AL Forum

AL Forum News, Volume 26:2 (March 2006)

by User Not Found | 11/02/2011
AL Forum AL Forum

March 2006 Volume 26 Number 2
A periodic newsletter for TESOL members.

In This Issue...
  • Leadership Updates
    • From the Chair
    • From the Editors
  • Articles and Information
    • Second Language Acquisition Table
    • Sociocultural Theory Table
    • Best Practices Table
    • Corpus, Genre, and Discourse Analysis Table
    • Academic ESL and Intensive English Institutes Table
    • K-12 ESL, ELL, and Bilingual Education Table
    • Teaching English as a Foreign Language Table

Leadership Updates From the Chair

Noel Houck, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona,

Dear ALIS Colleagues,

I am delighted to have this chance to write to you about the activities that ALIS is involved with at the upcoming TESOL 2006 convention. This year there are a number of interesting projects: We are sponsoring an Academic Session, two InterSections, 30 presentations, and 12 Discussion Groups! Topics include a range of areas such as current perspectives on grammar for academic writing, uses of digital video in classroom research and teacher training, and the role of SLA theory in teacher education. In all these areas, we have endeavored to highlight the connection between research and classroom practice.

Our chair-elect, Isaiah Yoo, has put together a terrific Academic Session that offers perspectives on an issue in which teachers preparing students for academic work consistently express interest: the teaching of “Grammar for/in Academic Writing.” Panelists include Christine Feak, Jan Frodesen, Eli Hinkel, Patricia Porter, and Deborah van Dommelen. They will be discussing research on and practical approaches to teaching and assessing grammar in academic writing contexts. Note a schedule change: The ALIS Academic Session, which used to be held on Wednesday morning, has been moved to Thursday afternoon.

This year, we are also cosponsoring two exciting InterSections: one with the Higher Education IS (HEIS) and one with the Video Digital Media IS (VDMIS). In the “Incorporating SLA Theory Into Teacher Education” InterSection with HEIS (Friday March 17, 2:00-3:15 p.m.), Karen Johnson, Joan Kelly Hall, Diane Larsen-Freeman, and Dudley Reynolds will be discussing the role of second language acquisition theory in the training of ESL, EFL, and K-12 teachers, a topic of special interest to TESL teachers and students alike. The InterSection brings together some of the most articulate proponents of different approaches to the role of SLA theory in teacher training in what promises to be a stimulating session. In the second InterSection, in conjunction with the VDMIS (Wednesday, March 15, 8:00-9:15 a.m.), participants will address digital media applications in support of classroom research and practice. “Digital Media in Applied Linguistics Research and Practice” brings together David Olsher, Karen Russikoff, and Donna Tatsuki, all of whom make extensive use of video and digital media in the classroom. They will report on a wide range of uses of video and digital products, including classroom-based research, teacher training, and EFL/ESL teaching practices. This session is especially relevant given the current drive at many academic institutions to incorporate technology into faculty teaching and research.

In addition to the Academic Session and the two InterSections, ALIS will be sponsoring 30 concurrent presentations and 10 Discussion Groups on a wide range of topics that reflect the variety of interests that our IS represents. These include testing standards, vocabulary acquisition, development of pragmatic competence, learner responses to tasks, and many others. Please consult the convention program for times and locations of all the ALIS sessions.

I would also like to call your attention to one of the fruits of the TESOL 2005 conference, which is included in this newsletter. Last year ALIS, in conjunction with the Higher Education and Research ISs, sponsored a networking event at which members were invited to discuss issues of importance to them with other teachers and researchers. The result was a lively exchange of ideas, which is summarized in this newsletter. I hope that you enjoy reading about the discussions, and I would be interested in hearing members’ responses to the topics discussed and issues raised during these discussions.

In closing, I would like to encourage you to attend the conference. We are anticipating an exciting 4 days, with a wide variety of sessions. And while you are in Tampa, I hope you will take the time to participate in the ALIS Business Meeting on Wednesday evening (5:00-7:00 p.m.). We welcome your presence and participation, and would like to get to know you better. If you have been thinking about becoming more actively involved in the IS, this is a terrific place to start. If you cannot attend, but would like to take on an active role in the ALIS, please contact me, Noël Houck (, or incoming chair Isaiah Yoo (

I look forward to seeing you in Tampa Bay!



From the Editors

Scott Phillabaum, California State University, Dominguez Hills,, and

Stefan Frazier, San Jose State University,

Greetings to all as we approach yet another TESOL convention!

In this issue (26.2), we are pleased to present the reports from TESOL 2005’s networking reception on research and educational practice. Bringing together classroom teachers, teacher trainers, and researchers, this reception focused on ways that research can inform classroom practices.

We would like to thank Noël Houck for her summary of the Second Language Acquisition table, hosted by Dudley Reynolds and Norbert Schmitt; Stefan Frazier for his summary of the Sociocultural Theory table, hosted by Virginia LoCastro and Steve McCafferty; Nina Rosenfeld for her summary of the Best Practices table hosted by Paul Nation and Diane Schmitt; Isaiah W. Yoo for his summary of the Corpus, Genre, and Discourse Analysis table, hosted by Douglas Biber, Marianne Celce-Murcia, and Ulla Connor; Ginessa Lawson Payne for her summary of the Academic/College ESL and Intensive English Institutes table, hosted by Linda Jensen and Eli Hinkel; David Olsher and Becky Young for their summary of the K-12 ESL, ELL, and Bilingual Education table, hosted by Constant Leung and John Edlund; and Nolan Shaw for his summary of the Teaching English as a Foreign Language table, hosted by Donna Brinton and Sandra Fotos.

This event and the summaries that follow add substance to our belief that researchers and TESOL educators have a lot to say to one another, and at the same time, reveal that we need to do more to facilitate effective communication, both of research findings to classroom practitioners and of classroom educational concerns to TESOL and applied linguistics researchers.

This issue marks the end of Stefan’s tenure as coeditor of AL Forum. We are grateful for his 3 years of service to the Applied Linguistics Interest Section and wish him the best in his future endeavors. Scott will continue as coeditor, so please address all questions, comments, and submission inquiries to him (

We hope you enjoy this issue of AL Forum and we look forward to seeing many of you in Tampa!

Articles and Information Second Language Acquisition Table

Notetaker: Noël Houck, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona,

The Second Language Acquisition (SLA) table was hosted by Dudley Reynolds (specialist in grammar acquisition, University of Houston) and Norbert Schmitt (specialist in vocabulary acquisition, University of Nottingham). An additional five participants took part in the discussion. The main question that emerged early in the session was how to bridge the gap between teachers and research. In particular, discussants were concerned about how to develop in MA/MEd students a sense of the relevance of research to the classroom and a desire to keep up with research after graduation.

Question: What do TESL graduates need to know?

Participants came up with three areas they felt that TESL graduates need to be familiar with: Graduates need to know (a) how to teach and reflect on their teaching (e.g., how to present material, organize classes, manage classes, motivate students); (b) what they are teaching (e.g., grammar, vocabulary, writing theory and research); and (3) how students learn a second language (e.g., research on SLA in general, as well as specific areas such as how students build up vocabulary). These results led to the focus in the next question.

Question: Why don’t most graduates of master’s programs in TESL read research (especially primary research) in second language acquisition after graduation?

Participants were concerned that after graduation, teachers’ knowledge of SLA seems to stagnate. One of the factors contributing to this, participants agreed, was the time these graduates need to attend to immediate concerns in their own classrooms. In addition, teachers are often not equipped with strategies enabling them to read primary sources easily with a critical eye; thus, they end up unwilling or unable to keep up with research after they receive their MA/MEd. On the other hand, it was observed, SLA research questions often do not seem directly relevant to the classroom—especially with the confusion of competing claims and theories.

Question: Why do teachers need to understand SLA research?

Participants felt that teachers of ESL/EFL students need to know how to identify relevant findings and to apply these findings to their own situations. They need to have informed opinions about how to create optimal conditions for learning, not just teach. This is where training and knowledge come in.

Question: How can professors in TESL master’s programs make SLA research relevant to teachers?

Participants noted that teacher trainers need to work on how they present SLA research. They need to foster the idea that an understanding of SLA can help teachers make informed classroom decisions. For instance, it can help teachers consider how they present knowledge and how they use the knowledge (diagnostically, pedagogically, to show progress [e.g., through developmental markers]). Teacher trainers can identify relevant research and show how it can be used in preparing lessons or exercises or choosing texts for ESL/EFL learners (e.g., how many word families does a novice speaker need to know?)

Teacher trainers can also demonstrate relevance by showing how knowledge of SLA can provide a rationale for evaluation of textbooks and by providing exercises applying theories to classrooms. In particular, for teachers wrestling with applying state-mandated standards in the classroom, a teacher trainer can use the standards not as a final answer, but as a starting point for discussion.

Several participants noted that MA/MEd classes differ according to the course and the program. For example, what students can do in a practicum (e.g., action research) differs from what students can do in a basic SLA course (e.g., basic data collection). Both differ radically from what can be expected of students in an elective SLA topics course, especially in a master’s program that feeds into a doctoral program (e.g., design a research project).

Question: How can professors in TESL master’s programs make research accessible to students?

Participants agreed that professors need to spend class time teaching students how to read, research, and develop the skills necessary to process data (i.e., the same skills experienced researchers use in understanding and evaluating conference presentations). Members suggested focusing initially on case studies (Schmidt’s [1983] “Wes,” Schumann’s [1978] “Alberto,” etc.), teaching students how to approach articles on SLA and how to read data tables (perhaps using Brown’s [1991, 1992] articles from TESOL Quarterly). Students can be encouraged to test claims through data analysis (e.g., with problems from Gass & Selinker [1994], Gass, Sorace, & Selinker [1999], and Ellis & Barkhuizen [2005]). Projects might include analysis of SLA texts or comparison/contrast of chapters in different SLA texts, projects or exercises that can be done individually or in pairs or groups and that make learners aware of different approaches to SLA.

Question: How can TESOL help?

TESOL can offer sessions that focus on how researchers can help teachers with the English language learning problems they encounter in their classrooms.


Brown, J. D. (1991). Statistics as a foreign language – Part 1: What to look for in reading statistical language studies. TESOL Quarterly, 25, 569-586.

Brown, J. D. (1992). Statistics as a foreign language – Part 2: More things to consider in reading statistical language studies. TESOL Quarterly, 26, 629-664.

Ellis, R., & Barkhuizen, G. (2005). Analyzing learner language. Oxford,