The Society of Pakistan English Language Teachers (SPELT) organized its 38th International ELT hybrid conference in collaboration with the Oxford University Press (OUP) on November 5-6, 2022. The conference was co-hosted by the Habib Public School (HPS) Karachi and was attended by more than 600 delegates and presenters, both in-person and virtually from Karachi and different parts of the world.

Day One of the conference started with the Inaugural Ceremony during which Mr Mohsin Tejani, the President of SPELT welcomed the guests; Ms Sonia Kazim, the Chair of the Conference Professional Council shared the conference highlights. Mr Minhas Tejani, Principal Habib Public School and Mr Arshad Saeed Hussain, Managing Director, Oxford University Press also shared their views about how SPELT and their respective organizations had worked together to provide opportunities for professional development for teachers in the country.

The first keynote address was entitled “Seeking success: What matters in English language teaching?”, and was presented by Gabriela Kleckova, TESOL Past President. Dr Kleckova spoke about examining, revisiting, and discussing what matters in English language classrooms. She also explored the key conditions that need to be met for language learning to happen. The second keynote address of the day was by Dr Gabrial Diaz Maggioli, the President of IATEFL, UK who shared his views about “Teacher Education Practices That ENABLE Teacher Learning.” He introduced the ENABLE Framework (Diaz Maggioli, 2022), a model for the initial and continuous education/development of teachers. The model seeks to align teacher education practices to what has been highlighted in the literature as to how teachers learn.

The day ended with a panel discussion on “Contemporary National Trends in ELT” moderated by Dr Fatima Rehan Dar, CEO of OAK Consulting. Other distinguished panelists included Mr Abbas Husain of Teachers Development Center, Dr Habibullah Pathan, Professor at Centre of English Language and Linguistics (CELL), Mehran University, Jamshoro, Dr Humaira Irfan, Associate Professor University of Education, Lahore. Dr Amjad Department of English & Applied Linguistics, University of Peshawar; Dr Sumaira Umrani, Associate Prof Applied Linguistics, University of Sindh, Jamshoro. The panel discussed key questions concerning the English Language Teaching profession in Pakistan and debated around what possible indigenous solutions, including research, could be employed to overcome the challenges faced by the education sector in the country.

Day Two of the conference started with the main keynote speech of the conference delivered in-person by Prof Ivor Timmis of Leeds Beckett University who talked about speaking, often a highly prized skill, as it supports international communication and is valuable for teaching purposes. He also counter argued that it is sometimes avoided by both teachers and learners in the classroom. He also proposed to the audience that to address different challenges, ‘scaffolding’ (built-in support) can be a viable option. The topic of his keynote address was “It’s good to talk! Making the most of classroom speaking activities.”

More plenary sessions included “Learning difficulties and Inclusive Practices in ELT: Teacher awareness” by Bimali Indrarathne, from the University of York, UK. She presented an overview of learning difficulties and discussed how they affect learning English as a second/foreign language and the inclusive practices that teachers can use to help learners who show learning difficulties. Teacher awareness research findings from South Asia and other contexts were also summarized.

Another plenary speaker was Christine Coombe from HCT Dubai College for Men. The title of her plenary address was “The Quest for Academic Excellence in ELT,” in which participants explored what it meant to achieve academic excellence, the professional lifecycle of a career teacher, the characteristics inherent in academically successful teachers and strategies educators may use to increase the levels of excellence and achievement.

Nader Ayish of Khalifa University, UAE was the next speaker whose topic was “Pleasure Reading Among ELL: Challenges and Possibilities.” Dr Nader talked about a study that examines why many ELL students rarely read for pleasure in English. He shared details of the study in which forty-two first-semester engineering students were involved. Data was collected through a student survey questionnaire and semi-structured interviews. He also talked about the findings which indicate that there are complex reasons why many of his students do not read for pleasure and dispel the popular notion that young adults are simply uninterested or lazy.

The next speaker was Dr Naziha Ali who works for the General Civil Aviation Authority, UAE. She talked about the pursuit of the translingual educational space, and explained how a shift in the use of multiple languages in classrooms can promote collaboration between languages – more than competition- and consequently enhance educational spaces.

Dr Wanli Zhao, Xi’an Jiaotong University & Xianyang Normal University presented online the Chinese Original Teaching Model—PADD, which stands for Presentation, Assimilation, Discussion and Dialogue, and is a new teaching paradigm, which has been successfully put into practice by thousands of teachers from university and K-12, in nearly all subjects since 2014. She also suggested that PADD will provide the Chinese original teaching paradigm for world education and contribute to Chinese wisdom.

Some of the featured sessions include “Technology wonders in learning English” by Dr Sahiba Khatoon who is working as an Assistant professor in the Centre of English Language and Linguistics (CELL), Mehran University Jamshoro. Another featured session was on “Research Education and Literacy for Educators in Times of Change” by Christine Coombe, HCT Dubai College for Men and “Reframing English Language Teaching Within a Social Justice Theory” by Dr Tayyaba Tamim, Associate Professor and Director Academics at LUMS.

There were more than 20 concurrent sessions that took place before the closing session. These sessions were mainly conducted as workshops that included hands-on activities that classroom teachers could immediately use after the conference. Also, a simple ceremony to launch the launch “ELT in Pakistan,” a book edited by Dr Naziha Ali and Christine Coombe.

The closing session included a plenary session delivered by Dr Shahid Abrar-ul-Hassan, from the Yorkville University, Canada. The topic was “Surmounting the Challenges in Authentic, Alternative Assessments.” Dr. Shahid’s primary argument was that in the wake of recent developments in L2 assessment approaches, it seems necessary to revisit assessment practices. He argued that although traditional EAL assessment is currently widespread, alternative, and authentic, alternative assessment options are gaining the attention of practitioners. He further suggested that in a quest for alternatives in assessment, language portfolios could be the way forward. This plenary address assessed the potential challenges in authentic, alternative assessment and presented some strategies for surmounting, especially in the context of post-modernist and constructivist approaches to L2 education.

The session on “Teacher Stories” was the grand finale of the two-day conference. Teachers from around the world who contributed to this segment by sharing their stories were acknowledged. World renowned experts in the field of teaching and learning through stories specially in the ELT context, Prof Alan Maley, Fatima Shahabuddin, Nadra Huma Qureshi, Jane Willis, and Aneesa Mumtaz judged this competition. This hybrid session had participation of teachers from different parts of the world including India, USA and Nepal. The top three winners included two teachers from India and one from Pakistan.

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Arshad Yousafzai is a Karachi-based journalist covering Education and Human Rights. He can be reached on Twitter @Arshadyousafzay

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