Page 1

SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 2011, 48-50 ! !"#$%&'()**+#(,-(.#&/-#/()-0,'0#1#-2(%-(!#'345$$#**( ! Contents: Volume 2, Number 2, June 2011

Editorial by Jo Mynard (48-50)


Self-Directed Learning Modules for Independent Learning: IELTS Exam Preparation by Brian R. Morrison (51-67)

Learner Involvement at Arabian Gulf University Self-Access Centre by Diane Malcolm (68-77)

Self-Access Evolution: One University’s Journey Toward Learner Control by Juanita Heigham (78-86)

Perspectives •

The L2 Passionate Interactional Imperative (for short “The L2 Pie”): It’s Hot or It’s Not! by Tim Murphey (87-90)

Summaries •

The Importance of Affective Factors in Self-Access Language Learning courses by Sergio Valdivia, David McLoughlin and Jo Mynard (91-96)

Reviews •

Blogging in the Target Language: Review of the “Lang-8” Online Community by Judith Bündgens-Kosten (97-99)

Conference announcements •

Advising for Language Learner Autonomy, Kanda University of International Studies, Japan. November 12th, 2011. Final call for papers.

5th International Independent Learning Association Conference 2012, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, 30 August – 2 September 2012.


Editorial Jo Mynard, Kanda University of International Studies, Japan Welcome to the June, 2011 issue of SiSAL Journal. Learner involvement is relevant to self-access learning in a number of ways and this special issue will highlight three of them through its contributions. Firstly, there is a learner’s involvement in his or or her own self-directed learning. Secondly, there is the !"#! ! !

SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 2011, 48-50 ! emotional involvement with learning. Thirdly, there is learner involvement in the actual running of a self-access centre. Learner Involvement in his or her own Learning Learner involvement in the self-directed language learning process is explored in two contributions. In the first article, Brian Morrison describes a series of optional self-directed learning modules being offered at his institution in Japan. The article focuses on a flexible module designed to help students to identify their needs and prepare for an external examination. The author stresses the importance of goalsetting based on a diagnostic activity. By using self-directed modules, combined with meetings with learning advisors, learners become involved in identifying specific focus areas and addressing them. In her review of “Lang-8” online community (, Judith Bündgens-Kosten describes some of the features of the blogging community for language learners. By writing in the target language and then commenting on blogs by others written by learners of their own native language, learners are able to contribute to the learning process through teaching others. Emotional Involvement The importance of emotional involvement in self-access learning is highlighted in two contributions to this issue. Tim Murphey discusses what he calls the “passionate, L2 interaction” (p. 87) which is a state of being emotionally charged when engaged in learning. This passion for learning, combined with the rush that comes from working and communicating with others, can contribute to the perseverance required to achieve mastery in another language. Sergio Valdivia, David McLoughlin and Jo Mynard provide a summary which advocates the importance of affective factors in self-access language learning. The authors describe two institutions, one in Mexico and one in Japan, to illustrate how affective dimensions are addressed in practice.

Learner Involvement in the Running of Self-Access Facilities In her article, Juanita Heigham describes the evolution of a self-access center at a university in Japan. The centre began life as a language lab and the author shares the story of how it became the dynamic student-run center facility that it is today. !"%! ! !

SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 2011, 48-50 ! This article shows how much can be achieved with little or no budget as the success lies in the student involvement and the subsequent value the students place on the facility. Diane Malcolm touches on a number of issues related to learner involvement in self-access in her article. She describes some challenges associated with an earlier initiative whereby learners were involved in creating materials for a SAC in Bahrain. The author goes on to talk about how students have more recently developed a sense of ownership and involvement with the SAC that represents a very “bottom up” approach. Clearly there is more to explore within this fascinating side of self-access learning and I am sure that learner involvement will be a topic we will return to in later issues. We are now accepting submissions for upcoming issues of SiSAL Journal (CALL, e-learning and m-learning; success stories). Please check the website for details Notes on the editor Jo Mynard is the Director of the Self-Access Learning Centre and Assistant Director of the English Language Institute at Kanda University of International Studies in Japan. She holds an Ed.D. in TEFL from the University of Exeter, UK and an M.Phil. in applied linguistics from Trinity College, Dublin. She has taught EFL in Ireland, Spain, England, the UAE and Japan, and has been involved in facilitating self-access learning since 1996. She is the convener of the upcoming conference “Advising for language learner autonomy” to be held at Kanda University of International Studies in Japan on November 12th, 2011. Acknowledgements Many thanks to the contributors for submitting their work to SiSAL Journal, to the reviewers who gave perceptive and timely feedback and to the editorial team once again for their input, support and editing skills. I would also like to take this opportunity to welcome Diego Navarro as the new Associate Editor of SiSAL Journal. Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to Sergio Valdivia for inspiring David McLoughlin and I to write about affect and self-access. Sadly, Sergio passed away last year, but it was an honour to be able to publish some of the ideas that we discussed together during our visit to Mexico last year.

!&'! ! !

SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 2011, 51-67 Self-Directed Learning Modules for Independent Learning: IELTS Exam Preparation

Brian R. Morrison, Kanda University of International Studies Abstract Learners studying for exams sometimes show a lack of awareness in their abilities as tested through the framework of that exam. Instead, such learners focus on the score obtained in exams, and exam preparation includes using textbooks, online materials and timed use of past papers. The purpose of exam-focused flexible self-directed learning modules (FSDLMs) at Kanda University of International Studies have been designed to address this by developing learners’ ability to identify their strengths and weaknesses, to make informed decisions about their own learning, and to improve their test-taking skills. Each FSDLM has at its core a diagnostic for learners to use for self-evaluation, often with guidance from a learning advisor. This process leads to the setting of clear goals and the development and implementation of an individual learning plan through a variety of dialogues. Learners have the potential to transfer this skill beyond examination preparation to other areas of learning. In other words, learners’ awareness of needs analysis, planning, implementation and evaluation is fostered with a view to developing their language learning ability within and beyond this module. Keywords: self-directed learning, diagnostic assessment, goal setting, self-evaluation Context Kanda University of International Studies (KUIS) is a specialist language university in Japan with obligatory English language core curricula for all students across departments. The university has invested in a state-of-the-art self access centre (SAC) resourced with a vast array of English language materials, audio-visual hardware and currently employs eight full-time learning advisors. Many students at KUIS who visit the SAC seem keen to focus much of their self-directed English learning on studying towards exams such as TOEIC, TOEFL and IELTS. This is understandable given that exam scores are often viewed as proof of English language ability when English is required for employment or further studies. Regardless of the efficacy of these exams at evaluating communicative competence, the fact remains that students may have an exam score as a goal in order to gain employment or access undergraduate or postgraduate studies in English. Although the idea of deadlines and improving exam scores seems to motivate some students into long hours of study, learners seeking advice related to language learning for exams at KUIS often show a lack of focus in their studies. While no data is


SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 2011, 51-67 available regarding the numbers of KUIS students who take external English exams nor what they do to prepare themselves for these exams, those who seek guidance from learning advisors almost always have limited their strategies to using Japanese-English or English-English exam self-study books and repeatedly taking practice tests. When asked why, the response is often that older students recommended these strategies. This therefore suggests such exam preparation practices are common at this institute. As a result the effort they apply is unlikely to address their specific needs or to efficiently focus on where they could make the greatest impact on their exam scores. In order to support students in achieving their exam-based goals, a flexible self-directed learning module (FSDLM) was developed by learning advisors at KUIS. FSDLMs build on the current self-directed learning modules (modules) and adapt them to be exam relevant. To understand the place of FSDLMs in KUIS, it is important to understand the concept of these modules. The modules offered at KUIS (see for example Cooker, 2010; Mynard & Navarro, 2010; Noguchi & McCarthy, 2010) seek to raise learners’ awareness of their self-directed learning. These modules have been available for first and second year university students for several years, are voluntary, have a fixed start date, and hand-written submissions are expected weekly for 8 weeks. What is actually submitted depends on the particular module, see below for details. In acknowledgement of the extra time students dedicate to working on their module each week, the modules are graded and up to 10 points are added to their English class score. Modules First year students are offered the First Steps Module (FSM) and the Learning How to Learn Module (LHLM), while second year students are offered the Sophomore Module (SM). All modules are paper-based, written in English and module takers write and receive feedback in English. Although the FSM is a prerequisite to LHLM, a few students apply for SM without first having done either FSM or LHLM and are accepted with the acknowledgement that they will require extra support. The recently launched FSDLM is aimed at third and fourth year KUIS students and does not require any previous modules to have been taken.


SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 2011, 51-67 The FSM is a learner training module and introduces concepts such as goal setting, time management, learning styles and resource selection one unit at a time (Noguchi & McCarthy, 2010). Each week learners use their own time to read through the unit, complete the activities, reflect upon them and write up their thoughts, findings and experiences in the module pack. This module culminates in the production of a bespoke syllabus, an individual learning plan (ILP), which consolidates the concepts from the previous units. The LHLM and SM are self-directed learning modules. The LHLM is essentially the application of the FSM and can only be taken in the second semester after completion of the FSM. LHLM learners design and implement an ILP. There are three one-to-one 30-minute advising sessions built into this module where the learner meets an advisor to discuss the ILP and its perceived effectiveness in English. The SM is almost the same as the LHLM but is linked to a specific class i.e. if SM is taken for an Advanced Writing class, the SM ILP must focus on writing. Unlike the FSM units, the input for LHLM and SM derives from whatever the learner has chosen to use for his or her learning. The learners submit their learning journal every week in English with a write-up of that week’s targets, what was actually done, an evaluation of the effectiveness of these and a plan for the following week. This reflection on learning and subsequent planning often seeks to consider the relative merits of resources and activities and may involve a modified target for the following week if there are perceived shortcomings of that week’s learning. For these modules, learning plans, learning logs and associated documentation, such as vocabulary journals and copies of articles, need to be submitted. Goal Setting McCarthy’s (forthcoming) case studies of three learners who followed these FSM and LHLM courses consecutively finds that goal setting is both instrumental in these learners’ self-directed learning and has a positive influence on other aspects of selfdirected learning i.e. once goals have been selected, resources and learning activities can be selected which focus on the learning goals. She also raises the point that through learners setting their own goals, the professionals involved in supporting learners can offer guidance much more effectively when these goals are known. McCarthy therefore 53

SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 2011, 51-67 concludes that goal-setting amongst learners should be prioritised by educators involved in fostering self-directed learning. Morrison (forthcoming) proposes a model of how goal setting can be applied in self-directed learning by encouraging learners through a two-part wants, interests and needs (WIN) analysis with a diagnostic test carried out between both WIN analyses. The purpose is to arrive at individualised focused goals which combine learner choice with a greater self-knowledge of ability. Applying such a model to a standardized exam allows the learner to consider their performance within the constraints of the exam and has the potential to raise awareness of what exam boards actually test and value. Goal setting with a focused diagnostic is the key component of these exam FSDLMs and is guided through dialogue. Dialoguing Cotterall (1995) emphasises the centrality of dialogue in fostering autonomy but limits this discourse to spoken teacher-learner interaction. Mynard & Navarro (2010) further underline the importance of dialogue in self-directed learning from the perspectives of sociocultural and constructivist theories. However, they both broaden and categorise these interactions to include written dialogue, and the dialogues both within a learner and between learners (inner and peer dialogue). In KUIS, learning support is offered by learning advisors (LAs) to all module participants in recognition that access to resources is not always enough for meaningful learning to occur (Benson, 2001). The most frequent support on modules is written feedback, which is given on a weekly basis and develops into a dialogue as the course progresses. Through the module, the learner and assigned LA respond to each other. The LA offers comments, including feedback on learners’ ideas, and always includes questions to encourage learners to clarify, to focus and to think more deeply about their learning (the inner dialogue). The learner in turn responds to the feedback and is invited to ask his or her own questions. As mentioned above, LHLM and SM have advising sessions integrated into the course. These 30-minute sessions are an opportunity for a learner to talk through his or her learning and to raise any issues related to this. The LA actively listens and encourages 54

SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 2011, 51-67 the learner. Through a range of advising skills such as guiding, questioning and attending (Kelly, 1996), the learning advisor supports the learner to make informed choices about his or her learning. Through this discussion, both participants develop a greater understanding of the learner’s actions (or inactions), the beliefs underlying these, and the outcomes of the actions. The LA listens to the learner’s perspectives, values these and rather than tell the learner what to do, asks the learner what he or she will do. If the learner requests ideas, then choices are offered but everything is in the hands of the learner thus giving learners ownership of their learning strategy. The sessions aim to finish with the learner proposing an action plan to continue with their learning; in other words, through the dialogue the learner has discussed various aspects of his or her learning and leaves with an idea of what he or she will do next. Although there is the potential for learners to attend an advising session expecting a tutorial or language practice session, as Pemberton and Toogood (2001) discovered, this rarely happens at KUIS. Students at KUIS can reserve time with teachers in the SAC at the Practice Centre and the Writing Centre or meet them in a conversation area more or less anytime during the working week. As a result the vast majority of learners who attend advising sessions with LAs (either as part of a module or because they have made a reservation) do so to talk about their language learning or related areas such as motivation or confidence. It should be clarified that the Practice Centre, Writing Centre and conversation areas are used much more than the booked advising service but given that regular use one of these areas may become part of a learning plan that emerges from dialoguing, this is to be expected. Exam Flexible Self-directed Learning Modules Given the credit aspect of the modules, there is a requirement that all of these are relevant to specific English classes and of an appropriate length. The semester dates and human resources available further restrict the start and end dates. However, these restrictions have been lifted for the most recent modules, the FSDLMs, where grades are awarded by outside exam boards based on the outcomes of learning rather than the process and participation. These modules can therefore be more flexible and three versions have been developed, one for each of the following exams: IELTS, TOEIC and 55

SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 2011, 51-67 TOEFL. In this article, IELTS will be focused on firstly for continuity and secondly because there are no IELTS classes at KUIS. As a result, self-directed learning becomes more necessary for those learners requiring an IELTS score. Flexibility The flexibility afforded by FSDLMs extend the philosophy behind autonomy development by offering further choice to learners. Learners can start a FSDLM anytime in a semester. In addition, the LA-learner dialogue is controlled by the learner i.e. the type of dialogue, medium of communication (email, learning log or advising session), frequency of communication, and next contact date are all set by the learner and can be modified as she or he sees fit (see Appendix A for details). Flexibility extends to the exam paper and diagnostic. Regardless of an LA’s perception of a learner’s needs, it is the learner who decides which diagnostic test to take and how to interpret the results. Once a learner has decided to ask for guidance, chosen an FSDLM and the level of flexibility that suits him or her, he or she is encouraged to check the exam structure before deciding on a diagnostic test. The diagnostic tests consist of a sample exam and a diagnostic framework. To use the diagnostic test, first the learners select the part of the exam they would like to focus on and do this part under exam conditions. Learners then analyse their exam answers using the prompts in the corresponding diagnostic framework. In the case of IELTS, since there are four parts to the exam, reading, writing, speaking and listening, there are four different diagnostic frameworks. The diagnostic test can be considered the start of the learning cycle and can be revisited as required. Initial Advisor Contact Although all three FSDLMs are available for learners to work their way through without any support from an LA, they are offered an initial advising session to discuss the FSDLM. During the session, learners talk through their goals and perceived difficulties with the specific exam. This meeting allows for the learner, in dialogue with the learning advisor, to identify a suitable starting point for building on their existing knowledge. During piloting of the FSDLMs, the initial meeting was offered after the diagnostic but


SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 2011, 51-67 some learners who met LAs had not attempted a diagnostic test and it became clear that these learners required more guidance regarding the selection and application of the diagnostic test. A meeting is now offered to anyone interested in FSDLMs before the diagnostic process to support this process. Apply a Diagnostic The core of these modules is the diagnostic test. Past exam papers form the basis of the diagnostic test but the analysis goes much deeper than merely looking at the score. After all, this is something that learners could do without help. Instead, these diagnostic activities encourage learners to first look much more closely at where they lost marks and why these were lost. In IELTS, the receptive skills are easier for self-diagnosis than the productive skills because there is only one possible answer for each question. This allows for the score and therefore the grade to be calculated. Wrong answers can easily be identified and reasons for the errors attributed by the learner to whatever it was that created the misunderstanding and caused the wrong answer to be given. The productive skills, by contrast, are graded according to the perceptions of examinees’ performance by trained examiners according to four main criteria for speaking and the same number of criteria for writing. The IELTS examining body do not disclose the grade band criteria even though the 4 areas graded are available. Without the grading bands it is impossible for a learner, peer or teacher to accurately grade a learner’s written or spoken performance. Nevertheless, by recording a speaking test or by keeping the written work after writing exam practice, the learner can self-diagnose or, if required, approach a teacher or peer for feedback using the four areas that are graded as a framework to consider where his or her strengths and weaknesses lie in within each category. The diagnostics frameworks follow the criteria for each paper (see Appendices B and C). Once the learner has a clear idea of his or her strengths and weaknesses, the diagnostic framework encourages the learners to consider their priorities for improvement. The LA is available to contact for guidance through the different parts of the exam paper the learner took. The framework encourages a cost-benefit analysis of the results i.e. 57

SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 2011, 51-67 where each learner believes the greatest improvement could be made in the shortest time. This analysis can be extended by dialoguing and further learner-lead analysis. For example, a learner who decides grammatical accuracy is a priority should then identify which areas of grammar he or she produces inaccurately in their IELTS exam writing and again prioritise those according to time cost versus exam benefit. This allows the learner to prioritise and establish personalized exam-specific aims and objectives which are likely to move away from unfocused exam-grade goals back to language goals. For example, instead of a learning goal which is to get 5.5 in IELTS, a learner may choose to focus on improving the coherence of written work by focusing on integrating signposting language (in order to get 5.5 at IELTS). The latter goal, if based on informed principled decisions the diagnostic test aims to develop, will be more achievable than the former. Once the learner has selected one or more specific areas and chosen at least one as a learning aim, he or she can consider how to go about progressing towards the learning goal(s) in a way which suits him or her best. Second Advisor Contact If learners return to discuss the results of the diagnostic test, during this second session, learners talk through their analysis of the diagnostic test and discuss what they want to prioritise and why as detailed in the previous section. Learners are encouraged in the diagnostic framework to consider where they believe they can make the greatest difference in the shortest time. The learners have shown themselves to be very astute at this and can provide clear rationale for their choices. The session then moves on to discuss resources and activities with a view to talking through a learning plan. If the learner chooses a specific area to focus on but has difficulties thinking of resources and activities, the LA talks about two or three resources and activities that other learners have tried to stimulate other ideas and offer choices. These face-to-face advising sessions are digitally recorded for the learner’s reference.


SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 2011, 51-67 Design a Learning Plan The learning plan is based around a study-use-review-evaluate (SURE) model, which is used in the FSM, LHLM and SM. A brief overview is that Study relates to learning vocabulary, grammar or phonology to improve a specific skill, Use is the use of what was studied within the skill, Review is to review what was studied and Evaluate relates to both checking language progress and checking that the learning resources and activities are effective. The SURE model is not designed to be a linear process but rather to encourage learners to categorise and consider the balance of their learning. For FSDLMs, some of these stages may be adapted or dropped depending on individual needs. For example, learners who want to increase part 1 of their IELTS listening score may not be using their time effectively if they study vocabulary, grammar or phonology. Instead, they are likely to benefit by focusing on fluency in listening and note taking by listening to spoken language which includes typical section 1 listening answers such as dates, times, addresses and phone numbers, and writing these down. This could be termed Prepare. Use in an exam context relates to doing a specific section of an exam paper to apply what was done to Study/Prepare. Therefore in the example above, Use would be taking section 1 of an IELTS exam listening paper. Review becomes redundant because nothing has been studied in order to be reviewed but evaluation involves checking which parts of that section of the test continue to cause problems, if any, and considering the effectiveness of the activities and resources used. This creates a feedback loop based on SURE (in this case modified to prepare-use-evaluate), which allows the learner to prepare again or move on to the next priority, be that another section of the listening or an alternative diagnostic test. As well as a modified SURE model, the learning plan is dependent on relevant resources and activities which are fit for the purpose of meeting the focused, prioritised goals. Learners have to evaluate these but they also may need help identifying possible resources and activities. Any material aiming at a holistic approach to a specific exam is likely to contain information irrelevant to individual learners. It is therefore important that learners can identify resources and activities that are likely to be effective and consider the SURE balance is a topic for dialogue, be that inner dialogue, peer dialogue or advisor dialogue. 59

SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 2011, 51-67 Implement Once individual learning plans have been established, learners implement these and modify them as needed without further recourse to an advisor. Further meetings are available at anytime with an LA to discuss any aspect of language learning or the FSDLM. To date, learners who contact their LA again to discuss their learning, report that they have accomplished one or more of their learning aims and would like another advising session to discuss another learning plan. This has means the learner has achieved the required score in that section of the past paper and is moving on to another section or another part of the exam and another cycle of diagnosis, planning and implementation. However, as the academic year has progressed some learners are contacting their advisor not to discuss learning but rather to report delightedly they have achieved or surpassed their target exam score and that their focused learning has been successful. Learner Uptake and Patterns of Use In the academic year 2009-2010, before the FSDLM modules were developed, the two LAs who deal with IELTS FSDLM support had three booked advising sessions between them. Two of these were with one learner focusing on IELTS, the other was with a learner focusing on TOEIC. Since the launch of the FSDLMs, the same LAs have had a combined thirty-eight booked advising sessions. The vast majority, thirty-three, have been to discuss preparing for IELTS and have involved the steps outlined in this paper, three have been to talk about other exams and two have been to discuss matters related to general English and affective strategies. In terms of learner numbers, eleven learners booked advising sessions for FSDLM IELTS in the 2010-2011 academic year. Of these, three of the advisees only had 1 session, perhaps because of the proximity of their sessions to the long summer or spring breaks. Four of the learners had two sessions, i.e. the diagnostic and a learning plan session. Two learners took four sessions and one, the postgraduate applicant discussed below, came for seven sessions. Of these three learners who came for more than two session, there was no indication that they came for to practice their English or for tutorial advice. Instead, they clearly came back because they had achieved what they had set as their target in the


SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 2011, 51-67 previous session and wanted to talk through their next target and how they would go about reaching it. All of these learners met their IELTS goals and one booked an extra session to discuss developing her listening skills for academic lectures as she had identified this as a weakness though her use of a listening diagnostic for IELTS. The data for the IELTS FSDLM shows that there is a clear preference (80%) for advising sessions in the second semester. This is to be expected given that the exam scores are required for the following academic year. What was unexpected was that all but one of the learners were first or second year students aiming for one-year study abroad programmes to complement their undergraduate degrees in Japan. As such, their target score was generally IELTS 5.5 although some required 6.0. The only exception was a learner who had graduated and was auditing translation classes at KUIS. She first booked an advising session a week before her IELTS exam and scored 6.0. She needed 6.5 to get onto a pre-sessional course or 7.0 for direct acceptance. She obtained 7.0 and is now considering which of her three postgraduate offers to take. The uptake for the first year of IELTS FSDLM was relatively low but there are two factors that are likely to have influenced this. The first is that TOEIC appears to be a much more dominant academic exam on campus and in Japan in general. The second is that the learners who wanted guidance were not the group the FSDLM was either designed for or offered to. It seems likely that promotion to second year students, i.e. students who may be applying for study abroad programmes would generate greater uptake. Planned Research The FSDLMs were designed to meet KUIS student demand for support with TOEIC, TOEFL and IELTS. After a full year of these modules being offered, the data relating to these is restricted to brief notes on the contact LAs have had with the learners. Research is currently being planned to gather data on the experiences of both LAs and learners with all three FSDLMs to develop an understanding of whether the experiences reflect the planned experience or whether some modifications are required. An additional project is to set up a system to gather data on the exam scores of learners to check whether they actually rise. The anecdotal evidence is that they do but it is possible that 61

SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 2011, 51-67 the LAs only hear about the success stories therefore more systematic data collection is required before any claims can be made regarding the efficacy of the FSDLM system. The brief data analysis conducted for this paper is also planned for the other FSDLMs in order to profile the learners who seek support and the mode of interaction they prefer. This will come closer to the learner-led and learner-informed materials and syllabus development direction that LAs have been working to implement in recent years. Summary Flexible self-directed learning modules add an extra dimension of choice to selfdirected learning both from the perspective of pacing and the type and frequency of support offered. The extra analysis provided by a diagnostic and the focused, prioritised goal setting that emerge undoubtedly stimulate inner dialogue and raise awareness of targeted learning. From this stage, the design and implementation of a self-directed learning plan comes from the learner with support when requested. This cycle passes ownership of learning back to the learner without pushing the learners into unsupported autonomy if they choose to ask for guidance. Contact with LAs is available in a variety of ways whether for reassurance, guidance or to celebrate success Although this article focuses on IELTS, the principles are relevant to any type of exam where sample exam papers and marking schemes are available. The approach, stages and cycles described can be adapted for use with a class of students, applied to a distance learning exam preparation course, or kept as an optional module delivered through a self-access centre to individual learners who request it. Notes on the contributor Brian R. Morrison took a CTEFLA course in 1994 in order to see more of the world. He soon realized he was in his element and has taught and learnt in a variety of countries from Macedonia to Equatorial Guinea. Now in Japan, he does his best as a learning advisor at Kanda University of International Studies to guide learners to acheive their goals.


SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 2011, 51-67 References Benson, P. (2001). Teaching and researching autonomy in language learning. Harlow: Longman. Cooker, L. (2010). Some self-access principles. Studies in Self-Access Learning Journal, 1(1), 5-9. Retrieved from: Cotterall, S. (1995). Developing a course strategy for learner autonomy. ELT Journal, 49(3), 219-227. Kelly, R. (1996). Language counselling for learner autonomy: the skilled helper in selfaccess language learning. In Pemberton, R., Li, E.S.L., Or, W.W.F., Pierson, H.D. (Eds.) (pp. 93-113). Taking control: Autonomy in language learning. Hong Kong University Press McCarthy, T. (forthcoming). Achieving your goal: A case study of three learners. Independent Learning Association 2009 Conference Proceedings. Hong Kong Morrison, B.R. (forthcoming) The bespoke syllabus, objective setting and WIN analyses. Independence, 52. Mynard, J., & Navarro, D. (2010). Dialogue in self-access learning. In A. M. Stroke (Ed.), JALT 2009 Conference Proceedings (pp. 95-102). Tokyo: JALT. Noguchi, J., & McCarthy, T. (2010). Reflective self-study: Fostering learner autonomy. In A. M. Stroke (Ed.), JALT 2009 Conference Proceedings (pp. 160-167). Tokyo: JALT. Pemberton, R., & Toogood, S. (2001) Expectations and assumptions in a self-directed language-learning programme. In Mozzon-McPherson, M. & Vismans, R. (Eds.) (pp. 66-83) Beyond Language Teaching towards Language Advising. London: CILT.


SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 2011, 51-67 Appendix A Flexible structure

Structure of this module

This module has a flexible structure. You decide when you start, how many weeks you continue for and how you communicate with your Learning Advisor. This structure can also change if you want it to. To give us an idea of how you would like to structure the module, answer the questions below. Remember, you can always modify your answers later on. 1. When would you like to start the module? __________ 2. How many weeks would you like to work on this module? ________ 3. How would you like to communicate with your advisor? Face-to-face

Using a learning diary

By email

4. How often would you like to speak / write to your advisor? Weekly

Every 2 weeks


The first meeting with your learning advisor will help you think about what you need to study and how you can create an individual learning plan to meet your needs. You can also confirm with your advisor how you would like to structure this flexible module.


SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 2011, 51-67 Appendix B Listening diagnostic Do the listening part of Test 1. Fill in the chart below with your scores in each section. Use the conversion table (p. 7) to help you work out your IELTS score. Section 1

Section 2

Section 3

Section 4







Compare your score with your target score. Do you need to focus on improving your listening score? Answer the questions below.



Take the next section of the diagnostic for the areas you want to focus on.

Compare your answers with the answer key and the tapescript of the listening test and try to answer the questions below.

1. Which section would be easiest to improve your score on? Why? 2. There are many reasons why test-takers get questions wrong. Circle/underline those which may apply to you:


Misunderstanding the question


SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 2011, 51-67 •

Misunderstanding the listening text

Not knowing the vocabulary

Can’t understand the pronunciation of the words

Being “tricked” by hearing the wrong answer in the text

Something else? ______________________________

3. Which mistakes would be the easiest for you to fix? Now you’ve analysed your performance, what are your listening priorities? Which area(s) from question 2 will you focus on? Write the most important first.


SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 2011, 51-67 Appendix C Speaking diagnostic Using an IELTS speaking pack (find it on top of the IELTS shelf), do a speaking practice exam in the practice centre or with a learning advisor. While you are doing it, record yourself. (You can borrow an IC recorder or MD recorder from the SALC counter.) Listen to your performance; give yourself a score for each section and fill in the chart below. The IELTS score for speaking is graded according to 4 separate criteria (see the IELTS study skills workbook for details) 1 = poor 2 = not too bad

3 = good enough 4 = good 5 = no problems

Fluency and




coherence Section 1 Section 2 Section 3 1.

Which section was the most difficult?


What areas do you think you need to work on?

Fluency and Coherence:






Thinking of ideas


Using more academic vocabulary


Organizing your ideas


Using more idioms, phrasal verbs


Speaking fluently


Using a range of vocabulary (synonyms)




Becoming more accurate


Pronouncing individual sounds


Using complex grammar


Pronouncing words in sentences


Stress and weak forms



Something else? ___________________________ 3.

Now, rank the areas that you want to focus on in order of importance.


!"!#$%&'()*+,%"#$%!&'!(#%!&'!)*+,'!&-..'!/0122% !

Learner Involvement at Arabian Gulf University Self-Access Centre Diane Malcolm, Arabian Gulf University, Bahrain Background Arabian Gulf University (AGU) College of Medicine and Medical Sciences was established around 25 years ago to train students in the Arab Gulf states, including Bahrain, where it is located, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman to become doctors of medicine (MDs) using the problem-based learning approach (PBL). As is the case in most regional higher education institutions, entering students are expected to be proficient in English, the language through which course content is delivered. In reality, many students do not achieve the desired standard in English, thus must take one or more semesters of English language training before beginning their academic studies. IAGU has an annual intake of around 150 students of widely varying English proficiency levels, but has only recently begun to accept some students to a foundation English programme. Before that, our small English unit had to find ways of helping the least proficient improve their English skills, while providing a basis in English for medical purposes for all students, within the same course framework. Our self-access centre (SAC), though small and definitely not state of the art, has had an important role to play in accommodating the different students’ needs and interests, supplementing their course material and providing opportunities for increased language exposure. Self-Access Activities at AGU All students entering the first year of the six-year medical programme at AGU are required to take the same courses, consisting of pre-medical science courses such as biology, physics, and biochemistry, and two-credit English courses, one in each semester. In order to encourage students to take advantage of the opportunity to improve their English during this first year of their medical programme, we have evolved a number of different schemes to increase their out of class involvement in English learning, while staying within the structure of our English courses. Because of the many demands on their studying time from science-based courses, we felt students needed an incentive to put in extra hours on English improvement, so



!"!#$%&'()*+,%"#$%!&'!(#%!&'!)*+,'!&-..'!/0122% !

time spent working in the SAC has been a required (but not graded) part of their English course work. Another requirement involving out of class work is the project assignment, described in detail in Malcolm & Rindfleisch (2003). In this assignment, students contract, in consultation with their instructor, to carry out, over the course of an academic semester, a small-scale project to enhance an aspect of their English language that they feel needs improvement. This project might involve using resources available in the self-access centre, such as reading, summarizing and maintaining a vocabulary notebook for a specified number of pages of a graded reader, or might be done at home, for example, writing and revising a journal. While students are responsible for project selection and completion, teachers continue to monitor their progress by stipulating that the project must have a product, and students provide evidence of their work at specified time intervals. SAC Contributions About ten years ago, I started an initiative to involve students as contributors to the SAC. This came about partly as a response to the criticisms leveled at self-access language learning (e.g. Benson, 1994; Littlejohn, 1997) for an ideological orientation that promoted a passive role for learners as consumers of content pre-selected by others. The more active role envisaged for the learners also seemed appropriate to our particular needs, as many of our students are already highly proficient in English, and thus, quite capable of producing contributions that would be useful, relevant to their needs as future medical students, and culturally appropriate. The rationale for the student contributions that we required of our students, along with a detailed description of the procedures, directions and some sample student-generated tasks are described in Malcolm (2004). At that time, our small self-access centre had limited worksheet resources, had no dedicated staff member, and was mostly used by other instructors as a teacher resource room. To start with, I asked students to contribute by showing them model tasks taken primarily from Tasks for Independent Language Learning (Gardner and Miller, 1996), which students could use as templates for their own tasks. Some of the tasks described in Ellis & Sinclair (1989), Gardner & Miller (1999), Scharle & Szab贸 (2000), Sheerin (1989) and Sheerin & Dexter (1999) also served as models. However, the initial attempt at worksheet production experienced a number of problems and was not popular with either teachers or students, so in time the



!"!#$%&'()*+,%"#$%!&'!(#%!&'!)*+,'!&-..'!/0122% !

assignment was modified to allow other types of contributions. Students were given a handout which explained the assignment as shown in Figure 1 below! %

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

Figure 1: SAC-based Contribution Along with these general instructions, students were given a list of examples of possible contribution types. Only higher proficiency students were required to contribute, and, if appropriate, they were encouraged to derive their contributions from their self-directed English projects. Students of lower proficiency had different requirements. These included attending additional English skills workshops along with completing a specified number of hours of independent work in the SAC. As part of this SAC study, these lower proficiency students were requested to review the worksheets contributed by their more proficient peers, using a form on which they recorded their comments about the usefulness of each worksheet. Evaluating the Contributions The requirement for students to contribute to the SAC was continued for several years, although it is no longer part of our programme. During that time, students contributed worksheets for practicing reading skills, vocabulary, grammar, and outlining, among others, many of which were about medical topics, as well as word puzzles and other word games (often concerned with medical terminology), posters, and realia including jigsaws of body systems and anatomical models. Useful contributions were also made in the form of student time, committed to arranging and cataloguing materials in the SAC, creating and checking answer keys, or



!"!#$%&'()*+,%"#$%!&'!(#%!&'!)*+,'!&-..'!/0122% !

donating (sometimes even making) videos and CDs, along with accompanying exercise sheets or commentaries. In order to gather feedback about different aspects of student self-directed work included in our English courses, I designed and administered a questionnaire. The results revealed a mostly negative opinion about the usefulness of SAC contributions. A large proportion of students disagreed with the statement “Student contributions to the SAC are important” (38% versus 33% who agreed; the rest were non-committal). Most students also disagreed with the statement “All (higher proficiency) students should have to contribute to the SAC” (45% of respondents disagreed, while 33% agreed). However, most students (72%) agreed that the project work (which was often the basis for a SAC contribution) done outside of class helped them develop their English ability. Another problem related to the contribution initiative was the response of some teaching colleagues who were also unenthusiastic and preferred the teaching roles they were used to, thus probably conveyed their ambivalent attitude to their students. Without follow up in the form of feedback, suggestions, and encouragement from the instructors involved, it is unlikely that any initiative will survive very long. Teacher reluctance is quickly noticed by students, who understandably need convincing of any change in expected procedures or roles. Although many contributions were well done and original, some students took short cuts, handing in purchased or recycled books or DVDs as contributions, without the additional step of explaining why this material should be in the SAC or how students could benefit from it to improve their English. On reflection, I feel that my own enthusiasm for my “bright idea” blinded me to the reality that much of what was produced was of dubious quality and little lasting value, and to the fact that the assignment helped create resentment and resistance from some colleagues in our small unit. Over the years these colleagues moved on, to be replaced by others who were more enthusiastic and supportive, while students continued to make contributions, filling several box files with worksheets. Unfortunately, very few of them were used by students in later years, since finding an effective way to make the worksheet contributions accessible to new students was another problem we had difficulty in solving. Just recently, during a general SAC clean-out most of the worksheet contributions were discarded. However, it is encouraging to note that some students, on their own initiative, are still contributing original and well-designed materials that are relevant to their own setting and specific English language needs for general student use in



!"!#$%&'()*+,%"#$%!&'!(#%!&'!)*+,'!&-..'!/0122% !

the SAC. For example, a current year-one student recently contributed a “snakes and ladders” game about body systems she decided to make as her project for students to play in the SAC. Learning from Experience From the contribution experience, I learned a few valuable lessons about involving others in SAC activities. First, it is never wise to assume that your ideas will be shared by your teaching peers, or that they will be equally committed to the goals of self-directed learning and prepared to take the necessary steps to help learners achieve them. In addition, I learned not to force students into roles they are reluctant to take on, or inexperienced at, without proper explanation, guidance, and encouragement. Mostly, I learned to respect students’ own voices their ideas of contributing to the SAC and to their own and their peers’ independent learning may not fit into the plans we have in our minds about the best way to do this. By providing templates and suggestions I was guilty of exactly what I had hoped to avoid, that is, imposing my own teachercentric notions of what makes a “good” contribution. Of course students will do what their teachers tell them they must, especially if marks are involved, even if they are not sure how to do it. I am, however, beginning to be convinced that true learner involvement depends on keeping channels open for the learners to contribute in a way consistent with their own particular wants and needs. In other words, a “bottom up” approach, originating from the students’ own ideas, may be more valid than a “top down” one, based on instructors’ conceptions of what is needed to help students on the road to learner independence. Students’ previous experience and training as English learners, the educational setting, student expectations of their own and their English teachers’ roles in language learning, and their short-term and long-term goals, are just some of the variables that influence their response to self-access language learning. As self-access facilitators, it is important that we keep these background factors in mind, especially when dealing with a group of learners from a traditional, teacher-centred, input-poor background. While the students who were involved in the contribution initiative described above were, for the most part, already quite independent and competent language learners, this was not the case for the learners who are now the main users of our self-access centre and whose reaction to self-access learning is described in the remainder of this article.



!"!#$%&'()*+,%"#$%!&'!(#%!&'!)*+,'!&-..'!/0122% !

Foundation Students and the SAC In the past year a change in policy has brought a new group of students to our SAC, low proficiency, Arabic-speaking students, mostly from Saudi Arabia, who have been admitted to a foundation year because their entry scores were too low for direct admission to year-one of the medical programme. In spite of several years of studying English at their high schools, most of them have little experience using English outside of the school setting, and virtually none have studied academic content in English. As part of their English training, these foundation students are required to work independently in the SAC for a designated number of hours each term, keeping track of their activities in a file reviewed by their instructors. The students were oriented to the SAC at the beginning of the academic year, shown the different kinds of materials available and given some general information about the role of the self-access centre in their English study. After that, they were free to come at any time, and work on whatever they chose. At first, most students seemed at a loss, and asked the supervisors what they should do. We often suggested starting with the graded readers, especially those with CDs for listening practice. As the students were quite unused to the concept of self-access we often had to choose a suitable book for their level and literally put it into their hands. Students also tended to work on supplementary exercises in their workbooks as directed by their class teachers, often asking the supervisor for help â&#x20AC;&#x153;solvingâ&#x20AC;? the exercises. At times the SAC seemed more of a study hall than an independent learning centre, but students were coming regularly, and using and improving their English out of the class setting, something that they had had little experience of in their previous English training. As time went by, and student confidence and language proficiency grew, the foundation students began to explore and use other resources in the SAC, especially those recommended by their teachers, such as Internet listening sites, reading texts with exercises, grammar books, games, and movies. They grew less dependent on the supervisor to tell them what to do, and many established their own study plans to improve specific skills and focused on achieving their goals. Overall, it has been heartening to observe how many of the students have adopted the SAC as their own study centre, coming to study and practice there every day even after over five hours in their intensive English classes. Undoubtedly one of the main attractions for our SAC users is the chance to interact in English with the supervisor. The



!"!#$%&'()*+,%"#$%!&'!(#%!&'!)*+,'!&-..'!/0122% !

small size of our centre also facilitates this communication, helping create a friendly, sociable atmosphere in which we get to know the learners as individuals, enabling us to help them with their particular needs and personalizing our involvement. Student Feedback Another reason there has been such a good response to the self-access centre among these students is the feedback they have received from previous students. One in particular found his time spent in the SAC so fulfilling he volunteered to come to the orientation of students joining at the beginning of the current academic year. After asking permission to explain in Arabic, he told the new students how much he had benefitted from his SAC experience and encouraged them to use the opportunity to study on their own as much as possible. The student had started the academic year in my year-one class, before getting the chance to join the foundation, so I knew how moody and disruptive he had been in class and how little he seemed to be progressing in his English skills. At first, this attitude continued in the self-access centre as well, but as time went by he became more comfortable working there, and began to offer to help by contributing some materials he had found useful for his own English study. These took the form, at first, of a bilingual phrase book that explained in Arabic how to learn English, as well as bilingual storybooks such as King Midas, with English on one page and Arabic on the other. Although these were children’s books, he said they had helped him with his English, so he wanted to donate them to the SAC for others to use. It is unlikely any of us in the English Unit would have chosen these materials, but they were appreciated by some students, as they provided needed firstlanguage support at the beginning stages of their independent study. Thus, this may be considered an example of “bottom up” involvement in materials selection in that the choice was dependent on the learner’s rather than the teacher’s assessment of usefulness for language practice. Recognition for SAC Efforts As an incentive and an acknowledgement of their efforts, last year we had a small award ceremony at which we gave certificates and small prizes to students who had achieved self-study



!"!#$%&'()*+,%"#$%!&'!(#%!&'!)*+,'!&-..'!/0122% !

goals, such as reading a designated number of graded readers at a certain level, or, in the case of the student who is now such a strong supporter of independent learning, spending over 100 hours during the semester working in the SAC. This student’s enthusiasm for self-access learning continues to inspire the current group of learners, many of whom are set on surpassing his record number of hours of self-access attendance, so that they might also be recognized with an award and, like him, a commemorative picture on the wall of the SAC. As he had made the SAC his second home, I asked the student what had brought about the turnaround not only in his English ability, but also in his attitude to learning English. When describing his experience over the past year, he said, “English was my enemy, now it’s my friend.” By this he meant that at first he had floundered to understand the academic content that was delivered in English, and the probability of academic failure, for the first time in his life, took over all his thoughts and affected his actions. It took some time for him to realign his thinking, and accept that his demotion to foundation English study was not due to lack of intelligence, but was rather a golden opportunity to improve his language ability to help his chances of succeeding in the demanding environment of the medical college. The self-access centre became his refuge, and a place he could control his learning, receive validation and encouragement from the supervisor, and not be judged for his deficiencies in the language. His hard work in the SAC, contributed to his becoming not only a competent user of English, but also a strong advocate of self-study, conveying the message to his peers that English improvement depends largely on the individual, not the teacher or school setting. Conclusion Matching our expertise in setting up and administering a self-access centre with the needs, experience, and expectations of its users is the challenge that faces us as proponents of self-access language learning. Each self-access centre evolves to fit the requirements of its users, thus building a sense of community that enhances their experience of self-directed learning. A small SAC such as ours at Arabian Gulf University, serving an equally small and undoubtedly motivated group of learners, promotes personal involvement in a way that might be difficult in those centres serving a larger, more diverse student body. While the SAC supervisor plays a vital role as a guide, facilitator, and source of encouragement to students, especially those unfamiliar



!"!#$%&'()*+,%"#$%!&'!(#%!&'!)*+,'!&-..'!/0122% !

with self-access learning, I feel we have an equally important role in creating an atmosphere that allows learners to contribute their own ideas, suggestions and experiences, through providing incentives and above all a comfortable environment where they enjoy working. When the learners truly feel the SAC is their home, they will be more inclined to take steps to improve and upgrade it, for their own benefit and that of future students. My attempt to direct this process to suit my own ideas of what a SAC contribution should be led to a less satisfying and sustainable outcome. Notes on the contributor Diane Malcolm is the English Unit Head at Arabian Gulf University (AGU), Bahrain, where she has taught first-year medical students for many years. She established the AGU English Unit self-access centre in 1998, and has coordinated its activities since then. References Benson, P. (1994). Self-access systems as information systems: questions of ideology and control. In D. Gardner & L. Miller (eds.) Directions in self-access language learning, (pp. 3-12). Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press. Ellis, G., & Sinclair, B. (1989). Learning to learn English. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Gardner, D., & Miller, L. (1996.) Tasks for independent language learning. TESOL: Alexandria, VA. Gardner, D., & Miller, L. (1999). Establishing self-access: From theory to practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Littlejohn, A. (1997). Self-access work and curriculum ideologies. In P. Benson & P. Voller (eds.). Autonomy and Independence in Language Learning (pp. 181-191). London: Longman. Malcolm, D. (2004). Why should learners contribute to the self-access centre? English Language Teaching Journal, 49(3), 219 - 227. Malcolm, D., & Rindfleisch, W. (2003). Individualizing learning through self-directed projects. English Teaching Forum, 41(3), 10 - 15. Available: Scharle, Á., & Szabó, A. (2000). Learner autonomy: A guide to developing learner responsibility. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Sheerin, S. (1989). Self access. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Sheerin, S., & Dexter, P. (1999). Learner independence worksheets. Whitstable, Kent: IATEFL.



SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 2011, 78-86

Self-Access Evolution: One University’s Journey Toward Learner Control Juanita Heigham, Sugiyama Jogakuen University, Japan Abstract This article describes the development of a small self-access center at a university in central Japan. The center grew out of pre-existing language lab and evolved into a student-run center facility that has very little daily teacher or staff control. The paper describes the main stages this low-budget center moved through to bring it to its current status and shares some student views on the value of the center. Keywords: self-access center, peers, learner control Introduction The purpose of this article is to describe the development of the Sugiyama Jogakuen University (SJU) Self-Access Center (SAC) from required courses in a language lab into the small student-run facility it is today. Although the SAC opened in 2004, the idea for it began in 1998 when I saw my first language learning center, called a media center. The short tour left me deeply impressed. Three years later, I was hired to revitalize the fifteen-year-old curriculum for the freshman English program of the Department of English at SJU. When offered this opportunity, I knew that some kind of language learning center designed to help students take some control over their learning would be a part of whatever I built for the department. From then to now, the journey of SJU to offer its students choices in their learning has moved through four major transformations, each of which I will describe briefly before I detail the current role of student workers in the SJU SAC today. Four Stages of SAC Evolution Stage 1 At SJC, self-access learning, if I may call it that, began in 2002 in the university’s traditionally designed language lab. This pre-existing lab, which was tightly packed with individual listening stations – with tape players, was used


SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 2011, 78-86 because we had no alternative. We could not operate it as a self-access center because there were no existing materials, and no funds to buy adequate new resources or to pay teachers or staff. In order to make the best use of the facility, we decided to create a required course to be held there, and to make the course a learner-centered one. I collected a small selection of listening materials from within the department, grouped them by level, and we allowed students to choose what they listened to while in the class. Our 120 freshmen English majors were required to take the course as one of five English courses in their freshman English curriculum. In addition to this in-class listening, they were required to do extensive reading using graded readers from the library. In class, teachers had regular advising sessions which included discussions with students about students’ work for the class, their work in other English classes (the curriculum for which the teachers were familiar with and some of which were also taught by the teachers themselves) and their English learning in general. It was hoped that these small opportunities to make choices about their learning and the one-on-one meetings with their teacher would help them develop greater learner independence. Even if one accepts Benson’s (2001) broad definition of a self-access center as “any purposefully designed facility in which learning resources are made directly available for learners” (p. 114), what we had was not a self-access center; nevertheless, students were intrigued by the notion of making some choices about their learning. Because of the positive response to this new type of course, in 2003 I proposed building a small self-access center. At this time, the university was changing the School of Literature, which housed the Department of English, into the School of Cross-cultural Studies, a School that was to hold two departments: the Department of Foreign Studies (formerly the Department of English) and the Department of Classical and Contemporary Cultures This momentum gave me the opportunity to propose to change the freshman English program into a communicative English program that would extend through students’ third year, and the proposal was accepted. The Communicative English Program (CEP) is a small program and not all students can participate throughout its three years. It is competitive with only students who qualify continuing, and it can serve nearly 300 students out of the 700 first through third-year students within the School. Students are invited to continue in the program based on 79

SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 2011, 78-86 teacher recommendations and standardized test results (TOEIC). With the advent of the new School, it seemed an appropriate time to make further improvements to our curriculum, so my proposal was approved, and I was given a small budget of 3 million yen (about 30 thousand U.S. dollars) for building costs and equipment, two small rooms to join together and 600,000 yen (about six thousand U.S. dollars) for materials. In the spring of 2004, we moved into our new room. It was about 80 square meters and had 25 individual stations, each of which housed a CD player, a video player or a computer. Additionally, it was a brightly lit, colorfully designed space. Stage 2 The new room was without question, a significant improvement over the language lab. However, there were still no funds to pay staff, so the actual opportunities for the students did not progress much. We continued to have the classes led by teachers, and the center was closed when there was not a class in session because there was no one to oversee the space. Part of the new CEP curriculum changes was the addition of a one-semester learner training course designed to help students develop language learning strategies which was aimed at supporting studentsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; self-access work. Beyond this, the original self-access class stayed basically the same, but when we opened the new room, we started a required second-year course and began building a small library of books that students could use to study on their own. Stage 3 Because students continued to be receptive to the idea of taking some control over their learning, we started looking for other opportunities for them that did not have any cost. In late 2004, we organized peer-led grammar tutoring and then in 2005 peer-led discussion groups. Because these events could not be held in the center while classes were in session, we used a classroom beside it. As time went on, we discovered that many students were willing to participate in English activities and that they were impressed and motivated by their peers. Additionally, we found some students wanting to become grammar tutors and 80

SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 2011, 78-86 discussion group leaders. We realized that it was time to give students the opportunities a real self-access center could afford them and that they themselves could run it. Thus, in 2006 I developed a proposal to join an adjacent classroom to our existing center, and, as getting the necessary funds to pay dedicated staff was an impossibility, to create a small ongoing budget that would allow us to pay students to take care of it. The proposal was accepted, and in the second half of 2008, the first real self-access center opened at SJU. Stage 4 The SJU SAC consists of two rooms divided by a glass wall which has large sliding doors that open so the room can operate as one or two rooms. It is designed so students who want to work alone can have a quite space to do so, and students who want to work together do not have to worry about bothering others. The space for individual work is a smaller room, and we refer to it as the Annex. In lieu of a listening course, CEP students are required to visit the Annex 12 times each semester to do independent listening. I should note that students cannot attend the Annex more than once a day or twice a week for class credit to avoid students waiting until the end of the semester to complete their required visits and thus defeat the purpose of the assignment. Freshmen receive guidance about this work and a tour of the center in their learner training class. Beyond this requirement, all other attendance in the center is voluntary. Student Work in the Center The SAC is a non-Japanese space that has daily discussion groups, frequent events such as workshops or cultural celebrations and a small library of materials for student and teacher use. Since 2009 it has been open 35 hours a week during the school terms and is run entirely by students. The student workers in the SAC roughly consist of six peer advisors (PAs) who are paid to take care of the center, two grammar tutors who are also paid and up to twenty volunteers that work one to three times a week to host discussion groups. (Although the SAC is non-Japanese space, there is one exception. The grammar tutoring, which is held during lunch in the Annex, is offered in Japanese because students that need help 81

SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 2011, 78-86 with grammar often need it explained in Japanese.) One full-time teacher is in charge of overseeing the general operation of the center, and one Japanese administrative assistant gives us nominal help with paperwork and placing orders for materials. In order to keep the center a place which is run by students for students, neither of these university staff members work in the center itself, unless it is unavoidable due to a PA being absent and a substitute PA not being found. Teachers and guests host periodic events in the center such as workshops on language learning strategies and information sessions about English events in the city, but even at these times, the PAs are still in charge. Although there are a variety of students who work in the center, since the PAs are the most instrumental, I will focus on their work. The PAs are third and fourth-year students; some who were invited to become PAs because of their exemplary dedication to studying English and others who volunteered. As the SAC develops, more students are asking to become PAs. Although not all those who volunteer for the job can become one, we consider this trend to be a positive indication that providing near peer role modeling (Murphy, 1998), helping give students the opportunity to find peers to respect and admire â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and emulate, is working. Additionally, in Japan, there is a strong cultural tradition of learning from sempai, those with more experience, and guiding kohai, those with less experience. Sempai/kohai relationships begin in junior high school and continue in one form or another throughout adulthood. Nippoda (2002) explains that as people move through life their roles change, and there is considerable social pressure to adhere to the responsibility of every role one holds. Both near peer role modeling and the sempai/kohai cultural phenomena are exemplified below in two comments written by students when asked why they wanted to become a PA. Student 1 First, I like to go to SAC. I have been there many times. SAC is a good place to study English and meet new people. That's why I went there a lot of times. Second, I want more chances to use English. I stayed in Edinburgh for 6 months. I used English everyday but I don't have enough time to use English in Japan because there is [sic] few classes which I can speak and listen to English, so I want to be a PA and use English in SAC. Moreover, I 82

SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 2011, 78-86 respect my seniors who are PAs. I remember the first impression of them. They are amazing! I've got a kind of shock. They speak English very well and they give me some advices [sic] as seniors about study abroad, studying English and so on. I would like to do the same things for undergraduates. It could be good for them and me. Student 2 I want to be a PA because previous PAs were my ideal. They were very kind to me, they looked after me friendly, and their amazing English motivated me to study hard. They inspired me. So, I want to be like them. I was looked after by them, so next, it's my turn. I want to repay senior PAs by advising juniors as a PA. Also, I want to demonstrate my English skills. I want to show that we can improve our English skills without studying abroad, because I can. I am the evidence. I want juniors to have a big hope that we can do it. For that, I want to be a PA. The PAs receive training from the teacher-in-charge and experienced PAs during spring vacation and at the beginning of the academic year. This training includes explanations of procedures (many of which they already know since they have used the center for at least two years prior to becoming a PA) and then extensive role play of the procedures so that they can become confident using the English necessary to do their job. After the training, they regularly communicate with each other in a notebook kept in the PA desk in the SAC and have lunch together about once a month, and all written communication and meetings are in English. There is only one PA working at any given time, so they never work together; however, they build a team spirit through exchanging ideas and concerns in their notebook and meeting informally face-to-face. They also have lunch with the teacher-in-charge and the administrative assistant several times each semester to share new ideas or concerns. The PAs help the students who visit the center by explaining how to use the equipment and giving basic advice on how to choose appropriate materials for what they want to do, for example, if a student wants to improve her reading, the PAs will direct her to the reading materials and share some of their experience


SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 2011, 78-86 trying to improve their own reading. PAs often share their learning experiences from in the center, in their classes and elsewhere. Because of the PA system, students have the opportunity to talk with more senior students about these things; an opportunity they might not otherwise have. Teachers also get help from the PAs when they host a special event, or if they want information about materials to use for their classes or to recommend to their students. An additional job of the PAs is to support the volunteer discussion leaders. The volunteers, who receive training from the teacher-in-charge before they begin, typically work in pairs to host discussion groups held in afternoons called Chitchat and English Lunch held during lunch time. If the discussion leaders need help with something, the PAs assist them. To keep abreast of happenings in the SAC, the teacher-in-charge regularly reads the shared notebook PAs write in and periodically visits the center, but the PAs shoulder nearly all the day-to-day SAC responsibilities on their own. Attendance in the Center Cooker (2010) remarks that the most effective way to entice students into a self-access center is to make language learning fun, and as we have grown to understand what our students enjoy, our ability to market the center has grown and attendance has increased. The center is promoted as a place where students can talk with and learn from their peers, and this seems to be attractive to our students. We find that students are typically more interested in relaxing and enjoying conversation in English with their peers than â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;studyingâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; it. Attendance at our English lunch sessions and student-led discussion groups typically far outnumbers attendance at events held by teachers or guests or attendance in the center at non-event times. Following are comments written by three second-year students when asked why they go to the SAC. Student 3: I go to the SAC because I can talk with my friends and senior students a lot and gain confidence and improve my speaking skill.


SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 2011, 78-86 Student 4: I enjoy taking with my friends at English lunch. We can help each other when I can’t speak English well. We are friends, so I can relax. That is why I go to SAC. Student 5: Now, the best reason of it is I want to get used to speaking and listening English, because I’m going to study abroad…. Last year, I was always tired after English Lunch, because telling my friends what I want to say and listening to my friends’ talk were really difficult for me. However, now I enjoy joining English Lunch, and I like talking in English.

Spending time with friends is clearly a dominate theme. We have also observed that the materials most frequently used in the center are types with high entertainment value: 1) reading materials such as magazines and graded readers, and 2) movies and dramas. Unfortunately, we have no reliable way of measuring how many students use the center other than records for the required listening in the Annex, which although it happens in the SAC and the students consider it useful, we feel it is somewhat ancillary since it is required. However, since we are seeing this non-Japanese space become a place where students choose to spend their time and which is rarely empty, we feel that at the very least it is successful in motivating students to want to speak in English. Conclusion One afternoon as I was leaving the SAC after having talked with a PA, I overheard the following conversation between her and a freshman who had come to the center for the first time and had overheard our conversation. Freshman: Umm. (pause) How old are you? PA: I’m a third-year student. Freshman: Your English is too good.


SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 2011, 78-86 That exchange was important for both the freshman, who was impressed and probably inspired, by a peer, and for the PA, who was given a chance to enjoy a moment of pride. I should also say it was important for me because it reconfirmed that putting students in charge of our SAC was the right choice, and shows me that the journey thus far has been in some ways successful. Certainly there are many things that student workers cannot do that teachers or learning advisors can; for example, students visiting SJU SAC cannot get help making learning plans or developing self-assessment skills. However, at present SJU has no means to bring more qualified human resources to the SAC, and despite the centerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s shortcomings, it is a dynamic space that is growing more vital every year as a place where students are taking some control over the development of their English. While it may not provide students with all the tools they might find useful in developing their learner independence, at least it motivates many to want to learn, and wanting to learn is indeed the crucial first step. Notes on the contributor Juanita Heigham has taught at Sugiyama Jogakuen University in Nagoya, Japan for ten years and is the former director of the Communicative English Program and founder of the SAC there. Her research interests include curriculum design, independent learning and teacher development. References Benson, P. (2001). Teaching and researching autonomy in language learning. London: Longman. Cooker, L. (2010). Some self-access principles. Studies in Self-Access Learning Journal, 1(1), 5-9. Murphey, T. (l998). Motivating with near peer role models. In B. Visgatis (Ed.) JALT 97 Conference Proceedings: Trends and Transitions, (pp. 205-209). Tokyo: JALT. Nippoda, Y. (2002). Japanese Culture and Therapeutic Relationship. Online Readings in Psychology and Culture. Retrieved May 24, 2011, from m/


SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 2011, 87-90 The L2 Passionate Interactional Imperative (for short “The L2 Pie”): It’s Hot or It’s Not!

Tim Murphey, Kanda University of International Studies, Japan

At the American Association of Applied Linguistics (AAAL) 2011 conference, John Schumann described how Lee, Dina, Joaquin, Mates & Schumann’s (2010) interactional instinct unfolds between infants and caregivers such that learning an L1 is assured in normal development through emotional bonding between infants and caregivers which is substantiated by motivation, proficiency, and opportunities (all coconstructing concepts). In subsequent second language learning at an older age, these three characteristics are not environmentally and contextually assured, and this seems to account for a great part of the shortcomings of much of the late-L2 instruction in the world (Lee, Dina, Joaquin, Mates & Schumann, 2010). The implication is that in late starting L2 learning we still need sufficient interaction (opportunities), motivation and proficiency in order to reach intermediate/advanced levels. Thus, when L2 learners wish to become intermediate and advanced speakers/users of other languages, they need to engage in what I would call passionate L2 interaction such that they immerse themselves and create “hot cognition” (Pintrich, Marx, & Boyle, 1993), “hot language learning” (Oxford 2010), “flow” (Csikszentmihalyi 1997), repeated intensive emotionally-charged learning episodes, or what we might call “positive emotional cognitizing.” All of these terms describe a basic “excitement” from challenges meeting our skill levels, which creates dopamine rushes (i.e. states of excitement, Sapolsky, 2009) and makes our lives exciting, meaningful, and fulfilling. One way to promote more “emotional use” is to assure that learners make “friends” with each other and bond and form effective group dynamics such that they really want to communicate with each other. I further contend that being able to help each other learn is an agency (dopamine) rush that emotionalizes the learning conditions (Murphey, 2010). This, then, is the L2 Passionate Interactional Imperative (L2PII, possibly orated as “the L2 pie”). This contention is far from being new (cf. Tr!n, 2009 for a review of the interaction hypothesis), but it is greatly supported by the observations in the The Interactional Instinct. And, while at risk of be-laboring the pie metaphor still further, we might say, a pie is not a pie until it goes through the cooking process which


SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 2011, 87-90

requires heat; i.e. SLA is not SLA without passionate, emotional interaction of some sort (flow episodes), and these might be in only certain categories for certain needs (speaking, reading, writing, emailing, etc.). Flow episodes happen when we really enjoy interacting with someone in a foreign language, and they somehow adjust to our level and help us understand. We may not feel completely successful, but when we can feel we are communicating what we want to say, we often feel a dopamine rush of excitement and agency (control) that we might not often feel. To have many of these flow episodes, we need more interaction with people willing to adjust to us in repeating activities, such as playing sports, doing work tasks, and socializing. While this can happen alone (for example, learning a new song), it is immensely more stimulating when done socially with helpers and with people we can help, like our classmates. The socializing does not need to be with native speakers or teachers, but rather can occur with fellow students when they dare to interact in the target language.

Schumann (2011) further writes: Scientists studying the development of expertise have concluded that to master a body of knowledge or skill generally takes about 10,000 hours (20 hours a week for 10 years). Children are exposed to that number of hours by the time they are five … [For example] researchers found that elite violin performers had practiced for 10,000 hours (i.e. 20 hours per week for 10 years, good performers 8000 hours (eight years) and adequate musicians 4000 hours (four years at 20 hours a week). Using this research as a metric and putting aside the notion of an elite second language learner, we can hypothesize that to become an adequate speaker of an L2 would require between 4000 and 8000 hours of opportunity for L2 practice/use. This amount of time is not built into social structure. It's the equivalent to about six years’ study. Of course, the rate might be shortened somewhat by residence in the country where the target language is spoken. To achieve this "adequate" level is not a trivial matter. It is what would be expected of a person majoring in a foreign language in college and then going on to an MA degree. So the question is not “How can we give our students this many hours?” It is rather, “How can we get students excited enough about learning to spend that much time


SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 2011, 87-90

with a foreign language?” because there is no way that our school systems are going to provide that many contact hours. But we can explain this research to our students and help them understand how they might structure their own lives for more interaction time. While this is already advocated by those creating Self-Access Learning Centres (SALCs) and promoting independent learning and autonomy, I still feel we need to do a better job at creating group situations where interactions take place more often and naturally (mixed dorms, language clubs, language cafés, etc.) Jerome Bruner (1990) writes in Acts of Meaning: Language is acquired not in the role of spectator but through use. Being “exposed” to a flow of language is not nearly so important as using it in the midst of “doing.” Learning a language to borrow John Austin’s celebrated phrase is learning “how to do things with words” (p.67)

Wilga Rivers (1976) wrote that, “The essence of language teaching is providing conditions for language learning…” (p. 96). The above research is indicating that “hot” or “flow” conditions seem to be not only enjoyable but also necessary for substantial learning to take place. So how can we help learners create such passion for language learning? My own research points to the importance of providing conditions for play and the thrill of agency (control) in “learning flows” (Murphey, 2006, 2010). Increasing enjoyable play in the L2 augments pleasant interaction and socialization of people-in-context (Ushioda, 2009) involved in activities that help them have even more contact time. Because of the challenges, mistakes, and emotional tuning to social situations that play allows and the thrill of assuming some control (agency) over the world, people normally want to engage even more in the activities, especially when they can be at least partially successful (Murphey, 2010). Such play can boost confidence and entrain more use, and instigate the passionate interactive imperative (the L2 Pii). Einstein and Bohr reportedly each had a lifelong boyish curiosity and pleasure in play (Pais, 1991). They took science very seriously, but to them it was ultimately a game. Thus, when something is intriguing and play-like, we tend to spend more time on it and might even become passionate about it, to the extent that we will spend 10,000 hours or more with it. 10,000 hours is a long bake, but better than burned cakes and reheated leftovers. With a bit of environmental engineering and persistence, anyone can create their L2 Pii.


SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 2011, 87-90

Teachers and learning advisors can help students understand how this might work for them and how they can take more control over their own L2 Pii; how they might devote themselves more to a lengthy training period, and reap those finger licking rewards of a well baked pie through gradually and consistently turning up the heat on the codeveloping concepts of motivation, proficiency, and opportunities.

Notes on the contributor Tim Murphey holds a PhD in Applied Linguistics from the Université de Neuchâtel, Switzerland. He is co-author (with Zoltan Dörnyei) of Group Dynamics in the Language Classroom (Cambridge University Press, 2003). He is also the editor of TESOL’s Professional Development in Language Education series. He is currently researching Vygotskian sociocultural theory (SCT) applications with particular emphasis on student voice, agency, identity, and community construction. References Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1997). Finding flow: The psychology of engagement with everyday life. New York: Basic Books. Lee, N., Dina, A. Joaquin, A., Mates, A., & Schumann, J. (2010). The Interactional Instinct. New York: Oxford University Press. Murphey, T. (2006).!Language Hungry!!Rum (Innsbruck), Austria: Helbling Languages. Murphey, T. (2010). Creating languaging agencing. The Language Teacher, 34(4) 8-11. Oxford, R. (2011). Emotions and “Hot Cognition” in Second and Foreign Language (L2) Learning. A presentation at AAAL, Chicago, Ill. USA. Pais, A. (1991). Neils Bohr’s times: In physics, philosophy, and polity. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Pintrich, P. R., Marx, R.W., & Boyle, R.B. (1993). Beyond cold conceptual change: The role of motivational beliefs and classroom contextual factors in the process of conceptual change. Review of Educational Research, 63, 167–199. Rivers, W. (1976). Speaking in Many Tongues: Essays in Foreign Language Teaching. Rowley, Mass: Newbury House. Sapolsky, R. (2009). The uniqueness of humans: Stanford’s Class Day Lecture, September 2009. (available on Schumann, J. (2011, March). A Unified Perspective on First and Second Language Acquisition. Paper presented at the American Association of Applied Linguistics (AAAL) Conference, Chicago, USA. Tr!n, Hòan-Thu (2009). The interaction hypothesis: A literature review. ERIC Document Reproduction Service. Retrieved June 23, 2011 from!


SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 2011, 91-96

The Importance of Affective Factors in Self-Access Language Learning Courses Sergio Valdivia, Universidad Veracruzana, Mexico David McLoughlin, Meiji University, Japan Jo Mynard, Kanda University of International Studies, Japan

In this short summary, we investigate the importance of learnersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; emotional involvement in self-directed learning. We begin by briefly examining the literature related to affective factors in selfaccess language learning. We then describe two examples of institutions with self-access centres that place particular importance on affective factors in courses of self-directed study. The first example is in a university in Japan, where affective strategies are introduced through self-directed learning modules. The second example is in a university in Mexico, where educators are investigating how feelings about self-access language learning can change over time.

Literature review: Affective Factors in Independent Language Learning

Affect refers to the emotions, feelings, and attitudes that individuals bring to the learning experience and the role these play in motivation (Dornyei, 2001; Hurd, 2008). As Hurd (2008) points out, findings in neuroscience indicate that both affect and cognition are fundamental and interdependent aspects of human brain functioning. The role of affective factors in learning has been outlined by Schunk, Pintrich and Meece (2008). Affect has a bearing on the way information is encoded in the brain and subsequently recalled; the kinds of cognitive strategies that will be used; attention and working memory; and motivation. Affect can be regulated through the use of affective strategies (White, 2008), such as reducing anxiety, encouraging oneself and monitoring oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s emotions (Oxford, 1990). Successfully using such affective strategies can yield cognitive benefits in terms of greater control over learning outcomes (Benson, 2001). Hurd (2008) concludes that affective strategies are as crucial as cognitive and metacognitive strategies for successful language learning. Although affective factors may be especially relevant to independent language learners, research into affect in language learning has tended to focus on classroom learning (Hurd, 2008). In particular, maintaining motivation and dealing with anxiety are crucial issues for learners in 91

SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 2011, 91-96 independent settings because of the lack of access to a teacher and peers. Hurd (2008) offers the view that online learning technologies can help reduce anxiety and increase motivation in learners engaging in distance modes of independent learning because they are able to control the pace and output according to their needs and preferences. In addition, there are opportunities for collaboration and support from others afforded by the technology. Furthermore, the role of the tutor or learning advisor in providing feedback, advice and encouragement, is vital. The study by Hurd (2008) offers Think-Aloud Protocols (TAPs) as one way to investigate affect and strategy use among language learners (in this case, students on a distance program). In addition, there are other ways in which the importance of affect in self-access learning programs can be studied, as the examples in this summary will show. Affect in Practice: Two Examples In the following section, we share two examples of institutions that are particularly concerned with the affective side of independent learning. Example 1: A university in Japan Self-directed language learning modules Students at Kanda University of International Studies (KUIS) have the option to take self-directed learning modules through the Self-Access Learning Centre (SALC). Some of these modules allow students to gain a small number of class credits; others are not creditbearing, but might help them to prepare for an external exam (see Morrison, 2011). The modules are designed to promote autonomous language learning in two ways: the First Steps Module (see Noguchi and McCarthy, 2010 for a description) provides students with tools and strategies to direct their own learning; and subsequent modules offer them the chance to design and implement their own self-directed learning plans. Students are assigned a learning advisor to support them in drawing up their learning plans and working on them over a (typically) eight-week period. Learning advisors at this SALC in Japan realise the importance of affective factors in independent study and incorporate affective considerations into their modules in the following ways: 92

SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 2011, 91-96

through explicitly raising awareness of the importance of affective factors. The First Steps Module consists of weekly activities organised by weekly themed units. One of the units is “Affective Strategies” in which learners learn about internal and external motivation and reflect on ways in which they can maintain motivation for selfdirected learning. The other key theme in the unit is anxiety reduction.

through embedding the concept of affect in students’ learning plans. The learning plan at the end of the First Steps Module and at the beginning of all other subsequent modules is built around a SURE+E model (Study-Use-Review-Enjoy-Evaluate). Learners are encouraged to ensure that their weekly activities are not only useful for attaining their language-learning goals, but are also enjoyable.

through the support offered by the learning advisors (LAs). In addition to meeting learners periodically throughout the module period, LAs write weekly comments on their assigned students’ independent work. These comments are designed to help the learners think more deeply about the learning process, activate cognitive and metacognitive processes (Mynard, 2010), and maintain the motivation to continue their independent study.

Preliminary analysis of interview data indicates that written comments from learning advisors are instrumental in maintaining learner motivation throughout the independent study process. Data collected from the reflective journals over the eight-week period along with in-depth interviews with six freshman students at the end of the 2010-2011 academic year indicated that LA comments can motivate learners in a number of ways: (1) by showing an interest in the student’s life, not just in his or her learning; (2) by sharing his or her own feelings and reactions to work undertaken by a learner; (3) by making a comment specifically related to the work the learner had done; (4) by using encouraging words. Equally important were: (5) the nature of the ongoing written interaction itself; (6) the way in which emoticons, pictures and stickers were used.


SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 2011, 91-96

Example 2: A university SAC in Mexico Self-Access Language Learning (SALL) courses Learners studying languages at the Universidad Veracruzana (UV) can take regular class-based courses or the equivalent SALL courses consisting of between twelve and fifteen units in a semester. The course is semi-guided and is managed by a team of eight learning advisors using a portfolio system (see Valdivia, McLoughlin & Mynard, (forthcoming) for a description). As is the case at KUIS in Japan, affective factors are considered to be crucial for successful independent learning at UV. The learners need to become accustomed to a new way of learning and often begin with misconceptions, misunderstandings, and fears of what they will encounter. Affective factors are investigated during the period of self-access learning. At the end of each study unit, learners answer questions that are designed to stimulate reflection and deeper thinking about the learning process. One question asks: “How have you felt about working at the self-access centre?” The word 'feel' is used deliberately in the question in order to focus learners’ reflection on the affective dimension of their learning experience. Learner comments were collected over a period of one semester and analysed. The comments were assigned to one of five categories: (1) those containing apologies; (2) those indicating ambiguous positions: (negative comment), but (positive comment); (3) those using terms such as 'irresponsibility', 'adaptation' or 'sense of duty' - indicators of consciousness raising; (4) those comparing SALL with classroom-based learning; (5) those indicating avoidance of commitment to SALL. The researchers at UV observed that over time, students’ comments seemed to show that they were becoming more comfortable with the SAC experience. In addition, there were some encouraging signs of awareness raising on the students’ part about their role as independent learners: the repeated use of apologies, not merely as excuses to justify themselves, but as an honest analysis of the circumstances that limited their performance; references to the advantages and disadvantages of classroom and SAC learning; and the use of terms such as 'irresponsibility', 'adaptation', or 'sense of duty', which may have indicated a growing awareness of the learning process. 94

SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 2011, 91-96

Conclusions In this summary we have attempted to highlight the importance of affect in self-access courses by sharing some examples from our practice. Students are increasingly coming to expect more flexibility in learning options. Course developers need to take affective factors into account in order for learners to successfully engage in independent study. This can be done through awareness-raising, written comments from learning advisors or tutors, and ongoing questioning of learners to explore their feelings about the course they are studying.

Notes on the contributors Sergio Valdivia was a learning advisor and instructor at the Self-Access Centre (SAC) at Universidad Verazcruzana in Mexico (Xalapa). His research interests included learner autonomy, the affective domain and self-access language learning. Sadly, Sergio passed away in October, 2010.

David McLoughlin teaches at Meiji University in Tokyo, Japan. His areas of interest are motivation, attribution research and learner development.

Jo Mynard is the director of the Self-Access Learning Centre and assistant director of the English Language Institute at Kanda University of International Studies in Japan. Her research interests are self-access language learning, learner autonomy, advising in language learning and CALL. She is the editor of Studies in Self-Access Learning Journal.

References Benson, P. (2001). Teaching and Researching Autonomy. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited. Dรถrnyei, Z. 2001. Teaching and Researching Motivation. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited Hurd, S. (2008) Affect and strategy use in independent language learning. In S. Hurd & T. Lewis (Eds) Language learning strategies in independent settings (pp. 218-236). Bristol: Multilingual Matters Hurd, S., & Fernรกndez-Toro, M. (2009). Affect in theory and practice: Issues for learning and performance in independent language learning. Presentation at the Autonomy in a Connected World conference. Milton Keynes: The Open University, UK. Retrieved from: 95

SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 2011, 91-96 Morrison, B.R. (2011). Self-directed learning modules for independent learning: IELTS exam preparation. Studies in Self-Access Learning Journal, 2(2), 51-67. Mynard, J. (2010). Promoting cognitive and metacognitive awareness through self-study modules: An investigation into advisor comments. Proceedings of the International Conference CLaSIC 2010 "Individual Characteristics and Subjective Variables in Language Learning", Singapore, 2-4 December 2010, pp. 610 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 627. Noguchi, J., & McCarthy, T. (2010). Reflective self-study: Fostering learner autonomy. In A. M. Stoke (Ed.), JALT2009 Conference Proceedings. Tokyo: JALT. Oxford, R. (1990). Language learning strategies: What every teacher should know. Boston, MA: Heinle & Heinle. Schunk, D. H., Pintrich, P. R., & Meece, J. L. (2008). Motivation in education: Theory, research, and applications (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Merrill Prentice Hall. Valdivia, S., McLoughlin, D., & Mynard, J. (forthcoming). The portfolio: A practical tool for advising language learners in a self-access centre in Mexico. In J. Mynard & L. Carson (Eds.) Advising in language learning: Dialogue, tools and context. Harlow: Longman. White, C. (2008). Language learning strategies in independent language learning: An overview. In S. Hurd & T. Lewis (Eds) Language learning strategies in independent settings (pp. 3-24). Bristol: Multilingual Matters


SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 2011, 97-99

Blogging in the Target Language: Review of the “Lang-8” Online Community Judith Bündgens-Kosten, University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany Progress in language learning can be framed as the development of skills in four domains: reading, speaking, writing, and listening. While material to improve reading and listening skills is fairly easy to find, practicing productive skills outside the formal classroom can be more difficult. Computer-based trainings attempt to incorporate elements of language production – but often with limited success (Schlickau, 2009). Theoretically, language learners can just join online communities in their target language: forums, chats, etc. exist on nearly every imaginable topic. For beginners and intermediate level learners however, such a step can be intimidating. They might wish to practice their written English, French, Japanese or Tagalog, but may not feel ready to ‘mingle among the natives’ online. Language learning communities can serve as a stepping stone for these learners. They offer protected environments where learners can interact in the target language, but under the tacit understanding that they do not need to reach a specific language level to be accepted as valued members of the community. One such community1 is Lang-8 ( The basic idea is that, once you register, you receive a blog that can be used just like any other blog. You can write blog posts, each with a header, a main text (in which you may include links, images, embedded media, etc.) and a field for tags. Just like with ‘free range’ blogs, i.e. blogs maintained for non-educational purposes, blog posts are displayed in reverse chronological order and readers can comment on what has been written. There are a number of ways in which Lang-8 differs from other blogging services though. Firstly, it has an additional tag field, in which bloggers indicate what language their blog post has been written in. This in itself would not be very important if each blog were not part of a bigger blogging community. When you log onto Lang-8, you do not arrive directly at your blog, but at a dashboard that shows a list of the most recent blog posts in your target language(s) and native language(s) and invites you to read them and to comment on them or to correct them. This is where the second major difference comes into play. In addition to normal comments, readers can easily make grammar corrections on learners’ blog posts. They do not need to copy and paste text from the blog posts since the software provides a copy of the original blog posts to individuals who wish to make a correction. It also provides all the layout features customary for making corrections, such as strike-through, ‘red ink’ and ‘blue ink’. The community works on the basis of reciprocal feedback. Learners blog in their target

1 For a discussion of other, not blogging-oriented, language learning communities, see Razaei 2010.


SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 2011, 97-99 language(s) and correct or comment on blog posts of learners of their native language(s). This mechanism can be helpful for learners who might feel insecure posting ‘imperfect’ texts online. The community is an environment in which one practices one’s language skills, which includes making mistakes and receiving feedback on one’s mistakes. Each ‘teacher’ is, at the same time, a learner. Generally, the atmosphere is very friendly and supportive, even though no formal moderation process is in place. Even fairly crude attempts in a foreign language receive supportive feedback, as the reviewer can attest from her own attempts at blogging in Japanese. Lang-8 is a free (advertising financed) service. While paid-for accounts also exist, all functions can be used with a free account as well. Importantly, learners can protect their privacy by deciding with whom to share their texts (everybody, only other users, only users one has befriended, nobody). Advantages and Disadvantages of Lang-8 Commenting on and correcting blog posts is encouraged, but potential commenters choose which blog post to respond to. Depending on the time of posting and the target language, comments and corrections may be posted within an hour, which can be highly motivating for learners. Generally, concise and interesting blog posts receive most responses, encouraging learners to write texts with their audience in mind. Unfortunately, lengthy and very technical posts receive fewer responses, perhaps because correcting them can become tedious for volunteer correctors. This means that Lang-8 might be less interesting for more advanced learners and those with very specific interests. A target language special interest community might be a better fit for those learners. For language learners who do not have regular contact with speakers of their target language, receiving feedback from native speakers can be thrilling. Unfortunately, the strong focus on language learning on Lang-8 often leads to paying attention exclusively on form, not on content. A learner asking his or her readers about their daily life might receive corrections and grammar advice, but not a response on his/her original question. Intensive discussion of content is observed less frequently on Lang-8, although it sometimes occurs. This stresses the function of Lang-8 as a stepping stone; as soon as learners feel ready to do so, they should also venture outside of Lang-8 and apply their language skills in more content-oriented communities, where feedback on language will be scarce, but interactions might be more rewarding. While most blog posts written in languages frequently used on Lang-8 receive comments or corrections, and the quality of corrections is usually high, learners may not always be able to learn much from these. Even though many commenters provide grammar or vocabulary explanations, these may not be comprehensible to beginners. Also, just like in the classroom, receiving a correction does not mean that the learner 98

SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 2, June, 2011, 97-99 engages with the information he or she has received. For many learners, the main learning effect will lie in the production of the original blog post, more than in receiving the correction per se. Supporting use of Lang-8 Lang-8 is a suitable environment for learners who want to write in the target language but do not feel ready to venture ‘into the wild’, so to speak. For some learners, additional support might improve the experience further. A teacher may, for example, suggest ways in which bloggers can make their blog posts more interesting for their audience, improving the amount, quality and speed of the corrections and comments they receive. They may also discuss with learners how the feedback they receive can be used for learning, or suggest additional resources to work on problems identified based on reader feedback. By befriending bloggers from their own teaching context, it is easy for teachers to keep in touch with them and their blogging progress. Over time, teacher support might get less and less important for learners, as they become enculturated into the blogging community at Lang-8. About the contributor Judith Bündgens-Kosten received a doctorate degree in English linguistics from RWTH Aachen University, Germany and a postgraduate diploma in online and distance education from the Open University, UK. She currently works at the department of educational media and knowledge management at the University Duisburg-Essen, Germany, conducting research on computer-assisted language learning.

References Razaei, A.R. (2010). Using social networks for language learning. In Dodge, D. & Gibson, B. Proceedings of society for information technology & teacher education international conference 2010, Chesapeake, VA: AACE. Schlickau, S. (2009) Neue Medien in der Sprach- und Kulturvermittlung: Pragmatik - Didaktik Interkulturelle Kommunikation. Frankfurt/Main: Peter Lang.


Studies in Self-Access Learning Journal 2(2)  

Special issue on learner involvement in self-access

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you