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Literacy Colloquy Speaker Series: Charlene Polio

February 25, 2020 @ 11:00 am - 12:30 pm EST

“Keeping the Language in Second Language and Multilingual Writing Instruction”

How much language-focused instruction—defined in a variety of ways—to include in teaching second language learners has been a matter of controversy for at least 40 years in all areas of instruction. In the area of writing instruction, there has recently been a focus on writing tasks and genres as well as multimodal writing, which draws from a range of semiotic resources beyond language. Although teaching students to write a range of tasks and genres in a variety of modes is important, some scholars, particularly those teaching in foreign language settings (i.e., where the target language is not spoken), have expressed concern about this trend. In addition, a very large body of research across populations and time spans have shown that students in L2 writing courses making little progress when it comes to linguistic features of their language. In this talk, I will first frame the issue historically and in terms of what it means to focus on language. I will then summarize my and others’ research examining language development and explain why we should be concerned and what we can learn from the research. The talk will end with suggestions for focusing on language in the contexts of teaching specific genres with a discussion of what we can learn from research conducted in foreign language contexts.


Dr. Charlene Polio is a professor and associate chair in the Department of Linguistics and Germanic, Slavic, Asian, & African Languages at Michigan State University, where she teaches in the MA Program in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and the Second Language Studies Program. Her main area of research is second language (L2) writing. She is particularly interested in the various research methods and measures used in studying L2 writing as well as the interface between the fields of L2 writing and second language acquisition. She has also published and done research in the areas of second language acquisition, foreign language classroom discourse, and behavior differences in novice vs. experienced teachers. Dr. Polio is the co-editor of TESOL Quarterly with her colleague, Peter De Costa and she is the past associate editor of the Modern Language Journal. She is also a member-at-large for the American Association for Applied Linguistics. Dr. Polio has been a visiting instructor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education/University of Toronto and Teachers College, Columbia University. She has taught ESL at MSU, UCLA, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Graduate School in Beijing, and Philadelphia Community College.


133F, Erickson Hall
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