Reflections rather than elections! I thought I’d do a post that brings together the many posts I wrote at IATEFL in Brighton this year and my experience of the conference, accompanied by a spot of reflecting (this is, after all, Reflections of an English Language Teacher!)
For me, one of the themes I followed through the conference was that of inclusion. How to differentiate in the classroom? How to be more LGBT (and other “others”) friendly? How to recognise and deal with special educational needs in the classroom? How to adapt activities in a course book students with different needs? I think these are all very important issues to consider, as it is part of our job as language teachers to make our classrooms a welcome, helpful, inclusive place for all students. We need to get them all dancing (to borrow from a quote that Maria Dolores Gomez opened her presentation with)!
Here are my posts related to this theme:
- Dealing with diversity in the classroom – Geoff Tranter
- Differentiation at the heart of the ELTC classroom – Emily Hodge
- Designing materials that address learner and teacher spiky profiles – Julie Day
Difabilities (a better way to put it than “disabilities”)
- An inclusive ELT classroom: being asked to dance – Maria Dolores Gomez
- Special Educational Needs: How to identify, differentiate and celebrate! – Kate Middleton
- Are you writing for all learners? – Romulo Neves (Materials Writing PCE)
I think there’s a lot we can do as teachers to make our classrooms a place for everybody, regardless of what they bring with them. I plan to blog more about this soon – am currently doing the Futurelearn course on Dyslexia and Foreign Language Learning that Lancaster University has put together and it is super interesting! Week 1 was mostly theory-based, the remaining three weeks have a lot more practical focus in terms of things to look for and things you can do. I’m looking forward to using some of what I learn. Click on the picture below to find out more!
I’m already using some of the ideas and insights picked up in the talks at IATEFL. Nothing very dramatic so far, but it’s made me consider my practice from another perspective, according to different criteria, and make little tweaks, which is an interesting process!
Teacher Development and Teacher Training
I know these are two different things, but for the purposes of this post I have decided to group them. Especially because the teacher training post is about development for new teacher trainers!
I attended the Teacher Development forum, and it was interesting to see the 3 different approaches that representatives of 3 different institutions have used to create a culture of CPD where they work/manage. It’s always nice to get an insight into how other places do things. There seems to be a definite shift from top-down development to development programmes that enable teachers to take more control of their development while providing the scaffolding required for that to be done successfully.
I also participated in a workshop by Beth Davies and Nick Northall, who work at the ELTC here at Sheffield Uni and were both, in fact, tutors on the CELTA course that I did many moons ago. Though I am not a teacher trainer yet, it is an avenue I am interested in pursuing in due course, so it was interesting to have a glimpse of the things that new trainers have to consider and learn about. The session was as hands-on and action-packed as I remember my CELTA input sessions being, back in the day – rather a lovely trip down memory lane in that sense!
Finally, my own talk was about using the British council framework as a way of making development more systematic. In a nice, interconnected kind of way, given how the theme jumped out at me throughout IATEFL, I demonstrated the approach I set out using the “Using inclusive practices” portion of the framework. I had 40-something attendees, of whom, amusingly enough given the title, a fair number were managers! I think it went well – no rotten tomatoes were thrown at any rate…
Here are links to the write-ups of each of the above:
- Effective and personalised: the holy grail of CPD (forum)
- No one told me that! Top tips for new trainers
- I don’t want to be a manger – now what?
Emotional and Social Intelligence
I attended two talks which looked at different aspects of intelligence. One was about emotional intelligence in managers and one was about social intelligence for teachers. If I had to pick out something very simple yet very important from the social intelligence one, it’s that in order to have a successful group discussion, you need to get into group mode. In other words, you need greater awareness of the people around you and the space you are sharing together – focusing outwards as well as inwards, and being aware of your effect on what’s out there. The question that it sparks in my mind, though the talk was teacher-focused, is when we do group work with students, how do we help them to get into group mode? Bearing in mind that it may be more difficult for some students than others to do this. I don’t have all the answers, is just one of the many things I am thinking about at the moment! As for emotional intelligence in managers, the four key elements of it are: Self-awareness, self-management in terms of emotion, awareness of others (aka empathy) and managing others’ emotions. If you can’t do the former effectively, then you probably won’t be able to do the latter very effectively either, as the one is necessary for the other to be successful. Anyway, you have to deal with other peoples’ emotions more when you are an ADoS too, so it was an interesting talk for newly ADoS me! Who still doesn’t want to be an actual manager 😉
- Emotional Intelligence: what makes a manager? – Elena Kuznetsova
- Social intelligence for teachers – Margit Szetzy
In the classroom
I always like to attend a few sessions that are directly linked to the classroom and practical things you can do it in. This year, in addition to all the talks about differentiation/inclusion which were also directly linked to an aspect of the classroom, I also went to a talk about peer assessment as a means of developing independent learning (something which we do a fair bit of here in the USIC arm of ELTC/University of Sheffield). I was familiar with many of the activities mentioned, but it was interesting to see how it is being done elsewhere and get a few ideas for possible tweaks for what we do here.
Another talk I went to which fits this theme was one about learning affordances in the classroom, which arise as a result of something unexpected. He showed us how to impose some order on those moments where you go off plan, and run with something that comes up, to maximise the benefit of these occasions.
Finally, James Taylor’s talk about teaching English in the post-truth classroom got to the heart of the need to equip students with the tools and skills to deal with a world in which truth is no longer a given. A lot of the knowledge and skills he mentions are ones that our students here have to learn in order to select appropriate sources for their academic assignments. It was interesting to see this being applied to classrooms generally, without the academic motivation.
- Effective peer-assessment as a step toward independent learning – Agnieszka Łucak
- Opportunity and the unexpected – Richard McNeff
- English teaching in the post-truth world – James Taylor
I attended the Materials Wring SIG pre-conference event, which provided the majority of the materials-development related talks that I saw. The theme was “Writing for the World” and two of the talks were about inclusivity with regards to differentiation and special needs, so I have included those in that theme at the top of this post. The remaining talks were about ELF and materials writing (issues with current materials and how to deal with/embrace ELF as a materials writer), writing effective pronunciation materials, writing for language education in emergencies and development, and a panel that gave the audience the chance to question the speakers further about things that arose in the sessions.
In the main conference, I attended Heather and Julie’s session about versioning coursebooks. I’ve always* (slight exaggeration, but since I read Gray’s 2010 book about coursebooks and consumerism) wondered why there don’t exist versions of coursebooks for the UK. As vs using global course books which are not best known for their diversity and inclusivity (I won’t go any more into this now, I might blog more about it soon or wait and see my book chapter about writing materials for an English speaking environment, coming out next year! Suffice to say, when I posed the question at the end of the talk, no one in the audience had seen it done or had an answer!).
- ELF and Materials Writing – Marek Kiczkowiak
- Creating effective pronunciation materials – Laura Patsko
- Writing for language education in emergencies and development – Psyche Kennett
- Panel Discussion
- Versioning coursebooks for different contexts: what, how and why – Heather Buchanan and Julie Norton
There’s always a talk that doesn’t fit into any of the categories. This year, it was a talk about labels. I reflected on the content in my write-up so I won’t go further into it here, but I do enjoy the kind of talk that makes you think! Certainly there were some strong reactions from the audience.
So, that was IATEFL! And I shall finish off with a hearty round of applause to Brighton and the Brighton centre for their excellent job in catering for a vegan! I actually got to have the included lunch at the pre-conference event this year, for the first time in my vegan life! Also had some really good value sandwiches that really hit the spot. Pity Brighton is so far away from Sheffield!
Not sure when I will next be able to attend IATEFL but once again it has been a wonderful experience and one that has infused me with motivation and lots of interesting things to think about in relation to my practice. So worth all the time and effort (and dealing with the consequently manic week 3! – good news: I didn’t drop any balls, All The Things got done!!) 🙂
So long, IATEFL, till next time!