Reflections from EAQUALS Conference

TYK2Reflections from EAQUALS Conference
ByTuğba Yıldırım Kumbasar

I recently had the opportunity to attend the Eaquals Conference held in Lisbon, Portugal, from April 11th to 13th, where I delivered a workshop entitled “Unlocking Creativity in Language Teaching Through Arts Integration”. Like many conferences, it provided a platform to exchange ideas and gain insights into the latest developments in language teaching across various contexts. Additionally, it offered a chance to establish new connections within the field. While summarizing all the sessions I attended in one blog post is a challenge, I will do my best in this post to highlight a few that I believe are worth noting for staying updated.

Nergis Uyan highlighted the three Eaquals frameworks during her presentation titled “An Introduction to Eaquals - Eaquals Frameworks,” aimed at supporting language teachers, trainers, and managers in their ongoing professional development. These frameworks include the Eaquals Framework for Language Teacher Training and Development, the Eaquals Framework for Language for Academic Purposes Teacher Training & Development, and the Eaquals Academic Management Competency Framework. Clearly, these frameworks play an important role in shaping the landscape of language education by offering a structured approach to professional growth and fostering a culture of excellence and innovation within language institutions. Even for those familiar with Eaquals, it may be useful to be reminded of the details outlined in these frameworks, as they provide guidance and benchmarks for both individual and institutional development.

Teacher training and development is an area in which we at SL have been actively engaged. It was enlightening to explore this domain through the lens of teacher cognition with Ben Beaumont and Thom Kiddle in their session titled "Developing teacher cognition: Maximising the impact of in-service CPD courses," which focused on teachers' beliefs regarding effective teaching methods and contexts. They emphasized the importance of considering various influences that shape teachers' cognition to maximize their effectiveness, advocating for ongoing and localized CPD, which research has shown to be more effective than one-off workshops or conferences. Personally, I was not surprised to hear this, as my experiences align with this perspective. While one-off sessions can be valuable for introducing new concepts or practicing known topics, further exploration, whether formal or informal, is up to us as individuals who embrace lifelong learning. We should have the autonomy to determine how much time we allocate to our development in a topic. Moreover, I liked the emphasis on creating a space for questioning accepted practices in the session. Maintaining a critical perspective, even towards practices we consider proficient, is crucial for continuous improvement. What works well with one group may not necessarily be as effective with another, highlighting the importance of engaging in a reflective and action-oriented cycle. The session also referenced NILE's CPD courses as opportunities for teachers to select, utilize, adapt, and reflect on materials provided through such a critical process.

Project work and partnerships offer invaluable opportunities for personal and professional growth, enabling us to enhance our skills, knowledge, and networks. However, the success of these endeavors depends greatly on our level of preparedness. Patrick Creed's presentation illuminates the critical importance of project governance in ensuring effective management of initiatives like Erasmus+ partnerships. In my opinion, the principles he shared resonate deeply, not only for Erasmus+ projects but also for a wide range of endeavors. Examining aspects such as project management, team dynamics, stakeholder engagement, scope definition, planning, communication strategies, resource allocation, benefits realization, and risk assessment is essential for establishing a solid foundation for project success. Effective project planning often starts in advance, typically spanning several months to a year, requiring a dedicated commitment of time and meticulous planning to ensure thorough consideration of all project facets. Despite meticulous planning, it's necessary to acknowledge the inherently transient nature of projects as they are temporary endeavors with defined start and end dates. This recognition emphasizes the need for efficient resource utilization and timely delivery of project outcomes. Additionally, one aspect often overlooked is risk assessment, which, when addressed proactively, can significantly enhance project success by minimizing adverse impacts and enabling effective adaptation to unforeseen challenges. Patrick's insights highlighted the importance of project governance and strategic planning in navigating project management complexities. Embracing these principles can optimize project outcomes and cultivate a culture of excellence and resilience within organizations, ultimately driving sustainable growth.

The conference presented a wide array of sessions covering various crucial topics related to teaching and professional development, with a notable focus on artificial intelligence (AI). The sessions I attended on the application of AI in language teaching offered similar insights into its use and a central question that arose at the end of almost each AI session was whether AI would replace teachers. A common agreement reached in response to this question is that teachers who effectively utilize AI are likely to outperform others who do not. Consequently, this argument prompts us to add another layer to our professional development goals and explore effective strategies for integrating AI into our language teaching practices.

The effective use of AI brings me back to the argument in educational technology during the early stages of its adoption: Should pedagogy drive technology or technology drive pedagogy? This question also remains pertinent in the context of AI in educational settings. My belief is that AI utilization guided by pedagogical principles can lead to effective teaching practices. An illustrative example supporting my view was shared in David Byrne’s session, “Incorporating AI into a Writing Skills Course”, where he outlined essential skills for effective writing using AI tools. I likewise advocate for the integration of these skills into our writing lessons and courses. David also outlined an effective process for guiding students in the use of ChatGPT for prompting, response analysis and maintaining writer’s voice with a structured plan focusing on one skill at a time. Implementing such lessons at the semester's outset could provide a valuable introduction for students. Throughout the semester, students could then practice these skills with the support of various forms of feedback. Alternatively, for those unable to directly integrate AI into the existing curriculum, offering an AI-focused co-curricular program in the initial weeks of the semester to interested small groups could be beneficial. This approach would enable students to develop these skills outside the classroom, with potential benefits observed in class during the semester.

The diverse perspectives I had the opportunity to gain at the conference allowed me to look into my relevant experiences from various angles, refine my work in line with insights gleaned from similar works by colleagues, and create space in my teaching to incorporate new or adapted practices. I hope the details I shared above also provide a glimpse of the conference and spark curiosity in those who read the post to explore the names and ideas mentioned further.