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Plenary Speakers Abstracts




Steve Oakes

The Power of the Real

For as long as most of us have been in ELT, authentic materials have been essential fare in coursebooks and one of the ways in which teachers supplement lessons.  But at lower levels there is often resistance to using such materials on the part of teachers and learners alike. Where does this come from? Have we boxed ourselves in with a view of what’s difficult, and of what it means to ‘understand’ texts or a speech? Are we in fact depriving our learners of an essential element in their learning that will equip them to deal much better with all kinds of situations and material in English? In this talk we will explore tolerance of ambiguity (TA) as one of the most important and most commonly overlooked learner traits, and look at ways of building TA in learners of all levels.

Steve Lever

Developing Communicative Language Competence

It is widely accepted that the goal of language teaching is “communicative language competence”. Competences consist of a set of the essential skills, knowledge, attitudes, and behaviour required for effective performance of a real-world task or activity. The speaker will concentrate on how to maximise the effectiveness of realistic and meaningful input and suggest classroom techniques that will enable this to be successfully turned into output. Ideas will be given on how to structure lessons and learning – in general – in such a way that students are provided with the support they need to move forward and become self-confident, autonomous participants in the learning process.

Jayme Adelson Goldstein

Out of the Box, or just Unpacking it?

What does it mean to teach “out of the box”? Is it a matter of gathering the latest and most creative ideas in language education and implementing them? Are we each meant to be inventing new ways to teach language? Perhaps we should see “out of the box teaching” as a DIY term– a form of instruction allowing us to simply teach with the tools at hand, no planning, modification or extra work needed? Or maybe it’s based on the idea of planning so well that the lessons flow from classroom to real world and back, with no need for boxes. And then again, is this box we speak of one-size fits all? Or is it  tailored to (and by) the individual teacher?

In this highly interactive plenary, we’ll examine the concept of “out of the box” language instruction, and “unpack” the roles 21st century skills, learner-centered instruction, and our own teaching toolboxes play in our learners’ success.

Graham Hall

Teachers, Theories and Teaching: the ‘Believing and Doubting Game’

As teachers, we are often encouraged to ‘engage with theory’. Yet the relationship between theory and classroom practice in English language teaching is not straightforward. Different approaches and models of language teaching and learning complement and contradict each other in complex ways. Furthermore, teachers’ own ‘personal theories’ inform teaching practices as we filter theories through the prism of our own experiences and beliefs.

Thus how might teachers make sense of language teaching and learning theories, and how might we relate theory to our own practice? How might we deal with the potential tension between the ideas of theorists and other ‘expert outsiders’, and what we know as insiders in our own classroom? And how might we avoid becoming de-professionalized ‘technicians’ implementing only other people’s ideas in the classroom?

Drawing on a number of ‘practice and theory’ examples, this talk will explore ‘the believing and doubting game’ which teachers play when we consider the implications of theory for our teaching. I will suggest that theory, rather than providing answers and solutions to classroom dilemmas, offers teachers an array of possibilities and perspectives which we may (or may not!) act upon in accordance with our own professional knowledge and experiences.

Geraldine Mark

Learning from our learners’ grammar

Learner grammars can be designed in a number of ways and many factors have to be taken into account to distinguish them from native-user grammars. In this talk, I consider the factors that play a role in the construction of a useful reference grammar of English for learners at CEFR B level. I’ll use corpus evidence from native-user written and spoken English to assess the occurrence and distribution of more complex and less frequent grammatical features that B level learners may be expected to meet and need or wish to use. We’ll see that, at this level, the relationship between lexis and grammar becomes more important, with patterns around verbs and nouns presenting particular challenges. Also important are grammatical differences based on register, involving spoken versus written differences. Thanks to the existence of error-coded learner corpora, it is possible to see where particular difficulties lie for learners with different first languages. Moreover, learner corpora coded for different CEFR levels crucially enable us to track the emergence of grammatical features as learners progress, giving us a powerful means of targeting particular features for the intermediate and upper-intermediate levels.

Danae Kozanoglou

Bridging Gaps – Issues and Practices

We have all held high concepts and beliefs such as task-based learning, communication, context, learner focus, creative learning, creative thinking and more; and rightly so. Yet, we often manage materials and resources in a manner that fails to link thought and practice; the time-old issue of theory and practice. This talk/workshop will focus on missing and building links between issues and practice with a view to bridging the gap; an ongoing and diverse undertaking.

Dr Sophie Ioannou-Georgiou

Allowing Assessment to Grow Outside the Box

Assessment is a topic which often brings negative reactions to people in general and to teachers and students in particular. These negative attitudes towards assessment have been developed in all of us mostly through the way assessment is commonly implemented and through assessment-related experiences which we had to go through ourselves.

This talk will attempt to offer suggestions through which assessment can be allowed to grow outside its existing limited box and consequently allow us to reconstruct ourselves and our teaching.

Tony O’Brien

Continuing Professional Development – bridging the gap

Teachers at this conference are keen to develop professionally – but do not always get the help they need.

I will look at what is available for the continuing professional development (CPD) of English teachers inSerbiaand outline what we plan to do with ELTA to help teachers in the coming year.

I will report on (a) a survey which we have commissioned into current practice inSerbiaand (b) what we in the British Council are doing to promote and encourage CPD. I will talk about and show examples of the range of courses and materials which we already provide for teachers – many of them free. I will outline how as teachers we can help ourselves and how we can work together.

And finally I will call on you to help to bridge the gap – for yourselves and for other teachers who need what you can provide!