TESOL Arabia -T-PLUS Joint SIG Event

 TESOL Arabia -T-PLUS  Joint SIG Event May 1st and 2nd

Sharon Çeltek & Nezaket Özgirin

Nezaket and Sharon attended the first TESOL Arabia SIG (special interest groups) conference held in conjunction with T-Plus from 1-2 May 2015 at Dubai’s Men College. The conference was designed to showcase the variety of SIGs within TESOL Arabia and the work they do in offering professional development opportunities to TESOL professionals both in the UAE and abroad via overseas workshops and online courses. T-plus is the acronym of trainers’ professional learning and unlimited sharing. The mission of T-Plus is to contribute to the development of teacher education and in-service professional learning within university sector language programs in Turkey through collaboration and open exchange of practice. The two days included sessions from the TESOL Arabia SIGs, presenters from T-Plus and other presenters from the Gulf region.

Our session was entitled ‘The Process of Team Development in a Learning Institution’. It was an interactive session demonstrating the process and various activities used to improve interaction and communication among partners and team members to encourage better practice in Sabanci University- School of Languages.



Some highlights of the conference:

The opening plenary was given by Simon Phipps and was on ‘Learner Development: How to Obtain and Enhance the Necessary Skills’. Simon talked about what it means to be a 'trainer' in today's ELT world and considered the requisite skills, knowledge and personal characteristics needed to be an effective educator of teachers. The first part looked at the concept of teacher learning and explored ways in which teachers can be helped and guided in their journey from 'novice' to 'expert'. The second part outlined key issues in the process of becoming a 'teacher trainer' and offered suggestions which can help novice or budding trainers to endure a smoother transition. Finally, Simon briefly  considered ways in which trainers can sustain and further enhance their training skills, referring to ways in which T-PLUS can contribute to the development of training skills and expertise among its different members. 

A session given by Susanna Bloss on ‘Simple Meditation and Breathing Techniques for Equanimity and Stress Relief’ was particularly rewarding and practical. The session looked at some of the benefits of meditation and- alternate nostril breathing- both of which are ways to re-energise us when we feel stressed, or out of balance . The participants were able to practice both techniques, leaving the session feeling much less stressed.

In another session James Buckingham introduced online Professional Development Opportunities supported by TESOL Arabia. Some of the resources shared were Facebook page, Flipboard magazine, Ning (social media site), Learning2Gether (weekly online video chat) and Twitter. Buckingham also mentioned their new initiated digital badge award system using Credly to recognize self-directed Professional Development. He also talked about their plans  for the future. One of them is expanding on the current Digital Badges offerings to recognize still more self directed Professional Development efforts. Another plan is creating a set of online tutorials on 21st century teaching skills (adapting those used by Algonquin College, Canada). It may be beneficial to go to these pages to check what professional development facilities there are for individuals to improve their technology usage and professional development opportunities.

Safwa Abdul-Aziz, an English teacher and e-learning trainer who lives and works in the UAE, talked about enhancing enquiry, discovery and collaboration with i-pads in her session called ‘Apple Pie’. She showed how some web-tools can be used effectively in a PBL method with an emphasis on ‘technology just being an ingredient’ in an apple pie. Keynote, Pages, Garageband, Explain Everything, Imovie and Numbers are only some of them to involve students actively in a moviemaking process. In her session she referred to ‘edutopia web’ and it may be useful to check the page 5 Keys to Rigorous Project-Based Learning for more professional development videos.

On both days, ‘TESOL Arabia Toastmasters Club’, was introduced and promoted via different speaking activities. They stated their aim as providing a supportive and positive learning experience in which members are empowered to develop communication and leadership skills, resulting in greater self-confidence and personal growth.

One session, Leadership Skills as Taught Course, presented by Hilal Onat, Hacettepe University, Turkey and Belinda Southby, Higher Colleges of Technology, Dubai, UAE, introduced evaluation and self-perception of university students on leadership issues of the ‘leadership skills courses’ run at two different universities mentioned above.

Bahar Gün introduced T-PLUS Turkey as a professional development group for teacher trainers or teachers who are interested in becoming a teacher trainer in the future. She stated that the group was initiated as a collaborative group for university teachers or teacher trainers but started including K12 school teachers as members.