Harrogate is a beautiful former spa town in northern England and it was in this cozy city where spring was blossoming and flowers were everywhere that the 48th Annual IATEFL Conference was held. It was my first attendance at an IATEFL Conference and I was quite impressed with the extraordinary multiculturalism , the astonishing volume of choice , the impressive array of speakers and the cheerful atmosphere among the participants.
The coaching and mentoring delegates formed a team in Harrogate! We attended each other’ s presentations and exchanged a lot of information and experience. It was wonderful to see that people from the most distant parts of the world have been working hard to implement collaborative practices in order to enhance teachers capacity and at the same time promote professional development. All the sessions were excellent.
One valuable presentation I was able to catch was given by Dr. Svetlana Belic Malinic from Belgrade, Serbia. Svetlana presented the results of an action research conducted in an international school in Serbia which aimed to bring about change in teachers perceptions of their pedagogical practice. The teachers were introduced into reciprocal coaching schemata and, by doing peer coaching, were able to support one another in their professional growth, which positively affected their self-assessment. This shows how valuable it is to work collaboratively and how teachers gain by exchanging their experience and practice.
In addition to the thought-provoking presentations I attended, there was one innovative session format I really appreciated called ELT Conversation , which involved discussion between two leading ELT professionals, Jeremy Harmer and Scott Thornbury. In this session the speakers interviewed each other about the Communicative Approach. After 20 years, is it time to redefine its concept? Is there a contemporary view of CLT? For more than one hour, in a full auditorium, Harmer and Thornbury discussed the gains and losses of this so well-established approach for language teaching followed by questions addressed from the audience. A wonderful moment to revisit this approach and reflect upon what we have doing in our classrooms in the last decades.
In the opponent flow, Jim Srivener gave a lively presentation reassuring the importance of teaching grammar and urged the audience to ignore those voices that tell you that you have to communicate all the time. The presenter stressed that, yes, students want, need and learn from grammar. The question is how teachers can make grammar genuinely engaging, valuable and challenging. In order to make grammar really meaningful, Jim Scrivener stresses that we should use lots of examples. They are input. And we should play with examples. This is practice. We should never forget to make examples sound real. Personalization is fundamental. After personalizing , students then are able to use the language.
As you can see through my highlights above, IATEFL was filled with diversity and innovation which have made me an IATEFL convert. Those were professionally inspiring and enjoyable days that will always remain in my mind. My thanks for the support and encouragement the Casa has given me to participate in such a fabulous event.