Meeting Reports

Reports of our meetings. Click on a month to see details.

  • Reports for meetings prior to July 2008 can be found in the meeting archives.
  • If you are looking for details of upcoming meetings, these are available on our schedule page.
  • Click on an event title to see the original meeting announcement for that event.
8 September, 2012
Michael Phillips

Phillips first posited the need for a new theory of education to cover 21st century changes in information processing and communication technologies. We all brainstormed together and watched a short film illustrating how fast things are changing and thought about whether new critical thinking skills needed in the real world are being given to students in the modern classroom—or if it is just same old, at a faster speed of delivery. Digital literacy is moving from learning and storing to accessing information; creating has supplanted evaluating.
Siemens (2004/5) maintains that behaviorism, cognitivism and constructivism need a concept driven by the understanding that decisions are based on rapidly changing knowledge foundations. After a theoretical review of connectivist learning theory considering new meanings of ‘learning and knowledge’ to meet the needs of learners in the digital age, present and future, we were encouraged to discuss in small groups how it would all impact on our teaching practice.
The presentation finished with a thought-provoking video clip which outlined just some of the plethora of ways and means of accessing information on the web—and underscored the necessity of good teachers to disseminate it all into something students can relate and respond to.

Reported By Dave Pite
14 July, 2012
various presenters

Creating bilingual brains in the classroom, from the neuroscience of lesson design through personal construct psychology, effects of music in the classroom, brain food, dyslexic students, infant phoneme acquisition, motivating learners with a Confucian heritage culture and the Zen of language acquisition, there was something for everyone at our three-day conference held at Kitakyushu University. Battling the heat was a challenge but we survived; the occasional spontaneous laughter therapy sessions having a positive and cohesive effect. The essential role of emotion in learning was stressed throughout and impromptu juggling sessions were a part of focusing exercises for teachers and students. Pecha-Kucha presentations included motivating with technology, activities for instilling rhythms of English, narratives for oral development and the relationship between the amygdala and creativity. Presenters from Israel spoke on the special challenges of bringing their widely divergent immigrant population up to an equally high level of English proficiency.
Held together by “power sessions” every morning and afternoon, that included synthesis of our collective insights at the end of each day, the vision of mind, brain and ELT was exhaustively investigated and discussed throughout this conference, with first-time speakers and old hands cooperatively leading about fifty participants through various new and fresh approaches to the ongoing challenge of language teaching.

Reported By Dave Pite
9 June, 2012
Mark Gibson, Gareth Steele, Lawrence Chivers

Alternating between individual rotating presentations and discussion in small groups or collectively, these three school owners shared a lot of very useful information on starting up a new school or improving or expanding on an existing business, and ways of attracting and keeping students in any size or scale of private language teaching. After outlining their range of discussion from starting up through keeping going, marketing and management, they focused in on the particulars of this line of business, starting with location, licensing, pricing, size and curriculum. Marketing advice included flyers, web-pages, word of mouth, billboard advertising and print media, very welcome for anyone interested in getting more students, whether on a large or small scale, in addition to such insights as regarding potential competition as potential cooperation—where teachers can pass on students to a more appropriate class level elsewhere and expect the same in return. Useful direction regarding what one needs to succeed included tips on getting everything done whether you like it or not as well as maintaining good communication with staff, students and parents, remembering that no complaints does not necessarily mean no problems, and generally getting most of the fundamental right most of the time.

Reported By Dave Pite
12 May, 2012
Colin Thompson

Thompson spoke on current trends in task based learning (TBL) and tools to promote speaking practice. He showed us several interactive speaking tasks and discussed advantages and disadvantages of using them to focus on communication and grammar. We learned how teachers could design such tasks for their own classroom use, emphasizing the importance of pre-teaching them and vocabulary so that students can focus on performance. We all had fun with the activity he showed us using a short video segment from a Tom and Jerry cartoon. In pairs, one person turned their back to the video, while the other described what was happening. The person with their back to the video had to make quick notes as to what they understood was happening. Then together we watched the video and compared the notes to it. We all thought that it would be fun for most students (even adults) and challenging. This TBL activity can be used for any level of students by using level appropriate material, such as still pictures for low-level students with timed viewing, or slower paced (muted) animation. Tom and Jerry is good for advanced students with its fast paced action and no speaking by the characters.

Reported By Charles Ashley
14 April, 2012
Craig Lambert

From common notions of second language fluency to the basis for high-stakes decisions about it (recommendations for jobs or Phds.), Lambert walked us through some of the history of the various theories and methodologies that have been developed to define and propagate the teaching of conversation and discussed pros and cons of popular ways to teach it, from the Structural Approach in the 1950s to the Communicative Approach popular since the ‘80s. He pointed out how language which is acceptable and understandable among family or friends is not good enough for the workplace or school, and that students need to know this. In order to focus Communicative Language Teaching to promote second language development there are many advantages to task-based learning, such as the focus on actual communication, meaningful outcomes and connections to future needs—although it requires an egalitarian value system often found to be at odds with Asian classroom values. Finally, Lambert showed us a Fluency Module, to facilitate the putting into practice of these previously presented ideas for teaching fluency.

Reported By Dave Pite
10 March, 2012
Covenant Players

Our chapter was treated to another session with the Covenant Players; this time it was Kate, Cathy and Kurt who gave us some new tools to take back to the classroom. Introducing themselves as actors rather than teachers, they explained their purpose as being to encourage speaking to break down barriers of hesitation from inhibitions—a major requirement for successful language practice.
With their repertoire of over 3,000 plays, bare stage style, they often work on a thematic basis—including teaching culture with teaching language. They start with getting ideas from the students as to setting and mood, get them involved right from the beginning. Invite them to imagine they’re in a large auditorium instead of a classroom and add the accoutrements such as lights, curtains, stage, seats, aisle, mike, etc., pulling out the vocabulary and reinforcing it and grammar with repetitions.
Spelling each other off seamlessly in speaking, demonstrating and whiteboard writing, they walked us through games and skits for stress and intonation awareness. Reminiscent of Theater Sports and other improv organizations, they got everyone involved in real educational entertainment. These workshops are based on their ELCP – English Language Communication Program that they use in schools for ESL students.

Reported By Dave Pite
11 February, 2012
Paul Collett, Kristen Sullivan, Malcolm Swanson

The trend in faculty development is towards accountability, more awareness of student needs and building courses accordingly, with bridging of levels becoming an important issue. With this in mind, Collett, Sullivan and Swanson are teaching their students how to learn, in tandem with presentation of EFL course material. They feel that students tend to be reliant on instructors to ensure that they are making an effort to learn so it is important to get goals straight from the beginning of the course and then reflect on them again half-way through and at the end (“goaling”). Course objectives presented very explicitly via “can-do statements” start self-directed learning cycles, keeping their well-understood goals firmly in mind—facilitated with “Study Progress Journals”. Students need to understand self-assessment, to know that something may not have succeeded not because they are stupid but because they need to reevaluate their methodology. This results in what is called English Improvement Goals and Objectives (E.I.G.O.)
As an illustration of preparation for this type of class, we individually examined some sample textbook units for useful learning/teaching points, wrote them out as “can-do statements” and then pooled our results on the whiteboard for discussion.

Reported By Dave Pite
14 January, 2012
Margaret Orleans

Adapting Board Games for Language Practice: A Workshop
Margaret Orleans (Seinan Jo Gakuin University)
Kitakyushu JALT, January 14, 2012
Following the advice of Guy Cook (1997) that students should be playing with their new language right from the start, Orleans gave us, and got us to think of, ideas of how to facilitate enjoyable repetition of useful vocabulary and grammatical structures, enhance awareness of lexical rules (and the extent to which they can be bent and broken) and ensure student investment through personalization of the target language. From her large collection of commercial board games, Orleans started with the popular Clue, eliciting opinions on its usefulness in the language classroom and how it might be adapted for specific teaching objectives. A principle recommendation was to have students devise their own materials as much as possible to encourage interest and ensure the level is appropriate. Other considerations are amount of exposure to language coupled with extent of encouragement of competition and argument to get the spoken language out.
Following this, in pairs and threes we learned new games and devised possible adaptations to share and discuss with the total group, then received printouts of rules for several more. On the whiteboard, Orleans illustrated examples of how she had stimulated her students’ creative writing by exploiting various board game materials.

Reported By Dave Pite
26 November, 2011
Andy Boon

Andy Boon started by defining motivation and then got us into groups to brainstorm and pool ideas about why Japanese learners may not be motivated to study English, which he then commented and expanded upon. He showed us Maslow’s hierarchal diagram of student needs, followed by Dornyei’s motivational teaching practice model, to introduce some of his ideas for animating classes under the following headings: Breaking the ice, Nurturing group cohesion, Creative use of classroom space, Making it relevant, Novel uses of traditional ideas, Creative use of classroom materials and Encouraging self-reflection. After this abundance of techniques and ideas for drawing students into interested participation in their language learning, Boon asked us to share techniques we had seen or used to generate and maintain motivation and then encourage positive retrospective self-evaluation.

Reported By Dave Pite
12 November, 2011
James Hicks

As a student of library science working on his second distance degree, Hicks is well-placed to advise regarding the improving access to research materials for English speakers in Japan. He introduced four sources of materials: academic libraries, subscription databases, personal research budgets and free online resources. He recommended considering the research community that will be using the journals that you subscribe to with your research budget and balancing the content
Japanese academic libraries are well-resourced by international standards and tend to contain about 25-30% English materials. He walked us through filtering information to get the most from online public access catalogs (OPAC), by using links to publishers’ webpages for better indexing.
Hicks also pointed out that the English language pages of government websites are not translations of the originals but actually separate and considerably skimpier versions-- so it is more useful to translate the original with free tools such as Google Chrome.
You can sometimes access institutional subscription databases and print out what you need if you are physically present in the library. You can also carry out more fruitful searches by ignoring the results list and going instead to the list on the left which provides more helpful links and search terms.

Reported By Dave Pite