An effective way to master new knowledge is to articulate it in a way that others can comprehend. In this series of blogposts, I am going to try and articulate some of my top takeaways and queries from the recently completed Trainer Development course with NILE. In fact, this gives me a strong reason to revisit the course and see if I can notice something which I didn’t earlier. Though first, I must extend my humble gratitude to the British Council for offering this course as part of our professional development.
In this post, I am going to share:
- my goals for the course,
- my thoughts on unit 2 ‘How do teachers learn…’ and
- my next endeavour or challenge.
Let me introduce my fellow trainees: we were 8 of us.
This probably was one of the highlights of the course. The diversity of our contexts helped expand my perspectives on the course topics.
I had three specific goals for the course;
- Learn about how teachers learn;
- Learn how to plan, design and evaluate a teacher education (TE) course;
- Get a certificate of distinction, as I have never received one in my entire teaching career.
I believe stating the goals at the beginning helped me pursue them actively. I knew right from the start which of the two assignments I was going to opt for.
Unit 2 starts with a question I hadn’t thought about before.
What is the difference between teacher training (TT) and teacher development (TD)?
We were asked to read Penny Ur’s (1996) ‘Teacher training, teacher development‘ article before sharing our two bits on the question. Here are some ‘Over-simplified’ (ibid.) differences between the two.
I hadn’t considered the distinction before this, but if I could add, I would say, all TTs could form a part of TD, though TD may happen without a formal TT. To be honest, at the end of the day, TD is a highly subjective and personal journey. As a trainer, you may provide immaculate training but the development part rests within the trainee.
However, another trainee on the course countered well, ‘How can you develop something which you don’t have yet?’ So, technically speaking, you ought to be a (certified) teacher before any teacher development could take place; you can’t put the cart before the horse. True, though, I would still argue there are a few who come across as if they were born to be teachers hence TT for them is as good as developing their skills. I have encountered a couple of such great teachers myself.
What stood out for me in the article was Ur’s concluding para where she urges to not concern with “the difference(s) between the two, but rather their integration. We need to evolve a model which combines the best of both in order to design optimally effective professional courses, both initial and continuing” (ibid.).
What would such a course look like?
Nicky Hockly’s “Modelling and ‘cognitive apprenticeship’ in teacher education” (2000: 54/2) article came close to answering that. She outlines some of the findings from Hunt’s (1996) experimentation with an extensive ‘Model-based approach’ to pre-service teacher training, where trainees receive input in the form of a 45-60 minute model lesson by the trainer. In other words, trainees experience model lessons as EFL learners, which is followed by some form of analysis. Later, trainees get to teach under the supervision of a tutor.
It doesn’t sound very different from what I experienced at CELTA but there is an acute difference; CELTA has a linear syllabus. It is based on the presupposition that ‘…through mastery of discrete aspects of skills and knowledge, teachers will improve their effectiveness in the classroom’ (Freeman, 1989: 39). It takes ‘a fragmented view of teaching.’ (ibid.) It is similar to the idea that to learn a language we need to memorise words and then bring them together with other memorised words with our knowledge of grammar rules.
While on the other hand, Hunt uses what he calls the ‘cyclic, holistic’ syllabus, (1996: 35). Here you are ‘starting with a holistic, whole lesson approach and working down to a more atomistic, discrete item approach later in the course’ (ibid.). What he means is that trainees get to observe and experience a model lesson in its entirety and later they are asked to analyse what they observed and why a certain stage/activity was conducted the way it was, etc. Trainer follows it up with a discussion on the observations made by the trainees so that by the end of the session, trainees have collectively analysed and personally mediated take-aways.
Hunt highlights quite a few advantages of such an approach but there are two I completely agree with. Firstly, it views learning as
“…not a step-by-step building block activity-it is organic, a process that requires time for recycling and assimilation.”
‘A holistic, cyclic approach in [input] mirrors the reality of the ELT classroom.’
However, I would be curious to find out how genuinely were the trainees in Hunt’s experiments able to reflect on their experience as ‘EFL learners’?
Something else I found my PRESET falling short on was discussions on aspects that go ‘beyond and beneath’ the surface level of a classroom. I can’t help being reminded of Stevick’s profound insight, and what many experts have realised ‘that a major variable in successful learning lies in a zone beyond both the topic being learned and the teaching method employed, and that it has to do with the relationship with oneself and with others’ (Underhill 2013: 205). Have a look at Underhill’s version of a ‘fully functional teacher’ (ibid.)
Wouldn’t designing a teacher education course which
- responds to Ur’s urge,
- takes into account Stevick’s (and others’) profound insight,
- caters to Underhill’s three domains of expertise and
- has ‘whole person’ development as an overarching goal
be a challenge worth taking up? Or am I being too naive?
Penny, U. (1998) Distinctions & Dichotomies; Teacher Training Teacher Development, English Teaching Professional Pavilion Publishing and Media Ltd (Issue 8, p21).
Hockly, N. (2000) ELT Journal Volume 54/2 April 2000, Oxford UniversityPress
Hunt, R. (1996) ‘Going round in circles: a cyclic, holistic approach to CTEFLA timetabling’. Priorities in Initial Teacher Training, Certificate Conference Report, UCLES.
Freeman, D. (1989) ‘Teacher training, development and decision making: a model of teaching and related strategies for language teacher education’. TESOL Quarterly 23/1: 27-45.
Underhill, A. (2013) Meaningful Action: Earl Stevick’s influence on language teaching, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 13: 205-207