Post-IATEFL reflections: the challenges we take away?

You spend ages anticipating it, it finally arrives and then it’s over in a flash! That’s IATEFL for you. I’ve also heard it described as:

 “an unnaturally high concentration of TEFLers in a single location.”

“a human pinball machine” [@hughdellar: If you’ve never attended IATEFL, imagine being propelled round a human pinball machine containing everyone you’ve ever met in ELT]

…neither of which I would argue with!

What do you take away?

Now that it’s over, all that remains is a bunch of footage on the British Council Harrogate Online site, happy memories and hopefully other take-aways too. And I’m not talking pizza here. Neither am I just talking ideas, though there are plenty of those. (I’m glad I blogged so much – it means that now I have the opportunity of going back and reminding myself of all the ideas I’ve been exposed to over the last week!) I think a major take-away from a conference like IATEFL is that of challenge.

  • the challenge of grappling with all the new ideas you’ve met.
  • the challenge of actually experimenting with those new ideas in your school/lesson.
  • as a speaker, the challenge of reflecting on your talk/workshop and identifying what lessons you can learn from it, to improve for next time.
  • the challenge of articulating, at least to yourself, why it is that you don’t agree with everything that you heard, rather than dismissing anything that doesn’t fit in with your current beliefs as just plain wrong.
  • the challenge of deciding where CPD will take you next – and acting on that. (Is it just a personal action research/experimental practice plan? a training course? a renewed resolution to read more – books, articles etc? submitting a speaker proposal for a different conference?)

Challenge is important

Many attendees have been up-in-arms over the final morning plenary by Sugata Mitra (summary here), with quite a backlash of Tweets and Facebook posts resulting. – I think that’s great! They – and their beliefs – have been challenged. If you only ever attend talks that you completely agree with, your beliefs may become entrenched and less open to change/development/evolution. (That’s not to say that attending talks whose speakers you are on the same wavelength as is a bad thing: far from it – it can be quite a euphoria-inducing thing to hear somebody else articulate those things that you, yourself, feel strongly about. I think people quite naturally like to feel validated in what they believe.)

At IATEFL, the spread of topics and contexts that you can attend talks and workshops on, is phenomenal, and this is part of what is so special about it. In my Day 2 reflections post I comment on this:

“To me, IATEFL is about the learning (attending talks, giving talks) but also about keeping in touch with the big, wide ELT world that exists out there.”

Hugh Dellar touched on this during his talk, too, suggesting that when we attend conferences, we shouldn’t exclusively be looking for new ideas to take away and try in the classroom, but also look to engage with theories. To theories, I would also add different aspects of our profession: talks related to different areas of professional development, to contexts that we don’t currently work in and to research. Why? To broaden our horizons. To engage with our profession as a whole rather than just our tiny day-to-day slice of it. To challenge our beliefs and practices.

Challenge and growth

My three-part challenge to all participants of IATEFL 2014, whether live or online, is:

  • to not move swiftly on and forget about it till next year’s IATEFL rolls around but rather to reflect on what you’ve learnt and decide how it’s going to affect your beliefs and practice in the time to come: try new things out, experiment with adjustments and see if they are effective or not…find out more about anything that was new to you, and see where that takes you…
  • to fully engage with anything you disagree with. Debate it. Argue with it. But don’t just say it’s wrong and dismiss it. (And I can already see some people are engaging – fantastic!)
  • to remember how big and varied the profession is, when you’re back in your tiny slice of it and life has moved on and keep abreast of it through reading – books/journal articles/anything that reunites you with the wider world of ELT and opens your mind to what’s happening outside your little patch – and interacting with colleagues world-wide online through various channels of communication.

What would you challenge everybody to do post-IATEFL?

Or, how has IATEFL challenged you? Let’s share challenges, challenge each other and, in so doing, help each other stay engaged and on the ball?! 🙂

Thank you, IATFL, for an enriching few days and to everybody who has been part of my IATEFL this year. See you all next time?

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5 thoughts on “Post-IATEFL reflections: the challenges we take away?

  1. Nice summing up. , IATEFL is not only about attending talks and giving talks but also about keeping in touch with the big, wide ELT world. It is about challenging our set notions and growing professionally.. I liked it so much that I felt compelled to reblog it for the benefit of the wider ELT community.

  2. Pingback: Post-IATEFL reflections: the challenges we take...

  3. Pingback: IATEFL 2014: Bringing all my posts together in one place! | Reflections of an English Language Teacher

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