English as a Lingua Franca and teaching practice and principles at the English UK Teachers' Conference
26 October 2016

Prepare to be challenged in the opening session of the English UK Teachers' Conference as speaker Laura Patsko gets delegates thinking about their own practice - and unseen barriers to changing it.

While her talk focusses on the English as a Lingua Franca classroom approach - which stresses its importance as the primary communication tool for people for whom it is not a native tongue - she wants teachers to think more deeply about the needs of students and their own underlying principles.

She will tell the conference, in London on 12 November, how teachers operate in a multilingual classroom, and prepare their students to use their skills in a world where English is used by people with different first languages to communicate - stressing that this approach must be tailored to the different needs of students. Other speakers include author Ken Wilson as well as specialist sessions on classroom practice, exams and teaching students with special educational needs. See the full conference programme.

Laura, senior ELT Research Manager at Cambridge University Press, a former teacher and  teacher-trainer, and a well known researcher, blogger and speaker, is interested in how teachers attempt to meet their students' needs - and what stops them adapting their practice even if they are keen to do so.  "Accepting variation, embracing change, allowing change, not penalising deviation from certain norms - which may in fact be irrelevant for certain people - we'd all like to think we do these things. But do we really?" she asks.

Laura says conversations about changing or adapting teachers' practice can be difficult because they involve deep psychological issues. Teachers will believe their approach is reasonable, and doing everything possible to meet students' needs, and yet there can be an "entirely unconscious" gap between intention and practice.

She saw this at first hand while doing research with volunteers who had agreed to try new practices in their teaching. "They all struggled to do it in practice, for various reasons. It seemed that if someone accepted a new idea in principle it wasn't that straightforward to put it into practice. What I find interesting is why that is: what is it that makes it so difficult? I don't have an answer but it's an intriguing question."

So while the session focuses on English as a Lingua Franca, Laura also wants to get teachers thinking deeply about the needs of the individuals in their lessons. "That's where I diverge a little from others researching this field:  I don't assume it is the most suitable thing for everyone everywhere even though it is the most predominant use of English in the world today. There will still be people who need a different focus in lessons and it is still the teacher's responsibility to meet those goals. The problem is they often assume the scenario. I think we need to question our assumptions."

English as a Lingua Franca and the Multilingual Classroom is the opening plenary at the English UK Teachers' Conference on 12 November at Prospero House in London. 

previous entry << >> next entry