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Getting in to teacher training

dive in

In common with many professions, English Language Teaching has established routes for entering it as a teacher and moving onwards in terms of professional competence and mastery of the skills but very little in terms of branching out within the profession to other areas.
Management is a small exception insofar as there is an optional qualification with the Cambridge Delta to focus on management in the broadest sense but nothing similar exists for those wanting to become trainers of other teachers.
The assumption is often that having a few years' experience and a diploma-level qualification (such as Cambridge Delta, Trinity's Dip TESOL or a Masters' degree) is enough to qualify you for a post as a teacher trainer.  It may be in some cases, but that does not automatically open the door of the teacher-training department.


Follow a course

Cambridge English does have a train-the-trainer course and details of that may be found by clicking here.  The claim is that following such a course successfully will allow you to train other teachers on Cambridge's CELT-S and CELT-P courses (for teachers in the secondary and primary education sectors respectively).  Both of those courses are on-line courses with optional face-to-face elements.
Such a course is undoubtedly valuable but you cannot simply sign up and take one.  As Cambridge's website explains, The Train the Trainer course is offered to groups of teachers through employers and teaching organisations so the organisation for whom you work needs to apply (and pay) for the course to be run locally.  If your employer is reluctant to do that for any reason, you have to consider other routes into teacher training.

An alternative is to take the six-unit course on this site.  It will not guarantee you a training position, naturally, but it will prepare you and give you the tools you need to convert yourself from an expert language teacher to a good teacher trainer.
You can access that course from any guide in this section by following the link to Training to Train on the left.
What follows on this page is some generic advice which does not attempt to take the place of that course but does act as an introduction.


The minimum background you need

Informally, of course, for an in-house development programme, you don't need any specific qualifications to share your expertise with others.  All you need in this case is the ability to present and manage a workshop and select a topic that will interest your colleagues (and about which you know more than them).
However, if your aim is to tutor on courses preparing people for externally accredited qualifications such as Cambridge CELTA, the Trinity Certificate in TESOL, Cambridge TKT, Cambridge Delta or Trinity's Dip TESOL then there are certain qualifications and background which are prescribed and / or recommended.

To be a tutor on any course preparing people for a reputable qualification at any level, you need to hold a Diploma-level qualification.  That effectively means either the Trinity Dip TESOL or the Cambridge Delta (all three modules).
If you want to be a trainer at diploma level, a Masters' degree in Applied Linguistics is very helpful.
You will also need a track record and that will include:

If that describes you and you want to get into one of the most rewarding and deeply satisfying areas of teaching, teacher training might just be for you.


Other ways in

The traditional way
traditional way
The traditional route into teacher training is within your own organisation.  If you work in an institution which already runs initial or in-service teacher training schemes, you have but to demonstrate your enthusiasm, commitment and abilities and wait for an opportunity to put them into practice.
In the meantime, show your commitment by volunteering to run internal workshops and training in your special areas of expertise (and if you don't have any, consider whether teacher training really is for you).
The advent of on-line teacher training courses has led to a demand for local mentors to help colleagues and guide them through in-service training courses.  The best known of these are the distance training courses for the Cambridge Delta.
Responsible distance-training providers will train local mentors (or local tutors as they often prefer to call them) and this is invaluable experience.
You will learn how to assess written work, observe and comment constructively and apply external criteria to professional practice.
You will not learn how to present training sessions but you may well learn a lot about language skills and systems to help you plan to do so.
Start a centre
This may seem overly ambitious but until you try, you won't know.  It may be that your organisation has simply never thought about being a training centre because somebody thought it didn't have people experienced and committed enough to run it.  It's your job now to convince them that they have.
There are obvious benefits for the organisation in terms of:
  • Income
    Nobody is ever going to make a fortune from training courses (and many make a paper loss) but training can be run at times when the organisation's facilities are underused and be made to fit around the current programmes.
    There is also the question of a diversified income stream to tempt the powers that be.
  • Reputation
    Being a training centre sends out a strong message about an organisation's credibility, seriousness and in-house expertise which is impressive in terms of attracting new business and new learners.
  • Development
    The prospect for many teachers of being able to spend at least some of their time working on the challenges of teacher training is an attractive one.
    Having opportunities like these will often have a positive effect on staff retention and staff recruitment.
  • Refreshment
    An active in-house training programme can have lots of hidden spin-offs in terms of staff motivation, classroom innovation and awareness of alternatives and up-to-date research into language teaching.
    Having trainees in the building who bring new insights and new energies to the whole process of teaching and learning can also be energizing and refreshing.
Applying to one of the two main providers for permission to run training courses is not a simple matter but nor is it an insurmountable hurdle.
You'll need to do your research carefully because this is not a step taken lightly.  There are costs involved in terms of:
  • People
    If there is currently no in-house training department, members of the staff will probably have to go elsewhere to be trained by an established centre.  That costs both money and time.
    Initially, too, the organisation will have to import an experienced trainer to run the first courses while in-house people are trained and inducted into the process.  That's not cheap either.
  • Resources
    Depending on the level of qualification and the resources already available, considerable investment will be needed if teacher reference materials, online journal subscriptions and so on.
    What will not be needed, probably, is any extra expenditure on rooms and equipment.  After all, no organisation seriously intending to run training courses will be poorly equipped in this regard.
Moving on
If you are serious about getting into teacher training and your current organisation holds out few prospects for development in this direction, you should consider moving on to an organisation that does.
You are in quite a strong position because you wouldn't be reading this if you weren't committed to the profession, properly qualified, keen to develop and ambitious.  Just the sort of person many established training organisations are looking for.
Don't expect to be swept straight into the training department of any new organisation but do make it clear that the only reason you are considering moving (or the main one at least) is for the opportunities that working for an organisation with established teacher-training programmes provides.


What you need to know
What you need to be able to do

Time for a little self-reflection.

The first issue is to be clear in your own mind that training teachers is a very different undertaking from teaching English to learners of the language.
Up to now, you have relied on having shared experiences with your learners but differing languages to talk about them.  Now, you have to reverse the process.  You will share a language (not necessarily your or their first language) with course participants but your experiences are not the same.
In other words, you are moving from teaching people how to talk about things in a different language to teaching people how to do things via a shared language and, at the same time, transferring some of your knowledge to them.

What you need to know
You are the expert and the people you are tutoring will expect you to know what you are talking about.  Learners of a language take it as a given that their teacher is an expert in terms of the language and managing learning.  Teachers in training tend to be somewhat more sceptical and you will have to show knowledge in particular and in depth of:
  • The language forms
    In the classroom up to now, you have needed a strong understanding of the forms of the language: structural, phonological and lexical.  What you have not needed to do is explain the forms to others except by way of demonstration, exemplification and correction.
    This is no longer enough.  Now you need to be able to talk knowledgeably about areas such as tense, aspect and voice, characteristics of connected speech, places and manners of articulation, polysemy, morphology, hyponymy, collocation, colligation and much else.
    (At the top of the in-service training index (link on the left) you will find a link to a 50-item grammar and usage test and a 100-item terminology test.  You should be able to score well over 80% on both of those before you venture into a training room as the tutor.)
  • Skills
    You already have a good understanding of concepts such as gist, receptive vs. productive, scanning, monitoring and so on as well as an understanding of the variety of ways there are to teach skills in the classroom.  Your task now is to be able to bring this knowledge together in a way that allows your trainees to understand and apply the concepts..
  • Methodology
    In your own training, you encountered a good deal of methodological ideas about how languages can be taught and how they are learned.  Now you need to know a bit more, in particular, about the differences and supposed similarities between first- and second-language acquisition and be able to cast a well-informed and sceptical eye over the claims of various methodologists.
    You may have strong views about how languages are best taught and learned but your job is objective informant, not advocate.
  • Classroom management
    If you are setting out to tutor on initial training courses, you can take nothing for granted and need to remember what it was like not to be able to decide how to groups students, how to give instructions, how to get feedback and so on.  By now, you probably do most of these sorts of thing ritually without very much conscious effort.  Now, however, you need to analyse how classroom management tasks work and give people the opportunity to learn how to do it.
    At levels above the initial, you may assume (not always safely) that the course participants can already handle most aspects of classroom management but when things go wrong, as they sometimes do, you need to know why, not just what.
Only you can judge now whether you know enough or need to learn more.  Later, others will judge you so you need to be ready.
What you need to be able to do
We noted above that not all the classroom behaviours and skills you have laboriously acquired will be relevant to teacher training and those that are will need amending and adapting to a new set of demands.
The ability to motivate, involve and inspire, of course, remains an integral part of what you do.
The skills required of a teacher trainer overlap with those you need to be a good teacher of language but they are not the same.  There are some new skills that you'll need to acquire very rapidly.  It can be a steep learning curve.
In particular
  • Arranging and editing
    Most teacher-training courses are really rather short (typically between 100 and 200 hours of training).  In that time, it is unrealistic to suppose that you can teach what needs to be known.  So, besides knowing lots about language structure, phonology, skills and methodology, you need to be able to select what is relevant now and provide a road map for your trainees showing them where to go next and how to extend the edited information you have managed to get across.
    You also need to know how much is relevant to the course participants you are working with and their level of knowledge.
  • Balancing theory and practice
    In your teaching of language, you have learned to balance the amount of information and modelling you have provided with opportunities to apply the data to the real (or a simulated) world.
    Now you need to take that same balancing skill and apply it to balancing information (i.e. theory) with the opportunity to engage with it and apply it in the classroom.
    You need to know when to lecture, when to lead a workshop, when to set a task and when to hand over and let your trainees run with ideas.
    That skill does not come all at once but the process of gaining it can be accelerated with the application of a bit of thought.
  • Presenting
    In the language classroom, you are adept at presenting new language in context.  Now you have a different task: presenting new data against a background of what people already know.  Unless you are alert to the opportunities that are presented by people's ability to acquire new information by assimilating it into data they already command (rather than trying to grasp wholly new concepts) you will not succeed as a teacher trainer (or any other kind of trainer).
    In addition, you need to acquire the skill of presenting data rather than models of language in a way that allows people to engage with the topic and see its practical application.  You need to be able to intrigue and motivate.
  • Develop
    You will no more become a master of teacher training quickly than you became a master practitioner in the language classroom overnight.
    Being a teacher trainer does not mean you have reached the pinnacle of the profession and can learn nothing more.  It means you are now even more aware of what you don't know and can't do.  The difference between you and your trainees is that you know where to go next.
  • Mark
    On almost all courses for teachers there will be some written work which needs to be assessed and that is done through the application of criterion-referenced marking.
    You will need training in how to apply the criteria at the right (i.e., standard) level of strictness and severity.  That's what standardisation means.
  • Observe
    Apart from the Cambridge TKT (which is assessed purely through an examination), all credible courses for teachers involve a certain amount of assessment of practical teaching skills through observation.
    For this all the recognised schemes have clear criteria which are applied objectively (by you) and duplicated wherever the course takes place with whatever training staff.
    To be able to apply the criteria for assessment, it is essential that you are properly trained and standardised.
Acquiring those skills cannot be done quickly.  Training the trainer is what it's all about.

Now might be a good time to go on to considering the differences between initial training (which is where most people start) and in-service training (which is what you have had) and where most people go next.  To do that, click here.
Otherwise, click on the left-hand menu to move on.

Thanks for staying with us.