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Review of  Cutting-Edge Topics and Approaches in Education and Applied Linguistics

Reviewer: Laura Dubcovsky
Book Title: Cutting-Edge Topics and Approaches in Education and Applied Linguistics
Book Author: Cihat Atar
Publisher: Cambridge Scholars Publishing
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Issue Number: 30.2086

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The edited book “Cutting-Edge Topics and Approaches in Education and Applied Linguistics” addresses a variety of subjects, methodologies and perspectives in the educational and the linguistic fields. Rather than focusing on one particular aspect across chapters, the editor is more interested in providing updated information that involves general and local aspects of teaching second and foreign languages. Atar offers a book with a clear layout, organized around two sections that comprise Studies in Education (first five chapters) and Studies in Applied linguistics (last four chapters). As expressed in the introduction, he has the intention of transforming the text into a reference book for interested students, practitioners and researchers.

The section on education discusses relevant topics in the Turkish context, such as role and characteristics of primary and middle school principals, flaws in the honor system, employment opportunities (or lack of them) after graduation from higher educational institutions, and relationships between current media literacy, critical thinking, and democratic attitudes. Chapter 1 focuses on “School principals’ leadership styles from teachers’ perspectives.” S. Akkaş and F. Denkci Akkaş investigate the changing role of school principals in terms of leadership, before and after the Turkish educational reform that took place in 2012. Based on the full-range leadership theory (Antonankis et al., 2003) the authors contrast three main types of leadership: transformational, transactional and laissez faire. They interview 240 elementary and middle school teachers, taking into account variants of gender, school type, field, and years of experience.

Akkaş and Denkci Akkaş do not find significant differences according to the variants of gender and years of experience (less than 5, between 6-11, between 12-20, and more than 21 years). However, when they look at leadership considering the field variant (different disciplinary areas), they notice that social sciences teachers perceive a more transactional type of principal than science and math teachers, who view principals as more laissez-faire leaders. The most important difference is found in the school-type variant. The authors observe that in the past most principals were still perceived as transformational leaders, while after the educational reform, primary school principals are still regarded as transformative, but middle school principals become transactional, and even a few even laissez faire leaders. Akkaş and Denkci Akkaş explain that the contrastive style might be influenced by the new Turkish curriculum implemented at elementary schools only. While the current plans demand that principals adopt a strong transformative style to lead teachers and manage current changes, middle schools still maintain a centralized organization. The latter requires that principals show a transactional style, being prone to act according to stricter regulations, and with limited legal power and autonomy.

In Chapter 2 Avci describes the “‘Honour code’ as part of a teacher preparation program class curriculum.” As indicated in the subtitle, the author proposes “A phenomenological study” with the aim of describing the pervasive cheating pattern, without taking any prescriptive or normalized viewpoint (Vandehey et al., 2007). The author succinctly explains the background of the dishonest behavior and highlights the limited number of studies that addresses the unwanted conduct within the Turkish academic context. Being one of the instructors in the pedagogical formation program at a state university, Avci introduces a take-home exam to his students. Then he interviews ten volunteer participants across disciplines -- psychology, history, Turkish language and literature-- who express their reactions to the newly implemented honor system, which was implemented freely, without disciplinary or punitive deterrents.

Avci uses a qualitative method to analyze students’ comments and classifies their reactions into five major thematic categories: (1) elevated self-worth that embraces issues of self-esteem, (2) less anxiety due to lack of time pressure, especially helpful to non-traditional students who need more time to succeed, (3) stress due to the felt burden of trust, (4) responsibility, and (5) promoted learning that highlights higher order of thinking and critical learning, instead of rote memory. Although findings clearly favor the honor code system, the author acknowledges some limitations in his study, such as his double role of researcher and instructor, lack of consistency between the one-time take-home exam and the generalized use of proctored exams at the institutional level, and the absence of comparative results between proctored and home-take exams within the same group of students.

Chapter 3 reviews, “Graduate Employability Programmes in Malaysian Higher Learning Institutions.” Rahman explains how developing countries like Malaysia struggle to ensure employability after graduation, as these societies do not seem to design academic preparation programs that meet the expectations of current competitive market world. First the author summarizes the existing literature on most “Salient Components of Employability: Knowledge, Skills, Abilities, and Other Characteristics” (Table 3-1, pp. 50-2). Then he describes the Graduate Employability Programme (GEP), a specific intervention conducted in Malaysia, driven by a combination of forces: individual development, institutional effort, university community synergy, and national level (Table 3-2, pp 53-4). Rahman shows that the joint project brings about better results in preparing “ready-made” graduates. Among many positive effects, the intervention enables stronger collaborations between higher learning institutions and the industry, promotes industrial training during the educational years, establishes career centers for professional development, and recruits professionals linked to private sectors. The author concludes that the GEP study may help other scholars interested in conducting similar projects to enhance graduates’ preparation. He highly recommends supporting higher learning institutions by creating collaborative programs that integrate individual, communal and national trends to meet current employability demands.

The following two chapters focus on the development of higher levels of thinking to better manage the surrounding multimodal literacy. In Chapter 4 Erdem describes “The relationship between media literacy and critical thinking” through “A theoretical and empirical review.” First the author summarizes key definitions and characteristics of each construct separately, and then he stresses the strong relationship between the two, as well as the key role played by schools to raise students’ critical awareness. Erdem illustrates “the reciprocal relationship between media literacy and critical thinking” (León, 2016, Figure 4-1 p.74) in studies that focus on different areas of knowledge, contexts, ages and educational levels. For example, Feuerstein (1999) describes a reading intervention program that encourages higher levels of thinking among Israeli students aged 10-12, Arke and Primack (2009) analyze assessments chosen to evaluate literacy knowledge and critical thinking at college level, and Scharrer (2009) examines an intervention on media literacy to prevent violence among sixth grade students. In light of the reviewed literature, Erdem claims that it is the school’s role to pursue the systematic integration of media literacy and critical thinking across the curriculum, so students can be prepared to navigate current and future types of literacy, and manage potential challenges consciously and responsibly.

Chapter 5 continues the previous topic, closing the educational section with “An investigation of the relationship between critical pedagogy approaches and democratic attitudes of prospective teachers.” Kaplan, Karameşe and Başoǧlu emphasize teachers’ behavior to develop media literacy among their students through critical tools of analysis. The authors use scales and principles drawn from the relational screening model (Karasar, 2004) to measure teachers’ democratic attitudes. Although results do not yield significant differences according to age and gender variants, they show variation across disciplines (field variant). For example, prospective science teachers show lower democratic attitudes than those in the departments of psychological counselling and guidance, social science, and Turkish language teaching (Table 5-2, pp. 91-2). Likewise Kaplan, Karameşe and Başoǧlu find some differences within the sub-dimension variants of education system (Table 5-4, p. 93), school functions (Table 5-6, pp.94-5), and liberalizing school (Table 5-7, p. 95) , and attempt to explain the results. For example, special education teachers seem slightly more inclined to the liberalizing school sub-dimension, probably due to the concentration of courses on special needs and the emphasis on educational rights for all persons.

The second section of the book is devoted to topics of applied linguistics specifically related to the teaching of foreign languages, such as vocabulary size, incidental and intentional learning, use of technology, and task-based projects in the classroom. In Chapter 6 Park introduces “The latest development of a real-world learning environment: Digital kitchen to teach second languages.” The author claims that kitchen-related activities can be meaningful and highly motivating in a foreign language classroom. This communal experience usually evokes sensory memories (food’s tastes and smells), verbal exchanges (familial stories and anecdotes), and even non-verbal and cultural reactions (table routines, food sharing, specific meals, etc.). Moreover the constellation of memories, communication, culinary traditions and emotions can also provoke rich conversations in the foreign language, driven by a powerful task- project. The author explains that real kitchen experiences can be easily transferred into digitalized scenarios, suitable to be implemented in the foreign language class. Thanks to increasing collaborations between linguists and computer programmers, sophisticated programs of computer-assisted language learning and human computer interaction, are gradually introduced in current classrooms to enable the creation of more meaningful situations and participatory activities (Seedhouse & Almutairi, 2009).

The digital kitchen is an exemplary model, because it condenses task-based and technological projects, driven by the language, culture and cuisine learning, and providing interactive contexts. The rising use of multimedia and updated resources in the foreign language classroom not only encourages students’ interaction with computers and technological devices, but also students’ social and linguistic skills, as they need to communicate with peers and teachers. Therefore it becomes a valuable experience that helps develop learners’ presentational, reflective and transactional abilities. Finally Park summarizes participants’ testimonies, most of which show great satisfaction of combining task –oriented methodologies with digital projects. Students appreciate learning by doing, through sensory and hands-on activities, as well as the improvement of their language skills and technological knowledge. In Park’s words, “This unique integration of technological and pedagogical properties has the potential to be a vehicle not only to disseminate a pervasive learning environment, but also to advance our understanding of pragmatic aspects of SLA” (p113).

In Chapter 7 Szabo focuses on lexicon and proposes a holistic framework for “Measuring vocabulary size in multiple languages.” The author aims at analyzing second language vocabulary in a more comprehensive manner, including quantitative and qualitative perspectives. To achieve his purpose, he first offers a tripartite model that comprises cognitive, linguistic and social factors. He explains that while vocabulary size usually considers number and frequency of lexical tokens only, the three joined factors point at a deeper understanding of the second language lexicon. Among others, the author refers to cognitive notions of transferability and accessibility, linguistic occurrences of cognates, word borrowings and internationalisms, and social variants of age, gender, background knowledge, and educational level, which help determine the breadth and depth of the bilingual/multilingual vocabulary. Then Szabo applies his tripartite framework to study Hungarian students’ vocabulary size in Romanian (second language) and English (third language). He shows that the combination of cognitive, linguistic and social factors enables better understanding of the lexical complexity composed by form, meaning, and use (Nation, 2013). After examining the decisive role of cognates in second language acquisition, the author concludes that cognate knowledge in one language is not only a strong predictor of cognate knowledge in the other, but it also helps predict the overall lexical knowledge.

Chapter 8 balances “Incidental learning or intentional learning: A compromising and complementary account.” Atar reviews notions of incidental and intentional learning largely discussed in the literature of foreign and second language teaching. He highlights that traditional pedagogies, such as grammar-translation and audio-lingual methods, are linked to intentional ways of learning, while more modern trends, such as the communicative approach, favor incidental and more spontaneous processes of acquiring second and foreign languages. The author discusses how countries like Turkey still continues using explicit and directed methods that stress form, grammatical rules and memorization, over meaningful and authentic communication in the foreign language classroom. While Atar acknowledges the benefits of holistic methodologies based on low-affective filter, natural acquisitional order, and great amount of comprehensible input (Krashen, 1985), he also finds some advantages in providing students with intentional teaching, through explicit instructions and rational explanations of linguistic structures and expressions. Therefore, the author proposes a balanced methodology that includes both incidental and intentional ways of teaching foreign languages. He notices, for example, that extended reading alone seems not to be enough to increase the vocabulary size or deepen the linguistic knowledge, as students may overlook words and simplify lexicon. On the other hand, intentional teaching focused on form, rote memorization and repetition, results in boring and meaningless classrooms. Therefore the combination of enjoyable and incidental activities with intentional opportunities for noticing particular forms, paying attention to idiosyncratic expressions, and enforcing understanding through written production and text redundancy may bring about more productive results (Ellis, 2006).

In the last chapter Yalçin addresses, “Use and importance of games in foreign language teaching.” She first explains the relevance of using games, as they tend to transform the learning process into a more engaging and participatory experience, making it accessible for all, and usually tapping on a broad range of different types of intelligences (Gardner, 1999). The author highlights those games’ features that resonate with foreign language pedagogy, from conveying meaningful communication to raising language awareness. She observes how games do not only address students’ essential abilities of speaking, listening, reading and writing (Kupeckova, 2010), but they also awaken higher levels of thinking and emotions needed in the second/foreign language classroom (Talak-Kiryk, 2010). Moreover Yalçin claims that using games in the classroom enables changes in traditional pedagogy. For example, teachers leave behind a centralized position and become facilitators of the activity, while students assume active and leading roles, participating actively in the learning process.

The game theory provides different ways of classifying games, according to the uses of different materials, focusing on specific topics, developing particular language skills or activities, etc. More importantly than the simple game categorization, teachers should incorporate games that serve well to the lesson purposes and content, reflect students’ language level and developmental stage, in seamlessly integrated manner. The author finally comments on the use of games in Turkish foreign languages classes. Teachers seem torn between the theoretical understanding of using games to increase students’ motivation, participation and responsibility, and the practical daily routine, by which instructors still follow a traditional form- focused approach, with little or no room for games. Yalçin encourages her colleagues to bridge the current gap by integrating well-selected games that will favor students’ language proficiency and participation, while offering a more relaxing environment, and reducing high levels of anxiety.


Atar’s book, “Cutting-Edge Topics and Approaches in Education and Applied Linguistics,” is a valuable summary of current topics in foreign language teaching, combining educational and linguistic aspects. The well-organized sequence and clear style throughout the chapters make the reading accessible for lay and specialized audiences. More importantly, the editor is committed to gathering theoretical and empirical studies, most of them conducted in Turkish educational settings. Readers may compare commonalities between the different educational contexts, as well as identify unique topics, approaches and methodologies addressed in the nine chapters. Additionally, the final list of contributors (pp.177-180) will be greatly appreciated by Western students, practitioners and researchers, with little or no knowledge of the authors, affiliations and work.

Overall the book fulfills the driving goals of communicating current concerns in Turkish language and education. It is evident that authors made a huge effort to write their articles in English in order to disseminate their ideas, frameworks and interventions more broadly. It would have been advisable to have the chapters polished by English speaking experts to secure a consistent style throughout the book. Furthermore , some contributors include references in the text that are later not cited in the final reference list, or conversely others include some references in the final bibliography that have not been used in the text, while other authors include the wrong year of publication, or some other incomplete reference. These lapses could have been avoided through a more careful revision of each and all chapters. The observation is especially relevant, because the Turkish bibliography constitutes a major contribution of this book. Overall “Cutting-Edge Topics and Approaches in Education and Applied Linguistics” represents a valuable attempt to condense main issues and expose the current state-of-the-art in teaching foreign languages in Turkey.


Antonakis, J., Avolio, B., & Sivasubramaniam, N. (2003). Context and leadership: An examination of the nine factor full-range leadership theory using the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire. The Leadership quarterly, 14(3), 261-295.

Arke, E., & Primack, B. (2009). Quantifying media literacy: Development, reliability and validity of a new measure. Educational Media International, 46(1), 53-65.

Ellis, N. (2006). Selective attention and transfer phenomenon in L2 acquisition: Contingency, cue competition, salience, interference, overshadowing, blocking, and perceptual learning. Applied Linguistics, 27(2), 164-194.

Feuerstein, M. (1999). Media literacy in support of critical thinking. Journal of Educational Media, 24(1), 43-54.

Gardner, H. (1999). Intelligence reframed: Multiple intelligences for the 21st century. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Karasar, N. (2004). Scientific Research Methods. Ankara: Nobel Yayin Dagitim

Krashen, S. (1985). The input hypothesis: Issues and implications. London: Longman.

Kupeckova, L. (2019). Game-like activities. ( Bachelor thesis ), Masaryk University Faculty of Education Department of English language and literature.

León, Y. (2016). Media literacy to promote critical thinking in the EFL classroom. Universidad Distrital Francisco José de Caldas, Colombia.

Nation, I. (2013). Learning vocabulary in another language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Scharrer, E. (2009 ). Measuring effects of a media literacy program on conflict and violence. Journal of Media Literacy Education, 1, 12-27.

Seedhouse, P., & Almutairi, S. (2009). A holistic approach to task-based interaction. International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 19(3), 311-338.

Talak-Kiryk, A. (2010). Using games in a foreign language classroom. MA TESOL Collection, Paper 484.

Vandehey, M., Diekhoff, G., & LaBeff, E. (2007). College cheating. A twenty-year follow- up and the addition of an honor code. Journal of College Student Development, 48, 468-480.
Laura Dubcovsky is a retired lecturer and supervisor from the Teacher Education Program in the School of Education at the University of California, Davis. With a Master’s in Education and a PhD in Spanish linguistics /with special emphasis on second language acquisition, her interests tap topics of language and bilingual education. She has taught a pre-service bilingual teachers’ course that addresses communicative and academic traits of Spanish, needed in a bilingual classroom for more than ten years. She is currently helping in- service bilingual teachers with oral and written use of Spanish for educational purposes. She also volunteers as interpreter in parent/teachers conferences at schools and often translates school letters, minutes, and announcements programs and flyers. She volunteers at the Crocker Art Museum by translating artists’ captions and brochures, and in sporadic translations for emergency programs (STEAC) and the Davis Art Center. She is a long-standing reviewer for the Linguistic list- serve, the Southern California Professional Development Schools and more recently for the Journal of Latinos and Education. She published “Functions of the verb decir (‘to say’) in the incipient academic Spanish writing of bilingual children in Functions of Language, 15(2), 257-280 (2008) and the chapter, “Desde California. Acerca de la narración en ámbitos bilingües” in ¿Cómo aprendemos y cómo enseñamos la narración oral? (2015). Rosario, Homo Sapiens: 127- 133.

Format: Hardback
ISBN-13: 9781527508040
Pages: 191
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