IATEFL Brighton 2011

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Guess Who

We sent our roving reporter to find TEFL Gods and Goddesses and ask them to sum up their conference experience. 

Click on the picture below to hear the TEFL God speak and see if you can match their voices

Reflections on IATEFL Brighton and good teaching 

by Chia

After a hectic 4 days at IATEFL Brighton, followed by the come-down of those post-conference blues, I started to reflect upon the talks I had attended and the same message that seemed to be stressed and repeated again and again. And when I realised that I could no longer tweet these thoughts in 140 words, I gave in to the pull of starting my own blog, suppressing previous embarrasments and worries of the seemingly ego-centric nature of the extended airing of my own views and experiences online.

The conference started with Peter Grundy striking the perfect balance between humour, practical teaching tips and academic rigour as he spoke about the importance of Sperber and Wilson’s Relevance Theory and the creation of meaning through conversational implicatures. (http://iatefl.britishcouncil.org/2011/sessions/2011-04-16/plenary-peter-grundy)

The message: Communication is much more than literal meanings, for meaning comes from use.

In Dave Willis’s talk, he demonstrated the use of an authentic conversation used in a task-based classroom.

The message: Learners don’t systematically build up their grammar in the linear fashion that coursebooks would have us believe in.

Fiona James spoke about the use of visualisation to tap into the students’ imagination and inner lives and in doing so, develop the students intrapersonal skills, improve their self-concept, and most importantly for the language teacher, encourage lots of speaking and emergent language.

The message: Learners’ lives and imaginations are the most valuable resource that can be tapped.

Eugene Schaefer’s talk ‘Chuck the Book! Learner-generated Roleplays’ entertained the delegates with practical ideas and energised us with an array of drama-based activities.

The message (I got out of it) : A coursebook-less lesson could be filled with excitment and fun, and doesn’t have to resemble a chat in the pub.

Chaz Pugliese talked about using creativity in the classroom to motivate learners, reminding us teachers to have fun, or we might bore the students.

The message: Real-play, as opposed to Roleplay, allows learners to bring their own identity into the classroom.

Ultimately, they all point towards one thing. That good teaching is simply about supplying structures and frameworks that allow learners to bring themselves into the language classrooms, facilitating genuine interactions that put learners at the centre of their learning process, and providing opportunities for learners to encounter language in use. It is certainly not about letting coursebooks dictate which grammar point one needs to learn next, diverting learners away from what they truly want to talk about in favour of the perfect lesson plan we have created, or playing audio recordings of John and Jane Doe that learners do not care about in an attempt to enforce some listening practice. Ultimately, they all point towards a Dogme approach to teaching.

My conference experience was wrapped up appropriately by the Dogme Symposium, in which Luke Meddings, Anthony Gaughan, Candy Van Olst, Howard Vickers and Scott Thornbury talked about this conversation-driven, materials-light, and student-focussed approach to teaching. Amongst lots of laughter as we watched Luke drill us to say ‘Dogme’ in the Danish way and Anthony sing to get pairwork to stop, Candy hit the nail on the head when she said that we should let learners talk about what is meaningful to them as we learn to be the listener of stories rather than the storyteller. Why do we spend time contextualising our lessons, when the context is right there in front of our eyes? In Anthony’s words, why import interest into the classroom when we have real stories of people’s lives in the room?

During the gruelling Q&A session, less-convinced delegates started to question the effectiveness of Dogme in Business English classrooms especially for newly-qualified teachers, claiming that the teacher needed to plan the technical jargon that they were going to teach, and couldn’t afford to be caught out during the lesson. It took me a lot of effort to stop myself from yelling ‘In all my years of Business English teaching, I have never been asked by any of my students to teach them jargon!’ Most of my students know more business jargon than I do, and I see no shame in getting them to explain the concepts of their specialization to me. The most important lesson I had learnt when I completed my LCCI CERT TEB (a Celta-like qualification for Business English teachers) years ago was this: I am an expert in using English for business communication. I am not an expert in their business areas. Living by this motto has allowed me to humbly ask questions and listen to my Business English students tell me about their work and specialities. And in the process, I have learnt more about finance, marketing, human resources, sales, architecture, trade, law, politics, etc. than I could ever glean from a coursebook.

Ironically, Dogme is not a dogmatic methodology, as some might think, and as Luke Meddings said in his talk, isn’t new to teaching. Business teachers, for example, have been approaching their lessons in ways I have heard termed ‘Authentic Participation’ for ages. But the moment Scott Thornbury gave it the ‘Dogme’ label, it enabled us to start thinking about teaching in a different way. As Vygotsky would say, labels help us to process thought and concepts.

The message: Whether you call it Dogme or any other name (I will resist quoting the trite Juliet to Romeo speech here), it is simply about good teaching.

More from Chia at : http://chiasuanchong.wordpress.com/

Look at the conference online


or just click below and check out the sessions that were videoed


Summaries/Videos of talks by ih london speakers

Kathy talking about Open Door first half of video

Kathy talking about Open Door second half of video

Jacqueline talking about Self Access Centres

more coming soon…

What we saw

Eight of us had the fantastic opportunity to spend the weekend in Brighton.  In addition to great weather we got to see and give (Well done guys) great talks.  So take a look at the ones we went to and if there is one you are particularly interested in then come and ask us about it. 



  • a good one on using the guardian weekly and the news
  • Lesley Hendra on lexis
  • tech resources for students to use outside of the class (Andrew Orr)
  • Spoken grammar for business English Rachel Clark)
  • Using Corpus /Classroom activities (Harper Collins)


  • Dyslexia
  • changing teacher identities
  • dogme symposium
  • Jill Hadfield on creativity and teaching beginners


  • an interesting one on memorising
  • using learner feedback on delta courses
  • critical thinking
  • dictogloss: do learners scaffold each others learning?


  • tribute session
  • IELTS for teenagers (16 to 21)
  • Trinity TESOL 
  • A great one on terminology used on training courses


  • technology in and out of the classroom
  • PDL – really useful activities to get students talking that draw upon techniques used in counselling


  • How Japanese students adjust their attitudes to learning after studying in the UK
  • Peer observation ideaS
  • Getting students to use their memory (Hugh Dellar)
  • Dogme for newer teachers (nice one Dale)
  • Dave Willis: TBL and structured langauge input.

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