Category Archives: Research

Using Art to Incorporate Culture into the ESL Classroom

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There is a lot of research that supports the idea of teaching culture in the foreign language classroom. One reason why it is a good idea to incorporate culture into language learning is that it provides students with intrinsic motivation to study the language by creating a positive learning environment through the integration of language and culture (Engh, 2013). Another reason is that socio-cultural competence enhances linguistic competence and makes it easier for learners to understand the language and become better communicators (Arevalo, 2010). They are better able to understand the subtle differences in intercultural norms between socio-cultural groups and make connections to their own culture, which in turn helps avoid stereotypes and build stronger relationships with other cultures (Byram,  Continue Reading →

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Found in Translation: Plurilingualism as Pedagogy for Teaching Post-Secondary Vocabulary

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L2 Vocabulary Teaching in a Multilingual Canada

Words are not isolated units of a language: they are components of a larger interconnected system that allow second language (L2) learners to access other components in that system (Nation, 2013). For example, knowing a word is systematically linked to knowing its spelling and pronunciation. Indeed, vocabulary proficiency has even been shown to predict post-secondary English as a Second Language (ESL) students’ reading ability, as well as their capacity to read on their own (Laufer & Ravenhorst-Kalovski, 2010). As such, the development of L2 learners’ vocabulary knowledge intuitively equates to the overall development of their L2 competencies.

While there are many different techniques that can be applied in the L2 classroom to raise students’ vocabulary competencies,  Continue Reading →

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Towards a Pedagogy for Reconciliation–Indigenization: What it is and Why it Belongs in the ESL Classroom

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“Challenge is an integral part of transformative experience”; I came across this line in “Unsettling Faculty Minds: A Faculty Learning Community on Indigenization” (Yeo et al., 2019, p. 38). It resonated with me because this has been true in my life.  Challenge usually precedes and instigates change, whether that change is internal or external.   However, despite the momentum produced by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the recent acknowledgment of the treatment of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women as genocide, there still remains resistance among educators to answering the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action.

It is important to recognize that universities, including my own, the University of Toronto, have acknowledged the role they played in the erasure of Indigenous culture and the justification of cultural genocide.   Continue Reading →

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Curriculum, Other, Research
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The Challenges and Strengths of Culturally Diverse Classrooms: A Consideration of Intercultural Curricula

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Introduction

The internationalization and multicultural character of Canada are affecting both the content and delivery of educational and language programs. As students learn, live, and work to become global citizens, the need for programs and curricula that reflect culture and diversity will only continue to grow. An intercultural curriculum, defined as a planned program of study with intentional inclusion of culturally-diverse content and a culturally-safe learning environment that fosters cognitive and affective learning (Mestenhauser, 1983; Shenk, Moore & Davis, 2004), is suggested as a response to this need. The reasons for this are that such a curriculum engages students’ thinking, prompts reflection, and promotes dialogue about various cultural perspectives. Such curricula also facilitate students’ development of understanding and respect for their own cultures as well as others’ cultures.  Continue Reading →

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Self-assessment for language teachers

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Students are very often encouraged to engage in self-assessment in the belief that this allows them to take ownership of their learning and contributes to the development of learner autonomy. Similar arguments apply to teacher self-assessment: by reflecting systematically on their competences, language teachers can become more aware of their strengths and weaknesses and take more responsibility for their own professional development. In recognition of its value, teacher self-assessment is promoted in several education systems around the world; for example, the General Teaching Council for Scotland offers teachers a tool called a self-evaluation wheel. In other educational systems, such as Chile, teacher self-assessment is a formal component of teacher evaluation. In recent years, a number of frameworks have emerged which can support the use of self-assessment specifically for language teachers.  Continue Reading →

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Race and employability in private language schools

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What racial identity do you need in order to be considered a competent English language teacher? This question may seem absurd because race seemingly has nothing to do with one’s ability in English language teaching (ELT). However, in a small study examining the experiences of 10 teachers of colour looking for work in various private language schools in Toronto, Canada (see Ramjattan, 2015), I found that these teachers came to understand from employers that being white meant that one was better qualified to teach English. Therefore, the opposite message was that people of colour lacked the competence to teach the language.

These employer sentiments do not exist in a vacuum. Rather, they should be seen as ongoing manifestations of racist,  Continue Reading →

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The effect of first language on intelligibility

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This study consists of two parts. The first part is the report of two experiments carried out to see the effect of a shared first language (L1) on second language (L2) intelligibility. The concern of the investigation was specifically pronunciation and phonological factors. The second part deals with pronunciation errors of Mandarin and Vietnamese speakers that are motivated by their respective phonological systems, thus providing help with designing pronunciation teaching materials.

The study was started with the following research question: Do English learners understand each other better in English when they share the same first language? This L1 effect is sometimes referred to as Interlanguage Speech Intelligibility Benefit (Bent & Bradlow 2003) and it is not a new question,  Continue Reading →

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Perception, production, and perception–production: Research findings and implications for language pedagogy

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When we are born our perceptual systems are capable of discriminating sounds that occur in English, Spanish, Hindi, or any other language. During the first year, our perception begins to zero in on the particular set of sounds that are contrastive in our native language(s) (L1s) (Kuhl et al., 2006). For example, a child whose parents are L1 English speakers will pick up on the fact that /b/ and /p/ are contrastive in English (e.g., “bet” vs. “pet”) and that the major difference is in the burst of air that occurs when the stop is released (i.e., there is a stronger burst of air, or more aspiration, on /p/ than /b/). A child whose parents are L1 Hindi speakers will pick up on this contrast,  Continue Reading →

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A mixed-methods study exploring perceptions of speech fluency

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Enhancing English language learners’ speech fluency is often a key learning outcome in communicative language classrooms. Notably, how fluent a learner’s speech is has been shown to affect how comprehensible it is (Derwing, Rossiter, Munro, & Thomson, 2004). For this reason, it is not surprising that fluency has long been an integral component of both high-stakes and low-stakes oral proficiency assessment rubrics (Fulcher, 2003). Decisions that are made based on the results of these assessments may have real-world implications on test-takers’ lives. Thus, it is important to understand which features of speech influence how fluency is perceived in order to enhance the validity of fluency assessments. In this study, although the participants reported that a wide range of temporal,  Continue Reading →

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Influences on emergent L2 writers

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As a grade-one teacher in a Toronto inner city elementary school for over 30 years, I have had the privilege of teaching a wide range of second language learners with a variety of different L1s. Most of these young learners were in the emergent writing stage. Emergent writing is a developmental stage of writing that all young L1 and L2 writers pass through. Emergent writers are beginning to understand that print carries a message and they may be familiar with many concepts about print simply from living in a print rich environment (Clay, 1988). These writers may use pictures, single letters to represent words, and inventive spelling to communicate their messages. Literacy acquisition in an L2 is a highly complex process,  Continue Reading →

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Coaching in TESOL

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Coaching is a practice that many people typically associate with sports. What does it have to do with Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)? And what might it look like when used to support professional development in TESOL?

The answer to these questions starts with one’s definition of coaching. As we understand it, coaching is a customized approach to personal and professional development. Like Flaherty (2010), we view it as a set of disciplines and practices aimed at helping others “develop new capabilities, new horizons, and new worlds of opportunity for themselves and those around them” (p. xi). Not only is this a useful definition of coaching, it’s also a helpful way of framing what we try to do as language teachers.  Continue Reading →

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Language and the brain: What we have learned from 30 years of brain imaging

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With the advancement of cognitive neuroscience and the development of modern brain imaging methods in the 1990s, the field of language neurobiology—the study of the relationship between the brain and language functions—has grown immensely and rapidly over the past thirty years, and finds itself at a crossroad with respect to its theoretical underpinning. The main message of our recent article “Broca and Wernicke are Dead, or Moving Past the Classic Model of Language Neurobiology” (Tremblay & Dick, 2016) is that the most historically important model in the field, the Classic “Wernicke-Geschwind” Model, and associated terminology, is no longer useful to guide research and clinical intervention in the field.

A Brief History of the Classic Model

The Classic Model was the first major model of language neurobiology.  Continue Reading →

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Research
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