Interland on tour: BAAL 2014

This month, researchers from across the school of Languages and Social Sciences attended the 47th annual meeting of the British Association for Applied Linguistics (BAAL). Interland members had a strong presence at the event, both in person and on social media. In case you missed out, we’ve put together the highlights, showing the range of research interests currently represented in our research group and the success of our scholars at this international event.

New member Erika Darics kickstarted proceedings on the first day with an engaging presentation introducing her unique approach to teaching and training digital communication competency. This was Erika’s debut presentation as a representative of Aston University and her interactive presentational style marked her out as a talented new member of our team. Her original ‘DEANEX’ method promotes a reflective approach, teaching critical awareness of how language works in online contexts.

Elvis Yevudey drew on his recent field work in Ghanaian classrooms in a thought-provoking presentation on mono- and bi-lingual language in education. He touched on some of the complexities and distinctions between translanguaging and code-switching, provoking much discussion on the topic. At the conference closing, Elvis was elected as BAAL’s Postgraduate Development and Liaison Co-ordinator.

Jai Mackenzie’s poster presentation on the ethics of linguistic research in online contexts was on display throughout the conference. Her poster facilitated fascinating discussions with linguists working in a range of fields, with different perspectives on key issues. Jai won a prize for best poster at the conference and has been asked to sit on a special committee, tasked with updating BAAL’s good practice guidelines. Jai has written more about her experiences and the evolution of her presentation here.

Judith Baxter affirmed her position as a prominent and respected scholar in the field of Applied Linguistics with an assured presentation on the discursive enactment of leadership by business women in Middle Eastern and EU contexts. She stressed her position as a sociolinguist with a critical mission, emphasising the real-world importance of her work.

Next year, Aston University will be hosting the 48th BAAL annual meeting, with the theme ‘Breaking Theory’. We look forward in anticipation to an equally exciting range of presentations from our colleagues within Interland and across the university!

BAAL feed

Interland live-tweeted throughout the event

Interland Researcher of the Month: Jai Mackenzie

JaiOur September researcher of the month is Jai Mackenzie, who joined us recently as a postgraduate researcher.

I completed my BA in English Language and Literature at The University of Birmingham in 2000. After a year out, which I spent teaching English in Romania, music workshops in South Africa and working as a TA in a special school in Birmingham, I completed a PGCE in Secondary English, again at Birmingham University. I spent the next 8 years teaching English at Waverley School. During this time I also gained an MEd in teaching studies and this really reignited my passion for academic study. I really enjoyed combining research with teaching. It wasn’t until after I’d had my two children, though, that I felt I was in a position to pursue what felt, at the time, like a bit of a pipe dream: to study for a PhD. To my surprise, it turned out my dream was a very real possibility, and I’m now delighted to be coming to the end of my first year studying in the English Language subject group.

What is the best thing about your job?

The best thing about my job is that it isn’t a job! I’m doing something because I feel passionate about it and not because it pays the bills (though having both is obviously a bonus!). The flexibility of research has been invaluable to me, it has made it possible for me to pursue my personal dreams and ambitions and still have plenty of time to be there for my young children.

Why did you decide to join Interland?

I decided to join Interland because I didn’t want to be isolated from other academics at the university. I wanted to make links with other researchers who have similar interests and find out what projects others were involved in. I think that getting involved with Interland is also a good way to find out what it’s like to be an (employed!) academic; to find out what it really entails, warts and all!

What are you working on at the moment?

At the moment I’m preparing for my first year Viva. I’d really like this to go smoothly! I’m also preparing for a poster presentation on the ethics of online research. I’ll be presenting this poster at the BAAL (British Association for Applied Linguistics) conference at the beginning of September.

What achievements are you most proud of?

I’m very proud of all my academic achievements. I’ve always taken a lot of pride in producing work to the highest standard that I’m capable of and it’s great when you receive recognition for it. I’m very proud that I made the move to study for a PhD last year, and won the LSS Studentship that made it possible. It was a difficult decision to make as left behind a stable career but I’ve never regretted it for a second.

How do you like to spend your leisure time?

I don’t have a lot of leisure time at the minute as I’m juggling my research with family life, which is very time consuming! I do go to a Jive class every week, which was completely new to me when I started a couple of years ago; I’d never done any dance before. I do like to challenge myself to learn new skills. I also learned to swim properly last year and now I try to go swimming once a week and find it really clears my head! I love music – both listening and playing – though I haven’t found much time for this in recent years. I still like a bit of a tinkle on my piano, though, or a song in the shower!

If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you most like to have with you and why?

The first would have to be my family (if I can count my husband and children as one thing!). With them around I would never be bored! The second would probably be my kindle, loaded up with as many books as I could get my hands on! I do like reading – for academic and leisure purposes – and I think I’d be lost without it. I guess I’d probably need something practical too, to help us survive in a wilderness! A swiss pen knife maybe?

What would you like to achieve in the next year?

This year has been a steep learning curve for me so if I can continue to move forward at the same rate I will be very happy! One specific thing I’d like to achieve is to get a paper accepted.

Researcher in the Field: Elvis Yevudey

This week, new Interland member Elvis Yevudey tells us about his recent experience in Ghana, collecting data for his PhD research.

Elvis

“The working title of my PhD is Translanguaging in the Classroom: Exploring a Case of Bilingual Education in Ghana. One of the key concepts of my research is translanguaging, which generally refers to a purposeful and policy-driven use of two or more languages within the classroom, with the aim of maximising effective teaching and learning. My research is a comparative study between bilingual classrooms and monolingual classrooms in Ghana. It explores the pedagogic functions of bilingual language use in the classroom, and the perception of teachers and pupils towards this language use.

Preparation for data collection in Ghana was a significant part of my first year action plan. The data collection was scheduled for May to August 2014, incorporating two weeks of data collection in four different schools. During this time, I intended to carry out observations via audio recordings of classroom interactions, interviews with teachers and head of schools, questionnaire surveys and focus groups. On arrival in May I contacted my sampled schools and had positive responses from them within a week. My initial plans to spend two weeks in each school, however, turned out not to be realistic as the school term was rather short.  I therefore ended up spending a minimum of a week in each of the schools. Fortunately, by the end of each week the schools had taught Ewe and English language lessons that were of interest for my research, so shortening my time in each of the schools did not affect my data collection plans.

Having had experiences of classroom based research, I began my data collection with no fears. However, one new thing for me was running focus groups with young pupils between 5-8 years to seek their opinions on language of education in Ghana. I was worried about how to explain the research concept so that all pupils would understand, and in particular, how I would manage vocabulary choices that would be appropriate for their level of competence in English and Ewe. These thoughts were running through my mind as I prepared for the field work. But with my research expertise and dynamic personality, I sailed through the data collection successfully.

All in all, my experience in the field this summer has been educative, fun, challenging and insightful.”

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