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Contributions to TESOL Symposium and CAMELTA conference, August 2013

1) Teaching English in Difficult Circumstances, Revisited (TESOL Symposium, 12 August 2013)

Too often in the past, Western ideas about language teaching have been assumed to be relevant universally, with little attention being paid to local conditions in developing country contexts. In place of an uncritical acceptance of ”outsider” ideas, the presenter argues for an approach to teacher education that takes full account of the difficult circumstances (large class sizes, lack of material resources, heat, etc.) that characterize most primary and secondary classrooms in the world. These conditions have been neglected in previous research, but recent reports of success in difficult circumstances from the Teaching English in Large Classes network can help inform a new, contextually appropriate teacher development approach that builds on teachers’ strengths rather than highlighting constraints and deficiencies.

Handout for morning précis (pdf)

Reference with hyperlinks (Word)

Handout for afternoon workshop (pdf)

2) In Difficult Circumstances, Doing the Best You Can (CAMELTA conference, 14 August)

What can you do to improve your well-being, your teaching and the students’ learning of English in large classes, without many resources, in a hot climate? In this talk I will share some strategies that other teachers in similar circumstances have successfully adopted and I will invite participants to reflect on improvements that they can make in their thinking and their practice, taking full account of difficulties and both teacher and student motivations. Throughout, my emphasis will be on the notion that ‘excellence’ must be contextually situated and that teachers can usually learn more from one another, from their own explorations and from their own students than from outsiders, from theory, or from top-down training provided to them. I aim to show that teachers do not have to be the victims of external fashions, directives or other changes, and I invite participants to consider the ways that they can themselves, with students and colleagues, take more control of developments in their own contexts, in spite of constraints.

Handout (pdf)

Doing the Best You Can – the Power of Teacher-Research (CAMELTA conference, 15 August)

In this workshop I define and explain the benefits of ‘teacher-research’ – research which is initiated and carried out by teachers themselves in relation to their own contexts. Based on your recent successes and problems in English teaching, research questions will be worked out which you may wish to pursue either individually or with a group of colleagues, and we will then consider some appropriate basic methods for gathering data. Examples of teacher-research studies in other contexts – and their effects -- will also be shared.

Handout (pdf)