7 Days 7 Ways: Continued Professional Development 7) Conferences

So, it’s the last day in my 7 days of posts on CPD for ELT teachers. If you’ve missed any so far, here are the links…

  1. Blogs 
  2. Reflection Groups & Learning Networks 
  3. Magazines & Journals 
  4. Peer Observation 
  5. Professional Organisations 
  6. Seminars & Workshops

All of the first six ‘ways’ could be done from the comfort of your own home, though I of course do recommend getting dressed and leaving the house at some point!! Today’s way will most likely mean spending some time away from your sofa/desk/own home, as today I’m going to convince you that a part of your CPD should definitely be attending

  • Conferences

I believe that all the other forms of CPD are extremely beneficial, but for a true boost to your insight, understanding, inspiration and motivation, there is no better way than attending a conference! There are so many reasons why that would, and do, fill multiple blog posts on their own. But here’s a few that occur to me immediately:

  • abundance of networking with like-minded people
  • opportunities to hear ‘big names’ speak
  • chance to keep up-to-date with latest trends and developments in ELT
  • gathering ideas and materials for the classroom
  • getting involved in current debates surrounding ELT
  • growing understanding of ELT in a wider context
  • the feeling of belonging to a professional community 
  • a chance to present and share your own ideas or research
  • free stuff (pens, bags, copies of textbooks, mugs, key chains, etc!). 🙂 

There are so many ELT conferences out there, and participating in all of them would take up an enormous amount of time and money – and probably not be a worthwhile use of your efforts! So how can you decide which conferences to attend? 

12805715_10156595096075464_1308734260307728059_nI attend different conferences with different purposes in mind. One of the first conferences I attended was a one-day event hosted by ELTAF in Frankfurt (Germany). There was a plenary, four sessions where I could choose form a number of workshops/talks to join in, and plenty of chances to network during the coffee and lunch breaks. I went along with the specific aim in mind of gettting to know other EFL teachers in Germany. At the time I was pretty new to teaching, so it was great to here from colleagues how the state-school and university systems worked regarding language teaching, and some issues that might arise in my classrooms and how I might want to tackle them. I was tired from travelling there for just one day, but I definitely achieved my aims. 


A couple of years ago I attended another one-day conference organised by a local ELT organisation, MELTA in Munich. It was an EAP Day. My aim this time was to meet others teaching EAP and discuss some of the biggest current challenges, exchange thoughts on textbooks and resources, and maybe share my own knowledge of how to ‘get in’ to teaching EAP. Again, I had a really lovely day, achieved exactly these aims. And even met up with an old colleague I knew from a previous job! 

The point is, I think, that you should choose a conference that matches your current CPD focus and in general your interests within ELT. Not every conference will cover every area of CPD or ELT, but if you select wisely and invest in the most relevant ones to you, then attending the conference will be extremely rewarding!

I suppose I can’t really write a post about ELT conferences without mentioning “the big two”: IATEFL annual conference and Assn TESOL yearly international convention. 

I’ve never been to the TESOL international convention. But I know a man who has. And here’s what he has to say about it: “TESOL 2015 was my first international conference for English language teaching. Although I thought TESOL would be a very exciting four-day experience, I was not expecting to be as inspired as I was. I spent that entire first day of the conference preparing to present two of my projects, which in hindsight was a waste of a day. I attended as many sessions as I could, most of them relating to my interests in global issues and social responsibility. I hardly slept! In my opinion, the best and most important aspect of TESOL is the networking. TESOL offers many opportunities to network with fellow teachers, teacher trainers, linguists, and scholars. I became friends with many inspiring, positive, motivating TESOLers by just attending the LGBTQ+ gathering the first night of the conference. Presentations are great; they are full of inspiring messages and new ideas. However, by becoming friends with these scholars, it alerted me to their very important research in TESOL. Because of networking, I even had the chance to meet Dr. Marianne Celce-Murcia and Dr. Bonny Norton, two of my biggest TESOL heroes. I became life-long friends with other researchers whose work I have used as my foundation for the way that I approach my teaching. Attending TESOL was a game changer for me. I highly recommend attending at least once.” Thanks @mitchell_jamesd !!

IMAG0245IATEFL’s annual conference, on the other hand, has been graced by my prescence for a number of years! 🙂 The first year I went, I have to admit I was a bit overwhelmed. It is BIG! Four days, from 9am – 6pm, about 15 sessions per day, and a choice of 10+ talks/workshops/presentations during each of them, plus a big exhibition of publishers etc. I was determined to get the most out of it, but I hadn’t set myself any real goals, so I just tried to attend every single session, run round the exhibition in the lunch break, and speed-network in the coffee breaks! Well, by the afternoon of day two I had to go back to the hotel and lie down in a dark, quiet room, with a pounding headache. Too much!! And this is why I say, set goals and select wisely! Having learnt my lesson the first year, I’ve been back again and again and always return to the classroom brimming over with ideas, inspiration and motivation, even more passion than usual, and often a few more contacts and an expanded PLN! I definitely recommend attending at least once, if you can – and this year is the 50th annual conference, so it promises to be an especially good one!

IMG-20130411-WA0000

By the way, I will be at IATEFL in Birmingham next month, and will be presenting on the topic of “Marking writing: feedback strategies to challenge the red pen’s reign” on Friday 15th April, 11:00 – 11:30, in room Hall 10a, as part of the TEASIG Day. Please do come along and say hello!!
 

In selecting a conference to attend, and in setting yourself some aims or goals, I’d suggest returning to the framework I presented on Day #1:

Reflect   —   Plan   —   Act   —   Evaluate

Reflect on areas of your teaching and career you’d like to improve and develop in, plan which conference to attend and which talks/woskhops etc, attend, and then evaluate how helpful this was, how you can apply what you heard/learnt to your own work, and what other gaps in knowledge you’d like to fill. And once you’re in this cycle, you can continue developing professionally – CPD through conferences! 🙂

Further Reading:

Borg, Simon, “The benefits of attending ELT Conferences”, ELT Journal, August 2014. Available here.

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5 thoughts on “7 Days 7 Ways: Continued Professional Development 7) Conferences

  1. Hi Clare

    First of all, thank you for the series of posts – enjoyed reading them, found them meaningful and thought-provoking, and would like to spread the ideas further.
    This brings me to the second reason for this comment: would you give me your permission to share the 7 posts with teachers on a session on CPD? I am going to visit a school, and the director/DoS asked me to give a session to ‘inspire the teachers to develop further’. I am in the process of preparing it. If I can use the posts (or parts of them), how could I reference you? Your name, your blog URL. Perhaps adding: ‘teacher, English Language Lecturer and teacher trainer at the University of Trier in Germany?’

    It would be good to stay in touch – via blogs and other channels. Thank you for writing and sharing these ideas!
    Zhenya (from Ukraine)

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you very much Clare! I will definitely encourage them to read your blog (one of the ‘hidden’ points of using these examples) Will see if I fit the activity into the session: I know I tend to overplan! Will get back to you if I use them. Take care,
        Zhenya

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Clare,
    This is me digging through your blog on its third birthday (Happy Birthday Clare’s blog.)
    I definitely agree with this post about getting out there and meeting all your internet friends at conferences. I’m by no means experienced in the ELT world, but even for me in my slightly niche role in project management, I found IATEFL this year so fantastic for motivation for my job, and for industry context, too!
    I was also a very active member of ELTABB, the Berlin equivalent of ELTAF that you mention, and helped organise some events there, and that was also great for meeting ELT-related people in the city I was living in – I’d recommend that everyone tries to join their local association 🙂
    Rachel

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Rachel for the birthday wishes and the point about ELTABB – there are so many of these organisations, I’m never sure which ones are recommendable! But ELTABB sounds good – and I agree, everyone should try to join their local association!!
      Clare

      Liked by 1 person

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