The BAAL Colloquium on DRM – An Update

Yesterday we had our BAAL colloquium in Bristol:

  • Jane Andrews ppt
  • Xiaowei Zhou (and Richard Fay) ppt
  • Mariam Attia ppt
  • Richard Fay & Leah Davcheva ppt

The Colloquium went really well. We did not have a large audience but those who came seemed interested in the work as reflected in the questions asked. Ros Mitchell, for example asked a question about the kinds of challenges that PhD students doing research multilingually face, while another member of the audience raised an interesting point about the relationship between researcher identity and DRM. Such issues suggested new avenues for exploration which I continued to think about after the event was over. The colloquium also helped me identify some gaps in our approach. For example, I felt that the individual case studies could be supported by more literature.

Adrian Holliday was also in the audience. I had quoted him in my thesis, but only met in person yesterday. It is interesting to see how such encounters add a human element to research as you discover the unique person behind this statement or that reference.

Group dynamics were great, the general atmosphere was pleasant and relaxed, and there was a smooth transition from one presentation to the other. Well, perhaps the only disadvantage was that in the program there was a thirty-minute break between paper 3 and paper 4 which meant that we had some new people for the last presentation only, who seemed a bit hesitant to contribute to the general discussion in the end for they did not attend the whole thing from the beginning.

I think having a lengthy meeting the evening before the colloquium contributed to its success, for we discussed all the papers identifying major themes, discovering new points of interest, and sharpening the scope of the colloquium. It was also a good idea to book in the same accommodation, for we sat till late without worrying about when and how to get home.

After the conference Richard introduced us to one of his old contacts, Jackie, who is specialized in language literacies (I think). We accompanied her to a traditional café by the River Avon where we had a pleasant discussion over lunch, and of course learned a lot about the history of the city. The weather in Bristol was great, and so was the food. Most importantly, it was wonderful spending time with my Manchester folks   🙂

So what’s next? – Look out for a poster on this event that will soon be up in corridor C2 and on this blog. We were also thinking of writing a joint piece for the BAAL 2011 proceedings maybe in preparation for a special journal issue on the matter. Of course, if you have further thoughts or suggestions, please add them here. Thank you.


  • This was the third time I presented the DRM dimension of my PhD research, but the first time for me to do it collaboratively both as a dynamic presentation with Richard and as part of a colloquium. I enjoyed the attention given by the audience during our presentations and the engaging questions they raised afterwards. We heard both voices, including encouragement and reactions from the more traditional camp, where multilingual issues are seen as a ‘problem’ that should be overcome. All these clearly indicate that DRM is an interesting topic emerging amongst the various debates and concerns around research methodology and researcher education.

    The collaboration element in this colloquium activity, including the conversations we had before and after the presentations, was really inspiring and made me think beyond DRM as related to my presentation and doctoral research. For example, we discussed the connections between our individual case studies and explored the various kinds of sites where DRM issues emerge, such as doing research multilingually in a largely monolingual academic context, involving interpreters in generating and processing data and collaborating with “insider” researchers to do research in languages we do not speak.

    In particular, the latter of the above reminded me of my own experience of research collaboration a few years ago with my colleague Paul (Smith). We explored the academic issues encountered by students from China who were studying in the department where Paul works. We interpreted the data from both “insider” and “outsider” perspectives, i.e. me as a student from China but from a different department, Paul as a member of staff in the department concerned but not from China. There was a lot of interesting dynamic happening in the research process but – we did seem to overlook the language issues involved. We conducted interviews individually and collaboratively. We generated data both in English and in Chinese. However, we did not purposefully explore the linguistic richness in its own right. Therefore, the colloquium invited me to surface what I once took for granted and alerted me to areas for further exploration beyond my PhD, which I really appreciate.

  • Prue Holmes

    The developments and processes you have described in your comments, Richard, indicate how important this new domain of inquiry is. It is interesting that each organised gathering uncovers yet more issues that need exploration and development. Thanks to Jane and Richard for making the BAAL symposium happen, and to those presenters who contributed their papers and audience members who added with their comments. All of this bodes well for the special journal issue, and hopefully, success in our funding bid so that we can develop the area further, and the copse becomes a forest.

  • Richard Fay

    Thanks Mike. The next step is to reactivate the Special Issue of the Journal of Applied Linguistics and to keep our fingers crossed for Prue’s funding bid, then we may be really able to start our oak wood 🙂

  • I have read all this and looked at the ppts with great interest. I am sure the theme will develop and be picked up by others. If Ros Mitchell and Adran Holliday were there then that is a sure sign of significant interest. From little Durham acorns mighty BAAL oaks do grow!

  • Richard Fay

    As always with conferences, I hsve to put to one side my frustration at the issues such as small and changing audience and awkward break timing and think instead of what I gained from participation.

    1. It was good to be reminded that this DRM issue is one which is of interest more widely (than to ourselves).
    2. It was also good to see how well our four papers cohered, each bringing out particularities of the rich complexity of DRM, but each also illuminating a common theme (and there were lots of resonances between the papers).
    3. Although not planned like this, the movement from doctoral study DRM case studies (Xiaowei and Mariam) to funded research projects (Jane) to collaborative research (Leah and Richard) worked well, and by the time Jane provided some literature review on DRM, the Colloquium was ready for it. In this sense, although I agree with Mariam, that we need to locate the DRM theme in the wider literature as well as provide illuminating case studies, the Colloquium did this even if each paper did not. In this way, we avoided repetition but still provided some wider conceptualisation of the theme of DRM.
    4. My own thinking moved on also. It was the first time that the DRM dimension of Leah’s and my Ladino research was presented, and this project raises interesting methodological issues about both reciprocal reflexivity (the topic for another day, maybe a RAW paper this autumn) but also about the English-medium foundational character of our collaboration, not just the result of my deficiency in Bulgarian, but also something flowing naturally from Leah’s English-medium professional identity (including researcher identity).
    5. This last point raises some interesting political issues related to the heegmony of English in international scholarship and how both native-speaking and non-native-speaking researchers/scholars negotiate these issues of power and privilege, and how the negotiations become more complex when English-speaking professional identities are also included in the mix.
    6. An interesting audience comment also needs to be mentioned – about the parallels between DRM and DRmulti-discoursally, i.e. negotiating texts in different discourse genres etc within a research project.
    7. I note that next year’s BAAL has a multilingualism emphasis and this may be something that others in this community can relate to?
    8. I also note that the BAAL AGM passed a motion to ban job adverts on its elist which stipulate that the job is only for NESTs.
    9. These last poimts reminded me more than ever of the critical edge that we perhaps now need to add to our discussions and explorations of DRM without sacrificing the richness of the insights emerhing from individual researchers decisions and research process vis-a-vis DRM.

  • Richard Fay

    Jackie’s e-/forthcoming article is available here:

    Tuck, J. (forthcoming, available in pre-publication e-version).
    “Feedback-giving as social practice: teachers’ perspectives on feedback as institutional requirement, work and dialogue”. Teaching in Higher Education (Taylor and Francis).

  • Richard Fay

    Many thanks Mariam. Note that Jackie (Tuck), a tutor at the Open University, specialises in Academic Literacies 🙂 . Paul knows her also. She has just published an article on academic writing in Higher Education and as soon as a I find the link I will add it here.