TDSIG Unplugged Countdown: Ignition

TDSIG Unplugged Poster
Roll up! Roll up! Fun for all the family!!!

The Gathering

The IATEFL Teacher Development Special Interest Group (TDSIG) is holding a one-day Unplugged Conference in Barcelona on Saturday 21 May – in other words, one week tomorrow.

The term conference is perhaps a little misleading, as the event is being held in Open Space, which consciously rejects preset agendas or predetermined content.  Instead, those who choose to come and participate are those who then set the agenda, create the content and define what outcomes are reached.

A friend of mine from Berlin, who works a lot in Open Space, defined it thus:

“Open Space ist in Prinzip eine sehr lange Kaffeepause, indem nichts passiert, ausser die Teilnehmer etwas in die Hand nimmt”

Trans: “Open Space is in principle a very long coffee break, during which nothing happens – unless those present take control.”

Jo Töpfer, berlin open space co-operative (Boscop)

It seems to me that this approach is eminently suitable for exploring a classroom practice such as Teaching Unplugged!

Who, if not us? When, if not now?

Now that we are a week away from this gathering, those of us who have chosen to attend, or those of us who are still making our travel arrangements ( it’s not too late 😉 ) can start to prepare to take control, by thinking of specific issues close to our teaching hearts; things that we strongly wish to explore in collaboration with others who are also interested in the same thing.

So over the next seven days, I plan to share with you some of the issues or questions related to Dogme ELT which I would like to explore at this event.  I kind of NASA-style countdown, if you will.

Maybe they chime with some of your ideas, maybe you are interested in completely different things.

Either way, it’s good.

I will share my first open space idea tomorrow, exactly one week from the Big Day.  Feel free to add comments with your own ideas/issues/questions/wishes for the gathering – especially if you cannot attend.  Or even better, go to the TDSIG Discussion forum and start a conversation there.

“Control Tower, we have ignition…”


  • Hi Anthony (I’m in a break between 2 CELTA interviews) What I’d love to discuss is working with emergent language (demonstrating how + translating into TP) on intial teacher training courses and how we can do this at the same time as “covering” modal verbs, the conditionals etc. I have a few ideas but would really love to hear lots of ideas on this!

    • Hi Stephanie,
      Blog commenting between interviews – a tutor’s job is never done, eh? 😉 You have struck on one of my interests as well (see a later post!), so I am very glad that you are coming to the conference – that means someone will definitely propose this as a point for exploration!

  • I cannot be there- oh very woe is me! I just cannot afford the time or the ticket. When and how and can I see. hear, be part of what is going to happen? I am relying on you to keep me well in the picture, Mr Gaughan!

  • Hi Steph

    What we do at OxfordTEFL on our Cert courses in Barcelona and Prague and very much inspired by the approach Anthony and his colleagues have developed in Hamburg is encourage trainees to listen and note down student language mistakes in tp in week one when they are observing others teach. They then choose a language point to work on at the end of week one or start of week 2 based on this data and helped by the tutor.

    • Hi Duncan,
      It’s great to hear that you’ve been able to make some use of our ideas – I know Izzy will be as thrilled to read this as I am!

      I won’t write too much here, but this is obviously a “hot” topic: how to frame an introduction to capturing and considering emergent language in close to real-time for complete novice teachers.

      Looking forward to this being explored on Saturday by a few like-minded people, definitely!

  • Hi Duncan, Hi Anthony,

    We have much to talk about next Saturday – I can’t wait! Duncan btw, I was at your TD feedback day in Brighton and really enjoyed it. A week ago I did a workshop for OUP in Switzerland and used emergent language with over 80 Swiss school teachers (I wrote about it on Scott’s blog) I also gave my e-mail address and asked for feedback.

    I got some and it was mainly very useful. But there was one e-mail that I might bring to show you, it was from a man in Geneva who in his first mail had nice things to say about the talk, and his 2 suggestions were, that people could stand up at a particular point in the activity (it was a fair point) and that I could try to be more humorous next time!

    I responded and thanked him for the feedback, taking on board the first comment and making the point that regarding the 2nd point it would be difficult because I actually thought I was being humorous!, but perhaps the English humour was a bit too understated.

    He then responded and said, actually he did think I was humorous and also pretty too. And another chap in his feedback positively commented on my footwear.

    I was not offended and could have a giggle at this feedback, although I did find it slightly odd, but it does raise a serious point, is it really acceptable for male participants in feedback to start “feeding back” on female presenters looks and footwear?

    Sorry Anthony – completely off topic I know.

    • Thanks for bringing this up, Steph, and sorry for leaving it a while before replying.

      I’m glad you feel comfortable with this feedback, but I think you are raising a very important question: what kinds of feedback are germane after a teaching situation and what about comments which aren’t germane, or in a worst-case scenario, offensive or threatening?

      I was also at Duncan’s workshop and found it very useful: it reinforced for me the importance of receiving training in managing feedback both as a giver and receiver, as well as broader conversation management skills, for teachers. While initial training courses place a premium on giving and receiving feedback on performance, there is actually very little time spent on exploring this explicitly as a skill, and even less spent on providing training and support for tutors, in general (at least, that’s my impression).

      I don’t have an answer at this point to your question, but I know that I would have had trouble handling the feedback you received with equanimity, had I been in your shoes (ouch, sorry for that…)

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