Tag Archives: IATEFL

Conversations with a purpose: Reflecting on interviewing in EFL research (IATEFL ReSIG Pre-Conference Event)

The IATEFL conference in Birmingham is coming up, and those of you who have an interest in classroom-based research may want to attend the Research SIG Pre-Conference Event, which will take place on Tuesday 12th April 2016 (10:00-17:00).

In the event, Dr Steve Mann (University of Warwick) will lead a workshop that aims to help participants understand how interviews might be used in EFL research projects, and to provide practical hands-on experience about various alternatives in interview-based research. Some of the questions that will be explored are the following:

  • Do you use interviews in your research?
  • What challenges have you faced planning for and managing interview interaction?
  • What different approaches are possible within EFL research interviews?
  • How many interviews do I need to undertake and do I have to transcribe them all?

Participants will have the opportunity to raise and discuss any issues they have regarding the use of interviews in their research projects. With Steve’s help, participants will work towards developing an interview approach. They will also produce a set of questions, which will then be used for a live interview with Graham Hall, the editor of ELT Journal.

If you are involved in a project that uses interviews, whether it’s in the context of a study programme or motivated by a wish to better understand your practice, I think this is well worth your time!

Featured Image: ‘Interview’ by eelco @ Flickr CC-BY-NC

ELT Journal scholarship for IATEFL 2016

It’s been a couple of months since this year’s IATEFL conference, and I am already looking forward to the next one, which will take place in Birmingham on 13th-16th April 2016. If you are not sure about attending, I would like to draw your attention to some good professional reasons to do so; or you may want to take my word when I say that mingling with creative, insightful professionals can help immeasurably to affirm one’s identity as a valued member of a global profession. Alternatively, if creative and insightful people make you apprehensive, you can just hang out with the likes of yours truly.

Birmingham Logo

The unfortunate downside is that there is a substantial cost associated with registration, travel and accommodation, which can deter many potential delegates, probably including those who would benefit the most from the event. This is why I was very pleased to read that Oxford University Press (OUP) are sponsoring a generous scholarship for next year’s conference, to celebrate the 70 years since the first publication of ELT Journal in 1946.

The award will cover registration for the main conference and one of the Pre-Conference Events, a year’s IATEFL membership, an annual subscription to ELT Journal, a 1,500 GBP bursary towards travel, accommodation and other conference-related expenses, and an Oxford Teachers’ Academy online course of the winner’s choice. In return, the winner of the award will be expected to submit a blog post about their conference experience for the OUP blog, and agree to take part in a video interview, which will be published in the OUP ELT YouTube channel.

To be considered for the scholarship, one must submit, by 23 July 2015, a 500-word statement describing the applicant’s professional context, identifying affordances and limitations for professional development in this context, and describing how the learning gained during the conference might be shared with the applicant’s teaching community. One will also be required to send a passport-size photo for the conference programme. You can read a formal listing of the criteria for the scholarship in the list of current IATEFL scholarships, and there are some more instructions for applying if you click here.

Personally, I think that this is a great opportunity for anyone who might otherwise not be able to attend the event, and I would very strongly recommend applying. And if you happen to win the scholarship, do come and say hi at the conference!

Recently Read: The IATEFL edition

During IATEFL, I made extensive notes about the sessions that I attended, as I had planned to write up summaries for this blog. It seems, however, that there’s already quite a lot of material available online, including video recordings of selected sessions and interviews, and – I am ashamed to say – my recollections of, and reactions to, many sessions have become weaker in the weeks that interceded. However, it seems there are many brilliant blog posts that report and reflect on aspects of the conference, and they are much better than what I would have written anyway. So in this week’s round-up of interesting and noteworthy content, I will focus on some of them.

Two Plenaries

Throughout the conference, Sandy Millin tirelessly live-tweeted about the sessions she attended. She has also written excellent summaries of the first two plenaries, by Donald Freeman and Joy Egbert, which you can read in her blog. To be honest, I was somewhat relieved to read the introduction to her post, as it made me feel less guilty for falling behind with my writing:

Before IATEFL 2015 I said I’d try to publish at the end of each day of the conference. I should have learnt by now that there’s no way that will ever happen because I don’t have time to think, much less blog during the conference! Instead I decided to group my posts by themes I found in the talks I chose to see. The first two plenaries didn’t really fit any of these, hence this post. The other posts will hopefully appear over the next few days…

I think that I speak on behalf of more than myself in saying that we are all looking forward to the next posts as well.

He’s not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy!

In my very subjective opinion, one of the most thought-provoking talks of the conference was delivered by Russ Mayne and Nicola Prentis. Steve Brown has written a rather creatively titled summary in his blog, and this is how it begins:

Russell Mayne and Nicola Prentis gave an interesting presentation entitled “Where are the women in ELT?” According to their research (which, they freely admit, may not follow the most robust methodology) the split between men and women working in the ELT industry is something like 60-40 in favour of women. Yet, when it comes to the “big names” in ELT (writers of influential books, keynote speakers at conferences etc.) the ratio is overwhelmingly biased towards men. They received over 500 responses to the question “Who would you say are the ‘big names’ in ELT”, and, from the responses they received, only one woman made the top 10, and only three made the top 20.

P is for Power

Scott Thornbury also wrote about Mayne and Prentis’s talk, which he used as a prompt for problematising, more broadly, issues of power that run through ELT. In his latest blog post, he begins by discussing the question of gender inequality, and then moves on to talk about the native-speaker privilege. Here’s an extract:

Ironically, these colonizing forces are particularly conspicuous at conferences in the so-called periphery itself, where the alpha (NS) males – myself included – really dominate. […] As I’ve found, it’s very hard to persuade the head of a teachers’ organization in, say, Bangladesh or Armenia, that I have nothing of value to add to what the locals already know.

And more…

  • Nicola Prentis blogged about her experience of attending IATEFL with a newborn child.
  • Lizzie Pinard has written detailed summaries of several sessions, which can be found in this impressive index.
  • FabEnglishTeacher has written summaries of sessions she attended during the Young Learner SIG Pre-Conference Event and the first day of conference (including a kind mention of our panel)
  • Laura Patsko’s presentations (How to identify pronunciation priorities in the multilingual classroom, and ‘The ear of the beholder’: helping learners understand different accents) and lots of related resources are available in ELF Pronunciation.
  • Joanna Malefaki has written summaries of the plenary sessions by Donald Freeman and Joy Egbert.
  • Jennifer MacDonald has written a post with brief summaries of the sessions she attended.
  • Finally, you can read a more critical view of IATEFL by Geoff Jordan, who had argued that the conference prioritised PR over “critical examination of important issues”. Geoff argues that he’d like to see interviews that probe deeper into the important issues facing the profession, and also appears rather sceptical of what was said about testing.

This is, of course, a very partial list – both in the sense that it is incomplete, and in the sense that it features people whom I happen to follow and like. So, if you happen to come across any other online resource with useful information about IATEFL, which I have missed, I’d very much appreciate an email about it, or alternatively you may prefer to write about it in the comments section.

Featured Image by David DixonCC-BY-SA-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Our IATEFL panel: a summary

This post is a summary of the IATEFL panel discussion about Teaching English to Young Learners (TEYL), in which I was involved, along with Vicky Loras, Juup Stelma, Magdalena De Stefani and María Muniz.

The presentations

Vicky Loras started off the discussion with an inspiring talk about what young learners can do when engaged in Project-Based Learning. Vicky drew on her own experience as a young pupil in Canada, and talked about the impact that her first project had had on her. She went on to discuss how resources, both on-line and off-line, can be used in projects, and presented several examples from her own teaching practice at the Loras Network, the language school that she and her sister Eugenia own.

Next in the line-up was Juup Stelma, who talked about the ways in which students construct meaning. Juup suggested that language learning was more effective when meaning-making was driven by the pupils, rather than teachers. He then showed examples, from a research project in Norway, illustrating how children bring their knowledge and creativity to bear in language tasks (and, in the process, made what is -to my knowledge- the first ever reference to Minecraft in an IATEFL context).

Magdalena De Stefani, speaking next, started by showing a fascinating video of a TEYL class engaged in language practice. She then went on to discuss different approaches used in TEYL in private and state education in Uruguay. This included English Medium Instruction (which completely excluded the pupil’s mother language), EFL classes, and gradual immersion programmes. She argued for a balanced approach, which takes into account the young learners’ affective and cognitive needs alongside linguistic objectives, and raised some questions about the role of English in relation to the L1.

After that, María Muniz talked about certification in TEYL, with reference to Uruguay, where certification appears to be becoming an increasingly prominent feature of language education. For instance, she pointed out the somewhat startling fact that in 2014, one in every 210 Uruguayans sat a Cambridge exam. She then discussed the reasons underpinning this trend, including pedagogical and commercial considerations, and pointed out some risks for learners and for the overall quality of education provided.

Finally, in my talk, I discussed a nation-wide TEYL programme in Greece, by focussing on what happened after its ‘pilot’ phase, when initial institutional support was withdrawn. I pointed out that the programme was expanded too fast, due to political pressures, and that not enough provision was made for developing the school system’s capacity to deliver high quality education. Eventually, many TEYL courses came to be delivered by language specialists from secondary education, whose experience was not always a good match to the young learners’ needs and abilities, and this has resulted in what might, at times, be excessive focus-on-form.


Pulling the strings together

One common theme running through our presentations was that TEYL is often constrained by larger structures. These might include the kinds of social expectations described by Magdalena, the washback effect of examinations described by María, or the political pressures that I talked about. At the same time, we noted bottom-up processes shaping TEYL. These included the emergent meaning-making which Juup identified in his data. These processes can be exploited pedagogically, and the project-based work that Vicky described is one example of how this might happen.

In addition, we noted some tension between conceptualisations of TEYL that prioritise linguistic objectives (“language education”) and ones that prioritise affective, cognitive and social goals (“language education“). Certification pressures, such as the ones discussed by María, seem to align with the former, whereas the learning activities discussed by Juup and Magdalena seem to align with the latter. Quite often, the orientation of the programmes seems to be ambiguous or opaque (e.g., in my talk and Magdalena’s) and this is an issue that perhaps needs to be addressed. 

man 2015 logo - website use only

And some concluding thoughts

We all felt that the participant input was very helpful in clarifying our own thinking. One thing we realised is that, even though we were each talking about our own particular professional contexts, our experience and the insights from the audience seemed to overlap. While being mindful of the need to remain sensitive to local particularities, we think that this overlap suggests that there is space for a shared discourse about TEYL, discourse which is driven by language professionals; and we hope that this panel has provided impetus for such a discussion.

The great photos of our panel were taken by Sophia Mavridi (featured) and Beatrix Price (embedded) 

Meet our IATEFL panel!

As I announced a couple of months ago, I am proud to chair a panel discussion focussing on Young Learners in this year’s IATEFL convention. The panel is titled: Teaching English to Young Learners: Some International perspectives and you can read more about it here.

In this post, I want to introduce the brilliant teachers and scholars who will be joining me at the panel:

Juup Stelma

Juup StelmaJuup Stelma is the Programme Director of the MA TESOL at the University of Manchester. He has experience teaching English to young learners and adults in South Korea. His recent research is primarily framed by ecological theory, and his PhD research at Leeds (1999-2003) looked into the discourse of young learners in Norway who were doing task work in language classrooms.

In the panel, Juup is going to share some insights as to how young learners construct meaning as they engage with task-based learning.

Vicky Loras

Vicky LorasVicky Loras is an English teacher, born in the beautiful city of Toronto, Canada. She has been teaching English as a foreign language and literature to students of all ages, since 1997. She now lives in Switzerland and is the co-founder and owner of The Loras English Network, a school that she has opened with her sister Eugenia. Vicky and Eugenia teach English, train teachers and also hold children’s events. Vicky blogs at http://www.vickyloras.wordpress.com

Drawing on her experience in Switzerland and Greece, Vicky will discuss how Project-Based Learning can be effectively used with young learners.

María Muniz

MariaMunizMaría Muniz Stirling is Uruguayan and graduated as a Teacher of English in the year 2000 when she obtained her TESOL Certificate from Trinity College London.  She has taught students at different levels of proficiency in primary and secondary schools as well as in language schools. At present, she is Head of English Studies for Primary at Ivy Thomas Memorial School in Uruguay and Cambridge Speaking Examiner for KET/PET and FCE levels. She is currently a MSc in Educational Leadership (DL) candidate at the University of Leicester. She is also an English<>Spanish<> French certified Translator.

María will talk about the role of English language certification in Uruguayan primary schools.

Magdalena De Stefani

MadeDeStefaniMagdalena De Stefani graduated as a Teacher of English in Uruguay in 1997. She obtained her MEd in ELT in 2005 and completed her PhD in Education in 2012, both at the University of Manchester, UK. She is currently Head of Pre School and Primary at Ivy Thomas Memorial School in Uruguay and is also a Lecturer in Research Methods at Universidad ORT Uruguay. Since 2013, she has been a member of the Uruguayan national network of researchers (ANII, Sistema Nacional de Investigadores).

Magdalena is going to share her insights on introducing English at pre-school level in Latin America, and address the question of age in TEYL.

And now on to the awkward bit:

Achilleas Kostoulas

Achilleas KostoulasI have been involved in English Language Teaching in a variety of roles, such as teacher, Director of Studies and researcher since 1999. I graduated from the University of Athens with a BA in English Studies, and hold an MA TESOL and a PhD in Education from the University of Manchester. Much of my recent work has involved young learners, and I was recently involved in piloting TEYL projects in Greece.

In the panel, I will share some of my experiences from the introduction of TEYL courses to 6-8 year old students in Greek primary schools, and invite you to interrogate some political assumptions that have underpinned TEYL.


The discussion will take place at Charter 2-3, on Saturday 11 April 2015, at 12:00 – 13:05, so if you are in IATEFL, we’d love you to join us! We have set aside a large time slot of audience participation and look forward  to learning from your own experiences too!

Featured Image: Manchester Central (G-Mex), viewed from Windmill Street. Shared by David Dixon [CC BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons