A growing ‘peer sponsorship’: OISE doctoral students co-edit book on language norms

By Perry King
March 4, 2024
Left to right: Sarah Jones, Professor Julie Kerekes and Rebecca Schmor. Contributed photo.
Left to right: Sarah Jones, Professor Julie Kerekes and Rebecca Schmor. Contributed photo.

Sarah Jones and Rebecca Schmor met in a first-year doctoral course at OISE and have been growing together as academics ever since, collaborating closely to develop their pedagogy and scholarship.

They define their relationship as a “peer sponsorship”, a growth-oriented partnership in which two peers go beyond collaboration and actively seek out opportunities for each other (they’ve also published about this partnership ).

When the doctoral candidates got the chance to edit a book together, they enthusiastically  brought together their skills and experience to develop a proposal for what is now an edited volume called . 

Published by IGI Global in Dec. 2023 and in collaboration with Professor Julie Kerekes, the book brings together a collection of position papers, critical reflections, and explorations by emerging and established voices in the field of multilingualism and applied linguistics. It expands on existing scholarly literature and seeks to challenge the traditional assumptions about mono-cultures and mono-languages, creating a space for a diversity of perspectives and arguments.

While speaking about their experiences at a publishing panel hosted by OISE’s Centre for Educational Research on Languages and Literacies (CERLL) in January, the student editors shared how they found the experience enriching and one-of-a-kind.

OISE spoke to Schmor and Jones to put their experience into further context. 

How did you establish your “peer sponsorship”?

Schmor: I met Sarah Jones in the first year of my PhD studies, during the pro-seminar course taught by Professor Julie Kerekes. Julie encouraged our cohort to maintain contact after the end of the proseminar, and Sarah reached out to me after the course about creating a small feedback group with other students in our cohort to support each other with scholarship applications. After that, Sarah and I met up in person and discussed the idea of co-writing an article for publication. From there, we continued to meet and soon developed an empirical study with another classmate. 

While Sarah and I both collaborate with other classmates and colleagues, we began to realize that our collaboration reflected not only a peer mentorship, but a sponsorship relationship. While mentorship may involve sharing knowledge and guidance, in our “peer sponsorship,” we are active participants in each other’s professional growth. As Sarah and I engage in collective and individual professional development initiatives, we support each other by setting academic goals, giving feedback on writing, exchanging professional opportunities, and advocating for one another within our networks. We did not initially set out to establish a peer sponsorship; it emerged organically and continues to develop, most recently as we became co-editors of the book Reconceptualizing Language Norms in Multilingual Contexts.

Jones: I think Rebecca has really said it all here. I have worked very briefly with Julie as a graduate research assistant, though the project did not actualize. Fortunately, I have known Julie for over ten years, having been her supervisee during my Masters degree at OISE as well as my current PhD studies. I began the project with a long history of respect and trust in that regard. When our book proposal was accepted, the publisher requested that we add an editor who had already earned a PhD. While Rebecca and I both enjoy close relationships with our supervisors, we felt the subject matter was more aligned with Julie's research and so we approached her to see if she would join our editorial team. Luckily for us, she said yes, and we very quickly found a working rhythm that worked for all three of us.

What guides the formulation of your research questions? Why do you care about these paths of inquiry?

Schmor: My personal research is guided by a commitment to advancing linguistic and cultural inclusion in education, through a specific focus on language identity. As someone who lives, learns, and works in English, Spanish, German, and Italian, I am personally invested in understanding the role of plurilingual and pluricultural identity in influencing our interactions with people of difference. 

My research questions, as such, are guided by the intention to bring diverse people, places, and perspectives into dialogue across linguistic and cultural differences. My current research contributes to perspectives on the relationship between teacher identity and linguistically inclusive education, using a novel methodology called pluriethnography that guides plurilingual teachers to develop their own inquiry in the role of "researchers of difference."

Jones: I have been motivated by my experiences as a language educator and by what I have seen and heard from my students over the years. To me, there is a disparity between what language is taught in the classroom and how it is being used out in the "real world", and by documenting actual language practices, we can better understand how to support language learners. Language is alive and ever-changing, and speakers use the language for their own purposes. I'm interested in exploring the different ways LX users of English (people who speak English as a non-dominant language) use language to accomplish their goals, especially when it comes to forming and maintaining relationships with others. My current research looks at various social language practices of internationally-educated healthcare professionals.

Describe the challenges, but also the excitement, or drawing up book proposals. What stood out in the experience?

Schmor: This was the first time Sarah or I had developed a book proposal. Having each other's support made the process of developing a book proposal relatively easy and enjoyable. We had met for a "walk and work" session at Woodbine beach when I asked Sarah if she would be interested in editing a book together, telling her about an invitation email I had received from a publisher. After that meeting, we each drafted a proposal individually and then met for a collaborative feedback session where we finalized the two proposals and clicked the "submit" button together. Having gone through the process together also made it easier when one of the proposals was rejected, as we were able to react to and consider possible reasons for the rejection together. Had neither of the proposals been accepted, we would have been able to help each other reflect, grow from the experience, and draft a new book proposal.

Jones: I agree with Rebecca - collaborating on the development of two proposals was very helpful! I didn't have a clear vision for a proposal when we first met; however, one of the first questions Rebecca asked me during our "walk and work" was what kind of academic book I'd like to see, but had never seen, out in the world. This was powerful for me, and ultimately led to the book proposal that was accepted. I also think that, at least for me, my lack of experience was an asset. Since I didn't fully understand what we were getting into, or the accepted practices of the editing and book publishing industry, I was able to take risks without the fear of failure I may have felt as a more experienced editor. And of course, I had the support of a trusted friend and colleague, as well as a supervisor I admire deeply. I certainly never felt like I was alone, and there was always someone I could ask for feedback or guidance.

What did this experience teach you about your relationships as colleagues and researchers?

Schmor: This experience taught me about the value of collaboration; I had always valued collaboration in my relationships with colleagues, but some of my previous collaborative experiences had been rooted more in cooperation, with each person contributing a single piece to a joint project. This project was truly collaborative, as the three of us combined our unique research perspectives and lived experiences to generate something that we would not have created on our own. I also came to more greatly value the role of vulnerability in fostering mutual trust and personal growth during the process of co-editing the book. 

With Sarah and Julie, our combination of candour and respect during each step of the editing process made me feel comfortable both asking for guidance and suggesting new ideas. We also drew on our complementary strengths when co-assigning editing tasks, and extended our pool of expertise when necessary by reaching out to editorial board members or other colleagues for input. This reinforced for me that my own skills and knowledge can be extended through collaboration to achieve outcomes that would not be possible alone.  

Jones: Once again, I couldn't agree more. Working with Rebecca has been one of the most rewarding parts of my graduate student experience. Not only were we able to contribute our individual strengths, but I find that the overall quality of my own work is heightened through the act of collaborating with someone whose work I admire and who I trust. Being personally invested in Rebecca's professional growth and development as well as my own has also been both motivating and rewarding for me, and I believe that "being competitive together" is an incredible asset, especially for emerging academics like us. I'm glad Rebecca has already mentioned candour and vulnerability, since those stand out to me as key in my collaborations with both Rebecca and Julie. As for my relationship with Julie, she has taught me lessons about how to navigate academia with integrity, grace, and honesty that have only deepened in the experience of editing a book together.

How does this experience prepare you for future projects?

Schmor: This experience has prepared me for future projects by providing me with a model for meaningful collaboration as well as practical tools and organization systems. For instance, I can replicate the tools we developed to disseminate the call for chapters, track reviews and revisions, and monitor email communications in future editorial projects. I have also gained an awareness of the entire editorial process – from conceptualization to dissemination – which has better prepared me for submitting my own manuscripts in the future. Having been on the other side of the editorial process, I can better empathize with the challenges and objectives of editors, such as finding appropriate reviewers, managing multiple deadline extensions, and ensuring the thematic fit of manuscripts. 

Ultimately, this project has prepared me to take on future projects with the mindset that “I don't need to know everything, I just need to know where to find it, when I need it,” in the words of Albert Einstein.  

Jones: I certainly feel more confident in my ability to take on large projects, especially with the right partners and colleagues. Reflecting on the different stages of this project has also helped me become more self-aware in terms of my contributions to a team. I was also surprised by some of the learning opportunities during the project, such as balancing a variety of communication styles and gently guiding contributors to meet deadlines, as well as honouring different authorial voices while also attempting to curate a book that was holistically coherent. Finally, I now understand the pride and excitement that comes from completing a big project like this. I'm proud of the work we were able to do together, and I'm proud of our book. I hope I'll channel more of that pride into my (and our) future projects.

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