A few weeks ago, I attended the IATEFL 2023 Harrogate conference as a winner of the Gillian Porter Ladousse Scholarship. It was my first time attending this monumental conference, and throughout the week I attended a ridiculous amount of sessions, networked and caught up with old friends. This conference was unlike any that I had attended previously – the sheer scale of it kind of overwhelmed me at first. I came to learn from many of my friends who had attended the conference many times before that IATEFL is a marathon and not a sprint; that is, you need to take breaks, pace yourself and have time for yourself. All this being said, I had a whole lot of fun, made many new friends, and learnt a lot. As usual, I planned to write up my conference notes; however, as there were so many sessions, I’ve decided to do something differently – video reflections for each day. I know that these may not be as quick to skim over as my usual conference notes, but unfortunately at the moment, time is not my friend. I hope you’ll all forgive me! For those that don’t want to watch the videos, I will include my three top takeaways in written format at the bottom of the post 🙂
Pre-conference event – TTEdSIG Global Perspectives in Diverse Training Contexts
IATEFL is quite strange as it has these weird things called PCEs – pre-conference events. Basically, mini-conferences before the big conference. Yeah, I know – crazy! But, these are events that the SIGs organise, and focus on the themes of the SIG. I’m involved in the TTEdSIG and we organised a brilliant PCE (if I don’t say so myself!) with the following speakers (and their talks):
- Gabriel Diaz Maggioli: How learning to teach happens
- Amira Salama: Teacher development in low-resource contexts: Experiences from Africa
- David Heathfield: Let me tell you a story you haven’t heard before
- Silvana Richardson: ‘INSPIRE’ revisited – Promoting impactful teacher learning
Here are my thoughts on the day:
IATEFL Day 1
The talks that I attended on Day 1 were:
- Evan Frendo: English for the workplace – looking for new answers (Plenary)
- Gabriel Diaz Maggioli: Advancing teacher education, enabling teacher learning
- Marcela Cintra: Developing professionalism, accountability and collaboration through observations: a post-pandemic perspective
- Sandy Millin: EdTech and The CELTA Course: what trainees need to know (and here is a link to the Sandy’s new book!)
- Ben Beaumont: Developing teacher cognitions: maximising the impact of in-service CPD courses (here you can find out more about the CertPT)
- Beatrice Segura Harvey: What constitutes an effective teacher in today’s new landscape? (here is a link to the ECML taxonomy – very interesting!)
IATEFL Day 2
The talks that I attended on Day 2 were:
- Divya Madhavan: Lean on me: stories of coaching, mentoring and teacher resilience (Plenary)
- Rachel Jeffries: Every student matters
- Astrid Mairitsch: Supporting professional pride in EFL teachers
- Anna Hasper: Developing a stress management toolkit with teens in exam classes (Here is a link to the CASEL framework Anna mentioned)
- Giovanni Licata: Spillover: how management styles spread through educational contexts
IATEFL Day 3
The talks that I attended on Day 3 were:
- Lesley Painter-Farrell: Sharing words and worlds: ESOL teachers as allies, advocates and activists (Plenary)
- Jacqueline Douglas: Training and a Delta M2 tutor: lessons observed, lessons learned
- Zeynep Oğul: Mission redefined: Be GRACE(ful) as a leader
IATEFL Day 4
The talks that I attended on Day 4 were:
- Ofelia Garcia: Translanguage and teaching English as a foreign language (Plenary)
- William Morrow and Marie Willoughby: Breaking the curse of knowledge: What new teachers actually need! (Here is a link to the IH Teacher’s Portal)
- Mark Richard: Choose your own PD adventure (Here you can find the Oxford University Press Position Paper on Self-Directed Professional Development)
Three biggest takeaways
Before I list these, I want to say that there were loads and loads of takeaways, and many of them should be written down and spoken about. What follows here, however, are three that I feel are really important to me as a teacher, trainer and manager.
- Management and leadership impacts EFL pride: Astrid’s talk about EFL pride was very, very interesting. She spoke about her research that looked at what factors contribute to EFL pride, and it was interesting to note that these factors, while generalisable, also differed somewhat depending on the cultural backgrounds of teachers. In Eastern contexts, many teachers felt that their jobs as teachers were seens as important, whilst in many Western contexts, many teachers noted that their jobs were not viewed as important, and as such felt less pride. Of course, there were many factors mentioned, but I want to focus on what Astrid termed “Factors impeding EFL pride”. She spoke about things like poor working conditions, no recognition of work, a lack of understanding from superiors, a lack of support when dealing with poor student behaviour, and many more. As I was listening, I thought “yes, yes, yes”, but then I also thought that 90% of these issues were heavily influenced or caused by, and I’m being brutally honest here, shit management practices. Of course, there are social and cultural factors to consider, but when we look at the language teaching organisation and how it operates, many of the problems that teachers come up against can be heavily reduced if management practices focused more on bottom-up problems as opposed to top-down priorities. Now, as a DoS myself, I understand there are many things that the LTO has to consider, but at the end of the day, happier teachers (and prouder teachers) teach better, which leads to better learning, which leads to return business. In effect, helping increase teacher pride is good for business 🙂
- Materials development is an excellent tool for development: Listening to Ben Beaumont talk about the impact study conducted by Trinity and NILE that focused on the Trinity CertPT really opened my eyes up to the possibilities (and perhaps necessity) of bringing in materials development into the development programme. Ben spoke about how the CertPT involves four assignments that take teachers through a process of reacting to, adapting and creating materials for specific teaching areas (e.g., teaching young learners or teacher training) – and the impact study highlighted the positive effects on teacher development. It got me thinking to my own context, and what we are trialing this year – the development menu. In effect, teachers choose their development activities each term, and I think including a materials development option could be a good addition. The reason I think so, and the reason why I think more teacher training should include materials development is that nearly all teachers use either published or self-produced materials in their teaching, and either we run the risk of being confined to using others’ materials, or not critically analysing our own.
- As teacher educators, we need to ensure that we are helping teachers connect their practice to research, and to bring research to teachers: Silvana Richardson’s PCE talk was brilliant. She looked at her updated INSPIRE model (which she will talk about in her upcoming book!), and one of the new ‘words’ is INSIGHTFUL – professional development needs to help teachers become aware of what research says, and help them connect their practice to research. This is not to say that it is a research-only endeavour (it is only one of the letters after all) – but what Silvana was trying to say is that CPD, and trainers, needs to bring research into the teacher’s practice. This is something that I really connected with, not only because I believe it, but also because it’s something I’ve been doing for quite some time and have seen the benefit of this first hand with my own teaching staff, especially those that I’ve worked with for nearly three years now.
Reflection on my own talk
For those of you that missed my talk, my good friend Sandy Millin (as usual) take some amazing notes that you can read here. In fact, you should take a look at all her notes from IATEFL – they are great. To be honest, I don’t know how she does it 🙂
As usual, I like to use reflective frameworks when reflecting on talks. For this talk, I’ve chosen to use Borton’s What, So What, Now What model. This model asks us to think about what happened, it’s impact on the now, and a plan of action for the future.
So, what happened? Well, I was already in the room for a session, and so I had plenty of time to get the lay of the land, so to speak. Once I was set up, I played some music – I was hoping to relax the people in the room while we waited for the start time, and as it was a song that I liked, I felt it relaxed me as well. As this stage, I was not really nervous, although I did have a lot of energy. I knew that I had what I wanted to say, and had worked out how I wanted to run the talk as I had practised I don’t know how many times. I’d run through the talk twice that morning alone!
As Sandra from LAMSIG was introducing, I remember looking around and seeing many familiar faces – most of them very important people within ELT. I silently said to myself “you got this!”. The talk began, and as I moved through my initial opening ‘story’, I could feel that I had connected with a number of the attendees as heads were nodding. I was talking about how we should be reframing ourselves as leaders as identifying and working towards meeting the needs of the LTO is more than just effective management – it is leadership at its core. This is something I truly believe, and I felt that those in the room did as well.
As the talk was only 30 minutes, it was far less interactive than I had originally planned. In fact, when I originally planned it, I was hoping to have 45 minutes, and then I saw that it was only 30 minutes and panicked a little! Anyway, throughout the talk I knew I needed to engage with attendees somehow, so I asked questions. For example, I was speaking about the low return rate of parent questionnaires, and said “put your hands up if this is something you can relate to” – nearly all the room put their hands up and laughed. I also included a five minute reflection stage in which attendees had some time to analyse the ideas that were presented. I feel that they appreciated this, even if it was a short amount of time.
Once the talk ended, I showed the QR code for the handouts and I was really happy to see that many people came up to scan it. I also had a few people come and ask me for my details to get in touch at a later date. I also had some positive feedback from some of the people that were there.
Following the talk, I felt relieved but also happy that it went as I thought it would. It was interesting having my talk on Thursday – quite late in the week, and that meant having it in my mind that I would have my talk and so I need to keep practising. Perhaps I practised too much? I don’t think so, but that’s just me!
Overall, it was a really positive experience. My goal was to provide academic managers with a number of tools that they can use to identify needs, and evaluate their efforts in meeting those needs. I believe I did this, so in that sense the talk was successful. However, I must admit that I felt that the talk lacked an exploration of attendees’ experiences element. I did have some questions on the first slide for people to think and talk about before the talk started, but no-one really did – it’s IATEFL, and you need your breaks!
In terms of my preparation and ‘speaking’ performance, I feel that my preparation, rehearsal and breathing activities positively influenced my performance. I started really getting a ‘pre-talk routine’ going about a year ago, and I think it has helped a lot.
Looking ahead, I think I will continue with the level of preparation that I go through. This includes all the brainstorming, planning, writing and preparing materials, rehearsals (both recorded and with other people – thanks Patrick!), and mentally preparing my reactions to attendee questions. I’ll also continue with my breathing activities prior to the talk – I feel calmer, which in turns means I’m more confident, which means I don’t rush!
Regarding the talk itself, I’m not really happy with the start. I like my intro, but I need to have an exploration element, and so if I’m to do it again, I’ll shuffle some of the final slides to include 2 – 3 minutes at the start for a guided ‘chat’. I also really wanted to talk about appreciative inquiry as an end of term evaluative tool, but I’m not sure how I could get that in within the 30 minute time limit. Perhaps a separate workshop is needed for that!
Before I close, I want to write about the lovely people that I met at IATEFL, as they are the people that made it really worthwhile. I remember Gabriel Diaz Maggioli saying “I hope you find your tribe here”, and I do really feel like I have. To all the people I met, worked with, spoke to and drank with, I want to say a huge thank you for making the week brilliant! Cheers!