An Interesting Experience!!

It was a different experience this time. With a beating heart I approached "Charlotteburg Hall" where the final celebration of Lead5050 was held !! Although I didn't receive an award this year, but I am glad to have been one of the top three nominees (Academic Director of the year - https://www.lead5050.com/wie-awards/shortlisted-nominees/) and had the pleasure of meeting a great congregation of men and women interested both in Education and Business!! Women are really playing a significant role in international education. Wow!! What a great feeling! We are all speaking the same language. 

I was also lucky enough to be invited to another interesting conference discussing ways to help students looking forward to study abroad how to develop their language skills to attain their goals https://www.icef.com/workshops/icef-berlin/ I had the pleasure of attending a number of informative workshops, discussed matters with different agents and got introduced to an interesting world. Studying and Teaching the language really plays a great role in shaking the world!! You are an educator... be Proud.... the world rocks because of you  ;)

Roaming Berlin is a different story!! Getting involved in a new culture, walking through the wide and small streets smelling the ancient and the modern times is a pleasure in itself  :)  Although the visit was a very quick one, yet I tried to enjoy every bit of it. I roamed through the mix of the new modern buildings with the ancient monuments shredding smells of the past. I also enjoyed the boat trip. To see everything again but through the water is a really fulfilling experience. I really wished I had the time to go astray through Tiergarten, but I wasn't lucky enough!! So long Berlin   ;)

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Teachers are Investors of Hope and Power - Brita Fernandez Schmidt

     Brita gave a heartfelt Plenary talk about dealing with marginalized women around the world through her company Women for Women International.    

     She started her speech with an example of a young lady from Ethiopia who touched her heart greatly because of her miserable story and how she was able to help her through Women for Women organization to achieve a small aim that she was looking forward to.

      Brita said she, then, realized that in helping women like this lady, we help them “find hope in the midst of the darkest moments.” You help “change misery into hope”!!

      “This is relevant to what you all do [as teachers]. Hope is linked to knowledge” and this helps people have “a better life, grow and develop….. This hope connects us all….. You as teachers are investing in such hope and power. We can have an impact if we put it in mind. You can be the agents of change to speak out and challenge inequality.” She then, stated Maya Angelou’s quote:

                                     When you get – give
                                     When you learn – teach

She then, mentioned a number of worldwide statistics about women.

       “In Women for Women, we look at women as human beings with human rights, who learn, grow, gain knowledge and sustain income.” When we work with them, we focus on:

n  Building knowledge
n  Basic health education
n  Skills development

Not only that, but we assess their development as well to see how far have they achieved progress and how we can provide more help.

        She also mentioned the importance of local trainers giving two examples from Kosovo and Nigeria, how effective is teaching by doing and the most important thing is the network among women. It empowers them and helps them to have hope and a better outlook for the future. She believes that those women have “enormous resources that we can invest in….. They need us to care for them and say ‘I see you’ and validate their existence.”

        Then she posed a number of lessons learnt from her work for women empowerment inspired by the UN Sustainable Development Goals: 

n  Women bring returns
n  Strong women build strong nations
n  Cash is efficient and effective. It empowers women to make choices about their own investment.
n  Localization is important. We have to work on what suits women locally.
n  Global approach
n  Holistic approach. Efforts are great when combined
n  We must engage women to support women’s rights. She mentioned working with about 21000 men around the world to support women and showed a video from Afghanistan.
n  We need not to leave anyone behind
n  We need to identify and listen to marginalized women. We have to be committed to listening.
n  Identify and invest in the most honourable
n  We need to provide comprehensive and long term support
n  Increase funds
n  Rethink data collected and assess our work.
n  We can all be the change and speak it up. We can be the inspiration and do it for ourselves.

      Finally, after showing a video of a woman from Rwanda who was supported by the organization, she closed her speech with these wonderful words:

      “We can all be an inspiration….I believe, when we are inspired ….then, we find the motivation and power to create the change we want to see and in turn inspire others to do the same.”

Brita Fernandez Schmidt is an advocate and promoter of women’s empowerment, women’s rights and equality. Brita has led several influential women’s organisations and networks. She currently runs Women for Women International - UK as Executive Director.

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More Food for Thought from Barry Sullivan!! - IATEFL 2018

      Again Barry leaves us with a lot of food for thought as Scott Thornbury did last IATEFL. Last year, Scott spoke about the history of ELT, while this year Sullivan spoke about the history of testing……. What an interesting correlation. Surprisingly, the history of testing this time went back to old Chinese ages to start with the first king, Gaw Zu from the Han Dynasty around 200 BC who decided to set up a system that could identify who are the decent people of his kingdom. The exam lasted three days, the results were announced publically which meant a lot to the people. This went on for many years.
      On the other hand, in Europe the church held standardized education during the middle ages and visited China benefit from its system. This was late controlled by military forces. Years later, Oxford offered exams for gentlemen only until a man called Edwin Chadwick appeared in 1853 – 54 to introduce the concept of competitive exams. He was followed by Francis Galton (Darwin’s nephew) who introduced a different idea: psychometrics concept. Later on, Vilim Vunt appeared posing the question “What makes us think? At the same time, one of his followers called Kitchener said if we can identify the psychi or a person why can’t we measure them? Thus he invented the whole idea of “structuralism” which is to take a skill, break it into its components, you test each one and then bring it back to the skill. Unfortunately, Vunt disagreed with him.

      Along the way, there appeared the SAT exam introduced by Edward J. Kelly, the first version of standardized tests. This was followed by Edward Thorndike who posed the idea of standardized “handwriting”. Then, the Courtis standard test appeared in 1914. Then, once more Fredrick J. Kelly introduced the “silent reading test” and came up with MCQs.



      Time went by and by 1961 Banesh Hoffmann came to speak about “the tyranny of testing”. In the late 1920s Courtis Test sold about 13 million copies in the USA. From this we see that the industry of testing flourished within 15 years. Between 1913 and 1915, the Modern Language Association of Merryland made the decision that “assessing language in modern tests was impractical because there were too many people”. By 1942, the first machine to count scores appeared.
      Meanwhile, Henry Swed proposed a system of learning languages called “The Direct Method” concerned with production based on Speaking and Writing. CPE then, appeared in 1913. After that the Americans went down to Psychological measurement route with ETS. While the British Council went down to production route.

       A new collaboration took place in 1941 between the British Council and Cambridge University. In 1942, a British Council teacher suggested adding Speaking to the exam. In 1951, another teacher suggested using pair students and by 1953, a rating scale was added.
       In 1964, TOEFL stepped forward with MCQ. In 1965 EPTB, English Placement Test Battery, was introduced by Alan Davis. Followed by Brandon Carold who proposed ELTS, English Language Testing Service, that cared about a broad understanding. Between 1989 and 1990, EAP exam appeared. The first significant test based on needs analysis. Finally, by mid 1990s, IELTS turned up. After that changes or developments took place for the TOEFL and IELTS and the points of view between the two sides started coming closer.

       Here, then, Barry started stating a number of observations starting with the mid 1990s:
n  People around the world became more professional
n  Other tests appeared and are flourishing
n  Language industry began to Fragment
n  Reliability means consistency, but it doesn’t mean the test is good
n  We need to have concepts of standards that develop locally and regionally
n  In a successful system, Curriculum, Delivery and Assessment must be connected. They should be driven by standards.               

n  If you don’t have assessment, your system won’t work.
n  Local doesn’t just mean my country. It actually means something different. It means ME at the individual level. That’s where education and assessment are moving. If there is no Assessment, there is no future.
n  The future is technology driven. We have no choice. If we don’t 
embrace what technology can do for us in terms of learning and assessment, then there is no future. It has to be human mediated.
Drucker said, “the best way to predict the future is to create it”. No one group can do it alone. We have to work together.
n  We have to open the door for people who know technology
n  We need to get younger people involved, otherwise we have no future.

      Finally, Sullivan ended us with the following wrap up points, leaving us with a lot of food for thought and reflections
n  Localization is critical. Everything should be locally appropriate.
n  Personalization: everything is moving towards personalization. That’s the ultimate goal using technology.
n  Technology: it is the delivery mechanism plus human interaction
n  Collaboration: Everybody has got to work together because it we don’t, then we don’t get anywhere

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“How do teachers and researchers view each other?” Lourdes Ortega

     What an interesting start: Lourdes Ortega started by hitting the heart of the argument raised!! “How do teachers and researchers view each other?” In answer, she stated that teachers believe they are “practical, experiential and what they do is art”, while researchers think that they are “theoretical, touch knowledge, oriented and engaged in science.” Yet some teachers informed her that they believe researches are “difficult to access, to understand, enjoy, apply, adapt or adopt”, while other teachers showed her “thirst for research” because they believe it helps them solve teaching problems. On the other hand, some researchers are insistent on giving help, while others are afraid to do so. Yet research is still required and has been given priority through Tesol international agenda stating the need to “expand capacity for inclusive comprehensive research”.
      In the meantime, some proposals were introduced to release tension on both sides. Some suggested:
a.      Calling it inquiry instead of research
b.      Make research more accessible to teachers
c.       Help researchers become more responsive to teachers’ problems
d.      Promote action research by having teachers and researchers research together.

Ortega, then gave a number of examples from UK and Cameroon. Then she stated that her GOAL is to offer “tools for thinking more positively about the research teaching interface…” from down to earth perspective.  
     Then she stated how she is going to move ahead with her Talk by stating the strong and weak points of research using different examples, how research can:
a.      Sharpen teaching
b.      Fall short of really being relevant
c.       Help us see the world of language teaching differently

(1)               Motivation
How can Teachers be an element for motivating students? She gave a number of examples of studies from Korea, Saudi Arabia, China and Indonesia which supported the idea that teachers can be trained to be more motivating to students. Motivation is central to students and inspiring to teachers
           Conclusion (1)
Motivation is “an area where SLA researchers have mostly succeeded to turn empirical evidence into knowledge that can make the lives of language teachers better.

(2)               Error Correction
Yet another point of research can let teachers down which is “Error Correction”. Teachers are not sure of the criteria for assessing speaking and other language skills. There is no final word in that field. The idea is still highly debated. She believes that “research is unaccountable to the complexity of error correction practices.”

           Conclusion (2)
a.                  When research is “inconclusive and decontextualized, it can be put aside by teachers with critical mistrust.”
b.                  I advise teachers:  this area "is better approached as a rich journey of professional self-discovery” and not as a matter where research is going to give you an answer, at least not for now.
c.                   No need to panic or lose faith in research. This is similar to scientific facts with no answers

(3)               Age
Then she moves to another point of research: “Is [learning a language] earlier the better?” Clearly the answer is NO. According to research: “later is faster”.
           Conclusion (3)
a.                  For children who are learning a new language in EFL situations: later is faster initially. They end as nearly the same by the end of high school.
b.                  For Adults: “they are faster initially than children because they are cognitively, socially and academically more mature than children.”

(4)               Multilingualism
Do languages compete for space in the brain, family, classroom …etc. (i.e. L1 and L2)?
             Conclusion (4)
Research shows that:
a.                  Languages of an individual support each other (one another) in strong synergy. There is no competition, but synergy.
b.                  For minority-language students specifically: more L1 means better L2
c.                   Research makes us all see the world of language teaching differently concerning these two areas: Age and Multilingualism  
d.                  Sometimes our best intuitions can lead us astray and it is only research that can help us question them and transform them.

     Finally, What is SLA good for? Well, it is complicated because teaching is very complex. She then mentions Misty Adoniu’s concept: teachers need to know: how, what and why to teach. They also need to know the content of their teaching, the roles, lives and psychology of their students, school context, sociocultural politics and some SLA research and they have to put all this together. Misty then puts it in a very nice metaphor: Teachers’ knowledge is a tapestry and teachers must learn to find themselves in the “cross-stitches”.

      The worlds of Teaching and Research are complicated. She then sums them up in the following questions, answers and conclusion:


How far do you agree with Lourdes Ortega?  I wonder!!!

Stay Tuned for Dorothy Zemach’s sum up
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