IATEFL 2021: Day Two – Sunday 20th June

This is the first year that the annual IATEFL conference was run fully online. The main conference was run using the HopIn platform. I moderated some sessions, so my notes may not be as complete for those ones! Moderating also took me to a few sessions I wouldn’t ordinarily have attended – great for broadening my horizons 🙂

These are my summaries of the talks.

Plenary: Integreating teaching, testing and technology: where angels fear to tread! – Thom Kiddle

Thom grew up in a travelling circus, which is where he had his first experience of teaching, showing people how to ride a unicycle. As he said, the testing there is inbuilt: when you stop falling off, you can do it!

Why is testing so challenging?

…trying to describe complex phenomena in a small number of words on the basis of incomplete theory.

North, 1996

We then have to feedback on the results of this to a wide range of stakeholders.

‘Language testing does more harm than good’ was the debate at IATEFL a few years ago. Diane Schmidt said that tests and assessment are one of the most powerful tools we have, and we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that this allows us to have a meritocracy – through exams, we have the chance to prove what we can do.

The challenges of aligning teaching with testing

In a teaching space, we can support our learners. In a testing space, we need to create very clear instructions, in order to avoid creative interpretation of tests (though the results can be quite entertaining).

Each student has a different teacher, as we all treat them differently. In the same way, each student has a different test: they all interpret them in different ways.

We try to stimulate creativity in learners, but don’t necessarily allow this in testing.

What else don’t we test necessarily?

  • Collaboration
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Digital search literacy

In a testing situation, we fear that these things might lead to cheating, and might not give a true representation of a student’s ability.

Not everything that counts can be counted; and not everything that can be counted, counts.

If we’re forced to reduce testing to discrete items and numbers, then what do we lose?

Thom shared a video of Brian Patten reading The Minister for Exams. You can hear and see the poem here (I recommend it!)

Another potential issue with testing is that the way we choose to teach doesn’t always match the way we assess. Thom showed a video of his son being introduced to yellow and green, then being asked ‘What colour is that?’ – a whole new concept.

The stone age did not end because people ran out of stones.

Pinker (2018) Enlightenment Now

We should look at what technology can do for us, but consider whether technology has facilitated the way we test in the same way that it has the way we teach. Does technology actually reduce teacher empowerment in the way that testing is run and how the results are processed? To what extent have testing platforms actually empowered teachers and allowed us to bring assessment into our teaching and learning, or have they just given us new ways to ask multiple choice questions? Are we missing an opportunity in how we can align teaching and testing?

What should / could digital approaches to assessment offer to teachers and learners?

  • Multimodality – including images, videos, etc.
  • Allowing test takers to control the pace of the test, rather than it being in the control of the teacher.
  • Learner choice in texts and tasks – we do this for teaching, why not for testing?
  • Repeat administrations for ‘true score’ – avoids the problem of the issue of how learners perform on a single day
  • Collaborative tasks.
  • Asynchronous tasks – allowing for open-book, bring in digital skillls, source materials etc.
  • Recording for feedback and review – allowing learners and teachers to look back at what they’ve done.

Elephants in the room

The power of AI sounds attractive, but if they’re only powered by discrete points, we go back to an atomised progress model, rather than a holistic, co-constructed model of language learning. There is also a huge demand on environmental values, and it’s based on algorithms which have values behind them. There are also potential ethical questions. Thom referenced The Ethical Framework for AI in Education.

There is also the issue of automated marking. What can machines actually measure in terms of the quality of language that is produced? There are a lot of measures of language competence which a machine may not be able to assess (for example those on the right in this image):

The areas on the right are the area of teacher expertise, though we that’s not to say we couldn’t be supported by the technology.

Thom compares the idea of technology-mediated teaching and how empowering that has been over the past 20 years, and particularly the last 15 months, with technology-mediated testing. Integrating teaching, testing and technology should put the teachers and learners at the centre.

What we (could/should) test and how

One of the major features of the traditional language teaching paradigm has been the separating out of the so-called four skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing into pedagogically convenient units of learning.

Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Applied Linguistics (1999)

By separating these areas out in testing, this differs from the integrated use of skills in the world and in teaching.

The new companion volume to the CEFR moves back towards integration, and highlights mediation. How can our testing reflect this?

Thom questions whether we should have separate listening, reading, speking and writing assessments. He suggests that we should be testing whether learners can use the information they learn, whether they can transfer knowledge. This would reflect a communicative classroom more. Perhaps papers could be rearranged, for example:

We should be revisiting the work done on integrated skills assessments over the past 30 years.

Thom finished off by demonstrating how challenging integrating these three areas is by juggling for us 🙂

Learning from interactive reflection – Jason Anderson

You can download Jason’s slides, read the paper he was reporting on, and see the tools he was referring to.

[I’m afraid I’m feeling quite sleepy due to the heatwave here – so I’ll let Jason do the ‘talking’ through those handouts rather than making my own notes!]

I really liked the idea of ‘reflection literacy’ which Jason mentioned.

He also differentiated between evaluating a lesson and reflecting on what was actually happening in the moment as we were teaching – we often focus on the former in post-observation meetings for example. In future, Jason is interested in comparing how this kind of reflection might differ or be similar for early career teachers and more experienced teachers.

Flipping training: is there a (flipping) difference? – Melissa Lamb (International House London)

The question: is there a difference between a flipped CELTA course and an unflipped CELTA course?

How does a flipped course work?

The idea is:

In an unflipped course, they generally have two blocks of input in course hours and the lesson preparation happens at home. By flipping the course, the aim is for trainees to have more support from peers and trainers during the higher order parts of the process.

How can they find out the difference?

They interviewed 12 trainers because they have a point of comparison. They had 170 years of experience between them! This includes 78 flipped courses between them. They asked what differences if any they noticed in terms of:

  • how CPs experienced the course
  • how CPs processed the course content
  • the quality of lesson preparation and planning
  • the quality of teaching
  • the quality of reflection

They were semi-structured interviews, and they didn’t always get through every point with every trainer, but themes did arise.

Themes

  • Better atmosphere and more cooperation
  • Deeper processing of input
  • Positive impact on lesson preparation and teaching
  • Differences in group feedback and reflection

Trainers generally mentioned there was a lot less stress, and trainees were generally calmer. Trainees are getting sleep, rather than being up all night trying to plan a lesson themselves. They’re not as mentally tired either because they don’t have to process two big chunks of input. This means they’re potentially ‘more present’ during the day.

One trainer said ‘because the contact hours that we spend with them are more targeted, the approach is more individualized […] we address more personal needs‘.

  • More cohesive
  • More collaborative
  • There’s more sharing
  • They create a community of practice

Nobody is sacrificing their own time to help – it’s built into the course.

There is more availability and more headspace in general – they don’t have to focus solely on themselves.

For example, one trainee does a listening lesson, so they look at that flipped content. They become the ‘expert’ on listening and other trainees ask them about it. By helping, they become more invested in others’ lessons.

When they watch TP, trainees really want it to work because they have a positive inter-dependence on each other. It becomes normal to share.

Does this work for everyone? No, not necessarily, but this tended to be hypothetical. There were only a handful of trainees who tended to shut themselves off. Some of them needed an adjustment time to appreciate the virtuous circle of this kind of course.

Did trainers notice any difference in the way course content was processed?

Participants read the knowledge on the site.

They have the coursebooks open in front of them.

They’re talking about the theory in direct relation to the course materials.

Trainers reported that these discussions were different on a flipped course. Also, having to explain to other trainees changed how they processed things – they gained ‘a deeper understanding’.

By rehearsing and enacting and re-enacting lessons, they could also reflect and improve on their performance, feeling more confident when they entered the classroom.

Participants tend to notice things more because they’re not under the same pressure to notice everything at once and put it into action. Trainees are able to hold theory in their minds as they process and re-process. When they ask questions, they’re much more able to process answers.

Some trainers commented on the quality of questions trainees asked: deeper, more sensible, below the surface, confidence to question the coursebook and the tutor (because of peer support behind them).

Melly feels that the iterative nature of the training has the greatest impact.

What impact, if any, does this have on the lessons?

One trainer didn’t notice much difference in the lessons, and one said it would be hard to say, but the rest of the trainers commented on these areas:

Confidence was ascribed to the rehearsals. It gave them the confidence to do things they wouldn’t normally do at that stage in the course. They’d already had feedback telling them that it was good. There were fewer trainees so worried about one stage of the lesson (for example grammar clarification) that they weren’t attending to other parts of the lesson. TP felt less confrontational and was less of a test. One trainer mentioned that the lessons were smoother because of the rehearsal, and another said the trainees were more cognitively at ease because they’d practised a challenging area. The net result is that they come out of the course as more confident teachers.

Most trainers said that trainees would probably still end up in the same bracket as on an unflipped course, but that weaker participants probably had the opportunity to learn more.

Impact on reflection and group feedback

On an unflipped course, there’s sometimes a feeling of ‘What just happened?’ ‘I shouldn’t have done that!’ On a flipped course, they’ve got something to compare their lesson to and can therefore see the progress they’ve made. They can pick up on areas which are more useful and more relevant in their reflections. In the reflection after the lesson, they may have a Eureka! moment when the penny drops and they are better able to understand what happened and why.

The quality of reflection was generally higher, and more specific – saying how they would make changes, not just ‘I’ll change my plan’ but ‘This is how I’d change my plan’

The dynamic of group feedback was much more peer led. Many of the trainers said there was very little they had to do in group feedback.

Overall

Agency, ownership and autonomy are much more present on a flipped course than an unflipped one. Trainees were more independent in their decision making.

If you’d like to find out more about flipping training, there is a facebook group called Flipping Training and an article in English Teaching Professional issue [not sure what number! Can anyone help?]

My questions for Melissa which I didn’t have time to ask

What if trainees don’t look at input?
Melly said that one trainee didn’t actually do much at home outside the course, but still managed to pass the course, raising the question of whether we need to have input in the traditional way on unflipped courses.

How can trainees carry this over to the real world? Do they continue doing rehearsals? Have you done any follow-up research on this?

Teaching patterns in context: uncovering semantic sequences in writing – Amanda Patten and Susan Hunston

[I moderated this session.]

They are talking about academic English and patterning in English.

  • Grammar patterns – how words are used
  • Semantic sequences – what patterns are made

To demonstrate the importance of patterns in our understanding of English, Amanda asked us to create sentences from these words:

To make it easier, they then colour-coded the sentences – you should have one piece of each colour in your sentence:

It was much easier to do this once the pieces of the pattern were colour-coded, because we can see that these sentences follow the same patterns of the language.

You can then display patterns like this:

The nouns behave in similar ways, the verbs do too. Native English speakers know this kind of information about the language, but learners might not.

What do learners need to know to write like this?

An example of academic writing:

However, informal observation of language teacher education suggests that teacher educators still tend to adopt transmission approaches.

Bax 1997: 233, shortened

They need to know:

  • Technical vocabulary
  • The grammar of words e.g.
    Observation + of + noun
    suggest + that-caluse
    tend + to-infinitive
  • What is often said – not the language itself e.g.
    research activity + causes + conclusion

Words in a dictionary

We can find out about the grammar of words here too, often with bolded phrases within definitions or examples.

Online dictionaries can give you lots of examples allowing learners to observe patterns. For example:

They tend to shorten these e.g. ‘VERB + noun’ becomes ‘V n’.

Activity: from pattern to meaning

Examples might be:

  • discover
  • establish
  • determine
  • find (out)
  • work out

They all have the same grammar patterns as each other.

Learners may also identify verbs that can only fit one or two of the patterns. These verbs prefer one structure and would sound odd in other structures:

  • V that: conclude, infer
  • V wh: analyse, assess, investigate

So why that might be? Maybe the patterns have meaning too, not just the words.

You can find more information about grammar patterns on the Cobuild website [this website looks incredibly useful]. There are about 200 patterns altogether, under the categories of adjectives, nouns and verbs.

Pattern and sequence: form and meaning

Patterns are part of the formal grammar of a language e.g.

  • The verb TELL is used with the patten ‘Verb + noun + to-infinitive’
  • The verb SUGGEST is used with the pattern ‘verb + that-clause’

Semantic sequences account for ‘what is often said’ e.g.

Here’s an example of a table you could build:

The ones at the top suggest that we’re very confident about the conclusion, and the ones at the bottom imply that we’re less confident about it.

Another example:

As Susan said, it can get quite complicated sometimes, though this isn’t always necessary. You can also add the patterns:

It’s important to point out that these are not simply synonyms of each other, and they all have their own meanings, but rather that the overall sequence is the same.

Showing the patterns allow learners to manipulate language. For example, we can flip it to: CONCLUSION + comes from + RESEARCH ACTIVITY. Which one is preferred would depend on the new and old information in the paragraph. Learners still need to think as they can’t use all the parts interchangeably, but at least they can see the patterns:

Why teach patterns and sequences?

  • There is a link between form and meaning.
  • This provides a rationale for the grammar – the word has meaning, but so does the pattern.
  • It makes sense to the learner – it motivates an attention to form through meaning.

In a follow-up question, Susan discussed the fact that different disciplines with academia might favour different nouns/verbs and the associated patterns. Amanda talked about prioritising noticing as a way of stopping learners from becoming overwhelmed – they don’t necessarily need to be able to produce all of these patterns.

Is my mind full or am I mindful? – Melek Didem Beyazoglu and Cansen Asuroglu

[I moderated this session.]

When they chose this topic in 2019, it seemed quite fresh, but now it seems that lots of people are talking about it.

Cansen mentions that living in Istanbul means that her mind is busy all the time, even when her body isn’t. She said that silence, laughter and happiness are all contagious. They shared this video, which demonstrates that point perfectly (you should definitely watch it!):

When you are in a silent environment, you will feel awkward when there is noise, especially if you are the one making that noise. It becomes necessary to adapt to silence.

Didem shared a beathing activity with us to help us to be silent. When we able to keep silent, we stay calmer and become more aware of the moment we are in.

  • Find a comfortable position, maybe on a chair, maybe lying down.
  • Keep your back straight, so that the breath can flow through your spine easily.
  • Be aware of your breath.
  • Put your hands wherever they are comfortable.
  • Relax your tongue in your mouth.
  • Close your eyes if you’re comfortable. If not, try to maintain a soft gave with your eyes partially closed.
  • Try not to squareeze any part of your body. Just be aware that your body is comfortable and let you body relax. Let your body relax.
  • Feel the natural flow og your breath. There is no effort here. Do not try to make it long or short. Just let it be in it’s own natural flow.
  • Notice the entry and the exit of the breath.
  • You may start thinkgin abotu toher things – that’s OK. just gently redirect your attention back to the breathing.
  • Notice your breath without an effort.
  • When you’re ready, gently open your eyes.

[This made for a lovely mid-conference break. Happily, I can touch type 😉 ]

Think about:

  • What were you thinkgin about during the process?
  • was it possible to fight the voices in your mind?

Mindfulness needs time and regular practice.

What is mindfulness?

  • Maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and surrounding environment through a gentle, nurturing lens.
  • It involves acceptance.
  • It is returning to the present moment.

What does your mind look like when it’s not calm?

They showed us this video. [It’s not possible to embed it.]

When we are stressed it is difficult to focus or to learn.

The key is to be patient, especially towards your impatience. It’s normal, understandable and manageable – we need to remind ourselves of this.

In the classroom

They decided to try a mindfulness activity at the beginning of their lesson with their students. They started this in 2019, but the pandemic stopped some of their research.

What makes students stressed?

  • Family
  • Exams
  • Relationship
  • Future
  • Failure
  • Traffic

Most of them said they always feel stressed.

What happened?

They did mindfulness for a couple of minutes in each lesson. The teachers felt a little odd, some students couldn’t keep their eyes closed or stop laughing, but they said this was OK.

After a month, 64% of the students said that they felt better in a questionnaire.

Another activity

  • Make a list of words that are related to positive feelings, such as happy or happiness.
  • Close your eyes or lower your gaze.
  • Listen to a list of words. Focus on how they make you feel: terrific, admired, jolly, fun, hopeful, free, confident, lively, friendly, happy, strong, joyful, satisfied.
  • Keep this feeling in mind.
  • Make a list of words that are related to negative feelings.
  • Listen to another list of words. Focus on how they make you feel: afraid, regretful, coward, embarrassed, sad, lonely, displeased, terrified, frustrated, lost, helpless, disgusted, impotent, confused, unhappy, troubled.
  • Focus on your feelings. You probably don’t feel very positive feelings.

Now watch the video and think about how the power of words can affect you:

If young people can do it, we can too!

The body scan

[There are lots of different body scan meditations available – it’s worth doing a search to find one that works for you.]

Factors behind the construction of identity of EFL pronunciation instructors – Lena Barrantes and Joshua Gordon

Studies about pronunciation have demonstrated that teachers may feel uncomfortable teaching pronunciation due to:

  • Limited training in different areas (Baker and Murphy, 2011)
  • Pronunciation is not addressed systematically (Couper, 2016, 2017; Foote et al.
  • Pedagogical pronunciation training improves teaching practices (Baker, 2014; Baker and Burri, 2016, Burri et al., 2017)

There’s been a shift to analysing teachers’ identities over the past few years too [definitely obvious in IATEFL programmes over the past few years!]

There have only been limited studies of identity formation of pronunciation teachers who come from other language backgrounds than English. Here are two:

  • Insecurities about teaching pronunciation because of accent (Golombek and Jordan, 2005)
  • Identity formation of pronunciation teachers (NS and NNS) goes hand in hand with their own cognitions of teaching (Burri et al., 2017)

The study

They investigated the professional identity of non-native speaker pronunciation teachers because of the number of non-native-speaking teachers around the world at present.

The research questions were:

  1. What factors underlie the professional identity of NNS teachers in pronunciation instruction?
  2. How does the professional identity of experienced NNS teachers inform the teachign of L2 pronunciation in an EFL context?

They did a descriptive single case study, focussing on identify in L2 pronunciation, with a small geographical area and a small group of teachers, aiming on providing a rich holistic description of this small group.

Data collection methods [side note – I really like this slide theme!]:

The study was done in a public rural university in southern Costa Rica. The campus has five different campuses with about 1000 students. Teachers participating in the study either taught a stand-alone pronunciation course for English majors, or English for other majors. Both of the researchers were faculty at the time, and participants were their colleagues.

All 5 of the participants were mid-career teachers who had settled in as English teachers (i.e. not early career and still finding their feet), with advanced degrees in teaching or TEFL, with a lot of experience at university, elementary and secondary levels.

They used the conceptual framework from Pennington and Richards (2016):

Foundational Competencies

  • Language related identity
  • Disciplinary identity – their identity within the field, often through qualifications and expeirence
  • Context-related identity
  • Self-knowledge and awareness
  • Student-related identity

Advanced Competencies

  • Practiced and responsive teaching skills
  • Theorizing from practice
  • Membership into communities of practice and profession

They see identity as a combination of personal, professional and contextual (?) identities.

In this study they wanted to see how their identities influenced their teaching of pronunciation

Findings: What factors underlie the professional identity of NNS teachers in pronunciation instruction?

  • Their teacher education has been shaped by adjustments as responses to their contextual particularities and opportunities.
    Most of these teachers originally wanted a different career.
    They didn’t receive training for pronunciation pedagogy. Because of this, they explored other opportunities to develop.
    They felt confident asking other colleagues for help about pronunciation teaching, from exchanging materials to collaborating in research projects and presenting at conferences. There is a clear desire for them to become better to help their students better achieve their goals.
  • Awareness of their own strengths and weaknesses as well as their students’ success drive their teaching beliefs and knowledge.
    They were aware of their own strengths and weaknesses as teachers. They knew that they were never going to sound like native speakers, but knew that they had knowledge that the average native speaker does not have about pronunciation.
    They knew that they had pedagogical knowledge to implement effective teaching.
    There is constant reinforcement given to them by student success – they can see that their pedagogy is effective. They know that sometimes their students end up with better pronunciation than they have.
  • A sense of expertise and belonging to a community of language teaching professionals.
    Despite not having receiving training on pronunciation pedagogy, they managed to learn more in a variety of ways. This stemmed from a professional commitment, knowing that other people may see them as role models and experts in the area.
    They are aware that the decisions they make in class are influenced by their background knowledge – they seemed aware that intelligible pronunciation is just one part of what they need to know, not just what an average speaker with native or native-like pronunciation may know.

These teacher’s professional identity is an amalgam of interrelated factors that go from their awareness of being L2 speakers of the language (with an accent), to belonging to a community of professionals who have not only language expertise but also knowledge of what their students need in the context where they work.

The areas the participant teachers demonstrated align with the competencies of what Pennington and Richards mentioned:

Findings: How does the professional identity of experienced NNS teachers inform the teachign of L2 pronunciation in an EFL context?

The professional identity of these teachers makes their teaching of pronunciation more contextualized and focused on the needs of their students, based on their learning challenges as well as challenges they may encounter outside of the classroom.

Suggestions for teacher training programmes

These suggestions are for both native and non-native teachers, both of whom may be reluctant to teach pronunciation and not know how to approach it. The references in brakcets are others who support these ideas.

More opportunities for teacher training connected to pronunciation (Baker 2014; Burri et al., 2017; Murphy, 2017):

  • Phonetics, phonology, L2 speech learning theory
  • Pedagogical implementation of content
  • Space for reflection on previous teaching and learning experiences

Ongoing training to empower in-service teachers to improve their pronunciation teaching:

  • Reflective practices – how do they do this? (Murphy, 2014)
  • Peer observations (Hattie, Masters and Birch, 2015; O’Leary, 2014; Tenenberg, 2016; Wiliam, 2016)
  • Book clubs and professional reading on your own, connected to pronunciation literature and journal articles for example (Brown and Lee, 2015; Hedgcock, 2009)
  • Action research (Bailey, 2004; Burns, 2010, 2011)

Non-native speakers can and should teach pronunciation. We should be implementing intelligible, comprehensible, non-native pronunciation models in class (Murphy, 2014, 2017) This is supported by:

  • World Englishes (Jenkins, 2015; Kachru, 1986)
  • Number of NNS teachers around the world (Crystal, 2003)
  • Effectiveness of NS and NNS teachers in pronunciation instruction (Levis et al., 2016)

The grammarless syllabus. A road to utopia? – Bruno Leys

[I moderated this session.]

Bruno started by sharing this piece of art by Jan Fabre called ‘Searching for Utopia’:

File:Skulptur Searching for Utopia von Jan Fabre in Nieuwpoort (Belgien)  2020-3.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Bruno originally planned to talk about this while he was in the middle of writing the book, but the first book has now appeared – it’s called Fast Break.

Background

A new curriculum in Flanders (Belgium) was rolled ou in Septembe 2019

There were no explicit grammar goals for the first two years, and in years 3-6 it was based on procedural grammar knowledge.

It was a new coursebook.

Can we teach/learn English without explicit grammar teaching?

Context

It was for vocational secondary education, aged 12-18.

The focus was on learning a specific profession.

The English they need is survival English, working towards A2 level.

Why even consider grammarless teaching?

On the one hand…

On the other hand…

A book and two talks from this year’s IATEFL:

Some more research:

Lesley Piggott did PhD research:

This is research from Canada:

Traditional coursebooks

There are topics, with grammar items attached to them. Scott Thornbury calls them ‘Grammar McNuggets’

In their coursebook

They tried to have a blank column. They phrased the topics as the functions, for example ‘Invite people and react’ and highlighted functional language students needed for this. This approach actually introduced a very wide range of grammatical structures, but if you don’t approach it from grammar you focus on this language as chunks/useful phrases:

If you look at it from the perspective of grammar, present continuous might pop up in 6 of the 9 units with this approach within the functional language.

One area they were challenged by was something like ‘this’ or ‘these’ – did they need the metalanguage of singular and plural? They decided to use colours to visualise it without using the terminology.

What do (some) teachers want?

Some teachers want grammar.

  • A necessary evil
  • tradition (backbone of a language)
  • Feels safe
  • Frustratino about language mistakes / errors

What the market wants, the market gets!

To satisfy this, they included a brief grammar focus at the back of the book, based on sample sentences, with the tense name written much smaller next to it. There is a visual and avideo where the language is used. They continue to use colours, for example blue for regular forms, red for irregular forms. If teachers want to focus on grammar, they can use these pages, but they can decide when and whether they feel there is a need.

There are exercises too, but these are meaning focussed:

They give them the form. (This reflects Leo’s talk at the end of yesterday)

The form exercises are more receptive:

There are also extra exercises availables online. They’ve met market demands bit tried to do it in their own way.

In conclusion

  • A grammarless or grammar light approach can be useful for learners at lower levels or who are not going to need university-level language.
  • Focussing on language as chunks and idiomatic phrases can be useful.
  • You can focus on meaning before form.
  • You can provide visual support through images and colours.

BUT…

  • There is a need to challenge traditional beliefs.
  • We need to invest in materials development.

References

Interpersonal skills for better communication! – Chia Suan Chong

Chia wrote Successful International Communication [Amazon affiliate link / BEBC non-affiliate link]

Why teach interpersonal skills?

  • Improving our interpersonal skills is a lifelong journey and starts with the ability to reflect.
  • Good interpersonal skills are essential for the workplace and for career success.

The Big Six of Business English

These are the main areas normally covered by business English courses:

  • Presentations
  • Meetings
  • Negotiation
  • Social English
  • Emails
  • Telephoning

In Chia’s opinion, the bix six deal with very specific scenarios. They are events.

Interpersonal skills

By talking about interpersonal skills, we’re looking at the bigger picture. The skills cross boundaries. We do these things both within and outside business.

  • Communication skills
  • Trust-building
  • Collaboration
  • Influencing
  • Conflict management
  • Active listening skills
  • Giving/Receiving feedback
  • Intercultural skills

Building relationships

Building trust takes time.

There are different kinds of trust:

  • With close friends or family
  • With your postman or a shop assistant

When we build trust:

  • Why should I trust you?
  • Do we understand trust in the same way? (this could be a style, a preference, an intercultural issue…)
  • What are the implications of not trusting?
  • Which communication strategies can help develop trust?
    We may think these are transferable, but we can also use these areas as a basis for discussions. Students have stories to bring to the table, and can prompt a lot of emergent language and fluency practice, as well as awareness of discourse.

Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.

Stephen Covey

Relationships and Results are a bit like Yin and Yang. Sometimes we’re more focussed on one or the other at a particular time, or sometimes we have preferences, but there’s not necessarily one size fits all: it’s very context specific. Telling stories (like the ones from Chia’s book – see top) allow students to discuss different reasons.

Ways that we build trust:

  • Establish competence – I’m competent in this area, you can trust me
  • Finding common ground (commonality)
  • Empathy
  • Openness (information) – what you see is what you get, I don’t have a hidden agenda
  • Reliability – you can trust me because I’m reliable
  • Openness (emotion) – showing vulnerability, you have to be genuine about it!
  • Willingness to trust first – we trust people who trust us

How many of these strategies are we talking about with our students? How many of these do we practise with them? Does this practice go beyond useful language? Do they have the chance to take part in the discourse that leads to building trust?

For example, you could give each student a strategy on a different piece of paper. If you know them well, give them a way that they’re not so used to doing. Put them into a simulation or a roleplay and they have to build trust using one of these methods.

In a high-trust relationship, you can say the wrong thing, and people will still get your meaning. In a low-trust relationship, you can be very measured, very precise, and they’ll still misinterpret you.

Stephen Covey

This shows just how important it is to include trust building in our teaching.

An activity

Show students pictures of a selection of famous people. Students say who they trust and who they don’t, and (more importantly) why. That promotes reflection.

The Trust Equation

Intimacy in business could be about how much you share with each other. Can you share future goals and plans? Problems you face in your company?

Self-orientation is about selfishness, talking about yourself all the time, constantly dominating the conversation, having the focus on our self.

You should have a particular person in mind when you do this activity, as the answers will be different depending on the person you choose. Put yourself in that person’s shoes and think about how they might feel about you. Give yourself a score of 1-10 in each area, then do the equation.

  • Somebody who knows you well.
  • Someone who doesn’t know you well.
  • Someone who you think likes you.
  • Someone who you think doesn’t like you.

By doing this a few times, you will find very quickly that there is one item that dominates: self-orientation. Regardless of how high your credibility etc are, your self-orientation will make a difference.

So perhaps we should be teaching students how to be less self-orientated in conversations. That means we need to teach them to become better listeners.

Active listening

The power of listening: How much listening can there be, with so much disruption and distraction?

What does active listening involve?

  • Paying attention.
  • Asking questions.
  • Clarifying and repeating back what was said.
  • Listening to understand and not to respond. (particularly hard when you’re speaking a second language)

Sometimes, we need to remind ourselves to stay in their world just a little longer.

Bob Dignen

In a classroom, we often find that students might not be listening to each other. Chia enforces interactive dialogue. For example:

The blue ones are speaker one, the red ones are speaker two. ‘Surface value’ = That’s interesting / I’ve never thought of that before.

This creates a truly interactive dialogue.

If you made it all the way down here, well done! You might also be interested in the talks from the MaWSIG PCE, day one, and day three.

3 thoughts on “IATEFL 2021: Day Two – Sunday 20th June

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