Speaker: Julia Menard-Warwich

Date of Talk: September 24, 2018

Location: Foster Auditorium

Title and abstract:

"Translating right on the spot: Bilingual paraprofessionals in a contact zone school"

The translingual practice framework (Canagarajah, 2013) theorizes the communicative strategies and dispositions of cosmopolitan individuals in contact zones (Pratt, 1991), spaces where diverse languages and cultures encounter and confront each other. Much of this work examines successful meaning-making through lingua franca English. However, little research on contact zone communication stems from contexts where potential interlocutors have no lingua franca, and where ideologies inhibit less-than-fully-proficient use of standardized languages. This presentation is based on ethnographic research at one such site, a california elementary school, which had both a bilingual and an English-only strand. In this context, although English and Spanish were languages of instruction, English remained the language of power, wihle approximately half of all parents were monolingual Spanish speakers. To deal with the resultant dilemmas, the school had hired bilingual paraprofessionals to handle communication between immigrant parents and monolingual-English-speaking teachers and administrators. These employees were almost entirely female, poorly-paid, and highly-dedicated: used to functioning in situations of vast responsibility and minimal authority, they were expected to perform miracles of translingual practice on behalf of the entire school. Based on interview data with bilingual paraprofessionals, as well as field-note and audio-recorded observation data of their work in public parent meetings, this presentation explores not only the extent to which linguistic norms at the school upheld monolingual ideologies, but also moments when these norms shifted, temporarily allowing wider participation across the school's language boundaries. Within these contradictions, the presentation highlights the importance of bilingual employees' mediation for establishing (limited) spaces where Spanish-speaking parents could claim a voice (Blommaert, 2005) in their children's education. Having considered these theoretical paradoxes, the presentation concludes with practical recommendations for contact zone institutions that wish to promote translingual participation. 




Speaker: Luke Plonsky

Date of Talk: January 29, 2019

Location: Foster Auditorium

Title and abstract: 

"Methodological reform as an ethical imperative in applied linguistics"

There is a methodological reform movement currently taking root in applied linguistics. Evidence of this movement can be found in a wide variety of outlets such as editorials (e.g., Trofimovich & Ellis, 2015), revised journal author guidelines (Mahboob et al., 2016), methodological syntheses (e.g., Plonsky, 2013), specialized symposia (Norris, Ross, & Schoonen, 2013), studies of methodological literacy and training (Gonulal et al., in press), the newly added Research Methods strand at AAAL, and the introduction of new analytical techniques (Larson-Hall & Herrington, 2010). Several years ago, in fact, Byrnes (2013) referred to what she saw as a “methodological turn” (p. 825) already underway. The concerns that led to and that are often backed empirically within this body of research are not merely fodder for technocrats or nit-picking for research methodologists. To me, arguments in favor of ensuring that we produce “good” research are perhaps best viewed through the lens of ethics.


In this paper I will discuss some of the initiatives—ranging from empirical to organizational—currently underway that seek to examine and improve the state of our science. As part of this larger discussion, the paper will also present a study that seeks to complement the body of mostly synthetic evidence of research practices by asking applied linguists about the extent to which they have engaged in a range of questionable data handling and reporting practices including clearly fraudulent activities such as data falsification and fabrication. A survey of questionable research practices (QRPs) based on Fanelli (2009) was sent to 2,230 applied linguists; 364 sets of responses were collected. We calculated descriptive statistics for all item responses. We then compared and correlated responses across and with participant demographics (e.g., years since completion of PhD). The results reveal fairly widespread fraud in applied linguistics: Approximately 1 in 6 participants reported having falsified or fabricated data on at least one occasion. I will discuss this finding, as well as those for other QRPs, from several angles. For example, to provide a broader context, I compare our results to those from other fields and in light of the replicability crisis (see Open Science Collaboration, 2015) currently being discussed in psychology. In addition, I’ll propose a number of possible causes for the prevalence of such practices such as the pressure to publish, insufficient training, and the lack of accountability. I also address the apparently very serious need for methodological reform as a matter of theoretical, practical, and yes—of course—ethical urgency.


Speaker: Carl Ratner

Date of Talk: April 2, 2019

Location: Foster Auditorium

Title and abstract: 

"What Does An Emancipatory, Scientific Psychology Look Like? Cultural-historical Psychology"

This presentation endeavors to 1) conceptualize social and psychological emancipation, 2) explain how Psychological science can contribute to this emancipation, 3) explain how Vygotsky’s psychological theory, named cultural-historical psychology, makes this contribution to emancipation.

Specifically, I shall conceptualize genuine emancipation as solving social problems by eradicating their political-economic causes. Psychology contributes to emancipation by treating psychological issues as cultural issues having cultural causes. This role for Psychology alters its traditional orientation toward using individual processes to change individual behavior.

Vygotsky’s cultural-historical Psychology is the best, if not the only, psychological approach that fits this bill for social and psychological emancipation. Cultural-historical Psychology directs individuals to join psychological fulfillment with social emancipation.