Release of Governance Review Recommendations

At its meeting in March, the TESOL Board of Directors received the final report from the Governance Review Task Force (GRTF). This report was made available online, and the task force’s findings were shared with leaders at the 2014 TESOL International Convention. Initial feedback collected from leaders at the convention is available here.

The final piece of the report – the recommended options and alternatives – is being released now for public feedback. Those documents are available here.

The information in these documents was developed and submitted to the board by the GRTF; no decisions have been made as to which options to pursue. The board highly values your input, feedback, and comments. The TESOL Board of Directors would like to receive your feedback before moving forward to ensure a transparent and collaborative decision-making process.

From now until 31 May 2014, the board invites you to submit your feedback and comments in response to the GRTF report. You are encouraged not only to respond to the options and alternatives, but to the findings from their review. Please use the space below to post your comments and feedback.

This comment period will be the first of two periods of public feedback as the board considers next steps in the governance review process. (A full timeline is available here.) As you will see in the report, there is much to consider in ensuring that TESOL International Association continues to meet the needs of members and the field now and into the future.


About TESOL International Association

TESOL International Association
Founded in 1966, TESOL International Association is a professional community of educators, researchers, administrators and students committed to advancing excellence in English language teaching for speakers of other languages worldwide. With more than 12,500 members representing over 156 countries, TESOL fosters the exchange of ideas, research, and peer-to-peer knowledge, and provides expertise, resources, and a powerful voice on issues affecting the profession. Through professional development programs, its international conference, special interest groups, and publications, TESOL engages tens of thousands of professionals to collaborate globally and create a world of opportunity for millions of people of all ages who want to learn English.
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19 Responses to Release of Governance Review Recommendations

  1. Yilin Sun Yilin Sun says:

    Dear TESOL Colleagues,

    Thank you for sharing your comments and suggestions on the Governance Review Taskforce report and recommendations. TESOL needs and depends on committed members like you who are willing to contribute your valuable input, so we appreciate your work. Your Board has taken your suggestions seriously and will review all the comments carefully before making any decisions for the next phase. The Board would like to thank everyone who took the time to write to us during the initial feedback period. We are committed to making the whole process transparent and you’ll be invited to provide feedback/input at next phase of the implementation of this important initiative.

    Warm regards,

    Yilin Sun, Ph.D.
    President, 2014-2015
    TESOL International Association

  2. Jennifer Himmel says:

    It is a little difficult to specifically comment on some of the levels of recommendations because they are a little abstract. Examples of what these different levels might look like would help. But in the absence of that- I concur that participation tends to be centered around the Convention and that could be a deterrent to participation in ISs as many educators cannot afford to attend. And that communication on how to participate in an IS, what are the benefits of being in an IS, and how one becomes a leader in an IS is very unclear. Communities of practice is interesting but hard to see how that would be different in function and content to the IS. If CoP is not the route to go , perhaps to facilitate a reorganization or reconceptualization of how members can actively participate TESOL might want to consider consolidating ISs and setting up processes where members can connect outside of the Convention. Promote list serves that really cater to and highlight issues going on in the field, better organization of the website- making it more clear to members where they can go to join- it is hard for even IS chairs to find info. More guidance for IS leaders (or whomever that might be in a CoP) on how to recruit and retain n members- maybe once people join TESOL and select an IS or CoP they automatically get an email from someone about where they can access list serves, resources, find out who else is in the group? I think all of these ideas would have to be facilitated by staff or non-volunteers, I think admin tasks already take up a lot of volunteer time.

  3. Ana Carolina Behel says:

    I want to congratulate TESOL for taking a hard look at the issues that are interfering with the efficient work of this professional organization. Change is hard, but it is evident that re-organization is needed in various areas. I applaud you for having a clear vision and for sharing your data and recommendations with your volunteer leader and member stakeholders. As you begin to draft your data-driven action plan and share its specifics with everyone, remember that TESOL exists because of its members and any changes should be made in the best interest of all TESOLers, communicated clearly, and be voted on. Thanks for giving the public the opportunity to give feedback on this important issue.

  4. Mary Beth Flynn says:

    Very briefly, starting from the last docs provided, and using an old model of Problem/Solution to boot, it seems to me that Appendix H clearly illustrates some of the current issues that TESOL has identified and needs to deal with (disgruntled members; dysfunctions; inadeguate communication among various groups; stagnant member retention; limited resources- both human and financial, etc.). All of those can obviously potentially have a negative impact on the image and role of TESOL as an influential international association.

    Given that analysis, Appendix G offers 4 levels of Strategies (possible “solutions”) and so Level O i.e. maintaining the status quo can thus immediately be rejected. Since Level 1 lists what seem to me to be the basics of good management of any sort of organization or business, the concrete choices remain between Levels 2 & 3. It seems to be a question of formal vs. informal structures and how to find the right balance between perhaps encouraging more autonomy while also guaranteeing that the standards of TESOL’s given Mission are upheld. Interesting that there’s no mention of technology anywhere which is relevant also to the question of how to separate administration in general from the convention and professional development in general. Level 3 also adds the even more specific issue of the role of ISs as opposed to CoPs, and I just have no way to judge how urgent that might be in the overall picture given.

    In the GRTF recommendations an indication was made “to involve volunteer leaders” and those of us who have been involved over the years know how challenging and fulfilling that can be. Yet that might prove to be a real challenge at the moment.

  5. Ulrich Schrader says:

    It is easy to see that this has been quite a gargantuan task, carried out very methodically by the members of the Task Force. And the concrete results and implementation of the final recommendations are still forthcoming! Thank you to all for this hard work.
    As a member of an affíliate outside the US (Mexico TESOL, MEXTESOL) I would like to add my voice to the proposal of some international affiliate leaders in their recommendations given in Portland that regional groupings of affiliates could be viable conduits for bottom-up and top-down communication concerning educational policies, best practices diffusion, the results of up-to-date teaching and learning research, inter-regional collaboration, etc. MEXTESOL has been a member of the Central American and Caribbean Basin (CA&CB) TESOL Regional Group since its inception in 1990. We hold a biannual conference rotating among the affiliate members (Panama, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Haiti, Colombia, Nicaragua, Cuba and Mexico) and invite any other EL Teachers’ associations and institutions in the region to participate in order to reach out to ALL interested English language teachers in the region. Up to now, the participation of TESOL International in our regional events has been, though much appreciated, relatively “symbolic” (the presence of the President of TESOL at our last two conferences). TESOL could provide more input into (and receive more input from) these concentrated gatherings of affiliate groups (and leaders) around the world. BTW, our 12th CA&CB conference will be held in Panama City, Panama, September 19-21, 2014. In addition to the conferences, we are working on expanding our regional collaboration in other ways.
    In summary, although I have concentrated on my regional group, I think TESOL could take advantage of regional affiliate groupings around the globe as an interface in the bottom-up and top-down communication channels between TESOL International and local affiliates. And it would be beneficial to find a place for these regional groupings within the Affiliate Leadership Council’s representation and activities. Thank you.

  6. jeanfrancois says:

    I salute this great collaborative effort. The Governance Review is a noble initiative. This a giant step forward for TESOL!

  7. jeanfrancois vilmenay says:

    My sincere thanks to those who have seen the need for this review, and to those who have put a lot of effort to document how TESOL actually functions as an organization, and identify needs for improvement. This is a noble initiative which rightly deserves commendations. I am particularly impressed by the enthusiasm and the level of dedication that volunteers bring to the realization of the organization objectives. I am, however, greatly concerned about the top-down style of leadership of TESOL; in my humble opinion, it’s time to turn to the post-hierarchical style of leadership, the bottom up style, decentralizing the organization, giving a greater voice to the emerging leaders of the affiliates; by the same token, giving a greater voice to the affiliates, SIGs, and other groups, and so provide more opportunities for membership to really experience the feeling of ownership.

  8. I thank members of the task force for organizing this convention. I have experienced five TESOL conventions.

    I want to ask you to consider two things.
    First, my impression about the conventions were too exhausted to attend all sessions that I would like to. Because I have to decide my schedule one night before the sessions. The information about the presenters was not enough : I ask you to send the information in advance and hold well organized orientation for the people who live in foreign countries.
    Secondly, accommodation and lunch time were not well prepared. The expense of the hotel was not paid any considerations. The Nines ( hotel) that I stayed at for five days was terrible concerning with price and services. My uncomfortable impressions were caused by cultural differences?

    I’m not a guest for the convention, I’m a teacher who would like to develop and know innovated approaches for teaching my students. However a short period for staying and studying is important for me.

  9. Throughout my professional years I have served on many boards, commissions, task forces, and committees. Never have I seen as professional, comprehensive and honest an organizational analysis as yours! It takes vision and courage to look within to an organization’s governance and I compliment everyone involved.

  10. John Bowers says:

    I want to thanks members of the task force for taking on this difficult job. Like others here, I too am a peripheral TESOL member. I have not volunteered for any specific position beyond my membership, and I look to TESOL for resources and conferences where I can interact with colleagues.

    In general, I would like to know that TESOL governance is efficient and responsive to members and volunteers in the field. TESOL appears to me to be a very lean organization, so I don’t want to be unrealistic in my expectations, but, as others have voiced, the challenge seems to be for TESOL to provide governmental structure to support grassroots efforts, which often can be less structured but vital.

    So I’d like to see a clear, intentional effort to engage the field in this conversation. I realize this survey is one of the mechanisms, but given the importance of governance and the number of responses to the survey, I think more might be done.

    I’d appreciate more information and clarity on the options. The Communities of Practice concept, for example, has its appeal, but what does that look like in terms of what they would look like, how they would function, and how they’d be sustained?

    I’d encourage TESOL to move slowly and intentionally, and perhaps develop a plan where changes are phased in.

  11. Cathrene Connery says:

    I really appreciate the chance to weigh in and echo Ken’s comments completely.
    Sadly, the top-down, uni-directional structure and commercial and corporate semiotics of the organization undermine
    its mission and potential for advocating on behalf of children, families, communities, and learners.
    Both the tone used with and treatment of volunteers is antithetical to TESOL’s primary aims. I became involved as an officer to become a better educator, researcher, and advocate for my students. However, within 6 months it was
    apparent that very little outreach and advocacy is currently done on behalf of learners and their teachers. While these two
    disenfranchised populations are taking a beating in our schools and society, the main focus of my responsibilities as a
    special interest leader are focused on the replication of the organization itself through the annual conference.
    My previous work with TESOL included a social justice component; the organization was well organized and easily navigable. After an absence of some years, the institution feels like it has been gutted and replaced by a
    corporation seeking to make their conference budget vs. a professional organization by and for teachers. Without creating and promoting benefits associated with membership (and a $300.00 conference registration fee is NOT included among them), on a transparent, well organized, and accessible web site, TESOL will continue to discourage and turn away the bread and butter of their members, volunteers, and prospective leadership. All during a time when the need for
    well-educated educators, scholars, and community partners has exploded.

  12. The report is fair and business like prepared. I am concerned about the ammount of money the Organization gets every year and the budget it deputes to the IS’s to get their jobs done. I have to say I am quite disappointed regarding the TESOL International Convention organiation and logistics. I attended Dallas and it was a cosuming event ade in USA. Academic relevance is not the main issue to be pursuited.
    Also a lot of the awards, money grants and support is being given to american citizens and that pops out the questions How come is it International TESOL if it is only for Americans (Puerto Ricans too)?
    Professionals like me that thrieve every day with a laguage that is not spoken outsde th classroom and do an extra effort to convey meaning into the students cognitive world, have no support and we are mostly ignored.
    I was eager to contibute to the IEP section but no support is given to do that extra job. Because it is a job!
    TESOL must turn its eyes to other parts of the world where English is being taught. Methods, studies and research being done in teh America is even mre valuable than that being conducted in the States and Canada or Europe, where English a the National language or the Second language. Foreign language teaching must be taken out of the shadows.
    TESOL we are here, we are working and we do succesful and marvellous things every day in Mexico, Chile, Bolivia, Cuba, Argentina. We want to share.

  13. Joy Peters says:

    Thank you for the review. Work needs to done for improvement. I do not feel that I can make informed comments on this because of the way that several sections are written. I do not completely understand them.

  14. Ken Hyland says:

    I want to echo Kay’s thanks to those who have seen the need for this review and to those who have worked hard to document how the organization works and where it fails to work. I am always very impressed by the level of commitment and enthusiasm that volunteers bring to the organization and see this as a real strength of TESOL.

    Like many people, however, I am a peripheral, conference-only member of TESOL who sees the main role of the organization as providing venues for like-minded people to meet, interact and share ideas while offering those who want to do more the chance to gain professional experiences that would otherwise be difficult for them. However, I often feel that TESOL is not set up in the bet possible way to do this, being very much a top-down organization which emphasizes a clear division between “leaders” (a rather archaic and divisively hierarchical term favoured by TESOL) and others – including the grass root volunteers who sustain the movement. As Britt Johnson points out in the previous post, this does not assist flexibility, bottom-up initiatives or a sense of ‘ownership’ (or even a strong sense of ‘membership’) by individuals in a community of practice.

    Matters are not helped, as the report acknowledges, by the constant recycling of those in leadership of mentoring positions. This is perhaps most evident at the top, where a permanent, salaried body watches an elected executive pass by at rapid intervals. I realize that Board members have 3 year terms and that presidents elect and past sit on the board. I also acknowledge that the board does the best it can to take the organization in new directions and be responsive to members. However, this structure inevitably leads to a kind of corporate inertia where things are done in a certain way because they have always been done that way. It is difficult for even those at the top to make changes.

    I apologize if this comes over as overly-negative. That is not my (only) intention and I can see that the publication of this report somewhat contradicts my point about inertia – it shows that others – including those at the top – have seen the problems and are looking for solutions. My point, I guess, is similar to the previous one about finding what it means to function as a community of members and create a structure which enables individuals to grow collectively and with a shared purpose. The next move, I suggest, is to take steps to decentralize the beast, to give a greater voice to affiliates, SIGs, and other groups, and so provide opportunities for members to regain a sense of ownership.

  15. Robert B. Kaplan says:

    The report clearly represents an enormous effort and a great deal of time and energy; regrettably that work was expended in a vacuum, apparently assuming that TESOL exists in a vacuum. In fact, TESOL’s entire half-century history is significant in the present life of the association, and the association exists in complex world of activities extending well beyond the US. The history of the Association is fairly well documented in at least the following materials: Alatis, J. E. (1989). Quest for Quality: The First Twenty-One Years of TESOL. Arlington, VA: TESOL; Benesch, S. (1993). ESL, ideology, and the politics of pragmatism. TESOL Quarterly 27, 705–717; Brinton, D., Koester, A. & Orr, T. (Eds) (2007). A TESOL Symposium: Teaching English for Specific Purposes: Meeting Our Learners’Needs (pp. 1–16); Cumming, A. (Ed.). (1994). Alternatives in TESOL research: Descriptive, interpretive, and ideological orientations. TESOL Quarterly 28, 673–703; Curry, M., and T. Lillis (2004). Multilingual scholars and the imperative to publish in English: Negotiating interests, demands, and rewards. TESOL Quarterly 38, 663–688; Jenkins, J. (2006). Current perspectives on teaching World Englishes and English as a Lingua Franca. TESOL Quarterly 40(1), 157–181; Kaplan, R. B. (1993). TESOL and applied linguistics in North America. In S. Silberstein (Ed.), The State of the Art TESOL Essays (pp. 373–381). Alexandria, VA: TESOL; Kaplan, R.B.(2010). Whence Applied Linguistics. In R.B. Kaplan (Ed.) Oxford Handbook of Applied Longuistics. New York: Oxford University Press; Kubota, R., & A. Lin (Eds.). (2006). Race and TESOL: Introduction to concepts and theories [Special issue]. TESOL Quarterly 40(3), 471–493; Kumaravadivelu, B. (2006). Dangerous liaison: Globalization, empire and TESOL. In J. Edge (Ed.), (Re)locating TESOL in an Age of Empire (p. 1–26). New York: Palgrave Macmillan; Lin, A. M. Y., R. Grant, R. Kubota, S. Motha, G. Tinker Sachs, & S. Vandrick (2004). Women faculty of color in TESOL: Theorizing our lived experiences. TESOL Quarterly 38(4), 487–504; Paulston, C. B. (1974). Linguistic and communicative competence. TESOL Quarterly, 8(2), 347–362; Pennycook, A. (1995). English in the world/the world in English. In J. W. Tollefson (Ed.), Power and Inequality in Language Education (pp. 34–58). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; Warschauer, M. (2000). The changing global economy and the future of English teaching. TESOL Quarterly 34, 511–535 and about 100 other useful articles appearing largely in TESOL Quarterly. Surely, TESOL Quarterly files exist, many tracing seminal events in TESOL and in the teaching of English as a second or foreign language. Furthermore, TESOL exists in a world in which the teaching of English is virtually universal and, increasingly, subject to social reaction; thus, TESOL is a professional association in a nest of similar associations: AAAL ( it should be remembered that AAAL Split off from TESOL in 1978), AERA, AILA, ALAA, ATA, BAAL, CAAL, CABE, IAFL, IRA, JALT, MLA, TESOLANZ, as many others. These organizations have produced a number of scholarly journals like, for example: AILA Review, Acquisition et Interaction en Langue Etrangère, African Languages and Linguistics, American Speech, Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, Annual Review of Language Acquisition, Applied Linguistics, Arizona Working Papers in SLA & Teaching, Asian EFL Journal, Australian Review of Applied Linguistics, Brazilian English Language Teaching Journal, British Studies in Applied Linguistics, Canadian Modern Language Review, Creative Practices in Language Learning and Teaching, Current Issues in Language Planning, and dozens of others from countries around the world, dealing with teaching English as a second or foreign language, with objections to the teaching of English, and with related subjects. It is surprising that none of these matters are mentioned in the report; equally, it is surprisingly that no former TESOL president was included in the Review Committee. Though administration is an important issue, history and language content should not be ignored.

  16. Kay Westerfield says:

    Thank you to members of the Task Force, Board and Staff for all the effort that has gone into reviewing our current practices and considering the various alternatives.

    I find it difficult to give substantive feedback, though, because how the recommendations and alternatives would actually be realized isn’t clear to me from the posted documents. For example, the Tier 3 alternative: “De-couple IS involvement from convention program selection process.*” How would this process then take place? What is the recommended alternative or alternatives?

  17. Britt Johnson says:

    Moving to a communities of practice model needs to be more fleshed out before I can support it wholeheartedly. Reasons why: I have come to TESOL for the last three years, funded, because I’ve held an Interest Section leadership position. I have learned more about the organization, though perhaps more could have been learned…and the process is recognized enough an rigorous enough that I can confidently place the experience on my CV as a volunteer leadership experience. It gets me recognition as an employee, and as prospective employee.
    I am certain that a communities of practice model would serve the purpose of learning from colleagues, identifying and addressing current concerns, growing the profession, but how would my participation in such a community be recognized in terms of its worth as a professional development event? As long as Lave and Wenger’s idea has been around, I think the wider ESL profession still does not necessarily recognize participation in a community of practice as valid professional activity unless there are established ‘positions’ or ‘roles’ within he structure, in addition to tangible products. However, rigidly defining the community in that way would make it less ‘nimble’ or ‘flexible.’
    How do you envision the ‘community of practice?’ What does that look like, what does it do, what are the tangibles at the end of the day? A community of practice is supposed to by nature be grass-roots formed. Certainly that would make it more local and year-round, but I think that would make it very difficult and inappropriate for TESOL to place any sort of ‘organizing’ structure on the whole process. If communities of practice is the actual direction, then TESOL should basically do nothing more than make physical space and communication tools available for groups to operate and develop. Is TESOL as an organization ready to be that hands-off?
    Just a few things to think about.

    • rob clement says:

      i’ve been reading all the documentation and find that “communities of practice” are thinly defined. But building on my question at the meeting in Portland about what the end game of the GRTF was it is apparent that using “communities of practice” as the focus of reorganization will enable TESOL to greatly reduce the number of ISs by cobbling similar interest sections together, as i suggested to several people at the convention.

      i.e. Put social issues RCIS, SRIS & ICIS together; digital CALL & VDMIS; Tertiary: HEIS, IEPIS, AEIS & ITAIS; pre-tertiary: SEEIS & SSIS; Skills based: MWIS, SPLIS & SLWIS; Edu Admin: PAIS, TEIS, & BEIS; overseas EFLIS & NNEST. These are some groupings that come to mind. They’ve presented the rational for this kind of move and made a strong case too but in their recommendations they’re not going as far as i just did to actually come up with a real concrete plan. We have to read the subtext. Not present is the openness and transparency that they claimed they wanted to commit to.

      There is also virtually no mention of the Forums which many TESOL members belong to. Perhaps because they have absolutely no say in decision making despite remaining, in many ways, the conscience of the association.

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