Introduction

Bethan Kushida

Kanda University of International Studies

kushida-b@kanda.kuis.ac.jp

Umida Ashurova

Kinjo Gakuin University

umidahon@kinjo-u.ac.jp

Welcome to the third issue of the JASAL Journal. In this issue, we bring you three research papers, three discussions of practice, and three conference reports. This collection of papers in many ways provides a snapshot of what is happening at this point in time in the self-access learning community, both in Japan and overseas. Over the last year and a half, adapting to the changing situation brought on by the global pandemic has required tremendous amounts of time and effort from those involved in self-access learning. Through waves of closures and reopenings, we have focused our energies on supporting our learners in these rather stressful times. Nevertheless, scholarship and research in the field has continued, and the three research papers included in this issue address some core themes that remain at the heart of self-access learning, whether online or face-to-face, including autonomy, community, student leadership, student identity, and the creation of learning environments that feel safe and comfortable. 

Given how much of our attention the pandemic has demanded, it is perhaps not surprising that all three discussions of practice in this issue are concerned with responses to the coronavirus. The pandemic has presented challenges, but it has also encouraged innovation and the learning of new skills. One year on from the start of the pandemic, the authors, like other self-access learning practitioners around the world, have now had a chance to take stock, evaluate the successes of their online initiatives, and consider which aspects of online services to retain as and when face-to-face services open up again. The three papers detail periods of trial and adjustment, but they are ultimately optimistic that the skills and knowledge gained during this time will be of great benefit in the future.

Throughout the pandemic, JASAL has performed a role as a facilitator of conversations, enabling members to share best practices and give each other support. This issue includes reports on the JASAL2020 National Conference and the 2nd JASAL Student Online Forum. These accounts serve to remind us of JASAL’s own efforts in the past year and a half to continue to provide opportunities for learning and connectedness even when we are unable to meet in person. Finally, this issue features a variety of voices: students, advisors, facilitators, administrators, lecturers, and researchers; from within Japan and from overseas; in English and in Japanese. This variety reflects the rich diversity and inclusivity of the JASAL community, and we are proud to offer the JASAL Journal as a platform for members’ voices to be heard. We hope you enjoy reading this issue, we and encourage all members to consider submitting a contribution to future issues.

In This Issue

Research Papers

In the first study, Satoko Watkins of Kanda University of International Studies explores the experiences of student community leaders who participated in an autonomy-supportive leadership training course. She outlines the transformation of the student leaders’ beliefs through an experiential learning cycle and illustrates how their resulting needs-supportive approach to leadership contributed to the process of their learning communities becoming Communities of Practice (Wenger et al., 2002).

Hilda FreimuthJoe Dobson, and Ishka Rodriques of Language Learning Centre at Thompson Rivers University in Canada write about the perspectives of student volunteers involved in a self-access language center. Their research reveals that the physical space of the center, the social connections among users, and the emotional well-being of student volunteers play an important role in the creation of a learning environment in which student volunteers feel safe and comfortable. 

Our next author, Haruka Mukae of Waseda University, aims at clarifying how the plurilingual and pluricultural identities of participants emerge in tandem language learning. Using conversation analysis data and language portraits drawn by the participants, Mukae suggests that tandem language learning can lead to the creation of collaborative autoethnographies, through which the learners can negotiate their identities and reflect on themselves. 

Discussions of Self-Access Practice

In their paper, colleagues from Konan Women’s University—Shari YamamotoThomas MachCraig MertensGreg Sholdt, and Thomas Stringer—share with us their experience of quick planning and transitioning their SALC activities to an online format. They describe this process from initial implementation to subsequent improvements and highlight that opportunities for English language learning and meaningful social interactions need to be sustained.

Hiro Mitsuo Hayashi and Bartosz Wolanski’s paper details the process of increasing the social media presence of the SALC at Kyushu University in order to connect with students and staff online and promote the SALC’s services. When it comes to deciding which social media platforms to adopt, they emphasize the importance of considering trends in students’ preferences as well as comparing the functionality and privacy policies of each platform.

In the third discussion of practices, Prabath B. Kanduboda and Soraya Liu of Ritsumeikan University outline the system which was put in place to support student SAC staff in the planning and implementation of online events. They summarize the skills and practical knowledge that have been gained from the experience, and they propose that there are benefits to be had from using this know-how to continue offering a mixture of online and on-campus activities in the future.

Conference Reports

In her conference report, Dominique Vola Ambinintsoa of Kanda University of International Studies gives us detailed information on four presentations, chosen to represent a variety of situations, settings, and voices. Ambinintsoa observes that all four of the presentations offered practical ways to support students that can be used both during times of COVID-19 and post-pandemic. 

To finish, two students reflect on their experiences at the 2nd JASAL Student Online Forum. Natsuho Mizoguchi of Gifu University, writing from the point of view of a participant, describes how the forum underlined again for her the importance of learning with friends. Chika Yamane of Kanda University of International Studies provides the perspective of a student facilitator. She highlights the students’ passion for growing their language learning communities and suggests that time management is key for successful event facilitation.

Acknowledgements

The editors would like to extend heartfelt thanks to the JASAL Journal editorial board for their support and to the reviewers and copyeditors for their generous donation of their time and expertise. The insightful, constructive, and encouraging feedback was most appreciated by the editors and the authors. Finally, congratulations and thanks to all the authors for their contributions to this issue.

Editor Biographies

Bethan Kushida is a principal lecturer in the English Language Institute at Kanda University of International Studies in Chiba, Japan. Her areas of interest include learner autonomy, learner identity, and learning beyond the classroom.

Umida Ashurova is an associate professor at the Department of English of Kinjo Gakuin University. Her research interests include learner identity and global issues in language education. She currently serves as membership chair of JASAL.

Reference

Wenger, E., McDermott, R., & Snyder, W. M. (2002). Cultivating communities of practice: A guide to managing knowledge. Harvard Business School Press.

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