Past Seminars


Dr. Frank Boers (Victoria University of Wellington)

Applying Insights from Cognitive Linguistics to Second Language Instruction

This seminar aims to familiarise students with the principal tenets of the school of thought known as Cognitive Linguistics (CL), and how these can be applied to the field of instructed second language acquisition. CL emphasises the importance of exemplar-based learning in general and of acquiring multiword expressions or 'chunks' in particular. This fully acknowledges the crucial role of memory in language acquisition, and the daunting challenge this entails for language learners.

Fortunately, CL also proposes pathways for insightful learning (as opposed to rote learning) of many chunks of language to facilitate retention in memory. These pathways become available if one recognises that many aspects of language are far less arbitrary than is often assumed.

A growing number of quasi-experimental studies have been conducted since the late 1990s to assess the proclaimed merits of CL-informed language pedagogy. We will evaluate the evidence in favour of applying CL insights to language learning and teaching, identify avenues for further research, and discuss ways of fine-tuning the pedagogical implementations.

Dr. George Jacobs (JF New Paradigm Education)

Cooperative Learning: Theory, Practice and Research

This seminar will focus on the why, how and what next of cooperative learning (CL), a.k.a. collaborative learning (happily, also CL). Many L2 teaching materials include group activities, including pair activities. CL can be thought of as Group Activities 2.0, as CL offers a wide range of principles, techniques, and tactics which promise to improve the cognitive and affective impact of group activities. CL links with many theories in Second Language Acquisition and General Education, as well as fitting well with the Communicative Language Teaching paradigm in L2 and the Student Center paradigm in General Education. The opening lecture will provide an overview of the reasons for using CL, as well as practical ideas for implementing CL in second language education. Of course, during the opening lecture, as well as in the seminar, participants will be encouraged to take part in many CL activities. The seminar will provide participants with opportunities to look more closely at their areas of interest related to CL. The seminar will also provide opportunities to discuss potential research issues and to consider how to design relevant studies. A variety of research methods will be encouraged.

Texts (Recommended):

  • McCafferty, S., Jacobs, G. M., & Iddings, C. (Eds.). (2006). Cooperative learning and second language teaching. New York: Cambridge University Press (Buy on
  • Jacobs, G. M., & Kimura, H. (forthcoming). Cooperative learning and teaching. In the series, English language teacher development. Alexandria, VA: TESOL. (Buy on TESOL Press)

Dr. William Grabe (Northern Arizona University)

L2 Reading: Moving from Theory to Practice

This course on L2 reading will cover four major sections: (1) foundations of L2 reading: topics will include the nature of reading comprehension, cognitive processes in reading, component skills for reading comprehension, L1 vs. L2 reading, reading motivation, implications for L2 reading instruction, (2) main idea reading comprehension: topics will include the roles of vocabulary, grammar, and main idea identification, (3) academic reading skills: topics will include becoming a strategic reader, the role of discourse structure awareness, Reading/writing relationships, and (4) the development of the fluent reader: topics will include reading fluency, extensive reading, teaching for motivation. There will also be a short commentary section on additional topics: role of teacher training, reading assessment, technology, neurolinguistic concepts, curricular perspectives. This course will also ask participants to engage in a number of practical activities in order to reflect on specific instructional options.

Student enrolled in the course will either (1) propose an action research project to be carried out based on a topic from the course. The project will focus on a specific idea or issue raised in the course and will detail how to carry out the action research study; (2) write an 8-page exploration of a topic based on reading three additional current resources (chosen in consultation with the teacher); or (3) develop a syllabus for a course on L2 reading. This option will be based on a realistic teaching setting and will demonstrate a firm grasp of research implications for instruction as well as appropriate and realistic curricular principles for reading instruction presented in the course.

There will be a set of five required readings for the course and four optional readings. Students who take this seminar are expected to read the required readings prior to the seminar. Students should contact the Grad. Ed. office to receive the readings after registering for the seminar.

Dr. Frederick Erickson (University of California, Los Angeles)

Introduction to Multi-Modal Classroom Discourse Analysis Using Video

This seminar is appropriate for both beginning and advanced students who are interested in the close descriptive study of face-to-face interaction as this takes place in school classrooms or in other settings that are deliberately intended for teaching and learning. The seminar will consider how social interaction functions as a learning environment and how various aspects of interaction—talk, listening activity, and subject matter materials—serve together multi-modally as semiotic media for teaching and learning. Methods for the transcription and analysis of verbal and nonverbal communicative action will be introduced. The course will survey the entire research process, from collecting information by means of participant observation, interviewing, collection of site documents, and video recording, through identifying data in the information sources collected, analyzing the data so identified, preparing multimodal transcripts of representative examples that show verbal and nonverbal behavior in speaking and listening, and reporting conclusions. As a final assignment students registered in the course will either prepare an eleven page proposal for classroom research using video (using an outline provided by the instructor), or they will write a short paper reviewing literature on a particular approach to classroom discourse analysis, such as "conversation analysis", or neo-Vygotskyan sociocultural analysis, or subject-matter based studies, e.g. of mathematics instruction, teaching of physics or chemistry, teaching of a second language, teaching of writing. The literature review essay would be no longer than eleven pages including no more than one and a half pages of citations.

Dr. Ken Hyland (University of Hong Kong)

Writing in the Disciplines: Specificity, Community and Identity

This seminar will focus on two of the key concepts of the social sciences today: Community and identity, exploring how language works to construct both disciplines and individuals. These two concepts are grounded in the specific discourses which our communities make available to organize our professional worlds. This means that identifying the particular language features and discourse practices of target groups becomes central to understanding academic practice and to teaching English for Academic Purposes. In this series I will draw on my research over the past decade to emphasize a view of writing as a rhetorical activity involving interactions between writers and readers. This suggests how academics don't just offer a view of the world, but negotiate a credible account of themselves and their work by claiming solidarity with readers, evaluating ideas and acknowledging alternative views. The opening lecture will set the scene for the study of discipline and identity by exploring the idea of specificity, highlighting the strongly disciplinary-specific nature of writing and arguing for a specific view of teaching EAP. The rest of the seminar will then explore the implications of this through a model of interaction which highlights both stance, or how writers convey their attitudes, personality and credibility, and engagement, or the ways they explicitly bring their readers into the discourse, showing how writers accomplish both a position to their work and proximity to their disciplines.

Texts (Recommended):

  • Ken Hyland.: (2012). Disciplinary Identities: Individuality and Community in Academic Discourse. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN-978-0-521-19759-5

Dr. Gary Barkhuizen (University of Auckland)

Qualitative and Narrative Approaches to Data Analysis

This seminar focuses on qualitative and narrative research in language teaching and learning, study abroad. It focuses particularly on the analysis of data generated by, for example, interviews, observations and journals or diaries. It also looks at more structured ways of collecting and analysing data, such as narrative frames, which can be used in multi-method research approaches. Once qualitative data has been collected, the question then is: What do we do with it? Analysts sometimes have the task of reducing huge amounts of text to manageable units for further analysis. In this seminar we will examine ways in which this can be achieved. Coding, for example, is one way of doing so. It refers to organizing data into themes and categories so that they can be used for the purpose of ongoing analysis, interpretation and conclusion drawing. This is typically referred to as content or thematic analysis. But is this enough? What about the role of the researcher? What about context? Topics to be covered in the seminar include: techniques for coding data, displaying qualitative data and findings in the form of tables and figures, an introduction to narrative inquiry and narrative analysis, interpreting qualitative and narrative data, and combining qualitative data analysis with other methods of analysis. Case studies of actual qualitative research projects will be presented for discussion. Participants will have the opportunity to analyse different forms of qualitative data.

Dr. Tom Cobb (University of Quebec)

Researching Lexis and Reading On-Line

Almost all voluntary reading now done by young people takes place on an electronic screen. But what do beginning readers, particularly ESL and EFL readers, do while reading on electronic screens? How do they integrate the media of a multimedia document? The multiple texts of a hypertext document? Do they do this the same or differently from native speakers of English? Do they do it with more or less effort than they bring to paper documents? Fortunately, at least in educational contexts, the processing of an electronic document is far from a private experience, and some of these questions can be investigated.

While the user tracking technologies of Google or Facebook are unavailable to educators, a number of rudimentary technologies can be devised for staying in touch with learners online. This seminar will give participants hands-on experience for each of the following research topics: dictionary look-ups in an online reading text; contributions while reading to a group lexical database; response to written error feedback; measuring lexical access through reaction time; and tracking learner behaviors as they work through a range of focus-on-form language exercises. Each topic will be previewed in a published research study, and will occupy roughly 1.5 hours of class time, including time for participants to deploy the technology themselves. Seminar participants will choose one topic to develop more fully as their seminar project.

Dr. Phil Benson (Hong Kong Institute of Education)

Autonomy in Language Learning: Theoretical and Practical Perspectives

Autonomy has become a keyword in global language education policy in recent years, but many teachers remain uncertain about the value of autonomy and what they should do in order to encourage it among their learners. The main questions addressed in this lecture are: What does it mean to be an 'autonomous language learner? What does it mean to help our students become more autonomous in theoretical and practical terms? The opening session will provide an overview of the theory of autonomy in language learning, discuss some of the typical problems that teachers have with, and suggest how key ideas on autonomy can be put into practice in the classroom. Subsequent sessions will focus on:

  • Autonomous language learning beyond the classroom. How important is out-of-class learning and how can we learn more about it?
  • Describing the development of autonomy. How do we know whether our students have become more autonomous or not?
  • Autonomy in language learning, learning and life. How is autonomy in language learning related to broader ideas on autonomy in learning and personal autonomy in everyday life?

In the spirit of autonomous learning, there will be plenty of opportunity for participants to contribute to the sessions by drawing on their own experiences of learning and teaching.

Dr. Glenn Fulcher (University of Leicester)

The Architecture of Assessment

This seminar will explore testing practices through the metaphor of architectural design. This approach has been developed over the last five years in order to deal with emerging issues such as the use of existing tests for audiences and purposes for which they were not originally intended. However, the notion that test design is comparable to architectural practice has relevance to the entire testing enterprise. The metaphor sits very comfortably with pragmatic approaches to assessment that foreground "effect-driven design", or designing tests with their intended effect in mind. This not only allows a systematic approach to test design and use within clearly defined statements of test purpose, but provides a framework within which the legitimate use of tests can be evaluated. The advantage is that both design, principles of use, and ethics of practice, can be combined into a single framework for design and evaluation. The first three hours of the seminar will outline the theory of test architecture, and set out within this framework the importance of assessment literacy for a range of stakeholders. This section of the seminar will be primarily input. The rest of the seminar will treat classic topics in assessment from the pragmatic perspective established in the framework, including validation theory, design principles (test specifications, scoring, and administration), and principles of test use. These sessions will be a mix of input and group activities that will help participants to develop test development and analysis skills.