front of the professor, or as the professor), it is very easy to push the requirements off to a later time, quite often past the deadline.

Thus, as Ebersole noted, “despite the growing popularity of online learning, doubts about its quality remain, both within the academy and in the marketplace. Many faculty still question whether it is possible to duplicate the rigor of the classroom in a virtual world where students and instructors never meet—at least not face-to-face—and where all interaction is electronically mediated” (Ebersole, 2005). Is the quality of online education equal to that of “face-to-face” instruction? It is extremely difficult to quantify something with so many variables: technology-user ability, technology capability, “time on task,” reliability of student identity (i.e., enrolled students actually completing tasks themselves), bandwidth capability, computer processor speed, and more. Along with these, when a professor is thousands of miles away from the student, it is difficult to form the professor-student bond that aids in retention. “A January 2005 survey, conducted by the Boston-based research firm Eduventures, found that only 30 percent of prospective students polled felt that online education was equal to that offered on campus” (Ebersole, 2005).

Cost Comparison
Ultimately, the base issue of online teaching comes down to a financial one. Online teaching is expected to pay for itself and indeed, beyond that, to generate an excess of funds to make state legislators, institutional boards, chancellors, presidents, and other administrative bodies happy. The really interesting thing is that in the United States, public education is not supposed to generate a “profit”; it is most similar to the nonprofit concept of a zero-gain budget. It expends what it takes in and takes in only what is necessary.

Teaching online seems to be a cheaper way of meeting the mission of an educational entity; however, according to Susanne Lohmann (2005), “Creating high-quality online content and upgrading it over the year is an expensive proposition, and cost savings will come about only if universities succeed in realizing significant economies of scale. This will require collaboration between the departments and the divisions of the university including university extension; collaboration between the campuses of a university system; collaboration across levels of state higher education systems . . . ; and collaboration between similarly situated universities.” One could ask further, how does intellectual property play into this concept? What about patents and copyrights? If we teach online, do we lose our “property”?

Competition
Given these significant drawbacks to online learning, we might also ask: Do we have to be all things to all people—offering every class in a mode that is accessible to anyone? By this, I mean, why are the same classes offered in a classroom, online, via television, via distance education streaming video (real-time and lag-time), and in other ways? The answer is that institutions see access to information by the majority of the population as a positive. In theory, that is indeed a positive and is not the argument here. What is the argument is that some subjects do not lend themselves to nonclassroom settings, such as classes with laboratory time, speech communications, and American Sign Language. I posit that language classes clearly fall into this category, because oral proficiency is most accurately measured in an interactive or presentational mode. This is extremely difficult to accomplish online. However, institutions are now courting many of the same students and class variety is one carrot that is dangled in front of the potential registrants, seemingly without regard to whether a class or field lends itself to all this variety.

Conclusion
If online is indeed the 21st-century version of correspondence, then why don’t we just acknowledge the fact that it is the next generation of such, a 2.0 version of nonclassroom learning? Rather, our profession seems to be marketing “online” classes as a new concept, hoping to attract the current generation of students, and we’re not fooling them. The majority of our entering freshman classes have always had access to computers. The idea of writing without spell check, grammar check, and access to the Internet and online sources is foreign to them. Traditional correspondence courses required that we find the information in print material, in a library, or by asking an expert source. Now, with online learning, the sphere of personal influence is shrinking because students are no longer required to interact face-to-face in these classes, unless they are “hybridized,”, that is, a combination of online and face-to-face instruction, and that is another concept altogether. How can online classes allow idea development (e.g., verbally bouncing ideas off classmates and coming to a consensus) or build the skill of synthesis of thought? I believe that as professionals, we have these abilities trained into our pedagogical minds and thus lead students toward these goals inherently, without needing to consciously realize what we are doing. When teaching online, we have to be deliberate in this, and often the flickers of ideas burn out before we can fully develop them. As it is, higher level thinking skills overall are rapidly declining (Baruh, 2001). Where will our next group of global citizens be, literally and linguistically, if they have to log on to a computer to gain knowledge? Is the greatest computer ever created, the human brain, becoming obsolete in the face of flashy marketing, user-friendliness, and lower costs?

References
Baruh, H. (2001, October). Are computers hurting education? ASEE (American Society for Engineering Education) Prism Online, 11(2). Retrieved May 19, 2008, from http://www.prism-magazine.org/oct01/lastword.cfm

Carr, S. (2000, February 11). As distance education comes of age, the challenge is keeping the students. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved May 19, 2008, from http://chronicle.com/free/v46/i23/23a00101.htm

Ebersole, J. (2005). Meeting the quality challenge in online learning. Continuing Higher Education Review, 69, 69-76. Retrieved May 6, 2008, fromhttp://www.ucea.edu/pdfs/cher/2005CHER.pdf

Lohmann, S. (2005). IT doesn’t matter for the research university: Disruptive technology, ruinous competition, and the death of the university. Continuing Higher Education Review, 69, 7-32. Retrieved April 28, 2008, from http://www.ucea.edu/pdfs/cher/2005CHER.pdf

Dr. Alan D. Lytle, the teaching director of the Intensive English Language Program at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, USA, has a background in second and foreign language education (ESL/EFL, German, and French) as well as 19 years of ESL teaching experience at all levels, in academic-preparation programs, conversation programs, English-for special-purposes programs, and topic-specific programs.

 



Announcements and Information TESOL Position Statements

Position Statement on the Status of, and Professional Equity for, the Field of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (June 2008; PDF) 
It is TESOL’s position that all educational authorities, government agencies, and academic institutions recognize the field of TESOL as a unique academic and professional discipline that is distinct from, but on par with, other academic subjects. Accordingly, TESOL recommends special and unique designation of the field.

Position Statement on Teacher Preparation for Content-Based Instruction (March 2008; PDF) 
The emergence of CBI as a paradigm in language education, and its implementation across educational contexts, has radically changed the role of language teachers and the language curriculum in primary and secondary school settings and in postsecondary contexts.

Position Statement on Professionalization and Credentialing for Adult ESOL Educators (April 2008; PDF) 
Educational authorities should view professionalization as a means to improve the quality of education and enhance program capacity, and thus make the professionalization of adult ESOL educators a priority.



About This Community Call for Submissions

Get involved—consider contributing to our newsletter!

Please consider submitting an article for the August-September issue.

HEIS News welcomes articles that apply to classroom situations and that focus on ESL/EFL pedagogy, second language acquisition, academic literacy, language assessment, applied socio- and psycholinguistics, advocacy, administration, and other related areas. Given the newsletter's electronic format, authors are encouraged to include hyperlinks.

Submission Guidelines
Full-length articles and brief reports should
• be no longer than 1,500 words
• include a 50-word (500 characters or fewer) abstract
• contain no more than five citations
• follow the style guidelines in the Publications Manual of the American Psychological Association, Fifth Edition (APA Manual)
• be in MS Word (.doc) or rich-text (.rtf) format

Please direct submissions and questions to Maria Parker at mgparker@duke.edu.

Note: It is not necessary to have an article complete and ready for submission to contact us! Please feel free to get in touch at any stage of the process. We are happy to answer any questions and work with you in developing or refining a topic. 

The deadline for submissions to HEIS 28-1 is December 30, 2008.

 


Call for Book Review Submissions

Book reviews are always a very popular feature of the newsletter. Book review guidelines are below. To request or suggest a book for review and for details, including submission deadlines, please contact Maria Parker at mgparker@duke.edu.

Submission Guidelines
HEIS News welcomes reviews of scholarly books and textbooks dealing with English teaching, applied linguistics, second language acquisition, language assessment, or other disciplines as they relate to ESL or TESL instruction in higher education settings. Anyone interested in writing a review for HEIS Newsmay choose a recent book in the field and contact the editor for approval. Reviews will be considered for publication based on the quality of the reviewer’s evaluation and description of the book, and the book’s relevance and importance to the field.

Reviews should
* be 600-900 words in length
* include a 50-word (500 character or fewer) abstract
* include a 75- to 100-word bio of the reviewer
* follow the style guidelines in the Publications Manual of the American Psychological Association, Fifth Edition (APA Manual)
* be in MS Word (.doc) or rich-text (.rtf) format

Go to http://www.tesol.org/s_tesol/seccss.asp?CID=174&DID=1644 to read a sample book review.

 

 


Call for Computer Technology Submissions

Computer and information technology are a growing part of our professional lives. The HEIS News Computer Technology section welcomes articles and reviews of Web sites or other materials that use technology in ESL/EFL teaching, applied linguistics, second language acquisition, language assessment, or other disciplines in higher education settings. Please contact the Computer Technology editor, Dr. Alan D. Lytle, at tesolcomptech@hotmail.com with your suggestions, ideas, or questions or to receive information on submission deadlines.