Inspiration, professional development and catching up with colleagues: the English UK Teachers’ Conference 2016
21 November 2016

Preparing students for a world where they are most likely to speak English with other non-native speakers, supporting learning difficulties and classroom research were just a few of the subjects tackled at a packed English UK Teachers' Conference this year.

Over 200 teachers and exhibitors attended the London event; organiser and professional services manager Tom Weatherley noted that so many teachers giving up a Saturday for their continued professional development showed the great commitment to quality amongst English UK member centres.

"It's been a great day," he added. "The programme has been one of the strongest we've put together, thanks to the hard work of the English UK team and a fantastic pool of talent to choose from. We're looking forward to doing even better next year," said Tom.

Teachers and directors of studies attending the day were enthusiastic. Vicki Craig-Arijo, director of studies at the Glasgow School of English, at the conference for the "third or fourth time" said it gave her lots of ideas for teacher training courses she runs.

First-timer Lisa Busby of EC in Brighton said she had come "because I like to be inspired" while colleague Cecilia Catter added: "I am really interested in CPD - I want to do the diploma and this gives me new opportunities to learn."

For Frederique Wilding, director of studies at Shane Global in Hastings, and teachers Charles Hobbes and Bashar Obeyed, the conference has become an annual outing. "The conference covers lots of different interests and with three of us, we go to different sessions and report back to each other. It's very well structured and organised - and the food was better than ever this year," said Frederique.

Among the most talked-about sessions this year were the opening plenary from Laura Patsko of Cambridge University Press, who wanted to encourage teachers to think about helping their students to use English in a context where 80 per cent of all interactions in the language are between non-native speakers.

"Those of us working in ELT are at the centre of a shift in how English is used, defined, measured and controlled... the idea is shifting from English as a tool for native speakers to communicate with foreigners, to being used by all non-native speakers." Our teaching should reflect this, she said, "so our students don't panic and fall apart when they leave the classroom!"

Silvana Richardson of Bell attracted a large audience for her session on using John Hattie's visible learning ideas in the ELT classroom. She stressed that it was important to ensure the modus and direction of the lesson was visible to both students and teachers. And that this was vital at the planning stage, where activities were often confused with learning intentions. "What are the learning intentions? What will the students be able to do, or do better, as a result of the learning in the lesson?" she asked.

In a thought-provoking session, Simon Dunton talked about how lesbian, gay, bisexual and transexual issues are acknowledged - or not - in ELT classes, saying that if students cannot speak honestly it may affect their overall proficiency. Yet, he said, some teachers were only comfortable covering LGBT if it was part of the course in a textbook and if it was the material was often outdated, at higher levels, or emphasised "otherness rather than integration."

This year's Cambridge English/English UK Action Research project winner was Aida Sahutoglu of St Giles London, who picked up the winners' trophy for her work on supporting students to independent vocabulary learning. Find out more about her project and the scheme.

The day was rounded off with a well-received closing plenary from Ken Wilson, weaving insights and anecdotes around quotes from Einstein, Socrates, Elvis and others, giving delegates plenty to chat about during the Macmillan sponsored drinks reception.

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