Mark James is an associate professor of applied linguistics in the Department of English at Arizona State University. Most of his work is with the department's master's and doctoral programs in linguistics and applied linguistics, master's program in teaching English to speakers of other languages (MTESOL), Bachelor's of arts program in linguistics, and TESOL certificate program.
Generally speaking, his research activities deal with issues related to curriculum, teaching, and learning in second language education. More specifically, most of my work focuses on practical and theoretical aspects of learning transfer in second language education.
Learning transfer refers to the application of learning outcomes in novel situations. For example, if you know how to play the guitar, and then try to learn to play the violin, you may apply some of my guitar skills to this new instrument. If you do this, you are transferring your guitar playing skills to this new situation.
There is already a large body of research on learning transfer as the influence of a person’s first language on her/his second language learning and use. But this is only one way of looking at learning transfer in second language education. Learning transfer is also relevant as a goal of second language education: If students can’t apply outside the classroom what they learn in the classroom, the value of instruction is questionable. In this sense, learning transfer is just as important as learning itself.
… And here’s the problem: Learning transfer is often assumed to occur in and from second language and other educational settings. If students can demonstrate in the classroom that they have learned something (for example, by successfully completing a test), it may be taken for granted that they will be able to apply what they have learned outside the classroom (for example, in a different course, at home, or at work). In other words, if students learn, then they must be able to transfer that learning. But, a century’s worth of research on learning transfer (primarily in psychology and human resources development) shows that learning transfer isn’t inevitable and can be very difficult to stimulate!
With James' research, some questions he has investigated are:
- What second language learning transfers beyond learning contexts?
- What factors influence this transfer?
- How “far” will second language learning transfer?
- What can educators do to promote transfer of second language learning?