AUT - Current research — Language and Culture


Current research — Language and Culture

This page outlines some the varied research being undertaken by academic staff in the AUT School of Language and Culture.

Language teacher professional development

Over the past five years, Dr Sharon Harvey has led four national evaluations of language teacher development sponsored by the Ministry of Education.

"One area that we have focused on has been the professional development and deployment of ESOL paraprofessionals or teacher aides across the compulsory sector," Dr Harvey says. Publications arising from this research examine the questioning skills of paraprofessionals, as well as how supervision is handled in schools.The other key area has been in international language teacher development i.e. for teachers teaching languages covered in the Learning Languages strand of the national curriculum. "In this area we have evaluated the national professional development programme for teachers, TPDL, as well as the Language and Culture Immersion Experience Awards," adds Dr Harvey.In both cases we looked closely at issues of intercultural competence for teachers and students, as well as issues of teacher language acquisition and proficiency.

Written and corrective feedback for second language acquisition

Professor John Bitchener's main research interest is the potential of written corrective feedback for second language development and acquisition. Since 2005, he has published a wide range of international journal articles on theoretical issues about the efficacy of corrective feedback and reported many empirical studies that have tested the validity of various theoretical controversies. He is completing a book with Prof Dana Ferris for Routledge on the theory, research and practice of written corrective feedback.

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What constitutes acceptable academic language in English-medium universities?

Dr Pat Strauss asks: "if English is recognised as a global language who owns it?" Ownership implies the right to decide what is acceptable and even if the notion of ownership is set aside the setting of standards is, in itself, problematic. It would appear that what counts as acceptable English for academic purposes needs rigorous debate and investigation among academics, especially those of us who work in the field of teaching and researching English for academic purposes (EAP). Pennycooke (1997) suggests that EAP practitioners should embrace critical pragmatism which promotes a critical approach to practice. The time is ripe for us to interrogate more closely the 'E' in EAP. This research considers the implications and challenges involved in a consideration of what constitutes acceptable academic language in English-medium western universities in the 21st century.

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Protest and social commentary in NZ pop song lyrics

Elizabeth Turner's current research focuses on discourse analysis of the construction of protest and social commentary in New Zealand popular song lyrics. The research draws particularly on Mikhail Bakhtin's theory of language and discourse as dialogic, and Eagleton’s approach to the analysis of poetic discourse. It involves investigation of the rhetorical goals and identifications instantiated in the lyrics and in the adoption and localisation of reggae for this collection of songs.

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Teacher and Professional Development Languages (TPDL)

Clare Conway is a member of the Language Teacher Education Research Group. She has recently reported - together with Dr Sharon Harvey, Heather Richards and Annelies Roskvist - on a Ministry of Education funded project: An Evaluation of the Teacher and Professional Development Languages (TPDL) in years 7-10 and the impact on language learning opportunities and outcomes for students. She has published and presented nationally and internationally in the areas of developing intercultural competence and building language teacher capabilities. Clare is currently involved in further analysis of data from the project. She is also involved in a collaborative self study/action research project with Heather Denny on the teaching of reflective practice in the one year Professional Masters.

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Emphatic adjectives and mora augmentation in Japanese

Dr Junji Kawai is fascinated by mora augmentation observed in the formation of emphatic adjectives in Japanese. When the speaker wishes to emphasise the degree or extent of some attribute, he/she can utter modifiers, such as adjectives and adverbs, by lengthening a vowel and/or geminating a consonant. A number of researchers have discussed this process but none has provided statistical evidence to support their argument. The purpose of my research is to determine the well-formedness of emphatic adjectives, based on an individually conducted survey, and to account for the mora augmentation process from the point of view of constraint interaction within the framework of Optimality Theory. My research then discusses how variation among emphatic adjectives can be best addresed by putting to the test such theories as stochastic grammar and partially ordered grammar.

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Computer Assisted Language Learning of Japanese Kanji

Dallas Nesbitt is currently working on a CALL (Computer Assisted Language Learning)/Japanese Kanji project in which I have qualitatively considered learner input early in the design and development phase of kanji learning software. The software will be refined using results of the learner process tracing reports and then will be tested with further groups of learners to see if generalisations can be formed.

Interpreter mediated communication in refugee settings

Dr Ineke Crezee is examining issues related to interpreting in refugee settings in both the New Zealand and Australian setting and involving a range of professionals, including Immigration Officers, Refugee Status Branch Officers, public health nurses, medical practitioners, lawyers and counsellors. Several studies have shown that inadequate communication between healthcare providers and patients with limited English, not only limits their ability to access services, but also affects the quality of the services received (Minas, Stankovska and Ziguras, 2001). In theory, this issue could be alleviated by the use of interpreters; however, the interpreter may not always find it easy to carry out their task, especially when interpreting in refugee settings. The current project looks at problems facing interpreters in refugee settings and tries to offer recommendations. Back to top

Engineer Lecture Corpus (ELC)

Dr Lynn Grant is involved with the Engineer Lecture Corpus (ELC) — three universities: Coventry University, England, UTM Malaysia, and AUT – are collaborating to video, transcribe and mark-up twenty hours each of Engineering lectures. These XML marked-up lectures will be made freely available to other researchers when completed, so others can look at the different pragmatic features and lecturing styles among the three countries.

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Adult numeracy teaching in New Zealand

Frank Smedley is looking into how adult numeracy teaching in New Zealand is relatively recent compared with a number of similar OECD countries. This reality is partly revealed by the fact that adult numeracy tends to be either subsumed by adult literacy issues in general, or lumped together collocatively with literacy and languages issues as "Language, Literacy and Numeracy (LLN)". This project will examine whether Adult Numeracy Education has yet established its own niche in New Zealand adult education discourse. The New Zealand discourse will be compared with that of other countries such as England, Scotland, and Australia. The project compares a corpus of about 100 research, report and policy documents from New Zealand with a similar corpus from the United Kingdom, and Australia.

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Teaching cultural norms of NZ English to migrants and refugees

Heather Denny is working on an extended project to investigate how semi-authentic spoken texts can be used to teach the pragmatic (socio-cultural) norms of New Zealand English to migrants and refugees. Recorded texts have been created at four different levels and materials based on these texts are being trialled and evaluated in collaboration with class teachers using learner reflective blogs, self assessments and teacher reflective journals to measure learners’ awareness of these norms before and after a period of instruction. 

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Willingness to Communicate in English of Another Language students

Denise Cameron is investigating the Willingness to Communicate (WTC) in English of Another Language (EAL) students of Iranian nationality at AUT. By means of a self-assessment questionnaire which examined their readiness to communicate in a variety of classroom situations and further in depth interviews, I have surveyed some of the factors which could have an effect on three migrant learners at an advanced level of English. Their WTC in both their country of origin, Iran, and their country of migration, New Zealand, was examined. The quantitative and qualitative data were analysed and although a positive WTC was revealed in both contexts, results showed that students’ WTC did vary from their English-learning experiences in their countries of origin to their present NZ classroom environment. Thus it may be concluded that in this study WTC is a situational variable dependent on the language learning context.

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Cross-cultural pragmatics for interpreter education

Annette Sachtleben is researching the use of semi-authentic spoken discourse samples as a teaching tool for establishing awareness of cross-cultural pragmatics for interpreter education. Cross-cultural pragmatics is the study of linguistic action carried out by language users from different ethnolinguistic backgrounds.

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Social networking in intercultural competence courses

Alice U-Mackey is studying the integration of social networking platforms in intercultural competence courses, developed, taught and assessed by researcher and colleague, Deborah Corder. It involves an experiential, student-centred approach to develop the relevant intercultural competences, to go beyond the traditional learning and teaching tools, in order to provide students with current approaches to learning, teaching and assessment.

Last updated: 21-Jan-2015 2.02pm

The information on this page was correct at time of publication. For a comprehensive overview of AUT qualifications, please refer to the Academic Calendar.

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