Linh Phung Oral Defense      On March 5, 2017, AU doctoral student Linh Phung successfully defended her Dissertation on Learners’ Engagement in Task Performance.  Two weeks later, she became Dr. Linh Phung, the first graduate of Anaheim University’s Ed.D. in TESOL program.  After her Defense, we interviewed Dr. Phung about her experience with Anaheim University.  

- Why did you choose Anaheim University’s Ed.D. in TESOL program?

Completing a doctorate has been my goal since I finished my Master’s degree. I first learned about Anaheim University’s Ed.D. in TESOL when I saw an advertisement on the TESOL International’s website. Since I work full-time, studying online fit my schedule perfectly. I was also impressed by who was on the faculty and wished to learn from them, so I applied, got accepted, and started the program. 

- Can you tell us about your career to date?

I’ve been teaching EFL and ESL for almost 15 years. I’ve taught in various universities in Vietnam and the U.S. I’m currently the director of the English Language Program at Chatham University. I oversee different aspects of the program, including curriculum, assessment and placement of new students, student advisement, student progress and achievement, ELP admission, and program evaluation. It’s a challenging job, but I expand my experiences by handling different challenges every day.  

- How do you expect your Ed.D. to further your career?

I knew that I wanted to go all the way in the education journey to attain the highest degree. I pursued an Ed.D. mostly because I always enjoy learning. The Ed.D. will, hopefully, provide me with opportunities to teach graduate courses, conduct research, and publish in the future.   

- Can you share a favorite memory from Anaheim University?

I enjoyed talking with classmates after each lesson. We talked about so many things, and I felt I had a voice. It gave me confidence. 

- Did you have a favorite class at Anaheim University?

I enjoyed so many classes that it is difficult to say what my favorite class was. I enjoyed Dr. Ellis’ courses because of the clarity of his instruction. His Instructed SLA course provided me with a clear taxonomy of different options in teaching grammar and promoting learners’ linguistic development. I also liked his Individual Differences (ID) course because I was fascinated with the dynamic concept of motivation although sometimes I felt I was being in a maze of hazy ID concepts. Dr. Tomlinson’s Materials Development course has been highly influential since I have been applying his principles of materials development in many of the courses that I teach. It was the first time that I thought about “cognitively and affectively” engaging materials. In addition, it motivated my dissertation research into learners’ engagement in task performance. Dr. Lambert’s Researching Tasks course introduced me to task-based language teaching (TBLT). No matter how influential the approach has been, I did not think much of TBLT before this course, probably because it was not discussed as frequently in the U.S. as in other contexts. The case study I completed in his course was expanded into my dissertation research. I loved Dr. Bailey’s Language Teacher Education and Qualitative Research courses because she was simply amazing instructor, who held high expectations of the students while being motivating at the same time. Dr. Murray and Christenson’s ELT Management course equipped me with frameworks and tools to be a better leader. Dr. Reinders’ lessons were always so thoroughly prepared and fun! Other courses were also interesting and informative to my work and research, and I truly enjoyed them all.  

- How did you enjoy the online experience?

I enjoyed the online experience at Anaheim University because it allowed students to work independently as well as collaboratively. It also incorporated weekly live lectures, which were important in pushing us to complete all the necessary work before the lecture. The fact that the students and professor were on camera together once a week created a better sense of community.  

- Who would you recommend to the Anaheim University Ed.D. program?

I would recommend the program to anyone who is currently working as a language teacher and wants to expand their knowledge and have access to leadership, research, and publication opportunities. 

- What were the challenges in your program?

The challenges have somewhat faded from my memory probably because I greatly enjoyed the program. I think taking course work non-stop for three years was difficult as I was always busy with reading, completing tasks, and doing assignments. The weekend when the major papers were due was when I had to work dozens of hours straight. I know I’m a procrastinator. 

- Please tell us about your experience the Oral Defense.  Were you nervous beforehand?

I submitted my dissertation in December, but because I and my Defense Committee members are located in several different continents, the defense could only be scheduled in March. I took a break from my dissertation for several months before starting to prepare for the defense. I read my dissertation again several times, reread some of the major articles I cited, and took notes of what I took away from the research. I was anxious the day before the defense, a few hours before the defense, and also during the defense. I was also excited, so I just said whatever came to my mind in response to the examiner’s questions. I might have talked too much, but with passion, so it might have been a good thing. The bottom line was that I passed, so I was exhilarated. 

- What was your dissertation topic and why did you select it?

My topic was learners’ engagement in task performance. I selected it because I’m interested in developing tasks and materials that are cognitively and affectively engaging to learners. When learners are highly engaged, perhaps, they will learn more from their lessons.

- Which residential sessions did you attend and what did you like best about them?

I attended two residential sessions in California. It was great to see the professors, classmates, and Anaheim’s staff in person. Apart from great workshops, we had wonderful time talking over meals and drinks. 

- How did you feel connected to your learning community?

I felt close to all of my classmates. We talked every week while taking courses. We also shared our experiences and supported each other through email and Facebook. I love them! I was also impressed by how responsive the professors were. 

- In your opinion, how does learning TESOL improve careers for ESL teachers?

Nowadays, employers look for teachers with specific training, so I think a TESOL degree is often necessary for teachers to secure a full-time job in teaching ESL. 

- What are you future plans now that you have completed the Ed.D.?

I’m excited to have an article published with Language Teaching Research. My first book co-authored with Hayo Reinders and Marilyn Lewis on study skills will be published this April. I’m currently looking for an opportunity to teach a graduate course in TESOL, either on the ground or online. 

- What advice can you give to new students entering the Ed.D. program?

I think having a positive attitude and trying to focus on things that you will gain from a situation (instead of things that upset you) will make the learning process easier. Grades are important, but I think I also tried hard because I wanted to present good work to professors and show my competence. My MA thesis advisor, Dr. Paula Golombek, once told me that "There is so much incompetence out there, that when people see competence, they appreciate it and tend to throw more responsibilities your way." I have been following her advice by trying to do quality work.