Well, my third course has just finished and everything went quite smoothly. All 12 candidates made it to the end, and despite a couple of ups and downs for a couple of teachers/trainees towards the end of Week 3, all 12 candidates completed the course successfully.
That, coupled with some great comments and feedback from the trainees about both the tutors and the course in general, really made my day, or month, rather...
So, some brief comments on handling the CELTA course. What worked well? What did I have trouble with? What do I want to keep working on? Let's see... in my slightly burnt out memory, what is there...
10 Teaching Practice Classes (8x30min, 2x60min).
I've decided that I prefer the other alternative I've worked with - 8 TP Classes (6x40min, 2x60min) for a variety of reasons:
- Lesson Plans and accompanying cover sheets are extremely detailed, and having 2 fewer classes reduces trainees workloads significantly.
- Similarly, having 8 classes means trainees always have two days between classes, which means more time to think over the lesson and plan more carefully.
- The shorter lessons make it much more difficult for trainees to cover all their lesson aims. With the 40min classes they're much more likely to provide appropriate time for productive practice - meaning better, more effective lessons.
- Despite being the same number of hours in reality, it's much trickier to divide the book up. The difference between 48 lessons and 60 lessons is quite significant, and when trainers are working to ensure teachers have a variety of different lesson types as well as get to teach at different times (eg. 1st for the day, last for the day, etc), those 12 extra lessons mean a lot more thought and work involved.
- ...and several other points that I think I've mentioned in an earlier blog...
Feedback on Classes that are Below Standard
There's always something good in a lesson, and feedback on lessons is divided into 'strengths' and 'areas to work on', so there's not much negativity involved (and yes, there's a big difference between 'areas to work on' and 'weaknesses' - see below for my take on it). But still... trainees, under huge pressure, are naturally not going to take feedback well when the lesson was clearly below standard.
You have to point out the ares in which the lesson missed the mark, and no matter how much good you are able to bring to light, most trainees are going to assume 'you're just saying that to make me feel better' (rarely true, but that's what they'll assume). Tough... and I'm not sure I deal with it well enough yet... and, unfortunately, it's one area that you don't WANT to get more practice in. Oh, well...
Areas to Work On vs Weaknesses
Not just a feel-good change of wording to throw a positive spin on something, trainees need to understand that an area to work on is not necessarily a weakness. Let's do the number thing:
Rapport: 80pts. Boardwork: 76pts. Vocab presentation: 25pts. Everything else: 50pts.
Strengths: Rapport & Boardwork. Weaknesses: Vocab presentation. Areas to Work On: Vocab presentation and 'everything else'
Rapport: 90pts. Boardwork: 86pts. Vocab presentation: 65pts. Everything else: 78pts.
Strengths: Rapport & Boardwork. Weaknesses: none. Areas to Work On: Vocab presentation.
... let me think about the course more... but I have to rush now...
And God bless,
Heath, was interested to read your thoughts about your CELTA course.
As a teacher long before being an EFL teacher, we were always taught to give the 'positive' feedback before any 'negative' or critical feedback. That helps overcome the inevitable antagonism that occurs with critical comments.
Thanks for your advice. We actually try the 'sandwich' approach - the negative comes sandwiched between the positives. That way it starts and finishes on positives.
I think the problem I'm facing is not so much in what order I present them, but in how I present the positives. Trainees seem to feel like "the trainer's just throwing something in to make me feel good" (chances are they too have been taught to precede negatives with positives, etc, so they're more skeptical about the positives than they should be).
From doing training in other situations, I feel like the 'positives' that make teachers happy are the ones the trainer seems excited or surprised about. Perhaps it's more about emotion...
Googled "CELTA trainer" the other day and came across your blog. Enjoyed your entries! I was trained up earlier last year myself, and am enjoying my new life as a trainer (4 courses done so far, 4 more to go this year).
Just finished a course last week, and a couple of trainees thought I didn't give them enough encouragement at times (despite their appreciation for the detailed suggestions they received) and that feedback could be a bit demoralising. I also use the 'PNP' approach, and thought I'd balanced out the Ps and the Ns. I'll have to make sure I address that on the next course.
Just did a standardisation pack from Cambridge that's new this year - I wonder if you've done it too? In the package there's a 3-page section on providing oral group feedback, with 14 suggested strategies and some pointers on ineffective fdbk sessions. Happy Training!
Thanks for your comments. Amazing how many details are almost exactly the same as mine.
- Trained up mid-last year.
- 4 courses so far (I always want to say 5 because the TiT stint makes you feel like you're part of the course there and then, but only 4 really)
- 3 more to go this year (5 a year including Jan & Mar).
- Just finished a course last week too.
- And although I've personally always worried about it, the last course was the first time that any of the trainees actually mentioned that I didn't give them enough encouragement at times (and that also on top of acknowledging how much they appreciated the detailed suggestions).
I still always feel that feedback sessions could be more practical (ie. if ICQs were a problem, for example, getting the Ts up and doing mock task set up to practise using ICQs, rather than just talking about it). I don't suppose you know if other centres do that? Perhaps it's just too time consuming, when the poor, stressed out teachers also need to rush off to do 4 hours of research, lesson planning, and assignments at home.
I do have the standardisation package. Been planning on doing it, but the March course put it out of my memory... timely reminder from you - now that I have a little bit of between course freedom I can get down to it, thanks!
Enjoy the next course... and lend me any tips/ideas that come up!
I still find it a bit odd that there aren't more CELTA trainers and resources on the web - been googling for ages and your blog is the only page I've found so far. Do you know of any other ones?
I have had to use part of oral fdbk time to do some remedial technical work - e.g. how to craft really succinct instructions with a tangible task; or how to use gestures for individual and whole-class pron drills. I've done that only when at least 4 out of 6 trainees need work in those areas tho. It's always good to be reminded what trainees need and benefit more from, so the fdbk I got from the last course was a good reminder.
I'm main course tutor on the next course (did that once last autumn), and for the rest of the year, so by the end of the summer I'll have done 8 courses, 5 as MCT. I'm already thinking ahead about getting trained up as an assessor. Our JCA is assessing in May (not my course), and I'll have a chat with her to see how I can plan for that.
Enjoy your next course too!