Postgraduate (DL) researcher Cynthia Caswellhas taught in diverse contexts which include general literacy, ESOL, and individual education programming for special needs and diversity, and has been a teacher educator with the MA TESOL programme at Trinity Western University (TWU) since 2004.
1. Where did you grow up and go to school?
I was born in the city of Saskatoon and grew up southern Saskatchewan, Canada. We moved to the potash mining town of Esterhazy when I was in grade 3, and I graduated from high school there.
2. How did you become interested in language education?
The first seeds of interest in language and culture were sown when, as a five-year old, I visited Mexico for a month with my parents. In high school, I became aware of my preferences for languages, humanities and the fine arts, and an occupational suitability for teaching or clergy. As a young adult, I became interested in translation work, linguistics, mother-tongue literacy and second language education in relationship to Bible translation. In my early to mid-twenties, I travelled in western and eastern Europe and studied German. I took a Linguistics BA with a minor in German language, and course work in a Linguistics MA. In the mid-1990s I team-taught introductory phonology courses for the Canada Institute of Linguistics on the Trinity Western University (TWU) campus in British Columbia, Canada. For a variety of reasons, among them health issues, I switched to a M.Ed. in Adult Education, where my thesis work focused on developing and field testing writing resources for TESOL teachers and students in intensive EAP programmes.
3. In which countries have you taught languages?
Although I learned German in Europe, I have only taught ESOL in Canada. I have worked with adult immigrants in community context, secondary international students (mostly Korean and Chinese) in content-based immersion context, and also elementary and middle school students in private afterschool programmes. I have also taught literacy and content-based learning to special needs students in the K- 9 context. A door opened at TWU to teach in language teacher education with the MA TESOL programme, and continue to interact with language learning issues at the advanced EAP level.
4. What fascinates you most about your research?
My current research is about evaluation of TESOL teacher education programmes, using the TWU MA TESOL (where I am employed) as a case study. We offer a cohort-based programme in both online and resident formats, with a collaborative, problem-based learning curriculum. One of the key issues for our instructors is working successfully with small group dynamics. We have been archiving data from the online small group work for 10 years now, so I have the pleasure of analyzing the “cognitive presence” (Garrison, 2011) of the cohorts in this extensive teacher learning corpus. I am pleased that my research has practical impact for our department.
5. What aspect of your work are you most proud of?
As a language teacher educator, I am most proud how our students develop, in terms of their knowledge, practitioner skills, and sense of membership in the TESOL profession in Canada and world-wide.
6. What is your favorite book, music or film?
Two of my favorite books are Bruchko (by Bruce Olson) and Peace Child (by Don Richardson) because they share fantastic examples of problem-solving for cross-cultural communication issues in translation. I love books and movies that have a biographical or historical element, such as the film, The Pianist. I come from a very musical family and love many genres of music, but my favorite is jazz instrumental, for example, The Canadian Brass.
7. What do you like to do most in your leisure time?
Since I am working full time, a fair chunk of my leisure time is devoted to completing this Ph.D. programme. I try to get out to my gym regularly for exercise, or to watch a movie, share a meal or just visit with friends or family.
8. What is the thing you would most like to achieve in the next year?
In the context of my Ph.D. programme, I have only recently completed the Qualifying Report, so the next major goal is to transcribe and analyze some of my data, and produce an article for publication in my research area.