Qatar University (QU) held 6th Annual International Conference on English Language Teaching virtually, entitled “Changing Roles and Expanding Responsibilities in the Post-Covid19 Era” via Webex and YouTube.

This internationally recognized conference achieved massive success and attracted global attention to Qatar University. The conference attendance was phenomenal with 11,438 attendees from 105 countries and presenters from 53 nations. The wider English language teaching community in Qatar, including school teachers, professors from other universities were given opportunities to share their research and teaching methods with a global audience and specialists in teaching English as a second language. The 6th Annual International Conference on English Language Teaching highlighted the expertise of professional educators throughout the country’s institutions at the international level.

The conference, now in its 6th year, has gained a reputation for being the premiere and most highly-attended ELT conference in the region. In his Inaugural address, Dr. Hassan Al-Derham, Qatar University president, said this conference has brought together prominent educators, teachers, language experts, and best practitioners from the field of English language teaching. He also stressed the importance of the conference as an opportunity to exchange and share the best practices in teaching English in different contexts from all over the world, and to sustain meaningful professional development opportunities for members of the ELT community. His Excellency, Qatar University President, encouraged the Foundation Program in the Deanship of General Studies to continue to host English Language Teaching conferences.

In his welcome address, Dr. Hezam Al-Awah, Director of the Foundation program and Conference Chair, emphasized that English language teachers have to acquire additional skills necessary to perform effectively in their teaching in the classrooms. He added that the pandemic has, therefore, redefined the role of teachers in the classroom, and, thereby, increased their responsibilities beyond the classroom context.

Dr. Hezam also declared that by holding this conference annually, the Foundation Program at Qatar University is committed to supporting its faculty and other English language instructors to develop their practices, which will put them in an outstanding position to provide their students with rich learning experiences.

As of QU’s excellent institutional support, the high-quality professional development opportunities have brought international recognition as it is now seen as a cutting-edge institution that attracts world-famous keynote, plenary and featured speakers who are at the very top of the field of TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages). This year’s conference attracted the plenary speaker, Scott Thornbury, author of numerous peer-reviewed articles and several textbooks. The conference also drew an audience of 1,937 specialized and interested in English language teaching.

Scott Thornbury’s plenary resonated strongly with this year’s conference theme, Changing Roles and Expanding Responsibilities in the Post-Covid Era, as it provided a highly relevant context for all teachers to connect with.

During the Covid-19 era, the role of teachers has become, in many ways, more challenging than when learning took place in class. To keep students engaged, teachers needed to be creative, using technological tools. Notwithstanding the challenges imposed by Covid-19 at the international level, this global crisis has also been a remarkable time for learning. Teachers and students have had to learn to be more resilient and adaptable.

To prepare educators to deal with the challenges of virtual teaching and the post-Covid teaching environment, the Foundation Program at Qatar University collaborated with Qatar’s Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MOE&HE) to provide opportunities for Qatar’s high school English teachers to benefit from the event. To achieve this, the conference Committee Chairs Dr. Okon Effiong and Mr. Mhammed Chadi in the Foundation Program worked with the Training and Educational Development Center (TEDC) of the MOE&HE, chaired by Her Excellency Hissa Al-Ali, to give training sessions to participating public school English language teachers.

During the 6th Annual International Conference on English Language Teaching, participants were able to attend 91 specialized sessions. These included best practices and refereed, research-based sessions on virtual learning, emotional intelligence, social & emotional learning, critical thinking, creativity, digital literacy, learner autonomy, practical methods for teaching online, project-based learning, managing virtual classrooms, online testing and assessment, online tools, professional development, and leadership.
In addition to learning from the apex leaders in the TESOL profession, people who attended this conference greatly benefitted from networking opportunities. These connections are vital to motivating teachers and will most certainly lead to future collaborations with other professional educators across Qatar and overseas. One of the featured speakers, TESOL President Gabriela Kleckova, pointed to the fact that students benefit when teachers learn from each other. Kleckova declared, “When teachers speak with each other about teaching, it has a significant positive impact on student learning. Therefore, I would like to encourage you to invest into new ways of collaborating with your colleagues.”

The Foundation Program, under the Deanship of General studies, hope to continue to build on the regional and international recognition by providing high-quality professional development opportunities to English language teachers locally and abroad.

Over the past 6 years QU’s Foundation Program has demonstrated leadership in developing communities of knowledge, promoting best practices for online and face-to-face learning, and enhancing technical skills to ensure English language learners in schools across Qatar are able to meet learning objectives. With the continued support of Qatar University, the ELT community will be able to remain at the cutting edge of the latest trends in research and pedagogy.