Educational Practitioner Interviews

Beyond The Abstracts: Autonomy in Early Years Education – Annika Albrecht (July 2024)

Annika Albrecht (MSc in Behavioral and Organizational Psychology) is a teacher trainer specializing in autonomous language learning and Montessori pedagogy. In addition to her role as a didactic leader at a Montessori campus, she is a lecturer for autonomous foreign language learning at the University of Potsdam and an author of teaching materials for English as a Foreign Language (EFL). Her interests lie in motivation and skill-variety as keys to self-expression in a foreign language. She completed her AMI Adolescent Orientation in the USA and her Adolescent Diploma Course in Sweden.

And now, here is my conversation with Annika Albrecht:

Annika first speaks about growing up in Germany.  She describes how she developed an early appreciation for different languages and culture. We also discuss how she brings those perspectives to early childhood education. Annika then recalls her first transformative  experiences in Montessori classrooms. She describes witnessing children learning joyfully and freely in mixed-age groups. We consider the benefits of Montessori education, autonomy, and children learning at their own pace. Annika also emphasises the importance of integrating psychological insights into teaching. To that end, we talk about “The English Language MakerSpace“.  These engaging project-based learning material were developed with Carmen Becker and connect to learners’ interests and competencies. Lastly, we cover continuous professional development. Annika encourages teachers to stay curious and open to new experiences. Her current focus is on exploring the role of perceived competence in language learning, integrating students’ broader skills and interests into the classroom. This conversation will be essential watching for anyone with an interest in these areas.

Want to learn more?

Return to top

Beyond The Abstracts: Blending Boundaries – Zainab Teraif (June 2024)

In this Beyond The Abstracts conversation I speak with Zainab Teraif. Zainab is a doctoral candidate at the University of St Andrews, enrolled in the DProf TESOL programme, and an English Instructor at Bahrain Polytechnic since 2021. She has been working in the teaching sector for over 10 years, as a teaching assistant for the most part. She is CELTA certified, and completed an MATESOL at the University of Birmingham, which demonstrates her interest in the field of ELT and teacher training. Her research interest, however, lies in the reciprocal relationship between theory and practice, where insights from research inform educational practice and practical experiences enrich theoretical understanding. Hence, because of this interest, Zainab tends to explore trends in ELT (e.g., Blended Learning, Integration of Generative AI). Moreover, she regularly links her findings to the theory of Adult Learning (Andragogy) because of her context in higher education.

And now, here is my conversation with Zainab Teraif:

In this engaging conversation, Zainab shares her transition from an educational practitioner to a researcher, and her innovative teaching practices at Bahrain Polytechnic. Zainab discusses the integration of blended learning within her English foundation program, emphasising the practical challenges and reflections associated with implementing asynchronous and synchronous learning. To that end, we discuss issues raised in her 2024 paper, Time to blend learning? A reflective practice on blended learning in an English Foundation Programme at Bahrain Polytechnic. Zainab also discusses her personal journey and the lessons learned from her experiences, which include adapting to the needs of a diverse student body and promoting learner autonomy through educational technology. This conversation offers valuable insights into the blending of teaching and research, the role of reflection in education, and the evolution of learning environments to foster student independence and engagement – and will be essential watching for anyone with an interest in these issues.

Learn more about Zainab Teraif’s work here:

Return to top

Beyond The Abstracts: language learner autonomy and educational practice- Lawrie Moore (April 2024)

In this Beyond The Abstracts conversation I speak with Lawrie Moore. Lawrie is a US-American lecturer and teacher trainer who has been living in Austria since 1997. Originally from a business background, Lawrie transitioned to teaching in 2008. She teaches mainly ESP and EAP at the tertiary level and is especially interested in encouraging students to collaborate and take responsibility for their learning. She holds a Cambridge CELTA and DELTA and is a CELTA tutor in Vienna, where she enjoys supporting new EFL teachers in creating learner-centered classes. Lawrie is Joint Coordinator of IATEFL’s Learner Autonomy Special Interest Group. She is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of St. Andrews.

Click the image to watch:

In this conversation we cover the multifaceted nature of language learner autonomy, teaching, and teacher-training methodologies, alongside the intricacies of educational practice. We explore Lawrie’s journey into teaching, and how her interest in language learner autonomy organically developed. We also discuss the importance of empathy, teaching that is responsive to learner needs, the interconnectedness of teacher and learner autonomy, pivoting and adaptability, the significance of structured freedom in the learning environment, personalisation, the continuous process of learning and improvement for teachers, the role of collaborative communities in education, among other topics.

This conversation will be essential viewing for anyone with an interest in both the practical aspects of integrating autonomy into language learning and on the broader implications for teaching practices and educational communities. And now, here is my conversation with Lawrie Moore.

Return to top

Beyond The Abstracts: Developing a New Self Access Learning Center – Isobel Hook (December, 2023)

In this Beyond The Abstracts conversation I speak with Isobel Hook. In addition to being an experienced language instructor, Isobel is currently the Coordinator of the Self-Access Learning Center, also known as the i-Space, which is part of the International Education Center at Kyoto Notre Dame University in Japan. 

Click the image to watch the conversation:

Alongside developing and promoting the i-Space, Isobel’s research interests span the roles of identity, technology, autonomy, and self access in language teaching and learning. In this conversation we explore the creation of the i-Space, how it was developed, learning materials, the impact of space and place, the role of collaboration and community, issues of gender, and current and future challenges with coordinating and evaluating a Self-Access Learning Center, including how to overcome resource limitations. This conversation should be of particular interest to educational practitioners, and in particular to current or prospective SALC Co-ordinators.

You can also check out the i-Space on Instagram by clicking the image below.

Return to top

An Interview on Language Learner Autonomy- ChatGPT4 (November, 2023)

In this experimental interview, I have a conversation with ChatGPT 4 exploring the topic of language learner autonomy. The conversation goes both deep and broad.

We cover a wide range of topics of interest to practitioners, including:

  • the nature of autonomy
  • language difference
  • the role of motivation and educators
  • technology and AI
  • forms of assessment for autonomy
  • future trends in research, theory, and practice.

As a purely technological demonstration, this was an amazing experience. Also, for educators or other interested parties new to the field, the potential for technologies like ChatGPT to summarise and redeliver complex information in increasingly palatable forms is likely something that will have a large impact on autonomy research and practice, and on education more broadly. However, its formulaic and generalist responses also showed the current limitations of the technology. Regardless, I hope this can serve as a useful starting point to the field, and also as a bit of fun.

Enjoyed this interview? Let me know what you think! Credit is due to Paul Raine over at Emerging Technologies in Language Education for the inspiration, and of course to ChatGPT itself!

Return to top

You may also like: Researcher Interviews