Initial Teacher Training: an ELT Chat Summary

Initial Teacher Training, such as the Cambridge CELTA and the Trinity CertTESOL, have set syllabi which aim to prepare trainees for the classroom. For those who have completed such a course, what should there be more of and less of in these preliminary teacher education courses?

Right at the beginning of the discussion, Shaun Wilden said that he had “little to say” on the topic and “not sure what the purpose” of it was. This is perhaps because such courses, like the Celta are often seen as rigid and unchangeable. However, just as the Celta developed over time, it is conceivable that Cambridge might look to implement changes in the future.

As James said in the discussion, in response to Shaun Wilden, such a question gives us “a chance to reflect on what we’d like to see in training that is perhaps neglected.” It is self-evident that the trainee’s perspective will be insightful, but so is the trainer’s perspective, as Angelos Bollas pointed out.

Areas which participants wanted to see included the following:

  • More classroom management techniques (SueAnnan)
  • More input about Second Language Acquisition theory and practice (aaronbroyer)
  • More practice and less theory. Theory is good but too much was not so good then (vickyloras)
  • More time for reflection and processing (SueAnnan)
  • More self-study (Angelos Bollas)

In response to Aaron Broyer’s suggest of more input on SLA, Angelos Bollas asked why that would have been useful. Citing the desire to have more of a solid foundation in the theory behind the method, Aaron said that “SLA foundation allows trainees to evaluate the plethora of methods and techniques.” This of course chimes more of a diploma level course than a certificate level course. Nonetheless, it is an interesting and perhaps a stepping stone towards diploma level theory, were it introduced at certificate level.

Marisa Constantidines pointed out that the format of Initial Teacher Training courses, such as the 4 week intensive CELTA, leaves little room for teaching key areas such as acquisition theories, so they are left to be dealt with during diploma level courses.

Tom Flaherty felt that the current structure to preliminary courses is appropriate, as it covers the practical elements before the theoretical elements – often left for more advanced courses. He drew a comparison with English Language Teaching, in which learners are taught “practical language before theory (grammar)”, suggesting the same for teachers in training is applicable.

This desire to teach what is practical before devling into the theory is perhaps why certificate level courses teach very basic and easily applicable techniques, depsite the fact they might not be wholly pedagogically sound, such as Listening for Gist and then Listening for Detail.

Perhaps the most insightful way to gauge what Initial Teacher Training courses need to include and exclude more of are the in-house Professional Development sessions that schools regularly run. These are usually on the basis of observations and provide insight into what teachers can and can’t do post-certificate level.

Experimenting with Alternative Approaches, Practices and Methods: an ELT Chat Summary

Although I wasn’t able to participate in this chat directly, the monitors kindly allowed me to write the summary, which meant I had the opportunity to experience the idea exchange, albeit post chattum.

The chat kick started with Marisa Constantinides (@Marisa_C) asking Anthony Ash (@ashowksi) and Angelos Bollas (@angelos_bollas) about their experiences with the Experimental Practice aspect of the Cambridge Delta. Anthony had looked at the use of Cuisenaire Rods for eliciting lexis and generating ideas. Angelos focused on the use of Dogme in the classroom.

Marisa then posed the following question to get the discussion under way:

“Don’t you think teachers are into the experimentation business anyway?”

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Getting the Best from Observing other Teachers: an ELT Chat Summary

The talk kicked off with @SueAnnan and @Marisa_C pointing out that observing experienced teachers is an integral part of diploma level courses, such as the Cambridge Delta or the Trinity DipTESOL. Given this, it was decided the focus of the talk should be less on teachers in training courses and more on teachers in regular working conditions. In other words, as @Angelos_Bollas put it: peer-observing fellow teachers.eltchatlogo

@Marisa_C pointed out the fact that in busy schools where teaching staff are tied up with teaching numerous lessons a day, there isn’t much room for finding peer-observation slots. However, Marisa also emphasised the benefit of schools making sure there are slots available for peer-observing and @Angelos-Bollas even suggested an “open door policy.”

Several participants pointed towards the issue of having a focal point of a peer-observation. However, @mary28sou suggested making use of a “rubric” of areas to help give a focus to the observation, such as “board work or pronunciation.” Adding to this idea, @Marisa_C suggested a “peer -observation checklist.” @Angelos_Bollas liked the idea of an observation checklist and even suggested making it available via “a wiki”, so that others can easily access it.

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CPD in the Age of the Internet: an ELT Chat Summary

Continued Professional Development has always played an important role in teacher education post pre-service training. For sure this pivotal role will continue as we move further into the digital era, however, the mode of delivery has already begun to change, eltchatlogowith more and more courses moving towards online delivery. The main aim of this chat was to explore how teachers continue with CPD via online modes of delivery as opposed to face-to-face courses and to ask whether there are any advantages or disadvantages to this?

As the first shot was fired to signal the beginning of the chat, some were quick to reach the first hurdle: the sheer abundance of CPD materials available online. @LizziePinard quickly linked to the wealth of seminars, webinars and blogs available on the British Council’s Teaching English website (http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/continuing-professional-development) and @MarjorieRosenberg pointed to the ELT Chat store of past summaries and transcripts as another source (http://eltchat.org/wordpress/eltchat-summaries-index/).

Too much? Too little? What about the people? 

In trying to tackle the question of whether this plethora of material is to our advantage or not, @MarjorieRosenberg made the upbeat suggestion that it could be disadvantageous as there is simply “too much to take advantage of”. @LizziePinard highlighted the fact that online courses would not suit everyone, as some might prefer or even need face-to-face contact; however, she was quick to stress that the flexibility of fitting an online course around one’s own timetable is clearly advantageous for some teachers.

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The Benefits of Observations and Feedback: an ELT Chat Summary

As the chat began, the elephant in the room was clear: who exactly is doing the observing? @Sandymillin and @Ashowski quickly pointed out observations can be carried out by both peers – known as peer observation – and by Senior Academic Staff, such as Senior Teachers, an ADoS or even a DoS – perhaps better known as formal observationsimages

Most of the participants were quick to point out that the main difference between the two types of observations is primarily stress: formal observations are compulsory and can be included in end of year progress reports, while peer observations are usually arranged between teachers who are interested in accelerating their own professional development.

After quickly establishing that there will also be an element of ‘personality’ involved in observations and feedback sessions, @Ashowski asked “what elements go into producing good/bad feedback?” Continue reading

Summary of ELT Chat on Learner Oriented Assessment

This ELT 1200GMT chat took place on Wednesday 19th of March. It involved a lot of healthy discussion and ELT professionals sharing, adapting and evaluating a variety of ideas and approaches to assessment in ELT. Here’s a summary of what was said.

Getting Starteddmbtest

Initially, the discussion was taken slightly in the wrong direction to begin with, as I said that I understood LOA to be the idea of not testing learners on “what they should know” but on what “they do know” and gave the example of tests which involve productive tasks so that learners can demonstrate their linguistic skills. This sort of assessment was later referred to throughout the chat as ‘can-dos’.

@teflgeek quickly pointed out that while it was a valid point, I was rather looking at LOA from the wrong perspective: LOA is rather about using data collected from summative and formative testing to inform teaching.

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