An alternative UK, pre-service, second language teacher education course

This post is designed to continue the conversation I started before the summer about ways to change, and possibly improve, the current pre-service courses offered in ELT.

Below is a paper by Mike Chick, who kindly sent me his work to read and subsequently gave me permission to republish it here on my blog. Mike has just completed a PhD on pre-service prep of TEFL teachers and he describes this paper as, “part of the first few years’ thinking and research. I have basically been looking at the pedagogical / theoretical arguments for what constitutes a “rounded” ELT pre-service education.

I found the paper very interesting and hope you will too. Please feel free to comment and if you would like to contact Mike directly his email is

An alternative UK, pre-service, second language teacher education course

By Mike Chick, UK


This is a key moment for TESOL teacher educators. There is growing theoretical support for the notion that second language teacher education (SLTE) needs to become more focussed on teacher thinking and prior beliefs rather than on the mastery of particular techniques or approaches (See Borg 2006; Johnson 2009; Burns & Richards 2009). Demand for qualified teachers of English continues to rise across the globe while at the same time employability is becoming increasingly important to those responsible for taking decisions about the future of UK higher education. With these factors in mind, the traditional, one-month, intensive TESOL course found, for example, in the UK and the USA, may no longer be the only player in town.

Short and long courses

Qualifications in the field of TESOL have often been separated into courses which deal with teacher training and courses which deal with teacher education (Richards 1990). Ever since John Hayward’s first crash course fifty years ago, the most popular entry level TESOL teacher qualification in the UK and USA has been a certificate awarded for successful completion of a four-week, intensive teacher training course. This is a type of introductory programme which emphasises the acquisition of a set of core teacherly actions, skills and activities. Conversely, qualifications offered by universities, typically TESOL Masters’ degrees, have traditionally focussed on teacher education. The students on such programmes, usually teachers who have had some experience of classroom life, have customarily been taught through modules based around teaching methodology, SLA research findings, English for Specific Purposes, and so on.

Both training and education courses have been criticised by commentators. For example, Bolitho (2009: 3) highlighted the “classroom survival” aim of intensive training courses, pointing out that there is little time to promote reflective practice on such programmes. Conversely, on most university teacher education programmes practical, pedagogical skills have traditionally played little or no part in the syllabus (Wallace 1991; Bartels 2005). Such programmes have been accused of being too far removed from classroom life and some studies report student dissatisfaction with the amount of theory they have to contend with on their TESOL education modules (Badger, McDonald & White 2001).


Short-term, often four week, TESOL training courses are a hugely popular method of entry into the world of English language teaching. They are, by far, the most common route into teaching EFL for UK practitioners and, indeed, provided me with my first language teaching qualification. The practical, hands-on approach to learning teaching through the adoption of contemporary methodological procedures results, more often than not, in glowing feedback from those trainees who manage to successfully complete one of the most intensive months of their life.

Although it was nearly two decades ago, I still remember being thrilled to realise that teaching and learning did not have to be passive, laborious or mundane. Rather, language and teacher learning could be something centred on the students, involving interaction and engagement. I, like a great many others, learnt a lot from my four weeks of initial teacher training. What I didn’t see at the time was that I had neither the opportunity to reflect on the thinking behind the communicative approach endorsed nor the time to reflect on the efficacy or transferability of the techniques being promoted.

Experience, age and further study have taught me that during my first few years in EFL, I was probably learning far more about teaching than my students were learning about communicating in English. I have become painfully aware of how little I knew then and how much I have changed as a teacher since those early days. That initial course certainly opened up my eyes to a wonderful world of learning, different from my own experience of formal education. However, it hadn’t really prepared me to be an effective, rounded teacher, as no course of such a length ever possibly could.

How then, should an initial teacher training programme go about producing teachers who are “adaptive experts” (Johnson 2009:10)? And how can SLTE best equip its novice teachers to flourish in a ‘post methods landscape’. (Kumaravadivelu 2006)

One obvious answer lies in creating a longer pre-service teacher preparation programme. After all, as language teachers around the world will testify, in many countries where English is not the native language, to become qualified as an English language teacher in a state school often requires the undertaking of courses far longer than the one month that is standard for native speakers. TESOL and TEFL have long struggled to be seen as professions, many viewing the initial qualification as a cheap ticket to travelling the world rather than as a route to a fulfilling career. Ferguson and Donno (2003) suggest that, for the perception of English language teaching by native speakers to change, the period of teacher preparation must be made considerably longer.

An alternative?

The course of SLTE at the university where I teach takes three years. It involves trainee teachers taking two TESOL related modules in each year of their degree programme along with four other modules that contribute to their main or major award, usually an English or a modern foreign language (MFL) degree. UK university students must take six modules in each year of their degree course. This means that for our learner teachers, one third of their degree, or approximately four to six input hours in each week of their three year university study, is concerned with developing knowledge and skills pertaining to TESOL.

The first year involves developing the students’ language awareness through the study of grammar and lexis, along with an introduction to English phonology and its relevance to language teaching. There is emphasis on classroom teaching techniques in the second year, with various teaching methods and approaches introduced and made real for the students through a module devoted to peer teaching. Throughout their final year, students observe experienced language teachers and are also responsible for planning and delivering teaching practice sessions to English language learners. In addition, they undertake various reflective activities designed to help them articulate and justify their teaching decisions.

Next, I’d like to discuss some of the most common concerns regarding pre-service SLTE and describe how an extended course of preparation may be effective in overcoming these.

Concern 1 – Assessment

Most short term courses base assessment on skills that the trainee can be seen to display e.g. the presentation of a language point, clear instruction-giving, or managing a lesson at an effective pace. Researchers such as Hobbs (2013) believe that such a performance-based approach to teacher assessment may inhibit adaptive expertise. Others suggest that it may well lead to early stagnation in teachers who come to believe the skills they have learnt are now applicable in all contexts and are sufficient for a career in language teaching (Diaz Maggioli 2012). In other words, a tick box approach can give the impression that there is a right and wrong way to teach, independent of socio-contextual factors or learner differences that experienced teachers know are crucial elements in effective decision-making. This simplification of the knowledge and skills base of language teaching is the point that Murray (2009: 26) highlights in arguing that a prescriptive, competency-based approach to teacher education fails to capture the essential elements of what a teacher can know and judge.

These are not simple issues to grapple with but on a longer teacher education course, a greater weighting of the assessment can be given over to the development of a broader knowledge base. For example, more time can be spent on discussing the value of SLA research and its links with approaches to teaching or on raising trainees’ awareness of how language is used.

Portfolio work can provide the means by which learner teachers demonstrate their understanding of these issues. Such document collections are also helpful in allowing the learner teachers to articulate their own evolving theories regarding what constitutes effective teaching and learning. The documents provide space for the trainees to make connections between the coursework and the classroom and thus assist the learner teachers in bridging the practice-theory gap.

Concern 2: Opportunities for reflection

The importance of reflection in developing expertise in teaching is acknowledged in both TESOL and mainstream education (Wallace 1991). For this reason, much criticism has been levelled at brief, initial training courses that don’t or can’t allow trainees sufficient opportunities to reflect on their teacher development.

For example, Gray (2004:26) makes the case that allocating time to exploring the reasoning and justification behind decision-making or to undertaking collaborative work and research projects is vital to teacher learning but often not possible when time is lacking. Schedule constraints mean that educators in this position often have to opt for “quick fix” solutions of giving advice rather than engaging in exploratory, productive discussion. Shapiro (2007) supports such sentiments stating that short term TESOL courses are “…underpinned by the assumption that the education of teachers is about the transfer of knowledge and skills from expert to novice rather than the more democratic and active construction of meaning”. She outlines how meaningful development occurs when reflection is connected to an examination of prior beliefs and learning along with critical analysis of classroom practice and theory and argues that short-term courses allow little or no time for such learning.

On longer courses of pre-service teacher preparation, time can be given, for example, to post-observation feedback conferences conducted in a collaborative, exploratory manner. Rather than the transmission of top tips or hasty advice, a spirit of dialogic inquiry can be fostered with the aim of using the feedback discussions to mediate a deeper understanding of the complex nature of language learning and teaching. This form of dialogic mediation is seen by theorists such as Johnson (2009) as a core component of learning since it can act as a catalyst for the development of teacher thinking.

Reflective tasks such as journal writing can also be designed to move trainees’ thinking beyond a concern for the mastery of prescribed basic skills. They can encourage the teachers to think critically about their own beliefs and behaviours e.g. how their own experience of error correction as language students compares to the approach they choose to take in their teaching practice.

Concern 3: Knowledge

There is little space in a crammed timetable to address the various theories of language learning, the most common approaches and methods of language teaching or the principles underlying classroom practices. Furthermore, developing an adequate sense of language awareness in learner teachers must also be neglected on short courses. (Hobbs 2013).

Without this developed sense of language awareness, teachers may well be incapable of responding to classroom events as they unfold and so fail to maximise the learning potential of episodes that arise spontaneously. Indeed, many commentators view the ability to react to such events as key tenets of expert teaching (Malderez and Wedell 2007; Meddings & Thornbury 2009). However, integral to being able to successfully react to the varied, complex and dynamic situations that English language teachers encounter is access to a knowledge base that provides the tools necessary for teachers to arrive at sound decisions. Malderez and Wedell (2007: 24-25) state clearly: “There can be little point in knowing about things and knowing how to do things if you cannot actually use this knowledge / these skills in the right place and at the right time to support learning”

A longer pre-service course can go some way to addressing the issues described above. Time can be devoted to increasing learner teachers’ awareness of language through modules on grammar, lexis and phonology. Areas such as collocation, idiomatic language, modality, formality, synonymy, the phonemic alphabet and so on can all be addressed in the early stages of a longer TESOL teacher development course. In the second and third years of pre-service education the learner teachers can develop familiarity with a range of teaching approaches and techniques. Providing the space to discuss and reflect on repeated peer teaching episodes allows the students to gain an understanding of both the subject and the procedural knowledge that is central to good teaching. But perhaps most crucially, it also provides the trainees with the tools to begin theorising their own practice.

The Pre-service TESOL teacher preparation discussed here, embedded in undergraduate education, provides a course that combines the training and education approaches outlined at the start of this article.

However, frequent challenges emerge resulting from logistical and contextual constraints and realities. For example, the coordination of the timetables of trainees and language learners from across the university is an annual problem. Student engagement and aptitude can also limit the success of the tasks and discussions – regardless of how excited and motivated the educators may be about the syllabus they have devised. It is also a fact that not all students are equally passionate about English language teaching, with the result that a number elect to opt out of the teaching module that takes place in their final year. As in most contexts, common ground also has to be reached with regard to the divergent beliefs and values of the teacher educators involved. Moreover, with no concrete evidence as to how languages are most effectively taught and learned yet available to language teacher educators, the approach can hardly claim to provide ‘the’ answer as to how SLTE should be best conducted.

Much contemporary SLTE research has taken a socio-cultural perspective on learning (Burns & Richards, 2009) with areas of focus such as teacher cognition and the social construction of knowledge closely linked to the concerns outlined above. Given the continued global demand for professional, competent teachers of English, along with the direction that universities are taking towards promoting the employability of their graduates, I hope that this model of SLTE can act as a spur for others. Finally, I believe this article illuminates some of the ways in which a longer course aligns itself with key characteristics that Wright (2010) identifies as emerging in SLTE pedagogy.

  • An emphasis on the student teacher learning to teach and becoming a thinking
  • The programming in to teacher education courses of a great deal of reflective activity on learning experiences.
  • The above also entails a commitment to student teacher inquiry into one’s own beliefs and narratives and into the professional contexts of teaching and learning for which student teachers are being prepared.
  • The appropriation of pedagogies from mainstream adult education whose central idea is learning from experience (e.g. Kolb 1984).

This article was first published in the Teacher Training Journal, 2013.


Badger, R., McDonald M. & White A. (2001). Changing values: what use are theories of language learning and teaching? Teaching & Teacher Education.

Bartels, N. (ed.) (2005). Applied Linguistics and Language Teacher Education. Springer.

Bolitho, R. (2009). Reconceptualising Language Teacher Education and Development in a Changing World. EAQUALS international conference, Istanbul 25/04/09. Available from: (accessed 10/06/2013)

Borg  S. (2006). Teacher Cognition and Language Education. Continuum.

Burns, A. & Richards, J (Eds.) (2009) The Cambridge guide to second language teacher education. Cambridge University Press.

Diaz Maggioli, G. (2012). Teaching Language Teachers: Scaffolding Professional Learning. R & L Education (Plymouth UK).

Ferguson, G. & Donno, S. (2003). One-month teacher training courses: Time for a change? ELT Journal 57/1: 26-33.

Gray, C. (2004). Exploring the language teacher’s mind: Helping student teachers see beneath the surface. Language Learning Journal, 29, 23‐31.

Hobbs, V. (2013). “A basic starter pack”: the TESOL Certificate as a course in survival. ELT Journal 67/2: 163-174.

Johnson, K.E. (2009). Second Language Teacher Education: A Sociocultural Perspective.


Kolb, D. (1984) Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliff, NJ (1984)

Kumaravadivelu, B. (2006). Understanding Language Teaching: From Method to Postmethod. Lawrence Erlbaum.

Malderez, A.  & Wedell. (2007). Teaching Teachers: Processes and Practices. Continuum

Meddings, L. & Thornbury, S. (2009). Teaching Unplugged: Dogme in English Language Teaching. Delta

Murray, J. (2009). Teacher competencies in the post-method landscape: The limits of competency-based training in TESOL teacher education in: (accessed 11/06/2013)

Richards, J. C. (1990). The dilemma of teacher education in second language teaching.  In: Richards, J. C. &  Nunan, D., Eds., (1990). Second language teacher education. Cambridge University Press

Shapiro, S. (2007) TESOL certificate programs: Time to start practicing what we teach? (2007). TEIS Newsletter.22.1:

Wallace, M. J. (1991). Training Foreign Language Teachers: A Reflective Approach. Cambridge University Press

Warford, M. (2011). The zone of proximal teacher development. Teaching and Teacher Education, 27/2: 252–258.

Wright, T. (2010). Second language teacher education: Review of recent research on practice. Language Teaching 43, 259-296.

The Author

Since 1994, Mike Chick has worked as a teacher and teacher trainer in Estonia, Spain, South Korea, Greece and the UK. He is the award leader for the BA (Minor) in TESOL at the University of South Wales and is external examiner for TESOL degrees at Swansea and Wolverhampton University. At present, he is working towards a PhD in Second Language Teacher Education.




This will be my last post on the subject of the effectiveness of CELTA/Trinity cert as pre-service courses, before I go on holiday.

Firstly, I wanted to highlight two articles worth reading related to this discussion. The first, being the second article that Willy Cardoso recommended. The full title is below.

‘A basic starter pack': the TESOL Certificate as a course in Survival
Valerie Hobbs
ELT Journal Volume 67/2 April 2013

The second is an old PDF file of an article by Phillip Kerr, who did some research into the CELTA course in 1996 after it underwent a change in syllabus. His findings are very interesting and worth 15 minutes of your time.

Finally, I wanted to propose an idea and get peoples general feeling on this with a quick poll here on the blog.

In my last post I summarised an article by Gibson Ferguson and Sarah Donno. At the beginning of their article they mention a conference that took place in 1993 to debate the CTEFLA course and potential changes to the course. This caught my eye and I began wondering whether at the next IATEFL it would be possible to get together a Panel discussion on the issue of Pre-service courses. Looking at ways of improving both what happens before attending the course and potential ways of implementing more rigorous and widespread post CELTA training and development. The idea and abstract are still in the early stages and to get to my point, I would first like to get a general consensus from you, the reader, on whether it would be a debate you would like to see happen at IATEFL and would anything be gained from this topic being debated further.

So please take a quick look at the poll and let me know what you think.

No title

With time on my hands and the urge to continue and practise my writing, I wanted to provide a summary of an article I read as part of the background reading for the previous two posts.

This particular article was recommended by Willy Cardoso and its full title is below.

One-month teacher training courses: time for a change?
Gibson Ferguson and Sarah Donno
ELT Journal Volume 57/1 January 2003, Oxford University Press

The article in general, is concerned not with the “syllabus (of the CELTA) or it’s delivery … but rather at the concept of a one-month initial training course, and whether, given the changed circumstances of much EFL teaching, it still remains … the optimal route of entry into EFL teaching.” (Ferguson, G and Donno, S 2001) The article then goes on to deal with four changes in EFL that the authors have highlighted as having a significant impact on the pre-service training courses.

1) changes in teacher supply
2) changed views regarding the position of the native speaker in English language teaching
3) developments in EFL methodology
4) developments in the theory and practice of teacher training

The first change finds the authors drawing a comparison between the nine month PGCE initial training course that all teachers must complete in the UK, and the one month TEFL course. Here, the state vs Private sector is mentioned and of course the difference in hours spent in the classroom on teaching practice, 15 weeks vs 6-8 hours, respectively. The article points out this is perhaps an unfair comparison given the differing teaching contexts and “socioeconomic circumstances” (ibid) of the two courses, but it does well to highlight the gulf in training and therefore the potential quality of the teaching expected from the trainee on completion of the course. This then reflects upon the whole TEFL community as being somewhat sub-standard and the authors echo what I mentioned in my first post on this subject about how teaching English as a foreign language is perceived by the public. “One wonders also whether the very shortness of the initial TEFL teacher training may play an unhelpful role in constructing a public image of TEFL as a craft which is easy to enter and to pursue, provided one is a native speaker and has the right kind of personality.” (Ibid)

The focus of the second change is on the “privatised position of the native speaker”(ibid) and how this helps to fossilize “a form of linguistic imperialism” (ibid), a claim which is perhaps now being challenged by the emergence and support for English as a Lingua Franca. Secondly, the authors claim, and quite rightly so, that non native speakers are actually at more of an advantage, in that they have already been through the process of learning the language that they are teaching, they are therefore “better placed to understand the problems of the learner”. (Ibid) Finally, the native speakers proficient grasp of the language allows course providers to use this as an excuse to limit the amount of language awareness that is provided on the course. Unfortunately, as the article states, “it threatens to undercut claims to a professional basis for EFL teaching because it is sometimes claimed that one of the defining characteristics of a profession is mastery of a body of distinct, specialised knowledge.” (ibid)

The discussion of non-native speakers was raised in the comments for my first blog on this issue, and has been an area of some contention in the EFL community for awhile now. It is saddening to hear stories of non-native speakers I know, who have been asked to change classes on the basis that the client feels the need to have a native speaker in order for them to sound more native. It is interesting to me that students would choose to concentrate on sounding more native like, in terms of pronunciation, rather than work on more important areas, such as holding simple conversations and sustaining more complex discourse. I wonder where this need came from?

Methodology is the concern in the third major change. The authors state that, “We live in ‘the post-method age’, and there is no theoretical consensus for any one methodology.” (Ibid) A claim which I am inclined to agree with, yet they go on to say, “To some degree this is already reflected in the CELTA syllabus (UCLES 1998) which does not recommend the adoption of any one teaching or formula – such as P-P-P, for example.” While It is true that the syllabus does indeed suggest this, I am not convinced that this is in fact the truth, when actually applied to what happens when a course is delivered. This idea in fact clashes with what Lewis claims in the Lexical approach when he says, “the basic teaching paradigm is based on present-practice-produce. This is a convenience for trainers, allowing them to breakdown the teaching and learning sequence into steps for individual trainees.” (Lewis, M 1993) Here, I am inclined to agree with Lewis, especially from my own experience and from having spoken to other teachers who have passed through their pre-service training in a large variety of different countries. Yet, I believe that this would be a good area for some solid research in order to find out just what method(s) are employed on pre-service courses.

Teacher development, or lack of it, takes centre stage for the final major change featured in the article. Citing changes in UK governmental policy in the 90s, which shifted towards a more practical and hands on training policy, it seems as though the CELTA course seemed to fit in perfectly with the new educational landscape what with its emphasis on practical skills and classroom experience. The lack of theoretical content was countered by the the claim that, “they (pre-service courses) are but a stepping stone to subsequent post-experience professional development in the form of the Diploma course.” (Ibid) The DELTA of course, goes into much more theoretical depth concerning both teaching and learning and has recently been granted Masters level status, as of this year.
Unfortunately for the authors, this claim does not sit easy and they set about deconstructing it. Firstly, pointing out “that only about 10% of CELTA graduates actually go on to obtain the diploma.” (Ibid) Secondly, many teachers simply leave the profession after using the qualification as a way of funding their travels around the world, usually after a couple of years. Finally, and most depressingly, “Further numbers remain in ELT but gain no additional qualifications. For those people, initial training is the only training they will ever receive.” (Ibid) This is blamed upon poor support for professional development in schools once teachers are in their first teaching position and that the majority of teachers, ” somehow muddle through and grow professionally, a few do not.” (Ibid)

In conclusion the authors offer five key areas for further consideration:

1) “To the see the course extended in length and made more rigorous despite the the greater cost for trainees this would entail.”

2) “An increased focus on awareness of different teaching contexts, for a greater recognition of realities of the work situation”

3) “Increased attention to language learning as opposed to teaching”

4) “Further work on explicit language awareness”

5) ” A compulsory period of post course supervised practice prior to final certification.”

Despite the fact that this article was published 13 years ago, I believe that the major points featured here are entirely relevant to today’s current situation. Moreover, I wholeheartedly agree with the conclusions the authors have made and I feel this is reflected in the previous two posts on this subject.

At the very end of the article it is mentioned that the authors had begun a research project to investigate some of these questions. Through limited research, I have not been able to discover any more on this or the authors themselves, so if anyone can point me in the right direction, your help would be gratefully received.


Lewis, M The Lexical Approach, 1993′ Language Teaching Publications

Mountain Energy

At the end of the last blog I posed three questions that had dogged me through the writing process.

1) Does this topic warrant sufficient discussion in the ELT/EFL community at present?

2) Am I barking up the wrong tree? Is it just me that feels this way?

3) Do I have enough experience and knowledge to even be contemplating looking further into this issue? And, will it make any difference?

From the responses and interest the blog generated, it seems the first two questions were answered. This is a relevant and constructive debate, which many people in the ELT community have strong and passionate opinions about. The third question still persists, but more on that at a later date.

It seems that after reading and digesting the comments, and then through subsequent further reading on the topic (thanks Willy), what I have been left with are more questions.

A summary

Scott Thornbury seemed to agree with what I had said, but rightly pointed out that an extension of the course would add a substantial cost to a course which is, “prohibitively expensive for many wannabe teachers” and that “The four-week model is directly proportionate to the value that the market places on language teaching in the private sector, and until that value changes (unlikely) we are stuck with it.” (Thornbury, S 2014) His suggestion was that we should concentrate on
making the initial course better and supply regular, quality training, post CELTA.

>My first question would be to ask, why is the CELTA/Trinity Cert so expensive?

>Does the cost reflect the amount of training received?

>Would it be beneficial to analyse and investigate the price and subsequently produce a breakdown of the cost and look at ways of squeezing a little more from the course?

>Why only concentrate on post CELTA inservice training? Shouldn’t we also concentrate on establishing a coherent, practicable and rigorous pre pre-service training?

Well, to help answer the last question I will turn to Sue Annan, who pointed out that her trainees have to go through a 3 month distance learning programme before even attending the actual 4 week CELTA/Trinity cert. And it seems she is not the only one, with other centres offering the same. This is fantastic! Yet, I am left with more questions,

>Why doesn’t every training centre offer this type of course?

>How much does this distance learning add to the overall cost?

>Would it be worth carrying out a survey to find out how many centres actually offer any kind of training before their trainees attend the pre-service course? If so, what form does it take, cost, delivery method, etc.

>Although cost dependent, could we establish this pre pre-service training as the norm across all centres?

Scott also asks what the alternative would there be to the current pre-service courses. Well it seems that Willy Cardoso is the man to ask. In his comment he mentions that he is developing an alternative course and is due to start running pilot courses. I am keen to know how this develops. Furthermore, Willy is not the only one looking for an alternative with Anthony Gaughn having already established an unplugged style CELTA course which you can find out more about here -

In his comment, Dave Thornton takes the discussion in a different direction by highlighting the fact that the CELTA is “essentially euro-centric one-size-fits-all nature”. I admit that my own teaching context didn’t allow me to take this into account and is an area for further exploration. But what did catch my attention is Dave’s mention of the “bolt-on CELTA YL” component. With the increasing emphasis on getting children into the classroom as soon as possible, the percentage of YL classes is increasing exponentially and therefore more and more teachers with training and experience with YLs are required.

>Should the YL component be a standard requirement of a pre- service course?

Finally, what stood out in the comment from Angelos Bollas, were his comments on observations and his rewarding experience of continuing to observe once his CELTA was complete. While the two schools I have taught in both actively encouraged peer observation and reflective feedback on these, the culture of observation, from what I have seen and from talking to other teachers, is one of fear. Emphasis on pass or fail. Focus on detailed lesson plans and the wording of aims rather than concentrating on what actually happens in the class.

>How do we go about changing teachers attitudes to observation?

>How can we encourage teachers to want to observe each other and make it an integral and daily part of their teaching?

>As part of the post CELTA inservice training, would it be possible to have a set amount of observations that a teacher must complete and provide feedback on? Electronically uploaded and saved as part of an online professional development portfolio.

I think it’s clear to see that there are more questions than answers. Some of which we might never get to answer, yet I still feel deep down that this is a cause worth pursuing. The original post which centred on the structure of the pre-service course itself has now helped to highlight two further areas which require our attention. What happens before the pre-service course and what happens after it is complete. It seems like the mountain has just got bigger. I guess I just need to work out where to start climbing from.

So I went fishing
A note from a fish said:
Dear dope, if you wanna catch us
You need a rod and a line
Signed the fish
(Mark E. Smith)


Thank you for all the comments on the blog. If I didn’t mention you in this post, it wasn’t because I didn’t value your comments. I could have written a thousand more words but I wanted to try and keep the discussion coherent and stop myself from rambling too much.

Many thanks.

What can happen when the CELTA is questioned

Originally posted on ELT Rants, Reviews, and Reflections:

This is an actual conversation. As far as you know. Just a bunch of guys at the pub talking about the usual stuff.

M: You know what, guys? One thing that always interest and surprises me every time there is a mention of quote native teachers in Korea and job security and the like, one of the first things usually mentioned is qualifications and this word qualified. 
A: Yea. Cool story bro.
M: I think it is sort of important. Really. First of all, I don’t think qualified means the same thing to everyone. Here in Korea it just means that you are allowed to work. Doesn’t it?
B: There is no more to it?
M: I don’t know. To me it just means “able to legally get the job, and maybe do it.” I dunno. I really don’t. But my point is that when people rail on about unqualified…

View original 1,131 more words

My mind is ramblin

It seems that the post DELTA negativity I mentioned in my previous post has worn off. With time to reflect, relax and recharge I now have a variety of ideas to play around with for the next teaching year. Moreover, I am also trying to visit ideas that have been on the back burner for some time now, as well as getting back to blogging regularly. So, here goes.

Before you read this post please bear something in mind. My comments below are about the structure of the pre-service courses currently on offer and in no way a reflection of the excellent work done by hardworking, dedicated and highly professional trainers and tutors in the ELT/EFL community.

Let me take you on a quick journey into the past, if I may. Before I did my Trinity Cert course in 2010, I went to visit a friend in Germany. We attended a party with some friends and as always with a multi-lingual group, the conversation turned to Languages. As I recall, It went something like this:

German girl: Adam, do you speak any languages?

Me: A little bit of Spanish, which I learnt while I was travelling. But it was this experience that made me decide to become an English language teacher.

German girl: Oh really! And which University are you going to study at?

Me: Oh no, it’s not a university course. I’m attending a 4 week course in London.

German girl: 4 weeks! (coughs, trying not to choke on her bratwurst) is that it!?

Me: Well, it’s quite intense and very practical.

German girl: Yes, but 4 weeks. Is that really enough time to become a teacher?

I’ll never forget the look of incredulity on her face. It wasn’t enough to put me off doing the course but it always stuck with me and niggled away when ever I thought about it.

These thoughts continued to reside in the darkest depths of my grey matter and were provoked to resurface a couple of weeks ago, after reading this blog post by @KateSpringcait, who talks about her struggles with lesson planning after completing the CELTA

I shared this on Facebook and not long after received a comment from a CELTA trainer colleague and a then from another colleague who is also a CELTA trainer and the following exchange ensued.

David Valente: learning teaching is a never ending journey which can take many directions, CELTA is only ever intended to be a PRE service course and a foundation on to more experimental, critical and needs driven approaches, methods and techniques…

Sarah Findlay: Is it not just bad school management/ DoSing, Adam? I think NQTs need additional support n having the realities v expectations made gradually clear? If you hire someone fresh-off (CELTA) u can work with them to minimise the stresses of transition, I reckon…

Me: You both make valid and good points and I have no doubt both of you offer NQTs the support they need after finishing the CELTA, but I would say that sadly this support is in the minority. I think that the most glaring and obvious point, that is often overlooked is simply the length of the course that the CELTA and Trinity cert offers. We are doing the trainee a disservice by only allowing them 4 weeks with well trained, knowledgable and supportive tutors. Subsequently, we are doing the students who are taught by the NQTs a similar disservice by offering them a teacher that is simply not ready yet. Just stop and think about it for a second, maybe say it out loud. 4 weeks. 4 WEEKS! How can we be taken seriously as teachers when this is the entry level course? Post CELTA support is essential but with all the added responsibilities of admin and everything else how much time can a DoS really spend with that NQT? As CELTA tutors don’t you wish you had more time to work with your candidates? If there are three tutors working a CELTA course, with let’s say 30 yrs of experience between them, why would you restrict the flow of this knowledge to just four weeks? And in reality, of the four weeks, how much time of that is face to face where you really get to work with the candidate?

David Valente: well yes, but preaching to the converted, tis the awards bodies like Cambridge English Language Assessment and Trinity which need to reconsider course lengths, intensity and the impact of such on entry level teachers… Robust CPD is defola the way forward mind…

Now, while I was ranting slightly, what I posted contains my biggest problem with the pre-service course that all teachers must take to enter our profession. It is simply too short. Way too short! 4 weeks is an awfully short time in order to learn something from scratch and then be expected to immediately put this training into action and teach. Why do we persist in offering a course which primarily gives trainees just enough to survive in the classroom and not what they actually need, which is knowledge. Knowledge of methods, the language itself and how learning works.

While writing this post I was reminded of what Michael Lewis wrote in his excellent book, The Lexical approach. Using ten simple points, Lewis picks apart everything wrong with Pre-service courses and even today, 21 yrs after it was written, I believe it is still totally relevant and applicable to today’s current courses.



M. Lewis The Lexical Approach. The state of ELT and the way forward. 1993, Language teaching publications.

As you can see, Lewis has put it better than I ever could have. Yet, has what he wrote ever been taken on board and tackled in order to make the CELTA/Trinity cert courses more robust and ultimately useful to the trainees attending the courses? Seeing as the length of the course has not changed, I would stick my proverbial neck out and say no. Undoubtedly, the excellent tutors and trainers on the courses do amazing things, but with very little actual time in which to work with the trainees, all we can expect are trainees that can survive in a classroom environment. Why would we limit well trained and experienced CELTA tutors to just 4 weeks with trainees? I imagine that a lot of CELTA trainers often find themselves muttering to themselves, “If only we had more time, then we could actually get down to what teaching really is.”

While the teaching of English as a career choice has been ridiculed and mocked as the travellers way of funding their way around the world, the teaching of English as a serious profession has begun to build strong foundations. There is now a large and committed community of professionals that continually strive to develop not only themselves, but also other teachers around them. Twitter and the rise of CPD in the workplace have done wonders for ELT and with the amount of Conferences available both physical and online, as well as the sharing of materials and a large array of teaching blogs, teaching English as a profession should be taken seriously. Therefore, it beggars belief that we only offer a 4 week course to be apart of our profession and all the hard work that we do with conferences, CPD and the like is undone and largely ignored by people that can’t see past the 4 week pre service training course.

Don’t we owe it to ourselves, our students, our profession, future teachers and the English language to offer a course that produces teachers that Lewis describes as competent and with a deep understanding of the language and learning, and who are expected to be teachers and not performers?

During the process of writing this post, I had several questions that continued to hang over me and I feel still need to be answered.

1) Does this topic warrant sufficient discussion in the ELT/EFL community at present?

2) Am I barking up the wrong tree? Is it just me that feels this way?

3) Do I have enough experience and knowledge to even be contemplating looking further into this issue? And, will it make any difference?

I guess that with time these questions will be answered. So now it’s over to you the reader. Is it time for the pre-service courses to change?