CELFS Tutors Network

Contributing to the academic conversation: Getting started

by Paul Hendrie

how-do-i-write-blog-posts

Why should you, as a teacher, post on an EAP blog, present at a conference, or publicly share examples of your practice with colleagues? It’s a fair question, especially from those who are balancing the pressing needs of marking, lesson prep and admin. I spoke to four teachers here at CELFS who had recently contributed to a blog, presented or delivered a workshop (we’ll call them ‘contributors’ for the purposes of this article) and four more who had not. These conversations were informal, anonymous, and spectacularly unscientific, but interesting points arose from them about people’s motivations for sharing ideas, which are summarised in this post. In a second post, I’ll reveal what teachers considered to be the main barriers to being a ‘contributor’, and how they overcame them.

The main reasons people gave for contributing were as follows:

  • It helps them become better teachers

All the teachers saw the needs of their students as a priority, and interestingly those who had contributed felt that it made them better teachers. Having to present clearly and persuasively seemed to them an excellent way to sharpen or clarify ideas. They also enjoyed the sense of providing others with tools to develop their own teaching.

  • It is personally rewarding

There was a genuine sense of achievement from those who had presented or written publicly about an aspect of their teaching practice. Some discussed their interest in experimenting with new techniques, and the pleasure they got from a successful publication. Several told me that they were quite apprehensive at first, not fully understanding certain writing conventions or expectations, and feeling discomfort at the prospect of ‘being held to account’ for what they published. However, working past these obstacles seemed to enable teachers to become significantly more confident, both in teaching practice and in their sense of ability (or worthiness?) to contribute to the wider EAP conversation. Interesting questions arose regarding whether the successful completion of even a minor publication or presentation can alter a teachers’ perception of their own professional identity – i.e., a change in self-perception from ‘one who teaches’ to ‘one who teaches and shares’ – and what effect such a change might have on teaching practice.

  • It helps them build an online profile

Some teachers said that they contribute in order to increase their standing or visibility in the field, or to help them find work. It seemed to them that recruiters are increasingly performing searches online to find additional information about job applicants.

  • It contributes to their reflective practice

Some teachers said that awareness of the possibility of writing or presenting increased the effectiveness of their ability to analyse their own teaching. Being ‘a contributor’ may therefore imply a significant shift in a teacher’s thought processes, providing a defined objective for critical reflectivity. It seems that many of the conscious practices that are inculcated daily in students are equally valuable for teachers – (e.g. noticing, reflective practice, or critical thinking). This also leads one to ask what else we teach students that we ought to apply more rigorously ourselves.

What are your reasons for contributing to the academic conversation? I’d be interested to read your thoughts in the comments section below.

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