Reflections on ?Squaring the Circle?: the 1st IEU International ELT Conference

Reflections on ?Squaring the Circle?: the 1st IEU International ELT Conference

Adam John Simpson

The issue of competence versus performance in students? learning was the focus of this event: matching students? ability with their performance was compared to the notion of trying to square a circle. The same terms, the conference suggested, are just as relevant when discussing teachers, teacher training, schools, managers and curriculums. In their first international ELT conference, the Izmir University of Economics sought to promote discussion and reflection of competence and performance right across the ELT spectrum.

The plenary speakers included Donald Freeman (“The Baltic Light Index: Trying to Predict What Teacher Education has to do with Student Learning”), Kathleen Graves (“Problematizing the Relationship between Curriculum and Classroom Practice”), Adrian Underhill (“From Teacher to Facilitator”) and Rod Bolitho (?Questions and Questioning in Teaching and Training?). There were also several presentations from School of Languages instructors.

Adam Simpson?s presentation on Friday afternoon was entitled ?Bridging the gap between Foundation Year and Freshman.? One of the great strengths of the upper intermediate program at Sabancı University School of Languages, noted Adam, is the extent to which it acts as a bridge between the preparatory English year and the kinds of lectures the students will be attending and the language they?ll be encountering when they progress to their freshman studies. A major part of this bridge is the series of lectures in mathematics and natural sciences (EMS) which the students attend for one hour a week and which form a percentage of their overall course grade. As teachers, our hope is that our students enjoy the valuable opportunity to experience something of what life will be like for them when they are attending lectures in their freshman classes. Additionally, we aim to show the students that, although the content of the lectures may already be familiar, they need to remember that, this being an English course, they need to become familiar with the language used in these lectures to showcase their competencies. This presentation was an exploration of the extent to which this is actually happening.

On Saturday afternoon Görkem Satak delivered her workshop entitled ?Thinking, Creating, Acting, Moving and Talking: Role Play.? Learning a language, Görkem stated, is not simply a one dimension intellectual activity, but involves the whole person. Our students are intelligent, fully functioning humans. When they come to the classroom, they bring not only their books, pencils and notebooks, but also their background knowledge, their experiences, their hopes, their fears, their jealousy, their illnesses, etc. Therefore, they are not merely individuals sitting on a chair and listening to their teacher. They learn by being both mentally and physically active, involving in activities, doing things themselves rather than by being told about them. We, as teachers, should give them an opportunity to create their own reality and to develop their ability to interact with other people. Role-playing is a unique learning tool as it allows them to engage in experiential learning rather than passively accepting information that is given to them.

Michael Thomas, SL

Denise Özdeniz delivered her session, ?Writing = content + organization + topic related language. Fine! But, here the difficult component seems to be identifying, organizing and expressing the relationship between content ideas? on Sunday morning. In university faculties, Denise noted, students write to demonstrate their understanding of course content, of key concepts and the causal relationships between them. This usually involves reading into writing. Read a text, extract the relevant information and use it to answer the question (writing prompt). In academic writing students are asked to produce text based written responses. The key ideas needed for a written reply are not their own general opinions, but details taken from informative texts, as students are reading to expand their knowledge base and writing to help organize and articulate this information. Her talk therefore aimed to acknowledge the importance of the information collation stage in the reading into writing process, especially in text based assignments, to generate ideas of how students can collate ideas (questions phase of the talk), and to encourage teachers to incorporate the collation stage in their writing.

Part two of the report on the conference will reflect the School of Languages instructors? reflections on sessions they attended.

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