Achilleas Kostoulas

Applied Linguistics & Language Teacher Education

Chess set; one white pawn standing off against a set of black pieces

From individual to relational resilience in ELT

I am very honoured to be invited as a plenary speaker at the 10th ELT Malta Conference, which will take place on 8th – 9th October 2021. The topic of this year’s conference is ‘Celebrating Resilience’, which is arguably very apt considering all the challenges that we have had to face, individually and collectively, over the last two years.

The 10th ELT Malta Conference

The conference will span two days, one virtually and one onsite, to accommodate the varying needs of teachers who may not be able to be physically present, or may not feel comfortable among groups of people.

DayMode of attendance
Friday, 8th October 2021Virtual (Zoom)
Saturday, 9th October 2021Onsite (InterContinental Malta)
Overview of the conference programme

Given the exceptional circumstances of the pandemic, the conference organisers have kindly waived the attendance fee. Registration can be done online [link defunct].

Rebuilding ELT as a resilient profession

My own talk is scheduled for Saturday, 9th October, at 9:30 (Central European Summer Time). This means that if you are planning to attend, you may want some strong coffee! But I do hope that the talk will keep you engaged, because it is about a topic that — in my view — should be at the heart of our professional thinking.

Pre-COVID the world seemed in order

For quite a while, I have been concerned that ELT and the psychology of language education have been focusing too much on our ‘separate selves’. This is even more true about resilience research, and research in cognate fields, like grit, hardiness, mindfulness, and more. We are encouraged to think and act in ways that promote individual well-being, but do not pay equal attention to how we can support each other.

–Professor Adorno, two weeks ago, the world still seemed in order. . .
–Not to me.

A Conversation with Theodor W. Adorno (Der Spiegel, 1969)

There are several things wrong with such a perspective, and this is not the place to list them all. Still, I think we can agree that these problems became very acute during the pandemic. Cut off from our professional and personal networks, many of us realised that tending to our individual needs is simply not enough to sustain our wellbeing or our professional activity. For many of us, the skills involved in building, strengthening, re-negotiating, and re-building meaningful connections seemed inadequate to the disruption that COVID brought on.

Another thing that became very apparent, when the pandemic fused our personal and professional lives, was that the two do not, cannot, and should not perfectly overlap. This means that the things we do to sustain our wellbeing (e.g., maintaining boundaries) are not necessarily the same things that make us more efficient teachers (e.g., being constantly available for our employers and students). And there’s really nothing wrong with that. But it does mean that we need a theory of professional resilience that makes sense of this tension.

And what do you propose?

I should confess that I have not fully worked out such a theory. I don’t think that anyone has yet. But I do strongly believe that this is a discussion we should start having. And in this spirit I would like to share some broad directions, or guidelines about how we can orient our professional action, and –ultimately– shape ELT into a profession that is more robust, more resilient, and better aligned to a meaningful professional existence.

I don’t want to spoil the talk by sharing much more at this point. However, if you’re interested, you can download the abstract by clicking on this link.

I hope that you find at least some of the above intriguing. I’m looking forward to seeing many of you in Malta! Or, if you can’t make it, maybe you can join the conversation here.


If you’d like to read a transcript of the talk, I have uploaded one here:






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