The 13th Annual CamTESOL Conference took place between the 17th to the 19th of February 2017 at the Institute of Technology of Cambodia. CamTESOL is an annual Conference Series started in 2005 for professionals in the field of English Language Teaching and related issues. It has now become the premier professional development conference in the Asia Pacific region with an average audience of 1,700 attending annually (over 600 of who are international participants from more than 30 countries). American University of Phnom Penh (AUPP) was represented by Mr. Steven Graham, Director of the English Preparatory Program (EPP) at AUPP, and Mr. Joseph Barnett, Instructor of EPP. The goals of this year’s conference were to provide a platform for the exchange of teaching ideas and best practices for language education, to strengthen networks of English language teachers and professionals, to provide professional development for ESOL instructors and provincial Cambodian teachers, and to present new research in language teaching from leading researchers.
During the conference Mr. Steven Graham presented on the topic “Building Confidence through Roleplay” and discussed the use of role play in the English Preparatory Program at AUPP. He explained how role play was used in the EPP to develop confidence, and discussed practical applications for using role play in language learning classes. Moreover, Mr. Graham highlighted the need for creating contexts for students to practice the language learned in class because many students do not have opportunities to use the language outside of class. Mr. Graham provided specific recommendations for implementing role play in student-centered classrooms. For example, role play topics should not be too broad or too vague because students may feel lost in planning the role play. Thus, while teachers should provide autonomy for students in planning their role play, teachers must also act as guides to lead students in the correct direction for achieving target language and content goals. Lastly, Mr. Graham provided a handout for planning role plays and offered suggestions for modifying role plays for different age groups and teaching contexts. The main takeaway from this presentation was that role plays are an effective, researched-based way for students to practice speaking and listening of target language in a low-affective filter environment.
AUPP is Cambodia’s only American-style university where all classes are taught in English by highly qualified professors. During admissions, applicants are eligible to be directly admitted to a collegiate dual degree programs if they have an overall band 6.0 and above in IELTS, or an equivalent score in TOEFL. Applicants who do not meet this English proficiency will be required to undertake a university-administered English proficiency test. Depending on their scores, students who do not meet the minimum criteria in this test, they may be conditionally admitted and placed in the intensive English Preparatory Program (EPP). The students are placed in either of the three levels of the EPP. The three EPP courses consist of three components, integrated skills, soft skills development and individualised learning designed to scaffold students in their English language preparation for collegiate studies. These three components allows the students to pay particular attention to the academic literacy skills that require more work in order to meet the required standards for collegiate work at AUPP. In this way, the English Preparatory Program helps the students in their fluency and mastery of the English language and makes them eligible for the collegiate dual degree programs offered at AUPP.