TESOL conference in Doha

Last weekend I participated in the international TESOL conference in Doha (1-3 Oct, 2011) on Putting Research into Practice. My presentation was on how Cooperative Development contributes to and enhances reflective teaching practice (“CD or the Art of Teacher Maintenance”), inspired by and based on Julian’s work. It went very well and, for the first time, I managed to present it within the allocated time limits.

The link to the ppt version of my talk is below:

CD or the Art of Teacher Maintenance, TESOL Doha Oct 2011

During the conference, which took place at the impressive Qatar National Convention Centre, it was quite difficult to disentangle myself from the web of networking woven under the gigantic and very expensive sculpture of a pregnant spider called Maman by its creator, a French artist Louise Bourgeois (REALLY!)… However, I did manage to attend several presentations and lectures, too.

The ones that were directly related to my research included

  • a workshop on Sociocultural Approach to Teaching Languages and Literacies by Maggie Hawkins (who was most impressed that I knew Julian!)
  • a presentation on College Readiness and Qatari Students and on Qatari Students and Reading Skills, both by a Cornell team (Krystyna Golkowska and Rachid Bendriss)
  • a talk on Cultural Literacy across the Disciplines by Virginia Commonwealth University faculty, Hansen and Hanson
  • a presentation on Deconstructing Bottlenecks in the University Research-to-Writing Process by two English instructors and a librarian from Georgetown University.

The one presentation that I would like to share in more detail here was on Submitting Your Research to an Academic Journal by editors and people involved in publishing – Alan Weber (Cornell, Qatar), Chris Leonard (Editorial Director, Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Journals, Qatar) and David Palfreyman (Zayed University, UAE, notes).

It was very informative, useful and practical and here is a summary of the tips suggested by the presenters:


  • idea (“make sure you have something to say”),
  • choose your journal,
  • carefully read I4As (instructions for authors),
  • write a draft (or drafts) and revise (with a critical friend?),
  • submit


  • Is your article a good fit with the journal?
  • Does it adhere to the journal’s article format?
  • Is it contextualised for the readership?
  • Does it have a theoretical framework?
  • Style, grammar, punctuation

Choosing a journal:

  • “The best journal for your paper may not be the best journal in the field.”
  • Have you seen similar papers published there before?
  • Is your piece a good fit with the journal’s aims and scope?


  • Journal conventions (I4As)
  • Structure
  • Language
  • Conciseness, clarity, coherence
  • References – correct format
  • Most important elements: title (descriptive, not cute) + abstract (readable, not too simple but concise, explaining your work)

Other tips:

  • Use the Gunning’s Fox Index to improve readability of your abstract
  • Include a cover letter with a brief explanation why you chose that journal
  • Include key words
  • Avoid self-plagiarism (all editors use iThenticate to detect all forms of plagiarism)

Meeting new people and renewing old contacts while strolling around the marble, glass and leather interiors of the QNCC building (no, it is not a building, it is a STRUCTURE!) also proved very useful in professional terms.

I met a doctoral researcher from the IOE at University of London – she teaches at a small liberal arts college for women in Saudi Arabia and has been living there for the last 35 years. She knows Marianne Alireza, author of “At the Drop of a Veil”. We plan to work together on an article regarding perceptions of English language education in the Gulf.

I also met Dr Nancy Allen, a  consultant at the University of Qatar’s College of Education and will be visiting and interviewing her before the end of the month (hopefully).

An “old” contact fruitfully renewed was Bob Kennedy, Director of the Foundation Programme at the University of Qatar.

Finally, meeting Dr Rachid Bendriss, professor of English at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, gave me an opportunity to invite him to participate in a writing project I do every year with my composition students on examining differences and similarities between English and Arabic (rhetoric, patterns of expression, trajectories of historical development and position in the modern world).

All in all, it was a very productive and constructive three day event. I will post pictures as soon as I have figured out how.



  • Magda Rostron

    I will say hello to Alan, thanks!

    Yes, that spider is a real something… I couldn’t quite figure out the symbolic meaning of it in the local context, initially attributing rather negative cultural (or behavioural) connotations to it, but it turns out it has a positive image in the Islamic culture as a weaver of web and protector of Prophet Mohammed. During his flight from Mecca to Medina, he found shelter in a cave whose entrance was immediately covered by a giant spider’s web to mislead his enemies. I was reminded of the story during the TESOL conference!

    Re: Zen and the Art… – I have re-read it recently and found that some of the issues raised in the book inspired me to think of the quality of teaching, although perhaps not exactly in parallel terms. Still, it’s a great book (if you discard the fact that its autor had a nervous breakdown possibly as a result of too much self-reflection :))


    • A Narcissus moment, perhaps. As for the spider, I would have thought it was a statement about how the idea of motherhood extends to even the most repulsive creatures. But then again, I didn’t know about the local signification of the spider symbol.

  • Congratulations Magda! Sounds like a very interesting talk: I was particularly struck by the reference to Zen and the Art of Bicycle Maintenance. Very creative!

    Alan and I met at a conference in Albania last year. Do say hi from me if you see him again.

    Also, I am really looking forward to a picture of the Mother of all Spiders 🙂