Meeting the needs of EFL teacher/researchers with MASH Academic Publishing

Writer(s): 
Theron Muller, Noah Learning Center

 

Academic publishing has been gaining importance in recent years, perhaps due to two reasons: a greater number of job applicants now hold MA degrees, meaning employers increasingly rely on publication credits to distinguish between applicants, and with increased pressure on universities from Japan’s declining youth population, institutional accreditation has become a concern for universities. Yet the conclusion of researchers regarding issues of access to academic publishing is that the review processes of journals and their willingness to accept submissions from new members of the research community remains “occluded” (Swales, 1996, p. 45).

So interest in academic publishing is growing, as demonstrated by the 70% of respondents to a recent poll of University of Birmingham MA students who noted academic publishing was what they wanted most after completing their MA degree. Yet the processes and means to publish academically remain a mystery to budding authors. As one person put it, he had only “a hazy idea of what getting published involved.”

Unfortunately, I’m not convinced current MA programs available in Japan meet the desire to learn about publishing. My understanding is that none of them address the process of academic publishing directly in their courses, and students are left to figure it out themselves. I could go into further detail about this disconnect between the contexts of the countries which offer such degrees and the reality of working and teaching in contexts such as Japan and elsewhere in Asia, but that is a discussion for another time and another place.

Here I want to describe how, rather than waiting for conventional programs to meet teacher needs, I addressed the problem directly. Teaming up with MASH Collaboration, I’ve recently completed the first generation of our 10-week, online MASH Academic Publishing course, and the feedback from the six participants was very positive. As one shared, “Thanks to this course I now understand the steps needed to publish academically, the level of writing expected, and most importantly how to reach that level.”

The course is designed to encourage participants to complete real-world tasks centered on academic publishing, such as creating an abstract for a proposal, applying for a grant, and preparing a paper for publication. While the course itself carries a fee, the course site contains two free videos offering an introduction to academic publishing, <mashcollaboration.com/academic-publishing/> and a link to the course Moodle, which includes all the assignments for the course, the forum discussions from our spring course, and recordings of our live classes. We are offering free guest access to the Moodle until 15 September 2010, so if the issue of academic publishing is of interest to you, then I encourage you to visit the site, watch the videos, and browse the Moodle site.

There is also a scholarship available for one participant, which covers the full cost of tuition for the online course, having a 30,000 yen value. The closing date for the scholarship is 15 September, and details of requirements for applying for the scholarship are included in the course site. Our scholarship recipient for the spring course was Jonathan Shave, who is based in Italy.

Another way MASH Collaboration has been working to assist Asian-based teacher-researchers to publish is the pursuit of two book projects, Innovating teaching in context: Asia, a book that is currently in review with a publisher, and more recently Fluency in EFL, a project Paul Nation is working with us on and which we are preparing for submission to a publisher as you read this.

It seems appropriate to close with an invitation—while MASH Collaboration has been a core group of collaborators working together since 2007, we’re always interested in expanding the network of great people we work and interact with. Come check us out at our MASH JALT Equinox event happening between 17 September and 26 September in several places around Japan. It will be a dynamic event featuring Scott Thornbury and Paul Nation, with other presentations by Roger Palmer, Marc Helgesen, Marcos Benevides, Chuck Sandy, Andy Boon, Steven Herder, Phil Brown, and many others. Details are available at <mashcollaboration.com>. And finally, if you have an idea for our next MASH project you would like to share, please feel free to contact us, either through our website or with an email addressed to <researchingasia@eltresearch.com>.

 

References

Swales, J. (1996). Occluded genres in the academy: The case of the submission letter. In Ventola, E. & A. Mauranen (Eds.), Academic Writing: Intercultural and Textual Issues, (pp. 45-58). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

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