On stuff about research and conferences

Happy New Year everyone. I am not going to do a yearly reflection because 2017 was a mixed bag and quite stressful.
On ELT Twitter and across ELT blogs there is some murmurings about research (usually on teacher beliefs) and hidden in a paragraph somewhere is a mention that this is in preparation for an IATEFL talk. This got me wondering about whether people would do such research if they didn’t have a conference proposal accepted. I suppose what I am trying to say is that if you had a rejection, at least one person thinks your idea matters (you), and the big conferences are not the only way to get such research out. Local teachers associations and chapters of them want speakers at meetings. If that doesn’t work, it might even be useful as a magazine article or blog post. For all the hand wringing about teacher research, it would be a good idea to follow through on a good idea without needing a conference committee to say something is a good idea.
Speaking of conferences, how many of them are affordable for people without research budgets? Seriously! JALT’s conference is quite expensive for four days (without considering the fact that most working teachers in Japan can’t take Friday and Monday off). IATEFL is expensive, too. Pretty much anything with ‘International’ in the name of the conference is expensive. When ExcitELT came to Tokyo, it was cheap. There were no tote bags filled with university press-branded pens or anything but that’s a weird thing to want from a conference. Could we have more for less? Easy, if commercial entities don’t join in and demand their perks.
I suppose what I am saying is ELT doesn’t have to be a spending spree. What the CPD could be is a lot cheaper, a lot more grassroots and perhaps more relevant. Let’s see more of this from this year.

13 Replies to “On stuff about research and conferences”

  1. Thanks a lot, everyone. I’ve had a lot of likes on Twitter about this and it seems everybody feels pretty much the same. I wonder why, then, that people still go for the big money events and such when it appears everybody *wants* grassroots events. This confuses me so much and makes me irate more often than is healthy!

  2. Sure, things can be cheaper. That’s largely due to reducing length of conference and venue. Maybe speaker fees (though when you pay all presenters, this is kind of hard to argue against, too). I will say that tote bags with giveaway stuff inside costs the attendee nothing actually, at least in the conferences I’ve helped organise. In fact, the sponsors usually pay for things to keep costs lower.

    1. Speakers can cost a lot, but usually even a smaller, cheaper conference can cover one big name’s fee. As I understand it, most presenters at IATEFL, TESOL, and I know at JALT, pay their fee (unless covered by work, which is usually the case for tenured staff only).

      1. Yeah, that’s true. Paying all speakers isn’t the norm. I’ve listed a bunch of other reasons on replies on Twitter, so I’ll just copy and paste them here to add to your post’s discussion in case anyone else wants to reply. 🙂
        I go to bigger, more expensive events because they’re fun! Everything else we do is often cheap and our responsibility to create. Bigger events aren’t. Grassroots is great, but not all the time. Sometimes prestige is a thing. It’s also an excuse for way more of my friends to get together in one place.
        There’s also so much diversity in topics, expertises, viewpoints. I like super focussed small events, but I also love the wideness of big events. Plus, I sometimes turn them into an annual vacation, not just conf because of airfare, etc.

        1. Thanks for the cut and paste! I suppose my family are not so keen on a busman’s holiday and semester times keep me away from some conferences. As I said on Twitter, cheers for challenging me on this. It’s easy to think the echo chamber is the world!

      2. Yes, the echo-chamber. There’s also a prestige to events being grassroots, small, participant-driven, etc. It can be a default -this-is-good-of-course perspective to take. I like them, but I also find the big events worth attending too. Both serve a purpose for different people. As for expense, the actual entrance to IATEFL is pretty reasonable. Have you seen TESOL’s prices or really any conference outside ELT? Outrageous.

        1. I have, actually. I thought about TESOL for a minute till I say the price and just NO!
          I know that orthodontic conferences are insanely expensive, even small ones. But then orthodontists like shiny stuff other than teeth!

  3. Great discussion, Marc and Tyson! Marc I definitely agree about expense and what Geoff Jordan says about shameless coursebook peddling from the industry sponsored events. And I agree with Tyson that this is the price for their support. But I imagine this is true at any industry conference. And I had a great time at my first IATEFL last year – as much for the people I met (like Tyson) as for the talks I heard (though some of the best were from non-superstars). But I’m sitting it out this year (cost/time). Personally I’d love to see more local alternatives with clever non-superstars to go along with the big stuff.

    1. Thanks Kyle.
      I think I am getting less and less comfortable with ELT as an industry and need for it to be a profession. I don’t know if lawyers talk about the legal profession, but there are paralegal workers. I know people on the fringes talk about the medical industry.
      I wish the industry side of things was more honest about its desire for money. And I wish it was more honest about turnover and profit to teachers instead of crying poor. Teachers are the ones who suffer. Teachers have crap wages. To suggest that publishers are suffering due to falling profits us disingenuous, especially if they can help support running costs for IATEFL, TESOL and the like.

Comments are closed.