What skill sets do English language teachers need in order to be successful in their career?

This was a question we, a group of three teachers and two administrators, discussed six years ago when I headed the department of English at an institute of technology in Rwanda.

We went through the resume of around 15 persons who had applied for the teaching position in the department of English and shortlisted five candidates based on their academic qualifications and teaching experience. During the interview only two candidates impressed us and they were selected.  After a few months the students were not happy with the teachers' teaching skills and complained to the higher authority about the teachers.  We were questioned why we selected those 'incompetent' teachers.  We did not have any answer to the question.

Later I raised a number of questions and discussed the same with a few ELT professionals.  Some of the questions are given below:

  1. Should we select a candidate just because their proficiency in English is good?
  2. How are we going to assess whether the candidate is a good teacher?
  3. What skill sets do we look for in prospctive teachers of English?
  4. Aren't creative and critical thinking skills necessary for a successful teacher?
  5. How are we going to find out whether a candidate is innovative?
  6. Isn't there a possibility that a candidate may have good speaking skills but may lack writing skills and vice versa?
  7. How important is test setting skills for a teacher of English?

Finally, we arrived at some criteria which I'll discuss soon.

Dear teachers, I look forward to reading your comments and experience. 

Albert P'Rayan 







Hi Albert,

This is a serious question: how to make sure that the teacher who gets selected is indeed a good teacher?

As it is a tricky issue, I do not want to answer it directly, however, I would like to share what skills you need to look for in prospective teachers. How the selection committee can test these skills is an administratve issue becasue if the managment wants, they can be tested.

The teachers need four skills:

a. Content knowlegde (I consider this as a skill)

b. Pedagogical skills

c. Decision making skills

d. Social skills

In the recruitment process, looking at the credentials and interviews may not give a good picture. So, if you want to test content knowledge (which inludes English language proficiency) and pedagogical skills, you can get the candidates to deliver a demonstration lesson. But just one lesson is not enough as it can orchastrated. So, if you can manage, get candidates to deliver three lessons and closely observe so that their decision making skills and social skills can also be evaluated.


Having said that, I also emphasize on the ability of the recruitment committee: Do they possess the skills as well as objectivity to choose the right people? It will be okay for me not to selected if the selected candidate has better skills than mine. But if otherwise happens, I would feel that there has been injustice to me.


So, we need to think not only of the candidates but also of the selection committee who can make wise decisions.


Albert, take it as my opinion. Other colleagues will definitely come up with better ideas.


Laxman from Nepal



Hi Laxman

Thank you for your response.  

Yes, I do agree with you that the members of a selection committee should be competent enough to assess the skills of candidates.  Recently a private engineering college in Chennai conducted interviews to recruit an assistant professor and a professor.  Some of the candidates had more than 15 years of  teaching experience and had doctoral degrees.  But the selection committee had two lecturers and one of them had five years of teaching experience and the other had just two years of experience and they lacked research experience.  One of the candidates shared with me his experience of attending the interview.   When he was asked to explain how he would teach proposal writing, his reply to the selection committee was:  "There are different types of proposals such as research proposal and grand proposal.  Could you please be specific and tell me which type of proposal you want me to teach?"  The interviewer replied, "Thank you, sir.  We'll inform you tomorrow whether you have been selected."  He knew very well that he wouldn't be selected but he wasn't disappointed.

Laxman and others, do share with us whether any of your friends or colleagues have had similar experience.





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