The TESOL International Association hosted a conference in Qatar titled “Putting Research into Practice” on 1-3 October at Qatar National Convention Center in Doha, Qatar. This event was the first in the new convention center. More than 400 people from 30 countries participated in the three days of workshops, plenary sessions, panels, and presentations of peer-reviewed research papers, reports, and posters. The conference focused on three themes: understanding the “good language learner,” bridging the gap between goals and results, and facilitating and supporting ongoing professional development.
Before the conference officially opened, preconference workshops were held on modeling and assessing writing led by Alister Cumming (University of Toronto), teaching and learning vocabulary led by Norbert Schmitt (University of Nottingham), English for specific purposes led by Brian Paltridge (University of Sydney), teaching young learners led by Annamaria Pinter (University of Warwick), teaching and learning L2 reading led by Bill Grabe (Northern Arizona University), and a sociocultural approach to languages and literacies led by Maggie Hawkins (University of Wisconsin-Madison).
The conference opened with a panel discussion on the implications of research for practice in the areas of second language writing, vocabulary teaching, and working with young learners. In their discussion Alister Cumming, Norbert Schmitt, and Annamaria Pinter focused on how research reveals the complexities of learning a language and in turn often challenges pat assumptions about what students need to learn or how they should learn. Day 1 concluded with a reception hosted by Carnegie Mellon University Qatar under the giant metal Sidra tree that forms the façade of the Qatar National Convention Center.
Day 2 of the conference featured plenary talks by Kassim Shaaban (American University of Beirut) titled “The Good Language Learner: What We Have Learned from Research about Attitude and Motivation” and Martin Bygate (University of Lancaster) titled “Bridging the Gap Between Tasks and Learning: Patterns in the Language People Use on Communication Tasks and Why It Might Matter.” For his talk, Shaaban related various research studies that have been done in international contexts on issues specifically faced in classrooms across the Middle East. Bygate, on the other hand, discussed ways in which we might see useful patterns in how students complete classroom tasks even though at first glance the interaction that happens around tasks seems totally unpredictable. Day 2 concluded with an evening of Qatari culture hosted by the College of the North Atlantic Qatar. In addition to sampling local delicacies, guests had the opportunity to pet falcons, ride camels, and learn about regional crafts and music.
The final day of the conference opened with a plenary talk by Deena Boraie (American University of Cairo) titled “Professional Development Matters: Bridging Research and Practice Introduction.” In her talk Boraie related the findings of research studies on quality professional development to a new system being implemented in Egypt for supporting and encouraging the professional development of teachers in the K-12 sector.
The conference closed with a panel discussion on the implications that practice holds for research with respect to English for specific purposes (ESP), reading instruction, and the development of languages and literacies. Interestingly, each panelist viewed the question from a different perspective. Brian Paltridge outlined a number of different topics that are addressed in ESP classes but which have had very little actual research done on them.
Bill Grabe, on the other hand, talked about the need for researchers to think about questions that matter to reading teachers, and Maggie Hawkins talked about the need for researchers to collaborate actively with teachers in both identifying and addressing questions.
TESOL International Association greatly appreciates the generous support for this conference provided by