Editor’s note: In the piece below, TIRF Trustees David Nunan and Nick Saville share some of the IATEFL 50th-anniversary conference highlights.
April was a busy month on the conference scene with TESOL and IATEFL both celebrating their 50th birthdays. Following a highly successful TESOL conference in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, four TIRF trustees (Michael Carrier, John Knagg, David Nunan, and Nick Saville) made their way to Birmingham for an equally successful IATEFL conference. Past TIRF President Donald Freeman also attended the conference.
Some of the plenary speakers included IATEFL Patron David Crystal, Silvana Richardson, Diane Larsen-Freeman, Scott Thornbury, and Jan Blake. Not surprisingly, the speakers articulated ways in which our conceptions and knowledge base about language, learners, and teachers have evolved over the fifty years since IATEFL was born. While all of the presentations were entertaining and informative, one of the most powerful was an impassioned speech by Richardson on the persistent dominance and privileging of native speaking teachers in a profession in which an estimated 80 per cent of teachers are non-native speakers. A non-native English speaker herself, Richardson drew on research and personal experience to argue that despite the critique of ‘native-speakerism’ in academia, native-speaker dominance persists. She noted that this phenomenon has a negative impact on the professional identity of non-native speaking teachers and holds back the development of context-appropriate pedagogies.
In her plenary, TIRF supporter Diane Larsen-Freeman discussed a new metaphor for language learning, moving away from the input/output concept derived from computing to a new way of understanding learning informed by complexity theory and the concept of learning ecologies. In discussing ‘ecological affordances,’ she highlighted the two-way relationships between the learner and context, and the importance of supporting learners in creating their own affordances. This theme was evident in other talks that discussed the need to extend learning beyond the traditional language classroom. For example, in their talks, TIRF Trustees David Nunan and Nick Saville addressed issues related to this theme. Dr. Nunan presented a framework for developing out-of-class tasks to extend learning into social contexts. Dr. Saville, along with his co-presenter Dr. David Graddol, introduced the concept of Learning Oriented Assessment and outlined an innovative language landscape project in Mexico. This project uses young learners as researchers and motivates them to engage in learning by collecting examples of English as used in their homes and community landscapes.
We are very happy to learn about the exciting sessions at IATEFL. Many congratulations to the organization for its important contributions to the field of language education over the last half century!