Meeting Reports

Reports of our meetings. Click on a month to see details.

  • Reports for meetings prior to July 2008 can be found in the meeting archives.
  • If you are looking for details of upcoming meetings, these are available on our schedule page.
  • Click on an event title to see the original meeting announcement for that event.
12 May, 2018
Stuart McLean

Stuart McLean, of Osaka Jo Gakuin outlined the challenges he faced when creating a vocabulary based program at his university. He began by outlining a number of terms, focusing on the difference between vocabulary size and vocabulary level. In his findings, vocabulary size was useful for distinguishing different levels of students, but, was not a good indicator of the vocabulary level of the students. And because of this, there is a tendency to overestimate student ability based simply on their vocabulary size.

He argued that some of the most effective ways to learn vocabulary include using the L1 to make connections between the two languages and also to use multiword units. His testing method started with a small group of words, with weekly tests where new words were added and tested, but, the tests would also contain words from previous lessons instead of simply testing new vocabulary lists each week. He also argued for a focus on the first 1-3000 words of the NGSL as these would be most important to the students.

In his program they took 5000 words and then translated the word list. After that, they made audio recordings of the list and through applications like Memrise, created vocabulary programs for the students. Testing generally took about ten minutes.

Finally, he outlined some of the issues in taking this approach. The introduction of a new program found some resistance from faculty and it was somewhat difficult to convince them of the use of the new program, although, in the end he was successful in bringing the program into the class. He also emphasized the need to approach the teachers and get their support before implementing a program like this. Additionally, there are technical issues to overcome as well as simple physical issues of how to get the information into the hands of the students.

Reported By Jason McDonald
14 April, 2018
Jerry Talandis Jr.

The presentation outlined a number of ways to bridge the theory of testing in English classes in Japan into practical applications that teachers can use to promote language acquisition through testing. Mr. Talandis argued that since testing in English classes in schools in Japan is a fact, then we as teachers should embrace that fact and use it to our advantage. By promoting positive washback, we can turn testing into a positive experience for the students by emphasising motivation, personalized feedback and use testing to diagnose problems in the classroom.

He outlined the qualities of a good test – Reliability, Validity and Practicality. When teachers create rubrics, the teacher should ensure that the test is actually focusing on what needs to be tested – either holistically or analytically. He then gave numerous examples of test evaluation forms and gave a number of suggestions for aiding in evaluation, such as recording speaking tests and having the students evaluate each other.

In conclusion, Mr. Talandis argued that testing is an art, not so much a science, so, being creative in testing is to be valued. There is a balance that must be struck between reliability, validity and practicality that teachers must be aware of when creating tests for the classroom.

Reported By Jason McDonald
10 March, 2018
Amanda Gillis-Futaka

Dr. Gillis-Futaka's presentation began by outlining a number of points to lay the groundwork for a broader workshop on methods to engage students while doing extensive/intensive reading classes. She outlined 6 areas that teachers need to be aware of in order to motivate students: emotion; personalization; choice; variety and novelty; challenge and; using multiple senses.

She then presented a number of tasks directed at each of these areas that teachers could use in class. Letting learners create and collaborate was emphasized as a key strategy as well as the notion "Repeat to remember and remember to repeat".

Teachers were given a list of ten activities to use in class and then the group as a whole demonstrated a number of the activities.

Reported By Jason McDonald
10 February, 2018
Gregory Hadley

Dr. Hadley of Niigata University discussed the value and challenges of Grounded Theory as it applies to research in applied linguistics. He began by defining in broad terms what is meant by grounded theory as, he argues, the term is often misapplied and misunderstood in a number of disciplines. He continued by giving a background in the history of grounded theory and discussing the foundations laid out by Barney Glazer and Anselm Strauss.

After laying that groundwork, he continued by explaining how grounded theory works as a research model. Beginning with a very small group and expanding upwards, grounded theory, he argues, is a very pragmatic based concept which relies very heavily on the social interactions to guide the researcher in developing a working theory. A very ground up approach to research.

Reported By Jason McDonald
13 January, 2018
Ai Murphy

Ai's presentation focused on the idea that it is far more important for classes to be organized based on English level rather than on age. She argued that at many English schools, particularly at the eikawa level, classes are divided by age and this results in widely varying abilities within each classroom. At her school, she has set expectations among the parents of the students that classes will always be based on level, rather than age. This has resulted in a atmosphere that is much more academic than is typically found at private English institutions. She has found that this has resulted in a much higher popularity for her school, and her school has grown in size considerably in the few short years that she has been using this system.
It was also noted that Ms. Murphy had recently given this presentation in a conference in the Philippines to nearly 600 attendees.

Reported By Jason McDonald
11 November, 2017
Juha Vaittinen, Zack Robertson, Jason McDonald, Roderick van Huis

The chapter held its annual Pecha Kucha night where four presenters each gave a short presentation on various topics related to language teaching followed by a short discussion session.

Insider: 20 Questions Made Fun by Juha Vaittinen. For his presentation. Juha introduced the table-top game Insider and how it could be adapted to the language classroom. The game follows a simple question/answer format where members try to identify secret words by formulating yes/no questions to deduce the answer. This activity can be used in a variety of ways, however the initial explanation can be challenging to lower level classrooms.

Discussing Current Issues in the EFL Classroom, by Zack Robertson. Zack discussed both benefits and challenges of incorporating current events and issues into the language classroom. Pros included generating student interest through dynamic and relevant material that fosters learning language as a means rather than an end. Challenges included the high degree of difficulty of authentic materials, potential misunderstandings and conflict concerning sensitive topics, and risks posed by modern recording technology.

Building a School on a Shoe String, by Jason McDonald. Jason gave tips about starting a language school from his personal experience as a small business owner. His primary advice involved controlling initial costs and investment by utilizing various public resources such as community centers or private establishments such as coffee shops or restaurants. Starting this way, he argued, enables you to stay flexible, keep your profit margins higher, and better connects you to the surrounding community which helps your school grow.

19 Thoughts for a Thoughtful Teacher, by Roderick van Huis. In his presentation Roderick provided several hints to improve teacher/student relationships in the classroom. Teachers, he argued, can improve their classrooms by taking small measures to show the students they are keeping their needs in mind. Some of these steps included making student name cards, giving students choices regarding seating and activities, using neat and colorful writing, and maintaining a consistent, professional look for all classroom handouts and materials.

Reported By Zack Robertson
14 October, 2017
Joseph Shaules

Joseph’s presentation examined motivation as not only a psychological phenomenon but also a neurological and biological process. Motivation, he argued, cannot be understood as merely an emotion that an individual either possesses or does not possess but rather a complex result of competing dual-emotional systems in the brain. These systems can be described as an Approach / Avoidance duality that can either pull or push individuals into certain types of actions. These systems manifest themselves in the language classroom as students build up often conflicting emotions related to language learning, often resulting in students that can appear to be both motivated and demotivated at the same time. The key to dealing with this as a language instructor, according to Joseph, is to find ways to lower resistance towards language learning in the individual while increasing engagement in the classroom.

Reported By Zack Robertson
9 September, 2017
Ben Shearon

For his presentation, Ben discussed severall topics related to both short and long-term financial stability and success for language teachers residing in Japan. In the first half he touched issues such as personal spending habits and savings, pension plan programs, retirement plans, tax differed investment portfolios, and inheritence tax law details. His main message was that small incremental steps may not yield large short-term gains; however, the results over time can prove to be quite substantial if planned correctly. He also highlighted the risks and dangers of failing to properly research and plan your investment strategy. In the final part of his presentation, Ben fielded questions from the audience about a wide range of financial topics pertinent to foreign residents living in Japan.

Reported By Zack Robertson
10 June, 2017
Curtis Kelly

In his presentation, Curtis discussed why stories and narrative structure are so readily received by the human brain and how language teachers can implement narrative structures in their classes to assist language learning. Curtis explained that the mind actively makes predictions when processing the flow of a story, releasing several chemicals such as dopamine, cortisol, and oxytocin that focus attention and activate both analytical and emotional processing centers in the brain. Several studies have demonstrated that this can lead to increased performance in both short and long-term language retention compared to expository or descriptive methods of instruction. He also shared examples of how classroom activities where students generated their own short stories using presentation software led to increased motivation and self-confidence in students who did not respond as well to more traditional analytically oriented language instruction.

Reported By Zack Robertson
13 May, 2017
Todd Jay Leonard

In his presentation, Todd discussed the realities of publishing language learning material in the Japanese market, arguing that in order to successfully establish a publishing career in Japan one must remain aware of the needs and goals of publishers, editors, and sales representatives of publishing companies. The business realities are often not on the minds of potential authors when developing educational materials, but authors need to be willing to listen to publishers and editors throughout the publishing process, as these individuals are often considering many other market factors of which educators may not have full or sufficient knowledge. Todd also offered his advice in regards to the textbook material iteself, including making sure to carefully increase the difficulty as the textbook progresses, keeping the content length manageable, maintaining a consistent interface, and mastering the art of developing content that can be applied to a variety of educational contexts.

Reported By Zack Robertson