The Korea Herald


KOTESOL conference looks to its ‘provinces’

By Korea Herald

Published : May 25, 2016 - 17:48

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English teachers and scholars from across Korea will meet Saturday in Wonju, Gangwon Province, for KOTESOL’s annual national conference.

Korea Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages is an association of around 600 teachers of English, one-third of whom are Korean. The national conference is its second-largest event behind the fall international conference, and is expected to attract more than 200 participants.

Theron Muller Theron Muller

Designed for practical applications, useful experiences and fresh ideas for teachers of English, the conference will include eight hours of presentations, including a plenary session by emerging scholar Theron Muller, and more than 35 other teacher-led sessions.

Muller, an associate professor at the University of Toyama, says it is important to remember that not all Korean students are the same and more individual consideration than a “one size fits all” approach is required.

“Given a choice between three equally viable options, I’ll often get pretty even splits in student interest and preference across the three,” said Muller. “It’s the same with teaching methods. One thing works in one classroom, but not in another. I think it comes down to the teacher and the particular students in the classroom with them, along with the curriculum and institutional cultures in which that classroom is situated.”

Theron Muller Theron Muller

The theme of the conference is “Our Provinces,” which conference chair Michael Free says refers to more than geography. He says it includes “the many domains of ELT, such as motivation and assessment, as well as interdisciplinary fields such as the use of art, film and music, and new concerns, such as an increased awareness of the importance of social justice in education.”

He adds that the “Our” in the title, among other things, “speaks to the building of communities of practice that are so vital to the success of our work.”

Many of KOTESOL’s communities of practice -- special interest groups -- are also meeting at the conference. KOTESOL president Lindsay Herron points out that the Social Justice SIG will be launched at the conference, “which embraces diversity and seeks to empower the powerless, with an aim of promoting inclusion, equity, critical inquiry and positive social change.”

Free also said that KOTESOL had made changes to allow more breaks and a less rigid schedule in response to surveys about conferences in Korea.

“Teachers have indicated they want more time to discuss what they hear, they want to share with others on the day, they don’t want hours of lectures,” said Free.

“Our conference timetable reflects this, with longer breaks, shorter and longer sessions to fit individual preferences and more socialization. In the same way, we mix some research sessions alongside highly practical workshops -- there’s really something for everyone.”

The national conference runs all day at Sangji University in Wongju, Gangwon Province. For more information, visit

By Paul Kerry (