Plenary Speakers

Openg Plenary

A Jack(al) of All Trades? Expertise in Studies of SLW
Alister Cumming, University of Toronto

Studies of second-language writing (SLW) have become increasingly sophisticated, focused, multi-faceted, and comprehensive. Correspondingly, demands have increased in the expertise required to conduct, publish, and interpret research in SLW, and to do so systematically, rigorously, and intelligently. Scholars of SLW need to know, identify, and analyze key issues in the practices and policies of teaching and learning SLW, of course, to acknowledge how they have been investigated previously, and to approach them in ways that will make a difference for others. Scholars of SLW also need to appreciate and investigate how these issues occur: locally as well as internationally; for populations of different ages and societal statuses; across different multiple language combinations; from theoretical perspectives related to psychology, linguistics, socio-anthropology, and education; and using methods of qualitative and quantitative research appropriately and judiciously.  Are all of these areas of expertise necessary to be able to produce research insights into SLW that are credible, innovative, significant, and useful? In turn, what do readers or users of research about SLW need to know in order to be able to interpret such research critically and sensibly? What constitutes the relevant knowledge, skills, and purposes to do and act on studies of SLW? Should a scholar of SLW strive to act like a jack of all trades, but risk being a master of none? Or should a scholar of SLW act like a jackal that roams cleverly, alone or in packs, in a few choice territories?  I will propose relevant criteria to answer these questions, review some notable research innovations in SLW, and suggest certain directions for future inquiry and professional development.

Alister Cumming is a professor in the Centre for Educational Research on Language and Literacies (CERLL, formerly the Modern Language Centre) at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, where he has been employed since 1991 following briefer periods at the University of British Columbia, McGill University, Carleton University, and Concordia University. For 2014 to 2017 Alister is also a Changjiang Scholar in the National Research Centre for Foreign Language Education at Beijing Foreign Studies University. His research and teaching focus on writing in second languages, language assessment, language program evaluation and policies, and research methods. Alister’s recent books are Agendas for Language Learning Research (with Lourdes Ortega and Nick Ellis, Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), Adolescent Literacies in a Multicultural Context (Routledge, 2012), A Synthesis of Research on Second Language Writing in English (with Ilona Leki and Tony Silva, Routledge, 2008), and Goals for Academic Writing (John Benjamins, 2006). Alister’s full CV appears on his university home page.

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Closing Plenary

On Becoming Enablers and Assessors of Multimodal Composing
Diane D. Belcher, Georgia State University

While decades of theory and research have encouraged a view of writing as integrally linked with reading and, less obviously, with oral communication, only more recently has writing been conceived of as part of a much larger technology-enhanced semiotic toolkit. L2 writers in particular have been seen as especially likely to benefit from such a digitally-enriched multimodal view of writing, and hence from guided use of the wealth of resources—audio and visual, graphic and video—now available for their composing processes. Few instructors or teacher-educators, however, have themselves been taught how to navigate, not to mention serve as guides to, composing in a digital environment. This presentation will discuss issues critical to considerations of how to become and effectively be a facilitator of multimodal composing and what forms assessment of such complex creative student work could take.

More specifically, drawing on theoretical, empirical, and pedagogical work reported on in both L1 and L2 literature relevant to facilitating new media composing, a number of questions, such as the following, will be explored: To what extent should the L2 writing class become a site of support for basic digital literacy acquisition for those still disadvantaged by the digital divide? Should instructors learn to leverage multimodality as a motivator for L2 literacy acquisition? How can students be guided in use of existing and developing print and multimodal literacies as mutually supportive scaffolds of each other? Should multimodal resources be used to enhance and critically problematize genre awareness and acquisition, and if so, how? Should writing assignments be designed to enable students to see multimodality as an ever-present means of expanding their composing repertoires, and again, if so, how? What heuristics already exist to guide teacher and peer development of rubrics for multimodal-ensembles, which, in turn, could guide collaborative creative processes and assessment of outcomes? And finally, how should teachers, as well as writing programs and multiliteracy centers, be assessed (or should they?) in their ability to foster student awareness of and facility with multimodal resources?

Diane D. Belcher, Professor and Chair, Applied Linguistics and ESL, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA, USA. Former editor of the journals English for Specific Purposes and TESOL Quarterly, Professor Belcher is currently serving as associate editor of the TESOL Encyclopedia of English Language Teaching as well as co-editor of a teacher reference series for the University of Michigan Press titled Michigan Series on Teaching Multilingual Writers. She has guest edited three special issues of the Journal of Second Language Writing. She has also edited seven books, contributed chapters to a number of edited books, and published articles in the Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, Applied Linguistics Review, Journal of English for Academic Purposes, and other journals. Her current research interests include advanced academic literacy, language for specific purposes, cultural identity, and qualitative research methodology.

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Arizona State University