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So here’s a page dedicated to the research for our IATEFL talk. If there’s something you’d like to know that is missing from here then please let us know.

60/40 Gender split figures.

These come from Cambridge and IATEFL’s own figures. The figures represent a certain slice of ELT and don’t represent the situation in many countries. I could not find the figures for language teachers in UK state schools and if anyone does have them I’d love to see them. We also don’t have the figures for the rest of the world, but we speculated that it may be higher than 60/40. If you do have any figures we’d love to see them.

Survey results

So, some people wanted to know more about the survey we did. The survey was piloted and changed a number of times before it was used. Here is more information about each question. 520 people completed the survey.

Q1 Where are you from?

From somewhere in the UK n=250, Canada n=21, USA N=54, and various others countries (just over 30).

So we can see that this was quite a UK centric poll which no doubt skews the figures to a more UK based ‘vision’ of ELT.

Q2 Where are you working?

N=131 working in the UK, N=89 Spain,

Again, this is more representative of the UK than anywhere else.


Q3 How long have you worked in ELT?

The largest group of respondents said ‘more than 10 years’ (58%). Though statistically this is not surprising, it does mean we have ‘experienced’ teachers answering — possibly also related to outlets. That is, the places we put the question will be populated by a certain type of teacher.







Q4 What teaching qualifications do you have?

Due to Q3, it’s not surprising to find a high level of qualifications.







Q5 What’s your main role within ELT now?

An even mix of ‘types’ of TEFL teachers







Q6 Are you a member of any ELT organisations?

Interestingly, the majority of respondents (48%) were not members of any professional organisation.

Q7 Have you ever been to an ELT conference? (not training or CPD sessions)?

70% yes, 30% no

Q8 Who do you think are the the most well known people in ELT? Write the first 5 you can think of but don’t worry if they’re right or not. In other words, just write what comes into your head — don’t check on the internet! If you can’t think of anyone, just say that — it’s fine.

Total number of individual names mentioned by gender = 161 male / 89 female

Total number of mentions of each gender = 1,421 male / 295 female

An interesting point about this question is that even if we drop the ‘top 10’ that respondents chose, the figures don’t change that much. For example, the number of men mentioned vs. women mentioned is 152 men to 88 women which would seem to indicate a lot less ‘visibility’ for female ELTers.

Q9 Which of these people have you heard of?

This was originally a list of ELT people that respondents may or may not have heard of and was originally intended as back up if Q8 didn’t work out how we planned. Some people have suggested that the list of names may have influenced question 8 answers but that is unlikely as Q8 and Q9 were deliberately placed on different pages and you couldn’t go back from Q9.

What were the limitations?

The survey was carried out online. This creates a lot of problems. You can’t be sure that you are sampling from a distinct group because the poll could be posted by anyone, anywhere. You don’t really even know if teachers are filling it in.

To quote one source (Perry 136) “Researchers should get a response rate of at least 70% before the data is considered representative of a target population.” We do not know the size of the target population so, as Perry notes “without knowing how many [surveys] were distributed, we cannot determine […] whether the sample […] was representative of the target population.” These criticisms were levelled at a paper by Timmis (2002) but could be applied here.

The results were obviously not representative of the whole of ELT but represent a thin slice of a bigger picture.

The survey was necessarily very crude and asking people who are the most ‘well-known’ people in ELT are brings up a host of problems as some of the respondents pointed out. “Well-known for what?”, “Well-known in what way?” etc etc. At the time we were not really sure of any way around this.

Also, and most embarrassingly of all, we forgot to ask the gender of the respondents!

Despite these many limitations, we still think there are interesting observations that can come out of the responses.

research into conferences 

Using Tyson Seburn’s calendar of worldwide ELT conferences and events, we went through every event listed for 2014 and counted plenary positions by male and female. These included UK conferences but, within the 63 that were used for the results, there was a wide range of countries represented. Online events and Applied Linguistics conferences were not counted.

Conferences with more male plenaries than female = 32

Conferences with more female plenaries than male = 16

Conferences with equal male and female plenaries = 15

Note the total of female dominated plus equal conferences does not quite add up to the same number as the male dominated.

Total number of plenary slots given to men = 141

Total number of plenary slots given to women = 96

limitations of conference research 

The calendar is populated by people submitting events to Tyson so we can’t be sure there are undoubtedly a large number of events we missed.

As we began the count in September, there were events that no longer listed details of the plenaries which means the figures are incomplete. Thanks to Sue Lyon-Jones for pointing out that webinars have given far more visibility to women as they are often led by women. We’ve no data on this but it would be interesting to count.

Wasn’t your research pseudoscience? (how ironic!)

I think anyone claiming this probably doesn’t really understand what pseudoscience is. This from the Rational Wiki

Pseudoscience describes any belief system or methodology which tries to gain legitimacy by wearing the trappings of science, but fails to abide by the rigorous methodology and standards of evidence that are the marks of true science.

Well we certainly weren’t promoting a belief system, nor were we trying to ‘wear the trappings of science’. How that claim can be made when we explicitly said “we’re not researchers and so our research might not be the most stellar…’ is a mystery to me.

I think we did a pretty good job but, as noted above, the research had several limitations. As we said in the talk, researching the concept of ‘big naminess’ was never going to produce something that would pass as ‘serious’ research. We won’t be sending the findings off to the TESOL Quarterly. It was more an attempt to gain evidence so that the talk wasn’t just an opinion piece.

Feel free to add your comments/criticisms in the comments section below.