TESOL Board Seeks Member Feedback on Interest Sections

Using feedback from the 2015 Governance Review Task Force, input from Interest Section leaders, and best evidence on successful member communities in associations, the TESOL Board of Directors has proposed a vision for knowledge-based member communities within TESOL based on the following principles:

  • Cultivates knowledge for the field.
  • Increases the ability of members to identify and discuss professional issues relevant to their areas of interest.
  • Provides the means for this knowledge and information to be easily shared and disseminated both horizontally and vertically within the association.
  • Regularly provides information on current issues within the field to both leadership and staff to inform the programming and activities of the association.
  • Provides for different forms of groups relevant to their role and function (i.e. not a “one-size-fits-all” model).
  • Supports leadership paths for members.
  • Maximizes the benefits from time and financial investment of members in TESOL International Association governance.
  • Aligns with, and advance, the association’s strategic plan.

In May 2015, the Board struck an Interest Section Task Force (ISTF) charged with proposing options for models and structures that would achieve this vision. The ISTF Final Report presents the ideas generated by the task force based on their research of other associations’ models and the views of TESOL members.

The Board now invites comments from the membership as a whole on these ideas as well as suggestions for the road ahead.
We are particularly interested in ideas that members would see as both feasible and enhancing their IS relationship with TESOL International Association. Comments should be posted by June 10, 2016.

With the input from the report and this general discussion, the Board will formulate a plan for achieving the vision outlined above. We will come back to our Interest Sections and the TESOL membership at large for comment on this plan beginning in November before sharing our recommendation with Interest Section leaders for discussion at our March 2017 meeting in Seattle. We will also be hosting online discussions with Interest Section leaders prior to March.

Dudley Reynolds, President
On behalf of the TESOL Board of Directors

About Dudley Reynolds

Dudley Reynolds
Dudley Reynolds is the 2016-2017 president of TESOL International Association and a teaching professor of English at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, where he teaches first-year writing. Over his career he has also taught elementary school learners in Egypt, intensive English students at Indiana University, and MA TESOL candidates at the University of Houston. His research focuses on teacher development and second language literacy issues.
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11 Responses to TESOL Board Seeks Member Feedback on Interest Sections

  1. Sarah Emory says:

    This entire process looks like a lot of thought and care have gone into it. When I joined TESOL, I jumped right into my primary IS (ITA) as both a member and as the editor for their newsletter. While there are challenges sometimes finding leadership, it seems to be more because the IS has to do all of the searching for leaders and it does not seem to be supplemented or supported by TESOL.

    The IS is essential to my conference experience as if I am attending an ITA session, I know it will be immediately relevant to my job. I also like to branch out and take sessions through several other ISs. I feel confident when I attend an IS session that it will have gone through a rigorous vetting process and be suitable for other experts or for being who are interested in that “interest.”

    I feel that if the process is significantly changed, that many people who have used an IS as a bridge or a connection to the larger TESOL organization will feel alienated. People in my IS have put in so much work over the years that significant changes to our IS would undermine the effort and care taken to develop our IS to the level it is.

  2. Margi Wald says:

    As the chair of the Conferences Professional Council, I am particularly interested in the roles the ISs now play in convention planning — and what roles they might play moving forward. As a long-time IS “leader” (newsletter editor for HEIS and then SLWIS from 1995-2015), I have seen how much time is spent on convention programming and proposal rating). While of course ISs should have a role in planning and a healthy place in the convention program, perhaps we need to think about what role the ISs should play moving forward. Many conferences are run based on a “strand” format. Interest groups do pre- and post-convention workshops; they have meetings and sessions in the program; but there are people who are tapped to find proposal raters for each strand. This can allow for more oversight and training of proposal raters and it would lessen the administrative duties that IS chairs have so that they can pursue other CoP activities over the summer.

    Of course, this is a big change, and one that some ISs might see as DISempowering as opposed to empowering.

    How do current and past IS leaders feel about this model?


  3. Robert Freeman says:

    I appreciate having been shared the Interest Section Task Force Report and the opportunity to provide feedback.
    Having gone through the report, I want to share some comments.
    I thought that the report nicely summarized the background and identified gaps/issues that prompted the task force’s creation and efforts. As well, I was impressed by the number of organizations that the task force surveyed and questioned as well as the specificity of the questions that were asked of those organizations!
    I found quite interesting the information shared on the tiered approach to IS / KBMC function (i.e. proposing there be different levels of KBMC depending on the graduation of duration and responsibilities). Based on my experiences serving on various organizational/institutional committees, taskforces, etc, I would support this approach. However, I’m not sure to what extent Interest Sections could be tiered. Perhaps the IS itself would be like the “third level of KBMC” (as described on page 19 of the report), special sub-sections of the committee would be “second level of KBMC” and a short-term task force with an IS umbrella would be “first level of KBMC”. (For example, “materials writers IS” as 3rd level, “ebook writers mini section” as 2nd level and “one-time ebook writing webinar planning team sponsored by MWIS” as the first level KBMC).
    Important would be the distinct parameters between the KBMC levels. In terms of how to flesh out what responsibilities and parameters go with which level, may I make a suggestion: perhaps Interest section members could be given a list of common-to-occasional duties and then asked to select which level(s) of KBMC they think should be associated with that item. For example, “Evaluate IS-relevant conference proposals.” might be associated with levels 3 and 2, but not level 1.
    Finally, may I say that I like how the report well addressed the need of supporting IS leadership in knowing what is expected and other training. I definitely think more general TESOL members would step up to taking IS leadership roles if they felt they knew more of what that would entail, but even more importantly, if they knew there was a designated “mentor” or established orientation/training process and resources whereby they would have the regular support.
    Perhaps a recorded/posted webinar on what IS’s are and how they function could be posted and provided to TESOL members? It might encourage participation both in Interest Sections in general, but also in taking on more specialized Interest Section roles.
    I hope this (long-winded) feedback is relevant to what was being sought and, again, thank you.

  4. Laura Soracco says:

    Is all feedback public here as a comment?

  5. Tom Robb says:

    I’m wondering if a survey has been taken of what specific ISs do apart from the usual, required convention-related activities, such as
    * The annual academic session
    * The Interest Section Council
    * Intersection Colloquia
    * An IS Newsletter
    * A booth in Exhibit Area
    How many ISs have outreach activities apart from the convention? How many of these target non-TESOL members? What models are there for other areas of activity that some (or most) of the ISs could emulate?

    Does that fact that ISs are restricted financially hamper their ability to be active outside the convention, to hold, for example their own dedicated conferences, etc.?

    • Rob has brought up some very good points. As a past elected committee member of an IS at TESOL and a current member of a special interest group (SIG) at IATEFL, I see the differences between the way the two organizations are run. The fact that each SIGs at IATEFL manages its own budget allows the committee members and members of the SIG to be more involved and have the freedom to generate income via sponsors and membership and be involved in other online and face-to-face conferences and events. In fact, they can even compile and edit a book as an IS.

  6. I would like to thank the board for doing all they can to involve the members of the organization. I would like to add that it’s very important to have a member of the board overview the Interest Sections to ensure that every IS follows the guidelines set by TESOL.

  7. Liliana Galiano says:

    Dear Tesol Board,

    The principles are right and they clearly express what is expected from the ISs since they are general principles.

    I haven’t had much experience with any Tesol IS in particular but it seems to me that when it comes to practice sometimes a sense of purpose or achievement are needed for better results.

    As for point 4: ‘Regularly provides information…’, I’m not sure whether that is being done.



  8. francisco gomes de matos says:

    I agree with Kevin Knight that making good communicative decisions if vital for TESOL. In such spirit,as a TESOLer
    I would urge that this question also be prioritized by the TESOL Board:
    How can TESOL do its share in helping promote and sustain global peace ?
    How can TESOLers also be educated as PEACEolers,appliers of Peace Principles to TESOL ?)
    TESOL is identified as an international organization. Given such widened mission, how can it
    integrate the teaching of English and educating TESOLers as peace-promoting professionals ?
    English for diplomatic purposes is an innovative,pioneering title,to be released in May by a British publisher.
    Couldn`t TESOL set up a special interest group focused on that globally relevant professional dimension ?

  9. Kevin Knight Kevin Knight says:

    Dear TESOL Board of Directors,

    Thank you very much for sharing the ISTF report and requesting comments.

    The orchestra metaphor and governance come to mind. If TESOL International Association is seen as an orchestra, then the relationship between the musicians and the conductor is important, and great conductors seem to have different styles of leadership with different levels of control. (See the related TED Talk by Itay Talgam at https://www.ted.com/talks/itay_talgam_lead_like_the_great_conductors?language=en ) My first impression is that there will be room for the musicians to interpret the music and to tell their own stories, which I consider to be important.

    In connection with the above, I am wondering how the decision making process will change. What decisions will need to be made, and who will make them? What will be the key decisions for the different groups in the organization?

    It seems to me that education and communication are going to be very important for making good decisions (and good music at all levels and as a whole).

    I am looking forward to participating in the global virtual orchestra. I am also hoping that the different groups will continue to have a vital role in the creation of the music.

    Best regards,

    Kevin Knight

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