Research interests:

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

The long road to publication

Posted: April 1st, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: academia, multilingualism, writing | No Comments »

Today I had the pleasure of opening an email that read “We are delighted to say that we would like to accept your revised paper”. Music to my ears. As many academics experienced and emerging can attest, rejection in publishing is something to get used to and perseverance is the key. I would also add humility. This article, on the linguistic landscape of a bilingual school,  looks at data that I gathered during my Ph.D. research and decided not to include in my dissertation. It was great data, but I had too much for one dissertation and I am glad I didn’t try to make it all fit. Right after I finished my dissertation I worked in earnest to get it written up. I read Wendy Belcher’s “Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks” and followed it pretty closely. I tried to make my writing a social endeavor, but few people around me are doing similar work. My first reader was a friend who is a strong writer. Springboarding from her comments, I revised and sent my article to the external examiner for my dissertation. His strong theoretical background helped me strengthen my argument and pointed me to additional literature in environmental print in elementary schools. These steps delayed my initial submission, but saved me from outright rejection. The first review took just over a month, but the revisions were plentiful, so they took me three months. Most of the time was spent putting myself in the shoes of the reviewer who objected to my methodology. Once I could see exactly where my lack of clarity had led him/her astray, I knew how to respond to his/her comments. The second review did not take long and this time the review was split. I still hadn’t satisfied the one reviewer, but the new one liked the article. At this point I was very discouraged. Do I continue with this journal and face this reviewer or take my article to another journal with the hopes of encountering someone more open to what I had done? After all, my article is improved. I consulted with two academics I admire and the advice that was most helpful was “look, they could have rejected it outright, so they must see merit in the article”. So, I took some time to get back into the mindset of the first reviewer and then, in my first break in teaching, I did a concentrated period of writing daily until I was able to submit a second revised article complete with snappier title! (The second reviewer wanted a snappier title, so I held a contest in one of my classes for students to come up with a snappy title based on the abstract. The winners got books to help them as future teachers and I had a blast reading the submissions). So, today, just a month and a half later, I got an acceptance. Now I enter a new world. While I have had peer reviewed articles accepted before, this is my first international journal so I suspect I have a lot more learning ahead of me.

Update: The article with the snappy title is –

Dressler, R. (2015). Signgeist: Promoting bilingualism through the linguistic landscape of school signage.  International Journal of Multilingualism, 12(1), 128-145, doi:10.1080/14790718.2014.912282

New research opportunity

Posted: October 5th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: academia, research | No Comments »

This summer I had a fortuitous reunion with a former colleague. In my first year of teaching, the educational consultant seconded to Alberta Education from the German government was Rainer Wicke. In the two decades since he encouraged me to write an article about a student letter writing project, both of us have received our Ph.Ds. Now he and a research collaborator are embarking upon a research project in which they would like to include research about the German Bilingual Program in Canada. We met again at the International German Teacher Conference and shared our mutual research interests, only to discover that we might be able to work together on our overlapping interests in the German Bilingual Program. So, he introduced me to his research collaborator, Dr. Kim Haataja, from Tampere, Finnland, who was able to tell me more about their project: Content & Language Integrated Instruction in German. I look forward to working with them and take inspiration in their interest in my work.

Lifelong learning

Posted: February 23rd, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: academia | No Comments »

Some people consider the phrase trite and overused, but I enjoy the concept of lifelong learning. When I struggle with writing and enlist the mentorship of a more successful writer, I continue to improve upon my own understanding of what is involved in effective writing. When I check my twitter account and read up on the current issues in Alberta Education or recent blogs about the problems with Ph.D.s seeking alt-ac (alternative to academia) careers, I realize how much can be gained by keeping up on ‘current events’ in my field. I consider the presentations I attend on campus and at conferences to be my continuing education program. I challenge myself to explore the learning management software (LMS) our university uses for online courses, recognizing that if I can imagine an application, there is a good chance someone else had previously and it might be embedded into the software. For example, I wanted to show my online course participants how to do  a research database search and was able to do so using the application sharing function in the LMS. This is so much a part of my life that I assume it is a part of everyone else’s; however, I occasionally encounter resistance to learning that surprises me. “Oh, I could never learn another language” “I passed Math in high school, I don’t need to look at it again”. What I learn from hearing those remarks is how different attitudes toward learning are, especially among those who don’t carry successful learning experiences with them. It also reminds me of my former negative attitude toward art and physical education (and hence certain sports). I appears that we gravitate toward lifelong learning in areas we love, but still might have mental blocks about those we love less.

Attending the International German Teacher Conference

Posted: January 19th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: academia | No Comments »

Four years ago I discovered the International German Teacher Conference (Internationale Deutchlehrertagung Fellow teachers had attended and presented in IDT Jena 2009 and came back raving about the experience. I kept it on my radar as it is only held once every and when the Call for Papers opened up, I applied. Meanwhile, I also applied for funding from the Goethe Institute in Toronto to attend. As someone who teaches German and regularly provides workshops to teachers as a part of the German teacher-facilitator network (Multiplikatorennetzwerk), I was eligible to apply. I was ecstatic this week to discover I received the funding, so even if my presentation is not accepted, I can attend! This year the conference will be held in the south Tirol area of Italy which has German as a minority language. The conference itself will be held in the small center of Bolzana (Bozen in German). I am very excited to start planning the trip. It will be a wonderful opportunity to meet German teachers from around the world and share the latest in second language teaching.

Balancing teaching and writing

Posted: November 2nd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: academia | No Comments »

One of the main challenges of academia is balancing the demands of teaching and research/writing. This year I have undertaken a great deal of teaching to enhance my CV. Despite my previous experience as a school teaching, it is necessary to build up experience teaching at the university level. For that reason I am teaching two undergraduate courses for the German department, a course in the undergraduate teacher preparation program and a graduate level online course. In addition, I will be supervising the French cohort of student teachers who begin their practicum in just over a week.

In addition, I am working on articles that are coming out of my dissertation research. This requires a perseverance and discipline that is hard to muster after having just written my dissertation. Sure, the writing is still fresh in my mind and I am enthusiastic about the topic, but the long-awaited break between writing my dissertation and starting up the new academic year didn’t materialize, so forging ahead with writing is indeed challenging. I have been aided by the encouragement of key mentors and a book outlining a systematic writing plan. It remains to be seen if this is successful, but I am nearing the completion of my first article since the dissertation and look forward to submitting it after in the near future.

Job search

Posted: January 16th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: academia, Ph.D. journey | No Comments »

Anticipating the completion of my Ph.D. this academic year, I have been responding to job postings for Assistant Professor (Tenure Track) positions. This has involved the creation of a teaching and researching portfolio of quite some length. Online resources such as youtube videos from university HR departments and sample Statements of Research Experience and Statements of Teaching Philosophy have been insightful as to ways others have found of expressing what they do and why, as well as what employers look for and why. None of this replaces in-person mentorship for which I am extremely grateful to several professors who have been willing to read over my writing and provide me with constructive feedback. The job market for professorial positions is competitive and despite preparations for success, one must somehow also prepare for rejection. I am grateful to those university personnel who take the time to update applicants on the status of one’s application. Wish me luck!

University Teaching

Posted: August 9th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: academia, Ph.D. journey | No Comments »

I have three opportunities to teach this semester. The first is part of a LANG course through the Language Research Centre. Open to senior undergrads and graduate students, this block week course offers lectures on the theme “Global Issues in Language Teaching and Learning”.  For more information, check out I will be teaching on Wednesday: “Global Schooling Solutions for Linguistic Diversity”.

The second course I am teaching is a section of GERMAN 202 Beginner German. I look forward to teaching university students interested in acquiring a second language. I hope to integrate drama, film, music and technology where suitable.

The third course is a teacher preparation course. I will provide one weekly seminar to students in their first year of an after-degree program. The course is still in development and I am part of a larger team, so I look forward to learning more about it this month.

Language Research Centre

Posted: June 19th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: academia, Ph.D. journey | No Comments »

Over the course of my M.A. and Ph.D., I have had numerous opportunities to attend lectures at the Language Research Centre (LRC) of the University of Calgary. Topics range from language acquisition to theoretical linguistics to educational or social issues within the fields language teaching and language learning. This April I attended a symposium on Adult Language Learning for International Adult Learner’s Week. I decided to write an article for teachers in the journal Notos based on that event. This article goes beyond reporting the event and involves tracking down the research behind the claims made by panel members. The article has been accepted for publication and should appear in September. Once it is, I am hoping to provide a link.


Posted: February 26th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: academia | No Comments »

Publications are encouraged, but it takes considerable time to get an article from idea to reality. My experience has been quite varied. With my Heritage Language Journal article, I responded to a call for papers in January 2008, submitted the first draft in September of that year, received feedback in 2009 and it was published in 2010. This week, an article stemming from my pilot study last year was published. This came out of a presentation I made in August 2010, which was written up as a first draft in September 2010. I received feedback in January 2011 and immediately the opportunity to edit and have the final article published online in time for the annual gathering of German teachers February 25-27, 2011 in Oakville, Ontario. Have a look at these two articles ( volume 7 #2 and volume 19 #1).  I can be contacted for feedback at rahdress {at}

Update: The full citations for these articles are:

Dressler, R. (2010). “There is no space for being German”: Portraits of willing and reluctant Heritage Language Learners of German. Heritage Language Journal, 7(2), 162-182. Retrieved from

Dressler, R. (2011). German-English bilingual programs: Transitioning to a dual immersion model? Forum Deutsch, 19(1), 11-22. Retrieved from