TESOL: Colloquium and reunion, Fudan University, February 2012


by Dr Lindy Woodrow
CSC academic group:Education

Dr Lindy Woodrow is Senior Lecturer in TESOL and Co-Director of the China Education Centre in the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Sydney. She teaches on the Master in Education in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (MEd TESOL) and convenes offshore TESOL programmes. Dr. Woodrow’s research interests are in the area of second language learning motivation and affect. She also researches issues concerning international students' adaption to academic life. She has a particular interest in China and other Confucian-heritage cultures.

English has become the lingua franca of international collaboration, the language of business and trade and also the language of academic communication. China, which has the largest number of English language learners and English language teachers in the world, is investing heavily in English education. In 2003 the University of Sydney began offering China’s first Master of Education in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) degree.

quote In 2003 the University of Sydney began offering China’s first Master of Education in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) degree.

This is an offshore degree taught by the Faculty of Education and Social Work at Fudan University in Shanghai. The course comprises eight units of study that focus on the theory and practice of teaching English. The course content reflects the locally taught version of the degree with a clear focus on local contexts of teaching English. Each unit is taught in intensive mode over six days by an academic from the Faculty of Education and Social Work. After the face-to-face components students and academics communicate electronically. Assignments are submitted through the help of the university’s Learning Management System. On completion of the course the students are awarded a University of Sydney Master’s Degree. Since the beginning of the programme in 2003, there have been eight cohorts of students who have studied for this degree.

The students have the option of coming to Sydney to complete two of their units of study. They join the regular MEd TESOL classes, which gives them the chance to experience Australia and to forge networks with student from all over the world.

Over the years the teaching and learning experience have changed dramatically. When we first started teaching this degree internet access was difficult. So assignments were mailed in hard copy and communication was rather limited. Today, with the ease of internet communication, the teaching and learning experience has been greatly enhanced. Students can now keep in regular contact with academics.

Some of the alumni from this programme have gone on to do PhDs in the Faculty. For example, Dr Richard Liu conducted an investigation into the use of blogs in China. His degree was awarded in 2010. Richard is now a lecturer at Charles Sturt University. Dr Helen Peng investigated the willingness to communicate of Chinese students in English classrooms. Her degree was also awarded in 2010. Since then Helen has published in high ranking academic journals such as Language Learning and System. She is an Associate Professor at Shantou University.

Some of the alumni have reaped benefit from the MEd TESOL course. For example, Professor Bing Liu is now the Director of the College English Teaching Supervision Committee and the Dean of Foreign Language College at Taiyuan University of Technology. Dennis Yang is now the Director of the Training Centre for BEC Vantage in the College of Foreign Languages at Donghua University.

The colloquium New Perspectives in TESOL was proposed at the Frontiers of Knowledge Symposium in Shanghai in 2010. The following year, the University of Sydney Faculty of Education and Social Work initiated a collaboration with the College English Centre at Fudan University to put on a colloquium on new perspectives in TESOL. The colloquium was held February 10-11, 2012. It was followed by a reunion dinner for alumni of the University of Sydney’s Offshore MEd TESOL.

quote As many as 4-6 academics from the Faculty of Education and Social Work, University of Sydney, travelled to Shanghai to present papers.


The TESOL Colloquium

The event, jointly organised by the University of Sydney and Fudan University, was funded by the International Programme Development Fund (IPDF), the Faculty of Education and Social Work at Sydney University and by Fudan University. The colloquium featured preconference workshops and keynote presentations. As many as 4-6 academics from the Faculty of Education and Social Work, University of Sydney, travelled to Shanghai to present papers.

On February 10 the colloquium included two preconference workshops provided by two Sydney academics: Professor Brian Partridge gave a session on writing for publication, targeting experienced researchers in TESOL, and Dr Lindy Woodrow gave a workshop on conducting research in TESOL, which targeted new researchers. These were very well received and resulted in plans for further research collaboration

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Delegates from the University of Sydney and Fudan University

The colloquium was well attended with over 80 delegates from Australia, China, Hong Kong, Canada and the United States. Many of the delegates were alumni of the MEd TESOL programme and many of these delegates presented their PhD research.

Three keynote speakers gave first-class talks on TESOL. The first keynote speaker, Professor Jack Richards, talked about competence and performance in teaching English. His talk focused on ten areas: language proficiency, content knowledge, teaching skills, contextual knowledge, language teacher identity, learner-focussed teaching, specialized cognitive skills, theorizing from practice, joining a community of practice, and professionalism. Professor Dingfang Shu from the Shanghai International Studies University talked about college English and the internationalization of Chinese universities. His talk recommended that universities implement English as a medium of instruction to enhance the internationalization and to improve the level of English for academic purposes in China. The third keynote speaker, Professor Brian Paltridge, reviewed current research in the area of English for specific purposes “ESP” which included a discussion of genre and corpus studies in ESP research, as well as research into the use of English as a lingua franca in ESP settings.

There were around 40 plenary sessions offered at the colloquium on a wide range of topics focusing on TESOL. These ranged from issues concerning the teaching of ESP, error analysis, English language testing, English vocabulary and intercultural development. The presenters came from China, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong and the United States. Many of the presenters were practising English teachers who had researched issues they had faced in teaching English.


The alumni dinner

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The colloquium and the alumni dinner was a fitting conclusion to the eighth MEd TESOL offshore programme. The Fudan programme will take a break for a year or two while a new contract is negotiated and submitted for Ministry approval. It is hoped the programme will re-launch in 2014. However, the relationships forged over the ten years of the programme have been strengthened and new partnerships will emerge in the coming months. The Faculty will be focussing on providing an offshore course that provides a pathway into the onshore MEd TESOL offered by the University. This course will provide pre-service training for graduates who wish to become English teachers.