By GRAHAM ANDERSON
—Being an information and data junkie, I gravitated toward corpus linguistics when I first encountered the topic in graduate school and began playing with various tools available online for recreational research purposes as well as application in the classroom. It was not until my final semester that my schedule allowed me to take my program’s corpus linguistics course, so I was very fortunate to enter the course with several project ideas in mind, particularly those that revolved around the teaching I had been doing in the Composition for Multilingual Students Program at San Francisco State University.
Graham Anderson is the winner of the 2014 Graduate Student Research Award. His article “So, Transitions: Linking Adverbial Use of ESL Students” appears in The CATESOL Journal, 26(1), which you can view or download at http://www.catesoljournal.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/CJ26_anderson.pdf.
My initial goal with this project was to answer a question I think that most, if not all, teachers ask themselves during the course of a lesson, unit, or term: “Are my students actually getting it?” I wanted to go beyond my standard assessment tools, whether they were based on comprehensive checklists or holistic rubrics. I wanted to hone in, not on my perception of what they were doing but what they, the students, were actually doing. This project also gave me the chance to asses myself to see if they were doing and learning what I believed and what I hoped.
The most satisfying finding from my project was that my students were using the language I presented to them in class and asked them to use. In addition to being able to see the things they were doing well, I also gained insight into things to improve, including methods and materials to help do so. While my students used the language I had taught, it also became clear that the nuances in the use of some words needed more explicit instruction. Teaching these nuances can be extremely difficult, but this project left me with a very manageable list to start with in the coming semesters.
In many ways, this project will stick with me, but most important because it highlighted the importance of classroom-based research. Had I not carried out the curriculum and instruction in my classroom, some of my findings could have been interpreted another way. Since graduating, I have continued to analyze work done in my classroom and continue to do so, as I think this type of inquiry is an important part of improving professionally.
Looking back, I feel the presentation itself at CATESOL was highly successful. It was a pleasure to share my research with those in attendance. Our rap session included discussing other ways teachers are using corpus linguistics to help guide their teaching, sharing other learner-based corpora that instructors have been compiling, and even explaining the concept and basic uses of corpora to better inform our curriculum design and teaching.
It is a huge honor to win the graduate research contest, and I would like to close by strongly encouraging other graduate students to submit their work in the years to come. Academic writing can be a daunting task, and this platform is a great opportunity to test the waters. This paper and presentation started as nothing more than a homework assignment and snowballed into much more than I could have expected from it.
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