To find out how to become a member click here

LAMSIG Showcase 2018

by Gerhard Erasmus

The LAMSIG Showcase took place on the 11th of April 2018 in the Buckingham Room at the Hilton Hotel in Brighton. It was an excellent day with a great variety of talks offering insight into management and leadership from a variety of contexts and perspectives.

Is it just about language? Supporting non-native speaker teachers – Katherine Martinkevich

The talk started with a context generating discussion highlighting the real life challenges faced by non-native teachers. In the speaker’s context, there are 60 teachers of which 40 are local teachers making them non-native speakers of English. The discussion included comments made by these teachers and the over-reliance on the native speaker model even from teachers with excellent language proficiency.

This led to a support group for teachers where they could work on their language proficiency and language awareness. The speaker discussed numerous problems that arose including with the costing, syllabus and focus. She also mentioned that the sign up process was problematic as teachers felt that if they signed up, it was admitting that they didn’t ‘know everything’ about language. To address this, the centre did the following:

  • Organise the sign up process to avoid reputational hazard
  • Allow compensation for attending the session to be equal to INSETT sessions
  • Do a needs analysis to allow for a structured syllabus and differentiate learning
  • Keep in mind that teachers differ from typical language learners in that they love talking about teaching

The results from the program were positive with numerous teachers starting to teach advanced classes and 3 teachers completing the Cambridge Proficiency (CPE) exam.

The talk concluded highlighting that even proficient NNESTs need support with administrative policies, educational policies, methodology and language.

My experience: I enjoyed the talk, but I wonder why we do not offer more language awareness sessions in INSETT. Not knowing something or not knowing how to explain it should not be viewed as a deficiency for any teachers regardless of the number of languages they speak. My take away from this was to push for more language awareness sessions structured similarly to what a DELTA background essay would look like and encourage more critical thinking about language.

Magic moments: making your students’ experience memorable – Ben Butler

The talk started by contextualising the school and the customer experience at the school. Ben clarified the meaning of touchpoints as follows.

Touchpoints – where the customer comes in contact with your brand

5 stages of customer interaction with a brand

  1. Awareness – Being aware with no intent to purchase
  2. Consideration – deciding whether to purchase
  3. Purchase- customer has decided to purchase
  4. Use of product/service – the client joins your course
  5. Loyalty – the relationship between the brand and the customer starts to grow and customer loyalty develops

This was followed by explaining moments of truth, which are the moments where the customer is in contact with the organization and the time when it is possible to make a difference when interacting with the customer. He contrasted this to ‘Magic Moments’ when the interaction means the customer’s expectations are exceeded rather than met, in order to turn them into a loyal customer unlikely to quit the brand in favour of a competitor and becoming a brand ambassador.

The rest of the talk was focused around how this is done and was divided into ten sections.

Presentation was focused around how the school looks and feels to customers. The most memorable of this part was a few pictures of strawberries on cakes. While they were called ‘simple’, I would not have minded one of those.

Day 1 procedures and problems with them in terms of the customer experience came next. Numerous solutions to issues were mentioned, but the one that stood out for me was to be more aware of repeat clients and treat them with something special. In this case it was a voucher for 3 speciality coffees.

Lesson delivery and quality and the school atmosphere were numbers three and four on the list. Having welcome drinks with new students and nominating a student of the month were two ideas that stood out. This led nicely to branding where products are branded and students that do well, win student of the month or really helps someone at school can get a branded item like a coffee mug.

Events stood out as well and there were some great pictures showing Halloween pumpkins and delicious baked goodies. The interaction between the school staff and the students to produce these events were noticeable and is something that many could try in their local contexts.

Linking lessons to the local environment and involving locals in the learning experience by taking students outside of the classroom linked well with creating cohesiveness across departments and connections to the social program.

The talk concluded by looking at how complaints are addressed and how to activate alumni to become brand ambassadors.

My experience: The talk focused a lot on core values and developing a customer service mentality across the school. In my experience, these are two critically important elements that lead to bad service when absent. The talk did however go into a fair amount of depth and it was one of the highlights of the day for me.

How to help people do things they think they can’t – Ewelina Novak and Amie Stephens

The speakers presented their workshop from both a management and teaching point of view. The workshop started with asking attendees to select one of three quotes focusing on which one they associated with. The quotes about problem solving, thinking and understanding others were very similar in nature, but set the context for the talk very well. This was followed by saying that anything negative is to be welcomed as it provides useful information that can enhance the likelihood of success.

The four steps for making the impossible possible were then displayed and attendees had the opportunity to explore the areas with a partner. The discussions were neatly structured around managing teachers and then teaching students; giving clear examples of each.

The four steps are:

  • Acknowledge – Listening and agreeing but in a positive manner. For example, ‘I cannot teach beginners’ is rephrased as “I understand you would like to be better at/need more support with teaching beginners.’
  • Listen – Pay close attention to their word choice to identify opinions and feelings.
  • Bitesize – -Clarify the issue in a short bitesize positive statement that leads to a positive action that can be taken. Set goals, but be patient and provide support and nudges towards success
  • Repeat – Ensure that there is repeated exposure and follow up and follow through. Allow for reflection time and make the reflection useful

The interaction in the workshop was very useful and well-structured and the two different perspectives from the two different presenters made it very easy to relate to their contexts and transfer the knowledge to ours.

My experience: I found the four steps very useful in terms of structuring how to deal with difficulty, but the comment that stood out for me was ‘You are teaching a person and it’s important to acknowledge them as a person.’ The same applies to managing teachers and understanding that there are challenges that need to be overcome. They can be overcome with a structured positive approach.

Women and the will (and obstacles) to leadership – Bruna Caltabiano

LAMSIG Scholarship winner, Bruna Caltabiano, started her talk by sharing her context, background and experience. She praised her partner saying that although she has not experienced workplace discrimination that it is a reality for many around the world. We then looked at characteristics of male and female managers and they were remarkably similar. She then asked a few questions related to women in leadership positions in politics and business and although female representation has doubled in the last 20 years, women only make up 22% of parliament today.

This was used to contextualise the number of female teachers as opposed to the number of females in leadership positions in education. She attributed this to subtle sexism in the workplace, family commitments, and confidence issues and the gender confidence gap.

Her call for action was aimed at both genders and she asked attendees to avoid:

  • using double standards
  • praising benevolent sexism
  • using biased language
  • having prejudicial and discriminatory attitudes
  • bad mouthing women
  • pretending harassment is flattering
  • teaching sexist lesson and perpetuating gender hierarchical systems
  • accepting that ‘big names’ in our area are mostly men

The speaker came across as very humble and respectful in her approach and this humbleness and respect was best summarised when Adrian Underhill walked up to her to say it was a great talk and she replied ‘You gave me a heart attack. Can I take a picture with you?’

My experience: The thing in the talk that stood out for me was when the speaker mentioned that until a few decades ago, women in Brazil had to get permission from a male in the family to open a bank account. We are taking strides to address the gender imbalance, but there is a lot that can still be done.


Manager learning and development: New managers’ context, needs and knowledge – Jenny Johnson

The talk started by asking attendees to discuss where they learn the most as managers. The presenter then showed a list of five things in order from least to most influential. These were:

  • theory from books or training courses
  • a hand-over period or shadowing
  • practical learning and workshops
  • a mentor or guide
  • reflecting and using own instinct

She used this to highlight that managers learn most from mentors, courses, books and reflection while managing. They do not really learn from other managers except for their own line manager.

We then looked at the KASA model (Knowledge, Attitudes, Skills and Awareness) and which needs are highlighted by these areas as well as where information and support can be found. Boydell’s model of manager competence followed. The manager as technician, professional and artist was discussed. The technician looks at routines and procedures, the professional at developing abilities and knowledge and the artist at allowing you to express yourself as a manager.

Different manager context were then discussed contrasting the new vs experience manager and the new or existing job on a quadrant grid. This was again followed by looking at the different needs of the different quadrants and where support and information can be found.

The presentation ended with 10 ‘must do’ processes that will assist in starting a new management role:

  1. Meet the people
  2. Ask Questions
  3. Learn the systems
  4. Find out about the culture
  5. Find out about clients, teachers and staff
  6. Work out the cycles
  7. Take decisions
  8. Get feedback
  9. Learn from experiences
  10. Develop leadership qualities: build confidence and learn self-awareness

Open Forum and Speed mentoring

After briefly summarising the achievements of LAMSIG over the last year, Andy Hockley, LAMSIG coordinator, set up a speed mentoring activity where participants could ask and answer questions about management. The group was divided into two with half the participants acting as ‘mentors’ and the other half as ‘mentees.’ There was, however, freedom to switch roles during the activity. The groups matched in pairs and each pair had 8 minutes to discuss any issue and this level of personalisation made the activity a huge success. After 8 minutes, ‘mentees’ moved to a new ‘mentor’ and the process was repeated. This allowed for issues to be discussed from a variety of viewpoints with different insight from different individuals in different contexts and further contributed to the overall success of the activity. At the end, Andy asked if the time was sufficient or if it should have been longer and shorter, and while more time would have been nice, it felt like 8 minutes was just enough to get to know the other person and share issues and solutions in management. It also gave us the opportunity to learn about other contexts in which managers operate and the challenges these different contexts present.

Decisions, decisions, decisions! How to make effective ones – George Pickering

The last talk of the day was by George Pickering and the first slide instructed us to sit next to someone we did not know. By this time I was quite tired and opted to not make the decision to find another person to sit next to. This issue was decision making was explained later in the talk by the speaker and was probably my biggest takeaway from the session. The best part of the talk was that almost everything was presented in simple lists that would be very useful going forward.

The talk started by asking us how many decisions we make daily and after eliciting a few answers, we looked at problems with decision making. These included cognitive biases like confirmation bias, the anchoring effect, numbers, and first opinion expressed. We also looked at how decisions can be made to quickly or too slowly.

A case study asking attendees to decide if we should fire an employee was used to highlight the issues with decision making. These included having too little information, intruding personalities, group think and the fact that decisions can be cognitively tiring. A case study showing when judicial reviews lead to parole being granted highlighted how fatigue and hunger can lead to a change in decision making. This was further highlighted by looking at successful individuals who limit their decision making on a daily basis simply by always wearing the same kind of clothes and avoiding the need to decide what to wear.

Tips for managing decision fatigue (what I had experienced at the beginning of the session) were:

  • Reduce the number of non-important decisions
  • Make the most important decisions at the best time of the day
  • Don’t schedule decision making meetings when people are likely to be hungry, tired or irate
  • Use checklists

This lead to a checklist of decision making tips which were:

  • Have a protocol for how and when you will make decisions including ideas like majority, consensus etc.
  • Make sure you make decisions about the right things by defining your priorities, delegating, avoiding reverse delegation and distractions
  • Ensure that you are doing what you most need to be doing at that specific moment in time
  • Make decisions about the right things
  • Make decisions at the right time of day
  • Decide synchronously rather than asynchronously (by emailing)
  • Frame appropriately: be clear about the opportunity, proposal, issue, challenge, problem etc
  • Gather the appropriate information and test your assumptions

The talk concluded by looking at the importance of having diverse teams when making decisions. This meant ensuring that you have a diverse team with differing perspectives and backgrounds. Mention of Belbin’s team roles (co-ordinator, ideas person, team worker, resource investigator, implementer and monitor-evaluator) highlighted the importance of diversity in decision making teams. George presented us with the WRAP acronym to summarise the talk.

W – Widen you options, use an issue tree, ladder through ‘bright’ spots, and use best practices

R – Reality test your assumptions and check for disconfirming evidence

A – Attain distance before deciding

P – Prepare to be wrong by cross checking and critiquing your own ‘great idea’



The balance of the talks meant that everyone that attended some of the sessions would have left with either knowledge or inspiration and in most cases both. It was a day of great talks and great interactions filled with practical ideas that managers and leaders in the ELT world could apply in their own contexts. The highlight of the day for me was Ben Butler’s talk, mostly due to the context I am working in, but the overall quality of the talks and the information available as well as the opportunity to network and chat to other managers from all over the world means the day was one of the IATEFL 2018 highlights for me.





Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

nine − = 7