This summer, three of the graduate program of English’s students attended the Symposium on Second Language Writing, a major conference in the field of second language writing. Paige Walker, Joseph Wilson, and Hannah Soblo traveled to Bangkok, Thailand for this year’s conference, giving presentations on identity, placement, and teaching materials for multilingual students. The theme of this year’s conference was assessment in second language writing, and major figures in the field presented on new methods of writing program and classroom assessment. These talks focused on the role of feedback in active learning and incorporating feedback and assessment into classroom practices in ways that allow students to both meet curriculum goals and maintain a sense of identity in writing.
Part of the conference this year focused on new directions for the field of second language writing, including the symposium’s primary journal, The Journal of Second Language Writing. All three of UTK’s graduate participants contributed to these conversations in a variety of ways. Along with his advisor, Dr. Tanita Saenkhum, Joseph presented the results of an empirical study on assessing placement procedures for multilingual students in first year undergraduate and graduate composition programs. Hannah’s presentation proposed new directions for research on identity in second language writing, and she was also able to discuss these issues with other young members of the field whose presentations focused on voice and identity. Paige also led a roundtable conversation on English textbooks for multilingual students and presented her findings from an empirical study on teacher perceptions of textbooks conducted during the Fall 2016 semester.
As members of a young but rapidly expanding field, L2 writing scholars are not only committed to their research but also to forming strong friendships with other members of the field. Testifying to this sense of community, The Symposium on Second Language Writing offered a variety of events for scholars from all levels to interact with one another, engage in scholarly and friendly dialogue, and experience Thailand. Before the conference, Paige, Joseph, and Hannah were able to visit ancient Ayutthaya, Thailand, with scholars from both North America and the host country. The conference itself provided multiple opportunities to socialize with other scholars with extended breaks and socials built into the schedule. Post-conference, the students were invited to explore Bangkok with some of the scholars from the conference. They attended the final evening’s reception on the Baiyoke Hotel’s 83rd floor restaurant (pictured) with many of the major authors in the field and toured the Jim Thompson house. They also got a chance to explore Chulalongkorn University, the host university for the conference, and learn more about the history of writing education in Thailand. The head of the conference, Dr. Paul Kei Matsuda, also invited all of the conference presenters to join him in snorkeling / scuba diving on the Southern Thai island of Koh Tao, and Joseph and Hannah were able to join their advisor, Dr. Tanita Saenkhum, in traveling to other beautiful islands in the South of Thailand as well.