Simple questions about teacher training.

As you may know, (if you have had a peep at the video interview I did with the kind hosts of the TeachingEnglish web site when we were all at the IATEFL conference in Cardiff in April of this year), (or if you have had time to read the biography I submitted), I have been the editor of a journal called the Teacher Trainer for the last 23 years! I started this journal for foreign language and TESOL teacher trainers, teacher educators and mentors for Pilgrims. It has been a very pleasant chore for all that time and has enabled me to build up a pool of specialised resources and knowledge on the subject. And it is this topic, about the whole business of becoming, and then becoming a better, teacher trainer that I want to dedicate my time as guest writer this month. 

I am not the first TeachingEnglish guest teacher/writer to be a teacher trainer or to be interested in teacher training. If you go back through the archives to look at the work of my illustrious forerunners, you will find, for example, that Harsh Kadepurkar gave his top tips for teacher trainers on May 25th, 2008, Eleanor Occena talked about training the trainer in August of 2008 and many of Jenny Johnson’s top tips for managers given on February 4th, 2009 would be useful too. But perhaps I am the first to take it as my main subject? This means I am free to start with some basics.

Simple questions
One way of getting into a brand new area of thought is by asking loads of apparently simple and obvious questions about it and then dreaming up as many answers as possible to each one!

Here are some basic questions we could ask about our chosen field of teacher training:

  • What are teacher trainers called in different settings?
  • Who do they work with? Who are the main stakeholders?
  • What do trainers do?
  • Are they necessary?
  • Do trainers still teach?
  • Do you have to have any training to be a teacher trainer, teacher educator or mentor?
  • How do you know if you are ready to be one?
  • What do you need to know, do, be, have….. if you are a trainer?
  • What are the core tasks of the job?
  • How can you keep developing?
  • What makes a good trainer?
  • How are trainers assessed?
  • What resources are there for teacher trainers?
  • What options are there for planning courses for teachers and for doing the other core tasks of the job?
  • What is the most difficult part of the job?
  • What are the dark sides to the work?
  • What are the best sides of the work?
  • What can we learn from trainers in other fields?
  • Where are the language learners and the language teachers in all this?
  • What has changed over the last, say, 20 years in the job?
  • What is central to all learning and teaching, no matter what level or type or field?

And here is another question: What shall we do with all these questions?!!!!

  1. We could add to them, for I am sure I have missed lots that you may be interested in.
  2. I certainly don’t aim to answer them all while I am the guest writer this month. It would just be too wordy and too complex. But we could perhaps take one to discuss over the month.
  3. (If the questions that I don’t deal with this month interest you, you could slowly start to build an answer bank at home to your favourite ones with help from other site users, reading suggestions, back articles available on the journal web site at etc and keep adding to it over the next few months.)

Do write in if you would like to join in with this question on the topic of teacher training.

Bye for now!

Tessa Woodward


Tessa's blog is now closed for comments - check the Guest Writer's page to see who our current blogger is.


Hi Tessa, hi all TE readers,Thanks for raising a significant issue that in my opinion needs much improvement in certain countries in the world. Personally I am not a teacher trainer (referring to having a certificate that gives me the right to hold teacher training workshops, and to prepare other teachers to be qualified to hold workshops themselves), yet I feel as if I have done my homework on this topic! Furthermore, this leads me to the answer of the tenth question (How can you keep developing?) ... reading as much literature on the topic of teacher training, being self-critical of your actions and used methods in the ELT classroom, as least but certainly not least, actively participating in ELT seminars and conferences! Staying in touch with the latest methods employed worldwide and sharing opinions and experiences with colleagues from all over the world is preiceless, and this is why I am a strict adherent to these ways of professionally developing in the teacher trainer area. Unfortunately, I am witness to so-called EL teachers (regardless of the level they of language they are teaching) who are qualified teacher trainers, yet often make disgraceful grammar mistakes, and haven't been an active part of an ELT event for years.And know I know what I do NOT want to become in the future!Best, Aneta

Hello Aneta,
Well, I am just now feeling guilty in case I have been making disgraceful grammar or spelling mistakes on this blog! But seriously, I do belong to book clubs, read a lot etc etc to make sure my vocabulary doesn't atrophy or my style get too out of date!!
And I agree that we all need to keep reading and learning and taking part in professional events etc in order to be worth our salt.
Actually, the thing I feel most strongly about is that we teacher trainers...whatever our job titles or core tasks... really need to keep teaching English itself. In other words, we need to keep a  foot firmly in the language classroom. Otherwise it won't take long for us to get very unrealistic in our work with practising teachers! And that's not fair on them!
Thanks for giving me the chance to remember that I feel this!
All the best

Dear TessaThanks for the set of questions. I would say they look like an excellent checklist for teacher trainers. Yes, I agree the list can be extended, but as it is, it is excellent for brainstorming!Thanks for referring to my tips! For the benefit of readers, these tips were first publised in the journal The Teacher Trainer, edited by Tessa.RegardsHarsh