Showcase: Alison Stewart

Alison Stewart


In this edition of Showcase, Alison Stewart discusses knowledge communities in the Learner Development (LD) SIG and JALT Publications.

Alison Stewart

It never ceases to amaze me how much skill, energy, and passion for teaching and learning there is in the JALT community.

This is my fifteenth year of JALT membership, though I have to admit that for at least the first ten years my involvement didn’t extend beyond renewing my subscription (sometimes) and reading the JALT Journal and The Language Teacher. Things started to warm up for me when I wrote an article for the LD SIG’s newsletter, Learning Learning (Stewart, 2007), a spin-off from my PhD on teacher identity. The next thing I knew, I was co-editing Learning Learning with Kay Irie. Both newcomers to the SIG and to active JALT membership, we learned on the job together, with the generous support of more experienced members. After years of struggling to master academic content and style in our doctoral careers, we now found ourselves part of a community that shared our interest in issues like identity and motivation, but which wanted to talk about them in ways that were perhaps more relevant to our students and more accessible or interesting to our members.

The LD SIG has a tradition of trying to encourage and develop writers who are new to research and writing for publication, and this sense of mission to develop ourselves and those around us is something that I have come to value especially. In 2008, Kay and I sent out a call for proposals in a bid to find contributors to a new book on developing learner autonomy. As a SIG project, most of the proposals we accepted were by members of the LD SIG, and some of our contributors had no previous experience with writing for publication in English, or at all. After three years of writing and collaborative peer reviewing among the authors of the 16 chapters, as well as by expert advisors from outside the SIG, the book, Realizing autonomy: Practice and reflection in language education contexts (Irie & Stewart, 2012),was published by Palgrave Macmillan this January.

As the book project was approaching completion last year, I stepped up my involvement in JALT publications to take over the lead editor position of the JALT Conference Proceedings from Alan Stoke. My experience with the JALT Conference Proceedings, including reviewing initial proposals for presentations and workshops at the conference, and peer reviewing and editing articles submitted to the Proceedings, has given me a wonderful, panoramic view of the broad extent of research into language learning and teaching among the JALT membership, as well as the opportunity to work with language teachers and researchers throughout Japan and beyond. Now coming to the end of another round of Proceedings editing, I am joined this year by a co-editor, Nozomu Sonda. We share a commitment to bringing in new authors, editors, and reviewers, and see the Proceedings, with its team of 20 sub-editors, as well as nearly 100 peer reviewers ably coordinated by Theron Muller, as an active and expanding community of practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991). All healthy communities need a steady inflow of new members who will learn the ropes and, in time, take over leadership positions; in the same way, JALT publications also need the constant invigoration of new blood. Everybody benefits: new members develop expertise from those who have traveled that path before them; older members stay sharp and fresh as they work with those who bring new ideas and new ways of doing things; and JALT, as a knowledge community, can thrive. I would encourage anyone interested in getting involved with any of the JALT publications <> to contact the editors. Your offer to contribute will be warmly welcomed.

Still a relative newcomer, my involvement in JALT continues to be an immensely rewarding experience. I’ve worked with and learned from language teachers across the educational spectrum. What has inspired me most of all is the creativity and curiosity about learning and teaching that I see in the JALT community and this helps me in my goal to become a better teacher myself.


Irie, K., & Stewart, A. (Eds.). (2012). Realizing autonomy: Practice and reflection in language education contexts. Basingstoke, U.K.: Palgrave Macmillan.

Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Stewart, A. (2007). Teacher development and ad hoc communities. Learning Learning, 14(1), 18-27.

Alison Stewarthas been living in Japan for nearly 18 years. She teaches at Gakushuin University in Tokyo and can be contacted at: <>.

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