Member Event Fund Report: National Conference for Language Teachers of Austrian Upper Secondary Vocational Schools and Colleges

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“It is important to give teachers the chance to come together and to explore ideas and discuss challenges not only with each other, but also with experts from outside Austria. This helps to create a common spirit, to facilitate change and to boost collaboration as well as motivation.”

Prof. Mag.a Belinda Steinhuber MA

The 6th National Conference for Language Teachers of Austrian Upper Secondary Vocational Schools and Colleges took place in Bad Hofgastein, Austria, from 23rd to 25th October 2018. It is THE national event for language teacher development in Upper Secondary Vocational Education in Austria. The 280 participants were mostly active teachers from all types of upper secondary vocational schools and colleges; in addition, we also welcomed some stakeholders and some international guests. The conference offered a succession of keynotes and workshops in German, English, French, Italian, Spanish and Russian, some of them also being plurilingual. The 30 presenters came from all over Europe.

Photo credit: Bryan Reinhart photography

The overall topic was “21st Century Skills”, and the keynotes and workshops explored their importance for language learning and teaching from various angles. The first three keynotes by Michel Boiron, Marie-Sophie Guntram and Uwe Pohl dealt with issues such as the role of language learning and teaching, the changes in the 21st century classroom, and language learning as an intercultural experience. Overall, the 52 contributions covered issues such as the “4 Cs”, intercultural and plurilingual competence, digital skills, neurolinguistic aspects of language learning and teaching, the interaction between teaching, testing and technology, learner autonomy, formative assessment and CLIL.

Photo credit: Bryan Reinhart photography

The objectives of the conference were

  • to provide a professional development opportunity on an international level
  • to motivate the participants and to promote the joy and satisfaction in their job
  • to invite the participants to reflect on their role as teachers
  • to encourage them to welcome new developments and to integrate them into their work
  • to foster networking among teachers and exchange of ideas on a national and international level

The participants had the opportunity to find out about the results of research, to reflect on the  influence these findings might have on what happens in the classrooms and to start developing ideas on how to integrate what they have found out about “21st century skills” into their own work. In the breaks, they visited the stands of publishers and other companies with an interest in language education. Of course, they also enjoyed having the chance to exchange ideas with colleagues from all over Austria.

Photo credit: Bryan Reinhart photography

A spirit of openness, enormous interest, involvement and appreciation marked the whole event, not only on the part of the Austrian teachers but also of the presenters, who attended the keynotes and workshops of their colleagues and referred to them in their own contributions. A magnificent final talk by Julie Wallis, which was encouraging, motivating and inspiring, rounded off the event.

A number of presenters were filmed, and their presentations will be the basis for a teacher development format called “Sprachenforum”. For this, teachers will get together at their schools at a certain date, where they cannot only watch parts of the filmed presentation, but also ask questions and exchange ideas with the presenter to explore the topic in more depth. Through this, it will be possible to ensure that this conference will not remain an isolated event, but have a follow-up in schools.