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