BBE & TESOL/AL Symposium: Foreign Language Learning from Different Perspectives

Towards the end of Spring Term 2014, the Bilingual Bicultural Education (BBE) program and the TESOL/Applied Linguistics (TESOL/AL) program held their first joint symposium at which M.A. and Ed.M. students from both programs presented their work to the audience.

While the TESOL/AL program has always been nested in the Department of Arts and Humanities, the BBE program has an interesting history of having moved from the Department of International and Transcultural Studies to the Department of Arts and Humanities just two years ago.

Although the two programs certainly share some commonalities, such as exploring language teaching and learning, they also have significant differences, which further highlight the significance of the first BBE and TESOL/AL Symposium. One main difference is that while the TESOL/AL program is interested in questions related to the nature of language and how language is used by its speakers, the BBE program focuses more on promoting multilingualism worldwide through the use of more than one language in instruction, according to Professor Patricia Martínez-Álvarez from the BBE program.

The idea of the very first collaborative symposium emerged from the goal of promoting interaction between the BBE and TESOL/AL programs. Natalia Saez, coordinator of the symposium and Ed.D. student in Applied Linguistics, said, “The first BBE and TESOL/AL Master’s Student Symposium aims at gathering M.A. and Ed.M. students to share research work, theoretical and empirical,” she said, “so that students and faculty can deepen their awareness of what types of inquiries, insights, and studies are being developed in both programs, with the ultimate goal of building a communication bridge between them.”

Jorge Beltran

“While this kind of intellectual collaboration was very difficult before due to our location in two different departments,” said Martínez-Álvarez, “being in the same department [now] facilitates our programs working together in specific projects such as this symposium. Hence, this symposium is a first step toward coming together as part of the same department and having our students benefit from learning about each other’s fields.”

Professor Zhaohong Han from the TESOL/AL program also expressed the same sentiment toward the symposium. “I hope this symposium will usher in a new era for the relationship between the two programs. And from here out I’m really hoping to see greater interaction, greater crossover, and more collaboration on multiple levels,” said Han. “It does take multiple lenses to examine language and language-related issues. And it’s true that we’re very different. The TESOL/AL program is very different from the BBE program, but precisely because of that, I think we need to come together, we need to complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses. So practically, it’s meaningful and significant, and because of this we need to do more things together.”

Fifteen students from the BBE and TESOL/AL programs presented their work at the symposium. The following is a list of students and titles of their presentation:

Haimei Sun: “Paired and Group Oral Assessment”

Jorge Beltran: “The Effects of Visual Input on the Scoring of a Speaking Achievement Test”

Elizabeth Ma: “Talk like Rainbow: Analyzing Teacher Talk in a Bilingual Classroom with the Prism Model”

Qie (Chelsea) Han: “Form, Meaning and Gender Bias in Dichotomous Grammar Items: A Many-Facet Rasch Analysis of a Grammar Placement Test”

Hui Wen Lin: “Developing a Cross-cultural Teacher-Student Relationship: A Case Study of the Interactions between an African American Student and a Taiwanese Native”

Lauren Carpenter: Balancing Levels of Teacher Assistance in Accordance with the Zone of Proximal Development”

Lauren Wyner: “Second Language Pragmatic Competence: Individual Differences in ESL and EFL Environments”

Eliza Clark: “Stories from the Periphery: Bilingual/Bicultural Identity between the Desk and the Rug”

Julie Kozikova: “The Effect of Language on Thought and Its Implications for Second Language Acquistion”

Christine Haralambou: “A Pre-Service Teacher’s Inquiry: Science Education and an Emergent Bilingual Student”

Emily Cruz: “Songwriting and Recording in the Foreign Language Immersion Classroom”

Sachiko Aoki: “Potential of Voice Recording Tools in Language Instruction”

Kristen Minno: “Revealing their Voices: How Technology and Parallel Texts Support Emergent Bilinguals”

Tristan Thorne: “Name Use Strategies and Beliefs of East Asian Adults”

Liz Vassallo: “Bilingual in a Monolingual Context: One Student’s Perception of the Role Bilingualism Plays in Her Identity”

Each of the students gave a 10-minute presentation followed by questions from the audience. One presenter Julie Kozikova, Ed.M. student in Applied Linguistics, said, “I thought that student presentations were informative and interesting. They discussed different types of research – literature review, qualitative and quantitative studies, etc. and diverse topics.  Hearing Bilingual/Bicultural Education program presentations allowed me to see another viewpoint with which to approach language teaching and learning.”

Lauren Carpenter

Lauren Carpenter, Ed.M. student in Applied Linguistics who also presented at the symposium, expressed that it was a good learning experience for her. “I learned a lot about the BBE program and the type of work that is being done there,” said Carpenter. “I learned from fellow colleagues that I have been in classes with for two years but have never gotten the chance to hear them present their own personal research.”

Another presenter Jorge Beltran, M.A. student in Applied Linguistics, said that the symposium gave him a chance to gather others’ feedback on his work. “It was great to see the brief discussions that followed each presentation,” said Beltran. “In my case, it was really helpful to receive some input, which I’ll take into consideration for my next project, as well as support or explains my findings during the Q&A session. I hope the symposium is held again next year, so that other generations have this opportunity, and I would love to present my future project as I will continue to the Ed.M. program.”

Elizabeth Ma, who graduated from the BBE program in May, presented her Integrative Project she had completed for her MA degree. “I thought [presenting at the symposium] would be a great chance to share my thoughts and concerns as well as exchange views with the fellow presenters at the master student symposium,” said Ma. “The presentations have highlighted various concerns regarding the learning of bilingual students. They were from very different perspectives and it was amazing to learn from one another. I particularly appreciated the time and opportunities we got to ask questions and interact with the presenters and other audiences in the floor. In education, one single issue can always be understood from different aspects and angles. This chance of interaction has allowed us educators to respect and be inspired by each other in the same field and it is essential for contributing to the improvement of the current situations many students are facing.”

Martínez-Álvarez also expressed her impression on the productive and constructive Q&A session that followed each

Attendees treated to a wonderful meal

presentation. “What was most stimulating for me was the interaction that took place after each presentation,” she said. “The questions from the audience sparked truly natural exchanges full of curiosity and interest in the work of presenters. Also, the event was extremely well attended by members of both learning communities. There were professors, and students at the master and doctoral levels in the audience. This diversity of scholars contributed to make this event as rich and exciting as it was.”

Both the BBE and TESOL/AL programs hope that this will be the first of many collaborative events to come, and they expect that the symposium will become a “tradition” not only for

Teachers College students but also for other graduate students in the region.

“As time goes by,” said Han, “we may even reach out to the greater New York area to bring graduate students together and make this really a graduate student symposium.”

Contributed by Jamie Kim Ed.M TESOL/AL