Dr Martha C. Pennington teaches at Georgia Southern University, USA. She has worked for many years in teacher education and English language teaching at universities in the USA, Hong Kong and the UK, and has significant experience in Europe, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, and New Zealand. She has also researched and written on such topics as language programme administration, programme and faculty evaluation, faculty development, and innovation in English language teaching and curriculum. She is also editor of Writing & Pedagogy, an international, peer-reviewed journal devoted to the theory and practice of writing in educational contexts.
Innovation and Leadership in English Language Teaching. is a book series (available in print and as an e-book) launched in 2010, covering leadership and curriculum development in English as a second/foreign language (ESL/EFL). ESL/EFL is one of the fastest growing and most vibrant areas of education, hardly surprising as it has been estimated that one billion people speak English as a first or second language (Pennington and Hoekje, 2010: p. 4).
The first volume in the series, Language Program Leadership in a Changing World: An Ecological Model, was published in June 2010, and further volumes are planned on programme management, curriculum design, faculty development, programme and faculty evaluation, and innovation in English language teaching and curriculum. The series will both theorize on leadership and curriculum development and locate it in situated practice. See the book series information page for more details.
Can you describe the series' mission and editorial objectives?
This series is trying to merge two different aspects of English language teaching: innovation and leadership, and I am looking for titles which are in one or both areas.
While there is a small amount of literature on management in English language teaching, there is little on leadership. So one of the goals of the series is to add to the literature on leadership, as well as to encourage new ideas.
I believe that education as a whole needs innovation, and because my specialism lies in English language teaching, I use that as my focus.
My other goal is to develop the area of leadership in terms of theory and concepts that can be applied.
Why is there a dearth of research in leadership in English language teaching?
That's an interesting question because I have been trying to do research in the area since the early 1980s, and it's very hard to get published. I think people have the idea that leadership and management are a different field, belonging to business. However, there is a need to merge the insights of business with the academic discipline of English language teaching.
It's always hard to forge a new path, but that's what I'm about. Gradually the field is starting to accept some work, but it's been a long struggle to find places to publish, to get the mainstream journals to accept articles and publishers to publish books about English language programme management and leadership.
What was the genesis of the series and what niche is it aiming to fill?
I wrote a discussion paper called "Innovation and leadership in education", as a kind of manifesto to inspire action. I was trying to get together an organized group of people, who would maybe form a society. So I circulated it quite widely, and the feedback was that it would make a good basis for a book series.
I approached Emerald with the idea for the series, and the editor I met with at the time thought that it would be better to focus on English language teaching as that was my background. Since then, I've approached some of the people I initially circulated as potential authors.
I'm a very idealistic person, I believe that smart and well-educated people have something to offer in terms of changing the world and I'm always pushing for that sort of influence to come from academia.
You describe your primary audience as "language programme administrators, teachers and professors, and postgraduate students pursuing master's and/or doctoral degrees in applied linguistics or the teaching of English as a second/foreign language" and your secondary audience as "educational administrators and those working in language education in primary or secondary schools", as well as those working on foreign language programmes [see book series information page]. This is a fairly comprehensive description, but can you say a bit more in terms of the types of jobs involved, for example are you targeting schools and English language centres as well as university departments?
Oh yes, definitely, because the teaching of English is international now, and not just confined to English-speaking universities. It's also very important in kindergarten through to secondary schools, where there are second-language populations from first-generations and second-generation immigrants. The world has changed dramatically and we see diversity at every level of education, from primary through secondary to tertiary.
I am also trying to address those involved in teacher education, as well as administrators in secondary schools and universities. Pro-vice and vice chancellors and deans are very interested in anything to do with the globalization of education or international students, so they need this information too.
So the audience is very broad. Our primary audience would be specialists in English language teaching, but anything involving second language speakers is of interest to just about anyone in education these days.
English language teaching has become much more professionalized with its own academic discipline with theory and research to back it up. But people are not just employed in academic departments. For example, John Walker, author of Volume 2 about service, satisfaction and climate, has a position in a department of management in Massey University in New Zealand, and has published in mainstream business journals.
Then there's Sheryl Taylor and Donna Sobel, authors of Volume 4 on culturally responsive pedagogy, who are employed in human development in colleges of education, working mainly with K12 teachers.
Barbara Hoekje, my co-author, is also co-editor of a book on English in the medical profession (Volume 5). Both she and her co-editor, Sara Tipton, have positions in English language centres, and Barbara is also a tenured professor in an academic department.
So as you see, there are a lot of different disciplines feeding the field. And the demand is international, not just in the English-speaking world, and through all levels of education.
Your book series is slightly different from the common book series model of annual or biennial publication in a multi-author edited work. Why did you choose this format and how do you see your role as series editor?
It does include the more typical Emerald type of book, which is an edited collection with multiple authors contributing their work under one title, for example, Barbara Hoekje and Sara Tipton's book, English Language and the Medical Profession: Instructing and Assessing the Communication Skills of International Physicians, and I hope to get some others.
But I also want to encourage single-authored and/or co-authored monograph type works. My book with Barbara Hoekje, Language Program Leadership in a Changing World: An Ecological Model, and John Walker's Service, Satisfaction and Climate: Perspectives on Management in English Language Teaching, are similar in that we all built the books on our previous research, and then developed a cohesive treatment of the topic, rather than just reproducing our previously published articles.
I want to encourage people who have published a lot, and who have a big idea that consolidates much of what they have done, to put all that together in a book-length treatment, which will have a larger audience than is possible with individual articles.
Robert Waxler's and Maureen Hall's book, Transforming Literacy: Changing Lives through Reading and Writing, for example, is built on work they have been doing for several years. Similarly, Sheryl Taylor's and Donna Sobel's book Culturally Responsive Pedagogy: Teaching Like Our Students' Lives Matter builds on a 12-year collaboration.
Although there is much peer pressure (for promotion and so on) to publish journal articles, this is not always satisfactory. In some fields, such as psychology, it's standard to publish one version of a piece of work in an edited collection and then another version of the same research in a journal article. But in other fields, such as English literature for example, every article you publish has to be unique.
So there are different standards in different fields. And then in science, the quantity of publications has become almost as important as the quality and the articles can sometimes be very short, which limits what you can say.
That's one of the reasons for edited collections: they enable you to write at greater length. And it's also a reason why single-authored or co-authored volumes are important, because you can develop over several chapters to some crescendo of a wonderful idea, which you could never do in a much shorter article.
In the first volume, you take a theoretical framework (ecology) and apply it to the area. Will other books take a similar approach?
Yes, for example John Walker's book uses service orientation to describe the field of English language teaching, drawing and synthesizing from his own research. As far as I know, he's one of the very few people, in fact practically the only one, to carry the notion of service and climate, using constructs from business, into our field.
My own book with Barbara Hoekje was also synthesized from my prior research on leadership as well as our long practical experience.
What sorts of research methods and frameworks do you expect people to use, and how will they balance conceptual and applied research?
I would want every book to have some practical basis in the classroom or management leadership. At the same time we would want to see some kind of primary research.
In our field, as in anything to do with teaching, a common research approach would be ethnographic. We also use surveys, focus groups and theoretical synthesis of sources.
What's very important for the series is to contribute something really novel, and not just report findings. In other words, I would want to see not just research, but application of the research to education, given the idealistic goal of trying to improve education and move it forward.
What sorts of qualities are you looking for in volume proposals, and new authors for that matter?
Originality and impact, or potential impact on English language teaching. I'm looking for great ideas, basically. They must be cutting edge: I don't want anything that's already been said, I don't want anything which is not really a little bit bold; I want bold ideas. I want titles that have the potential to really improve English language teaching and lead into the next decade and beyond. I'm trying to inspire the very best practice possible.
How will you ensure quality – do you plan to have any sort of editorial board or peer review system?
First and foremost, the quality is in the proposal and the idea and the writing. I'm especially looking for authors with a good track record of publication.
I'm also looking for authors who are very highly regarded, and who can write well. If you are publishing research-oriented articles the quality of the writing might not be that important, but I want books in this series to be well written.
We are reaching out to people who may not be researchers in the strict sense; they might be more involved with the practical aspects of education. The quality of the idea also has to be unusual, with broad impact in education.
Some proposals I've turned down because they are not innovative enough or not sufficiently to do with leadership. With other proposals, I just wasn't convinced that they could produce a very polished, well-written volume.
So author track record and potential is very important. And I am a very experienced editor, I edit a journal, I've been on the editorial boards of many other journals and have been giving editorial feedback for about 35 years. I'm very hands on, I work very closely with authors and have very high standards.
What are your plans for 2012 and beyond?
I'm hoping to get some more overseas authors; we have a core of American authors but we need to branch out. I have a few people in mind.
You also edit a journal, Writing & Pedagogy. How do you think a book or book series differs from a journal in disseminating research, and how can we overcome the academic ranking system which only privileges journal articles in a few A-listed journals?
The hard thing about starting a journal or book series is that you need to work on your reputation to become A-listed. The way to become A-listed is quality, quality, quality, and of course there's the catch-22 of attracting authors to a new journal.
If you have something to offer, like a new niche which has been under-served such as leadership in language programmes for example, you can trade on a pent-up demand. People have done work but there are very few places where they can publish, so if you create that place, you very quickly find very good material.
However, as we were discussing before when talking about the series format, that of the journal article has serious limitations. It is difficult to be innovative, especially if you are doing something that is unusual and cutting edge.
Then there is the issue of length (usually not more than 7,500 words). If you've done a number of studies which are cumulative, it's hard to contain all that in one research report. Outside the hard sciences, people often want to convey a large concept, then report a research study, then expand the concept based on the research. That can be hard to do within the prescribed length of a journal article.
So there really is a place for longer work, particularly in the humanities and applied fields, where just reporting research results is not enough; you need to build theory and also talk about practical applications.
And if the theory has the potential to change education, you need more than one piece of research, and a concept which develops over time.
So, do you think that the system for assessing research works against creativity and innovation?
Unfortunately it does, and it's really difficult for people who are doing something different which doesn't fit neatly into one department or discipline.
You obviously have a very successful writing partnership with Barbara Hoekje. How do you actually work together (I notice that you have co-authored most chapters) and what makes your partnership successful?
Barbara lives in Philadelphia so we rarely see each other more than twice a year. Most of our work is done at a distance, exchanging files over e-mail.
We have similar academic and professional backgrounds – PhDs in linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania – and we both work in English language teaching. So we have similar backgrounds, knowledge base, and interests.
But we are very different in the way we think – we are almost different psychological types – so there is a great complementarity. We also really like each others' ideas and feel stimulated by the difference.
Our main way of working is to generate our ideas independently on the same topic, then work to bridge them and to mesh them in a new construction, which is very challenging, but intellectually satisfying, and makes our work especially novel.
Our book on language programme leadership came about because I have done considerable research in the area, and I didn't just want to reproduce this in a book; I wanted to do something unique and new. So I brought in Barbara because she is the director of quite a large English language programme, as well as being a national officer of UCIEP (University and College Intensive English Language Programs), a consortium of university and college intensive English language programmes in the USA. She has also done relevant research.
So I asked for her thinking and this gradually led to quite a new take on my material. Trying to bridge her ideas and mine was very
time-consuming, but I think it makes for a more unique book.
How did you actually work together?
To some extent, we carved up the work between us. For example, I would write the first draft of chapter 2 and Barbara would interact with it. She would write the first draft of chapter 3 and I would do the same.
Some of the other chapters we worked on when we were physically together, talking them through and then writing sections, having intensive three-day weekends when we'd just work all the time on the book. We also met at conferences, and would spend at least a day of conference time working on our book.
We let the book evolve as our ideas did; one chapter was added and another (the curriculum) was broken in two. It's very much a process writing approach, and means you have to be very committed, because it always takes more time than you think. But our goal was to produce something wonderful rather than just stick to the original outline.
What do you think will be the main issues for ESL, EFL and English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) over the next decade?
To start with, there's the balance between privatization and financial viability on the one hand with academic quality on the other. We need to ensure that the push to profits and balanced budgets at every level of education doesn't happen by trimming academic standards.
We already see the impact of such trimming in various areas of English language teaching, including in my country the teaching of first year writing and English as a second language at university level.
The downside of privatization is the trimming of academic benefits and qualifications of the faculty, and the abandonment of fair practices in employment.
This leads naturally to my second issue, which is continued improvement of qualifications and standards: I'm a strong believer in teacher professionalism and qualifications. In EFL and ESL the master's degree is considered the minimum qualification and we also need plenty of PhDs and lots of research to support the profession.
This leads into a third important issue, which is the ongoing growth and strengthening of the field as an academic discipline. Until rather recently I don't think people would have seen EFL and ESL as a bona fide academic discipline, but I think they're starting to.
We are beginning to have departments of applied linguistics or teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) – the name varies.
Or you might have a PhD in applied linguistics or TESOL within a linguistics department or within an English or an education department. So I think it's a recognized sub-discipline at least.
There's the issue of teacher education in English speaking countries as well as abroad. Also the ongoing globalization of education, which is both cause and effect of ESL, EFL and ESOL. So there are quite a few important issues, mostly to do with the active development of the field.
Pennington, M. and Hoekje, B. (2010), Language Program Leadership in a Changing World: An Ecological Model, Innovation and Leadership in English Language Teaching (book series), Emerald Group Publishing, Bradford, UK.
Margaret Adolphus interviewed Dr Pennington in September 2010.Visit the information page for: Innovation and Leadership in English Language Teaching.