Humanistic Foreign Language Teaching and Learning I. Innovative Methods and Approaches

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Humanistic Foreign Language Teaching and Learning I. Innovative Methods and Approaches, Nitra, Slovakia, 14-15 September 2012

Under the auspices of the Dean of the Faculty of Arts at 'Constantine the Philosopher' University in Nitra, Slovakia, the local Department of English and American Studies (1) organized and hosted the first international conference on "Humanistic Foreign Language Teaching and Learning I. Innovative Methods and Approaches" on 14-15 September 2012. As stated in Kissova (2012), the conference was dedicated to the latest trends in the field, providing an opportunity for language teaching professionals and researchers to share current research results, innovative ideas and experience in the areas of foreign language teaching theory, of the concept and representation of humanity in teaching literature, cultural studies, and linguistics.

Hosted on the modern, spacious premises of the Studentsky Domov ('Student Residence') in the university area of Nitra, an ancient city in western Slovakia, the conference included plenary talks by five keynote speakers, 36 parallel sessions, 5 workshops and 3 poster presentations; the majority of the presentations were in English and some were in either Slovak or Czech. The sponsoring publishers Macmillan, Cambridge University Press, Enigma Publishing, and Male Centrum bookseller offered a selected cutting-edge book exhibition; the social programme included an entertaining drama performance by The Bear Educational Theatre of Prague, an international traveling company specialized in teaching English through interactive shows, and an informative and relaxing walking tour of the historical city centre of Nitra on the evening of September 14th.

The keynote speakers highlighted some of the major running themes of the conference, with special reference to English language teaching: the addition of a sociological dimension to language teaching, teacher development tools and strategies, developing the students' imaginative power, the teaching of grammar through valence relations, and the value of formative assessment. In his very inspiring speech on "Re-Framing Humanistic English Language Teaching in Shifting Sands", Stephen Slater (University of South Australia) reviewed the development of foreign language teaching in the last decades and advocated the renewal and re-energizing of humane and humanistic values in language teaching as opposed to the excesses of technologization, globalization, consumerism, standardization and quantification. Tim Phillips (British Council, UK) illustrated the steps of continuing professional development for English language teachers as they are conceived in the British Council's website dedicated to ELT, and the ways to climb up the ladder of achievement through reflection, sharing, specializing and associating. Sarah Telfer (University of Bolton, UK) engrossed the audience in a talk about "Using creative writing and storytelling in literacy and language teaching" with many imaginative though practical sample activities for all language levels, meant to engage the learners' cognitive, affective and psychomotor areas. Dorota Chlopek (Akademia Techniczno-Humanistyczna Bielsko-Biala, Poland) proposed a refreshing approach to the teaching of grammar through the study of valence relations, providing a theoretically sound and detailed explanation of techniques and procedures as well as their ingenious application to some famed Harry Potter's texts. Not least, Daniela Bacova (Churchgate Academy, Manchester, UK) outlined the features of assessment within a humanistic frame ("Formative and summative assessment--classroom practice") as a seamlessly integrated process, and suggested very feasible classroom strategies and reflective practice for teachers.

The parallel sessions examined the broad theme of humanistic foreign language teaching and learning, spanning over a wide range of topics, including the development of learners' autonomy, motivation, learning styles, the role of emotions, CLIL, communicative activities, collaborative approaches, cultural studies and translation studies within language teaching, teaching through drama, plurilingualism, the teaching of English for special purposes (especially law and economics), the teaching of English through literature, teaching learners with special needs, ICT and e-learning, teacher training. …