The English Faculty were delighted to welcome teachers and educational professionals from across the country to the inaugural English Teachers’ Conference on Saturday 27th April.
The day began with a lecture entitled ‘Shakespeare in historical context: new approaches’ by Professor Emma Smith. Professor Smith explored the way Shakespeare used both literature and real life events as influences when writing his plays, and discussed the way history is presented to us through his writing.
“…wonderful and a real treat. It was informative but, more importantly, relevant.” – conference delegate, on Professor Emma Smith’s lecture
Delegates then walked the short distance from the English Faculty to Mansfield College, where Professor Matthew Bevis gave a lecture on ‘Wordsworth’s Fun’. Professor Bevis spoke about the history of the words ‘fun’ and ‘funny’ and the relationship between ‘amusement’ and ‘bemusement’ before delving into the nature of fun as it is presented in Wordsworth’s poetry.
Although not all schools study Wordsworth, the aim of the morning lectures was to give teachers the opportunity to reinvigorate their passion for the study of literature, outside of the texts they teach to their own students.
“I think it’s important for us to be lectured beyond the narrow confines of A-level” – conference delegate
We were then welcomed to Hertford College for a delicious lunch. Teachers had some time to network with colleagues and current undergraduates gave tours of the college.
The afternoon sessions began with a ‘Resources Showcase’ where colleagues from across the university gave short, teaching-directed updates on freely available resources that delegates might wish to explore with their students. Jen Gallagher from the English Faculty Library provided an excellent overview of the various literary podcasts, digital archives and referencing resources that they promote. Clare Cory of the Ashmolean Museum delivered a fascinating presentation about using visuals when teaching literature, and talked about the range of taught gallery sessions that the museum offers.
James Cairns from Oxplore spoke next, about the university’s innovative website full of super-curricular ‘Big Questions’ which engage school students with debates and ideas that go beyond what is covered in the classroom. Finally, Nicole Dingwall and Dr Velda Elliott shared the latest exciting pedagogical research from Oxford University’s Education Department, and passed on useful resources and websites for teachers to access.
Dr Katie Murphy brought the conference to an end with a very informative session about the Oxford admissions process for English Language and Literature. Dr Murphy gave teachers helpful guidance on all of the aspects of the application process, including the ELAT and what to expect in an interview. She demonstrated the information that is available on the English Faculty’s website, and concluded the event with an open Q&A with the group.We look forward to establishing the English Teachers’ Conference as an annual event in the faculty’s outreach calendar, and hope to build on the success of the inaugural event in future years.