Chocolate, Starbucks, and ESP Collaboration at TESOL 2017

Hello, ESPers worldwide!

I attended the TESOL annual convention in Seattle for three days.  On the 21 March, I participated in leadership meetings. On the 24th, I needed to leave my hotel at 3:00 am in order to catch a flight to return to Japan, so I missed the last day of the convention. However, I was able to attend (and was inspired by) the ESPIS Open Meeting on the 22nd and two ESP sessions (with a strong focus on research) on the 23rd: (1) the ESP academic session and (2) the intersection session between the ESP and Applied Linguistics interest sections.

The ESPIS Open Meeting

The ESPIS chair, Robert Connor, led the ESPIS Open Meeting, where various well-known ESPers were present. For example, in the first networking event of the evening, I stood next to Ann Johns.

Some of the highlights included:

  • The networking activity with boxes of delicious chocolate supplied by Robert.
  • The presentation by ESPIS founder, Kay Westerfield, commemorating Thomas Orr, an ESP and ESPIS leader, who passed away recently.
  • The presentation by ESPIS community manager, Tarana Patel, indicating how ESPIS members can interact in the MyTESOL platform.
  • The reflection by various ESPIS veterans on the original establishment of the ESPIS and the recruitment of transition team members to re-establish the ESPIS.
  • The focus on ESPIS-wide teamwork for empowering all ESPIS members to achieve their professional goals.
  • The passing of a golden (foil covered) egg (made of chocolate and filled with peanut butter) from Robert to the incoming ESPIS chair, Esther Perez-Apple,  which symbolized the changing of the guard.
  • The dinner (after the meeting) arranged again by Robert and held at the Starbucks Roastery in Seattle.

The ESP and Applied Linguistics Intersection Session

The ESP-AL intersection session titled “Authentic English for Business, Leadership, and Medical Purposes” was held in the Washington State Convention Center on the morning of 23 March. The session description states the following:

How can we make ESP materials authentic enough to serve our students? This session brings together leading experts in business, medical, and leadership English to share current research and insights for contextualized assessment. Panelists share research findings, authentic texts, and applications for enhancing ESP curriculum and materials.

The session was chaired by David Olsher, associate professor at San Francisco State University, and the speakers are listed below in the order that they presented:

The ESPIS Academic Session

The ESPIS academic session titled “Using Ethnographic Methodology to Examine Language Use in Context” was held in the Washington State Convention Center on the afternoon of 23 March. The session description states the following:

ESP practitioners rarely use ethnographic methods to examine language use in context for needs analyses and program designing. This panel presents methodologies applicable to both EAP and EOP contexts, which are research-based and practical applications that can be utilized by ESP practitioners.

The session was chaired by Esther Perez-Apple, principal at Perez Apple and Company, and the speakers are again listed below in the order that they presented:

In view of the meeting and these two sessions, the keywords for me at TESOL 2017 were collaboration, research, and communication for the following reasons:

  1. Collaboration: The open meeting and the two sessions were the result of collaboration among the session planners, speakers, and other participants. In addition, the open meeting called for ESPIS members to collaborate to achieve specific goals. Similarly, the two sessions called for collaboration among researchers and practitioners.
  2. Research: The sessions focused on various research methods as well as “mixed methods research” (e.g., Dan Douglas referred to the work of Mehdi Riazi in this context. See Margaret van Naerssen’s article in ESP News for insights related to her presentation.)
  3. Communication: The sessions emphasized the communication of professionals in various fields ranging from medicine to business to air traffic control.

I was especially pleased to see this focus on professional communication research informing ESP program design. The speakers in the two sessions inspired members of the audience to explore and find relevant research that has already been published and to do original research.

I think that Robert’s introduction of the golden egg also has something to teach us. In the past, when the outgoing ESPIS chair introduced the incoming ESPIS chair at the open meeting, the outgoing chair passed on a notebook containing the governance rules. When I became chair, I received the “CD-ROM of Consequence” from the outgoing chair, David Kertzner.  The CD-ROM was replaced by a flash memory device. The flash memory device was replaced by the cloud. And now, we have a golden egg (which I hope has already been consumed)! In this fairytale development, I can’t even imagine what will be next. A golden, diamond-studded (biotech and edible) crown? Long live the ESPIS!

What did you take away from TESOL 2017? Feel free to leave your comments below.

All the best,

About Kevin Knight

Kevin Knight
Kevin Knight (PhD in Linguistics, MBA, MPIA) is an associate professor in the Department of International Communication (International Business Career major) and has also been working in the Career Education Center of Kanda University of International Studies in Chiba, Japan. In the TESOL ESP Interest Section (ESPIS), he has served as chair and English in occupational settings (EOS) representative, and he is currently the ESPIS community manager. He was also a member of the Governance Review Task Force (GRTF) appointed by the board of directors. In addition, he has been a TESOL blogger in the area of English for Specific Purposes (ESP). He has more than 30 years of professional experience working for private, public, and academic sector institutions including Sony and the Japan Patent Office. His doctoral research on leadership communication (i.e., discourse) as a basis for leadership development was under the supervision of Emeritus Professor Christopher Candlin and Dr. Alan Jones.
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