EAQUALS International Conference

One of the things I like is attending conferences in different countries and cities. They are a great opportunity to simulate my mind with knowledge, grow my professional network and learn from experts in the ELT field. In April I attended the Eaquals (the international language school accreditation body) annual spring conference at the beautiful town of Prague. From 26-28 of April more than 250 delegates from Europe and beyond had the opportunity to learn about language learning and teaching from specialists, from invited speakers and from Eaquals network.  


Language Teaching and Learning, Course Design, CEFR and Assessment, Leadership and Management, Staff Development, Business and Marketing Management were the themes around which the conference sessions were organized to reflect the interests of delegates.

On Thursday 26 April I attended an eight-hour pre-conference workshop on Managing to Succeed conducted by Fiona Dunlop, Academic Director at Wimbledon School of English in London. The workshop was divided into two connected parts. In the first part we considered our own weaknesses and strengths, our own needs for development and reflected on how we monitor our welfare in the workplace so that our teams are getting the best from us. In the second part we looked at how we manage our teams to succeed, how we provide support, how we lead by example and provide the tools to allow our staff to perform to the best of their ability.


On Friday 27 April the Conference was officially opened with a welcome speech from Eaquals Chair Justin Quinn, followed by the Eaquals Teacher Award Presentation. Ninety projects from teachers of member schools from 36 countries had been submitted for evaluation. The Award went to Greece. Lilian Borboudaki, teacher of English at Doukas Schools, was the winner. Lilian and her Elementary School students (E class) had worked on a project that showcased characters in human history that managed to overcome difficulties and make extraordinary accomplishments.


“The primary aim of the language teacher, Lilian said, is to provide learners with all the linguistic knowledge necessary to communicate in a foreign language. However, our duty as educators does not end there, since we should not forget that we do not only deliver lessons, but touch souls and transform lives. My hope is that the lasting legacy of influential people and memorable events that emphasize the importance of following your dreams and working hard for your achievements, despite various challenging odds, will have a positive impact on learners. A language classroom should be the environment where timeless and inspirational lessons are taught: lessons of courage, perseverance and triumph of the human spirit, lessons of empathy, understanding and acceptance. In my opinion, the duty of the educator is to instill in the younger generations intellectual, moral and social values that will change their mindset and attitudes forever.”


Lilian, who was accompanied by her husband and her 2-year-old daughter, received the Award and the enthusiastic applause of the audience.


The opening plenary session of the conference was delivered by Sarah Mercer, Professor of Foreign Language Teaching at the University of Graz, Austria. Prof Mercer pointed out how important the language teacher is for what happens within the classroom, not just in terms of the practicalities of teaching but also in terms of the classroom atmosphere and learner motivation. The teacher is the key to all relationships within the classroom and can have a tremendous impact on classroom dynamics, rapport, and learner psychology. If the teacher is not engaged and motivated, then it is unlikely their learners will be. Prof Mercer concluded by giving some practical ideas on what teachers and managers can do to support positive workplace relationships, positive emotions, and opportunities for teacher autonomy and growth.


The second plenary session of the day was delivered by Yseult Freeney, Chair of the DCU Masters in Work and Organisational Behaviour/Psychology. Dr Freeney examined fundamental challenges for leaders, focussing on common personal objectives. She presented the transformational leadership model as a guiding framework for leaders. The model provides a very clear structure and mode of questioning which facilitates communication, enables tight alignment of learning strategies, while also ensuring retention and ease of application by participants.


Silvana Richardson delivered the closing plenary of the conference. Silvana, who  is Head of Teacher Development at Bell, presented the features of effective Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programmes and showed concrete examples of tools and procedures for planning, delivering and evaluating them.


Talks and Presentations


With five concurrent sessions per time slot it is sometimes difficult to decide which talk to attend. I went to Carole Anne Robinson’s presentation which was about adapting and extending the coursebook. Carole, who is a senior trainer at NILE and a CELTA trainer and assessor, worked through a range of suggestions that would allow teachers to step outside the coursebook when necessary.


Teaching English with movies was a very interesting presentation. Stories Language School in Prague uses Mooveez as a principal teaching tool and has designed a methodology that reduces most of the obstacles that make teaching with the use of movies in the ELT classroom rather difficult. A set of graded lesson plans has been developed that go with some of the most popular movies (Forrest Gump, The Godfather, Mirror Mirror etc.). Speaker Martina Limburg presented short dialogues –excerpts from the original films. Students watch the short video a couple of times with English subtitles. Then subtitles are removed. A number of activities follow such as gap-filling exercises, multiple choice questions etc. that check understanding. The final stage is role play. Students change roles and partners till the dialogue has been learned by heart.


Developing coherent strategy in turbulent times was another session I attended. Chris Moore pointed out that ELT Schools face intensifying competition in an unstable market being redefined by technology, mass media and rising levels of private tuition. ELT schools, in order to compete and grow, need to combine the freedom and experimentation of entrepreneurial activity with a disciplined strategy formulation to offer their customers a clear and distinct value proposition. Chris looked at various tools schools can use to adopt a different business model, generate new demand and capture a new market.


Do Directors of Studies lead a happy life at their schools or suffer? Michael Riley, who spent over a decade in management positions at International House in Milan, reflected on the leader he could have been if he had done his job differently. Michael gave practical tips using leadership examples from famous people, singers, fictional and TV cartoon characters and sports coaches.


Coach, consultant and trainer Loraine Kennedy talking on Labelling and Typecasting said that it is common practice in life and at work to attribute ‘type’ to people, in order to better understand them. “We seek to understand people through stereotyping and labelling –that’s how bias is being set in unconsciously.” Loraine, using fascinating classification tools, showed that the objective is to go beyond descriptors to appreciate the ‘whole person’. She looked at to what extent such labels and typecasts are beneficial but also where dangers lie.


Three new books from Eaquals on language education management


Oxford University Press (OUP), an Associate Members of Eaquals, is publishing a new series of books in collaboration with Eaquals called ‘Language Education Management’. The books are aimed at academic managers and directors of studies working in all sectors of language education.
The three titles are:

• Language Teaching Competences by Richard Rossner, launched at the Eaquals conference in Riga in April 2017
• Language Course Management, also by Richard Rossner launched in autumn 2017
• Language Course Planning by Brian North, with Ela Jarosz, Mila Angelova and Richard Rossner presented at Eaquals conference in Prague.

QLS and Eaquals
QLS (Quality in Language Services), the network of Quality Language Centres, has been an associate member of Eaquals since 2005, sharing a wealth of professional expertise with a range of international influential organizations involved in language education. QLS was represented at Eaquals conference in Prague by Georgia Papas (Chair), Panagiota Bourtsoukli (vice Chair), Asimenia Featham (member) and Niki Koutalianou (member). 
The QLS delegation took an active role at the conference, participated in many workshops and presentations and expanded their network for the benefit of QLS member schools. 
The next Eaquals international conference will take place in Madrid (11-13 April 2019).
Anastasia Spyropoulou would like to heartily thank QLS for supporting ELT NEWS to attend such an interesting and excellently organised event. •

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