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Live, Learn and Teach - Michelle Reflects on her ELT Ireland 2023 Conference Talk

Updated: Apr 22, 2023

The weekend of February 18th and 19th saw Ben and I in Dublin for the annual ELT Ireland conference. Having attended last year (I'd been invited to deliver the opening plenary, read more here: I was very much looking forward to a return visit this year.

And I was not disappointed. The Guinnes was as sublime as ever, the company as warm and jovial, and the weather was even better!

The talk I delivered after lunch on the Saturday gave nod to the conference theme of Back to A Future - I spoke about what I've learned from a recent past experience that will be ploughed back into my future teaching practice. It was a talk covering 3 + 1 learning points:

My intention was to share how I deepened my communications skills knowledge by exploring the more academic and theoretical side of our field. Knowing about different communication theories not only gave me more credibility in the new academic content course I had developed, it rounded out what I already knew about how we communicate; the knowledge gave my content substance and gave me confidence.

But this new found sense of confidence took a knock when the content moved into less familiar territory. Despite creating what I felt was a varied, interesting and challenging course in the 4th semester (of 6 semesters in total), some students honed in on where the course lacked depth and robustness. They picked up on my lack of expert knowledge of information technology and that I was using a very loose, Socratic approach as opposed to, what I assume, they are used to in other content courses, like law or economics: the lecturer comes from that field with an intimate deep knowledge AND practical experience of how it all works. I do not have such competencies in the field of communication and technology in business!

At least, I thought that was the problem. However, another student gave feedback that suggested I had done a good job. Who knows against what criteria each student evaluates and judges their teachers.

One thing for sure - and learning point 3 - as a language teacher, I know how the English language works and where the pitfalls and problems lie. So even when our task is not language focused, we can certainly help coach students / learners on how better or more accurately they can express themselves.

Finally, the bonus learning from the experience I shared in the talk, was that we can leverage other people's expertise. I realised that, with online teaching, experts could be "Zoomed" in to give mini-lectures or presentations to the students. I was lucky to have 3 different people in my network who were happy to share their stories and / or expertise in a Zoom room with my students. This took the pressure off me and went down really well with the students. A win-win for all.

The stories I shared seemed to go down well with the colleagues in Dublin; we had some exchanges during the session, a few giggles and the atmosphere was energising for me at least! I'm looking forward to going back to ELT Ireland again next February for the 10th anniversary conference.

It's bound to be a good Craic!!

Feel free to download the presentation slide deck.

ELT Ireland talk_handout
Download PDF • 2.72MB

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