Thoughts on teacher education by an advanced student

I love teaching high levels. Why? Because they speak English well enough to be themselves and you can really get into gritty discussions. Here are the highlights of one of them with my favourite student:

You don’t need to do a teaching degree to teach, you just need to know your subject.

Teaching methodologies and approaches and conferences and journals are a waste of time.

You can’t teach someone to become a teacher, they can only learn by doing it.

If someone knows his subject enough to pass the ‘teaching test’ then that’s good enough for them to teach it.

At first these shocked and insulted me but then I began to think:

1)The CELTA teaches us HOW to teach but we are supposed to learn WHAT to teach from coursebooks and experience. Should we get more input on the WHAT?

2)Does anyone know English good enough to teach it properly?

3)Do we learn more from our own teaching than from external sources?

At the moment, we have CELTA/DELTA/PGCE/MA teaching qualifications. Some have teaching practice, some don’t and some have more focus on HOW or WHAT to teach. Can’t we just have one course with everything where when you finish it you know enough to deal with any area and have enough teaching methods to teach most classes??


6 thoughts on “Thoughts on teacher education by an advanced student

  1. It is clear that you don’t need a teaching qualification to teach, teaching qualifications were only invented in the last hundred years or so and people taught before that. Are you more effective as a teacher because you have written essays about motivation, Maslow and multiple intelligences? Are you more effective because you had an attentive mentor during your early years teaching, because you saw others deliver good and bad classes and because you thought about what went right and wrong – probably. Are you more effective because you ‘know’ your subject – definitely.

    However, having said all that, most teaching methodologies have little proven effect, certainly there is nothing to demonstrate that one method of teaching is quantifiably better than another. Sometimes the most effective thing about being a teacher is that your lessons exist – “if I didn’t have classes I would never learn” is not a compliment but can be a statement of fact.

    But, just in case breathing in and out is not sufficient I have hedged my bets and collected teaching and subject qualifications and continue to learn form cock-ups and conferences, so far its taken me 10 years and I´m note sure I’ve finished the course yet.

    • Well said Dave. I do think a lot of the methodology stuff is just used to pad out courses.After all, they insist that you research all the big ones, then say we are in a ‘post methods’ era as none of them worked properly so now just do what you want.

      My student’s other argument was that nobody knows how we learn, even after years and years of research. I can agree with that and I also agree that learning lots and lots of theories has often damaged my teaching but now, years on, I can look back and take bits from this and that. I think that having experience and then learning and applying individual things works well as opposed to just having theoretical knowledge.

      • Nobody knows how we learn. – There does seem to be some evidence, collated by Prof. John Hattie that ‘feedback’ is the most effective way of a teacher helping a student learn. By feedback he means highlighting what has been done well and suggesting how something(s) can/could be done better. The second most effective thing a teacher can do is use a highly structured approach GP calls this Direct Instruction.

        There is however a very big but. Just because these approaches have been shown to be the most effective in statistical terms it does not mean they are the most effective for any single individual or group. If you have never tried them then it might be worth a go – certainly the feedback approach. Have a look.

  2. “Does anyone know English GOOD enough to teach it properly?” Is that supposed to be a joke that I didn’t get, Phil?

    • Well, here in France they pride themselves on knowing the language and they have tests of other subjects too that allow them to teach them. I read on one site “only when you have passed the test (the one to allow you to teach English but is only about the subject) can we be sure that your English is good enough to teach others. A week later I met a local teacher who had learned Chinese for a year and had passed the same test so started teaching it. His failed counterparts included real Chinese teachers from China so go figure.

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