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!!


Lucy said...

Hi Renée!

After reading your post in response to Elton, I have just seen this from you! Are you still interested in receiving responses - or are we all too late?!


Renee said...

Hello Lucy,
You are just in the nick of time! I just finished the first draft of the paper and received my partner's comments yesterday. I'll be editing it next week. So, any additional comments would be appreciated. Actually, I would love to use your advice on how to involve students. May I? I'll site it as being received through correspondence on the JASAL Discussion Community. If you have any additional experience to share concerning student feedback (or results of the efforts you shared concerning student involvement), raising awareness among faculty, SAC staff training, and raising funds, those are key areas I'm focusing on. I tried to make the paper a combination of a case study (as Garold suggested) and a summary of what I learned from other SACs.
Two other points: (1) Your PR advice cracked me up! So creative and effective!
(2) This week, we discussed the SAC for the 1st time among English teaching faculty as, thanks to Hisako's encouragement and guidance, one professor will take over my role next year (as I will be away on sabbatical) and wants to take on the project of making laminated worksheets. A heated argument ensued as the director of the English program is strongly against doing any activities for the SAC on a volunteer basis. But, at this point, the administration has no intent of funding any staff (even part-time students). So, the survival of the SAC depends highly on collaborative efforts of the full-time faculty. I did my best to put out the fire and to encourage faculty to just do what they can to help support the students. But, it seems so difficult without any designated body to organize the SAC. My proposal for a sub-committee within the Language Center failed (on the basis that all members should feel responsible and not to create any divisions from the beginning...). We may be able to appoint a vice director of the Language Center who is responsible for the SAC. That is to be seen. Any comments on this situation? I wonder what other SACs have done who have no funding for staff. (Or, more interestingly, if any such SAC exists!) I should post this question.
Thanks, Lucy, for your time and energy after just finishing your dissertation. Congratulations!!

Lucy said...

Hi again Renée!

Sadly, I've not finished my dissertation - just one chapter! Anyway, I'm very happy to let you use my comments on involving students in your paper.

I'll jot a few other points down here - feel free to use them if they are of any use. It sounds as if you're having quite a struggle to get things off the ground - but hang in there!

Raising awareness among faculty
Yes, this is a tough one! Initially we would do small presentations in staff meetings, etc. to try and encourage colleagues to see the benefits of having a SALC. We also sent out semi-regular emails with updates of progress and innovations (although not so regular as to be annoying), and more recently a newsletter has been produced which gets circulated to all staff in the university and to students too. Of course if funds don't permit a paper newsletter, you could produce an electronic one instead.

SAC staff training
At KUIS we would (and I think they still do) put aside a regular slot when all the staff meet and have a training session. Usually this is in the evening. Training may cover many different areas: customer service, what is meant by 'learner autonomy', new procedures/processes in the SALC, etc. We would try and have one 'theme' for each meeting, and then also use the time to cover news/updates that the staff should know about.

Raising funds
We were lucky enough to win a Mombusho Good Practice Grant, and so our funding for the years 2-6 was secured. Initially, we were very well supported by the university. One possible option might be to charge a membership fee to your students. We were not permitted to do this because of the Mombusho funding, but one potential advantage of this is that it might make 'members' feel more of a part of the centre.

I'll send answers to your questionnaire questions directly to you.