Stories from IATEFL 2016 – 1

IATEFL 2016 Day 1

Wow. Just wow. It is safe to say that this year, my 10th at IATEFL (I’ve been every other year!), was the most inspirational, worthwhile and valuable conference I’ve experienced! And I made so many stories…

The first special moment involved, I’m honoured to say, the star of IATEFL 2016: Silvana Richardson. We had our reunion at the Bell stand (celebrating their 60th year!).  I was so inspired when I first saw Silvana talk I remember thinking she represented the pinnacle of quality, professionalism and knowledge in our field. And now she inspires that in me even more! Which brings me to my main take-home from #IATEFL2016: Watching the dedication and passion of professionals in this field reminds me I’ve a long way to go and I’ll never stop developing, learning and challenging myself.

The first sessions I attended looked at ways to improve EAP provision in university settings and addressing growing complexity of EAP programmes as numbers grow. As recently appointed Director of the Applied Language Centre at UCD I am reviewing our programmes and engaged in research which looks at how a university can provide for a global student cohort.  Georgina Willms gave an insight into the role of writing centres at universities, recognising the significance of academic writing skills in our goals of globalisation.   Ernesto Macaro (a hero!) and Julie Deardon presented findings to suggest collaboration between content lecturers and EAP teachers, which had many transferable take-homes for my context.  Angela Smith, from Bradford University’s language centre gave a very exciting talk.  This was a practical session which looked at teach tools which teachers can use to support their students – the kind of talk you can give directly to your team so they can start using it on Monday. Anna Makarova’s talk on EAP textbook content picked up on something key which was addressed from different perspectives throughout the conference; that of the need for flexibility and adapting to the context of your students.

Sarah Mercer was the highlight session of the first day for me.

The growth mindset concept is a powerful one, and from both the teacher and student perspective.  I’ve a belief of my own, based on hours as hours of observations, on reflecting on those observations and on filtering my resulting ideas through what the literature says. That is, no matter your chosen methodology, no matter your approach, task or whatever the latest fad you align to, what you get out of the students is often based on what you believe you’ll get out of your students. Simplistic  (or is it?) yet I’ve seen this play out so often. Could this also bridge the gap in the literature where motivation hasn’t quite given us satisfactory answers to learner difference?

A lot to go into here, and needless to say I’ll be looking at limits to my own mindset

The CUP Future of Professional Development signature event that evening saw Silvana Richardson, Scott Thornbury, Penny Ur, Jack Richards, Nicky Hockly, Craig Thaine & Phillip Kerr present two minute arguments on their predictions of the direction of our field’s profession in terns of teacher training. I think it’s fair to say we all agreed that flexibility and a move away from a one-size-fits-all approach is a much needed step forward. After the talks we voted. And the winner? I’m pleased to say Silvana, of course! My star!

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