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.
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
8 April, 2017
Paul Collett and Malcolm Swanson

Paul and Malcolm discussed how they have implemented an extended reading programme at their institution with the primary goal of increasing student reading fluency, comprehension, and fostering the the growth of intrinsic motivation towards reading and language study. Over the course of a semester, students are assigned a goal of reading 180,000 words from a collection of graded readers available both online and at the school library. Two e-learning platforms, XReading and Moodle Reader, are used to monitor and manage student progress through the use of online quizzes. Other advanced statistics on student performance such as reading speed are also available to gauge student progress. One of the benefits of this approach is that students have concrete goals they need to reach but also have a degree of autonomy in terms of the reading items that are selected, important for both short-term and long-term programme success. Paul and Malcolm also stressed that the role of the teacher is crucial through the monitoring of student progress and giving frequent feedback on student achievement.

Reported By Zack Robertson
11 February, 2017
Colin Thompson

In his presentation, Colin discussed how practice relates to language acquisition from both a theoretical and research perspective. The first half of the presentation focused on theoretical aspects of practice and how it relates to language skill development. Certain factors of practice that were mentioned included production vs. input based practice, intensive vs. gradual practice, and the amount of repetition. He also discussed issues relating to practice that are currently being researched such as the nature of the practice, how deliberate the practice is, and the transfer effect of acquired skills into tangential domains. For the final half of the presentation, Colin reviewed research that suggests that intensive, concentrated practice may be of greater benefit to lower level learners than more spread out practice in certain learning contexts and that input based practice may yield more positive benefits than purely productive practice.

Reported By Zack Robertson
14 January, 2017
José Cruz and Robert Long

In the first half of the presentation, José discussed how traditional textbooks and classroom materials often fail to expose students to authentic spoken English conversation due to the limitations of the textbook medium and the tendency for instructors to use a “teacher” voice rather than a natural voice when addressing students in the classroom. He then introduced a website he developed to provide learners with authentic spoken English covering a variety of topics that aims to teach more natural forms of pronunciation and speech patterns. In the second half of the presentation, Robert summarized the results of a study conducted at his institution to explore gender differences in fluency and dysfluency of Japanese university students. Robert and his colleagues developed a corpus constructed from over 100 conversations between male and female students in order to analyze in detail trends in speech rate, pauses, conversational gambits and a variety of other linguistic traits. The study suggests that men tend to often unconsciously control conversations while female students often remain passive as evidenced by the data collected. Robert suggested that these trends could be contributing to the falling marriage and birth rates of the overall population in Japan and that further study would be necessary to develop methods for remedying this societal problem.

Reported By Zack Robertson
12 November, 2016
Various

Our chapter held its annual PechaKucha night and four people gave presentations on a variety of topics. For the first presentation, Zack Robertson (“Quiet Learners: What to do?”) talked about different factors that can contribute to quiet, unenthusiastic classes and what can be done to improve them. He discussed psychological, physiological, cultural, and pedagogical causes of student non-participation and offered concrete activities and management strategies to improve them. Next, Michael Phillips (“Using Facebook Groups as W-LMSs”) talked about utilizing Facebook groups to manage and facilitate communication between students and the teacher. He explained how to set up groups, add students, and offered suggestions how utilize the various functions and tools to make the most use from the platform. In the next presentation, Stephen Case (“Using Movies in the Classroom”) introduced a variety of websites and applications that offer short movies that can be used as both full lessons and supplemental activities. After showing part of an example movie, Stephen elaborated on potential lesson ideas that can accommodate a broad range of ages and language abilities. For the final presentation, David Wilkins (“Mobile Technology in the Classroom”) introduced a few mobile apps that can be used to facilitate classroom discussion and participation. He demonstrated how the Kahoot! App can be used as an interactive quiz that teachers can create and students can answer using their smartphones.

Reported By Zack Robertson
8 October, 2016
Robert Murphy

Robert discussed various maxims from his collaborative research related to NeuroELT and the theoretical underpinnings of some of these concepts. He began by briefly introducing Kurt Fischer’s dynamic skill theory, a cognitive theory that postulates dynamic development from reflexes to complex systems within the human mind. According to this framework, all learning including language learning follows these principles and as such we should strive to incorporate these concepts into our language teaching approaches. In the second half of the presentation the audience was invited to choose from a short list of NeuroELT maxims and try to develop new ways they could implement these concepts in their own language classrooms. These ideas were then presented and discussed with the entire group.

Reported By Zack Robertson