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What language teachers want--considering the evaluation of 18th biennial conference.

Abstract

Professional learning (PL) is an essential ingredient in the professional and personal lives of contemporary educators. PL can take many forms but large-scale conferences remain a touchstone in many fields, including languages education. In this paper, we review the evaluation of the 18th biennial conference of the Australian Federation of Modern Language Teachers Association (AFMLTA) in 2011. Through an online questionnaire a very high percentage of delegates (83%) provided feedback on the conference in a range of areas. We provide a preliminary analysis of this feedback and discuss implications for future planning of similar events, within the context of new demands and the changing landscape of languages teaching and learning in Australia, and language teachers' professional learning wants and needs.

Key Words

conference evaluation, professional learning, teacher standards, language teaching

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Introduction

The AFMLTA Professional standards for accomplished teaching of languages and cultures identifies a set of teaching standards, the first dimension of which, educational theory and practice, notes that '[a]ccomplished languages and cultures teachers ... keep up to date with developments in the field of education through professional learning' (AFMLTA, 2005, p. 2). Similarly, the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) in its National Professional Standards for Teachers, includes as one of three 'domains' of teaching, 'Professional Engagement', with two standards 'Engage in professional learning' and 'Engage professionally with colleagues, parents/carers and the community' (AITSL, 2012a).

AITSL is also now responsible for the framework for teacher registration nationally, which includes the requirement that each teacher engage in and demonstrate relevant professional learning of a minimum numbers of hours (60 hours over three years in South Australia, for example; see AITSL 2012b). A commitment to and evidence of ongoing professional learning is also integrated into policies and documents around teacher certification and behaviour in Australian states and territories. For instance, the Victorian Teaching Profession Code of Conduct specifies in Section 3b that teachers are 'committed to pursuing their own professional learning' (VIT). This trend can also be seen internationally. The Teachers" Standards (DfE, 2012), released in May 2012 by the British Department for Education, identify the fulfilment of 'wider professional responsibilities' in standard 8 stating specifically that teachers must 'take responsibility for improving teaching through appropriate professional development ...' (DfE, 2012, p. 9).

What can be seen by this documented (though not new) emphasis on professional learning in key guiding documents for teachers is that professional learning is considered paramount by all 'stakeholders', be they governments, accreditation and registration bodies, professional organisations, principal and parent bodies, or educators themselves. Furthermore, it is increasingly seen as the responsibility of each teacher to ensure that they receive and engage with appropriate learning for their own subject areas, contexts of teaching, personal professional needs, and for their own wellbeing as teachers. If teaching is to be a sustainable, rewarding and collegial practice, and quality outcomes for learners are to be achieved, then professional learning that embraces the needs and wants of teachers is critical. This requires consideration through both analyses of existing PL opportunities and in wider discussion about how teacher PL needs and wants can be met, and which events or activities best cater for different aspects of ongoing, developmental professional engagement.

Considering professional learning

Of the many possible professional learning activities--and we would argue that a range of different PL activities and modes of participation contribute to teachers' overall needs--conferences remain an important ingredient. The outcomes and value of conferences as PL vary and depend somewhat on the focus and intention of the event, contributors, and the involvement of each participant. Conferences of an academic nature 'provide an important channel for exchange of information between researchers' (Wikipedia, 2012). They also 'offer attendees opportunities to share and receive information, stimulate creative thinking, rekindle or establish contacts, and a myriad other personal and professional objectives' (Weissner, Hatcher, Chapman, & Storberg-Walker, 2008, p. 367). The nature of conferences is crucial for the vitality of the field in question for 'presenting, evaluating and discussing disciplinary and methodological developments as a reflective community of practice; [which ensures] that, as a whole, research and/or professional practice progresses both substantially and methodologically' (Jacobs & McFarlane, 2005, p. 319). Furthermore, because of their size or reach beyond everyday circles of practice, '[b]y attending conferences, [participants] can learn about cutting-edge practices in [their] specialty, professional issues and the latest research ... [and] also have a chance to network with colleagues' (Brown & Schmidt, 2009).

In conjunction with other PL opportunities, therefore, conferences respond to a range of intentions and purposes and fulfil PL needs of the profession in different ways, and with emphases and outcomes that are likely, in part, to differ from person to person, but also to provide more universal outcomes or opportunities.

Our project

The AFMLTA biennial conference takes place in a different state or territory in Australia every two years, on a rotation basis, in recognition of the nature of our organisation as a federation of the eight state and territory-based language teacher associations. The 2011 conference was held in Darwin from 6-9 July. With the theme 'Enrich, Consolidate, Inspire', the conference attracted just fewer than 300 delegates, and was evaluated by the conference organising committee.

The questionnaire

Instead of the common pen-and-paper feedback questionnaire we opted for an online questionnaire as the evaluation tool for the conference. An incentive to complete the evaluation was that the certificate of attendance, used by delegates as evidence of participation, only became available on completion. We used SurveyMonkey (www.surveymonkey.com) to construct a survey that interrogated in detail delegates' experiences of the conference. The survey was developed by the conference organising committee with a view to really understanding how the conference functioned at a range of levels. It was emailed directly to delegates around ten days after the completion of the conference. The questionnaire was articulated in seven sections:

1. AFMLTA 2011 conference attendance and membership (6 questions)

2. Conference organisation, cost and facilities (5 questions)

3. Conference program (6 questions)

4. Professional learning and networking (5 questions)

5. Online presence (4 questions)

6. In conclusion (5 questions)

7. A little bit about you ... (6 questions)

The total response rate to the questionnaire was 83%. Of these responses, 91% were complete and the remaining 9% were partially complete.

Results of the questionnaire are summarised below, followed by a discussion of the implications of these results in planning future conferences. This discussion should prove useful more broadly as a way of targeting PL for language teachers in conferences of this kind, and as part of language teachers' overall professional learning needs. Included in this discussion is consideration of how national conferences might be seen within the wider context of PL opportunities for languages teachers, and what complementary and supplementary activities may be of benefit, given the current demands on languages teachers and the changing landscape of languages teaching in Australia.

Responses

Respondents and MLTA membership

The response rate to the questionnaire was 83%, with 245 responses received from 297 conference attendees. The majority of respondents (75%) were members of the federation's state and territory language teacher associations, and were predominantly female (83%). 91% were over 30 years of age, and 42% were over 50. Only 9% of respondents were under 30.

Respondents came from all Australian states and territories--with the largest numbers from the eastern and southern states of Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland. There was also a strong showing from the host territory, the Northern Territory. In addition, 16 respondents were from overseas, from nations including New Zealand, the US and Finland. See Table 1.

Employment and language focus

Around two thirds of respondents identified their occupation as school language educators (44% secondary, 20% primary), with a further 10% tertiary language educators or researchers. Other attendees were jurisdiction or government representatives, students and 'others', including publishers and commercial organisations supporting languages education. See Table 2.

Most respondents were employed in permanent (tenured) positions (85%) and the majority of these held full-time positions. Small percentages of respondents worked on a contract or casual basis, or were self-employed, students, unemployed or retired. See Table 3.

Languages taught by respondents are summarised in Table 4, with a strong representation across the six major languages taught in Australian schools.

Attendance history and knowledge of the conference

Two questions addressed AFMLTA conference attendance history and how respondents knew about the conference. More than half of respondents (55%) were attending their first AFMLTA conference, and of the remaining 45%, nearly three quarters had attended the last AFMLTA conference, held in Sydney. Approximately half had attended the previous conference, hosted in Perth, and at least one person had attended every other AFMLTA conference since they began, except for the 1976 conference in Brisbane and the 1980 conference in Sydney. Nearly all respondents (88%) knew of the conference through direct communication from the AFMLTA or their state or territory modern language teacher association (MLTA), and, in addition, 31% identified that they knew about the conference from colleagues (some respondents ticking more than one box for this question).

Financial support

In terms of financial support for attending the conference, 80% of respondents indicated that their conference registration was fully covered by their employer or a supporting organisation. Further, 70% of respondents indicated that their travel costs were also fully or partially covered by employers or supporting organisations. 13% received no support, funding their attendance themselves. The most common sources of financial support to attend the conference were employers and MLTAs.

Overall satisfaction

High levels of satisfaction with the conference were reported across the range of fields surveyed. Table 5 shows combined responses for Very Satisfied and Satisfied in response to a range of items.

Similarly high levels of satisfaction were recorded in relation to content and program orientation. These are summarised in Table 6, again based on combined responses for Very Satisfied and Satisfied.

Conference inclusions

Table 7 outlines conference inclusions which are considered either Very Important or Important to attendees.

Conference venues

Respondents were asked to rank preferences for suitable venues for AFMLTA conferences. Feedback demonstrated that respondents felt that the most desirable venue was a dedicated conference centre, followed by hotel conference facilities, and then universities and schools. Additional comments in this section, however, addressed ways that money could be saved, with many respondents noting that using schools and universities would keep costs down, especially for self-funded participants.

Program inclusions

Respondents were asked about the importance of a range of program inclusions. Table 8 shows percentages of respondents who indicated Very Important and Important.

Favourite sessions and suggestions for future conferences

Respondents were invited to nominate their three favourite sessions. A wide range of sessions was nominated, 63 (of a possible 86) in all, with from 1 to 82 votes for each. The key plenary sessions were popular, as were ICT-oriented sessions. The top sessions were:

* Plenaries by Joseph Lo Bianco and Alastair Pennycook

* Clayton Forno's sessions on feedback, videoconferencing and focus on form

* Noburo Hagiwara's session on the future focus on mobile learning

* Sessions on using interactive whiteboards by Lynne Rockcliff and Melanie Consola.

The three most popular panel sessions were the Australian Languages panel, the Australian Curriculum panel and the Chinese panel.

Suggestions for sessions in future conferences were also extensive and covered a range of topics. Many respondents noted their satisfaction with the current range, with comments such as 'good range covered: keep it as it is', and 'repeat this style --good choices, well-vetted'. Many additional topics or issues were also suggested. The most prominent of these were for sessions on bi and multilingual programs, language specific sessions, language acquisition, task design and assessment (in relation to the Australian Curriculum), early childhood programs, Q and A sessions and successful teaching strategies.

Professional learning, networking and value for professional practice

There were high levels of satisfaction with the conference in terms of its value as PL, to allow for networking and for impacting positively on practice. Table 9 lists percentages of respondents who either Strongly Agreed or Agreed with a range of statements relating to this aspect.

Opportunities for networking were broken down further, to include questions on when and where networking occurred. Most respondents identified that networking occurred in breaks in the program (90%). Half of the respondents (50%) identified that networking opportunities occurred at the conference venue and 42% used the Welcome Reception for networking.

Suggestions for additional networking opportunities focused on the need for longer breaks and programmed language specific meeting times.

In Table 10, PL highlights are identified.

The conference online and social media use

Respondents were asked which online and social media they had used in relation to the conference. The conference and AFMLTA websites featured predominantly as indicated in Table 11.

Many suggestions were made in response to questions eliciting the most useful aspects of the conference website. These included:

* Draft and final programs

* Pocket program

* Presenter information

* Uploaded presentations

* Babel articles list

* General conference information

* Information on Darwin and Darwin Convention Centre

* Accommodation and Twitter links

* Room indications for presentations.

Respondents indicated that they appreciated the website for:

* Making the conference look exciting

* ICT sharing opportunities

* Ease of operation

* Excellent search function.

Suggestions to improve the website included:

* Uploading the final program, biographies and abstracts earlier

* Links to all MLTA websites

* Easier registration process.

Best and worst

Respondents were invited to nominate the 'worst' and 'best' thing about the conference. The most common response to the 'worst' was 'nothing' (41 responses). 'Worst' responses about the location and venue included comments on the distance to Darwin, Darwin airport, and high travel and accommodation costs. 'Worst' comments about the organisation and program included high registration costs (especially for those paying their own way), the tight schedule, some overcrowded sessions, the need for more discussion time, not being able to attend sessions running concurrently, the program being too academic with not enough practical ideas, and the program being too practical with not enough theory. In the personal domain in response to the 'worst' question, were responses such as having to leave, alignment with school holidays (some saying it had not fallen in their holidays and they wished otherwise, some saying it had fallen in their holidays and they wished otherwise), late arrival due to flight problems, and the lack of a free day to enjoy the glorious location.

The highest response for 'best' thing about the conference was networking opportunities (92 responses). Collaborative aspects were also mentioned, such as contact with publishers, international partnerships, being with people who value languages, the large attendance and feeling part of a network. 'Best' responses about program content included a large number of comments on being inspired and listening to inspirational speakers (47 responses), learning new ideas, practical things to use in the classroom, being able to present one's own work, the balance between practical and theoretical sessions, the plenary sessions, hearing about the Australian Curriculum, new resources and pedagogies, expanding personal outlooks, the variety of speakers and presentations, the dynamism of presenters, hearing the latest academic research, and receiving positive feedback. Many respondents commented positively on the location, venue and weather (42 responses), and many also praised the conference organisation overall, flow of activities and 'ease' of everything (47), as well as the pocket program in the lanyard, the work of George from Dreamedia (the professional conference organiser), and the social program and dinner venue. One comment seemed to sum up the 'best' aspects: 'visiting Darwin, listening to inspirational speakers, networking'.

Take home messages

There were 229 take home messages provided, addressing issues including networking, the use of ICTs, being inspired, comments about the Australian Curriculum, and being part of a highly collegial network. Indicative responses included:

About the organisation and role of AFMLTA and MLTAs:

* The very high standard of AFMLTA operation; confidence in the work of the AFMLTA and MLTAs; support for languages education from AFMLTA

* To become more proactive as a member of state languages association.

About languages education:

* Good things happening in Australian languages education

* Need collaborative effort to promote languages

* Australia needs a languages policy; teachers need to take an active stance

* Need to address multilingualism in Australia

* International collaboration is important

* Language educators are passionate about languages

* Languages education has a positive future in Australia as we continue to 'push the boundaries'

* Respect for teaching of Australian/ Indigenous languages

* ICT is here! Technology is the present and the future

* New academics are needed to reinvigorate the languages discourse

* Languages are dynamic and teachers need to move with changes

* Hope for a brighter future because of the calibre of languages teachers

* Language learning is a life skill not confined to the classroom

* The importance of translanguaging

* The importance of research to inform practice

* That language teachers are important to our students' whole life experience

* Languages continue to struggle

* Focus on the students

* Community languages need enthusiastic teachers

* Languages education is in decline

* We are doing better than other countries

* We are at the beginning of a new era

* Connections with English teaching

* Languages are not given the status they deserve, despite teacher and researcher expertise

* Approaches come and go- there is no 'right' way to learn a language.

About the Australian Curriculum:

* Appreciation of the key drivers and strengths of the Australian curriculum

* Hoping for but uncertain about Languages through work on the Australian curriculum

* Australian curriculum very uncertain; languages remain contentious

* The importance of the intent of the 'reciprocating' strand of Australian curriculum

* Concern about the Australian curriculum and 'reciprocity' in particular

* The Languages shape paper has yet to fully resonate with all teachers

* The Australian curriculum will not revitalise languages

* Need for language teaching research to support languages in the Australian Curriculum

* Language educators are unhappy with many elements of the Australian Curriculum's shape paper for Languages and would like to see changes and amendments made to it

* Good to see the rising status of languages in Australian curriculum.

About the conference content:

* Useful ideas and information for the classroom

* Celebration of languages learning

* Teachers are always looking for new resources and classroom practice skills

* A really impressive conference

* New ideas and great discussions

* Gaining new knowledge and strategies

* Focus on ICT and innovation.

Personal domain:

* There is always more to be learning and conferences allow this

* Wonderful camaraderie

* Keep aiming to do better

* Many language teacher are struggling with the same issues I am: time allocation, student retention

* Languages teaching is exciting and worthwhile- don't give up

* Networking is invaluable

* The passion of languages teachers

* I am inspired

* I want to improve my ICT skills

* An individual teacher can make a difference

* There are fantastic opportunities; you need to be open to trying new things and ways of doing them

* Great being in Darwin: not same old, same old

* The new generation of teachers gives me much hope

* Looking forward to Canberra.

Discussion

It is clear from the feedback received that the 18th biennial conference of the AFMLTA successfully met its objectives as a PL opportunity for languages educators, embracing the range of conference benefits discussed at the outset of this paper (as a channel for exchange of information, to hear the latest research and inspirational speakers, to advance practical and methodological knowledge, and as a networking opportunity involving a collaborative community of learners). High levels of satisfaction for most aspects of the conference attest to the positive experience the conference provided for most attendees and to its value as PL for them. Good levels of representation across the nation, with members attending from all states and territories, indicate that the conference served a national, federating purpose, fulfilling one of the primary objectives of the AFMLTA, in supporting language educators across Australia and across its member associations.

What is also clear, however, is the presence of a range of conflicting messages within the data. In relation to programming, some felt the conference did not provide enough practical sessions and was overly theoretical, while others expressed the exact opposite view, that there were too many practical sessions and insufficient sessions dedicated to theory or reflection. The top PL highlight was practice examples to take back to the classroom, while comments on the 'best' aspects of the conference indicated that inspirational speakers were of high importance (along with networking). Similarly, in terms of timing, there were those who were unhappy that the conference was not in their holidays and those who were unhappy because it indeed fell in their holidays. There were many who sought increased ICT sessions and session capacity, while others commented that there was too much ICT focus. While most respondents chose dedicated conference centres and hotels as preferred venues for AFMLTA conferences, there were numerous respondents who noted that if registration fees were lower, more teachers would be able to attend. As registration fees are a direct consequence of conference venue type choice, with conference centres and hotels being the most expensive options, there is a disconnect between these responses. Conference inclusion selections favoured meals above all else, which also contrasted with comments on reducing conference costs. Full printed biographies and presentation abstracts were indicated as necessary inclusions by the vast majority of respondents, while in another question, the majority said they would be happy with digital abstracts and biographies, and many praised the simple 'pocket program', which did away with the need for a printed, glossy program. The inclusion of international speakers--also desired--is another factor that influences cost.

This mixed feedback illustrates well the old adage that you can't please all of the people all of the time, but also highlights both the different expectations and preferences of different attendees, and the need to interrogate the data, including the demographic data, to be able to interpret results in a way that can provide directions in future planning for a national organisation such as the AFMLTA. There is also a need to report back to the participants to provide information about conflicting messages, so that they can better understand the bigger picture of what matters most to others, as well as to themselves, and that, in the interests of, for example, reaching more teachers, some 'comfort' sacrifices might be more acceptable. Experience from international conferences attended by the authors and their colleagues also suggests that conference inclusions in the context of increased mobility of attendees from more diverse backgrounds, and in the interests of providing for wider participation, mean that emphases have shifted away from lavish conference inclusions, and that long sessions times for individual presentations are largely a thing of the past.

Some other data warrant discussion before considering the implications of the findings for the AFMLTA. The first of these is that online media became important in this conference, possibly for the first time in AFMLTA conference history. The first opportunity to engage in Twitter and Facebook to respond instantly and to engage in reflections on the conference has opened a new dimension for conference attendees that has continued and expanded beyond the conference. Expected engagement with the conference, AFMLTA and MLTA websites shows that online communication is the main point of connection for the languages education community spread across Australia, and is likely the key to ongoing communication and representation for the field. An online evaluation process for the conference allowed significant data to be collected, collated and prepared for analysis in a vastly more efficient manner than previous pen-and-paper evaluations. This was explicitly recognised by attendees as illustrated by one delegate's comment '1 like this idea with a survey and certificate several days after the event; it makes us reflect calmly and probably more objectively'. Crucially, this process has allowed for this analysis to be disseminated to the languages education community.

The open-ended questions about best and worst aspects of the conference, suggestions for future conference inclusions and take home messages have provided a wealth of data for the AFMLTA and MLTAs preparing future conferences and attempting to 'read' the interests and orientations, wants and needs of the languages education community. The desire for information on bi/multilingual programs, language specific sessions, current research on language acquisition, task design and assessment, primary programs, changes in Australia's curriculum and its language policy, and more opportunities to discuss issues in groups are informing preparation for future PL events, including the next biennial conference. The emphases of the take home messages on the community of languages educators, contested thoughts on the developing Australian Curriculum, the importance of ICT and the affirmation of the role of MLTAs and the AFMLTA in supporting the languages education community, are also informing future conference planning, and, more broadly, the work and strategic directions of the AFMLTA.

Implications

The AFMLTA is carefully considering the results of the evaluation of its 18th biennial conference. As indicated above, the evaluation results are directly informing the preparation and planning for the 19th conference, to be held in Canberra in 2013, and also influencing strategic and operational planning.

Implications from a number of issues arising from the evaluation are also being considered. The demographic and 'census' data--about numbers of participants from different states and territories, ages, gender, work contexts, languages taught and financial support to attend the conference --suggest that work needs to be done to increase participation opportunities for some sections of the languages education community, notably for early career and young teachers, male teachers, primary and tertiary educators, and members from smaller states and territories. Opportunities for engagement from members from the smaller states and territories will need to remain a central consideration of AFMLTA conference planning, in terms of factoring in distances from and access to conferences for all members, the capacity of each state or territory MLTA to host and support a conference of this size and scope, and cost implications. In addition, it needs to be borne in mind that differential support within states and territories from sponsoring bodies to support hosting of the conference can influence participation outcomes. While for this conference the high number of delegates from the local area would seem to indicate strong engagement with the event, we must also note that a very large number of these participants had (fully) subsidised places either through the MLTA or the Northern Territory government, a situation that may not be replicated for conferences hosted in other states and territories.

The balance of educators from different year levels heightens awareness that both primary languages educators and tertiary educators and researchers were underrepresented at the conference. In light of the requirements of the Australian Curriculum: Languages and the need for engaged and informed languages teachers across all Australian primary schools, efforts need to be made to increase primary languages teachers' participation, and to consider whether perceptions exist that the national languages conference is not targeted at teachers of this level. Similarly, the community of languages teachers would benefit from greater participation of tertiary sector languages educators. Continued collaboration with the Languages and Cultures Network of Australian Universities (LCNAU--see www.lcnau.org) may provide an avenue to address this concern.

Another participation issue concerns part time, casual and contract educators. Though casual and part time teachers are known to proliferate in languages education at all levels, these people are grossly underrepresented in the attendee profile. Incentives and opportunities for these educators also need to be addressed.

Many of these issues point to the 'elephant in the room'--the costs associated with conferences. With 80% of respondents to the questionnaire indicating that they were financially supported in their attendance at the conference, there is a clear indication that financial support is in most cases necessary to meet the registration, travel and accommodation costs associated with attendance (around $2000 or more per person for the Darwin conference). Whilst it may be desirable to hold conferences in elaborate venues, fully catered, with glossy programs and the like, these elements should all be up for review in considering equitable access to the national conference. As 'networking' was the clear winner for what languages teachers want, opportunities for doing so, for a wider cross-section of the languages education community, should be a first priority of the AFMLTA in organising its biennial conferences.

Similar 'harmonisation' of conference conceptual content and programming also needs to occur. Whilst there is a strong desire for practice examples, practical sessions and language-specific working groups, the contrasting desires for inspirational speakers, cutting-edge research and connections across the whole community of languages educators also need consideration. When considering the range of PL opportunities open to languages educators--from local school, hub groups, jurisdiction-organised, language-specific associations, MLTAs and the AFMLTA--it would seem essential that different emphases occur, relevant to the suitability of contexts and participants. Arguably, provision of practice examples, practical sessions and concentrated work within one language is better done in-depth at the local, and state and territory level, and within language-specific and hub group sessions. National conferences could then concentrate on 'big picture' ideas, leading national and international research, cutting edge practice, national policy directions, inspirational speakers and forums for collaboration and discussion with colleagues from across the nation.

Concluding reflections

Overwhelmingly, the evaluation of the AFMLTAs 2011 conference paints a very positive picture. As one respondent eloquently summarises:

... It is so important that we keep up this important event, perhaps the only one that really binds us as a professional community on a national scale.

There were, however, some recurrent issues that prompt a reflective pause. A major issue related to the typology of presentations. In Darwin, we trialled short papers (20 minutes) and full papers or workshops (30/40 minutes), as well as double-sessions for panels and various workshops (80/90 minutes). The resulting program was very 'tight' and this was a cause for concern for a good number of delegates. Others noted that short papers were not useful and should be dropped. A similar criticism was levelled at the lack of opportunity for discussion provided by the program. On reflection, it is indeed the case that the program was heavily biased towards presentational sessions rather than open discussion opportunities. These two issues will be central to thinking relating to future AFMLTA conferences. Nevertheless, respondents showed a generosity of spirit and a clear understanding of the complexities of organising an event of this scale in comments such as:

* Thank you! While I may have been critical in some areas, I did get a lot out of the conference, which I am now sharing at my Faculty level, with colleagues and Leadership Team level. It really was a great conference and I loved Darwin.

* Congratulations to the organisers and helpers. A huge amount of work is done on a voluntary capacity and particularly countless hours into putting the program together. THANK YOU.

* The time flew because I was learning so much. There was a great feeling of collegiality and I enjoyed meeting teachers of other languages and from different parts of Australia. I can't wait to go back.

These comments, and the majority of responses to the questionnaire, convey the clear need for this conference, and the expectation that it will provide significant PL and networking opportunities for the national languages education community. Consideration of these comments, and the ramifications that will be and are flowing into the planning of the 2013 conference, suggest that the next conference should be well supported by the community and will (hopefully) provide similarly positive and beneficial experiences for those who attend.

Acknowledgements

The success of the 2011 conference was largely due to the hard work of a small team of volunteers from the AFMLTA executive. We would also like to heartily recognise the initial vision, the commitment and ongoing hard work and dedication of Maisy Latif and the rest of the conference committee of the Languages Teachers Association of the Northern Territory (LTANT), for hosting the conference in Darwin.

References

AFMLTA [Australian Federation of Modern Language Teachers Associations). 2005. Professional standards for accomplished teaching of languages and cultures. Commonwealth of Australia

AITSL [Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership]. 2012a. Professional Engagement Retrieved August 5 2012 from http://www. teacherstandards.aitsl.edu.au/DomainOfTeaching/ ProfessionalEngagement/Standards

AITSL 2012b. A nationally consistent approach to teacher registration, Retrieved 30 August from http://www.aitsl. edu.au/teachers/registration/registration.html#1

Brown, J. & Schmidt, N . (2009). Getting the most out of conferences Nursing, 39(4), 52-55.

DfE [Department for Education). 2012. Teachers' Standards May 2012 Crown.

Jacobs, N. and McFarlane, A. (2005) Conferences as learning communities: Some early lessons in using 'back-charmer technologies at an academic conference --distributed intelligence or divided attention? Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 21, 317-329

VIT [Victorian Institute of Teaching]. The Victorian Teaching Profession Code of Conduct. VIT.

Wiessner, C., Hatcher, T., Chapman, D., & Storberg-Walker, J. (2008). Creating new learning at professional conferences: an innovative approach to conference learning, knowledge construction and programme evaluation. Human Resource Development International, 11 (4), 367-383.

Wikipedia. 2012. 'Academic conferences', Retrieved 1 July 2012 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Academic conference

Matthew Absalom is a university teacher and researcher, professional linguist, Italian language coach, translator and author. His current appointment is in the Italian Studies Program at The University of Melbourne. He holds qualifications in music, education, languages and linguistics, and his research interests cover Italian linguistics, computer assisted language learning, and languages education. Matthew is President of the AFMLTA.

Anne-Marie Morgan is a Research Fellow in the School of Education at the University of South Australia, the Editor of Babel and a member of the executive of AFMLTA. Her teaching, research and publication interests include languages and literacy education, Indonesian language and teaching and learning, intercultural language learning, intercultural performance and studies of Asia.
Table 1. Attendance by location

State/Nation   16%                Victoria

               16%                New South Wales

               15%                South Australia

               14%                Queensland

               12%                Western Australia

               12%                Northern Territory

               6%                 Australian Capital Territory

               0.5%               Tasmania

               11 (individuals)   New Zealand

               2 (individuals)    United States

               3 (individuals)    other international locations

Table 2. Participants by occupation

Occupation   44%   secondary language educators

             20%   primary language educators

             11%   jurisdiction/government employees

             10%   tertiary educators/researchers

             3%    students

             12%   other occupations

Table 3. Employment type

Employment   66%   full time, permanent

             19%   part time, permanent

             7%    full time, contract/casual

             4%    part time, contract/casual

             5%    other (self employed, unemployed,
                   students, retired)

Table 4. Languages taught by delegates

Language teaching   18%   French

                    18%   Japanese

                    11%   Italian

                    11%   Indonesian

                    10%   Chinese

                    8%    German

                    15%   other languages, including
                          Australian (Aboriginal and
                          Torres Strait Islander) languages

                    9%    not currently language teachers

Table 5. Levels of satisfaction with conference

Organisation of the conference        94%

The conference as a whole             91

Darwin Convention Centre (as venue)   89%

Catering                              88%

Organisation by Dreamedia             86%
(conference management company)

Online registration process           82%

Welcome reception                     65%   21% indicated N/A

Cost of registration                  55%   25% Neither satisfied
                                            nor dissatisfied

Conference dinner                     45%   42% indicated N/A

Conference organised accommodation    32%   55% indicated N/A

Table 6. Levels of satisfaction with content
and program

Range of themes                 88%

Quality of plenaries            85%

Preparedness of speakers        84%

Range of speakers               82%

Practical/theoretical balance   72%

Lengths of sessions             72%

Table 7 Conference inclusions

Lunch                    95%

Morning tea              91%

Printed program          91%

Printed abstracts        83%   68% in another question indicated
                               they would be happy with online only
                               versions of the abstracts and
                               biographies

Welcome event            79%

International speakers   77%

Lanyard                  76%

Presenter biographies    76%

Afternoon tea            71%

Organised transport      67%

Social program           58%

Conference dinner        57%

Satchel                  51%

Table 8. Program inclusions

Hearing inspirational speakers   98%

Hearing about the latest         95%
research/practice

Networking                       95%

Gathering practice examples      88%
for own teaching

Catching up with colleagues      78%
or friends

Experiencing a new               65%
place/having a break

Visiting trade displays for      63%
resources

Presenting own work              40%   40% Neither important
                                       nor unimportant 16%
                                       Unimportant

Table 9. The conference as PL

Provision of valuable         85%   10% Neither agreed nor disagreed
professional learning
experiences

Provision of sufficient       80%   9% Disagreed
networking opportunities

Sufficient formal             62%   16% Neither agreed nor disagreed
discussion opportunities            17% Disagreed

Conference will have a        66%   24% Neither agreed nor disagreed
clear impact on my practice         9% Disagreed

Table 10. PL highlights

Practice examples to take back to the classroom       64%

ICT applications to languages learning                60%

Australian Curriculum discussion                      57%

New perspectives on languages teaching and learning   55%

Theoretical perspectives on relevant issues           42%

Table 11. Online presence

Conference website          86% before the conference
                            22% during the conference
                            23% after the conference

AFMLTA website use          80% before the conference
                            13% during the conference
                            17% after the conference

AFMLTA Face book page       10%

AFMLTA Twitter account      15%

Own blogs/social media to   10%
discuss conference
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Article Details
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Author:Absalom, Matthew; Morgan, Anne-Marie
Publication:Babel
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Nov 1, 2012
Words:6081
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