March 2013
ALIS Forum


From the Editors

Olga Griswold

Jana Moore

Greetings ALISers! We hope you’re getting ready for the upcoming TESOL International Convention, and so in the spirit of all things Dallas, we’ve dedicated this issue of the ALIS Forum to the convention. We’ve asked some of our presenters this year to make short contributions that, we hope, will act as teasers and pique your interest in the different areas of research our fellow ALISers are currently investigating.

Our first article is by Kathleen Bardovi-Harlig, Heidi Vellenga, Sabrina Mossman, and Roosevelt Faulkner, who will be presenting “Teaching Expressions for Academic Discussion: Corpus-Based Materials That Work.” This is followed by Mark Johnson, Leonardo Mercado, and Anthony Acevedo’s work, “Research Insights into Expanding L2 Writing Vocabulary.”Next, Chi-yin Hong and Yung-gi Wu are presenting “EFL Teachers’ Pragmatic Evaluation of Learners’ Face-Threatening Acts.” Finally, Lía Kamhi-Stein and Nairi Issagholian write in this issue about “Language Classrooms as Complex and Harmonious Systems.” Randall Rebman represents our Graduate Student Corner this issue with “Preferred Vocabulary Self-Collection Strategies of EAP Reading Students.” Please check out their articles in this issue and stop by their presentations at the convention.

There are many more fabulous presentations that fall under Applied Linguistics as well as our academic and joint sessions (see the message in this issue from Kara Hunter, our current chair, for those details), so no doubt many of us will be quite busy in Dallas. Please make sure you take time to join us for our ALIS business meeting, which will be held on Thursday night at the convention. Also at the business meeting we will be saying goodbye to Kara Hunter as our outgoing chair, looking for new insights with this year’s chair, Eli Hinkel, and we’ll meet our chair-elect, Hayriye Kayi Aydar (look for her bio in this issue’s About This Community). We look forward to seeing you all there!

On a final note, as your co-editors we are always looking for more and new contributions to this newsletter, so feel free to contact either one of us if you’d like to contribute. We’re always looking for book reviewers as well as submissions from graduate students for our Graduate Student Corner, among other things.

Your ALIS Forum Co-editors,

Olga Griswold & Jana Moore

From the Outgoing Chair

As another year draws to a close, it gives us an opportunity to reflect on accomplishments of the past year and establish, or reestablish, goals for the coming year. One thing that stands out to me especially is the experience of being the chair for ALIS. I want to thank the entire ALIS community for allowing me this opportunity. As I transition to past chair, I would like all of you to know that being a part of the leadership team of ALIS has been a rewarding and meaningful experience for me. I would be remiss to not take a moment to thank Dilin Liu (University of Alabama), current past chair, for his guidance and leadership as I learned the ropes of this position. Thank you, Dilin.

I am very excited to be welcoming our current chair-elect, Eli Hinkel, as chair. Eli brings wisdom and experience that is of great benefit to our community. Additionally, I want to congratulate Dr. Hayriye Kayi-Aydar as she takes on the chair-elect position. I know we will all look forward to getting to know her at this year’s convention. Please know that if you are interested in being a part of the ALIS leadership team, we will soon start recruiting for a community manager because our current CM, Scott Phillabaum, is reaching the end of his term.

Soon I will be asking all of you to contribute your thoughts and ideas to the agenda of the annual ALIS business meeting that will be held at this year’s convention in Dallas on Thursday, March 21, in the evening. Please consult the TESOL convention program guide for the specific time and location. Any thoughts, ideas, or feedback that you have about the ALIS community would be most welcome. Certainly we want to discuss issues related to applied linguistics and how our community can continue to build a strong network of experts and professionals in our field. Beyond that, we want to know what is important to you as a member of the Applied Linguistics Interest Section.

Once again, I want to thank everyone who participated in the proposal review process for this year’s convention. Proposal reviewers invest a lot of time in not only reviewing, but providing feedback to all proposals, including those that are not accepted. This year, we received more than 135 submissions! With so many high-caliber proposals submitted, acceptance is very competitive. I hope the feedback that the reviewers took the time to give is helpful for those who wish to resubmit in the future.

Finally, please be sure to attend the Academic Session that is ALIS has coordinated as well as our InterSection with the Intensive English Programs Interest Section. Thank you, Eli, for organizing these great topics with an all-star line-up! Please see the details regarding these session below.

Academic Session

Practicalities of Teaching Academic Reading and Writing
Presenters: Marianne Celce-Murcia, Neil Anderson, Anne Burns, Eli Hinkel
Location, Date, and Time: Convention Center Ballroom C3, 3/21/2013, 1–3:45 pm

InterSection (with Intensive English Programs)

Applied Linguistics and IEP Teaching Essentials of Academic Skills
Presenters: Jim Bame, Gena Bennett, Jan Frodesen, Eli Hinkel
Location, Date, and Time: Convention Center D225, 3/23/2013, 10–11:45 am

I hope that all of you have a warm and peaceful winter, and I am looking forward to seeing you in Dallas!

From the Current Chair-Elect

To ALIS members:

My name is Eli Hinkel, and I am the current chair-elect and will continue in this capacity for another minute. Maybe two. During the Dallas convention, I will miraculously turn into the ALIS chair, like a caterpillar into a butterfly. IS chairs are far more likely to be pinned to a piece of cardboard than chair-elects, goes without saying.

I hope that many ALIS members are planning to attend the TESOL convention in Dallas. TESOL conventions represent wonderful—and perhaps unique—opportunities to expand one's professional horizons, meet new fellow professionals, and in general gauge the pulse of the business. I wouldn't miss it for the world, and I haven't in the past 24 years (no one is getting any younger around here). But in March, the weather in Dallas may be warmer and nicer than in probably half of the country, and this is definitely an additional benefit for someone like me, from Seattle. I teach at Seattle University and have been here for the past 17 years, rain and all.

ALIS membership includes many diverse language professionals who work in a large number of countries and geographical and teaching contexts, and as an outcome, we similarly have a broad range of interests and concerns. For the TESOL convention, the job of the chair-elect is to organize the ALIS Academic Session, the crown jewel of each IS in terms of quality, currency, and appeal, as well as InterSections—joint presentations with other ISs.

In March in Dallas, two such sessions will be presented for your professional and intellectual titillation. I hope you'll find them stimulating, useful, productive, practical, enlightening, and beyond compare. The ALIS Academic Session seeks to address the much-discussed gap between current research and the practice of language teaching and demonstrate direct applications of research findings to the classroom. The session is titled "Practicalities of Teaching Academic Reading and Writing." It goes without saying that a great deal of language teaching is devoted to the teaching of reading and writing at practically any level of learner proficiency and in a broad range of teaching contexts.

To this end, the ALIS Academic Session would like to be as appealing as possible to as many language professionals as possible. The speakers at the Academic Session are famous and well-established experts who will present a realistic groundwork for teaching academic reading and writing: Marianne Celce-Murcia, University of California, Los Angeles; Neil Anderson, Brigham Young University; and Anne Burns, Macquarie University. These authorities will discuss discourse-based grammar for teaching reading and writing, expectations of academic reading and writing at the university, a pedagogical models for genre and grammar in academic writing, and research findings on grammar essential in for academic writing. The ALIS Academic Session will run on Thursday afternoon.

The second session is a joint undertaking that includes both ALIS and the Intensive English Programs IS, with the title "Applied Linguistics and IEP Teaching Essentials of Academic Skills." This InterSection will work with research findings in applied linguistics useful in intensive English instruction and explore their practical applications in the teaching of academic listening, grammar, and academic writing. The speakers at the session are similarly well-known researchers and methodologists: Jim Bame, Utah State University; Gena Bennett, Independent Scholar; and Jan Frodesen, University of California, Santa Barbara. The session will focus on the essentials of instruction, based on the analyses of academic corpora, combined with practical suggestions for grammar "noticing" and production activities to develop writing accuracy and fluency. This InterSection is scheduled on Saturday morning.

Come one, come all! I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible in Dallas. I'm the one with the carrot top, a gorgeous Russian accent, and cigarettes in my pocket. My email address is

Please do not forget to come to the ALIS Business Meeting on Thursday evening. We need your presence, participation, and wisdom to figure out what to plan for the 2014 TESOL convention in Portland, Oregon. Which will happen soon enough, mark my words. And please don't forget to sharpen your pencils.

Eternally yours,

Eli Hinkel


Teaching Expressions for Academic Discussion: Corpus-Based Materials That Work

Kathleen Bardovi-Harlig

Heidi Vellenga

Sabrina Mossman

Roosevelt T. Faulkner

Teaching academic discussion often presents challenges both in authenticity of the language samples and in the mode of measurement. This article reports on an investigation into the effectiveness of teaching expressions for academic discussion, namely expressions for agreement, disagreement, and clarification (of other speakers and oneself).

This study involved three challenges: identifying authentic expressions for academic discussion, developing teaching materials based on authentic discourse, and designing a means of assessing learners’ knowledge of the expressions. The source of authentic input for both the expressions and their contexts was the Michigan Corpus of Academic Spoken English (MICASE; Simpson, Briggs, Ovens, & Swales, 2002). For evaluation, we developed an oral, computer-delivered conversation simulation that allowed students to respond to turns taken by classmates.

Previous studies of disagreements relied on group discussion to evaluate the effectiveness of teaching (e.g., LoCastro, 1997), but discussion groups provide learners with neither obligatory contexts to agree or disagree nor identical opportunities for everyone. Previous studies of conversational expressions have used either multiple choice tasks (Roever, 2005) or C-test passages (Schmitt, 2004). Neither resembles communicative contexts in which learners respond orally in real time.

The oral production test used for the pre- and posttest includes 2 examples, 2 practice items, and 30 test items randomly arranged, including 10 agreement, 10 disagreement, and 10 clarification scenarios. Items start with a brief description of the setting and the topic (e.g., transportation, fast food, learning English) and then give learners a specific opinion. Students saw the descriptions on the screen as in Example 1. After students heard and read the setting and their position, they heard a classmate’s turn to which they responded.

Example 1: Disagreement

Narrator (visual and audio): Your group is talking about the news and media. You think that newspapers like The New York Times and The London Times are still very important.

Classmate’s turn (audio only): Nobody reads newspapers these days.

[Screen only] You say:

Agreement and disagreement items were further divided into items stating the respondent’s opinion relative to the classmate’s position (“You have the same opinion as your classmate”) and items stating the content of the respondent’s position (as in Example 1). There were five of each type for both agreements and disagreements.

Four 50-minute lessons were delivered as outlined in Table 1. The first lesson introduced five agreement expressions. The second lesson included two more agreement expressions (I agree, I agree with) and introduced the disagreement expressions. The third lesson introduced self-clarification expressions (What I mean, In other words) and also encouraged the use of all three types of expressions. The fourth lesson introduced requests for clarification (Do you mean, You’re saying) and ended with practice.

Table 1. Lesson Outline






That’s right, You’re right, Good point, Makes sense, that’s true



I agree and I agree with

“Yeah, but”; “Okay, but”; “I don’t think so”; “I agree, but”


Self-clarification + Practice

What I mean, In other words


Clarification + Practice

Your point, Do you mean, You’re saying, I have a question, What you’re saying

Instruction included three primary elements: noticing of expressions in context, explicit metapragmatic information concerning use, and opportunities for production. Focused noticing activities have been shown to be an effective means of instruction and have been used in multiple studies involving pragmatic instruction (Bardovi-Harlig & Vellenga, 2012). Each lesson began with a warm-up activity, followed by multiple focused-noticing activities. When each activity was completed, the instructor provided feedback to the entire group. The learners then engaged in additional listening and reading activities, which provided explicit information about the expressions. Finally, the learners engaged in a variety of interactive production activities.

A total of 37 students participated in either the instruction group or the repeated-test group. Five intact low-advanced communications classes taught by four teachers participated. Four listening-speaking classes were in an intensive English program and one class was a section of Academic Discussion offered for degree-seeking students (26 students). An additional two classes (11 students) received no instruction, taking the test twice to examine test practice effects instead. Responses were transcribed and coded by multiple raters for (1) performance of the speech act and (2) use of the targeted conventional expression

The students who received instruction improved at the posttest in both number of speech acts attempted and number of expressions used appropriately. Students who merely repeated the test showed no noticeable improvement.

Table 2. Experiment Results

Speech acts

Experimental Group

(N = 26)

Repeated-Test Group

(N = 11)













Total recognizable speech acts (k = 30)









Total instruction expressions (k = 30)









Learners demonstrated performance of the desired communicative function in nearly 70% of the pretest agreement and disagreement items, but in fewer than 40% of the clarification items. In the instructed group, responses to agreements, disagreements, and other clarifications rose to around 85%. Self-clarifications increased over 20%, but started lower. The use of expressions started at a much lower rate, but increased by three times at the post test. In contrast, identifiable production of speech acts increased by only 5% and use of expressions showed no change in the no-instruction group. Greater clarity in speech act production resulted from instruction even when students did not use the target expressions. Please join us for the fuller report!


Bardovi-Harlig, K., & Vellenga, H. E. (2012). The effect of instruction on conventional expressions in L2 pragmatics. System, 40, 1–13.

LoCastro, V. (1997). Pedagogical intervention and pragmatic competence development. Applied Language Learning, 8, 75–109.

Roever, C. (2005). Testing ESL pragmatics: Development and validation of a web-based assessment battery. Berlin, Germany: Peter Lang.

Schmitt, N. (Ed.). (2004). Formulaic sequences in action. Formulaic sequences: Acquisition, processing and use. Amsterdam, Netherlands: John Benjamins.

Simpson, R. C., Briggs, S. L., Ovens, J., & Swales, J. M. (2002). The Michigan corpus of academic spoken English. Ann Arbor: The Regents of the University of Michigan.

Research Insights Into Expanding L2 Writing Vocabulary

Identifying target vocabulary in second language (L2) writing instruction presents a challenge to L2 writing instructors. Selection of target vocabulary is often either prescribed by the course texts or based on the intuition of the teacher. L2 writing instructors looking to research for guidance may be disappointed, because research on vocabulary in L2 writing appears to be in short supply. Studies often examine vocabulary incidentally as one of many surface features of L2 writers’ texts. The findings of such studies with regard to vocabulary seem to be consistent, indicating that the use of a broad diversity of unique words—or word types—compared to the total number of words—or word tokens—is associated with holistic L2 writing quality. [1] The results of such studies suggest that teachers of L2 writing should provide students with explicit vocabulary instruction rather than rely on incidental vocabulary learning (Laufer, 2005). However, this leaves the question of how to target vocabulary for instruction to help L2 teachers expand the productive vocabulary of L2 writers.

In an attempt to better understand how to broaden L2 writers’ vocabulary base, Johnson, Acevedo, and Mercado (in press) used lexical frequency profiles to characterize the vocabulary of L2 writers and its relationship to L2 writing quality. To do this, they conducted a study examining the writing of a homogeneous group of Spanish-speaking learners of English as a foreign language (N = 101). They examined the participants’ texts by comparing the vocabulary in their texts to three different frequency lists: (a) the General Service List (GSL; West, 1953), (b) the Academic Word List (AWL; Coxhead, 2000), and the first (1K) through the fifth (5K) most frequent word families according to the British National Corpus (BNC; Nation, 2006). Each of these lists is described briefly in Table 1.

Table 1. Commonly Used Frequency Lists in Lexical Frequency Profiles



General Service List (West, 1953)

Two lists of 1,000 words compiled based on “frequency, ease of learning, and necessity”

Academic Word List (Coxhead, 2000)

A list of 570 word families that, in conjunction with the General Service List, provide approximately 86% coverage of most academic texts

British National Corpus Frequency Lists (Nation, 2006)

Lists of word families arranged incrementally such that a text may be compared against the first through the fourteenth 1,000 most frequent word families

Using the Range program (Heatley, Nation, & Coxhead, 2002), they calculated the number of word types from each of the lists and normed their occurrence per 100 words in order to facilitate comparison of texts of varying lengths. The normed frequency of word types from each of the lists was then entered into a series of three step-wise multiple regression analyses to determine the extent to which the use of vocabulary from each of the lists predicted holistic writing quality scores assigned by a group of L2 writing instructors. Table 2 summarizes the variables entered into each multiple regression analysis.

Table 2. Multiple Regression Analyses Conducted by Johnson, Acevedo, and Mercado (in press)


Criterion variable

Predictor variables


Holistic writing quality score (0–6)

Normed (to 100 words) frequency of:

-Word types from the GSL first 1,000 words
-Word types from the GSL second 1,000 words
-Word types from the AWL


Holistic writing quality score (0–6)

Normed (to 100 words) frequency of:

-Word types from the BNC 1K list
-Word types from the BNC 2K list
-Word types from the BNC 3K list
-Word types from the BNC 4K list


Holistic writing quality score (0–6)

Normed (to 100 words) frequency of:

-Word types from the BNC 1K list
-Word types from the BNC 2K list
-Word types from the BNC 3K list
-Word types from the BNC 4K list
-Word types from the BNC 5K list

The first analysis yielded no significant model. In other words, the use of word types from the GSL and AWL did not predict holistic writing quality scores among this group of learners. [2] The second analysis, however, revealed that the use of word types from the 4K BNC list significantly predicted holistic writing quality score. In the third analysis, when word types from the 5K list were added, the frequency of 5K word types was the only significant predictor of holistic quality score, accounting for 4% of the variance in scores. On its surface, 4% of variance may seem rather small. However, it is important to note that the normed frequency of 5K word types was 0.28 per 100 words, suggesting that the use of less frequent vocabulary makes a considerable impact on holistic writing quality.

Based on the results of their research, Johnson et al. (in press) recommend a three-strand approach to L2 writing instruction that will not only help students build a foundation of the most frequent word families but also expand their vocabulary beyond that base. Such an approach would incorporate (a) extensive reading input for writing, (b) repeated exposure to and practice with target vocabulary (both receptive and productive practice), and (c) explicit instruction in self-study methods to give students the tools to expand their vocabularies beyond the base of word families needed for basic written communication. Such an instructional program would make use of lexical frequency profiles to target vocabulary for instruction, practice, and self-study.

Incorporating lexical frequency profiles into L2 writing instruction offers an opportunity for L2 writing teachers to move beyond the simple recommendation that they teach students vocabulary. Online lexical analysis tools—such as those available at—are easy to use and offer L2 writing instructors a principled method for identifying which vocabulary to teach students. Such tools also allow students and teachers to analyze student writing, potentially expanding students’ productive vocabularies, ultimately leading to gains in L2 writing quality.


Coxhead, A. (2000). A new academic word list. TESOL Quarterly 34, 213–238.

Coxhead, A., & Byrd, P. (2007). Preparing teachers to teach the vocabulary and grammar of academic prose. Journal of Second Language Writing, 16, 129–147.

Heatley, A., Nation, I. S. P., & Coxhead, A. (2002). Range [Computer software]. Retrieved from

Johnson, M. D., Acevedo, A., & Mercado, L. (in press). We know we should teach vocabulary, but what vocabulary should we teach? Using lexical frequency profiles to expand L2 writers’ vocabulary. Writing and Pedagogy.

Laufer, B. (2005). Instructed second language vocabulary learning: The fault in the “default hypothesis.” In A. Housen & M. Pierrard (Eds.), Investigations in instructed second language acquisition (pp. 311–329). Berlin, Germany: Mouton de Gruyter.

Nation, I. S. P. (2006). How large a vocabulary is needed for reading and listening? Canadian Modern Language Review 63, 59–82.

West, M. (1953). A general service list of English words, with semantic frequencies and a supplementary word-list for the writing of popular science and technology. London, England: Longman.

[1] Despite well-known methodological challenges in calculating lexical diversity, recent more sophisticated measures (e.g., vocD, MTLD) have confirmed the results of previous research.

[2] According to Coxhead and Byrd (2007), 80% of the AWL is Greco-Latin in origin. This is a possible reason that use of word types from the AWL did not contribute to variance among the Spanish-speaking group of L2 writers.

EFL Teachers' Pragmatic Evaluation of Learners' Face-Threatening Acts

Chi-yin Hong

Yung-gi Wu

For language users, the capacity of producing pragmatically appropriate utterances (i.e., pragmatic competence) is an essential basis for successful communication. According to Bachman and Palmer (1996), pragmatic competence refers to the ability to relate utterances to the speaker’s communicative goals and the features of the language use setting. It includes not only the speaker’s ability to use a language for different purposes but also the listener’s ability to understand the speaker’s real intentions, especially when these intentions are not directly conveyed. It also involves the capacity to relate a set of linguistic forms and meanings intended by those forms in specific contexts (Bialystok, 1993). A lack of pragmatic competence can cause misunderstandings and communication breakdowns, particularly when face-threatening acts, such as requests and complaints, are involved.

English language education in EFL settings tends to focus on developing learners’ grammatical competence and ignores pragmatic competence. EFL teachers also concentrate on assessing grammatical competence more than pragmatic competence (Bardovi-Harlig & Dörnyei, 1998), which probably reflects their conception of prioritizing grammatical accuracy in teaching. This can restrict the development of pragmatic competence of EFL learners, who have received relatively limited pragmatic input (see, e.g., Bardovi-Harlig & Hartford, 1996; Kasper, 1997) compared to ESL learners. The present study aims to probe into EFL teachers’ pragmatic evaluation of two face-threatening acts, requests and refusals, produced by English language learners to investigate the relationship among their scoring of grammatical accuracy, appropriateness of expressions, and overall performances.

Thirty college students in Taiwan participated in this study: 15 low-proficiency learners and 15 intermediate learners. Their proficiency levels were determined based on their performances in prior proficiency tests. [1] In addition, 11 English teachers who taught in senior high schools and colleges scored the learners’ productions of request and refusal strategies. Two instruments were used: a written discourse completion task (DCT) and a scoring chart. The written DCT was an open-ended questionnaire, which provided scenario cues to the learners and required them to write down what they would say if the situation really happened. There were eight scenarios: four request situations and four refusal situations. Among the four request situations, two included a teacher and two involved a classmate as addressees to investigate the effects of the addressee’s status on the subjects’ requests, and the same variable distribution applied to the refusal situations. The other instrument was a scoring chart, in which the 11 English teachers scored all of the learners’ speech act productions based on grammatical accuracy, appropriateness of expressions, and overall performances, on a scale of 1 to 7.

The results show that in general, the intermediate group scored higher than the low group. There were slight differences between the two groups’ scores in request situations, but in Scenario 6 (i.e., a scenario of refusing the teacher) the low-proficiency learners’ scores were significantly lower than the intermediate learners’ in terms of grammatical accuracy, appropriateness, and overall performances. These results seem to suggest that the difficulty level of refusals is higher than requests, contributing to the low-proficiency learners’ problems both in grammatical accuracy and appropriateness. However, there could be another interpretation that comes from the influence of grammatical accuracy on the teachers’ scoring. Further correlation analyses show that the two learner groups’ scores of overall performances correlated with those of grammatical accuracy and appropriateness, but comparatively, the low-proficiency learners’ scores of grammatical accuracy and appropriateness were also correlated and reached the significance level, whereas the intermediate learners’ scores did not exhibit this tendency. The following sample productions selected from Scenario 6 may reveal some clues of such influences. The first three examples produced by low-proficiency learners represented common refusal strategies, explanations, and negation of abilities, which were also often used by the intermediate learners. These refusals, involving grammatical errors such as the deletion of auxiliary verbs and wrong word choice, received low scores in terms of the three scoring criteria.

(L5) Teacher, I afraid of I’ll miss the money. (2.43/2.45/2.36) [2]

(L13) It’s not reliable for me to keep the class fund. I am not good at count. (3.18/3.36/3.36)

(L14) I think I don’t have a heart strong enough to keep such a great number of money. Could you please change the bill manager? (3.18/3.09/3.09)

Comparatively, the intermediate learners received a higher score in general, including for appropriateness, even though their strategy use was similar to that of the low-proficiency learners. For instance, the following example involved an explicit refusal, which was not appropriate in interactions with superiors, but it still got an average score higher than 4.

(I7) Sir, I am not willing to have so much money with me. I’m not careful enough. (4.73/4.27/ 4.27)

In addition, the following two examples produced by the intermediate learners show the speakers’ negation of abilities. With a higher level of grammatical accuracy, they got a higher score in appropriateness than similar refusal strategies used by the low-proficiency learners.

(I9) I can’t take care of the class fund. (4.82/4/4)

(I12) Mr. Wang, I’m afraid I can’t take good care of the class fund. (4.82/4.73/4.82)

To sum up, the EFL teachers in the present study were influenced by grammatical accuracy while evaluating the utterance appropriateness of low-proficiency learners’ refusals. With utterances including grammatical errors, the teachers were likely to be distracted from weighing social desirability. Although such influences seem to be inevitable, teachers’ focus should not be diverted from appropriate pragmatic strategies, which can be as important as correct grammar. After all, in EFL settings where authentic input is relatively limited, teachers play a vital role in offering input and bring learners’ attention to relevant linguistic and pragmatic features so as to acquire them. A pedagogical focus exclusively on grammatical competence might determine learners’ priorities in learning and thus encourage grammatical competency at the expense of pragmatic competence (Bardovi-Harlig & Hartford, 1996). Teachers should keep in mind that grammatical errors do not necessarily result in social inappropriateness of speech behaviors though grammatical competence is indeed part of communicative competence, and that developing grammatical competence does not guarantee pragmatically competent speakers. Appropriateness of expressions should be integrated into teaching to arouse EFL learners’ awareness of pragmatic competence in efficient and smooth communication and avoidance of communication breakdowns.


Bachman, L., & Palmer, A. (1996). Language testing in practice. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Bardovi-Harlig, K., & Dörnyei, Z. (1998). Do language learners recognize pragmatic violations? Pragmatic versus grammatical awareness in instructed L2 learning. TESOL Quarterly, 32, 233–262.

Bardovi-Harlig, K., & Hartford, B. S. (1996). Input in an institutional setting. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 17, 171–188.

Bialystok, E. (1993). Symbolic representation and attentional control in pragmatic competence. In G. Kasper & S. Blum-Kulka (Eds.), Interlanguage pragmatics (pp. 43–57).New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Kasper, G. (1997). The role of pragmatics in language teacher education. In K. Bardovi-Harlig & B. S. Hartford (Eds.), Beyond methods: Components of language teacher education (pp. 113–136). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

[1]The subjects had taken either the General English Proficiency Test, a national English proficiency test in Taiwan, or the TOEIC.

[2] L refers to the low-proficiency learners (and I to the intermediate learners), followed by the number, which represents the subject’s serial number in their group. The three numbers in the parenthesis at the end of each sample are the scores for grammatical accuracy, appropriateness of expressions, and overall performances.

Language Classrooms as Complex and Harmonious Systems


 Lía D. Kamhi-Stein

Nairi Issagholian

The Language Classroom as a Complex Adaptive System

Originating from the disciplines of biology, physics, and mathematics, complexity theory examines complex, unpredictable, dynamic, open, nonlinear, self-organizing, emergent, chaotic, and adaptive systems (Larsen-Freeman, 1997). Such systems consist of multiple agents that constantly interact with one another and their environment, and this interaction is what gives rise to the overall system. In applied linguistics, the work of Larsen-Freeman (1997; see also Larsen-Freeman & Cameron, 2008) has contributed to a reconceptualization of language and second language acquisition. From this new perspective, language is viewed as a complex adaptive system (CAS), which develops and changes over time as opposed to remaining a static thing (Larsen-Freeman & Cameron, 2008). Much like language, classrooms can also be considered CAS (Burns & Knox, 2011; Larsen-Freeman & Cameron, 2008). As Larsen-Freeman and Cameron (2008) argue, in this view (1) all classroom actions are interconnected and classroom actions cannot be analyzed and understood in isolation; (2) co-adaptation is central to the dynamic system, that is, changes in one of its parts will result in changes in another part of the system; (3) teaching involves managing the dynamic system; and (4) language is dynamic, that is, as learners integrate new language into their repertoire, it takes different forms. Additionally, the CAS is further complexified by the teachers’ instructional practices because these are affected by their professional and personal identities (Kamhi-Stein, in press).

This Study

Drawing on the notions of CAS and professional identity development, we set out to conduct a case study designed to investigate the pedagogical practices of a multicultural and multilingual novice ESL instructor (the second author of this article). Our goal was to understand how the novice teacher’s pedagogical practices and thinking about teaching and learning evolved in her first year of teaching (spring 2011–fall 2012). In fact, we focused on the teacher’s trajectory from spring 2011, when she was a preservice teacher enrolled in an MA in TESOL practicum course, to the end of fall 2012, when she had been teaching for an intensive English program for 1 year. The data analyzed included (1) the teacher’s classroom journal for spring 2011–fall 2012, (2) the teacher’s instructional practices during her practice teaching experience, (3) the teacher’s entries in forum discussions during her practice teaching experience (spring 2011), (4) an autobiographical narrative written by the teacher during her graduate studies, (5) the mentor teacher’s report, (6) lesson plans for the various courses the teacher taught over the period of this study, and( 7) presentations given by the teacher to three different groups of preservice teachers in three different quarters.

Initial Findings

The qualitative analysis of the data shows that the novice teacher’s pedagogy was not static; that is, the teacher’s pedagogical practices changed as a result of her evolving beliefs about teaching and learning. Additionally, the teacher’s pedagogical practices were found to be relational because they developed through the interaction of many agents. In fact, the smallest changes in one agent affected the teacher’s immediate pedagogy and, in turn, influenced the teacher’s pedagogy in the following term, and this affected the classroom environment. An example of the relational nature of the teacher’s practices can be drawn from the teacher’s diary in which she explains that her initial degree of friendliness (during her first term as a salaried teacher) gave students the impression that she would be lenient with classroom management, academic expectations, and grades. This impression led students to complain when they felt disappointed by their midterm grades (e.g., “But teacher, you are so nice to give me this grade”). Therefore, in subsequent quarters, the teacher decided to be welcoming, but at the same time to establish clear expectations from day one. In turn, the teacher’s change contributed to creating a more positive classroom climate because students were clear about classroom expectations.

The findings of the study also show the relational nature of agents such as the teacher’s pedagogical practices, the physical setting (e.g., the different types of classrooms in which the teacher taught), programmatic policies (e.g., expectations about the curriculum), and the teacher’s beliefs about the construction of the classroom (e.g., the notion that the classroom should be co-constructed).

At TESOL 2013, we will present the results of our study and discuss its implications for classroom pedagogy and teacher preparation. We look forward to seeing you in Dallas!


Burns, A., & Knox, J. (2011). Classrooms as complex adaptive systems: A relational model. TESL-EJ, 15(1), 1–25.

Kamhi-Stein, L. D. (in press). English language teachers narrating their lives: From the construction of professional identities to the construction of the language classroom. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Larsen-Freeman, D. (1997). Chaos/complexity science and second language acquisition. Applied Linguistics, 18(2), 141–165.

Larsen-Freeman, D., & Cameron, L. (2008). Complex systems and applied linguistics. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.


Preferred Vocabulary Self-Collection Strategies of EAP Reading Students

The amount of vocabulary that English for academic purposes (EAP) students need in order to comprehend academic texts often far exceeds what they can acquire during the time they spend in an intensive English program. Nation (2006) estimates that learners require knowledge of 8,000–9,000 word families for 98% coverage of the words that occur in academic texts. To address EAP students’ need for a larger vocabulary, it has been suggested that EAP reading curricula include both explicit vocabulary instruction and incidental exposure to vocabulary through extensive and intensive reading (Grabe & Stoller, 2011). Yet even when these curricular approaches are implemented, learners are still likely to come up short of the vocabulary knowledge that they need for successful reading comprehension.

Self-Collection Techniques in EAP Reading

Grabe (2009) suggests that reading teachers can help learners take control of their own vocabulary learning through the use of vocabulary learning strategies, or self-collection techniques. Self-collection techniques typically include keeping a vocabulary notebook, creating flashcards, and reviewing word lists. Computer-assisted language learning also provides word-collection options through web 2.0 platforms and mobile applications. The use of self-collection techniques has received criticism for being decontextualized and unrelated to actual language use. Nation (2001) argues, however, that direct vocabulary learning through techniques such as word cards can help with learning aspects of word knowledge not addressed in learning vocabulary from context. Collocations, parts of speech, and form and meaning connections are examples of aspects of word knowledge that can be covered by self-collection techniques.

As a second language (L2) reading teacher, I am interested in helping students explore the use of vocabulary learning strategies that assist them in acquiring multiple aspects of word knowledge. Grabe and Stoller (2011) recommend that teachers expose learners to a variety of techniques for learning and reviewing words on their own. Through this exploratory process, students can be led to discover the word collection techniques that they prefer the most. Grabe and Stoller encourage teachers to engage in action research projects to determine L2 readers’ self-collection technique preferences. The results of such a project are likely to influence the sequence in which teachers introduce vocabulary learning techniques in future teaching. In addition, monitoring the choice of different aspects of word knowledge (collocations, synonyms, definitions, etc.) that learners use through their self-collection techniques can help teachers make decisions about what types of techniques are more appropriate for learning certain aspects of a word.


The two-semester action research project that I am conducting and will present at the TESOL 2013 Convention adapts Grabe and Stoller’s (2011) action research guidelines. This study is carried out at a university intensive English program in the southwestern United States. The participants involved in the first semester of the study were 18 students enrolled in an advanced EAP reading and vocabulary course. In the first semester, the self-collection techniques used by the class were vocabulary notebooks and flashcards.

As part of the action research project, students are given explicit instruction on a self-collection technique and then multiple opportunities to experiment with the technique over a 2-week period. At the beginning of each week, students are directed to choose five words from their assigned reading passages and use the assigned self-collection technique to attempt to learn the words. Throughout the week, classroom instruction provides opportunities for students to practice the technique and connect it with speaking and writing activities, vocabulary games, and partner-assisted quizzing.

A semistructured interview is administered for each self-collection technique following each 2-week instructional period. Upon the conclusion of the course, students are given a questionnaire and ranking form adapted from Grabe and Stoller (2011) to determine students’ self-collection technique preferences and the reasons for their decisions. A teaching log is used as an additional source of data to document observations and reflections related to the use of classroom activities that integrate vocabulary self-collection techniques.


From the class of 18 students, 11 were interviewed on their use of self-collection techniques. Some interviewees demonstrated an awareness of how some vocabulary collection techniques are more effective than others. One student reported that using a vocabulary notebook was better than “I write down a word again and again. This was the old way I used to learn new words.” This response demonstrates the importance of introducing students to different self-collection techniques and asking them to compare their effectiveness for learning different aspects of word knowledge with techniques that they might already use.

Not all the students who were interviewed, however, saw the usefulness in using self-collection techniques for their EAP coursework. Rather, a number of students felt vocabulary should only be collected when it relates to their major. As one student explained, “When I read something about my major, Business, there are many words . . . I try to write on the flashcard if I can go and look through them later.” That some of the students felt self-collecting words in their EAP coursework would not be beneficial for their later university classes highlights the misconceptions students possess about vocabulary frequency information. Although students in this study were directed to collect words from the Academic Word List, they didn’t seem to understand that they were likely to encounter these words again, beyond the immediate classroom context.

In addition to the findings already discussed, my presentation at the TESOL Convention in Dallas will report on the results from the questionnaire and ranking form, interview results following the piloting of the computer application Quizlet, and data from the teaching log. Because this study is ongoing at the time of this writing, limited results are reported here.


Implications from this initial analyses of the collected data suggest that it is necessary to raise EAP readers’ awareness of the usefulness of particular self-collection techniques beyond the EAP classroom. If students are to become more autonomous in their vocabulary learning, then they need to see how self-collection techniques can apply to contexts beyond just the language classroom. Training students on how to locate frequency information on the words they encounter should also be a necessary part of teaching the use of vocabulary self-collection techniques (McCrostie, 2007).


Grabe, W. (2009). Reading in a second language: Moving from theory to practice. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Grabe, W., & Stoller, F. L. (2011). Teaching and researching reading (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Longman.

McCrostie, J. (2007). Examining learner vocabulary notebooks. ELT Journal, 61, 246–255.

Nation, I. S. P. (2001). Learning vocabulary in another language. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Nation, I. S. P. (2006). How large a vocabulary is needed for reading and listening? Canadian Modern Language Review, 63, 69–2.

Community News

Meet the New Chair-Elect: Hayriye Kayi-Aydar

I am an assistant professor of ESL/ELL education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, where I teach graduate courses in ESL methods and second language acquisition. I was born and grew up in Turkey, where I received my bachelor’s degree in English language teaching. My journey in the United States began when I moved to Nevada to get my master’s degree in TESOL at the University of Nevada at Reno, where I served as a research/teaching assistant. Later on, with the support of a William Livingston Fellowship, I received my PhD in 2012, under the direction of Dr. Elaine K. Horwitz, in foreign language education program, at the University of Texas at Austin.

I taught ESL in the Intensive English Program at Texas State University at San Marcos. I also received a competitive grant from the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Texas at Austin to develop an intensive foreign language curriculum. While involved in this curriculum development project, I authored two textbooks, Life With Turkish I and II.

I became a member of TexTESOL III (TT3) in 2007. Soon after, I joined the board as the news editor and served for TT3 for 3 years. During my service, I helped organizing the 2011 TexTESOL state conference, which was a great success, as well as a number of TexTESOL III regional conferences, workshops, and seminars. I am currently the general editor of the TexTESOL Journal. I read and evaluate proposals submitted for the international TESOL Convention every year. I am always curious about the changes and developments in the fields of TESOL, second language acquisition, bilingual education, and applied linguistics. In order to closely follow current research and pedagogical practices in these fields, I am a regular member of various organizations, such as American Association of Applied Linguistics, American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, American Educational Research Association, National Association of Bilingual Education, National Council of Teachers of English, and of course our very own TESOL International Association.

My research, in broad terms, is centered on interaction. My understanding of interaction has changed over time. Initially, I viewed interaction from a cognitive perspective, but I then became more interested in social aspects of interaction and the role of sociocultural factors. My current research works with discourse, narrative, and pedagogy at the intersections of second language acquisition, interactional sociolinguistics, and social psychology. My goal is to understand the complex relations between positional identities, social interaction, and second language learning in ESL classrooms. I have a number of articles and reviews in various refereed journals such as Applied Linguistics, Journal of Sociolinguistics, Asian EFL, TESL Reporter, Texas Papers in Foreign Language Education, and Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development.

I am excited about the opportunity to serve as the chair-elect for the Applied Linguistics Interest Section. I believe that it is a privilege to serve this amazing group of professionals. I look forward to communicating with you all and wish you a very Happy New Year!