Volume 25:2 (July 2006)

by User Not Found | 10/20/2011
In This Issue...
  • Leadership Updates
    • Letter From the Chair
    • The HEIS Web Site: New Look, New Location
  • Articles
    • Generation 1.5 Academic Writing Perceptions, Difficulties and Practices
    • New Tools, Old Rules: Uses and Perceptions of Electronic Translators
    • ESL Tutor Guidelines: Hiring, Training, and Monitoring
    • Discussion Group Summary: Going on the Road as a Consultant
  • Reviews
    • AWL Vocabulary Teaching
    • Book review: Corpus-based Classroom Activities
  • Announcements and Information
    • Community College Roundtable: Cause for Celebration!
    • Member Stories: Karen Stanley
  • About This Community
    • TESOL ESL in Higher Education Interest Section
    • Updating Your Member Profile
    • Call for Submissions
    • Call for Book Review Submissions

Leadership Updates Letter From the Chair

Soonhyang Kim, kim.1259@osu.edu

Greetings to all Higher Education Interest Section (HEIS) members. 

I would like to thank all of you who were able to participate in our open business meetings and discussions in Tampa, Florida. On the basis of your excellent feedback during and after those meetings, we have been able to both sharpen our proposal-reading practices and identify themes for our Academic Sessions and InterSections that are appropriate to higher education. I hope that these discussions will continue on our e-list. New members will automatically be subscribed to the e-lists. For details, please see the message from Laura Bryant ("Updating Your Member Profile") elsewhere in this issue.

New and Retiring HEIS Steering Committee Members
We welcome the new HEIS Steering Committee members for 2006-07:

  • Chair-elect: Denis A. Hall
  • Secretary: Stephen Soresi

Denis A. Hall, d.hall@snhu.edu, has been an ESL/EFL teacher for over 25 years, having taught in both the United States and Japan. He currently serves as chair of the MS-TEFL and ESOL Certification Programs at the Institute for Language Education of Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). Recent projects he has been working on are the initiation of Arabic and Mandarin language and culture classes at SNHU and developing linkages to offer the TEFL Program abroad. His primary research interest is in teacher feedback, whereas his main teaching interests are in writing and grammar.

Steve Soresi, soresi@edup.net, teaches full-time at Takushoku University in Tokyo, Japan. His interests include learner autonomy, speech, and assessment, and he is currently researching and developing new approaches to oral proficiency interviews. Steve has published 15 textbooks in Japan for classroom and home use. His most recent academic publications examine pedagogy related to speech and the world Englishes movement.  Recent presentations include "English as an International Language and NNEST Implications" at TESOL 2006.

Please also join me in a big round of thanks to the retiring members who have devoted so much of their time and energy to serving our IS:

  • Guy Kellogg, Immediate Past Chair
  • Alison Evans, Assistant Chair

TESOL 2007
Many thanks to those of you who read proposals for HEIS this year. A record 90 members signed up to read proposals and completed the task of reading their assigned allotment of the total 222 proposals. HEIS was allotted 53 one-hour slots at the upcoming convention in Seattle, Washington; these slots will be filled with the accepted proposals in the following categories: workshops, colloquia, papers, reports, and demonstrations.|

Our Academic Sessions and InterSections are currently in process. We have already identified several excellent speakers to present on a variety of topics identified during our business meetings in Tampa and continuous e-discussions among steering committee and other members. Topics include supporting international students' oral classroom participation (academic session); providing appropriate writing support (including research paper writing skills) for international graduate students new to U.S. universities; and transitioning from secondary ed, IEPs, or adult ed classes to college/university courses (InterSection). 

We are also coordinating a call for Discussion Group proposals for TESOL 2007. Our ultimate goal is to make all our HEIS Discussion Groups at TESOL 2007 truly open and stimulating exchanges about cutting-edge issues affecting our profession.  
I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at TESOL in Seattle next spring. In the meanwhile, please post your questions or comments on our e-list.

Best regards,


The HEIS Web Site: New Look, New Location The HEIS web page has moved.
Please bookmark our new location: http://www.sfu.ca/heis
Webmaster Ishbel Galloway is currently working on a new look for the HEIS web site. What roles the site should play for members and what information should we list? Be sure to check the site and e-mail Ishbel at igallowa@sfu.ca with any content suggestions. And be on the lookout for further announcements about the web site redesign on the HEIS E-list.

Articles Generation 1.5 Academic Writing Perceptions, Difficulties and Practices

Cathryn Crosby, Crosby.69@osu.edu

Based on their U.S. school experience and writing background, Generation 1.5 learners generally possess basic familiarity with the writing process approach and academic essay organization, which they can build on when they get to the university. However, once at university, many Generation 1.5 learners struggle with academic literacies. Many are inexperienced readers (Blanton, 2005) and have difficulty completing academic reading assignments. In writing, they struggle with producing academic text forms, using academic language and displaying knowledge in writing. The following case study examines the perceptions, difficulties and practices of one Generation 1.5 learner with academic writing.                    

Andrew was a student in an advanced ESL composition course I taught in Fall 2005.  He is from Vietnam and fluent in spoken and written Vietnamese and studied English as a foreign language from first grade until he came to the U.S. at the age of sixteen to further his education. Andrew is considered a Generation 1.5 learner because he completed the last two years of high school (one year at a public and the other at a private school) in the U.S. He did not take ESL courses at either school; instead, he was mainstreamed directly into English Language Arts courses. Upon entering the university, Andrew was placed into an advanced ESL composition course, followed by enrollment in freshman composition the following quarter. 

During the quarter Andrew was in my class, I became particularly interested in how he negotiated the academic writing tasks. At the end of the quarter, he agreed to participate in my dissertation study on the academic literacies practices of Generation 1.5 learners, and we began meeting the following quarter to discuss this topic.

Andrew's Perceptions of Writing
Andrew's perception of a good writer was someone who communicates well through writing. He gave as examples his mother and his roommate. Andrew described his mother's good writing as, "…when she writes letters, she maybe do some communication skill in daily life…is a lot better than me and my dad."  His perception of his roommate as a good writer was based on his roommate's ability to talk about writing.  

"I asked him some questions about my essay and he just talking like some kind of teacher.  'This the thesis statement; write this way, this way.'  So I figure he's good at it cause I think he took some, a lot of writing class in high school, I guess." 

This comment was interesting because Andrew often had difficulties talking about his writing. Although this may have been due to his lack of complete fluency in English or his shy personality, his description of writing in his L1 suggested that he had not yet developed a meta-language for discussing the academic writing he was doing in his courses. This was not surprising since this difficulty is common among Generation 1.5 learners. Andrew's perception of his ability to write in his L1, Vietnamese, was somewhat negative. "I'm just not that good at it…I studied Vietnamese like grammar and stuff, and had to write an essay about it.  I did terrible in that subject." 

It seems clear that Andrew's perception of himself as an L2 writer was colored by his writing experience in his L1.  Like his L1 self perception, it was rather negative.  
"I think that my writing was kinda bad because I'm really bad at writing in Vietnamese also".  Furthermore, he believes that he is not good at the type of writing commonly found in academic contexts; consequently, he has very little interest in it. 

Andrew's Understanding of Academic Writing
Andrew came to realize that there was a difference between the academic writing in his freshman composition class and the concept of academic writing he developed in his advanced ESL composition course.  At first, he described the freshman composition course as "pretty much writing at the college level.  Like what we do in 108 [the advanced ESL composition course]."  Later, however, in discussing different writing assignments for his freshman composition course, he recognized a difference between the two courses. "The essays are very different from 108.  We don't study academic writing.  The essays got different topics.  A lot longer." 

Once Andrew had grasped that academic writing is not one monolithic entity but varies according to context, he was ready to begin understanding different types of academic literacies and how they change according to context. 

Difficulties & Practices
Andrew's perception of himself as a writer in his L1 and L2 and his conceptualization of academic writing are interesting because of how they seemingly influenced his performance in the freshman composition course. One of the assignments was a rhetorical analysis essay in which students completed assigned readings, selected a website and/or images on the same topic from a list provided by the instructor and then produced a rhetorical analysis. 

Andrew's main difficulties completing this assignment were reading comprehension and revising. He had considerable trouble understanding the assigned course readings. "Mostly I can read it, but I don't get what trying to say." As a result, it was difficult for Andrew to use the course readings to support his arguments, which weakened his writing.  To overcome this difficulty in the writing process, Andrew used the part of the text that he understood, i.e. he incorporated only the parts of the text that were comprehensible to him, while ignoring the parts that were not.

Andrew also had difficulty using the instructor's feedback to revise and improve subsequent drafts of his writing. As a result, many writing issues were unresolved from one draft to the next.  Since he had difficulty understanding the instructor's comments, he often felt overwhelmed and did not know how to begin revising. 

In struggling to incorporate his instructor's comments into his writing, Andrew reported trying to fit the ideas into his writing by reading and understanding them and then revising his essay accordingly. However, although grasping this in theory, he had not yet developed a solid strategy to carry out this theoretical understanding. In her research on ESL students and teacher feedback, Ferris (1999) found that students "had limited strategies for utilizing it in subsequent writing tasks".  This was exactly Andrew's experience. She further found that  "…immigrant student writers may ignore or avoid comments when they do not feel competent to make the changes necessitated by those comments, even deleting material rather than attempting to improve it…"(p. 154).  And indeed, Andrew saw the value of his instructor's feedback; however, he did not always know how to respond to and reflect it in his revisions. Consequently, he found this aspect of academic writing to be particularly difficult.

We have described in some detail the academic writing difficulties one learner faced in a specific academic context and how his identity as a writer influenced these. While Generation 1.5 learners certainly have some commonalities, they possess diverse educational and linguistic backgrounds, and the specific difficulties could be different for other individuals or groups of students. Developing a better understanding of their identities will help in better understanding their learning needs. We have also described some practices Andrew employed in an attempt to complete assigned academic writing tasks. It is important to know the academic writing practices of this population to analyze their effectiveness in helping these learners complete academic writing tasks in various contexts at the university.

Since this is a case study, the results cannot necessarily be generalized to other student populations. Thus, it is difficult to distinguish if these results are representative only of Generation 1.5 learners, or if they are also common to other student populations, such as basic writers and/or traditional international students. In light of this limitation, more research on the academic writing perceptions, difficulties and practices of this group of language learners is needed.

Blanton, L. (2005). Literacy interrupted: A tale of two would-be writers. Journal of 
Second Language Writing, 14(2), 105-121.
Ferris, D. (1999). One size does not fit all: Response and revision issues for immigrant student writers. In L. Harklau et al. (Eds.), Generation 1.5 meets college composition: Issues in the teaching of writing to U.S.-Educated Learners of ESL (pp. 143-157). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Cathryn Crosby is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Second and Foreign Language Education and teaches in the ESL Composition and Spoken English Programs at The Ohio State University.


New Tools, Old Rules: Uses and Perceptions of Electronic Translators

Kelly Hernandez, khernandez@kentliteracy.org, and Suzanne Gut, suzanne.gut@davenport.edu

In a technology-driven society, digital translators providing instant access to vocabulary, parts of speech, and pronunciation abound in ESL/EFL classrooms. However, many ESL instructors are not as enthralled as their students are by these gadgets and are concerned that using electronic translators may cripple ESL/EFL students' ability to glean meaning from context and handicap overall language acquisition.

The correlation between retention, inferring from context, and dictionary use is substantiated by research but remains without a clear verdict. Results of one study (Prince, 1996) indicated that low-effort strategies, including the quick electronic dictionary search, brought about rapid comprehension but rendered themselves useless in allowing the student to employ broader skills. Words were easily "learned" when presented with translation, but it was not guaranteed that they would be again accessed for use in the context of the second language. Also, Prince showed that students are not satisfied until they have found the exact equivalent for a word (1996). According to Beech (1997), students still opted to check the electronic dictionary even if their guesses were correct. In her instructional training study, Fraser (1999) used a think-aloud protocol to monitor the lexical processing strategies of participants and found that her students perceived their guesses to be correct only 50% of the time.

In working with ESL students at a small, private, predominantly business and technology university in western Michigan, ESL writing instructors observed that eight of eleven students were very dependent on their electronic translators in and out of the classroom; two students constantly looked everything up in paper, bilingual dictionaries; and the remaining student did not have access to either type of dictionary. Even though the students had been practicing learning new vocabulary in context, their dependence on the translators remained. It would seem then, that in concurrence with the aforementioned research, these students did not trust their intuitive skills. Quick references were made with their electronic dictionaries, but meaningful connections to real life-application and retention were often clearly lacking. On the basis of these observations, a survey was created to analyze the use and perceptions of the translators and to compare comprehending vocabulary within a meaningful context to the button-pressing of translators to find meaning.

This article provides results of this survey, which was administered to 24 international students from China, Mongolia, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Finland, Holland, Nepal, Costa Rica, Sudan, and Albania. These students were divided into three groups: five currently in intermediate ESL classes, five students who had graduated from the ESL program within the past year and are currently in mainstream classes, and 14 students whose advanced English proficiency placed them into mainstream coursework.

This study posed the following research questions:

  1. How do students of varying levels of proficiency memorize new words
  2. How are students of different proficiency levels able to manipulate words that they have looked up in the electronic translators?
  3. How does their success in accurately guessing words from context vary by proficiency?
  4. Do the lexical strategies of consulting the electronic translator evolve as students become more proficient? 

The questionnaire contained 24 questions regarding students' overall use and perceptions of electronic translators as well as their strategies for retaining and manipulating vocabulary. To measure their preferences for all the questions except one, a five-point Likert scale (1 = never, 2 = not often/not frequently, 3 = sometimes, 4 = often/frequently, 5 = always) was utilized. The survey consisted of two sections. The first section (questions 1-10) addressed the students' overall vocabulary-building techniques; the second section (questions 11-24) solicited students' opinions on translator use. Those students who never used translators answered only the questions in section one. Some questions examined the participants' strategies for remembering vocabulary and asked the students to measure how often their guesses were correct when inferring the meaning of an unknown word. Other questions asked the participants if they could use new words in conversation and writing, memorize them, or accurately change the words into another form. The questionnaire also asked participants to rate the accuracy of the electronic dictionary and provide information on how they used their translators (for reading, writing, conversation, or direct translation). Two questions requested that the students confirm how frequently they had to look up a word in order to memorize it and prompted the informants to report on the frequency of their electronic translator look-ups when reading. The remaining three questions were open-ended, asking students about the advantages and disadvantages of the electronic translator and how their translator-use strategies changed as their proficiency increased. [Note: Survey is available upon request.]

Table 1 provides a ranking on the ways in which students at each proficiency level were mostly likely to retain the meanings of words. Using peer or instructor explanation to memorize new words ranked high among all three groups (#1 for ESL grads, #2 for the group that tested out of ESL, and #3 for those currently in ESL). Presumably, students were thus able to negotiate meaning and create a mental anchor. The group that tested out of ESL and the group currently in ESL classes both stated that they remembered best by using new words in their writing; however, the ESL graduates who all claimed to actively use the translator answered that their least effective way to memorize words was by using them in writing. Of the group currently enrolled in ESL, 60% responded that they often or always memorized words by writing lists, but the other two more advanced groups have apparently shifted their strategies to engage more meaningful involvement with the words.

Table 1. How Students of Varying Levels of Proficiency Memorize New Words
(measured in percentage of students expressing "often" or "always")

Currently in ESL ESL Graduates Tested out of ESL
Used in writing
Said in sentence   100%
Used in writing          93%
Explained by student/instructor
Connected with a sign or
picture                      86%
Explained by student/instructor
Connected with a sign or picture
Seen in written context
Said in sentence        64%
Explained by student/instructor
Written down in lists
Heard in conversation      60%
Heard in conversation     60%
Seen in written context
Connected with a sign or picture
Said in sentence
Seen in written context    40%
Heard in conversation  28%
Written down in lists     21%
Written down in lists
Used in writing                 20%

Once students find definitions for new words in their electronic dictionaries, how are they able to utilize them? The graduates of ESL were notably the most confident ones in the study as they claimed that they could often correctly use new words in conversation and writing. Not surprisingly, all participants in this group reported that they actively use their translators, and this constant use has seemingly produced confidence in every category save being able to correctly change the word into another form. Derivatives are inconsistent, confusing even for native speakers, and riddled with exceptions, and require many years of study to master. Consequently, it is not surprising that only the group that tested out of ESL responded "always" 42% of the time, and the other groups responded "always" 0% of the time. (See Table 2.)

Tale 2. What Students Can Do Once the Word Has Been Looked Up in the Translator

Once I find out the meanings of
words from my translator, I can 
accurately change the word into
another form.
Never Not often Sometimes Often Always
Currently in ESL 0% 0% 100% 0% 0%
ESL Graduates 20% 0% 40% 40% 0%
Tested out of ESL 0% 0% 29% 29% 42%

The next section of the survey gauged the students' confidence in their guessing or inferencing skills. Table 3 provides percentages of the correctness of the students' guesses prior to looking up a new word. The percentage of those answering "often" rises with proficiency level, suggesting a direct, positive correlation between the perception of being accurate and the student's proficiency level.

Table 3. Learners' Perceptions on the Correctness of Their Guesses

To understand unfamiliar English
words, I make guesses, and my
guesses are correct.
Never Not often Sometimes Often Always
Currently in ESL 0% 0% 80% 20% 0%
ESL Graduates 0% 0% 60% 40% 0%
Tested out of ESL 0% 0% 50% 50% 0%

Two open-ended questions allowed students to comment on the advantages and disadvantages of the electronic translator. Of all 24 participants, only 15 actively used an electronic dictionary. All of the recent graduates of the ESL program and three of the five students currently in ESL classes actively use an electronic dictionary. Half of the most advanced group does not use it, and their answers to the open-ended questions gave clear insight to why this is so. Every level commented on the convenience and ease of the translator: It is small, portable, and fast. However, convenience comes at a cost: Participants at every level wrote that they quickly or easily forget the word when using a translator. In addition, participants also noted that their translator definitions were, at times, misleading or inaccurate, especially with slang. Mainstream international students wrote that translators can be "addicting" and that deeper comprehension came from associating paper dictionaries' graphics and supplemental information to a word. One student wrote, "Using paper dictionary motivates me to read further down the page while electronic dictionary allows one word entry only."

Last, students were asked to comment on changes in translator use strategies and improved proficiency. The students responded that as their skills increased so did their use of monolingual dictionaries, which demonstrates an increased confidence in their ability to accurately make inferences. Current ESL students view translators as the sole recourse for comprehension as their instructors usually cannot translate/explain in a native language. ESL graduates' mixed answers indicate that the higher levels have loosened their grasp on their electronic dictionaries and slowly have begun to trust their ability to correctly infer from meaning. This strategy seems appropriate as they are still unsure of newfound abilities and miss the "shelter" of the ESL classroom. Furthermore, mainstream international students were definitive in stating that translators were no longer as beneficial as monolingual dictionaries.

Bearing these findings in mind, instructors should encourage students to figure out words from context and use electronic dictionaries, as both methods benefit language learners. For those students compensating for lack of a large vocabulary, electronic translators are indispensable tools. Lower-level students' limited skills prevent them from comprehending enough context to define new words, and they usually will not take many risks until they develop a comfortable proficiency level. Conversely, recent ESL graduates continuously test the increasingly deeper waters but are not tossing back their lexical lifesavers yet. Until students reach a satisfying threshold of accuracy that they have set for themselves, instructors should anticipate students stubbornly looking up words. Patience with and support of this practice as well as using context clues should be encouraged. At more advanced levels, students naturally progress toward less dependence on instantaneous translation and more on context and monolingual dictionaries. Instructors at this point should urge students to utilize these practices so they will experience a depth of processing and, consequently, lock in meaning.

So, are electronic translators a help or hindrance to the learner? The answer is "yes" to both questions, it seems, depending on the proficiency of the user. As instructors, we must merge new tools with old rules and find a balance that works in our classrooms to enhance language skills. And steadily, ESL students will voluntarily graduate themselves out of Translation 101.

Beech, P. (1997). An investigation of the problems that young learners of English have using bilingual dictionaries. Retrieved February 2004 fromhttp://www.peterbeech.com/dissertation.htm.
Fraser, C. A. (1999). The role of consulting a dictionary in reading and vocabulary learning. Canadian Association of Applied Linguistics, 2, 73-89.
Prince, P. (1996). Second language vocabulary learning: The role of a context versus translation as a function of proficiency. The Modern Language Journal, 80(4), 478-492.

Kelly Hernandez is a graduate student in TESOL at Michigan State University. After teaching ESL/VESOL in Chile, Argentina, Egypt, and Washington, D.C., she worked with Davenport University's ESL program for three years. Kelly currently works as the Customized Workplace English Trainer at the Kent County Literacy Council in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Suzanne Gut has taught and designed ESL curriculum for 15 years in various locations including Tripolis, Greece; the Culver Academies, Culver, Indiana; and Palm Beach Community College, Lake Worth, Florida. Currently, she is an associate professor and department coordinator, Foundations of Learning/ESL, at Davenport University in Grand Rapids, Michigan.




ESL Tutor Guidelines: Hiring, Training, and Monitoring

Andrew Macdonald, mdonald@loyno.edu, and 
Gina Macdonald, virginia.macdonald@nicholls.edu

Tutors in ESL programs may range from conversation partners and hired friends (native English-speaking peers who enable assimilation) to true academic support staff, whose primary task is to extend classroom instruction with drill, student-level explanation, and individual attention. Our experience with the Nicholls State University Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) lab, the natural default referral for students with writing problems of any kind, and the Loyola University New Orleans Intensive English Program has run the gamut of those possible tutor roles. Moreover, we believe this variety of tutorial roles is a virtue to be encouraged; tutors fall into a number of mentoring patterns anyway, and apart from the pitfalls of a lack of standardization in tutoring, letting tutors get comfortable in roles they find congenial helps tutees adjust and learn.

Our tutors have been primarily junior- and senior-level undergraduates, along with an occasional graduate student, and very few members of the community at large with international interests and experience. Tutees have ranged from would-be undergraduates to both undergraduates and graduates. Tutors may answer questions about language use and explain idioms, but they are not expected to be grammarians or substitute teachers. Instead, they serve a much more important function as hired friends who introduce tutees to the academic and social communities and as guides to language and culture. They help tutees think through writing assignments, offer insights into teacher expectations, and in general perform a variety of additional functions: assisting acculturation; dealing with culture shock; engaging in shared group activities (including trips to places of local interest and discussion groups on hot topics of student interest); ensuring consistent tutee use of English; introducing tutees to American students, American attitudes, and American ways of doing things; and providing a sounding board on questions of etiquette, social behavior, personal hygiene, and a myriad of topics international students would never dare ask their teachers about.

Tutors fill a gap faculty cannot because they provide an informal, friendly connection not only between the language learners and the instructors and materials but also between the language learners and American students on campus. They provide peer feedback about the realities of the American education system, the comprehensibility of their own discourse, and American teacher expectations. These functions are perhaps far more important for international student development than any information tutors might impart about grammar or writing. We do not expect tutors to be teachers. But they must be friendly guides to their own broader culture and to the specific academic culture of the institution (Macdonald & Macdonald, 1989).

The effectiveness and success of any tutoring program depends on the care that administrators take in implementing and overseeing individual tutors. An administrator's work with tutors consists of three distinct activities: hiring, training, and supervising/monitoring. All three are essential for an effective tutoring program. Here we examine these three activities and provide tips for performing them.

Before recruiting tutors, ESL program/WAC administrators need to carefully consider what kinds of personal qualities and experiences in the native English-speaking student pool show promise for good ESL peer instruction.

The choice of tutors can have a profound psychological effect on a program for good or for ill. Some areas to consider are as follows:

1. Academics/Study Skills
Most administrators automatically look for a solid academic foundation in English grammar/writing skills/language arts. However, being able to do something well oneself does not always equate with being able to explain clearly to someone else how to achieve the same. More important than high grades in these areas is evidence of strong study skills. Such skills involve effectively organizing materials, marking textbooks, taking notes, outlining, summarizing, and using the library and the Internet well.
Evidence of suitability could entail high grades but also recommendations by instructors, experience in a writing lab, or simply the ability to articulate how to help someone with study problems, such as the typical reading overload that bedevils international students.

2. Accent
Accents are a potential trouble area. The accent of the tutor should be mainstream because language programs have an obligation to provide models of phonetic practice that have the widest possible currency. Thus, potential tutors with regional accents need not be eliminated on those grounds as long as they are generally understandable and represent a broad enough variety of American English. (Someone with a thick accent limited to a city or small region might face difficulties communicating with ESL students.)

3. Interpersonal communication skills
Perhaps the most important quality for an ESL tutor is the potential for rapport/empathy with ESL students. One way this potential can be revealed is through career plans. For example, students anticipating a career in fields such as international business, foreign service, or foreign language teaching have, in their choice, indicated at least an expectation of having that potential rapport. Another measure of such empathy is whether the would-be tutors have a traveler's outlook, that is, whether they combine the qualities of patience and frustration tolerance with being socially adventuresome. Many students are simply not curious about other cultures and do not understand that differences run deep. Those who are curious and are willing to face, accept, and even embrace differences make the best tutors.

In addition to their academic background, tutors bring firsthand experience of college-level writing expectations, having themselves taken freshman- and sophomore-level English courses. However, this native speaker experience is typically unexamined and does not always reflect the needs of ESL students. Though some freshman- and sophomore-level tutors have been very effective in our programs, students in their third or fourth years bring a wealth of campus experience to their work and enjoy relatively greater vocational direction and emotional maturity. Yet even they need training in how to help ESL students with a number of common needs. To ensure tutor success as guides, administrators must awaken them to the needs of second-language learners, sensitizing them to shortcomings to which they may at first be blind. Administrators must help tutors understand that their tutees need to

1. Redefine their expectations about language learning, the U.S. classroom experience, and living in the United States, as experience inevitably changes expectation.

2. Acknowledge and employ the wide range of linguistic forms fluency and maturity demand.

3. Gain some level of entreé into the mainstream student community, if only jointly with tutors as companions in new experiences. The goal is to break down linguistic isolation, clustering, and dependency.

Only with some training in cross-cultural communications can tutors actually help their charges improve their English skills and adjust to the American college classroom. Such training might involve exploring questions about direction and indirection in asking for instructor guidance, polite civil disagreement in the classroom as opposed to rude rebuke, active participation as opposed to passive waiting on authorities, and differences in punctuality, social distance, and privacy.

ESL administrators can shape the student tutors' vision of their tasks but doing so requires some preparation and thought. Training sessions should be accompanied by handouts so that students can review the lesson more fully at a later time. We recommend at least five sessions focused on five or more potential problem areas, including the following topics.

1. Making international friends
Because questions of friendship arise early in a tutor-tutee relationship, it is important to discuss how international friendship formation differs from their natural experiences with making friends. Elisabeth Gareis's (1995) valuable essay on the topic works well as a launching pad to a further exploration of this difference.

2. Preventing problems
The friendship discussion could segue easily into a related potential concern worth stressing: the need to seek advice early if things go sour. Here it is useful to give some suggestions for hypothetical situations: What if the student you are working with . . .?
3. Understanding language differences
One of the training sessions should provide a theoretical understanding of cultural differences in analyzing and organizing ideas. The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis and its implications for language study and Robert Kaplan's (1966, 1987) diagram of paragraphs from different language groups underscore how patterns that English speakers and writers take for granted are not necessarily the standard worldwide—an eye-opening fact for most tutors.

Other paragraph and composition forms, such as book and lab reports, and how to model and explain them can further elucidate these differences. Often the selection of a passage from process instructions from Asia or book and film reviews from Europe can launch a valuable discussion on some contrastive rhetoric problems tutors may encounter. For instance, the original Web site synopsis of the French film Winged Migration, translated from French, left English speakers mystified: Though grammatically and syntactically perfect, it retained a style and focus quite alien to English, with phrasing such as " The chronicle of this population with whom we share the earth, since not so long ago, the sky, will rumble with a multitude of sounds which nature conceals. The words of a commentary will not distract the emotion." (Spring 2006  version of http://www.sonyclassics.com/wingedmigration/index_flash.html)

Still another way to help tutors understand the differences in analysis and organization patterns in different cultures is to make available descriptions of language interference problems among language groups tutors will encounter. Learner English: A Teacher's Guide to Interference and Other Problems (Swan & Smith 2000) is a good choice because it explores how to deal with grammatical interference in practical ways—for example, why Spanish speakers omit subjects in English or Russian speakers leave out articles.

4. Understanding cultural differences
Another way ESL administrators can shape the student tutors' vision of their tasks is to provide ways to understand cultural differences. Attitudes toward use of authority and documentation is a key discussion topic (Sarkodie-Menza & Macdonald, 1988). Other valuable topic areas are expectations about how learning takes place (through memorization, problem solving, critical thinking, imitation, and the like); attitudes toward gender, race, religion; and differences in body language, eye contact, and behavior patterns that affect mutual "reading" by tutor and student.

5. Setting boundaries
It is also vital to clarify the student-tutor relationship and establish the limits of obligation. This will include exploring such questions as how to say "no" in evolving relationships, how to handle the give-and-take of friendship, and how to communicate the tutoring-mentoring role (as opposed to homework or paper correction).

Each of the five concerns described above could constitute a distinct unit-most effective as interactive workshops—for tutor-training sessions. Ideally, some sessions will also be attended by faculty members responsible for nonnative students. Maintaining a shelf of books and essays on cross-cultural communication (by authors Gary Althen, Joan Bennett, Douglas Brown, Sandra Fowler, Edward T. Hall, Robert Kohls, Edward Sapir, Craig Storti, among others) can encourage interested tutors to explore these questions further and perhaps even consider second-language teaching as a viable career for themselves.

Issues of supervising or monitoring include where tutoring should take place, what level of supervision is appropriate, if and when to intervene, and how to evaluate and rehire or terminate.

1. Location
First is the question of location. On-campus tutoring has the advantage of visibility (supervisors can designate areas in the classroom buildings or student center and pay occasional casual visits), but such a static site may limit friendship formation and social exploration. A mixed experience of campus and town venues is perhaps best (coffeehouse meetings are popular at Nicholls, for instance).

2. Type of supervision
A second consideration is the level or degree of supervision the program practices with tutors. A weekly report from the tutor to program administrators or teachers in a formatted e-mail or paper form (see Sample Tutor Report Form in References) would be a minimum expectation. Biweekly tutor meetings or lunch sessions provide even more opportunities to keep track of what the tutors are doing and what types of problems they are encountering. Shared feedback helps the entire group of tutors benefit from the experiences of others and be better prepared to recognize behaviors they had perhaps been blind to as problems.

3. Intervention 
Supervision includes the need for administrators to intervene when necessary. Students may have problems managing their relationships with tutors and vice versa. Scheduling one-on-one meetings with tutor or tutees about difficulties with gender, depression/alienation, and other serious issues is crucial.

4. Evaluation 
Student response should determine retention. A simple form may be given to tutees ("Did you have any problems in your tutoring sessions with Bill?"), but may be redundant if supervision has been adequate. A postmortem tutoring meeting at the end of the semester is always instructive, but a final written report from each tutor may also suffice.

Clearly, the approaches we have suggested involve a serious investment in educating the tutors about cross-cultural communications. Though tutoring in the sense we are using it may work well enough with a hands-off, sink-or-swim approach, we believe the process of choosing, training, and supervising labor pays off by anticipating problems and enhancing happy discoveries and commonalities when tutors and their charges settle into their roles. No human relationship is foolproof, of course, but an educational institution should try to educate all and sundry, including its American undergraduates tasked with tutoring.

Gareis, E. (1995). Intercultural friendship: A qualitative study. Lanham, MD: University Press of America. Reprinted in 1996 as Making friends across cultures. In A. Macdonald & G. Macdonald (Ed.), Mastering writing essentials (pp.230-231). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall Regents.
Kaplan, R. B. (1966). Cultural thought patterns in intercultural education. Language Learning, 16, 1-20.
Kaplan, R. B. (1987). Cultural thought patterns revisited. In U. Connor & R. B. Kaplan (Ed.), Writing across languages: Analysis of L2 text. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
MacDonald, A., & G. Macdonald. (December1989). ESL tutors: Simulated friends. ISAGA Newsletter, 482-487. 
Sarkodie-Menza, E., & G. Macdonald. (Summer 1988). ESL students and American libraries. College & Research Libraries, 425-431.
Swan, M. and B. Smith. (2000). Learner English: A Teacher's Guide to Interference and Other Problems. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Andrew Macdonald is professor of English at Loyola University New Orleans. Gina Macdonald is associate professor in the Languages and Literature Department at Nicholls State University. Both have PhDs in English from The University of Texas in Austin, and together they ran the Loyola IEP for seven years, hiring, training, and supervising tutors. Now they regularly speak to Writing-Across-Curriculum tutors at both universities on how to tutor international students. The Macdonalds have coauthored a text for advanced IEP and university entry-level international students, Mastering Writing Essentials (Prentice Hall, 1996), and have published widely on ESL and cultural-communications topics.


Discussion Group Summary: Going on the Road as a Consultant

Karen Stanley, karen.stanley@cpcc.edu

Whether because of approaching retirement, the difficulty of obtaining a traditional full-time teaching position, or the desire for more flexible schedules, more and more highly qualified professionals are considering consultancy as an employment option. This interest was reflected in the 32 people who attended the March 16, 2006, Discussion Group entitled "Going on the Road as a Consultant," led by Rosemary Schmid and Karen Stanley. With both novices and long-time consultants present, a broad range of perspectives, questions, and information was brought to the session.

The vast majority of attendees had done little if any work as consultants and wanted to know how to plan and prepare to be consultants. Some people had been working as consultants and were looking for ways to expand or improve their consultancy business. A few people had been consultants for quite some time and were there to share what they knew and to pick up some new perspectives.

Several general topics were covered.

1. How to price yourself. Consultants who deal with businesses warned that you shouldn't ask for too little, as corporations suspect you must not be worth much if you charge too far below what they expect from a corporate consultant. $100/hour was one rate cited. Another consultant charged $45/hour per student, but noted that she kept her classes small. People who have worked as consultants for school districts pointed out that schools often have a set rate that is not negotiable and that falls well below the rates that you can charge a large company.

Related to what you charge is making sure you get paid on a timely basis. Having a contract, letter, or some written document with the terms is important. Some people, especially those who have gotten burned, ask for a certain amount up front. Others have a long-standing relationship and understand that the company pays only at certain times of the month or year.

A stated attendance policy is important. Determine ahead of time what you do if people who are supposed to attend disappear.

If you use other people for a job you get, perhaps a 50-50 split for the hours they teach is reasonable.

2. How to get your first jobs. You need to establish credibility, possibly through experience, degrees, or word of mouth.

A number of people suggested working for a consulting company first. This gives you exposure—people see what you can do, and you may be recommended to someone else. However, there may be a noncompetition clause in any contract you sign with such a company. One audience member noted that if you work for a school district, it is often easier to get hired as a consultant outside your own district than in it. This was an interesting observation that unfortunately was not explored further at the time. Another important point is to go to the source to find out what is needed, then put together material related to those needs.

3. Marketing. Don't have just a resume—put together a really professional brochure and business cards (it's useful to add "and Associates" so you can pull in other people if you are overbooked). In the brochure, you can include some of the same types of information as in a resume; you can also include blurbs on the different types of seminars available, and suggest the number of hours.

You need to dress differently for a corporate environment than for an educational environment.

Networking is important. If trainers come to where you are, and it's something you can do yourself, let them know you would be available to work with them. At conferences, let people know that you're available to do consulting work. If you want to work via the U.S. State Department, it's more effective to know someone in the country who asks for your services than to simply submit a resume for the general pool.

4. Assessment. There is both preliminary assessment (have some type of questionnaire prepared for the client) and final assessment /evaluation. Clients expect assessment. A company may want a progress report on students in a longer-term course.

5. Resources. 
A Yahoogroup on consulting: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/EnglishLanguageProfessional

A blog on consulting:

photo: Karen Stanley (top) and Rosemary Schmid

Karen Stanley teaches academic ESL at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, North Carolina. Visit her Web site at http://people.cpcc.edu/~skh6004e.


Reviews AWL Vocabulary Teaching

Marti Sevier, msevier@sfu.ca
Coxhead, A. (2006). The essentials of teaching vocabulary. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Since its introduction in 2000, instructors of EAP have flocked to Averil Coxhead's Academic Word List (AWL) with the feverish zeal of true believers. And why not? It is a well organized, manageable (only 570 headwords, or main lexical items) list of frequency-based words culled from a corpus of commonly used university textbooks representing a wide range of academic disciplines. If the 2,000-word General Service List (GSL) is its foundation, the AWL can be described as the roof of a structure of essential vocabulary for EAP learners. Equipped with a mere 2,570 items (the 570 headwords and related forms of each), learners should be able to comprehend 90% of what they read (Nation & Waring, 1997).

Moreover, Web-based applications such as Tom Cobb's The Compleat Lexical Tutor (http://www.lextutor.ca) and Sandra Haywood's Academic Vocabulary site (www.nottingham.ac.uk/~alzsh3/acvocab), not to mention a host of new textbooks dedicated to teaching the AWL, have generated what has become a growth industry. You really can't blame teachers for getting excited.

Yet niggling doubts remain. For me, they began when I administered the online Vocabulary Levels Test (productive version) of the GSL to my EAP students. They expressed frustration with some of the GSL items, such as treasure, tested in the sentence "The pirates buried the treasure on a desert island," ordozen, as in "There are a dozen eggs in the basket" (Nation & Laufer, 1999, adapted by Cobb, 2003. I personally can't remember the last time I encountered the word treasure in conversation, though I admit dozen has its value for the writing of shopping lists. Understandably, then, my students were not impressed. Rather than being a list of useful pre-AWL words, the GSL contains some items really not worth learning. 

Further qualms arose when I took up the task of entering text from my students' textbooks on the Web Vocabulary Profiler (http://www.lextutor.ca/vp/eng/). Frequently a headword's family member (e.g., academic instead of the headword academy) was far more frequent than the headword itself. These and other concerns are given fuller voice in Neufeld and Billuro?lu (2005), who argue that both the GSL and AWL need renovation, as many of the items on the GSL are relatively infrequent and that the AWL contains items that are not, strictly speaking, academic, but should be placed instead on a list of more general-service words. 

That said, I, like publishers across the English-speaking world, have a lot invested in the AWL. Despite its flaws, it is too good to toss. So it was with great interest that I turned to Averil Coxhead's Essentials of Teaching Vocabulary. Who better than the developer of the list to write a book on ways of teaching it?

For the time-stressed instructor, the length (166 pages) of Essentials of Teaching Vocabulary is encouraging, but more so is its scope: Beginning with a brief introduction to general and academic vocabulary, the book is divided into four main sections. Part 1, "Essentials before you start teaching vocabulary," focuses on needs analysis, principles of learning vocabulary, acquiring new vocabulary, and teaching academic vocabulary. Part 2 moves into strategies for learning vocabulary, both direct and indirect, with a discussion of the use of vocabulary cards and vocabulary notebooks. Next, Coxhead moves into classroom work in Part 3, looking at how vocabulary can be taught through the four skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Finally, in Part 4, Coxhead discusses vocabulary testing. A set of appendices give the sublists of the academic word list, a version of the vocabulary levels test, and Coxhead's "Top Ten Resources," a list of 10 books for vocabulary teachers. Most useful, I felt, was the endnotes that conclude each chapter and contain examples, references, and definitions for vocabulary. In addition, purchasers of Essentials of Teaching Vocabulary have access to worksheets on the Houghton Mifflin Web site.

Throughout, the material is readable and accessible. Each chapter begins with a set of questions that highlight key points. These are followed by samples of tasks that can be easily done in the classroom, using students' vocabulary cards for

  • quizzes
  • grouping
  • dictations
  • exercise creation
  • crossword puzzles

As a teacher of academic reading, I found Coxhead's discussion of skills-based classroom work most interesting. Tasks such as "read and retell" help students to notice new vocabulary and evaluate and recycle it (Coxhead, 2006, p. 84). Similarly, ranking activities, among other things, require students to rank texts according to

  • the most important ideas
  • the centrality of target words to main ideas
  • the sequence of ideas in the text
  • the intensity of the learners' reactions to ideas in the text

All these activities help the learner to engage in "deep processing" of vocabulary, which then helps learners retain the vocabulary (Hulstijn & Laufer, 2001). 
The final section, testing vocabulary, is somewhat brief and touches only cursorily upon the principles of testing and some examples of quiz formats. Nevertheless, the practical approach seen throughout the book ensures that the construction of tests will not be too onerous.
All in all, this is a good teacher's reference and resource book. It is written by an experienced teacher and researcher who understands the needs of her audience. Coxhead has skillfully balanced a clear discussion of vocabulary acquisition theory with ideas that will help instructors to teach effectively.


Cobb, T. (2003).Vocabulary Levels Test (Productive) and Web Vocabulary Profiler. Available on The Compleat Lexical Tutor, http://www.lextutor.ca
Coxhead, A. (2006). Essentials of teaching academic vocabulary. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Haywood, S. Academic vocabulary. Retrieved June 13, 2006, from www.nottingham.ac.uk/~alzsh3/acvocab.  
Hulstijn, J. H., & Laufer, B. (2001). Some empirical evidence for the Involvement Load Hypothesis in vocabulary acquisition. Language Learning, 51(3), 539-558.
Waring, R. and Nation, I.S.P. (1997) Vocabulary size, text coverage, and word lists. In Vocabulary: Description, Acquisition and Pedagogy N. Schmitt and M. McCarthy (eds.). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge: 6-19. 
Neufeld, S., & Billuro?lu, A. (2005). In search of the critical lexical mass: How 'general' is the GSL? How 'academic' is the AWL? Retrieved May 23, 2006, fromhttp://www.lextutor.ca/vp/tr/BNL_Rationale.doc

Marti Sevier teaches academic skills in the English Bridge Program at Simon Fraser University. She is a member of TESOL and BC TEAL.

Book review: Corpus-based Classroom Activities

Gena Bennett, genabennett@yahoo.com and Meredith Bricker, meredith.bricker@gmail.com

McCarthy, M., McCarten, J., & Sandiford, H. (2005)*. Touchstone 1-4:  From Corpus to Course Book. Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press.
(*Level 2 workbook by Susan Rivers and Georgiana Farnoaga)

In the past 20 years, corpus linguistics has expanded rapidly in the areas of second language research and teaching. Its largest contribution to date has probably been in the area of vocabulary; for example, the teaching of collocations, semantic prosody, and the Academic Word List (Coxhead, 2000), which dominate today's vocabulary classrooms and textbooks, are the product of corpus studies. Corpus materials are beneficial to learners in that they are based on actual language usage: examples, although they may be edited or adapted, are a reflection of authentic language; similarly, the syllabus is informed by frequency information, providing learners exposure to useful language. 

Touchstone is one of the first integrated textbook series to be based on corpus studies. The language presented in the Touchstone series is taken from the Cambridge International Corpus of North American English (CICNAE), 700 million words of written and spoken English. The corpus-based emphasis in theTouchstone series distinguishes it in a number of ways from other series typically used in English for Academic Purposes (EAP) classrooms. The most notable advantage is that the text is able to focus strongly on grammatical structures used in conversation, something not often present in other texts, which usually emphasize vocabulary acquisition through free discussion. Further, despite this concentration on grammatical structure, Touchstone also effectively incorporates the same vocabulary topics/words as other speaking/listening texts, such as Great Ideas and Let's Talk.

Touchstone is a four-level integrated skills series aimed at adult and young adult English language learners from the basic to intermediate level. Each level in the series includes a student book (around 150 pages), which comes with a self-study CD/CD-Rom for additional interactive listening, speaking, and vocabulary activities for each unit.  The student book is also available in two parts, Student Book A which contains units 1-6 from the full student book and Student Book B which contains units 7-12 from the full student book.  A workbook (around 100 pages) and a teacher's edition are also available for each level, along with a Class Audio program and Web Site activities.  The Class Audio program contains recordings instructors will need to play in class; both tapes and cds are available.  Web activities include a teacher support site (http://www.cambridge.org/us/esl/Touchstone/teacher/) and, according to this link (http://www.cambridge.org/us/esl/touchstone/studentsupport.htm), a student site will be available sometime this year. 
Touchstone 1 is made up of 12 units with typical topics such as "Shopping", "Free Time", "In Class", and "All About You." Each unit is 10 pages, broken into four lessons and a vocabulary notebook page. Lesson A presents the main language structure of the unit and introduces the unit's vocabulary and a pronunciation, listening, or speaking activity. Lesson B focuses on the unit vocabulary and has additional language structure exercises. Lesson C focuses on conversation management skills, introducing conversation strategies. Lesson D is the reading and writing portion of the unit, with reading materials such as magazine articles, newspaper classified ads, pages from websites, and restaurant guides. Writing assignments progressing from short sentences to short texts include making a family tree, giving advice, writing a restaurant review, and keeping a personal journal. The vocabulary notebook page helps student organize and use vocabulary. The end of the student book also has "Free Talk" activities for each unit, (although it would seem more useful to include the "Free Talk" at the end of every unit).  These "Free Talk" activities are designed to encourage students to participate in free-speaking activities in which they can practice the language from the unit and includes activities such as board games, class surveys, pair work, and group work.  Every third unit in the student book is a two-page review.

When we used Book 1 in the classroom, the focus on structure seemed to help students feel more confident about communicating naturally in an English-speaking environment. Using the text to discuss the frequency and appropriateness with which American English speakers use particular phrases seemed to satisfy students who often experience frustration at their inability to use "real" English outside the classroom. They seemed pleased to learn structures that they could trust would occur frequently with native English speakers. As teachers sometimes often feel frustration in their intuitional attempts to provide students with relevant conversational phrases, this text provides instructors with confidence to guide students in accurately using phrases in English that they most are likely to hear all around them.

The teacher's edition is especially helpful and easy to use.  It contains in-depth lesson plans with clear and interesting methods to present, practice, and review the language in each lesson, along with photocopiable quizzes, mid-term and final exams, audio scripts of all materials, and an answer key for the workbook. The teacher's edition also includes a list of the top 500 spoken words from the CICNAE.

The student workbook, which includes two pages for every unit, with vocabulary exercises and a combination of grammar and conversation strategy exercises, is another effective supplemental tool of the series.  The workbook activities make productive homework assignments by helping students revisit the learned conversational structures outside of class and providing an opportunity to review the structures again in the following class.

Another advantage in the corpus-based nature of the series is the influence on students' affective factors toward a beginning speaking class. In an EAP curriculum, college students and professionals often feel limited by being "forced" to study and talk about what they may perceive to be simplistic vocabulary topics.  The research behind the corpus-based activities, as they are presented in this series, may establish a "trust factor" with students, helping them see the relevance of this speaking class in their future academic or professional lives.  The addition of structural scaffolding to the usual vocabulary topics in this series not only has a positive pedagogical impact but also may allow students to feel that the course more satisfactorily relates to their personal goals. The Touchstone series is a truly effective series, not simply because it is based on corpus data, but because it presents this data in a user-friendly manner to both teachers and students that maximizes the effectiveness of instruction.

Coxhead, A. (2000).  A new academic word list.  TESOL Quarterly 34(2), p. 213-238.
Jones, Leo and Victoria Kimbrough. (1987). Great Ideas. Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press.
Jones, Leo. (2001). Let's Talk. Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press.

Gena Bennett has been working with English language learners for over eight years in a variety of instructional settings.  Her current research interests include corpus linguistics and its classroom applications.

Meredith Bricker is a visiting instructor in Georgia State University's Intensive English Program; her research interests include intercultural communication and second language writing.


Announcements and Information Community College Roundtable: Cause for Celebration!

Craig Machado, CMachado@rr.commnet.edu

Norwalk Community College is one of three community colleges in the state of Connecticut and among 35 nationwide participating in the Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count (ATD) initiative. Funded by the Lumina Foundation, ATD engages colleges in improving their student success rate, especially that of low-income, first-time, and minority students. As we sifted through innumerable data (this initiative requires colleges to dig up and scrutinize all kinds of data: pass/fail rates for gateway courses; gender, race, income breakdown of grades; enrollment trends; academic success rate based on first-semester courseload; percentage of students getting tutoring and whether it improved passing rates, etc.) for the first year of our grant, we found some predictable results and some surprises.

The failure rate for math, especially precollege and college algebra, over a period of five semesters, was somewhere around 48%. English composition fared slightly better, with a failure rate of 36%. Because the grant originally targeted ESL student performance and support, along with developmental English and math, we were curious to see how our ESL students did in English composition (after completing advanced ESL reading and writing). We found that the ESL cohort had an average pass rate for English composition of 80% (with a grade of C or better), higher than any other cohort—including Whites—in the college! We were delighted. Our ESL students would not be targeted for specific outreach as previously thought. In fact, there is now talk of using our program and its success as models for other students targeted in the grant.

One very clear factor in our ESL student success is the motivation of our students. When we look at grades, we find very few students withdrawing or repeating courses, compared with college averages in other subjects. Many of our students draw on previous college and/or work experience, even in new linguistic and cultural settings. Another factor is the length and intensity of our program—something that students routinely chide us for, but that may, in fact, contribute significantly to later success in required English composition and literature courses. Most of our classes are six credits, focus on academic writing, and require student portfolios, which are assessed by more than one teacher.

Another—and perhaps the most critical—aspect of our students' success is related to how we engage them. Unlike many traditional college departments with rotating chairs and limited advising time, ours is open year-round. We do not turn students away: front office staff, the director, lab manager, and any other full-time faculty member (even our seasoned adjuncts pitch in) are available to listen and to talk. Given the all too prevalent bureaucratic tendency to "process" student inquiries/issues as quickly—and sometimes as dismissively—as possible, this availability is very important. It may even mean accompanying a student back to the admissions or financial aid office to help clarify a confusing or unsatisfactory encounter.

Of course, we have students with major problems; we can't always make things work to a student's liking; we may feel overly protective of our students rather than challenging them to learn to navigate and master the academic environment on their own. And we are seeing increasing numbers of U.S. high school ESL graduates (Generation 1.5) who place into non-credit ESL and transfer their anger (often justified) at being unable to start college-level ESL onto their teachers and department staff. This group will require us to think more creatively about how to help them, including working with high school instructors and counselors to determine how these students can graduate with stronger language skills.

Still, it is heartening to know that our program may serve as a model for the new student success center that the college is looking to create to address retention and improve academic achievement. Because of their growth and increasing stature as viable academic units, community college programs are starting to earn the recognition they have long been denied. That's cause for celebration!

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.


Member Stories: Karen Stanley

While I was growing up (at 58, still an ongoing process), I envied other people who knew exactly where they were headed with their lives. Where did I belong, I often wondered...I loved languages, writing, people and travel - and seemed to always be learning and/or teaching something. A natural for ESL/EFL, you say - but who had heard of such a field back then?

It wasn't until 1975, while studying modern Greek, that I backed into tutoring, first as a volunteer in the U.S. and later to earn money while I studied in Athens. A couple of years later, searching for an antidote to the boredom of my job at the World Bank, I found myself a Teaching Assistant in a graduate linguistics program.  Little did I guess that the minute I walked into the classroom, I would *finally* be home.

It has been a continuing wonder to me that, as hard as I work at giving to my students, they leave me perpetually in their debt through the gift of themselves. This debt extends at least as much to the teachers, colleagues and friends (often overlapping categories) who, throughout my career, have helped me through classroom panic, end of semester exhaustion, the political maze of academia, and just the day to day getting on with life.  They have been an unfailing source of ideas, materials, inspiration and most of all, friendship and emotional support. 

Because I have been so lucky, I try my best to foster the human connection not only in my classroom but also within a more global network through managing, contributing to, and building professional interaction at conferences and through the wide range of resources we now have for both paper and electronic communication...and through taking a deep breath (half sigh) and agreeing to serve on boards and committees. As well as contributing to or helping manage a number of email lists, working through websites and blogs, and writing articles for a number of publications, I present at the affiliate, regional and international level with TESOL (thanks especially to the Higher Ed Interest Section!)  In particular, I place a great value on my participation in TESOL's Caucus on Part-Time Employment Concerns (COPTEC); it is one of my lifelong commitments to work for justice and rights not only for my students, but also for the teachers among us who give so much and often receive so little.

Many years ago, a good friend turned to me and said, "In a world where there are fewer and fewer villages, TESOL is *my* village."  May it always be so.

To learn more about Karen Stanley and her work, you can read a 2002 ESL MiniConference Achievement Profile:
or visit her website:

Karen with two of her students. 
Photo by Tom Covington.


About This Community TESOL ESL in Higher Education Interest Section

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

HEIS Community Leaders 2006-2007
Chair: Soonhyang Kim, e-mail kim.1259@osu.edu
Chair-Elect: Denis Hall e-mail d.hall@snhu.edu
Editor: Maria Parker, e-mail mgparker@duke.edu
Book reviews editor: Gena Bennett, e-mail genabennett@yahoo.com

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

Website:  http://www.sfu.ca/heis

Updating Your Member Profile

Laura J. Bryant, Member Relations Coordinator, lbryant@tesol.org

Dear e-list subscribers,

Interest Section e-list membership continues to grow. Since May 2006, new members are automatically subscribed to their respective Interest Section electronic discussion list (e-lists).  With this new system, IS e-list subscribers who were current TESOL members before May 1 should edit their member profile on the TESOL Web site to remain on the e-list. 

Please update your member profile today. With your TESOL ID and password, updating your profile takes less than 3 minutes. When you update, members also have the option to provide a secondary e-mail address to use for e-lists. Members can also set e-lists messages to a daily digest. 

To Update Member Profile
Visit www.tesol.org
Log-in and enter your password
Go to "My Profile"
Scroll to the bottom of page and click "Edit"
Go to "Communications Option and Professional Info"
Check "Join Your IS E-list"
Thank you for taking this extra step! 



Call for Submissions

Get involved - consider contributing to our newsletter! 

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

Submission Guidelines
Full-length articles and brief reports should

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

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

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

The deadline for submissions to HEIS 26-1 is December 10, 2006.

Call for Book Review Submissions

Book reviews are always a very popular feature of the newsletter, so I am happy to announce that between this issue and the next regular issue in February-March, we will be producing an all-reviews issue. We are seeking reviewers for several texts: 
Speaking of Values 1 and/or 2 by Irene E. Schoenberg (book 1) and Robin Mills (book 2);  Longman

Essentials of Tteaching Academic Writing by Joy M. Reid;  Houghton Mifflin

The Michigan Guide to Teaching EAP Skills for the TOEFL(R) iBT by Lynn M. Stafford-Yilmaz, Lawrence J. Zwier, and Catherine Mazak;  University of Michigan Press

Book review guidelines are below. To request one of these books, to suggest another book you would like to review, and for details, please contact our book review editor, Gena Bennett, at genabennett@yahoo.com.

The submission deadline for the reviews issue is October 1, 2006.

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
* follow the style guidelines in Publications Manual of the American Psychological Association, Fifth Edition (APA)
* be in MS Word (.doc) or rich-text (.rtf) format