Giving Voice to “Voice” and Voicing Language Teachers’ Experiences – The 5th Bentobox Lecture of 2017/2018

15 Mar 2018

Prof Cecilia Zhao (left) and Prof Custodio Martins (right)

The 5th Bentobox session of 2017/2018 was held at 1pm on 15 March.

Professor Cecilia Zhao cogently defined the often elusive concept of “voice” as it has been developed in academic literature. Questions raised by the idea of voice, especially in the context of L2 teaching and learning include: “How, if at all, can we measure the strength of an author’s voice in a written text? To what extent is this concept important in writing instruction and assessment? Is this concept of voice even teachable to L2 writers?” Cecilia then explained in detail the approaches she adopted in designing the instruments and procedures which she developed to assess the impact of voice in L2 writing assessment, as well as the findings of this study. She concluded that many factors previously considered as part of “voice” did not play a major role in writing assessment, but that “voice” was more strongly connected to ideational content. This research should be of great practical value to L2 teachers and learners.

Professor Custodio Martins reminded us that the experience and background of language teachers is an often neglected area of study in an environment where most research is on the “learner, learner strategies and learners’ individual differences”. He stated that “teacher ideas and beliefs need further attention, since language teaching is not only about knowledge of the subject matter”. By way of example, Custodio provided several interesting quotations from interviews of foreign language teachers about the influence of their education and cultural background on their own teaching practices, as well as the influence of the foreign cultures in which they teach on themselves. Building a database of collective experiences of language teachers in various national or cultural contexts should be very useful for teachers in the field, but also more broadly for all teachers in cross-cultural contexts.

We look forward to the final Bentobox session of the semester next month on April 18 with Mr. Kevin Maher and Mr. Matthew Wallace as speakers. Mr. Maher’s talk is titled “No more Zzz’s: Teaching Audience engagement for Student Oral Presentations” and Mr. Wallace’s “Examining the influence of cognitive factors on L2 listening comprehension”. Hope to see you there.