Marisa Constantinides on How to Become an ELT Teacher Educator

Oh, To be a Teacher Trainer!

In the relatively recent past, Cambridge ESOL redefined their policies regarding the hiring of Course Tutors for CELTA, DELTA and other Cambridge Teaching Awards courses stating an absolute minimum qualification:

Today, it is almost impossible to be approved as a tutor on any of these courses if one does not have a Cambridge DELTA Diploma.

Although not necessary to have attended a trainer training course or to have a Masters in TEFL/TESOL or Applied Linguistics in order to be employed in one of these courses, Cambridge ESOL requires prospective CELTA and DELTA tutors to go through an extensive induction period, supervised by an Authorised Teaching Awards Centre involving:

  • putting together a portfolio of trainer training tasks, documents and materials
  • observing/following one or more courses at an accredited centre
  • being observed by one's supervisor (usually to Course Tutor)
  • being assessed for their portfolio work and trainer skills by a specially appointed external Cambridge Assessor.
I consider this is a very positive development, although it does create issues for very experienced (and often highly sought after!) teacher educators who find themselves interested in becoming approved CELTA and DELTA approved tutors at this particular juncture.

Still, although the system may have its drawbacks for a small number of exceptions, as a rule it forms a very good code of practice for the profession. And I believe that Cambridge ESOL are, in a way, attempting to declare the profession's coming of age.

A HISTORY OF THE PAST – TEACHER TRAINER OR TEACHER EDUCATOR?

I have been a teacher trainer for many years, more years, in fact than I have been a teacher educator. My career as a teacher trainer began when I was literally pulled out of the classroom by a highly perceptive Academic Director who saw some potential in me and who threw me into teacher training head first!

By that time, I had already attended a Certificate level course, obtained my Diploma in TEFLA (then known as the RSA DTEFLA, equivalent of today’s Cambridge DELTA) and had five years' classroom teaching experience with both young learners and adults.

But other than that, I had no other training on how to train TEFL teachers; later, I gained more experience when certain British publishers offered me the opportunity to do freelance teacher training for them. Through this training, I got my second major lucky break – I was offered a job as an in-house teacher trainer for a major language school in Athens (now also a major publisher as well) and started training the staff at that school through pre-sessional/start of the year courses and through continuous development workshops and seminars throughout the year.

I learnt an enormous amount through this job, a lot of it about teacher training and a lot about the administration of introducing innovation and change into a language institution.

After I had been a teacher trainer for some time, I felt I needed more background and that was the time I decided to follow an M.A. in Applied Linguistics, a course I completed at the University of Reading and which I still use to its fullest!

On that M.A., I followed a Teacher Education option, which was really the first formal training I received on syllabus design for teacher education courses, different coding systems and ways of giving feedback, analysing classroom discourse, teacher assessment schemes, and many more relevant topics.

It is at that point that I realised the difference between a teacher trainer and a teacher educator, a term which if not introduced by H.G.Widdowson, was certainly inspired by an important article published in ELTJ in 1984 , in which he says that “teachers need to be trained in practical techniques, but must also be educated to see those techniques as exemplars of certain theoretical principles..” otherwise they cannot derive expertise from experience, and later calls for teachers who “are not consumers of research, but researchers in their own right. It is this, I think, that makes teaching a professional activity, and which should, therefore, provide incentive to those who claim membership of the profession.”

My career as a teacher educator – in Widdowson’s sense then, changed and became more charged with a focus on teacher education for reasons to do with a new perception of what training and educating classroom teachers involves since I completed my MA studies.

My personal training style evolved many times over throughout the years up to now, mainly through focussed observation of experienced tutors/presenters at conferences and workshops.

Personal favourites include Rod Bolitho, Tony Wright and Ken Wilson but watching my colleagues has also given me inspiration - current CELTA co-tutor Olha Madylus is one of the most inspiring and motivating teacher educators I have ever seen; as are Tony Whooley and George Vassilakis, great CELTA & DELTA co-tutors, to name only a few.

CURRENT PRACTICES & CHOICES

These days there are numerous Trainer Training courses available to anyone interested in teacher education. To name a few, Marjon's (The University College of St Mark & St John in Plymouth) runs a very good one; Warwick University has an MA in TEFL, specializing in teacher education.

To anyone who asks today what they should do in order to go into the field of teacher education, I always suggest following one of these courses.

You can, of course, learn on the job, but it's the same as teaching.

You do acquire some skills through practice or by being mentored by good teacher educators, but the shortcut to faster development is by following a good course and it is well worth the effort and cost.

Without one, you may eventually get to your destination but it will take you a much longer time to achieve what you can learn in a much shorter time.

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE A TEACHER TRAINER/EDUCATOR?

The Council of Europe stipulates that those involved in the training of professionals should have received a minimum of 400 hours of training themselves, which is a good point to think about, not just regarding teacher educators.

Apart from evidence of extensive training (ideally including a DELTA and an M.A. in TEFL or Applied Linguistics), here are some of the qualities I look for in anyone who wants to work as a teacher trainer/educator at my training institution.

I look for educators who...
  • have extensive and varied classroom teaching experience
  • are experienced and highly skilled in lesson & materials design
  • are familiar with a wide range of materials available, published in print form and online
  • have extensive experience of training and supporting adult learners
  • have experience of having been observed by others themselves
  • are able to deliver lessons using a wide range of presentation/teaching modes
  • are highly polished classroom practitioners/master teachers themselves
  • are confident and supportive individuals
  • have an interest in their own ongoing professional development/ new technologies do not frighten them and they are keen to develop and learn
  • have thorough understanding of the theoretical assumptions underpinning classroom techniques/ lessons/ materials/lesson shapes, etc.
  • are highly proficient in the language of instruction (English) with outstanding language awareness
  • have observed other teachers extensively and seen different ways of giving feedback to trainee teachers
  • are mature, balanced, objective and have a reflective approach to teaching and teacher education
  • are in full control of their teaching style and classroom persona
  • are keen learners and sharers and are generous about sharing what they know with other colleagues
I could add many more qualities I look for, such as a bright and sunny disposition, a good sense of humour, tolerance and patience, sensitivity, efficiency, passion for teaching – a great ingredient!!! - professionalism, promptness, punctuality, flexibility, empathy....the list could go on and on.

But what I want to stress is that my ideal candidate will have both the high polish of a good teacher trainer as well as the depth of understanding of a good teacher educator.


CAN EVERY GOOD TEACHER BECOME A TEACHER TRAINER/EDUCATOR?

Many of you may have noticed that many of the qualities mentioned in the previous section are also highly desirable qualities in a teacher!

So, can a good teacher become a good teacher trainer/educator?

This is a key question, and I am afraid that my own personal response is “No, I do not think so”. Not all very good, or even outstanding classroom teachers are suitable for a career in teacher training.

There is one major (in my own view always) attribute which is absolutely necessary, the ability to analyse the teaching process and classroom practices for the benefit of one's trainees.

Without this very special ability, while it may not be difficult to pick up a published or unpublished set of training materials and deliver sessions to a group of trainees, it can be very difficult to support the same trainees in lesson preparation, suggest alternatives, advise them or tailor one's instruction to suit different needs, different teaching and learning contexts as well as the developing/emerging needs of one's own trainees!

To my trainees who ask me how it is possible to develop into a good teacher educator, I say the same things. This is not just the next logical step in every TEFL teacher’s career and it cannot be done well by everyone but there is no doubt that there is, indeed, a great need for more people in this profession!

Teacher training/education is a serious business requiring specialist knowledge, a passion for teaching and helping people, personal commitment, the classroom polish of a master teacher and a willingness to learn and share the learning with others.

It should be serious but also greatly motivating and great fun – when appropriate.

So to balance out my very serious post, I've included a couple of photographs from training sessions which were wonderfully inspiring and great fun for trainees and their tutor! Do you have any questions?


About the Author
Marisa Constantinides is the DOS of CELT Athens, a teacher education centre in Athens which offers TEFL, Cambridge CELTA and DELTA courses to teachers from all over the world.





You can reach her via:

25 Responses to “Marisa Constantinides on How to Become an ELT Teacher Educator”

  • Hall Houston says:
    November 06, 2009

    I really enjoyed reading this post. Some very useful information about the world of teacher training.

  • little_miss_bossy says:
    November 06, 2009

    Wow.

    Seems like I have a long way to go :)

    Hopefully it's going to happen by the time you get your Oscar :)

    All the best,

    Anita

  • Marisa Constantinides says:
    November 06, 2009

    Hi Anita, best of luck with YOUR Oscar (the DELTA).

    You are certainly taking the right steps towards your goal!!!!

  • LLJB says:
    November 06, 2009

    I'd like to congratulate you Marisa for this inspiring and very informative post. I learned a lot from reading this, especially the fine distinction you point out between teacher trainer and teacher educator.

    This is a very thorough and insightful examination into what constitutes an effective teacher trainer/educator. The standards you require and listed, are exceptionally high and this is as it should be.

    I obtained my PGCE in TEFL in 1982. After a period of teaching I decided to further refresh my knowledge by doing the RSA DTEFLA (Diploma in the Teaching of English as a Foreign Language to Adults) in 1989. I assume this is the equivalent of today's Cambridge DELTA Diploma and yet you mention this is the equivalent of today's Cambridge CELTA, which has got me slightly confused.

    The MA in Linguistics you mention sounds like a wonderful course and one to aspire to one day.

    Many thanks Marisa for this great post which has really got me thinking and reassessing what or who I am as a teacher.

  • This comment has been removed by the author.
    CELT ATHENS says:
    November 06, 2009

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Marisa Constantinides says:
    November 06, 2009

    Thanks for pointing out typo, Janet, it should not be equivalent of CELTA but of DELTA!

    My fingers sometimes have a life of their own!

    And thanks for your lovely comment. An MA in Linguistics may not be the best option. Applied Linguistics, TEFL or TESOL MA's may be a more appropriate choice. And with current developments in ICT, perhaps a combined MA that has TESOL, ESOL and ICT may be the way to go!

    On re-reading my post, I have been thinking that most of the stuff I mention as standards may work for teacher educators in other disciplines - subsitute anything related to English with relevant content knowledge and anything related to our subject specific MA's to related postgraduate work in Pedagody and I think this could apply to teacher educators in other disciplines as well.

  • LLJB says:
    November 06, 2009

    Thank you Marisa for clarifying so promptly! The sign of a committed educator :)

    The idea of one day doing an MA in TEFL (rather than the other options) does sound appealing. However, for the moment, I will content myself by learning as much as I can about my chosen life-long profession from the excellent group of people who surround me.

  • Alex Case says:
    November 06, 2009

    "The idea of one day doing an MA in TEFL (rather than the other options) does sound appealing"

    I think someone else's fingers have slipped, surely the last word should be without an "e"??

    Joking aside, great post. It might also be worth pointing out that unlike MAs, the qualifications to become a teacher trainer offered by some online TEFL course providers are almost entirely worthless.

  • Marisa Constantinides says:
    November 06, 2009

    Hi Alex and thanks for feedback. You also made a very important comment about online courses. I don't have direct experience myself but I guess you hear a lot about them in your own website. I would, generally, agree based on the assumption that there is no live observation and feedback work on such courses. Although new technologies may change this too!

  • KALINAGO ENGLISH says:
    November 07, 2009

    Thanks so much for this incredibly informative piece, Marisa, distinguishing the difference and inspiring other teachers to follow this route.

    If there's one thing all of us teachers and teacher trainers need, it's great role models for our professional development.

    I can't wait to one day get the chance to come see you in action... and get trained by you.

    Thanks very much for doing this piece for us!

    Karenne

  • Heike Philp says:
    November 07, 2009

    Hi Marisa,

    Thank you for pointing out that 'the ability to analyse teaching process & classroom practise' is what makes a distinction between a good teacher trainer and a 'good teacher'.

    May I ask though, and this is looking beyond the IH/ BC practise of CELTA/ DELTA and beyond, whether this is not the 'normal qualification' in a graduate course at a University, a pedagogcial teacher training course which qualifies school teachers?

    They certainly analyse the teaching process left, right and center and still, I wouldn't classify many at University to be formidable teacher trainers.

    In fact, I have experienced teacher trainers myself, where I felt the biggest thing lacking was that 'they don't practise what they t(pr)each'.

    I highly resent being lectured to when the subject is: student centered teacher.

    What do you think, Marisa?

    Rgds Heike

  • Marisa Constantinides says:
    November 07, 2009

    Hi Heike,

    I have no information as to the content of the courses you mention, but critical reflection and self/peer assessment is certainly part and parcel of even a CELTA course, let alone a DELTA, worldwide – this is not the exclusive domain of IH or BC any longer, to set the standards of the profession – a small centre in Greece like mine can do that too, Heike, since we run these courses with the same professional high quality standards.

    However, critical reflection and self or peer assessment are intended to help the teacher with their ongoing professional development which goes well beyond the end of a course.

    My point, perhaps not expressed very clearly or very well, intends to describe a tutor’s ability to analyse the components of the teaching process, the teacher’s toolkit, as it were, in a way that trainee teachers can understand what is available, how it can be done and what is the underlying thinking behind it.

    Some of the teachers who come out of such courses may develop into good teacher educators, but there is a whole lot of other things they have to go through first in my rather long and fussy checklist – classroom teaching experience being one of them.

    I am sorry if I gave the impression that this is a sufficient quality to turn a good teacher into a good teacher educator.

    I like the point of "practice what you preach" and I entirely agree with you on that one. The design of a course or a session has to follow the principles and practices that you are trying to teach.

    Tessa Woodward got a wonderful handle on that with her Loop Input, but one can overdo loop input if that is the only thing they do.

    It's always good to vary and play with a variety of methods. Despite the serious tone of this piece here, I tend to be a rather playful tutor and student-centred activities are at the heart of my design.

    I have to do this. Not only because I believe it is the right thing to do, but also because I come from a strong tradition of teacher-centred classrooms, so my own natural tendency is to be centre-stage and to do what is called "performance teaching". And I can do it quite well, which can be a heady thing and it can entrap you into a lecturing type of input, because learners and teacher audiences tend to like a “lively” teacher…

    But it is most often the quiet, laid back type that does the best job! Believe me!

    Still I am fully aware of this. I guess some people are not aware of their own teaching or training style.

    That's partly what I meant by the ability to analyse the teaching and learning process. If you cannot criticise yourself, how can you help other teachers?

    Can I point you in the direction of an article I wrote, oh, quite a while ago, which perhaps may give you an idea of some of the things I do incorporate into my trainer’s toolkit. This is a small sampling and it is connected to a larger theme, that of helping teachers become more creative, but it might give you an idea.

    I don’t know if I can include a link to my article with the title “The Art of Being Creative” but if I can’t, perhaps Karenne can help and insert this link for me.

    http://www.celt.edu.gr/creative_teachers.htm

    Thanks for continuing this discussion.

    Marisa

  • Marisa Constantinides says:
    November 07, 2009

    I wrote this post before Heike's comment and something went funny and it didn't upload - so I am leaving it as is...
    ___________________________________

    Dear Karenne,

    To have you on one of my DELTA courses is a tutor's dream come true, with the learning going both ways - as it always does and should do - but in your case, you would have more than a thing or two to teach this tutor!!!

    Thank you so much for inviting me to write this guest post and thank you for your special interest in quality teacher education. I am thrilled to bits to have written for your blog!

    I am not, of course, familiar with what happens all over the world and how people qualify for teacher-ed jobs, but in my local context it’s a bit erratic, so establishing some sort of code of best practices cannot be a bad thing and even if not everyone agrees with my standards, at least we can open up this subject to public inspection and discussion.

    So, where are the dissenting voices?

    So far, none have come forward.

    I can’t believe that everyone agrees with me!

    Marisa

  • KALINAGO ENGLISH says:
    November 07, 2009

    ;-) maybe the dissenting voices are in Paris! Or they're afraid of your standards, LOL - just dashing off again however, here's the link to the link Marisa posted above

    Creative Teachers

  • Neal Chambers says:
    November 08, 2009

    Great information Marisa!

    I think the CELTA and DELTA are very valuable certifications. I went through the CELTA two years in Spain and it was well worth the time and effort. The first week was pretty rough, but afterwords I felt like I could handle any teaching job.

    Here in Japan, a CELTA is something that separates you from the pack and might be the difference between getting a job or not.

    Thanks again for the information!

  • Marisa Constantinides says:
    November 08, 2009

    Hi Neal and thanks for commenting.

    I will agree with you that a well taught CELTA course can be a pretty wonderful thing to have done, despite the fact that various friends in our PLN keep knocking it.

    Perhaps you might want to follow a couple of comments made by Alex Case, myself and Emma Harrod on my "Yes,and..." post just today:

    http://marisaconstantinides.edublogs.org/2009/11/02/yes-and/comment-page-1/


    To all who have been following this discussion, do please read a very interesting post by Tessa Woodward with the title "How to be a trainer" - link below:

    http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/think/articles/how-be-a-trainer

  • Heike Philp says:
    November 09, 2009

    Hi Marisa and a big THANK YOU for posting your reply and this great blog on how to be creative.

    You sound honest, dedicated and the self-reflection on your background/ weakness of coming from a long tradition of teacher centered methdology shows that you use this weakness as a strength learning from it.

    You sound as if you practise what you teach.

    Kudos to you and your team in Greece.

    Looking forward to hearing more from you.

    Rgds Heike

  • Marisa Constantinides says:
    November 09, 2009

    Heike,

    On re-reading my post, I noticed that it reads as though I am this super-duper teacher-educator-guru subjecting all and sundry to these strict rules... Aaargh! Not at all my intention.

    I try to use it on myself first! Then I look at others, always with a lot more tolerance and sympathy than I have for my own shortcomings.

    Thanks for comments on article on creativity. It's what I hope to be presenting at Harrogate - if of course my talk is accepted.

    Has anyone read Ms Woodward's post yet? I wasn't aware it was up when I posted this but it would be interesting to hear comments about how are expectations are similar or different!

  • Sputnik says:
    November 10, 2009

    I would just like to add my voice to those thanking you for such an interesting and informative post.

  • Hall Houston says:
    November 12, 2009

    That's a brilliant article on creativity. I believe teachers need to develop creative skills just as much as students. I've added your article to my new webpage about creativity and brainstorming, which you can see here:

    http://eslbrainstorming.webs.com

  • Marisa Constantinides says:
    November 12, 2009

    Hi Hall and thanks for adding my article link to your blog - noticed that book...hmm... would love a copy as I am veeeery interested in this topic myself!

    Marisa

  • Barbara Sakamoto says:
    November 14, 2009

    I SO wish I could sit in on one of your training sessions, Marisa. They sound wonderful!

    I'm a big fan of any standards that make our profession better, and over the years I've collected a various pieces of paper that say I can teach certain things--English as a first language to secondary students, ESL/EFL to students from kindergarten through community college, etc.

    While I guess it's possible to get a piece of paper saying one is qualified to train teachers in a specific methodology or technique (I'm thinking Silent Way, or Suggestopedia, and similar) there isn't really a certificate that says "I can educate teachers." Maybe there can't be. Since most teacher educators I know (including you) are constantly learning and evolving themselves, what would a certificate show? That our learning was already out of date before the ink was dry?

    Perhaps our certification process is ongoing....as long as teachers believe we provide value in our workshops, they return. If we don't, we find ourselves talking to empty rooms :)

    I love the standards you've set out, my favorite being:

    "There is one major (in my own view always) attribute which is absolutely necessary, the ability to analyse the teaching process and classroom practices for the benefit of one's trainees."

    Good ideals to aim for! Thanks!

  • Hala says:
    November 14, 2009

    Wow!
    Eye opening and very inspiring, indeed.
    Thanks for sharing,
    Hala

  • Marisa Constantinides says:
    November 15, 2009

    Dear Barbara,

    As you say, there is no single qualification or piece of paper that can turn you into a (good) teacher educator.

    Come to think of it, in my country, teacher education is a non-job! So I guess I am not properly qualified to be one, let alone describe one!

    And I do know absolutely fabulous professionals who do not have degrees and certifications or even M.A.s and yet they are role models in my book.

    But they do have the human/ personal qualities and the enquiry focused minds which led them to becoming what others can only reach through studying and qualifying.

    There are all sorts of pathways that may lead to the same end.

    What I was trying to express was that perhaps that end is not about having a glamorous job (!) but about long hours of learning, reflecting, studying, observing, analysing, and sometimes even doubting the pronouncements of the so-called gurus of our small (but not narrow-minded) world.

  • Louise Guyett says:
    July 21, 2013

    Hi Marisa,

    Thank you very much for the very informative piece. I have recently completed my Trinity Diploma and there is a position open for a CELTA trainer in my institution. I decided to put myself forward for consideration. I feel it might be too soon and I have a lot more experience to gain, but an opportunity like this might not come up again for a long time.
    Your post has been most helpful, even if I don't get chosen for this opportunity, it's great to know what I need to do and work towards should another opportunity come my way in the future.

    Many thanks,
    Louise

 

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