Interview with Professor Ali Fuad Selvi

Dr. Ali Fuad Selvi joined the Department of English as Assistant Professor of TESOL and Applied Linguistics in 2022. 

What is your academic background?          

I completed my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Foreign Language Education at Middle East Technical University (METU) (Ankara, Turkey). During this time, I started my teaching career as an Instructor of Academic English at Atılım University’s (Ankara, Turkey) Intensive English Program. Then, I joined the doctoral program in Second Language Education and Culture at the University of Maryland (College Park, MD), where I also served as a Research Associate and the Interim Coordinator of TESOL Programs upon graduation. Before joining the UA’s Department of English, I worked in the Teaching English as a Foreign Language Program at METU Northern Cyprus Campus, taught both undergraduate and graduate levels, and served as the Program Coordinator (Department Chair).

Joining the doctoral program at Maryland was not just a mere transition to advanced professional and academic socialization but also the first concrete step to being a part of the intellectual conversation. In this picture, I viewed service and leadership as an integral part of my professional identity and took active roles in local (e.g., Washington D.C. Area TESOL Association) and international professional organizations (e.g., TESOL International Association). Most recently, I served as the Chair of the Conferences Professional Council and served as the Program Chair for the 2019 TESOL Convention (Atlanta, GA). Today, I continue this mission by reviewing papers/books for major publishers and serving on the editorial boards of internationally acclaimed journals in TESOL/Applied Linguistics—TESOL Quarterly, Journal of Language, Identity, and Education, System, and TESOL Journal, to name a few. Consequently, my leadership and service to the profession were acknowledged by multiple awards, including the TESOL International Association’s 30 Up and Coming Leaders, in recognition of my potential to “shape the future of both the association and the profession for years to come.”


What led you to the study of TESOL/Linguistics?


Unlike many others, my story into education and TESOL/Applied Linguistics has not started with an idealized teacher in my family or a Dead Poet Society moment paving straight to the teacher education program. Even though I found myself in the program for practical reasons, finding my professional self as an emergent scholar was a result of my fascination with the diverse uses, users, varieties, functions, and contexts of English (vis-à-vis other languages) in an increasingly superdiverse world. Dr. Joshua Bear’s thought-provoking classes and our intellectual conversations planted the seeds of criticality and (self-)reflexivity that reify different facets of who I was, am, and will be (my personal, professional and scholarly identities), what I do (research, endeavors as an emerging scholar) and why I do (my goal and vision). Since then, my professional identity and research have gravitated around the critical approaches to TESOL (as an activity, profession, and area of scholarly inquiry) and related stakeholders (e.g., teachers, teacher educators, researchers, and professional associations) in the uncertain world and the changing sociocultural, political, economic, educational, and environmental conditions therein.


I see that you have come a great distance to join our Linguistics/TESOL program. What drew you to UA’s Department of English? What is your vision now that you’re here?

Broadly, my career goal is to help individuals, particularly TESOL professionals who work with culturally and linguistically diverse populations, recognize how they can align themselves and their work with the various uses, users, functions, and contexts of English as a global language. I came to UA’s English Department because it has an excellent academic milieu and an interdisciplinary group of scholars committed to the promotion of equity, social responsibility, and justice in (language) education. This position affords a unique opportunity both to learn from and contribute to this amazing group of scholars, and to maintain an active research-teaching agenda contributing to the sociolinguistic diversity of English uses, users, contexts, and functions.

This vision constituted a fundamental pillar of my research program and scholarship, all the way from my first book, Teaching English as an International Language (TESOL Press, 2013), to my latest co-edited volume, Language Teacher Education for Global Englishes: A Practical Resource Book (Routledge, 2021). More specifically, my scholarship gravitates around three major areas: (1) Global Englishes with specific emphases on its implications for language learning, teaching, teacher education, and language policy/planning; (2) issues of (in)equity, privilege, marginalization, justice, and professionalism in TESOL, and (3) second language teacher education with specific emphases on the knowledge-base of language teachers, language teacher identity construction and negotiation.

To further expand this vision, I am currently working on several book/handbook projects with colleagues around the world, including The Routledge Handbook of English as an International Language (Routledge), Teaching English as an International Language (Cambridge Elements), International Perspectives on Critical English Language Teacher Education: Theory and Practice (Bloomsbury), and Multilingual Leadership in TESOL (Routledge).


Tell me about your teaching style. 


My approach to teaching is grounded in the Freirean notion of “praxis,” which views teaching-learning in a context where both theory and practice would ideally go hand-in-hand through constant reflection with an ultimate goal of transformation. This understanding is in sync with a sociocultural theoretical framework that positions teacher-learners as active users and producers of knowledge and teacher learning as situated in social contexts and mediated across people, artifacts, and activities. I am true believer of the dynamic nature of the teaching-learning process, which embraces the establishment of an intellectual learning community, the engagement in self-reflexivity, and the utilization of a diverse network of resources to maximize learning opportunities.

As a reflexive teacher and teacher educator, I truly believe that failing in the classroom as an opportunity for improvement. For example, when I taught the Second Language Acquisition course in the MA TESOL program at Maryland I asked my students to review the existing literature and to develop a static piece of writing (literature review) on a specific topic. Even though students produced high-quality papers, we (as members of the teaching-learning community) recognized the problematic nature of this assignment as being loosely connected to the (current/future) professional lives and realities of the course participants as language teachers. To overcome this problem, I co-designed a semester-long inquiry project which afforded teacher candidates opportunities to collect, analyze, and synthesize multiple sources of data (i.e., language learning autobiography, classroom observation, interviews with a language teacher and a language teacher, and critical review of the literature) in developing their working conclusions situated at the nexus of the symbiotic relationship between theory and practice. Grounded in the sociocultural conceptual framework, the inquiry-based final paper blurred the perennial chasm between theory and practice (and the asymmetrical juxtaposition of researchers and practitioners) by promoting an ongoing dialogical relationship between theory and practice. The SLA inquiry project that I co-developed for TESOL teacher candidates (taught both in-class and online modalities) has been highlighted as a best practice in course development and teacher preparation (Staehr Fenner & Kuhlman, 2012) concerning TESOL/CAEP Standards.


What have you found to be the most unexpected surprise about coming to UA? 


The most unexpected and pleasant surprise about coming to UA was the notion of diversity operationalized at various levels. The MATESOL program brings together outstanding faculty members and impressive students representing diversity in terms of not just visible characteristics and categories of identity (e.g., ethnolinguistic background, race, gender, among others) but also in terms of personal/professional trajectories, ideological commitments, and even future aspirations. Therefore, it feels great to be an organic part of this vibrant community and have an opportunity to cross-path with amazing individuals from whom I learn every day.


–Amanda Snyder