In August 2009, I began my life as a PhD student in Foreign Language & ESL Education at the University of Iowa. I came to the university with a research interest in the use of role-plays and simulations in the context of task-based instruction. During my first semester, I realized that interest in this topic is limited to practitioners and that interest is waning. However, it is thriving in the context of computer-mediated communication. I later found out that research on any second language teaching approach or activity centered around emerging technologies is hot. Although I have a passion for incorporating technology into the classroom, I do not have a passion for researching it. In general, I rank technology high when it comes to teaching (practice) but low when it comes to researching (theory).
If I want to research the use of technology in the classroom, I prefer to investigate how to apply students' critical thinking skills to their usage and production of information online. At the end of my first year, I discovered that the blanket term for this field is multiliteracies, which include media literacy. This is a burgeoning field in education research, and there is little out there in ESL education. I believe it would be very exciting to be conduct research on multiliteracies in the contexts of both ESL and EFL.
However I am more interested in investigating how do the classroom dynamics of an EFL classroom outside of the United States affect the pedagogical decisions of a native-speaking instructor. This research idea came to me during my first semester while I taking a course, Second Language Classroom Learning, that brought up many discussion questions I wanted to research. I found that this topic to be an excellent intersection of my personal experience, interests, and career goals. However it baffles me why I hadn't thought of this area to research sooner.
I spent my second semester deciding which of the two research interests I would like to pursue for my dissertation, multiliteracies in an EAP classroom or cultural competence of EFL instructors. After doing preliminary readings of literature in both fields, the latter seemed more appealing. Also I could envision my research approach and career goals more clearly with the latter topic.