TPLANG21: Perspectives and Trajectories of the Language Teachers in the 21st Century

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TPLANG21: Perspectives and Trajectories of the Language Teachers in the 21st Century  



Statement concerning the scope of the ReN

This ReN brings together established language educators (i.e. teachers and teacher trainers) and language researchers, who have been working on what it takes to be a language teacher in the digital age. This is a key area in applied linguistics, and one that has grown in importance in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group has been taking stock of existing continuing professional development activities that are available to teachers, collecting and comparing these internationally across several continents (Europe, South America, North America, Asia, Australia/New Zealand). We have also been exploring the beliefs and underlying ideals which inform the training and self-training of language teachers, ascertaining trajectories of professional development, as defined in a wide variety of teaching and learning cultures.

The convenors contributed to the AILA Congress in Brazil (2017) prior to the formal constitution of the ReN in 2018, organized a symposium at the AILA Congress in Groningen (2021) and are committed to filling a ReN symposium slot at the 2024 AILA Congress in Kuala Lumpur. Both previous presentations were based on research that had been carried out by ReN members. Feedback on the Groningen symposium was very positive, with participants emphasizing the highly interactive nature of the symposium and welcoming the diversity of interesting research presented.

ReN convenors also disseminated the activities of the network through other channels, e.g. presentations at the WorldCALL conference in Concepcion, Chile (November 2018), the EuroCALL conference in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium (August 2019), and the University of Jyväskylä (September 2021).

In addition, the work carried out by the ReN has also resulted in the following publications:

  • Karamifar, Banafsheh; Stickler, Ursula; Hampel, Regine; Germain-Rutherford, Aline; Hopkins, Joseph; Heiser, Sarah; Ernest, Pauline; Emke, Martina and Pellerin, Martine (2018). Perspectives and trajectories of the language teacher in the 21st century. In: Proceedings WorldCALL 2018 Concepción, 13-16 November, 2018 CALLing all the CALLers Worldwide (Barr, David; Bañados, Emerita and Gimeno, Ana eds.), Universidad de Concepcion, Concepcion, Chile, pp. 51–54.
  • Karamifar, Banafsheh; Germain-Rutherford, Aline; Heiser, Sarah; Emke, Martina; Hopkins, Joseph; Ernest, Pauline; Stickler, Ursula and Hampel, Regine (2019). Language Teachers and Their Trajectories Across Technology-Enhanced Language Teaching: Needs and Beliefs of ESL/EFL Teachers. TESL Canada Journal, 36(3) pp. 55–81.
  • Stickler, Ursula; Hampel, Regine; Heiser, Sarah; Ernest, Pauline; Hopkins, Joseph; Germain-Rutherford, Aline and Emke, Martina (2020). ReN: Perspectives and Trajectories of the Language Teacher in the 21st Century (TPLang21). International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 30(2) pp. 344–349.


Ursula Stickler, Regine Hampel, Sarah Heiser, Pauline Ernest, Joseph Hopkins, Aline Germain-Rutherford, Martina Emke

ReN activities for the upcoming three years

The most recent project explored how language teachers across the world are seeing their role change in the context of the increased use of online technologies. The group has already completed an initial analysis of the data (using two quite different approaches) and presented the findings at the AILA 2021 symposium. A deeper analysis needs to be completed and written up.

The activities of the ReN have become even more crucial in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has seriously challenged teachers who, overnight, have had to move from f2f to online teaching. While the pandemic has eased recently, online education seems here to stay.

An online meeting for all existing and new ReN members was organized in early September 2021 to generate new ideas for future research directions. The resulting suggestions are as follows:

  • extension of the ReN’s current research on ideal teacher perspectives to consider similarities and differences in these perspectives, and to explore language teacher identity online
  • starting a longitudinal study of language teachers‘ use of technology
  • an investigation of national policies with regard to professional development frameworks for language teachers
  • investigating worldwide resource hubs for language teachers
  • examination of the ways that teachers accommodate student learning outside the classroom (learning in the wild)
  • starting a comparison of policies and practices related to how language teachers in different countries work with migrants.
  • an investigation into teachers as task designers
  • studying teacher confidence in teaching remotely or hybrid-flexible (hyflex, see;
  • an investigation into what extent existing frameworks already reflect the current shifting of skills to support hyflex teaching

A design for a ReN symposium at the 2024 AILA Congress in Kuala Lumpur

Based on the result of a vote amongst all ReN members (19 Oct 2021), the following topic was chosen as the most popular for the next AILA ReN Symposium in Kuala Lumpur 2024:

21st century digital transformation and its impact on language teachers

Over the past decade the new digital and online media have been transforming language learning and teaching (Hampel 2019), with COVID accelerating this change (Stickler & Emke in preparation). So where is language teaching going post-COVID? What attributes does the 21st language teacher have?

This project will exploit the international reach of the ReN to examine how language teachers across the world are dealing with the challenges they are facing today. Particular focus will be placed on understanding how they are adapting to the digital transformation (EDUCAUSE 2021) accelerated by COVID-19. This includes taking advantage of the new affordances (i.e. modalities and flexibilities) offered by the technologies; to enhance the modes of delivery (e.g. hybrid); to promote greater students' engagement; and to foster collaboration and the building of communities of learning in the f2f, online and hybrid classroom. The ReN will also explore how this is impacting on language teacher identity. What attributes does the ideal (online) language teacher have?

Accordingly, the following ReN activities informing this symposium will be given preference over the next three years:

  • a longitudinal study of language teachers‘ use of technology, exploring their ability to adapt to the digital transformation
  • researching ideal teacher perspectives and language teacher identity online
  • a comparison of local and national policies and practices related to language teachers’ use of technology