Marmara University English Language Teaching Conference


Marmara University English Language Teaching Conference

October 11-12, 2019

Marmara Üniversitesi

By Lukka Alp Akarçay, Okan Bölükbaş and Justin Jacobs


The Marmara University English Language Teaching International Conference (MELT 2019)  was held at Marmara University on the Göztepe Campus in İstanbul on 11-12 October 2019. The conference hosted speakers from many countries. There were four plenary talks, research paper presentations and workshops. Sabancı University was represented by Lukka Alp Akarçay, Okan Bölükbaş and Justin Jacobs. A presentation titled “Gender- and Sexuality-Inclusive Curriculum at Sabancı University” was delivered by Lukka and Justin, and Okan’s presentation was titled “Making Academic Reading Fun.” Here are some of the highlights from the conference.


October 11

by Okan Bölükbaş 

1st Plenary Talk: “Broadening Horizons: A 21 st Century-Oriented Language Education” by Prof. Dr. Derin Atay

Derin Atay (Ph.D in Language Education, Boğaziçi University) is a professor in the Department of Foreign Language Education at Bahçeşehir University (BAU), Istanbul and she has been running their PhD program in ELT for four years. In her talk, Atay outlined different frameworks of 21st century skills and suggested implementation of the skills in language classes. She stated that teachers are widely considered as central in the process of transformation, given their impact on learners and influence on the learning process. Language teachers should keep pace with the new vision in education. English teachers must accept the changing and flexible nature of literacies that address areas as diverse as technology, multimedia, collaboration and culture.

Atay differentiated the concepts ‘skill’ and ‘competence’ by giving their definitions as follows. A skill is the ability to perform tasks and solve problems, while a competence is the ability to apply learning outcomes adequately in a defined context (education, work, personal or professional development). A competence is not limited to the use of theory, concepts or tacit knowledge; it also encompasses functional aspects (technical skills) as well as interpersonal attributes (social or organizational skills) and ethical values.

Atay talked about the OECD, ATCS and P21 frameworks. Atay stated that the skills that students need in today’s ever-changing landscape are mentioned in these frameworks. In all frameworks the skills mentioned are collaboration, communication, ICT literacy, social and/or cultural skills, and citizenship. On the other hand, the skills mentioned in most frameworks are creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, develop quality products / productivity.

2nd Plenary Talk: “Dealing with the 21 st century challenges in the management and leadership of ELT” by Andy Hockley

Andy Hockley is the coordinator of LAMSIG (Leadership and Management SIG) and is a freelance educational management consultant and trainer based in Transylvania. In his talk, Hockley shared the results of his research which was conducted in the last 3 years firstly with academic managers in ELT worldwide and subsequently with managers and teachers working in the EMI sector in Turkey. He set out what the challenges are in our profession these days – not just for managers but for teachers. He listed the biggest challenges today as follows:

  • Balancing business/ academic – quantity vs quality
  • Recruiting/holding onto good teachers
  • Dealing with pressure from above, institutional expectations
  • Changing needs of customers (learners); especially online learning
  • Competitive / uncertain market
  • Motivating staff / meeting teacher expectations
  • Unrealistic expectations of others (TR)
  • Financial restrictions (TR)
  • Unmotivated instructors (TR)

One interesting question that Hockley asked in his research is, “if you could rewrite your job description what would be your new priorities?” Here is the list of the results: 

  • Developing teachers
  • More time with teachers
  • More time with students
  • Strategic planning
  • Hire more people / reduce workload
  • Monitoring student progress
  • Curriculum development
  • Keeping up to date with ELT developments

Hockley, consequently, concluded his talk with 5 suggestions:

  • Make time
  • Get to know your team
  • Look forward
  • Embrace KPIs
  • Trust your staff

Apart from the plenaries there were several sessions. Something that stood out was that with high level students, the primary problem with listening comprehension is ‘too much confidence’. This is followed by lack of motivation, lack of attention span, strategy and metacognition aspects; in other words, students feel the need to understand everything. These are the results of the study carried out by Abdullah Pekel, who works as an instructor at the school of languages at Marmara University. His results with low level students are a lack of vocabulary, processing (accent), and limited background knowledge.

Additionally, our colleagues from Atılım University spoke about Achieve 3000. Zeynep Doğan and Emine Kutlu shared with the participants the results of their case study. At Atılım University, Achieve 3000 was assigned to students as one article a day outside the class and it had a 5% weighting in the overall assessment. Students were required to get 75% and above from the activities for their work to be assessed. The results of their study showed that students found Achieve 3000 not useful, not easy to use, and irrelevant to the curriculum. As a result, they are not using it anymore.


October 12 

by Justin Jacobs

“Gender- and Sexuality-Inclusive Curriculum at Sabancı University” by Lukka Alp Akarçay and Justin Jacobs

Lukka and Justin presented their research being done at the university. They provided a brief theoretical background discussing post-structuralism and Queer Theory, illustrating how these two philosophies led to a queer pedagogy. They explained what a queer pedagogy might look like and emphasized the importance of identity in second language acquisition. They shared the research the task group is doing at the university, investigating how students understand subordinated (and in particular, sexual) identities, as depicted, or not, in course materials; and how student perspectives might inform an approach to integrating a gender- and sexuality-inclusive curriculum. They shared an activity for classroom research and that the activity itself produced inconclusive results. They concluded by reflecting on the limitations of the study and how they intend to alter the study and continue to conduct the research in the future. 

“BeAware of ELF in Turkey: Perceptions and Awareness of Turkish and Native English-Speaking Teachers” by İlke Gerede Hoyland and Pınar Ersin

The presenters shared a study to interrogate teacher development and ways to integrate  English as a lingua franca approach (ELF) in teaching. They found that although three out of three native English-speaking teachers were in agreement with the concept of an ELF approach, two out of the three native Turkish-speaking teachers felt that learners should approximate a native speaker in their language production. They concluded that the teachers from their research were not aware of ELF and want to make teachers aware of their attitudes and practices that support the dominance of a “standard” English. Their recommendation is for teacher training to promote the ELF approach to English language teaching. 

“Iranian English Language Teachers’ Perception of English as a Lingua Franca” by Heydayat Sarandi

Sarandi presented an understanding of the ELF as an approach focused on linguistic accuracy. He explained that it encompasses all communicative strategies, teaching of culture, assessment and the status of natively versus non-natively produced classroom materials. His point was that accuracy is context dependent and communication strategies are more essential than prescriptivist notions of accuracy. He emphasized the aspect of multicultural awareness in ELF and that the local culture and international cultures are also of importance rather than just Kachru’s “inner circle” cultures. To achieve this goal in an ELF approach, it is necessary to include non-natively produced classroom materials and content including interactions that go beyond the native/native and native/non-native traditions to include non-native/non-native interactions. It is also necessary to teach strategies for students to deal with communication breakdown when it occurs. Following his overview of the principles of ELF that he supports, he shared a personal survey of Iranian teachers of English. He found most teachers surveyed preferred an American or British accent in speaking and writing with a similar preference for American or British made materials. However, he found that they prefer to teach about international cultures, which seems to contradict their preferences of variety. He concluded by saying it was a study that should be done elsewhere to bring awareness to ELF and investigate other cultures’ receptiveness to the concept. 

“The Perceptions of EFL Pre-Service Teachers toward World Englishes” by Ayfer Tanış and Dilek İnal

Dilek and Ayfer began their discussion by clarifying the difference in context for English as a native language (ENL), English as a second language (ESL) and English as a foreign language (EFL). They explained that ENL is misleading when viewed from Kachru’s concept of “inner circle” varieties of English because it is plural; there is no single ENL. They claim that bilingualism and multilingualism have become the norm for the world outside of the inner circle. They discussed the dichotomy of superiority and inferiority that sometimes accompanies native versus non-native discourses and how these attitudes overlook competence and proficiency. They also criticized the term “inner” circle by stating that it implies centrality and since the circles are now leaking due to globalized technology and multiculturalism, there is no (and never has been) a single universal English. In the modern day and age, they are more concerned with functionality and pragmatics than they are concerned with variety, and they mentioned a world Englishes, pluralized to demonstrate the codified second-language varieties spoken around the world. It is following this logic that they stated that English has become the language of Others and asked the audience to consider what constitutes an “error” in English use. This led them to discuss their study of the perceptions of Turkish EFL pre-service teachers to World Englishes and if there might be a difference between public and private universities. They found no such difference in terms of educational programs and training as well as a preference of native speakers over non-native speakers; although they note that both acknowledge the benefits of having native Turkish non-native English speaking instructors in the local context. 

4th Plenary Talk: “Learning from Experience: What Changes?” by Martyn Clarke

The fourth plenary was given by Martyn Clarke, a consultant teacher trainer and advisor who was the Director of Operations for a group of language schools in the UK and Ireland. His talk was focused on a concept he referred to as “experiential learning.” 

He began by discussing how professional competences are always developing over time, particularly in terms of knowledge, skills and attitude. The way they develop is by learning which can be done by reading, training, reflecting, experiencing, observing and through discourse. He emphasized the importance of professional and social talk about teaching within an institution. With colleagues, one should always talk in a professional and social manner about how we learn and about doing our jobs.

It is in this way that we can observe experiential learning. For Clarke, experiential learning is a process whereby there is a situation that we experience, we make meaning from it, give value to it and respond accordingly. This process can be self-sealing, with no change made as a result of the response stage (called single loop learning), or it can be critically evaluated and prompt a change (double loop learning). In his view, single loop learning becomes predictable, as the experiencer is always only asking “How can I do what I do better?” With double loop learning, an experiencer is looking for transformative experiences. The subject asks themself “Am I wrong? Am I seeing the whole picture?” It is exploratory in that they probe for lurking assumptions and seek transformation. This can lead to convulsive dilemmas, and such discontinuous eruptions in practice are the goal for an individual who seeks true learning from experience. To sum up, single loop learning breeds ritualistic teaching, but double loop learning enables transformation.

As a way to induce these kinds of experiences, Clarke reiterated the importance of professional and social talk among colleagues in an institution. As a framework to promote this, he introduced “Professionally Directed Talk” (PDT), discussions structured to enable transformative experiences, explore development and question lurking assumptions. These talks should be intentional, structured, focused, purposeful and self-directed. He emphasized that they need not be long discussions, 30 minutes is enough to suffice. The following are two examples of PDTs that could be used among colleagues. Each PDT has two stages: describe the experience and explore the experience. 

PDT1: “Why it Worked”

This PDT can be used for any context.


  • Describe a success.
  • Describe how you know you were successful.
  • Describe what effect the success had on the individuals involved.


  • How did you measure it as successful?
  • How do others measure success?
  • What aspects of this success are replicable?


PDT2: “Needs and Wants”

This PDT should be used between participants, referred to below as participant one (P1) and participant 2 (P2), but may be adjusted according to the needs of the institution.


  • Describe what P1 wants and needs from P2.
  • Describe what P2 wants and needs from P1.
  • Describe the features of the professional relationship between P1 and P2.


  • How much are both participants aware of the needs and wants?
  • What would they change in their professional relationship?
  • What would they continue to do in their professional relationship?


October 12 

by Lukka Alp Akarçay 

3rd Plenary Talk: “From Transmission to Transformation: The Past, Present and Future of Foreign Language Teacher Education from the Lens of Critical Pedagogy” by Kamile Hamiloğlu

On the second day of the MELT Conference, the third plenary speaker Prof. Kamile Hamiloğlu’s speech was focused on examining teacher education from a critical pedagogical perspective. Prof. Kamile Hamiloğlu began her speech by noting the shifts and trends in education. Sharing examples from her research studies and reflections from her own educational background and training, Prof. Hamiloğlu posed the question, “Is transformation needed?” Prof. Hamiloğlu stated that a transformative perspective may change the way we think about foreign language teaching. To further elaborate, Prof. Hamiloğlu drew from her own past experiences recounting the challenges of adopting a critical pedagogical praxis and imparted that she was at a loss in understanding her aim, saying she was “not aware of what she was doing” and that it is important to help teachers in training to overcome this difficulty.

Prof. Hamiloğlu gave a brief historical overview of critical theories from theorists in education such as those of Freire and Vandrick. She also gave an outline of the history of TESOL and of how the field has fairly recently begun to see a growing interest in research about identity. Informed by critical pedagogy, Prof. Hamiloğlu shared illustrations from her study whereby she examined 120 foreign language textbooks, and pointed out that foreign language teaching is full of cultural stereotypes. Prof. Hamiloğlu ended her talk by advocating for the practice of critical reflection that teachers can exercise by applying three types of critical reflection: content, process and premise; and saying that it is necessary for teachers to inject transformative questions into their lessons which are often not included in textbooks.

Concurrent Session IV Paper Presentations: Gender Studies

“Why, and How, Should One Make Language Classes Less Heteronormative?” by Elizabeth Coleman

In the fourth concurrent session Gender Studies, Elizabeth Coleman’s poetic tone of delivery instantaneously captured the attendees attention. Coleman began her presentation by explaining why teachers should examine heteronormativity and underscored how language education is steeped in heteronormative discourses whether it be in the course textbooks or in how institutions are structured: embodying, infusing and reiterating normative ideas and social behaviors as accepted. This, Coleman said, excludes diverse voices that make up our world, and consequently results in leaving those students who do not fit the norm “out in the cold.” Coleman showed examples from a textbook that depicted a non-binary character. She then compared this with the second edition of the textbook. While the same character was visually and narratively depicted as independent and strong in the first edition, they were depicted drastically differently in the second, framing the character in a kitchen and evoking a gender role that fit the prescriptive normative construct of a stereotypical female representation. Coleman also shared an example textbook exercise that was equally stereotypical in identity representation and social formulation of human life, and she offered ways to adapt the material. Coleman then gave highlights from her own study she had conducted a few years ago on LGBTQIA+ students’ classroom experiences. She ended her presentation by restating the importance of why as educators we need to interrogate classroom materials and practices and make classes less heteronormative in order to support the diverse students present in our classrooms.  

Concurrent Session V Paper Presentations: Vocabulary and Lexical Studies

“Do we Really Need Another Word List? Making the Case for ESAP in Preparatory Schools” by Jerome Bush

In one of the fifth concurrent sessions, speakers talked under the theme Vocabulary and Lexical Studies. Jerome Bush pointed out that an English deficit is having a significant impact on education. Bush stated that in English preparatory schools in Turkey students are often unmotivated and see this time period as an obstacle to their studies, which, he added, often results in leaving many unprepared for university studies. Bush stated that ESP could be the better option as students are separated to disciplines and learn the language specific to their field of study. By illustrating from a study in which he used corpus linguistics tools and created an Economics Word List to help prepare students for readings on Economics, Bush suggested that having students create their own discipline specific word lists will be beneficial for students since this will not only increase levels of motivation—as students might perceive this as concrete work towards their studies—but also provide them with the necessary terminology and lexical knowledge that will better equip them to tackle discipline specific texts.

“Collocations in the Process of Language Teaching” by Erzsébet Pintye

Erzsébet Pintye began by focusing on the importance of collocations in FLL (Foreign Language Learning) and said that developing one’s lexical competence is an important facet of language learning as this enables the learner to acquire the ability to effectively communicate in the foreign language. Pintye shared results from her study that examined the connections between lexical practice and verb-noun collocations used in a specific B2 level textbook. Pintye added that even though collocations occur in the texts, they were not practiced in the vocabulary exercises. Pintye concluded her talk by sharing ideas for ways to raise students’ awareness on collocations.

“The Relationship between Morphological Awareness and Receptive Vocabulary Knowledge: A Study with Turkish EFL Learners” by Hüseyin Güleç and Gül Durmuşoğlu Köse 

Hüseyin Güleç shared findings from their study that analyzed pre-intermediate level adult learners’ morphological awareness and their receptive vocabulary knowledge conducted with students studying in a preparatory program at a state university. Saying that they used a Morphological Awareness Test which included inflections, compounds and derivations to gather data, Güleç shared that they found derivational awareness to have the highest influence on learners’ vocabulary competence. Güleç ended by sharing implications for classrooms such as breaking down words into meaningful units and morphemes that would enable students to recognize the constituents of unfamiliar words.  

Concurrent Session VI Paper Presentations: Teacher Education

“Professional Space and Teacher Agency through the Eyes of Pre-Service Language Teachers” by Gizem Mutlu-Gülbak

Gülbak discussed the findings from her follow-up study on pre-service teachers’ reflections on their perceptions and exploitation of professional space. The study, she said, focused on the attainment of teacher agency. Gülbak described teacher agency as an important dimension of teacher professionalism and a crucial ability to advance student learning and professional development. Gülbak added that teachers who make sense of their professional space —a broad term, as she explained it, that includes professional learning environments as well as any factor related to these environments—might initially rely on their pedagogical knowledge before becoming autonomous in their practice. Gülbak ended her presentation by relaying pedagogical implications for teacher education programs.     

“Constructing a Plurilingual Identity of Prospective Language Teachers in a Turkish State University” by Burak Tomak and Mehmet Akkuş

Tomak started by describing the study he and Akkuş conducted that examined the construction of plurilingual professional identities of pre-service teachers who come from multilingual ecologies. Tomak noted that the plurilingual identity had a positive facilitative role on professional identity, and provided an opportunity to introduce some variety into lessons. Tomak discussed that identity construction within various multilingual contexts develops in relationship with others and that it involves emotions, is in constant flux, and that a plurilingual professional identity necessitates concrete classroom experiences as intermediaries and is a negotiation that develops with “stories over time.”



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