ESOL and difficult conversations: English for Action's 2018 participatory ESOL conference

Mar 24 2018 10:00 - 16:30

St. Margaret's House, 21 Old Ford Rd, E2 9PL London

Want to have more meaningful conversations with students in class, but worried about 'risky' topics? Want to learn more strategies for creaing a safe classroom space? Join us for this day of participatory learning and sharing with like minded practitioners.

In participatory ESOL we attempt to build language learning around the lives of the students. Our students and the 'real' world provide the basis of the classes rather than sanitised, text-book topics that assume what is useful for the students. Learning can be more exciting, urgent and can help participants develop a critical understanding of language and the world.

Authentic discussion is not without its challenges and dangers however. Sometimes students (and teachers) may feel exposed and out of control. Topics that touch on political and religious differences or difficult past experiences might be upsetting. Views expressed may be offensive to others. EFA's conference "ESOL and difficult conversations" will provide space to debate these issues and develop some answers to these and similar questions:

- How do we deal with thorny issues in the classroom?

- How do we make our students feel safe?

- How do we protect ourselves (teachers)?

- How do we deal with prejudiced or offensive views?

"Excellent to meet likeminded people and share ideas. Very inspiring and so much of what I've learnt on the day will inform my practice."

- Participant at our 2017 Conference


Who is the conference for?

The event is primarily aimed at all those who work with English language learners: ESOL, ESL and EAL teachers, lecturers, researchers and volunteers. It could also be relevant to those who have an interest in faciltiating participatory group work with English language learners or for teachers of other languages.

What will the conference be like?

The conference will be run by a group of faciliators based at EFA London. We'll be doing a range of activities including group work, structured discussion and games through out the day - so very little talking from the front. We aim for the event to be welcoming, inclusive, stimulating and fun. Our participatory approach will draw on the expertise and ideas of everyone in the room, who we know will bring significant experience, skills and ideas themselves.

"I would like to thank you for making me feel welcomed in this vibrant teaching community"

Participant at the 2017 conference

What do you mean by 'participatory ESOL'?

Participatory ESOL is a radical approach to language learning - and a growing movement across the UK. It's inspired by the critical pedagogy of Brazilian Marxist educator, Paulo Freire, who believed that education is never neutral - it either upholds or challenges the status quo. The participatory approach rejects the idea that students are passive vessels to be filled with the teacher's knowledge. Instead, all participants (including the teacher) are encouraged to engage critically with the learning process. Curriculum is developed through group dialogue, based on participants' pre-existing experiences, knowledge and daily reality. Language learning is driven by meaningful exchanges between participants in the group, rather than the form through which communication can be achieved. By nurturing exploratory, critical dialogue within the classroom, participants become better able to constructively question orthodoxies outside the classroom. Many teachers incorporate elements of a participatory approach in their practice, without necessarily terming it as such. For more information have a look at Reflect ESOL's Vision and Values, the participatory video we made at a previous conference and our chapter 'What is Participatory ESOL?' in the British Council's book Language issues in migration and integration.

Is lunch included?

Yes, vegetarian lunch is included as well as tea & coffee. You can tell us about other dietary requirements on the ticket checkout page.

What are my transport / parking options getting to the event?

The venue is 5 minutes walk from Bethnal Green tube or Cambridge Heath train station and is wheelchair accessible.

Underground: From Bethnal Green tube station (Central line), take the Museum of Childhood exit. Enter the park on your right and walk diagonally through the park to the far exit on Victoria Park Square. Turn left out of the park and then left again onto Old Ford Road. St. Margaret's House is above the Gallery cafe, on the opposite side of the road across the zebra crossing. The conference venue is accessible by following the path to the left of the Gallery cafe, which will be signposted on the day.

Train: From Cambridge Heath station, turn right and walk down Cambridge Heath Road. Just before the Museum of Childhood (on the opposite side of the road) cross the road and turn left down Old Ford Road. St. Margaret's House is just past York Hall, above the Gallery Cafe. The conference venue is accessible by following the path to the left of the Gallery cafe, which will be signposted on the day.

Buses No. 8 - 106 - 254 - 309 - 388 - D3 and D6.

Car: Parking is unrestricted in this area on Saturdays, but probably quite hard to find a space!

Where does the money from ticket prices go?

Revenue from ticket sales goes toward room hire, lunch for participators and the wages of the training facilitators. We subsidise the remainder of the conference costs from our charitable reserves.

I want to come but can't afford the ticket price... Is there any way I can still attend?

We don't want cost to be prohibitive. If you can't afford the concession ticket price please get in touch with Cait Crosse by email at or by phone on 07969876564 and we'll see if we can work something out.

Where can I contact the organiser with any other questions?

Please contact Cait Crosse by email at or by phone on 07969876564.

Tickets (funded by an organisation)

Not Available

Individual waged

Not Available

Individual concession

Not Available