Category Archives: Bits & Pieces

Conversations with a purpose: Reflecting on interviewing in EFL research (IATEFL ReSIG Pre-Conference Event)

The IATEFL conference in Birmingham is coming up, and those of you who have an interest in classroom-based research may want to attend the Research SIG Pre-Conference Event, which will take place on Tuesday 12th April 2016 (10:00-17:00).

In the event, Dr Steve Mann (University of Warwick) will lead a workshop that aims to help participants understand how interviews might be used in EFL research projects, and to provide practical hands-on experience about various alternatives in interview-based research. Some of the questions that will be explored are the following:

  • Do you use interviews in your research?
  • What challenges have you faced planning for and managing interview interaction?
  • What different approaches are possible within EFL research interviews?
  • How many interviews do I need to undertake and do I have to transcribe them all?

Participants will have the opportunity to raise and discuss any issues they have regarding the use of interviews in their research projects. With Steve’s help, participants will work towards developing an interview approach. They will also produce a set of questions, which will then be used for a live interview with Graham Hall, the editor of ELT Journal.

If you are involved in a project that uses interviews, whether it’s in the context of a study programme or motivated by a wish to better understand your practice, I think this is well worth your time!

Featured Image: ‘Interview’ by eelco @ Flickr CC-BY-NC


I was delighted to receive, a few days ago, a copy of Punctuation..?, a short reference book published by User Design.

Unlike more cumbersome style guides, Punctuation..? is quite concise: it spans 35 A5-size pages. These contain 21 sections, focusing on different punctuation marks, such as ‘square brackets’ or ‘semi colon’. Each section describes the use of a punctuation mark, and there’s also discussion of common usage errors (e.g. the infamous its//it’s distinction), and occasional comparisons to subtle differences in the usage of other languages.

User_design_Books_Punctuation_p34_35On the whole, I found the booklet useful and easy to use. The descriptions in each section are accurate, written in simple language and complemented by amusing illustrations that can help to reinforce recall. Despite its small size, the book is reasonably comprehensive, and I found a lot of information that was new to me: for instance, do you know what a pilcrow or guillemets are?

To be clear, this is not a hefty volume, nor should it be compared against publications such as the Chicago Manual of Style. But to me, the simplicity of the booklet is its most appealing feature.  I think that it can be a useful resource for language learners, and I would definitely recommend it for self-study or a self-access centre.

A questionnaire for ELT teachers

Sarah Mercer and Christina Gkonou are doing research on the skills that ELT teachers have, which enable them to manage the emotional and social aspects of teaching. To do this, they are using an online survey and they have asked me to help by spreading the work. The survey’s quite short (it took me less than ten minutes to complete), and I thought that it was also quite interesting, in that it got me thinking about who I am and what I do as a teacher. So if you have some free time, can I please ask you to spend a few minutes to answer their questions?

Here’s the cover letter sent by Christina and Sarah, and the link to the questionnaire follows immediately after that:

Dear English Language Teacher,

We would be grateful if you could spend a few minutes to complete our online questionnaire (link below) for our project on EFL teachers’ emotional and social intelligence funded by the British Council. All responses are anonymous, unless you voluntarily choose at the end to share your contact details. However, the questionnaire can be completed entirely anonymously. There are no right or wrong answers to the questions; rather we are interested in understanding your own perspective and experiences. The questionnaire will be open until November 15th, and we really hope you will be able to participate and encourage others to do so too. The data generated will help us to better understand the skills that teachers have in managing the emotional and social dimensions of classroom life.

A copy of our final report will be made available on the website of the British Council next year. Should you have any questions about the project or this questionnaire, please do not hesitate to contact us. Christina can be reached at:; Sarah can be reached at:

Thank you very much for your time and effort.

 Sarah Mercer and Christina Gkonou

Take the survey!

Featured image: “Recette1 – Le questionnaire” by LaTransfo @ Flickr, BY-SA 2.0 

Language research, performance and the creative arts

If you happen to be in or around Leeds next month, you might be interested in a one-day seminar organised jointly by the University of Leeds Centre for Language Education Research (CLER) and members of the AHRC-funded Researching Multilingually at the Borders of Language, the Body, Law and the State project.

The seminar, which will take place on Friday 16 October (9.30-4.30) is titled Language Research, Performance and the Creative Arts, and it aims to “bring together language researchers interested in the arts” with a view to possibly creating a community of interested people. It is envisaged that there will be a small group of people attending (around 35 people), so there is going to be ample opportunity for active participation. There is no expectation that participants have experience of working with the creative arts.

Provisional timetable

09.30-10.00 Registration
10.00-10.15 Welcome (Lou Harvey & Jessica Bradley)
10.15-11.30 Presentations (titles tba)
10.15-10.40 Jessica Bradley, University of Leeds
10.40-11.05 Zhuomin Huang, University of Manchester
11.05-11.30 Lou Harvey, University of Leeds
11.30-11.45 Break
11.45-12.45 Roundtable discussion
12.45-13.15 Lunch
13.30-14.45 Presentations from the AHRC Researching Multilingually team (titles tba)
13.30-13.55 Richard Fay, University of Manchester
13.55-14.20 Katja Frimberger, University of Glasgow
14.20-14.45 Gameli Tordzro, University of Glasgow
2.45-3.00 Break
3.00-4.00 Roundtable discussion
4.00-4.20 Discussant – James Simpson, University of Leeds
4.20-4.30 Close

There is no fee for attending the seminar. If you are interested in participating, you need to contact the organisers, Lou Harvey (l.t.harvey[at] or Jessica Bradley (j.m.bradley [at]

Featured image: The Ziff Building at the University of Leeds, by Mtaylor848 @ Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

On Grexit and Solidarity

There are two reasons for writing this post: One is to express my sincere gratitude to colleagues and friends who have come forward with generous offers of help, at what has been a challenging time for people in Greece; and the other is to pass along a very kind offer that may be of interest to Greece-based scholars whose publication plans have been disrupted by recent economic developments.

When information about the imposition of capital controls on the Greek banking system broke out, coupled with information about an impending Grexit, I was genuinely touched to receive multiple messages from friends abroad, who offered to help me by providing short-term liquidity or picking up the bill for various internet-based services until I was allowed to make international payments, and who even suggested paying for the plane tickets for an upcoming visit to the UK. What was even more touching than the offers of material solidarity was the overwhelming feeling of affective support and sympathy from people that mean a lot to me. For all this, I am grateful.

Now to the second part of this post: One of the less obvious implications of the recent financial crisis is that researchers in Greece no longer have access to subscription-based journals, because HEAL-link, the consortium that manages subscriptions for Greek universities, no longer has access to its funds. Moreover, international transactions are all-but-impossible, which means that researchers who prefer to take the Open Access route to publication cannot pay for Article Processing Charges (APCs). In the face of these difficulties, it was very encouraging to read that ScienceOpen are generously offering to waive APCs for any authors funded by Greek research institutions for the rest of 2015. Here are some relevant extracts from their announcement:

These unprecedented financial constraints have also caused Greek researchers to lose access to newly published research. This is because the Hellenic Academic Libraries Link (HEAL-Link) has terminated all licenses after being unable to collect the remaining half of the subscription budget for the current year. Although not a like-for-like replacement, ScienceOpen offers a valuable Open Access aggregation service with over 1.5 million articles that are freely available for everyone to use. We urge the Greek community to make full use of it now and in the future.

For Greek (and all) researchers who wish to have their voices heard in the international research community, we provide opportunities for those with five or more peer-reviewed publications on their ORCID to participate in Post-Publication Peer Review (PPPR) and share their expertise with the world.

For Earlier Career Researchers (ECR) in Greece, stymied by the lack of jobs and mobility, we pledge to make a special effort to highlight any articles published on our platform through social media and blog posts to elevate their visibility within the global community. You may find some more thoughts about ScienceOpen, Open Access, and PPPR for ECR in our blog roll here.

We hope that this offer goes some small way to demonstrating to the Greek research community that they are not alone and that our offices in Berlin, Boston and San Francisco stand in unity with them. We welcome other publishers to join this initiative.

Alexander Grossmann

I am sure that I speak on behalf of everyone I know in the Greek research community when I say that we are all truly thankful for this gesture of solidarity.

Featured Image: “Open Access promomateriaal”, by biblioteekje @ Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0