Friday, July 29, 2011

Reflections on AAAL 2011 Chicago--Sunday afternoon

I spent most of the afternoon attending the colloquium on Complexity Theory/Dynamic Systems Approach.

Verspoor, Marjolijn (University of Groningen, m.h.verspoor@rug.nl)
Individual differences and variation from a Complexity Theory/Dynamic Systems Theory perspective
This colloquium brings to bear a CT/DST perspective on individual differences in second language development. From this perspective, individual differences are not seen as unitary and static traits but as complex, dynamic and variable ones. Topics discussed include intra- and interindividual differences and variation in lexical and pragmatic development in relation to language aptitude and motivation.
Sunday, March 27, 2011 • 2:00 pm - 5:00 pm • Chicago Ballroom 7 • SLA
Discussant: Diane Larsen-Freeman

Colloquium Papers
Naoko Taguchi (Carnegie Mellon University, taguchi@andrew.cmu.edu)
Individual Differences in Pragmatic Development
Japanese EFL students (N=48) completed an oral DCT assessing their ability to produce speech acts three times over a year. Five individual difference factors: proficiency, lexical access, willingness to communicate, attitudes toward English, and personality) were measured, and their effects on pragmatic development were examined using hierarchical linear modeling.
Kimberly Noels (University of Alberta, knoels@ualberta.ca)
Intra- and Interindividual Differences in Motivation to Learn French Students’ motivational orientations, perceived support, and intensity of effort were tracked at three points over a French course. The results showed individual differences in how these variables varied across time, and these different trajectories had implications for the final course grade. The implications are discussed from a dynamic system perspective.
Tal Caspi (University of Groningen, t.caspi@rug.nl)
The potential of Dynamic Systems Theory (DST) for understanding intra- and inter-learner differences This study applies DST to case studies of L2 development in written lexical complexity, lexical accuracy, syntactic complexity and syntactic accuracy. It investigates the notion that dynamic interactions between these categories, comprised of support and competition for limited resources, can account for their unique developmental trajectories in each case study.
Ulrike Jessner (University of Innbruck, ulrike.jessner@t-online.de)
A dynamic perspective of language aptitude in multilinguals
In this presentation aptitude for language learning in multilinguals is conceptualized according to the dynamic model of multilingualism. It will be
argued that in a multilingual system, which is sensitive to initial conditions, individual and social variables mutually affect each other’s development
over time.
Wander Lowie (University of Groningen, w.m.lowie@rug.nl)
Product Versus Process: A plea for dynamic methodologies
This paper will compare and contrast different research methodologies applied to the same data sets and will show how product-oriented, static approaches and even longitudinal group studies fail to reveal developmental processes that can be demonstrated using a dynamic systems approach to language development.
As the regulars of this blog would know, I find Complexity Theory/Dynamic Systems approach very stimulating. I found the colloquium very interesting and it was definitely worth attending. However, I have to say that this approach seems quite challenging if you want to conduct a study based on this approach. After seeing the presentations, I concluded that without formal training I cannot do it myself. As much as I want to explore what I can do with this approach, I do not think I will ever have the courage or feel qualified to do anything like the presentations. I especially find computer modeling part of it quite intimidating. Perhaps more importantly, I wonder if computer modeling and ecological validity can be accomplished together or if they are incompatible. Even though Larsen-Freeman and Cameron write that their approach is ecological in their 2008 book--and I do think the theory itself is ecological--I am not so sure about computer modeling. Perhaps it is just something I do not know how to reconcile. It's definitely something to think about. For now, I think I'm doomed (^_^) to be a consumer of this line of research rather than a producer but I will keep reading.

The other presentations I attended was Christine Tardy's. I enjoyed this presentation. I like her work and my favorite was her 2003 article, which I believe I have written about here before. I had a chance to meet Chris at the conference, I believe on Monday, and she was very nice and friendly. To my surprise, she even talked to me in Turkish ^_^ Anyway here is her abstract
Tardy, Christine (DePaul University, ctardy@depaul.edu)
Influences on Assessment and Voice Construction in Academic Writing
This paper examines the influence of non-textual aspects of writer identity (e.g., ethnicity, language background, life story) on readers’ construction of a writer’s voice and assessment of the writer’s text, comparing groups of readers exposed and not exposed to such elements of identity.
Sunday, March 27, 2011 • 2:00 pm - 2:30 pm • Superior B • RWL
There were many other presentations I wanted to attend but alas there is so much you can take in in one day. I think at some point I also stopped for the poster presentations and exhibits. You can imagine me going from one table to the other as happy as a kid in a candy store as I was looking at all those new books--probably drooling too as I did so ^_^. I could only buy one book though. Considering my tiny little salary and my expenses for the conference, I was actually being extravagant ^_^. But still, even window shopping for books makes me sooooo happy.
Anyway, the last presentation I attended was Charles Goodwin's plenary.
Despite being restricted to a three-word vocabulary (Yes, No, and And) Chil, a man
suffering from severe aphasia, functions as a powerful, creative speaker within conversation. This is made possible by his participation in an interactive field being constituted through the ways in which actors with different abilities occupying alternative positions within that field use language to build relevant action in concert with each other. Through precise interventions into the unfolding structure of talk-in-interaction, Chil is able to get others to produce relevant utterances, syntactic structures, and statements that are impossible for him to construct as an isolated individual. Such a shift from the abilities of the isolated individual to multi-party interactive fields has important consequences for both the assessment and treatment of aphasia. More generally such phenomena raise the possibility of shifting the analysis of human language from the abilities of an ideal, fully competent individual to public processes of cooperative semiosis that allow for the participation and development of the competence of actors with different resources and
abilities, while at the same time linking emerging language structure to the pragmatic
organization of endogenous action.
It was an interesting presentation and Goodwin is a good presenter. If nothing else you can feel that he is passionate about his work, which is something I love. I find his work quite exciting too. Though I did not learn anything new (Beril sighs), I guess, because I had read some of his work. Still, it was nice seeing Goodwin in person--even if from a distance.
In the evening, I attended the panel and dinner for graduate students. The panel was much more interesting and helpful than I anticipated. Scholars at different stages of their careers shared their experiences on doing research, teaching, career planning, etc. with us. Unfortunately, Aya Matsuda was not able to attend the panel. I was looking forward to seeing her again after attending her talk at Purdue. Even though she was not able to come, she had kindly sent a letter to us saying why she could not attend and that she was sorry for not being able to come. Her honest remarks about the challenges of balancing family and work as a woman made me think. I really felt like writing her that anyone in that room would probably understand her and share her sentiment. I also wanted to send her this video but I managed to contain myself ^_^

Priorities of Life

Okay, I'm tired just by telling about my afternoon. I wonder if I can ever finish writing about the conference. I cannot believe I still have two more days to go.

To be continued...

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