2018 Conference themes with Philippa Vallely

The 2018 Annual Chinese Teaching Conference will take place next Friday 15th and Saturday 16th June. Philippa Vallely, the IOE CI Teacher Training Coordinator, speaks in this blogpost about the themes and topics for this year’s Conference and why they are important for our Conference and Chinese language teaching.

The overall theme for this year is “Thinking globally, acting locally: motivating Mandarin learners around the globe.”  This is reflected in both the range of guest speakers we have this year and the diversity of workshops.

The theme itself developed during research carried out in September last year (there’s not much of a break between conferences!), across multiple sources of information. Firstly, we researched other language conferences worldwide. Secondly, we looked at research that has been carried out in the areas of linguistic research and language teaching pedagogy. Finally, and perhaps most critically, I and the CI team read the feedback from our own network of schools.

Giving a global view in the plenaries we have Dr Yongcan Liu from the University of Cambridge. Dr Liu will be addressing us on Friday on the theme of “Changing Hearts and Minds for an open world: An identity approach to teaching and motivating learners of Chinese in UK schools.”  On Saturday, Shaolan poses the question during her keynote speech- “Why Chinese?” which will be followed later in the day by Katharine Carruthers, who will be presenting key themes raised at Asia Society’s National Chinese Language Conference held in the USA in May.

Focusing on specific areas of interest, three key themes that emerged from research and contact with schools were those of bilingualism, immersive and CLIL approaches and motivation in language learning, and we can see this woven throughout our plenaries and workshops.

Bilingualism, particularly looking at the cognitive benefits, is a fascinating area currently receiving a lot of research attention globally. After hearing Dr Thomas Bak speak at a presentation earlier this year, I was very keen to invite him to speak to our delegates and I’m sure you will be enthused by his passion for this subject. As teachers we know at an intuitive level how beneficial learning a language can be, so it’s great to see the research being done to confirm this, and seeing it implemented by schools such as Kensington Wade, whose Head Teacher, Jo Wallace, we will also hear from.

Linked to the idea of bilingualism, and how to encourage it outside of a fully L2-speaking
environment, is the theme of Immersive and CLIL approaches. I think the work Jingjing Ruan has been carrying out over the last few years, building strong peer-to-peer links between UK and Chinese students via technology, exchange trips and homestays, demonstrates how it is possible to create an immersive environment even from the UK. Another great example is the work that the Mandarin team have carried out at Finham Park School in Coventry. Helen Lewis will be leading a workshop which details the work they have done in creating an immersive environment with their “Off Curriculum Days” to provide engaging, focused language-rich days for their students.


Motivation in language learning is the final area that came up frequently in research. On Friday, Damien Charnock will be presenting the alternative strategies Dulwich College has developed to teach written and spoken language, to try and address motivation and retention issues. The area of character writing habits will also be addressed by Chris Webster from the Swire Group in his plenary on Saturday, focussed on his MTeach (UCL IOE). The topic of writing is also the focus of several workshops, including Yadi Luo’s, and at a primary level, we also have Simone Haughey, who has been doing some fun work with her pupils and creative writing with robots!

The fun element brings me to another area of motivation, that of the element of fun and game playing for learning! We are delighted to welcome back Olle Linge from Uppsala University (and creator of Hacking Chinese), who will be addressing the topic of word games in the classroom in both his plenary on Saturday morning, and his workshop that follows immediately afterwards. Ben Stainer, in his workshop, will look at tech ways to bring some fun and games, and I’m also looking forward to Yuchen Li’s workshop which shows how she got creative with her Youtube vlog (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2NtRPmP2qUcvS8470nqQ3w) and inspired her students to get creative too. Rhoda Pennington and Rachel Tiefenbrun will both be exploring how they use a structured games-based approach to primary teaching, with some fantastic examples of character practice games for primary.


Which part of the Conference are you looking forward to most?

I could mention every plenary speaker and every workshop presenter, as I have seen what they are all bringing to the conference, and can see once again it will make this an event full of creativity, inspiration and motivation for all of us. For me at a personal level however, I am very much looking forward to meeting teachers, those new to our community and those who’ve supported for some time, and hearing about how everyone’s year has gone, what ideas they have been trying out, and what they would like from our teacher training programme next year. See you all soon!

Philippa will participate in the opening Conference plenary which will take place on Friday 15th June. To see the Conference programme, please click here

To book a place at this year’s Conference, please follow the link: Conference Booking Page