March 2019
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Dustin Crowther, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA; Peter I. De Costa, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA; & Jeffrey Maloney, Northeastern State University, Tahlequah, Oklahoma, USA

Dustin Crowther

Peter I. De Costa

Jeffrey Maloney

We situate our discussion within the paradigm of English as an international language (EIL).1 We use the term pedagogical inquiry to refer to empirical research conducted that directly impacts students, teachers, and classroom practice, while also informing future pedagogical discussion. Given the growing contemporary emphasis in methodological practice in both the larger field of applied linguistics (Phakiti, De Costa, Plonskly, & Starfield, 2018) and more specifically within World Englishes (De Costa, Crowther, & Maloney, in press), we here consider the methodological practices of EIL-inspired pedagogical inquiry. Following, we highlight common approaches to pedagogical inquiry and primary themes of interest. We conclude by making suggestions for future inquiry.

Addressing the Global Spread of English in the Language Learning Classroom

The driving force behind the current discussion is a need for greater research-based discussion on how EIL is addressed in the language learning classroom. Currently,

discussion remains largely at the theoretical level and there is both a scarcity of research at the practical level and a scarcity of resources for those who wish to act on such proposals and bring a more [EIL] perspective into the classroom. (Galloway & Rose, 2014, pp. 386–387).

Theoretical considerations are plentiful, as attested by the wide range of EIL-inspired pedagogical volumes that have been published in recent years. Such volumes generally consist of proposals representing a how-to guide for implementing EIL-inspired themes and activities into the language learning classroom, with authors often providing a description of their specific practice. However, far fewer scholars have engaged in actual pedagogical inquiry in regards to classroom-based EIL practices.

Methodologies Common to English as an International Language Pedagogical Inquiry

The analysis included is based on 23 empirical studies drawn primarily from the journals World Englishes, Journal of English as a Lingua Franca, and ELT Journal. A larger database, drawing from additional journals (e.g., Applied Linguistics, English Today, Language Teaching, TESOL Journal, TESOL Quarterly), will be discussed at the TESOL 2019 International Convention & English Language Expo, after which the entire dataset will be made available. Of the studies considered here, there exists an emphasis on three methodologies: ethnographic tools (N = 11), questionnaires (N = 10), and to a lesser extent, corpus analysis (N = 3). Though space constraints do not allow us to delve into the intricacies of each methodology identified, readers are referred to De Costa et al. (in press) for an in-depth discussion of each. Of interest is the number of studies that employed a mixed-methodology approach (N = 10), with the primary emphasis being the collaborative use of ethnographic tools and questionnaires (N = 7). This is not surprising, as we continue to see an increase in the use of mixed-methods research designs to bridge the mutually informative benefits of the postpositivist and postmodernist paradigms.2

Common Themes of Inquiry

From the previously referenced dataset, three themes of EIL-based pedagogical inquiry emerged: student and teacher attitudes, pedagogical targets, and policy implementation concerns.

Student and Teacher Attitudes

Attitudinal studies have investigated how both students and teachers view variation, ownership, and international usage of English. Drawing upon the range of aforementioned methodologies, with emphasis on questionnaire and interview data, findings indicate that both students and teachers show variability in their beliefs. In one example, Matsuda (2003) investigated how high school Japanese learners viewed the ownership of English. She found that while students did perceive English as an international language, they still conceded ownership primarily to American and British speakers. However, it is important to recognize that when considering results across studies similar to Matsuda’s (2003), teacher and student beliefs appear malleable when provided with awareness-raising pedagogical intervention.

Pedagogical Targets

In reference to pedagogical classroom targets, EIL literature has advocated against a norm-based approach, though teachers and students may not always be in agreement. A specific example of the aforementioned ethnographic/questionnaire mixed approach is Timmis (2002), who was able to gather data from 400 students (across 14 countries) and 180 teachers (45 countries) using a questionnaire. Timmis (2002) additionally conducted 15 student interviews to further his data. Drawing on the two sets of data, Timmis (2002) highlights a greater desire for a specific native norm among students than teachers, with a specific emphasis on pronunciation. Though pronunciation has been a popular focus of such research (with Jenkins, 2000, being the most well-known), similar scholarship can be found for syntax, morphology, and pragmatics.

Policy Implementation Concerns

Inquiry into policy concerns in regards to English-medium instruction exists across education levels (primary, elementary, secondary, postsecondary), though most studies consider policy in light of how English now serves as a lingua franca for academic study. As an example, Jones (2016), employing a range of ethnographic tools, considered the 2009 Bruneian policy shift that placed greater emphasis on English language learning across educational levels, with a specific emphasis at the primary stage. Of interest is that Jones conducted interviews/group discussions with both teachers and ministry officials (in the process highlighting the cautious responses of the latter as a potential methodological concern). This approach enabled an in-depth understanding of the current status of English language instruction in Brunei. Beyond ethnographic tools, such inquiry has also frequently relied upon the use of questionnaires (e.g., Bolton & Kuteeva, 2012).

Directions for Future Consideration

As indicated at the outset, there has been a greater emphasis on theoretical considerations compared to empirical-based investigation into EIL classroom practice. Though we have indeed seen an increase in actual pedagogical inquiry in recent years, there is clearly room for growth in this regard. Though current inquiry has focused on awareness, beliefs, and policies, there are additional key areas that require focus. Specifically, what is needed is information from within the classroom itself. Studies that promote increased student/teacher awareness of EIL (the most common in our dataset) do not comment on how this awareness may transfer to language development in the English language classroom. For example, how might an increased awareness of EIL impact learners’ ability to produce, comprehend, and negotiate meaning in multilingual/multicultural interactions, generally seen to be the setting of EIL usage?3 Aside from potential usage-oriented learning outcomes to be considered, what is seemingly limited at this time is detailed observations of the classes themselves, combined with student and teacher reflections that are gathered throughout the entire learning process. As a final comment, we would also suggest the following considerations for future pedagogical inquiry:

  • Given the global status of English, pedagogical inquiry must extend to how EIL is addressed in second as well as foreign language multilingual classrooms.

  • Most EIL-themed, assessment-based scholarship suffers from the same theory versus practice divide identified for classroom approaches. Given the link between classroom practice and language assessment, more work in the vein of Kang, Thomson, and Moran (in press) would be of benefit.

End Notes

We acknowledge the sometimes less than precise relationship between EIL and its commonly associated paradigm English as a lingua franca (De Costa, Maloney, & Crowther, 2018). We feel comfortable drawing on an umbrella term (in this paper, EIL) for our discussion based on both paradigms’ general concern with similar subject matter (for our purpose, how to incorporate a global perspective into the English language classroom).

2 Scholars who subscribe to a postpositivist paradigm seek an objective reality and single truth, achieved through testing hypotheses or looking for cause-effect relationships. Those who subscribe to a postmodernist paradigm place a greater emphasis on subjective realities and multiple truths, as they search for an understanding of how experiences, abilities, perceptions, and performances impact language use and development (both individual and societal).

3 Because of space limitations, we have avoided an in-depth discussion of language learning, acquisition, and development and how such constructs are viewed from the paradigms of EIL and second language acquisition. Those interested are referred to the 2018 special issue of World Englishes (“World Englishes and Second Language Acquisition”) for a starting point.


Bolton, K., & Kuteeva, M. (2012). English as an academic language at a Swedish university: Parallel language use and the ‘threat’ of English. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 33(5), 429–447.

De Costa, P. I., Crowther, D., & Maloney, J. (Eds.). (In press). Investigating World Englishes: Research methodology and practical applications. New York, NY: Routledge.

De Costa, P. I., Maloney, J., & Crowther, D. (2018). World Englishes. In A. Phakiti, P. I. De Costa, L. Plonsky, & S. Starfield (Eds). The Palgrave handbook of applied linguistics research methodologies (pp. 719739). London, England: Palgrave Macmillan.

Galloway, N., & Rose, H. (2014). Using listening journals to raise awareness of global Englishes in ELT. ELT Journal, 68(4), 386396.

Jenkins, J. (2000). The phonology of English as an international language. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Jones, G. M. (2016). Policy and practice in the use of English in Brunei primary school classes. World Englishes, 35(4), 509–518.

Kang, O., Thomson, R., & Moran, M. (in press). The effects of international accents and shared L1 on listening comprehension tests. TESOL Quarterly.

Matsuda, A. (2003). The ownership of English in Japanese secondary schools. World Englishes, 22(4), 483–496.

Phakiti, A., De Costa, P. I., Plonsky, L., & Starfield, S. (Eds). (2018). Palgrave handbook of applied linguistics research methodology. London, England: Palgrave Macmillan.

Timmis, I. (2002). Native-speaker norms and international English: A classroom view. ELT Journal, 56(3), 240–249.

Dustin Crowther is a visiting assistant professor at Oklahoma State University, and conducts research on the attainment of mutual intelligibility in multilingual and multicultural contact.

Peter De Costa is an associate professor at Michigan State University, jointly appointed at the Departments of Linguistics & Languages and Teacher Education. He is the coeditor of TESOL Quarterly.

Jeffrey Maloney is an assistant professor and director of the ESL academy at Northeastern State University. His research interests include language teacher training, computer-assisted language learning, and language learner identity.


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