Alright, I have finally put together my experience of this year’s IATEFL. A six-day cycle begins!
2. Leadership and management
3. Professional development
4. Non-native/native speaker issues
6. General impressions
I’ll be giving highlights in the blog posts, but you can find complete accounts with slides (and more of my rambling comments) in my OneNote database. It’s a living document and everything (except teaching) is still being updated.
I mostly focused on academic management, but managed to squeeze in a few sessions on methodology: sometimes to support friends, sometimes to explore a new idea. That is why the topics come from very different areas.
So, in no order of preference:
1. Hyper polyglots: what can they teach us? / Scott Thornbury
Scott Thornbury spoke about very successful language learners and what we can learn from them as students and as teachers. Very useful for student counselling and developing learner autonomy!
The advice for teachers is to help students have concrete goals, give them a variety of teaching strategies, provide opportunities for communication and help them build an L2 self (this is definitely something to explore).
It’s interesting how old and new methods combine to help the learners achieve their goals: exposure and focus on fluency, as well as memorisation, spaced repetition, rote learning and apps… If it works, it works!
2. Generating a gender-free growth mindset in the classroom / Sophie Handy
Sophie’s talk seemed to answer one of Scott Thornbury’s questions: so is it about aptitude after all? The research she did with her teenage students was aimed at gender-based stereotypes: do boys and girls see themselves and their potential differently? How can we as teachers help them believe in themselves and achieve better learning? I think I’ll try to replicate this research and see how I can make my classroom more of a learning zone than a performance zone.
3. The Disney creativity strategy in the Business English context / Marjorie Rosenberg
Marjorie Rosenberg introduced a very simple but effective idea that could be used in Business English lessons, or in fact in any lessons with more or less mature students – and even in business meetings. (What does Walt Disney have to do with it? Well, he was known to play each of these roles with his subordinates, and they never knew what he was going to be next – interesting fact). Apparently, all of us play the role of a dreamer, realist or critic, and acknowledging these roles overtly can bring a lot of benefits. In the practical part, I happily channelled my inner critic! It seems that I need more work done on my business communication skills.
4. Best practice for blended learning: approaches and outcomes / Pete Sharma & Barney Barrett
This session was all about course planning, with lots of practical and sensible advice. All of it is in their book, and I really recommend checking out Pete Sharma’s website. I had a lot of my questions answered and thoughts confirmed: e.g. why online courses tend to have such a high drop-out rate (lack of human interaction), ratio of f2f and online activities in a blended course depends on context and goals, but the classical number is 50/50. It’s funny but the presentation on blended learning was the only one that had paper handouts!
5. Signposting lesson aims and activities / Alina Promska & Liudmyla Konoplenko
Fresh, energetic and ruthlessly well-structured – what else can I say? Was really happy to see the teachers from my teaching centre present. They signposted their own session (yes, practise what you preach) and demonstrated a lot of useful principles and activities to talk to students about the lesson structure and activity aims. Well done!
6. We have ways of making you talk better / Stephen Reilly
This session inspired me (and some other people I know) to start recording lessons again. I did try making videos of my lessons, which was a painful but very useful experience. Audio is much less of a distraction because you don’t have to think about your hair or clothes! Stephen presented discourse analysis tools that can be used to look at one’s TTT (watch out for those pesky verbal tics) and gave useful advice about the technical side of things. And yes, this analysis should result in a realistic action plan.