New Year’s Greetings from Your TESOL Board

Happy New Year! It’s hard to believe that 2014 is now history and 2015 has arrived. As many of you are aware, 2014 was a very busy year for the TESOL Board as we worked nonstop on a few important initiatives. I’ll highlight three of them.

First of all, I am pleased to share with you that, thanks to the hard work of the task force led by Christine Coombe and Dudley Reynolds, TESOL has an exciting new Research Agenda. The agenda, which the Board of Directors formally approved in October, is an important part of TESOL’s ongoing efforts to build professional expertise through the dissemination of knowledge in the field, and in particular to strengthen the relationship between research, practice, and policy. The new agenda identifies the most important current and emerging research topics, priorities, questions, practices, and resources, and makes them accessible to a wide range of researchers, teachers, and other key stakeholders in the field. It is organized around the following topics: The expanding parameters of TESOL research, ethics in research, directions for research inquiry and use, and the research agenda as a flexible model. The Board of Directors is committed to implementing the research agenda over the next year.

Another important initiative is the new three-year strategic plan for the association, which the board will implement after the final draft is approved at TESOL 2015 in March. The board deliberated for many hours to reach a practical consensus on the the plan’s five strategic goals: advocacy, professional learning and engagement, research, standards, and governance. Throughout the process, the board has kept the membership informed of this important work. Once the new plan is approved, TESOL will announce the final version in a blog post and in TESOL Connections.

The third initiative, which is part of the new three-year strategic plan initiative, is the work on midlevel governance restructuring. The work has taken longer than we had originally planned. Why? Because The TESOL Board of Directors wants to make sure that every decision we make is based on the best interests of the membership and that we have allowed for due process at every stage of the decision-making process.

As you may remember, the TESOL Governance Review Task Force was formed in 2012 to examine the systems, structures, processes, and culture of the association. The goal was to help create a governance system that would foster a culture of knowledge, trust, nimbleness, and transparency that would be responsive to the evolving needs of the members and the profession. Over the course of two years, the task force conducted a series of survey studies and focus-group interviews with different entities and midlevel entity leaders, and examined governance structures of other educational associations. The task force presented its report at several venues at TESOL 2014, and they posted the report on the TESOL website and solicited feedback.

The task force’s findings indicated that the association is spread thin, and its structures and processes are complex. The mandates of many entities are poorly defined and not strategically aligned. Though members are eager to volunteer and contribute, they do not always feel recognized for their efforts. The volunteer management process is not coherent, and the leadership pipeline is not clearly defined. In addition, information flow among member groups, the Board of Directors, and staff is ineffective, which interferes with the association’s ability to discover and respond to significant shifts in the international field of English language education. Overall, the report found that association governance is focused more on structures and processes than on strategies and outcomes.

We know that TESOL is a strong association; it has won recognition over the years for its service to members and the ELT field, but we want to do better. The board decided to use the task force’s report and recommendations as the basis for further consultation with the membership, and we encouraged members to weigh in with comments and recommendations. The Board discussed member feedback and alternatives as we revised the governance model, ensuring that it would align closely with new three-year strategic plan. In this way, we are making every effort to ensure that governance structure are closely aligned with strategic goals.

The proposed governance model will be shared with members in late January for further feedback and comments. In mid-February, the board will host an online town hall meeting on the proposed model where members will once again be invited to provide feedback. For more information on the governance review timeline, please visit the TESOL website.

As always, the TESOL Board of Directors welcomes your comments and suggestions about the proposed model and timeline to ensure a transparent and collaborative process, so we can work together to co-construct a governance system that, in the words of the task force’s report,

• fosters a culture of knowledge, trust, and nimbleness within the association
• ensures that all entities within TESOL are high impact and add value to the association
• supports efficient, effective, and strategic decision-making that is responsive to the needs of members and the TESOL profession
• increases the ability for members to identify and discuss issues and to have input into governing actions that affect them
• maximizes the benefits from the time and financial investment of members in association governance and supports a leadership pipeline for members

Thank you for reading this blog. May 2015 bring us more collaboration, trust, support, productivity, happiness, peace, and success!

About Yilin Sun

Yilin Sun
Yilin Sun has served as president of TESOL International Association, as chair of the TESOL Affiliate Leadership Council, and president of Washington Association for the Education of Speakers of Other Languages (WAESOL). In 2011-2012, Dr. Sun was a Fulbright Senior Scholar in Taiwan at the National Taiwan Normal University. Dr. Sun received her doctorate in applied linguistics/curriculum and instruction from the University of Toronto, Canada. She has more than 28 years of experience in the field of TESOL as a teacher educator, a researcher, a classroom teacher, and a program leader with various institutions of higher education in China, Canada, and the United States. She is the author and co-author of books, book chapters, and research papers in refereed professional journals. Her research interests include curriculum development, program assessment and evaluation, L2 reading, vocabulary learning, classroom-based action research, teacher education, adult education, teaching English to young learners, World Englishes, ESP and nonnative English speaking teachers (NNEST) in the ELT field.
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