Addressing Language Teacher Professional Learning Needs: An Evaluation of the AFMLTA National Conference, Canberra 2013

By Morgan, Anne-Marie; Absalom, Matthew et al. | Babel, February 2015 | Go to article overview

Addressing Language Teacher Professional Learning Needs: An Evaluation of the AFMLTA National Conference, Canberra 2013


Morgan, Anne-Marie, Absalom, Matthew, Scrimgeour, Andrew, Babel


ABSTRACT

The 19th biennial AFMLTA National Languages Conference was held in Canberra in July 2013. The conference, along with other professional learning activities conduced at a local level and for individual languages, aims to provide teachers of languages with the opportunity to work toward the professional learning outcomes outlined in the AITSL Australian Professional Standards for Teachers, and its Charter for professional learning of teachers and school leaders. These documents highlight three characteristics of professional learning: being relevant, collaborative and future focussed. This paper reports on the evaluation conducted after the Canberra conference and compares the findings for that conference with the previous conference In Darwin In 2011. It reviews the contemporary research on the value of conference attendance for professional learning, and the ongoing work of the AFMLTA in supporting the professional learning of language teachers nationally, and across languages. The paper reflects on the extent to which a national, cross-language forum for professional learning such as the biennial national conference of the AFMLTA meets the expectations of teachers, and of the AITSL standards and charter. We address its relevance to language teacher's needs, its potential for collaboration, and its future-focus, in bringing together both contemporary theories of language learning and current best practices in school languages policy, teaching and assessment. Issues arising from the recent evaluation are discussed as a way forward in planning future conferences and other professional learning.

KEYWORDS

professional learning, conference attendance, languages teacher professional learning, teacher standards, teaching charter, collaborative professional learning, professional associations

INTRODUCTION

Absalom and Morgan, reporting in 2012 on the AFMLTA's 18th biennial conference held in Darwin the previous year (Absalom & Morgan, 2012), detailed a highly positive response from languages teacher attendees, across a range of measures including program content, quality of speakers, the venue, session types, and networking opportunities. Additionally, they described the ongoing need for what one respondent declared was 'perhaps the only [event] that really binds us as a professional community on a national scale' (Absalom & Morgan, 2012, p. 38). In a workforce often characterised by isolated working conditions, and an ongoing Imperative to negotiate sufficient teaching time in the school curriculum, the need for continuing connections of this kind remains acute.

The 19th biennial conference of the AFMLTA was held in Canberra in 2013, and a similar evaluation to that conducted for the Darwin conference was undertaken and analysed by members of the AFMLTA executive.

As was the case for the previous conference, the evaluation instrument took the form of an online questionnaire, emailed to all registered delegates at the conclusion of the conference. There was a high response rate, with 75% of conference delegates completing the questionnaire.

This paper reports on the results of the Canberra conference evaluation, with a focus on comparison of the new data with those of the previous conference, and discussion of themes emerging from the comparison that inform ongoing consideration of and planning for AFMLTA conferences. This discussion also has wider implications for professional learning for teachers of languages more generally. The discussion is contextualised by firstly considering imperatives and parameters for professional learning in the Australian context, current literature related to professional learning gained though conference attendance, and how the AFMLTA and its constituent members, the state and territory language teacher associations (MLTAs), contribute to these needs. The final section of the paper provides recommendations to take forward for the 2015 conference, to be held in Melbourne, the planning for which Is underway; and for the 2017 conference, to be held in Queensland. …

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