How to Write a Successful Proposal

ACTFLThis post reviews Barbara Rupert’s article, “How to Write a Successful Proposal for the ACTFL Convention,” in The Language Educator (November 2009, vol. 4, issue 6).  Members of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages can access the article in context.

Using experience as a guide, Ms Rupert describes the multiple stages of thinking that can lead to presenting at a meeting of a professional association of any kind, not just those teaching foreign languages.  While her article is written from the perspective of this association, its content is easily transferred to other professional contexts.

After consulting the association’s timeline, prospective presenters are asked to take several steps.

  1. Think about Content
  2. Decide on the Type of Presentation
  3. Consider Title and Description
  4. Use Engaging Delivery Methods
  5. Include Other Languages When Appropriate
  6. Follow the Guidelines
  7. Proofread Carefully

Ms Rupert writes from the perspective of a seasoned presenter who is advocating for other presenters.  She asks prospective presenters to consider what the association values and investigate the profession’s trends.  In the case of ACTFL, she cites several strands, certainly applicable to any teaching context.

  • Instruction
  • The Learner
  • Assessment
  • Professionalism
  • Research
  • Culture
  • Technology

Once content is determined, then session type can be considered.  While ACTFL has several, they are consistent with TESOL, IATEFL, and other associations of language teachers, regardless of the specific terms used.  These include breakout sessions (graphic, electronic posters), roundtable discussions, and workshops.  By using key words in the presentation title and description, presenters can effectively gather the like-minded.  Ms. Rupert encourages scaffolding the proposal for oneself by reviewing previous year’s programs.

She reminds readers that best teaching practices can be demonstrated as well as presented, analyzed, and discussed.  Because language teaching is the focus of the association, Ms Rupert suggests including more than one language as applicable.  By adhering to association guidelines, each proposal can be compared to all others.  While this is from the perspective of a reviewer of proposals, it is helpful to know as a prospective presenter.  Proofreading carefully ensures the impression the presenter wishes to make is unencumbered.  She encourages review by a colleague.

In the end, a convention is built around professional development.  Some might pose that they are about networking, but the point is the same:  regular (annual), predictably reliable and meaningful interaction with one’s peers.  “Convention” is a much tidier way of saying the same thing.

What professional development opportunities do you participate in?  Do you find that sharing with your peers is a useful way of learning?  If so, I encourage you to submit a proposal to your association and invigorate the discipline in which you conduct your professional endeavors.


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