T is for Teacher Training

7 11 2010

A teacher in Turkey sent me the following email recently:

“I am a teacher interested in teacher development (TD), and I have had my DELTA recently. I am trying to become a teacher trainer in the professional manner. … I would like to request suggestions on the long path of becoming a teacher trainer.”

This comes the same week as another colleague asked me a similar question: how can she gain the skills required to run an in-service program for secondary school teachers that her institution is hosting next year?

Teaching practice, IH London, in the early days

Both questions address the issue of training to become a teacher trainer, a job for which there seems to be no clearly defined path nor formal, certificated preparation.  (How did you become a teacher trainer, if you are one?)

Cambridge ESOL, for example, (who administer the CELTA and DELTA programs) offer no training courses, but only the following advice:


Who can become a teacher trainer for CELTA?

Potential CELTA trainers are required to have the Cambridge ESOL Delta or an equivalent ELT qualification. Prospective trainers with solely a strong academic background may not be suitable as CELTA trainers because of the required focus on practical classroom issues. An MA in ELT with a strong practical focus may be acceptable if the following four conditions are also met. The prospective trainer:

  • has substantial (normally five years), recent and varied ELT experience
  • is familiar with the types of classes trainee teachers will teach
  • is familiar with the materials trainee teachers will use
  • can demonstrate professional involvement in ELT.

What might that ‘professional involvement in ELT’ be, and how could this support an application to be a trainer? My advice:

Give talks and workshops

  • Offer to give talks/workshops in your own institution, especially of a practical nature – e.g. how to exploit the coursebook, how to use the IWB, how to develop listening skills, etc.
  • If possible, observe your fellow teachers, and allow them to observe you. This should be done in a non-judgmental way, and purely as a means of sharing ideas and techniques.
  • If your schedules allow, team-teach with a colleague: planning and executing a lesson together can be an extremely instructive.
  • Offer to mentor newly recruited teachers, i.e. help them with with their lesson planning, and observe them from time to time, if this is permitted.
  • Write articles or reviews for journals such as English Teaching Professional, that focus on some aspect of classroom practice.
  • Keep a blog.
  • Participate in online webinars or discussions hosted by professional bodies, such as SEETA, and offer to moderate one.
  • Conduct some kind of action research on your own teaching, such as monitoring the effect of an innovative use of some technique or technological aid.
  • Join a professional organisation, either national (such as MASH – if you live in Japan) or international – such as IATEFL.
  • Attend, and present at, conferences and seminars, both locally (if available) or further afield.
  • Attend teacher training workshops or short courses, such as those offered by organisations like International House: these are the nearest thing to some kind of recognised qualification in teacher training.
  • If you are thinking of embarking on an MA course, choose one that has some kind of teacher education component.
  • Create a portfolio: e.g. open a folder itemising and documenting all the above activities that is easly available to support any application for a job.

Even if none of these activities leads directly to a teacher training job (which ultimately depends a lot on being at the right place at the right time), they will certainly improve the quality of your professional life, and enhance your career prospects generally.

P is for Presence

6 02 2010

A great talk by an old friend of  mine, Luke Prodromou (pictured), at today’s ELT conference at International House, Barcelona, triggered a mental riff on the topic of presence. Through anecdote, reminiscence, and survey data, Luke was exploring perceptions of “good teacher-ness”, and came up with the neat acronym RAP, i.e. that a seemingly universal and enduring set of ‘good teacher’ qualities consisted of the holy trinity of Rapport, Attitude, and Presence.

But what is presence, exactly? How do you recognise it, and, more importantly, how do you nurture and develop it?

The question has been particularly acute in my own line of work – online teacher education – as we induct new instructors into our program at the New School. Presence – defined in its most rock-bottom sense of simply ‘being there’  – is critical. One of the qualities of their instructors that students consistently rate highly is their active participation in on-line discussions. For example:

  • “I appreciate that [the instructor is]  always involved in the class and that [he/she] reads everything”.
  • “This course’s success… is for me due to the way [the instructor]  involved and engaged us”.
  • “[The instructor’s] disciplined attention to all of us made a huge difference to the learning process”

By virtue of being physically remote and, effectively, invisible, the on-line instructor needs to make an extra effort to be present by being seen to post on the discussion boards. But, more than simply being present, presence seems to connote the capacity

  • to attend to individuals as well as to the group;
  • to respond rapidly and authoritatively in the event of problems or difficulties, even when these are simply of a technical nature; and
  • to engage and involve the students, challenging them and at the same time supporting them by the judicious use of such interactional moves as affirming/validating, probing/questioning, elaborating, clarifying, and even just simply answering the students’ questions.

In online discussion boards, it is relatively easy to track these moves (the interaction is recorded for all to see). Moreover, the fact that the interaction is not taking place in real time means that the instructor is perhaps in a better position to manage their presence than the teacher in the real-time, face-to-face class. In this sense, an on-line presence – while elusive by virtue of being removed in terms of both time and space – is easier to describe, and therefore (arguably) easier to train.

But what about presence in ‘real’ classes?  How do you characterise it? (How, for example, does it differ from rapport?) And how can you develop it, both in yourself, and (if you are a teacher trainer) in others?