Here’s the first post relating to the sessions on our TDSIG Day at IATEFL in Birmingham – taking place on Wednesday 13th April in Hall 8a at the ICC.
Thorsten Merse is the third speaker on our SIG Day schedule and will be giving a talk titled “That’s so gay?” – towards a queer-sensitive teacher education. Here he is in his own words…
I love educating future English teachers and inspiring them with new and innovative ideas for their future practice in the classroom. I live and work in Germany, where teacher education begins at university. This is also the context where I teach my courses in teacher education and prepare my students for their professional careers. I’ve had a position at the University of Münster for almost five years, and I’ve just recently changed to the University of Munich in February this year. In my courses, I usually focus on one particular concern of teaching and learning English and work together with my students on that particular concern in great detail. The aim is for them to become knowledgeable and competent in this field and transfer the insights gained in the course to their future practice. I’ve taught courses on implementing online and Web 2.0 media in the EFL classroom, on developing multiliteracies, on global education and including global issues as content into the classroom, and most recently, on ‘queering ELT’. This latest interest revolved around the question of how diverse sexual and gender identities can be acknowledged and included in the classroom (e.g. as topic or via literary texts), which in turn is an immediate response to current attempts to update and transform ELT pedagogy in a queer light. The very recent seminar series “Queering ESOL: Towards a Cultural Politics of LGBT Issues in the ESOL Classroom”, which took place at several universities in the UK and which I frequently attended, has been most inspiring for this, and indeed caused me to think about how I could prepare future teachers for this new educational challenge. As a result, I tried to come up with what one might call a model for a ‘queer-sensitive teacher education’ and developed a teacher education course that I had the privilege to teach in the winter term of 2015/2016 at the University of Münster.
In my research, I explore how discourses of teaching culture, literature and gender in the EFL classroom are currently renegotiated to include more complex notions of otherness, difference, and identity. In particular, I investigate the value of applying Queer Theory to English Language Teaching and its potential to voice sexual diversity in the classroom. I also look at the practical implications of ‘queering ELT’, e.g. in view of material development, teacher education, and task typologies. In my research, I also suggested thinking about sexual literacy in terms of a larger teaching objective in ELT (cf. Merse 2015).
My talk is based on the assumption that ELT as a profession is deeply concerned with acknowledging diversity, e.g. by recognizing the diversity of student cohorts and their multiple identities, or by making sociocultural diversity a topic for the classroom. More recently, there has also been an observable move within ELT theory and practice to pay greater attention to sexual and gender diversity as an integral part of ELT’s pluralistic agenda (see, for example, the “Queering ESOL” seminar series). Also at national policy decision-making level in some countries, like Germany, teachers across all subjects, including EFL teachers, are now required to engage with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues in their classrooms. Those directions in ELT pose an immediate challenge to teacher trainers as they think about how to prepare future and in-service teachers to acknowledge sexual and gender diversity in their teaching practice. Furthermore, this is also linked to the question of how we as teachers can develop ELT as a profession further and indeed “keep alive a sense of challenge and satisfaction in our job”, as the TDSIG website says, by incorporating new ideas and impulses. In my talk, I will present what I conceptualise as a queer-sensitive teacher education. The aim of this new direction in teacher education is to raise future teachers’ awareness of issues of sexual and gender diversity, prepare them to engage learners in reflecting on and negotiating LGBT themes, and to provide them with suitable strategies for queering their teaching practice (e.g. by developing learning tasks or selecting teaching materials). I will illustrate these training ideas with specific insights into the teacher training course I taught at the University of Münster (entitled That’s so Gay: Queer Approaches to English Language Teaching). I will also provide a glimpse into the logs and diaries my students were keeping over four months to show their individual development throughout the course and make their original voices and opinions about ‘queering ELT’ heard on our TDSIG day.
Merse, Thorsten (2015). “Queer-informed Approaches and Sexual Literacy in ELT: Theoretical Foundations and Teaching Principles”. Language Issues 26.1, 13-20.
Come to IATEFL 2016
Tomorrow – Wednesday 23rd March – is the last day you can register online to attend the 50th IATEFL Conference at the ICC in Birmingham. Don’t miss out on this ELT event – book your place on the IATEFL website today!