Reflection on New Trends in English Language Teaching and Testing Conference by Gulcin Cosgun
Conference Title: New Trends in English Language Teaching and Testing, İstanbul
Presentation Title : Improving students’ 21st century skills while improving their language skills
Presenter: Gülçin Coşgun
1.Brief information about the conference
The International Conference on New Trends in English Language Teaching and Testing which took place in Istanbul, Turkey, on 30 March 2018 gave the opportunity to the professors, lecturers, teachers, MA Students, PhD Candidates, researchers, practitioners, and experts in the field of English Language Teaching (ELT), TEFL, and Applied Linguistics to share their research findings with each other. The main topics of the conference were:
– New trends in English language teaching and testing
– Teaching language skills
– Language testing and assessment
– Innovations in ELT
– ESP and EAP
– Individual differences
– Literature in ELT
– Syllabus design and materials development
– Language teacher education
– CALL & MALL
– Discourse analysis
The key note speakers were Professor Rod Ellis, Professor Ayşe S. Akyel and Professor Birsen Tütünis.
3. Highlights from Conference
The event brought scholars, researchers, academicians and teachers teaching various contexts together and covered a wide range of subjects from teacher education, linguistics, assessment to classroom practice. I had the opportunity to listen to local and foreign colleagues presenting research findings. I also had the opportunity to discuss and exchange ideas as well as expanding our network with very valuable scholars. One of the plenary sessions was conducted by Rod Ellis. In his talk entitled “Moving Task-based Language Teaching Forward” he discussed the real issues regarding TBLT referring to studies conducted in the field. He started the talk with defining what a task is. He then moved into the type of tasks (input-based vs. output-based, unfocused vs. focused). He also emphasized the importance of task complexity in TBTL. He discussed the role of explicit instruction, timing of feedback and transferability of task-based abilities. What he said regarding the delayed feedback was interesting. He said that teachers generally prefer delayed feedback since they believe that if they give immediate feedback, students might be interrupted and their fluency might be affected adversely. However, Ellis stated that there is no empirical evidence supporting this argument. After discussing all the issues, he concluded that the most serious issue was teacher education. He claims that the problems in relation to TBTL can only be addressed if initial and in-service teacher training/education programs take into account of the characteristics of successful innovations.
The second plenary talk was given by Professor Ayse Akyel. Through this presentation, I had the opportunity to learn the history of Turkish pre-service teacher education system and recent developments in the field as well as the present conditions in the lights of the findings of the studies she conducted. What she emphasized during her talk was the importance of practice teaching. She suggested that self/peer-assessment, reflective practice, cooperation among teachers and a research oriented approach to teaching is crucial for teacher development. In one of her studies, she found out that participants benefitted from research engagement in analyzing, questioning, and reshaping their understandings of teaching and learning.
The last plenary talk was given by Professor Birsen Tütüniş. In her talk, she discussed the importance of integrating 21st century skills into the curriculum of English Language Teacher Education programs. I liked the metaphor she used for student teachers. She said they are like cooks with a cooking book. They receive professional knowledge during their university education but they do not encounter the actual classroom environment until the 4th year of education. That’s why she talked about ways of helping them to experience actual classroom environment and improve their 21st century skills, which I found quite interesting and useful.