The Reflect EFL conference

Do you agree that online conferences are the new normal? I wish it were not so, but for the time being it’s the best way to exchange ideas and make new contacts in the field. As one of the invited speakers at Reflect (a big shoutout to the organisers!), I was able to see other presentations for free, sitting in my own home – CPD has never been more convenient.

It was a one-day event with three strands, so I couldn’t see as much as I wanted to. Still, I really liked Svitlana Salova’s presentation about teachers’ well-being (remember that ‘the situation is not as bad as it seems‘), Maria Penner’s talk about teaching young learners online (‘The contents of your lesson are on both sides of the screen!‘) and Hugh Dellar’s take on how not to plateuau if you are an advanced learner (the best advice for busy teachers: ‘build language development into lesson planning‘).

My own presentation can be found here; it’s an update of my last year’s Wizard’s First Rule (with one more rule added) for teacher trainers. I try not to revisit the same topics again and again, but this time the conversation felt truly different: we’ve all come an awfully long way since March 2020.


The contrast between performance-based and information-based training

I’ve been thinking a lot about the right balance between giving information and improving the learners’ skills in language lessons. My current view is that all stages of Bloom are very important – Captain Obvious much? πŸ™‚ Anyway, Tom Kuhlmann at the Rapid E-Learning blog draws a distinction between the two in the context of corporate training: information-based training is ok when we simply need to inform participants about a policy but don’t need to change their behaviour. Performance-based training is different: or rather, it has to make a difference.

Tom suggests several questions to ask yourself before designing this type of training, e.g. What do you expect the learners to do after the course that they’re not doing today? or What training do they currently receive (if any)? Why hasn’t it worked? And of course, How is success going to be measured? So, lectures and non-interactive webinars and websites won’t cut it if we expect any results. It’s so simple, and yet so easy to forget.

A positive Q&A with Sarah Mercer

sarah QA

Here is the link to a wonderful session with Sarah Mercer that LAMSIG organised yesterday (I helped a bit too :)). It’s a shame that I had to leave 30 minutes in to teach a lesson, but we have the recording – which I really recommend viewing, or even listening to, whether you are a teacher, a manager or a little bit of both.

There were lots of interesting discussions about the situation we are going through and whether we can expect any post-traumatic growth, what coping strategies work and which don’t (e.g. planning doesn’t work anymore!). Sarah spoke about the difference between resilience and flourishing, about blurred boundaries between home and work and, most importantly perhaps, about the role of the manager who is the hub of the team and as such has to support and connect the teachers with microconversations, appreciative inquiry and generally communicate openly and honestly.

The final question was about something that worries me too: what’s going to happen after the virus is gone? Watch the video to find out what Sarah thinks πŸ™‚

From business to school


Here is an interesting post by Larry Ferlazzo listing a few things teachers can borrow from the world of business. With the same caveat that Larry makes (“most business practices have no place in schools“), I find those moments of transfer extremely valuable. Also, the ideas can be interpreted in many different ways depending on the context, which makes for a useful framework. So, here are a few thoughts from me based on Larry’s list.

  1. How do we highlight a gap? (goal-setting, test-teach-test, upgrading feedback)
  2. How do we pose questions? (‘broken record’ questions, critical thinking activities)
  3. How do we ask for less?Β  learner autonomy – just 5 minutes of English a day)

How would you interpret this list?

My 5 years of IATEFL

Well, ladies and gentlemen, it’s this time of the year again! April, the UK, the global IATEFL conference… Not this year, sadly, but I couldn’t resist the nostalgic pull today.


The 50th anniversary conference in Birmingham, which started the whole romance with IATEFL for me: I got a scholarship from LAMSIG to attend and speak about change management. Also, I met a lot of wonderful people and got to see the towers that inspired J.R.R.Tolkien – and went punting in Cambridge.birmingham



Glasgow, where I spoke about Team LDP and got to see a bit of Scotland. And then there was the Edinburgh castle, Loch Lomond and the misty Highlands…




Brighton and the South Coast with the white cliffs of the Seven Sisters. I spoke about language support for NNSTs and developed a taste for local ales.


Seven sisters


Liverpool started with the lovely York for me, and then I got to speak twice: about restructuring a management team and about the Purple Pen of Progress. A steam train trip through North Wales, the Conwy Castle and this wonderful sea smell in the air that you can only feel in my favourite country in April.



To be continued next year, I hope! For now, let’s meet up online this weekend πŸ™‚

COVID-19 support group for managers

COVid support group

Did you know that my favourite LAMSIG IATEFL committee launched this great initiative several weeks ago? It’s an open Facebook group with more than 200 members where school managers can exchange information and ideas and support each other in these difficult times. I’m awfully biased of course because I’m one of the admins, but it’s really a great community with very intelligent and supportive conversations. Do check it out if you have any interest in academic management.

On top of that, our Coordinator Andy Hockley has been putting together useful links shared in the community and summing up ideas and suggestions in regular posts: here and here.Β  We have talked about teacher wellbeing, supporting students, price policy, assessment, remote management, and there are a lot of questions yet unanswered. Perhaps they are waiting for you? πŸ˜‰

New series: projects for real (1 of 15)


Project methodology in English language teaching is old news, you say? Well, yes and no: on the one hand, projects are a staple in the ELT classroom. On the other hand, we often focus on the outputs (poster, web page, time capsule…) and don’t teach the learners how to work on a project. Where is the timeline and the Gantt chart? The RAG update? The health check? The manager in me squirms at the lack of accountability and the risks involved, and the teacher knows all too well how often these learner projects fail or don’t reach the learning objectives. And just think about the lost possibilities: the students could have acquired very useful workplace skills if they had been given the right professional tools!

Luckily, there is some work being done in this area by more academic people than me, and here’s the first installment in the series: a great article by Kim Liegel which outlines the most important principles of managing a project in the classroom and offers excellent worksheets and checklists. There’s more to come.

My update


Well, the picture kind of says it all. As of 8 January 2020, I’m a committee member of the IATEFL Leadership and Management SIG! I could list one hundred reasons why it’s so important to me, but here are my top three:

  1. IATEFL is one of the biggest and certainly the most well-known international organisation in the field of English language teaching.
  2. LAMSIG is one of 16 IATEFL special interest groups and the closest to my heart: five years ago this SIG gave me, a very new and inexperienced academic manager, a scholarship to come to the 50th anniversary conference. It made me more confident, encouraged me to reflect and develop a more academic approach to my work, and to go out and meet more like-minded people. And now I have a chance to give something back.
  3. I’m one of the 10 committee members, and the other 9 are incredibly cool. I know most of them from before because I’ve been attending their talks, reading their articles, admiring them from a distance – and now we can actually work together!

So, there you go. This also means that my blogging schedule is moving from daily to weekly, but I promise I will continue to read and share the best bits of ELT goodness πŸ™‚ Keep watching this space – and see you at the next IATEFL, maybe?


How to apologise for teaching


What a great post by Larry Ferlazzo! I’m pretty sure most of us make similar errors of judgement in the classroom when we focus on ‘covering the book’, ‘meeting the deadline’, ‘doing the Present Perfect’ instead of teaching our students. But how often do we have the courage and humility to admit the error even to ourselves? Larry describes how he prepared a solid sequence on storytelling and what exactly in his view went wrong. And what particularly awed me – he found a way to apologise to the students and to set things straight.

I’ve read it somewhere that when a service provider deals with a complaint well, it can satisfy and even delight the customer, much more than in a neutral situation. It’s similar, isn’t it? I’m sure Larry’s students were absolutely delighted.

Surviving and thriving


What a trite thing to say – but it doesn’t become less important because it’s been said so many times. I was listening to this podcast and thinking: do we really know how to balance our life and work? So I came home and worked a bit more πŸ™‚ And then I googled and found this great post by Terry Heick, where he lists ten principles of being a happy teacher, from being creative to knowing when to shut your door.

The teacher trainer in me has already cut up the principles into strips and handed out to a group of participants for jigsaw reading, it’s that good.