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March 2013
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Profiling Excellence in Research
Interview of Andreea Cervatiuc
by Tomiko Breland

Dr. Andreea Cervatiuc is the recipient of the 2013 TESOL Award for Distinguished Research, presented by ETS TOEFL. Andreea was awarded US$1000 and a fully funded trip to present at the 2013 TESOL Annual Convention & English Language Expo, among other prizes. She is also the recipient of the 2009 International Award for Outstanding TESOL Article. We asked the award-winning researcher some questions about research, the practical implications of her own research, and what advice she would give to emerging researchers.

Dr. Cervatiuc at a Glance

She works as…researcher and instructor in the Faculty of Education, at the University of Calgary, in Canada
Her research interests include…second language acquisition and assessment, ESOL education, multilingualism, and language policy
She teaches…Undergraduate and graduate courses to students who are practicing and aspiring ESOL teachers from all over the world
She received…the first Postdoctoral Research Fellowship awarded by the EAL Research Chair at her university

1. How did you get interested in English language teaching and research?

I situate my interest in English teaching and research within the context of multilingual TESOL. I have long been fascinated with the phenomenon of multilingualism and with the intricacies of multilingual identities. I speak several languages and I have a hybrid cultural and linguistic identity. Before I became a researcher and teacher trainer, I had taught English and Spanish to speakers of other languages in Canada and in Romania. I believe that all ESOL classes should promote multilingualism, and never the acquisition of English at the expense of suppressing students’ mother tongues or other languages that they may speak. In Canada, many immigrant multilingual speakers are turned into monolingual speakers through suppressive English-only policies, while some schools attempt to transform English monolingual students into multilingual speakers, by introducing the compulsory study of a foreign language.

2. You won the 2013 TESOL Award for Distinguished Research for your article titled “Curriculum Meta-Orientations in the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada Program.” How did you get interested in research on newcomers, specifically?

Before I became a TESOL researcher and teacher trainer, I was an ESL instructor in a college in Calgary. My students were newcomers to Canada. As I listened to their stories and integration challenges, I got the motivation to conduct in-depth research in order to explore the English learning journeys of adult immigrants and refugees.

3. Can you tell us about your study?

The article is based on one of the large-scale research projects that I conducted as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Faculty of Education, at the University of Calgary. Dr. Thomas Ricento, who is an English as an Additional Language (EAL) Research Chair at the University for Calgary, is the coauthor of this study.

We evaluated the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) program from various perspectives: curriculum, teaching materials, program accessibility, and language assessment. We collected data from a variety of sources: interviews with LINC students, instructors, and program managers, focus groups, class observations, and teaching materials. The article focuses on the hidden or implicit curriculum in the LINC program, which represents only one aspect of the larger research study funded by the EAL Research Chair.

LINC instructors all over Canada have access to an online curriculum document, which constitutes the written or the explicit curriculum. I define the hidden curriculum as a reflection or byproduct of teachers’ ideologies, as opposed to an intentional effort of a certain group to impose their views on students. Educators teach according to their beliefs, underlying ideologies, and educational views. The article explores the ideological messages embedded in the hidden curriculum of the LINC program, as reflected in instruction, approaches to teaching Canadian culture, and instructors’ self-perceived teaching roles.

The findings of our research study indicate that in spite of the mandate stated in the written curriculum regarding the role of the LINC program in promoting immigrants’ and refugees’ integration, newcomers to Canada are encouraged to adapt rather than integrate. According to Freire (2005), adapted people are passive and domesticated, while integrated people are active, creative, and capable of making personal and social changes. An adaptation-oriented hidden curriculum leads to submission, passivity, and an uncritical frame of mind. An integration-driven hidden curriculum would promote social participation and the development of critical consciousness and it would be more in sync with a multicultural society like Canada’s.

4. What are the practical applications of the research that you report on in this paper?

The most important practical application of this article is that it gives ESOL professionals a framework for articulating and becoming aware of their educational beliefs, underlying ideologies, and curriculum meta-orientations. The article makes the case for a transformation participatory curriculum in ESOL programs for adult immigrants and refugees, because it would respond to the real issues that immigrants and refugees face in their first years after settling in a new country. Research indicates that the major social issues that newcomers to Canada face are:

  • discrimination,
  • lack of recognition of foreign credentials,
  • difficulties in finding adequate housing,
  • unemployment, and
  • underemployment.

A participatory-transformation teaching role would include facilitating students’ access to social networks outside the classroom so they can make positive changes in their lives and a difference in society. For instance, a participatory-transformation ESOL instructor would help students strengthen community ties by referring them to various organizations, encouraging them to participate in community and school organizations, and inviting guest speakers to class who can affect students’ lives, such as various professionals, landlords, and potential employers. Students would have the opportunity to use the language in order to find solutions to real-life problems. English learners would be engaged in a “conscientization process” (Freire, 2005), in which language learning is intertwined with thinking critically of how to make positive changes in their personal lives and in society.

A participatory-transformation curriculum is not only morally and philosophically sound, but also a very practical and useful model for adult immigrant English learners, because it is relevant to their socioeconomic needs and interests and it impacts their lives beyond the classroom. It motivates and encourages newcomers not only to learn English, but also to overcome challenges and barriers in order to better fulfill their life roles as parents, workers, community members, and human beings in the sociocultural context of their new country.

Another important implication of this research study is the recommendation for TESOL programs to offer courses that draw on critical applied linguistics (CAL). CAL emphasizes the need to link language teaching to context, social transformation, “ethnicity, culture, identity, and discourse” (Pennycook, 2001).

5. What advice do you have for emerging ESOL researchers?

I hope that more ESOL researchers will conduct studies aligned with the principles of CAL and will contribute to the multilingual turn in TESOL. We need to transform second language acquisition from a discipline that is still biased towards monolingualism into one that promotes multilingualism. The field needs more concepts, models, and theories that support multilingual TESOL (See resources on multilingual TESOL; PDF).

6. What are you passionate about outside of teaching and research?

Outside of teaching and research, I am passionate about mindful and holistic living, self-actualization, yoga, and various natural healing modalities. I love travelling, meditating, and spending time in nature.


References

Freire, P. (2005). Education for Critical Consciousness. New York: Continuum.

Pennycook, A. (2001). Critical Applied Linguistics: A Critical Introduction. Mahwah, New Jersey & London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Resources on Multilingual TESOL (PDF)

Attending the 2013 TESOL Annual Convention & English Language Expo in Dallas, Texas? Stop by Dr. Cervatiuc’s session where she presents on her paper, “Curriculum Meta-Orientations in the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada Program.”

Saturday, 11 am–11:45 am
Dallas Convention Center, Room D171

Interested in Dr. Andreea Cervatiuc’s work? Check out some of her publications:

Cervatiuc, A. & Ricento, T. (2012). Curriculum meta-orientations in the language instruction for newcomers to canada program. Canadian Journal for the Study of Adult Education, 24(2), 17–31.

Ricento, T. & Cervatiuc, A. (2010). Language minority rights and educational policy in Canada. (Ed.), International Perspectives on Bilingual Education: Policy, Practice, and Controversy. Greenwich CT: Information Age Publications, 21–42.

Cervatiuc, A. (2009). Successful second language vocabulary acquisition. Germany, Saarbrücken: VDM Verlag Dr. Müller.

Cervatiuc, A. (2009). Identity, good language learning, and adult immigrants in Canada. Journal of Language, Identity, and Education, 8(4), 254–271.

Cervatiuc, A. (2008). ESL vocabulary acquisition: Target and approach. The Internet TESL Journal.

Cervatiuc, A. (2008). Deconstructing the environment: The case of adult immigrants to Canada learning English. Journal of Identity and Migration Studies, 2(2), 67–86.

Cervatiuc, A. (2007). Assessing second language vocabulary knowledge. International Forum of Teaching and Studies, 3(3), 40–47.
 
Cervatiuc, A. (2007). Personality characteristics associated with successful second language acquisition. Philologica Jassyensia, 3(2), 201–211)

____________________

Tomiko Breland received her BA in English from Stanford University, her MA in writing from Johns Hopkins University, and her certificate in TESOL from Anaheim University. She is editor & publications project manager at TESOL International Association.

 

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