IATEFL 2019 Day 3 - Review

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Another day, another round of IATEFL sessions! The first was the plenary:

Under one roof: considerations on integrating content and language

by Aleksandra Zaparucha

A great talk about ‘content and language integrated learning’ (CLIL). CLIL is technically “to be used in any situation where non-linguistic content is merged with a foreign language in or outside the classroom”.

It’s also known by terms like ‘immersion’ and ‘bilingual education’.

A great quote that from the plenary that stood out for me was:

“There is no content without language, and no language without content”.

She explained that every subject teacher is in part a language teacher; they have to teach the specialised vocabulary of their field. Also that every language teacher is also a subject teacher; we teach myriad topics because we set contexts for classes.

She brought the ‘Four Cs’ framework into the discussion; content, communication, cognition, and culture.

She then asked us to think of culture as surrounding the other three, with further sections discussing CLIL embedded in those:

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The remainder of the talk was given to examples of how we could use CLIL to help raise awareness of global issues.

An excellent talk, and one that you should watch yourselves as it’s online now.


What if we took away input?

by Melissa Lamb (International House London)

A genuinely thought provoking session!

Melissa started with the premise of asking what would happen if they removed all traditional input sessions from their CELTA course.

Instead, they used a ‘flipped classroom’ model, and had no input sessions, but instead made all their input available online as self-access module.

So in the time where input sessions used to be, a new model had to be found to support learners - Melissa and her colleagues took a sports science approach to developing skills. It involved micro-practice, co-operative learning and tutors circulating, supporting and giving feedback:

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One key point she made is that it boosted trainee confidence. Being able to rehearse a ‘tricky bit’ (e.g. giving staged instructions for a complex activity) was great practice and reduced anxiety.

I also really liked the idea of self-access material that learners could use whenever they needed - rather than have an input session in week 1, which they really needed to review in week 3.

Some excellent points were made, and there were a lot of take-aways that could be applied to any CELTA, CertTESOL, or initial teacher training course.


Improving critical thinking through asking questions

by Richard Harrison (Canford Publishing)

What is critical thinking? Richard gave us several definitions, but said that the core of critical thinking is asking questions (which come from sceptism and doubt).

He said that he’s noticed that some cultures are better at asking critical thinking questions than others. He declined to give any examples…

He suggested that three useful questions to teach your students to ask are:

  • What exactly do you mean by…

  • What evidence is there…

  • What are your sources…

He said that the opposite of critical thinking is conventional wisdom. He gave an example of when people used to accept that the earth was flat and that continents were fixed in place. It took thinkers to challenge conventional wisdom by observing evidence and thinking critically.

He reviewed Bloom’s taxonomy, briefly, and then gave examples of thinking problems from his students and in general.


How do videos enhance teacher development programmes and self-development?

by Cecilia Nobre

This was an interesting topic, that developed out of Cecilia’s research during an MA TESOL.

Her talk spoke about the three ways that videos can be used to develop and self-develop for teachers and trainers:

  1. Video self-reflection

  2. Video club models

  3. Vlogs

1. Video self-reflection

She noted that teachers can feel worried, nervous or a bit shocked to see themselves on video. I can definitely relate to that!

From interviews with teachers, she found the following positives:

  • It captures things you don’t already notice

  • It captures the complexity of events

  • It gives you evidence for development and raises self-awareness

  • There’s no need to rely on memory - can develop autonomously, no need to rely on others to watch you.

Some limitations:

  • Consent forms from all involved

  • Time constraints - it’s time consuming to watch and reflect.

  • Video and sound quality

2. Video Club Models

This is when a group watches the same lesson video, and discusses it. This model is great at promoting discussion, autonomy and self-reflection.

I like that this can be used to observe micro-teaching, and ‘expert teachers’ modelling good practice.

3. Vlogs

Cecilia mentioned that this is good for bite-size videos, self-promotion and validation of work.

It also seems to me that it’s good for ‘keeping things real’, content produced by actual teachers and trainers rather than corporations.

Overall an interesting talk!


Mirror, mirror on the wall: reflective meta-skills

by Eleni Seymeonidou (EF Education First)

This was on challenges in helping trainees reflect on an initial teacher training course, like the CertTESOL.

Issues included reflections being too descriptive, not offering evidence, not giving alternatives, and being verbose.

Eleni Seymeonidou IATEFL 2019

They also weren’t confident in using meta-language, prioritising, had blind spots, and could react emotionally.

Existing models didn’t work perfectly, as they assume a lot of prior knowledge which trainees don’t always have.

She proposed a new framework, based on her observations of trainees.

One idea I particularly liked is that trainees recorded their self-reflection session, and listen back to it later to reflect on their reflection. Very meta!

She talked us through the whole process, which was very informative, and presented survey results from her trainees.

Overall, an interesting talk and well-presented!


Continuing professional development for deeper learning and impact

by Silvana Richardson (Bell Education Services UK)

Silvana gave a fascinating talk on CPD. She presented a model called ‘Guskey’s five levels of information’. The model is used to reflect on and evaluate CPD, at all levels of impact.

Silvana Richardson IATEFL 2019

As the levels go up, so does the complexity of measuring them.

Here are some notes on each of the five levels, from Silvana’s presentation:

Level 1: Participants’ reactions

  • Have they enjoyed the course, was it useful, environmental factors, etc.

  • Tools for assessment - end of tool questionnaire, a ‘happy sheet’. Commonest and easiest form of CPD evaluation.

Level 2: Participants learning

  • What have they learnt as a result?

  • Tools for assessment: assignments in assessed programmes, quizzes, exit tickets (limited space for writing to elicit focused responses, see pic), or skill demonstrations.

Level 3: Institution’s capacity to support change

  • What are the organisation’s policies and are they aligned with the CPD programme?

  • Were necessary resources available? Need to be committed to supporting learning, otherwise it’s a waste of time.

  • Were changes supported at all levels?

  • Were successes recognised and shared?

  • Tools for assessment: Minutes from meetings.

I really enjoyed the examples of a disconnect between what CPD encourages trainees to do, and what the organisations tell them to do.

“The organisation can be the most powerful catalyst of the worst barrier to success of CPD”

Level 4: Participants’ use of the new knowledge

  • Did the new knowledge make a difference in their professional practice?

  • Tools for assessment: lesson obs, questionnaires, focus groups, structured interviews, S feedback. Learning walks: aim is to collect evidence of learning, progress, and areas for school development. Eg. 1-to-1 student tutorial. One tutorial recorded by audio, at least one.

  • Time must pass before assessing, can’t be done at the end.

Level 5: Students’ learning outcomes

  • Did CPD programme benefit students?

  • Possible Qs: What was impact? Are they more confident? Is student attendance up?

  • Tools for assessment: samples of work, test scores, formative assessment data, changes in study habits

  • A very important note to make is that level 5 doesn’t show a linear relationship between training teachers and students outcomes, as there are so many variables affecting this.

Overall this was a very interesting talk with lots of takeaways!


Discovery Learning or Direct Instruction? Cognitive Load Theory and ELT

by Carol Lethaby (The New School)

A fantastic, and very informative session. Carol is clearly very passionate about the topic of cognitive load, and that came across in the session.

She asked us to consider why we assume that ‘discovery learning’ is better than direct (or explicit) instruction, and related it to cognitive load theory.

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First she gave us some background:

Types of Knowledge

We have two types of knowledge - biologically primary and biologically secondary knowledge.

Biologically primary knowledge is a generic cognitive skill that we acquire instinctively because it’s indispensable to cognitive functions. It includes things like:

  • Listening and speaking in your L1.

  • Recognising faces

  • Engage in basic social functions

  • Solve unfamiliar problems

  • Plan for future events

  • Regulate thought processes

When we need to apply this knowledge in specific domains, this becomes to biologically secondary knowledge. This is knowledge that culture says we need to know, and is so all the stuff taught in schools.

Biologically secondary knowledge requires a conscious effort to learn and usually needs explicit instruction.

She then talked about short term vs long term memory, and the limitations of each.

We organise the knowledge into knowledge schemas - networks of knowledge.

Some examples of knowledge schemas in language learning are:

  • how to greet someone

  • how to talk about the past

  • how to compare people of things

Cognitive Load Theory

Cognitive load is the mental effort required to complete a task. If it’s too high, learning won’t be successful.

There are three types of cognitive load:

1. Intrinsic Load - how difficult a task is based on what learner knows already. What’s difficult for a beginner has low intrinsic load for higher level learners.

2. Extraneous Load - the extra information that is used to process new information in working memory. We need to minimise this, which we can do by simplifying (I.e diagrams), and making sure only relevant information is included.

3. Germane Load - relevant processing needed to integrate new information into long term memory. We need to optimise this. We need to set tasks that require learners to do processing that puts information into long term memory.

“Students [in a second language] are constantly under a high cognitive load” Sweller, 2017.

A good example of a high cognitive load setting is CLIL - dealing with language and content at the same time.

It also reminded me of the ‘unknown language’ mdoule in a CertTESOL or a CELTA. This is where trainees have to learn a new language as total beginners whilst also observing the techniques the teacher is using.

Cognitive load theory says that this split attention affect isn’t good. Learners should not be required to search for needed information. As it’s overworking the working memory.

What we should aim for is ‘desirable difficulty’, I.e. a task that requires considerable effort but that is also attainable. These improve long term performance.

‘Discovery learning’ is also potentially problematic if used exclusively, as it requires a high cognitive load. It’s hard to apply new knowledge that you’ve just acquired.

Overall this was a packed presentation, but very useful. I’ll be thinking about these topics and how to apply them from now on.


Adding online stuff to training

by Matt Courtois

Matt talked about methods he’d used to increase teacher retention through online training.

He gave three example ‘teachers’ who each had their own issues that as trainers, we have to deal with.

The first teacher complains that the observer being in the room changes his teaching drastically, and he can’t deliver a lesson that’s representative of his normal level.

For this teacher, asking them to film their lesson resulted in the teacher observing his own lesson, deciding what to improve, and re-filming it. This attempt to ‘cheat’ the system was actually part of the plan for him to develop organically.

The second teacher was someone that became defensive when given feedback. To solve this, feedback was given via a messenger app. This method of not being face to face, and the delay between each message, meant that the teachers affective filter was lowered, and he was then able to engage productively.

Third teacher was one that ‘already knows everything’. As such, in training sessions, he tries to show off, and acts superior to other trainees.

This was solved by ‘flipping the classroom’, and asking all teachers to learn the content before the training session. Once in the training workshop, they practiced turning the knowledge into skills.

As a result, all the teachers had the same level of knowledge coming into the session, removing the knowledge advantage teacher three had.

It was an interesting talk, and good to see that technology has some practical solutions.


Well, that’s all for now. I’m heading home on the train now, after a fantastic conference, but I’ll write an overall summary in the next couple of days.