Encouraging wider participation through grants, subscriptions, and local get-togethers

Andy Barfield, Hiromi Furusawa, Kay Irie, and Rich Silver, Learner Development SIG committee

Last year the Learner Development SIG provided four grants of 40,000 yen each for teachers to attend conferences. Two of the grants went to teachers wishing to attend the Advising for Language Learner Autonomy conference organized at Kanda University of International Studies in November 2011: Ian Hurrell, a language school teacher in Sapporo, and Mehmet Boyno, a high school teacher in Turkey. In return for their grants, Ian and Mehmet were asked to write for the LD SIG’s newsletter-journal, Learning Learning, about connections between their interests in language learner advising, their own work, and issues that caught their attention at the Kanda conference. The other two grants were awarded to Matt Coomber and Michael Wilkins, both based in Kansai, to help support their attendance at JALT2011 in Tokyo. Neither Matt nor Michael receive institutional funding, so getting to a three-day JALT conference in Tokyo is a major expense for them – and the SIG’s conference grants of 40,000 yen made a tangible difference for their professional development. The short, personalized pieces of writing of 1200 words or so that Matt and Michael have also contributed to Learning Learning help all the members of the LD SIG benefit from their conference participation.

The Learner Development SIG has been providing conference grants for SIG members since 2006. These financial grants are aimed at helping teachers and researchers new to the area of learner development who don’t have access to institutional support. This year, following a consultation period with SIG members in January, we decided to expand the range of support, in particular by offering starter membership/subscription grants. Like most groups in JALT, many Learner Development SIG members work in universities, so it is important for us to make a deliberate effort to keep encouraging the participation of junior high and senior high school teachers, as well as elementary school and language school teachers – not to mention teachers doing graduate studies. We also wish to encourage greater participation by Japanese teachers in different SIG events, publications, and research. This is where the SIG’s 2012 Wider Participation Scheme comes in.

The 2012 scheme provides both subscriptions and grants. We are quite aware that many teachers are reluctant to pay 10,000 yen as the basic membership fee for JALT before they can become members of any SIG. This was a very good reason for the SIG to start offering annual subscriptions in 2012. Although subscriptions are only available to people who are not members of JALT, there is a substantial difference between an annual subscription to the SIG (2000 yen) and a JALT + LD SIG membership (10,000 + 1,500 yen). Subscriptions can act as a much lower-cost entry point for many more teachers.

In 2012, the SIG is offering 10 first-time/starter subscription grants to non-members of JALT to encourage such entry-level participation. For JALT members, the SIG is also offering 10 first-time/starter SIG memberships, so that teachers can join the SIG and see how it fits them. In terms of other grants, the SIG’s 2012 Wider Participation Scheme includes:

  • two Tohoku grants (free memberships of JALT and the LD SIG to colleagues working in the affected areas)
  • two Pan SIG conference grants of 25,000 yen each
  • two LD SIG research grants of 25,000 yen each
  • two LD SIG national conference grants of 40,000 yen each.

In each case priority is being given to teachers who do not have access to institutional funding. What’s more, interested teachers may make their applications in Japanese or English. Full details are available on the LD SIG’s homepage at: <ld-sig.org/grants2012>.


This year the LD SIG is also organizing regular local get-togethers in Tokyo, Kansai, and Hiroshima. These are an important grassroots part of the SIG’s 2012 Wider Participation Scheme. Focused on participants exploring together their learner development interests and developing small-scale action research projects, such non-presenter based gatherings offer another route for would-be members of the SIG to become involved and co-create their professional development with other similarly interested colleagues. In different but energizing ways, then, the Learner Development SIG hopes that its Wider Participation Scheme will help nurture lively communities of collaboration.

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