The Curves of Acculturation: Implications for the TESOL Classroom

Gergana Coyne

Georgia State University

GA TESOL Conference, Friday October 14, 2016, 1:30-2:15 PM

                I was excited to see this in the program because Gergana is a classmate of mine and it’s always exciting to see current MA students present their research. Gergana’s presentation made me aware for the first time of Gullahorn and Gullahorn W-curve (1963) in relation to stages individuals go through when experiencing a new culture for the first time. The W in the curve refers to the peaks and valleys of the stages of culture shock: honeymoon, culture shock, initial adjustment, mental isolation, and acceptance and integration (1963). Gergana’s study refutes the W curve and proposes other kinds of curves present in her participants. Her sample was one of convenience and she sites her small sample size as a weakness but states that this is a pilot, exploratory study that “examines the applicability of the W-curve model to international students during their first year in the U.S.” (GA TESOL, 2016).

Gergana claims that the following dimensions appear to affect the curves of acculturation: “age, degree, lifestyle, prior U.S. experiences, presence of a relationship, and English proficiency” (Coyne, 2016). She opened the floor up for discussion following her presentation and someone in the audience asked what her own curve looked like, and she said she wasn’t sure but she remembers going through a U-curve of initial excitement, followed by culture shock and depression, and then adjustment. Her methods for this study were strictly quantitative, and that was discussed in the discussion as well. I would have liked to see more interviews and descriptions of her participants’ experiences in addition to the numbers to get a bigger, more expansive picture of the acculturation process. I thought about the implication for students, and if I could share this with my IEP students currently and continue her research to make students aware of their own acculturation process and how it correlates with their experience and success at school and in life. Finally, I often use these presentation as meta-analyses of teaching styles, and Gergana’s presentation style is one of professionalism that I would like to model myself in the classroom.

Culture Shock: College Transitions for ELLs with Learning Differences

Valerie Pflug and Kelly Dahlin

University of North Georgia at Gainesville

GA TESOL Conference, Friday, October 14, 2016, 2:30-3:15 PM

                Walking back from lunch at the conference I hear my name and look up to see a friend I haven’t seen in years and I didn’t know was in the TESOL field in GA, Valerie Pflug, and she introduced me to her colleague, Kelly Dahlin, who I then learned was an alum of our MA program and graduated with Louise Gobron. I am always amazed at what a small world TESOL in Georgia is. They invited me to their talk and I learned much about the intake process at their institution and the pilot study that resulted from their work experience there. The presenters discussed “the case of ELLs with documented or undocumented learning disabilities entering the university without receiving disability services” (Dahlin and Pflug, 2016).               

After a brief literature review (because there isn’t much that has been studied about ELL students with learning disabilities), the presenters shared the process they went through at their institution to help ELL students obtain services at the university level and the accommodations they receive. Their research was the result of qualitative interviews with students, disability services employees, and counseling and testing center employees. The process sounded like it mirrored that of the needs analysis I was working on for my English for Specific Purposes class. I learned that is a difficult, time consuming process and wondered why it had to be this way. The presenters shared their frustrations in trying to help their students with this process and having them quit halfway through. I learned that as an instructor of ELL students at a university, I can’t identify them as having a learning disability, they must self-identify before they can begin the process, and this was the most difficult part for the presenters. After the student identifies him or herself and the presenters (both teachers themselves) walk the students down the disability services office, the case is out of their hands entirely. A lot of the process would be made easier if they were diagnosed with their learning disability in high school, and had their individual education plan to follow them through university, but many students don’t do that for a variety of reasons.

The session concluded with audience questions and discussion – and that was just as interesting – as two members of the audience were high school special education teachers having problems at transition meetings with their ELL students not wanting to keep their paperwork in place, wanting a fresh start in college, etc. I left feeling that this would be easier if people just talked to each other more, and I suppose that’s what forums such as this conference were designed for, and it’s not always that simple. The presenters concluded with the idea that this was merely a pilot, introductory study and they still had much more research to complete. I left with the information in my back pocket for future use – and maybe the idea that I could continue this line of research with future classes and students, wherever I end up after graduation.

Acculturation of International Students’ Spouses: Implications for TESOL Professionals

Seyoung Park

Georgia State University

GA TESOL Conference, Friday, October 14, 2016, 3:30 – 4:15 PM

Again, I was excited to see a fellow MA student present her research – and this presentation did not disappoint. Seyoung wanted to explore the phenomenon of International students’ spouses and admitted the reason was personal; it wasn’t long ago that she, herself, was an international student spouse that came over to the United States on a student visa with her husband from Korea. She states that, “during the acculturation process, female spouses of international students in the U.S> face multiple challenges. Since these spouses have limited English proficiency, social network, and resources, there is a growing need to help address their adjustment to life in this country” (Park, 2016). Park’s methods were qualitative in nature – she gathered a convenience sample of wives of her husband's colleagues and invited them over for coffee to interview them, record the interviews, and transcribe the data.

Major trends she found included a fear of community involvement, lack of English proficiency (or individual’s perception of a lack of proficiency), and social isolation. She talked about how her participants felt like they lost their identity because while their husbands were at school doing the work they loved, many of their wives left jobs in their home country and with that came a loss of identity. She made a joke about how one of her participants said “sitting at home waiting and cooking for our husbands is not making us very happy” (Park, 2016). When it reality, it’s not a very funny statement. She went on to cite how the university was helping these spouses (men and women) become more involved with the community while becoming more confident in their language ability. She concludes the presentation by stating that this program can be used as a model for other universities and programs with a similar community and opened the room for questions and comments. One of the audience members was a teacher in a public K-5 school who received grant money and was implementing a class for the parents after school. She acknowledged that she was glad research like Park’s was being done and wanted to start something like this of her own. The session turned into kind of a networking session with the two women exchanging contact information so that they could better help her students. I left with the feeling that yes, this is a hard field to work in but there is good work being done, and that I could maybe continue studies like this with students of my own. I remember leaving the SLERF conference with a feeling of confusion and wondering if I had chosen the right field a year ago, but I left this conference with a feeling of “I think I’m in my happy place” after this presentation.