Featured Speakers

An autoethnographic approach: Why do we do what we do as teachers?
Dr. Keiko Sakui (Kobe Shoin Women's University)

Whether teaching is closer to science or art often causes heated debate, and anyone in the teaching profession can understand that this divide is blurry and not clear-cut. The ambiguity increases with language teaching in contexts where teachers and students do not share the same culture. In order to appreciate this complexity, this presentation will encourage the audience to reflect on who we are as teachers, how we want to teach and how we understand our students. In this talk, I will adopt autoethnography—in simple terms, examining ourselves critically—as a theoretical framework. Autoethnography allows researchers to analyze themselves, particularly in how their personal experiences are related to broader social and cultural environments. At the same time, it provides opportunities for researchers to face deeper thoughts and feelings, which might usually remain at an unconscious level. In this sense, autoethnography can help to bridge the divide of science and art; it enables us to analyze the cognitive side of our profession and at the same time allows us to be in touch with our feelings and emotions, as in art.

At the beginning of this presentation, I will share my own stories to illustrate how I have developed as a teacher and what issues have interested me as a teacher-researcher. I will examine these issues with a critical lens from such perspectives as my gender, the cultural capital that I have (or do not have), my ethnicity and geographical location. In particular, I will focus on beliefs and motivation as the main constructs with which to illustrate how these concepts have been important to me. I will introduce relevant research, especially regarding motivation in relation to identity and self-theories, that has been conducted in the field of language teaching. Telling my stories, however, is not the main purpose of this talk. (How boring that would be!) Rather, this presentation is intended to serve as a means for the audience to speak. The primary goal of this talk is to encourage participants to share their own experiences and perspectives with others so that we will all have a chance to reflect on ourselves as teachers from an autoethnographic view. This will, hopefully, encourage us to look at who we are and what we do in our profession from a critical viewpoint. 

Keiko Sakui is an Associate Professor at Kobe Shoin Women’s University. She has been a language teacher for over 25 years and has taught Japanese and English in Japan, New Zealand and the United States. Her research interests include teacher beliefs and practices and learner motivation. In addition to these topics, her recent publications are on educational management from a feminist perspective and e-learning practices in different cultural contexts.

Informalizing Teacher Education for Better Teacher Development

Dr. Bill Snyder (Kanda University of International Studies)

Teacher development events, such as this conference, are intended to produce better teaching. But do they? The answers are individual and varied, and do not seem easily predictable. In this sense, the outcomes of professional development are somewhat like the outcomes of teaching any particular aspect of language to a group of learners. The approaches we take to teaching language learners, especially in the promotion of learner autonomy (Benson 2013), suggest some ways that we might make changes in teacher education in order to make the lifelong learning, continuous personal growth, and innovative practices that should be the hallmark of ongoing professional development more likely.  

The promotion of learner autonomy involves a number of components which aim to help learners take control of their own learning, such as setting goals, creating personal engagement in learning, and developing the ability to take advantage of the affordances for learning that appear in the learner's environment. Ultimately, more learning will have to take place through these things than through direct transfer of knowledge in instruction for learners to be successful language users.

Following this line of reasoning, this presentation will make a case that teacher education and development programs should be less focused on transfer of theoretical knowledge about education, language, and language acquisition, and more focused on helping teachers become autonomous learners of teaching. This will involve revising programs and courses to be more reflective, more contextualized, and more focused on developing communities of practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991; Wenger 2000) among teachers.

Cross (2006) has suggested that 80 percent of workplace learning occurs in informal interactions, making these more productive than formal training. Teachers who are better prepared to enter into and gain from informal learning will ultimately make the development process more successful, which should have a positive impact on teaching practice.

I will look at one of my courses, a foundations of teaching course, to show how I am approaching it in light of this view of what teacher education (and formal training activities) should do. I will present how I incorporate specific readings, reflection tasks, micro-level skill trainings (which may not be directly connected to teaching), other assignments, and team-based learning in order to better prepare the teachers I am working with to be effective learners beyond the education program they are in. Ultimately, I will suggest how these approaches could be adapted to other environments, including ones like this conference in order to create wider benefits.

Bill Snyder is a Specially Appointed Professor in the MA TESOL Program of the Graduate School of Kanda University of International Studies. His research interests include curriculum and instructional design for teacher education, online teacher education, and classroom engagement.