Reflections on the Bilgi ELT 2012 Conference
by Adam J. Simpsons
The Bilgi University ELT conference took place on May 12th, 2012 and revolved around the theme of ?Using Resources Efficiently?. Sabancı University?s School of Languages was well represented at the event, featuring a plenary talk, a keynote speech and a concurrent session from members of the SL.
The opening plenary of the conference was delivered by Michael McCarthy (via video) and Geraldine Mark. In ?Working with learner grammar data: getting our hands on the corpus? the speakers focused their talk on writing and speaking corpora gathered from L2 learners. Corpora are large and structured sets of texts from a target group, in this particular case, L2 learners. After analysis of the corpora, the speakers determined that as a learner?s lexicon increases, so does the variety of grammar problems. Countable nouns were given as an example of this phenomenon. The main message was to rethink when and where we teach grammar. Even at B2 and C1 levels review of grammar taught at lower levels needs to be revisited. In the second half of the talk they discussed how the corpora revealed an input-output lag in conversation fluency. They focused on the importance of conversation markers that reveal a speaker is following the thread of conversation. Three areas were discussed: 1) Markers: well, right, ok, etc., 2) Response Tokens: great, sure, etc., and 3) Small Words: why not? etc.
The speakers concluded their talk by summarizing the need for Corpora:
1. They enable us to see how language is used
2. They reveal correct usage and persistence of error
3. Benchmarking against exams
4. Higher motivation for students
The speakers rounded off by suggested visiting the website www.englishprofile.org for more information.
Dr. Deniz Kurtoğlu Eken from the School of Languages delivered the second plenary talk, titled ?I-sources as my Re-sources.? The effectiveness of our teaching practices and other professional work surely depends on a wide range of factors, indicated Dr. Eken, the most essential being our own motivation. We know that our well-being matters; that our happiness affects all aspects of our lives; and that our motivation and inner peace is a prerequisite for greater effectiveness in our professional work. We try so hard to do our jobs in the best way possible; we strive to support our students and others in their development; we listen to them; we try and empathize with them; we give them good care and attention. This, we also need to be able to do ? and even more importantly ? for and with ourselves. In her presentation, Dr. Deniz Kurtoğlu Eken focused on teacher motivation as well as teachers? views and perceptions of it. She shared some interesting data to create an impression about the issue of motivation in ELT in Turkey, pointing out the necessity for self-motivation and inner peace as a teacher, things which are neglected most of the time. She questioned how much of teachers? own sources are neglected in these days of technology and the multitude of other resources.
Jim Scrivener delivered the closing plenary talk, which was ?A Manifesto: for Active Interventionist Teaching.?
? Are we really as effective at teaching as we imagine we are?
? We say that we are ?communicative? but, do we, in practice, do ?whatever?s in the coursebook??
? Is our methodology really rather hit and miss?
? Does much contemporary teaching (fluency tasks, communicative focus, fear of being ?teacher-centred?) actually sidestep the real teaching work and the real needs of learners?
? And is it possible that the majority of teachers who have been trained in the last twenty or so years have become so used to delegating the teaching work to ?good enough? books that they have lost many of the teaching techniques that previous generations took for granted?
These were the questions Scrivener posed in his talk, which proposed a muscular reinvigoration of teaching: focused, active, alert and getting much closer to where the learning is. Scrivener suggested that there is a particular type of teaching skill that has been lost more than others. This is the skill of getting in close to where the learning is going on ? for example, looking closely at language and materials, helping learners to zoom in on language items in order to recognise them, understand them, say them better and use them well. He proposed that this kind of exploratory, reflective, quantum-level, analytical, language and learning-focused teaching is essential and its absence in so many classrooms is becoming a serious problem.
Zeynep Ürkün?s keynote speech was titled ?Resources for ELT Assessment: where are they?? As teachers of ELT/ESL, we receive training on almost everything: tried and tested teaching methodology, action research, pedagogy, psycholinguistics, discourse analysis, applied linguistics, materials design, you-name-it-we-get-trained-on-it! However, there are still very few opportunities available for those who would like to improve the way they assess their learners, in spite of the fact that assessment is as natural a part of the teaching process as any of the above-mentioned courses we are often required to take. Similarly, in stark contrast to the availability of an ?immense variety of teaching resources that could be applicable in our classes?, the resources for ELT testing and assessment can only be described as ?scarce?. This leaves very little room for those ELT teachers who would like to specialize in the area of testing and assessment. Ürkün?s session provided several examples of readily-available resources for testing and assessment and showed examples of some online resources, as well.
Professor Birsen Tütüniş?s Keynote Speech was titled ?Learner Enabling Resources.? Learner enabling resources, Professor Tütüniş stated, move the learners and teachers from traditional learning and teaching models to a model in which the learner develops their metacognitive learning skills with the help of the teacher as a facilitator, and as a provider of resources that make teaching and learning more efficient. Her paper presented pre-service and in-service training on how to make use of resources effectively to achieve this goal.
Kristina Smith?s Keynote Speech was titled ?Teaching and training online: discover what it?s like to be an e-moderator.? Online education using Virtual Learning Environments like Moodle, Blackboard, AdobeConnect, etc. is becoming more and more common, which opens up the possibility of studying courses hosted in other countries without leaving home oneself. Also, the possibility of teaching online, of being an e-moderator, is becoming a more common job. Sometimes faculty members teach face-to-face in one country while teaching students online at an institution in another country. Even if you haven?t tried it yet, Smith suggested, you may find yourself involved in e-learning either as a student or a teacher in years to come. What is it like to be a student online and to be an e-moderator? In this workshop, using guided visualization real examples from professional development courses and mini problem-solving tasks participants were given a chance to discover more about the cognitive and affective sides of e-learning through following a ?typical? course cycle. She paid particular attention to the skills and multiple roles of the e-moderator and compare them with face-to-face teaching.
Gordon Lewis?s Keynote Speech was ?Social Learning and Communities of Practice- in search of a definition.? In today?s world of education, noted Lewis, the terms social learning and communities of practice are often used interchangeably. But are the two concepts really the same? While both share common principles and tools, the goals and structure of each are different- with social learning focusing more on the individual and communities of practice, as the name suggests, more concerned with shared knowledge tied to a common goal. In this talk Lewis sought to define both concepts clearly, providing examples of each. He then considered what kind of community we might consider building in our context and how we can assess its success or failure.
Eric Baber?s Keynote workshop was titled ?The mobile phone: a teacher?s friend or a teacher?s enemy?? When we were kids, Baber noted, we used to pass messages to each other under the desk on slips of paper. Learners nowadays still pass messages to each other under the desk, but the means of communication have changed from slips of paper to SMS messages, IM and e-mail, all done via their mobile phones. So are mobile phones the enemy of the teacher? In this session he argued that this isn?t the case. Instead of forbidding students from using their mobile phones in the classroom, Baber suggested we should encourage them to use their devices for meaningful activities. In this talk he demonstrated some mobile apps and mobile-optimized online content which was either specifically designed for learners of English or which can be exploited for learning and teaching. He also looked at activities a teacher can set students both in the classroom and as homework to ensure students use their mobile phones for more than just arranging their next night out and ?whispering? behind the teacher?s back!
Adam J. Simpson
Sabancı University?s School of Languages was also represented among the numerous concurrent sessions on offer. Adam Simpson?s paper presentation was titled ?Group Work: A New Factor to Consider?? When we do group work in class, Adam noted, it isn?t always successful. Is this due to the task, the students, or is it perhaps connected to ineffective group formation? Simpson?s presentation examined the literature behind group formation and group tasks and compared this with the findings of classroom-based action research.
The 18th TESOL Arabia Conference
Adam J. Simpson
The 18th TESOL Arabia Conference took place between March 8th and 10th with the theme of ?Achieving Excellence through Life Skills.? The School of Languages was well represented at this major international event. Hatice Sarıgül Aydoğan was a key part of the conference?s IT Village with her interactive workshop, ?Yes ? Everyone Can Glog.? Adam Simpson also presented at the event, with his paper ?Why don’t your group activities work well?? showcasing the results of recent classroom research. Former SL colleagues also presented at the conference, with Mehtap Kocatepe?s research paper ?Examining Out-of-Class Learner Autonomy and Motivation? and the workshop ?Life Skills for the Classroom and Work? by Denise Özdeniz and John Landers.
The conference also featured many excellent plenary talks. Andy Curtis considered ?The Meaning of Retirement in the TESOL World? in his plenary, based on a recently published chapter, ?Rethinking Retirement? (Curtis 2011), the aim of which is to help TESOL professionals to fundamentally change the way they think about and prepare for Retirement, with a focus on Early Retirement. The talk started with a brief review of some recently published work on Retirement, followed by a critical examination of some of the current definitions of Retirement. Next, Curtis considered some of the reasons why Retirement is important not only for individuals who may be nearing retirement, but why it is also important for societies and communities in general. He also looked at some of the reasons for retiring later than usual, after which a case was made for TESOL professionals to consider Early Retirement.
Christine Coombe discussed ?Teacher Effectiveness in ELT: Empirical and Practical Perspectives? in her talk. A primary concern amongst English language teachers today, Coombe noted, is how to be more effective in the ever-changing world of education. This presentation provided a review of the research into what constitutes an ?effective teacher? as well as providing strategies for increasing teacher effectiveness in the EF/SL classroom.
Dave Allan?s plenary was titled ?Taking TEA into the 21st Century.? In many countries, particularly those with long language teaching and testing traditions, TEA (on this occasion testing, examining and assessment) has proved slow to change in response to potential new developments. The world of ELT, Allan enthused, has seen massive changes in syllabus design, materials and methodology since the early days of communicative language teaching, but only relatively recently has the impact of things like item-banking, the CEFR and digital technology become really significant on a major scale, with implications and opportunities not only for international exam boards but also for classroom teachers. We are now witnessing a worldwide explosion in the use of digital delivery in TEA, he noted. In this talk Allan briefly reviewed the important changes that have taken place in TEA in the half century since Robert Lado’s seminal work ‘Language Testing’ and explored the ways in which online delivery, including CATs (tests you do with a mouse) can genuinely improve the quality of some of the instruments we need for both formative and summative purposes in language education, while on the productive side the development of detailed descriptors and rating scales linked to meaningful external frameworks has offered the chance for criterion-referenced assessment to be both more valid and more reliable, particularly in terms of scoring validity.
Jane Revell aimed at ?Introducing NLP? in her plenary. Neuro-Linguistic Programming is a name that can put people off finding out more about it and that’s a pity, she suggested, because NLP is a lot to do with achieving excellence and therefore with the theme of the 18th Annual TESOL Arabia International Conference, Revell hoped to give the participants a general idea of what NLP is all about, and suggest some ways in which it might be useful.
Jeremy Harmer looked at ?Making Dreams Touchable – Using Poetry and Music in Language Learning.? Sometimes it seems as if language learning is just about learning the present perfect and the third conditional, but, Harmer exclaimed, surely it is more than that! Language is how we express our profoundest emotions, and never more so than with poetry. Part performance, part lecture, Harmer?s session discussed the value of poetry (and music) and ways of using them in the language classroom. ?
Jim Scrivener made ?A Call: For Activist Interventionist Teaching? in his plenary. Are we, Scrivener asked, really as effective at teaching as we imagine we are? We say that we are ?communicative? but, do we, in practice, do ?whatever?s in the coursebook?? Is our methodology really rather hit and miss? Does much contemporary teaching (fluency tasks, communicative focus, fear of being ?teacher-centred?) actually sidestep the real teaching work and the real needs of learners? And is it possible that the majority of teachers who have been trained in the last twenty or so years have become so used to delegating the teaching work to “good enough” books that they have lost many of the teaching techniques that previous generations took for granted? Harmer?s talk proposed a muscular reinvigoration of teaching: focused, active, alert and getting much closer to where the learning is. He suggested that there is a particular type of teaching skill that has been lost more than others. This is the skill of getting in close to where the learning is going on ? for example, looking closely at language, helping learners to zoom in on language items in order to recognise them, understand them, say them better and use them well. He proposed that this kind of exploratory, reflective, quantum-level, analytical, language and learning-focused teaching is essential and its absence in so many classrooms is becoming a serious problem.
Joe McVeigh looked at ?Achieving Excellence through Intercultural Awareness? in his talk. As English language teachers we naturally focus on language itself and how we can help our students learn it better. But research has shown that intercultural competence can be just as important as language ability. How can we become more aware of cultural differences and how can we ? and our students ? bridge cultural gaps? McVeigh examined some key concepts of intercultural communication and looked at some practical ways to help learners communicate more effectively when they interact with those from different cultural backgrounds.
In his plenary Keith Folse discussed ?Teaching Vocabulary: Research Findings and Practical Classroom Considerations.? In the last two decades, Folse noted, we have seen a great deal of research on the teaching and learning of vocabulary in a second language. This research has important practical implications for our classes in terms of how our curriculum is arranged, what our textbooks could look like, and what teachers should (and should not) do in class with regard to new vocabulary. However, given that we have a limited amount of class time, what, Folse asked, does all of this mean for us classroom teachers? In teachers? meetings, he frequently hears teachers say, ?I think vocabulary is certainly important, but I really don?t have time in my class.? If so many teachers agree that vocabulary is important, then how are the students supposed to learn enough vocabulary if no one is teaching it? (Or are they?) In which class or classes should this supposedly important language component be covered? Whose job is it? Is teaching vocabulary the reading teacher?s job? The writing teacher?s job? The grammar teacher?s job? Is this in fact not the classic case of ?no one is doing anything because everyone thinks someone else is doing it?? In this talk on the teaching of vocabulary, he considered several concrete research findings along with three practical classroom limitations.
Rod Bolitho?s plenary talked about ?The Fifth Skill.? In this talk Bolitho argued that the development of thinking skills should be at the heart of language education, and that a language teacher has an obligation to attend to the quality of process in the classroom as well as to the imparting of content. He touched on the relationship between each of the four traditional language skills with thinking, and suggested that language classes offer a particularly favorable context for the development of critical thinking. Bolitho also hazarded a guess as to why many teachers choose to ignore this opportunity, and related this to the links between education and citizenship.
Leah Bosworth and Jonathan Smith collaborated with colleagues from Eastern Mediterranean University in Northern Cyprus to plan the fourth FORUM ON CURRICULAR ISSUES: Collaborating with Colleagues to Consolidate the Curriculum (FOCI-IV) which was held at Eastern Mediterranean University on 9th and 10th December 2011, with participants from 11 different universities. The event explored ways of involving teachers into the curriculum innovation process and the interaction between curriculum teams and assessment/testing teams.
On the first day, participants also shared their experiences of how previous FOCI events have led to innovations in their curriculum or ideas they have been inspired to explore further. A couple of ideas which caught our eye included:
? A course for pre-faculty students where half the course will be taught by content lecturers and the other half of the course will be language support by English teachers. This course will be introduced at İstanbul Kültür University this semester and it will be interesting to hear how it goes.
? Students on repeat courses at İzmir University of Economics have been offered sessions with a life coach (and this has been offered to teachers too!). This seems to be an interesting approach and seems to be having a positive effect.
The FOCI project was set up in May 2010 by the Curriculum Team of Sabancı University School of Languages and is a chance for representatives from a range of universities in Turkey and North Cyprus preparing learners for their undergraduate studies in English to come together to discuss curriculum issues. These have now become regular events held twice a year in collaboration with different host institutions.
The FOCI-V event will be hosted by Koç University on 10th and 11th May 2012. This time the theme will be ?Pathways for Progress/ion: What We Do Do, Don?t Do and Could Do?. The forum will aim to explore the issues such as number, length & pace of courses/levels/whole programme, modular or non-modular approach, exit-levels, supporting weaker students, dealing with repeat courses and learners who are unable to complete the programme in the expected time, etc.
If your university is interested in sending a representative please visit our website www.fociturkey.com to find more details about registration for the next FOCI event as well as information about past FOCI events including the PowerPoints and minutes of sessions from this FOCI event.
February 14th, 2012 in
, SL Voices
The 15th International INGED ELT Conference: “Taking it to the limits“, took place between 20th and 22nd October 2011 at Hacettepe University in Ankara. There was a diverse range of presenters from Turkey and the international ELT arena, which meant a truly great selection of presentations.
Adam John Simpson
John Brown?s plenary, ?Beyond the Limits? was a collection of ideas, activities and movement from old comfort zones and dispelling old limits to new ones. He looked at what formulates our inner ideas in preparing lessons, making assumptions, doing activities and working within limits which we can bend, change, challenge or ignore. At the basis of this was not that his students learn the English they are supposed to but that they come to know more about themselves through the English he offers them and by this the English they need. Education, he suggested, is about changing both my and my students? limits cooperatively.
Marie Delaney?s plenary, ?Teaching the unteachable ? Why do some Pupils Make us Feel They are Unteachable?? asked us why we feel that some students seem unteachable? Why do tried and trusted behaviour management strategies and plans not work with some? What happens on those days when we feel incompetent and de-skilled? What is going on with us ? the adults ? and them ? the young people? The presentation addressed these questions with a view to developing a therapeutic thinking framework and a broader range of strategies to support these pupils in school.
Hugh Dellar?s ?Bridging the culture gap in the classroom? noted how the traditional concept of culture in English language teaching far too frequently involved facts and figures about Britain ? though in reality this usually meant England, and a rarified upper-middle class slice of English cultural life. Students, Dellar suggested, were sold visions of Windsor Castle and Bath, Stratford-upon-Avon and Stonehenge and perhaps given the occasional extract from Dickens or Shakespeare. The world, he exclaimed, has moved on. The notion of culture as being a fixed, easily definable monolith is dated, and the belief that language is inextricably linked to one particular kind of culture has also started being called into question. At the same time, English has become a global language used increasingly by non-natives talking to other non-natives. What, then, in the midst of all of this change and confusion, is the role of culture in the classroom lie today? What does intercultural competence really mean? How can we bring culture into the classroom? And how we help unlock and exploit our own students’ cultural identities in mainly monolingual contexts? In this lively, challenging talk, he aimed to answer all of these questions and more. He began by exploring a dynamic fluid model of what culture actually is ? and will then suggest some basic classroom implications of this. I then moved on to consider what aspects of culture are ? and aren’t ? worth focusing on in the classroom and show a couple of different classroom lessons that bring global cultural content into class ? and yet that have local cultural outcomes.
In his plenary ?Bridging teaching and learning in the language classroom: Who does what, and how?? Donald Freeman examined the following dilemma: since teaching does not ’cause’ students to learn, the basic challenge in the language classroom lies in how we connect what teachers do to what students learn. This challenge plays out on many levels from policies about teacher qualifications to curriculum about communicative teaching to practices about classroom management. In this talk, he examined the tensions in this challenge and what teachers can do about them.
In ?Language play and creative language learning? David A. Hill noted that the ability to play with language is one of the fundamental competences of the native speaker, and yet it is sadly neglected in mainstream language teaching and learning. The talk rehearsed the background to language play, and then work through a range of activities which can be used in the classroom to include language play as a regular part of classes.
Görkem Şafak & Penny Ur
Penny Ur?s plenary ?Grammar teaching: research, theory and practice? provided a critical overview of current research and theory on the grammar in second-language courses. The second part consisted of some suggestions how insights from the research literature may be combined with teachers? professional expertise and intuitions to produce optimal outcomes in terms of student learning, illustrated by some practical examples.
The School of Languages was also well represented at the conference. Eylem Mengi and Adam Simpson presented the findings of a study conducted in 2011 with both language teachers and preparatory school students at the School of Languages on their perceived characteristics of the exemplary teacher. Their presentation, entitled ?Teachers? and students? perceptions of the exemplary teacher: Do perceptions match?? indicated the rationale for the study, as well as introducing its findings. The session audience was also asked to add to the research and their thoughts were collected and collated as part of the ongoing research into this subject. Eylem and Adam hoped that the in-depth findings presented would encourage teachers to ?re-contemplate? their own teaching methodology and its impacts on students? learning processes, and, if necessary, make changes to their teaching to promote students? language competence and performance.
Görkem Satak also delivered a presentation at the event.
“Eclipsing Expectations: Sabancı University School of Languages 2nd International Conference on Language Education”
Sabancı University School of Languages organised its second international language education conference on June 2-4, 2011 in Istanbul at Sabancı University Campus hosting delegates from 21 countries. The conference was entitled Eclipsing Expectations due to the solar eclipse which took place just before the conference and the lunar eclipse which was on the day following the conference. The conference aimed to enable students and educators to explore their expectations collaboratively. Thus, key note speakers were invited to highlight the crucial aspects of the teaching learning process. Learner plenary and concurrent sessions were also held to hear learner experiences and expectations in their own voices. It has been a very fruitful but also a challenging journey as learner and educator expectations met and eclipsed where possible. Eclipsing Expectations chat appeared in facebook, twitter, School of Languages (SL) blog before, during and after the conference. Sabancı University School of Languages blog published and SL TV broadcast interviews with the key note speakers and the delegates. Our official interviews with the plenary speakers, are now available on the School of Languages TV http://digital.sabanciuniv.edu/e-rezerv/e-video/do/sltv/ .
In these interviews speakers refer to their 2011 Eclipsing Expectations presentations: http://www.eclipsingexpectations.com/#en. Finally, as the fruit of the loom, a collection of selected papers, summaries and experiential essays by the delegates has been published.
Plenary speakers were Prof. Kathleen Bailey ,Monterey Institute of International Studies and Anaheim University (United States), Dr. Christine Coombe, Higher Colleges Of Technology (United Arabic Emirates), Prof. Howard Gardner, Harvard University (United States), Dr. Tony Humphreys, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Senior Fellow at National College of Ireland (Ireland), Dr. Nur Kurtoglu-Hooton, Aston University (United Kingdom), Prof. Patsy Martin Lightbown, Concordia University (Canada) and Joe Pereira, British Council (Portugal).
The main themes of the conference can be listed as follows:
-Noticing critical incidents and learning to reflect critically
-?A bit like taking your hands off the handlebars on your bike or something?: When we experiment with learning
-Transfer-appropriate processing: How can we ensure that classroom learning is transferable?
-Comprehension in second language acquisition: Listening and reading as the basis for language acquisition
-Bridging Student Learning and Teacher Development with Dialogue Journals
-Using Communication Strategies to do More with Less
-Foreign/Second Language Teacher Assessment Literacy: Issues, Challenges and Recommendations
-Burnout in ELT: Strategies for Recovery or Prevention
-The art and science of changing the mind-sets of learners and educators
-The Inner Course of Teaching and Learning
-?I?-sight in the Classroom
-Question Time on Teachers? and Students? Challenging Responses
-A narrative at war with a crossword: an introduction to Interactive Fiction
-Playing and learning outside the box
The language of the conference was English in order to create a forum for research and practices in foreign language education through one common language, which allowed language educators to share and exchange ideas across languages and across diverse language learning and teaching contexts.
The very first plenary talk was by Patsy Martin Lightbown who began her speech by stating that transfer appropriate processing (TAP) is synonymous to Transfer-appropriate learning. She emphasized that practice does not make perfect if practice is merely drilling students. Dr. Lightbown claimed that de-contextualized drills have no resemblance to the natural way we usually learn languages; hence, isolated drills can not really foster language learning. So she asked ?what kind of learning and practice can actually lead to automatized procedural learning??. She is cautious in her approach to content-based instruction. She claims that if we have to focus a lot of attention on content, less attention may be given to the language and hence processing of the features of language. In other words, focus on general meaning can distract focus on meaning and structure. Patsy ended her speech by saying that the TAP classroom needs to provide opportunities to use language communicatively, focus on linguistic features that cannot be learned through communicative interaction or have been learned incorrectly and provides practice that leads to proceduralization and automatization. She also highlighted that task meaningfulness must be defined relative to learning goals. http://www.eclipsingexpectations.com/2011/06/02/summary-of-patsy-lightbowns-plenary/#en
Kathleen Bailey discussed how dialogue journals bridge the gap between learner and teachers as they provide students the opportunity to use the language as well as to express themselves. Pedagogical scaffolding by Walqui & Van Lier (2010) is ?progressive help provided by the more knowledgeable to the less knowledgeable.? And she explained the significance of these journals in terms of how teacher responses can help students reflect critically. What is important about scaffolding is that actually once the individuals are capable of performing themselves, the ?scaffold? is removed. Kathleen ended her talk by posing some questions about student home culture and dialogue journals. http://www.eclipsingexpectations.com/2011/06/05/summary-of-kathleen-bailey%E2%80%99s-plenary/#en
Nur Kurtoğlu-Hotoon of Aston University quoted Dewey: ?We do not learn from experience but from reflecting on experiencing?. She argued that critical incident analysis promotes this learning. Then, she provided a definition of ?critical incidents? as an everyday event, a memorable happening, a problematic situation which promotes reflection and has a possibility for personal change and development. She claimed that critical incidents can open up learning opportunities as described in ?Critical reflection is a way of life? Larrivee (2000). In order to learn from a critical incident we need to reflect and when we reflect we fit new understanding into what we already know. Nur shared the following five levels of reflection by Bain et al. saying that reflection requires mental space:
1. reporting the event
2. responding to the event
3. relating it with past experience
4. reasoning about the event in terms of alternatives
5. reconstructing the event in terms of theory and applying to experiences
She concluded emphasising that we need to promote reflection through critical analyses.
Christine Coombe talked about the practical application of teacher involvement in assessment, alternative forms of assessment, burnout and toastmasters. Dr. Coombe discussed how teachers and students view assessment and continued explaining four models of in-house test development, namely ?Teachers Write the Tests?, ?Testing Specialists Write the Tests?, ?Administration Buys the Test? and ?Teachers/Testers Write the Tests?. She said that the last option is the most preferable. However, she added that in order to apply this model, teachers had to acquire certain assessment skills, such as learning how to design tests, to analyze test results, to provide diagnostic feedback to students, evaluate the quality of tests/tasks, evaluate learner performance according to rating scales and write evaluative reports. Christine expressed her concerns on the time pressure related to ?testing training, insufficient resources, trust issues, getting institutional and administrative support, overcoming increased workload, mismatch between teaching and testing and the fact that alternative assessment still had a few slippery slopes.? She highlighted the crucial role of testing professionals and teacher collaboration for quality assessment. For more please visit: http://www.eclipsingexpectations.com/2011/06/06/summary-of-christine-coombe%E2%80%99s-plenary/#en
Joe Pereira of the British Council has reflected his personal experience of gaming. He highlighted the crucial role of interactive fiction and its role in language learning and also focused on the anti-social stereotypes surrounding gaming and karaoke. Joe shared one simple game where the reader is able to influence the pace and to determine how the story unfolds through input in natural language. The game takes the readers input, analyses it and responds to it. The reader can also back-track and discover different paths through the narrative. It is a little similar to the idea of a ?Reading Maze?, but at a more sophisticated level. The reader is engaged in the story as an outcome is sought through the second person narrative and logical puzzles. He also gave some useful links:
http://digitalplay.info/blog has information about creating classroom activities for computer games www.IFDB.tads.org and www.wurb.com/if and www.brasslantern.org have IF downloads
http://parchment.toolness.com and www.iplayif.com have online IF games.
More information about Joe?s session is available on : http://www.eclipsingexpectations.com/2011/06/06/summary-of-joe-pereiras-plenary/#en.
Tony Humphreys discussed how we can create a climate of emotional and social safety in not only staffrooms but also classrooms so that both parties involved in a relationship can have a chance to express themselves freely. Dr Humphreys highlighted the fact that each teacher and each student has a unique story which he describes as ?inner core? (our ?unconscious?). Tony adds that this core includes our background, experiences and feelings, thoughts etc, and determines the way we see the world, act, react, think, behave, work and so on. In educational settings, the unconscious determines the way teachers teach and the way students learn. He also said that conflicts, disagreements and confrontations are inevitable in any context. In classrooms, when hidden conflicts are consciously worked at, a mutual sharing of the teacher?s experiences of teaching and the student?s experience of learning becomes possible. Tony emphasized that although we live in an age of ?Internet? where interconnectedness is indispensable to catch up on what goes on, many people seem to lose connection with themselves. Our relationship with ourselves and our individuality is important and inhabiting our own individuality is our main responsibility as individuals. Tony claimed that pupils are always ready to learn?not necessarily for what we teach. He believes that the mission of teachers is to discover what they are ready for learning. Tony Humphreys completed his talk with a quotation by Chomsky: ?99% of teaching is making students feel interested in the material.? And the following thought provoking questions: ?How do we as teachers / learners / managers become aware our inner core? Who can help us to keep in touch with our unconscious??. For more about Tony Humphreys? session please see: http://www.eclipsingexpectations.com/2011/06/03/summary-of-tony-humphreys-plenary/#en for more.
Howard Gardner was the last plenary of day one in the conference. His talk was entitled “Eclipsing Expectations: The art and science of changing the mind-sets of learners and educators”. His talk briefly defined what ?Individuation? (teaching each person in the way they understand best) and ?Pluralisation? (teaching something in many different ways) meant in education. He said that in relation to the theory he has put forward, he was posed questions as to whether there were many ways of being creative or just one and whether leadership was connected to a certain kind of intelligence. His answer to these questions was the one common feature of highly creative people like Pablo Picasso, Atatürk or the other leaders was that they changed not only the way people think, feel or behave but their entire lives. Prof. Gardner suggested that people who want to change minds either directly or indirectly use seven different approaches:These seven levers of mind change are listed as: 1. Reason / Argument 2.Research / Data, 3. Resonance that is, some leaders are very charismatic ? they resonate with large populations, that is, teacher?s role is significant as students need to feel comfortable with us and we need to feel comfortable with them. 4. Redescription involves presenting what we are trying to teach students in many different ways so that we reach more students and demonstrate what it is to understand. 5. Reward and Punishment are essential in changing behavior but may not change attitudes. 6. Real World Events were explained by Gardner as ?a good leader takes real world events and uses them to his advantage,? a good teacher should bring the real world into the classroom to enhance learning. 7. Resistance; was explored as trying to understand the origin of the resistance to change which should take precedence over trying to change somebody?s mind.
Learner voices were heard not only in plenary sessions but also in learner concurrent sessions where learners shared their learning experiences by giving tips and hints relying on their language learning experiences. It was amazing to listen to learners who reflected more than 3 or even 4 foreign language learning journeys that they had been exposed to. Learner voices backed up Gardner?s seven approaches that he put forward in his plenary talk. We hope that learner and educator experiences were eclipsed in this 2nd Language Education Conference at Sabancı University in İstanbul.