IATEFLections: a round-up for 2018

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)!

Like our classrooms should be – nice one, Brighton Centre!

Here are my posts related to this theme:


Difabilities (a better way to put it than “disabilities”)

Including everybody

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:

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 😉

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.

Materials Development

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!).

Wild card

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!




IATEFL 2018: Special Educational Needs and Disability – How to identify, differentiate and celebrate! – Kate Middleton

Kate Middleton wants to talk about all those students who have additional needs and need support for that. She is “Mister Messy” (Mister Men), and also a paediatric speech and language therapist, an EFL teacher for adults and her main interest is the overlap between SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) and TEFL. Currently there is a lack of research and knowledge and sharing between the fields. Speakmylanguage is her website

  • It is a huge topic, so today is about general awareness and signposting session.
  • Resources and tips form the IATEFL 2018 workshop (this one!) will be on the website

SEND: Why does it matter in the ELT industry?

Inclusion is a “hot” topic at the moment, schools are under pressure to show that they are aware of and catering for these issues. On a more practical level, SEND affects most classrooms whether you are aware of them or not.

  • Facts and figures
  • How to spot the students with them
  • Practical strategies for supporting these students

UK SEND code of practice: for 0-25 years but applies to older people too.

“significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority  of others of the same age”

4 broad types of SEND:

  • Communication and interaction: developmental language disorder
  • Cognition and learning: general learning difficulties
  • social, emotional and mental health e.g. anxiety disorders
  • sensory and/or physical needs e.g. hearing loss

Today we will focus on the first 2.


  1. A staggering number of people go through life without an official diagnosis. Lots of undiagnosed students in our schools.
  2. Many SENDs are long term, won’t disappear and require management.
  3. Students with SEND do not generally have a lower overall IQ than the rest of the population. May form part of the diagnosis for some but not synonymous.
  4.  14% of young people (under 25) have been diagnosed with a SEND in the UK – they are the ones that we know about. And this is in the UK where it’s a hot topic, rather than in places where it may be taboo for example.

Which SENDs might fall into these categories?

  • Communication and interaction
  • Cognition and learning

(autism/aspergers, dyspraxia, dyslexia, sensory processing disorder, ADD, ADHD, oppositional defiance disorder, general learning difficulties, stammer, language disorder)

How to identify students with these conditions?

Our role of EFL teachers is not to diagnose students, that’s what the specialists do. We aren’t specialist teachers offering specialist teaching in a mainstream setting. But we should be aware of some of the signs of SEND, support students with basic strategies and seek further help as needed. We are looking for the type of difficulties not a diagnosis. Looking at what they find difficult so we can help them.

Why does a student make slow progress?

Tiredness, lack of concentration, not engaged, so many reasons. Could also be a SEND? Could be language-specific issues. Could be poor engagement/laziness? Could be personal/emotional problems? Could be a teaching-learning style mismatch – may not account for all but may be a factor.

Do some detective work

  • consider relevant linguistic/cultural factors (do they have a different script? absent structures?)
  • observe them in their own language (are they sociable? do they read?)
  • speak to the student directly (may tell you or may say I don’t know but I find x y z difficult)
  • monitor for consistency (if it is genuine you can’t switch it on and off, won’t change across teachers/host families etc)
  • adapt your teaching style (play around, do something different), note impact (has it helped? has anything changed?)
  • keep an eye out for common difficulties/behaviours (flags/warning signs)

Difficulties common to many SEND

  • slow processing, slow to understand
  • memory problems (short term, long term, working)
  • organisational skills (knowing when you need to be where, what time)
  • focus and attention (being able to sit without fidgeting etc for sustained period)
  • difficulty with lateral thinking

Dig a little deeper into “bad” behaviours

  • boredom
  • defiance
  • absence

Why are they there, are they hiding something? Not necessarily but could be.

Task – consider a profile of a student and possible explanations for the behaviour

This could be a classic dyslexic profile. These are common to dyslexia and other SENDs. But there could be a whole host of other reasons. E.g. script difficulty, needs glasses, maybe she needs her hearing checked, maybe she is tired. It’s about digging deeper.

Supporting/celebrate SEND: practical strategies

The good news: you’re already using some of them! There are general strategies which do benefit many students. There are patterns we can make the most of.

Common underlying factors

Underlying “processing” deficit – get quickly overwhelmed by speed and quantity of information. Relative strength – e.g. visual. A lot will have a low self-esteem as they are used to failing and having to work a lot harder to not be as good as others.

The main principles: ROAM

R– reduce processing load

O – overlearning (recycling/repetition)

A – achievable  tasks

M – multi-sensory teaching

10 Strategies

  • Pause: allow extra time for ss  to respond to questions/instructions; use more pauses in your talking
  • Deliver instructions in small chunks and in a logical order
  • Multisensory teaching: tap into all the senses; cater for different learning styles
  • Repetition: lots and lots of recycling and task repetition
  • Small goals: achievable tasks to increase confidence and success
  • Movement: incorporate this into activities, allow “mini-breaks” to help with processing
  • Safe space: ensure students feel valued and supported e.g. class buddy system. Be positive.
  • Self help: encourage use of strategies e.g. rehearsal/requesting help earlier
  • Reduce board copying: it can be TIRING! Give handouts/allow photos instead. If you have dyslexia or struggle to form letters or slow in general, you can waste all your energy writing rather than on the lesson content itself.
  • Visuals: explain tasks/concepts/lexis using pictures/symbols/words Spoken language is fleeting, for a student with difficult processing or needing more time, visuals can be helpful. (see website for useful visuals)


Parting thought: language learning: “everyone can benefit[…]and no one should be excluded” Hillarry McColl Language without limits




IATEFL 2018 An inclusive ELT classroom: being asked to dance – Maria Dolores Gomez

“Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.” Myers (2012)

[What a brilliant quote!]

Activity 1:

Work with a partner. Decide who will be Student A. In one minute Student A is going to report to Student B about a wonderful holiday or about yesterday. Student B no words containing the letter ‘E’ This is to show how apparently easy tasks that we assign every day to students in class can be difficult without our knowing it. Students may have difficulties that we cannot see, that are underneath.


Maria works at a school of languages in Spain, an institution that caters for people who can’t afford to go to expensive language schools. Ages 16 upwards, two days a week. Increasingly, they are finding they have more people who have special needs/requirements but this is unknown until they require some accommodation for exams. So only the tip of the iceberg is seen until then.

A typical class:

  • Carmen 59 Huntingdon’s disease
  • Manuel 57 just retired from the military
  • Lupe 34 fled Venezuela for political reasons
  • Luisa 31 Mental health problem
  • Susana 29 panic attacks
  • Juan 29 Mild aspergers
  • Student very shy
  • Student avoids contact with the opposite sex
  • Student thinks s(he) is too old.

Educational, geographical problems, economic, social, cultural differences, health problems, disability.

Education 2030 – Incheon declaration and framework for action ensure Targets 4.5 and 4.7 eliminate discrimination in education; education for sustainable development and global citizenship.

We all expect there to be ramps for people in wheelchairs or people who have had accidents or people with pushchairs. It is part of the universal design – an architectural movement begun in the 80s by an architect who had to use a wheel chair and was very frustrated as it was hard for people who weren’t mobile to move around. Principles: equitable use, flexibility in use, simple and intuitive use, tolerance for error, low physical effort, size and space for approach and use. We can use universal design for learning (UDL) by providing options for perception. expression and comprehension.

Inclusive pedagogy

Being able to transform the capabilities of people who say they don’t have capabilities. Not something that teachers can do alone. Learning is a shared responsibility between teacher and learner (co-agency). Need to build up trust for that. Ts and Ss make meaning, two way feedback. It’s everybody together – our actions as teachers impact the students. We need a growth mindset.


I cannot be a teacher without exposing who I am (Paulo Freire). Teachers are models of emotional intelligence. This involves empathy, compassion, for others and self, and attunement. Emotions in the classroom are like neon signs telling your brain “remember this!” How do we communicate emotions? Proxemics (rules about appropriate use of personal space e.g. ), boday appearance (alterations to your body), body positioning and movement (how your body appears), gestures, facial expressions, paralanguage (clues to identity or emotions contained in our voices).

No matter what your ability is, effort is what ignites that ability and turns it into accomplishment (Carol Dweck) Everyone can make effort regardless of level or ability.


Use tools like Project Implicit – Harvard University – take a test to see if you have some kind of biases. Teaching tolerance. Representation matters (if you want to show people who don’t look like the typical people you see in course books) The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. The protagonist is not as you would expect. The undateables. Some people who may not feel seen in the class might feel seen when working with this kind of material. Even something as simple as mentioning dyslexia is also a problem for adults.

Reduce memory load – give instructions in different media, not just verbally but also written. Make sure students can see your mouth. Allow think time. Don’t feel this is a waste of time!

  • Make text reader friendly. Use large fonts.
  • Have high expectations still.
  • Use assistive technology
  • Communication – she recommends using Edmodo.
  • Assessment – use different tools e.g. Kahoot, Quizzes, Plickers (for younger kids), Quizalize, Kaizena (allows written and oral comments). For older students who are not used to being assessed with new techniques: chocolate chip cookie rubric (demonstrates how the criteria work by showing them as applied to cookies!)

This is not all about disabilities. Maybe students just feel they are too old, too…? Whatever the case, let’s get them dancing.

IATEFL 2018 Forum – effective and personalised: the holy grail of CPD

1. How do you create a culture of CPD?

by Oliver Beaumont from Regent Oxford and Duncan Jamieson from OISE

They see CPD like a big beautiful garden. For greta things to happen, you need the right conditions. Important to focus not only on what you are doing but also on how.

Conditions needed: engage, energise, empower


What nutrients do you need to engage your teachers in CPD?

The vision, sharing the purpose of thea ctivity. Why is it happening at this time, how does it fit in with teachers’ career path and the vision of the school? Relevance need sto be clear. The environment – set up the conditions of the room so that it is conudicive to CPD, with posters that reflect the methodology in use and flipcharts from previous sessions. Make it a priority, ringfence time. How can you replicate that in your school? Not doing it after hours or in a lunchtime.


Give teachers a level of autonomy not only in how they deveop but what they develop as well. A level of choice in where they are going to go with it. This gives them ownership over it, making it more likely that they will invest in it and make an effort. Collaboration – try to foster it as much as possible.


It’s a grand word but purposefully so. Often the part that is missed. It starts with follow up – meaningful action following whatever CPD so that development doesn’t stop at the end of the workshop. Feedforward – looking to the future and looking to help the teacher to develop, coaching them to be better.  Impact – reflect on the impact not just of the training session or peer obs but on the implementation and how it affects learning etc.

Transfer of learning into practice – if you add feedback and coaching into a session with theory and demonstration and practice, transfer increases dramatically.

Three examples of activities

  • Flash training
  • Personalised peer obs
  • Academic flair development programme

Focus not on what but how, this is how to put EEE into practice.

Flash training

Inspired by flash mob – short period of time, full of energy, memorable. Good for busy times. A simple way to do a CPD exercise that doesn’t need a lot of time. You only need 20 minutes.

  • Look at a current practice. (How do you…? How often do you…?) Input some fresh ideas – a few practical ideas or resources
  • Action (What will you do this week with what came up in the session)

The following week for 10 minutes you have reflection – they can reflect on how it went, they can invite a peer in to observe for the specific period where they are doing something and focus on that particular point.

Personalised peer observations

Trying to move away from the lottery element where you go in not knowing what you are going to see, maybe see some good ideas maybe not, maybe put them into practice maybe not.

Decide on a personal focus (what is it that you want to develop in your teaching); construct an observation tool that targets this element; go and observe a lesson using that tool; reflect with peer and design an action plan. (E.g. swap and be observed using the tool you made)

Academic flair development programme

The opportunity to explore beyond a single session:

Progress theory – not just driving for the end goal but when workers (teachers in this case) can see progress, small steps of progress:

Exploring psychology in language learning and teaching – Marion Williams, Sarah Mercer, and Stephen Ryan

If you are looking to create a culture of CPD, focus on the nutrients, focus on the conditions, and amazing things will grow from there.

2. Are we really supporting new teachers?

Alistair Roy, manager of a BC teaching centre just outside Madrid.

Why this topic?

He has been teaching for 12 years, has worked for 6 dfferent schools and had 12 different posts. A lot of change, a lot of coming and going has been seen. Out of those 12 posts, only in 1 of them has there been a proper mentor and mentoring process. 26 – the number of people he has “mentored” in his career apparently. In one year he remembers having 7 mentees at one time, which is basically impossible. In Sept 2017, he started his latest role of manager. He had no mentor or induction. He got a phonecall on Friday and was told to start on Monday. He also had to deal with two brand new teachers when he was also brand new. When he asked other centres for help, he got checklists with things like “Do you have an ID card?” to use with the teachers. Not mentoring. He has since spoken to 24 different teachers about this issue, to show the teacher’s point of view of mentoring.

Do you remember your first day in your current job? Was it overwhelming? Yes. Most common doubts: How do the computers work? Do we use course books? What? Where? What is the assessment policy? Is there an acceptable behaviour policy? Where are the toilets? etc.

Do you remember your first day as a teacher? In addition to all the above the fact that you have never taught a class alone in your life.

Scraps of paper were planted in the audience. Think of them as info, questions, doubts etc teachers have on first day of work. They had to try and hit him with them. 6 hit. So imagine 6 things stuck beyond day 1. The rest: the pieces of missed information.

On one occasion he gave a checklist to a T and most of the answers were I don’t know. Information overload had occurred.

Were you assigned a mentor? What should a mentor be?

  • a carer
  • a teacher (a leader)
  • a friend
  • not a soldier but a colleague
  • same level as you

A person who guides and supports by building trust and modelling behaviour

In one role, in a regular school, his induction programme lasted for the whole first year. He had an actual real mentor. Was one of the best things that happened to him ever. The mentor was in the same department, had a weekly 45 minute meeting built into the schedule. He was observed 9 times in the one academic year. Had the chance to observe 4 peers. He had a structured training programme provided and a training record that he could take with. He was given a bi-annual appraisal.

In the next role, a private language school. There was…none of the above. He was given in-house training from unskilled owners (never done a CELTA). He was given a contract and “the talk”. Then told to go teach FCE and Advanced. He didn’t know what they were.

91,7% of the people he spoke to have never been given a mentor.

What makes a good mentor?

  • good communicator
  • well organised
  • approachable
  • available
  • honest but fair
  • diplomatic
  • understanding
  • objective

What should a good mentor do?

  • make time
  • share experience
  • set a journey
  • be curious
  • be inquisitive
  • help the mentee self-assess
  • share
  • reflect

What can managers do?

  • invest – not just economically
  • dedicate time and resources (give teacher and mentor time to talk together)
  • support
  • understand (don’t forget what it’s like to be there)
  • a good teacher is your best resource (if you don’t keep them, you’ve got nothing)

After 5 years, 91% of teachers who have a good mentor stay in the profession. That falls to 71% if they don’t have a mentor. Quite a distinctive difference. Highlights the importance of a good, structured mentoring programme.

3. Personalised Development Groups: A framework for collaborative, teacher-led CPD

Josh Round and Andy Gaskins

Personalised Development Groups is shortened to PDGs.

  • Research underpinning approach
  • What are PDGs and how to do they work?
  • Evaluation – how personalised and effective are they?

Traditional approaches are one size fits all, the focus is decided by the manager or trainer (top down), easy for participants to consume passively, probably not much follow up, minimal impact on practice.

There is a lot of research available now on the importance of CPD and its impact on improving student outcomes. Need to make this clear to the teaching team, is not just a tick box thing.

E.g. of research

(Josh highlighted the highlighted words.)

Need to move away from transmission of knowledge and skills to something more collaborative. reflective development, creating learning communities.

A fresh approach to CPD

They wanted something less top-down. They would always have a person at the front talking, who gets more out of it as they had to prepare it. They wanted everyone to get more out of it. It was always Friday lunchtime and then it was the weekend all was forgotten.

Instead: less topdown and fragmentary and more personalised.


Pathways – broad areas of interest for groups to work on (some their ideas, some from the teachers – areas that would benefit the school or teachers were looking for more support or to refresh their practice) e.g.

Running the sessions: a balance between freedom to take ownership and support/structure to make it more beneficial.

6-8 teachers pr group, given a framework (the action research cycle) but left to the group to decide how to do this. Everyone gets involved.

Action research – qualitative and descriptive, observing what’s going on in the class, reflecting on that, implementing some kind of change.

  1. question (not easy, some groups took a few weeks to get going – useful to give prompts to help them get started, possible ideas to explore for each of the pathways.)
  2. Small change (take ideas into the classroom, doesn’t have to be huge, very narrow, very focused – decide what to do)
  3. implement (do what you have decided to do, be transparent about it, tell your learners what you are doing)
  4. observe (questionnaires, observations, interviews, teacher diary – simple things)
  5. reflect (talk about what you’ve done in your group, think about what to do next)
  6. repeat

How did it work? How was it received? (Evaluation)

They started doing this in Sept 2015, now in the 6th cycle, it’s been established, got going, has become a norm. They have done some staff surveys after the first cycle and at the end of last year.

  • 83% of t’s and 96% agreed it was effective
  • space and time to explore something they are interested in
  • take away practice ideas and experiment in teaching practice
  • In the first round a lower number thought it helped them discover new resources but in the last round 100% agreed.
  • High rates also for agreeing about it making a more reflective teacher and improve confidence/skills

Why do they sometimes not work so well?

  • absence or sickness
  • lack of structure
  • some members do not contribute much

Enthusiasm of early adopters can have a positive effect, that is what you hope for  to sway more reluctant ones.

At the end of the cycle, they do feedback presentations. So you (manager) finds out what has happened. Each group really wanted to tell/elaborate/share – each group gets 30 mins. Everybody gets to participate. Also promotes new, stronger work relationships and ongoing conversation about teaching.

Every second Friday at lunchtime, groups meet. But also in lessons, in the classroom, in your planning. It isn’t tidy, it’s a bit messy, needs getting used to. Teachers make two choices from range of pathways and you try and get people in first and second choice. Takes some time to get going and take off.



IATEFL 2018: Effective peer assessment as a step towards independent learning – Agnieszka Łuczak

Agnieszka is going to tell us how peer assessment helps develop learning independence and give us some ideas of how to incorporate it in our classrooms.

Why use it?

  • It increases independence and autonomy but also their responsibility.
  • It develops students’ knowledge of assessment criteria.
  • Students can learn from each others’ successes and mistakes.
  • If our students know what they are doing and are engaged in peer assessment, it reduces our workload. It’s a great thing to see students doing something useful for them and have a breather at the same time.

Students are often skeptical of peer assessment.

  • It’s my teacher’s job
  • I don’t want anyone to see my work
  • I don’t know what to say/write
  • I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings
  • There are so many mistakes, I don’t know where to start

Students might be too generous, too critical, lack confidence etc.

How to fight the skepticism:

  • Explain to your students why they are doing it (A usually tells them if you know how to do peer assessment, and help your classmate, you learn more about the assessment criteria and what I am expecting from you and you will be able to self-evaluate more effectively. Highlight that mistakes are very welcome in the class. Don’t be ashamed of them. Let’s use them, discuss them.
  • Provide the necessary tools: checklists, language to assess
  • Monitor: we need to be there and listening, as a safety net. Encourage learning independence but need to be there
  • Make it regular: practice makes perfect, if it is regular they will see the benefits. First they have to be trained it and then they need to practice it in order to become good at it.

How to include it in class?

Peer correction

Nominate an expert: Give them a bell. They nominate a student to give an answer. If the student agrees, they press the bell and if they don’t, they have to say why. Teacher is an observer and only helps out as a last resort.

Homework checking: Put students in groups. One student is the leader. They have the answer key in an envelope. This can only be consulted if students disagree. They need to discuss first “I think you were wrong here, I think this is right because…” This simple homework check takes 10-15 minutes. They become confident about the answers.

Proof-reading: Students proof read each other’s work produced in class and correct it. Give them three areas to focus on and check for e.g. words we learnt last week, irregular past forms and articles.

Correction codes (see handout below): Students need symbols and example sentences with errors highlighted. Then students create sentences containing different kinds of mistakes and then swap with a partner who needs to find the mistakes. This is something they don’t usually expect but are good at and they gain a better understanding of the code. Once they have understood the code, they can use it to look at their classmates’ writing.

Checklists and feedback forms (see handout below): For presentations, for IELTS, for any kind of assignment where you have criteria. Simplify the criteria. Have one sheet with dated columns so that they can monitor progress. Use a likert scale and students have to justify the scores they give in discussion. “You said:…. You should/could have said/added… Action plan for round 2: ….. This time you managed to….” (She exemplified it using IELTS speaking exam practice – students in pairs, one is the student and one is the examiner. They make the action plan together. This can also be adapted for writing.

Monitoring the quality of peer assessment

Important to ensure that the feedback is useful. We need constructive feedback and it is not easy to give it. When students start giving feedback they don’t know how to do it. It’s a life skill so it is worth practising. So we need to give feedback on feedback. When students give feedback, A goes round and listens and writes down any good examples she hears. She writes them on the board for all to see. You could also draw attention to examples that don’t work. You can brainstorm useful comments and non-useful comments on a padlet and save them. Tutorials with study buddies could also be useful. Once a month A takes them to the computer room and sets a task for them. Then two peer assessment buddies come and work w


ith her. They give each other feedback on for example a piece of homework. She is there to help them and guide them. It’s very effective but timeconsuming and not easy to organise. Worth it, however, if you can, as students become more confident.



Get students to prepare questions.

  • Daily revision: students put questions in a hat. Play pass the parcel, whoever has the hat when the music stops has to answer the question. Hot potato: ask a question, throw it (a safe projectile) someone if they can answer they do or they say hot potato and throw it to someone else.
  • Revision quiz – 30 minutes to prepare questions, teams take it turns to answer the questions. It has the added benefit of making them practice making questions. Teacher is an observer/the last resort. 
  • Students, in groups, make a test for another group to answer.


Question 1: how to deal with lower levels? Simplify the language used and build on it.

Question 2: what if quiz questions are repetitive? The first few times it might happen but as they get more competitive, there will be fewer. You could also get them to create 15 but only go through 10 so there are back up questions.

Question 3: What about teenagers? Make it more competitive, use a points system. With the correction code, let them create one.

I have done the putting students in groups to make up quiz questions for a review quiz thing before but I hadn’t thought of giving them question frames to help! 🙂 I like the checklists and feedback forms too. More food for thought! 

IATEFL 2018 “No-one told me that!” Top tips for new trainers – Beth Davies and Nicholas Northall

Last session for the day was with my CELTA tutors from days of yore and it really was like a trip down memory lane as well as giving me plenty food for thought. 

This session is for people who have been trainers for one or two years.

Five main areas:

  • Transitioning from treacher to trainer
  • input sessions
  • spprt with lesson planning
  • obs and feedback
  • dealing wtih trainees

We started with a gap-fill to make us think about what new trainers need to do. (See handout for details.)

Next we ranked possible features of an input session from 1-10

A sample of the possible features given

Depends on the context and who the trainees are – whether CELTA or Delta. All have some importance.

Support with lesson planning

We discussed a list of reflective questions.

A sample of the questions

These questions are things to think about. E.g. look at the plan before the lesson rather than doing both at the same time. `

Board game

Then we played a board game with dice and counters, in which we had to say whether we agreed or disagreed with the statement in the square we landed on and why.

A sample of the statements on the game board

Role plays emphasising people skills

The role plays, our final activity, were very detailed, setting up a situation and giving us instructions. I’ve not got any pictorial evidence, but basically in pairs A was the trainer and B was the trainee (taking it in turns) and we role played discussions in which we had to deal with issues that might crop up during a course (in fact they have been harvested from various courses over the years!)

The goal was to think about what we would do in that situation, basically like looking at case studies. You need to be able to cope with various situations that come up.

It was a great session, very action-packed and thought-provoking.

Here is the handout we were given:

IATEFL 2018 Opportunity and the unexpected in the classroom – Richard McNeff

Richard McNeff is a teacher and writer. He has worked a lot in Spain and the UK. Since 2000, for the London School of English in Holland Park. They have legal English groups and ESP groups with fixed timetables, they do Business and G.E. courses. Also do 1-1s.

His talk is about opportunities and the unexpected in the classroom.

Opportunity – working in a week cycle, no syllabus as such for longer than a week.

The unexpected – e.g. A year ago, he was teaching an south american girl and he asked if she was planning to stay here and make a life or go back to her country. She burst into tears. Her father had had a heart attack the day before and she wasn’t sure what to do.

It made him think and talk to colleagues about other unexpected things that happen in the classroom. Situations where the wires get crossed. He gives us some examples of these. E.g. giving a lecture about life in Britain and being asked to prepare a quiz for the teachers to use after the lecture? He used all his questions prompts. E.g. How many hours tv does the average Brit watch every week. The students all answered in the lecture. They had done the quiz before the lecture, which took away the element of surprise. To add to the joy of the occasion, the OHP started going off and on. So he had 100 people who knew the answer to everything he was going to ask and unreliable equipment. He somehow got through it.

He thought it would be interesting to ask colleagues about the unexpected. There was a lot about technology. One colleague was invigilating in an exam and a clock dropped on their head. Another, the whiteboard fell on them. This colleague turned it into a teaching moment, language for things going wrong. There was also talk about hostile situations. A colleague was teaching 4 students, Chinese, Japanese, Russian and Czech. She had to do a business English course. She had to abandon the course and focus on helping them overcome historical hostility.

Back to the South American girl, his question was completely inadvertent. Teachers do things and sometimes a reaction is unwittingly provoked. E.g. a colleague played a clip from Fawlty Towers. Mrs Richards said “The bath isn’t big enough to drown a mouse in” and a student burst into tears as a friend had had a fatal accident in a bath.

We watched a clip with a teacher consoling a student whose family has died in a crash, focusing only on the language (a comedy). That’s called the insensitive language teacher and isn’t what you do obviously.

When he is talking about opportunity, he is talking about something different. Often things come alive when students go off on a tangent. When they move off piste/plan. You get a much more living, real world situation. Trainee teachers tend to be terrified of something unexpected cropping up because the lesson plan becomes the puppet master. But when students bring things up themselves, everything becomes more alive and interesting. When students ask questions, particularly if they think you won’t know the answer, they all sit up and get interested. He used to feel guilty and think this was digression, going off subject. It can become counter-productive but when it’s valuable or enriching, it can enrich the teaching experience. A teacher in his staffroom said no no no it’s not digression, it’s affordance. “To provide or supply an opportunity. A class can afford you opportunities. This doesn’t mean that you don’t go in prepared. But if something comes up and you think it’s valid, go with them on that journey.

E.g. vocabulary for talking about tax became a springboard for discussion about the topics. The internet comes to your aid with this as you can get the information you need as back up. In the last couple of years, Brexit has been a subject they all want to leap on. Questions about vocabulary or grammar. Queries about life in Britain (in his case). Can you give any shape to these incidences?

Routines – every so often when something comes up, you can impose some order on it by:

  • tenses
  • explaining differences in meaning
  • reference other classes you’ve taught
  • talk about origins of words, etymology (using the story of words)
  • give lots of language feedback

Getting them to use street view to show you their home can provide lots of affordance. The internet is an affordance engine.

“The objective is not to tame the chaos of language but to encourage learners to appreciate the dynamic qualities inherent in its use” (Maurice Claypole, Guardian Education)

Very time-defined ESP courses or exam courses, need to be more careful but there are still affordances there.

You don’t follow everything that comes up, you need to develop an instinct for knowing if it is worth going with/will afford something positive.

IATEFL 2018 Dealing with diversity in the classroom – Geoff Tranter

Geoff is from Techische Universitat Dortmund.

His talk today will focus on the following:

  1. Details of courses
  2. Aspects of diversity
  3. Examples
  4. A macrostrategy approach

He has a B2 – C1 for Engineers and for Business  and a C1-C2 for all faculties. 15 weeks 2hrs per week face to face, 1 hour home assignments, lecture theatres, no coursebook. Generally around 20 students. Differing levels of interest and language learning backgrounds, different school backgrounds, different nationalities and backgrounds, different levels of language awareness, both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, high work load in main studies. They have little idea of difference between spoken and written language, how to give a presentation, different reading/listening strategies, little idea of how to learn, wide range of language accuracy, more and more English is L3/4, wide differences in world knowledge.

Lots of diversity, in terms of students/participants, expectations, motivations, lang learning strategies, awareness, level and skills, strengths/weaknesses, specialist and general knowledge. We also looked at the many teaching objectives that Geoff has to meet.

How to individualise within a large group so that each student has an equal chance of improving? Need an overall strategy to ensure that all aspects are covered and exploit full potential of in class and out of class learning.

He has four examples for ESP Business English and we looked at one for…

Bitcoins – We went through a lesson plan for Bitcoin which was very learner centred, using learner generated questions, learner generated language etc and another for Nationality and Fast Food. Really interesting plans and assignments that bring together all the content and language that the lessons generate.

If you are interested in having a look at these plans, email Geoff at geoff.tranter@tu-dortmund.de  and he will be happy to share his slides as a pdf.


  • Kindle interest
  • Offer opportunity to demonstrate/acquire content/knowledge (In Bitcoin, 14 had little idea and 1 knew nearly everything, so they were able to learn from the 1.)
  • Offer sub-topics to choose from (headlines, aspects)
  • Allow learners to choose and form groups
  • Offer variety of texts (reading/listening/watching)
  • Incorporate all relevant skills and sub-skills
  • Let the learners find answers to their questions
  • Provide appropriate contextualised tasks for individual subskills
  • Use the learners’ assignment texts as the basis for language work
  • Give feedback
  • Establish transparency (tell them why they are doing something, helps them learn how to learn) otherwise it’s like the dentist, fill your mouth with metal and you can’t ask and when it’s finished you are so happy and just want to run away not ask!


IATEFL 2018: Versioning coursebooks for different contexts: What, how and why? – Heather Buchanan and Julie Norton

Heather and Julie, some of the authors of Navigate, while at OUP came across a room that was full of different versions of Headway and this was quite a revelation to them. They wanted to find out more about it as there is not a lot written about it in the academic literature. Later in the session we will be doing some versioning but first we will hear about data collected based on three questions that were asked.

Versioning is making changes to a course book for particular conditions in a country or region. Can be categorised in three ways – market versioning (make it suitable for different countries/regions), customer versioning (for particular institutions who may request it) and cosmetic versioning (very small changes). Often retains branding and name but in some cases a completely different name. As the world and coursebooks become more globalised, versioning becomes less of an issue.

Task 1 – A double page spread from Headway elementary, to be adapted for the Middle East

  • can’t have women showing any flesh
  • no wine in the pictures
  • family is a safe area? not culturally offensive

…were ideas put forward.

Actual changes:

  • The vocabulary for boyfriend and girlfriend has gone, also the pictures
  • No asking the teacher questions
  • Names and images are different
  • People are all covered up
  • Fewer photographs, page looks simpler, more white space

This is not prescriptive, just an example.

Three research questions:

(H and J would like to add to the data if anyone in the audience/beyond has experience of versioning, via Skype interview.)

What is involved in versioning a coursebook?

It depends! Course content, language content, might be making it more suitable for SEN, the package might change (e.g. combing student book and workbook or adding an extra digital component), design and image might change (fewer photographs, clearer font), rubrics in L1 might be added. Publishing cycle might influence versioning, affecting the extent of the changes that can be made.

What roles do different stakeholders play in the process?

Same stakeholders are involved. It’s like making a mini-product. Local focus groups will have a lot of input. Authors will have different roles – the original authors might decide and implement changes or they might not be involved at all or it might be outsourced to local experts.

How is the original text changed in terms of cultural content, language, methodology and design, and why?


Digital components may be customised, additional support may be added. For secondary versions, additional support is popular e.g. including dyslexia friendly fonts in reading texts. This may be required by the customers. Student book and workbook for Italian secondary schools is common.

Cultural content

Doesn’t only involve taking things out but also involves putting things in. This may be the case with national identity for example. Local festivals, traditions and places might be integrated. There was also a concern to make sure that world cultures are represented in a balanced way, as well as including the familiar. Sensitive topics had to be removed e.g. references to religion or alcohol. Gender representation may have to be looked at. Language content might need to be geared towards particular exams that students have to pass. Content for discussion topics would need to be carefully considered and appropriate.

In Headway Plus there are more photographs of males than of females in the book.


Might include more exam practice. Language doesn’t change that much but the grammar syllabus might change e.g. in American courses book, the present perfect. Levels of formality might be different too – more direct in American versions. Accents needed to change and the audios to represent the right kind of cultures. Bilingual word lists could/should be added for certain markets. Phonemes/sound charts might be different too e.g. American vs British. Minor changes.


An area you don’t tamper with so much. You start with the best fit so fewer changes are necessary but an example of a change could be including L1 rubrics, as in a German coursebook they looked at.


Images change e.g. in terms of clothing. If there was foresight of a version becoming available, the photoshoot might be done with two shots for any given image. The covers tend to be recognisable for the brand similar but a little bit different. Where there is a script different, having more white space makes a big difference. In America there is a single column to a page usually while in the UK there are two. Changing accordingly may or may not happen. If multiple images aren’t comissioned at once, stock photos may be used instead. E.g. the example of the kitchen where in Headway + no people rather than with a bottle wine. Seamus McSporran with 13 jobs became the man with 12 jobs to eliminate the one where he delivers beer in a barrel!

Political Concerns

Versioning aims to make materials relatable but it involves representing the world in a particular way which raises political, ethical and commercial concerns. Coursebooks determine the nature of what is presented in the classroom. What about diversity and incidental representation – the question raised is “Could we have a little bit of diversity in the background perhaps? E.g. a wheelchair user in the background of a photo” – Would that be useful?

Comments on this was left for later on…

So where do we go from here?

Hugh told us that in the Belgian market has welcomed lots of traditionally “taboo” topics.  Versioning can enable this.

Another member suggested there is more scope for considering how to include diversity for a conservative market. Also Muslims need language to express I don’t eat/drink pork/alcohol because… However, another said that the Ministry of Education in Dubai would remove it and heads would roll.

I managed to squeeze in my question as the last of the day: Do publishers ever version course books for the UK? The response from the speakers and the audience was not to their knowledge…

And a final request:

IATEFL 2018: Labels – not the way forward! – Adrian Tennant

Adrian Tennant is a free lance teacher trainer, writer and consultant who works in a lot of different contexts world-wide. He plans to talk for 15 mins and then have time afterwards to discuss things. His talk is on labels.

Last August, he watched a programme on BBC called Without Limits. BBC had put together 6 disabled people to travel round Vietnam sightseeing and trying out things. One with autism, one who had lost an arm, one who had lost her legs. While he was watching that, he was a bit queasy by the whole idea and then one of the participants said they weren’t sure whether to take part as originally the title had the word disability in it while they prefer difability – different ability. Likewise “non-native” means lacking, not being something.

He saw a quote on Fair List, written by Allport – The human mind must think with the aid of categories….Once formed, categories are the basis for normal prejudgment. We cannot possibly avoid this process. Orderly living depends upon it.

Adrian asks if we should have disorderly living then. He doesn’t think orderly living depends on categories and labels. They are divisive. They are social constructs to create categories of us and them. He also thinks positive discrimination is an oxymoron. The only examples he has come across, particularly in education, have failed. E.g. universities in South Africa have dropped from being ranked in the top 2 or 3 to much much lower. So we need to be careful about how we go about trying to removing bias. It’s not that he doesn’t believe in equity, he does, but castigating people because they are a certain thing and it worries him.

We had to discuss gender. It can be a spectrum or you can say there as many genders as people who say they identify as x gender say they are. Adrian went on to say a mixed ability class is stating the obvious. There’s a couple of groups advocating things like gender equality and native-non native equality. In this case you are still categorising and labelling using the same kinds of labels being used all along.

He wants to propose a new framework. Which is “Do you have the competency to do the job?” = subject knowledge, communication skills, patience, compassion… what they don’t need is to be a particular gender or nationality. As a profession, we are still wedded to labels. By using labels, you are setting people up in those constructs, which perpetuates the issues. What competencies do you need to be a good conference presenter? Something new to offer, able to tailor to the audience, confidence, self-assurance, charismatic.

For the rest of the talk, there was discussion about blind selection (an example was how the number of female players in an orchestra doubled when the selection was done blind) and about labels with negative connotations (reluctant reader). One lady said she had been approached to do a plenary because the conference in question didn’t have enough female speakers. The question being “do you only want me because I am a woman then?” . I couldn’t get a word in edge-ways but my feeling was that it’s all very well having a competency approach but the characteristics we came up with in terms of what you need to be a good presenter are things that you need experience of presenting in order to develop them. And if traditionally a certain segment of the population has been favoured, they will have developed those competencies more so than people who haven’t had the opportunity. However, this all seemed to be more about selection than labels as such. I think labels are useful, personally. It’s how we use them, the connotations we attach, the prejudice we attach that is the issue. Otherwise, it’s all vocabulary and we need vocabulary to discuss issues.