What does a Better Learning Experience mean?

In May 2018 I received a call from Cambridge University Press Brazil announcing that I was the winner of the contest “Move ELT Forward with your Teaching Tip”. It was a mix of feelings: happiness, gratitude, and anxiety, as I knew that from that moment on I would live an awesome experience, although I was not sure about what to expect exactly.

I was invited to attend the Better Learning Experience, a conference that is organized by Cambridge University Press which aims to reunite professionals to bring insights, content, and inspiration, as well as to support teachers, helping them build better results inside and outside of the classroom. In this post, I will tell you a little about the event and how it impacted my views on ELT on a professional and personal level.

The conference took place at Churchill College, in Cambridge, from June 24th to June 27th, and during these three days we could attend talks, poster sessions, and join a forum session. Collaborative practices, emotional learning, digital literacies, life competencies, the development of speaking and reading skills, virtual reality were some of the topics discussed by the speakers.

You can watch some of the talks in this playlist. Check it out:

To start, I believe the name of the event is thought-provoking as it sums up what most teachers want for their students. I know it may sound obvious – we all want to provide an enjoyable learning experience for them, don’t we? Although we know exactly what we want, there isn’t a single path to follow in order to achieve this.

And this is what I like the most about teaching. Like Paul Diver says, “It’s very hard to become bored with teaching. The more you learn about how we learn, the more you become aware of how much more there is to know about teaching. It’s one of those professions that can never truly be mastered”. It means that teaching will always be an unending profession. In my opinion, it is not because the world is constantly changing, but the fact that there are infinite different ways to teach. You can find it frustrating or fun, it depends on how you deal with it. Lucky teachers are those who understand that we will never have all the answers, and still find fun in work by searching for them.

So, what was so special about this conference? Well-known professionals from about 24 countries attended the event! Being able to meet and learn more about their teaching context and experiences made me understand how much we have in common. Even though we were thousands of kilometers distant geographically speaking, we can still connect with our desire to learn and teach a language. In fact, we are more alike than we think. I found extremely interesting to have the opportunity to talk to professionals from different parts of the world and be able to take part in discussions with them. The opportunity to network is unique, and it was definitely one of the highlights of the event.

My experience there was extremely positive and it made a significant impact on my career. It is impossible to leave Cambridge not being inspired by its atmosphere and by all of the people who are fully engaged in learning. I couldn’t agree more with Alessandra Jastes: “Once you step in to a University like Cambridge, everything changes: the local energy is indescribable. Inspiration to learn more naturally emerges.

It was a remarkable opportunity to keep up-to-date with ELT researches, discussions, and resources. As I am a novice teacher and considerably new to the ELT world (I was called the baby of the group in the Teacher Development forum session! haha), this experience helped me reflect on what I have experienced so far as an English teacher and researcher, and make plans to continue developing my career as a professional.


I came home almost one month ago, and I am still processing everything that I have experienced at the conference. These last days made me think about what a better learning experience is, and how we can promote it. If you have read the post until here, I am sorry to disappoint you, but I do not have a powerful line and expert answer for the question that I arose in the title.

We must consider that each learner has a learning experience. Each teacher has a different teaching experience. Each learning happens in a specific place and time. It is an individual process at the same time that it involves different aspects that may be out of someone’s control. And my answer to this question may be totally different from yours, and from what you expect. Would be unfair to give you a bold, highlighted, well-planned answer for such a complex question.

I don’t believe education is a one-way hand. You must be a learner to understand how to provide a better learning experience. And that’s why we had such a great time there – we were in the learner’s shoes. When we are given the chance to exchange roles, we see things from a different perspective and understand that there is always something to learn or improve. And this is something that teachers often forget: to be learners.

We, as teachers, are constantly seeking fast and effective solutions, and we tend to believe that they are always related to technology, or to something unknown ready to be discovered (who doesn’t feel attracted to the word “new” or “tech”? Well, I do!). To me – and this is a very personal opinion – a better learning experience can be achieved in many ways by working side by side with students. It means hearing their voices, their needs, and designing resources to achieve this end (using the so-called technological devices or not). A better learning experience means working together – teachers with teachers, learners with learners, teachers and learners – and dedicating your time and effort to this cause.

If I had to choose three keywords, I would go with collaboration, effort, and creativity. These word choices will probably change over time, and I can’t wait to revisit this post after a while to see what has changed. For now, I would love to hear from you what a better learning experience means!

Mariana

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You can read the article that I wrote for World of Better Learning by clicking here.
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Special thanks (in alphabetical order) to all the CUP team and Brazilian delegates that I have met: Anamaria Lemos, Ana Tatsumi, Bárbara Carvalho, Cristina Chiochetti, Daniela Bonomi, Isabela Villas Boas, João Madureira, Leonardo Gluskoski, Luciana, Luiz Fernando Schinelbain, Manuela Suassuna, Marcelo Barros, Mauro Vieira, Rossella Beer, Vania Furtado, Vinicius Silva, Patrícia McKay! I really appreciate the opportunity and all the support before and during the trip. I must say that it was such an honor to be there, and I truly believe that opportunities like this one can encourage teachers to pursue improvements and to provide better experiences to English learners.

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