Dr. Mary Hughes facilitates language education workshops in China

In March, Mary Hughes, Lecturer in the Language Education Program and Faculty Director of SED’s online Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) EdM program, visited China to meet with prospective students, as well as to deliver a workshop at two schools that SED has fostered relationships with.

Her workshop, titled Instructing Complex Syntax in Authentic Academic Texts, focused on successful practices for supporting English language learners’ academic language acquisition. Dr. Hughes first visited the Beijing Royal School, a private K through 12 school located outside of Beijing, followed by a visit to Shanghai Normal University where she addressed university-level English teachers in Shanghai.

Dr. Mary Hughes presenting to teachers at the Beijing Royal School
Dr. Mary Hughes presenting to teachers at the Beijing Royal School


“Content-area academic texts present unique challenges for English language learners, especially in their inclusion of grammar rarely encountered in spoken language,” Dr. Hughes said.

Academic language, she added, includes vocabulary, syntax, and discourse features that may be shared across, or specific to, particular content areas.

“The ability to identify and to provide targeted instruction on the unique syntactic structures that appear frequently in academic texts is beneficial not only to language teachers and teacher educators, but also to content-area teachers who teach through the medium of academic language.”

Dr. Hughes’s workshop engaged over 75 educators in guided linguistic analyses of authentic texts from different content areas, and included demonstrations of how teachers might approach contextualized instruction of specific grammatical devices to better support ELLs.

“The workshops were great,” Dr. Hughes said. “They were very exciting, and the teachers were interested in our interactive teaching style, which is different than what they’re used to. They were all very knowledgeable, and a really wonderful group.”

Dr. Hughes was also given tours of the schools and enjoyed lunch with some of the professors at Shanghai Normal University.

In addition, she met with students who were interested in or who had already enrolled in SED’s TESOL master’s program at two receptions in Beijing and Shanghai.

“I was able to talk with them about the type of support they would be provided with in our program, as well as the types of relationships they would be able to foster with our faculty,” Dr. Hughes said. “I was thrilled to be able to meet with those prospective students.”