How will TESOL ESPIS Researchers and Practitioners Change the World?

Hello, ESPers worldwide!

I have been thinking about the following question recently: How will ESP researchers and practitioners change the world? The reason that I am asking this question is the focus of this blog post. My story starts with Andy Curtis, a former president of TESOL International Association.

On 12 May 2017, a TESOL Blog post by Andy Curtis was published. Andy’s post is titled Becoming a Leader in TESOL International Association. The article shares some valuable information about leadership development opportunities in TESOL. In particular, one program captured my attention:  Leadership Development Certificate Program (LDCP). (I had already completed the ELT Leadership Management Certificate Program Online.) I soon discovered that the LDCP was free for TESOL members. It is a self-study program that you need to finish in three months.

Although I have just started the LDCP, I have already been given the opportunity to think deeply about leadership. Reading the various leadership conceptualizations presented in the program has been very interesting to me because my doctoral research was focused on analyzing the leadership conceptualization process. In addition, LDCP program participants view conceptualizations of leadership in TED Talks. One of the TED Talks in particular has inspired me to write this TESOL Blog post.

The TED Talk speaker, David Logan, Professor of Management, is described on the TED (Ideas Worth Spreading) website:

David Logan is a USC [University of Southern California] faculty member, best-selling author, and management consultant… . Logan studies how people communicate within a company—and how to harness our natural gifts to make change within organizations. He looks at emerging patterns of corporate leadership, organizational transformation, generational differences in the workplace, and team building for high-potential managers and executives.

I could relate to David’s focus on communication in an organization. In addition, I could appreciate his study of how communication is connected with organizational change. My own conceptualization of leadership involves communicating to create and to achieve visions (Knight, 2013).

David’s TED Talk, filmed in March 2009, is titled Tribal Leadership.

David Logan talks about the five kinds of tribes that humans naturally form—in schools, workplaces, even the driver’s license bureau. By understanding our shared tribal tendencies, we can help lead each other to become better individuals.

In his talk, David argues that certain types of groups (or tribes) change the world. At the end of his talk, he asks this question:  “Will your tribes change the world?” And now I ask a similar question to you: My question is “How will your tribes change the world?” I emphasize the world “how” because we change the world no matter what we do. What results will the actions of your tribes have on the world? Will the changes be for good or for bad?

As I read the ESP Project Leader Profiles in the TESOL Blog, I can see how ESP researchers and practitioners are changing the world on six continents. At the same time, I think we should all take advantage of TESOL International Association’s leadership development opportunities. For example, in the ELT Leadership Management Certificate Program Online (LMCP), I was able to connect with other ELT professionals interested in leadership. It was a valuable experience because I was able to hear the advice of other leaders worldwide in connection with the challenges I was facing in my own contexts as a leader.

Are you a leader of a tribe? How do you influence the other members of your tribe? As ESPIS members in TESOL International Association, I hope that we will give serious thought to how our tribes can and will change the world. Then I hope that we will take the steps to change the world in positive ways!  For inspiration and learning, check out the blog post of Andy Curtis, watch the TED Talk of David Logan, sign up for a TESOL course on leadership, and read the ESP Project Leader Profiles listed below.

If you are now (or have been in the past) the leader of an ESP-related project, please let me know in the comments. I would love to add your profile for the benefit of the community worldwide.

All the best,


Knight, K. (2013). Looking at communication through a leadership lens. TESOL Blog. Alexandria, Virginia: TESOL International Association.

The ESP Project Leader Profiles (to date):

  1. May 5, 2015: ESP Project Leader Profile: Kristin Ekkens
  2. June 2, 2015: ESP Project Leader Profile: Charles Hall
  3. July 14, 2015: ESP Project Leader Profile: Ronna Timpa
  4. August 11, 2015: ESP Project Leader Profile: Evan Frendo
  5. September 8, 2015: ESP Project Leader Profile: Jaclyn Gishbaugher
  6. October 6, 2015: ESP Project Leader Profile: Anne Lomperis
  7. October 20, 2015: ESP Project Leader Profile: Ethel Swartley
  8. November 3, 2015: ESP Project Leader Profile: David Kertzner
  9. December 1, 2015: ESP Project Leader Profile: Margaret van Naerssen
  10. December 15, 2015: ESP Project Leader Profile: Marvin Hoffland
  11. January 12, 2016: ESP Project Leader Profile: John Butcher
  12. January 26, 2016: ESP Project Leader Profile: Karen Schwelle
  13. February 23, 2016: ESP Project Leader Profile: Esther Perez Apple
  14. March 8, 2016: ESP Project Leader Profile: Kevin Knight
  15. April 5, 2016: ESP Project Leader Profile: Shahid Abrar-ul-Hassan
  16. May 3, 2016: ESP Project Leader Profile: Robert Connor
  17. May 17, 2016: ESP Project Leader Profile: Jigang Cai
  18. June 14, 2016: ESP Project Leader Profile: Ismaeil Fazel
  19. June 28, 2016: ESP Project Leader Profile: Yilin Sun
  20. July 26, 2016: ESP Project Leader Profile: Tarana Patel
  21. August 23, 2016: ESP Project Leader Profile: Prithvi Shrestha
  22. September 6, 2016: ESP Project Leader Profile: Robin Sulkosky
  23. October 18, 2016: ESP Project Leader Profile: Philip Chappell
  24. November 2, 2016: ESP Project Leader Profile: Jie Shi
  25. December 13, 2016: The 25th ESP Project Leader Profile: Laurence Anthony
  26. January 24, 2017: ESP Project Leader Profile: Barrie Roberts
  27. February 7, 2017: ESP Project Leader Profile: Jen Cope
  28. February 21, 2017: ESP Project Leader Profile: Susan Barone
  29. March 21, 2017: ESP Project Leader Profile: Debra Lee
  30. April 18, 2017: ESP Project Leader Profile: Kay Westerfield
  31. May 2, 2017: ESP Project Leader Profile: Stephen Horowitz

from TESOL Blog


ESP Strands in a Business Case Study Program

Hello, ESPers worldwide!

A few months ago, I was invited to create and participate (with my Japanese colleagues) in an intensive English program (IEP) for undergraduate students from Kanda University of International Studies (KUIS, my university in Japan) and from a university in South Korea. In order to meet this challenge, I needed to draw on a business internship program that I had created in the KUIS Career Education Center many years earlier.


Kevin’s Company, which was first described in an article for The Journal of Kanda University of International Studies (Knight, 2008), is the name of a simulated company in which KUIS students take leadership roles as business consultants as part of a business internship program. As business consultants, the students analyze the business and marketing operations of British Hills (BH). (BH is affiliated with KUIS as a member of the Kanda Gaigo Group.) The students then present their recommendations for improving BH operations to BH managers. The business internship gives the participating students a leadership experience in which they have the opportunity to create a shared vision of the future of BH.

My Personal Conceptualization of Leadership

In an earlier TESOL Blog post (2013), I wrote about my personal conceptualization of leadership.

As a researcher of professional communication, I recognize that many different conceptualizations of leadership exist. For me personally, however, I like to view leadership as a communication process consisting of two parts: 1) communicating to create a vision and 2) communicating to achieve a vision. Leadership is considered by many to be an “influence relationship,” and in my personal conceptualization of leadership, leadership would involve influencing others through communication associated with the goals of part 1 and part 2.

In view of this conceptualization, I came to see leadership in the presentations delivered by my KUIS students to the BH managers: The presentations were focused on creating a shared vision of the future of BH and aimed at obtaining the buy-in (or support) of the BH managers for that vision.

The Inaugural Global Challenge Program

On my website, The Leadership Connection Project, I describe the inaugural Global Challenge Program as follows:

In the first Global Challenge business training and leadership development program at KUIS, students from KUIS in Japan and SolBridge in South Korea worked in teams to act as international consultants and provide solutions (and leadership visions) to business challenges provided by the Japanese organization YAMASU.

The company YAMASU in the Global Challenge Program filled the same role (in my mind) as that of British Hills in the Kevin’s Company business internship program.


The connection between the Kevin’s Company business internship program and the Global Challenge program was not immediately apparent to me. What was clear in my mind was the need to prepare my students to communicate effectively in English when they conducted research at YAMASU and delivered presentations to YAMASU administrators. In this connection, I was practicing ESP in that I was training my students to meet their immediate communication needs in their roles as consultants for YAMASU.

In addition to the communication training, I needed to provide students with some background content to begin their research. For this research purpose, I created a website with some guiding questions and links to various sources of information.

Reflecting on the program development now brings to my mind a blog post (2014) in which I had written about “taking risks as a sign of expertise.” In that blog post, I argue that creativity and taking risk overlap. In the Global Challenge program, it seems to me that I was trying to provide the best experience for the students. I recognized that the students had the ability and desire to act as consultants, so my job was to help them to do their jobs as leaders. Their final presentations delivered to YAMASU administrators and Japanese government officials were outstanding. Giving the students room to succeed on their own was a risk, but it was also the best choice.

All the best,



Knight, K. (2008). Global workforce development through business internship program: Kevin’s company at Kanda University of International Studies. The Journal of Kanda University of International Studies, 20, 207-234.

from TESOL Blog

ELT Best Practices: Highlights from TESOL 2017

The highlight of my time at the 2017 TESOL International Convention & English Language Expo was my experience coordinating the Professional Development Travel Grant for Practicing ESL/EFL Teachers. This award is sponsored by well known author Betty Azar, who wrote the popular English grammar series, otherwise known as “Red, Blue, and Black.” With this grant of US$1500, twenty lucky recipients from all over the globe were able to attend the annual convention. Meeting these teachers and hearing their stories reminds me of the importance of belonging to a community of practice, and there is no better place for the world to come together than at a TESOL event.

In this blog, I’d like to share the impression of  the TESOL convention from one of the award recipients, Daniela Munca-Aftenev from the Republic of Moldova. Daniela is the president of Academy for Innovation and Change through Education, a nongovernmental organization in Chisinau, Moldova.

Daniela Munca-Aftenev, Republic of Moldova

It is Wednesday morning, April 22nd and I am anxiously waiting for the presidential keynote on professional English language teachers in a 2.0 world to start. And as the conference motto put it, the world did, indeed, come together at TESOL 2017 International Convention &  English Language Expo in Seattle. Where else would you have the chance to meet Jenny ESL, the author of one of the most popular YouTube English learning series and chat with Ben Buckwold, the creator of  ESL Library in one place? Where else would an ESL/EFL teacher have the opportunity to interact face to face with Electronic Village Online trainers and have questions answered from the MOOC (massive online open courses) content creators? Where else would we meet representatives from the National Geographic Language Teaching team and shake hands with most distinguished TESOL authors from all around the planet?

Attending the 2017 TESOL International Convention & English Language Expo in Seattle was, for me, one of the most intense, unforgettable, once in a lifetime academic experiences, which has inspired me to become a more modern and creative educator of the 21st century. As one of the lucky recipients of the TESOL 2017 Professional Development Travel Grant, I had the opportunity to attend amazing exhibitor sessions, panel discussions, and practice-oriented presentations led by some of the most prominent language-teaching professionals from all around the world. I learned how to use phone cameras as interactive and fun language learning devices and how to explore practical strategies that TED speakers use to help learners improve their speaking and presentation skills. I experimented with various online applications that were designed for differentiated instruction within YouTube videos and found out about cooperative learning 2.0 tools which can help us create “we-ness” in our classroom.

Daniela Murca-Aftenev with Jenny ESL

My teaching portfolio became more diversified due to cutting-edge methodologies and techniques I am anxious to take back with me to the Republic of Moldova, where I have been coordinating various EFL programs for over 10 years. To name a few, I loved learning about “guerilla” pronunciation teaching and using cell phones to create student-powered podcasts. I received practical advice on promoting literacy and engaging students with comics and observed how to engage ELLs with e-portfolios for language assessment. Some of my favorite sessions included tips on using video feedback to comment on student presentations, and enriching, engaging, and empowering using YouTube videos.

The best moments included attending the presentation on using digital tasks and mobile devices for pair / group activities, as we had the opportunity to test ESL Library’s new Yumi Class application meant to spur student conversation, debate, and interaction. I was so fortunate to meet and talk to Jennifer Lebedev, whom our students  know as Jenny ESL, and attend the session on MOOCs, “How Do We Know If Learners are Learning?,” moderated by University of Pennsylvania experts. Last, but certainly not the least, Young Zhao’s morning keynote on perils and promises of the education in the age of smart machines was a brilliant, hilarious, and amazing moment that marked the end of a truly inspirational conference.

Betty Azar and recipients of the 2017 TESOL Professional Development Travel Grant for Practicing ESL/EFL Teachers

Interested in apply for a TESOL award? Check out the list of TESOL awards and deadlines.

from TESOL Blog

Becoming a Leader in TESOL International Association

As members of the TESOL International Association will recall, in March 2014, after years of meetings, consultation, and gathering feedback, the 85-page report of the TESOL International Association’s Governance Review Task Force was made public. In the Executive Summary of the report, the task force noted their finding that “there is no coherent or readily obvious leadership pipeline [in the association]” (p. 4), and that “many leaders [in the association] felt unprepared for their jobs when they began their positions” (p. 5).

This important finding would make leadership development within the association a recurring theme and one of its priorities in the years ahead. However, the notion of a “pipeline” was problematic. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a pipeline is “a very long large tube, often underground, through which liquid or gas can flow for long distances.” Pipelines should be for petroleum, not for people. Having chosen not to talk in terms of “pipelines,” the TESOL Board of Directors chose instead to talk using other, more humane metaphors, such as “leadership ladders” and “leadership pathways.”

Growing out of the work of the Governance Review Task Force, two task forces were struck in 2015: the Interest Section Task Force (ISTF), and the Affiliate Task Force, two organizational entities that have been part of the association since it began. After 50 years, it was time to step back and reflect on how the first half-century of these entities had fared, with a view to planning for the second half-century. The Interest Section Task Force report, (99 pp.) which was made public in March 2016, contained a number of references to the importance of training and supporting TESOL members in leadership roles. For example, the report stated that “research by the ISTF as well as the ISTF’s personal experience show that the level of success of an [interest section] is highly dependent on who is leading the group at the moment” (p. 15). In April 2016, the Affiliate Task Force report (117 pp.) was made public, and again, leadership training was identified as playing “a vital role in developing new leaders for the association” (p. 2).

As a result of the importance afforded leadership in the task force reports, a Leadership Development Working Group was set up in May 2016. The group was made up of myself and two other members of the TESOL Board of Directors: Silvia Laborde (2016–2019) in Uruguay, and Kyungsook Yeum (2015–2018) in South Korea. The three of us being spread across 13 time zones is a common challenge facing members of a board of directors like ours, but in spite of the vast distances separating us, we were able to have regular meetings online throughout the year.

One of our first tasks was to conduct an inventory of leadership development resources already available in the association. We found that TESOL provides many more resources that other associations, including the ELT Leadership Management Certificate Program, the Leadership Development Certificate Program, and the Leadership Mentoring Program, which has been running for more than 20 years. One problem is that the information about these, and other, leadership development opportunities are scattered across the TESOL website, which has grown along with the association. To address that problem, the Leadership Development Working Group has gathered association leadership resources from across the website onto a single web page, and we invited five current and past board members to create a set of leadership chronologies showing the very different routes they followed to arrive at their leadership positions within the association. We believe that these new resources could help members, especially new members, understand how to navigate the different pathways to association leadership.

As we explain in the notes that accompany the chronologies, we are not suggesting that all leadership paths should lead to serving on TESOL’s Board of Directors. TESOL International Association offers many other leadership opportunities, for example, within interest sections, affiliates, task forces, and professional councils. The association needs leaders at all levels, and the current leadership is committed to doing everything we can to support each other and to mentor and encourage future leaders. We hope that you will find these new resources useful and helpful, and we look forward to hearing from you, with your ideas for what we can do to help you become effective leaders in our association.

from TESOL Blog

ESP Project Leader Profile: Stephen Horowitz

Hello, ESPers worldwide!

At the 2017 Annual TESOL International Convention & English Language Expo in Seattle in March, I met Stephen Horowitz in person. In the 31st ESP Project Leader Profile, we will all learn more about this former Wall Street lawyer and ESP program director. Here’s his bio:

Stephen Horowitz is the Director of Legal English Programs at St. John’s University School of Law, where he began working in 2014. He is a graduate of Duke Law School and former associate at the Wall St. law firm of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, with an M.A. in TESOL from CUNY-Hunter College. He also previously taught English in Japan on the JET Program and subsequently spent time studying law and interning for Japanese lawyers. Now overseas, Stephen designs curriculum for, and teaches in, the American Law: Discourse & Analysis (ALDA) program as well as the summer intensive English for American Law School (EALS) program and the Bar Exam Language & Strategies (BELS) course. He is also the creator of the Bankruptcy Bill cartoon and has played in ultimate Frisbee tournaments in 8 different countries. He currently lives in Brooklyn, NY, with his wife and 3 children.

In his interview responses below, he describes a program for helping students pass the bar exam.

Stephen Horowitz
Director of Legal English Programs
St. John’s University School of Law
Blog: St. John’s Legal English Blog

(1) Define leadership in your own words.

One form of leadership is recognizing unfilled needs of an organization, developing a vision and strategy, having deep conviction in that vision and strategy, persuading stakeholders of the value of supporting the project, and filling those needs in a way that benefits the stakeholders and the organization.

(2) Tell me an ESP project success story. Focus on your communication as a leader in the project. How did you communicate with stakeholders to make that project successful?

Project: The Bar Exam Language & Strategies (BELS) course, designed to help students improve their results on the essay writing section of the bar exam.

Background: There was never a specific request. But in early in 2016, I started to realize that a number of our nonnative-English-speaking master of laws (LLM) students planning to take the bar exam were in need of some sort of language-related support. And I began thinking about developing a hybrid bar exam and language support course. A professor with expertise in bar preparation who had many of the LLM students in his classes had observed to me that, for those LLM students who did not pass the bar, language seemed to be a primary obstacle. Additionally, a colleague had analyzed bar scores taken by our LLM students and concluded that for those students who did not pass, the greatest opportunity for improvement was the essay section. At the time my jurisdiction was pre-LLM programs. But I decided it was time to start developing support programs for LLM students, starting with a language support course for bar preparation.


  • Figuring out what the course would look like
  • Getting buy-in from my my supervisor
  • Persuading a professor to let us work with his exam materials
  • Fitting the course into the already full schedules of LLM students
  • Persuading students that this new course would be worth their time


  1. Collaborated with my colleague Kathryn Piper to brainstorm and conceive of what the course would look like. (Katy has both law and ESL experience, and has particularly unique insights and ideas around the intersection of law and language support.)
  2. Gained my supervisor’s support, with the understanding that it would need to be a support course offered at no additional charge.
  3. Developed rapport with the professor whose exams I would need to use. Established trust and procedures to ensure security of exam materials.
  4. Communicated with administrators and students to find optimal time to meet. Devised course so that all work would be during class time–no homework assignments–in order to avoid adding to their already full loads.
  5. Met with students to explain the rationale for the class and conduct needs analysis to determine their greatest concerns and fears about taking and passing the bar exam.


  • We quickly learned that in addition to language support needs, time was the students’ other greatest obstacle. As a result, we began focusing on language-related strategies designed to help students write more quickly and efficiently.
  • Student interest remained high during the pilot course, despite the fact that they were concurrently enrolled in paid bar review courses (e.g., BARBRI). Students appreciated a forum to ask language-related questions and get language-related feedback.
  • Bar results impact still unclear, but demand from both students and administration has led to BELS course incorporation into the fall and spring semester schedules.

Comment: In spring 2016, as far as I knew, this idea had not been tried previously, so this very much felt like a new wheel to be invented. (Though I recently learned of another legal English specialist, Kirsten Schaetzel, who has also been involved with bar support for LLM students at Emory Law School.) As a result, it has felt very satisfying to start from scratch and see this idea develop into a positive component of the LLM experience at St. John’s Law School as well as a unique support offering for nonnative-English-speaking students that is specifically highlighted in conversations with potential LLM applicants.

Stephen’s story points to what we need to be doing as ESP practitioners.  We need to identify the specific communication needs of our students and provide them with the communicative expertise to achieve their goals. In my case, many of my students need to prepare to communicate effectively in job interviews. In this connection, they need to be able to speak and write about their experiences. I would argue that passing the bar exam and being hired are both important goals to the relevant students. By empowering our students to achieve such important goals, we are illuminating the importance of communicative expertise and communication training for career success.

Do you have questions or comments for Stephen? Please feel free to contact him directly!

Good luck in empowering your students to achieve their academic and professional goals!

All the best,

from TESOL Blog