IATEFL 2018: Safe Speaking Environments – What? Why? How?

Zoltan Dornyei

In our first post from IATEFL 2018, we’re sharing the talk from Professor of Psycholinguistics, Zoltán Dörnyei, on what exactly Safe Speaking Environments are and why you should care.

The talk looks at creating a psychological environment in the classroom which might make students’ lives easier.  Zoltán says that in order to facilitate speaking in the language classroom, we need to:

  • Create suitable conditions in accordance with the main tenets of group dynamics, and
  • Apply the principles of safe speaking environments


What conditions need to be in place so we can start implementing a safe speaking environment?

Zoltán talks about group cohesiveness being a very important attribute, which determines the productivity of the group, and the degree of members’ engagement with the group.

He looks at eight different factors that promote group cohesiveness, including cooperation, competition and teachers’ leadership styles.

Zoltán goes on to discuss group norms – the rules and regulations that govern classroom life, as well as unproductive norms.  Three critical classroom norms he presents are:

1. The norm of mediocrity

2. The norm of tolerance

3. The norm of effort and perseverance

Watch the full video below to learn more about group dynamics and to see Zoltán share the five principles of a safe speaking environment:

See more recordings and articles from IATEFL.

  • Assad

    it’s an excellent whitepaper

  • Pedro Rodriguez Santos

    Hello, l sent my students stories about a month ago, but we can’t find them in the blog. Do i need to send them again? Thanks

    • Jasmine Short

      Hello Pedro,

      There shouldn’t be any need to resubmit your students’ stories, it’s likely that they simply haven’t appeared on the blog yet. We’ve had an amazing response to the competition and are currently reading through all the great stories.

      Many thanks,


  • Paschalia Katra

    Hello. I have my stories ready to be sent. Is use of the storyboard compulsory? My printer was out of order at the time and the children made their own. I did not think it made a difference but now, ready to send, I wonder. Does it?

    • Jasmine Short

      Hello Paschalia,

      The storyboard is by no means compulsory, the simply created it to be a helpful tool in the classroom. Hand-drawn templates from the children would most definitely be accepted and we look forward to reading your students’ stories.



  • Oxana Sidorova

    Hello, I wanted to ask if it’s fine to upload the story which was typed and not handwritten. My student typed the whole text, then we insert the illustrations for the story and I uploaded the PDF document. I’m worried now that it might not be accepted because of the format. Does it matter?
    How can I be sure the story of my student is received and accepted?

    • Jasmine Short

      Hello Oxana,

      Uploading typed stories is completely fine. We created a template for handwritten stories because this can sometime be easier in the classroom, however we’re happy to receive any stories written by students as long as they are submitted as a PDF document. Our team check the submissions regularly so I’ll let them know to expect your typed stories.

      Many thanks,


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