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SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 1, March, 2011, 1-3 ! Contents: Volume 2, Number 1, March 2011 •

Editorial by Jo Mynard (1-3)

Articles •

Reading an ESL Writer’s Text by Paul Kei Matsuda and Michelle Cox (4-14)

Learning to Foster Autonomy: The Role of Teacher Education Materials by Hayo Reinders and Cem Balcikanli (15-25)

Perspectives •

Introducing the Skills of Self-assessment and Peer Feedback by Rania K. Jabr (26-31)

Summaries

Lessons Learned while Managing my First Book Club by Holly Marland (32-38)

Overview of “Splendid Speaking” Website by Peter Travis (39-42)

Work in Progress •

Learning strategy sheets: Supporting advisors and learners by Katherine Thornton (43-47)

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Editorial Jo Mynard, Kanda University of International Studies, Japan Special Issue on Skills Development and Practice Welcome to the March 2011 issue of SiSAL Journal, a special issue on skills development and practice in the field of self-access learning. We received a number of interesting submissions related to language skill areas as we had hoped. In addition, some contributors interpreted the theme in a broader sense and this has led to this very interesting and varied issue. Self-directed learning is an important skill area, particularly in the context of self-access learning. So, as you will see, we touch on both linguistic and non-linguistic development in outside-class learning.

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SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 1, March, 2011, 1-3 ! The first article is by Paul Kei Matsuda and Michelle Cox and addresses some of the difficulties experienced by writing centre tutors when helping second language writers. The authors present some strategies that may be of help to writing centre tutors, particularly if they have not had much experience with reading the work of second language writers. The second full article by Hayo Reinders and Cem Balcikanli focuses on the development of autonomous learning skills. The authors present a framework for establishing whether commonly used teacher training course books provide new teachers with information about promoting autonomy. The results of the study indicate that many textbooks do not adequately focus on the development of skills for supporting autonomous learning in students and this has implications for the field of self-access learning. Continuing the theme of developing autonomous learning skills, in her perspectives piece, Rania K. Jabr emphasizes how it is not sufficient for language teachers to focus only on language instruction, particularly when dealing with poorly prepared or unmotivated learners. The author draws parallels with alternative teaching theories and gives examples of some self-assessment and peer feedback activities that can be useful for helping students to become more autonomous and function as selfdirected learners. There are two summary pieces in this issue. The first one was written by Holly Marland and is an account of her experiences with establishing a book club in Korea. The author drew on the principles of extensive reading and aimed to create opportunities for learners to enjoy reading and to take an active role in the discussions and in the organization of the club. Members of the editorial team regularly work with language learners in a selfaccess centre and were so impressed with one particular online tool for helping learners to develop their speaking skills that we solicited the second summary piece from the makers themselves. We were interested in learning more about the “Splendid Speaking� website including its origins and its key features and were delighted that founder of the UK-based company Splendid Learning, Peter Travis, provided us with a useful summary. The final article is a work in progress piece contributed by Katherine Thornton. The author, along with a colleague, developed a series of strategy sheets to be used in the self-access centre where she works in Japan. The sheets provide ! $! ! !


SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 1, March, 2011, 1-3 ! suggestions for strategies in language skill areas and can be used by learning advisors, teachers or learners. I hope readers will enjoy this issue and find some practical value for their work. I am particularly pleased with the range of contexts represented in this issue and contributions have come from the UK, Turkey, South Korea, Japan, Egypt and the USA. We are now accepting submissions for upcoming themed issues. 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. Acknowledgements Many thanks to the contributors for choosing to submit 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 sharp-eyed editing skills. I wish our outgoing associate editor, Kentoku Yamamoto, the best of luck in his new life.

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SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 1, March, 2011, 4-14

Reading an ESL Writer’s Text Paul Kei Matsuda, Arizona State University, USA Michelle Cox, Bridgewater State University, USA

Abstract This paper focuses on reading as a central act of communication in the tutorial session. Writing center tutors without extensive experience reading writing by second language writers may have difficulty getting past the many differences in surface-level features, organization, and rhetorical moves. After exploring some of the sources of these differences in writing, the authors present strategies that writing tutors can use to work effectively with second language writers. Keywords: writing centre, ESL writing

In this paper, we discuss the part of a writing center conference that is at the center of the conferencing process—the reading of the writer’s draft. Although the process of reading may be the least visible part of the conference, it is one of the most important because it is during this process that tutors begin to formulate their initial responses to the text. In many cases, reading texts written by English as a second language (ESL) writers is not radically different from reading those written by native English-speaking (NES) writers; tutors can use many of the same principles and strategies they use in reading NES texts. Yet, because ESL writers often come from different linguistic, cultural, and educational backgrounds, some aspects of ESL writers’ texts may stand out, especially to the eyes of native English speakers who do not have extensive background in working with ESL writers. Some of the initial reactions to ESL writers’ texts may be quite positive. Inexperienced readers of ESL texts may be fascinated by details about the ESL writer’s native language, culture, or country, or stories of how they or their family came to the United States. Some may be intrigued by the extensive use of metaphors and figurative language in some ESL writers’ texts. Others may be amazed by how much the writers have accomplished with a language they did not grow up with. Unfortunately, not all encounters with ESL texts produce such generous responses. Readers with little or no experience in working with ESL writers may be drawn to

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surface-level errors and differences that they see as problematic. Readers may find differences between NES and ESL writers’ texts at various levels— from word formation to sentence structure to organization. The texts may contain many errors, such as missing articles, “wrong” prepositions and verb endings, and unusual sentence structures that “just don’t sound right.” The word choices may seem odd, or the use of idiomatic phrases may seem inappropriate. The organization of the text may not resemble what native Englishspeaking readers might expect. The thesis statement may be missing or located in places where the reader does not expect to find it, such as near the end of the paper. In a persuasive writing assignment, the writer’s stance may not be clear. For a research paper assignment, the writer may have written a paper filled with allusive references without citing the sources. Because of these and other differences, ESL writing is sometimes seen as “deficient,” especially when it is evaluated in comparison with texts produced by NES writers. In “Toward an Understanding of the Distinct Nature of L2 Writing,” Tony Silva synthesized research studies comparing ESL and NES writers and writing. The picture of ESL writers and their texts that emerged from the synthesis was overwhelmingly negative: Second language (L2) writing is “simpler and less effective (in the eyes of L1 [first language] readers) than L1 writing”; composing in an L2 is “more constrained, more difficult, and less effective”; “L2 writers’ texts are less fluent (fewer words), less accurate (more errors), and less effective (lower holistic scores).”1 As Silva points out, however, it may be unreasonable to use the same criteria to evaluate ESL texts and NES texts. Based on the findings of his review, Silva suggests the need to ask questions such as: “When does different become incorrect or inappropriate? and What is good enough?”2 It is important to realize that differences are not necessarily signs of deficiency. In fact, some of the differences may reflect the writer’s advanced knowledge of conventions in other languages or in specific English discourse communities including disciplines with which the tutor may not be familiar. Yet, readers may find the differences distracting when, for example, the text contains certain kinds of errors or too many errors, or when the text is organized in ways that do not match a reader’s understanding of the particular genre or other conventions. In some cases, the tutor may be drawn to those differences so strongly that they feel lost or frustrated; they may even feel unqualified to work with ESL writers. The initial fear that some tutors have in working with ESL writers is not insurmountable. Becoming familiar with some of the

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characteristics of ESL texts and their sources can help tutors work with ESL writers with more confidence, read beyond the differences, and recognize the strengths of those texts more easily. Understanding ESL Writers’ Texts ESL writers and their texts vary widely from individual to individual and from situation to situation, and overgeneralization should be avoided. Still, it is useful to understand some of the general characteristics of many ESL writers’ texts and various sources of influence. One of the important factors is the ESL writer’s second-language proficiency. Many ESL writers are still in the process of developing the intuitive understanding of the English language—its structure and use—and for that reason, they may not be able to produce grammatical sentences as easily as NES writers can. As pointed out in the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) Statement on Second-Language Writing and Writers, “the acquisition of a second language and second-language literacy is a time-consuming process that will continue through students’ academic careers and beyond. . . . Furthermore, most second-language writers are still in the process of acquiring syntactic and lexical competence—a process that will take a lifetime.”3 Because ESL writers often have not internalized some of the rules of grammar, they are often not able to identify errors on their own by, for example, reading the text aloud. Although language proficiency affects the overall quality of ESL texts, the relationship between language proficiency and writing proficiency is not simple; the ability to speak English does not necessarily correspond directly with the quality of texts they produce.4 Even ESL writers who do not seem to be able to communicate their thoughts in spoken English may be able to write prose that puts many NES writers to shame. This is the case with some international students who have learned English mostly through the medium of writing. Other students are more fluent in spoken English—they may be familiar with a wide variety of colloquial and idiomatic expressions—but they may still produce texts that do not seem to reflect the high level of their spoken fluency. This is typical of so-called “Generation 1.5 writers”—ESL students who have lived in an English-dominant society for a number of years and acquired English primarily through spoken interactions. Needless to say, these are extreme cases; most ESL writers fall somewhere in between. ESL writers’ texts are also shaped in part by their prior experiences with literacy. While some ESL writers may have received extensive instruction in writing, others have been schooled

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in educational systems that did not focus on composition. Some ESL writers are highly experienced—even published—writers in other languages; others have not received instruction in writing beyond the sentence level. Some ESL writers may even be native speakers of a language that does not have a written form. Research on contrastive rhetoric suggests that writers’ linguistic, cultural, and educational backgrounds may influence texts in various ways as “the nature and functions of discourse, audience, and persuasive appeals often differ across linguistic, cultural and educational contexts.”5 It is important to remember that these generalizations do not apply to all ESL students, and that not all differences can be attributed to differences in ESL writers’ native language or cultural background. The lack of organization in some ESL texts, as Bernard Mohan and Winnie Au-Yeung Lo have pointed out, may be a result of the overemphasis on grammar in some educational systems.6 International students, who learn English as a foreign language while in their native country, may have been taught how to compose English sentences but not necessarily entire compositions. As Carol Severino points out in “The ‘Doodles’ in Context,” “organization is often the last feature to be taught and learned in both first- and second-language writing, if it is taught at all.”7 Experience with composing grammatical sentences, however, does not lead directly to the ability to compose full compositions. Ways of Reading Difference In “The Sociopolitical Implications of Response to Second Language and Second Dialect Writing,” Carol Severino draws on Min-Zhan Lu’s framework in describing three stances that readers can take when responding to ESL texts: assimilationist, accommodationist, and separatist. When a reader takes an assimilationist stance, the reader’s goal is to help the ESL writer “write linear, thesis-statement and topic-sentence-driven, error-free, and idiomatic English as soon as possible,”8 encouraging the writer and their text to assimilate into the dominant culture. The assimilationist, then, reads differences as deficiencies—errors to be corrected. Readers who take an accommodationist stance may also try to teach the NES norm, but their goal is different from that of the assimilationist. The accommodationist reader’s goal is to help the writer learn new discourse patterns without completely losing the old, so that the writer can maintain both their L1 and L2 linguistic and cultural identities. The accommodationist, then, reads differences as, well, differences, explaining to the writer how some differences may be

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seen as deficiencies by some readers; it is up to the writer “how much like a native speaker” he wants to sound.9 When readers take a separatist stance, their goal is farther away from the assimilationist goal of teaching ESL writers to write like NES writers. The separatist reader’s goal is to support the writer in maintaining separate linguistic and cultural identities, and to advocate for NES readers to read ESL texts “generously” with more appreciation for multicultural writing. The separatist, then, reads to overlook, and therefore preserve, difference. The stances come down to ways of reading difference, and whether tutors should read to “correct” difference, explain difference, or overlook difference. Severino provides three scenarios, showing how she, when conferencing in the writing center, shifted between stances in relation to the writers’ goals and situations. When working with Takaro, a Generation 1.5 student, Severino took an accommodationist approach, focusing first on what Takaro was communicating through the writing, explaining how rhetorical choices are related to situation and audience. When working with Michael, a speaker of a nondominant variety of English, Severino took a separatist approach during the first few sessions—focusing on what Michael was communicating and encouraging confidence in writing—and then moved toward an accommodationist approach later, to help Michael see how various audiences would read his writing. In each case, Severino steered clear of the assimilationist stance. She had felt tempted to take this stance after first reading Michael’s writing, as she felt “stunned” by the number of errors in the text. However, she resisted the urge in order to remain consistent with the writing center pedagogy. Instead, she “responded to his piece as an act of communication, which it was, rather than as a demonstration of how well Michael knew and/or could apply the rules.”10 Inexperienced readers of ESL texts tend to lean toward the assimilationist approach out of their desire to help ESL writers. In doing so, however, they inadvertently read difference as deficiency. As the reader makes the effort to move away from the deficiency model, however, they become more open to understanding their own responses to ESL writing and to learning from the writer. Today, many second-language writing specialists advocate for a broader definition of what counts as “good writing,” urging NES readers to see “accented English” as part of that spectrum. In Understanding ESL Writers, Ilona Leki writes:

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ESL students can become very fluent writers of English, but they may never become indistinguishable from a native speaker, and it is unclear why they should. A current movement among ESL writing teachers is to argue that, beyond a certain level of proficiency in English writing, it is not the students’ texts that need to change; rather it is the native-speaking readers and evaluators (particularly in educational institutions) that need to learn to read more broadly, with a more cosmopolitan and less parochial eye.11 According to Leki, the assimilationist goal of making ESL writing indistinguishable from NES writing is unrealistic. In many cases, the assimilationist stance is also undesirable because it leads to the imposition of the norms of dominant U.S. academic discourse as well as various cultural values that comes with it. Resisting the Assimilationist Stance Those who take the assimilationist stance do not always have malicious intent. As Severino suggests, people who take the assimilationist stance often do so in order to “smoothly blend or melt [the ESL writer and their text] into the desired discourse communities and avoid social stigma by controlling any features that[,] in the eyes of audiences with power and influence[,] might mark a writer as inadequately educated or lower class.”12 In other words, the assimilationist stance may be an attempt to protect the ESL writer from other readers—especially those readers who have institutional authority over ESL writers. Tutors may feel the same responsibility, and may try to represent what they consider to be the possible response from the intended audience of the ESL writer’s text: the professor. Sometimes ESL writers come into the writing center because they were told by their professors to visit the writing center to get their drafts “cleaned up” or to work on their “grammar.” From these experiences with professors’ reactions to ESL writing, tutors may believe that professors tend to be assimilationists. While there are professors who do approach ESL students with assimilationist intentions, several error gravity studies—studies that review which errors tend to attract more attention by specific groups of readers—show that many professors are more tolerant of differences in ESL writing, or at least of certain types of differences, than of those in NES writing. Terry Santos, for example, showed that professors were able to overlook local errors—

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errors that do not directly affect meaning—such as articles, prepositions, spelling, comma splices, or pronoun agreement.13 Studies of error gravity generally show that professors tend to react more negatively to global errors—errors that affect the comprehension of meaning—such as the wrong word choice, word order, and verb tenses.14 One of the implications of error gravity studies is that tutors may want to focus more of their attention on global errors rather than on local errors when reading ESL texts. It may not be possible to define global and local errors in terms of particular grammatical features because whether and how a particular error affects meaning depends on the context. Instead, tutors can prioritize their responses by paying attention to their own initial reactions to particular errors that seem to interfere with their understanding of the meaning of the text. As discussed in the next section, this approach applies not only to grammatical errors but also to other aspects of writing. Reading Strategies Though each writing center session demands different approaches, there is a general process of reading ESL writing that can be useful. It is generally a good idea to start with a quick reading of the ESL writer’s text, focusing on what the writer is trying to communicate and how the paper is organized. A common practice among tutors is to ask writers to read their draft aloud during the conference, rather than the tutor read the draft silently. This strategy is often effective for NES writers who can use their intuitive sense of the grammar and the flow of English to assess their own writing. Many ESL writers, however, have not developed that intuitive sense of the English language. For many ESL writers, reading their paper out loud may shift their attention to the pronunciation of the English language—a proficiency separate from writing in English. It may be more helpful for the ESL writer to hear the tutor read the paper out loud—to note when the reader stumbles, pauses, fills in missing articles and modifiers, or reads smoothly. The interpretation of meaning that takes place in the process of reading aloud “rhetorically with feeling and meaning” may also help the tutor identify where the writer’s intended meaning is not clear to the tutor.15 Yet, on the first reading, especially if the number of errors prevents the tutor from reading aloud without stumbling too often, it may be more effective for the tutor to read silently, which gives the reader time to sort through meaning. Sometimes less experienced readers of ESL texts get so overwhelmed by the sheer

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number of errors that they have to give up on the draft and stop reading somewhere in the middle of the paper. However, if a paper isn’t read to the end, the reader may miss out on information that could clarify the meaning or organization of the paper. The point of the paper may not become clear until the end if the text is organized inductively. Questions that arise in the tutor’s mind while reading the beginning of the paper may be answered toward the end. Reading a piece of ESL writing in full allows the reader to come to an understanding of how the paper is organized on its own terms. Reading to the end of a piece of ESL writing is only beneficial if the reader can suspend judgment while reading—reading past variations in sentence structure, waiting to see how the writer will pull the paper together, maintaining an open mind when the writer’s opinions and beliefs vary substantially from the tutor’s. Another feature of some ESL writing that may be disorienting is the lack of metadiscourse or signposts—the transitional words and sentences that move readers between ideas, and the structures that mark the organization of a text. Even though a text may not have an organization that is immediately recognizable, there may be an organization at work. The trick is to identify and piece together the logic that is not immediately apparent to the reader by formulating questions with the assumption that there is logic in it—by giving the writer the benefit of the doubt. After reading the whole text for the gist, it is often a good idea to reread the text, this time placing brief marks—such as checkmarks or stars—near features or details that seem surprising or those that jar the reading process: the unexpected. It is the unexpected in ESL writing that can make reading ESL writing challenging, as it demands tutors become more aware of their tacit expectations for style, rhetorical choices, genre conventions, and relationships to audience. But it is also the unexpected that can teach tutors the most about their own responses to writing. Teachers often call the unexpected occurrences that happen in the classroom “teachable moments”—moments where significant learning could occur. It may be helpful to think of the unexpected in ESL writing with the same positive twist. To capitalize on the unexpected, the tutor needs to be aware of his or her own responses as a reader. For instance, if a particular passage seems disorienting, the reader can take advantage of this situation by focusing on where he or she started feeling lost and why. What in the text caused the reader to wander? What is it about the reader’s own expectations that contributed to the feeling of disorientation? The reader should also focus on areas where he or she feels

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“stuck”—unable to generate meaning from the text—and use this experience as an opportunity to consider what would be needed to move forward in the reading process. Does the reader need to ask the writer a question? Does the reader need to mark the area and then move on with reading, in the hope that another section of the paper will help the reader negotiate the challenging section? Some of the unexpected features of ESL writing may be rich cultural details or unique perspectives that students bring with them. Making note of those details or perspectives that are particularly interesting or insightful to the tutor is useful in encouraging the ESL writer. Sometimes, however, readers of ESL texts can get distracted by their own curiosity about certain details, such as descriptions of unfamiliar places, cultures, and ways of thinking. While these details do make ESL writing compelling to read, they can also lead the tutor away from the writer’s goals and more toward their own goals, which could include asking the writer about their cultures or experiences, leading the reader to become more a tourist than a tutor. Listening to ESL Writers People always pay attention to how I say things, and never listen to what I say. —an undergraduate ESL student In this paper we have suggested that, while ESL writers’ texts may have features that are distinct from NES writers’ texts due to many sources of influence, it is possible to read beyond the differences if the tutor can suspend judgments, focus on meaning, and be aware of their own preferences and biases. Ultimately, reading is an act of communication—the act of listening to what the writer has to say. When we listen—truly listen—we treat ESL writers with the respect they deserve, regarding them as peers rather than as uninformed learners of the English language and the U.S. culture. It is only in such an atmosphere of mutual respect that the collaborative pedagogy of the writing center can turn differences into opportunities for growth both for the reader and the writer. Notes on the contributors Paul Kei Matsuda is Associate Professor of English at Arizona State University, USA, where he works closely with doctoral and master’s students in applied linguistics, rhetoric and composition, and TESOL. He is co-founding chair of the Symposium on Second Language

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Writing and editor of Parlor Press Series on Second Language Writing. URL: http://matsuda.jslw.org/ Michelle Cox is Assistant Professor of English at Bridgewater State University, USA, where she directs the Writing Across the Curriculum program, serves on the ESL Advisory Board, and teaches ESL sections of First Year Composition and undergraduate and graduate courses on composition pedagogy and second language writing studies. She edits the “WAC and Second Language Writing” site on the WAC Clearinghouse. URL: http://wac.colostate.edu/slw. Notes 1.

Silva, 668.

2.

Silva, 670.

3.

CCCC Committee on Second Language Writing, 669–70.

4.

Cumming, 81–141.

5.

CCCC Committee, 670.

6.

Mohan and Lo (1985).

7.

Severino (1993a), 47.

8.

Severino (1993b), 187.

9.

Severino (1993b), 189.

10.

Severino (1993b), 194.

11.

Leki, 132–33.

12.

Severino (1993b), 187.

13.

Santos, 81.

14.

Santos, 81; Vann, Meyer, and Lorenz, 432.

15.

Severino (1993b), 190. References

CCCC Committee on Second Language Writing. 2001. “CCCC Statement on Second-language Writing and Writers.” College Composition and Communication 52 (4): 669–74. Cumming, Alister. 1989. “Writing Expertise and Language Proficiency.” Language Learning 39 (1): 81–141.

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Leki, Ilona. 1992. Understanding ESL Writers: A Guide for Teachers. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Mohan, Bernard, and Winnie Au-Yeung Lo. 1985. “Academic Writing and Chinese Students: Transfer and Developmental Factors.” TESOL Quarterly 19 (3): 515–34. Santos, Terry. 1988. “Professors’ Reactions to the Academic Writing of Nonnative-Speaking Students.” TESOL Quarterly 22 (1): 69–90. Severino, Carol. 1993a. “The ‘Doodles’ in Context: Qualifying Claims About Contrastive Rhetoric.” The Writing Center Journal 14 (1): 44–62. ———. 1993b. “The Sociopolitical Implications of Response to Second Language and Second Dialect Writing.” Journal of Second Language Writing 2 (3): 187–201. Silva, Tony. 1993. “Toward an Understanding of the Distinct Nature of L2 Writing: The ESL Research and Its Implications.” TESOL Quarterly 27 (4): 657–77. Vann, Roberta, Daisy Meyer, and Frederick Lorenz. 1984. “Error Gravity: A Study of Faculty Opinion of ESL Errors.” TESOL Quarterly 18 (3): 427–40.

Originally published as Matsuda, P. K., & Cox, M. (2009). Reading an ESL writer's text. In S. Bruce & B. Rafoth (Eds.), ESL writers: A guide for writing center tutors (2nd ed.; pp. 42-50). Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook Heinemann. Reprinted with permission from the authors, editors and publishers.

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Learning to Foster Autonomy: The Role of Teacher Education Materials Hayo Reinders, Middlesex University, UK Cem Balcikanli, Gazi University, Turkey Abstract In recent years there has been an increased appreciation of the interrelationship between learner autonomy and teacher autonomy, both in the classroom and in the self-access centre. One obvious impact on learners’ autonomy is their teachers’ understanding of what autonomy means, and their ability to implement it in the classroom. Especially for beginning teachers, knowledge of learner autonomy is likely to be shaped in large part by the professional training they receive and the amount of attention given to the topic during their teacher education. It is therefore important to ask to what extent teacher training courses prepare teachers for fostering autonomy, including those teachers working in self-access centres. This study attempts to answer that question by critically investigating a range of popular teacher training course materials widely used in professional programmes worldwide. We apply an evaluative framework to identify 1) what information teachers are given about learner autonomy, and 2) the extent to which the materials cover the teaching of different skills for independent learning. Perhaps surprisingly, despite the growing interest in autonomy, it was found that the selected books included almost no information about learner autonomy at all and did not, with one or two minor exceptions, focus on the development of skills for supporting autonomous learning. Keywords: learner autonomy, teacher autonomy, teacher education, teacher education resources. Introduction Learner autonomy, as a subject for research and as an educational goal, has gained a lot of traction in recent years. Autonomy is now a common theme at conferences and in professional journals, and is well on the radar of the average language teacher. The idea that learners need to be able to take control over their own learning to be successful not just in class, but also to learn independently without a teacher outside the class, has become widely accepted in mainstream language teaching (Benson, 2001). Breen’s process syllabus (1987) and Nunan’s learner-centred approach (1988) are examples of this but also more recent approaches to learning and teaching, such as task-based language teaching, include elements that can support the development of autonomous learning skills (cf. Errey & Schollaert, 2005). In general, there is now a broader awareness of the importance of developing language and autonomous learning skills in addition to the language competencies. The development of learner autonomy is sometimes carried out through “learner training” or dedicated strategy instruction often through self-access centres (Gardner & Miller, 1999), but the most likely

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context in which learners should come into contact with the idea of autonomy and develop appropriate skills is the language course. As such, the classroom teacher is likely to have a major impact on students’ development towards autonomy. Much depends, then, on the teacher’s knowledge of autonomy and his/her ability to implement it into the curriculum, either with or without the use of self-access facilities to complement classroom teaching. However, it is still unclear how teachers develop this knowledge and the necessary practical skills. It is likely that teacher education courses and the materials used in them play an important role (Lamb & Reinders, 2008), but this has not been directly investigated yet. For this reason, this study looks at eleven popular teacher education books to establish if they deal with learner autonomy and if so, how they teach teachers to foster autonomy in the classroom. In particular we were interested to identify if the books show teachers how to foster autonomy in the classroom. We will begin by reviewing the relevant literature on developing learner autonomy before describing our study. Learning to Foster Autonomy Learner autonomy is a multi-faceted and complex construct that includes political, psychological, and pedagogical dimensions (Benson, 1996, Reinders, 2011). At a practical level, the development of autonomy requires learners to build up a skillset that allows them to direct their own learning. Most learners do not naturally have this skillset and need explicit instruction to develop it: “…if learners are not trained for autonomy, no amount of surrounding them with resources will foster in them that capacity for active involvement and conscious choice, although it might appear to do so” (Hurd, 1998, p. 72-73). But what do teachers need in order to be able to foster autonomy? Much will depend on their own conception of autonomy and their experience in implementing it at the chalk face. There are two aspects to this, one has to do with the teacher’s own autonomy, and the other with a set of teaching skills relevant for developing autonomy. In the literature, there has been an increasing attention given to teacher autonomy (McGrath, Sinclair, & Lamb, 2000; Lamb & Reinders, 2008). Teacher autonomy has been defined as the ability to improve one’s own teaching through one’s own efforts (see Lamb & Reinders, 2008). It therefore includes both the teacher’s ability to make decisions about teaching and their own professional development. This assumes both a degree of political autonomy in the sense that teachers need to have the freedom to make such decisions, as well as knowledge of themselves as teachers and as learners, in order to know how to make such decisions. Teacher autonomy is

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also usually conceived of as including the ability to understand the students’ learning needs and the ability to support them in their development towards autonomy. It is this latter ability that we are investigating in this article. Very little previous research exists that investigates the development of such skills and the ways in which teachers are supported in this. This research focuses either on existing programmes (Vieira, Paiva, Marques & Fernandes, 2008), who describe the development of a teacher education programme that attempts to “involve teachers in action-based inquiry into the development of pedagogy for autonomy in schools” or on professional literature for beginning teachers (teacher training materials/textbooks). The programme “aims at promoting student teachers’ critical reflectivity by helping them to: (1) problematise the contexts of teaching and teacher development, (2) inquire into pedagogical theories and practices, (3) promote learner-centred pedagogy, and (4) value self-direction and collaboration in professional development.” The programme is based on and uses small-scale action research projects conducted by the student-teachers in which they learn about ways to encourage reflection, experimentation, regulation, and negotiation. This is an innovative programme, which has been operating for 15 years now and to which a great deal of expertise and resources have been committed. It is probably safe to say that such expertise and resources are not generally available to most beginning teachers and such programmes are unlikely to be representative of the experience of most teachers. For practical reasons it would have been difficult for us to get insight into the contents of professional courses in a range of countries. Instead we decided to focus on the contents of the most commonly used teacher education literature. Methodology This study took place in Gazi University, with one of the authors providing support from a distance. Our aim was to identify the most popular, widely used, and currently available course books for language teachers. First, we identified eleven of the most popular books for courses in language teaching based on publicly available sales-rankings, such as through Amazon.com and other popular book sellers. Although we cannot be completely certain that the books we selected are indeed those that sold the largest number of copies, we do not doubt that they are among the most commonly used around the world. The criteria for inclusion were that the books teach beginning language teachers, cover a wide range of skills

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(excluding books on, for example, teaching vocabulary or grammar), and are widely used in many countries. The books we selected are listed in Table 1. Table 1. The books selected for the study 1- Training Foreign Language Teachers: A Reflective Approach

Michael Wallace

1991

2- Teacher education for languages for specific purposes

Ron Howard & Gillian Brown

1997

3- Tasks for Teacher Education: A Reflective Approach

Rosie Tanner & Catherine Green

1998

Penny Ur

1998

Peter James

2001

6- Understanding Your International Students: An Educational, Cultural, and Linguistic Guide

Jeffra Flaitz

2003

7- A Practicum in TESOL

Graham Crookes

2003

8- Professional Development for Language Teachers: Strategies for Teacher Learning

Jack C. Richards & Thomas S. C. Farrell

2005

9- Principles of Language Learning and Teaching

H. Douglas Brown

2006

10- Becoming a Teacher through Action Research

Donna Kalmbach Phillips & Kevin Carr

2006

11- Working with Second Language Learners: Answers to Teachers’ Ten Top Questions

Stephen Cary

2007

4- A Course in Language Teaching 5- Teachers in Action: Tasks for In-Service Language Teacher Education and Development Cambridge Teacher Training and Development

In order to investigate if and, if so, how the books provide information to teachers about how to foster autonomy, we drew on a framework for self-directed learning developed by one of the authors (Reinders, 2010). This includes eight stages in the self-directed learning process (see Table 2). These stages are iterative; they form a cycle that repeats and builds on itself. They are an expansion and adaptation of the five-step model developed by Knowles (1975) and are widely considered to be the key skills learners need to be able to self-direct their learning. We investigated if the books covered ways of supporting learners at these stages. It is worth noting here that we are fully aware that self-directed learning and learner autonomy are not interchangeable. Autonomy, for example, includes a more political aspect relating to an individual’s freedom to make their own choices about their education, as well as a more philosophical view relating to “the ability for individuals to choose and follow their own conception of a life that they deem to be suitable for themselves” (Winch, 2006, p. 1). We are not diminishing the importance of these elements of autonomy, but they are less easily

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identifiable from materials and were therefore considered to be beyond the scope of this article. Instead, we decided to focus on the more practical skills involved in the development of autonomy. Table 2. The eight stages in the self-directed learning process LEARNING STAGES

EXAMPLES

Identifying needs

Learner experiences/ difficulties in using the language.

Setting goals

Contextually determined, relatively flexible.

Planning learning

Contextually determined. Very flexible.

Selecting resources

Self-selection by learners.

Selecting learning strategies

Self-selection by learners.

Practice

Implementation (language use) and experimentation.

Monitoring progress

Self-monitoring, peer-feedback

Assessment and revision

Self-assessment, reflection

Figure 1 shows how these eight stages form a cycle, and how they are grounded in and impact on students’ reflection, motivation, and their interaction (with the language and other learners).

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Figure 1. The iterative self-directed learning process Next, the eleven textbooks were investigated by the two authors to identify if and how they discussed the eight stages mentioned in Table 1. Each of us went through each of the eleven books and marked any instances where the books mentioned autonomy or any of the skills in Table 1. We made a distinction between cases where the books provided a description of learner autonomy and where they provided suggestions and materials on how to foster autonomy (e.g., sample materials, models). In case of a mismatch between the evaluation of both researchers, the findings were discussed until all discrepancies (of which there were very few to begin with) were resolved.

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Results Upon analysis of the results, it immediately became clear that descriptions of learner autonomy were virtually non-existent and that in only very few instances the skills in Table 1 were discussed. We will look at some examples now. In Professional Development for Language Teachers by Richards and Farrell (2005), mention is made of the use of portfolios and their potential role in developing in learners’ awareness of the learning process. This book also discusses the use of portfolios by the teacher and, implicitly, as this is not mentioned, by the student to monitor progress. It includes an example of a teacher’s portfolio and vignettes from teachers who have used portfolios with their students. The book also talks about the importance of learners being able to plan their own learning but it does not include specific instructions on how to do this, nor does it make explicit reference to learner autonomy. The course book Tasks for Teacher Education: A Reflective Approach by Tanner and Green (1998) does mention the importance of learners setting their own goals, albeit not in any length. It also talks about the importance of learners planning their own learning but does not include information about how to teach learners how to do this. Similarly, it discusses the importance of learners monitoring their own progress, without going into any practical detail. The book Training Foreign Language Teachers: A Reflective Approach by Wallace (1991) only mentions the need for learners to plan their learning, under the heading of “microteaching.” The book Teacher Education for Languages for Specific Purposes by Howard and Brown (1997) includes some information about the importance of independent learning strategies, but these are limited to strategies that teachers use to develop their own skills. The books in Table 3 did not include any information about the skills listed in Table 2. Table 3. Books that did not contain information about skills in Table 2 1. A Course in Language Teaching 2. Teachers in Action: Tasks for In-Service Language Teacher Education and Development Cambridge Teacher Training and Development 3. Understanding Your International Students: An Educational, Cultural, and Linguistic Guide 4. A Practicum in TESOL 5. Principles of Language Learning and Teaching 6. Becoming a Teacher through Action Research 7. Working with Second Language Learners: Answers to Teachers’ Ten Top Questions

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Penny Ur

1998

Peter James

2001

Jeffra Flaitz

2003

Graham Crookes H. Douglas Brown Donna Kalmbach Phillips & Kevin Carr

2003 2006 2006

Stephen Cary

2007

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The chart below summarises the state of play. Out of 11 books, only 4 cover information about autonomy. None of the books included examples, or specific instructions.

Figure 2. Number of textbooks covering autonomy Discussion The results above are surprising, and from the perspective of researchers interested in learner autonomy, disappointing. Although there was some limited discussion of portfolios and the importance of planning and monitoring in some of the books, none made any attempt to cover the skills identified in Table 2, and none discussed the topic of learner autonomy explicitly or to any depth. In the few occasions where the books discussed skills, such as planning and monitoring, no explicit guidance was given to the readers, no examples or models included, and no specific instructions on how to incorporate these subjects into a lesson. Teacher autonomy and learner autonomy are closely linked and without sufficient knowledge and guidance, teachers are unlikely to develop the skills to be able to foster learner autonomy in their own classrooms. The last decades have seen major changes in language education with a focus towards more communicative, more authentic, and more learnerfocused pedagogies, but clearly there is still a considerable way to go before the development of language-learning skills, and the importance of preparing learners for, and supporting them in language use outside the language classroom becomes a standard area of attention in textbooks. We would like to acknowledge some limitations to this study. One of these, of course, is that teachers’ development does not only result from their interaction with textbooks. People learn from many sources, not least of which are the teacher educators who facilitate

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the teacher development courses they take, as well as classroom observations and journal reflections. Nonetheless, we feel the course textbook is an important source of information and therefore important to look at. Secondly, it can be argued that the model of self-directed learning used in this study only reflects one aspect of autonomy, and only includes some of the more practical skills that learners need to develop. It is possible that the textbooks discuss aspects of learning, such as choice and freedom, critical reflection, and the development of a general awareness, but for practical reasons we had to limit ourselves to only those aspects that we could relatively easily recognise as relating to the development of autonomy. It also became clear to both of us after studying these eleven textbooks that very little attention is given to such aspects of teaching. In conclusion, the results show that despite the common interest in learner autonomy teachers are not necessarily provided with sufficient information in teacher training texts to develop an understanding of learner autonomy, at least not at a practical level. This is likely to extend to those working in self-access centres. Without such an understanding, perhaps it is not surprising that we often find learners struggling to develop as autonomous learners. One implication of this is that materials writers need to pay more explicit attention to the ways in which teachers can develop learner autonomy and provide beginning teachers with more information about autonomy and, in particular, with specific guidance and examples of how to foster autonomy in and outside of the classroom. Another important implication is that teacher educators, and of course the teachers they teach, cannot rely on popular textbooks to cover this important subject and will instead have to complement the course book with additional materials and instruction. If learner autonomy is less likely to develop without teacher autonomy, then more attention needs to be given to the contents of teacher education materials. Notes on the contributors Dr. Hayo Reinders (www.innovationinteaching.org) is Head of Learner Development at Middlesex University in London. He is also Editor of Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching, and Convenor of the AILA Research Network for CALL and the Learner. Hayo’s interests are in CALL, autonomy, and out-of-class learning. He is a speaker for the Royal Society of New Zealand. His most recent books are on teacher autonomy, teaching methodologies, and second language acquisition and he edits a book series on ‘New Language Learning and Teaching Environments’ for Palgrave Macmillan. !

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Dr. Cem Balcikanli works as a lecturer in the ELT Department of Gazi University, Turkey. He is also Publications Coordinator of the AILA Research Network for CALL and the Learner. He has widely published articles on learner/teacher autonomy, use of Web 2.0 technologies in language learning/teaching and teaching Turkish as a foreign language. He takes active part in the in-service training programs of the Ministry of Education as a trainer and has contributed to a number of projects run by the Ministry for primary, secondary and tertiary levels. References Benson, P. (1996). Concepts of autonomy in language learning. In R. Pemberton , E. Li, W. Or, & H. Pierson. Taking control. Autonomy in language learning. (pp. 27-34). Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press. Benson, P. (2001). Teaching and researching autonomy in language learning. London: Longman. Breen, M. (1987). Contemporary paradigms in syllabus design (parts I and II). Language Teaching, 20, 91-92/157-174. Brown, H. D. (2006). Principles of language learning and teaching. Addison Wesley Longman. Cary, S. (2007). Working with second language learners: Answers to teachers’ ten top questions. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Crookes, G. (2003). A practicum in TESOL. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Errey, L., & Schollaert, R. (2005). Whose learning is it anyway? Developing learner autonomy through task-based language learning. Coronet Books. Flaitz, J. (2003). Understanding your international students: An educational, cultural, and linguistic guide. Michigan, U.S: University of Michigan Press. Gardner, D., & Miller, L. (1999). Establishing self-access. From theory to practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Howard, R., & Brown, G. (1997). Teacher education for languages for specific purposes.Philadelphia: Multilingual Matters Ltd. Hurd, S. (1998). Too carefully led or too carelessly left alone? Language Learning Journal,17, 70-74. James, P. (2001). Teachers in action: Tasks for in-service language teacher education and development. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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Knowles, M. (1975). Self-directed learning: A guide for learners and teachers. New York: Cambridge: The Adult Education Company. Lamb, T., & Reinders, H. (Eds.). (2008). Learner and teacher autonomy: Concepts, realities, and responses. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. McGrath, I., Sinclair, B., & Lamb, T. (2000). Learner autonomy, teacher autonomy: Future directions. Harlow: Longman. Nunan, D. (1988). The learner-centred classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Phillips, D. K., & Carr, K. (2006). Becoming a teacher through action research: Process, context, and self-study. New York: Routledge. Reinders, H. (2010). Towards a classroom pedagogy for learner autonomy: A framework of independent language learning skills. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 35(5),40-55. Reinders, H. (2011). Towards an operationalisation of autonomy. In Ahmed, A. Cane, G. & Hanzala, M. Teaching English in multilingual contexts: Current challenges, future directions. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. Richards, J. C., & Farrell, T. S. C. (2005). Professional development for language teachers: Strategies for teacher learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Tanner, R., & Green, C. (1998). Task for teacher education: A reflective approach. Harlow: Pearson. Ur, P. (1998). A course in language teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Vieira, F., Paiva, M., Marques, I., & Fernandes, I. (2008). Teaching education towards teacher and learner autonomy: What can be learnt from teacher development practices? In T. Lamb & H. Reinders (Eds). Learner and teacher autonomy: Concepts, realities, and responses. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Wallace, M. (1991). Training foreign language teachers: A reflective approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Winch, C. (2006). Education, autonomy and critical thinking. New York and London: Routledge. !

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SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 1, March, 2011, 26-31

Introducing the Skills of Self-assessment and Peer Feedback Rania K. Jabr, American University in Cairo, Egypt Introduction The object of our teaching should not simply be to introduce our students to a foreign language, but it should be to enable them to perform well when we teachers are no longer there to support them. This means we need to teach them to be autonomous, and one way to succeed in this challenging task is to train them in the “skill” of selfassessment (Harris, 1997) and how to benefit from peer interaction. Teachers, whether teaching beginners or advanced level students, may share some of the following common concerns about their students. Do any of the following seem familiar? The students do not listen or follow instructions. They are totally dependent and want to be spoon-fed. They are fixated on grades and want their work graded immediately. They complain when they are instructed to do tasks and even resort to using L1. Worst of all, they can be rather lazy and copy each other’s work in the hope of getting a better grade. Learner Autonomy What is learner autonomy? Is it a list of behaviors? Is it a list of beliefs? It is both. Every student needs to recognize his or her own potential and to take responsibility for his/her own learning (Holec, 1981). Only then can we say this is autonomous learning. But can we influence learner autonomy or a student’s ability to self-assess? We need to find practical ways to do so to positively impact the learning situation in general. Selfassessment refers to the process of collecting systematic information about one’s performance to affect one’s progress. In a number of learning theories, (Cooper, 2006) the goal is to encourage autonomy (Holec, 1981). One such theory is Brain Friendly Learning (Jensen, 2000) which includes self-assessment as an integral component. Teachers focus on real life problems, encouraging students to also learn outside the classroom. One technique associated with Brain Friendly Learning is where the teacher is encouraged to explain the 26


SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 1, March, 2011, 26-31 learning objectives to students from day one, focusing on what they are going to cover and why they are going to cover specific content/material. The teacher is also encouraged to reduce any stress both criteria inside and outside class. Another technique is to set a task clearly and explain to students what is expected of them to successfully complete it so that students are put on the right track. This means that students need to be taught to know if and when they get “it”. This can be only achieved by explaining the big picture and linking tasks backwards and forwards. A third technique would be strategy training, giving students techniques or tools in how to tackle tasks in specific skills, like reading or writing (Sousa, 2006). Another approach which supports the development of learner autonomy is inquiry-based learning, which focuses on how students learn best. Students are encouraged to discover for themselves and the teacher guides them. There is no correct or wrong answer, and teaching is not explicit (Kirschner, Sweller, & Clark, 2006). Inquirybased learning relies on three main goals, encouraging involvement, ownership, and investment. Self-assessment Students often naturally listen and watch in class, yet “doing” is what we want them to engage in and excel at. Over time their “doing” will transform into “discovery” (Kohonen, 1992). This experiential learning concept refers to the process of learning from direct experience. It is learning by doing or going through real-life tasks which include a number of specific steps: planning, preparation, experience, reflection, and finally review. However, the often ignored variable in the journey of self-discovery is selecting and creating carefully thought out tasks by us teachers. Remember we are teaching our students “how” to learn to enable them to self-assess and reflect in order to maximize their chances to achieve autonomy.

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Figure 1: The role of tasks in the discovery process Students in my context often complain; here are some of their typical comments (notice the accusatory tone): “I do not deserve this grade,” “my ideas in the essay are sufficient, or “my vocabulary is wide enough.” The list of complaints goes on. So what should we do? The teacher has to do some type of psychological “weaning” to enable the student to assume responsibility for his/her own learning and growth. This is because an integral part of autonomous learning is acquiring the skills of analysis, problem solving, and critical thinking (Marshall & Rowland, 1993). In the following section, I will suggest some ways of encouraging peer-support and self-assessment in the skills of reading and writing. However, these ideas can be easily adapted to suit all levels and can be extended to other skill areas. These ideas can be introduced in class or as workshops for self-access centre users.

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SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 1, March, 2011, 26-31 Activity Ideas Peer-support in reading Ask students to form groups of their choice. They choose who they want to work with and must attempt to make it work for the benefit of the group. Give all groups a list of themes to choose from. After consultation among group members, each group decides on its theme. Each member of a group is to read a different article on the agreed upon theme. (The teacher/facilitator can provide the articles or, for more advanced levels, allow students to select their own articles from the Internet). The goal of the task is to share reading experiences in the form of peer conferences. After completing their reading of the article (outside class), each student in a group is given five minutes to present to his colleagues in the group the main points of the article, what most attracted his attention, and most important of all whether he recommends that they read the article or not, stating his reasons for his opinion. A brief question/answer session follows where other students in the group are allowed to discuss the ideas presented. Peer-feedback in writing This activity helps learners to see that they can give and receive valuable feedback from their peers outside the classroom. Divide the students into groups of five students with mixed abilities. Type up different student essays without names. Each group is assigned one essay, but each student within a group is responsible for only one component: a) content b) organization c) vocabulary d) grammar e) spelling & punctuation. Give students the rubric you use of grading their essays. Students read the essay for their assignment component and report to their group about it. The final and most important step is to produce a written group feedback to the original writer of the essay.

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SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 1, March, 2011, 26-31 Self-assessment for all skill areas Using portfolios is a very practical way to encourage students to self-assess. These can be used for all skill areas, as they are mainly a systematic compilation of materials. Portfolios, if used correctly, will encourage a purposeful reflection by learners on their own development and progress over time, as they attempt to document any feedback they receive in the form of assessment from their teacher, and as they also attempt to showcase their work by including samples to evaluate their performance. Complied by the student, it forces him/her to be proactive, to self-reflect, and self-assess. What can be a better way to reach the goal of autonomy? Practical Tips Provide your students with numerous self-access resources, whether online or in hard copies, and encourage them to use technology to review their written work. Using spell check and grammar check for example is a first step. How about online dictionaries? These simple technological tools can help students submit better rewrites or even a successful redo of an unsuccessful assignment. On the macro-level, give your syllabus at the end of each month and allow your students to choose what needs revision or practice. This could even be a simple checklist of themes covered or specific teaching points depending on what you are teaching. Provide options for follow-up in a self-access centre, in class or online. You could also allow students to choose the time of continuous assessment tasks, obviously not formal tests. The above mentioned tasks attempt to encourage both peer and self-assessment. We need both to facilitate learner autonomy. We need to encourage our students to learn from one another, listen to suggestions from their peers, and be open to and willing to make changes. This is in my opinion a necessary step forward to encourage students to self-reflect and hence self-assess, an often difficult task which requires the learner to develop the ability to listen to his inner voice. Test scores may not reveal whether our teaching has been effective or not, but what our students are able to do when we are no longer there for them is the real measure

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SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 1, March, 2011, 26-31 of our abilities as teachers. Student autonomy should be a goal both teachers and students aspire to, yet it can best be reached when we create the opportunity for our students to self-assess, for only then will we have succeeded in our mission to create successful language learners. Notes on the contributor Rania Jabr, Senior Instructor at the American University in Cairo, is a materials writer and teacher trainer. She has contributed a number of articles to various EFL/ESL publications, has presented at numerous international conferences, and is Chair of NileTesol 2012. Her main interests include teaching reading and writing, skill integration, and learner autonomy.

References Benson, P. (1997). Philosophy and politics of autonomy. In P. Benson, & P. Voller (Eds.), Autonomy and independence in language learning (18-34). London: Pearson Education Limited. Cooper, D. (2006). Talk about assessment: Strategies and tools to improve learning. Toronto, ON: Thomson Nelson. Government of British Columbia. Harris, M. (1997). Self-assessment of language learning in formal settings. English Language Teaching Journal, 51 (1), 12-20. Holec, H. (1981). Autonomy in foreign language learning. Oxford: Pergamon. Jensen, E. (2000). Brain-based learning. San Diego: Brain Store Incorporated. Kirschner, P. A., Sweller, J., and Clark, R. E. (2006). Why minimal guidance during instruction does not work: an analysis of the failure of constructivist, discovery, problem-based, experiential, and inquiry-based teaching. Educational Psychologist, 41 (2), 75–86. Marshall, L. ,& Rowland, F. (1993). A Guide to learning independently. Buckingham, UK: Open University Press. Sousa, D. (2006). How the brain learns. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

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Lessons Learned While Managing My First Book Club Holly Marland, Kansai Gaidai University, Hirakata, Japan (formerly at Konkuk University, Chungju, South Korea) Introduction Extensive reading has become a popular way to promote language development. I had long wanted to introduce my students to pleasure reading as a means to improve their English, but because I was only teaching conversation courses, I saw no opportunity to do so. However, last semester, I decided to start an extracurricular book club, and it has been one of the most rewarding projects I have ever undertaken. The club was successful on many levels including the promotion of learner autonomy. This article is about the steps I took and the lessons I learned in the process of managing my first book club during one semester at a university in South Korea. The book club included five Korean university students between the ages of eighteen and twenty-two. The results of a diagnostic test provided by Pearson Longman placed them on an intermediate reading level (level 3 and 4 for Penguin graded readers). Krashen describes the importance of finding an appropriate reading level by stating, “Pleasure reading is made comprehensible by the reader's own selection of passages and texts, and by the rejection of reading material that is too difficult. The success of pleasure reading thus depends on the reader's willingness to find material at his level and reject material that is beyond him.” (Krashen, 1982, p. 164) I wanted to introduce the members to pleasure reading in hopes that they would continue the practice on their own. I wanted them to learn that reading did not have to be an overwhelming and frustrating task as it had been in their high school and college literature classes, where they had to pore over the classics and other difficult texts. Instead, reading in English could be a fun hobby and lead to what Krashen states is essential for acquiring a language: a regular and copious amount of language input; “The second language student needs massive amounts of comprehensible, interesting reading material, enough so that he can read for pleasure and/or interest for an hour an evening, if he wants to, for several months” (Krashen, 1982, p. 183). In addition to promoting learner autonomy via pleasure reading, I wanted to start a book club that the members would ultimately manage by themselves in my absence. !

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Recruitment the Easy Way Getting a book club up and running is not as difficult as you may think. In fact, if you are willing to volunteer your time, it should be quite easy. You may even find that others are eager to help. To get started, I simply paid a visit to the language institute on the university campus where I teach. There, I introduced myself to the desk clerk and explained my idea for starting a book club. The next day I met with the supervisor and answered a few basic questions – among them, “Why are you willing to do this for free?” I explained that I wanted to learn more about Korean university students and to experiment with ways to help them enjoy language learning in a social setting, outside of class. Recognizing the value of offering free services to their students at no cost to the institute, the staff agreed to assist me in my efforts. Within one week, the institute staff had recruited five motivated college students with comparable English abilities. If I had it to do over, there is only one thing that I would do differently: I would start recruiting as soon as the semester begins. The more time you have with the club members, the better. Even a sixteen-week semester goes by quickly. Setting Up One Step at a Time Although the next stage of the process was much more involved, it was also more exciting. Knowing that most college students in Korea have had little or no opportunity to read for pleasure, much less discuss a story book in English, I was eager to introduce the club to graded readers. At the first meeting, we introduced ourselves, and I shared my vision of what a successful book club would look like. Next, I gave members a level test, and we began the process of selecting our first book. I also gave them a handout which explained “discussion roles,” but more on that, later. I explained to the members that first and foremost, I wanted them to have fun. Therefore, it was necessary to select books that would be relatively easy to read, and that the group could discuss with confidence. It was also equally important to come to a consensus on interests so that we could select topics and genres that appealed to everyone. Before the first meeting, I bought a handful of graded readers to show to the group. I had also identified a few websites so that we could view more titles online. Although both ways are !

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acceptable, I found having actual books to share with the club to be more practical and engaging. I gave the members some time to examine the colorful covers and leaf through the pages. I even had them compare a light-weight graded reader to a heavy classic novel and asked them to choose which one they wanted to read. Guess which one they picked? I imagined that level-testing would be the least favorite activity of the evening, so before our first meeting, I sent an e-mail forewarning the members about the test (no one likes pop quizzes, especially outside of class!) I explained the importance of the activity, and despite a few sighs and complaints, the members complied and quickly finished the task. To lower anxiety, I suggested that they refrain from writing their names on the answer sheets. Fortunately, the multiple choice test included only 30 questions, and within 20 minutes, they were all finished. When I checked the tests after our meeting, the results indicated that they would all read comfortably on an intermediate level 3 or 4. I decided to start them on level 3 because I thought it would ensure easy reading and give my new reading companions the confidence and enthusiasm to start some lively discussions. Once the level test was out of the way, it was time to begin our search for a good, entertaining book. To keep it simple, I wrote several genres on the white board (adventure, crime / mystery, cultural and social issues, auto / biography, ghosts / horror, romance / historical, etc.) and asked each member to choose three. I then went around to each member, asked for their choices, and put a check by the genres each time they were chosen. The activity, which turned out to be quite lively and full of discussion, not only allowed us to choose an appropriate genre, but it also gave the members a chance to learn more about one another. As it turned out, they all liked romance, comedy, and mystery. A new bond was starting to form! The next important task, selecting a book, fell on me. We were all eager to get started, so it was important to get the order in as soon as possible. However, there were so many books to choose from that the members were overwhelmed. When I suggested that I make the final decision, they expressed deep relief. In the future, I will suggest three books, and let the group chose from them. Offering too many options can cause indecision and anxiety. Our First Major Hurdle A problem emerged when we tried to order our books. We were told that Pearson Longman was out of stock in Korea, and that we would have to wait a couple of weeks to receive our copies. Luckily, we had an internet-savvy member in the group who showed me that surfing !

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the web was our best bet for finding graded readers quickly and even at a discount. Within three days, our copies arrived at my office. This is just one example of how group members can contribute to the management of the club – sometimes they are more capable than the teacher. Unlike me, the members were very tech savvy and native Korean speakers, very important attributes when trying to run a book club in Korea. Entering into Lively Discussions: A Shared Responsibility Things were off to a very good start; however, to lay the groundwork for lively discussions and equal participation, we needed to assign discussion roles to each member. At the end of our first meeting, I had asked the members to read a handout which summarized the five roles that they would take turns playing during our discussions together. I had learned about discussion roles in an article by Mark Furr (Furr, n.d). This article had inspired me to experiment with book clubs. At the end of Furr’s article, you will find printable worksheets for each role: the discussion leader, summarizer, passage person, word master, and connector. These worksheets served as the club members’ weekly homework. Once assigned a role, each member simply completed the worksheet on his or her own, in between meetings. This exercise helped them organize their thoughts in written form, before meeting with everyone else the following week. Once the members were introduced to the concept of discussion roles, we spent the rest of our eight weeks together reading and discussing two books. Our first graded reader was based on Richard Curtis’ Notting Hill and the second on Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. It took us four weeks to cover each book, and each discussion lasted around an hour. We covered three to four chapters at a time. Giving a role to each person is an excellent way to get everyone to participate. It helped to create a sense of shared responsibility, and resulted in some very interesting and lively discussions. It was exciting to see everyone participating – especially the more introverted participants. For our first discussion, I played the part of discussion leader in order to offer some rolemodeling. After that, I sat back to observe, provide feedback, and answer questions related to role playing as well as vocabulary and cultural issues. I tried to limit my talking time to encourage participation and turn-taking. Apparently, however, I wasn’t always successful at !

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SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 1, March, 2011, 32-38 !

doing this because one evening the discussion leader playfully told me to be quiet. I was a bit surprised at first, but quickly saw this as a very good sign. She was confidently doing her job and taking responsibility. It was a memorable moment of success. Since there are film versions for both Notting Hill and Sense and Sensibility, I was able to add more variety to our meetings. Before reading the first chapter of each book, I showed them the movie trailer to arouse curiosity and build excitement (movie trailers are easy to find on YouTube). After completing each book, we had a movie night and watched the films together. This required no effort on my part as the members gladly volunteered to obtain the movies. Because it is set in a time and culture completely unfamiliar to the club members, Sense and Sensibility demanded extra preparation. In addition to the movie trailer, we spent one of the meetings exploring the life and times of Jane Austen, by reading a short biography about her and talking about some photos that I had found of one of the houses in which she lived during the early 1800’s. (I found all of this material online by simply doing a Google search.) Looking back, I realize I should have devoted more time to reading and discussing Sense and Sensibility. Never again will I be deceived by the length of a graded reader. Sense and Sensibility is rather thin and only seven chapters long, but the story is rather intricate – involving several characters and places. Therefore, breaking the reading and discussion sessions into three or four parts instead of just two would have been better. Furthermore, I would have encouraged each week’s summarizer to prepare a time line for that week’s assigned chapters. At the end of three weeks, it would have been interesting to put the time lines end to end in order to review the entire sequence of events. This would also help to keep track of the relatively large number of characters. After three months together, our last meeting took place off campus at one of my favorite places for gathering, a cozy café. There, we mostly talked of our future plans, but I also passed out a questionnaire for them to fill out regarding their experience in the club. The year 2011 will find me living and teaching in Japan, and two of the club members will leave Korea to study abroad in the U.S. and Canada. Will the Internet help to keep us in touch? Will any of the members start book clubs of their own at some point in the future? I don’t know, but what I can confirm is this: we had a lot of fun socializing together, and I succeeded in sharing the joys of reading for pleasure. This experience has encouraged me to continue seeking ways to promote language development in book clubs.

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SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 1, March, 2011, 32-38 !

Tips for Managing a Book Club 1. Getting Started Consider volunteering your time. You may not have the opportunity to teach extensive reading in one of your classes, but you can gain professional experience by running a book club outside of class. Ask for help. An on-campus institute may be willing to help you find students on a comparable language level. Start recruiting as soon as the semester begins.

2. Selecting Appropriate Books Use graded readers. This way, members are reading text that is easy enough to talk about. Use a diagnostic test. Use the first meeting to identify an appropriate reading level. Let the members decide. Have the club reach a consensus on favorite genres and topics. Don’t give too many options. A long list of book titles may lead to indecision and confusion. Have sample books on hand for the members to look at and review. Be ready to make the actual book selections yourself. Initially, members may be reticent to select an actual title, and may want you to do it for them. Don’t limit yourself to ordering books from the publisher only. There are many book vendors on line. Ask a tech-savvy member to order the books from one of the numerous bookstores online.

3. Entering into Lively Discussions Assign a discussion role to each member. Have them switch roles for each meeting to encourage shared responsibility and participation. Strike a balance. Model the discussion roles for the students when necessary but limit your talking time so that the members get ample speaking practice. Manage your time wisely. You will need more time to cover stories which include a large number of characters and places. Use videos. Movie trailers for film versions of the book can arouse curiosity and build excitement. You can also watch the entire film version as a fun culminating activity. Activate schema. Give background information on the author, period and setting – especially if the story is set in the distant past or an unfamiliar culture. Introduce graphic organizers. Tools such as time lines and mind maps can help members follow intricate plots and recall characters and events.! !

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Notes on the Contributor Holly Marland earned her master’s degree in TESOL at the School for International Training (SIT) in Brattleboro, Vermont. From March 2008 to February 2011, she taught in the General Education Department at Konkuk University in Chungju, South Korea. In April 2011, she will start teaching in the Intensive English Studies program at Kansai Gaidai University in Hirakata, Japan. Ms. Marland has lived in the U.S., Japan, Korea, Togo, Colombia, and France. As of 2011, most of her teaching career has taken place in Japan (5 ! years) and Korea (4 years). She has taught kindergarten, elementary, junior high, and high school students. She has also worked as a teacher trainer. However, most of her experience has been at the college/university level. References Krashen, S. (1982). Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition. Retrieved from http://www.sdkrashen.com/ Furr, M. (n.d.). Why and How to Use EFL Literature Circles. Retrieved from http://www.eflliteraturecircles.com/ Resources You can access printable copies of level tests and Pearson Longman’s helpful guide for choosing a book according to genre at http://www.penguinreaders.com/pr/teachers/index.html

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SiSAL Journal Vol. 2, No. 1, March, 2011, 39-42

Overview of “Splendid Speaking” Website (http://splendid-speaking.com) Peter Travis, Splendid Learning, UK

Background It is natural for adult learners preparing for upper-intermediate and advanced speaking examinations like the Cambridge Certificate in Advanced English (CAE), the Business English Certificate (BEC) or International English Language Teaching System (IELTS) to feel daunted by the Speaking examination. Having their spoken English assessed ‘live’ in a high stakes situation can be quite stressful. To perform at their best in the exam learners need to be able to contribute fully to the various task formats within their spoken exam. Students preparing for these exams need to have regular practice in responding fully to questions, working cooperatively with a partner, and generally taking the opportunity to showcase their use of English. In our experience there was little in the way of freely-available structured materials for advanced speaking skills online. We decided we would like to help learners preparing for their respective exams as well as general upper intermediate to advanced students wishing to develop their speaking skills. We launched splendid-speaking.com in 2006.

Splendid Speaking Format/Structure Splendid Speaking is a website aimed at upper-intermediate to advanced level learners with a particular emphasis on ELT exam candidates. The website contains a variety of freely available materials including:

‘Splendid Speaking Podcasts’: recordings of advanced EFL students carrying out examstyle speaking tasks,

a daily ‘Splendid Expressions’ quiz to learn colloquial expressions,

EFL Speaking exam guides

our “Get Speaking” task sheets (the material we are focussing on in this review), 39


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“Get Speaking” Task Sheets The Get Speaking task sheets are designed to be used both by teachers to support their speaking classes and also by self-study learners to help them enhance their oral skills, their vocabulary range and to develop speaking strategies for their English Speaking exam. There are 26 task sheets in total and we make one of them available each week as a free download. The 26 task sheets include topics such as the world of music, language learning, community issues and winning the lottery. The Get Speaking task sheets have been designed to be as simple and as compact as possible to enable all activities to be presented in one A4 sheet. Each task sheet comes with two tasks, an exam style presentation or long turn and either a discussion or role play. The sheets are broken down into 5 sections: 1. The main speaking task which consists of a short presentation, discussion topic or interview task 2. This is followed by help with planning of the task with a focus on using a particular strategy, For example, using an anecdote to start a presentation, or using open-ended questions in a discussion. Some other strategies include: •

practising active listening in discussions and role plays

responding fully to questions

thinking on your feet when making spontaneous talks

signposting talks

working towards reaching an agreement.

3. There is then a more open-ended secondary task on a similar topic.

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4. Each sheet contains a list of useful topic vocabulary that relates to the speaking topics and either a list of functional language or popular ‘sayings’ or ‘proverbs’ to be used in either the long turn or the discussion/role play.

5. Finally there is a reference to the accompanying sample podcast. These audio recordings consist of a student or pair of students carrying out one of the tasks. The focus of the podcasts is two-fold: firstly, to help the participating students improve their confidence through structured speaking tasks, and, secondly, to demystify the examination for other students who can download and listen to the recorded speaking tasks. The podcasts have three components: •

an introduction to the skill and context

the interview itself

and feedback on the speaker’s performance.

The beauty of the Splendid Speaking podcasts is that listeners are supported with transcripts and listening tasks, which can be helpful to teachers and learners alike. Consequently, self-study students using these recordings in conjunction with the Get Speaking task sheets will have further guidance before attempting these tasks themselves.

Recommendations for Learners and Teachers For self-study learners using the sheets as well as teachers, we recommend the following steps:

1) Download and listen to the featured recording regularly. Students are alerted to the latest recording through the website and through our weekly newsletter which visitors to the website can sign up to. http://www.splendid-speaking.com/form/splendid_speaking_subscribe.html

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2) Follow us on Facebook. To help overcome the difficulties posed by the remote relationship self-study learners have with each other we have created several Facebook pages for upperintermediate and advanced learners. More information can be found here: http://www.splendid-speaking.com/extras/facebook.html

3) Use Get Speaking task sheet with online Facebook partners.

4) Assess your speaking skills using the downloadable Grade Sheet http://www.splendid-speaking.com/products/task_sheets/grade.html or help other learners by providing constructive feedback based on the Grade Sheet.

5) Students can also follow our Twitter feed which includes the use of colloquial expressions in most Tweets. http://www.splendid-speaking.com/learn/english_phrases.html

Teachers can of course use the task sheets as a supplement to their existing speaking materials or use them as a single source.

Further information about the Get Speaking task sheets and the Splendid Speaking podcasts can be found on the teacher’s area of Splendid Speaking: http://www.splendid-speaking.com/teachers/index.html

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Learning Strategy Sheets: Supporting Advisors and Learners Katherine Thornton, Kanda University of International Studies, Japan

The Context Learning advisors working at Kanda University of International Studies (KUIS) in Japan are available for consultation on language learning matters with any students, who are all language majors, or members of staff who would like some assistance with their language learning. Consultations with advisors are entirely voluntary and take place predominantly in English, the working language of the Self Access Learning Centre (SALC), and the L2 of most of our students. Learners may either reserve a 30 minute session with an advisor of their choice, or visit the Learning Help Desk in the SALC, which is manned throughout the day by one of our 9 full-time advisors.

The “Problem” On a day-to-day basis as learning advisors, we are faced with a number of challenges. In a single day, an advisor may find herself talking to one learner about selecting appropriate resources for learning vocabulary, another about how to maintain motivation, and to yet someone else about how to evaluate their writing skills. In addition to being expected to respond quickly and appropriately to any issue a learner may choose to raise, we must be aware, as most of our advising takes place in our learners’ L2, to engage with the learner using language which they can understand, while still presenting our ideas and suggestions in a non-prescriptive way. Becoming comfortable with this degree of spontaneity is one of the most difficult aspects of an advisor’s development. Moreover, the learner often expects an easy fix to the problem to be provided by an all-knowing advisor. A new advisor, or even a more experienced one, may feel uncomfortable cast in this role as an expert. While all advisors are educated to at least Masters level in either TESOL or applied linguistics and can be expected to be reasonably familiar with many learning strategies to share and explore with learners, this knowledge can take years to build up. We all have different areas

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of expertise and interest and so can sometimes find ourselves unsure of how to advise learners with specific learning questions. Supporting Advising Sessions: Developing the Strategy Sheets In developing our knowledge and understanding of learning strategies, the advisors at our institution have drawn on a number of sources: 1) Discussions with other advisors 2) Workshops or conference presentations from other professionals 3) The literature on learning strategies One book, Rubin and Thompson’s (1994) How to be a more successful language learner, has been particularly helpful to me. Chapters from this book provide an excellent introduction to learning strategies, and I started to use these ideas to help me advise on strategies in sessions with learners. Among other things, it features short self-assessments of strategy use for learners and detailed descriptions of strategies, divided into each skill area. Although this was a useful scaffold for myself as an inexperienced advisor, I started to feel uncomfortable as a gatekeeper of such knowledge. Why should advisors be the only ones with access to this material, choosing when and with whom to share it? However beneficial for ourselves, I considered this book to be unsuitable for our learners as a self-access resource and, along with my colleague, started to think of ways of making this information more accessible to them. We decided to adapt the questions from the original self-assessment questionnaire, adding to them, making them more directly relevant to our students, and organizing them more logically, usually into pre-, during and post- learning sections. After getting feedback from other advisors and revising the language and organization of the questions on each sheet, we finally produced six language strategy sheets relating to different skill areas (please see appendix for one example). Copies were made available in each relevant section of the SALC, and at the Learning Help Desk, where many advising sessions take place, and in advising rooms. Each sheet contains 8 – 10 Likert scale questions about how often the learner uses that particular strategy, with key words highlighted in bold. By answering the questions, the learner !

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can understand more clearly which strategies they already use and increase their awareness about ways to study that they might not have encountered before. As each strategy is presented in question form, the questionnaire could be regarded as a starting point for reflection and discussion and in this way we could avoid spoon-feeding our learners, something we were keen to prevent in our role as promoters of learner autonomy. As the strategies that may be discussed further are ones that the learners have selected themselves, rather than being presented by the advisor, the session can be more learner-centred. In addition, through taking time to read the strategies presented in the sheets, learners are relieved of the burdening of accessing such information through their conversation with the advisor. This is particularly beneficial for lower proficiency learners, who may find it difficult to process information through listening, preferring to read at their own pace. A final advantage of the sheets is the way in which they can help learners to become familiar with some technical vocabulary, which will aid their future interaction with advisors.

Suggested Usage

In an advising session Once a learner, either independently or with help from an advisor, has identified an area of their language skills that they would like to work on, the advisor can provide the sheet for that particular skill and have the learner complete it during the session. Once it has been completed, the learner should be able to talk about the strategies they already use, and ones they may like to try. Here the advisor could model or explain strategies which may not be clear. The advisor can guide the learner into connecting the strategies with their goals, helping them select suitable ones for their own learning. In this way the sheet can lend structure to a session, aiding the learner’s comprehension and providing some support for a less confident advisor. By presenting a readymade list of possible strategies in one skill area, the advisor is relieved of the burden of both recalling multiple strategies from memory, and presenting them to learners in a way that does not overwhelm the learner. This is particularly useful if the student’s focus is not a specialty for that advisor.

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In a classroom-based scenario Learners choose focus areas (based on a previous needs analysis) and then complete the strategy sheet for that skill individually. Once completed they compare with a partner or a small group and discuss the strategies they already use and new ones they might like to try, based on their responses on the strategy sheet. The teacher can elicit popular ideas or model various strategies if necessary. A follow-up activity could be to try one new strategy for a period of time, document the process and reflect on its usefulness. This could take the form of individual diaries, presentations or class/group discussions. Used independently by students If the strategy sheets are made available in a Self Access Centre, or similar facility, students can read and complete them at their own pace. At KUIS, the sheets have been placed in each skill section of our SAC for students to take as and when they want to complete them. Simple instructions are provided, and readers are urged to find out more about the strategies by consulting an advisor. In this way, we hope to encourage learners who may want to visit an advisor, but are not sure what to talk about, to talk to us, using the strategy sheet as a starting point, or a scaffold for the interaction. While it is impossible to tell exactly how many students are using them, advisors do occasionally report learners coming to them who have already taken and completed a strategy sheet.

A Work in Progress These strategy sheets are part of an ongoing project designed to provide more structure to advising sessions at our institution, and we are in the process of collecting feedback on how they are being used. Anecdotal evidence from teachers suggests that they may be very useful as a basis for classroom activities and discussion, and some advisors have reported using them successfully in advising sessions. Doubts have also been expressed, however, about whether learners using them without support from a teacher or advisor would be able to understand the strategies described, as they are in question form, or be able comprehend the sheets on their own. We encourage advisors and teachers interested in strategy instruction to adapt and use these sheets in their own contexts, if they think they would be useful. Any feedback to the author would be greatly appreciated. !

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Notes on the contributor Katherine Thornton is the academic coordinator and learning advisor at the Self-Access Learning Centre (SALC), Kanda University of International Studies, Japan. She is president of the Japan Association for Self-Access Learning. References Rubin, J., & Thompson, I. (1996). How to be a more successful language learner. Boston: Heinle and Heinle.

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Studies in Self-Access Learning Journal, 2(1)