IATEFL 2018 – Laura’s trip to the conference in Brighton

Last week I attended the annual International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL) conference in Brighton. It’s 7 years since we last attended the conference, and the first time I had been myself, so I was interested to see what it would be like.

Laura on the MM stand at IATEFL

It was clear from the opening evening exhibit hall preview that it was going to be a busy conference and that three of our titles would be vying for the spot of our conference bestseller.  They were:

Creativity and Innovations in ELT Materials Development, edited by Dat Bao. Fresh off the press (published just last month), this title was really popular with educators and academics, looking for the latest research on ELT materials design.

Language Learner Autonomy, by David Little, Leni Dam and Lienhard Legenhausen. The latter two authors were at the conference and as active members of the IATEFL LASIG they were busy letting delegates know about their new publication.

Language Teacher Psychology, edited by Sarah Mercer and Achilleas Kostoulas. Sarah Mercer had been the plenary speaker at last year’s conference and many delegates were already aware of this exciting new book. I especially enjoyed meeting friends and colleagues of the editors, who were happy to let them know the good news of the book’s popularity, sometimes by taking a photo of the book at the stand to send to them!

Laura beside the Brighton Pier

Having not been to this conference before, many of the delegates were unknown to me and it was great for us to be able to reach a new audience, especially one that is so teacher focused. I was, however, also pleased to see a few familiar faces in the IATEFL crowd, including Janet Enever, the series editor of our new Early Language Learning in School Contexts series and author Carol Griffiths, whose new book is so new that I had to bring copies straight from the office.

As well as being my first visit to IATEFL, it was also my first trip to Brighton. As someone who loves the sea, I thoroughly enjoyed getting a good dose of sea air on my way to the conference every morning and treating myself to fish and chips on the beach at the end of the busy week. I managed to explore a bit of Brighton on the one dry and sunny evening of the week and loved what I saw…Brighton is definitely a UK city I’d love to return to for a holiday (ideally when the weather is a bit better!)

Laura

Challenging Current Practices in ELT Materials Design

This month we published Creativity and Innovations in ELT Materials Development edited by Dat Bao. In this post Dat introduces his book and explains what inspired him to put it together.

I am lucky to have been involved in many materials projects with scholars who have taught me a great deal about this field: Brian Tomlinson, Alan Maley, Hitomi Masuhara, Rani Rubdy, Martin Cortazzi, to name a few. From 2000, as a student at Leeds Metropolitan University in the UK, until the present day, as a lecturer at Monash University in Australia, I have worked together with these scholars in evaluating course materials, writing textbooks, conducting research and publishing the outcomes.

Knowledge, however, does not come only from the expert. Sometimes those with less experience but with a passion for materials development, such as teachers, students and colleagues, can also have a say. These practitioners sometimes make insightful comments about things that I have never thought of. By interacting together, they exchange views, question practices, reject routine, and support or challenge one another.

Having worked closely with both experts and practitioners, I can’t help thinking that these two groups could learn from one another, and help reduce the sense of hierarchy between them. For example, sometimes studying an updated theory can help teachers improve classroom tasks; at other times, observing teaching practice or listening to a teacher’s perspective can make theorists rethink their ideas.

It was this thinking that inspired my new book, Creativity and Innovations in ELT Materials Development, which began to take shape three years ago. In my own experience, this is a rare occasion on which I have managed to bring together well-known theorists and new researchers; experienced textbook writers and teachers who are users of those textbooks; and lecturers in materials development and their students.

The unusual combination of contributors has produced a range of fresh ideas about how to make English textbooks less boring and mundane. It must be said that a certain degree of negotiation among co-authors was needed to ensure that messages were clearly articulated. But in the end, the book is full of good ideas presented in a neat package with an array of helpful suggestions that are worth trying. Some examples include: what makes technology work best in a textbook, how to choose online resources with an effective learning impact, and in what ways can students be guided to become more creative.

Dat Bao (far left) teaching in the classroom at Monash University

I would encourage teachers, when going through chapters in the book, to visualise how ideas can be adapted to suit their tastes. I would also encourage readers to take notes and challenge what we say with your insights and questions. As they say, sometimes rules are made to be broken. Sometimes recommendations are made to be argued with. In this way, there should no end to what we can do to bring about optimal teaching and learning impact. I would very much like to see more debate around the topics that we raise, so that the field never settles, but remains active, in the same way that riding a bicycle requires the rider to be constantly moving forward to keep their balance.

For more information about this book please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Preparing Teachers to Teach English as an International Language edited by Aya Matsuda.