Thursday, December 31, 2009

SAC Development Questionnaire

SAC Development Questionnaire

From Renee Sawazaki, Faculty of Contemporary Cultures

Surugadai University

Happy New Year!

First of all, I would like to thank all of you who have already contributed so much to my efforts to research SACs and develop one at Surugadai University. To summarize, our SAC opened in April 2009 as a ‘work in progress’. As of January 2010, we now have a large stock of learning materials for 7 languages, study groups for 5 languages, modern (and modest) facilities and a growing interest. What we don’t have is dedicated secretarial or educational staff (We’re ‘borrowing’ talent and energy from the very proficient International Exchange Office staff, which I suggested share facilities with the Language Education Center – so far, so good.). Nor do we have much support from the majority of the language teaching faculty, or, oddly enough, the head of the language center (“Although he doesn’t oppose our efforts…”). At the beginning of summer, I managed to create a Working Group which is composed of the 5 faculty members who are interested in the SAC. But, with all of us having so little time to dedicate to the SAC, progress is slow, but steady. And, we will hopefully have a formal committee from next April.

One colleague, Prof. Yayoi Tanaka and I, are currently working on applying for a Gendai GP grant which would help deter the cost of hiring dedicated staff. In the event that we do not get it, we have to continue our appeal to our university for funding. We also plan to co-author a paper for Surugadai’s journal in Japanese to help educate our faculty on the benefits of a SAC and what is necessary to run one properly. Many of you have given me the advice that this step is crucial. Unfortunately, all of my appeals thus far have been in English. No faculty member up till now would help with the translation. In the paper, I will summarize information I gathered from my visits to Kanda Gaidai and Gaigo Gakuin, Soka Univ., and Tsuda Juku College, as well as a presentation I attended on Bunkyo Univ.’s Language Garden. In addition, I would like to include responses to the following questionnaire. If you could kindly respond to any of the questions you can by January 10 (If you plan to respond, but need more time, just let me know), we would greatly appreciate it. We will be happy to share the bilingual version with you when it is finished. I’m rather busy getting myself and family prepared to leave for the US in March for a one-year sabbatical, so I do not have much time to spend on it, but want to at least get something done so that the efforts for our SAC do not stagnate in my absence.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation!

Q1: Please describe your SAC (The name, when and how it was founded, what kind of facilities, materials, services, programs, staffing, etc.)

Q2: What were the challenges faced in creating your SAC? How were they overcome?

In addition, please address any of the following challenges:

Q2.1 Creating understanding within the administration.

Q2.2 Creating understanding amongst faculty and receiving help

Q2.3 Language barriers (if non-Japanese were/are involved in the process and are not capable of reading and writing in Japanese)

Q2.4 Getting funding (from university, grants, other)

Q2.5 Getting staff and help (secretarial, educational, committee, volunteers, etc.)

Q3: What are your SACs greatest strengths?

Q4: What are your SACs greatest weaknesses?

Q5: What would you like to see done in the future to improve your SAC?

Q6: If you were writing a paper for or appeal to your institution with the aim of creating understanding for SACs and receiving support, what information, resources, etc. would you definitely include?

Q7: Are you able to follow up this questionnaire with a phone interview? If so, please let me know your preferred method of contact, and possible dates and times.

Thank you and cheers to the implementation and improvement of SACs!!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Validation of Self-Access Centres

Hi everyone

David Gardner, from the University of Hong Kong and of 'Establishing Self-Access' fame, has set up a discussion forum to encourage contributions to a project he is involved in regarding the validation of self-access centres. Below I'm pasting a message (in blue font) that David has sent out on various email discussion lists related to autonomy - apologies if anyone has received this through these means already. Why not take a minute to check out his forum, and even register and contribute your comments? I think this is a very exciting project that could result in a worthwhile system for all of us.

This is to let you know about a new forum that has been established as part of a project looking at the validation of self-access/independent learning centres. The purpose of the forum is to initiate a participatory approach to defining a set of standards and an evaluative system that is meaningful to all. Please take this opportunity to participate in the development of a system for validating SACs by joining us at:

For a slightly more detailed explanation of the background and goals to this project see below.

Looking forward to discussing with you online.

David Gardner (HKU) and Marina Chavez (UNAM)

Some More Background

In our paper at the ILAC conference in Hong Kong (June 2009) we discussed the benefits of a system for the validation of self-access centres. We proposed a system which evaluates self-access centres with reference to their own goals and contexts but also with reference to an agreed set of standards. Ultimately, the system could become the basis for a process of certification. We suggested such a system would be of benefit to self-access practitioners for purposes of self-development and to provide evidence of performance to host institutions and funding bodies.

In our paper we suggested that the only viable way forward is to develop a set of standards which define aspects of an effective SAC through a global participatory process. The goal of this process is to develop a system which is meaningful for all participants.

We have now established a discussion forum to start the participatory process. We envisage this forum will serve as a place for discussing ideas and also as a place to participate in formulating the standards that we hope will eventually emerge from the process.

At the moment the forum is very young so we need your participation to make it work. If you are interested in developing a system for validating self-access centres please sign up to the forum at: