The TESOL President’s Blog
In another year of “fifty-firsts,” in other words, a year of first-time events in our 50th year, TESOL International Association held its first regional conference in Asia, on 3–5 December, in Singapore, in partnership with the National Institute of Education there. The title and the main conference theme was “Excellence in Language Instruction: Supporting Classroom Teaching and Learning,” under which there were a number of related subthemes. As with all of these events, the association works closely with a local organizing committee, in this case, the NIE conference organizing committee, supported by our Global Strategic Partner, National Geographic/Cengage Learning, and our Global Event Partners, the British Council, IELTS, and Tutor Group.
The attendance at the conference exceeded all expectations, with more than 350 participants from nearly 40 countries! This means that we were not entirely correct in calling the event a regional conference, as it was more of a global conference, with presenters from Australia, Canada, China, Egypt, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, New Zealand, Oman, the Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, the United States, Vietnam, and a number of other countries.
But the term regional reflects the fact that the TESOL association is committed to taking “TESOL to the world,” knowing that a significant number of our members cannot come to the annual convention in the United States. This has been a recurring theme in 2015, as highlighted in a number of previous TESOL President blog postings, this year, starting with our first event in India, in April, our first in Vietnam, in August, and our first in Mexico, in November.
It’s also worth noting that, under the title of regional conferences–and often not noticed–is the phrase “taking the distance out of learning,” which is another important aspect of TESOL’s symposia, academies, and regional conferences. This is the realization that, although a great deal of teacher professional development can now be achieved online in ways that could not have been imagined before Internet access became so widely available, face-to-face, real-time interaction will always be an essential part of this kind of development, not least because teaching and learning are such intimately human endeavors.
The opening keynote talk of the Singapore conference was given by Anne Burns, from the University of New South Wales, in Sydney, Australia, who spoke about “Context-Embedded Second Language Teacher Professional Development.” The two other keynotes were given by Christine Goh, at NIE, and Paul Kei Matsuda, at Arizona State University, in the United States, who spoke about teacher professional development and about writing instruction, respectively.
Before the main conference began, a diverse set of six 4-hour workshops were offered, making up a preconference institute for participants who wished “to dive deeper into content that affects their day-to-day practice” (program book). Three of the workshops were offered by the three keynote speakers, with three more presented by Fuad Abdul Hamied, on “Language Testing: Issues and Concerns for Classroom Practices,” by Stephen Hall, on “Building Our Own Learning Culture: ASEAN Teachers as Reflective Learners,” and by Suchada Nimmannit, on “Self-Directed Professional Development in the Digital Era.”
On Saturday morning (4 December), I gave an invited speaker session on “Re-examining Our Ideas About Culture,” under the conference subtheme of “Multicultural Education,” in which we looked at a new, three-part model of culture, based on individual, institutional, and international conceptualizations of culture. And on Saturday afternoon, TESOL President-Elect (2015–2106) Dudley Reynolds presented a session on “Language and Content Teacher Development Through Lesson Study,” under the conference subtheme of “Enhancing Teacher Knowledge and Skills.”
I want to highlight again the fact that a 3-day event like this takes large numbers of people, working together, for more than a full calendar year—that’s more than 100 days of planning and preparing for each day of the event!—to make it possible, and to make it a success. This raises the question: What would make well over 300 days of work worth a 3-day event? The answer, for this event—as with our other taking TESOL to the world “fifty-first” events this year—is the quality and the quantity of teacher professional development that takes place during those days, which make it more than worthwhile.
Lastly, I would like to thank the readers of these TESOL President’s Blogs, which have turned out to be another first; in this case, the first time we will have had 12 (or more) TESOL President blogs during the 12-month presidential year. To be honest, TESOL International Association has been so busy this year that a weekly president’s blog would have been possible! But we hope you’ve found these monthly blogs helpful in keeping you up to date with some of the groundbreaking work we’ve been doing this year, and we look forward to hearing from you in 2016.