September Event Review: Teacher Efficacy, Learner Agency

With the 2019 JALT International Conference approaching, Nara Chapter continued its exploration of the conference theme, Teacher Efficacy, Learner Agency, at a local level from the perspective of both established and early-career educators.

In the first presentation, Robert Maran, Professor Emeritus at Osaka Shoin Women’s University, discussed an EFL program he had coordinated, focusing on his observation and interpretation of “learner agency” in program planning and “collective teacher efficacy” among the team of teachers. He first talked about the general outline of the coordinated EFL program and the subjects and students, and then briefly mentioned what “learner agency” and “teacher efficacy” are. In terms of the concept of teacher efficacy, Maran focused on “evidence of impact”, or the actual confirmation of how teachers have influenced students’ learning outcomes. Well, how can “evidence of impact” be measured? Can only test results show it? Is the creation of learning portfolios a better indication? Does students’ participation in communicative activities only during class hours verify it? Let’s face it, given the general characteristics of the students his team taught – non-English majors with no clear need for learning English – he concluded that if the students at least adopted a positive attitude towards learning English, it could be interpreted as “evidence of impact.” Maran also introduced a function of collective teacher efficacy: experiences = four sources of collective teacher efficacy (mastery experiences, vicarious experiences, social persuasion, and affective statuses); and environment = six enabling conditions of collective teacher efficacy (advanced teacher influence, good consensus, cohesive staff, knowledge of one another’s work, responsiveness of leadership, and effective systems of intervention). He then analyzed the coordinated EFL program based on all the ten components. The employment situations of team teachers – whether they teach full-time or part-time – would affect the process of promoting collective teacher efficacy in EFL programs, since team teachers need to pursue shared educational goals and work together as one interdependent unit. Under prominent team leaders, well-coordinated EFL programs would have considerable potential for developing learner agency. Teacher efficacy and learner agency intertwine closely and cannot be separated.

In the second presentation, Sayaka Ishimizu, Associate Professor at the National Institute of Technology (Kosen), Nara College, talked about a teaching approach using a study tracker based on the Bullet Journal Method (BuJo). BuJo is a journaling method of tasks, events, and notes on a daily basis, which is an analog system for the digital age. After knowing how little time her students had spent on self-study outside class hours and how poorly they had organized their everyday class requirements and tasks, Ishimizu introduced in April, 2019 the study tracker system that encourages approximately 200 students in a one-year English course to keep a log of their everyday self-study hours on monthly study track sheets. The monthly study track sheet has four self-study areas that the students need to be engaged in and keep time records of: vocabulary build-up, assignments, class-content review, and class-content preparation. There is also space for “tasks” on the sheet where the students need to fill in the title of tasks when assigned specific tasks to carry out. Their daily records were added up and converted into weekly records. A preliminary survey highlighted that there was an increase in self-study hours compared with a year earlier among 150 out of 200 of the students who had reported their self-study hours at the end of this spring semester. By keeping records and revisiting their study trackers, the students were also able to observe their time allocation for each self-study area and amend it to improve their grades. It could be controversial whether those records self-reported by students are accurate and trustworthy, however, her focus appeared on the process of students’ self-engagement in keeping study records and forming a good study habit, rather than on an increase in their study hours. Ishimizu is herself a practitioner of BuJo and a witness to its effectiveness in empowering her time and energy. It would be interesting to know the complete results and observation of her study tracker project and how “evidence of impact” can be interpreted in her study.

I was honored to invite as presenters to this September event two active members of Nara Chapter: Robert Maran, my respected mentor, and Sayaka Ishimizu, a former colleague and close friend. Both presentations were well received and obtained positive feedback. It was a good opportunity to explore the conference theme, Teacher Efficacy, Learner Agency, just before the 4CT event in October and the JALT international conference in November. I hope this September event served as a booster for JALT 2019 from our local chapter.

Reviewed by Motoko Teraoka

Nara JALT presents: Teacher Efficacy, Learner Agency

Nara JALT continues its exploration of the 2019 JALT International Conference theme with this September event focusing on “Teacher Efficacy, Learner Agency” at the local level and from the perspective of both established and early-career educators.


Presentation 1: Robert Maran (Osaka Shoin Women’s University)

Promoting Collective Teacher Efficacy and Learner Agency in an EFL program

Presentation 2: Sayaka Ishimizu (National Institute of Technology, Nara College)

Forming a Study Habit through a Study Tracker based on the Bullet Journal Method

Date: Sunday, September 8, 2019

Time: 10:00-12:00

Venue: Nara Women’s University

Fee: Free for JALT members. ¥1,000 for non-members.

Presentation 1

Promoting Collective Teacher Efficacy and Learner Agency in an EFL program

Robert Maran: Osaka Shoin Women’s University

This presentation, while citing key background events that affected the required EFL program at the former Osaka Shoin Women’s Junior College and at the current Osaka Shoin Women’s University, will introduce some of the key changes, tweaks and innovations that were made to the required EFL program in successive attempts to promote collective teacher efficacyand learner agency. These include such elements as curriculum design rationale, classroom management, teacher management, teaching methodology, common syllabi/ teaching materials, proficiency testing, and e-learning. The presentation will introduce and discuss these chronologically as they appeared in the program, citing the pluses and minuses, successes and failures. It is hoped that participants will get a sense of the challenges an institution faces when attempting to implement and maintain collective teacher efficacyand learner agency, as well as perhaps taking away some ideas that they may incorporate or adapt to their own EFL programs.

Robert Maran’s Bio:

Robert Maran retired in 2019 and was made Professor Emeritus and a Study Abroad Advisor at Osaka Shoin Women’s University. He has been teaching in the Japanese university system for more than 35 years. His main research interests while focusing on Study Abroad and e-learning have also included curriculum development.

Presentation 2

Forming a Study Habit through a Study Tracker based on the Bullet Journal Method

Sayaka Ishimizu: National Institute of Technology (Kosen), Nara College

This presentation will introduce a teaching approach using a study tracker based on the Bullet Journal Method (BJM) developed by Ryder Carroll. The BJM provides a way of mental inventory that leads to “intentionality.” Simply put, keeping a journal of everyday life gives you opportunity to visit “your belief = why” behind “your action = what” by tracking the past, ordering the present and designing the future. The presenter, a practitioner of the BJM, modified this method as a study tracker for approximately 200 students of hers in a one-year English course and implemented this study tracker system this academic year. The aim of the study trackeris to help students form a study habit in a more organized, observable, and autonomous way in hope of encouraging learner agency. The students have kept a log of the number of hours they studied on monthly study track sheets, and by doing this they have tracked their own study habits. At the beginning and in the middle of the course, listening and reading tests were administered to the students to monitor their comprehension abilities. At the same time, questionnaires were distributed to have the students self-evaluate their four English skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing). The preliminary results of the tests and surveys, and the possibility of further modification of the study tracker for the latter half of the course will be discussed in this presentation.

Sayaka Ishimizu’s Bio:

Sayaka Ishimizu is an associate professor at National Institute of Technology (Kosen), Nara College, and has a master’s degree in education from Nara University of Education. Her research interests include listening pedagogy and teacher training.

Round Table discussion: Teacher Efficacy, Learner Agency

Sunday, April 14, 2019

The theme of this year’s JALT international conference in Nagoya is Teacher Efficacy, Learner Agency. Nara Jalt’s first event of 2019 is a round table event, where participants are encouraged to discuss and explore this theme. Nara Jalt is extremely fortunate to have Steve Herder and Catherine L. Oki, the JALT 2019 Conference Co-Chairs at this event.

We look forward to seeing you all there and hearing your thoughts and ideas on this topic. 

Date: Sunday, April 14, 2019

Time: 10:00-12:00

Venue:Yamato Conference Hall, Nara City (やまと会議室)

Fee: Free for JALT members. ¥1,000 for non-members.

JALT 2019 Conference Co-Chairs:

Steven Herder and Catherine L.Oki

Steven Herder’s Bio:

Steven has been an EFL professional for almost 30 years, teaching from elementary school to the university level, and is now Associate Professor at Kyoto Notre Dame University in Japan. He leads students in the Global English Course, as well as in his 3rd/4th-year Women in Leadership seminar. 

He is also an author and editor of two Palgrave Macmillan teacher resources, Innovating EFL Teaching in Asia (2012) and Exploring EFL Fluency in Asia (2014). Since 2010, he has been working with Suken Publishing on the high school textbook series Big Dipper Series I, II, III, DUALSCOPE II, as well as writing teacher manuals, drill textbooks, and graded readers. 

In 2012, he co-founded the International Teacher Development Institute (, an online teacher training community for teachers by teachers, with over 5000 members and a global reach into over 100 countries.Steven believes, “being a teacher means a never-ending commitment to learning”.

Catherine L. Oki’s Bio:

Catherine L. Oki has been teaching in Japan since 2000 and is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of International Studies at Doshisha Women’s College of Liberal Arts. 

At DWCLA, she serves as the English Skills coordinator, leading a team of teachers responsible for teaching pre-study abroad academic English skills classes including TOEFL iBT and IELTS preparation. She also teaches elective content courses and leads a seminar course focusing on Education and Sociology. 

Catherine is the author of the very young learner series Happy Valley. She is currently finishing a quantitative study about engagement and online Extensive Reading and is beginning research on a needs analysis for study abroad preparatory courses.

At DWCLA, she serves as the English Skills coordinator, leading a team of teachers responsible for teaching pre-study abroad academic English skills classes including TOEFL iBT and IELTS preparation. She also teaches elective content courses and leads a seminar course focusing on Education and Sociology. 

Catherine is the author of the very young learner series Happy Valley. She is currently finishing a quantitative study about engagement and online Extensive Reading and is beginning research on a needs analysis for study abroad preparatory courses.

JALT PanSIG 2018—A Conference Review

Review by Angela Wren

The diversity of the presentations (25 mins), poster presentations (55 mins), SIG forums (85 mins), and plenary conversations (55 mins) at this year’s conference was refreshing.

 “PanSIG is not just for university educators; it is also for eikaiwa teachers, ALTs, and public school teachers” – Conference Chair Jennie Roloff Rothmon

For educators of younger learners

Everyone is interested in what the future of English education looks like in Japan. The audience for Alison Nemoto’s popular Getting Ready for 2020 presentation included a games developer, a parent, university lecturers, elementary teachers and teacher trainers. Highlights of the new MEXT ES textbooks are that they are child-centered and focus on communicative language. It is hoped that the extra hours for English learning will provide more chances for student interaction,presentations, and more English input beyond the expected student output.

For teachers in any context

In The Role of Working and Short-Term Memory in L2 LearningPeter Wanner discussed how to keep students’ working memory free to focus wholly on language by breaking tasks into small steps, avoiding redundancy in excessive teacher talk and using memory aids such as checklists. In Steve Paton’s engaging talk Eliciting Student Answers: Finding what it takeshe shared practical ways to make teacher and student interaction “normal, friendly human communication.”

Using humour and cartoons to disarm reluctant speakers, he showed how he has students think about, “why are they here?” and learn to speak English by doing it!

For textbook or course designers

Two research presentations that took an analytical look at textbooks were Cameron Romney’s The Purpose of Images in ELT Textbooks Revisited and Chie Kawashima’s Speech Acts Presented in Japanese EFL Textbooks. The identification of the role of images in textbooks, and the evaluation of grammatical forms used in common speech acts were useful for those interested in choosing or creating course materials, rather than being directly related to teaching skills.

For task designers

Task and curriculum design is my pet interest, so I may be biased when I nominate this presentation as having the most original ideas and fresh content of the weekend. Stephen Case’s Incorporating the Best Practices of Game Design into Task Design went into depth on how the ideas from video and board games can be put into analogue format for classroom use. He broke down the concepts behind successful game design, and gave examples as well as some extensions to familiar tasks. We left inspired by new ideas and ways to use the concepts in our own “engaging, motivating and educational” task design.

Alec Lapidus’s Multiliteracies: Comics and Sociocultural Theory was another presentation which focused on practical teaching ideas and the theory behind why it works. His use of comics to fill in the gaps of knowledge, both culturalandlinguistic, of newly-arrived refugee students in an ESL context, could also be adapted to the Japanese EFL context. He demonstrated how to use comics in diverse ways such as visually expressing new grammar points or exploring social issues with lower language level students.

For educators exploring alternative career pathways and language school owners

The Lifelong Language Learning SIG’s Career Design in the Lives of Teachers forum from Gregory Strong, Charles Browne, Joseph Dias and Blair Thomson covered topics as wide reaching as building a portfolio career, wealth accumulation, achievements through volunteering and long term financial planning.

Grant Osterman’s School Ownership: The Unbiased Reality and John Gayed’s Driving Traffic to Your School via Google were both helpfulpresentationsfor anyone considering whether starting a private language school is feasible and desirable in their situation.

For educators with an abundance of energy

The Speech, Drama and Debate SIG Forumfeaturing speakers Gordon Rees, Jason White, Vivian Bussinguer-Khavari, Chris Parham, Cynthia Gonzales, Rachel Stuart and Angela Wren, included drama activities which got us all moving, a different take on drama using radio plays, a debate curriculum, and debate skills for SHS, JHS and even ES students. Despite it being the last time slot of the day, it was a popular forum with a decidedly Kansai presence, full of ideas, energy, enthusiasm and creativity.

The onsite JALT and student volunteers, and of course the behind-the-scenes planning volunteers, did a great job putting on an event packed with ideas for all educators. The presenters and participants of this year’s JALT PanSIG Conference were knowledgeable and welcoming, and made the event worthwhile. With thanks to all involved for another successful conference.

Are you listening? Responding to the challenges of diversity

Mehran, who, along with another Iranian speaker, had mesmerized the Nara Chapter audience with their talk about the beauty of Iran a year before, shared with the audience this year her realities of harassment around gender and nationality. Her personal accounts of the “microaggression” she experienced since she left her country revealed how people, in general, are ignorant of others and stuck into stereotyped ways of judging others. This would lead to irrational fear, anger, insult or even pity toward others. The painful path she had to go through has made her an activist and change-agent, serving as a wake-up call to all of us in the fight against macro and microaggressions. Yokota warned us that we could easily become both victims and offenders of any sort of harassment and misconduct. She emphasized how dangerously a snowball effect can happen and how important it is to deal with the initial stage of a potential incident. The audience also had a chance to look at and discuss the recently implemented JALT Code of Conduct <;. We all agreed that the JALT Code of Conduct should be a prototype of our professional behavior toward any human rights issues and thus permeate us. The following end-of-year dinner party further strengthened our bonds of friendship and made us look forward to another exciting year for the chapter.