The first of my reflections on the IATEFL conference...
One thing is for sure: teaching is hard work. It is time consuming and should probably pay more. But for me one of the questions that came out of the IATEFL conference this year was do we do enough of the right kind of it and furthermore, do our students?
The matter of student work was plainly laid out by Jim Scrivener in his talk "Demand High Teaching" (read more here). He posited that we have become too touchy-feely and too nice to our students. In his observations, based on watching classes all around the world and his discussions with Adrian Underhill, he has come to the conclusion that we need to demand more of our students. We have become facilitators, not teachers, setting our students up to do activities with unclear aims when we should be more involved in working with our students so they can actually discover and learn things about the language and how to use it.
|JIm Scrivener introduces Demand High Teaching|
In this sense, this was also about work. Not work in the sense of hours spent in front of a computer but rather in terms of time spent thinking deeply about what we do and not accepting things at face value. Many of us try to develop critical skills in our learners, and perhaps we need to spend a little time developing our own.
A different slant on this them was provided by Willy Cardoso, who spoke about teacher training and cultural baggage. He asked teacher trainers to allow space for trainees to reflect both on their teaching and their previous learning experiences. In his view, the value of these factors is underestimated by trainers. As a result, they unconsciously dismiss what can be learned from the trainees own cultural background which results in the domination of a western view of education. Trainers need to work at making the most of their trainees background.
|Dave Willis makes the audience do some work|
The lesson we can learn from this is that we have to be more questioning and less accepting when it comes to the language as it is presented to us by figures of authority, normally in the published form. We need to have the confidence to question these rules if we are not satisfied with what they say. We, as teachers, are high level users of the language and we should believe
in our own judgements. Of course, this confidence doesn’t come overnight, it’s something we have to work at.
And going back to the idea of getting students to work, Luke Meddings and Lindsay Clandfield presented their new self-published resource book 52. The book contains an activity for every week of the year designed to encourage critical thinking in students (see here for an example). The activities they have created are specifically designed to challenge students, and also teachers, to think more and to consider issues of greater import than what you find in the normal ELT classroom. In simple terms, they need to work harder.
|Luke Meddings subverts the classroom|
I’m indebted to Chia Suan Chong, Jemma Gardner, Sandy Millin and Laura Patsko for their wonderful and diligent blogging and tweeting of the IATEFL conference, including the talks mentioned above. Head over to their blogs to get a more detailed summary of each talk.