Past Seminars

Following are the lecturers and topics of past seminars of the Distinguished Lecturer Series.


Dr. Mitsue Allen-Tamai (Aoyama Gakuin University, Japan)

Teaching English to Young Learners

The introduction of English education into elementary schools has been much discussed in the last few decades. In order to keep up with the pace of globalization, people in non-English-speaking countries are eager to acquire high levels of communicative English proficiency, while people in English-speaking counties have striven to develop appropriate educational curricula to help young immigrant children learn English. Thus there is a strong social demand for teaching English to young learners throughout the world. However, this strong focus on young learners has not yet occurred in Japan. English will only become a regular subject in Japanese elementary schools in 2020. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT) has specified the course's aims and contents a new Course of Study, and MEXT-approved textbooks for upper elementary school children, which will only be used in 2018 and 2019, are now accessible.

This seminar will provide an introduction to the theory and practice in the teaching of English as a second language to young learners, from the ages of three to twelve, focusing especially on English education for Japanese children. The objectives of the course are to develop: (a) an understanding of the psychology of young learners and their language acquisition and (b) a working knowledge of methodologies and classroom practices for teaching English as a second language to young learners.

Dr. Gary Barkhuizen (The University of Auckland, New Zealand)

Qualitative and Narrative Approaches to Researching Language Teaching and Learning

What does qualitative research in the field of language teaching and learning actually mean? And what does narrative research mean? How are they related? These are not easy questions to answer, mainly because of the plethora of both definitions and methodological practices evident in the field. This seminar will unpack some of the complications in definition and the actual practice of qualitative and narrative research by going back to basics. Samples of data from actual studies will be used to illustrate a range of methods appropriate to language teacher researchers and researchers in applied linguistics. Traditional qualitative methods of analysis will be covered as well more recent narrative analytical methods, such as narrative frames and short story analysis. Issues of ethics and the reporting of findings in qualitative/narrative research, in which the personal experiences of people are central, will be explored.

Dr. Natsuko Shintani (Kobe Gakuin University, Japan)

Learning Grammar through Writing: Practice and Theory

Two general dimensions of second language (L2) writing are "learning-to-write", where L2 learners learn language to express themselves appropriately in writing, and "writing-to-learn", in which engagement with L2 writing contributes to the development of language knowledge. The focus of this seminar is the latter–how writing activities can develop learners' knowledge of English. The seminar particularly examines how writing activities can develop learners' grammatical knowledge of English by focusing on two major approaches: metalinguistic explanation and written corrective feedback used in a writing activity. I will introduce various strategies to provide metalinguistic explanation and corrective feedback. I will also examine the results of research that has investigated the effects of each strategy. The seminar will conclude with guidance on the use of grammar instruction in second language writing.

Dr. David Grabbe (Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand) (Cancelled)

Understanding Language Course Design as a Problem-Solving Process

*Due to Dr. Grabbe's medical emergency, this lecture was not held.

Course design at its most basic is specifying learning goals, together with effective learning opportunities to achieve those goals. But it is more exciting than that. Course design in practice and in context is not static. It requires systematic and on-going problem-solving that starts with understanding the people concerned and the resources available. The understanding entails elements such as the potential roles of learners and teachers, their motivation and beliefs, the opportunities available in and out of the classroom for communicative performance, ways of enhancing that performance, ways of describing it for better metacognitive understanding, and any obstacles in taking up the opportunities.

This course will provide a framework for course design as informed problem-solving, drawing on what are seen as universals of human language learning and focussing on how those universals might be activated in context. The framework will raise questions about, for example: the role of the learners in the problem-solving; how their autonomy and motivation as members of a learning community might be fostered; how the impact of examinations could be managed productively; and how a bridge might be built between the classroom and the private domain of learning. Attention will be paid throughout to continually evaluating the impact of actions taken.

Dr. Murray Munro (Simon Fraser University, Canada)

Researching L2 Pronunciation

Over the past 20 years, second-language (L2) pronunciation has gained an increasingly prominent role in applied linguistics research. It is now the focus of several annual international conferences, has its own journal, and is the subject of a number of recent textbooks and other influential resources. A remarkable aspect of L2 pronunciation is the wide range of issues that it encompasses, including learners' perceptions of segmental distinctions; the nature of global L2 speech properties such as accentedness, intelligibility and comprehensibility; local aspects of segmental and prosodic production; effects of interventions on learning; acoustic properties of non-native vs native speech; and social evaluation of L2 speakers. Given such diversity, pronunciation researchers require a good understanding of the varied quantitative methodologies, data collection procedures and data analysis techniques used in contemporary work. Through lectures, discussions and interactive tasks, we will survey up-to-date approaches to designing and carrying out pronunciation studies, and to interpreting data. The seminar will cover the use of current software applications and will incorporate recorded speech examples.

Recommended Textbook:

  • Derwing, T. M., & Munro, M.J. (2015). Pronunciation fundamentals: Evidence-based perspectives for L2 teaching and research. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. (Buy on

Dr. Luke Plonsky (Georgetown University, U.S.A.)

Advances in Quantitative Research Methods in Language Teaching and Learning

Empirical work in the field of second language teaching and learning has traditionally focused almost exclusively on theoretical and practical issues. In recent years, however, researchers have begun to reflect on—and even examine empirically—the field's research methods, leading to the current period of methodological development and reform. The interest in and potential impact of this rapidly expanding area is, however, not solely methodological. Rather, much if not most of the field's methodological efforts are predicated on and motivated by the notion that our knowledge of second language learning and teaching can only be advanced via empirical research that is rigorously designed, executed, and reported. This seminar will examine a number of concepts and techniques related to recent efforts to improve quantitative research practices in the field. Among other topics, we will address the notion of statistical significance (p values) vs. practical significance (effect sizes). The lecture will also provide a workshop on how to conduct a meta-analysis of L2 research. The discussions will aim to be interactive and not highly technical, and there will be plenty of time for hands-on practice with sample data sets that will be provided.

Suggested Reading:

  • Plonsky, L. (Ed.). (2015). Advancing quantitative methods in second language research. Oxon, UK: Routledge. (Buy on