Attending conference is one among various ways of teacher’s professional development. Maggoli (2003) says that many teaching professionals attend conferences, seminars or courses as a part of their professional development. She further puts an emphasis on the conference plan that a participant should have so that they will have the aim of attending the conference and they will utilize their learning after returning back to the classroom. For the same cause, I attended the 18th international conference of NELTA to gain various ideas that will be useful for my classroom teaching, personal learning and professional development.
On the first day of the conference, I attended the speech of Key Speaker Dr. Richard Smith from UK on the conference theme ‘Transformations in ELT: contexts, agents and opportunities. I would like to share with the community some of the key extracts from the key speaker. English now is no longer owned by the native speakers, the number of English speakers is increasing rather than decreasing day by day and there is the need of more English teachers. The main message of his presentation was to focus on the bottom –up approach in ELT and teachers can be the best researchers as they are well aware of their contexts and the problems they are facing. Similarly, finding out the solution by the teachers themselves would be more effective as they are the ones who are contextualized in their classroom. He concluded his session remarking that transformation is going on and new challenges in the ELT are emerging that demands bottom-up approach and teachers are the major ELT agents in their own context. Thus, his presentation motivated me to be the researcher of my own classroom and helped me build up a confidence that I am the one who can better understand my context and my classroom rather than any other person.
Another session which I attended was facilitated by Sayeedur Rahman from Bangladesh on ‘Politics of English Initiatives Implementation in Bangladesh: An Investigation of ELT Reforms which clearly mentioned that the programs implemented in Bangladesh in order to improve English language are not as satisfactory as they need to be. He also presented various facts and examples that pose challenges to the program implementation without desired output.
Similarly I found the joint workshop by Ashley Hager, Madhukar K.C. and Sumati Shakya entitled ‘Enhancing critical thinking and creativity in EFL Classroom more effective. This workshop helped me to gain the idea that critical thinking is something that makes an individual think critically rather than just a plain reading. It is something like ‘thinking outside the box’. At the end of the workshop, I thought critically and was able to make my own quote “innovative mind for revolutionary world”.
On the second day of the conference, the three plenary sessions helped me to gain ideas especially on the problems of large classes and the use of ICT its impact, affordances and constrains in ELT. The plenary session by Prof. Dr. Jodi Crandall, on The Expanding World of the ELT Professional: Opportunities and Challenges’ mainly focused on a number of factors have come together to make the world of English Language teaching one of the increasing opportunities such as the globalization of English, the introduction of English in earlier grades, the increasing use of English as a medium of instruction at some level of education especially higher education, the incensement reliance upon digital technology and so on. Her presentation highlighted the different issues of teacher development such as mentoring especially the role of the mentor to develop one’s professionalism. The way she presented the challenges and opportunity for the teachers looked as if she represented the stories about all of us who are facing several challenges but are trying to create opportunities within those challenges.
Another plenary by Dr. Richard Smith on Teaching Large Classes basically focused on successes and challenges of large classes where he encouraged the participants to share their own teaching successes and challenges in large class. From the discussion sharing, major challenges of teaching large classes included unable to check the homework, no participation of all students, difficult to get students’ attention, difficult to control noise in the classroom, problem in dealing with mixed ability students, difficult to achieve rapport among students- students and students-teachers, difficult to hear individual responses from the students, difficult to promote active learning, difficult to manage the classroom and difficult to remember all the students’ names.
To address the above problems Dr. Smith concluded with the suggestions that they should apply group works to make all the participants active, develop ground rules to minimize noise level, ask them to write notes and see at home to understand the mixed abilities of students, chat with students every time when the teacher gets time and play the role of the moderator to build rapport, ask students to find themselves or ask them to do project work in group to make active learning fruitful and ask students hang a name tag in their uniform when they come in the class to remember all the students’ name in the large classes.
Kalyan Chattopadhyaya from India in his presentation ‘Transformations in ELT: ICT in Learning Spaces, and Teaching Practices showed how the use of technologies is changing the ways of teaching and learning of English language teaching. His presentation was database and was focused on the following points; Teachers’ use of ICT tools, Impact of the use of those ICT tools, Affordances and constrains of emerging language learning spaces and challenges of those tools in ELT. He found the teachers were using ICT in language teaching to fulfill the objectives such as finding out the useful information or idea, expressing oneself through the web, communicating across cultures and fostering independent learning. He presented that ICT integration in ELT has larger impact such as learning beyond the classroom, providing new learning spaces, BYOD/BYOT: learning with your devices, supporting and sharing the ideas and self- exploratory practices. Despite of some limitations, ICT tools provide us the opportunities in ELT and we should never think that at first we need to master in technology first and use it later however, we can simply learn the essential tools and start using it.
On the same day I with three of my co-presenters (Dhanapati Subedi, Nibedita Sharma and Bhumika Adhikari) presented our paper based on the need of the teachers of Kathmandu valley. Upon our presentation, I found the participants more interested to learn the current need of the teachers and conduct researches on the area. The opportunity to present a paper in a mega event of ELT made me more confident adding a brick in my professional development.
The 18th international conference of NELTA was more helpful for me to learn a lot for my personal as well as professional development gaining substantial ideas that I can implement in my classroom of real situation and building my self- confidence for further presentations.