Fulbright Scholar grant allows English's Cynthia Myers to work hand-in-hand
with Chileans developing new on-line course.
Cynthia Myers has a greater appreciation today of the experience her
students go through.
An adjunct instructor of English at Iowa State, Myers has taught English
as a Second Language (ESL) to international students upon their arrival
About six years ago, Myers, who has a deep affection for Latin America,
decided to learn Spanish herself. After sitting in on several Spanish
courses, Myers says her language skills have become proficient enough
for her to “get along fine on an informal basis.”
But when Myers spent five months recently in Concepcion, Chile, she soon
discovered that while she could get by in certain situations, it was quite
different in others.
"It really brought home to me in a very personal way the struggles
that my students must have here," she said. "Fortunately the
nature of my project was such that we usually worked in English instead
of Spanish. But I did need to communicate with the technical staff in
During her stay, Myers helped a team at the University of Concepcion develop
a multi-media English as a Foreign Language (EFL) curriculum for a beginning
Web-based EFL course on that campus. EFL courses are offered in non-English
speaking countries for students who want to learn English. ESL courses
are offered to international students who are currently enrolled in schools
in countries where English is the native language.
Myers worked as a consultant to a team of 16 writers and computer programmers
on the project, which is funded partially by the Chilean Ministry of Education
and the University of Concepcion. Demand in Chile has increased for students
at the university level who wish to learn the English language. But budgetary
concerns make the development of on-line courses a necessity.
In addition to her work with the Iowa State ESL program, Myers has also
worked several summers in Mexico teaching EFL courses. Those courses however
have always involved face-to-face interactions between the instructor
"This is a very different approach to EFL instruction," she
said. "There are some principles that are the same when developing
this type of course. But there are many, many other things you need to
One of those things was the importance of including a native speaker on
the project. Myers said her colleagues all speak English extremely well,
but were more fluent in British English than American English.
"I was able to give them some insight into this area," she said.
Even after her return to the U.S., Myers plans to continue her association
with the project. She will be helping the web team with evaluating a pilot
Myers' five-month stay in Chile was funded through a Fulbright Scholar
grant. This program sends hundreds of American scholars and professionals
every year to more than 140 countries, where they lecture and/or conduct
research in a wide variety of academic and professional fields.
She became involved in the project after fellow Department of English
faculty member Carol Chapelle spoke at a conference in Chile. While in
the country, Chapelle met with the University of Concepcion web team.
Upon returning to Iowa State, Chapelle told Myers about the university's
efforts to developed a web-based EFL course.
"Carol knew my background and my interest in Latin America,"
Myers said. "I looked into a Fulbright and thought it was a long
shot at best.
"But the project fit well with national goals to increase English
language teaching in Chile."
January 26 to February 8, 2004