Sheffield Teacher Training Symposium 2

After a great Saturday night of dancing with a requests DJ and fuelled by a free bar c/o Cambridge, Sunday was every bit as inspiring and thought provoking as Day 1.

For me there were three main areas:

  1. ICELT.  This is Cambridge’s little-known In-service Certificate in English Language Teaching and many attending Lizzie Cox’s presentation hardly knew of its existence, so this has hopefully increased awareness among trainers.  ICELT’s aimed at teachers working in a primary or secondary context and as an example, Lizzie’s team deliver it in China to groups of up to 30 trainees.  Does it offer an alternative to CELTA for those teachers, and does it better meet their needs?  It certainly acknowledges their experience, is more forgiving with its B2 language requirement and in terms of methodology and the rigour of research for written work, is somewhere between CELTA and Delta.   It’s a Cambridge qualification but it wasn’t mentioned in David Charnaud’s update yesterday on the different products during the discussion on what’s on offer following the demise of CELTYL.  So here’s a call for them to support countries such as China and Turkey where it’s popular, and to widen its appeal…and to offer a CPD opportunity to CELTA trainers as a halfway house to delivering Delta Module 2?
  2. In my session on freelancing, it was clear that freelancers collectively feel passionately about four things, the first two suggested to me via email by Johnathan Brook prompting murmurings of concurrence:
  • Postings on the ‘ucles’ list being clear as to the currency and tax position with fees being offered, as to accommodation type/distance and to travel expenses
  • Still with the ucles list, could Centres please acknowledge all responses so we’re not left not knowing whether we might still be in with a chance of work? Could Cambridge communicate this as a suggestion/requirement to Centres via their TQ newsletter?
  • Not taking work for a low fee: we need solidarity with this, or those Centres who do it will continue – can Cambridge support us in this by declining to post messages with fees under £2000/under £2500 in Europe? A suggestion was made to base it on the fee a trainee pays at that Centre, and offer tutors 2.5 times that.
  • Continuing this feeling of collective will and strength that there was in the room by bringing together what might be seen as a fragmented e-community of freelance trainers, spread between CELTAtrainers.com and the Facebook group…and probably others I’m not aware of. Is there also a role for Cambridge to take a lead on this?
  1. Marie Therese Swabey’s practice-changing session about CELTA TP observation ‘What are they doing? What could they be doing?’ MTS argued passionately that we could squeeze so much more out of the 40 hours trainees spend observing each other and her ideas make so much sense, they are so much more than a ‘for the sake of it’ use of technology and it just seems obvious to me I should use them.  Here goes:
  • Beginning with a question ‘what would you prefer to do…jigsaw reading, listening, role play or collaborative writing?’ and after the room had chosen the third and fourth, MTS showed us that interaction is the way forward, not passively listening. So on her courses, when not teaching, the trainees are connected to each other and the tutor and interact using a digital tool ‘hipchat’.   The tutor can prompt them in the moment ‘watch this, it’s good’ or ‘what missing?….so what should the concept questions be?’ So it helps weak trainees who normally observe but don’t see and a tutor can also send a message to one trainee to help them see something they themselves struggle with, or to say ‘you’re not saying much, are you ok?’  As I listen to all this, I’m thinking ‘rather than devising an observation task before TP, this is like an emerging task, tailored during the lesson to what trainees are seeing’. By the time group feedback comes, a lot of it’s been done, silently and there can be more emphasis on relevant follow-up input.  A co-tutor, Jo Gakonga, said ‘it transformed how much trainees noticed’ and they told the assessor unprompted ‘we love hipchat’.  Lizzy Adams as assessor ‘they were perkier, came up with good ideas in support of each other’.  MTS played a recording of trainees discussing TP and one said that observing makes him feel like a teacher because he could be teaching that lesson and the difference is that where the teacher is so in the moment he can’t reflect, the observer has the presence of mind to do that.  Another said ‘tutors focus on the big stuff, and you can…’ so the trainees have their own agenda for each other, maybe things they’ve talked about among themselves in the days and hours leading up to a lesson, and it makes me think it becomes more their feedback too, not just what the tutor says, they have ownership.
  • Who has the lesson plan? The teacher and the tutor.  So how about everyone being able to see it as they watch?   Great idea!  Often in feedback I find myself saying ‘I know you haven’t all seen what’s in Sam’s plan, but…’.  This say, they can make informed comments about the lesson, they can evaluate what’s happening compared to what the trainee planned
  • Still on lesson plans, where I ease them in gently and spare them the worry of filling in a plan for their first lesson, then do input on this at the end of Week 1 with plans for TP3 onward, MTS asks why wait for the input? It’s true, trainees often ask if they should write a plan and I suggest they make notes in the way they want, so they write something anyway for the portfolio. Why not give them the procedure sheet with Stage aim, timing and procedure and let them have a go?  Then in the input session, we can talk about how they’ve found it, build on the start they’ve made.

Next one is rumoured to be Brussels and we’re thinking of making the effort to travel there as it’s felt just like a family this weekend, and as Alastair Douglas says ‘It makes me feel good about what I do’.

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