An Interview with Zakia Sarwar from darren elliott on Vimeo.

In February 2015 I attended the NELTA conference in Kathmandu, Nepal and was fortunate to meet Zakia Sarwar. NELTA is an important regional conference so as well as the ‘local’ attendees (many of whom had travelled great distances across Nepal) there were large contingents from India, Bangladesh and Dr. Sarwar’s country of Pakistan.

Dr. Sarwar is probably best know for her work with The Society of Pakistan English Teachers (SPELT), of which she is a founder member. They have a number of publications, and invite submissions. Please have a look!

At the NELTA conference Dr. Sarwar presented on her projects promoting learner autonomy and working with large classes, collaborating internationally, and these topics we discussed in our interview. Dr. Sarwar maintains a personal website which you can visit to read more about her research (and also to read some of her delightful juvenilia).

Please subscribe on iTunes for the irregular podcast, and visit us on Facebook or twitter for sporadic updates. I’m not the social media slave I once was, but I think these interviews are still finding an audience. I’m currently submitting proposals for 2016 conferences in Japan and internationally, and have an eye on a number of interview subjects. Thank you for your continued support!

An Interview with David Hayes from darren elliott on Vimeo.

In February of this year I was fortunate enough to visit Kathmandu for the NELTA conference. As an outsider and an observer I felt the conference itself had a very interesting dynamic. It seemed to me that as the local organisers and the foreign developmental agencies seemed to respectfully dance around each other, trying to balance financial support, advice and autonomy. In that kind of situation it can be awkward for a foreign presenter to be parachuted in – feted as an ‘expert’ yet with little understanding of the local context. Overall, I think the outside agencies try their very hardest to offer support without overpowering the recipients of that support, but I don’t know …. I’d be interested to read your comments on the topic below, or even in a private message if it’s too delicate to discuss.

However, in David Hayes, I think the organisers identified someone who could offer insights to his audience. David has worked all over the world and been involved in teacher development projects in many different contexts. We talk about some of them here, as well as teacher training and development in general.

The next NELTA conference will take place in March 2016. Sadly, there are still many people who need support after the devastating earthquake of 2015. At the time of the earthquake there were a number of Nepali-led local groups who were very active. As the relief efforts have become less urgent some of these have wound down, but if you would like to support the reconstruction there is still a lot to be done. For long term benefits, Room to Read has a strong programme in Nepal. If you know of any other small but effective charities, please comment below.

An Interview with Thomas Farrell from darren elliott on Vimeo.

Reflective practice is a way for professionals (in education, social work, medicine and many other fields) to assess their work and manage their own development. Even if you don’t know it by name you may well have engaged in a form of reflective practice in formal or informal training programmes. In this interview we discussed reflective practice, what it is, what it isn’t, and where it’s going.

I’ve done quite a lot of these interviews now, and everyone I have spoken to has been gracious and thoughtful. Some of the interviewees I knew little about before I spoke to them but in preparing for, and then conducting, the interview I have become interested in their work. On the other hand, Thomas Farrell is someone whose work I have been interested in for a long time. What would he be like in real life, I wondered? I enjoyed a long conversation with the charming Dr. Farrell at the JALT conference in Tsukuba, Japan last autumn. Both his plenary and his workshop demonstrated that academics do not have to be dry to be rigorous.

Dr. Farrell hosts an excellent website, where you can read more of his work. If you are looking for a book to start with, I think ‘Reflective Language Teaching: From Research to Practice’ published by Continuum is a very accessible introduction. His latest book is on my list when the next budget allocation arrives in April….

If you enjoy this interview please share it with your colleagues. You can also subscribe to the podcast via iTunes.

a class with no teacher from darren elliott on Vimeo.

I don’t blog about my classroom practice as often as I used to, but I still have a great interest in reflective practice. One difficulty in maintaining meaningful reflection is that your reflective needs change over time. A worthwhile exercise, then, is to revisit past practice. I have a blog, and a stack of notebooks from several years in the classroom. I like to look at what I’ve done and see how it fits with my current practice. How would I do this differently now? Have I changed, and if so have I changed for the better? Does this connect to anything I have read, seen or experienced since it happened?

I’m trying to piece together the genesis of this piece. About five years ago, I had a lovely class who I thought could do even better. To shake things up, I decided to opt out of my responsibilities for a week, and the blog post I wrote about that (and more importantly, the second post about the students interpretations of the experiment) generated a lot of discussion. A little after that I reviewed a book called ‘The Developing Language Learner‘, a book which made a tremendous impact on me. When I was involved in planning the PanSIG conference in 2013, I was keen to bring Judith Hanks, one of the authors, to Japan as a speaker.

This video is my presentation for the joint TED / CUE forum at JALT 2015 (if you don’t know the acronyms, don’t worry… I’m too far gone to pick them apart here). I always enjoy these events because you can see so many different ideas around a theme, but I particularly wanted to attend this forum because it was to be chaired by Thomas Farrell, someone whose work I have admired for a long time. The conceit was to present ten slides for thirty seconds each, but I just made a five minute movie and narrated it live.

I can now reframe what happened in this class through my subsequent reading into Exploratory Practice and Reflective Practice. As an experiment, I don’t think I’d be able to do this now. What is really interesting is to see myself as a younger teacher, and not necessarily a worse one. I’m very satisfied with my teaching these days, and that’s not good. Maybe I was a little less slick and a little less polished in those days, with a little less book learning, but I was probably a little more daring and possibly a little more engaged. Time to shake things up again?

 

An Interview with Rubina Khan from darren elliott on Vimeo.

Rubina Khan is Professor of English Language Teaching and Teacher Education at the University of Dhaka, and joined us at the JALT National conference in 2013 as general secretary of the Bangladesh English Language Teachers Association (BELTA). We talked about her work with the association, and about English language education in Bangladesh, as well as the many joint regional projects BELTA is involved in. JALT’s connection, through the Teacher Helping Teachers SIG, is a very worthwhile long term project.

There are more interviews to follow, and if you like this please visit the archive for more. You can subscribe via iTunes, and I would appreciate reviews there if you have time. You can also find us on Facebook and twitter.

An Interview with Penny Ur from darren elliott on Vimeo.

I had great opportunity to meet one of my ELT heroes, Penny Ur, when she visited Japan for the JALT National Conference in Kobe in the Autumn of 2013. Her plenary went over very well, and I spoke to her after she had given another talk to a packed room. You can see the slides from those talks here, but first please check out the interview.

An Interview with Diane Hawley Nagatomo from darren elliott on Vimeo.

At the JALT National conference in Hamamatsu last month, I had a great time talking to Diane Hawley Nagatomo. Diane is a teacher, researcher and materials writer working in Japan. Some of her most recent research has been published by Multilingual Matters in the book “Exploring Japanese University English Teachers’ Professional Identity”, which we discussed in detail. We also talked about materials writing, gender in language education (Diane is currently co-coordinator for the JALT GALE SIG) and plenty more. If you want to read more several of Diane’s articles are available online and definitely worth looking at. Thanks for watching!

I was fortunate to meet Junko Yamanaka at the 5th Annual Extensive Reading Seminar in Nagoya, Japan. She is a well known figure in extensive reading circles, especially in Nagoya, and I have used several of her textbooks very successfully. We talked about her experience as a teacher, teacher trainer and materials writer, about education in Japan, and many other things. It was great to finally meet her!

Thanks also to the JALT ER SIG for putting on such a great event and doing such great work all year round promoting Extensive Reading in Japan.

I very much enjoyed meeting Keith Johnson at the JALT conference in Tokyo last week. We discussed a few aspects of what adds up to a very distinguished career in language teaching. More recently, Professor Johnson has focussed on expertise studies, wrestling with the difficult question of what makes an expert teacher…. and you might want to reconsider the pop-science of Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours. We also had time to discuss the groundbreaking book ‘The Communicative Approach to Language Teaching’, which he co-edited, and CLT’s impact on the profession as a whole. Many thanks to Keith Johnson for his well-considered replies to all my questions.

With only three weeks to go, the excitement is rising for the Realizing Autonomy conference to be held at Nanzan University in Nagoya on October 29th. The website for the conference (and the accompanying book) is constantly evolving, so keep your eyes on it. Part of the reason I am writing here today is to ask for your help, so if you can do any of the following, please chip in! You can contact me directly at darrenrelliott@gmail.com, or drop comments in the appropriate comment boxes online. Cheers!

Photography

We are looking for someone with a knack and a camera to capture the event, and if you can commit we are willing to waive your conference fee.

Video Experts

If anyone is prepared to record and edit some of the sessions to upload to our website, we would do the same.

Must-see Nagoya

I love this place, and I want the out-of-towners coming in to go away with a great impression of Japan’s third city. There will be a plenty making a weekend of it, so what do you recommend? If you have any good ideas for things to eat and drink, places to visit in town, or short trips around the area, please click on the links and deposit your knowledge on the official conference website.

Party!

The social is already fully subscribed, and we are thinking about the entertainment. Our venue is equipped with an array of multi-media facilities (karaoke, anyone?) and we are considering various ideas. If you want to volunteer for a Pecha Kucha, we would love to hear from you! Other suggestions are also very welcome.

Publicity

We are already expecting a great turnout, but just in case anyone hasn’t heard about the conference, you can print out the posters and flyers and spread the word.

The Day Itself

The schedule is now available on the website, and we hope to get a pdf version of the conference booklet posted in advance of the conference. Unfortunately, Richard Pemberton is unable to fly at the moment, but he will join us via the magic of technology and team up with Mike Nix to give us something very special. Tim Murphey will be start off the day in his usual energizing style, and we will welcome a host of other guests, speakers and presenters.

Thanks for your indulgence, everyone! Looking forward to seeing you all soon!