Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs

Report on Academic Specialist Visit to Tunisia: January 30-February 13, 1999

By Fredricka L. Stoller,
Northern Arizona University
(With Dr. James Coady)

About the Specialist

Fredricka L. Stoller is an associate professor of English at Northern Arizona University (NAU), Flagstaff, Arizona, where she teaches in the Teaching English as a Second Language and Applied Linguistics programs. She received her bachelor's degree from the University of California at Berkeley (1975), two Master's degrees from the University of Michigan (1977), and a doctorate from Northern Arizona University (1992). Shortly after arriving at NAU in 1985, she founded the university's Program in Intensive English which she then directed for ten years, from 1987-1997. In addition to the teacher training and research she conducts at NAU, Dr. Stoller has trained English as a second/foreign language teachers and language program administrators in Bolivia, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Italy, Mexico, Morocco, Panama, Poland, Slokavia, and Tunisia. Dr. Stoller has published numerous articles on methods of teaching English as a second/foreign language, content-based instruction, innovation diffusion, and language program administration. She co-edited (with Mary Ann Christison) A Handbook for Language Program Administrators (Alta Book Center Publishers) and co-authored a reading textbook (with Nina Rosen) with Prentice Hall Regents. She is an active member of TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages).


Areas of Specialization

Dr. Stoller has published and lectured extensively on issues related to English as a second/foreign language methodology, content-based instruction, reading, vocabulary, project work, program administration, and innovation diffusion.


Trip Report

Dr. Stoller arrived in Tunisia on January 30, 1999, in order to co-present at a series of teacher training seminars on the teaching and learning of English vocabulary. The general topic of the seminar was decided upon by the Tunisian Inspectors of English as a response to the perceived needs of Tunisian secondary school English teachers and the objectives of the national curriculum. The seminars, sponsored jointly by the United States Information Service and the Tunisian Ministry of Education, were held in five different sites (Sfax, Tozeur, Sousse, Beja, and Tunis). Sixty to eighty Tunisian teachers from surrounding areas attended the sessions at each site; thus, over the course of two weeks, Drs. Stoller and Coady met and worked with over 350 English language teaching professionals from all over Tunisia. Tunisia's English Language Inspectors, and their assistants, introduced the seminars at each site with a historical overview of vocabulary teaching in Tunisia and some hands-on activities to engage seminar participants. The contributions of the Inspectors were greatly appreciated; their involvement in the planning and implementation of the seminars helped create a sense of shared ownership and responsibility.

Vocabulary learning and teaching, the focus of each one-and-a-half day seminar, represent two critical, and inextricably linked, areas for English language teaching professionals around the world. Tunisian seminar participants demonstrated a keen interest in the topic because they readily recognize the power of vocabulary, for themselves as non-native speakers of English and for their students. The seminars exposed practicing teachers to current research on the learning and teaching of vocabulary, and then helped teachers connect theory to practice. Through a number of hands-on activities, teachers considered ways of enhancing the national curriculum and textbooks by diversifying the ways in which they address vocabulary in their classrooms. The practical activities centered around decisions that teachers need to make about essential and non-essential vocabulary, techniques for teaching and recycling vocabulary, and approaches to teaching students strategies for learning vocabulary on their own. By the end of the seminars, teachers had a better understanding of the role of core vocabulary, the importance of multiple exposures to vocabulary, the need to balance explicit instruction with opportunities for incidental learning, the role of graphic organizers in vocabulary learning, and the range of independent learning strategies that students can learn to become autonomous learners. Although teachers in Tunisia, like teachers everywhere, are constrained by the demands of a national curriculum, by the end of the seminar, teachers had a better grasp of the role that they can play in promoting vocabulary learning in their classrooms.

It is assumed that participating teachers will share much of the information gained from the seminars with their peers. In addition, the Inspectors intend to introduce other teachers, those unable to attend the seminars, to the topics, issues, and techniques presented during their regularly scheduled teacher training meetings. Consequently, the effect of the seminars will be far reaching. The potential for the "multiplier effect" to operate in Tunisia greatly extends the impact of the seminars.


Suggested Bibliography

Those interested in the topic of vocabulary might want to consult the following volumes:

Aitchison, J. (1994). Words in the mind: An introduction to the mental lexicon (2nd ed.). Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.

Carter, R. (1998). Vocabulary: Applied linguistic perspectives (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.

Coady, J. & Huckin, T. (Eds.). (1997). Second language vocabulary acquisition: A rationale for pedagogy. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Hatch, E. & Brown, C. (1995). Vocabulary, semantics, and language education. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Lewis, M. (1994). The lexical approach: The state of ELT and a way forward. Hove, England: Language Teaching Publications.

McCarthy, M. (1990). Vocabulary. New York: Oxford University Press.

Nagy, W. (1988). Teaching vocabulary to improve reading comprehension. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Nation, I. S. P. (1990). Teaching and learning vocabulary. Boston: Heinle & Heinle.

Nation, P. (ed.) (1994). New ways of teaching vocabulary. Alexandria, VA: TESOL.

Schmitt, N., & McCarthy, M. (Eds.). (1997). Vocabulary: Description, acquisition, and pedagogy. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Stahl, S. A. (1999). Vocabulary development. Cambridge, MA: Brookline Books.

Other references:

Christison, M. A., & Stoller, F. L. (1997). A handbook for language program administrators. Burlingame, CA: Alta Book Center.


Recommended Links

Department of English, Northern Arizona University

Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)



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