Master’s student Lauren Bezzant presents new program at a University of Chicago Conference.
It comes as no surprise that BYU leads the world as one of the top language universities, encouraging language learning both outside and inside the classroom. From September 15 to 17, Associate Professor Troy Cox (Language Learning and Assessment) took six students from the Center for Language Studies (CLS) to the Language Assessment Research Conference (LARC) held at the University of Chicago. Researchers at the conference explored the many ways that language assessment transforms language teaching practices. Not only did students and professors learn and present research, but they also formed meaningful connections that transcended academia.
At the conference, master’s student Lauren Bezzant (Second Language Teaching ’24) presented her research on becoming a self-regulated language learner outside of the classroom. She wondered how students could learn languages effectively on their own and use the class as a supplemental resource to help them with their own goals. “The idea of BYU is to create lifelong learners. How can we free students [from] feeling like they need a [language] class to do the learning?” Cox asks.
Bezzant’s research turned into a pilot program. Each week, participants worked on a different project that built real-world language experience, earning cash prizes after they finished certain activities. Through steadily improving their skills, participants plan, practice, reflect, and evaluate their success.
“Self-regulation are those behaviors that you do in order to reach those goals or in order to accomplish the thing that you’ve set out to do,” Bezzant says. Using participants’ feedback and experiences from the pilot program, Bezzant plans to run the program again in the future and hopefully offer a scholarship or language learning program as a reward, depending on the funding she receives.
Aside from the research, Cox also emphasizes the meaningful interactions he had with those of different backgrounds and faiths at the conference. To thank him for his service at the conference, Cox’s Kurdish friend, Akhmed, gave him a water bottle inscribed with Philippians 4:13, which says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Cox proudly displays the bottle in his office, impressed by the heartfelt extension of gratitude crossing religious and cultural barriers.
Bezzant notes that her connections at the event also allowed her to meet people that gave her a shift in perspective. “There are a lot of people that do have that progress-minded attitude to language teaching and recognize that the way we’ve always done it isn’t necessarily the right way.”
More than anything, Cox says that he and his students bonded as language researchers and friends, extending beyond just a professor-student relationship. “I think the thing that I like about it is that when you’re not at school and in classes, you’re able to connect on a different level,” Cox says. He and his students continue to meet weekly and discuss ways to improve language acquisition and assessment.
Find out more about independent language study and testing programs at the Center for Language Studies.