Paul Kei Matsuda

My Video Self

So far, I haven't met anyone who isn't disturbed by their own recorded voice. It's understandable because it just doesn't match our self-image--it's not what we are used to hearing. After giving many talks using microphones, I came to accept my own physical "voice" as it is heard by others.

I can ignore the microphone pretty well. When Dwight Atkinson and I decided to record our usual conversation, we just carried our conversation as usual, and it came out pretty good and coherent when we had it transcried (by Steve Simpson--thanks, Steve!) verbatim with very little edits (Matsuda & Atkinson, 2008).

But I still can't get used to my own video voice. (Here, I'm using a slightly modified version of my own definition of voice as "the amalgamative effect of the use of discursive and nondiscursive features that language users [appropriate], deliberately or otherwise, from socially available yet ever-changing repertoires" [Matsuda, 2001, p. 40].)

When I give a lecture at other universities, some people ask if it would be OK to video-record my lecture. I usually say yes on two conditions. The first condition is that I get a copy of the video. (I usually don't watch it, but I want to have it for archival purposes.) The second is that they have to promise that they don't circulate it outside the institutional circle. This is partly to protect my intellectual property, but it also has a lot to do with the uncomfortable feeling of my "video-recorded voice" being circulated beyond my control. I know it's probably much closer than I think to what people are actually experiencing when I give a live talk. But still....

I don't like being video-recorded because I get too self conscious. I don't really get nervous when I give a talk--even when it's impromptu. But being video-recorded is an entirely different story. (I feel their pain when I ask my teaching mentees to have their own teaching video-recorded.)

But I'm not the kind of person to let these feelings hold me back when there is an exciting new opportunity. I have agreed to be video recorded several times to share my experties.

The first one I remember is when I had a video interview with a BYU production crew at TESOL. It was for a grant-funded project on second language instruction. I haven't seen the outcome, but if my clips weren't used, I wouldn't be surprised.

The second was a series on foreign language teaching, directed by Rick Donato at the University of Pittsburgh. I remember driving down to Boston to partipate in the production at the WGBH studio. (The person who did my make-up told me that she was the make-up artist for the famous Antique Roadshow.) I remember being really self-conscious, but I managed to get through it--thanks to the help of Rick and the great WGBH crew.

I guess this one is being widely circulated--there have been a number of sighting reports. Cindy Gannett told me once that she saw it on TV in Baltimore. More recently, a graduate student from IUP mentioned on Facebook that he watched it online. It's available at:

Another video-recorded project is Take 20, produced by Todd Taylor for Bedford/St. Martin's Press. It was a compilation of a series of interviews, organized around 20 questions about the teaching of writing. It features 22 writing teachers, including:

  • Linda Adler-Kassner
  • Cheryl E. Ball
  • Dave Bartholomae
  • Patricia Bizzell
  • Bill Condon
  • Ellen Cushman
  • Cheryl Glenn
  • Brian Huot
  • Erika Lindemann
  • Andrea A. Lunsford
  • Paul Kei Matsuda
  • Don McQuade
  • Christine McQuade
  • Mike Palmquist
  • Malea Powell
  • Nedra Reynolds
  • Mike Rose
  • Jacqueline Jones Royster
  • Raul Sanchez
  • John Schilb
  • Nancy Sommers
  • Howard Tinberg
I thought it was a great idea, and I was happy to be part of this project. But because it was filmed during CCCC convention, I was sleep-deprived as usual. When I got to the hotel where Todd was filming the piece, I looked really tired--I was pale and my skin was dry as desert. I felt horrible, but my schedule for the rest of the conference was jam packed, so I wasn't even able to ask to be rescheduled. I was somewhat releaved when I saw the CD the following year--Todd had decided to go black-and-white. (Maybe everyone looked tired.)

I thought it was a great resource for teachers--to hear established writing teachers talk about their own experiences. But I just had to laugh everytime I came on the screen with a series of one-liners. I remember describing it as a "fortune-cookie" discourse. The transcripts read like this:

Matsuda: I tried to be very structured.
Matsuda: It's much more complex than it seems at first.
Matsuda: Janice Lauer.
Matsuda: Every student is different.


None of my substantive comments were included, it seemed. Of course not. I was tired--I thought I was going to fall asleep during the interview--and when I get tired, my cheeks get stiff. The chilly and rainy weather didn't help, either. And I didn't give straight foward answers to questions like "If you had to pick only one book for a writing teacher to read, what would it be?" I just don't believe in one book that's important for everyone--or even for me. Different books offer insights that we need at different times. Blah, blah, blah....

But the last question rescued me: "How do you approach difference?"

Matsuda: "In the next few years, writing teachers need to learn a lot more about language differences, and I'm not talking about just language differences in terms of language and gender, or language and social class. Those are important issues as well, but I think writing teachers need to expand their notion of language and spend some time seriously thinking about the issues of speakers of different varieties of English and speakers of different languages altogether. And I think in the past, because composition and ESL, for example, have been developing as separate disciplines, many people seem to think that it's okay for writing teachers not to know about language issues or students who come from different language backgrounds. And because the student population is becoming more and more complex, that's becoming less and less the case."

That was my favorite question, of course. I was also finally warming up. I even thought maybe I was asked to participate in this project just to answer this question.

As I left the room, I remember telling Todd that, if he needed to retake my interview, I'd be happy to drive down to the Bedford/St. Martin's Office in Boston or even to Chapel Hill. (I was still in New Hampshire at that time.)

OK. Enough rambling for tonight. If anyone is interested in my fortune-cookie discourse--I mean, if anyone is interested in this great resource, it's available at:


Matsuda, P. K. (2001). Voice in Japanese written discourse: Implications for second language writing. Journal of Second Language Writing, 10(1-2), 35-53.

Matsuda, P. K., & Atkinson, D. (2008). A conversation on contrastive rhetoric: Dwight Atkinson and Paul Kei Matsuda talk about issues, conceptualizations, and the future of contrastive rhetoric. In U. Connor, E. Nagelhout, & W. Rozycki (Eds.), Contrastive rhetoric: Reaching to intercultural rhetoric (pp. 277-298). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Taylor, T. (Ed.). (2008). Take 20: Teaching writing. [CD-ROM] Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s Press.

Labels: , , , ,

From Discourse Communities to Activity Systems: Activity Theory as Approach to Community Service Writing

Michael-John DePalma, a student of mine from UNH, just published an article on service learning and activity theory, which he wrote in my Theory of Composition class.

His article, "From Discourse Communities to Activity Systems: Activity Theory as Approach to Community Service Writing," appears in the latest issue of Reflections: Writing, Service-Learning, and Community Literacy (7.3).

Congratulations, Mike! Well done!

Labels: , , , , ,

The Problem of Multiple Identities, Part II

The problem of multiple identity is also multifaceted. If it's hard for people to imagine belonging to more than one discipline, it also seems hard for some people to understand that a researcher doesn’t have to be bound to a single mode of inquiry or a methodology.

In the last few months, I have had conversations with a few graduate students (who haven't taken my research methods course, of course) who made remarks that seemed to imply that I didn’t specialize in empirical research.

Well, yes, if it means that I don't do empirical research exclusively. But if that means I don't do empirical research, I don't know what to say. Perhaps I'm better known for my historical and philosophical inquiry, but I have published a fair share of empirical studies as well (e.g., Matsuda, 1999, 2001, 2002, Matsuda & Matsuda, 2001; Matsuda & Tardy, 2008; Tardy & Matsuda, 2009), using a range of methodological tools—from interviews and surveys as well as discourse analysis.

As a student of Janice Lauer who has always insisted that her students be proficient in multiple modes of inquiry--including philosophical, historical, empirical (qualitative and quantitative), and rhetorical (and to this list I would add narrative)--I'm not comfortable with the assumption that it's OK for people to stick to a single mode of inquiry.

Like Tony Silva, I firmly believe that all researchers in my fields should familiarize themselves with various theoretical and methodological tools and incorporate those that would best address the research question at hand. I thought I made that clear in the introduction to Second Language Writing Research (Matsuda & Silva, 2005) but I guess not everyone reads everything—sigh.

I do realize that many people have their favorite modes of inquiry and methodological tools that they rely on. It's also natural that people are drawn to certain research questions that lend themselves to the mode of inquiry one is most familiar with.

But as researchers, we need to develop a rich repertoire of theoretical and methodological tools if not to use them all then to understand and, if necessary, critique contributions by other researchers.

As Dwight Atkinson says in his chapter in Second Language Writing Research, “do try.”

Labels: , , , , ,

The Problem of Multiple Identities

The problem of multiple identities in academia has been an important driving force behind my work. (It all boils down to the issue of identity and power, it seems.)

Over the last 15 years, I have been fighting the pervasive perception in some of my fields (i.e., applied linguistics, composition and rhetoric) about multidisciplinarity--that it's not possible to be a full-fledged member of more than one discipline. Back when I was in graduate school, if I said I was specializing in second language writing, people in rhetoric and composition often thought I was really a second language specialist who happens to be coming to CCCC; some people in applied linguistics also thought that I was an "L1" compositionist who happens to be coming to applied linguistics conferences. (This has not been much of an issue in TESOL for some reason—perhaps because L2 writing was already well-established there?)

It didn't seem to occur to many of them that I was actually starting out in both fields at the same time.

This is one of those tacit cultural assumptions in academia that is hard to challenge because people don't seem to realize that they have those assumptions nor are they able to articulate what their own assumptions are or why they came to those conclusions. It may be because some people in those fields are not used to working in multiple disciplines that the notion of being multidisciplinary was unimaginable. (People who cross those disciplinary boundaries often seem to keep quiet about their other disciplinary identities). It may also be related to the institutional practices that require people to identify their "tenure home" and to align their professional activities with the job description when they got hired. Whatever the case may be, challenging unarticulated assumptions is one of the hardest things to do intellectually.

This was one of the most intriguing and disturbing dissonances that I decided to make fighting monodisciplinarity one of my professional missions. How did I do that?

  • I went to all the major conferences—AAAL, CCCC and TESOL—on a regular basis. I have tried not to miss any except when the schedule overlapped or when there was a family situation that required my attention.
  • I got myself elected or appointed to various committees, such as the Executive Committee and Nominating Committee, and to other leadership positions.
  • I published my work in journals in multiple fields and subfields. My goal was to establish a tenurable record in each discipline so I didn’t have to worry about tenure requirements—I didn’t want to shift my attention away from what I considered to be the most important research issue or problem.
  • I articulated the unarticulated assumption. I explicitly pointed out the problem of monodisciplinarity through my research and placed them in high profile journals to change the perception in both fields.
  • I helped make L2 writing an integral part of composition studies by institutionalizing the cause.
  • I took positions in departments where my multidisciplinary expertise would be valued.
  • I refused to choose one discipline or another as my primary discipline and insisted that I belonged to both.

After more than a decade of hard work, the world seems to be a better place—at least to people who specialize in second language writing. But sometimes I still get remarks—even from close friends who know my work well—that seem to imply that I’m more X than Y or that I should choose one over the other.

Old habits die hard, I guess.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

SLWIS ELECTIONS: Call for Nominations

From: Deborah Crusan []
Sent: Wednesday, January 21, 2009 5:07 PM
To: Second Language Writing IS E-List
Subject: [slwis-l] SLWIS ELECTIONS: Call for Nominations


Call for Nominations -- Second Language Writing Interest Section

The SLWIS is seeking nominations for the following positions:

•        Chair-Elect
•        Steering Committee Member (3)

If you are interested in becoming more involved in the IS, please consider nominating yourself for these positions. We are looking for nominees who reflect a broad range of professional interests, institutional contexts, and geographic locations.  All officers must be TESOL members and are expected to attend TESOL conventions during their terms of service.

To nominate yourself for any of these positions, please email a brief (100-words max) statement of interest, including biographical information, to Deborah Crusan, Past-Chair (, by January 28, 2009.

ONE person to be elected Chair-elect (starting at the end of the TESOL Convention until the close of the next annual Convention. The person elected will serve as chair-elect 2009-2010, chair 2010-2011, immediate past chair 2011-2012.
The Chair-Elect:

  •  In the temporary absence of the Chair, presides at all meetings of the Second Language Writing IS and the Steering Committee
  • Prepares, in cooperation with the Chair and the Second Vice President of TESOL, the Second Language Writing IS’s segment within the general TESOL convention program, including the academic and discussion sessions
  • Conducts an evaluation of the Second Language Writing IS program offered at the Annual TESOL Meeting and submits a report to the steering Committee within 30 days after the Meeting.  This report should include recommendations for changes to be made the following year
  • Generally assists the Chair in carrying out his/her responsibilities and performs other duties assigned by the Chair
  • Serves as a voting member of the Steering Committee
  • Serves as a Second Language Writing IS Delegate to the annual Interest Section Council meeting, if membership is adequate to warrant two representatives.

The main duties of the Chair include:

  • Administering refereeing of SLWIS proposals
  • Conducting annual Open Meeting of the IS
  • Delegating responsibility for the booth prep

THREE members of the Steering Committee who hold office for three years.
Duties of the Steering Committee are: 

  • Determining policies for the operation of the SLWIS
  • Conducting long-range planning for the SLWIS, developing projects and programs as are necessary to achieve the goals of TESOL and the SLWIS
  • Supporting the Chair and Chair-elect in efforts to obtain close liaison with other TESOL groups and other professional organizations having similar concerns
  • Establishing committees as required and to give them specific direction and istructions; to approve the appointments of all members by the Chair
  • Appointing the Editor/s of the Writing IS newsletter and the Webmaster.

Our interest section thrives on member participation, so I hope you will submit your self-nomination or encourage colleagues to nominate themselves for these positions.

If you have any questions, please contact me (


Deborah Crusan, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, TESOL/Applied Linguistics

Wright State University

Dayton, OH  45435

(o) 937-775-2846


2008-2009 Past Chair, Second Language Writing IS at TESOL

You are currently subscribed to slwis-l as: To unsubscribe or modify your preferences for this and all e-lists and e-newsletters, log into the main TESOL website at, and click on My Communities in the Member Toolbox area. Visit this list online at

College English Conference, 11th April. Abstracts due soon

From: [] On Behalf Of simon smith
Sent: Sunday, January 18, 2009 8:53 PM
To: undisclosed-recipients
Subject: To all English teachers: College English Conference, 11th April. Abstracts due soon

Dear Colleagues

I am writing to you, on behalf of the Conference Organizing Committee, about National Chengchi University's College English Conference, to be held on 11th April 2009. The deadline for abstract submissions, 2nd February, is coming up quite soon.

Information about the conference, including CFP, may be found at The conference is being organized in collaboration with the Language Teaching and Research Center, National Chiao-tung University, and features ESL writing scholar Professor Paul Kei Matsuda, of Arizona State, as keynote speaker.

We'd be most grateful if you could pass on the details of the conference to colleagues and friends who might be interested.

We have tried to think of suggested topics which are stimulating, and in many cases original. Contributions within the broad compass of our theme College English: Opportunities and Challenges for Teaching and Learning are however all welcome.

The conference aims to provide a stimulating and rewarding academic forum for presentation and discussion of English teaching in colleges and universities, including Freshman English programs.

We look forward to receiving your abstract in the next few days.

Best wishes
Simon Smith

(for Organizing Committee)



Simon Smith, PhD

Assistant Professor
Foreign Language Center
National Chengchi University

Labels: , , , , , ,

Brock Brady is the new TESOL President Elect

Congratulations, Brock! I look forward to your leadership as TESOL moves toward a new era.

Labels: , , ,

Finishing a Big Project in a Semester

Finishing a master's thesis or applied project is a challenge partly because students often haven't developed strategies for working on big projects--and they have to do it in a semester!

Here are a few pieces of advise I just shared with a group of master's students who are working with me to complete their applied projects (sort of like a mini-thesis):

Do start early and keep at it. It would be so much easier to front load it because—are you ready for this?—you will certainly find yourself doing more revisions than you are probably expecting. But don’t be intimidated—with the feedback from me and encouragements from your peers, you’ll be able to do it. Just don’t give up.

Here are some strategies that have worked for many people:

  • Post a project calendar on your wall so you can see how much time you have left at any given time.
  • Create a project-specific to-do list. (I have a clipboard at my desk just for this purpose.)
  • Set up a few applied project office hours each day just to work on the project. You can (and will need to) work extra hours if you feel like, but commit at least a few hours every day. The key is to make the office hours long enough so you can build momentum but not to make it so unrealistically long that you can’t keep it.
  • Set up a folder on your Google Docs account ( and upload the latest draft at the end of each day. (Name the file something like “ap_2009_01_16.” This would be an excellent way of keeping a back up. When you are ready, you can share your latest version with me and with others in this group.

If you have any questions or concerns, or if you get stuck, feel free to email me or call me on my cell phone any time. Don’t worry that I might be too busy; if that’s the case, you just won’t hear from me ;-) Seriously, I’ll try to respond as promptly as possible—even though my responses may be brief at times.

And don’t worry that I might be disappointed if you emailed me to let me know that you were stuck. I’m here to help. What would really disappoint me would be if you didn’t contact me when you needed help.

This might be helpful to others who are working on big projects for the first time. There are many other strategies, of course. The key is to try different strategies and find out what works best for you.

Obviously, some parts of this is applicable only to my current students. If you are not one of my students, for example, please don't email me or call me on my cell phone when you are stuck with your project. ;-)

Hopefully, you have your own advisor who can play this role for you.

Labels: ,

Last update: January 6, 2008