LTS students can publish too!
Lia Myers graduated from LTS in 2015 and recently published her MA project in the ORTESOL Journal. Her project title was Integrating Instruction on Pragmatically Appropriate English Oral Requests into IEP Courses in the U.S.
What was your project about, and what prompted you to consider publishing it?
My project was about teaching pragmatically appropriate English oral requests to adult ESL learners studying English in the United States. Working in the American English Institute at the University of Oregon, I had observed that there was a strong tendency for ESL learners at all language proficiency levels to make oral requests that sounded rude to Americans and that this caused social problems for the learners who did not intend to be rude. I wanted to understand why this situation existed and how it might be resolved. It was Keli Yerian (the LTS Program Director) who suggested publishing the project. She had just read for the first time the chapters where I explained my conclusions from my research and what I was proposing to do, and also my initial draft of pedagogical solutions. Going to meet with her to discuss it, I was really nervous because what I was proposing was very unconventional – I felt it was what my data said needed to be done but I’d never heard of anything like it – and I was worried she would say it was no good. Instead, she said I really had something to contribute to the field and I should publish it. It was one of the proudest moments of my life!
What was the process?
From the time Keli told me I should publish I intended to do it, but after graduation life was very busy starting my teaching career and I didn’t complete the first draft of the manuscript for publication until after my first school year of teaching. However, I’m glad it happened that way because in the intervening time I had the opportunity to gain more practical teaching experience including with some of the techniques I discussed in my project, which enabled me to improve my manuscript with examples and suggestions from the classes I had taught. I first submitted the manuscript to the TESOL Journal, but they rejected it because it didn’t have the type of research they were looking for. I used their feedback to rewrite it and submitted it to the ORTESOL Journal. They responded that it was interesting but they thought it would be more appropriate as an extended teaching note rather than a full-length feature article (the category for which it was submitted) and invited me to rewrite it for the extended teaching note category. So I rewrote and resubmitted it, and the paper was finally published in the 2018 edition of the ORTESOL Journal (available here: https://ortesol.wildapricot.org/Journal2018). So that was three drafts of the manuscript for publication with each draft being reviewed by some combination of Keli Yerian, Linda Wesley (my project advisor), Jim Myers (my dad who has always edited my work), as well as TESOL and ORTESOL reviewers, all of whom gave me feedback to use to revise and improve the manuscript.
How much does your published article resemble your project – what had to change?
The biggest change was I had to make it a LOT shorter. The original project is 143 pages including end materials, but what was finally published is only 10 pages. This meant I had to really distill the project down to the essential points. I also added examples and suggestions from my post-graduation teaching experience and made many changes to both the writing and the content of the manuscript for publication based on feedback from TESOL, ORTESOL, Keli Yerian, Linda Wesley, and my dad, though the core ideas remained the same.
What have you been doing since you graduated from LTS, and what are your future plans?
Oh gosh, I’ve done so many things since I graduated from LTS. Besides getting my MA project published, I taught ESL/ESOL at INTO OSU (Corvallis, Oregon) for several months, then at Chemeketa Community College (Salem, Oregon) for seven terms. While at Chemeketa I wrote and piloted the entire curriculum for a new course on basic computer skills for learners who don’t know how to use a computer or who have a low level of English language proficiency or both. It has since been used by several other teachers in Chemeketa’s ESOL program and I’ve had really positive feedback on it. I also presented on integrating instruction of digital literacy skills into ESOL courses focused on other topics such as reading and writing, listening and speaking, etc. at the Fall 2017 ORTESOL Conference. This year at the beginning of January I travelled to Medellín, Colombia to have the experience of moving to a new country where I didn’t really know the language to look for a job. Seven months later I know Spanish well enough to manage my own affairs in the language, have worked at a private school (preschool through high school) in the Medellín area for a few months, and learned to dance (Colombian salsa). In September I’m headed to Japan to teach at a university there until late January. After that, who knows? There’s a whole world of possibilities out there…
Any advice you have for current or future LTS students?
In terms of choosing a topic for the project, I recommend identifying a problem in which you are interested, then figuring out why it exists and how to solve it. Later, if you want to publish, have practical experience with your solutions before you write it up for publication and draw on those when writing your manuscript. Be prepared to do much revision and have people around who can read the manuscript and give you good feedback to help you make it better. When you submit it, choose a journal and category that really fits what you have. Finally, don’t be afraid to pursue an unconventional idea that really seems right. It may be the novel approach that’s needed.