Independent Learning Association Conference (ILAC) 2012

Keynote Speakers

Xuesong (Andy) Gao
Associate Professor, English Language Education Division
Faculty of Education, The University of Hong Kong

Xuesong (Andy) Gao is associate professor in the Division of English Language Education, Faculty of Education, the University of Hong Kong. He previously taught at the Department of English, Hong Kong Institute of Education. His current research and teaching interests are in the areas of learner autonomy, sociolinguistics, vocabulary studies, language learning narratives and language teacher education. His major publications appear in journals including Applied Linguistics, Educational Studies, English Language Teaching Journal, Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching, Language Teaching Research, Research Papers in Education, Studies in Higher Education, System, Teaching and Teacher Education, and TESOL Quarterly. In addition, he has published one research monograph (Strategic Language Learning) and co-edited a volume on identity, motivation and autonomy with Multilingual Matters. He serves on the Editorial and Advisory Board for TESOL Quarterly and reviews manuscripts for international journals.

Plenary Presentation Title: Agency and learner autonomy: Back to basics

Abstract: Since the notion of agency has received increasing attention from language learner autonomy researchers and practitioners, there is a need for us to explore how agency can be conceptualized and operationalized in research and practices. Theorizing learner agency in terms of reflexivity and reflectivity, I contend for the fundamentality of reflexive and reflective thinking in appreciating the interaction between agency and autonomous learning. Drawing on language learners’ narrative data and my personal experience, this paper demonstrates how this understanding of agency is foundational to our efforts to practice autonomy and promote autonomous learning among our language learners.

Please click here to view Andy's keynote presentation.


Peter Gu
Senior Lecturer, School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies
Victoria University of Wellington

Dr Peter Gu is a senior lecturer at the School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies, Victoria University of Wellington. His main research interests focus on language learning strategies, vocabulary acquisition, and language assessment. He was co-editor of the Asian Journal of English Language Teaching from 2006 to 2009, and is currently Vice-President of the Association for Language Testing and Assessment of Australia and New Zealand. He is the author of Vocabulary Learning Strategies in the Chinese EFL Context (Marshall Cavendish Academic, 2005), Focus on Vocabulary (with Paul Nation, NCELTR/Macquarie, 2007), and Strategy-Based Instruction: Focusing on Reading and Writing Strategies (with Guangwei Hu, Lawrence Jun Zhang, and Rui Bai, Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press, 2011).

Plenary Presentation Title: From learning strategies to strategic learning: A new research agenda

Abstract:  This presentation attempts to reassert the central role of strategic learning in the SLA process. I will first briefly review 30 years of research on language learning strategies, and reflect upon the critiques of LLS research. Next I will outline a new research agenda that I hope will bring forth theoretical depth, empirical rigor, and practical utility. Conceptually, I will argue for a prototype perspective of LLS that will hopefully alleviate the discomfort of conceptual fuzziness. In this view, strategic learning is not a gimmick learners can pick up and use; it is a coordinated process of actions that are intentionally deployed for the successful completion of a carefully analysed learning task, situated and contingent upon the performance of the task in a specific learning context. This conceptual shift from the static LLS to the dynamic strategic learning necessitates much more in-depth studies on how the learner, the task, the context, and the strategies interact to form the chemistry of learning.

click here to view Peter's keynote presentation.

Mike Levy
Professor of Second Language Studies
The University of Queensland
Dr Mike Levy is Professor of Second Language Studies at the University of Queensland and Director of the Brisbane Universities Language Hub. His research focuses upon Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL) and includes studies on the role of technology in ab initio language learning, teacher education and learner training, mobile learning for Italian, and distance education for Mandarin Chinese. His publications include CALL Dimensions with Glenn Stockwell (Erlbaum, 2006) and Teacher Education in CALL with Philip Hubbard (Benjamins, 2006). He is also Chair of the Steering Committee for WorldCALL.

Plenary Presentation Title: The Students’ Voice in Designing Optimal CALL environments: Approaching questions of autonomy and independence in a networked world
Abstract: The presenter is Director of the Brisbane Universities Languages Alliance (BULA), an ongoing cooperative agreement to support languages education across three universities in South-East Queensland, Australia. A major goal of this collaboration has been to initiate research projects involving technology use in language learning, especially with a view to understanding current trends and with regard to the kind of support and the strategies required for the creation of effective technology-mediated learning environments in the future. In particular, ‘The Students’ Voice” project surveyed 3,170 students with a response rate overall of 24.7% (n=782).

Using this data as a point of departure, questions of autonomy and independence in a networked world will be considered. The focus is not upon distance learning per se, but blended learning that brings to the fore the optimal combination of face-to-face and online options. It also considers, in detail and with examples, in-class and out-of-class CALL applications and their use, including a wide range of tools such as online dictionaries, web-based translators, conjugation websites, mobile apps and social networking sites to mention but a few. The factors that impinge on the creation and design of future language learning environments will also be considered.

Mike has asked that the recording of his keynote presentation not be released.
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Paul Nation
Professor of Applied Linguistics in the School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies
Victoria University of Wellington

Paul Nation is professor of Applied Linguistics in the School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. He has taught in Indonesia, Thailand, the United States, Finland, and Japan. His specialist interests are language teaching methodology and vocabulary learning. A four book series Reading for Speed and Fluency appeared from Compass Publishing in 2007 as well as a six book series called 4000 Essential English Words in 2009. His latest books on vocabulary include Learning Vocabulary in Another Language (2001) published by Cambridge University Press, Focus on Vocabulary (2007) from NCELTR/Macquarie,and Teaching Vocabulary: Strategies and Techniques published by Cengage Learning (2008). Three books, Teaching ESL/EFL Listening and Speaking (with Jonathan Newton),Teaching ESL/EFL Reading and Writing, and Language Curriculum Design (with John Macalister) have recently appeared from Routledge.
Plenary Presentation Title: Is it worth teaching vocabulary?
Abstract: Vocabulary teaching would seem to be an important job for the vocabulary teacher, but for several reasons, vocabulary teaching should be one of the less important jobs of the vocabulary teacher. The teacher’s main job should be to plan so that there are plenty of opportunities for independent learning. These opportunities involve deliberate learning, incidental learning, and fluency development. This paper also looks at evidence on the ineffectiveness of teacher-presented activities and the effectiveness of more independent options.

Please click here to view Paul's keynote presentation (audio only).
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Sue Starfield
Director of The Learning Centre and Associate Professor in the School of Education
The University of New South Wales

Sue Starfield is the Director of The Learning Centre and Associate Professor in the School of Education at The University of New South Wales.  She is co-author with Brian Paltridge of Thesis and Dissertation Writing in a Second Language: A Handbook for Supervisors published by Routledge in 2007.  She is co-editor of the journal English for Specific Purposes. She is the recipient of a 2008 Australian Learning and Teaching Council citation for an Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning for the development of a research-led innovative curriculum to support postgraduate research students' writing with significant impact on the field of postgraduate writing.

Plenary Presentation Title: Becoming a doctoral scholar: independence, identity, community

Abstract: While doctoral studies are often depicted as culminating in the production of an ‘independent’ scholar, many studies portray doctoral study as lonely and isolated, premised on an autonomy that is more like an absence. Carrying out doctoral research and writing a thesis in a second language can be particularly challenging. Yet rather than viewing this as a negative, examining the accounts of successful doctoral students can help us understand ways in which multilterate students can be better supported to enter the communities they have imagined themselves participating in when embarking on their studies. In my talk, to cite the words of a former doctoral student, I consider what ‘nurtures the development of a competent, autonomous researcher, enabling them to ‘make a contribution to the global academic environment’.

Please click here to view Sue's keynote presentation.

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