IATEFL 2019: Gallery Walk Highlights


Can you believe it’s already been a month since IATEFL 2019?

Before all those inspiring talks and great conversations become distant memories, we wanted to share with you some of the highlights from the Pearson Gallery Walk.

You might be wondering what a gallery walk is – and you wouldn’t be alone! It’s a new discussion format that we introduced at IATEFL 2018. It’s based on the classroom technique that can be used to get students moving around and engaged in a topic.

The idea is that students (or in our case IATEFL delegates) come together in small groups and walk around a room (like they might in an art gallery). They discuss ideas and respond to a series of questions or situations.

It’s believed that being on your feet helps people relax and engage in a topic more deeply than, for example, being sat in a classroom listening to a teacher at the front of the room. Not only that, it encourages learners to collaborate with their peers and share their own beliefs or experiences.

Read more about how to do a gallery walk in your classes.

Do we still need classrooms?

At IATEFL 2018, along with ELT experts such as Scott Thornbury and David Nunan we explored the opportunities and limitations of using Learning Objectives in the ELT classroom. This year, however, we took it a step further by looking at the future of the language classroom.

Hosted by Roy Cross and attended by teachers and experts from around the world, we debated the question:

“Do we still need classrooms?”

A controversial topic at a teaching conference, some may think. But with the rise of blended courses, online platforms and apps, as well as the current advances in VR, AR and AI, the way our students are learning languages is changing at a rapid rate.

What do the experts say?

Ken Beatty making his case at the Gallery Walk

We were fortunate enough to be joined by a number of experienced teachers, trainers and edtech consultants. After splitting the room into four groups, each expert shared their unique point of view with the participants. Every ten minutes each group moved on to a new expert and were given the opportunity to agree, disagree, ask questions and share their own ideas and experiences.

Two of the experts, Katy Asbury and Leonor Corradi were arguing ‘pro’ classroom-based teaching. The other two experts, Nik Peachey and Ken Beatty were looking at the cons and exploring a future without classrooms.

Here is what they had to say.

Nik Peachey

New developments in Augmented Reality, powered by the growth in access to mobile broadband and powerful digital mobile devices, are enabling the development of a new generation of interactive situated learning experiences.

Using AR apps and devices, students can now access rich media learning experiences that are specific to any particular location and context. This means that we can take learning outside of the classroom and deliver ‘just in time’ training when and wherever students need it. We can also use these apps to build a network of shared experience. Students can go to supermarkets, museums, offices and even the beach and access short lessons and interactive tasks before entering. They can share their experiences and leave behind messages and advice for other students to access.

That being said, I am by no means anti-classroom. The classroom is to learning what the hospital is to good health.

Nik Peachey is an author, teacher trainer and co-founder of PeacheyPublications Ltd, a company specialising in developing materials for online and digital learning environments.

Ken Beatty

The future is not in a classroom. Almost every aspect of education, from pedagogical content to learning technologies, has radically changed in recent decades. What hasn’t changed is the classroom: the last artifact of the industrial age, based on a factory approach aimed at training students for jobs that are fast disappearing.

Online and app-based learning, virtual learning spaces, and tailored approaches recognize that every student is different, with different needs, and unpredictable futures.

Ken is a TESOL Professor at the Anaheim University. He has also worked in secondary schools and universities all over the world, lecturing on language teaching and computer-assisted language learning from the primary through university levels.

Katy Asbury

Done right, the classroom can offer an excellent Learner Experience (LX). A good LX can be defined as when someone not only learns something, but they also enjoy the process. There are four key criteria essential to designing any LX, whether that be a product, service or even a classroom space. These are – Pedagogy, Content, Interaction and User Experience.

ELTjam used a tool called the Learner Experience Design Matrix to evaluate the classroom against these criteria. We found that when done right, the classroom can be the ultimate LX.

Katy is an LX Designer at ELTjam, managing projects that have a strong focus on content and pedagogy.

Leonor Corradi

“I’ve learnt the most important life skills when I started school,” stated Dalmiro Sáenz, an Argentine writer.  

Perhaps he was referring to the X factor of human interaction and its tangible value in bringing learning to life. This sociocultural aspect of classrooms cannot be transferred into non-classroom settings. Social interaction is at the heart of classrooms and so too is the chance for teachers to respond to learners’ small talk and create pedagogical conflict.

According to John Hattie’s theory of Visible Learning, it is the teacher who can make all the difference by responding to learners. And it is in the classroom that teachers can manage their space and invite as many students in as possible. What camera can help you manage a class with your eyes? Where else can you create a poster collaboratively and pin it up on the wall for everybody to see and use it as reference when necessary?

A classroom is a sample of society, and it is in society that we all live. A word of caution: society changes, and so should classrooms.

Leonor Corradi is an English Teacher with an M.Sc. in Education and Teacher Training. She’s also a specialist in Didactics and ICT and is an ELTon Judge, among other things.  

After an hour of thought-provoking discussion, we came together to draw some conclusions. Although not everyone agreed on the future of the classroom – we did all agree on one thing. Whether learning takes place in a person or online, teachers and students should be at the center.

What was it was like?

Unable to attend the gallery walk? You can get a taste for what it was like in the video below:

We hope you enjoyed getting a glimpse of the IATEFL 2019 Gallery Walk. We can’t wait to explore a new topic at IATEFL 2020!

What do you think? Do classrooms have a place in the future of English language teaching? Let us know in the comments.

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