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Department of English
TESOL/Applied Linguistics Graduate Students Conference

Bate Building


2014 Conference

February 15, 2014

Hosted by Western Carolina University

Asheville, NC


Keynote Speaker
Dr. Sarah Rilling

Dr. Sarah Rilling, Kent State University

Sarah Rilling is an associate professor of English at Kent State University, teaches courses in ESOL methodologies, literacies, and English as an international language. She earned degrees in German (BA, MAT), TESOL (MA), and Applied Linguistics (PhD) and has taught English and applied linguistics in the United State, Japan, and Germany. 
She has worked with ESOL teachers in North Eastern Ohio earning degrees and endorsement since 2002 and licensure since 2006. She also contributes to improving resources for area teachers in meeting learner and institutional needs. Recently, she served a multidistrict Common Core initiative with language arts teachers at all levels in North Eastern Ohio, culminating in a week-long summer series of workshops supporting group development of curriculum to meet state standards and local needs.  

The Common Core State Standards: Opportunity and Challenge! 

The Common Core State Standards, now adopted by 45 states, embed literacy in content learning. For our English language learners, there are new opportunities and challenges in preparing for college and career. This plenary discusses how TESOL professionals play key roles in our schools by supporting learners and colleagues in differentiating instruction for student success in content learning while simultaneously increasing students' language resources and skills. Reading informational texts, supporting written and oral arguments, and understanding and using appropriate technical and general academic vocabulary are essential components of the Common Core. As readers and writers of complex informational texts ourselves, we understand that grammar (discourse, syntax, and lexicon) varies across genres of spoken and written language, and the plenary will give us an opportunity to explore grade level literate and social practices in science, social studies, language arts and math and how learners at various proficiency levels can benefit from instructional conversations. As professionals, we bring to schools knowledge of language and language systems, instructional strategies to match and push language proficiency, both receptive and productive, and a collaborative spirit in the pursuit of knowledge using a variety of media. We integrate literate and social practices in our and our colleagues' classrooms through sensory, graphic, and interactive supports. The plenary allows discussion of the development and continuous improvement of assessments of learning. Reflective tools will also be addressed to facilitate curricular review and revision in expanding and improving instruction, materials, and assessments. Local needs for implementing the Common Core, access and use of teacher resources, and advocacy for continuous professional support (including school-university partnerships) will be addressed and a handout of resources provided. 


The Common Core State Standards challenge our English Language Learners to demonstrate knowledge and literacy at grade level across content areas. This workshop allows participants opportunities to work with colleagues teaching in the same grade bands to generate ideas for interactive instructional tasks rich in textual and graphic support, to share resources and ideas for meeting and assessing students across school subjects, and to plan for continued professional development.

More information on Dr. Rilling can be found on her


What supports language teacher professional development?

Sibel Korkmazgil (North Carolina State University) 

Teacher development is considered one of the key determining factors in improved student performance. Teachers need to engage in professional development (PD) activities to update their knowledge and skills. Although there seems to be a consensus on “why” this statement might be true, much discussion has dealt with the question of how this can be achieved. With regard to the PD, recent research has revealed a paradigm shift from a positivist, linear and hierarchical view of development to a more holistic, collaborative, and socio-constructivist approach. There is an emerging body of research on Second Language Teacher Education, especially on teacher cognition, and perspectives and realizations developed out of the action research, teacher research movement and reflective research movement.  This work has challenged the transmission model of teaching, and contributed to the understanding of PD as much more complex, situational/contextual and collaborative. These shifts in paradigms suggest new PD models and activities for language teachers. Referring to the characteristic features of Continuing Professional Development models, this poster aims to suggest effective strategies which support language teacher professional learning. 

Look in the mirror before looking at your students: cultural self-awareness in ESL instructors

Adrianna Semerjian (University of Calgary)

Acknowledging and respecting cultures is vital because it can maximize a learner’s engagement, promote higher expectations, and help students understand the society that surrounds them.  Providing language instructors with the knowledge and training to view cultural differences as tools that can increase relevance and motivation could have a tremendous impact on the academic success of students and on their transition into life in Canada.  Conversely, viewing cultural differences as deficits can have a negative impact on students both in and out of the classroom.  Teachers communicate their asset or deficit beliefs in every interaction with students.  Since teachers must share their energy with many individuals at once, noticing patterns of interaction requires a conscientious effort.  However, the students with whom they interact take their words and actions personally. Culturally responsive teaching requires educators uncover biases, assumptions and expectations.  Before looking out into the classroom though, educators must first look in the mirror.  They must come to the crucial realization that ethnicity and culture are not the same.  Educators must examine the elements of their cultural identity that shaped their worldview and those that continue to alter it.  Once educators have developed some cultural self-awareness, they can begin viewing their teaching practice through a more objective lens. 


Language testing: A conservative field in applied linguistics?

Sibel Korkmazgil (North Carolina State University)

English at the global level has changed rapidly calling for further paradigm revisions. People are no longer prepared to think of their identities in absolute terms, their languages and cultures as pure, or their communities as homogeneous. Globalization on the one hand and the revival of ethnic and local cultures on the other have led to the political motto Think globally, act locally translated into language pedagogy as global thinking, local teaching (Berman, 1994; Kramsch & Sullivan 1996). Such a paradigm shift questions the validity of teaching and testing using native speaker norms all over the world, thereby reexamining the notion of authenticity in ELT. However, the changing views on the authenticity and ownership of English do not seem to affect the testing practices. The practice of language testing is said to be lagging behind developments in various fields of applied linguistics concerning language teaching/learning. Language testing is actually characterized as rather a conservative field. Referring to the relevant literature, this poster will not only examine the underlying assumptions of this conservative stance, but also point out how recent discussions in TESOL challenge the traditional conceptualization of test usefulness qualities and require broadening views of validity, ethics and test-task authenticity. 

Compound formation in American Sign Language: Approaching a clear definition

Henry Marx (East Carolina University)

Every spoken human language has common morphological processes such as inflection, derivation, and compounding. Signed human languages such as American Sign Language (ASL) are in every way fully developed languages and therefore also have such word building processes. Compounding in ASL has a number of interesting features and often resembles blends or portmanteaus in other languages. We must also consider a number of other questions when examining this phenomenon. When exactly do two signs in ASL become a single compounded sign? What features do compounded signs have that other noun phrases and verb phrases in ASL do not have? How do anticipatory and progressive assimilation manifest in this circumstance? When and under what circumstances are signs or portions of signs elided during the compounding process? How do other phonological features of ASL affect the compounding process?  What are the semantic changes that happen as a result of compounding? This poster presentation will attempt to address these questions. 

Epicene and personal they: The past and future of English pronouns

Alice Murphy (Western Carolina University)

Is singular they correct and/or ubiquitous in the English language? As a result of English's etymological idiosyncrasies, we lack a neuter or non-gendered pronoun, thus inspiring generations of neologists to attempt to fill this gap with all manner of ad hoc pronouns, such as ze, zir, and zim (Baron, 1986). However, no new term has stuck. This may be in part due to the already-available singular they option for English speakers. Despite current research (Laitinen, 2008; Meyers, 1990) on epicene they, which signals unknown referents, little attention has been paid to perception/acceptance of the term used as a non-gendered pronoun for a known referent: personal they. This use could fill the extant gap in English for those persons who do not wish or seem to be accurately described by binary-limiting pronouns (only male or female and no neutral), whether gender queer, transgender, or of indeterminate gender. This presentation draws attention to how speakers handle situations that require non-gendered pronouns, both epicene and singular. A better understanding of personal they could help destigmatize its use in both formal and casual registers, thereby filling English's pronoun void to the benefit of native speakers and writers, as well as those learning the language.


I have met the devil and his name is Grading Papers

May F. Chung (North Carolina State University)

The hegemony of grading forces English language learners into societal practices that confirm and accept a hierarchy of mainstream English and the prescribed discourse community. When the focus is on grades, outdated pedagogies are upheld, like surface error correction, even though these applications do not help students learn and potentially denigrate their confidence (Pulfrey et al., 2011). For some ELLs, I contend that it is not the nature of cultural differences or discursive ignorance that allow solely for the attraction of plagiarized material, but practices placed on high student success in a graded environment.

Changing the face of grading means reducing linguistic bias in the classroom. To revise error correction for English language learners, teachers must move towards interacting with language structure. Matarese & Anson (2011) reexamines the purpose behind error marking of African American students, combating arbitrary marks with ideologically embedded discussions. The teacher must be aware of first language transference features. This session will feature a critique of current trends in assessment and offer strategies in moving toward a heuristic revision model for students. TESOL


Critical thinking tasks and L2 vocabulary acquisition

Kate Hein (University of Northern Iowa)

Beaumont (2010) points out that critical thinking activities require "an active, conscious, purposeful awareness of what one encounters" (p. 430); in other words, deep processing of information, which is also conducive to successful vocabulary retention over time. This workshop draws on the concept of task-induced involvement to suggest that critical thinking tasks contribute to effective vocabulary learning. Participants will consider key factors involved in critical thinking tasks and effective vocabulary tasks. After discussing the classroom use of critical thinking tasks based on target vocabulary, participants will draft critical thinking and vocabulary tasks based on six core skills of critical thinking. Participants are encouraged to bring texts and materials from their own classes; in addition, the moderator will provide materials to use in drafting activities. TESOL


Tutorials: English language learners find support in the 21st century

Jennifer Melton, Tamara Jett-Davis, & Gail Holland

(Jasper County Schools, South Carolina)

In South Carolina, students, teachers, and administrators have been preparing for the full implementation of the Common Core Curriculum.In this new reality, the typical classroom of previous years could become insufficient in support for English Language Learners (ELLs). Some ELLs may need tutoring assistance provided by ESOL and general education teachers, so they can achieve more academically and socially.Therefore, in Jasper County, we have established a tutoring program to serve our students for the demands of Core Curriculum and beyond.

The tutoring program takes place before school, at lunch, and/or after school to provide academic support.Level I newcomers to Level IV ELDA proficiency level students participate at various times.In two years, the level of participation among students, teachers, and parents has grown exponentially.In conjunction with student, teacher, and administrator concerns, it is likely that a struggling ELL may see the ESOL teacher multiple times a day.During those smaller group sessions, newcomers and lower ability level students will address their academic, linguistic, and social concerns.With this workshop, we hope to increase interest in tutoring programs and/or test scores with Core Curriculum Standards.  TESOL

Using digital storytelling to teach ESL grammar

Brenda Wawire, Wasan Tawfeeq, & Minkyung Yu

(Jasper County Schools, SC)

In ESL classrooms, cultural stories can be used for both eliciting and illustrating grammar points. Stories can therefore be a very instrumental tool for ensuring acquisition of grammar aspects by ESL learners of different proficiency levels in the elementary or secondary education. This is an exploratory study of the techniques that will be employed through digital storytelling to reinforce grammatical competence in ESL learners by teachers who use the communicative language teaching approach. The study will also seek to inform how digital story telling can be used as an instrument to motivate young ESL learners and make learning grammar an enjoyable activity. The focus of this paper will be specifically on how to integrate digital story telling in ESL classrooms in teaching grammar to 21st century ESL learners who are technology savvy. The purpose of the study is to help children to be able to work on their language skills within and outside the school environment. The study subjects will be 100 K-3 students who are enrolling in Leon county, Tallahassee in Florida. For this study, the questionnaire survey will be conducted and composed of 20 questions. To find out our concrete reasons of the question about storybook/digital grammar teaching, the questionnaire will be include 5 open-ended questions. This survey of two parts of personal data: (1) interest of grammar learning with a formal grammar book), (2) interest of grammar learning with storybooks/digital reading materials. The findings of the study will inform pedagogical strategies that can be adopted by classroom teachers to boost creativity in learners and make grammar learning and teaching enjoyable. TESOL


Unwrapping the Common Core standard for English language learners

Pamela Singer & Zelda Jordan (Henderson County Schools, NC)

Identifying priority standards and learning how to "unwrap" the components into concepts and skills will give teachers a practical, research based starting point for supporting their ELLs in Common Core instruction. We will begin by looking at content area standards and determine by using the following criteria what standards should be a priority for our students:

Endurance (Life): Is the standard a life skill?

Readiness (School): Will the standard be a prerequisite for language learning that will take place in school for years to come?

Leverage (Test): Will the standard be assessed on state language proficiency assessments?

The session will be based on the research and strategies set forth in Carillo's (2011) How to reach and teach English language learners and Common formative assessments for English language learners.  TESOL & Sociocultural Issues


Being a multilingual writer in graduate school

Soojin Ahn (University of Georgia)

There are growing numbers of international graduate students who want to become multilingual writers and members of international academia in the future. Informed by Bakhtin's (1986) theory of literacy, sociocultural theory argues that individual voices in writing are neither isolated nor decontextualized, but rather reflected in the social groups and cultures where they participate. Due to the dynamic and flexible nature of the creative voice (Kamler, 2001; Lensmire, 1998), a writer must negotiate multiple voices to match various social contexts. Given this theoretical framework, the previous research on multiliteracy and multilingual identity in an academic setting is examined with a particular focus on mature international graduate students who already have advanced writing skills or professional experiences in their native languages. Their challenges and strategies when participating in second language academic writing as international graduate students are reviewed as well as my own personal experiential narratives as a multilingual writer in the U.S. Using a discussion of both challenges and strategies, pedagogical implications for both graduate programs and academic advisors are offered. Ultimately, this paper will help graduate students as potential instructors and advisors to understand the nature of multilingual writing and apply their own learning experiences to their future teaching.  L2 Writing


Language policy and language of instruction at a Danish university

Kimberly Chopin (University of Copenhagen)

This paper presents findings from a project looking at language policy

and use at a Danish university, which, like many other universities in

Europe and elsewhere, is increasingly internationalized, and increasingly using English as a language of research, teaching, and administration. In contrast, Danish public discourse focuses on domain loss within Danish, and one faculty has recently implemented a policy mandating that undergraduate instruction be done only in Danish. While a rich literature exists on the effects of English medium instruction in non-English (particularly Northern European) contexts, less exists on what happens when instruction switches away from English, as in this case.

The project uses data from one department affected by this policy decision. Discourse analysis of interviews with teaching staff, both Danish and non-Danish speakers, illuminates specific narratives in response to the policy decision, painting pictures of possible future negative consequences of the decision as well as explorations of possible non-compliance as a form of resistance to the policy. This research has implications for other institutions which are considering ways to protect local languages, and adds to existing work on domain loss and the language of education in universities.  TESOL & Sociocultural Issues


Micro-level linguistic features in the argumentative English writing of Chinese and American College students

Xiangyu Jiang & Liang Chen (University of Georgia & Harbin Institute of Technology at Weihai)

There is a rich literature that documents Chinese students' poor performance in English academic writing (Cai, 1993; Liu et al., 2003; Liu, 2008; Yu et al., 2011). However, previous studies have focused only on macro-level features such as rhetorical organization and expression of ideas which have shown cross-cultural differences (Wang & Wen, 2002; Wen, 2007). Few studies have investigated micro-level linguistic features by comparing Chinese and Americans' English writings. This study aimed to bridge this research gap by analyzing the argumentative (n=40) writing samples of Chinese and American university students at three linguistic levels: the use of literate words (elaborated noun phrases, conjunctions, adverbs, and mental linguistic/cognitive verbs), the degree of sentence complexity (mean length of T-units and clausal density) and the use of subordinate clauses (nominal, adverbial and relative clauses). Results showed that the Chinese and American students used these three linguistic levels differently. Then the correlation between literate word use and the production of complex syntax was tested to verify the lexicon-syntax interface (cf. Ravid, 2004). It is concluded that a fine-grained, multidimensional analysis is necessary to ensure a faithful account of second language writing development.  L2 Writing


When ESL and special education services collide: Investigating service delivery for ELLs with disabilities

Sara E. N. Kangas (Temple University) 

Although studies have emerged on ELLs with disabilities, focusing on special education referral rates (Artiles, Rueda, Salazar, & Higareda, 2005; Samson & Lesaux, 2009), referral processes (Klingner & Harry, 2006; Ortiz, et al., 2011), and interventions (Denton, Wexler, Vaughn, & Bryan, 2008; Kamps, et al., 2007), research has not investigated how schools provide services to ELLs with disabilities that target both their linguistic and disability-related needs. To address this gap, I conducted a 6-month ethnographic case study in a public elementary school. Data included 80 observations of instruction, 21 interviews with school personnel, and artifact collection. For the theoretical framework, I utilized positioning theory (Harré & van Langenhove, 1999), the study of how which examines how individuals' identities are constructed through the discourse and actions of others.

The analysis revealed that ELLs with disabilities were positioned not as language learners but as learners with disabilities.  This positioning occurred as a consequence of tension in service delivery between special education and ESL due to the following factors: scheduling, school culture, teacher expertise, and ESL program models. By continually prioritizing special education over ESL, these learners were positioned in a way that denied dimensions of their identities and circumvented education law.  TESOL & Sociocultural Issues


Building identities for linguistically and culturally diverse students: an interview with a first year teacher

Elena Tosky King (University of North Carolina at Charlotte) 

This study investigates how cultural identities are constructed by a first-year English teacher within the educational context of a linguistically and culturally diverse middle school in the southeastern United States. The interview was transcribed, and the data were reviewed and dissected to rich passages of text containing language that described the participant's beliefs about her own culture and a description of her students. These passages were then analyzed using an open coding technique and grouped into themes labeled as "stanzas," which were further interpreted through Gee's (2012) toolkit to address the main research question: With what language does a first-year teacher describe the diversity in her classroom and construct identities for her students?(1)acknowledges the significance of race;(2) rejects "White" as a culture; (3) divides students by SES; (4) engages in deficit language; and (5) permits instances of tracking as status quo. The findings are viewed through a neo-Vygotskyan sociocultural lens, suggesting that the teacher's perceptions of her students rely heavily on her own constructs of race, socioeconomic status, language and diversity. Such analyses can help teacher educators better understand how teachers create and construct meaning in their classrooms.  Sociocultural Issues


Identity through writing in world Englishes: Interrogating ideologies of writing standards in U.S. universities

Sarah Moseley (Old Dominion University)

The purpose of this study is to explore the relationship between identity and U.S. academic writing by examining the ideologies that privilege particular writing systems at the expense of others, through a pilot study involving international graduate students who are non-native speakers. My work addresses gaps in sociolinguistics and World Englishes by focusing on expression of identity in writing rather than in speaking. In my methodology I follow David Li's (2009) model of privileging NNS perspectives. Theoretically, my research draws upon works by Canagaragah, Lippi-Green, and Foucault, but centers upon NNS voices in the investigation of the impact of standards in academic writing upon self-expression. To this end, I created an anonymous online survey that I distributed to 23 NNS international graduate students enrolled in my university-level ESL classes. Twelve students, with an average TOEFL score of 98.1 and representing five countries, responded to the survey, Results suggest that standards in U.S. academic writing are problematic for NNS identity; 75% of the students reported feeling compelled to write according to these standards, even if they best express themselves in written forms of WE. I close by suggesting further sociolinguistic research on variation in writing. L2 writing

Contradictions in Japanese-American intercultural telecollaboration

Tomoe Nishio (University of Georgia)

Masanobu Nakatsugawa (Otaru University of Commerce)

Intercultural telecollaboration has been increasingly recognized as a meaningful mode of second/foreign language teaching/learning which allows learners to engage in complex online dialogues to cultivate an intercultural stance. Yet despite several positive experiences reported in the existing body of research on intercultural telecollaboration, a considerable number of technology-based intercultural projects have encountered impediments and dysfunctions (Belz, 2002; O'Dowd, 2000; to name a few). However, little research went beyond a descriptive account of such breakdowns to illuminate complex human activity. This study aims to explore challenges in a telecollaboration project as a culturally mediated human activity.

Drawing on activity theory and its principle of contradictions, this ethnographic study investigated student-reported challenges in a seven-week intercultural telecollaboration between a Japanese-language course at a Southern U.S. university and an English-language course at a university in Hokkaido, Japan. Small cross-institutional groups engaged in asynchronous discussions on controversial topics through Google Groups. In addition to the text of interaction, a pre/post-discussion questionnaire, reflection journals, and individual interviews were qualitatively analyzed in order to examine dynamics of the project. This paper discusses emergent intra-institutional contradictions, inter-institutional contradictions, technology-based contradictions, underlying factors of these contradictions, and transformations and outcomes of the project. Sociocultural Issues


An examination of the disproportionality of emergent bilinguals in special education

Jennifer Williamson (University of North Carolina at Greensboro)

The disproportionality of emergent bilinguals in special education is an issue that is crucial for ESL educators to be informed of because it affects and informs teaching practices. Practitioners and researchers need to examine the potential causes of the overrepresentation of culturally and linguistically diverse students receiving special education services. Using interpretive policy analysis, federal policies and assessment practices will be reviewed in order to reveal potential causes for and solutions to this issue.  Because of IDEA and other federal mandates regarding the provision of equitable education for students with disabilities, students who are identified as both ESL and EC receive special education services, often at the expense of ESL services when the student might benefit more from the latter.  Guilford County of North Carolina is used as a case study, in which the assessment practices used for identification and the modifications made for any dual-identified students are reviewed. The paper concludes by reviewing necessary cultural considerations involved in the assessment and labeling of emergent bilinguals who may need special education services. TESOL & Sociocultural Issues