When we write for language learning journals, we benefit ourselves and others. Our students benefit in several ways. Firstly, if we are writing for journals, when we ask our students to write in class, it is not a case of "Do as I say, but not as I do", because we can show with them that we are "doing" too, by sharing with them about our own writing. In this way, we serve as a model and show that writing is not just something people do as a course assignment. Also, as we are writers too - facing the difficulties that all writers face, such as developing ideas, finding the right words to express our ideas, and facing sometimes unfavorable feedback - we may be slower to criticize our students, more accepting of their faults, and more insightful in the advice we offer
When we write for language learning journals, we benefit ourselves and others. Our students benefit in several ways. Firstly, if we are writing for journals, when we ask our students to write in class, it is not a case of "Do as I say, but not as I do", because we can show with them that we are "doing" too, by sharing with them about our own writing. In this way, we serve as a model and show that writing is not just something people do as a course assignment. Also, as we are writers too - facing the difficulties that all writers face, such as developing ideas, finding the right words to express our ideas, and facing sometimes unfavorable feedback - we may be slower to criticize our students, more accepting of their faults, and more insightful in the advice we offer.
Secondly, as noted in the introduction to this article, writing for publication benefits our field as we add our perspective on the problems language educators confront. Language teaching is not an easy task, especially in foreign language contexts. Thus, we need all the good ideas we can develop, and journals provide an excellent means of exchanging our good ideas with others in the profession. In the particular case of English teaching in Indonesia, most of the books and articles teachers read are – like the article you have kindly chosen to read now – written by those outside Indonesia and who are – like the author of the present article – native speakers. More Indonesian and more non-native speaker voices need to be heard.
Finally, we ourselves profit in many ways by writing for publication. One, we improve our writing ability. Two, we become better educators by thinking more about what we do and pressuring ourselves to practice what we preach. For instance, if I write an article about using groups in reading instruction, this pushes me to really use groups and to use them well when I teach reading. Three, when our article does get published, our professional self-esteem rises. Also, we can develop new contacts when we receive comments from those who read our article, although it is my unhappy experience that most articles do not result in mail from readers or much face-to-face feedback from colleagues at our own institutions.
Start with Good Ideas
Just as in the process approach to writing the first phase is to develop ideas for our topic (White & Arndt, 1991), when we write for publication, we need to begin with some good ideas to write about. When many people think about journal articles, they think the only path to take is to write an article that reports research finding. However, formal research is only one of many ways of getting ideas.
Other means of finding good ideas are:
To write an article, we do not need to start from scratch. Instead, we can take work we have already done and develop it into an article. For instance, every year the TEFLIN organization hosts a national conference, as well as regional conferences. Many papers and workshops are presented at these events. These presentations can serve as very good foundations for articles. Indeed, the article you are reading now began its life as workshop I was invited to present to faculty at Universiti Technologi Malaysia, in Johor Bahru, Malaysia.
Similarly, materials we prepare for courses can become the starting point for publications. Such articles are often of great interest, because we teachers enjoy looking into each others’ classrooms in search of good ideas. For example, my colleague Patrick Gallo developed some checklists to help his students provide peer and self feedback on the speeches they gave in a class he was teaching on presentation skills. We used these checklists as the foundation for a chapter in a book on assessment published by the TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) organization (Gallo & Jacobs, 1998).
Work done by students can also form the basis for publications. For instance, we may have asked our students to write about their views on language policy or about their learning strategies. Such writing topics are in line with moves in language education to give students a greater understanding of and role in the learning process (Pemberton, 1996). Or, perhaps our students (especially if we teach pre-service or in-service teachers) have done some original research of their own into issues of interest to language teachers, e.g., what kind of reading they or their students do outside of class. This research can be the basis for an article, but we have to be careful to give the students credit for their work, perhaps having them be co-author or even first author, depending on their contribution to the final article.
Consider Options Besides the Typical Article
Journals differ from one another, and within each journal we find different types of pieces besides the standard article. Some of these other types of pieces found in journals include:
Choose a Good Topic
Writing an article or other piece for a journal often requires a good deal of effort. To make this effort worthwhile, we need to spend some time choosing a good topic. Firstly, the topic should be meaningful to us, i.e., something that we feel is important. Second, it should be a topic of interest to others. We can get an idea of what the "hot" topics are by looking at recent issues of journals. At the same time, our ideas do not have to be so very new, because there are scores of journals, and nobody reads them all; besides, good ideas are worth repeating in new contexts and with new twists.
When I’m going to do research as the basis for an article, I look around for other research similar to the study that I envision. Research can loosely or closely follow the design used by others, even if the topic is different. Replication seems like the lazy way to do research, but master’s degree students here at RELC and I have attempted to do replications, and I assure that it is not easy, because understanding and carefully repeating research in another context is a difficult task. Further, our field benefits from replication, because we need multiple studies of the same question done by different researchers in different context with different types of students in order to have much confidence in a particular finding. Also, replication can be a good way for less experienced researchers to learn how to plan and conduct good quality investigations.
Cooperate with Others
Writing is a hard job, but as the saying goes, "Many hands make light the work", and as another saying goes, "Two heads are better than one". Look at a recent issue of a leading journal and you will probably see that many of the articles have multiple authors, and even many of the single-authored articles list several people in the Acknowledgements section. Colleagues can provide feedback on first content and then form, and we can do the same for their writing - it's just like in the process approach to writing. Faculty in other departments can help too, e.g., lecturers in statistics can help with designing and analyzing the data from quantitative research, or those with a social sciences background can provide their perspective when it comes to qualitative research.
We can find collaborators from many other sources as well. Networks can be formed with people who:
We should reach out to others. Some may not respond, but now more than ever with the ease of email, worldwide cooperation happens, especially when we show we have helped ourselves before asking others for help. Further, with today's trends toward learner-centred teaching, metacognition, learner strategies, and qualitative research, students can also be our collaborators.
When others join us in working on the article, rather than just giving their advice, the question arises of who will be listed as authors of the publication and in what order the names will be listed. This matter should be discussed at the beginning of the collaboration. Only people who make a significant professional (rather than, e.g., clerical) contribution should be authors. Normally. the person who makes the most important contribution is first author. People who helped but are not authors should be included in a very brief acknowledgements section