The 53rd IATEFL Conference and Exhibition
The 53rd IATEFL Conference and Exhibition which was held between 2 and 5 April in Liverpool 2019 was a rewarding experience in which I got to meet other professionals in the field, exchanged ideas and had the opportunity to present my classroom research on a forum entitled “Findings from Research into Writing at University Level”.
Following are some highlights from the conference:
“Teacher Empowerment: Leaving the Twilight Zone” by Paula Rebolledo.
The conference started with a plenary by Paula Rebolledo from Chile. In her plenary she talked about the concept of teacher empowerment and discussed why teachers are in the twilight zone in terms of empowerment and how they can leave it. One of the reasons behind her focus on teacher empowerment as a research area is the need to clarify what is really meant by teacher empowerment. To illustrate the lack of clarity and interest in the issue of how teachers can actually be empowered, she used the following quotation from an American TV series called “The Twilight Zone”
“It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone”.
Paula Rebolledo introduced six dimensions that she used in her research to help clarify the definition of “teacher empowerment” and how teachers that participated in her research consider these dimensions as a part of their empowerment.
1. Impact -related to teachers’ perceptions about whether they are making an impact in their job.
2. Self-Efficacy-related to teaching objectives-what can teachers do to help their students learn better.
3. Professional Growth-learning opportunities for teachers to develop and share
4. Status-how teachers see themselves as professionals.
5. Autonomy-freedom of choice in materials and what to teach.
6. Decision Making-level of participation involving one’s job inside and outside the lesson. (Short & Rinehart 1992)
Her research revealed that EL teachers’ perceptions about “Teacher Empowerment” were limited to 3 main dimensions:
1. Autonomy- teachers feel empowered when they are able to make decisions regarding materials and what to teach.
2. Professional Development- teachers feel empowered when they are able to attend conferences and seminars.
3. Self-efficacy- teachers feel empowered when they are able to achieve learning.
At the end of her talk she suggested the following ways to empower teachers:
•Democratic decision making
•Teacher-led professional development
•Teacher research is necessary
“Co-constructing Teaching and Learning Through Multimodal Tasks” by David Nunan and Julie Choi
David Nunan and Julie Choi’s session entitled “Co-constructing teaching and learning through multimodal tasks” was another interesting and inspiring workshop where techniques for enabling learners to invest in their own learning through multimodal tasks were shared with the audience. Two techniques “Language Portraits” and “Learning Trajectory Grids” were described and illustrated.
Their talk focused on how teachers use those techniques as a research tool to gain insight into students’ individual learning experiences and design their teaching methodology accordingly.
Language Learning Trajectory Grids were described as a meaningful task for language activation and awareness for all learners. It creates meaningful opportunities for teachers and learners to co-learn and co-create ways forward.
In this task students are asked to illustrate their language learning experience through the trajectory grid to find out what helped and hindered the students’ learning process.
They stated that based on their students’ answers they came up with 7 factors which helped and hindered the learning process:
1.Teachers (helped & hindered)
2.Making local friends (helped and hindered)
3.Use of their L1 and other languages (mostly helped but limited techniques)
4.Interest in varieties of English (helped)
5.Curiosity about other languages(helped)
6.Difficulties in mainstream subjects (hindered)
7.Educational system (hindered)
Based on these results they also suggested ways for language teachers to help students’ learning process;
They stated the need for:
*more emphasis on teacher attitudes, behaviors and discourses
*more education for first language learners on multilingual lives and more content for teachers about multilingual learners
*more explicit instruction on how to use students’ entire linguistic resources for learning
purposes and more awareness of multilingual creativity
*more texts and tasks that activate discussions on global English and non-English
languages and cultures.
Nunan and Choi also consider “Language Portraits” as another technique that teachers might make use of to gather more information about their students’ language learning experiences.
In this technique students are asked to paint various languages of their linguistic repertoires using different colors for each language on the body silhouette and explain their picture to the class.
This technique can be adapted to our context by asking students to paint the body silhouette with different colors representing different skills. A follow up writing activity could also be given to get more info about students’ beliefs on learning English.
Finally, they suggested that engaging students in these activities might help students develop their ability to discuss, formulate questions, listen more actively and write easily about their experiences.
“Under one roof: considerations on integrating content and language” by Aleksandra Zaparucha
Aleksandra Zaparucha’s plenary entitled “Under one roof: considerations on integrating content and language” was about Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL). According to Zaparucha, there is no content without the language and no language without the content. Therefore, students should be trained to use the language effectively to express those subjects (the content). Zaparucha highlighted the importance of content in teaching language as she thinks that it is a tool which motivates students to use the language effectively and noted that content and language are indispensable elements of language teaching. She introduced 4 Cs that could be used when preparing and conducting a CLIL lesson and added that all should be given equal importance:
2.Communication-language of instruction
3.Cognition- thinking skills
Then, she showed 10 CLIL parameters by merging them with those four C’s into one wheel. The image below illustrates the whole process:
At the end of her talk, Zaparucha suggested some ways that CLIL could be integrated into teaching contexts, and those are: working in collaboration with subject teachers teaching the same students and incorporating global issues into curriculum to inform students about current trends, develop skills, change attitudes and even propel them to take action.