Embarking on an MA when already well into my fifties was not an easy decision, especially as I hadn’t done any serious academic work since completing my Delta in the mid-80s. However, a thirst for learning and working at the institution where the MA is run finally tipped the scales and I took the plunge into the unknown.
As a result of having the Delta, I was exempt from the core module so I only had to do two modules and the dissertation. My first module was ‘Learner Autonomy’, which, at the time, was the only one that was delivered completely online. The work done for this module got me thinking about the role of autonomy on our pre-service courses (CELTA), which I manage and many of which I run, and how much we prepare our trainee teachers to be autonomous and to enable their future learners to grow in terms of autonomy.
I would get home from work full of new ideas and dying to sit down and develop materials based on the reading I had done
My second module was Materials Development and I had the privilege of being taught by two leading experts in the field, Dr Brian Tomlinson and Dr Hitomi Masuhara. This module surpassed all my expectations and I would get home from work full of new ideas and dying to sit down and develop materials based on the reading I had done. I particularly found the work of Sarah Benesch (2012: 24) whose ‘overarching concern is maximising learning by taking affect into account’, inspirational.
When I finished my two modules I was sure of one thing. I wanted Brian Tomlinson to supervise my dissertation even though at this stage I had little idea of what the topic would be. Further reading and valuable discussions with my colleagues at NILE helped to clarify my ideas, and my dissertation (‘To What Extent Can Using Affectively Engaging Texts Stimulate Motivation in the Learner-centred Classroom?’) began to take shape.
Since the age of ten, when I was thrust into a primary classroom in New York without a word of English or an iota of support, I have been aware of the power of emotion and affect when battling with a foreign language in the classroom. This experience in some ways shaped me into the person and teacher I have become and throughout my teaching career I have noticed how students’ emotions and affective responses to what we do in class seem to shape their learning. It is this interest that prompted the basis of the research.
At first, writing a 15,000 word dissertation seemed an unachievable aim. I remember walking home down Unthank Road in Norwich and passing the small establishment that binds dissertations and wondering if I would ever get to that point. However, things moved on rather fast once I did all the background reading and ideas kept flowing. I found engaging and challenging authentic materials and built lessons round them, which some of my NILE colleagues and I trialled during our busy summer months. Then came the long task of collecting and interpreting the data and reaching conclusions.
So one day in early October 2013 I walked into that small place on Unthank Road and proudly collected the two black and gold bound copies of my dissertation.
The whole process only took about 6 months, as once I started I really got into it and wanted to see the finished product.
So one day in early October 2013 I walked into that small place on Unthank Road and proudly collected the two black and gold bound copies of my dissertation. Then I tried to forget about it while I waited for the board to meet and my marks to be decided.
I was at NILE when the board met and Rod Bolitho took me to one side to tell me I had achieved my MA with distinction. I was delighted that all the self-discipline and hard work had paid off. While I wait for the award ceremony in Chichester in October, I am trying to fill the void left by the MA and hope that this achievement will lead to some interesting work at NILE in the near future.
Benesch, S. (2012). Considering Emotions in Critical English Language Teaching Theories and Praxis. New York & London: Routledge