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AILA Conference 2017 in Rio de Janeiro

Two researchers from the Chair of TEFL - Max von Blanckenburg and Dr. Thorsten Merse - will present talks and a workshop at this year's world congress of the International Association of Applied Linguistics.


The AILA world congress attracts researchers from all over the world working in the field of Applied Linguistics and Foreign Language Education. This year's congress will take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 23-28 July 2017. Max von Blanckenburg and Dr. Thorsten Merse from the Chair of TEFL at LMU University will travel to the AILA congress in Rio de Janeiro to present their research and a practice-oriented workshop to an international audience.

Dr. Thorsten Merse will speak on"Queer literacy practices in foreign language education: From conceptual considerations to practical classroom implications".

Max von Blanckenburg's talk is titled "A classical discipline rediscovered: Rhetoric as a resource for English language learners and teachers".

The joint workshop by Max von Blanckenburg and Dr. Thorsten Merse will focus on "Exploring multimodal texts in learner-oriented language teaching".



Queer literacy practices in foreign language education: From conceptual considerations to practical classroom implications (Dr. Thorsten Merse)

With sexual and gender diversity increasingly moving into the focus of educational policies and practices, queer or sexual literacy have been suggested as both teaching frameworks and learning objectives. In my talk, I will explore the specific contribution foreign language education can make towards the pedagogy of developing these particular literacies. I will set out to suggest which dimensions of ‘queer’ as a theoretical concept can be immediately relevant for foreign language education. I will then critically engage with terminological issues and compare sexual literacy with queer literacy to show the scope, relevance and possible limitations of these concepts. Furthermore, I will interrelate queer/sexual literacy with pedagogic concepts of multiliteracies (e.g. as put forward by the New London Group) to show how meaning-making practices that revolve around ‘queer’ become evident in sociocultural discourses and multimodal texts. In the following, the potential of texts as teaching resources which learners can explore and access for queer literacy practices will be highlighted. Based on my research at the intersection of queer and foreign language teaching, I will discuss in particular:

  • with which texts and tasks queer literacy practices can be developed in foreign language classrooms so that learners become ‘literates’,
  • how learners - irrespective of their own sexual and gender (non)-identification - can be encouraged to engage with discourses from a queer perspective,
  • how teaching can empower learners to critically reflect on norms of sexuality and gender.

Thus, I seek to carve out a space for queer literacy practices in the foreign language classroom and highlight why queer/sexual literacy can be thought of as a constitutive element of foreign language education. Examples from my research at Munich University and my practice as a teacher educator will be used throughout the talk to illustrate the line of argumentation.


A classical discipline rediscovered: Rhetoric as a resource for English language learners and teachers (Max von Blanckenburg)

Rhetorical aspects of communication can be found not only in political speech but in various communicative contexts. Especially in a globalised and digitalised world, we encounter persuasive oral and written speech in everyday conversation, newspaper articles or social media. Likewise, orators often make (professional) use of argumentative, stylistic and performative strategies and techniques to create strong, compelling points. At some point, however, rhetoric is always in danger of turning into manipulative or irresponsible language use – either as a consequence of deliberate choice or possibly a lack of awareness. Therefore, if language teaching is to prepare learners for relevant future communicative situations, the question emerges if and how rhetoric can or should play a role in classrooms, regarding both teachers and learners.

I will argue in this presentation that it is of importance to empower language learners to orientate themselves and participate in rhetorical discourses. By drawing on research from linguistics, psychology and TEFL, I will suggest that a desirable learning outcome in this context can be best described in terms of a 'rhetorical competence'. This competence aims to encompass those dimensions that are relevant for how language affects thinking and decision making and includes a set of analytical and productive skills as well as attitudes, motivations and affective factors that empower learners to communicate both effectively and appropriately. Similarly, the question arises in what ways teachers themselves can or should responsibly harness rhetorical elements in their classroom discourse, and how, in turn, they can draw on approaches and methods to help foster rhetorical competence among learners.

In this presentation I seek to give insights into both theoretical and practical considerations on the basis of research on rhetoric in English language teaching carried out at Munich University, Germany.


Exploring multimodal texts in learner-oriented language teaching (Max von Blanckenburg and Dr. Thorsten Merse)

Today’s language learners find themselves surrounded by an increasing number of texts and text types as part of the socio-cultural discourses they participate in. More and more, these texts exceed the scope of a traditional, written and page-bound structure and include multiple modes of meaning-making. In this sense, visual, auditive as well as all multimedial texts can be considered semiotic systems that introduce new or impact on established forms of textual communication. Against this background, the ability to understand, produce and critically reflect on multimodal texts becomes a paramount learning goal for language teaching. Furthermore, from a learner-oriented perspective, it is worth asking how and under what circumstances multimodal texts can be a benefit to the language classroom by making learning processes more individual, relevant and engaging.

Drawing on a broad notion of text and the concept of multiliteracies, this workshop seeks to

  • practically explore how meaning is created through different kinds of text
  • offer room for reflecting on and discussing the role the individual (learner) plays in meaning-making processes.

More specifically, by working with an ensemble of texts, such as graphic novels, picture books, images, video and non-linear texts, participants gain knowledge about the competences required to make sense of multimodal texts and reflect on individual and shared experiences within this process. What is more, in a second phase the group will get a chance to also produce multimodal texts in order to explore practices of encoding meaning in various textual modes. Thus, the workshop aims to render visible the potential of putting learners in the centre of teaching and empowering them to create, consume and critically examine multimodal texts and their forms of textual communication.