Current research in language and culture

Investigating engineering writing

Lynn Grant is doing research into engineering writing, along with Pat Strauss. To understand how much and what type of writing occurs on the job, we have developed and distributed a survey to different engineering companies around NZ which has been answered by 334 professional engineers. We have interviewed 120 of these about engineering writing, including asking questions about how well prepared they were for the writing demanded by the job, how well prepared engineering graduates are now for this writing, and what universities can do to better prepare engineering students for the writing demands of the profession. The next stage of the research involves interviewing engineering lecturers and students in order to get a more comprehensive picture of whether, and how much, engineering writing is being taught at universities.

Investigating the use and understanding of idiomatic language by interpreting students

Lynn Grant is doing ongoing research with Ineke Crezee to discover interpreting students’ understanding of idiomatic language, whether they recognise it and interpret it accurately and whether they can distinguish it from literal language.

New Zealand sign language

The School's Sign Language Section is working on the following research projects:

Deaf Health Stories project

This project (2017) explores the experiences of Deaf New Zealanders in accessing healthcare and health information. 40 Deaf people from around New Zealand shared their stories about barriers in this setting as well as strategies they have used in advocating for their right to access information, communication, and make informed decisions. This video shows some of the main themes found across the stories, as told by participants themselves. The project was funded by the New Zealand Sign Language Fund. Researchers: George Major, Lynette Pivac, Susie Ovens

Watch 'Deaf health stories': NZSL video on YouTube

As a result of data collection from the Deaf Health Stories project, we have established a new corpus of NZSL at AUT, for the purpose of further linguistic and educational research.

Documenting NZSL grammar and vocabulary

In 2018, the Sign Language Section, in collaboration with Victoria University's NZSL Dictionary team, will be investigating and documenting two aspects of NZSL:

  1. Time concepts
  2. Women's health lexicon

Data will be drawn from AUT's NZSL corpus. The analysis will expand the documentary evidence base about the structure and vocabulary of NZSL, and will inform NZSL and interpreting teaching.

AUT Researchers: George Major and Lynette Pivac. Research Assistant: Karliah McGregor

Towards a pattern language for Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) design

This study, by Susan Y. H. Sun, introduces the idea of educational design patterns and pattern languages in an attempt to connect CALL design to the pattern-based design approach. The purpose is to enable and support conversations among all participants in the design process and help people understand and take more control in educational design.

Apart from communicating design ideas and experience, pattern-based approach researchers also share a strong desire to not ‘re-invent the wheel’. They do this by systematically capturing, codifying design experiences and making good designs explicit, comprehensible and sharable in and across disciplines, and beyond.

Drawing on the approach and extending the already well established research of CALL task design (e.g. task-based language teaching (TBLT), technology mediated task design), this study examines cases of CALL task design, and aims to propose an initial set of design patterns and pattern language for CALL.

Health interpreting and translation; Health communication

Ineke Crezee's main research interest lies in all forms of crosscultural health communication, be this interpreting, translation or bilingual patient navigation. She received a Fulbright New Zealand Scholar award in the area of Public Health and has published work on non-language specific interpreting and translation pedagogies, language, particularly on the challenges of accurately interpreting on interpreting informal idiomatic language used by (health) professionals.

Other interests include using innovative technology to enhance student interpreter learning in interpreting and translation classrooms, and language maintenance and attrition.

She is currently conducting a major research project on innovative ways to improve crosslinguistic and crosscultural communication in healthcare settings.

Culture, Discourse and Communication

Philippa Smith's research interests focus on communication and its impact on society. She investigates communication from the level of language (media, identity construction, media texts and political discourse for example) through to the rapidly advancing use of new media and digital technologies (e.g. social media, technology and education, digital inclusion).

You can read more about Philippa's research on her profile page.

Developing the intercultural language learner

Clare Conway and former colleague Heather Richards have been 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). Clare has presented initial results locally and internationally. These findings include teachers developing language learner intercultural competence from the beginning, teacher understanding and use of reflection in the language classroom, and teacher acknowledgement of diversity.

Findings are being disseminated and recommendations made for bridging the gap between ICLT theory and practice.

Design for online language learning

Susan Sun is currently working on the following research projects:

  • Design for fully online language learning — an investigation of co-configuration in relation to set and social design
  • Design for fully online language learning – a preliminary study on language epistemic pattern design.

Written corrective feedback for second language development

Professor John Bitchener's primary research interest is the potential of written corrective feedback for second language development. He has published widely in leading journals like Applied Linguistics, TESOL Quarterly, Journal of second Language Writing (for which he is Associate Editor).

He has co-authored books on the subject: Written corrective feedback in second language acquisition and writing with Ferris (Routledge, 2012); and Written corrective feedback for L2 development with Storch (Multilingual Matters, 2016).

In earlier years his focus was on empirically validating the potential of written corrective feedback to facilitate the acquisition of second language or target language form and structure and in more recent years his focus has been on explaining theoretically why some learners benefit from written corrective feedback while others do not appear to. Currently, he has six PhD students working in this area.

In recent years, his attention has also been given to the supervision of doctoral students, focusing on the advice and feedback that is given on the research process and on the writing up of the doctoral dissertation. As well as publishing this work in a number of invited collections and special journal issues, he is well known for his Writing an Applied Linguistics thesis or dissertation: A guide to presenting empirical research (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010).

In 2017, two new books have been published with Routledge: a co-edited book with Storch and Wette entitled Teaching writing for academic purposes to multilingual students: Instructional approaches (featuring chapters by Hyland, Paltridge, Tardy and others) and a sole authored book entitled A guide to supervising non-native English writers of theses and dissertations: Focusing on the writing process.

Legal interpreting

Jo Anna Burn's main research interest is legal interpreting. She has published work on legal language, particularly the questioning techniques employed by trial lawyers and the challenges of accurately interpreting complex questions at different stages of the trial process.

Other interests include using innovative technology to enhance student interpreter learning in legal and paralegal settings, and language maintenance and attrition.

She is currently conducting a major research project on self and peer evaluative feedback for interpreters.