2015 Events Archive

December 2015

English as Therapy – December 20th, 2015 Event


Humans – through the biological determinants of evolutionary selection – have developed a uniquely social brain. In the human social brain, learning is the principal mechanism that shapes all behavior, and language is the medium through which learning takes place and cognition is acquired. Cognition is the understanding of ourselves, others and the world around us. But the processes of cognitive development – that is, how we learn, what we learn, how we understand the world around us, and, consequently, how we are molded to behave – can be blocked or can become distorted. We explore how this blockage or distortion can occur, how it can be prevented or repaired, and how the English language can be an especially powerful facilitator, not only for learning, but equally as a medium for the remediation of, and even full recovery from, cognitive and behavioral disorders. We explore the processes in the human social brain by which learning is realized and cognition and behavior are shaped, and the techniques and power of English that can be used, both in the classroom and in a remedial setting, to affirmatively stimulate these processes in fostering learning realization and positive, socially adaptive behavior. 

Speaker Bio

Spencer has worked with the Department of Neuropsychiatry and with the Child Development Research Centre, University of Fukui Hospital and Faculty of Medical Sciences, Fukui, Japan. Spencer has also held the position of Associate Professor of social psychology in the urban studies programme at the University of Fukui. Currently Spencer has consolidated resources through the vehicle of Reconstitutive Psychocognitive Training for the purpose of pioneering the field of applied social neuroscience focusing on developing a model of the mind by an understanding of the evolution of the social brain of the anatomically modern human and the socialisation process through which the antecedents of behaviour are constructed. From this framework Spencer has derived a model of non-invasive, non-pharmaceutical intervention addressing a broad spectrum of cognitive and behavioural problems.

November 2015

Jane Spiro 4 Corners Tour: Genre as a Recipe for Writing – November 15th, 2015 Event


This workshop will show how the features of text types such as recipes, instructions, memos, can be recognised, mixed and subverted in order to generate inventive new texts. Participants will be able to experiment with these activities for themselves, to experience the ways in which the activities can develop both language awareness and creative writing skills. The workshop will also include examples of student writing, and explore how the activities can be adapted to meet a variety of student needs and levels. There will be a dinner with the author following the presentation. Details and registration for the dinner will be provided before the start of the presentation. 

Speaker Bio

Dr. Jane Spiro has been an active member of the ELT community for 35 years, directing language, literature and teacher development programs in England, Switzerland, Poland and Hungary. She has taught English to asylum-seekers newly arrived in the UK; retrained Russian teachers in Hungary supporting the replacement of Russian with English in the Hungarian school curriculum; and run programs on teacher development, literature and language, creative writing, academic literacies, and materials writing worldwide, including in the Netherlands, Mexico, Japan, Kenya, China and India. Her publications include two books on creative writing pedagogy with Oxford University Press Creative Poetry Writing (2004) and Storybuilding (2007) adopted by language teachers in Malaysia, Ireland, Finland, Sweden, Croatia and Japan. Creative Poetry Writing is considered an essential text for teachers using the medium of poetry and poetry writing in a second language classroom.

October 2015

Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace with Andy Boon – October 24th, 2015 Event

Over 25 years ago, Dinsmore (1985) documented the phenomenon of silence in the Japanese EFL classroom. It can be argued that this problem still persists today. This presentation will explore instances of silence in the Japanese classroom, provide an overview of the Dinsmore paper, and introduce the audience to a number of strategies that can help break the silence and get students engaging in meaningful communication. Audience members will be asked to try out a number of tried and tested speaking games and also be encouraged to share their ideas for getting students talking to one another in the L2.

Here we are, now motivate us…

You walk into the classroom. The students are at the back chatting with friends, sitting in silence, checking their phones, or resting their heads on the desks. Then, suddenly, the bell sounds. It is the start of the class. How do we as teachers change the classroom dynamic to one where learning can take place for all concerned? How do we create an environment and experience that will spark our students’ natural curiosity and eagerness to develop? Once in action, how can we help nurture and sustain their interest throughout the lesson when learner motivation is constantly at threat. This presentation will provide an overview of Dörnyei’s motivational teaching practice model (2001), describe its practical application in the L2 classroom, and explore strategies for generating, maintaining and protecting student motivation. The audience will be invited to share their own experiences of and suggestions for stimulating teen spirit.

Andy Boon is an Associate Professor at Toyo Gakuen University, Tokyo and has been teaching in Japan for around 18 years. He holds a PhD from Aston University. His research interests include teacher development, action research, motivation and more. He has published and presented on his work extensively both in and outside of Japan. He is also author / co-author of a number of textbooks and graded readers.

ICT and Language Education – One-day Conference – October 11th, 2015 Event

This exciting conference is packed with speakers from around Asia talking about themes such as:

Web 2.0 technologies in the language classroom

E-learning and collaborative learning

Social networking applications and tools

Teacher professional development and digital technologies

Digital game-based language learning

Mobile-assisted language learning

Digital literacies


Social media and language learning

Remember: JALT members get in FREE, and everyone else is just ¥1000, so be sure to bring your friends.

The call for abstracts is now closed.

July 2015

Qualitative research: Methods, applications, questions – July 4th, 2015 Event

This event will feature a variety of workshops on different aspects of the theory and practice of qualitative research, both within and beyond language classrooms.


Issues to consider when planning, conducting, and transcribing interviews in a Japanese setting Amanda Gillis-Furutaka, Kyoto Sangyo University

The research project I will outline began when I wanted to find out why Extensive Reading (ER) is fun and effective for some university students, while others find it a burden with little reward. To do this I needed to talk to students who were not in my class, and in a private and non-threatening situation. These early interviews revealed aspects of the students’ ER experience that I had not been fully aware of as a teacher. The most important finding was that the struggling students were spending a lot of time mentally translating from English to Japanese as they read. I wanted to find out why they needed to do this when they were reading English at their level in the ER program. Not having training in the use of brain-scanning equipment, I chose to ask students to indicate where and why they had switched into Japanese while reading graded reader material. In my introduction, I will explain how I gathered this data from 93 students from 7–20 years old and later analyzed it. In the round-robin session, I will explain in more detail how I set up the interviews (applying for permission, getting consent, mistakes made/lessons learned in interviewing Japanese participants, dealing with data.) My aim is to address practical concerns, but also to demonstrate how a qualitative approach like this can uncover factors that may be overlooked by researchers using a purely quantitative approach.

Biodata: Amanda Gillis-Furutaka is a Professor in the Faculty of Foreign Studies at Kyoto Sangyo University. She taught English in a variety of settings in France, Portugal, China, and Brazil before settling in Japan. She has been a tutor and dissertation supervisor/marker for the University of Birmingham MA in TESOL (distance program) since it began and is currently researching Japanese audience consumption of English-language music video as well as Extensive Reading. She has been active in JALT over the years, serving as an officer in the Kyoto chapter, in the Bilingualism SIG, and is currently Program Officer of the newly-founded Brain SIG.

Questions, cultural relativism, and critical theory Blake Hayes, Ritsumeikan University

Developing a research project can be complicated by cultural relativism and its imbrication in interpretivist research. How can we develop a research question in the critical theory vein that is broad enough and focused sufficiently yet does not cross the line of disrespecting cultural practices? How can we interpret our empirical data without imposing our own cultural views, whether as Japanese or as non-Japanese? How do we negotiate our standpoint whether as members of, or on the margins of, the dominant culture within the multiple cultural contexts? How can we undertake research that can explicate praxis beyond prevailing norms? Since all research is value-laden, how can we make decisions about analyzing and presenting our research and not become paralyzed by our concerns that we will sound culturally insensitive? This presentation will explore these issues and provide answers to some dilemmas that occur when undertaking qualitative research.

Biodata: Blake Hayes is an associate professor in the College of International Relations at Ritsumeikan University. Her research focus has been on gender regimes and employment practices, recently focusing on academia. With a critical theory lens, she does institutional analyses using a relational approach to explore justice and the marginalization of minorities in employment. She has recently been undertaking a multi-country analysis that includes an exploration of Japanese universities.

Tales from the Field: Qualitative Ethnography and Interview Methodology Jackie J. Kim-Wachutka, Ritsumeikan University

Qualitative data, collected through in-depth life history interviews and extensive ethnography, document the social, cultural and political surroundings of the focused informants. Qualitative methodology as a way to conduct research within the fields of humanities and social sciences gives an inner view of the micro-dynamics of the workings of identity and narratives that create a particular personhood. Complementing the conventional “scientific” inquiries of accumulating information and statistical data, subjective or interpretative social-science methodology provides an equally effective tool to reveal a further powerful dimension by allowing often subaltern respondents to speak for themselves, demonstrating individual agency. The interaction between the researcher and the informants through ethnography elucidates the detailed, in-depth description of everyday life as well as the cultural and social practices of the specific actors of a community. Thus, formulating reliable and trusting relationships with informants provides a combination of emic and etic perspectives, incorporating an insider’s point of view with a distant, analytical positioning as both “participant” and “observer”. The interpretation and analysis of the interviews — collected through extensive “structure-free”, unrestricted open-ended conversations — as well as detailed descriptions of the field, accompanied by informed knowledge of the specific socio-historical reality — the context, impact and consequences — coalesce crucial aspects of thorough and comprehensive qualitative research. This presentation incorporates the basic tools, techniques and processes of conducting ethnography and field-work with experiential-based knowledge and information gained through interaction with a specific minority community, namely the Zainichi Korean women in Japan.

Biodata: Jackie J. Kim-Wachutka graduated from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Thereafter, she travelled to Niigata with the Japan Exchange Teaching Program (JET). Interested in the social issues of the Zainichi Koreans in Japan, she began her graduate studies at Sophia University in Tokyo. Her M. A. thesis, further developed as research fellow at the University of Tokyo, was published under the title Hidden Treasures: Lives of First-Generation Korean Women in Japan. Kim-Wachutka completed her Ph. D. at the University of Tuebingen in Germany and presently teaches at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto.

Finding an alternative to ‘Quantitative/Qualitative’ Robert Ó’Móchain , Ritsumeikan University

This presentation asks two questions: “Is there a better way to think of research methodology than the ‘Quantitative/Qualitative’ dichotomy.” And “How can we evaluate the usefulness of ‘Mixed Methods’?” The U.S. scholar Patrick Jackson of American University speaks of alternative classifications such as “Dualist/Monist” and “Descriptive/Causal” to better approximate the hidden assumptions of all research projects. I will try to explain what these assumptions are and how they affect our choice of interview type for research. I also offer reflections on experiences with in-depth interviews for a doctoral research project.

Biodata: Robert Ó’Móchain has served as co-editor of the GALE Journal in the past. He teaches full-time at Ritsumeikan’s department of International Relations in Kyoto.

Classroom observation: Methods and questions for potential researchers Thomas Amundrud, Nara University of Education

If language-teaching researchers want to understand about how classroom language learning takes place, one research approach to consider should be systemic, audio-video recorded classroom observations. However, many may be wary of conducting this sort of investigation. For some, it may concern potential ethical problems with obtaining permission for observation studies from supervisors, peers, or students, or it may be regarding potential observer effects, or the ethical treatment of the research materials once collected. Other concerns may be more technical, such as deciding what equipment to use, or how to arrange it in the classroom, so as to get adequate materials for research. Lastly, some may simply wonder how to handle the potentially overwhelming amount of audiovisual material that observation studies collect in a systematic and principled manner. In this workshop, the speaker will discuss how he is handling these three questions in his ongoing qualitative classroom observation-based dissertation research, with the aim of assisting others in crafting and refining their own research projects.

Biodata: Thomas Amundrud is a Lecturer in English Education at Nara University of Education, and a doctoral candidate in Linguistics at Macquarie University. His main research interest is multimodal discourse analysis through the lens of systemic-functional linguistics.

May 2015

Oh My English! with Stephanie Pillai – May 29th, 2015 Event

The poor command of English among new graduates is a constant lament among employers in Malaysia. It ranks among the top three reasons for graduate unemployability, and is a worrying trend from an economic and social point of view. This trend also impacts directly on public universities who have graduate employability as one of the key performing indicators set by the Malaysian Ministry of Education. Universities have had to address this issue in a number of ways. The key question is whether what is being done at universities can work miracles as students enter universities after having learnt English for at least 11 years in schools,. How much more proficient can a graduate become, and is this level good enough for industry? Apart from proficiency, what does industry expect graduates to be able to do in English? To address these questions, this talk will discuss the measures being carried out at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to enhance the proficiency and communicative skills of its undergraduates. It will also discuss feedback obtained from industry about their needs and expectations where the English of potential hires and employees are concerned. Although the two facets being discussed are from the Malaysian context, they are also relevant to any country and institution that is concerned with providing English language education and skills for its students.

Speaker Bio

Dr. Stefanie Pillai is an Associate Professor at the Department of English Language, Faculty of Languages and Linguistics, University of Malaya (UM). Her main areas of interest are the segmental and prosodic features of spoken Malaysian English, and the use of Malacca Portuguese Creole. She also works on issues related to English and graduate employability, and is currently heading a project on English and work-based learning.

She is currently the Deputy Dean of Postgraduate Studies at the Faculty of Languages and Linguistics. Prior to this, she headed the University’s Centre for Community and Industry Relations.

She has been involved in the evaluation and review of English language upskilling programmes for Malaysian school teachers for the Malaysian English Language Teaching Centre. She is also a member of the evaluation and monitoring committee of national research centres for the Malaysian Ministry of Education. Her own publications have appeared in, for example, English Today, World Englishes, Studies in Second Language Acquisition, Language and Communication, Higher Education and Language and Linguistics. In 2011, she was awarded a Split-Site PhD Commonwealth Scholarship, and she was the 2013 Ian Gordon Fellow at Victoria University Wellington, New Zealand. She received UM’s Best Lecturer’ award in 2013, and has received the university’s Excellent Service Award and Certificate several times.

April 2015

The Secret Mission of Memory and How it Helps Us make Meaning from Language with Curtis Kelly – April 12th, 2015 Event

Part 1

The Secret Mission of Memory and How it Helps Us make Meaning from Language

If you are a normal person, you have memory problems. There is no physiological reason we should mix up so many things, but we do. However, faulty memory reveals reveals what Daniel Schacter calls the sole purpose of memory. Even more surprising, by understanding why memory is so variable, we also gain insights on how the brain processes and remembers language. According to Bergen, rather than rote retrieval, we process language through embodied simulation.

Part 2

Learning 101: Applying the concepts

Let’s look briefly at about 16 key factors of learning discovered by neuroscience. The presenter will explain the most important, such as spaced repetition, deep processing, brain compatible modes of delivery, emotion as cognition, and personal relevance. Then let’s discuss them and make individual action plans to incorporate them into our teaching.


Popular speaker and writer, Curtis Kelly (EdD), is a Professor of English at Kansai University in Japan. Since his life mission is the “relieve the suffering of the classroom,” has spent most of his life developing learner-centered approaches for “3L” English students, students with low ability, low confidence, and low motivation. He has written over 30 books, including Significant Scribbles (Longman), Active Skills for Communication (Cengage), and Writing from Within (Cambridge). He has also made over 350 presentations on neuroscience, adult education, motivation, and teaching writing.

March 2015

Basic applied statistics for language education research – March 15th, 2015 Event

This workshop aims to provide language teachers with the statistical tools they need to conduct classroom-based research. The first half of the workshop will consist of an overview of commonly-used statistical analyses, the concepts of normal distribution and measurement error, and issues of reliability and validity. The second half of the workshop will give participants the opportunity to practice statistical analysis using ersatz data files of vocabulary quiz scores and questionnaire results. Statistical analysis methods covered will include descriptive statistics, t-tests, correlations, and ANOVA (analysis of variance).

Participants will need a laptop computer with a spreadsheet program. Participants will need to download data files for use during this workshop. The address for download will be posted closer to the date.

Presenter bio: Matthew Apple, MFA (University of Notre Dame), M.Ed., Ed. D. (Temple University), is Associate Professor in the Department of Communication, Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto, Japan. For the past fifteen years in Japan, he has taught at various levels of education, including secondary, tertiary, and graduate. A frequent presenter at JALT and JACET-sponsored events, his recent publications include Language Learning Motivation in Japan (Lead Editor) and articles in JALT Journal and the Journal of Applied Measurement.