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Professional Development - MASH Names, Faces & Ideas Archive

Originated by Birmingham MA TEFL/TESL students

December 14, 2008

This column receives regular updates


I was teaching a low level Chu 2 class. They had to brainstorm lists of summer words (in pairs) under the following summer topics: My club, the sea, festivals, homework, and fun. After they had long lists, I told them we were going to practice “output” by producing sentences using their summer word lists. If their sentence had 8 words, then they got 8 points for their team.

Just as they got started I offered a twist. I told them that, similar to speaking, writing was also a kind of “output” and if they were more comfortable, they could call me over to their desk and I’d read a sentence they had written. After about 5 minutes of recording each team’s points on the board, the tiniest, quietest girl in the class raised her hand. I went over to her desk to see the following sentence:

“I went to London, England, with my mother, my father, my grandmother, my grandfather, my uncle, my aunt, my cousin, my big sister, my little sister, my big brother, my little brother and my friends to play tennis and do swimming.”

The room erupted when I added 41 points to her team’s score, and of course, she couldn’t hold back a small smile.

Motivation is often immediate. In a split second right after you explain a task, students decide whether they can succeed or not. Find ways for them to succeed, and you’ll all be happier.

A thought or idea in progress

A colleague and I recently decided to send out our first call for submissions for a book proposal. We were talking intensely about the differences between ESL and EFL with some visiting professors from England. They asked us why there were no books defining the nature of the EFL context in Japan through research-based writing. We couldn’t really answer so they challenged us to either write one or edit one. Two days later, my colleague had a draft proposal sitting in my inbox. We sent it out and have already gotten many positive reactions: the project continues now and if you are interested, click HERE

If we wait for more outsiders to write more books telling us how our students should learn English in the unique EFL context, we won’t grow very quickly.

From teacher to teachers

Take a chance and go deeper: get more out of teaching by better understanding the perspective of your Japanese students, and by learning more about the learning process. If you are sincere about wanting to improve, good people always make time to help; and there are countless good teachers in Japan now.

Other ways to go deeper include starting an MA program in TEFL, TESOL or Applied Linguistics; joining a professional group like JALT, ETJ or JACET; and maybe the best idea is to find like-minded teachers and start collaborating in person or online.


Steven loves to talk about life in Japan and teaching EFL. He can be reached online or at steven[dot]herder[at]gmail[dot]com

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January 03, 2009

Many thanks and a welcome to kindred spirits

First of all, three big hearty thank yous to David Paul:

1) For bringing the University of Birmingham distance MA courses to Japan some years ago, thus allowing us much more professional development than we could ever have imagined, and,

2) For taking on the editorship of this website for the benefit of teachers all around Asia and thus increasing his workload even further.

3) For recently inviting a few of us to start this column of behalf of the many people we have met through our MASH network.

We are very excited to have this opportunity to "learn by doing" and to "join the EFL conversation" as contributors to this excellent venture.

The new ELT NEWS site looks just gorgeous, and the caliber of people involved made us jump at the chance to join in. We would also like to invite you to join as well.

The only purpose of MASH - NAMES, FACES & IDEAS is to introduce you to some fantastic people who have made a commitment to their own professional development. If you too would like to Meet, Ask, Share & Help others on your own way to professional development through collaboration, then we share the same goals. If you would like to submit an article like the ones here, simply contact Steven Herder and I'll be happy to get you set up with a template and answer any questions. We are really committed to getting things done, and we love to meet like-minded professionals.


Steven Herder

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January 29, 2009

"The more we learn..."


More than likely, you have heard student questions like, “How do I improve my English? What’s the best way to learn new words? ” So, you can imagine the challenges I predicted my first-year, intermediate level, medical students would face having to learn not only up to 130 unfamiliar medical terms from otolaryngology department to myocardial infarction, but also needing to know how to explain medical procedures such as endoscopy and X-ray. All this in a semester! As a teacher, what could I do to best help?

My solution was to introduce a new program of vocabulary learning strategies dovetailed with the medical English course. I had students investigate the strategies they had been using and then, on a weekly-basis, introduced and practiced new ones that students perceived most useful.

The anonymous course evaluations at the end of the semester proved significantly encouraging in most areas with comments such as, “I tried many strategies” and “From now on, I want to use my own vocabulary learning strategies.” Student feedback also highlighted important areas for change and improvement.

Learners each bring their own learning history, style and preferences, all of which we can learn more about by giving them a ‘voice’. This often motivates learners and further provides teachers with invaluable information that can be used to create a more learner-centered teaching approach.

A thought or idea in progress
I am fascinated by three key areas - primarily in vocabulary acquisition: (1) how learners learn; (2) the effect of individual differences on learning and teaching strategies; (3) classroom-based research and teaching applications.

I am particularly keen to bridge the gaps between theory and practice, teaching and research by seeking to nurture sound teaching practices based on established theory, and inform theory with best teaching practice.

Learning about how and why we learn what we do is a fascinating, and continually evolving research area that spans several fields and disciplines from cognitive psychology to sociology, education and linguistics. As we come to better understand these areas and benefit from interdisciplinary research, we hopefully become better equipped to investigate and innovate our own learning and teaching.

By sharing experiences and collaborating with fellow professionals, we invariably benefit from the opportunity to (1) clarify what we think we know, (2) confirm or indeed reject our previous beliefs and ideas, and (3) thus broaden and deepen our knowledge and understanding.


From teacher to teachers

Whilst developing our knowledge and expertise, an old maxim continues to ring true: the more I learn the more I discover there is to learn. And that is precisely where the fun, interest and curiosity continue to be generated.

So, if you share an interest, please feel free to contact me and let’s open more doors: philza2003[at]yahoo[dot]com

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February 15, 2009

Another Leader in MASH


Recently I had a student approach me and tell me that she wanted to enter a speech contest for the Iwate Prefecture High School Speech competition. She had two months to prepare.

I asked her what she wanted to talk about, and she replied ‘My dream to become a doctor’.

We started with three sentences. It was very slow going and there was a lot of editing but after 5 weeks she finally had a draft that she was happy with. But there was something missing in her delivery. There was just no passion. My goal as a teacher was to teach her how to deliver in the time we had left.

We worked privately for two, one-hour lessons. We studied every inflection, looked at her entire speech, decided what was important and needed passion, what should be soft, what should be said slowly and deliberately and more importantly I showed her how to use her hands. ‘When you say “I believe” slam your hand into your chest!’, I told her over and over. I emphasized - don’t give a speech - tell them your dream! Tell the audience why you want to become a doctor! Don’t bore them! If this is really your dream - make them believe it!

In these two hours her speech came alive. She had changed her tone and her delivery so dramatically that the passion was oozing as she spoke.

She did one final dry run to a class of 6 students two days before the competition. There was not a dry eye by the end. She had turned her speech into a symphony.

Out of thirty contestants she came in second.


I feel that the more I help my students achieve their dreams, the more mine becomes realized. Sometimes all we need is for one student to show us that we can make a difference.

A thought or idea in progress

A colleague of mine and I joked recently; ‘We should write a story of our experiences here in Japan.’ There are so many books on methodology, yet there isn’t one on methodology combined with experience and ‘our story’. We now have a google doc in the works with notes in the making.


If we get out more and share our experiences with others we can help each other understand our process.

Teacher to Teachers

We have the opportunity to make the changes that will help our students grow and help each other develop into professionals. There are all kinds of ways to get involved; ETJ, JALT, JACET, TESOL and the list goes on!

Joining a teacher’s group is only the first step. Getting out there and getting connected with other teachers is when all the fun really begins. For every idea that you share with another teacher, you’ll probably hear 10 things that you can use in your teaching or in your classroom.

Mark would love to talk with you about teaching or your experiences in Japan!

Mark is "all ears" listening to Rod Ellis and partying in Tokyo with Chris Kennedy...



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March 03, 2009

A very active, solid MASH collaborator


During the initial meeting of a university listening course, I wanted to introduce the idea of listening strategies. These strategies were going to be a focus for the semester and I needed a hook to get students on board.

Another goal was to make a connection with the first-year students whom I had never met. In order to combine visualization - a listening strategy - with an engaging introductory activity, this is what I did:

I first asked the students to listen to me describe my sister: her name, job, family life, interests, etc. Students took notes then compared their information with partners. Next, I used a slide presentation, complete with short text, images and some semi-embarrassing pictures, to introduce myself. Students again discussed what they remembered with a partner.

After that, I asked them which was easier to remember, my sister’s introduction or my own. Not surprisingly, it was unanimous: mine was easier. Next, I explained the usefulness of visualization as a listening strategy and told them that we would be practicing it and other listening techniques during the semester. This introduction established a connection with students while demonstrating strategy use: two missions accomplished.

Showing is always better than telling; personalization is usually better than generalization.

A thought or idea in progress

Native speaker English teachers (NESTs) and Japanese teachers of English (JTEs) need each other to target the local needs of students and teachers in Japan. A multi-faceted approach to basically every aspect of ELT in Japan can benefit from the perspectives of these symbiotic groups. More integration is required and to that end, I am investigating and working to stimulate collaborative interaction through materials evaluation.

Two heads are better than one, especially when one has local knowledge.

From teacher to teachers

Innovation is key to the future success of language education but too often we are satisfied to maintain the status quo. Ideas for curriculum innovation and change need to be expressed and nurtured. As teachers, we - more than anyone - should be learners and innovators. Students and other teachers are counting on us for the next new idea. We need to try fresh approaches, innovative methods, and cutting-edge techniques, and not simply accept what has been done before.

Participate in “idea cultivation”, not “idea extermination.” Learn from everything.

Joe loves discussions on teaching and can be reached at

Editor's note:

Jojo is well-known for his smooth, visually beautiful presentations. He amazes us all because he never lets out an "Uh, um or duh" when he presents. Here he is at PAC7 at JALT 2008.


Photo by Jonathan Brown
jono1969 (at)

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March 23, 2009

MASH International...


For five months I’ve been teaching a phonics class in a government primary school in inner city Chennai, India. Many students come from impoverished families living in nearby slums, some are first generation school-goers, and too many are often unable to buy basic school supplies. In part due to their disadvantaged backgrounds, there are many behavioral issues that distract the natural flow of class. Their homeroom teachers use corporeal punishment, in the form of a wooden stick, to discipline the students. We have experimented with a variety of behavior management techniques because obviously, the stick is not permissible in our class. Sometimes our ultimate goal of teaching phonics and reading is often sidelined. However, through diligence we have seen improvements in just eight weeks. When we first began the class, students would look at the word ‘cat’ written on the board and say ‘C-A-T, cat’. They were totally unaware of the actual sounds attached to those letters. Similarly, during our fourth week evaluation, many students looked at the word ‘god’ and only processed the letters, not the sounds and said ‘dog’.

One student in the class, Rajesh, might have been diagnosed with ADD years ago if he were in the US. He is always running around the class, unable to sit still. I have had to remove him from class on several occasions and/or make him sit in time-out. During our first evaluation he was able to do some blending, but could not read any words. By our second evaluation, he was blending almost perfectly and sounding out words. After slowly saying a word a few times he realized he knew the word and a big smile spread across his face and he had an “Ah-ha!” moment.
After class I sit with each student and check his or her writing practice. Rajesh consistently sounds out each word now, suddenly very focused and intent on learning.

Are our language classes and curriculum focused on helping students learn to love the process of learning or do we lose their interest with mundane topics and grammar rules?

A thought or idea in progress
The phonics module will enter an official ‘action research’ phase in the coming year. With limited financial resources, we struggle to build a well-rounded program that will effectively teach students the basics of reading. However, we hope that by actively being involved in the program from start to finish, observing and evaluating as we go, we can develop a solid program to be implemented on a larger scale in the years to come.

As teachers and life-long students of the school of education, we must be involved in formalizing our teaching and our curriculums in conjunction with classroom based research processes. We need to be learning from each other as well as documenting our best practices.

From teacher to teachers
As an AIF Service Corps Fellow for AID India’s English Action Research Team in Chennai, India, I have the opportunity to both observe and teach in urban and rural government schools. Visiting the rural schools is always a pleasure. The one-room classrooms house all levels and the children eagerly follow their teacher’s instructions. Similar to the urban classrooms of Japan and the US, the children often lack respect for their teacher and even for each other. When I first arrived, I found myself sitting in the back of the classroom passively watching as teachers hit the students with wooden sticks to discipline them. As an outsider, I didn’t feel I could intervene into such a culturally based, age-old system of discipline. I’m morally opposed to it and struggle with condoning it by passively sitting back. When I teach, the students know the stick will not be used, but discipline is a significant problem. I wonder how other teachers have approached this issue in other cultural contexts?

Kirsten loves to travel and teach but mostly she is a student wherever she is. She can be reached at

Editor's note:
Kirsten is a good researcher/writer, a strong editor and a tech-savvy teacher. She brings enthusiasm, passion and creativity to work every single day. If you ever have the chance to hire this professional, jump at the chance. Oh yeah - she's great fun and a life-long friend as well.


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April 05, 2009

A MASH colleague going all the way!


In the last weeks of my college-level Travel English class, I had been feeling terribly bad about how the class had gone. My syllabus never completely came together and I felt as though I was more or less teaching my Year 1 Advanced class for another 90 minutes a week.

As a final project, I had teams of students make oral presentations about countries they studied. One team included the best student in the class: a young man who had studied in England for several weeks and was head and shoulders above the other students. It was clear during the presentation that he was far better prepared and much more knowledgeable than his teammates.
After his team had done a practice presentation for me, the student stayed behind to complain to me about his team members’ commitment to the project. He had been required to do much more than he thought he should have. We had a chance to talk about his role as a leader on the team, and he left considering how he could bring out the best in his team members.

For me, teaching English was never entirely about teaching English, but teaching students to be better learners and community members (something they rarely seem to learn in other classes). If a student can apply her or his English skills to grow not only as a language speaker, but as an individual, then both the teacher and student have something truly useful to show for their work.

A thought or idea in progress
I am researching the ways in which metaphor usage is shared between bloggers and blog commenters. I am hoping to show how metaphors are used, interpreted, and re-interpreted in comment threads. The starting point of this research is reconsidering how text is produced on the Internet and reconsidering the traditional ideas of written and spoken text.

I hope this research will grow into tackling several aspects of Internet communication, including how narrative is produced on YouTube videos and what exactly ‘dialog’ is in these instances. Hopefully, by building a model of these interactions, programmers and applied linguists can work together to create software and hardware that enhances human interaction, instead of getting in the way of it.

From teacher to teachers
Invest the right things in the right students. Remember that not all students need the same thing and not all students are A students. I always felt that if a C- student was able to get a C in my class and leave with a positive impression of my class, this was more successful than an A student getting an A, but not enjoying it. Success must have more than one meaning in your classroom.

Stephen taught English in Japan for five years before moving on to England. He enjoyed teaching, but he enjoys discourse analysis and research much more. E-mail him at S.S.Pihlaja(At mark)

Editor's note:
Stephen is an engaging, witty, and provocative young man who spends more hours a day watching YouTube videos than almost anyone else living on our planet (of course it is ALL for his PhD research). I really wish I had started my PD as early as Stephen did. I believe he finished his MA TEFL with Birmingham at age 11...


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May 08, 2009

We feed off one another's energy - and Joanne has oodles


A recent success story in the classroom
I am lucky – success stories are in abundance this job-hunting season – yet on the surface they appear to have little to do with English language study. I work in the English department of a Catholic, female, private junior college in a rural city in northern Japan. We are the last junior college in Tohoku that maintains a separate English department. Junior colleges in Japan were historically the ‘finishing schools’ of Japan, the focus being on domestic sciences and manners. This basis remains but has been modified to suit student needs in the 21st century. Now, more commonly, students transfer to four-year universities or start work in companies rather than move straight into domestic bliss.

The success story rushes in – she just got a job. The success story is bubbling over with happiness, relief, excitement and anticipation. She will be working for the regional branch of a national bank – one of the best jobs our students can get. The student wanted to tell me straight away, “Thank you for your help,” she says. Sharing students’ successes is a precious experience. I know that she will not need English at work; she may never even speak English again. What was it then, the ‘help’ I provided, if not the ability to speak English? Why did she rush to tell me?

Maybe it was my belief in her. Maybe it was the encouragement I provided when she was stressed. Maybe it was every interesting snippet of information she soaked up that kept her motivated. Maybe it was every smile, every laugh, every enjoyable moment shared that kept her heading on the right path. Maybe it was the learning process – not only of English study, but of leaving high school behind and becoming an independent woman. Just maybe I did help her. Two years is a short time but immeasurable in the distance traveled from nervous beginnings to blooming confidence. I was one small part of her success, and for that I am thankful.

The big successes are the culmination of a myriad of small successes in the classroom and general college life. Language learning should be a pleasant experience, an experience marked by achievements. It is the responsibility of the teacher to make sure that every student accomplishes tasks, reaches goals and realizes their own unique potential.

Know your context. Know your students. Know your strengths as a teacher. Aim high.

A thought or idea in progress
My first degree back in the U.K was in Gender Studies. Recently I have begun to include gender-based research in my language research. This has increased my interest and broadened my future research fields.

From teacher to teachers
Learn Japanese (or the local language) and Japanese mannerisms. This not only provides a hefty dose of self-confidence, but enables participation in the greater arena of education (including non-teaching work). Becoming a professional is about involvement not ignorance. It is about taking on responsibilities and fulfilling them. It is about sharing the workload with our local colleagues.

Joanne is just embarking on a journey that will surely be spotted by interesting encounters. She can be reached at:

Editor's note:
"The" place to relax and unwind

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May 24, 2009

Chris Wharton - Teacher, school owner and MASH presenter


A recent success story in the classroom
The groans from my class of elementary school students were getting louder each week when the homework was assigned. Unsurprisingly, the quality of the homework was going in the opposite direction. I noticed that before my class, the students were either drawing or reading Japanese manga to pass the time. So, the next week when homework was assigned, I closed the regular workbook and presented students with a blank sheet of A4 paper and explained that they should create an English manga for homework – “anything goes”. I had never seen such excitement on their faces at the prospect of homework. The next week, before class, the students were sitting in the hallway proudly comparing manga. As I opened the door, they all rushed to hand me their homework. I immediately put them up on the bulletin board, and gave some well-deserved high fives.

When students, of any age, have a personal stake in their learning, and are intrinsically motivated, they can surprise you – if you give them a chance.

A thought or idea in progress
Textbooks are often seen as a necessity for overstretched English teachers, a crutch to help us through the long week. I strongly believe textbooks have their place, but over the past year or so, I’ve completely done away with them in my intermediate and advanced classes. Every week I try to prepare an interesting, well-rounded lesson based on a current event. The one-hour lessons include discussion points, listening comprehension, vocabulary and grammar work, and more discussion. Recently I proposed to an advanced class of four middle-aged women that each of them take turns making a lesson in October. We had a 30-minute “lesson clinic” the following week in which we went through a lesson template and walked through some steps on the computer to make life easier when copying articles from the Internet. We’ve already had two student-led lessons and they’ve both been very successful. The students who prepare the lessons get the most out of the experience, spending more than an hour looking through articles, selecting appropriate vocabulary items to focus on, and preparing interesting discussion questions. The students in the class also seem to be more interested because they feel more autonomy.

The more responsibility and independence we can give to our students in the learning process, the more they will get out of it.

From teacher to teachers
Talk to your students and find out what they like to do in and out of class, what they consider to be their strong and weak points, and regularly check to see if they are satisfied. Most teachers can tell if their students are uninterested in their lessons, but it’s not until you ask your students that you can find out why and make some adjustments.

Chris enjoys discussing new ideas in EFL and is always looking for new research opportunities. He can be found online at

Editor's note

Chris was one of our "Best of MASH 2008" presenters in Hiroshima last summer. In addition to presenting a well-researched topic, he speaks with a practical, easy-going interactive style that allows audiences to immediately connect with his message.


If you'd like to send in a piece of your writing, we are always looking for more Names, Faces & Ideas

Contact Steven Herder at or check us out a little further at

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July 18, 2009

A witty man, a wise man, a northern man


A recent success in the classroom

I have thoroughly enjoyed teaching a high intermediate level community center English circle for several years now. The class has approximately 12 members, most of whom are retirees and housewives. The weekly class is approximately 2 hours long, and generally involves one hour of free conversation (ranging from major world news to personal experiences) followed by the second hour, where a different student each week is responsible for a presentation (on almost any topic, ranging from inspirational leaders, to a personal hobby).

As the class prepared for yet another 12-week cycle of student presentations (which had become a little stale in recent months), I suggested that it may be beneficial to ‘freshen-up’ the class by doing something different in the second hour. I proposed a series of informal class debates (which half of the students expressed a keen interest in, and the other half recoiled in horror at). A compromise was reached, with debates being held every second class (the other classes continuing to follow the individual presentation format).

The process is entirely student-driven, with a different student proposing the resolution for each ‘debate’. The resolution is announced the week before, to allow time to prepare for those who wish to. On the day of the debate, one student takes the role of moderator, and the others are divided into two teams of equal numbers.

Debate topics have been extremely wide and varied, and to my delight, all students (including those who were initially lukewarm to the idea) have greatly enjoyed participating. The depth of thinking and the level of creativity which I have had the pleasure of witnessing has been phenomenal. My role is to merely observe, take notes and after the moderator has given their verdict, comment on the performance. Students have been quite stunned to find out that their debates have lasted for over 40 minutes each time, with no intervention from the teacher, and no recourse to their native Japanese language.

Sometimes, the hardest thing for teachers is to let go of the reins, and allow a genuinely student-driven learning environment.

A thought or idea in progress

How do non-native English speakers differ from native speakers in expressing agreement and discord? How great an influence does cultural background have on debating skills, and how much can students be ‘taught’ to transcend their own cultural norms when arguing in a foreign language?

From teacher to teachers

Teachers should never stop being learners. The day we lose the thirst to further our own learning is the day we should stop teaching.

Andy loves hearing the thoughts of others on any teaching-related topic. He particularly likes hearing anything which questions the wisdom enshrined in all those expensive books we have on our shelves. Contact him at: andyATletsnaritaDOTcom

Editor's note:
I originally met Andy at the University of Birmingham summer seminar in Hiroshima in 2007. I was immediately impressed with his commitment to living life to the fullest. Whether in the classroom or on the town late at night, he always gave his best to the moment and to the people around him. Nearing the completion of his MA TEFL Dissertation, I look forward to him having more time to play EFL with all of us.


Terry, Andy Lawson, Robert and Chris at the end of a long day of studying,

If you'd like to send in a column about you, we are always looking for more Names, Faces & Ideas

Contact Steven Herder at or check us out a little further at

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September 19, 2009

A Man on a Mission - Significant and Quantifiable


A Recent Success Story in the Classroom

While the focus of my endeavors is on teaching English to Japanese university students, I have also been ‘moonlighting’ in an area of personal passion: teaching research methods and statistics to my EFL peers. During my quantitative-heavy graduate studies in Hawaii, I found great rewards from instructing Masters students in their first course on statistics. It was a real joy to carefully guide apprehensive but eager students through the complex topics and abstract concepts of fundamental statistics that I had come to appreciate and enjoy so much in my own studies. Local conferences and JALT chapter meetings have provided me a venue to offer a variety of workshops related to statistics, quantitative research methods, and action research. However, these one-session workshops do not allow for in-depth exploration of topics nor give me the chance to work closely with a group of teachers over an extended period. Thanks to Steve and the MASH gang, I have finally been given an opportunity to get back into the statistics classroom and teach the quantitative arts in a way that is extremely satisfying. After attending my workshop, Zen and the Art of Statistics at a Kobe JALT meeting, Steve approached me about teaching an on-line course on statistics for a group of EFL colleagues. I jumped at the opportunity and a wonderful, collaborative partnership was born...


Show enthusiasm for everything you teach. It’s infectious and can lead to new, exciting opportunities.

A thought or idea in progress

I am in the process of developing a series of worksheets for the budding teacher-researcher. They offer a complete but simple guide to a flexible quantitative action research project that can be conducted with relative ease. This guide should serve as an educational experience and introduce the logic and procedures of a quantitative research study.


Seek out a niche. Become an expert in one specific area and branch out from there. The deeper you go, the better it gets. Like-minded people will find you, as I’ve been lucky to experience firsthand, and your professional, collaborative network will grow.

From teacher-researcher to teacher-researchers

In the beginning, focus more on a simple, solid research design that can be executed with minimal difficulty, rather than trying to answer big educational questions or solve complex problems. Getting bogged down with lengthy data collection periods and complicated schemes can lead nowhere fast and leave you feeling discouraged with research in general. Get a handle on research procedures with simple studies that are easy to complete and work your way up towards more advanced projects. Replicating previous research is also a great way to learn the process and make a valuable contribution to your field.

If you’re curious about my work or perhaps ready to take a significant step in your own professional development, come check out one of my workshops or sit in on an introductory lesson of MASH’s next online course, Introduction to Quantitative Research Methods. You can find all you need to know at

Editor's note:

I originally met Greg at a Kobe JALT Chapter meeting where he was giving his Zen and the Art of Statistics presentation. Literally, five minutes into the presentation I knew I was going to approach him right after the workshop. I asked him to help a bunch of us take the next step in our professional development by becoming more proficient with quantitative research methods. Greg's enthusiasm for statistics is contagious. Come see what I mean...


Daddy loves his lovely daughter - hook, line and sinker

If you'd like to send in a column about yourself, we are always looking for more Names, Faces & Ideas

Contact Steven Herder at or click below to check us out a little further at

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November 28, 2009

Kishiko Nashimoto - Practical and Effective - She gets it!


A recent success story in the classroom

I like singing very much and believe that singing songs has many benefits for language learning. It is easy to make children sing. However, it is getting more difficult to make older students sing. I currently teach university students and while they like to listen to songs they are not very keen on singing.

I remember that I attended a workshop of “jazz chants” several years ago so I decided to use chanting with songs. I chanted the lyrics of the song line by line with the rhythm but without the melody, then I asked students to repeat after me. With this method, more students, especially those who were reluctant to sing, joined in the chorus. It is much easier for them to chant lines than singing, and perhaps, less embarrassing. I used another idea as well to encourage them to chant. Recently in Japan, neuroscience has become more popular. Many books about research on the brain has been published and the word 脳トレ(brain training) is now fashionable. I showed a picture that illustrated what parts of a brain worked when we read aloud. It showed that many more parts of the brain worked actively than when we read silently. I told them “Let’s activate our brain!”


Sometimes, it is difficult to make Japanese students participate in activities because they are too shy or too self-conscious. You should try different strategies that suit your students’ age, level and personality.

A thought or idea in progress

I enjoyed poster presentations very much at Hiroshima MASH in August 2008. It’s an excellent way to present what you are doing in your classroom. I would like to do such a presentation if there is an opportunity. I have been operating an extensive reading program in my classes for six years. I want to use poster presentation in the program as well. It would be nice for students to have presentations on their favorite books.

From teacher to teachers

When I was teaching the Japanese language in Ireland, I arranged many language exchanges between Japanese and Irish students to get them to help each other. I have also been very lucky to have a lot of exchange partners throughout my studies. I think Japanese teachers and native English speaking teachers should find ways to collaborate more, both in teaching and in research, because we all teach English in Japan. I am wondering how we can promote more collaboration. As for me, if anyone wants to improve their Japanese, or want to know about Japanese traditional theatre I can help.

Kishiko is an active member of the Gospel choir called “Precious Praise”. She also enjoys 読み聞かせ(reading) English books in an elementary and a junior high school. Contact her at

Editor's note:
I first met Kishiko at JALT2007 when she presented at the Birmingham Graduate Student Showcase. She has done a very interesting study on using Extensive Reading in her classroom over a four year period. She quickly became interested in MASH because she loves interacting with people. We have all learned so much from her perspective as a Japanese teacher of English (JTE) and respect her approach in the classroom. I had the added privilege of being asked to go "typo hunting" in her dissertation and enjoyed it thoroughly.

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