Center forLanguage Acquisition

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Dr. Kim SCT Travel Grant Award to Jacob Rieker, Tianfang Wang and Yuanheng Wang

Dr. Kim SCT Travel Grant Award to Jacob Rieker, Tianfang Wang and Yuanheng Wang

We are pleased to announce that Jacob Rieker, Tianfang (Sally) Wang, and Yuanheng (Arthur) Wang, three PhD students in Applied Linguistics, have been awarded the 2021 Dr. Kim Sociocultural Theory (SCT) Travel Grant. The winning titles and abstracts are included below.

Dr. Kim SCT Travel Grant was established through the generosity of Dr. Jiyun Kim, a graduate of Penn State’s doctoral program in applied linguistics, for graduate student travel to present at the annual meeting of the Sociocultural Theory L2 Research Group, or to present a paper significantly informed by sociocultural theory at a national or international conference. For more information, see our Dr. Kim SCT Travel Grant page.


Making microteaching matter in second language teacher education (Jacob Rieker)

The microteaching simulation is a central practice in second language teacher education. In this activity, teacher candidates are tasked with planning and enacting a lesson in front of the teacher educator and teacher peers. Theorized as an activity that bridges classroom learning about teaching and its instantiation in practice, microteaching purportedly simulates the ‘real-world’ of teaching for teacher candidates within the confines of teacher preparation courses (Farrell, 2008; Burns & Richards, 2009). Yet, despite its long-standing centrality, microteaching has been criticized as being thoroughly artificial, superficial, and performative (Bell, 2007, He & Yan, 2011). Moreover, there is a lack of consensus surrounding how second language teacher educators can intentionally make this practice relevant for teacher development. Taking up these issues, the present study utilizes Vygotskian sociocultural theory (Vygotsky, 1978, 1986, 1987) to reconceptualize the microteaching simulation as play activity. Contrary to the colloquial understanding of play, a Vygotskian perspective frames play as a serious activity with developmental consequences as learners grapple with new roles and signs. Using a novel conceptualization of play as (i) artificial, (ii) future-oriented, and (iii) mediational, I analyze dialogic episodes from a microteaching simulation embedded within an MA TESL methods course. I demonstrate how play was co-constructed by the teacher educator, teachers enacting the microteaching lessons, and teacher peers, and show how this play led the teachers to become aware of the reasoning behind their pedagogical activities. More broadly, these episodes illustrate how engagement in the playful space of the microteaching simulation opened up possibilities for the teacher candidates to function ahead of their current developmental levels with the support of the teacher educator and teacher peers. Ultimately, a Vygotskian perspective grounded in the value of play offers the potential to reclaim the relevance of microteaching as an artificial, future-oriented, and mediational second language teacher education practice.


The concept of conceptual metaphor as a psychological tool for learners’ L2 development: A CMT-informed concept-based instruction (Tianfang (Sally) Wang)

Given the ubiquity and importance of conceptual metaphors (CM) in our thinking and speaking (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980, 1999), the topic has gained much attention in L2 pedagogy research. Most studies, however, focus on individual features or aspects of metaphorical language, for example, vocabulary (e.g., Boers, 2000); phrasal verbs (e.g., Condon, 2008, Yasuda, 2010); prepositions (Boers & Demecheleer, 1998); idioms (e.g., Chen & Lai, 2013, Wang, Boers, & Warren, 2019). This study, instead of specific metaphors or individual aspects of language, teaches the concept of CM. It treats the concept as a psychological tool (Kozulin, 1998) that can potentially transform L2 learners’ thinking about language as well as their meaning-making processes. The study aims to answer two questions: 1) Can learners use the concept of CM to better comprehend, interpret, and produce figurative speech in English? If so, 2) how do the instructional means and materials mediate the learner’s internalization of the concept? Eight international graduate students were recruited to participate in a five-lesson-long pedagogical intervention designed within the framework of Sociocultural Theory-informed (Vygotsky, 1978) pedagogy, namely, Concept-Based Instruction (CBI, Gal’perin, 1992). In addition, each student participated in a pre-assessment meeting, a post-assessment meeting, and three post-interviews via Zoom. Findings reveal that the intervention brought various aspects of positive changes to the learners’ abilities and strategies to negotiate the meaning of figurative language in English. Ontogenetic (the development of an individual) and microgenetic (the development of a specific process during ontogenesis) (Vygotsky, 1987; Wertsch, 1985, Lantolf & Thorne, 2006) analyses will be provided to explain the learners’ learning trajectories and the effectiveness of instructional means. Implications will be shared regarding L2 learners’ metaphoric competence (Littlemore, 2001, 2010) and the integration of Cognitive Linguistics and Sociocultural Theory pedagogy.


L2 writing teacher’s PCK and identity development across contexts, time, and spaces: An SCT-informed exploration (Yuanheng (Arthur) Wang)

Since Hirvela and Belcher’s (2007) call for exploring L2 writing teacher education, researchers have investigated teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) development (e.g., Worden, 2018), identity construction (e.g., Racelis & Matsuda, 2014), and teacher cognition (e.g., Yigitoglu & Belcher, 2014). Remaining relatively overlooked, however, is their PCK development across contexts/spaces in relation to their identity formation. As teachers’ PCK is interwoven into their identity development (Lee & Yuan, 2021), it is important to examine how teachers’ PCK develops and what they do in and for such development. This paper traces the PCK development of an L2 writing teacher Alex as manifested in his teaching of an introductory lesson for a writing assignment in a first-year L2 composition class. Over the past two years, he has worked in the same U.S. university but across divergent contexts (in-person in the U.S.; synchronous online; and in-person in the university’s international program in China). Through the theoretical lens of Socio-cultural Theory (SCT) (Vygotsky, 1986) and using a micro-genetic analysis (Lantolf & Thorn, 2006), this paper analyzes the changes made in the design and delivery of the lesson using various tools (e.g., PPT slides and worksheets) as he became a more sophisticated professional. The analysis revealed that Alex (1) gradually internalized different forms of external mediation; (2) became increasingly adaptive to the changes in the instructional contexts; and (3) explicitly recognized his own PCK and identity development as he systematically reflected on related mediational resources. Findings could enrich our understanding into the dynamic and contextual nature of L2 writing teachers’ identity development embedded within their PCK, as characterized even in one small lesson across contexts, time, and spaces, therefore potentially concretizing L2 writing teachers’ “adaptive expertise” (Lee & Yuan, 2021, p. 2), which is essential for eventually advancing L2 writing teacher education.