Alex Ding, Centre for Excellence in Language Teaching, University of Leeds, UK
In this short piece, we, the editorial team of the Language Scholar along with the Director of the Centre for Excellence in Language Teaching, would like to outline a new manifesto for the journal. This manifesto, which we fully expect to evolve and develop in conversations with the language teaching community, represents our commitments and understandings of what we are trying to achieve with the Language Scholar. It outlines how we understand the scholarship of teaching and learning languages, and the role the Language Scholar has in shaping, enacting and promoting these collective understandings. Most importantly, it is an invitation to you to comment on, contribute to, extend, critique and question this manifesto.
- We aim to actively combat tired and unhelpful tropes and metaphors that perpetuate notions of divides, gaps, incommensurability and suspicion between research and practice, theory and experience, and researchers and practitioners. In doing so, we see scholarship as a vehicle for all actors in language education (including students, researchers and practitioners) to contribute to a collective exploration and understanding of the many complexities of language teaching and learning. We believe scholarship, and this journal, should embrace multiple perspectives on teaching and learning and promote an inclusive community with a common aim of both understanding and improving language education in diverse contexts for all actors engaged in teaching and learning.
- We aim to promote and demonstrate that scholarship is about impact. This encompasses: impact on language educators (their beliefs, identities, professionalism, skills and competencies, philosophies, praxis, pedagogies, agency, understanding of micro-meso-macro structures and cultures); impact on students (their learning, engagement, proficiency, autonomy, motivation, literacies, intercultural and socio-political perspectives) and impact on people, policies and practices (assessments, concepts of syllabi and curricula, communities, community engagement, leadership, mentoring).
- We promote scholarship that is governed and driven by ethics. More specifically, a scholarship ethics of humility, fallibility, care, curiosity, inclusiveness and truthfulness. We recognise and embrace diversity in perspectives, participants, contexts, challenges, experiences and expertise on scholarship, methods and methodologies, theoretical and ideological commitments, and purpose(s). An ethics of rigour must govern all approaches, genres and perspectives.
- We encourage scholarship that is collegial, collaborative and conversational, but also critical, combative and cautious. Scholarship should open up rather than close down dialogue. Scholarship works to improve teaching and learning rather than create generalised norms to follow. In this vein, we see scholarship as not only (welcome) accounts of successful scholarship endeavours but also accounts of endeavours which proved puzzling, less successful or failed. Scholarship is also about sharing and learning from these endeavours. We need to reconceptualise teaching ‘failures’ and ‘problems’ from remediation to episodes worthy of investigation, analysis and public discussion. And, aligned to this, we promote the idea that scholarship is also about taking risks, failing, experimenting and being open to change.
- We abide by the maxim that students deserve the best knowledge and understanding we can muster when teaching. Scholarship of teaching and learning embodies that maxim and we encourage all language educators to contribute knowledge and understanding in the public domain. This maxim is encapsulated by two citations:
‘[T]he core values of professional communities revolve around the expectation that we do not keep secrets, whether of discovery or of grounded doubt.’
Schulman, 2000: 50.
‘We develop a scholarship of teaching when our work as teachers becomes public, peer-reviewed and critiqued. And exchanged with members of our professional communities so they, in turn, can build on our work.’
Schulman, 2000: 49.
- We believe that scholarship, unbound by normative constraints, provides the potential for exploration of a variety of genres, languages, modalities, forms and styles. These should be chosen because they best represent the communicative/scholarship purposes and ideas of the author(s). Scholarship must resonate with the intended audience(s) and we believe that, if scholarship is to resonate, then multiple approaches to communicating this are to be embraced.
- We believe that scholarship is a powerful tool for language educators (especially practitioners) to enhance their knowledge and understanding. Engaging in scholarship contributes to greater professional autonomy, enabling new professional identities to emerge; it allows for development and transformation of praxis. Most of all, we believe that scholarship has the potential to enable language educators to actively shape their educational contexts rather than be shaped by circumstance, others and powerful ideologies and structures.
Schulman, L. S. 2000. From Minsk to Pinsk: Why a scholarship of teaching & learning? The Journal of Scholarship of Teaching & Learning. 1. pp 48–52.