Thank you for visiting my Pine Manor College portfolio. I have served as Assistant Professor of Foundational Learning and English Language Learners at Pine Manor College since 2018, a role in which I assist first-year students in developing foundational writing skills and adjustment to academic culture, while making connections between international and domestic students. I received my M.S. in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) in 2011 and B.S. in Mechanical Engineering Technology in 2008 from Central Connecticut State University. Trilingual in Japanese, Chinese, and English, I have over 10 years of experience in the field of TESOL, including teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language at the secondary and university levels, developing curricula for adult ESOL programs, training teachers to become TEFL certified, and presenting at conferences. I currently have published research in two international journals.
At Pine Manor College, I teach Foundational Writing in the Composition department while developing and maintaining a grammar program, teaching students to use online corpus tools to increase the depth of their writing through academic collocations, and empowering them to develop editing skills via writing improvement journals. In the Foundational Learning department, I teach and develop curricula for First Year Seminar and Sophomore Colloquium, incorporating teaching strategies from the field of TESOL in these courses such as the explicit teaching of classroom participation strategies and using sentence starters to promote academic dialogue among students. In this department, I work with students to encourage the sharing of cultures and languages through events such as International Education Week and a cross-campus discussion on cultural intelligence with Showa Boston Institute during Fall 2019.
My published research has explored culturally-informed pedagogy and the relationship between campus diversity and international students’ class participation, which inform several of my current classroom activities that encourage connections between different ethnic and linguistic student groups. These include my language exchange and “Skip the Small Talk” activities in First Year Seminar as well as classmate biographies and explanatory essays on features of one’s culture in Foundational Writing. I have also created two apps that capitalize on the large amount of data available from Google and Wikipedia to provide students with close reading practice and vocabulary development. These resources are available at www.eslquiz.net.
This portfolio highlights some of my contributions to academics and community at Pine Manor College during 2018-2019, including work to improve the foundational learning program and grammar instruction. My other experience and current projects can be viewed at www.brendonalbertson.com.
The following are examples of teaching techniques I have employed during Fall 2018 and Spring 2019 semesters (several of which are borrowed from the field of TESOL) to effectively scaffold instruction to benefit English language learning (ELL) students at Pine Manor College. (Please click each to expand)
I have been satisfied that teaching practices from my prior ESL experience can be useful for the ELL population at Pine Manor as well. Nevertheless, teaching domestic students, and especially the first-generation population, is a new challenge for me. Their needs in composition courses are not as grammar-based as the international students I am familiar with, while they often need to work on tone and use of standard English in their writing. These are two areas I am working to incorporate in EN100 this semester (Fall 2019).
The Fall 2019 semester has also sparked my interest in effective teaching practices for first-generation college students, as my current courses have a much higher ratio of this latter demographic than previously. I am interested in exploring the similarities between international and domestic first-gen students, as many of the teaching techniques used for ELLs appear similar to those recommended for first-gen domestic students (Mihut & Helms, 2019). In my experience this semester, the highly-scaffolded and simplified instructions I usually give to ELLs seem to also be working with domestic students. I wonder if others and I might work toward developing a collection of materials and best practices to be included in a “cheat sheet” for instructors, or for the “deck” that was recently developed for faculty and staff.
The contributions I have made to teaching and community in my current role at Pine Manor College have included the following (please click to expand):
I assisted Professor Hannah Baker-Siroty with adopting the Longman Academic Writing Series as a more appropriate textbook for EN100 courses for the Spring 2019 semester. This text focuses on bottom-up writing skills such as a grammar and sentence variety. In addition, it provides very simple, clear models for essays and is designed for international students, so the cultural references and idiomatic expressions are minimal. This allows an instructor to focus on equipping students with basic essay conventions and structure, while saving the more top-down writing skills (tone, imagery, strengthening an argument, etc.) for EN101/102.
Short, highly-focused grammar lessons held outside of class and informed by the observed needs of students are a possible solution to the problem of incorporating “one size fits all” grammar lessons into a college composition course (Ferris & Hedgcock, 2005). In other words, not all students may need additional grammar support. In addition, non-native English speaking students make certain grammatical errors that native speakers do not make. Thus, the “bite-sized” grammar lesson concept provides a reasonable solution. This took the form of the “Pizza and Punctuation” workshops I held in the library four times during the Fall 2018 semester (9/26, 10/4, 10/11, and 11/20) and twice during the Spring 2019 semester. Many students were “repeat customers” at these workshops, while evidence in the writing of a few EN100 students in Spring 2019 showed that they had incorporated grammar forms and transition words from these workshops into their writing.Sample Handout from "Pizza & Punctuation" Workshops Example of EN 99 Student's Use of adverb clauses after attending workshop (highlighted in blue)
To fill the need for assessing grammar as well as general writing level on the composition placement test, I developed an online, 40-item grammar test. This test was piloted for validity in Spring 2019. While the sample sizes were small, results suggested that students in EN100, 101, and 102 scored increasingly higher on the test. Hannah Baker-Siroty and I will administer the test again to students in all composition courses again in Fall 2019. If added to the standard composition placement test, this test would allow composition placements to be more accurately made on the basis of bottom-up writing skills (grammar/sentence structure), as well as other components of writing.
In conjunction with the grammar placement test, I am working with Hannah Baker-Siroty on creating a series of online grammar modules. This format has been adopted successfully by other colleges, and allows for differentiated grammar instruction, keeps it remedial, does not interfere with the composition curriculum, and does not require instructors to teach grammar if it is not their area of expertise.Link to Grammar Pre-test Link to Grammar Post-test Explanation of test
During Fall of 2018, I became interested in the challenge of students who have “fossilized” errors in their writing. It became apparent that many ELL students at Pine Manor College (and occasionally native-speaking students as well), while advanced users of English, continue to make the same errors in their writing. This challenge led me to investigate the most effective way to provide feedback to students on their writing. During Spring, 2019, I designed and conducted research on feedback in writing, which I presented with Professor Hannah Baker-Siroty at the Massachusetts Conference for Teachers to Speakers of Other Languages (MATSOL) in May, 2019. The presentation received 10-15 attendees, one of whom wished to adopt the method to replicate the study with her own college students. Links are below: MATSOL Handout MATSOL Presentation
Throughout the process of this research, I have been able to learn and apply best practices for giving useful written feedback to students, including the error logs mentioned above. I am planning to obtain further data on the efficacy of written feedback during the 2019-2020 academic year, including data from native English-speaking students in my classes. I am also working with Professor Hannah Baker-Siroty to implement time-saving practices that could allow other instructors to give grammar feedback. This would include the use of error codes and aligning these with the most frequent grammar errors, as measured by the grammar diagnostic test mentioned previously.
Professor Baker-Siroty and I have defined the work I have done implementing grammar feedback techniques, creating a grammar diagnostic test, and creating grammar modules as part of a comprehensive grammar "program" at Pine Manor College. This program addresses the fact that many of our students need to build writing skills at the sentence level. As the program develops, especially in terms of completing the grammar modules, we plan to present it as again at MATSOL as a more program-level solution to addressing grammar needs of students. I am also exploring a variety of TESOL journals and would like to publish the results of my research on use of error codes, an area of research in TESOL that has been cited as needing more replication in a variety of contexts in order to shed light on the efficacy of feedback techniques in writing (Ferris & Hedgcock, 2005).
I have also developed an online app in an attempt to automate the process of using error codes in student writing. Furthermore, I have worked with Barbara Schwartz to add a Moodle plugin for using error codes. However, both of these tools have yet to be tested with student writing. I would like to continue work in this area.
While teaching at the college level, I have continued to work on my personal project related to ELL vocabulary acquisition. I have been updating my website, www.eslquiz.net and have used it several times in classes at Pine Manor College. I designed this website several years ago as a way to make it easier for teachers to quickly pull up pictures to show the meaning of new words to students, and as a way for students to practice vocabulary through a picture-to-word matching activity. I generally share this website with ESL instructors I know, as well as teacher trainees in the TEFL program I teach. The website has been used thousands of times by teachers, and I am currently working on a way to raise funding for it so the search limit can be removed (it is powered by the Google image search API, which limits the number of free uses per day to 100).
Since 2017, I have been teacher training during summer and winter breaks for a weekend practicum course as part of a Level-5 TEFL Certification course with The TEFL Academy. As a senior trainer, I have also hired and trained several trainers for courses opening in Chicago and San Francisco. This course qualifies trainees to teach English as a Foreign Language in most countries. I continue to find this work rewarding, as it motivates me to keep abreast of advancements in the field of TESOL and share these along with my prior and current ESL experience. Obtaining a TEFL certificate is also a direct path to a career teaching English overseas for native-speakers with a bachelor’s degree, so I have been curious about how sharing this opportunity with interested students at Pine Manor College could give them yet another option after graduation.
My first year at Pine Manor College has been a rewarding experience for two reasons. First, I have been able to apply my experience in the field of ESL in a new way. Second, I have had the freedom to conduct my own research and pursue my own pedagogical interests.
Looking forward, I plan to continue work to improve the first year and foundational learning programs, including foundational writing skills in composition courses. My short-term goals over the next few semesters include adopting the grammar placement tests I have created, finishing a set of online grammar modules, and presenting/publishing these improvements to the composition program at Pine Manor College. I also plan to make contributions to the Faculty Development and Advisory Committee, which I now serve on. My long-term goal in my current position, with the help of other faculty, is to create an foundational learning curriculum that spans across all courses that first-year students generally take. This may include creating a "foundational learning committee." My long-term goal in the field of TESOL is to publish action research on corpora/collocations or vocabulary instruction using my website, www.esl-quiz.net.