IATEFL 2017 - Glasgow : the online programme.

IATEFL 2017 has been on all week in Glasgow - and like last year I've been following it online and wishing I was there. There's been some interesting stuff - and I'll be blogging about a few individual talks and talks on specific themes later. The conference is still underway and links to videos are being added bit by bit - but there's already plenty to get on with. You'll find the list here

As last year, CUP has a strong presence and have put talks by some of their authors online as well - check those out here

As well as the videoed sessions, there are also a wealth of short interviews - some of them frustrating because, inevitably, a lot of them are advance publicity for specific talks. The interviews get you interested - and then the talk itself is not one of those put online. Grrr.... But it's still worth having a look.

What have I seen so far that I'd recommend? JJ Wilson's plenary on ELT and social justice: opportunities in a time of chaos (approx one hour) is a definite must-watch. I admit that I started watching with mixed feelings. The blurb took me back to the eighties when the people and issues he was talking about were at the centre of the developing humanistic movement in ELT, and I suspected I'd be watching with been there, done that, got the T-shirt feelings. Interestingly, at one point he asked how many of the audience had read Freire's book Pedagogy of the Oppressed. He said that only about 1% of the audience put their hands up. I have - and  although the camera wasn't on the audience, I'd be willing to bet that that vast majority of those who said yes had read it at the same time as me - thirty years ago. But despite all my reservations, he had me enthralled from the first minute. He said during the talk that the easiest way to be boring was to say everything - but I could have gone on listening for another hour without problems and would have welcomed hearing him elaborate on some of the ideas he was raising. And most importantly, I came out feeling Yes, I'll try that one for a lot of his practical activities - something that has been missing from a few other of the talks I've listened to, where I've been left feeling  Yes, great, you've convinced me - now what do we actually do in the classroom?


That for instance was my feeling with another of the plenaries. Jane Setter's talk on Where angels fear to tread: intonation in English language teaching  was very convincing in its presentation of research showing that learners' intonation could be improved through training - but never explained what this training consisted of in practical terms. OK - she's an academic and is presenting academic research - and it's important for teachers to know about this. But it has to then be applied to classroom practice. She referred to activities suggested by specific books - but if you don't have access to those books, it doesn't help much. We don't all have access to university libraries and, as I suspect we all know, EFL teachers aren't the richest people in the world. Much as we'd like to, we can't buy every interesting book we hear about. Then,for one project that she mentioned the training consisted of 90 minute sessions held once a week for twelve weeks. Great - but that's a total of 18 hours. How many of us can spend 18 hours of a course that may only be a total of about 90 hours just working on intonation? 

I had a similar feeling when watching Gabriel Diaz Maggioli's session Empowering teachers through continued professional development: frameworks, practices and promises.  As a teacher trainer, this was a talk I was particularly interested in - and it definitely was interesting, or at least the second half was. The talk started by suggesting the major weakness of current approaches to CPD - the use of a "one size fits all" approach. Institutions provide training sessions for their teachers but don't attempt to differentiate between the needs of teachers at different stages of development. I agree - totally. But what could have been said in five or ten minutes took up half of the talk. He then moved on to propose ideas that could replace this, and at this point the talk really became interesting. However, I got the impression that he knew he was running out of time and was rushing through each idea he proposed. Nothing was fully explained and, although, as he said, none of the ideas were new and more info could be obtained by googling them (which I will be doing), I still got the impression that half the talk had been wasted. 

But perhaps there's an irony here. Could it be that some people in the audience found the first half to be a complete eye-opener, and needed it explained at length? Was Maggioli actually a victim of the lecture format imposed by the plenary  - the "one size fits all" approach that he himself was arguing against?