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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Sociolinguistic challenges facing students in higher education

Associate Professor Pat Strauss is interested in the sociolinguistic challenges facing students in Higher Education. At present she working on a number of projects at postgraduate, undergraduate and pre-undergraduate levels. At postgraduate level, Pat is investigating the challenges facing international students, focusing on issues of teaching and supervision, as well as the use of academic English.

She is interested in issues surrounding assessment, in particular, group projects involving students from different cultural backgrounds. She is also investigating the nexus between vocational and academic literacies in the fields of engineering (UG) and hospitality (PG), and the implications for teaching and learning. Bridging and foundation programmes aimed at preparing students for university study are also of interest and Pat has interviewed over 100 lecturers around New Zealand teaching on such programmes.

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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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Developing the intercultural language learner

Clare Conway is currently examining language teachers' understanding and implementation of principles for Intercultural Communicative Language Teaching (ICLT). The study relates to teachers of students in Years 7-13 who are learning additional languages (Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Samoan and Spanish).

Along with her colleague and co-researcher Heather Richards, she has presented initial results locally and internationally. These findings include teachers developing language learner intercultural competence from the beginning, and teachers' understanding and use of reflection in the language classroom. The researchers are disseminating findings and making recommendations for bridging the gap between ICLT theory and practice.

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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.


Current research projects

Dr Ineke Crezee is working on the following research projects:

  • Investigating the benefits of the Patient Navigator system — a comparative study — with Cynthia Roat and Sarah Rafton.
  • Investigating innovative technology to improve health communication for Limited English Proficient patient populations.
  • Using innovative technology to enhance student interpreter learning in legal and paralegal settings — with Annette Sachtleben and Jo Anna Burn.
  • Assumptions around interpreting ethics and role — with Dr. Shirley Julich and Maria Hayward.
  • Testing the performance of Dutch-English bilinguals on the BNT – with Dr Elaine Ballard (UoA)
  • Helping interpreters to correctly interpret idioms and authentic language - with Dr. Lynn Grant. 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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Willingness to Communicate in English as Another Language students

Denise Cameron is currently investigating the Willingness to Communicate (WTC) of English as Another Language (EAL) students of Iranian nationality at AUT. Using a qualitative methodological approach the WTC of these students in Iran and NZ is being surveyed using questionnaires, observations and interviews. Dynamic Systems Theory and an Ecological Framework are being used to explain and describe this phenomenon.

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Intergenerational consequences of immigration to New Zealand

Dr Irmengard Wohlfart for the past four years investigated intergenerational consequences of immigration to New Zealand from immigrants’ perspectives. One area of interest relates to the impact of societal attitudes on integration, bilingualism and identity, another to intercultural marriage and heritage language transfer to the next generation.

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Interface between reading and writing for academic purposes

Patricia Pawson is researching on the interface between reading and writing for academic purposes and how best to prepare students for the demands of academic study.

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Developing the intercultural learner

Heather Richards is currently examining language teachers' understanding and implementation of principles for Intercultural Communicative Language Teaching (ICLT). The study relates to teachers of students in Years 7-13 who are learning additional languages (Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Samoan and Spanish).  Along with her colleague and co-researcher Clare Conway, she has presented initial results locally and internationally. These findings include teachers developing language learner intercultural competence from the beginning, and teachers’ understanding and use of reflection in the language classroom. The researchers are disseminating findings and making recommendations for bridging the gap between ICLT theory and practice.

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The discursive facilitation of creative practice

Dr Darryl Hocking's current research seeks to capture the discursive nature of creativity, and how communication — including verbal interaction, written text, and other non-verbal modes, such as gesture, gaze and layout — facilitate creative activity in the tertiary art and design studio. In order to capture the dynamic and discursively complex nature of the studio environment, the study uses a multi-perspectival and mixed methodological research orientation; one which brings together a diversity of methodological resources and tools to analyse and corroborate data from a range of interpenetrating textual, ethnographic and socio-historical perspectives.

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Last updated: 18-Feb-2015 11.18am

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