Brief report on the 'Teachers Research! Chile 2016' conference
Teacher-research - that is, research initiated and carried out by teachers into issues of importance to them in their own work - is increasingly seen as a powerful means of continuing professional development (CPD) for practising English language teachers.
British Council Aptis has been supporting teacher-research via its Action Research Award Scheme since 2014. Recently Aptis also sponsored the First Annual Latin American Conference for Teacher-research in ELT in Santiago, Chile. The conference, held at the Universidad San Sebastian on 19 March 2016, was co-organized by the British Council Chile and the Red de Investigadores Chilenos en ELT (RICELT), while IATEFL's Research SIG publicised the conference globally and supported the conference by organising an online pre-conference discussion, and offering two scholarships which enabled teachers from Argentina and Brazil to attend.
Under the slogan, 'Presentations of research by teachers across Latin America for other teachers' the conference attracted around 150 participants, with presenters coming from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay. The event was remarkable for placing teachers at centre-stage from the beginning to the last. The first plenary session was by four teachers on the British Council Chile / Ministry of Education Chile Champion Teachers project. The second plenary session, just after lunch, showcased the work of five recipients of the Aptis Action Research Award, who have recently completed their projects. Coming from Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay, the focus of their work ranges from blended learning in secondary schools to curriculum redesign at tertiary level. The reports of these projects are currently being edited for publication and a new call for awards, probably with an increased focus on support for teacher-research mentoring schemes, will be announced shortly.
The day was rounded off by a discussion which saw teachers invited to the front to share their impressions and visions, following brief comments by special guests Melba Libia Cardenas, well-known for her work editing the Profile journal in Colombia and Ines Miller, equally well-known for her work with Exploratory Practice in Brazil. There had also been two parallel sessions which saw teachers presenting posters of their research, with ample time being provided for interaction and group discussion in four different rooms. Feedback was extremely positive overall -- participants reported finding the event friendly, stimulating and an excellent learning opportunity. There are currently plans to attempt to organise a similar conference every year, in a different Latin American country each time.