Back in April 2016, TDSIG were at the 50th IATEFL Annual Conference – this year held in Birmingham in the heart of the UK. We ran a pre-conference event day titled ‘The Teacher’s Voice’, invited people to join a track of teacher development-related sessions in the main conference and generally had an ace time.

We also had the pleasure of welcoming the winner of our Michael Berman Teacher Development SIG Scholarship to the event, Martin Cooke. Martin lives and teaches in Taiwan and was the winner of this award, which included attendance at our PCE and the main conference. Always interested in how these professional development opportunities have an effect on individuals, the contexts in which they teach and the colleagues they work with, a few weeks we caught up with Martin to find out how he’d been getting on.

IATEFL 2016 by Martin Cooke

I arrived in Birmingham the day before the pre-conference events were due to take place, having spent a couple of days catching up with family and friends back in Yorkshire. After I’d dropped off my bags at the hotel, I decided to find out how long it would take to get to the NEC. Even in spite of the major roadworks and construction taking place in Birmingham city centre, I was able to find a reasonably direct route, taking note of the shops, restaurants and other landmarks along the way. I decided I’d walk there every morning, even though April in England is much, much colder than in Taiwan.

This proved to be a good idea, as I was able to pick up essentials (like coffee) on my way to and from the conference venue. The NEC is right in the heart of Birmingham, and so I was also able to find larger shops and supermarkets and shopping malls within walking distance. If you’re not familiar with the UK, or with the part of the UK where is being held, then it’s definitely worth arriving a day or two beforehand and taking some time to get to know the area – you may be too busy once the conference begins.

I attended the TDSIG pre-conference event – this was a great experience which gave me a lot to think about. It also provided an opportunity to meet and work with teachers from all over the world (in the cosy surroundings provided by Birmingham University). Everyone was really friendly, and lots of different experiences and ideas were shared.

The talks given by Marek, Suzanne and Liliana were engaging, informative and thought-provoking, and I really liked the World Café format which we used for our discussions (I’m now using the same format with my own learners, and it works really well, so thanks very much for introducing it).

The main conference itself was an amazing experience, thoroughly enjoyable and (most importantly) providing me with a range of new ideas and resources which have helped me think again about my own teaching development and practice. There are too many speakers and presenters to list here, but I’ve found that even now, five months after returning to Taiwan, the notebook I took with me remains a valuable source of information, and so are the blogs, journals, podcasts and books I might not have known about had I not been at the 2015 conference.

Since coming back to Taiwan, I’ve been passing on some of what I’ve learnt to my colleagues and even to my students. I’m currently working my way through another teaching qualification and I’m hoping to take on even more challenges in the near future. Thanks and best wishes to everyone I met in Birmingham!


Keep your eyes on the TDSIG blog as we’ll be coming back with news of our plans for next year’s IATEFL conference, which will take place in Glasgow in April 2017. See you soon!