Category Archives: book

Scott, D. & Usher, R. (2011) Researching Education

Scott, D. & Usher, R. (2011) Researching Education: Data Methods and Theory in Educational Inquiry, 2nd edition. London: Continuum.

I read this book on the recommendation of my not-yet-PhD-supervisor, and found it both thought-provoking and frustrating.  The authors take a critical view of research paradigms in general, but specifically in education and social sciences. It was a tough book to get through, as the authors approach their subject from an abstract, philosophical angle.  I am used to reading academic texts, but when reading this book I frequently had to stop and look things up to make sure that I really understood the concepts being explored. I found some chapters of the book to be much more lucid and helpful than others–perhaps each author wrote some of the chapters?

Rather than saying that I learned a lot from this book, I would say that the book made me think about many things from a different perspective, and that it helped me (un)clarify the approach I’m taking to developing a research question and design for my not-yet-PhD.  It’s definitely not a book to read in search of answers–the authors raise many questions and critique every idea they present–but I found it worth my while. I am not generally drawn to philosophy or to postmodernism, but I do like asking questions and thinking critically.

I pulled out this long quote as I think it gives a good idea of the authors’ approach in this book, and of the reasons why I found the book thought-provoking and useful.

“What is it, then, that we silently think when it comes to research? Obviously, this is a question that does not readily lend itself to a single answer.  One possible answer is to do with the tendency to assume that doing research is simply a matter of following the right procedures or methods.  This assumption, however, needs to be questioned because it misleadingly portrays research as mechanistic and algorithmic.  If we uncritically accept this portrayal, we forget that research is social practice and that it is therefore both embedded and embodied. Thus, one thing we can do in terms of becoming more aware of what we silently think is to recognize that research is not a technology but a practice, that it is not individualistic but social, and that there are no universal methods to be applied invariantly.”  (p. 10)

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Nicodemus, B. and Swabey, L., Eds. (2011) Advances in Interpreting Research

Nicodemus, B. and Swabey, L., Eds. (2011) Advances in Interpreting Research: Inquiry in Action. Amsterdam: John Benjamins

In the introduction to this volume, the editors mention “a need for publications for interpreters interested in research, aspiring researchers in interpreting studies, and interpreting educators” (p. 2). As a person who fits into at least two of those three categories, I found this volume to be an engrossing and extremely useful read.  Rather than give an in-depth review or synopsis of the whole book, I’m going to highlight specific chapters and concepts which I found most relevant to my own work.

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Fontes, Lisa A. (2008) Child Abuse and Culture & (2008) Interviewing Clients Across Cultures

Fontes, Lisa A. (2008) Child Abuse and Culture: Working with Diverse Families. New York: Guilford Press

Fontes, Lisa A. (2009) Interviewing Clients across Cultures. New York: Guildford Press

I’m not going to write a long post about these two books, but it’s not because I don’t find them useful.  In fact, my primary reason for posting is to strongly recommend them to interpreters and to all professionals who work in multicultural or multilingual settings.  There’s a fine line between exploring cultures and descending into generalizations and stereotypes.  There are few non-interpreters who really ‘get’ interpreting and interpreters.  Fontes, in my opinion, does an excellent job in both areas.

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Bachman and Palmer (2010) Language Assessment in Practice: part 2

Bachman, L. and Palmer, A. (2010) Language Assessment in Practice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

In chapter 16, the authors discuss rating language performance in situations where the response to the assessment stimulus is extended and relatively unlimited in scope, and language use is situated or in the form of discourse.  These are situations in which it is not possible or practicable to use a rating system in which specific tasks or items are scored.  Thus, rating of these types of assessments is done by describing the person’s level of ability as demonstrated by the response. 

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Bachman & Palmer (2010) Language Assessment in Practice: Part 1

Bachman, L. and Palmer, A. (2010) Language Assessment in Practice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


This is a detailed, exhaustive guide to developing and using language assessments.  I learned a lot  from it about all stages of the language assessment process, including a lot of useful theoretical and practical knowledge about issues surrounding development, administration, and scoring of language assessments. There are numerous examples in the book, and a website of sample materials available for further study.  Each chapter also has exercises at the end.  I skimmed a lot of it, but read several sections with greater attention.  There are several things I got out of this book that I want to explore in more depth and attempt to apply to assessing interpreting performance. To facilitate reading, I’m going to divide it up into multiple post.

Notice: All the information about language use and assessment in this post is from the book cited above, and is noted as such throughout.  All portions of this post related to interpreting are my own work and protected by my copyright.

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Knowles M., et al (2005) The Adult Learner (6th ed.)

Knowles M., et al. (2005) The Adult Learner: The Definitive Classic in Adult Education and Human Resource Development. 6th edition. Amsterdam: Elsevier.

Although this is a recent edition of the book, the content doesn’t appear to have changed much. As a first-time reader, I’m disappointed by this.  I was interested in the concepts being presented, and in the discussion of various theoretical approaches to education (both of children and of adults); however, the references are primarily from the 1970s & 1980s, which became frustrating to me.  As a contemporary reader (and adult, self-directed learner), I would like to be informed of the latest thinking on the questions that the author(s) explore. Even if they didn’t choose to update Knowles’ original chapters, they could have included a list of further reading based on publications from the past 10 years.  As it is, I am left with the sure knowledge that things have developed in the past decade or two, but no guidance as to where to continue my reading.

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Brookhart, S. (2010) How to Assess Higher-Order Thinking Skills in Your Classroom

Brookhart, S. (2010) How to Assess Higher-Order Thinking Skills in Your Classroom. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.


What is higher-order thinking? 

–>Includes transfer, critical thinking, and problem solving

Transfer–requires that students not only remember what they have learned, but also be able to make sense of and use it. (p. 3, quoting Anderson & Krathwohl, 2011)

Transfer is contrasted with recall.  It implies making novel (to the learner) use of knowledge and skills.

Critical Thinking–“is reasonable, reflective thinking that is focused on deciding what to believe or do.” (p. 4, quoting Norris & Ennis, 1989)

Requires the student to make a good decision/judgment, or to produced a well-thought out reaction/criticism.

Problem Solving--the student has a problem but does not automatically know how to solve it (ie does not recognize the path or solution s/he needs); must employ higher-order thinking skills to figure out the solution (p. 4, quoting Nitko and Brookhart, 2007)

It’s not a problem if you know the solution right off; not having a memorized or readily apparent answer is implicit in the term. Problems can be closed-ended or open-ended. We want to equip students to recognize problems in the world around them and to be able to work toward solutions.  Interesting to note the contrast between problems set for students and problems that students set for themselves.

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