IATEFL 2019 Day 2 - Review

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The second day of IATEFL 2019! As usual, it’s an intense experience - so much input means so much to think about and to discuss with friends.

The day started with the plenary:

Gender and sexuality in ELT - inclusive education vs. queer pedagogy

by John Gray

“The aim is to let students live more fully in the world”

The argument that John Gray put forward is that a lack of representation in learning materials excludes LGBT learners, and can affect their mental health and educational outcomes.

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A further issue is that even when when representation is present (inclusion) then it’s often not representative enough. An example was given of an ‘idealised’ LGBT family with two dads, an adopted child, three dogs, with financial security.

John Gray argued that this ‘palatable’ version of an LGBT family doesn’t fulfill the needs of inclusion of many other kinds of LGBT living situations.

This, he argues, is where ‘queer pedagogy’ can be used to raise awareness.

One example he gave of ‘queering teaching’ was showing learners a picture of a woman riding a bike. However, this was at a time period where this was unusual and as such, other people were pointing at her. This led students to a discussion of traditional gender roles and modern expectations.

I’ve not experienced a similar talk at IATEFL, and while it was quite dense (for me) with some unfamiliar terminology, it certainly provoked an interesting discussion among friends afterwards.

One area that we realised hadn’t been raised was how to address inclusion or ‘queering teaching’ in cultures and countries where laws (and cultural norms) restrict or prohibit discussion on these matters.

You can watch the full presentation here.


Forum on video on language teacher education

by British Council, various

The part of the forum I attended spoke about a joint British Council study in Thailand where videos were annotated to give teacher feedback and development.

A bespoke app had been developed for 17,000 teachers in Thailand, where they could video their classes and upload them, and receive tutor comments in return.

I loved that fact that several of the teachers ‘blu-tacked’ their phones to the classroom wall in order to film their classes!

A practical take-away I got from this was that I need to look for an app or software that can easily let me annotate trainees videos and share them.

If anyone knows of something like this then please let me know!


Promoting high quality thinking in the early years

by Carol Read

This was a really lovely presentation, well-researched, engaging and with some great take-aways. I’ve not seen Carol Read present before, but was very glad I attended her session.

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Carol started by defining what was meant by ‘high-quality’ thinking - I.e. that it’s thinking that is non-routine, independent, involves effort, considers different options, different criteria and challenging problems.

Here’s a list of skills that Carol says make up ‘high quality thinking’:

  • Cognitive abilities

  • Reasoning

  • Enquiry

  • Critical thinking

  • Creative thinking

  • Meta-cognition

These are underpinned by characteristics like curiosity, open-mindedness, etc.

She then gave some great illustrative quotations from questions posed to young children and asked us to consider what they told us about a child’s cognition.

The first was to a child of five years:

Q: “What’s the difference between you and a dog?”

[child takes a long time to think]

A: “I can stand on one leg”

The second was at a gathering, a teenager was asked what they wanted to be. He said a doctor. To deflect attention, he asked a four year old girl:

Q: “So what do you want to do when you leave school?”

A: “I want to be a giraffe… a giraffe is taller than a doctor”

And the last was in an art gallery, a small girl was looking at Picasso with her mum.

Q: “What do you think?

A: “Mummy, I don’t think he’s very good. He doesn’t even know how to colour in the lines”.

These responses show novel approaches to thinking that are unexpected to us as adults, but that demonstrate aspects of:

  • Social interaction

  • Intention of interlocutor

  • Role of significant adults

  • Concrete and abstract thinking

  • Creative and critical thinking

  • Egocentric focus

  • Complexity of thinking

  • Uniqueness of children

It reminded me that as we slowly socialise children, by giving standards and expectations, we lessen the need for them to use high quality thinking.

Carol reminded us that to develop an effective thinking pedagogy you need three things:

  1. Learning environment (I.e. a warm, safe environment)

  2. Teaching strategies (I.e. scaffolding, feedback)

  3. Children’s responses

To do so, Carol has developed a framework to integrate thinking skills into current practice. It’s also customisable, and can be layered over your own context. It’s called:

QUILT - QUality In Learning to Think

It’s a really interesting idea, and there are several aspects to this. Here are four:

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Another is social and emotional learning, whereby we could help young learners identify and understand their own emotions.

Carol said that too often there is a “tyranny of happiness” in kindergartens, where everyone is expected to be happy. By working through an activity like this:

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Where learners colour and describe their emotions, themselves, they’re developing learner autonomy, and learning also that there are often no right answers.

Unfortunately time went too fast, and I was left wishing that there was enough time to hear all of Carol’s QUILT ‘patches’.

Maybe next year!


Performing the Coursebook

by Brian Tomlinson

“A performance of the coursebook consists of a human enactment of the words on the page”

This was an excellent talk by Brian on how to bring the course book to life.

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He said that he was a believer of teacher performance as a way to energise the learners, as too often the coursebook provides dry, closed questions.

These can be changed, and the provided material can be better exploited.

He led us through several examples, one of which involved telling a traditional story, and having the audience act as the class. It was involving, and much more interesting than original course book offering.

Other points I noted:

  • In class, you don’t want questions where everyone agrees on the answers. Conflict is your friend.

  • Use the pictures and texts which the course book forgets about or under utilizes

  • Why perform? Even the best coursebooks are inadequate.

  • Typical coursebooks, even at the highest levels, have more closed than open questions.

  • A pre-requisite of language acquisition is exposure to the target language in use. It needs to be: rich, comprehensible, contextualised, meaningful (multimodal) and embodied.

  • You need to engage learners affectively before you engage them cognitively

And a final quote which made us chuckle:

“People say ‘But I’ve been teaching PPP for 40 years!’ And I say, well why don’t you try something different?” - Brian Tomlinson.


Is TEFL Recruitment Racist

by Ross Thorburn

Ross began by giving us several examples of racism in recruitment that he encountered whilst working in China over the last few years.

He then described a piece of research that he’d done to assess the level of racism in recruitment in Europe, China and Korea.

He’d borrowed an idea from the book ‘Freakonomics’

The idea is quite simple: to create two near identical CVs, but give one a ‘white’ sounding name and the other an ethnic sounding name. He also added a photo for good measure.

He then sent both of these CVs to 50 schools in Europe, 100 in China and 100 in Korea. He recorded the results and noted how many more preferable responses the ‘white-sounding’ name returned.

In summary, Europe showed no preference, whilst schools in Korea and China did - and by quite a margin.

Overall, it was a clear piece of research, well presented, and had the audience gasping in places.


GUINEVERE - Learn a language through games in virtual worlds

by Heike Philp

This was an interesting prospect - the idea of using a virtual world to build games for language .

The team with Heike had created a private virtual island called GUINEVERE in OpenSim (an online world similar to Second World, or Minecraft).

They’re looking for ways to help learners learn by using games to help learn a language in an authentic environment.

Seemed like a very interesting project!


Deconstructing jigsaw activities

by Jason Anderson

An excellent talk that led us through the history of jigsaw activities, what they arguably ‘lost’ when they moved to ELT, and some excellent examples.

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As he’s written an excellent article on the topic, I’ll refer you to his article that you can download here.

Well worth a read, and it’ll probably get you running more jigsaw activities than ever before!

That’s all for now, signing off and speak to you tomorrow!