'Like winning the lottery' by Stephen Dodd

7th July 2019

I won the Teacher Development Scholarship Award which was a great surprise! I decided to apply for it as I had never been able to attend the main IATEFL conference but had had a taste of previous smaller conferences and really like the vibe around them. To win the scholarship for the whole week felt like I had won the lottery!

I was invited to the Pre-Conference Event on the Monday before the start of the main conference. I went to the Teacher Development (TDSIG) and Leadership and Management (LAMSIG) one and I really enjoyed how that was organised and run. What I really got out of the day was how teachers don’t necessarily realise how supported they are or can be. Being able to be a member of this group really motivated me to get more interested in how teachers can keep on improving throughout their careers, for example by joining one of the many SIG groups or by forming groups in the workplace to bring about change from within. Throughout the day we spoke about how managers need to give teachers both time and also the money to develop in their workplaces. It was great to delve into the details of how teachers can continue developing throughout their careers. Watch this space!

I think the conference helped me understand better what type of teacher I am and what I stand for. Specifically, it highlighted the ongoing debate about course book use and how we should re-address the use of them in class how we should readdress the use of them in class. This was the subject of a fantastic plenary by Dorothy Zemach. My own perspective is that we should not be using course books to the extent that we do as it stifles teacher development and hinders student progress. Ironic to think that something many people see as a good thing (the course book) could be something so detrimental to a student’s progress. No SLA [Second Language Acquisition] studies support the grammar syllabus that course books offer so why are we using them on such a wide scale?

The most moving part was meeting all the other scholarship winners as we were such a diverse group of people. The presentations were excellent but by far the best part of the entire week was the spontaneous meetings with other teachers and getting to chat to them and see what they do. I even met a lovely group of Welsh teachers who were at the conference to gain insights into how they can improve their teaching of Welsh to English speakers! Who’d have thought it?

I left the conference reenergised and with many thoughtful insights into the possibilities of PBL (Project-Based Learning). I saw Vicky Saumell’s excellent presentation on her step-by-step guide to introducing PBL and how it was met with approval from the students and their parents and teachers. My own experience of PBL has been a revelation. In PBL, students have to pose a question, then discuss how they are going to find the/an answer to it. One such PBL project was carried out recently in my school where the students asked ‘Why are there so many homeless people in Liverpool?’ The next step is to test and/or revise their own investigations, before applying the new information to solve a real-world problem. So in this case, it involved creating questions to ask the general public’s opinion on the homeless, as well as that of the city council and of the people who are homeless themselves. This generated a lot of language from the students and many possibilities to give language input as and when required. Once they had the answers to their questions, students had to think about how to present the information clearly and concisely as well as trying to come up with some real ways to tackle homelessness. Given such freedom the students learnt a lot more than just language. Sessions on PBL at the conference and the disapproval of course books in general which I noticed highlights how we can initiate change for the better, but we need to start somewhere.

Overall, I feel that bubbling away under the surface teachers are starting to question some of the ways they teach. The conference also helped me see that we are really part of a family of teachers with a common aim and despite our different contexts we are all passionate about our jobs. Do apply for a scholarship as you will have an unforgettable experience!

Stephen Dodd is a teacher of some twenty-five years’ experience. He is currently director of English in Liverpool, a private school specialising in Project Based Learning (PBL).

He completed his Trinity Cert TESOL and went on to gain a distinction in The Licentiate Diploma in TESOL. Stephen has a keen passion for educational technology and so studied for the online ICT Cert in Teaching English with Technology (The Consultants-E) in 2011 and has started an MA in Education Technology at Manchester University.

He is also a teacher trainer and has considerable experience in designing bespoke teacher training courses for more experienced teachers. He has presented at various conferences and has a special interest in language learning and technology and Task-Based Learning.

Currently, he is working on an idea for an online platform for newly-qualified teachers who need support and guidance related to correct classroom practices.

IATEFL 2019 Scholarships

If you’re inspired by Stephen’s story, why not apply for a scholarship for IATEFL Liverpool 2019 yourself? Applications for our 2019 scholarships will open on Friday 1st June 2018. The closing date for applications is 16.00 (UK Time) Thursday 12th July 2018. Any applications received after this time will not be accepted.