The LPD as Go-Between

Kramsch (2004) postulated that contemporary language educators are compelled to play the role of go-betweens, who must mediate not only linguistic, cultural, and pedagogical knowledges, but also academic disciplines, worldviews, institutional demands, and moral/ethical imperatives. For Kramsch (2004), reflection and inquiry are vital to this mediational work. As Freeman and Johnson (1998) have argued, “teachers must understand their own beliefs and knowledge about learning and teaching, [...] be thoroughly aware of the certain impact of such knowledge and beliefs on their classrooms and the language learners in them,” and “be fully aware of and develop a questioning stance toward the complex social, cultural, and institutional structures that pervade the professional landscapes where they work” (p. 412). These same claims not only apply to the LPD, but because they are often key facilitators of reflective practice, classroom inquiry, curriculum integration, and the ongoing professional development of others in their programs, LPDs exemplify this idea of the language educator as go-between. 

Scholarly inquiry is one way in which the LPD’s work as a go-between manifests. This includes systematic investigation of what is happening in their own programs (see also Module 3), and an awareness of what is being done in other institutional and locational contexts (Brumfit, 1995, p. 35). It is through these forms of interrogation that we get a sense of the limitations of our own programs and the practices taken for granted in their design. Likely because of this drive to understand their own work and the impacts it has for others more deeply, many LPDs are in some way or another actively engaged in research related to language teaching, even when many of them conducted dissertation research and even continue to conduct research in another field or fields (see Katz & Watzinger-Tharp, 2005).

LPDs are also transdisciplinary mediators (see Warner, 2019). Whether or not their primary research expertise is in second language studies, LPDs often represent this field in their departments, especially in smaller programs where there may not be an or at least another expert in these fields. Because of the particular contours of modern language, literature, and culture departments in U.S. postsecondary institutions, LPDs are often called upon to translate research on second language teaching and learning for faculty and graduate student colleagues working in fields such as linguistics, literary studies, and cultural studies. The stratified relationship between these different disciplines in many departments, which is often reflected in program structures, curricular design, and hiring patterns, can pose challenges to this mediational work (see Allen, 2009; MLA, 2007; Warner, 2019). This has implications not only for the impact and influence that an LPD’s hard won research expertise can have on a program, but also on the kinds of value and validation ascribed to their research. For example, LPDs may have to advocate for publishing norms in fields of research that are underrepresented in their departments (see also the American Association for Applied Linguistics Promotion and Tenure Guidelines in the resource list later in this module).

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