June 2010 Foreword

Welcome to the June 2010 issue of the Asian EFL Journal. We are happy to present a broad range of papers once again, reflecting a wide variety of research and writing styles. Those tired divisive distinctions between native and non-native, local and expatriate no longer seem relevant when we read through this issue. Much Global ELT teaching and learning takes place in Asia and for me the strength of Asian EFL is in its diversity. Journals like ours, whether online or at our conferences, attempt to provide forums for intercultural interaction and cooperation between proponents of very different approaches.
We have recently re-emphasized our willingness to encourage alternative approaches to research and to article writing. At the International Conference on English as an International Language in Izmir, Turkey organized by our sister EIL journal (October 2009), Michael Fennell gave a paper on English in Palestine presented in the form of a letter. This letter will be published in our sister EIL Journal. I was just one of the audiences who were both moved and intrigued by this approach. Discussion developed afterwards about the appropriateness of Michael s attempt to use the epistolary style in his PhD at the Institute of Education, University of London. In our first article , a Letter from Nicaragua, written entirely in the form of a letter addressed to his supervisor, he details the struggles and the lessons learnt. We will happily consider reactions to this letter for publication and actively encourage any other attempts to challenge received norms of article drafting.

Our encouragement of alternative approaches is certainly not intended to suppress other more standard forms of relevant and competent research writing. In our first research paper, Reading Strategy Use, Self-Efficacy and EFL Reading Comprehension, Hui-Fang Shang focuses on reading efficacy. Meta-cognitive strategies were the most frequently-used strategies to support efficacy. Shang also found a significant positive relationship between the use of reading strategies and perceptions of self-efficacy. However, in Shang s study, a relationship could not be established between reading strategies and reading achievement, which need not be interpreted to mean that there is no relationship.

Hoa Thi Mai Nguyen and Peter Hudson (Preservice EFL Teachers Attitudes, Needs, and Experiences about Teaching Writing and Learning to Teach Writing Before Their Practicum: A Case Study in Vietnam) examine preservice EFL teachers attitudes, needs, and experiences about learning to teach writing in English before their practicum in Vietnamese high schools. Nguyen and Hudson suggest that, in spite of intrinsic motivation, the preservice EFL teachers benefited from mentors who model effective teaching practices and share their teaching experiences. Trainee teachers were best motivated by enthusiastic and supportive mentors who provide constructive feedback.

In Vocational College Students Perceptions on Standardized English Proficiency Tests, Mei-Ling Chen and David Squires investigate vocational college students perspectives on the measures taken to fulfill requirements of a minimum proficiency in English to graduate. The study revealed that opinions were divided on these measures. Those in favor suggested that the measures taken enhanced their English proficiency and increased competitiveness for future studies and career. Interestingly, they did not feel that university measures enhanced their motivation to prepare for the tests.
Defining the competence of English teachers is a sensitive issue. Ozgur Yildirim (Washback Effects of a High-Stakes University Entrance Exam: Effects of the English Section of the University Entrance Exam on Future English Language Teachers in Turkey) investigates the effects of high-stakes exams on future EFL teachers language proficiency, and on their performance in their first-year classes at university in one context. The English Component of the Foreign Language University Entrance Exam (ECFLUEE) is taken by tens of thousands of high school seniors each year in Turkey. It is an exam that determines the future of most of its users being the only English exam used for student admissions to EFL teacher training programs in Turkish universities. Results indicated that the exam has some negative effects on students language proficiency and on their performance in their first year classes at university. Some possible changes to the exam are discussed.

The Asian EFL journal welcomes studies from beyond Asia that address global themes relevant to all our readers. In Summary Production: A Topographical Analysis of the Strategies Used by University ESL First Year Science Students, Ambrose B. Chimbganda provides an African insight. He looks into the almost universal outcry in institutions of higher learning about students lack of academic literacy skills. The study examines the summary production strategies of ESL first-year science students at the University of Botswana and how they combine ideas to form a coherent text. Chimbganda documents the ways in which ESL students who live in a multi-lingual environment select the main ideas of a text written in the language of education, English. Findings indicate differences between high-proficiency average and low-proficiency students.

In another study of self-efficacy in relation to reading, An Empirical Study of Reading Self-efficacy and the Use of Reading Strategies, Yusheng Li and Chuang Wang explore the relationship between reading self-efficacy and the use of reading strategies from a cognitive perspective. The results allowed them to identify three significant subcategories: meta-cognitive strategies; cognitive strategies; and social/affective strategies. The study identifies the need to nurture English language learners reading self-efficacy beliefs.
In a third study focusing on reading ability, The Impact of the Retelling Technique on Chinese Students English Reading Comprehension, Lu-Fang Lin examines the impact of the retelling technique on English reading comprehension. The results indicate that retelling has several benefits for learners, helping them, for example, to learn general concepts during reading and to retain a synopsis of the story in their memory. In this study, however, retelling did not lead to the improvement of the ability to remember details of expository texts.

Proportionally AEJ does not receive enough submissions addressing oral skills and performance. Heng-Tsung Danny Huang and Shao-Ting Alan Hung (Effects of Electronic Portfolios on EFL Oral Performance) investigate improved oral performance through the incorporation of e-portfolios into EFL conversation classes. EFL college students constructed individual speaking e-portfolios, uploading recordings of their opinions on assigned topics, paying regular visits to their peers e-portfolios, and providing feedback on their peers work. Huang and Hung provide convincing evidence of improvement in terms of lexis. The use of e-portfolios also appears to have motivational benefits.

Seyyed Ali Ostovar Namaghi (Parameters of Language Teaching in the Context of High Schools of Iran: A Data-First Approach) advocates the improvement of teachers practice, not only by developing teachers’ conceptual knowledge, but also by developing a critical awareness of contextual constraints and the situated nature of teaching knowledge. Namaghi presents evidence using his grounded theory approach to indicate that contextual constraints are an important aspect of teachers core beliefs which influence their behavior. However, they tend to be ignored by teacher trainers based on the false assumption that conceptual knowledge can be applied universally.

In his qualitative case study, One Teacher s Development as a Reflective Practitioner, Mark Wyatt explores a language teacher s development as a reflective practitioner in a middle eastern context. Observation and interviews revealed evidence of growth in teacher s reflective qualities, skills and capacity to reflect critically. Wyatt also draws interesting conclusions about the effect of the interpersonal environment on a teacher s personal growth.

In The New Role of English Language Teachers: Developing Students Critical Thinking in Hong Kong Secondary School Classrooms, Jane Mok also uses case studies, but within a holistic perspective of a curriculum initiative in a whole schools system. The study investigated whether the top down innovation was actually translated into meaningful practice of critical thinking in the classroom. Mok covers more than 1600 minutes of classroom teaching, but could only identify two brief critical encounters in which students were given the time and space to think critically and exchange ideas genuinely in a supportive learning atmosphere. Institutional constraints and external pressures appear to have made the implementation of the innovation impossible surely yet another reminder that if an innovation is to be successful, the daily interaction of teachers and students needs to be the main focus of attention.

Much classroom discourse across the globe is still enacted in a teacher-fronted manner, but my experience both as an author and an editor suggests that it is more difficult to get published when reporting such settings. In the final piece, Classroom Interaction in Story-Based Lessons with Young Learners, Chen-Ying Li and Paul Seedhouse evaluate the innovative introduction of a story-based approach in EFL classrooms with young learners in Taiwan through detailed analyses of classroom discourse in a teacher-fronted classroom setting. A story-based approach was found to result in a broader variety of interaction patterns, with more student initiations, expressing a wide range of language functions, although student initiations tended to be in Chinese. Li and Seedhouse also found that the story-based approach encouraged more engagement from students.

Roger Nunn,
Chief Editor