IATEFL Poland: Review of conference

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Very successful conference with a brilliant innovation called "live lessons".


The 21st International IATEFL Poland conference took place in the beautiful and historic city of Wroclaw, in the south west of Poland. It was housed in two of the buildings of the polytechnic campus, difficult to locate on Day 1 since the address was rather vague – a map on the website would have helped. But on balance, a good and spacious site with no traffic jams in the corridors, no queues for the loos, lots of space for the exhibitors and browsers, classrooms with furniture that could be moved, nice coffee break space and great technical facilities. The site was big enough (and the organizers agile enough) to respond to en vivo situations such as a talk being massively popular and requiring a last-minute room change.


Smart, glossy and big as a coursebook. Good pull-out table of presentations, useful and user-friendly map of site, all of the abstracts of course, but unfortunately no biodata except for the sponsored speakers. Biodata is useful orientation when choosing a talk to go to. It was a little tricky to find which talk was happening when. Perhaps having the days at the top or down the side of the page, and having a different layout for the talks listed according to category might have helped.


Over 100, mostly coded as “general”, and a fair number of “ESP” and “Young Learner” too.  Significant interest threads and topics included:

·         21st Century Skills (both for and against); Technology; Change

·         Creativity; Lifelong learning

·         Lexis; Collocation; Drilling

·         Listening; Pronunciation; Accents; Authentic Text

·         Use of Translation

·         Teacher Development

·         Poetry and Literature

An interesting observation, and probably a law of nature: the bigger the “name” of the speaker, the more likely they were to be saying something appearing slightly controversial. Big name speakers, drawing on recent research and current trends emerging in newer coursebooks, could be heard debunking fads, for example, by rescuing discredited techniques and classroom procedures such as drilling and translation.


We’re all used to the typical format of conference sessions like plenaries, talks, and workshops, and the 21st International IATEFL Poland conference provided a balanced range of presentation types. However, this year’s IATEFL Poland Conference saw the splendid innovation and inclusion of two new genres – the ‘live lesson’ and ‘advanced lessons for teachers’.  

There were 5 ‘live lessons’ on the conference programme, that is, lesson observation sessions with conference speakers teaching a real class of learners (who, incidentally, they were meeting for the first time).  Some were repeated, and the level of the students ranged through primary, secondary to advanced. The live lessons were extremely popular with everyone, and prove the superiority of showing over telling. It’s also probably true to say that it’s nice for teachers when the boot is on the other foot. If they themselves are usually the victims of lesson observations, here, they get the chance to be the observer.

The teacher training potential of these sessions was boundless, and I take my hat off to IATEFL Poland for breaking away from the norm and providing participants with an invaluable opportunity to observe lessons en vivo. 

A second innovation in terms of conference presentation genres at this year’s IATEFL Poland conference were sessions for participants who wanted to polish up their English. In reality, it seemed to make no odds whether you wanted to brush up on your English or you were simply intrigued by this new format – everyone was welcomed. In a sense, in these sessions, we were all ‘guinea pigs’, that is, students who were being taught by very experienced teachers. Again, what a wonderfully enriching experience for us all.

Congratulations to the presenters who were brave enough to give the sessions a go – they walked into a teaching scenario which would be observed by 40+ colleagues, without any previous knowledge of the students they would be teaching. The teachers who ran these sessions were: Mark Andrews (live lesson - secondary); Hugh Dellar (live lesson secondary and advanced lesson for teachers); Jeremy Harmer (advanced lesson for teachers -repeated); Urzsula Kropaczewska (live lesson - primary): Rebecca Mason (live lesson – secondary - repeated); Piotr Steinbrich (live lesson - advanced secondary).


Follow these links…

Maria Heizer: Can Pedigree Lions Pamper Kitecats? Or how to expand your vocabulary

Jeremy Harmer: Drilling – repetition – practice? Saying the same things creatively; Advanced Lesson for Teachers

Hugh Dellar: live lesson

Hanna Kryszewska: Five minds for the future: preparing for Lifelong Learning

Piotr Steinbrich: 21st Century Skills; and the live lesson here.

 Mark Andrews : live lesson

Carol Read: Creative teaching, creative learning (plenary)

David Evans: English & The New Literacies

 Agnieszka Szarkowska & Elizbieta Gajek : ClipFalir . Language Learning through Interactive Captioning and Revoicing of Clips

Lucyna Willnkiewicz-Górniak: Twenty first century and a teacher from the twentieth century – ‘Yes we can’ (BE)

Patricja Grudien-Dubiel: Developing reading and listening skills online

And for details and downloads from our own talks:

 Annie McDonald : Helping learners become more effective listeners

 Mark Hancock : Pronunciation for listening: understanding authentic English

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