AAAL 2023: Invited Colloquium

Methodological Innovation in Applied Linguistics Research: Perspectives, Strategies, and Trends 


Shaofeng Li, Florida State University, 

Matthew T. Prior, Arizona State University, USA,


Lourdes Ortega, Georgetown University, USA,

Colloquium Abstract

This colloquium examines methodological innovation in applied linguistics research, defined as initiatives to adopt or adapt epistemologies, designs, tools, instruments, procedures, analyses, or any combination of these to generate new insights, contribute to theory building, enhance methodological rigor, promote reflexivity, or transform practice. 

The purpose of the colloquium is to provide a framework and forum for understanding and discussing innovation. We argue that innovation in research emerges in various configurations that are topic-driven and methods-driven, with the former referring to new or previously unexplored issues for empirical investigation and the latter to developments in research tools, instruments, procedures, and researcher collaboration and praxis. Thus, methodological innovation goes beyond methods per se and may involve examining new topics using existing methods or creatively adopting, combining, or refining methods to investigate existing issues. We further argue that methodological innovation may emerge in all stages of research, including topic selection, research questions, research design, sampling, data collection or generation, data coding, data analysis, ethical considerations, and in the representation and dissemination of our research. 

Using this framework as a starting point, this colloquium brings together leading scholars from across the field of applied linguistics to discuss their perspectives on innovation through a synthesis of key methodological developments and challenges in their respective research domains. Together, these diverse perspectives will aid us in understanding the challenges, conditions, and consequences of methodological innovation as well as the implications for collaboration, transdisciplinarity, and equity—themes of the conference.  

The session will open with an introduction by the organizers and four presentations by the panelists, followed by Lourdes Ortega as discussant before opening the floor for questions and comments. 

Interdisciplinary Methodological Innovation as an Outcome of Collaborative Climate Skeptical Narrative Research

Shondel Nero, New York University, USA,

Abstract:  The growth of interdisciplinary research and methodological innovation in education and the social sciences more broadly has expanded the scope and impact of research. This presentation discusses how interdisciplinary methodological innovation emerged as an outcome of collaborative climate skeptical research between the presenter, an applied linguist, and her co-author, an environmental policy scholar.

In our study, the need to understand how the climate skeptical narrative of a minority of US citizens has emerged, sustained itself, and become an ideology over time, pointed logically to narrative analysis. Lejano and Dodge’s (2017) work on the properties of an ideological narrative offered a methodological entry point to examine our data—selected climate skeptical texts. But the narrative approach proved insufficient to explain how the typical elements of narrative—plot, characters, audience, context—became a powerful ideology from a minoritized position. This necessitated a methodological shift with a critical lens through which to filter these elements so we could see how ideological discourse is constructed and reinforced. This led to our employing critical discourse analysis (CDA), which examines how social structures, discourses, and power mutually determine each other and are reflected in language within a larger sociopolitical context.

We thus created an overlay of the common elements of narrative and CDA, and then filtered our analysis of the data by asking critical questions (e.g., What is the political affiliation and degree of power of the characters and audience? What specific semantic and rhetorical strategies are employed to tell the story, and for what purpose?). The novel interweaving of narrative and CDA offered a richer, more nuanced lens for data analysis and centering language across disciplines, and it unearthed a tangible benefit of interdisciplinary collaboration.

Methodological Innovations in Studying Complex Systems in Applied Linguistics

Phil Hiver, Florida State University, USA,
Ali H. Al-Hoorie, Saudi TESOL Association, Saudi Arabia,
Akira Murakami, University of Birmingham, UK,

Abstract:  A quarter of a century ago, scholars first proposed that applied linguistics issues could benefit by being viewed explicitly from the lens of complex dynamic systems theory (CDST). Since then, CDST has gained considerable currency in the field, and it has yielded significant insights in domains as diverse as educational linguistics, second language development, sociolinguistics, and multilingualism. There has also been a recent increase in practical guidance around research methods that can be applied to studying complex systems in applied linguistics. In this talk, we first highlight the innovative assumptions underlying CDST research methods and the consequences of adopting these—namely, that when researching human and social phenomena everything counts and everything is connected (i.e., the relational principle), and everything changes (i.e., the adaptive principle). We then report a scoping review of the heterogenous body of research adopting this framework by looking back at the methodological characteristics of two decades of empirical CDST studies in the field to note trends and tendencies in designs and analytical choices. We discuss the many strands of applied linguistics research that have been informed by CDST and its innovative perspectives. We also highlight the substantive contributions this body of research has made to the field and the ways that CDST research has allowed the field to adopt a transdisciplinary stance that is more problem-oriented and transcends disciplinary boundaries. Finally, we showcase an innovative analytical method—mixed-effects location scale models—that enables the assessment of systematic change in within-person variability and is useful for predicting between-person volatility, stability, and variation in development. Combining it with generalized additive models, we can also examine nonlinearity in the change in variability. This talk both examines ways CDST expands the toolbox of research methods available and describes practical templates and methods suited to studying dynamic change in context and interconnectedness. 

Participatory Linguistics in the Translanguaging Framework: What Does It Aim to Achieve?

Li Wei, UCL Institute of Education (IOE), University College London (UCL), UK,

Abstract:  A central argument of Participatory Linguistics is that the linguistic ethnographer’s job is to try to make sense of the participants trying to make sense of their world. And by trying to make sense of the participants’ trying to make sense of their world, we are participating in their social world as well. Indeed, their social world becomes part of ours and ours becomes part of theirs. What we are presenting as analyses of what we have observed is therefore necessarily subjective, and we should not be afraid to say so. In fact, we as analysts have a responsibility to be open and explicit about our own social, cultural, political, and ideological stance in presenting our interpretation and analysis and invite the reader to participate in our analysis as a social act.

Doing linguistic analysis, especially doing linguistic ethnography, therefore has social consequences. We are participating in a social act, through the way we represent the community, the speakers, and their languages and language practices in our analysis. This presentation expands the core arguments of Participatory Linguistics, with specific reference to my ongoing work on Translanguaging as a decolonising project that aims to transform the way we think and talk about language, cognition, and education

Methodological Innovations in the Study of Corrective Feedback

Eva Kartchava, Carleton University, Canada , 
Hossein Nassaji, University of Victoria, Canada, 

Abstract:  According to Ellis (2017), corrective feedback (CF) “constitutes an ‘interface issue’ by bringing together the concerns of teachers and researchers” (p. 3). It is, then, not surprising that CF researchers have investigated a wide range of instructional contexts, learners, and languages, with some of those studies recently synthesized in two edited collections (Nassaji & Kartchava, 2017, 2021) to provide a composite view of the findings and their applications in real-world learning contexts. Yet, there have been few accounts of the various methodological and design considerations that underpin different CF investigations. Several key questions have always loomed over such research: What is the quality of this research? How reliable are the results? How can we improve methodological rigor to better investigate and understand how CF contributes to L2 acquisition? With these questions in mind, this presentation will discuss the methodological advances that have taken place in recent years to examine the role and effectiveness of CF in SLA. We begin with an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of past research and then discuss specific innovations (e.g., data collection measures and procedures, study designs, data sources) that responded to the needs of CF researchers. In line with the focus of this colloquium, we also consider the issues around research questions in terms of what directions have been addressed so far and how they have evolved. We argue that if the field of SLA is to appreciate the complexity involved in the provision and effectiveness of CF, we will need to pose questions that examine critical issues in this area and to develop more innovative methodological approaches. We will conclude by identifying questions to explore in future research and methodological directions/tools to answer them.

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