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.