Speaker Spotlight: with Dr. Danks on Humans in Cyber Operations, Espionage, and Conflict.

Interviewed by Victoria Fedorets on February 21, 2018

Listen to our interview here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/sedatviu/2018/02/21/march-1st-voices-from-the-field-speaker-spotlight-interview-dr-danks


A transcript of the talk is below.

VF ( Victoria Fedorets): Hello Dr. Danks. Thank you for joining us today. We are very excited to welcome you at VIU for your talk on March 1st and we appreciate you spending some of your time away from your busy schedule.

I am going to introduce you quickly and then we can go into the discussion.

JD (Joseph Danks): OK.

VF: Thank you. Joseph Danks is Research Professor Emeritus and formerly Technical Director for Strategic Intelligence Analysis at the University of Maryland Center for Advanced Study of Language (CASL). His research has focused on how people comprehend sentences and text, especially across languages, the cognitive processes involved in translation, and how elderly patients communicate their life-sustaining treatment preferences.  At CASL, he has investigated using a cultural lens and social media to forecast the plans and intentions of a country’s leadership and populace, and also how to conduct remote psychological assessment of cyber adversaries.  Dr. Danks received his Ph.D. from Princeton University and taught for many years at Kent State University, serving as Chair of Psychology and as Dean of Arts and Sciences.  He also has taught at Princeton, Stanford, the University of Warsaw, and Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.  Dr. Danks has authored and edited several books, and published extensively in psycholinguistics and cognitive psychology.

So, tell us a little more about your current work and why the topic of your talk is important to you.

JD: CASL is a research center sponsored by the US Department of Defense and it focuses on language, culture, and cognition having to do with issues of national security. It covers a wide variety of topics; we have linguists, psycholinguistics, sociologists, anthropologists, and computer scientists at CASL, so it is multidisciplinary center. I became involved in this particular topic, in cyber adversaries and operations in the community. What struck me in cyber security is that it tended to focus on technical issues, i.e. how to create better firewalls, how to better detect intrusions automatically. There seems to be relatively little attention being paid to the humans in the loop, the humans on both ends of the network and other humans being affected as well. So, I decided to try to do some psychological analysis of the humans involved, particularly looking at human adversaries, to try to develop better means of cyber security defense.

VF: Thank you so much. It’s really intriguing and we are definitely looking forward to your talk, Dr. Danks, not only our students, but also our members of educational communities, agents, partners, and friends. What do you hope that attendees will get out of the talk?

JD: The main bottom line that they should get out of it is that, if we are going to have truly effective cyber security, cyber defense, we have to pay attention to humans in the loop. Otherwise, the humans are going to find ways around the technology and misuse it on their adversaries, or we’re going to use it to improve the security in the United States.

VF: How would you define cyber, for those who might be new to the terminology? What are the defining features of the psychological assessment of cyber opponents?

JD: Cyber is almost everything involving a computer. Unfortunately, the definition is getting larger and larger by the day as we see all the discussion about social media and so on. What I looked at in particular, to be a little more concrete, was to look at trying to do personality, social, and cognitive assessment of cyber adversaries, to see for example, what is motivating them, if they are motivated by power, by ideology, or by money; also, some characteristics such as, are they risk takers, how big of a risk are they going to take in terms of trying to gain an intrusion into another system. So, the variety of psychological characteristics that you could look for might be useful to design cyber defense.

VF: Are there any tangible, palpable misconceptions out there about the topic of your talk?

JD: I think, that a big misconception is, what I mentioned earlier, namely that in terms of cyber security, it is solely a technological issue, building automatic detection, building firewalls, etc. While technology is important, I think it’s important to look at the humans who are in the loop on this. One of the biggest risks for our own computer systems are human foibles, that is when you are getting phishing e-mails from many people, who will click on the link which can insert malware, give out their easily defined passwords, and so on.

VF: What resources might you suggest for someone who wants to know more about your topic? Or, how do you stay informed on the topic of your talk? What would you recommend?

JD: There are quite a few resources available. Actually, in the last spring semester, Spring 2017, I offered an undergraduate course on cyber psychology at the University of Maryland and I didn’t have any trouble finding materials for students. To be specific, this topic is based on the chapter that I published with my co-author in a book published by Oxford University Press. The title of my talk is the same as the chapter. The book is entitled “Binary Bullets: the Ethics of Cyberwarfare.” by Fritz Allhoff and Adam Henschke.

I would like to mention another article, that I came across recently, that was published [in January 2018] in Strategic Studies Quarterly, published by the US Air Force. The article is by Jerrard Prier called “Commanding the Trend: Social Media as Information Warfare.” He does a very good job summarizing the very current use of social media by the Islamic State and by Russia. This is quite an interesting article that should be accessible for everyone. It is available online. If you just search in your browser for “strategic studies quarterly”, it pops right up. You can download and there is an article of no charge.

VF: In general, are there any predominant principles that guide your own research or work philosophy? If so, what are they?

JD: Most of my research has very much involved multidisciplinary approaches. I rarely start with psychological theory and then try to test hypothesis. Rather, I look for a real world problem, something that needs to be solved, to help people live their lives better, and then I try to figure out how basic research in psychology can shine some light on possible solutions. Cyber operations are very critical both for the US Department of Defense but also in a public sphere as part of social media.

VF: What role might language and linguistics play in cyber security?

JD: It plays a very critical role when looking at foreign social media. For example, I have worked with social media in Arabic. I don’t know Arabic, but I had Arabic speakers on my team, and by looking at social media in the Middle East, we thought it was essential to look at it in the speakers’ native language. Otherwise, many nuances are missed. Just recently the disclosure of Mueller’s indictments involving social media, that the Russians were engaged in social media in the United States and much of their English was excellent and got to the nuances of American English. So, obviously they are paying attention to language. If we are going examine social media around the world, such as ISIS’ social media, we have to know the local language.

VF: What is your source of motivation?

JD: I read the newspaper. By reading what’s going on in the world, I feel like I can contribute to the solutions, how can I not be involved, be motivated, and stay interested these problems. Plus the fact, over the years the problems that I am curious to solve are just downright intriguing. I’m very much a problem solver. I’m not a theoretician, and so trying to solve this problems that have intrigued me over years.

VF: What are some current projects you are working on?

JD: The project that I’m working on currently involves counter-proliferation of nuclear weapons. A number of countries around the world that have a motivation perhaps, if you’re reading the newspaper, if you see what’s in the news, they have some motivation to develop nuclear weapons. For example, Saudi Arabia may develop a nuclear weapon in response to Iran; South Korea and Japan in response what is happening in the North Korea, etc. These are called “over the horizon” countries, because we don’t know whether they are going to start developing a nuclear weapon or not. So we have been doing some cultural analysis, not so much political, economic, or military analysis; we have been doing some cultural analysis involving, looking at motivations of the horizon countries, to see whether they might have tendencies to move in that particular direction.

VF: Is your research available online?

JD: Yes, it’s under the College Park, University of Maryland, CASL website.

VF: Thank you for your time again, Dr. Danks and we are looking forward to your talk here, March 1st. For more information on our upcoming Voices from the Field series, please visit the School of Education’s website at https://www.viu.edu/sed/. There, you can click on “community connections”, where you will find information about previous and upcoming speakers in our series.



Speaker Spotlight: Heather Weger on “The Good, the Bad, and the Rubric”

Interviewed by Victoria Fedorets on January 8th, 2018

Listen to our interview here: https://soundcloud.com/victoria-fedorets/dr-heather-edited-021092018

Join us for our Voices from the Field speaker series on February 1, 2018 from 3:30-4:30. This will be a virtual presentation. To register, visit our webpage here: FEBRUARY 2018: The Good, the Bad, and the Rubric: Designing and Using Rubrics Effectively. 

A transcript of the talk is below:


Victoria Fedorets (VF): We would like to welcome our guest speaker, Dr. Heather Weger for our Spotlight interview prior to her talk on February 1st , 3:30 pm to 4:30 pm. If you do not mind, I would like to introduce you briefly and then you can tell us more about yourself, including how the topic of your talk is important to you.

Dr. Heather Weger (HW): OK. Great.

VF: Dr. Heather Weger has been in the English language field since 1999 when she began her English teaching career in Germany. She holds a Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics from Georgetown University, as well as two Master of Arts degrees (one in Teaching in TESOL & Bilingual Education from Georgetown University; one in Adult and Higher Education from University of Oklahoma). She has been teaching full-time at Georgetown since 2007, and is currently an Associate Teaching Professor in their English Language Program housed in the English Language Center. She has presented on numerous topics in invited workshops and lectures, as well as at international, national, and regional TESOL and linguistics conferences. The author of multiple articles, Dr. Weger’s research focuses on effective teaching strategies as well as the social and co-constructed nature of language learning and language teaching. Thank you very much for being here with us today and thank you for your time today.

VF: Please tell us a little bit about yourself, including how the topic of your talk is important to you.

HW: Sure. As you just mentioned, I’ve been in the English language field for approximately 17 years. I did start out teaching English overseas in Germany, then moved to DC in order to complete my doctoral work in applied linguistics at Georgetown University. Though I’ve taught some courses elsewhere, I’ve predominately been an Associate Teaching Professor in the English Language Center at Georgetown where the majority of my students are international learners of English whose goals are to prepare themselves to enter US universities for undergraduate or graduate programs.


Now, the short explanation about the importance of this topic for me is that I have a love-hate relationship to the domain of assessment, and an interest in exploring the tension between its pros and cons. Assessment, depending on how it is defined, occurs continually when engaging with learners. For the sake of the time, this episode of Voices from the Field will limit its focus to discussing the grading mechanisms of formal assessment measures such as grading essays and presentations. And while I believe that well-planned assessment facilitates learning (hence, the reason I love it), creating and enacting that well-planned assessment is really often daunting and unpleasant for both students and teachers (hence, I hate it!).


So, more specifically for this particular talk, the inspiration was borne out of a tension I began to notice early on in my teaching career. Sometimes a student could talk fluently for 15 minutes, but say nothing worth listening to. Another student might have interesting insights to share, but poor delivery skills. So I found myself struggling to decide how could I codify these realities and honor the strengths that each student had while also drawing their attention to their areas for growth. A good grading tool will differentiate high and low performing students. I needed to find or develop such tools.


VF: What is a rubric? What are some of the defining features of this sort of assessment tool?


HW: A rubric is one type of tool for grading assignments. This means a rubric is not, in and of itself, “the” assessment instrument, but rather it is one part of a larger assessment cycle that includes not only the rubric (meaning the grading mechanism), but it also the assessment task or event (such as a student essay).


In our current national and international educational landscape, rubrics have become one mechanism for making explicit what was once a seemingly arbitrary connection between student performance and the student’s grade.


In my Voices from the Field talk, I’ll outline two defining features: the categories of the rubric and the descriptors for each category. In the talk we’ll examine several examples that illustrate these two features, the categories and the descriptors.


VF: Are there certain types of assignments that tend to be better suited to the use of rubrics than others, or can you create a rubric for just about anything?


HW: You actually can create a rubric for any activity that you have the ability to divide into parts. Having said that, it is likely more trouble than it’s worth for traditional assessment formats, like multiple-choice tests. So, it is mostly used for evaluating a range of written products (like essays or discussion board posts) or speaking events (like presentations or interactive conversations) or blended formats (like poster sessions) that have both speaking and written components.


VF: In regard to the students, in your experience, how do students tend to react to the use of rubrics? What do they value about them, and how much of a learning curve is involved in making effective use of the feedback they provide?


HW: It’s a really good question. Frankly, depending on the details contained in the rubric, the learning curve for students can be high. And, for some students, a rubric is “too detailed.” These students prefer a simple “holistic grade,” and aren’t as concerned with the finer-grained analysis that a rubric provides. For others, the rubric is a critical step in the ongoing learning process; the rubric becomes part of their internal dialogue and planning as they plan for a new assessment moment, like writing a new essay. Certainly, either way, students benefit from multiple exposures to the same (or similar) rubrics across a semester. This principle can even be extended to the use of similar rubrics across different classes if your teaching context allows for teacher collaboration or if your teaching context is a multi-level or multi-semester program. So, repetition and reuse of the same or similar rubrics definitely is one way to mitigate the challenges associated with students learning from a rubric.


VF: The title of your talk begins “The Good, the Bad, and the Rubric…” which seems to imply that rubrics have the potential to be either good or bad, neither, both, or something in between. So, how can rubrics be good, how can rubrics be bad?


HW: This is the fun question, I think. The “simple” answer is that rubrics have advantages and disadvantages, and it is the way in which they are designed and used that we find the balance between those “good” and “bad” sides.


From the student perspective, a rubric allows one to break down complex output, such as an essay or presentation, into its subcomponents and corresponding descriptions. This breakdown allows the student to more easily understand the grade and identify in which of the subcomponents there is the greatest need for improvement. This process enhances the transparency of grading and at the same time facilitates learner progress, and this is the biggest pro, or “good side,” of the rubric.


Now, the “bad,” or negative, side for students is that a fully fleshed out rubric can be difficult to parse, especially for lower-level students who receive a rubric in a language that is not their native language. For example, let’s say you divide a presentation into 3 subcomponents, or categories: (1) organization and content, (2) fluency and pronunciation, and (3) grammar/vocabulary. For each of these three categories, there are typically 5 descriptors. So, this results in a rubric that has 15 explanations, which can be overwhelming for learners to intake.


So, the corollary negative for the educator is that quality rubrics take time to develop and, while theoretically make a subjective process objective, they are still, to some degree, subjective. In the Voices from the Field Talk, I’ll share some ways of minimizing this (and other) challenges for using rubrics.



VF: What is your top takeaway for using or designing rubrics?


HW: My top takeaway is that designing rubrics is a reiterative process; so, do expect to revise your rubric. Also, don’t think of rubrics as being objective; the choice of the categories (subcomponents) of the rubric as well as the explanations that are contained in the descriptors are part of a subjective process. Precisely because of the inherent subjectivity, it’s important to think of rubric design as reiterative; so, we’re back to my number 1 point: do expect to revise your rubric.


VF: Last bonus question, what is your source of motivation? How do you keep yourself motivated?


HW: Lots of coffee (laughing). I think, quite seriously though, the responsibility to help students achieve progress in their language skills, and I thrive on seeing students become empowered. When the student unlocks some new insight into understanding and/or using English, it is very rewarding. Occasionally, those students recognize that I’ve played a part in facilitating that awareness, that new knowledge, and they say a simple “thank you.” That “thank you” is not necessary for my dedication to my field, but it is a refreshing reminder that what we do and how we do it matters in the lives of our students and that keeps me motivated; that…and coffee.


VF: That and coffee ( laughing). That’s wonderful. Thank you again, Dr. Weger, for your vigorous brief talk prior to you talk here on February 1st, when in this practice-oriented session, Dr. Weger will draw on principles developed in her use of rubrics with English language learners, providing examples from several rubrics for productive tasks, including rubrics for written essays, a traditional oral presentation, and a group-based discussion task. Based on an analysis of these samples, she will identify advantages of rubrics and provide tips on how to avoid potential pitfalls. All the attendees receive a handout with these examples.


Thank you so much again, Dr. Weger for finding the time out of your busy schedule to share your insights with us today and we are looking forward to your talk.


HW: Thank you also, Victoria, and thank you for having me on a program today. I look forward to discussing these issues more in February.


Join us for our Voices from the Field speaker series on February 1, 2018 from 3:30-4:30. This will be a virtual presentation. To register, visit our webpage here: FEBRUARY 2018: The Good, the Bad, and the Rubric: Designing and Using Rubrics Effectively. 

Spotlight Interview with Dr. Peyton on the Language of Peace

Listen to our interview here: https://goo.gl/hqYrFY

A transcript of the talk is below.

Victoria Fedorets (VF): Hello, Dr. Peyton, Thank you for joining us today. We are very excited to welcome you here at our school, and we appreciate your time and involvement in our Voices from the Field and for spending some time with us away from your busy schedule.

Joy Kreeft Peyton (JP): Thank you for having me. I am very excited to be with you.

VF: I am going to introduce you quickly, and then we can go into the discussion.

JP: OK. Sure.

VF: Joy Kreeft Peyton is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Applied Linguistics, in Washington, DC, where she served as Vice President for 16 years. She holds a Ph.D. in sociolinguistics from Georgetown University. She has over 35 years of experience working in the field of language, linguistics, and culture in education. Her work includes working with teachers and program leaders in K-12 and adult education settings in the United States and other countries (including Ethiopia, Nepal, and the Gambia) to improve their instructional practices and study the implementation and outcomes of research-based practices. Her work includes implementing and studying approaches to writing that facilitate engagement and learning and promote academic and professional success. She is a Senior Advisor for the EU-SPEAK project (Newcastle University), whose mission is to enhance the knowledge and skills of teachers of adult immigrants who have limited education and literacy in their native language. She is a member of the Advisory Board for SIL LEAD, an NGO that specializes in mother tongue literacy education for young children in many countries around the world.

Tell us a little about yourself, please, including how the topic of your talk is important to you.

JP: You have mentioned I have degree in linguistics from Georgetown University and dual degrees in Spanish and Linguistics. While I was studying Linguistics, particularly in the Sociolinguistics program at Georgetown with Roger Shuy, Deborah Tannen, Ralph Fasold, and Walt Wolfram — people whose names are probably familiar among this group — I became fascinated with and passionate about the use of language. All of these professors and colleagues focus their entire attention on the ways that language is used. In fact, the Georgetown Linguistics department has a t-shirt that they use to give out; and on the back it says, “Analyzing your every utterance since 1949.” Structures and uses of language are absolutely fascinating. Roger Shuy used to say, “Everywhere you go, you have data, data; language data is everywhere,” and that’s true. So, I have been completely interested in and engaged with noticing what people say, how they say it, why they say it, in what ways, to whom, at what times;  how what they say is received by the other person, how they are received by the other person based on what they have said and the way they have said it. That has been a passion of mine for very long time.

Over the years, this has included language use and development in educational settings (English; languages other than English learned as a “foreign,” “world,” or “heritage” language; “mother tongue” languages in schools in other countries; American Sign Language; and native American/indigenous languages) and uses of language in communities and the larger society.

Then, several years ago, a colleague of mine at the Center for Applied Linguistics said to me, “There is a group I think you would like to learn about,” who focus on nonviolent communication (NVC), and they give workshops. He told me about an upcoming workshop. I went to the workshop, and it was the one focused on Marshall Rosenberg’s work in nonviolent communication, speaking in ways that promote peace, connection, joy, and life, rather than ways that result in separation, running away, or conflict, saying, “I’m gonna win here.” I kept going to workshops, getting my husband and our daughters to go, and have been very engaged with this group since then.

VF: That’s amazing. Thank you so much for everything you do, for all your devotion to languages. Could you give us a brief preview of your talk please, which is going to be held on Thursday, November 2, 2017?

JP: The talk focuses on speaking the language of peace. We want peace in many areas of our lives – in our families, in our communities, in our education settings, and in our world. There are so many areas in which we can think about our language. Actually, we can start with ourselves: “How am I thinking? What language am I using to describe this particular event, this thing that I just heard, or this thing that I just said? What stories about myself, about life, about the world, have influenced the way I am living, the way I am speaking, the way I am interacting?” Then it moves outward to our families, to our communities, to our country, to our nation, and then to the way we think about and interact with those people and with people from other countries.

There are, as you know, many calls for peace, many publications about building peace, and many peacebuilding efforts across the globe, in many different ways: The Alliance for Peacebuilding does a lot of work in the United States and around the world. Rebecca Oxford wrote a book about peacemaking efforts in other countries (The Language of Peace: Communicating to Create Harmony); Mark Gopan at George Washington University has done a lot of work on peacemaking in many different countries and written the book, Healing the Heart of Conflict: 8 Crucial Steps to Making Peace With Yourself and Others.  These are just a few examples of a wide and far-reaching desire to build peace.  But as we can see in our own lives, wherever we are and particularly in all the news that we read and see these days, we very often find ourselves in conflict; and often, if we take a look at it, a lot of this conflict revolves around the language that’s being used, the names that we are calling people, the labels that we are placing on them. We see this every day. And while there are groups leading demonstrations and protests, sometimes the people who want to promote peace use terms like “Resist! Fight Back!” So we find ourselves, even though we are desiring peace, using language that isn’t really all that connecting, all that that peaceful. We find ourselves adding to the division and separation that we don’t like.

That’s what I am going to talk about.

Then I am going to describe the components of Marshall Rosenberg’s principles of non-violent communication. He wrote the book, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, and founded the Center of Nonviolent Communication. He has developed a set of four components of the language that we use and the ways that we think that can actually change our world, change our interactions, change our view of the world. It would take a while to describe all four components, so I’ll just say a few words about the first one, Observe. Much of our language involves using labels to describe others and even ourselves.  Let’s just say something simple, “She is so selfish.” I think, all of us have either said that or heard it. Instead, we can observe … think about, What actually just happened? Turn our labels, judgements, and blame into a consideration and a description of what actually happened, what she actually said or did that we are interpreting as selfish.How can I switch my labels and blames into an observation that is clear, simple, and factual? I can go from there to think or talk about, “How am I feeling about that? What am I needing that’s driving these feelings? And then, what kind of request would I like to make of myself or of the other person?” It sounds like an extremely simple process. It’s nots. It takes quite a lot of thinking, talking, and practicing to do it, but it is worth it.  M. Rosenberg said, “What we say next can change our world,” and I can say from my own experience, that taking this path does change our world. I would add that  what we say and think next, after we experience something, hear something, observe something –what we think and say next can change our world.

I am then going to talk about ways we can apply these four components in our own lives,  in our communities, in our classrooms, and with our colleagues in whatever interactions we are engaged in.

VF: Thank you so much again. We are looking forward to your talk very much, Dr. Peyton, here at the VIU, not only our students, but also our members of educational communities to spread the word out there how to live in peace, how to remain peaceful in all the settings, in politics, in education, in the groups that we all care about and are engaged with — to drop all the misunderstandings and misconceptions and strive to bring peace to the community. Thank you very much, again.

VF: What do you hope that participants will get out of the talk? I know the time of the talk is very short, it is only one hour.

JP: I hope that the people who are there, and I, will have a clear understanding of the ways that language can promote peace and connection, or pain and separation; and we can think together about ways that we can use language no matter what we’ve heard or what we’ve seen, or what struggle we’re in at that moment, to promote peace and connection and bring life to the situations we are in. And then we can think together about what we can do next. I think it is very important to think in my context, “What do I want to do now?”

VF: Thank you so much. Are there any tangible, palpable misconceptions out there about the topic of your talk?

JP: This is a really, really good question. In considering this topic, some people say that language can’t solve all conflicts and situations. And this is true. Language can’t solve all conflicts. There are actions that need to be taken. But language plays a big part in conflict, and we will benefit from thinking about it. Also, when I talk about this topic,  I make the statement, “We all want peace.” Recently, a friend of mine said: “That’s a little overstated. We do not all want peace.” There are people out there who don’t want peace. Those people are our enemies. So, this idea of enemies, is one challenge that has come up.

I still believe, that if we took the time to think through what are my beliefs, what are my opinions, what stories am I telling myself, how can I think and talk differently about this or that situation, about this group of people, about this event that just happened, about this difficult message that I just heard – if we take the time and effort to think through these in a new way, so we are not involved in this case of separation, and often even violence, we can then  think very carefully about what the next steps might be and whether we can take next step together, rather than in conflict. Does it make sense?

VF: Yes, of course. Thank you for sharing with us, Dr. Peyton. What resources might you suggest for someone who wants to know more about your topic? Or, how do you stay informed on the topic of your talk? What would be your recommendations?

JP: The book that I was introduced to, and which outlines very clearly Marshall Rosenberg’s views on speaking peacefully is Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life. It really gives the major overview. Another book that he wrote, which fits what I have been saying here, is Speak Peace in a World of Conflict: What You Say Next Will Change Your World. There are a lot of resources on the website of the Center for Nonviolent Communication (http://www.cnvc.org), and they are continually updated. There are a lot of resources out there. They also announce events that they are holding. There is a newsletter that comes out every month, announcing workshops held in the Washington DC area, including Maryland and Virginia — http://capitalnvc.org.

For teachers, a couple of educators took Marshall Rosenberg’s ideas, thought about how to create relationship-based, peace-filled classrooms, and wrote The Compassionate Classroom: Relationship-based Teaching and Learning and The No-fault Classroom: Tools to Resolve Conflict and Foster Relationship Establishment.

VF: In general, are there any overarching principles that guide your own teaching/consulting/work philosophy? If so, what are they?

JP: Three guiding principles for me are love, respect, and listening. These can have a huge impact on everything we do. I have noticed when I worked in other countries — Ethiopia, Nepal, and the Gambia — when I can become completely engaged in something, I think that that is my thing to do.  I was brought in as a consultant, I know what to do, and I can become so focused on my agenda, what it is that I am here to do, what knowledge am I bringing, what skills am I bringing, what outcomes we are trying to achieve, that I can forget about everything and everyone else. I am very grateful that pretty quickly I realized that if that’s the world we are going to live in together, we are not going to get very far. I could continue to push my agenda,and I could leave, and that would be the end of it. Very possibly nothing would be accomplished.

So, I noticed in those situations, that love, respect, and listening should be higher on my list of priorities than my accomplishing my agenda. Then we can start to do it together — loving, respecting, and listening, we are working together; no one is making demands, no one is saying “You are doing this, because this is the rule.” Instead we can say, “This is what we are going to do, because we work in collaboration.” I have found that to be a huge component of working effectively with others.

VF: Thank you for all your encouragement, Dr. Peyton, for all of us to strive for the best, to be able to focus on why and how we are able to reach listening and respect. In general, what is your source of motivation? How do you keep yourself motivated?

JP: It is easy now to keep myself motivated, particularly in the current environment, when almost every day we see another instance of separation, of division, and of pain. One thing that motivates me a lot right now is to watch or to be involved with people I respect. We all have our groups, that we feel part of. People that we respect. They have the same philosophy about life as we do. They have the same thoughts about how life runs, the same perspective. We are part of this group. And to see these people using language that looks a little bit confrontational and divisive. I often find myself thinking,  “Wow, that was violent. That was confrontational and divisive.” Then I stop and think, OK, what about that did you find to be divisive and confrontational? Then, what I  like to do is  to rethink what I found not helpful, what I found to be a label or offensive, and ask myself, “How would say this so that it is that offensive?” That can keep a person pretty busy. As Roger Shuy said, “Data is everywhere, in all the language that we use and we see.” Yes, you just open the paper and there are data everywhere. That gets me interested, excited, and motivated. There is so much to think about together.

VF: How would do you design instruction so your classroom reflects the success of you would teach?

JP: I would like to create a sense of belonging for every student. Every student has the sense of identity, a sense of personal ability, and a future. I would want to create a classroom in which those dynamics would exist. I would also want every student to have a place, a voice, and a sense of value and contribution. I would also want every student to be heard, and I would want to create opportunities for the students to interact with each other in many, many ways, in writing and in presentations, an atmosphere of engagement.

VF: Thank you, Dr. Peyton, for your vigorous and brisk talk, for spreading peace. We are so much looking forward to your talk on November 2. Thank you for joining us on BlogTalkRadio. We are looking forward to seeing you here at VIU. Have a wonderful day.

JP: Thank you. You too.

VF: Thank you, Ma’am. Bye.

Practicing Nonviolent Communication

Join us for our next Voices from the Field Speaker Series!

Our guest speaker, Joy Peyton from the Center for Applied Linguistics will give a talk on Practicing Nonviolent Communication: Speaking the language of peace.

An audio preview of the talk is available here: https://goo.gl/hqYrFY

A brief abstract is below:

Many of us are interested in and strive for peaceful engagement in our families, communities, schools, and nation, and there are strong calls for peace within our education community (e.g., Oxford, 2013; The Language of Peace: Communicating to Create Harmony) and in international engagement initiatives (e.g., Gopin, 2016; Healing the Heart of Conflict). However, understandings about ways to live in peace often remain abstract, and the language that we observe in politics, the media, and even in education (and that we use ourselves) is often filled with judgments, labels, and blame, and we increasingly see misunderstandings and division across, and even within, the groups that we care about and engage with. The goals of this talk are to review key principles and components of nonviolent communication, which teachers can use with learners and colleagues and in their classes, and all of us can use in our daily lives. These include ways to Observe, express our own Feelings, understand our Needs, and make Requests.

Join us on November 2, 2017 from 3:30-4:30 on campus at VIU (4401 Village Drive, Fairfax, VA 22030) in VD-205.


Voices from the Field events are FREE and open to the public! To register, visit our page here: http://www.viu.edu/sed/prospective-students-3/voices-from-the-field/vff-2017-2018.html


Questions?  Contact Kevin Martin (Associate Dean, School of Education) at kevin@viu.edu, follow us on social media @SEDatVIU and @TESOLVIU, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SEDatVIU, and visit the School of Education’s website at http://www.viu.edu/sed!

Join us for our Voices from the Field Speaker Series event October 5 from 3:30-4:30

Join us for our first Voices from the Field Speaker Series event of the Fall 2017 semester!

Our guest speaker, Marietta Bradinova will give a talk on Engaged Learning: Are we all on the same page?

A brief abstract is below:

The presentation will offer college teachers a dynamic model for engaging students and will provide them with tips and strategies that have been proven to help teachers from a wide variety of disciplines motivate and connect with their students. Selected strategies will be modeled, in a ready-to-use format, through purpose, presentation, procedures, examples, online implementation, variations and extensions, and key resources. Faculty looking for ideas to heighten their student engagement in their courses will find useful techniques that can be adopted, adapted, extended, or modified.

Join us on October 5th, 2017 from 3:30-4:30 on campus at VIU (4401 Village Drive, Fairfax, VA 22030) in VD-205.


Voices from the Field events are FREE and open to the public!


Questions?  Contact Kevin Martin (Associate Dean, School of Education) at kevin@viu.edu, follow us on social media @SEDatVIU and @TESOLVIU, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SEDatVIU, and visit the School of Education’s website at http://www.viu.edu/sed!

Engaged Learning: Are We All on the Same Page?

A spotlight  interview with Victoria Fedorets (VF) and Marietta Bradinova (MB)

Listen to the full interview here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/sedatviu/2017/08/22/dr-marietta-bradinova-for-the-spotlight-interview-for-voices-from-the-field


Below is a transcript of the interview:

Victoria Fedorets (VF): We would like to welcome our guest speaker, Dr. Marietta Bradinova for our Spotlight interview prior to her talk on October 5th, 3:30 pm to 4:30 pm.  Could you give us a brief preview of your talk?

Marietta Bradinova (MB): The title of my talk is going to be Engaged Learning: Are We All on the Same Page? To do that, I pulled from the literature on good teaching as well as the expertise of teachers in colleges and universities around the country. For my presentation, I had to create a compendium of useful, practical ideas that participants will find enhances the classroom experience for teachers and students alike. My goal is to pull it together into a single resource and present it in a format accessible to busy, discipline-oriented faculty. I hope it will also be useful to faculty developers, department chairs, and other academic administrators interested in promoting teaching and improving learning.

VF: Thank you so much, Dr. Bradinova. We all are very much looking forward to your talk. Could you please tell us a little about yourself, including how the topic of your talk is important to you.

MB: My name is Dr. Marietta Bradinova and I teach various courses in the MA in TESOL and Gen. Education Programs at VIU. I chose my field of scholarly endeavor because somewhere along the line I developed a passion for it. Part of the attraction of a career in academia is the opportunity to share our enthusiasm with others and possibly recruit new disciples to the discipline.  In my early years as a college teacher, “engaging students” wasn’t even on my radar screen. I lectured, they listened; they studied, I tested – and that was that.  However, it was very disheartening to look into a classroom and see disengaged students who make little effort to hide their apathy. So, keeping students involved, motivated, and actively learning is challenging for many of us as educators. Yet, there is no single piece of advice [to do this]. The primary purpose of my presentation is to offer my teaching colleagues, current and aspiring, a wide variety of tips, strategies, and techniques that can help them transform what could be a daunting task into one that is stimulating and rewarding.

VF: Wonderful. Thank you again for devotion to your field and I am more than sure you went through so many experiences and have gained so much knowledge and expertise to reach this far.

VF: Are there any tangible misconceptions out there about the topic of your talk?

MB: Well, for me and I strongly believe that teaching can be tough, and probably one of the toughest professions on earth, but by sharing, we help each other in the problem analysis and solution construction we struggle with, consciously or unconsciously, each time we enter the classroom and attempt to engage students in learning.

VF: What is your source of motivation? How do you keep yourself motivated?

MB: Well, for me, motivation is the portal to engagement. An unmotivated student has checked out emotionally and mentally from the learning process. Students who are motivated to learn, however, will actively seek the information and understandings that constitute engaged learning. Just as a classroom filled with students who are genuinely motivated to learn can be a teaching-nirvana, it can be teaching-hell trying to work with students who are apathetic, bored, or even hostile. Understanding the complexities that underline motivation can guide us in our efforts to set up conditions that enhance students’ eagerness to learn. This is a first and critical step toward increasing student engagement.

VF: If you had to give some advice to pre-service or in-service teachers about the topic of your talk, what would it be?

MB:  As I said earlier, I am trying to provide some practical ideas through various strategists [that] I’m going to model for them throughout my presentation. I strongly believe as an instructor we not only have to explain something about theory, but to show it in action. I would encourage the pre-service teachers to join us on October 5th to get more ideas about how we can engage students in our classrooms.

VF: In general, how do you design instructions so your classroom reflects success? What is success to you?

MB:  You know, from day one, when I go into the classroom, I provide lots of examples from my own personal experience and I have been teaching and in this field for 25 plus years. So, I always try to bring real-life examples into my lectures because when you provide examples, the students can relate to them through their personal experience. We always have great conversations because, as you know, VIU hosts students from around the globe. We are fortunate to share ideas with them and they share ideas with us and I’m growing myself professionally through this contacts with my students.

VF: Where do your students come from?

MB: In general, I would say probably between 15 and 20 different countries. You know, I work with students from Asia, from Latin America, from the Europe, from Eastern Europe, from former USSR, and they all amazing.

VF: In general, are there any principles that guide your own teaching philosophy? If so, what are they and do you have a groundstone for your own teaching philosophy?

MB: Well you know, as an instructor, I always try to share whatever I learned through all these years with my students, and as I said, I share my experience.  Whatever they read for my classes, we would have great discussions. I try to have classrooms in which the students work cooperatively using both small group discussions and whole group discussions. In a three hour long class, I have to break the time and have at least 10 to 12 activities for the students, and I try to engage them from the moment they enter the class until the moment they have to leave the class.

VF: Wonderful, so your classes are very dynamic and engaging.

MB: (And) they are student centered. I always try to be at the background, of course I’m the one who teaches them, will provide solid information to them either through my mini lectures and through the readings…but those discussions are to be led by the students. [The students] have to be the center of them actually.

VF: Are there any projects that you are currently working on?

MB: Actually, I’m working with Claire Gimble from ESL program on another presentation which is going to be at the WATESOL convention in October in Washington, DC. Our talk is going to be about using TED Talks in the ESL classrooms. We are working with Claire and different setups available on website to design different activities that ESL teachers can use with their students in the classrooms. So, that’s my next big project.

MB: And, of course, you know classes- I will be teaching for both on ground and online, so I will be very busy.

VF: Thank you very much for your time out of your busy schedule to share your experience and more than sure there is so much more to talk and I would spend hours and hours talking (with you) and learning from you. Unfortunately, our time is short thank you again for stopping by tonight by our podcast channel.

Please join us again October 10 at our location 4401 drive Fairfax, VA  22030 and the talk by Dr. Bradinova will be held from 3:30 pm to 4:30 pm and the topic is, “Are We All on the Same Page? The presentation will offer college teachers a dynamic model for engaging students and will provide them with tips and strategies that have been proven to help teachers from a wide variety of disciplines motivate and connect with their students. Selected strategies will be modeled, in a ready-to-use format, through purpose, presentation, procedures, examples, online implementation, variations and extensions, and key resources. Faculty looking for ideas to heighten their student engagement in their courses will find useful techniques that can be adopted, adapted, extended, or modified.

Join us by going to our Facebook, like us; also, we are on twitter, word press, and we’re looking forward to our next spotlight interview by our next speaker sometime in September. Stay tuned and thank you again for your time today, Dr. Bradinova

MB: Thank you.

Congratulations to Islom, Master of Arts in TESOL Graduate!

As an international student, I chose Virginia International University for two reasons: first, I wanted to experience the university’s diverse cultural atmosphere; second, I wanted to become a more experienced professional in my career – teaching English to the speakers of other languages (TESOL). My two years in the MA in TESOL program at VIU has been truly memorable, and I never regret having made the decision to complete my master’s degree at this university.

When I reflect on my time at Virginia International University, I see that I have been able not only to improve my skills in teaching but also gain a deep understanding of theories in the second language acquisition process. Through lessons with incredibly supportive professors, I was challenged to discover a voice that I didn’t know I had. The knowledge and experience I had at VIU gave me confidence, which serves as an internal force to drive my career further to be able to teach English successfully.

Having been educated in a supportive environment at VIU, I found myself able to understand the second language acquisition process inside out and am ready to put this knowledge into practice. With carefully-chosen textbooks and small group lessons, I became familiar with recent research theories. Through challenging me, my professors have helped me to develop my own critical thinking ability. It was incredibly useful to learn about different aspects of the teaching field and to connect these practices with modern informational technology.

Also, I benefited from the real-life teaching practice in the practicum class at VIU. I was given a tremendous opportunity to work with competent ESL instructors to observe their lessons and learn teaching techniques under their supervision. It was a great experience to teach culturally diverse ESL students at VIU. It was incredibly beneficial in terms of developing my professional teaching.

Moreover, we were exposed innumerable workshops, festivals, student activities and “Voices from the Field” talks. This was another awesome opportunity given by VIU, we gained more valuable knowledge about new achievements in our field of expertise. Through my coursework, I conducted several research case-studies on different aspects of second language acquisition, which I was able to display at VIU’s Academic Showcase to the VIU community and guests.

Having completed my MA in TESOL at VIU, I am excited to go back to my home country – Uzbekistan, to deliver my knowledge to teach the younger generation. By teaching English in my country, I will create a great opportunity for my students to become knowledgeable and see the world. I express my endless gratitude for my mentors who helped me to find who actually I am.