The following was written on a cross country train from York to Winchester, yesterday. I’ve been slow posting it…. sorry things have been busy.
As I write this, IATEFL is still going on as I write, but my time there is over. I’m headed back to Winchester for an MA day tomorrow; in fact I’ll probably post this from there this evening. So in honor of my last day at IATEFL (Thursday) I’ll work in reverse order.
The end of my IATEFL had a distinctly Cambridge feel, all the last 3 speakers were sponsored by Cambridge English.
Akile Nazim presented on “Preparing Students for and Academic Presentation” action research conducted at the University of New South Wales.
Things that will stick with me from this:
Summative (marked) feedback often goes unheeded.
Formative feedback needs to be as immediate as possible so learners can feed-forward as opposed to looking back.
Short/intensive courses need a higher degree of assessment focus.
Reflection works best when done both regularly and frequently.
Annette Capel spoke on helping students move from B2 to C1 and some of the specific structures and phrases that these, (and other) levels evidence.
Lots to take away here:
Affixation can multiply vocabulary size.
Between C1 and B2 learner’s motivations tend to become more focused and vital.
Be descriptive when thinking about language, not prescriptive. (AKA what is said not what would I say.)
Good work often goes a little beyond or at least too the upper limit. (not just barely to the lower limit).
Language acquisition, especially grammar, is a slow process.
The top 2000 or so words make up 80% of most texts, but phrasal combinations can confuse the ‘simple’ meanings of these words.
Mike Macarthy’s talk focused on collocation and the learner.
Interestingly the idea of collocation came out of Soviet Russia, despite it’s undeniable utility in describing the English language.
But, even at very high levels there are some odd collocation slips in non-native discourse.
Delexical verbs, perhaps because the verb has lost much of it’s meaning, are often used in unusual ways. Why do we ‘make a mistake’ as opposed to *’do a mistake’ or *’give a mistake’?
Binomial word order, particularly irreversible binomials are another area. We tend to say ‘knife and fork’, ‘horse and cart’ and ‘black and white’ and not *’fork and knife’, *’cart and horse’ and *’white and black’.
Lastly the habit, produced from corpora, of redundant glossing of near synonyms. *’business company’ *’stench smell’ *’railway train’ etc.
Moving out of my Cambridge phase now.
Olwyn Alexander spoke on the need to re-conceptualize plagiarism.
She observed that plagiarism is not always well defined and understood, needs to be viewed as contextual, and can be an opportunity for learning.
Scholarship, (as an opposite of plagiarism) involves taking a stance while being aware of (and perhaps acknowledging) other views. It reflects your own voice and demonstrates your academic integrity, knowledge and reading.
A community of practice model, where the expectations of novices may not meet or align with that of the community, but those novices are supported with their engagement of appropriate scholarship is more positive, and perhaps effective, than teaching the negative “plagiarism as theft” model.
Suzanne Vetter-M’caw spoke on ‘Testing Nativeness’ There are a number of controversial issues at work here and the phrase ‘native’ is often hotly debated in language teaching and testing circles.
One idea coming out here was whether or not nativeness needs a new descriptor in the CFER model, C3 or D1 perhaps.
Again it was underlined that ‘native’ speakers (who or whatever they may be) do not speak grammatically perfectly, nor can they comfortably and without hesitation speak about specialized fields and subjects with which they are not familiar.
All highly proficient speakers can: rapidly adapt and adopt new terminology when glossed; use a variety or appropriate repair strategies to enhance communication; can comfortably and fluently speak about a wide range of topics… etc.
Moving further back into the morning I now have a number of talks supported by the British Council.
Paul Woods’s talk on tele-presence in Uruguayan schools reported on the progress of a fascinating project, the massive remote learning model via video link supported by Uruguay. While not directly connected to our context at Winchester there were two things that apply wholly.
You can learn with other learners, co-constructing knowledge is just as effective (in some cases perhaps more) as engaging with an expert.
Evaluate what you are doing, stage by stage. Regular reflection of this sort allows you to refocus your learning.
Adam Knightly, (British Council); Hilary Nesi and Sheena Gardner (Coventry University) spoke about their survey of academic writing, across levels, disciplines and institutions.
They found 13 broad genres and 5 main reasons for writing.
When researching engagement they found it necessary to ‘meet students where they are’.
There is frequently a gap, both temporal and cognitive between the materials used to teach academic writing and the most current cutting edge ideas.
For those of us working in a support context we need to provide value for every item to the students using them. This, while phrased rather differently, supports my own research findings in working on the content and in the context that concerns the individual being supported.
This ends my IATEFL blog, at least for 2014. It as always has been a fantastic learning experience and an opportunity to meet and discuss with others working in the field that is invaluable to any profession.