It was an exciting moment walking into the Liverpool conference centre for IATEFL 2019. As expected, we were greeted by long queues to get lanyards, goodie bags and coffee.
The audience hall was packed, ready for the opening plenary, and the audience seemed even bigger than previous years.
So here are some notes and my impressions of the sessions I saw, starting with the plenary:
Teacher empowerment: leaving the twilight zone.
by Paula Rebolledo
Being the opening plenary, this was recorded and is online now.
‘Empowerment’ is a term that seems to be occurring more frequently in CPD training. I always considered it a term so vague as to not have any meaning, so I was interested to learn it does have a precise definition:
“A process whereby teachers develop autonomy to make decisions and exercise their professional judgment about how and what to teach”
Also it was interesting to learn the six variables that make up empowerment:
After surveying 400+ teachers worldwide, Paula Rebolledo looked for similarities in stories of empowerment and disempowerment, and shared some with us that had people nodding in recognition.
She then talked about how empowerment requires both external support and and internal will to change. Also the dangers of relying on ‘gurus’ and experts and letting them be instrumental in removing teacher autonomy and decision making.
She also suggested four ways that teacher empowerment could be advanced (although only suggestions, as she was clear that she didn’t want to be considered a guru):
Teacher-led professional development
Overall it was an interesting talk that started to categorise a concept that’s becoming more prevalent.
Co-constructing teaching and learning through multi-modal tasks
by David Nunan & Julie Choi
I really enjoyed this session (despite the mouthful of a title)! A great presentation with three practical activities that help learners to develop their autonomy.
The three activities were:
Language Learning Trajectory Grids
Language Learning Trajectory Grids
The aim is to ask students to draw their language learning journey to date, showing their motivation and events along the way. This can then be used by students for any number of activities - as speaking or writing prompts, for example.
I love two things about this: first, it helps learners become researchers of their own language journey and motivations. Second, it can easily be adapted for different subjects (training, management, etc).
These are another great way to help learners co-construct meaning and language.
The idea is that learners colour in based on their feelings towards they hold towards their languages. David gave the example of one student who coloured the ears brown, which represented German, which he could only understand but not speak.
This was a lovely idea of mapping geographically where students use their different languages. Again, to prompt discussion and allow learners to acquire a deeper understanding of how and where they use their languages.
Contextualised CPD: bringing equality to teaching and professional qualifications
Ben Beaumont (Trinity College)
A lovely session by an engaging speaker, about a topic that I feel quite strongly about.
Ben opened by talking about how the teaching world has changed, and the training and assessment world should follow.
One key example that stuck with me is a finding from the British Council. Apparently 85% of English teachers worldwide have an English level of B2 or lower. As a result, they’re precluded from training on courses like the CertTESOL or CELTA, which have strict language requirements.
As a response to this, Trinity has been piloting bilingual qualifications that allow students to submit assignments in their own language.
These ‘translingual assessments’ better reflect the changing reality of real-life teaching and who teachers are.
If this trend develops, it could well be that ‘non-native’ speakers may soon be valued more than native speaking teachers, as assessments (and then classrooms) move to become translingual.
Food for thought, and I’m sure a relief to many teacher trainers that something is being done to help widen access to training for many teachers.
Task-Based Learning, Online Teaching?
by Jane Willis
Another very practical talk, with lots of ideas on how to implement Task Based learning when teaching online.
One idea I always like to see re-iterated is the need to adapt course materials and tasks to your students. Specifically, the need to make sure the essential conditions of language learning are met.
Jane reminded us that these are: exposure, usage and motivation (with a focus on form being beneficial).
She showed a task-based cycle she had designed for Arabic learners, and how it could be adapted for different levels. She then tool us through how she could use the task sequence to focus on each of the essential conditions.
Pronunciation: Muscle, Mind, Meaning, Memory
by Mark Hancock (PronPack.com)
Mark Hancock has written four new books on pronunciation: Muscle, Mind, Meaning, Memory. Each one deals with an aspect of pronunciation.
He led through some practical examples of phonology, so the audience was ooh-ing and ahhh-ing and generally making funny noises. These self-discovery ‘experiments’ as he likes to call them, were great for helping us all to understand how we produce sounds.
Learning through connecting: contributions from cognitive linguistics
by Sarn Rich
The best session of the day!
Sarn presented the idea that by helping students understand the meaning behind similar groups of metaphors (or ‘conceptual metaphors’), they’d be better able to understand new metaphors when they encounter them.
An example would be that text usually has metaphors that are related to journeys:
I could follow their train of thought
The book took me on a journey
He went around the houses to get there..
…and so on
So if you teach learners this, when they see a similar metaphor, they’ll be able to decode it more easily.
Another point he made is that course books usually divide language that robs the learners of potential connections.
For example, course books normally separate ‘have’ as a lexical item and as an auxiliary verb. But by understanding the root behind them, it makes more connections with the language for the learner.
Overall, a great session!
And that’s about it…I did see a couple more sessions, but that’s all I can muster for today.
A good start to the conference, hopefully tomorrow will be even better!