Developing Critical Thinking in an Online L2 Academic Context

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                                                  Introducing Celia Antoniou

                   – travel grant winner for the 2016 BELTA conference in Brussels –

Celia was a travel grant winner at the recent BELTA conference in Brussels. The LT SIG has made it a practice to offer a variety of travel grants to its members in an effort to offer member teachers and researchers the opportunity to share their ideas with a wider audience. Travel grants are given after a call for proposals has gone out, members have sent in abstracts and summaries of their presentations and our committee of experienced readers makes a selection (unseen and on the basis of a list of criteria).

We asked Celia four questions about her presentation and experience of attending the BELTA day conference in Belgium.


1.What was your talk about?

My talk explored the topic of developing critical thinking in an online L2 academic context. This was part of a project that I have been working on during my doctoral studies and I chose it as there is currently more need for online studies and information on how to enable students to think critically in a higher education context but also on how to develop collaborative work and online interaction.

Online education has been growing and institutions have been exploring ways of providing effective online and open access courses to meet the needs of students with different backgrounds. There has been a lot of experimentation with environments and online teaching approaches to developing critical thinking, and tutors have been looking for alternatives and practical examples. I aimed at familiarising my audience with what critical thinking skills are and in what ways can tutors help their students to develop at a conceptual level and in understanding reading texts.

Emphasis was placed upon how specific online environments can be used to foster critical thinking and training,  some of the affordances of these environments, what types of tasks can be designed to this end, how students could be engaged in motivating and interactive online tasks, and the type of feedback and evaluation that is provided in these cases.

2. What made you decide to apply for the LTSIG travel grant?

I was interested in presenting at the BELTA conference as I had heard a lot of positive comments about the Association. Their conference topic was related to the area that I am currently working on and I also thought it would be a great opportunity for me to network with other invited speakers and practitioners in the field.

When the LTSIG travel grant was advertised I immediately thought that this would be an excellent opportunity for me to supplement  my conference expenses given that I am currently a PhD student and travel grants are hard to find!

I applied, was lucky enough to have been selected, and off to Brussels I went!

3. Do you think presenting at the LTSIG will help your career?

 As a professional and researcher in Language Learning and Technology/Digital Literacies within a Higher education context, I am constantly trying to keep up with the changes in this field. Being given the opportunity to present at the LTSIG is a step towards showcasing my work to colleagues and practitioners, sharing experiences and exchanging ideas that could enrich my own practice.

4. How has this LTSIG grant contributed to your professional development?

With the LTSIG grant I was able to present my work to other colleagues in Brussels, receive feedback, liaise with colleagues/ EAP tutors from various countries who were also attending and was able to set up some collaborative projects.I also met some journal editors and scheduled my participation in future events! So, all in all, I feel that some excellent opportunities presented themselves to me which, without the grant and the trip, I would not have had the chance to discover on my own!

5.What did you most enjoy from the event you attended?

I particularly enjoyed the plenary session and I was happy to see that the conference was well organised and took place in a very nice venue. The conference committee was very friendly and helpful and there was also an excellent team of student volunteers who were on stand by! It was very interesting to see that there was a good mix of teachers and researchers who presented their work and I was particularly interested in the presentations that reported on project collaborations and the use of technology, literature and EAP.
celiaCelia is a PhD researcher and an EFL/EAP tutor at the Department of Language and Linguistics, University of Essex, UK. She teaches linguistics, psycholinguistics, and methodology of TEFL to undergraduate students. She holds a BA in English language and Literature from Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece, and an M.Phil. in Theoretical and Applied Linguistics from Trinity College Dublin, Ireland (Graduate scholarship). Additional honors and awards include her research studentship for a PhD online task management. Her main research interests lie in the areas of foreign language pedagogy, assessment, digital literacies and English for specific / academic purposes.

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