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.
Michael Stout

Michael Stout led the audience through a well-paced and thoughtfully-structured overview of how Action Research (AR) can benefit teachers.
After beginning with a brief introduction outlining the principles behind this approach, Stout drew on his own experience of using AR to show how it can help improve classroom outcomes.
He outlined how, after identifying a problem with his particular classroom situation, he and a fellow teacher implemented changes leading to positive outcomes which could be attributed to these changes. He pointed out the need to collect multiple data sources when introducing interventions. This is essential for the teacher-researcher to better understand the influence of any changes the intervention may contribute to, and to be able to progress through the reflective cycle that is part of the action research process.
He also reminded attendees that the AR research process could also lead to academic publications or presentations, a process beneficial for both professional and learner development.
Stout then led the presentation attendees through a quick session on how to develop our own research plans. This resulted in considerable discussion and exchange of suggestions, hopefully sparking some ideas for future AR projects.

Reported By
Paul Collett
Huy Tran

On Saturday, June 8, 2019, Huy Tran presented Teaching Methods in a Blended English Learning Environment. Mr. Tran described his own school in Kikuchi where students use computers to study English. He called it a Flipped Classroom where students do their homework at the school and then learn the lessons at home. Through extensive use of things like Skype in the Classroom as well as a number of other apps, students create language and learn independently and in groups. Mr. Tran provided an excellent video of the presentation that can be found here:

https://youtu.be/T3koRT2ZY4A

The meeting was attended by 5 members and ran from 7 to 9 pm.

Reported By
Jason McDonald
Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto

Ms. Hoskins gave a workshop and presentation on Saturday, May 11, discussing her very successful children’s textbook Let’s Go and why it has remained the EFL standard for children’s texts for the past couple of decades. She talked about how there needs to be a balance in the textbooks, and in EFL materials, between the students, the teachers, the content and the parameters of the text. EFL materials must pay attention to all four elements if they are to be successful.

Ms. Hoskins talked at length about designing materials in such a way that the teacher will know what to do with the material, and also the students will be able to intuit what is expected of them. The content needs to be geared for the intended learner with an eye to any potential cultural land mines that might spring up - such as having dogs inside the house or foods being discussed.

The presentation lasted from 7 pm to 9 pm and there were 14 in attendance.

Reported By
Jason McDonald
Stephen Case, Hudson Murrell

Mr. Case and Mr. Murrell gave a presentation on Saturday April 13, discussing how anxiety affects the perceptions of tasks and how this impacts collaborative testing. Collaborative testing features two students in a test situation where the two students are required to perform specific tasks while being observed by the test giver. They talked about how there has not been much research into collaborative testing and that their preliminary findings are promising. Students who are slightly more anxious about testing situations reported that they found collaborative testing to be very helpful while students who were very confident tended to dislike collaborative testing as they felt that their partners were not helpful.

In order to reduce stress in collaborative testing situations, they proposed that students should practice repeatedly with a wide variety of partners in order to gain familiarity with the process.

The presentation lasted from 7 pm to 9 pm and there were 8 in attendance.

Reported By
Jason McDonald
Paul Collett, Malcolm Swanson

Mr. Collett and Mr. Swanson gave a presentation and workshop on March 16, discussing using online tools in the classroom, specifically Moodle and Google Classroom. Mr. Collett walked the audience through the various pros and cons of the Google Classroom and Mr. Swanson discussed Moodle. Both halves of the presentation were very practical, with attention being paid to how to set up an online classroom using either platform. Both platforms have different benefits and costs and these were highlighted quite clearly during the presentation.

There were 9 in attendance and the presentation lasted from 7 pm to 9 pm.

Reported By
Jason McDonald
Charlie Bell

On Saturday, February 9th, 2019, Charlie Bell gave a presentation about sequencing classroom activities for more effective communication. The presentation started with a discussion about some of the common issues teachers face when implementing communicative teaching methods. The presenter then proceeded to explain, using examples of his own classroom hand-outs, how the correct sequencing of classroom tasks can lead to greater learner participation and increased understanding in communicative tasks. The second half of the presentation was run as a workshop. Guided by the presenter, participants were given the opportunity to work together to design a sequence tasks for use in their own classroom.

Reported By
Jason McDonald
Michael Berg

Mr. Berg presented his thesis from his paper on how mindset, either a growth mindset or a fixed mindset, affects language learning, with a specific focus on Japan. He found that a fixed mindset, one where natural talent is expected to succeed in language acquisition tasks, often has a negative impact as students write off language acquisition as too difficult. It is possible, he argued to overcome this mindset through intervention.

Whether natural talent or learned skills is most important is greatly debated, but, what appears, he argued, to be more important is what the student believed. He then went through the methodology he used to gauge student mindsets.

Using surveys and then interviews he looked at linguistic and social backgrounds as well as possible gender biases. He suspected that there might be some limitations to the methods as there were fewer upper year students taking the surveys and students frequently did not take the surveys seriously.

He found that major does not correlate with mindset nor were there indicators within university entrance requirements nor overseas experience. Mindset is a very individual thing, he argued.

The presentation lasted from 7 pm to 9 pm and was attended by 12 people.

Reported By
Jason McDonald
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
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
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