2012 English Australia Conference

2012 English Australia Conference
20 & 21 September, Sydney, NSW

Click here for the conference program.

Click here for presentation PDFs.

Click here to view a selection of photos from the conference.


'Re-shaping our future'

More than 370 delegates from around Australia and beyond attended the 2012 English Australia Conference in Sydney, enjoying glorious spring weather for three days of presentations, workshops and networking hosted by English Australia.

Under the theme of ‘Re-shaping our future’ teachers, teacher trainers, managers, marketers, student support staff, students, academics, representatives of regulatory, peak and government bodies as well as suppliers of information and services to the ELICOS industry came together to focus on re-grouping following a downturn that has challenged and concerned many in the sector. Those who attended took away up-to-date information, skills and knowledge that will position them well to deliver quality ELICOS for the next ten years. The amount of collaboration and sharing was highly gratifying and indicates an industry that is mature and strong.

And of course there were plenty of opportunities for old friends to meet up and for new connections to be made in the breaks and the social activities. This year an extended Welcome event provided the opportunity to farewell the wonderful Clare McDowell, who is retiring (in one sense only) after more than 30 years with ELICOS and ELT, and the gala dinner and presentation of the English Australia Awards was held at the Four Points at Sheraton, where guests celebrated well into the night. The three ‘networking breakfasts’ were also well attended.

Clare McDowell's farewell

This year the conference had six key interrelated topics that were explored through the program:


Tomorrow’s students 

David Graddol addresses 2012 English Australia Conference

We wanted to identify who our future students might be, where they will come from and what they might need, inside and outside the classroom. Opening speaker and futurist Mark McCrindle gave us insights not only into student thinking but also how teachers and other staff might approach communication. Friday’s first plenary speaker, renowned author, linguist and researcher David Graddol, outlined findings of a recent research project into English language developments in the Pearl River Delta. David then joined a panel, comprising Iain Watt from ANU, Austrade’s Tamara Kearsley, and Phiona Stanley from UNSW, who added further dimensions to our understanding of China. 

Researcher Rob Lawrence offered his insights into the patterns of demand from international students and Sue Blundell, Kevin Brett and Dianne McKeagney demonstrated how the ELT Barometer can help colleges ensure they respond effectively to student needs.

There was plenty for marketers seeking to ensure tomorrow’s students study at their colleges. Featured speaker Samuel Vetrak from Europe-based StudentMarketing demonstrated how to use market research to drive success and Austrade’s Marie Hill joined Tim Mahoney from Tourism Australia and Mike Ryan from Perth Education City to describe how marketers can differentiate our destination.


Harnessing technology

Teaching with technology was a major conference stream, reflecting the concern held by many of those involved in educational delivery that they have the necessary skills for teaching tomorrow’s students. Plenary speaker Nicky Hockly, ELT author and trainer, outlined the digital literacies needed for tomorrow’s classrooms. Nicky also presented a pre-conference workshop on m-learning, and there were workshops and presentations on blended learning, using various Web 2.0 tools such as VoiceThread, Edmodo and Glogster.

Learning technologies pre-conference workshop

Tim Martin gave a very well-received outline of how online marketing and social media can best be used to attract students to colleges, and provide support while they are here, and many of the conference exhibitors displayed the latest resources and products involving technology, prompting considerable discussion during refreshment breaks.


Foundations of ELICOS

Catherine Walter at 2012 English Australia Conference

There was plenty on the fundamentals of best practice ELICOS, looking at what is ‘non-negotiable’ in quality ELT provision. We were very fortunate to have Catherine Walter outline research-based reasons why we should plan to teach grammar, and how this can be achieved. There were presentations on aspects of assessment; second language acquisition and pronunciation. Delegates also attended sessions on quality assurance and compliance.


Innovation is key to re-shaping our future and we were delighted at the breadth and depth of curiosity and creativity evident in our colleges. Many of the conference presentations offered new technologies to enhance and support the student experience, or new ways to look at standard approaches to teaching and learning, managing and marketing. Teacher-researchers in this year’s Action Research in ELICOS Program, initiated by English Australia and supported by Cambridge ESOL, presented the outcomes of their projects exploring assessment. The English Australia Award for Innovation, sponsored by ETS TOEFL, was won this year by a team from Griffith English Language Institute for their development of an online ILC.


Contexts of operation

As always, government and regulatory bodies supported the conference. The conference was opened by the member for the NSW seat of Vaucluse and NSW Parliamentary Secretary for Tertiary Education & Skills, Gabrielle Upton MP, and there were panel sessions on the global ELT industry and on the regulatory frameworks which helped delegates understand the context in which they work.

Compliance was also featured in the program.


Gabrielle Upton, MP, opens the 2012 English Australia Conference 


There were a number of speakers invited or selected to help businesses stay flexible, invest wisely in their future and create sustainability. Presentations on risk management and strategic planning were popular.



The Chair of English Australia, Chris Wallis, the Board of English Australia and English Australia’s Executive Director Sue Blundell are grateful for the support from conference sponsors who included platinum sponsor IELTS; silver sponsors Better Assessments, Cambridge English and ETS TOEFL®; and bronze sponsor Pearson. Oxford University Press was also a supporter.

English Australia would also like to thank co-Convenors Ruby Biscuit & Katrina Hennigan and the members of the NSW Program Committee as well as all those who gave their time and energy to presenting and chairing sessions and contributed to the success of the conference.