logo ELT Concourse for teacher trainers

Methodology: initial training sessions


Methodology is not a topic treated in any great depth on many initial training courses because it is complicated, requires time and may not be seen as centrally relevant to learning how to teach.
The upshot of this neglect is talk of the CELTA method or thinking that Presentation-Practice-Production rather than, say, Test-Teach-Test is a methodology.  It can even lead to daft talk of an inductive methodology vs. a deductive one.
It ill prepares people, too, for any further development and training because they have been denied an opportunity to see approaches to teaching and theories about language and learning in a context.

Among the sites out here in hyperspace that are directed at CELTA trainees, none that could be found focus at all on methodology and the ones which focus on some language analysis do it so badly they shouldn't have bothered.
The focus instead is on techniques and classroom management skills which are, naturally, important, but some understanding of why you are doing something comes in handy, too, especially when teachers are trying to focus on being better at what they do.

The worksheets and tasks in this section do not attempt to denigrate the importance of learning something about classroom skills but they try to set it in the context of what we are attempting to achieve.


The key ideas

This is essentials only and does some injury to respected methodological thinkers and writers.  It is not intended to be comprehensive and makes not claims in that regard.
What it does do, however, is focus on three sets of methodologies which share some important characteristics and attempts to see where things fit together.

  • Methodology defined
  • The characteristics of a methodology
  • Types of methodologies
    • Classical
    • Scientific
    • Communicative

The aim of all of this is to give trainees the essential data they need to be able to see classroom activities, approaches and materials not as a ragtag collection of tools to be used to fix learning problems but behaviours and aids which arise naturally from what we think language is and how we think it might be learned.
The right answer to those two questions in not part of the intended outcomes, incidentally.


What do I believe?

The first task is alert people to the fact that there are competing theories about what language is, how it is learned and what the aims of teaching it should be.
Once people have completed the worksheet (something they can do outside of course times) set up a mingle so that ideas can be compared and, perhaps, refined.
Feedback, while necessary, doesn't have to take long or be very thorough because this is a process not a product task.



What is methodology?

The purpose here is to alert trainees to the existence of a definition of methodology and we have selected the one offered by Richards and Rodgers because it is both familiar and accessible.  It is not the only one.
This is not a worksheet per se, it is the makings of a worksheet.


Your task, dear trainer, is to cut up the various sections and, supplying one set to each group, get them to arrange the bits in a way that suits them.  You can do this with a smart board but you'll need one for each group unless you want to be imaginative.
If possible the groups should do this privately and not be able to see what other groups are doing.
The cut-up bits are deliberately of slightly different sizes but all the same colour because trainees will need a little help.
The right answer is in the second part of the worksheet and is for your summing up and presentation.
You can of course skip this task and simply use the presentation if time is pressing.

The final worksheet focuses on three set of methodologies which have principles in common.
Before that is done, you may like to give a mini-presentation on some of the terminology and the major theories of language and learning which underlie:

  1. Classical and Grammar-translation methodologies
  2. Audio-lingual and Situational Language Teaching methodologies
  3. Communicative and Task-based learning methodologies


and to do that you may like to review the material in the guide to the three sets of methodologies linked below and to the guide to the history and development of English Language Teaching.


Related areas

Related guides
For trainees:
methodology essentials the initial plus guide to the essentials of the area
For you (as a reminder of what you need to know)
methodology refined for the in-service guide which is much more detailed
the history and development of ELT for an in-service guide to the area
A-Z index where you can find guides to or containing specific concepts and terms

Richards, J, and Rodgers, T, 2001, Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press