ESP Project Leader Profile: Tim Murphey

Hello, ESPers worldwide!

In the 50th ESP Project Leader Profile, I am honored to be able to feature a TESOL veteran and my colleague at Kanda University of International Studies (KUIS), Professor Tim Murphey. Tim’s profile is my final post as an official, regular blogger for TESOL International Association. Since May of 2012, I have written 135 blog posts, including the 50 ESP Project Leader Profiles which feature ESP leaders and their projects on six different continents.

As a leader in the ESPIS, I am very grateful to TESOL International Association for giving me this opportunity to write about ESP, and I wish success to the next ESP blogger! I plan to continue the profiles in ESP News, the newsletter of the ESPIS of which I am the current editor. Please note that you can access all of the profiles in the ESPIS library and in ESP News. Now, let’s look at Tim’s impressive bio.

Tim Murphey, PhD Université de Neuchâtel, Switzerland, TESOL’s Professional Development in Language Education series editor, coauthor with Zoltan Dörnyei of Group Dynamics in the Language Classroom (Cambridge University Press, 2003), author of Music and Song (Oxford University Press), researches Vygotskian socio-cultural theory (SCT) with transdisciplinary emphasis on community, play, and music at Kanda University, Japan. His most recent books are Teaching in Pursuit of Wow! (Abax, 2012) and Meaningful Action – Earl Stevick’s Influence on Language Teaching (Cambridge University Press, 2013), coedited with Jane Arnold. He also has a critical novel on the Japanese entrance exam system in Italian, Japanese, and English, The Tale that Wags (Perceptia, 2010) and about 50 short teaching presentation videos available on YouTube by searching “Tim Murphey Tips.” You can browse and download his articles freely on

Tim has a diverse background and multiple interests. (At the end of this profile, you can see a photo of Tim juggling while downhill snow skiing.) He has worn many different hats in the ELT field, but I knew that he must have an ESP story that he could share. During a social gathering of faculty at KUIS, I learned that he has been recently doing ESP. In his interview responses, he shares how he has been training graduate students at a women’s university to acquire the communication skills that they need to make presentations and publish articles in their STEM fields of practice. Tim’s focus in ESP, as in all of his teaching, is to transform students into autonomous learners who can become agents of change. He is creating leaders!

Professor Tim Murphey, PhD
Second Language Acquisition, Communication Psychology, & Teacher Development Researcher
Kanda University of International Studies
Chiba, Japan

Define leadership in your own words.

Leadership within pedagogic practice includes the capacity to formulate and accomplish strategies that are conscious of our ethical duty toward engaging students’ and fellow teachers’ autonomy. Our role as “leader” involves not only sustaining the momentum of the teaching practice, but also contributing toward the purpose of being together. The very goal of teaching is to create an environment that facilitates students’ abilities to move toward autonomy: to lead students, paradoxically, beyond a need to engage with the teacher, to their independence. Here, fostering student autonomy lies at the heart of pedagocial leadership because the experience of autonomy—which is developed interpersonally—expresses itself in a state of internal clarity and cohesiveness through which students are more capable of exercising control over the trajectory of their life beyond the relationship with their teachers. Three characteristics of the teacher-leader are important in this regard: discernment, determination, and humility. Each of these are most fully exercised when teachers possess a commitment to ensuring an ethic of collaboration and egalitarianism, underpinned by therapeutic “well-being.” (See note for Kinsella, 2018.)

Tell me an ESP project success story. Focus on your communication as a leader in the project. How did you communicate with stakeholders to make that project successful?

In Japan, at Wayo Women’s University Graduate School of Human Ecology (WUGSHEs, acryminalized), the students are scientists working in STEM laboratories, hospitals, and education, and are developing the English communication skills to make professional presentations and to publish their findings in international journals in their fields. In order to prepare them for such activities, they give short presentations in every class, sometimes improvised, and do poster presentations once or twice a year at English teacher conferences where they can present their ideas in English to teachers and argue for their usefulness in general ESP/CBI/CLIL education in Japan. We also do an end-of-term publication of their “work in progress” that can be used by ESP practitioners to popularize STEM research more broadly and initiate their capacity to potentially publish later in English in their field.

I also present/improvise in every class, prepare my own poster and present with them at conferences, and publish a short science-oriented paper with them in our class publication. I also find myself teaching other classes at other universities about the work of these young scientists and seeing them in turn get very excited about Wayo work.

Recently, one of my students from 5 years ago, Sayuri Kodama, coedited a book, The Structure of Healthy Life Determinants (Hoshi & Kodama, 2018). She now is a near peer role model (Murphey & Arao, 2001) for Wayo students and inspires them to present and write and see that presentations and publications in English can be done and lead to bigger and more important things, including the making of a better world.

Tim’s definition of leadership is illustrated more fully in an article that we coauthored and published in TESL-EJ (Knight & Murphey, 2017). I encourage you to read it because it focuses on empowering learners to collaborate and to create. Such collaboration and creation is important in the various communities of practice (e.g, the ESPIS) in TESOL International Association, and I hope that you will read our related chapter (Knight, Iswanti, & Murphey, 2018).

Do you have any questions or comments for Tim? Please feel free to contact him directly. (My guess is that he is a good juggling teacher, too.)

All the best,


Hoshi, T., & Kodama, S. (2018). The structure of healthy life determinants. Singapore: Springer. Retrieved from

Kinsella, M. (2018). Exercising leadership within the therapeutic alliance: An autonomy-grounded perspective. Journal of Humanistic Psychology.  Retrieved from
(Note: The answer to question #1 is a paraphrase of Kinsella’s abstract put into pedagogical understandings, whereas Kinsella is talking more generally about therapeutic situations.)

Knight, K., & Murphey, T. (May, 2017). Soft assembling project-based learning and leadership in Japan. TESL-EJ, 21(1), 1–12. Retrieved from

Knight, K., Iswanti (Nina Septina), S. N., & Murphey, T. (2018). Balancing personal responsibilities with association altruism: Three professional development histories in LTAs. In A. Elsheikh C. Coombe & O. Effiong (Eds.), The role of language teacher associations in professional development. Cham, Switzerland: Springer.

Murphey, T., & Arao, H. (2001). Reported belief changes through near peer role modeling.TESL-EJ, 5(3), 1–15. Retrieved from

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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