Voices Vol 41 No 2


SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS: Higher Education

Professional Development Season

By Gladys Vega Scott

For several years now, mid-March to mid-April is professional development season for ESL specialists in higher education. Three of the most influential conferences in our field occur during this period; namely American Association of Applied Linguistics (AAAL), Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) and Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).  The CCCC Annual Convention generally takes place first though, in a few occasions, it has overlapped with AAAL or TESOL. The AAAL Conference immediately precedes the TESOL Annual Convention. It runs from Saturday to Tuesday, while TESOL runs from Wednesday to Saturday. Most years, these two conferences are held in the same city to facilitate attendance to both. Out of all three, TESOL’s Annual Convention is the largest professional meeting, gathering thousands of ESL educators from around the world. Nevertheless, each of these conferences offers learning opportunities for ESL professionals in every aspect of teaching, research and administration as they all bring together researchers and practitioners working towards the improvement of the teaching and learning of languages in a myriad of contexts.

CCCC is a critical convention for higher education ESL writing professionals because it focuses on every facet of college composition: theory, pedagogy, assessment, and program administration. It has been the forum where ESL composition grew into second language writing as it began to incorporate theoretical and pedagogical perspectives related to writing in any second language. This slow, but steady expansion has enriched the teaching of ESL composition by strengthening its theoretical foundations while adding innovative ways to attend to the needs of our ever-changing population of multilingual learners. Furthermore, it has given a stronger voice to ESL writing educators as they carved out their own niche first at CCCC and later in TESOL with the creation of committees and interest sections exclusively devoted to second language writing. This year, the 63rd CCCC Annual Convention was held in St Louis, MO from March 21th to March 24th. Information is available at http://www.ncte.org/cccc/conv.

AAAL is a conference for language scholars working with language-related concerns, including language acquisition, bilingualism, computational linguistics, discourse analysis, literacy, psycholinguistics, second and foreign language pedagogy, and translation. It is a comprehensive conference that centers around research studies, and as such, a breeding ground for the development of novel approaches for classroom instruction, large-scale assessment, and educational policy.  Despite being the conference with the shortest history (its first meeting was in 1978), it offers a sizeable number of colloquia, workshops, individual and poster presentations on a variety of topics ranging from bilingual, immersion, heritage and language minority education to language and technology. More importantly, it provides the stage for joint sessions between sister organizations, such as TESOL at AAAL and ACTFL at AAAL, and special events, such as advocacy meetings. With Interdisciplinary as its theme, the 2012 AAAL Conference was hosted in Boston, MA from March 24th to March 27th. Detailed conference information can be found at http://aaal.org/ .

TESOL is the last convention in this high-profile professional development sequence for ESL specialists in higher education. It is a multifaceted conference where English language teaching professionals can learn about current trends, share experiences and ideas, review all types of teaching resources, network with colleagues, and become involved in advocacy efforts throughout the world. Between Wednesday and Saturday, there are usually 1200 lecture/discussion sessions given by approximately 3000 speakers representing over two dozen countries. In addition, there are educational sites visits, a job marketplace, pre-convention and post-convention institutes, including a K-12 Day with interactive, practice-oriented sessions. A cursory look at the 2012 conference program revealed an impressive lineup of keynote speakers, including Dr. William Labov, and a vast array of topics and session types running from 7:30 am until 6:00 pm. Indeed, the annual TESOL Convention has something for everyone. The 46th Annual TESOL Convention took place very close to us. From March 27th to March 31st TESOLers met in Philadelphia, PA to be part of a “Declaration of Excellence.” To peruse the conference program, you can go to http://www.tesolconvention.org/index.cfm. And remember this may be professional development season, but the best is yet to come… Join us for the 2012 NJTESOL/NJBE Spring Conference at the Hyatt Regency, New Brunswick on Wednesday, May 30th for the special Higher Education Strand presentations.

(Editor’s note: While most of these professional development opportunities will have passed by the time of this publication, the article is included as informational for possible future years’ attendance.)

Gladys Vega Scott is the Higher Education SIG Representative. She directs and teaches in the Academic ESL Program at William Paterson University. She may be reached at scottg@wpunj.edu