IHTOC (International House Teachers Online Conference) May 2014

At 14.20 CET (12.20 GMT, 13.20 BST) I took part in the International House Teachers Online Conference (a.k.a IHTOC). Each talk in this conference is ten minutes in length, with talks being divided up in to 50 minute sessions. In my session, I had the honour of talking in the same session as David Petrie of IH Coimbra (with whom I’ve been discussing the future of language teaching, on our respective blogs) whose topic was “What I did on my holidays – six things from IATEFL 2014“; Emma Cresswell from IH Santander who gave a talk called “From conference to classroom“; Anya Shaw who hails from IH Buenos Aires Belgrano and spoke on the topic of “Homework: rethinking our routines” and last but assuredly not least, Sandy Millin, the DoS at IH Sevastopol who shared “Five ways to raise your professional profile“.

My own talk title was “From teacher to enabler: stimulating acquisition outside the classroom“. Those of you who have read my blog before will know that I am very interested in the prickly issue of Learner Autonomy and exploring ways of enabling language acquisition during the many hours learners spend outside class. Little wonder, then, when I was invited to submit a speaker proposal, this interest came to the fore.

In my ten minutes, I discussed why the step from teacher to enabler is important to make and suggested 3 simple ways to do this.

  • Encourage experimentation
  • Get learners goal-setting
  • Keep talking!

The rationale behind the first point is that learners, myself included when it comes to Italian, tend to stick with one or two “safe” activities, if they do any work at all outside class time. In order to broaden their range of activities and help them remain motivated to try new things, scaffolded experimentation can be very effective. However, giving learners a bunch of ideas and then leaving them to it is not helpful in terms of maintaining motivation. Chances are they will file away the handout and quickly forget about it, reverting back to their mainstay activities.

This is where points two and three come in.

Setting challenging yet achievable intermediate, mid-term goals can help learners maintain their motivation by breaking down the monolithic task of learning a language into more manageable chunks and increasing the chances of success: t

The experience of success, especially that which is hard-won, is one of the motivational factors that Dornyei (2013) includes the third channel of his L2 Motivational Self-System – the language learning experience.

Regular discussion, in which learners communicate their goals and discuss their learning experiences gives rise to the benefits of heightened commitment to the goals, greater satisfaction in attaining goals as they share their achievements, and less isolation when they are in a learning slump – indeed, during these times they can ‘feed off’ the motivation of others and regain the desire to have another go; and then be the ones that give faltering classmates that extra push.

I suggested that this recipe was not limited to the handout I shared, but could also be applied to extensive reading or anything we want learners to do outside the classroom.

My ideas drew on goal setting theory (Lock and Latham, 1990), motivation theory (Dornyei, 2014) as well as the idea of motivational flow (Egbert, 2003) and, of course, learner autonomy theory (e.g. Benson, 2011, Oxford 2003, Smith, 2003)

10 minutes is not a long time, so I had to wrap it up pretty quickly, having elaborated on my three-step plan and hand on to the next speaker!

Here is a copy of my slides and here  is a link to the recording.


Benson (2011) Teaching and Researching Learner Autonomy Pearson Education. Harlow

Egbert (2003) in Dornyei and Ushioda (2012) Teaching and researching motivation Pearson Education. Harlow

Dornyei, Z. (2014) Plenary talk, Motivation and the vision of knowing another language in the Warwick Postgraduate Conference, June 26th 2013.

Lock and Latham (1990) in Dornyei and Ushioda (2012) Teaching and Researching Motivation. Pearson Education. Harlow.

Oxford, R. (2003) Towards a more Systematic Model of L2 Learner Autonomy in Palfreyman, D and Smith, R. [Ed] Learner Autonomy Across Cultures. Palgrave Macmillan. Basingstoke.

Smith, R. (2003) Pedgagogy for Autonomy as (Becoming) Appropriate Methodology in Palfreyman, D and Smith, R. [Ed] Learner Autonomy Across Cultures. Palgrave Macmillan. Basingstoke.