Katherine Thornton, Otemon Gakuin University, Japan
Garold Murray, formerly of Okayama University, Japan
JASAL Journal: The Inaugural Issue
The publication of the inaugural issue of the Japan Association of Self-Access Learning (JASAL) Journal signals the coming-of-age of a once fledging organization. In June of 2005, Lucy Cooker, a pioneer of self-access language learning in Japan, invited colleagues from around the country to a meeting at Kanda University of International Studies in Chiba to discuss the possibility of forming an academic association. Although self-access learning was relatively new to Japan at that time, teachers at universities scattered the length of the country were starting up modest centres. There was a need for professional collaboration and support. Out of that meeting, the Japan Association of Self-Access Language Learning emerged.
Over the past fifteen years, self-access language learning has expanded exponentially across the country. Today, approximately 50 universities have registered their centres on the JASAL website. In these facilities, educators are not only fostering out-of-class learning opportunities and providing language advising services, but they are engaging in experimentation aimed at improving practice and initiating research projects focusing on broadening our understanding of the potential of self-access learning to meet learners’ needs. Keeping pace with these developments, JASAL itself has also grown, and since 2015 has held its own national conference each year.
While the association has been active in providing venues for educators to report on their projects locally, there is a need for these reports to be preserved and made available to a wider, even global, audience. As a repository of knowledge and experience, and by publishing Japanese papers as well as ones written in English, the JASAL Journal has the potential to support and encourage self-access educators and administrators as they carry out research, experiment to improve practice and work daily to better meet learners’ needs.
The papers in this issue illustrate the scope of the work being carried out in self-access centres around Japan. They also highlight the concerns and priorities of practitioners as evidenced by their choice of research topics and focus on specific issues of practice. The papers collected here explore the following themes:
- Adapting to the demands of government and university policies. Ohara and Mizukura examine how the Japanese ministry of education’s policies in response to globalization and their implementation at the university level has impacted learners and their participation in self-access activities, focusing particularly on the pressure it exerts on their emerging translingual identities.
- Integrating self-access and classroom learning. In their paper Eto, Saunders and Itoi explore how language learning strategy training might be incorporated into the curriculum at their institution. On a similar theme, Hutchinson compares two classroom interventions designed to support the development of learner autonomy, one focused on goal-setting and out-of-class activities, the other on in-class experimentation with learning activities.
- Providing advising services. One of the key programmes offered by centres is language advising. Warrington and Parsons present a model for learning advisor autonomy and report on how they applied it in their own work.
- Fostering language learning through social interaction. In their Japanese paper, Wakisaka, Hayashi, Kitagawa, Wolanski, Harada and Cai compare experiences of a teletandem programme at two different institutions, in which students learning several languages participated in online extracurricular language exchanges. In their discussion of practices paper, Cladis, Eades, Tachibana and Worth look at how students might be encouraged to take advantage of a “free conversation” programme and, by so doing, become engaged in possible emergent communities. Wongsarnpigoon and Imamura report on the establishment of a new area within their multilingual self-access space, where students can engage in translanguaging and are supported to use English without the pressure of an English-only environment.
- Attracting newcomers to the centre. For social programmes to be effective, they need people. In their paper, Von Joo, Werner and Suga describe their outreach programme and its success in drawing in learners and meeting their specific needs.
In addition to these research papers and discussions of practice, Suga gives her reflections on attending the JASAL2019 National Conference as a recipient of a JASAL Newcomer Grant.
As the variety of topics addressed in this inaugural issue of the journal suggest, self-access learning faces any number of challenges. However, this collection of papers also suggests that educators are meeting these challenges head on. Moving forward, the JASAL Journal has a key role to play in supporting this important work.
The editors would like to thank the JASAL Journal editorial board and wider team for all their support in producing this inaugural issue, and all the reviewers and copyeditors whose feedback was invaluable. Finally, congratulations to all the authors – we hope you all enjoy reading their work.