Summer Reading (wish) List

Kay: Hi Rachelle. The end of a busy semester is in sight now, and I’m very much looking forward to it. Although my summer is actually looking rather short but I have so many books left untouched on my shelf, and I’m hoping to read some of them while I’m on the break. So this is not a list of recommended books or review but my semi-professional summer reading list.

The first one is Exploring Japanese University English Teachers’ Professional Identity by Diane Hawley Nagatomo (2012). I’ve known about this book and have been interested in it for the obvious reason that I’m a Japanese university English teacher myself. In my work and research, I have been always focusing on learners. But in the past few years, I had a chance to read a few doctoral dissertations on teacher identity which prompted me to reflect on my own teacher identity. I’m curious to learn the stories of seven female professors and how they developed their teacher identity. So this one is really for my own personal and professional growth.

The second on my list is actually a very short small book but a classic which I admit I have never read, Experience and Education by John Dewey (1938). Dewey is one of the most influential educational theorists, and I see his name in so many articles and books I read. His idea that all learning must be done through experience and embedded in the context is clearly appropriate for language education and his ideas seem to share many things in common with Vygotsky. While I’ve come across Vygotsky in some classes in graduate school and have become quite familiar with social constructivist perspectives and theories through reading the literature and studies in SLA. But Dewey’s work is always briefly (but so frequently) mentioned in connection with the importance of experience and context and I’ve never really had taken the time to properly learn the significance of his work. I’m thinking maybe this summer is a chance for me to do it.

The third on the list is The Redemptive Self by Dan P. McAdams (2013). This one is not actually on my bookshelf but in my iPad. I came across McAdams’ work while I was co-writing a chapter on imagined and possible selves for Multiple Perspectives on the Self in SLA. McAdams is a renowned psychologist at Northwestern University and this book is based on his research on how people (in his case Americans) create meaning and purpose in their lives through telling stories to themselves. The redemptive self is a recurring pattern in the life stories through which many generous and active adults transform pain and suffering into a life to do right things for themselves and others. When I was reading his academic journal articles, I was mostly interested in the idea of “storied self” and how the research was conducted. But the book itself looks interesting as it compares the way Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama created meaning and purpose for themselves and their political missions through the stories they tell of their early lives.

Well, that’s my list. How about you Rachelle?

Rachelle: Hi Kay. Looks like a great list. Since I met Diane a few years ago at a conference and became quite interested in her work, your mention of her book reminded me that I always wanted to get a hold of it to read as well.

One book that is one my summer reading list, which isn’t exactly language-learning related, is Drive, by Daniel H. Pink (2009). I actually bought the book a couple of years ago when I began my research into autonomy and motivation, but I never got a chance to read it. The book itself is about motivation, and in particular, about the assumptions that most of us have about what motivates people to do things, from business to education. I’m quite interested in seeing what the research says about what drives us to pursue activities that interest us, and in particular, what it says about motivating others to do the same. Over the past few months I’ve been reading various books, dealing with diverse topics from willpower to happiness to what technology is doing to our brains. What I find interesting in a lot of these books is are the research findings that often prove that what we think are true, actually aren’t. We often carry assumptions about ourselves and others based on outdated or incorrect information that is prevalent in society. I think that may be true of teaching as well, and I hope that there will be some useful information that I can draw from Pink’s book to re-think my current teaching practices, both in and out of the classroom.

Another book I hope to read soon is Digital Literacies by Gavin Dudeney, Nicky Hockly, and Mark Pegrum (2013). A lot of my research and teaching practice uses digital technologies in one form or another, although I am far from being well-versed in the medium. These researchers, however, certainly are. I attended a presentation of theirs prior to this book coming out, and they really opened my eyes to what was available out there in ICT. This book looks quite interesting as they look at a lot of the issues that teachers have with using technology in and out of the classroom, from hardware to personal learning networks. I am also interested in seeing if they address the issue of the digital-knowledge “gap” that many students have, despite being digital natives. Of course I’m thinking of Japan here, but I’m sure the issue is similar in other countries.

Last on my list is a book that was recommended to me last year by Christopher Candlin, and is probably well-known to the members of this SIG. The Developing Language Learner by Dick Allwright and Judith Hanks (2009) is in a prominent place on my bookshelf, which reminds me every day that I really do need to take some time to read it. I like the fact that it can be digested in chunks, and I hope that reading it will inspire not only my teaching practice, but also my research interests.

Well it seems that we both have quite a diverse list of books that we want to tackle over the summer. The ones I’ve chosen are a bit ambitious on my part, considering how busy the summer vacation will be, but I think I will be able to read most of them. Perhaps when we get back in September we’ll be able to give a review of at least one each!

Kay: I read Drive a few years ago and enjoyed it very much. It gives a good overview of self-determination theory and Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of flow without technical jargon. Looking forward to hearing what you think of the books after the summer.

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