HEIS News

Volume 28:2 (October 2009)

by User Not Found | 10/25/2011

HEIS CHAIR'S OPEN LETTER TO THE MEMBERSHIP
Shawn Ford

Welcome HEIS members, old and new, to another active year with one of the largest TESOL interest sections! Thanks for all of the support given to me up to this point as chair-elect and now as current chair. I look forward to a productive year with you, revising HEIS governing rules, conducting special projects and preparing for TESOL 2010 in Boston.

TESOL 2009

At this past TESOL convention, HEIS and its members were active as usual with an informative academic session about serving immigrant students, two joint intersections with the Program Administration IS, dozens of regular sessions, HEIS meetings, and the HEIS information booth. Thanks to all of the HEIS members and member volunteers who attended these events and helped make TESOL 2009 a success for HEIS. The minutes of the HEIS planning meeting and the HEIS open meeting should be available for you to review on the HEIS section of the TESOL website.

HEIS Governing Rules

Per TESOL request, all ISs have been instructed to revise their governing rules, which specify the governing board members and their responsibilities, the election process, communication guidelines, and the proposal and review process. TESOL has supplied the ISs with a template to help us get started with the revision process. Several HEIS governing board members volunteered during the IS planning meeting at TESOL 2009 to revise our governing rules:

Denis Hall, past chair

Jose Carmona, outgoing chair

Shawn Ford, current chair

Heather Robertson, incoming chair

We are in the process of revising the rules now and hope to be finished by the end of July. Once they are revised, the governing board will review them, and then they will be sent to the HEIS membership for review and comment. We hope this entire review process is complete by the end of this summer.

HEIS Election Process

As a part of the governing rules revision process, the HEIS governing board is also planning to review and revise the HEIS governing board election process. Currently, the HEIS board is elected each spring before the annual convention. However, the timing winds up being very inconvenient for several reasons, all of which were discussed at HEIS meetings at TESOL 2009. By the end of this summer, the HEIS governing board plans to formalize a proposal to the membership to move the election process to the fall of each year, beginning with this year. Please stay tuned to the HEIS e-list for this information.

HEIS Special Project

Also as discussed at TESOL 2009, I submitted a Special Project proposal to TESOL for this current year to conduct a self-study of HEIS member interests and needs. There has been much talk as of late about the diverse needs of the membership and an impression by some members that certain needs aren’t being met by HEIS. The special project proposes to survey current HEIS members, review past TESOL convention records for member participation, and make recommendations for future directions of the IS, especially in the area of attending to member needs. This special project will become the HEIS Academic Session at TESOL 2010, which will report the results of the self study and include an open forum about the future of HEIS.

HEIS Historian Search

HEIS also decided at TESOL 2009 to create a new board-appointed position of Historian, who will be responsible for compiling and maintaining historical records for HEIS and making them available to the membership via our TESOL website. Please look for our Open Call for HEIS Historian announcement on the e-list. If you are interested in this position, please contact me directly.

HEIS Proposal Reviewer Volunteers

Every year just after the annual convention, TESOL members and ISs gear up to submit and review proposals for the following annual convention. It’s the responsibility of every IS to review the proposals submitted to their particular IS. This year’s proposal review process went super-smoothly, thanks in part to the large number of volunteers who did their assignment in short order. HEIS had a total of 203 complete proposals to review, each needing 3 reviews. With 70 reviewers, the process went very smoothly, and no single reviewer was burdened with a heavy load of proposals. I would like to thank for their service to HEIS:

Alice Lee, Adrianne Ochoa, Alfredo Urzua Beltran, Alton Cole, Amel Aladwani, Amelia Onorato, Andrea B. Hellman, Angela Dadak, Ann Wintergerst, Beth Ernst, Bill Teweles, Brett Reynolds, Christina Quartararo, Cem Balcikanli, Christine Winskowski, Christopher Roe, Carol Cochsner, Craig M. Machado, Denise Johnson, Dennis R Bricault, Donald Weasenforth, Eve M. Fonseca, Francis Shapiro-Skrobe, Frank Noji, Frank Smith, Hayriye Kayi, Hyunsoo Hur, Ildiko (Ildi) Porter-Szucs, Jane Conzett, John Graney, Jose Carmona, Kelly Wonder, Karen Stanley, Kim St Charles, Lara Ravitch, Linda Barro, Linda Foley-Vinay, Lora Yasen, Lynne Bost, Marcia Bronstein, Maria Ammar, Maria Parker, Marianne Hsu Santelli, Marilynn Spavetna, Marta Dmytrenko-Ahrabian, Mary Charleza, Mary Beth Haan, Mary Helen Lanaghan, Mary Lynn Klingman, Nancy Pederson, Patty Heiser, Rob Filback, Ruby Costea, Ruth Griffith, Ryan Richardson, Stuart Landers, Susan D Bosher, Susan Olmstead, Tara Smith, Terry Pruett-Said, Tony Silva, Tyrone E. Marsh, Yi Ting Alisa Tu, and Zeinab Samak.

TESOL 2010 Preparations

The HEIS governing board has planned several special sessions for HEIS members at TESOL 2010, including:

  • a self-study Academic Session on the current and future directions of HEIS,
  • a fabulous intersection with the Second Language Writing IS on serving generation 1.5 students at the community college and university levels, and
  • an informative intersection with the Adult Ed IS on transitioning immigrant adults from Adult Ed to community college to university programs.

We hope you plan to attend these wonderful HEIS sessions, mark these events in your program booklet, and bring a colleague or three with you!

In addition to these special events, since we are one of the largest ISs, HEIS will have a large number of various kinds of regular member-proposed sessions, from 20-minute teaching tips to full-session demonstrations and papers to double-session colloquia—a wide range of informative sessions to appeal to the diverse interests and needs of HEIS members.

HEIS E-list

This past year there have been many productive discussions and exchanges on the HEIS e-list, largely in part due to the diversity and expertise of the HEIS membership. Members in EFL settings have gotten advice about testing from members in ESL settings, members in university settings have gotten advice about immigrant student needs from members in community college settings, and HEIS members from all sorts of settings have exchanged a variety of resources with one another, just to name a few of the recent discussions and exchanges.

I would like to again thank the HEIS e-list manager Karen Stanley for her dedicated service to keeping the e-list in order and for conducting the poll this summer of HEIS members about use of the e-list. And thanks again to all of the HEIS members who responded to Karen’s poll.

In response to the poll and various HEIS e-list comments about use of the list and participation thereon, I made the following e-list comment that I’d like to reprint here:

“As a member of the HEIS governing board, I'm very interested in seeing the frequency and range of discussions on our e-list. Our e-list serves as not only a tool for communicating ideas about our field, but for many of us, the e-list serves to supplement our ongoing professional development efforts. Most of us belong to several of these kinds of e-lists: NEA, Edweek, Lazzio's List, Inside Higher Ed, NCELA, ESL-CC, to name a few. We filter through the info and find what we need and throw away the rest. I would rather have the option to throw away ideas than to never be exposed to new ideas in the first place.

My solution for managing these types of e-lists is to request that the discussions are sent to me in digest form. This is usually an e-list user preference option. Instead of getting every individual email, reply and response, I get one email at the end of the day that includes every exchange.

One quick skim through the HEIS digest, I find what interests me, and I'm done.

And if anyone is no longer interested in the e-list, s/he simply follows the directions at the end of each discussion or digest to be removed from the list.”

In Closing…

I’ve been very pleased to be a part of the HEIS governing board the past year and a half, and I’m looking forward to serving out the rest of my term over the next year and a half. I appreciate all of the support I’ve received so far from the membership, volunteers, and governing board members. You truly are an awesome group of people! I urge continued volunteerism and participation in HEIS by all of the members in order to continue making HEIS the best interest section in TESOL. Best wishes to you all, and I hope to see a large portion of our membership at TESOL 2010 in Boston!

Shawn Ford
HEIS Chair 2009-10
Kapi‘olani Community College

Shawn Ford received his MA in ESL from the Department of Second Language Studies at the University of Hawai‘i – Manoa. He is an instructor in the ESOL and SLT Programs at Kapi‘olani Community College (KCC) and serves on several ESL and teacher-training panels in the state of Hawai‘i. His research and teaching interests include purposeful reading and writing, grammar development, and teacher training.

ARTICLES

RESISTING INSTITUTIONAL MARGINALIZATION AT THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON
Shawna Shapiro

Is English language instruction “remedial” in nature? I suspect that most of us would answer “no” to this question, as the term “remedial” brings to mind a set of beliefs and practices that are outdated and perhaps even injurious—heavy testing, decontextualized instruction, and a pervasive focus on linguistic error rather than on student growth. As Mike Rose explains, remedial education uses the discourse and logic of the medical field: Students, like patients, are seen as having linguistic “deficiencies” for which language specialists, like doctors, provide a “remedy” (1985). Remedial education is usually an isolationist endeavor, serving as what Rose calls a “scholastic quarantine” for underprepared students (1985, p. 352). This isolation affects not only the students themselves but the programs delivering remedial instruction. Both are subject to institutional marginalization.

Sarah Benesch is one of a number of TESOL scholars seeking to counteract the perception that ESL/EAP instruction is remedial. To this end, she edited a collection of accounts by practitioners working collaboratively with colleagues in other disciplines, entitled Ending Remediation (1988). Without this sort of collaboration, Benesch argued, ESL/EAP programs (and the students in them) are in danger of “ghettoization.” In the decades since this collection was published, scholarship has continued to document numerous effects of institutional marginalization. National surveys have revealed disturbing trends: Many of our programs have only a loose affiliation with an academic department and rarely communicate with faculty in other disciplines. Our courses are often classified as “non-credit” and may require additional tuition and fees for students. Compensation and working conditions for those teaching in our programs tend to be poorer than for the rest of the institution. These and other factors seem to indicate that our courses are seen and treated more as “remedial” than as “regular.” (See, for example Ignash, 1995; Williams,1995; and Van Meter 1990).

This has certainly been the case at the University of Washington (UW), where I have been teaching and doing research for the past five years. The AEP’s students are all non-native speakers matriculated in undergraduate or graduate programs who are required to take AEP courses based on their test scores (usually TOEFL, IELTS, or SAT Verbal). About half of the students in the AEP are international students and the other half are permanent residents. (For more about the AEP, see http://www.outreach.washington.edu/aep/ ). From my very first quarter teaching in our Academic English Program (ESL/EAP for matriculated students), I could see and feel the program’s institutional marginalization: The AEP was administered from an off-campus building and had virtually no interaction with faculty and administrators on campus. The program’s curriculum focused heavily on grammar and vocabulary with few stated objectives for reading, writing, and speaking. The final exam was the sole determiner for pass/fail in each course. (I was told that the heavy emphasis on exams was important because they offered “proof” of language proficiency to the university.) I was warned that students in my classes might seem resentful and unmotivated, in part because they received no credit for the courses and had to pay additional tuition. As can be imagined, students were not the only ones resentful about these conditions. Instructor morale was impacted significantly by a pervasive sense that our program did not have a place of ‘belonging’ within its campus community. Even after I began teaching in another department (due to funding limitations), I was determined to work with the AEP toward greater institutional integration. In this article I describe what we have learned and accomplished thus far at the University of Washington, in the hopes of inspiring colleagues at other institutions whose programs are similarly marginalized. Our reform efforts have revolved around five key strategies, as outlined below:

Strategy 1. Identify needs and concerns of campus stakeholders

I worked with the AEP to design and implement a needs assessment project that included surveys of its own students and instructors, as well as faculty and TAs in other departments.1 The survey results were complemented by interviews, meeting minutes, and institutional documents. Our goal for this project was to learn more about the experiences and needs of various stakeholders on our campus. Key findings from this project included the following:

· Information about English language assessment and other policies was decentralized and difficult to navigate. As a result, students and staff often felt frustrated by the administrative process.

· Many students felt that the AEP’s policies (particularly in terms of placement and grading) were ineffective and/or unfair. This, combined with the additional fees and lack of credit, caused many to see the courses as a burden, rather than a benefit.

· What students appreciated most about the AEP was the class size (14 students on average), the instructor expertise, and the opportunities to practice writing and speaking. However, the heavy emphasis on grammar and on final exams tended to detract from these positive experiences.

· Many AEP instructors were dissatisfied with the program’s policies and curriculum, but felt trapped by what they thought was a fixed “mandate” from the UW.

· A number of faculty and TAs outside the AEP felt that they lacked training, strategies, and resources to support ESL students.2 The pedagogical “strategy” reported most frequently was to refer struggling students to a writing center.

· Writing centers on campus felt that they had not trained their tutors adequately to work effectively with ESL students.

It was clear from these findings that the AEP needed to communicate more frequently and extensively with non-AEP stakeholders. The campus needed us as much as we needed them. Our first challenge was to find ways to facilitate this interaction.

Strategy 2. Ask to join cross-campus conversations

Because the University of Washington is a large and fairly decentralized institution, cross-departmental collaboration does not happen easily. However, a number of interdisciplinary working groups and councils were already in place. We made contact with some of these groups and were pleased to find that in most cases, our presence and expertise was quite welcome. The AEP began to contribute to conversations about advising, admissions, interdisciplinary writing, writing center administration, and TA training. These conversations increased the AEP’s visibility and gave the program a greater sense of purpose and belonging.

Strategy 3. Designate (and compensate) a liaison to the campus community

To facilitate long-term collaboration, the AEP devoted a small amount of funding to pay for a Writing Support Specialist who would serve as a part-time liaison to the campus community. This instructor taught fewer courses in exchange for maintaining regular contact with the campus community. Much of this specialist’s time was spent talking with administrators and instructors about what they saw as their most pressing needs. She frequently facilitated workshops for tutors and TAs in response to these needs. In addition, her feedback on these interactions gave the AEP a better sense of what was happening in classrooms and writing centers.

Strategy 4. Strengthen alliances through pedagogical collaboration

One of the strongest alliances formed over the past few years was between the AEP and the English Department’s Expository Writing Program. Several individuals from each program began to meet regularly to learn more about each other’s work. This conversation eventually led to the development of two experimental course models: a) a two-credit studio course for students needing additional support in writing-intensive courses and b) an AEP course that was closely linked to first-year composition. Both of these courses were piloted in Winter and Spring quarters of 2009.

Strategy 5. Use data and dialogue to inform curriculum revision

Over the past two quarters, the AEP has begun to revise its own curriculum, incorporating insights from the needs analysis project and the interdisciplinary conversations in which it is now engaged. The program has begun to talk less about student remediation and more about student support. As a result, the heavy emphasis on grammar/structure and on final exams is being replaced by a focus on literacy, authenticity, and a variety of assessment measures.

Long-term vision and challenges

I am optimistic about the direction the AEP has taken in recent years. Yet there are still a number of marginalizing factors have not been overcome: AEP instructors are not ranked as faculty and therefore lack representation in some key decision-making bodies. The program still lacks a strong alliance with an academic department, although its link to the English Department has grown stronger. Although academic credit for some courses has been approved for the coming year, students still must pay additional tuition. Much of the collaborative work that is occurring between the AEP and other campus stakeholders is done on a voluntary basis.Very little funding exists for collaborative endeavors—particularly as the UW is facing significant budget cuts for the coming year.

Our vision for a truly integrated AEP includes the following goals:

  • All AEP courses should be credit-bearing and are covered by tuition.

  • The AEP should have a full-time administrator who serves as a liaison to the UW campus.

  • The UW should create a centralized funding pool for collaborative language support, which includes an AEP-administered grant program from which departments might solicit funds for new initiatives.

  • Linguistic diversity should be incorporated into the UW’s mission statements, so that non-native speakers are treated as multilingual rather than linguistically deficient.

This vision may take a number of years to enact. At its heart is the notion that supporting multilingual students is not a matter of remediation but of mediation: Only through ongoing negotiation and collaboration with the campus community can ESL/EAP programs become more institutionally integrated. Our programs can never be “separate but equal.” In the spirit of collaboration, then, I end with a question: How have you (and/or your colleagues) found ways to become more institutionally integrated?3 I look forward to learning from you.

NOTES

1We received IRB approval for this project.

2We chose to use the term ESL students in the surveys, despite our recognition that it is problematic, because we found it to be the most easily recognized by non-TESOL practitioners.

3I will be working as a professor at another institution—Middlebury College—beginning this fall, but plan to continue my work with the UW to the extent that I am able.

REFERENCES

Benesch, S. (1988). Ending remediation: Linking ESL and content in higher education. Alexandria, VA: TESOL.

Ignash, J. M. (1995) Encouraging ESL student persistence: The influence of policy on curricular design. Community College Review, 23(3), 17-34. Retrieved May 22, 2009, from MasterFILE Premier database.

Rose, M. (1985). The language of exclusion: Writing instruction at the university. College English, 47, 341–59.

Van Meter, B. (1990). Academic credit for ESL classes? Review of Research in Developmental Education.

Williams, J. (1995) ESL composition program administration in the United States. Journal of Second Language Writing 4(2), 157-179.

Shawna Shapiro recently completed her PhD in English Language and Rhetoric at the University of Washington, specializing in academic literacy for multilingual students. She has taught ESOL at middle school, high school, and university levels. She has also facilitated a number of teacher training courses and workshops in the Seattle area. This fall, she will be an Assistant Professor in the Writing Program at Middlebury College.

ACADEMIC COUNSELING AND USE OF OFFICE HOURS
Bill Teweles

In the mid-1970s, I had become aware of and very impressed with Charles A. Curran’s approach to language teaching, specifically his model of instructor-as-counselor and learner-as-client, and their interaction as co-members of a learning community. In 1976,

I was more formally introduced to the method by Diane Larsen-Freeman, then a TESL methodology professor at the University of California at Los Angeles, who presented aspects of Curran’s work in her introduction to the counseling language learning (CLL) method, and included it as one of eight key methods profiled in Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching (Larsen-Freeman, 1986).

Then in 1980, I attended a workshop on CLL given by Kathleen Graves, using Mandarin as the target language. In her own words, the purpose of the workshop was not only to get people interested in the target language, but also to help participants consider the three core aspects of CLL: community, language, and learning. In Graves (1980), she further emphasized the importance of understanding on the part of the teacher-counselor and self-investment on the part of the learners in the language learning process.

Fast forward to the 21st century, and we see that many associate CLL with cooperative (if not computer) language learning, but as Horwitz, Horwitz, and Cope (1986) reminded us,

many people find foreign language learning, especially in classroom situations, particularly stressful’ (125). Thus, Curran’s belief that teachers need to become counselors in order to deal with adult learners’ fears—in that foreign/second language learning is an ongoing ‘struggle’ (Larsen-Freeman, p. 89) for many of them—remains of profound interest.

With these ideas and examples in mind, in early 2006 I began to work for the Multi-Language School, based at the Defense Language Institute(DLI)/Presidio of Monterey, where CLL was presented once again during mandatory instructor certification course training.

COUNSELING IN THE DLI FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEARNING CONTEXT

In the mid-1990s DLI instituted a series of student counseling procedures for its schools to conduct required monthly academic counseling. This endeavor normally involves reporting substandard grades on unit tests, but instructors are also advised to counsel students as to their progress and “carefully guide each student through remediation” (DLIFLC, n.d.) whenever there is a fall-off in performance. Forms (Appendices AB, and C) are used to provide this guidance or “tailored instruction” to students as needed. It is important to note that in cases where special assistance is deemed necessary, the content and duration of instruction are noted and the student’s concurrence is gained.

Tasked with improving monthly academic counseling in a newly formed language department at DLI Foreign Language Center, here I describe procedures followed and input provided on the forms that were used to conduct monthly academic feedback. Included were specific guidelines on tailored instruction for students who had performed poorly on unit tests or graded events, which were mostly designed to gauge proficiency in the target languages. In this specific case those languages were Pashto and Dari (Persian-Afghan), but the principles followed are equally applicable to ESL and EFL instructional settings. Though time and effort spent on counseling varied markedly from teaching team to teaching team and instructor to instructor, improvement was noted in several cases in which students were given consistently constructive advice and learning suggestions were followed up on by both teaching staff and students.

The one-on-one or triangulated design of the academic feedback session itself is of interest and in keeping with key tenets of Curran’s counseling-learning approach. CLL, one of several teaching approaches introduced and advocated at the DLI, is of notable usefulness in classes of limited size, with emphasis placed on proficiency. At DLI, in most cases, the target language and culture studied are not familiar to the learners nor are they part of their high school curriculum, and the bond that students often form with their instructors (or teaching team) can be profound.

The monthly academic feedback sessions, or “regular counseling,” is required at DLI and the counselor role is considered a major part of each instructor’s job there. The sessions are all documented and the paperwork must be filed with the chief military linguist based at each language school. The specific steps of the counseling process and the forms used are included in the appendices; as can be seen, the process is highly structured.

Research has shown that in the interest of promoting “sustained participation in language education” (Igoudin, 2008), adult learners need to be advised periodically in order to check their motivation level and personally engage them in their studies. At DLI, instructor and course evaluations at the end of their basic course are generally positive in this regard. Because feedback is ongoing and students participate in the monthly evaluation process, they are able to help guide their studies and let their instructors know if they are having problems absorbing the target language and culture. According to Olsen and Kagan, cooperative learning needs to be carefully structured so that learners “not only interact with each other but are motivated to increase each other’s learning” (Kessler, 1992, p. 1). Because of the need to counsel their charges regularly in order to fulfill their job duties as well as the small class size and fairly strong instrumental motivation at DLI, counseling-learning/CLL continues to show promise there.

APPLICATION TO THE ESL/EFL CONTEXT

A follow-up survey on use of office hours responded to by 60 members of TESOL’s Higher Education Interest Section (see Appendix D) attests to the need for more effective use of these sessions. Responses were understandably varied, as HEIS members come from a variety of teaching situations and expectations about the use of office hours differ according to each school’s needs. Because the forms are skill-specific and tailored instruction or special study advice is offered to those having difficulty, students are getting direct help and a chance to turn things around midcourse.

Each step of the DLI counseling process is described below, followed by an example of how it could be applied in the ESL/EFL context:

Step 1. (optional)

The instructor has student prepare a self-assessment form (see Appendix A) ahead of time and may use it in counseling session preparation.

* In other higher education settings, a similar pre-assessment (form) may be used for students who are underperforming in order to learn more about their frame of mind before a counseling session takes place. There may be extenuating circumstances that help explain a recent downturn in performance or apparent lack of interest in class.

Step 2.

The instructor prepares for the counseling session (or office hour) ahead of time by reviewing the student’s grades (and self-assessment form) and discussing the student with fellow faculty/teaching team members.

*This is desirable not only in a teaching-team situation but also in an intensive program where the instructors meet with the students daily and alternate as to the skill areas they teach them in. Students performing poorly in one class may be unmotivated or show more promise in a different skill area; the letter grades tell only part of the story.

Step 3.

The instructor notifies the student about the counseling session in advance.

*The student may be pulled from his or her regular class or counseled after class depending on class size or activity in progress, but needs to be told in advance. A pre-assessment form helps prepare the student for the session in this regard as well.

Step 4.

The instructor reads his or her comments from the INSTRUCTOR COMMENTS block on Form 864 (see Appendix B) and responds to student comments/questions regarding same.

*In a higher education setting, a summary of the content would likely suffice; rather than stressing compliance, a full understanding of the comments being made should be emphasized.

Step 5.

The instructor directs the student to put in writing any comments he or she wishes to make in the STUDENT COMMENTS block. If the student has no comments, the instructor directs the student to write “none” or N/A.

*Regardless of setting, it is important that this not be done in a perfunctory manner; the student needs to know what is expected and what type of remediation is being proposed. Also, there may be more than one student who mentions a particular problem in class or with testing, such as linkage to material being covered or the way it was presented.

Step 6.

The instructor signs Form 864 and directs the student to sign the form. (The same applies to the follow-up Form 852, shown in Appendix C, if the student hasn’t passed part of his or her most recent test or graded event.)

* A less formalized procedure but one that emphasizes student responsibility could be instituted in the higher education setting.

Step 7.

The instructor delivers a copy of the form(s) to the team leader, who in turn submits it/them to the military linguist staff.

* As necessary, students’ academic advisors could be notified.

Form 852 is a directive to initiate special assistance or probation in the event of a failed test. The department chair/supervisor is given the official, signed copy of this form, which designates tailored instruction. If the instructor wishes to include (optional) pre- or post-assessment forms, these are kept with a copy of the official counseling form and become part of an instructor’s or teaching team’s combined student counseling portfolio. Again, a similar procedure could be used in higher education settings to provide an ongoing record of students’ performance and enhance portfolio assessment.

At DLI, follow-up meetings held in December 2008 with a department chair at the Chinese School and an academic specialist at the Korean School revealed few differences in the general process of monthly academic counseling as conducted at their respective schools. They voiced concerns about instructors’ ability to write comments on the academic feedback forms, but said there were few problems scheduling productive, monthly sessions with students. If a particular instructor felt that his or her English proficiency was lacking, set phrases were used or a more proficient speaker of English (usually the teaching team leader) would be asked to double-check the forms before they were submitted to the military linguist staff.

In the ESL/EFL setting, in schools where native speakers of English work alongside nonnative speakers, cross-checking of academic feedback forms could serve a valuable purpose as well. Focus can be placed on the appropriateness of the comments (versus the wording of the study advice itself); learning tips can be added, or recommendations made based on the other instructor’s experience with the student. More than just an extension of the “two heads are better than one” principle, it may well be that one instructor sees different strengths and weaknesses or may differ as to which needs to be emphasized more on the form.

Collaborating on academic feedback forms could benefit the instructors as well as the students concerned, as the instructors gain a new perspective on how the student performs in different skill areas or classes. Even if one instructor is more demanding or lenient than the other, or they differ in tone, the extra reinforcement could help the program supervisor get a more accurate picture of how the student performs in class. If the information on the official feedback form is deemed too personal to involve a second instructor, conducting the cross-check as part of the pre or post-assessment would also be constructive.

As new instructors all the way up to seasoned professors are required to perform monthly academic counseling and it becomes a basis for earning merit pay at DLI, the majority take it seriously and are conscientious about the content. As nonnative speakers of English, the only language used on the counseling forms themselves, they are careful to consult academic coordinators or specialists for assistance as needed. For the native or nonnative instructor of ESL alike, then, there seem to be a number of advantages in using an academic feedback form on a regular basis to communicate with students as to their progress in class. Among these are

  • Standardization of the process so that consultation time is divided clearly between instructor and his or her charge;
  • Provision of a means of assurance that students are counseled promptly after tests or other graded events; and
  • Provision of a one-on-one basis for practicing key oral skills.

The aforementioned eight-question survey circulated by the author online during January 2009 indicates that office hours might be a good way to provide such a checkpoint or provide counseling to students on a regular basis. The results (Appendix D) and comments provided by members of the TESOL-HEIS were of high interest as they reflected a wide range of office hour use and relative effectiveness. Though using structured weekly or monthly counseling forms to collect academic feedback may not be every instructor’s preferred means of enhancing communication in a language class, the fact that 39 percent of respondents claimed that office hours were either mostly inconsequential or underused (Q.8) indicates that there is serious room for improvement. On a more positive note, not a few instructors who said they conduct regular office hours in connection with academic counseling felt that post-assessment as well as some kind of pre-assessment was beneficial to students and enhanced the instructional process. This was also indicated by respondents who work with their students (or “clients”) online on a daily basis. Herein, instructor and learner alike reflect on their experience or class performance on a regular basis in order to make sure their expectations are being met in a mutually beneficial way.

CONCLUSION

Because of time and budgetary limits, conducting weekly academic feedback sessions one-on-one in an office (and that’s assuming the instructor has an office in the first place) may not be practical. However, as practiced at DLI for over a decade, structured monthly academic feedback sessions provide an opportunity for one-on-one communication between instructor and learner and are widely seen as enhancing the quality of instruction there. Though quality varies and workload may increase as a result of the need to compile information for supervisory staff, having a set of completed, signed forms to refer to when problems arise in class may make the extra effort worthwhile. More important to the learner, being able to confer with his or her instructor on a regular basis is conducive to better understanding and communication. Instructors need to know if there are any personal reasons students are having problems or if there are circumstances that may indicate why they are struggling in a certain skill area. Several times at the Multi-Language School special accommodation, such as extending practice or providing a tutor, was offered for students with problems in listening or speaking. Because thousands of dollars are spent on each student by the military, successful intervention is clearly essential for those concerned. Although not exactly what Curran envisaged when he formulated his counseling-learning method, students learning foreign languages in a military institute may encounter psychological barriers and do stand to benefit from an instructor who is prepared to deal with these barriers.

REFERENCES

Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC) (1994) Regulation 350-10. Student Counseling Policies and Procedures (c) Formal Counseling: “Student Academic Status,” pp. 46–68. Monterey, CA: Author.

Graves, K. (1980). Student invested materials: Structured activities. Language Institute of Japan.Cross Currents, 7(1), 31–44.

Horwitz, E., Horwitz, M.B., & Cope, J. (1986). Foreign language classroom anxiety. Modern Language Journal, 70(2), 125–132.

Igoudin, A.L. (2008). Adult student motivation for advanced ESL learning: A group case study.CATESOL Journal, 20(1), 27–48.

Kagan, S. & Olsen, R. (1992). “About cooperative learning.” In C. Kessler (Ed.), Cooperative language learning: A teacher’s resource book. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1–30.

Larsen-Freeman, D. (1986). Community language learning. In Techniques and principles in language teaching. New York: Oxford University Press, 89–108.

Bill Teweles has a doctorate in foreign language education and spent several years teaching EFL in China and Japan and ESL at Long Beach City College. He most recently spent three years working as an assistant professor at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California.

REVIEWS

RETHINKING AZAR

Patti Juza

Azar, B. S., and Hagen, S. A. (2009). Understanding and Using English grammar (4th ed.). White Plains , NY: Pearson Longman.

Mention the name Azar in any TESOL faculty room around the world and you will often hear very strong reactions. Those who are fans of the Azar Grammar Series refer to its clear explanations and sheer volume of exercises. They appreciate the fact that the books can be used by students for self-study or to complement other classroom texts and assignments. Anyone preparing students for the old paper-based TOEFL, which included a separate grammar section, certainly relied on Azar to generate extra practice questions. And for those who do not consider grammar to be their forté, the Azar Grammar Series seems easy to use in class; the exercises are straight-forward and not difficult for a teacher to complete and explain under time constraints and student questioning.

Azar critics often complain that while the books offer a tremendous number of exercises, the majority of these exercises are decontextualized and not relevant to students’ needs. They also argue that the books do not include enough communicative activities, which would enable students to develop their general English language competence. Some claim that students can complete the exercises without really understanding the meaning of the sentences. Research and trends in discourse grammar, corpus linguistics and second language acquisition also seem to suggest that the grammar-based approach, which the Azar Grammar Series incorporates, may not be the most effective means to students’ improving their grammatical abilities.

The fourth edition of Understanding and Using English Grammar is Azar and Hagen’s response to critics. In this intermediate to advanced-level text, they set out to include more communicative activities, corpus-based content, meaningful and authentic language and other interactive ancillary materials. The question is: have they succeeded in addressing the critics’ concerns while still maintaining all of the positive features that their loyal followers have come to expect? The answer is a qualified yes.

A new addition to this text is the “Irregular Verbs: An Alphabetical Reference List,” which appears on the inside of the front and back covers. Students do not need to hunt around for the list in an appendix or within chapters of the book. Another key improvement is that the list includes the definitions of some of the less frequently used irregular verbs. This can be particularly helpful for students using the list while they are writing for any number of purposes.

The book chapters themselves are clearly labeled and organized grammatically. Teachers using this book to supplement their class materials will appreciate the fact that they can easily locate a grammatical point, which they want their students to work on and assign the relevant pages and exercises. This edition includes warm-up exercises at the beginning of the chapters where students discover the target grammar. Diagrams with short clear explanations appear throughout the chapters. While other grammar books include more examples, information about usage, and exceptions to the rules, Azar and Hagen’s book attempts to keep it simple. This results in less overwhelming grammar notes and tables, allowing teachers and students to focus on the core forms and meanings.

This edition still contains an abundance of exercises. These include changing word forms, sentence completions, responding to classmates’ questions, dialogs and listening practice. The book’s preface claims that the content of these exercises is derived from corpus research and that the book has been modified to reflect the discourse patterns of spoken and written English. This may be true at the sentence level, but many of the exercises seemed to be light on context. Within exercises, sentences did not always seem to be topically linked except by grammar point. Jumping from a sentence such as, “Samir had been a newspaper reporter before he became a businessman” to “I felt better after I had taken the medicine,” does not seem to create a great deal of meaning and connection for students. The relevance and interest factor for some of the exercises is also questionable. For example, on page 5 in the Overview of Verb Tenses one of the questions in exercise 10 says, “I’m in class right now. I arrived in class today and sat down at __________________________ (time). Right now the time is ______________________. That means that I have been sitting in this seat for _________________________ minutes.”

The inclusion of listening practice, from casual speech to academic lectures along with academic readings could be particularly useful for those instructors who are preparing students for the iBT TOEFL. The readings, which were created to highlight the target grammatical structure, do vary in interest level. For instance, the article on “Canned vs. Fresh: Which is Better?” does not seem to be all that compelling. However, “The History of DOS,” and the short bio on Martin Luther King, Jr. may generate more classroom discussion and extended use of the targeted structures.

In support of Understanding and Using English Grammar, the publisher has created a number of ancillary materials which teachers and students may find helpful. Teachers can use the Workbook to assign exercises to individual students for extra practice. Azar Interactive, a computer-based program, supplements the material in the textbook. How this program differs from the Workbook is not quite clear, but this resource may motivate those students who are more proficient users of digital media. The Teacher’s Guide includes suggestions for each grammar chart, notes on key grammar structures, vocabulary lists, ideas for expansion activities and PowerPoint slides for key chapters. The Test Bank and Test Generator are required and necessary for today’s teachers. These provide extra tests, quizzes and allow teachers to create their own exams. AzarGrammar.com and the Fun with Grammar book serve as resources for teachers, providing extra exercises, communicative activities and other teaching ideas.

There is something to be said for the Azar Grammar Series. In those dark days in TESOL, whenfocus on form was a taboo phrase, Azar remained a critical source of material for every instructor who knew that students needed explicit grammar instruction. Since that time, the field has recognized that we need to teach not only form, but also meaning and use. Further, a discourse approach may be the key to helping students understand context, meaning and forms such as ellipsis, verb patterns, wh-clauses, articles, adverb-tense relations, and position of adverbs beyond the sentence level (Hughes & McCarthy, 1998). While this book does not address all of these issues, the bottom line is this. Those who have used Understanding and Using English Grammar in the past will find all of the features you have come to appreciate and expect, plus new elements such as more skill-based practice exercises and corpus-based examples. Those who have shied away from this book may want to give it another look.

REFERENCES

Hughes, R. & McCarthy, M. (1998). From sentence to discourse: Discourse grammar and English language teaching. TESOL Quarterly, 32, 263-287.

Patti Juza is the Director of Language and Test Preparation Programs at Baruch College at the City University of New York.

GETTING TO THE CONTENT OF THE MATTER
Sharon Whitehead-van Löben Sels

Freeman, Y. & Freeman, D. (2009). Academic Language for English Language Learners and Struggling Readers: How to Help Students Succeed Across Content Areas. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

ELLs (English language learners) face demanding tasks to perform on standardized tests and teachers of ELLs are besieged with demands to increase scores on high-stakes tests. The Freemans’ book is designed for teachers investigating ways to connect content area curriculum for (ELLs) and to optimize learning. The text can be utilized for teaching a course in teacher education or as a professional resource to engage teachers in dialogue surrounding their practice. An application section at the end of each chapter provides questions to reflect, write about and discuss the information provided in the chapter.

In the foreword, Robert Marzano describes the challenges teachers face in the classroom. Secondary education demands high levels of competency and secondary teachers are “not trained to teach the basic reading and writing skills many of their students need” (p. ix). Marzano points to the fact that few “professional books in the marketplace provide strategies for simultaneously teaching secondary-level content area knowledge and developing the literacy skills of students who aren’t well prepared for academics” (p. ix–x).

The Freemans offer teachers an effective framework based on research to teach both language and content. They provide a resource to improve reading and writing skills while supplying the academic vocabulary necessary in the content area. They explain that the focus of the book is to “bring together information from researchers, teacher educators, linguists, and practitioners in order to clarify some of the confusions about academic language and provide suggestions for how to help ELLs and struggling readers succeed in school” (p. xvi). The seven chapters in the book take the reader into the world of the classroom using the information “from researchers, teacher educators, linguists, and practitioners in order to clarify some of the confusions about academic language and provide suggestions for how to help ELLs and struggling readers succeed in school.” (p. xvi). In the seven chapters, the Freemans deliver critical components for teaching academic language, the nuts and bolts about who needs it, “what it is, when and where it is used, the problems that textbooks cause, different aspects of academic language, how to write objectives to teach academic language, and how to engage students in effective instruction to build academic language proficiency” (p. xvi).

Chapter 1 describes the three types of English learners, “newly arrived with adequate formal schooling, newly arrived with limited or interrupted formal schooling, and long-term English learners” (p. 3).

Chapter 2 distinguishes between academic and conversational language and provides a brief overview of Cummins’ Theoretical Framework. Jim Cummins’ work is widely recognized, respected and can be traced to the early 1980’s. He explains that he “developed the distinction between BICS (basic interpersonal communicative skills) and CALP (cognitive academic language proficiency) in order to draw educators’ attention to the timelines and challenges that second language learners encounter as they attempt to catch up with their peers in academic aspects of the school language” (Cummins, 2008, 71, as cited in Freeman & Freeman, 2009, p. 28). García (2002) points out that in “order to acquire high levels of academic English proficiency, students need to be able to read and write academic texts” (as cited in Freeman & Freeman, 2009, p. 42). Crawford and Krashen (2007) define the distinction describing academic language is the “decontextualized, cognitively challenging language used not only in school, but also in business, politics, science, journalism, and so forth” (p. 17).

Chapter 3 delves into making sense of the academic registers of schooling by exploring how teachers can plan instruction to help students with their oral and written language. This chapter examines some of the differences between oral and written academic language and how students acquire linguistic competence through membership in social groups (p. 47).

Chapter 4 leads the reader into coping with academic texts and textbooks and discusses the inconsistencies and authoritative nature of the content area textbook. A figure illustrates the different genres, features and examples in the academic disciplines (pp. 94-95). The chapter provides ways to engage reluctant readers and highlights the importance of supporting students while reading and writing different genres.

Chapter 5 shifts the focus to supporting academic writing at the paragraph and sentence levels. This chapter provides an understanding of the different levels of academic language and provides teachers with the necessary scaffolding strategies to encourage ELLs to write paragraphs using academic vocabulary.

Chapter 6 distinguishes between “two types of academic words: content-specific words and general academic words” (p. 123). The chapter discusses “four keys researchers have found to be essential for developing academic vocabulary, and how teachers can write content and language objectives at the text, paragraph, sentence, and word levels to help ELLs” (p. 123).

Chapter 7 wraps up the discussion with teaching academic language and subject-area content with examples from teachers who have worked successfully with ELLs struggling to develop academic language. The Freemans provide a functional, practical, and constructive text for teachers intending to meet the rigor of the ELLs in the education world today.

Academic Language for English Language Learners and Struggling Readers offers hope in this era of challenging teaching times. Educators strive to bring comprehension to struggling readers and writers and “academic language is used to link prior knowledge and experiences with the generation of new concepts and cognition” (Wink & Wink, 2004, p. 98). The Freemans provide an indispensable foundational text for educators teaching ELLs struggling in the area of reading and writing in the content areas.

REFERENCES

Crawford, J. & Krashen, S. (2007). English learners in American classrooms: 101 questions, 101 answers. New York: Scholastic Inc.

Cummins, J. (2008). BICS and CALP: Empirical and theoretical status of the distinction. InEncyclopedia of language and education, vol. 2, ed. N. Hornberger, 71-84. New York: Springer Science and Business Media.

García, E. (2002). Student cultural diversity: Understanding and meeting the challenge. 3rd ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Wink, J. & Wink, D. (2004). Teaching passionately: What’s love got to do with it? Boston: Pearson Education, Inc.

The Co-Book Reviews editor for TESOL SLWIS, Sharon Whitehead-van Löben Sels PhD has been working with English language learners for 20 years. Her current research interests are multilingual education and distance learning applications.

News from ESL Settings

FINDING SOLUTIONS TO A GLOBAL CHALLENGE: MOTIVATION ISSUES
Ruhina Ahmed

The 9th Annual Oman International ELT Conference 2009 took place on April 22–23 at the Sultan Qaboos University in Muscat, Oman. It was organized by the English Language Centre of the university, with the theme “Responding to Challenges in Curriculum, Assessment and Independent Learning.”

The conference offered a variety of presentations and certified workshops. (The certified workshops give the attendees hands-on experience in certain skills related to the theme of the conference. These workshops run for an hour and forty five minutes each and the participants get a certificate of attendance for every workshop they attend). Apart from the plenary speakers, distinguished ELT practitioners David Nunan and James Dean Brown, speakers from different parts of the world shared their experiences and views about various issues connected to teaching. Furthermore, there was an exhibition where different publishing houses displayed books of different genres.

One excellent presentation that I attended was entitled “Motivation Issues with Foundation Year students”. The presenter, Richard Harrison, is a course co-coordinator for Academic English at the German University of Technology in Oman. He has been involved in ELT for over 30 years as a lecturer and ELT author. His publications include the famous Headway Academic Skills, Better Writing and Keep Writing.

Harrison’s presentation was based on a study he conducted at the German University of Technology. He had observed that Foundation Year students lacked motivation, as evidenced. by their poor attendance, failure to complete assignments and distracted or disruptive classroom behavior. Seeking a solution to this problem, the aim of his study was to find out what the lecturers and the university can do, or already do, to motivate students.

In order to find information about what approaches individual lecturers take to motivate students, he administered a questionnaire, asking them to describe activities they had found either motivated or demotivated their students. and what changes they had made in their classrooms to increase motivation.

His findings showed that the activities students disliked were the lecture format as their concentration span was very short. However, practical or group work activities increased their motivation.

In order to motivate students, Harrison suggested that since students enjoyed reading, writing and doing research activities by working on their laptops, teachers should make use of classroom technology. But it should be kept in mind that it is difficult for an instructor to keep a check on what students are doing while working on the laptops, as they might start chatting or playing games. Other technologies such as using the LCD projector can also be motivating (he also noticed, however, that PowerPoint is not necessarily effective as a whiteboard).

In a classroom, when students are given a task, the question that arises in their mind, Harrison says, is “Why are we doing this?” Therefore it important to make the students feel that the activities they are going to do will fulfill their future or immediate needs, such as examinations or assignments. Also, the instructors should see that the activity shows a logical progression within the subject. When the students realize the importance of the task or activity, they will certainly take more interest and effort.

Motivation is an issue which all instructors in the field of ELT/EFL find very challenging. It is well-known fact students’ performance improves if they are motivated. Based on his findings, Harrison gave some additional suggestions on this issue. First, we should give students tasks that boost their confidence. It is also very important to praise students when they are successful. Second, there should be a variety of activities within a lesson as students tend to have a short attention span. Also, change motivates students as they find different tasks interesting and refreshing. Furthermore change in the physical classroom setup - for example a change in the setting of desks and chairs - also helps to increase the motivation level of the students. Finally, it is important for the instructor to know the likes and dislikes of students. Therefore, it is a good idea to discuss the course and the text books with the students. To enhance learning, we should be aware of the preferred learning styles of the learners.

During his research, Harrison came to the conclusion that instructors cannot solve this problem on their own. He believes that the help of the institution is equally important for the benefit of the students. As a result, the English Department at his institution decided to help students by mentoring. Each lecturer was a mentor to around ten mentees for the semester, holding regular meetings with each. In this process, each student was asked to sign a contract in which he/she would identify problem areas in performance or behavior. Then, they would set goals which would be fulfilled within a particular time limit. In this way, students were able to identify their strengths and weaknesses. Also, with motivation from the mentor, their performance improved.

In return for their hard work, the students were offered ‘rewards’ in the form of field trips, and visits to industries in Oman. In addition, successful Omani role models gave talks about their life and experiences. Furthermore, the students went on a trip to Germany and took part in extra-curricular activities.

Another way of tackling this problem, Harrison suggested, is by bringing about awareness among students of academic regulations, such as attendance policy. Parents and sponsors can also be informed at various stages of the student’s progress. This way they can help the students by boosting their confidence and helping them overcome their problems.

Finally, Harrison’s research proved that motivation is an issue that needs to be addressed at various levels. An institution or an instructor alone cannot solve the problem. It requires a combination of approaches by involving instructors, the institution and parents in order to get the desired results. Also, it should also be kept in mind that students as individuals have many personal problems which are beyond the institution’s reach. I believe that these problems can be more effectively be addressed by a trained counselor.

In my opinion, Harrison’s presentation has many ideas which various institutions can adopt in order to help their students. Personally, I found the concept of a mentor very useful. In a large classroom, instructors are unable to give personalized attention to the weak students. Therefore, a mentor’s support would certainly help students discuss their problems. The idea of students signing a contract is also very appealing as this is one way we can make students feel responsible for their own work. Overall, the presentation was enlightening and I believe the ideas described could be useful in many settings.

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

Computer Technology

THE EXPLOITATION OF AMERICAN IEPS BY INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER EDUCATION
Alan D. Lytle

CAVEAT

As my professional position is such that I am many things—a jack-of-all-trades, if you will—I am taking the opportunity with this article to expand the reach of the technology column, to address a topic I believe is both timely and important.

This piece is not based on scientific research; indeed, very little is actually published on this topic. Instead, this article is based on responses that I received from various sources (both new to and experienced in the field) around the United States and is focused on interpretations and feelings. After all, 90 percent of reality is perception, and it is this perception that I hope to address, even at a surface level, with this article.

IEP HISTORY IN THE UNITED STATES

Organized IEPs in the United States began in the 1940s with the establishment of a few specialized training programs for groups from abroad. As the specialized language need changed to a more generalized one, and it became increasingly necessary for most professionals to have some proficiency in English, IEPs began to become more common. Also, via participation in the Peace Corps, there was a cadre of people (albeit not academically trained in second language teaching) who could staff these IEPs. These first faculty members had been abroad and worked with nonnative English speakers. Therefore, they were the first ESL (English as a second language) teachers in the United States. Because the majority of the Peace Corps teachers did not hold academic credentials, they were hired to teach ESL but were not given the same rights and privileges as were professionals with degrees.

A MODEL OF EXPLOITATION

There are many models of IEPs in the United States, and each has its pros and cons. Each also has its vulnerabilities to exploitation by the host institution. Following is a profile of a typical program that has existed since 1974:

The IEP receives a budget from its IHE; however, the budget has no funding behind it. In other words, the IEP is a self-supporting entity that is housed at and is part of its IHE. The IEP is considered an auxiliary unit of the IHE, subject to certain financial constraints that other units do not have; that is, the IEP must fund itself via IEP-specific student tuition and produce, at minimum, a zero-line budget at the end of the fiscal year. Included within the budget is an 11 percent service charge calculated on every dollar that the IEP deposits over the course of the fiscal year. This 11 percent is charged by the IHE, which will not acknowledge how the 11 percent was arrived at or what it pays for. In addition, a 10 percent charge is assessed for each credit hour the IEP generates over the academic year, and the IHE keeps 50 percent of any overage (i.e., an excess of unspent tuition dollars; legally, in the United States, public institutions cannot generate a “profit,” so words like overage are quite common) at the end of the fiscal year. This 50 percent charge is over and above the regular expenses of salaries, fringes, student services, medical services, student health insurance, and so on which have been deducted from the budget over the course of the fiscal year. In essence, then, for every dollar that the IEP deposits, the IHE collects $0.11 off the top, then an additional $0.10 for each credit hour generated. That leaves $0.79 for the IEP. At the end of the fiscal year, if there are unexpended funds, the IHE collects another 50 percent (or $0.50 on the dollar) of those, bringing the $0.79 down to $0.29. In other words, if a student registers for classes for credit and the IEP has an excess of funds at the end of the year, then for every dollar that student spends, the IEP can count on accessing only $0.29.

When these “surcharges” are revisited, it is to see if they might be increased, not decreased, and the IEP has no input as to their validity. At one point in the IEP’s history, the 11 percent service charge was calculated on expenses—a controllable amount. However, the IHE made the decision, without consulting the IEP, that the 11 percent would be moved to deposits—an uncontrollable amount. All of this was done at a time when the IEP was not able to afford the financial change, but the IHE was unwilling to discuss the situation.

In addition, in order to receive raises, the faculty of the IEP must adhere to the IHE’s rules. If all employees of the IHE receive raises, and the IEP has made money in the previous fiscal year, then the IEP faculty members may receive a raise. However, if the IHE employees do not receive a raise, then the IEP faculty members will also not receive raises—even if the IEP made money in the previous fiscal year. This sets up a system of punishment and uncontrollable reward for the IEP faculty members. The IEP faculty can benefit only if the IEP does well financially and other IHE employees receive a raise.

BENEFITS AND EQUAL RIGHTS/STATUS: FULL-TIME VS. PART-TIME

Because the majority of IEPs are considered auxiliary programs at their host institutions, their faculty members do not receive the same rights or benefits of their counterparts in “credit-bearing” undergraduate programs:job security, medical/health insurance, 401(k) contributions, retirement fund participation, sabbatical, reduced-teaching loads, voting rights, and so on. Most IEP faculty are not in tenure-track positions and have teaching loads of twice as many class hours as do tenure-track faculty. All of this obviously benefits the IHE: If there is a downturn in the international student population, the IEP faculty can easily be let go. When the international student population increases again, the IEP faculty can be rebuilt. This concept of the dispensability of an IEP faculty does not promote consistency of programs or breed loyalty. Having a consistent core faculty who can mentor junior faculty so that the program can expand in new directions, try new courses, and attempt to address the community needs allows for a strong program with a stability that the students value. When IEP faculty with the same qualifications as tenure-track faculty are termed part-time,full-time-benefits-ineligible, adjunct, and so on, they are devalued and implicitly seen as being less qualified. It creates a class system with the IEP faculty as second-class citizens, to be used when needed and discarded when not needed. IHEs simply saw the potential for growth by increasing their international population with very little responsibility to the program serving that population. I, for one, have personal knowledge that if it were not for the IEPs that I have taught in and the fact that those students matriculate into the colleges/universities where the IEPs are situated, there would be fewer international graduates, both undergraduate-level and graduate-level.

FACILITIES, TECHNOLOGY, AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

As the number of IEPs began to increase, there had to be places to put them. Many IEPs were given discarded facilities and substandard classrooms to use; however, they were happy to have a place to call their own. As times changed and the IEP faculties and graduates began to increase in number, their voices became louder. Finally, IHEs had to acknowledge that these programs were an asset; however, because most of the IEP faculty did not have advanced degrees in the field, they were relegated to the fringes of the academic arena. Similarly, not all classrooms offered the same amenities and, as technology advanced, it fell to the IEPs to fund the upgrades from slide projectors to LCD projectors, from opaque projectors to overhead projectors, and from old still pictures to Internet-capable computers. These costs, and the maintenance thereof, are not minimal.

In addition, many ESL professionals in IEPs did not feel a connection to their counterparts in the foreign language field. Master’s-level ESL programs as we now know them did not come into existence until the late 1970s and early 1980s; therefore, many of the degreed foreign language instructors looked at ESL professionals as “substandard” teachers teaching in “substandard” programs. The possibilities for professional development did not exist.

MORE, MORE, AND MORE—BEING THE VICTIM OF YOUR OWN SUCCESS

When IHEs began to see the revenue potential in IEPs, they wanted a piece of the action. Growing and doing well does not always mean that the IEP will flourish because others will want to feed on its success. Departments outside of the IEP (student services, athletic services, admissions, etc.) wanted their fair share. Rather than looking at it as an investment in future gain, the IHEs and their individual colleges, divisions, departments, etc. wanted the dollars then. Perhaps without realizing it, the IHEs were not fostering a feeling of belonging in the IEPs’ students, rather, they were fostering the idea that the tuition dollars meant more than the individual student. As many IEPs have matriculation agreements with the IHEs where they are housed, the IEP-graduated students easily continue their undergraduate studies at that IHE; they are a group that the IHE does not have to spend money on to recruit.

SOME UNEXPECTED ADVANTAGES OF SEMI-AUTONOMY

I would be remiss if I did not mention the advantages that the somewhat precarious status of an IEP does grant:

  • Some degree of autonomy with internal matters such as curriculum, textbook selection, and so forth;

  • A tendency to be left alone, untouched by the politics that are pervasive in higher education today (e.g., the top-down business approach of information flowing in only one direction: down);

  • Opportunity to pursue activities for the students and for professional development as long as the money is present;

  • Budget flexibility—expansion or contraction thereof. Because there are usually little to no “hard dollars” behind an IEP’s budget at the beginning of a fiscal year, the IEP can modify the budget as it grows or contracts and compensate for that without quite as much paperwork;

  • Complete control over curricula and the materials;

  • Responsibility for maintaining accreditation so that if another unit on campus loses its accreditation, the IEP can retain its own accreditation through AAIEP, CEA, UCEIP, and so on.

  • Ability to pursue “experimental” projects (e.g., English for specific purposes, community-based programs) to test their viability; and

  • Ability to revisit experimental projects if they didn’t succeed the first time.

CONCLUSION

When it all comes down to it, the ESL IEPs in the United States have made some progress in their relationships with IHEs, albeit in baby steps. TESOL and the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) have been major catalysts for this progress, offering second language professional development and welcoming all members of the second language field. As these organizations continue to grow and expand their memberships, their voices are heard more and more often. This is how change occurs.

Our field and our leaders must continue to insist that ESL professionals be treated just as that—professionals, equal among our peers at our various institutions. There is no one correct way of viewing just how we as professionals fit into the giant IHE puzzle, but, I, for one, believe that we compose quite a few more puzzle pieces than others suspect. It is that number base, coupled with our ability to generate the extra tuition dollars that so many of our IHEs now need, that can put us in a power position.

A recent article called for fairness and equity for ESL instructors and students:

Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages has issued a statement calling for “fairness and equity” to such programs at times that colleges are cutting budgets and eliminating positions. “During turbulent economic times, educational programs that serve culturally, linguistically, and economically diverse student populations may be at a disadvantage when competing for reduced funding with programs that serve conventional, mainstream student populations,” the statement says. “This disadvantage is particularly acute for English as second language (ESL) programs, which are often mischaracterized as being remedial in nature.” Further, the statement noted that ESL instruction is is [sic] frequently provided by adjuncts who lack job protections. “Unfortunately, during difficult economic times, educational programs face the temptation of laying off part-time, adjunct, or contingent faculty educators that the institution is rarely under any legal or collectively bargained obligation to retain. Reductions of this kind only serve to reduce the level of continuity in high-quality instruction to which ESL students have become accustomed. TESOL strongly supports all ESL faculty’s employment rights—part-time and full-time—during these harsh economic times.” (“Call for ‘Fairness,’” 2009)

We and what we do are necessary in the modern IHE. We, our students, our field, and our knowledge matter, and IHEs must acknowledge that, especially if they want to increase the number of international students and faculty members on their campuses. Who, other than we, are the ones who are the experts in cultural transitions, language expectations, academic requirements, and international counseling?

REFERENCES

“Call for ‘Fairness and Equity’ to ESL Instructors and Students.” (2009, April 6). Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved May 15, 2009, fromwww.insidehighered.com/news/2009/04/06/qt/call_for_fairness_and_equity_to_esl_instructors_and_students

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.

Community College Concerns

BLENDING CREDIT AND NONCREDIT ESL: A VIABLE OPTION IN TODAY’S ECONOMY
Craig Machado

Community college ESL is a perpetual work in progress. Change has been one of the constants in our mission to meet the diverse needs of adult students learning English. My college, Norwalk Community College (NCC), is a case in point. Once, we were neatly divided (and isolated as well) into a credit-bearing, writing-focused academically oriented ESL track and a noncredit general adult ESL track teaching survival, vocational, and low intermediate-level English. Unlike many states, Connecticut does not give its community colleges funds to teach adult basic ed and ESL, so our noncredit courses have been fee-based since first being offered.

Since 2006 and under a new administration with a vision for NCC to be “one college,” instead of the inevitable fiefdoms that grow in most academic institutions, ESL became one division headed by the former director of the credit program, assisted by a noncredit coordinator. Over time this has meant commingling planning, resources, teachers, nonteaching personnel, and curriculum. In addition, our student population has grown more diverse and includes immigrants (documented and not), international students, au pairs, high school grads, and tourists. The sputtering economy and the fact that current state law requires charging much higher nonresident tuition have made us think seriously about how to keep our ESL students in school and progressing toward their goals. We have begun to offer some of our credit ESL classes as noncredit options, blending 12 credit and 12 noncredit students into one class taught by the credit instructor. For example, a student taking a 3 credit ESL grammar class pays $427 in resident tuition; nonresident tuition for the same credit class would be over $1000! The non-credit option costs $329, a much more manageable amount for students with limited resources.

The blended option allows qualified students to advance into the more challenging academic credit ESL classes (they must be eligible for the credit-level classes); later on they can resume credit if they are going to pursue a degree. It also allows students who do not want credit, such as au pairs and international students with degrees already, to take the appropriate class for their skill level. On the instructor side, we are able to run classes (by adding noncredit students) that may have had low enrollment and thus face cancellation. Students taking a credit class not for credit must get a “P” (pass), which means at least a C, to be able to advance to the next credit-level course and, in the case of writing classes, they must turn in a final portfolio of their work just as their credit counterparts must.

So far, the major issues with blended classes have had mostly to do with registration and payment, the need for two class rosters (one credit, the other noncredit), and getting all students into one Web Blackboard learning shell. Initial fears about diluting our academic ESL classes with noncredit students have not materialized, and we have given new options to students who would either drop out because of cost or retake noncredit classes they have already passed just to keep working on their English. We are thinking of making more credit/noncredit blends down the road, especially if we continue to see a weak economy and more students pushed away from the schooling that could be critical to their success when things turn for the better.

Craig Machado is ESL program director at Norwalk Community College. In 2005, the program was honored by the National Council of Teachers of English for outstanding work in the area of developmental English.

About this Community

HIGHER EDUCATION INTEREST SECTION

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

HEIS COMMUNITY LEADERS 2009–2010

Chair: Shawn Ford, sford@hawaii.edu

Chair-Elect: Heather Robertson, heatherr@usc.edu

Immediate Past Chair: José A. Carmona, carmona1661@bellsouth.net

Assistant Chair: Lara M. Ravitch, lravitch@ccc.edu

Secretary: Cem Balcikanli, balcikanli@gazi.edu.tr

E-list Manager: Karen Stanley, karen.stanley@cpcc.edu

Web Manager: Guy Kellogg, gkellogg@hawaii.edu

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2009–2010 STEERING COMMITTEE MEMBERS-AT-LARGE

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Newsletter Book Reviews Editors: Maria Ammar, mammar@frederick.edu, and Linda Barro,barrol@eastcentral.edu.

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CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS

Please consider submitting an article for the February-March 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.

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Full-length articles and brief reports should

  • be no longer than 1,500 words
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Please direct submissions and questions to Maria Parker.

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 29-1 is December 30, 2009.

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 Ammar or Linda Barro.

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 News may 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
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  • 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 the HEIS News archive to read a sample book review.