logo ELT Concourse for teacher trainers

Methodology: in-service 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.
In-service training is the place to put all this right.

If even part of the purpose of in-service training for you is to convert a competent teacher into a professional specialist whose practice is firmly based on principle, this is an important area.


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.

  • Theories of second-language acquisition
  • Theories of language
  • Methodology refined
    • Theories
    • Hypotheses
    • Procedures
    • Techniques
    • Solutions

What follows builds on the worksheets and plan for a consideration of methodology at an initial training level.
Unfortunately, on an in-service course it is often perilous to assume that any methodology has been studied in any consistent way in your trainees' earlier professional induction.

Overall, we follow a guide on this site entitled Methodology refined which includes the following two summary diagrams.
You may, of course, not agree with the categorisation implied by these and, if that's the case, you'll need to abandon this guide or change things around quite fundamentally.  Your choice.


Summary 1

This is intended as no more than a general overview.
We should bear in mind that any diagram of this sort will disguise cross-overs between theories and overlapping concepts.
It is the case, for example, that one can take a structuralist view of language as a hierarchy of elements but still employ a cognitivist rather than behaviourist approach.  It is also the case that one may assume that learning is based on social interactions but still use a good deal of repetition and drilling in an effort to make language form automatic and easier to deploy in interactions.  Many proponents of a communicative view of language will still spend a good deal of time focusing on grammar in the context of its functional value.
Nothing is forbidden but some mixtures will be internally contradictory.

sla theories


Summary 2

This is an overview of an attempt to re-define methodology at five levels rather than the simple three-part definition used for the initial-level training ideas in this area and make it a little more challenging and exact.  It is not a view universally accepted in the profession but it somewhere to start in a notoriously complex area with overlapping categories and various levels of prioritisation.

methodology summary


What do I believe?

The first task is exactly the same as the task at the initial training level because people need some reminding that beliefs about learning and language are something most teachers hold whether they are adept at articulating them or not.

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.



Two theoretical areas

This task is simple.  It provides a brief description (which you would be well advised to expand) of some important theories of language and learning and asks trainees for some reactions in terms of what they see as the implications for classrooms.
It then turns the tables and asks whether the implications they have identified are features of their own teaching and whether that implies something about their own underlying beliefs.


You may have to explain and expand on the brief descriptions of the theories and, in feedback from the task, you will need to provide the terminology people need to talk and think about the ideas.
The key terms to introduce are:

The last thing to do is to send people off to follow the guide to methodology refined (linked below) or cover the areas yourself if you feel you have the time.
Feel free to help yourself to the materials but credit them, please.

There is one final worksheet which requires people to demonstrate that they have absorbed most of the material in that guide.


The right answers are:

    1. Approach
    2. structured
    3. classroom
    1. Yes
    2. No
    3. Yes
    4. No
    5. No
    6. No
    7. No
  1. indiscriminately | restriction(s) | correct
  2. Constructivism or Social Interaction
  3. probability or probabilities
  4. Vroom
  5. True
  6. Proximal Development
  7. hypotheses | techniques

Question 10 has no predictable answer.

There are guides linked below that you may want to refer to for information and ideas.


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 on which most of this is based
second-language acquisition for the guide to some important theories covered here
first- and second-language acquisition for an overlapping guide which considers the similarities and differences
the history and development of ELT for an in-service guide to the area concerning how theories and methodologies develop
A-Z index where you can find guides to or containing specific concepts and terms