Research interests:

second language teaching & learning; linguistic identity; bilingualism; teacher education

Going to the grocery store: A metaphor for writing up results and discussion

Posted: August 7th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: academia, research, writing | No Comments »

Academics and graduate students sometimes struggle to write up the results and discussion sections of their articles and dissertations. When they receive feedback like “too descriptive”, “need to synthesize”, or “where are your conclusions?”, they wonder what they can do to improve their writing.

During a recent discussion on how to guide our students in writing up their results and discussion, a colleague shared with me a metaphor that she uses: going to the grocery store. She explained how she used it and I have expanded it here to demonstrate how to think of the results and discussion sections of articles and chapters in a dissertation.

When you go to the grocery store, you enter the produce section (research context) and see tables of all kinds of produce imaginable (raw data). You decide what you want based on particular criteria (your research questions) and fill your basket. When you get home, you empty your shopping bags and the phone rings with a call from your curious friend. She asks,“what did you buy?”. You could answer with a list (unsynthesized data): apples, eggplant, bananas, celery, bean sprouts, and a watermelon. However, if you do that, she might say “what an odd assortment! You must not like round foods, because most of what you bought is not round”. Based on what you told her, she has drawn a conclusion.

However, it is unlikely that you went to the store buying foods based on their shape. By provide her unsynthesized data without drawing conclusions, you have left her to draw her own, in the same way that writing up results by only presenting the raw data, you leave the reader to draw his own conclusion.

Perhaps instead, you answer “I bought three kinds of fruit and three kinds of vegetables”. Here you have synthesized your data by grouping the food according to type. What type of conclusion do you want her to draw from this? You add “I wanted a variety of both fruits and vegetables”. Your friend is now much less likely to criticize what you bought because she has been presented with synthesized data and a conclusion and can better follow your rationale. She goes on to ask you about the rest of what you bought, and you present your shopping her in a similar way: “I also bought flour, sugar, and milk. Now I have all the ingredients needed to do some baking” and “I bought lentils, quinoa and rice. Now I have different grains in my pantry”. The results of your shopping trip as presented to your friend on the phone parallel the presentation of your results in your article or dissertation. This may seem obvious, but it is very common for novice writers (I still do it sometimes) to present the synthesis, but forget to draw a conclusion, because to them, it is obvious, although not always to your readers.

Now on to the Discussion: Your curious friend is momentarily satisfied as she hears your results, but then she asks “why?” She may be wondering if you plan to do try some new recipes, cook or bake some old favorites, or go on a raw food diet. The Discussion section of your article or dissertation is where you satisfy the ‘why’ of the reader. You might answer your friend “I chose these items to buy because I am expecting a lot of company and the guests have different food preferences, so I want to cook a variety of foods from scratch”. Now she has an overall idea of what your rationale was.

Now you have her interest as you break down the results with reference to previous supporting literature. “I can cook using the lentils and quinoa. Lentils are naturally gluten-free (Smith, 2020) and a favorite among vegetarians because they are quick to cook (Jones, 2019). Quinoa is considered a highly nutritious ancient grain (Thoms, 2018) and cooks up easily in the pressure cooker, so I want to try that as well. With lentils and quinoa, I have the two quickest cooking grains for those who are vegetarian or gluten intolerant”. With these four sentences you have 1) recapped your results briefly 2) tied your results to the previous literature (which should appear in your lit review) 3) drawn a conclusion demonstrating critical thinking, rather than just description. Ok, you may not do that in real life, but in academic writing, that is exactly what we are called to do.

This last element, demonstrating critical thinking, is crucial to your Discussion conclusions. You need to identify significance, timing, or suitability; structure evidence in order of importance; evaluate significance or strengths and weaknesses; or argue a case. To help my students with the distinction between descriptive and critical writing, I refer them to a useful chart found on p. 12 in the book listed below (Cottrell, 2012). Recently one of my students shared a video that also addresses this aspect of writing. Once you have a sense of what the difference is between critical and descriptive writing, you may find it helpful to create your own chart to post near your writing area as a regular reminder.

The Results and Discussion writing are the parts of our academic writing where we get to share not only what we found in our research, but what it means for answer our research question. That is why I often structure my Discussion by revisiting the research question. By keeping it at the forefront, it reminds me, as well as the readers, what I was hoping to learn from the study, while I situate it in the larger field in which I am writing.

Having a clear concept of the Results and Discussion will strengthen your writing, in the same way that shopping with particular criteria in mind, while not obligatory, will make your grocery shopping more purposeful (but less likely to result in your bring home potato chips 😊). Carrying a metaphor this far may be an overextension. I welcome you to test it out and let me know in the comments if you feel it works!

(Please note that Smith, 2020; Jones, 2019; and Thoms, 2018 are invented citations for the purpose of illustration).

Cottrell, S. (2012). The study skills handbook. Palgrave Macmillan.


The responsibility (tyranny) of the digital footprint

Posted: July 13th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: academia | No Comments »
Do our digital footprints have more impact?

I recently decided to update my professional photo online, having had my picture taken for an academic journal cover featuring research with a colleague. I normally update my social media every month, but I had never sat down to make a list of all of the places I have a profile. In discussing a similar task with a colleague who just received a promotion, the magnitude of the task hit me. How does one keep a digital footprint current when there are ever increasing places where we as academics might be expected to have a profile?

My digital footprint started out small and purposeful. My name has a unique spelling so if you google me, you get – me! When I was on the academic job market, I positioned myself as someone whose research could be found as I realized how much that would help my research get to the people who most need to read it. I keep Twitter professional and I have this personal blog where I write about professional topics.

Once I got a position, my responsibilities increased. I update my faculty profile regularly, but the platform is currently in flux so there are two, as well as a university profile to promote graduate supervision. We were encouraged to start a Google Scholar profile and I thought I should try my hand at LinkdIn, Researchgate and Academia.edu.

Now I realize I am swimming in profiles. While I had set up an OrcID, I didn’t realize that I needed to keep up a profile, otherwise when people click on the number, nothing comes up! As well, I have to keep up a SSHRC CCV for funding purposes and an additional internal one for merit, tenure and promotion.

My list now consists of six places where my photo appears and twelve that I update whenever I get a new publication. It is too late to go back to the pre-digital footprint world as I cannot bear to leave any of these out-of-date, but over the course of this next year, I will give some serious thought as to how/whether there are platforms I will drop. Making this list has motivated me to revisit how I organize this blog so that I can provide different information here than I do on the other platforms. Perhaps in doing these two things, I can reduce the feeling that my digital footprint is tyrannizing me.


Refugee education in Germany: A document analysis

Posted: June 23rd, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: multilingualism, research, Uncategorized | No Comments »

When the Syrian refugee crisis hit the news headlines in Canada, I couldn’t help but notice the news that Germany would be providing asylum to large numbers of refugees. As part of my research program looking at second language teaching and learning through the lens of pre-service and in-service teachers’ understanding, I embarked on a comparative international education project on responses to refugee education. As a first step, I worked with Sabrina Lohmann, a bilingual in-service teacher to help me with a document analysis.  We wondered: how did the German education system respond to the sudden increase of school-aged children needing to learn German and what can that response teach us, as Canadian educators?”

Refugee migration in Canada and Germany is quite different. Canada is often considered a country of immigration (Triadofilopoulos, 2012). Refugees are accepted with permanent resident status that can lead to citizenship. In early 2016, the Canadian federal government announced the acceptance of 25 000 Syrian refugees (Molnar, 2016). The selection was limited to women, complete families and single men from sexual minority groups, who were vetted prior to their entry into Canada. Children are enrolled in school upon arrival. Schools usually provide full or partial integration into a mainstream classroom, often coded as ELL (English Language Learner). While this integrated approach is not universal across schools, it represents a typical approach to refugee education in Canada.

In contrast, immigration policy in Germany does not have a path for refugees to become citizens, but because of the geographical location asylum seekers arrived in large numbers and could only request refugee status upon arrival. In 2017, 1.4 Million asylum seekers came to Germany (Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, 2018). These included families, single individuals and even unaccompanied minors. With large numbers of people housed in temporary housing, local school authorities arranged for introductory language instruction on site. These classes are often run by volunteers. Once children are in school, they spend one year in sheltered classes focused on learning German. Students who do not have basic literacy spend an additional year in those classes. After these 1-2 years of sheltered instruction, students are integrated into mainstream classes. This sheltered approach is relatively uniform across Germany.

With the large numbers of students and the focus on sheltered instruction in Germany, we wondered what Canadian educators could learn from the German situation. As a researcher, I looked at what documents were readily available for teachers in Germany and what the key messages were in those documents. As a teacher, Sabrina wanted to know what practical tips these documents could offer. Together we conducted a document analysis of 16 documents we found online between 2017-2019. The preliminary searches were done in Hamburg, Germany during my three research visits: June 2017, June 2018, and May 2019. Since Google searches are localized, it was important to conduct the searches in German, in Germany, in order to find the types of documents a local teacher would find.

We read the documents for what they could tell us about second language learning, intercultural communication, and trauma-informed pedagogy as these topics emerge in research done in Canada (Dressler & Gereluk, 2017). Second language learning in this case referred to learning German, but the theory and practical tips are applicable across languages. Intercultural communication refers to information provided to teachers about how to communicate with families as well as specific backgrounds of their students, in many cases, Arabic-speaking children from Syria.Trauma-informed pedagogy would include any messages about how the situation of fleeing one’s country, experiencing war and trauma, and the reality of interrupted schooling might necessitate interacting differently with these students than with other immigrant or local students. The documents represent what teachers might find if doing an online search under the topic refugee education, but serve to provide  a picture of German refugee education in general.

Five key messages emerged from the documents:

  1. Language learning involves immersing the student in meaningful social and academic language. Since language learning needs to happen quickly for students to communicate on a daily basis, the documents advocate for an “immersion in the new language”. This immersion can be facilitated by a whole school approach in which all teachers, regardless of subject-area or teaching assignment, are part of the team that supports the students in learning the new language. 
  1. Literacy instruction involves the awareness of different writing scripts as well as the effects of interrupted schooling. SLIFE (students with limited or interrupted formal education) is an acronym used in the English-speaking world as shorthand for the situation of many refugee children described in the documents. Some will have lost years of formal schooling due to migration, time spent in refugee camps, or temporary living situations in one country where formal schooling was restarted, but not continued. As well, for students learning German or English who have learned to read and write in Arabic, there will still be an adjustment of getting used to different alphabets, writing direction and writing styles.
  1. Trauma-informed pedagogy can mitigate student stress while learning. Teachers who  know the signs of trauma can avoid triggers that might seem innocent to outsiders. A school assembly with loud music and cheering might be frightening to students who have experienced bombing and raids. While our school system prizes choice, some refugee children respond to choice with confusion and anxiety. For them, structure in the school day may provide greater safety and comfort.
  1. Language learning can occur through music, art, and drama. These modes of learning support language development. They also connect students socially, creating trust and safe spaces. These modes allow students to express themselves in ways they might not be able to do through speaking.
  1. Family involvement can enhance the efforts of teachers. Informing families about the process of integration in school, language learning goals and how these will be targeted can provide families with reassurance that their children are learning. Families that feel supported can be free to be more involved in their children’s schooling.

In reviewing all of the documents, an overarching message is the importance of teaching children the societal language (German in this case, but French or English in Canada) as quickly and as well as possible. To their credit, several documents not only convey this message, but provide concrete lesson plans and teaching activities that work toward this goal. These activities are useful in the Canadian context for those who can read German as they can be used in German bilingual schools or translated into English for use in ELL classrooms or mainstream classrooms with high ELL populations. Especially in a setting where differentiation usually occurs through streaming lower-achieving students into a school route that limits post-secondary educational choices, learning the language of school instruction is closely linked to academic success. Similarly, in Canada, ELLs represent a large group of early school leavers Thus, a focus on second language learning is not misplaced here either.

The learning from the German situation has implications for teachers and administrators in Canada. Teachers can improve their practice by considering the importance of language learning in the mainstream classroom in all subject areas. Administrators can consider the time, class structure and support refugee students needed in order to thrive in schools. The strength of our school systems is in how they serve those who need them the most for making their home in a new country.

Dressler, R., & Lohmann, S. (2020). Refugee education in Germany: A document analysis. University of Calgary. http://hdl.handle.net/1880/112214


Keeping language learning going when school is out!

Posted: March 21st, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

This week schools in Alberta have closed to minimize community spread of the COVID 19 virus. These are not the first worldwide to close, nor likely the last. However, since Alberta is home to very vibrant school language programs , it occurred to me that some parents and older students may be wondering how to keep their language skills up when their French Immersion, Bilingual Programs, or other second language program has closed down. Teachers will be providing support online for core subjects, but the minimum number of hours they program for may still leave some people searching for tips to keep up listening, speaking, reading and writing in German, Spanish, Mandarin, Ukrainian, Arabic, Punjabi, Italian, or another second language programs they are studying in. The key is to follow your interests and practice authentic language in context. The tips below are written to the person wanting to practice, but for parents, consider each instruction to have the phrase “or your child” tacked on.

Language Apps

Language apps do not replace a teacher, but they are always advancing. I use them to learn the basics of a new language or strengthen the ones I already know. If you already know the language, you can start with a placement test. If not, start from the beginning. If you get bored, move up a level; if you are struggling, repeat a level. I have experience with Duolingo and Memrise, but there are others you can find by searching online and most have a free version. Duolingo has recently added stories, which are a real hit, but if you are studying more than one language, you will recognize the story! Memrise has a rapid practice function where you work against the clock. Some days I like it, but other times it is too stressful. Most of these apps have Leaderboards (for the competitive) and Friend lists (so you can compare with and encourage others). The important take-away is to set yourself a regular, if not daily goal, and tailor the experience to your needs.

Video streaming

With the many affordable online streaming apps, often feeding directly to our TVs, films and TV shows in other languages are at our fingertips. More and more allow you to search by language or “international”. Once you have found something to watch, got to the settings to see if you can change the language or the subtitles. You may also be able to do this with streaming services from TV stations from other countries. I recommend subtitles in the same language as is on screen. That way your listening is reinforced by reading the words in the second language, rather than blocked out because you are busy reading English. This especially helps when the speech is in dialect, too fast for your ear, or you have hearing challenges. These shows can be a great way to add to your knowledge of the language and culture in context. I learned how to say “not until after the autopsy” from my favourite German police procedural show. Perhaps you weren’t looking for that phrase, but you get my point: follow your interests!

YouTube channels

Speaking of following your interest, do you have a favourite hobby or want to learn about the country where the language you are learning is spoken? YouTube is an excellent source of such videos. My son lives in Japan so my husband and I frequently watch videos about different places we may visit the next time we are able to go. I learned about the specialty foods in Hokkaido before a work trip there and was able to know what the “must try” foods were. Ever hear of Ghengis Khan – the food, not the warrior? Search YouTube and you will see one of the meals I had a chance to try.

E-books and audio books

Whether from the library, an author’s website, or Storybooks Canada related sites (Global Storybooks Portal etc.), there are many e-books and audio books in other languages available online. Some even read to you!

Music

While you are checking online for music videos for sing-a-longs or movement breaks (to get the wiggles out), check out Lisa Anderson’s blog Speech Thru Song. Lisa is a musician, composer, and singer as well as a French and Spanish as a Second Language Teacher. She has compiled an amazing list of resources and information about how music can help you learn a second language.

Connect with a Speaker of the Target Language

Do you know someone who speaks the language you are learning? Maybe it is a relative or elderly acquaintance who is feeling isolated and lonely. Write them a letter in their language and send it by email or snail mail. Alternatively, you could use the phone or Skype/Facetime to talk to them. If, however, the timing isn’t right, record an audio message and send it to them. They would be thrilled!

This list is by no means exhaustive, but hopefully you are now inspired to keep up your or your children’s languages while schools are closed. Even once our schools reopen from the COVID 19 precautions, there is always summer break to overcome!


Responsive Interviewing: Allowing Interviewer Voice

Posted: November 15th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: | No Comments »

In my graduate training, I read studies that used interviews and conducted some in my masters and doctoral research but received no explicit training in how to conduct them. In my experience, this is not unusual. We often assume that we know how interviews work and therefore it often would not occur to us that we need to learn how. Recently I read about a technique called “responsive interviewing” (Rubin & Rubin, 2012). My main take-away was that the traditional interview where the interviewer attempts to stay neutral or refrain from commenting or correcting is just one way to conduct an interview. This traditional interviewing comes from a particular mindset – that the interviewer should not influence the interviewee and therefore needs to stay out of the interview. Alternatively, responsive interviewing comes from the view that an interview is a conversation. The interviewer may agree or disagree, pose unscripted questions or provide their own opinion. The inherent view is that the interviewer is both researcher and participant and can promote insight and reflection by contributing to the conversation.

Intrigued, I switched up my interviewing style in my most recent research interviews. My internal reaction was interesting. I felt guilty, thinking that I was interfering with the process. In particular, one interview stands out. The participant did not agree with my use of a certain term. She argued her point well, so I considered dropping my use or discussion of the term in order to move on. Instead, I pushed back, pointing out what the research says about the concept and how it may strengthen our understanding of pedagogy for particular students. She agreed to disagree, and the interview went on. However, the next morning, I awoke to an email from the interviewee. Apparently, our discussion during the interview prompted her to do her own research. She discovered the term being used by researchers in a field she respected, which resulted in her warming up to the concept. In reflecting up on her email, I was confirmed in my decision to change my interview style as I feel it brought about learning both of us. Had I limited myself to a more traditional interview style, our exchange would not have happened.

Moving forward, I am motivated to explore another aspect of interviewing methodology: identity memos (Maxwell, 2013; McGregor & Fernandez, 2019). These memos require the interviewer to take notes after the interview, noting how the researcher herself was affected by the content and process of interviewing. I have not yet employed it, so stay tuned.

Maxwell, J. A. (2013). Qualitative research design. An interactive approach. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

McGregor, J., & Fernandez, J. (2019). Theorizing qualitative interviews: Two autoethnographic reconstructions. Modern Language Journal, 103(1), 227–247. https://doi.org/10.1111/modl.12541

Rubin, H. J., & Rubin, I. S. (2012). The responsive interview as an extended conversation. In Qualitative Interviewing: The Art of Hearing Data (2nd ed., pp. 108–128). https://doi.org/10.4135/9781452226651


Working with undergraduate student researchers

Posted: September 5th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: academia, research | No Comments »

Another summer has come to an end and for the second year in a row I have had the opportunity to work with an undergraduate student researcher. We are fortunate at my institution to have funding for students to apply to do research over the course of their four month summer break. They need to come up with a proposal and be supported by a supervisor. Beyond that it is very open-ended as students can work on projects in a wide variety of fields. Initially, the list of accepted students were primarily from the sciences, working in the summer in established labs with sub-projects under the supervision of a faculty researcher. More and more education students are seizing the chance to learn about research through doing.

Last summer, the student who worked with me interviewed graduates of our pre-service study abroad experience to find out how their teaching practices were influenced by their volunteer teaching abroad in my project: “Reflective Writing for Sojourn Preparation, Reflection, and Debriefing.” This year, a different student explored language learning and music through the context of a school-based action research study I am doing on the application of intensive weeks of language instruction to a bilingual school program: “Intensive German Weeks for Bilingual Education: Investigating Practices for Oral Language Development.” I mentored both students through the processes of ethics certification, data collection, and data analysis. The first student chose to disseminate knowledge from her research at a student teacher conference while the second is applying to conduct a workshop at one of our local Teachers’ conventions.

Here are some tips for working with undergraduate student researchers:

  1. Welcome them! I like to take them out for lunch and celebrate their achievement in receiving this highly competitive funding. In the case of the second student, I made a formal introduction to the principal and staff of the school where she would be collecting data.
  2. Help them with logistics – After they have their ethics certification, I make an ethics modification that includes their proposed work. I enroll them in my shared drives for the research, advocate for them to get office space and printer access, and make sure they know how to get support for the various aspects of their research. I share my knowledge of effective use of Twitter to disseminate blogs.
  3. Make things explicit – for undergraduates, almost everything we do with research is new, so we met regularly to go over aspects of research. To facilitate the lit review, I ask students to read and take notes on at least one article a day. I ask them to blog about their learning each week and we work on accurately citing using APA. When we meet, we go over data collection and later analysis. Depending on how the student would like to disseminate the findings, I assist them in articulating their results through their writing and presenting.

What does a research gain from working with undergraduate student researchers?

  1. Whether you see this as teaching or service, you are mentoring a current undergraduate who may do research in the future as a part of graduate or professional work.
  2. Making research explicit allows you to reflect upon your own practices and clarifies your own understandings of ontology, epistemology, and methodology.
  3. Since the student is pursuing a related but new idea, your work together allows you to experiment with a new direction for your research.

Based on the work with these two undergraduate student researchers, I have pilot research for future funding (in the first case) and an expanded understanding of the work I am doing with teachers (in the second case). I have an appreciation for the enthusiasm and creativity of this emerging scholars and, because I get them to document their learning, I have a wealth of resources to share with the next undergraduate to come along.


Ethics Applications – Here and Abroad

Posted: July 10th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: academia, general, research | No Comments »

Academics sometimes use the term “ethics” to refer to the application process with a given institutional research ethics board (IREB). So, one may overheard the comment “Country X doesn’t have ethics” and wonder what the state of research ethics is in said country. Ethics meaning “the fair dealing with participants during the research process” exist, whether or not a given country or institution has an IREB, as ultimately fair dealing is the responsibility of the researcher. However, in my recent research in Germany, I experienced what IREB approval entails there in comparison to how I experience it generally in Canada, which draws attention to the many aspects of research that are not always apparent at first glance.

In 2016, I embarked on a research project exploring responses to linguistic diversity, primarily the influx of refugees to the school system in Hamburg. I envisioned a very full month of data collection: document analysis and interviews at various institutions. For this, I applied for, and received, IREB approval from my home institution. This is a familiar process that involves answers a large number of questions in a specific institutional portal, creating the accompanying forms, translating those into German, running my translations by a native speaking friend, and hitting submit. After a 57 day review with some questions to answer mid-way, I received approval.

From previous casual conversations with German academics, I was under the impression that school-based research was not yet requiring IREB approval. However, to be sure, I asked my host to share corresponding ethics information for both the university and the school board that I was interested in doing research with. While there was no application procedure at the university at that time, my host was able to share with me a website link regarding research in Hamburg schools. Although my German is relatively advanced, I found the website she pointed me too was a challenging read. Once through it, I concluded that classroom research required IREB approval equally complicated and time-consuming as what existed in my institution and that I did not have adequate time to prepare for such data collection during my first visit. For the initial stay then, I opted to focus on publicly available documents so I could learn more about the IREB processes before endeavouring to branch out to interviewing.

While planning to return to Germany this year with an expanded project, I decided it was time to pursue approval to interview instructors who work directly with pre-service teachers in order to find out how their university teaching education prepared them to teach refugee children. I learned that the university did not require an IREB process as I was familiar with, but because of new regulations, my consent documents did require a vetting with regards to data security.

Data security means giving consideration to where research data is stored and how private or safe it is. While my university’s IREB process requires me to stipulate how my data will be stored securely, the degree to which the German process focused on that was much more. Data security falls under the General Data Protection Regulation of the EU, which came into effect May 25, 2018.  Coming from Canada was a privilege, as it was considered a secure third country with adequate levels of protection. This meant that I could securely transfer research data back to Canada. Still, I was required to create parallel German documents to the ones I had from Canada, vetted by the university’s data security office, which handled my queries in a speedy manner. I am grateful for the patience of the data security officer as I endeavoured to make sense of the legalese German on the website, tip sheets, and template. In the end, two weeks into my one month stay (having begun before leaving Canada), I had approval.

I was excited for the opportunity to interview university instructors and, after a whirlwind recruitment cycle, eight agreed to participate. Erring on the side of caution, I had participants sign both sets of forms. Looking forward, I would still like to interview teachers in the school system, but that is for a future visit. Based on my experience this round, I am cognizant that I will need to start early on getting IREB approval.


Difficult conversations – Working in a second language

Posted: May 15th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: academia, general | No Comments »

I have mused before about working in three languages, but I was reminded last week about the less glamorous side of speaking more than one language well: not speaking the language of a particular conversation as well as one would like. I was having a conversation in German describing my research, which I do primarily in English. I had the distinct impression that my conversation partner wasn’t being won over by my argument, but what frustrated me most was feeling like I didn’t express myself well enough. There are so many subtleties that I know, just know, I am not expressing because I often pick verbs that are too general. Then, when I do use a precise verb, I can tell by someone’s reaction that I picked the wrong one. Now I am being too precise and have inadvertently focused the conversation on another matter than I had intended. Ladled on that are the differences in research or classroom culture where you want to say “So macht man das nicht!” (We don’t do it that way/That would never work).

Ultimately, deciding to continue to work in another language means a combination of giving up some pride in one’s ability to express a specific point and determining anew to learn more of that language, especially as it pertains to the particular domain you want to talk about, in this case, classroom research. I am also reminded that I have some of the same problems in conversation interactions where I am doing something new like going to the gym to workout (I asked for a locker instead of a lock!). I tell myself we all need to have some self-compassion in these difficult interactions, which in turn should lead to compassion for others in similar situations.

 


Visiting Scholar – Take 2

Posted: May 3rd, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: academia, research | No Comments »

I am back at the University of Hamburg for a month – this time as a visiting scholar under the German Academic Agency’s (DAAD) Short-term Research Stay program. I will be continuing my research into how the University of Hamburg is preparing pre-service teachers for working with refugee children. This research has expanded to a comparative study of the US and Canada with two international colleagues: Drorit Lengyel and Barri Tinkler.

I have three main goals while I am here:

  1. continue the document analysis I started two years ago and getting it ready for publication
  2. (tied with that) pilot a document analysis workshop with graduate students here and if successful, offer at home and at a US institution
  3. interview university instructors regarding their work with pre-service teachers in this area.

I am still waiting for clearance to do #3, but the ball is rolling for that.

I have a few personal goals to expand my German repertoire:

  1. take in some movies at the Abaton Kino which offers lesser known titles in German (as opposed to Hollywood blockbusters)
  2. make use of the university fitness studio where I just bought a guest membership for the month
  3. try out a few new restaurants to add to my list of favourites (and pictures on Instagram)

So far, other than jetlag, I have also had to deal:

  1. with temporarily losing the ability to do bank transfers with my German account (long story – even longer to settle)
  2. accidentally walking into the mens’ change room (can’t I read German?)
  3. converting my personal training program from mph to km/h (didn’t I learn to convert in school?)

Stay posted for progress reports.


Bilingual identity revisited

Posted: January 8th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: multilingualism, research | No Comments »

During my candidacy exam, I was asked about my conceptualization of my bilingual identity. I wrote a very brief blog post about it then, but I would like to revisit the topic in light of a book I recently finished, Becoming multicultural: Immigration and the politics of membership in Canada and Germany by Triadafilos Triadofilopoulos. This well-written, well-researched book looks at the evolution of immigration policy in the two countries in which I am a citizen: Canada and Germany. The main argument for looking at these two case studies is that both country’s policymakers have changed the respective country’s immigration policies dramatically over the course of the last 100 years due to pressures to align their policies with their collective image of the countries as liberal democracies. Reading this book has provided a strong background for the work I am currently doing in understanding how universities prepare teachers for refugee education, starting with research I did as a visiting scholar at the University of Hamburg in June 2016.

The book also confirmed many observations I had growing up. As a child of immigrants, I always had a sense of Canada’s immigration history. My dad was sponsored by distant relatives who had come decades before, so I was familiar with Canada’s recruitment of strong labourers and land sales in an effort to cultivate the land prior to WWI. My dad came in 1950 and my mother came in 1961. Both represented a different wave of immigrants who were leaving war torn Europe, but who encountered strong negative feelings against Germans post-WWII. Later in my work I met newer immigrants from a variety of different countries, so over the decades I got a sense of how Canadian immigration law had changed.

My encounters with German immigration laws were more sporadic and timed with my personal trips to Germany. As a child, I met a young “Turkish” girl, who was actually born of Turkish parents in Germany at a time when her citizenship was not recognized by either country, rendering her stateless. This was my introduction to the German policy of jus sanguinis – citizenship based on descent. What I didn’t realize at the time was the my father’s German citizenship, despite having been born in Poland, was also a result of this policy. He had always explained that Catherine the Great had wanted workers for Poland and promised the Germans she recruited that they could keep their language and their religion, but I didn’t realize that they also kept their citizenship as Volksdeutsche (ethnic Germans). Years later, I discovered a document among his old papers that indicated his family still had to be naturalized upon resettlement in Germany after World War II, but I have not investigated how rigorous that process was.

Unbeknownst to us, but consistent with jus sanguinis, I inherited German citizenship at birth. My parents became Canadian citizens in 1967, Canada’s 100th birthday, like many others. For them, that meant they automatically gave up their German citizenship, but as a baby, already born with Canadian citizenship, my German citizenship remained. Had I known, I could have avoided getting a visitor’s visa when I lived in Germany after high school. However, it wasn’t until one of my children was going on study abroad that someone asked me the right questions to discover my claim on German citizenship.

Interestingly, I inherited only from my father. Sometime in between my residence abroad in the 80’s and my children’s in the 2010’s, the law that allowed German citizenship to be passed on only through the paternal line was changed. Not only did my children inherit citizenship, European at that, I was offered the opportunity to purchase birth certificates for them. Imagine, they weren’t even born there, but they hold a birth certificate AND a passport from a country they have only visited.

This experience of dual citizenship, unearned and very beneficial, has provided me with empathy toward those without a home, citizenship, and a place to feel secure. I see my own research as a small part of learning what it takes to create a new home, new citizenship, and a new place to feel secure for those who seek refuge among us.