Can teachers be trained
online at pre-service level
This was the topic chosen for discussion by #ELTchatters on Wednesday 17th August at 9p.m. BST
I have to admit to a particular interest as I have been toying with the idea of putting forward a proposal to Jenny Pugsley at Trinity, but I wanted to get the best advice on the web-from teachers themselves, and was delighted to have my topic chosen for discussion.
There was a mix of participants from a variety of teaching and training backgrounds.
Anthony Gaughan kicked off with a controversial statement: "Yes, but not well" He clarified his point with: “several trainers @ recent IATEFL do said this: Too much dislocation between input and practice likely (PS; I'm a CELTA trainer
Marisa then asked us to declare whether we were involved in teacher training and had a surprisingly good response: @Shaunwilden @Marisa_C @AnthonyGaughan @SueAnnan @vickyloras and @ljp2010 are all currently involved in initial teacher training incorporating a F2F teaching element.
Shaunwilden: BTW I am a CELTA trainer, as an online trainer I run one of the courses Cambridge recognise in online tutoring, just to declare my hand…
@rliberni and @HelpMyEnglish have been involved in the past and @esolcourses and @DanielaArghir train teachers to use tech, although this is not designed for pre-service teachers. As the hour progressed we were joined by @Lee74 and @sueleather who also declared an interest in the subject. Sue leather teaches online training courses.
I asked whether there could be a problem in choosing the right candidates for online courses but Anthony Gaughan suggested that this wasn’t restricted to online applications. I still, however, wonder whether you would be able to guarantee the author of any work subsequently posted to the online platform.
ljp2010: currently lots of interest in online CELTA. How far removed is the input from the prac? e.g. in terms of time
Shaun Wilden, like Anthony Gaughan, was worried that the 16-week online course could be dislocated from TP, but hasn’t yet run one. It seems that only IH London has experience so far and that the online CELTA will be available from September.
Karenne wanted to know how the TP was evaluated and Lee explained that it was only the input sessions which were delivered online.
Ljp2010: so if it’s 16 weeks, more time to process the input. If TP comes later…
Shaunwilden: No it should go hand in hand with…
sandymillin: How does the TP and Observations bit work with online CELTA? How is it organised? Is the trainee told which school to go to?
Marisa_C: it has to be done normally f-2-f.
Shaun explained that it has to be a CELTA centre which runs the TP and trainees would have to go there, answering Sandy’s question about candidates who might not live anywhere near a centre having local access to the f-2-f part of the programme.
Marisa and Berni thought that it just added to the complexity of the course.
sueleather: I’m just thinking it might be even more stressful in a way to do everything online and then go to a special place just for your TP.
Kalinagoenglish: Agree-no comfort zone.
Marisa_C: - trainees feel very vulnerable in TP-to do so cold seems strange
Would there be a difference in the amount of TP provision?
Kalinagoenglish: I’m not sure that any”teaching” course ever provides “enough” training whether CELTA/CertTESOL because the students make all the difference… so I don’t think that “online” can provide enough direct teaching practice- other than onlineteaching/learning
Lee74: “online” CELTA has exactly the same amount of TP
It was suggested that online teacher training might have a place in training ONLINE teachers:
HelpMyEnglish: On a positive note, online training will give trainees exp. of online teaching/learning, something increasingly important!
rliberni: gr8 point should online teachers train online?
esolcourses: perhaps the best route hinges on what you want to do afterwards…
There was a bit of a debate about whether trainees doing online input sessions were missing out on valuable experience in the classroom.
Marisa_C: I don’t myself see that it is an ideal solution- new teachers need to EXPERIENCE not just read about and act cerebrally
Ljp: a lot is: watch the trainer practise what they preach
Shaunwilden: And modelling teaching in input etc
Vickyloras: I agree- must be in class physically as well, books and online not enough.
Marisa_C: the HEART of the course is planning together and feedback
sueleather: I think the online factor brings in another element, which might be difficult at pre-service, where trainees are thinking about the basics
DinaDobrou: Thinking of the sts post CELTA. If teachers have not experienced a class environment, how can they reproduce it?
Kalinagoenglish: I was training NNESTs last week….one of the things that came up was using body language in explanations- doable online?
Shaunwilden: not so easy asynchronously
This was challenged by Sandy who thought that a good online course would include videos etc. as standard. On the other hand, Anthony thought that pre-recorded input risked being divorced from local or personal experience.
Marisa said that she, along with most tutors, doesn’t repeat her programme each course, which suggests that pre-recorded material could certainly have its limitations.
The loneliness aspect was discussed too. The solution would require
1. Tutors able to foster community online (courtesy of Lee74)
2. Tasks set up in groups (rliberni)
3. The ability of trainees to throw themselves into the experience(sandymillin)
This introduced a new concern – the comfort level that trainees might have (or not) with the technology. Berni wasn’t sure that anyone uneasy with tech would choose to do a course using that medium. I don’t know what the logistics would be of doing the suggestion in the next quote:
HelpMyEnglish: trainee tech skills must be tested as part of entry to the course
DinaDobrou and Karenne both agreed that the majority of teachers and trainees already appear to be insecure around tech. Marisa reminded us of her difficulty in finding tech-savvy trainers for her own CELTA courses, prompting Anthony to suggest that, although it could be challenging for some, it might be a good reason to start early
Those of the group with online learning experience agreed that it took a bit of getting used to at first, but then became a more comfortable experience.
Cathywint: I’m doing online training now, really interesting for blended as well as online training.
So, how to go about it
Me: so, what platform would you use?
Shaunwilden: Cambridge are using fronter, personally I use moodle, but lots of things linking into it.
rliberni: it’s possible to use a combination, set up the course, decide what you need to deliver and then choose the platform and tools.
So, is it the way forward? Should we all embrace online training?
kalinagoenglish: As much as I love life online I prefer training teachers in person-new teachers need f2f feedback and help (methinks)
Lee74: maybe it’s particularly appropriate at this time when more schools want to move towards more online and blended
sueleather: online learning is great for a lot of people, and flexibility could make the whole thing less stressful especially if done over a longish period.
esolcourses: not convinced there is only one way myself
DinaDobrou: If teaching is moving online, then why not?
sueleather:I think that’s the crucial question. Are teachers being trained to teach online or in the classroom, or both?
HelpMyEnglish suggested that the online CELTA might be a way for institutions to tighten their belts. Lee74 agreed that it freed up tutors, classrooms and cut down on staff numbers, however she also stressed the benefit of flexibility for CELTA candidates.
Of course this begs the question – who are they going to use as tutors, and how much training will THEY be given?
Shaunwilden: They need to do an approved online tutoring course and training on the system
Lee, Anthony and Shaun debated whether a TP tutor should also be one of the online tutors and therefore not necessarily segregated from the input.
My next question was a bit provocative. I asked whether some online tutors do it to hide their inadequacies in the classroom. Although some people were in agreement that the possibility existed, it was largely claimed that many tutors were trained in the classroom too, and anyway there was no guarantee of good tutoring whichever method was chosen!
Esolcourses: maybe… although the flip side is, you might feel less inhibited about complaining if the quality was poor..
I was clearly put in my place at the idea that I might be demonising technology and online learning- heaven forbid! Moi?
Sue Leather worried about the ability for trainees to hide online, something which I had brought up at the beginning. It was suggested that it is simple; online tasks have clear deadlines, so it is easier to address lack of participation.
A few heartfelt quotes:
cioccas: I have done 12+ years of distance/online study, but felt my initial TT needed to be f2f if I was going to teach f2f.
inglishteacher: I think online is great, particularly social media, but for novice teachers you can’t beat the classroom
Marisa_C: I think rapport can be built online- we have great examples with the EVO sessions and webheads etc – but not for newbs.
The suggestion was made that we give the new programme time to run a few courses and see how they go. Let’s suck it and see…….. :-)
Brazil introduces OER into legislation http://t.co/KjDR157
CELTA online FAQs http://t.co/mXEYhGx
Marisa’s research http://t.co/L19xNYs (unfortunately not free, but VERY interesting)