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Presented at Liberlit 2016, Tokyo Christian Women’s University, February 22nd, 2016

Abstract

The obstacles to the teaching of literature in a foreign language are many. Learners can struggle with lexical and grammatical complexity, idiomatic or metaphorical expressions, and contextual misunderstandings. These obstacles should not prevent teachers from introducing literature, however. This presenter suggests a three stage approach to literature in language classes. In the first stage, the teacher introduces the source material by recasting it via its adaptations (such as comic books, graded readers, television, radio or cinema versions). In the second stage, the learners recycle cultural and linguistic elements to demonstrate their understanding of the literature. Finally, the learners respond to the piece by remixing it and creating a version of their own, in relation to their own cultural context. By allowing the learners to understand foreign language literature on their own terms, we can provide the liminal space for intercultural development.

Introduction

Lazar (1993) identifies three models for working with literature in language classes.

1. Language-based literature teaching, which uses literature primarily as a source for language to study and analyse.
2. Literature as content, in which the students cover specific literary texts in much the same way that they might in their first language.
3. Literature for personal enrichment, in which learners use literature in order to become more intellectually and emotionally involved in language learning.

Does the teacher focus on literature through language, or language though literature? If literature is the focus of academic study and the goal is better understanding of the themes and theory of literature in English, the teacher will need to provide language support – perhaps very little at the graduate level, but maybe a great deal for undergraduates. I would posit that the average university undergraduate in Japan lacks sufficient English proficiency to study literature without significant scaffolding. Thus it may be more profitable to switch our focus and teach language through literature. I would suggest that many of our undergraduates are potentially capable of thinking critically about literature, it is just that they lack practice. Lazar’s models are not mutually exclusive. By using a creative multiliteracy approach I believe we can enable our learners to reach a greater understanding of literature in another language.

What is Literature?

Unsatisfactory as it may be, much like ‘art’, ‘literature’ can anything named as such. If it is deemed so by cultural arbiters, it may be recognised as literature. We can also say that literature foregrounds language and / or has an aesthetic element. In comparison to other texts, literature tends to leave space for interpretation (consider the importance of clarity and precision in an instruction manual or a train timetable as a counterpoint). Finally, I think literature contains the possibility for universality. To quote the theme for this conference..

“Literature conveys subtle truths universal to the human condition. The best study of literature engenders personal responses in student readers and allows them to achieve moments of epiphany, discovery and personal transformation.”

Bringing Literature to the Learner

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There are many ways in which learners can be supported linguistically and cognitively in their efforts to learn from English literature. I propose a three stage cycle.

Recasting
Activities for activating schemata and preparing the learner for the source material. These activities may use reference materials (such as news videos or short biographical readings) to support contextual or content knowledge, or may involve pre-teaching challenging but significant vocabulary.

Recycling
Activities for exploring the source material together. These activities could focus on the dramatic aspects of the work (such as readers’ theatre) or look at the text critically (as with reading circles).

Remixing
Activities for expanding on and responding to the source material. These activities may be personal (such as asking the learner to write a letter to a character), or collaborative (like staging a recreation of a scene or making a trailer for a cinematic version)

Case Study One: Never Let Me Go

In Kazuo Ishiguro’s 2005 novel, the reader follows narrator Kathy H and her classmates Tommy D and Ruth C as they leave the ‘protective’ environment of their boarding school, Hailsham, and make their way in the world as carers and donors.

Recast

There are some complex ethical, cultural and scientific aspects to this story, and in order to help the learners approach the book / film with confidence these can be introduced through discussion and short video clips. We considered images of the traditional English boarding school, organ donation and cloning and the students were asked to speculate on how these may be connected in the novel. We concluded by watching the trailer for the film and discussing the opening quote.

The breakthrough in medical science came in 1952.
Doctors could now cure the previously incurable.
By 1967, life expectancy passed 100 years.

The uncomfortable truths in ‘Never Let Me Go’ are masked by euphemisms (death is ‘completion’, for example), and there are other terms used frequently in the book which have a special significance . I collected these into simplified glossaries and had students explain their lists to one another.

Recycle

Hailsham, the school which the main characters attend as children, dominates the narrative as a place of both comfort and fear. I selected three passages from early in the novel, in which Kathy H discusses the pavilion, the woods and the sales. Each student read a different passage, then presented it to their classmates.

Remix

Students are asked to respond to the story with short creative writing pieces. They also dramatise short passages from the script and stage them in their own context, or record short conversations between characters which didn’t take place in the book (for example, a discussion between Miss Emily and Madame, after Tommy and Kathy leave their home with Tommy’s artwork).

Some of the materials used for ‘Never Let Me Go’ and ‘Emma / Clueless’ can be found at the website I developed for the film class I teach. You can also find more information on student film making there.

Further Reading

Ali, S. (1993). The reader-response approach: An alternative for teaching literature in a second language. Journal of Reading, 37(4), 288-296.

Day, R. R., & Bamford, J. (1998). Extensive Reading in the Second Language Classroom. Cambridge University Press.

Culler, J. (1997). Literary Theory: A very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford Paperbacks.

Cumming-Potvin, W. (2007). Scaffolding, multiliteracies, and reading circles. Canadian Journal of Education/Revue canadienne de l’éducation, 483-507.

Erten, I. H., & Razi, S. (2009). The Effects of Cultural Familiarity on Reading Comprehension. Reading in a Foreign Language, 21(1), 60-77.

Gersten, R., & Jimenez, R. T. (1994). A delicate balance: Enhancing literature instruction for students of English as a second language. The Reading Teacher, 47(6), 438-449.

Hedgcock, J., & Ferris, D. R. (2009). Teaching readers of English: Students, texts, and contexts. Routledge.

Lazar, G. (1993). Literature and Language Teaching: A guide for Teachers and Trainers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lazar, G. (1994). Using literature at lower levels. ELT journal, 48(2), 115-124.

Liu, J. (2000). The power of readers theater: From reading to writing. ELT Journal, 54(4), 354-361.

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An Interview with Zakia Sarwar from darren elliott on Vimeo.

In February 2015 I attended the NELTA conference in Kathmandu, Nepal and was fortunate to meet Zakia Sarwar. NELTA is an important regional conference so as well as the ‘local’ attendees (many of whom had travelled great distances across Nepal) there were large contingents from India, Bangladesh and Dr. Sarwar’s country of Pakistan.

Dr. Sarwar is probably best know for her work with The Society of Pakistan English Teachers (SPELT), of which she is a founder member. They have a number of publications, and invite submissions. Please have a look!

At the NELTA conference Dr. Sarwar presented on her projects promoting learner autonomy and working with large classes, collaborating internationally, and these topics we discussed in our interview. Dr. Sarwar maintains a personal website which you can visit to read more about her research (and also to read some of her delightful juvenilia).

Please subscribe on iTunes for the irregular podcast, and visit us on Facebook or twitter for sporadic updates. I’m not the social media slave I once was, but I think these interviews are still finding an audience. I’m currently submitting proposals for 2016 conferences in Japan and internationally, and have an eye on a number of interview subjects. Thank you for your continued support!

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An Interview with David Hayes from darren elliott on Vimeo.

In February of this year I was fortunate enough to visit Kathmandu for the NELTA conference. As an outsider and an observer I felt the conference itself had a very interesting dynamic. It seemed to me that as the local organisers and the foreign developmental agencies seemed to respectfully dance around each other, trying to balance financial support, advice and autonomy. In that kind of situation it can be awkward for a foreign presenter to be parachuted in – feted as an ‘expert’ yet with little understanding of the local context. Overall, I think the outside agencies try their very hardest to offer support without overpowering the recipients of that support, but I don’t know …. I’d be interested to read your comments on the topic below, or even in a private message if it’s too delicate to discuss.

However, in David Hayes, I think the organisers identified someone who could offer insights to his audience. David has worked all over the world and been involved in teacher development projects in many different contexts. We talk about some of them here, as well as teacher training and development in general.

The next NELTA conference will take place in March 2016. Sadly, there are still many people who need support after the devastating earthquake of 2015. At the time of the earthquake there were a number of Nepali-led local groups who were very active. As the relief efforts have become less urgent some of these have wound down, but if you would like to support the reconstruction there is still a lot to be done. For long term benefits, Room to Read has a strong programme in Nepal. If you know of any other small but effective charities, please comment below.

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An Interview with Melinda Dooly and Shannon Sauro from darren elliott on Vimeo.

I interviewed Melinda Dooly and Shannon Sauro at EUROCALL 2015 in Padova, Italy. They talk here about their experience working on international educational research projects, particularly in telecollaboration, and managing the practical, legal and ethical requirements of such projects. Potentially very problematic, but also very important.

Just to let you ‘behind the curtain’ at Lives of Teachers HQ, I approached this interview in a slightly different fashion from the others on the site. Usually I attend a conference with one or two interviews in mind, and I often contact potential interviewees in advance and read some of their work beforehand. I wasn’t aware of Shannon or Melinda before I saw their presentation, but I was so impressed I asked them if they would spare a little time to talk, and this is what you see here. I had a great experience at the conference, partly because it was in a beautiful place, and partly because it was packed with very clever people explaining interesting things well.

If you enjoy this interview, please check out more in the archives. You can subscribe to the podcast version on iTunes, and follow on email, twitter or Facebook for updates – check out the sidebar for the links.

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An Interview with Robert O' Dowd from darren elliott on Vimeo.

I met with Robert O’ Dowd at the EUROCALL2015 Conference in Padova, Italy in August and had a really interesting conversation about telecollaboration. If you know anything at all about the topic you will have heard of Dr. O’ Dowd, as he is amongst the leading figures in the field. If you don’t know anything about it, then watch this short video and learn!

Dr. O’ Dowd has been involved in the INTENT project and the development of UNI-Collaboration amongst many other projects. Although I had heard of telecollaboration (and it’s variants) I was surprised at the number of projects in progress in Europe and beyond. For example, I learnt about TILA and SOLIYA as other examples of teachers and students striving to build linguistic and intercultural understanding.

If you like this interview, please visit the interview index to find many more. I’ll be posting more in the coming weeks. You can also subscribe to the audio podcast version via iTunes. The updates are sporadic, but the archive is building!

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Presented at the 48th annual meeting of the British Association for Applied Linguistics (BAAL), Aston University, Birmingham, UK on September 4th, 2015

Abstract

In order to make sense of abstract thought, humans have developed a rich facility for metaphor. These metaphors are loaded with meanings to be unpacked and interpreted. Research into education has a strong tradition of metaphor analysis, utilising metaphors for education to categorise differing attitudes towards the learning process. This work suggests the potential of metaphors as a shorthand for attitude systems. If this promise can be realised then researchers will have a powerful tool at hand.

This study seeks to test the hypothesis that learners’ metaphors for learning may reveal something about their perspectives and attitudes, with a particular focus on learner autonomy. In this study, the researcher assessed the propensity of Japanese university students for autonomous language learning using a survey developed by Shimo (2008), in addition to classroom observation. The same students were asked to complete short sentence fragments ‘A teacher is …’, ‘A student is…’, and ‘A classroom is…’ using metaphors, in writing. The complete sentences were subject to content analysis and followed up with one-to-one interviews.

Literature

The analysis of the metaphors employed by teachers and / or learners is a well-established technique. Herron (1982) and later Nattinger (1984) attempted to put language teaching methodologies into metaphorical contexts. Herron suggested that the grammar translation method was equivalent to gymnastic training – both require exertion and practice in order to attain proficiency. Nattinger’s disquiet in attempting to apply a computational metaphor to the relatively new methodology (at that time) of communicative language teaching perhaps reflects the computer’s place in society at that time; as computer technology has become entangled with human life, the human brain as computer metaphor has become dominant.

The relationships between metaphor, thought and society are fluid. As some work to express complex systems or ideas with metaphors, others analyse the metaphors we use to find out what lies beneath. Oxford et al. (1998) undertook an extensive survey of teacher and researcher narratives, and organised teachers’ conceptions into four major philosophical viewpoints on education; social order, cultural transmission, leaner-centred growth and social reform. Education as social order, for example, contains metaphors in the teacher as manufacturer subset suggesting a focus on efficiency, uniformity and end product.

de Guerrero & Villamil (2002) categorised the teacher’s role by metaphor into nine groupings as follows.

(category) (example) (counterpoint)
teacher as co-operative leader movie director learner as active participant
teacher as provider of knowledge TV set learner as recipient of knowledge
teacher as challenger or agent of change lion tamer learner as object of change
teacher as nurturer gardener learner as developing organism
teacher as innovator explorer learner as resistor
teacher as provider of tools tool carrier learner as constructor
teacher as artist potter learner as raw material
teacher as repairer mechanic learner as defective individual
teacher as gym instructor aerobics trainer learner as gymnast

Research has shown that the favoured metaphors people use reflect their attitudes and perceptions. For this study, I wanted to test the connection between metaphor and learner autonomy. The challenge was to measure autonomy. Learner autonomy is multidimensional and dynamic (Benson, 2013) and thus very hard to measure effectively. I drew on two previous studies, both of which took place in higher education in Japan.

Shimo (2008) attempted to discover if the level of self-perceived learner autonomy was linked to language proficiency. From a working definition of learner autonomy as the capacity to take responsibility for one’s own learning, she created a survey which assessed three domains; orientation for reflecting on learning processes, orientation for enhancing learning opportunities and orientation for reflecting on language abilities. The resulting eighteen question tool was a useful starting point for my study.

Murase (2015) developed a far more imposing questionnaire of 113 points, in an attempt to measure autonomy across four dimensions; technical, psychological, political-philosophical and socio-cultural.

dimension definition example statement
technical the ability to set goals, plan learning and study independently I set achievable goals in learning English.
psychological motivational and affective factors If I worry about learning English, I know how I can cope with it.
political-philosophical attitudes towards authority and hierarchy Students should always follow their teacher’s instructions.
socio-cultural orientation towards other learners and cultural differences in learning If I am doing something different from other students, I feel worried.

Methodology

For this study, I melded elements from both questionnaires to focus on the learners orientation to others (other learners and teachers), self-awareness, and the technical capacity to practice independent learning. Students were asked to mark their level of agreement with a series of statements on a five point scale. The questionnaire was administered in Japanese to five classes of second year English majors at a Japanese women’s university. A translation of the final 26 point questionnaire is attached here.

Next, the same students were asked to complete four sentences with metaphors; A teacher is like____, A language learner is like___,A classroom is like___,Language learning is like____. They were also asked to give reasons for their metaphor selection.

Finally, the students were invited to semi-structured interviews. The first part of each interview related to their language learning experience and attitudes, and in the second part they were asked to select pictures which best matched their metaphors for learning, These pictures were generated from the learners’ questionnaires.

Discussion

The larger data set (the first two questionnaires) is still under analysis, so here I would like to focus on just one of the students who agreed to be interviewed; ‘Melanie’.

Metaphors and Autonomy BAAL Extract.001

 

Melanie has a very strong orientation to learning with others, but she still expresses a level of dependance on the teacher. These are some of the comments she makes at the beginning of our interview.

Metaphors and Autonomy BAAL Extract.002

Next we look at a selection of pictures, generated from the student questionnaires. The first picture she selects is an image of god, taken from Michelangelo’s ‘Creation of Adam’. Metaphors and Autonomy BAAL Extract.003

This metaphor is in line with her learner autonomy measurement, although there is a certain level of self-awareness that wasn’t previously apparent.

Talking of the class, she shows how important the social aspect of learning is for her.

Metaphors and Autonomy BAAL Extract.004

Her metaphors for learning are intriguing. She comes across as very optimistic, which reflects her strong ‘affective’ score on the measurement. But it seems that she sees positive and negative situations as something to be borne or muddled through, out of her control. This bears out the lower score she received for technical autonomy on the measurement.

Metaphors and Autonomy BAAL Extract.005

Metaphors and Autonomy BAAL Extract.006

Metaphors and Autonomy BAAL Extract.007

In the slide show below you can see more.

My Teacher is a Watering Can: Metaphors and Autonomous Learning by Darren Elliott

References

Benson, P. (2013). Teaching and researching: Autonomy in language learning. Oxford: Routledge.

de Guerrero, M. C., & Villamil, O. S. (2002). Metaphorical conceptualizations of ESL teaching and learning. Language teaching research, 6 (2), 95-120.

Herron, C. (1982). Foreign‐Language Learning Approaches as Metaphor. The Modern Language Journal, 66 (3), p. 235-242.

Mahlios, M., Massengill‐Shaw, D., & Barry, A. (2010). Making sense of teaching through metaphors: A review across three studies. Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice, 16 (1), 49-71.

Murase, F. (2015). Measuring Language Learner Autonomy: Problems and Possibilities. In Everhard, C. J., & Murphy, L. (Eds.). Assessment and Autonomy in Language Learning. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Nattinger, J. R. (1984). Communicative language teaching: A new metaphor. Tesol Quarterly, 18 (3), 391-407.

Oxford, R. L., Tomlinson, S., Barcelos, A., Harrington, C., Lavine, R. Z., Saleh, A., & Longhini, A. (1998). Clashing metaphors about classroom teachers: Toward a systematic typology for the language teaching field. System, 26 (1), 3-50.

Shimo, E. (2008). Learner autonomy and English language proficiency: An exploration among Non-English majors at a Japanese university. 近畿大学語学教育部紀要 (Kinki University Department of Language Education bulletin). Vol.8, No.2, p.153- 178

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Presented at EUROCALL 2015, University of Padua, August 27th, 2015

The Background

When the university I was working at bought a set of small video cameras, I was intrigued. I started playing around with them in class, first I had the learners record and transcribe conversations, then I guided them to make skits and instructional videos. You can see some of the projects I have worked on previously here.

Over the last few years since I first began using student video, there have been two major developments. The first is the ubiquity of smartphone technology. We have now reached the point (in my context, at least) at which almost every student has a video recording and editing suite in his or her pocket. The next development, obviously connected to the first, is the rise of online video. YouTube, Vine, Facebook, Instagram, LINE; this is what our students are watching. Instead of television? Perhaps.

I had these ideas in mind when I was presented with the opportunity to teach an advanced and an intermediate communication class at a local university. I had carte blanche, and I decided to make this a video project class. I set up a website to deliver the content, and chose a number of different video genres (some traditional, some more modern) to analyse and replicate with the learners.

I decided from the start to allow the students a lot of freedom in how they produced the videos. I suggested different methods, but gave very little technical instruction unless asked. My goal was to allow them to use the tools with which they were most comfortable, to take responsibility for their own learning, and to support each other. I wanted very much to avoid ‘technological determinism’ – the tools were secondary to the learners and their products.

To begin, it was necessary to find out what they had, what they could already do, and what they thought.
Fortunately, every single student had a smartphone.

Eurocall Extract.001

Recording is always easy. The main challenges in student produced video are editing and sharing the completed file. Unfortunately, my favoured tools were unfamiliar.

Eurocall Extract 2.001

The students were mixed in their willingness to share online. Some were quite keen.

Eurocall Extract.001

Others were more conservative, and actually quite naive.

Eurocall Extract.002

Eurocall Extract.003

There were also some differences in their familiarity with editing software.

Eurocall Extract.004

But for pretty much everyone, the smartphone would be the tool of choice.

Eurocall Extract 2.001

The learners’ first task was to create a self-introduction video and deliver it to me. This example took me a few minutes, using the apps Splice and Vimo on an iPhone 6.

An Introduction to Darren Elliott from darren elliott on Vimeo.

The students fared quite well, and were able to teach each other the techniques they had used to broaden the knowledge base of the whole class.

At this point, we started the project work. Please visit the individual pages at the website to see how each project developed.

News Report

YouTube Movie Review

Directors Commentary

Subtitling

Vlogging

TED Talk

Soap Opera

For each of the projects, we analysed quintessential examples and tried to replicate them. For example, the YouTube movie review is delivered straight to camera with jump cuts and onscreen text and pictures. Soap operas tend to cut between the actors and dwell on reaction shots in close up. TED Talks begin with a personal story and lead in to the message.

What I found was that, although learners had technical trouble with hardware and software, they were generally very adept at replicating style accurately. For example, the background music may have been too loud, but the actual song fit perfectly with the style of video the learner was making.

To conclude the semester, the students interviewed one another (on video, of course) using this list of suggested questions.

broadcasting-final-questions

I’d like to highlight a few common responses.

Firstly, the students almost all referred to technical skills when asked what they had learnt. Editing skills, adding audio commentary and subtitling, these were the things they took home from the course. Some of them had used their new skills in other classes, others in their personal lives.

The most popular project across both classes was the subtitling project. This was quite challenging technically, but it allowed the students to express their creativity and also to talk about issues which affected them directly. This also came out in the TED talks and the news reports – students tended to choose local issues and topics important to them as university students.

Finally, there was a shift in attitudes towards their smartphones. Most of the learners had initially seen their phones as communication tools. Actually, I believe that if they had assessed their use more carefully they may have found they were using their devices to consume, create and share media too. However, the general perception of the smartphone was that its main function was text messaging. By the end of the course, many of the students reported a broader view of their phones and of their own relationship with their devices.

If you attended my presentation in Padova, thank you! If you didn’t, thank you for reading. Either way, I’d be happy to hear your questions or comments below.

Bibliography
Goodwyn, A. (2003). English teaching and the moving image. Routledge.

Marshall, J., & Werndly, A. (2002). The language of television. Routledge.

Potter, J. (2012). Digital media and learner identity: The new curatorship. Palgrave Macmillan.

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An Interview with Laxman Gnawali from darren elliott on Vimeo.

In February of this year I visited Kathmandu for the second time in my life, this time in a professional capacity, and had a great experience hosted by the good people of NELTA. Amongst them, Dr. Laxman Gnawali, who I present here. Dr. Gnawali has contributed a great deal to the success of NELTA over the last few years, helping it become a model for other national teaching associations. Nepal has its challenges, but I met many, many wonderful people who had gathered from across the country to share ideas and enthusiasm. My overwhelming impression from my visit was that of burgeoning self-confidence and pride in the achievements of the association and its members.

In this spirit, after the terrible earthquake of April 2015, I’d like to encourage you all to support NELTA and its affiliates in trying to help those who need it most. The Jai Nepal Youth Group is a group of Kathmandu University graduates and other professional volunteers who are working right now to get supplies out to neglected areas. One of the organisers, Umes Shrestha, was interviewed as IH scholar at the recent IATEFL conference in Manchester. NELTA itself is involved in relief work, and perhaps the best place to keep up to date with them is via Facebook. Other aid agencies are now on the ground and taking contributions.

There will be more to do after the dust has settled, so please continue to support Nepal and don’t let this story just fade away out of international sight.

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An Interview with Claire Kramsch from darren elliott on Vimeo.

I spent a very enjoyable half an hour talking with Claire Kramsch at the 2014 JALT National conference in Tsukuba, Japan, and here it is for your perusal. Professor Kramsch is the director of the Berkeley Language Center, a teacher of German, and a researcher with an extensive body of work related to culture and language, discourse and language pedagogy.

If you like this interview, please subscribe to the podcast on iTunes to hear more as soon as they are released, and tell your teaching friends!

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An Interview with Thomas Farrell from darren elliott on Vimeo.

Reflective practice is a way for professionals (in education, social work, medicine and many other fields) to assess their work and manage their own development. Even if you don’t know it by name you may well have engaged in a form of reflective practice in formal or informal training programmes. In this interview we discussed reflective practice, what it is, what it isn’t, and where it’s going.

I’ve done quite a lot of these interviews now, and everyone I have spoken to has been gracious and thoughtful. Some of the interviewees I knew little about before I spoke to them but in preparing for, and then conducting, the interview I have become interested in their work. On the other hand, Thomas Farrell is someone whose work I have been interested in for a long time. What would he be like in real life, I wondered? I enjoyed a long conversation with the charming Dr. Farrell at the JALT conference in Tsukuba, Japan last autumn. Both his plenary and his workshop demonstrated that academics do not have to be dry to be rigorous.

Dr. Farrell hosts an excellent website, where you can read more of his work. If you are looking for a book to start with, I think ‘Reflective Language Teaching: From Research to Practice’ published by Continuum is a very accessible introduction. His latest book is on my list when the next budget allocation arrives in April….

If you enjoy this interview please share it with your colleagues. You can also subscribe to the podcast via iTunes.

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