JALT Writer’s Peer Support Group

Writer(s): 
Loran Edwards

 

In this issue of Showcase, coordinator Loran Edwards introduces the JALT Writer’s Peer Support Group.

JALT Writer’s Peer Support Group

I’m Loran Edwards and I have been a member of JALT since 2005 when I first came to Japan. Many JALT organizations have been sources of support for both my personal and professional life here in Japan. However, the most important JALT group for me has been a little-known organization called the JALT Writer’s Peer Support Group (PSG). 

I currently teach at Kansai Gaidai University in Hirakata, Osaka, but like many JALT members, I am a contract teacher with the end of my contract looming in the not too distant future. In the past year or so, I have come to realize how important publishing is in finding that next great (or even mediocre) job. I found myself looking at job applications and realizing my CV had some major holes in it—mainly that I had no publications. However, like many other teachers, my professional identity is teacher before writer; I have a master’s degree, not a doctorate, and my grad school program was focused on teaching, not research. Although teachers are constantly experimenting with new ideas and conducting action research in the classroom, writing up the results for publication requires a completely different skill set that many of us don’t yet have. 

And that is where the PSG comes in. The PSG is a team of peer-readers (teachers in a variety of settings) who collaboratively assist writers to develop their manuscripts to a level ready for publishing. It is associated with JALT, but is available to help writers looking to publish with any publication. I first joined as one of these peer-readers in order to not only assist other writers, but also learn more about academic writing for myself and begin to build up my resume. After several years as a peer-reader, I decided to take the plunge and step into the role of Coordinator when the opportunity arose last December. 

My PSG Philosophy

To find success in academic writing, whether you are an old hand or are just starting out, there are several obstacles that need to be overcome: the difficulty of developing a clean writing style, the inability to make a point clearly, or simply the fear of putting your ideas and beliefs on paper for others to read and discuss. It doesn’t matter if you are working on your first paper or your twentieth, I feel having someone else read and review your work can always lead to valuable insights, which strengthens the paper in the end.

However, this also means you must entrust someone else with a little piece of yourself; I know I speak for many when I say sharing writing, with the intent of receiving feedback, is really hard! Writing is a process and any one paper may need several rewrites and reviews before it is ready to be submitted for publication. 

The PSG team understands this so one of our main goals is to help writers manage that process. We will work with you to develop your overall writing skills and provide feedback on areas that can use more development, more research, or in some cases, less information. We try very hard to guide writers in positive, constructive ways that will help them grow and improve as writers, no matter what their level of experience. 

Before coming to Japan and joining the PSG, I worked at various writing centers in the U.S. that focused on providing constructive feedback and I really enjoyed working one-on-one with writers to develop their papers. Some of my most rewarding moments as an educator have been watching a paper develop into a really nice piece of writing, and seeing the writer’s face when they realize, “I just wrote THAT!” As the new coordinator, I want to continue to help develop teachers as writers by creating more training materials for new reviewers and constructive guidelines for writers and reviewers to work through together. 

As I said, the PSG is currently a small group, utilized by only a few writers each year, but along with the help of current members, I hope to build it up again. If you have a paper you would like peer-reviewed or are interested in joining the peer-reader team, check out our page on the JALT website at <jalt-publications.org/psg>. Also, look for PSG sponsored workshops at JALT2013 this fall. We hope to see you there!

Loran Edwards currently teaches at Kansai Gaidai University in Hirakata and became the coordinator for JALT’s Writer’s Peer Support Group (PSG) in December of 2012. She is the author of the textbook, Working Together! Communicative Reading and Writing (Cengage, 2011). She has been an active JALT member since coming to Japan in 2005. 

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