Innovating as Business English Trainers
The 36th annual IATEFL BESIG conference in Stuttgart over the first weekend in November was full of innovative and creative ideas from a multitude of brilliant business English teaching and training professionals. What a buzz there was. In this blog post, I share not only a little bit from our talk, but also some of my impressions and takeaways from the truly intelligent (as opposed to "artificially" intelligent) friends and colleagues I spent the conference with.
Saturday afternoon Ben and I were scheduled in the same slot as some brilliant speakers. If we'd not have been presenting, I would have been at one of those talks too!! But as a wise trainer once shared with me, "those who are meant to be there, will be there." And so, with a small intimate group, we enjoyed 30 minutes together looking at the concept of innovation.
As tends to be the case with people coming to our talks, they bring a wealth of knowledge and experience. The exchange and sharing which ensues is always enriching. We covered what innovation entails, how it is typically defined and measured, what might prevent innovative thinking, and what tools from industry could we integrate into our own teaching contexts.
Having a clear definition became useful towards the end of the session when exploring how to differentiate creativity from innovation. On the surface, it could be tricky, but Ben directed us towards an earlier slide with a helpful list of what is included in the slide "Our View of Innovation"
On Sunday, Ridha Mejri talked about his innovative and creative approach to designing a business communication course at his university. He offered a blend word which captures the inter-connectedness of creation and innovation: "creovative"! Thanks for that Ridha.
Rachel Paling epitomizes being "creovative". As a pioneer of integrating knowledge from neuroscience into language teaching, and founding Efficient Language Coaching and Neurolanguage Coaching®, Rachel is a beacon for creative and innovative minds. In her talk, she got us thinking at a metacognitive level about how we can make friends with our brain. Understanding how the brain works can enhance self-regulated learning and increase a sense of psychological safety within our learners. Rachel invited us in pairs, to be creovative and practice how we might hold a dialogue with students in need of some learning strategy coaching.
Another example of creovativeness came in John Hughes' presentation of how to train language teachers in the art of materials writing. He got us thinking about how we had previously learned to write materials. Most people seem to go with the learning-by-doing approach and integrating what we pick up from published materials along the way. Luckily, John, along with co-developer Kath Bilsborough, have a course teachers can sign up for. We can learn what to (not) do when creating materials far more efficiently from two experienced writers.
As a teacher with many years' experience, I found Rob Howard's talk on giving intelligent instructions less innovative, and wonderfully creative. His opening gambit with the rope-tying was an impactful example of some pitfalls around instruction-giving. And his slides, with the short video clips peppered throughout, added that touch of interactive, interchangeable creativity that captures an audience's attention. Rob's talk served as a reminder - even to old hands - the importance of slowing down and allowing more time to think in our classes.
The second half of our whirlwind workshop saw the group divided into 3, each with a different tool for measuring growth and innovation. They evaluated and discussed the tool in view of their own context. We encouraged 2 layers of meta-level thinking: how could the tool be used with a particular set of learners, and how innovative was your thinking around your approach to doing that:
I have to say, whether we describe people as being creovative or truly innovative (in the full sense of the meaning), the bottom-line is BESIG is a group of people who are committed to doing the best they can for their learners while striving to grow, develop and flourish themselves. The fact of attending and contributing to this - and all the other - conferences is proof of that.
Feel free to grab a copy of our workshop handout here:
Send us an email if you want to talk more about becoming a certified international business English trainer: firstname.lastname@example.org