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Anaheim University 2021 TESOL Open Conference
Blog post by ORTESOL member Linda Rasmussen
Anaheim (California) University shared its online Open Sessions with the public on Saturday evening, August 28. Last year, due to the pandemic, the University offered free, public attendance to the entire conference, and it was of such high quality and educational level that I again attended all available sessions this year and am excited to reflect on their key concepts for you, according to the schedule:
Sandra McKay "The need for diversity and inclusion in ELT textbooks" (Dr. McKay is an AU TESOL professor, an international educator, and author of books such as Teaching and Assessing EIL in local contexts around the world, with J.D. Brown, 2016, Routledge. https://anaheim.edu/schools-and-institutes/graduate-school-of-education/diploma-in-tesol/faculty/243-about/faculty-and-staff/tesol-faculty/1742-dr-sandra-mckay.html)
David Nunan / Julie Choi "How do we know what our learners need? (How) Do they know what they need?" (Dr. Nunan is TESOL Institute Director, founding Dean of the A. U. Graduate School of Education, former President of TESOL International Association, and wrote the world’s most popular ESOL textbook series, "Go For It." https://www.anaheim.edu/about-david-nunan.html
A former student of Dr. Nunan’s, Dr. Choi is an Anaheim University Alumnus, University of Melbourne Senior Lecturer in Education in Additional Languages, author and contributor to publications such as Immigrant and Refugee Women’s Resourcefulness in English Language Classrooms: Emerging possibilities through plurilingualism, 2017. ).
Rod Ellis "Pre-task planning for Writing" (Dr. Ellis is a leader in Second Language Acquisition, is Anaheim University Senior TESOL Professor and Founding Department Chair, as well as the author of The Study of Second Language Acquisition, 2008, Oxford Press. https://www.anaheim.edu/schools-and-institutes/graduate-school-of-education/doctor-of-education-in-tesol/243-about/faculty-and-staff/tesol-faculty/50-rod-ellis-phd.html).
Although the title "The need for diversity and inclusion in ELT textbooks" sounded like much information since the murder of George Floyd, I attended, looking for review and hoping for further learning. Dr. Sandra McKay astounded me by extending to other countries the US movement for diversity and inclusion of all marginalized peoples. With us, she used the example of Japanese English Language Training (ELT) texts to examine representation of marginalized peoples, confirming for me what many teachers anticipate in worldwide publications. Just as we have encountered in the US, other countries’ resources focus on narrow, possibly stereotypical, English language speakers and/or learners, omitting the inclusion of diverse people. Dr. McKay explained and identified Japanese texts that include historical cultures and social issues outside their own nation. In contrast, current diversity, especially in migrant populations, and domestic social issues are neglected. Appealing to the attendees from Argentina to Canada, Portugal to Japan, and Russia to Australia, Dr. McKay instructed how teachers in their own countries can prompt publishers to include all “types” of students, as well as all types of fluent speakers. An ELL student in Missouri (or anywhere else) should not be surprised that a blind man from Haiti uses fluent English. From my professional experience, Dr. McKay deserves a standing ovation, besides our active response to her lead in extending diversity and inclusion in all nations.
True to Anaheim University’s character, "How do we know what our learners need? (How) Do they know what they need?" was equally compelling. After an introductory chat with Dr. Nunan, Dr. Choi presented a paper of research that seemed to have been a milestone in her own professional development. Warts and all, she revealed struggles in teaching low (natively) literate ELL’s and her enlightenment to understanding students’ experiences and needs. Dr. Choi displayed actual sections of her work “How do ‘we’ know what ‘they’ need? Learning together through duoethnography and English language teaching to immigrant and refugee women” (2018). She and a colleague found their teaching fell far from their goal of student-centered instruction when realizing illiterate students cannot explain their education or needs on a written questionnaire! The instructors explained their whole learning process in their documentation, and Dr. Choi admitted that she still wonders how to communicate with low-level language learners (which I believe is the same information every effective teacher of any subject constantly seeks). She emphasize our humanity and the “acts of love” we all need to provide each other.
Finally, Dr. Ellis rephrased his presentation title to ask “Does planning before writing help?” and provided us with factors to consider in deciding whether or not to teach pre-writing to ELL students. By thoroughly analyzing existing research, Dr. Ellis offered these considerations:
fluency, in the expression of ideas, or accuracy of writing mechanics, compete for the writer’s focus
planning usually increases fluency, sometimes complexity, but not accuracy
therefore, a personal narrative will be more fluent that a structured essay
studying planning improves planning
technology assists accuracy
clear instructions on planning are the “key”
planning in L1 or L2 makes no difference in the final writing product
collaborative planning might help accuracy but not fluency
lower level ELLs do not benefit from planning as much as advanced
writers or students who like planning benefit most from it
Unfortunately, I have not accessed the recordings of these sessions in the Anaheim University 2021 TESOL Open Conference so my interpretation here is all I can offer now. If I receive information about videos of these three, at least, besides the entire 3-day conference, I will again share as much as I can. Again, the last two years that I have attended this online conference have greatly impressed and benefited me. Sharing the information with my ORTESOL peers is my “act of love.”
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