Associate Professor of English
Ethiraj College for Women, Chennai
The International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language - IATEFL - mission is to link, develop and support English Language Professionals worldwide. The 51st annual conference and exhibition was held in Glasgow, UK from April 4th to 7th, with over 3,000 delegates in attendance. The venue was the SECC - Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre - which is a truly world-class venue and one of Europe's highest profile conference centres. I was privileged to attend this conference as an Indian Associate Member of ELTAI.
On 2nd April evening, the SVA dinner, previously arranged by the British Council for the associates from different parts of the world, took place in Argyll 2, Crowne Plaza Hotel, Glasgow and we got acquainted with the IATEFL Patron Prof. David Crystal, President, Secretary and other conference co-ordinators. It was a big gathering, and the past and present presidents addressed the associates. This was the most memorable event of the conference as we got to know over 100 associates from different parts of the globe.
The event began with the pre-conference events (PCE) and Associates Day on 3rd April and I was registered to attend the Associates’ Day. Lou McLaughlin, IATEFL’s Associate Chair introduced and welcomed the Associates to Glasgow followed by the formal welcome by the out-going president Marjorie Rosenbergand and In-Coming President Margit Szestztay. They both spoke of their personal association with the associates and how much it meant to them to attend for part of the day. We had a warmer session called ‘Buddy System’. Then, Lou McLaughlin read the Associates’ Representatives Report followed by updates on the award winners of 2016-17 Hornby Trust – IATEFL Associates Award, IATEFL Projects Award and IATEFL Scholarships.
Following on from Scholarship Updates by George Pickering, IATEFL Special Interest Groups Chair and Lou McLaughlin provided an introduction to an online course for TA’ Committees, the details on pilot project and so on.
After the coffee break, we had an opportunity to listen to TED-style Presentations by the four Associates MATEFL, TESOL Arabia, ELPA (Ethiopia) and IATEFL Hungary. In this sessions, we explored the strategies followed by the associates of IATEFL globally for teacher training and networking.
The atmosphere in the room turned to be one of lively discussions during the poster sessions. I had been allotted poster presentation slot on Associates Day between 13.40 and 15.50pm. I had an opportunity to display information about our association (ELTAI), our events and our Publication details such as Virtual Learning Workshops, Shakespeare Festival 2016 and Academic writing workshops organized by ELTAI for teacher training. This was the perfect opportunity to discuss ideas for the future and begin tentative plans for collaboration. There were many ideas on display by the Associates.
As always, no day is complete without thanking all those involved in working behind the scenes: the IATEFL Committee with Lou McLaughlin and George Pickering who worked tirelessly throughout Associates’ Day and also the British Council who were the generous sponsors for both SVA dinner and Associates’ Day.
INTERESTING SESSIONS IN THE CONFERENCE
The conference began on 4th April with IATEFL How to…sessions. “How to get the most out of this conference” with Susan Barduhn was for new IATEFL conference participants as well as those who attended many conferences in and around their country. This has been introduced to form learning groups for those who wish to jigsaw their conference experience and to share conference time management tips.
How to get involved in an IATEFL SIG with George Pickering enabled IATEFL members in an area of particular interest to them. In this session, brief discussion on What SIG’s are and how they can help the members to develop professionally has been discussed, before the discussion the different ways of involving actively in a SIG, from writing a newsletter article to volunteering to work on a SIG committee has been explored.
Following this was a session on by “How to get published in a refereed journal” with Graham Hall. This session had thrown light on how to look at and to get published in an “academic” journal. The editor of ELT journal had shared some tips and suggestions for getting our work print in an academic journal.
The grand opening plenary of Gabriel Diaz Maggoli on the topic “Empowering teachers through continued professional development: frameworks, practices and Promises.” Gabriel Diaz Maggoli is a teacher who applied the lessons learned in the classroom to his roles as writer, researcher, administrator and teacher educator. He got his BA in TESOL in Uruguay and completed Masters and doctoral work at the University of Bath in the UK. He has acted as consultant for international organizations such as UNICEF, UNESCO, The European Union, Inter-American Development Bank. A frequent presenter at local and international conferences, Gabriel has shared his theory-in-practice with colleagues in America, Europe, the Middle-East and East Asia. He currently lives in Uruguay where he is a tenured Professor of TESOL methods at the National Teacher Education College.
In the Plenary Speech Gabriel stressed on the notion that language teachers need ongoing professional development opportunities should be considered a harmless platitude. Yet, as the field stands now, most of our colleagues have not been given such opportunities as part of their jobs. But even then we hear so many wonderful tales of exploration and discovery! Teachers have taken upon themselves to build these growth opportunities. In the plenary he had shared some stories, and weaved the plots of new stories to come by presenting a “state of the art” hawk eye view of professional development and recommending potential ways in which colleagues can help each other to learn and develop.
Followed by the plenary there were parallel sessions in ten halls and ten executive rooms. I have attended the following two presentations –
TELLING AND RETELLING: THE MAGIC OF STORIES IN ELT
The session by Jeremy Harmer (Freelance/The New school, NY) & Jane Revell (Freelancer) was an interesting one. Stories are important resource for language learning-especially when re-retold and ‘re-signified’. They both had effectively discussed on how teachers can tell stories most effectively; how they can use them for language learning, use them for memory training, and if students use stories and tell their own. This session dealt with the story-with passing reference to Jetstream (Helbling).
FACILITATING MEANINGFUL STUDENT-STUDENT COMMUNICATION ONLINE
This talk by Deidre Cliffers (Cambridge University Press) addressed the challenge of creating peer-to-peer interaction within a group in online learning. Drawing on experience of live online teaching using Viewpoint, we can identify actions teachers need to take to ensure that students actually talk to each other online. This session had ensured the teachers on how to create and manage communicative tasks for the online classroom.
SYMPOSIUM ON TEACHING-LEARNING STRATEGIES TO ENGLISH LEARNERS
This presentation described the teacher preparation programmes that help English teachers to integrate language learning strategies instruction into their classrooms. Speakers from the George Washington University, National Institute of Education, Singapore, Poland and Jill Robbins stressed on the role of learner metacognition in strategy learning, Teaching grammar learning strategies and Making learning strategies fun with a free web-based multimedia course.
5th April began with how to sessions by Alison, Madeline and Daniel Xerri. The presentations dealt with how to write for IATEFL voices, How to submit speaker proposal and how to reflect on research talks at the conference. This was followed on by plenary session by Sarah Mercer, Professor of foreign Language Teaching at the University of Graz, Austria. Her Plenary on ‘Connecting Minds: Language Learner and Teacher Psychologies’ reflected on the fundamental role played by psychology in the learning and teaching of foreign languages. She had addressed on the diverse aspects of psychology such as beliefs, emotions, sense of self, agency and engagement and how to help learners to connect mentally and emotionally to their language learning and how we can support teachers to ensure a positive level of professional well-being in their jobs. To sum up, this talk aimed to focus our minds on what matters most in language education: The stakeholders.
THE FUTURE OF ENGLISH: THE NEXT 20 YEARS
David Graddol had thrown light on the main factors guiding the future of English in the world over the next two decades.
6th April sessions began with How to give a presentation at an international conference with Jeremy day, ‘How to become a successful freelancer’ by Chia Suan Chong was an interesting one which dealt on the three key areas such as organizational details-budgeting and finances, flexible schedule and security, How to get work- self-marketing and professionalizing, and How to Keep work-quality control referrals and solid administration.
Plenary Speaker, JJ Wilson has taught in Egypt, Lesotho, Colombia, England, Italy and the United states, and has trained teachers in 30 countries. He is currently the writer-in-residence at Western New Mexico University, where he teaches ESL Methods, Linguistics, Publication, and Creative Writing.
His Plenary on ELT and social justice: Opportunities in a time of chaos dealt with teaching methodology. He argued that teaching is never neutral through their methods; classroom persona and the materials teachers use advocate certain values. In the plenary he looked at the arguments for including social justice issues in ELT classrooms.
MY IMPRESSIONS ABOUT THE CONFERENCE
I was delighted to attend the presentations, talks, symposia and panel discussions of English teaching professionals around the world. Many presenters spoke about the paradigm shift from teacher-centered to learner and learning-centered education. Many of them were worried on how to engage their learners all the time in the classroom and I found that all are interested in technology enhanced language teaching. The conference has provided a chance to meet teachers from all the corners of the globe to discuss the various classroom practices. I have also understood that teachers have stopped taking notes and instead they use their mobile devices to capture the presentations and when it is more interesting they video record the whole event.
A large resources exhibition involving around 70 ELT-related exhibitors was arranged in the conference venue. It gave a chance to witness the latest ELT publications and services in one place and I had the opportunity to serve as a staff representative in IATEFL stand on the first day, 4th April.
PLACES I HAVE VISITED IN THE UK
I spent a day in Lake District, few days in Scotland, Edinburgh, and London, and visited Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, London Bridge, Cruise in River Thames, London Eye, Buckingham Palace, St.James Park, Cavalry museum, Changing of the guard to the Queen, Hyde park, Edinburgh castle, and the Glasgow University.
The IATEFL Conference is a massive event with a multitude of sessions from 8am to 6pm. Even the coffee breaks are moments for further discussion and exploration of ideas among the English teaching professionals around the globe. I thank Almighty God for giving me such an opportunity to enjoy the conference and visiting UK. ELT@I has given me a platform to know about IATEFL and I thank the patron of ELT@I Dr. S. Rajagopalan for his constant motivation.
I thank our college and chairman for the constant support and encouragement in all our endeavors.