Brief Information about the Conference:

The conference, “Pathways That Inspire Us”, was held at Sabancı University on May 4-5, 2018. It presented the participants an opportunity to explore and reflect on the experiences that have shaped and changed them in their career paths. The conference brought together the practitioners, policy makers and researchers to exchange their findings, ideas, and practices through a variety of presentations on personal and professional development, lifelong learning, learning from success and failure, changing pedagogies, curriculum development and assessment as well as learner feedback and autonomy.

Highlights from the Conference:

“Facilitating Language Development through Writing” by Paul Kei Matsuda

Paul Kei Matsuda, the Professor of English and Director of Second Language Writing at Arizona State University, was the fourth plenary speaker of the conference. During his session he mainly questioned why teachers penalize students for grammatical mistakes in writing. According to Kei Matsuda, we need to shift the emphasis from grammar grading to grammar feedback in writing because grammar grading discourages grammar learning. Instead of punishing students for the grammatical mistakes on their writing papers, we need to let them know where they are, and where they need to be by providing ongoing feedback, and discussing the implications of grammar errors with them openly. He recommended writing teachers to focus more on organization, audience awareness, genre appropriateness, vocabulary development and overall effectiveness rather than grammatical errors. It was nice to listen to Paul Kei Matsuda as he made us reevaluate our approach to teaching writing in terms of giving feedback and grading.

“Shipping Success and Failures in Teachers’ Professional Lives” by Bahar Gün

  

In her session, she highlighted that failure is expected throughout life, but having the ability to learn from failure must be considered a key to success in our professional lives. She supported the idea that we shouldn’t share only our success stories but also the failure stories with each other in order to generate a culture of transparency, eliminate the feeling of hierarchy and facilitate bottom-up innovation. In the first half of her session, we read three failure stories belonging to a teacher, a teacher trainer and a manager, and then discussed the lessons learned from these experiences with her. We really liked the idea that as teachers, teacher trainers and managers we need to encourage learning from past failures, and ask students/colleagues to reflect regularly on them. In the second half of her session, Bahar Gün emphasized the importance of caring qualities, personal relations, moral support and emotions both for teacher-student and mentor-mentee relationships. The session led us to reflect on our own practices in our school and identify the areas that we may need to improve.

 “Genius is Always Present” by Tony Humphreys

Tony Humphreys, a Consultant Clinical Psychologist and a specialist lecturer on education, communication and self-realization in University College, Cork, focused his plenary talk on the recent research results indicating a switch from the notion of fixed inherited differences in intelligence to the idea of genius being always present. He shared some stories of individuals that he encountered as a psychologist and educator showing that an individual’s ever present genius will either appear consciously or unconsciously. When conscious genius is present, the individual thrives. However, when unconscious genius is present, the individual goes through many problems and fails in life. During this speech, we have realized that this is where we, as educators, play an important role. Knowing that genius is always present, we have gained a new perspective on “difficult” students, why they might act out at school, and the importance of handling them with a constructive approach.

 

Overall, the conference has been very beneficial and enlightening for us and we hope to benefit from these new ideas and perspectives in the rest of our teaching career.