CELTA observations

I don't know how Ammin does it, trying to keep a blog here (http://teachingenglish.org.uk/blogs/aminn) and do the CELTA course at the same time.  As a trainer I'm struggling to find the time, and the trainees seem to be under more pressure than me.

Anyhow, I'm gonna keep it brief as brief as I can.. light comments on aspects of the course that either surprised me, challenged me, or could otherwise be of use for another trainer (and possibly even trainees) to know before coming across the situation.  Let's begin.

The Learner Assignment.

Naturally the marking of assignments involves a tiny little bit of subjectivity.  The criteria is detailed and very well laid out by the Cambridge ESOL syllabus, so there are clear, objective guidelines, but you'll still find a bit of variation in comments.  That's nothing unusual... the thing that's struck me is the views on 'resubmission'.

When an assignment is handed in for the first time it gets either a 'pass' or a 'resubmit' (ie. you can't fail straight away).  If a trainee gets a 'resubmit' they have 3 days to touch up the assignment and hand it in again (at which time they get a 'pass on resub' or a 'fail').  Now trainers/schools/courses are very well moderated and the actual, final 'pass' vs 'fail' marking seems to be highly consistent... but the resubmission is different in that:

  • Some trainers, rightly, see the assignment as part of the learning process and feel that the process of writing the assignment is more important than the final product.  This coupled with an understanding that the course is extremely intense and trainee teachers need to focus on their lessons and lesson planning leads those trainers to using the 'resub' mark only for assignments with serious issues that need to be looked at again.
  • Other trainers, also rightly, see the assignment and the resub of the assignment as part of the learning process and feel that by using the option of asking for a resub they can guide the trainee teachers to a final product closer to what was intended - kind of combining process and product.  They tend to mark an assignment resub especially if 4 sections of the assignment are spot on and 1 is not, because they see that redoing that 1 tiny section can be a valuable learning experience without being overly time consuming. 

So, what's the best approach?  Who can say - there are clear advantages to each.  I'm currently leaning toward the 'use the resub option more' side... but who knows if that'll change with more experience.


Skills Work

A real quick comment - useful for trainers and trainees.

Every trainee teacher understands the importance of clarifying grammar and vocabulary. 

Every trainee teacher understands the importance of using speaking practice around a grammar or vocabulary point.

Few trainee teachers get the need for actual skills work.  It can be very difficult to impress the importance of practicing speaking for speaking's sake, or to impress the importance of practicing the skill of skimming a text for a general understanding before going into detail, or any of the other related skills or sub-skills.  


TP Sessions

I mentioned that my last course used 40min TP practice sessions and this one is using 30min TP practice sessions, in my last blog entry, and some of the problems I've found therein.  Closely related to this, is something that slipped my mind and could potentially cause major problems:

Trainers must assign the teacher (usually by letter) for each TP Point they prepare, separately from the TP Schedule.

If you prep the TP points and have the teachers take them up in direct order based on the TP Schedule you end up with, for example, Teacher A always doing the first session of the day and Teacher F always doing the last session of the day... and with 30min sessions, you get a lot of other problems too.

Make sure you assign who is teaching at what time as well as on which day.


Experienced Teachers

I'm based in China, so this is mostly a comment on the typical approach to language teaching here, but I imagine it is similar in some other places too.

After a teacher has done a 30min lesson involving just one thing: the teacher explaining (ie. no elicitation, no building up context or concept, no pair-work activities or practice, just the teacher explaining a grammar point again and again) you have to clarify that 'teacher explanations' just don't do it.  That's okay, and it's expected.  But...

When the teacher has been teaching within China for 5 years and has always used the same method and believes it is correct and then tries to argue with you over the point, what do you do?

You have to clarify the problem, and yet you have to be polite and respectful, and you have to try to balance areas to work on with strengths.

No solution here - you have to do all 3, no matter what, and that can be tricky.  So be prepared, especially if you have experienced teachers on the course.


Assignment on the Learner/s

The assignment we used on this course allows the teachers to  select exercises/tasks/activities from the course book or other resources to help Ss improve in a particular language area, etc.

May I suggest that your assignment does not allow teachers to use the course book?

90% of the teachers just chose activities that had already been used or were about to be used in their actual TP sessions, which meant: they had little work to do; they didn't think about the task carefully; they didn't get any practice using resources outside the standard course book.

I really see one of the important aspects of this assignment is encouraging teachers to be able to deal with problems that the course book doesn't deal with, and this assignment should fully encourage them to go to supplementary books, etc.

A small thing, but one that could make the learning experience more valuable.


That's all from me for now.

Would be great to hear other tutor's comments on any of these!

Average: 4.5 (13 votes)


orlandomathieu's picture

Hi again Heath,I´ve just replied to one of your posts on your first course after your CELTA TiT programme. Now, regarding assignments and resubmissions, I think I will use both approaches. When I receive a piece of work where the quality is not what I would expect to be "to standard" I give it back with comments and suggestions to improve it. However, when I receive a piece of work from one of the strongest candidates and there´s something I know she could improve, I give it back as a resubmission and help the trainee improve her work with comments, tips and guidance. Basically, I think it all comes down to the candidate. I mean, there´s still a very clear standard to follow but I think resubmissions are learning opportunities and they should then depend on the progress each candidate is making on the course. What do you think? Orlando.

Heath's picture

Hi Orlando,Great to see another tutor using the site.  I'm a bit isolated from other tutors where I work.  I get to work with a lot of different tutors, but we don't yet have an established team as such - so it's not quite as grounded.  Fantastic to have a chance to bounce ideas of people here on teachingenglish.org.uk.Especially interesting in that I read your message the day after we marked The Language Assignment on our current course.  We'd been discussing whether to ask a strong candidate to resubmit focusing on a few small components, what was actually a very good assignment, and decided that it was a good idea because we wouldn't be offering him enough in the way of feedback if we didn't. So, I think that's a valuable point you make about it depending on the progress of each candidate - something I'd like to be a bit more active about considering with all trainees (rather than just the odd time when an obviously strong candidate is involved).Best,Heath

orlandomathieu's picture

Hi again Heath, I know the feeling. I do wonder why Cambridge Esol doesn´t create a site where trainers can exchange ideas, materials, suggestions,etc. We would then benefit from what happens in other countries and centres.  During the last assessor´s visit, we were provided sample materials or what other centres in the US do and we got very good ideas of how we could improve the course and make it more manageable for for trainers and trainees, so I don´t see why we couldn´t do the same online... I´m glad to know you found my post and comments useful and worth trying :- )  On a different note, have you managed to establish a CELTA team already?  Best, Orlando.  

mand71's picture

My name is Amanda and I'm a CELTA tutor in Turkey.  I agree that it would be useful to have a place where CELTA tutors could share ideas and information.  I am thinking of a way to do that!

Heath's picture

Hi Amanda,Nice to meet you.  And a real pleasure to have another CELTA tutor writing here.  I don't suppose you know much about Moodle? One of the assessors who visited recently suggested that we use Moodle to provide trainees with some online assistance.  The main idea being that they would be able to download materials from there after the course (a large number of our trainees are just visiting and all the handouts and materials are just too much for their luggage on their return flights).I wonder if that would be a good avenue for CELTA tutor correspondence too?Of course, it would be nice if a few more tutors simply shared ideas and chatted here. Heath