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I need advice on my academic statement for PhD admission in a second language studies program

tamanna4me 1 / -  
Oct 21, 2015   #1
Any advice on my statement of research interests/academic statement for a second language studies PhD program will help me a lot. For the sake of privacy, I'm using fictitious names for universities and faculties.

"I became interested in the area of second language acquisition (SLA) during my undergraduate senior year when in the SLA course, I learned about the theoretical concepts underlying learners' acquisition of a second/foreign language. As an EFL learner, I found the scholarly views on the processes of L2 acquisition very interesting, and I wanted to learn more about those processes and how they can inform second/foreign language instruction.For my doctoral study, I want to focus on the process of SLA; more specifically, I want to investigate classroom interaction and oral feedback strategies in instructed L2 acquisition and how learners' internal cognitive processes are related to their ability to be benefitted from such feedback. Further on, I reference a few of my academic and professional experiences that sharpened my desire to delve deep into these areas of SLA.

The initiation of my interest in research dates back to my graduate level studies at University of D when I completed a project on the difficulties that native Bangladeshi learners face in pronouncing specific English phonemes. The analysis of the data, collected from Bangladeshi learners, revealed that they are likely to face more difficulties in pronouncing English vowels than the consonant phonemes. In a graduate course project at CM University (CMU), I wanted to enrich the theoretical part of that study by developing a contrastive analysis between Bangla and English phonology, and the publication of this analysis in the Official Conference Proceedings of European Conference on Language Learning' 2013 gave me the confidence to keep exploring scholarly issues in my areas of interests. My prior experience of teaching at BRAC University in Bangladesh motivated me to develop a functional task-based curriculum for EFL learners of a Bangladeshi university as my master's level plan B paper. However, the focus of my academic interests turned to classroom interaction processes while doing the course on SLA at CMU.

Both my prior interest in this field and my experience of learning English in the EFL context of Bangladesh stimulated my interest in input, interaction and feedback processes in L2 instructional settings and I wanted to explore how an improved understanding of these processes can contribute to better pedagogical practices. In that SLA course at CMU, I gained the experience of designing a research in an EFL classroom context. While teaching EFL in Bangladesh, very often I had to use translation as a feedback technique because of the homogeneity of learners' L1, and this experience inspired me to plan a research study on whether teachers' provision of translation-equivalents of learners' unsolicited use of L1 as a feedback strategy is perceived by highly proficient EFL learners as negative feedback and thus, prompts them to produce more repair and attempted repair than the less proficient learners. My eagerness to conduct research in SLA was further strengthened when under the supervision of Dr. SL at MS University (MSU), I voluntarily worked in a research project on negotiation of meaning in non-native speaker interaction. Involvement with the project provided me with hands-on experience in collecting and transcribing data, participating in a stimulated recall session, and navigating through related scholarly articles on interaction research. After completing my M.A., I decided to gain some professional experiences that turned out to be crucial in specifying the focus of my academic interests.

In contrast to my ESL learners in the USA, my EFL learners in Bangladesh had little or no chances to use English outside their classroom where teachers' provision of oral feedback bears crucial importance as available L2 input to learners, and hence, my interests grew in oral interaction processes in EFL classroom contexts. As an ESL instructor in the USA, besides teaching learners with varying levels of proficiency in the same class, I've often observed that learners hailing from heavily form-focused educational contexts tend to have mixed attitude to lessons based on learner-centered interactive tasks, and I also had similar experiences in Bangladesh where grammar instruction is highly valued. These experiences ignited my scholarly interests in the importance of individual learner differences, learners' levels of participation in classroom interaction, and their beliefs about L2 learning in their L2 acquisition process.

Given the establishment of a strong link between L2 learning and interaction in a vast number of empirical studies, for my doctoral level research, I want to investigate how in an EFL context (such as in Bangladesh), learners' learning of different L2 structures is related to the type of interaction they participate in and oral feedback they receive, their production of modified output, and their beliefs about L2 learning as influenced by their socio-cultural contexts. Furthermore, as learners can differ from each others in their attentional abilities , I am interested in investigating how individual differences in such internal cognitive abilities can impact their learning of different L2 forms through participation in classroom interaction processes. I also want to apply for research grants that can help me ensure necessary logistic and financial supports for my research projects that I've planned to conduct in the classroom context of Bangladesh.

In my future career, I plan to return to Bangladesh for developing the field of English language teaching, which is currently underserved. My career goal is to utilize my theoretical knowledge and research skills to formulate realistic strategies that EFL instrcutors can apply to fulfil their pedagogical objectives. I believe that the SLS program at MSU with their emphasis on the pedagogical application of second/foreign language theories and research can help me make that connection between theory and practice, and that is one of the reasons I am specifically interested in pursuing my PhD in the SLS program at MSU . Admission to this program will provide me with access to highly acclaimed research facilities, and I am also excited to have applied to the program directed by Dr. SG whose " An Introductory Course" acquainted me with the basic theories related to L2 learning in general as well as in an instructional setting. Additionally, Dr. SL's interest in interactionist approaches to instructed SLA matches with mine. His cutting-edge research on corrective feedback and learner uptake in focus-on-form episodes in L2 instructional settings encourages me to learn more about conducting quantitative research in EFL classroom contexts. Therefore, the opportunity to do my doctoral level work in the SLS program would not only help me establish myself as a researcher but would also enable me to develop a curriculum in pedagogically appropriate ways for L2 learners in Bangladesh."
admission2012 - / 481 90  
Oct 21, 2015   #2

I think your essay is really strong with the exception of your opening paragraph. You should discuss more of your early background here, especially your personal experiences with SLA. This will really allow the reader to know more about you and why SLA is of such important interest to you. - Admissions Advice Online

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