IATEFL Conference focuses on ELT academic trends and needs

21 April, 2015

The need for more relevant language testing for international students and changes to accents in the UK were among the presentation topics in the Associates’ Day, ahead of the IATEFL conference in Manchester, UK, which gathered ELT professionals and providers from around the world.

Henry Tolley, Head of Business Development, UK & Ireland at Trinity College London, speaks at the IATEFL Associates' Day

Sponsored by Trinity College London, the Associates’ Day gathered delegates from IATEFL’s Associates – mostly teaching associations worldwide – for a day of training, updates and presentations.

In one of the keynote speeches, Dr Mark Griffiths, Academic Consultant for Trinity College London, argued that English language exams need to be based in real-world communication and reflect the everyday lives and technologies of language learners.

With examples from current English exams, Griffiths suggested that some of the historical features of exams such as test by dictation and decontextualized communication had not progressed massively, despite changes in the way languages are learned and taught.

He argued that in order to comprehensively assess the communicative competence of a 21st century learner, exams need to give leaners the platform to display a range of competencies, such as: sociological competence (awareness of situations, appropriate formalisation); strategic competence (compensatory skills, dealing with unpredictability); pragmatic competence (understanding direct and indirect meaning); and interactional competence (co-constructing interaction and sharing responsibility for maintaining communication).

Later IATEFL Patron David Crystal, a linguist, academic and author, gave a talk on the rise of mixed accents in the UK and the decreasing relevance of Received Pronunciation (RP).

In his presentation, Crystal said accents change every 25 miles in the UK on average, and that no other part of the English-speaking world has as much accent variation. He tracked the history of RP through the British class system, and said it had largely disappeared in its classical form. Discussing teaching techniques, he said, “If students expect to hear only RP, we have let them down.”

At the beginning of the day, Carol Read, IATEFL President, said there were now 136 teaching associations around the globe associated with IATEFL, compared with 80 six years ago. A range of the award opportunities for Associates were discussed during the day, and Diana Mullen, Director of St Giles Education Trust presented details of the new joint award with IATEFL Training, which will send St Giles Teacher Trainers to work with an IATEFL Teachers’ Association in their country.

Following the Associates Day, the full IATEFL Conference welcomed around 2,500 ELT professionals for a four-day programme of around 500 talks, workshops and symposiums and social opportunities and an exhibition of over 70 ELT-related providers, including language schools, teacher training colleges, publishers and exam providers.

Javier Mora, Company Director of agency StudyCELTA, said, “This was the first year for StudyCELTA to attend the annual IATEFL Conference. As an agency working in the field of recruiting trainees for Celta and Delta training centres, we were worried about feeling out of place. We knew that it was the biggest event for TEFL teachers worldwide, with plenty of sessions and seminars to discuss very academic, focused topics, so for us not being teachers it could have been the wrong place to be. However, we ended up enjoying being able to network with many school representatives, making lots of useful contacts for our company, and to be honest, thoroughly enjoying very interesting sessions that we attended.”  

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