The official website of educator & arts patron Jack C Richards

Content of FLteacher Education courses

Question:

Submitted by Nafise, Iran

What would be the content of in-service FLteacher education courses?

Dr Richards responds:

Teacher development seeks to facilitate growth of the teacher’s general understanding of teaching and of himself or herself as a teacher. It often involves examining different dimensions of one’s own practice as a basis for reflective review, and hence can be seen as practitioner-driven. It typically meant mastering the discipline of applied linguistics and developing a more advanced and theory-based body of knowledge not linked to a specific teaching context. Qualifications in teacher development, typically the MA degree, were offered by universities, where the practical skills of language teaching were often undervalued. After teachers have been teaching for some time, however, their knowledge and skills sometimes become outdated or there may be a lack of fit between the skills the teacher possesses and what the school needs. For example, a teacher may have to take on more difficult tasks for which he or she has not received any formal training, such as the preparation of tests, or as a result of staff changes, the teacher may have to take on new assignments that were not previously part of his or her teaching; or a key staff member may leave and his or her teaching may have to be taken over by others, none of whom share the teacher’s specialization. Qualifications too soon become outdated as a result of changes in the field of TESOL.
The most practical response to this situation is for the school to provide the means by which teachers can acquire the knowledge and skills they need. Here, teacher development is primarily conceived in terms of the needs of the institution. Because it refers to developmental activities within a school or institution, it is usually referred to as “staff development” and often takes the form of in-service training. However other forms of development may also be needed that the school cannot provide. Some teachers may be quite competent but lack a professional qualification such as the CELTA – a certificate level qualification. Others may have been teaching for some time and seek to take a more advanced qualification, perhaps the DELTA or an MA in TESOL either part time or by distance, to enable them to take on more senior roles in the school. Enabling teachers to participate in staff development as well as to acquire professional qualifications directly or indirectly enhances the performance of the institution as a whole as well as to contributes to the teacher’s individual development.

Consequently, opportunities for professional development should be provided for all staff. A program coordinator may well need to complete a master’s degree in TESOL, but a newly hired teacher may also need training in how to assess student learning. Both needs are equally important because the success of a school program may well depend on both the strengths of its curriculum and the teaching skills of its junior staff. They are both part of the process of institutional development. The content of an in-service course will depend on the needs of the teachers in the institution, but may include:

  • Disciplinary knowledge: understanding of the disciplinary basis of TESOL, those areas of applied linguistics and that define the professional knowledge base of language teaching.
  • Pedagogical expertise. Mastery of new areas of teaching, adding to one’s repertoire of teaching specializations, improving ability to teach different skill areas to learners of different ages and backgrounds.
  • Understanding of learners. Deepening understanding of learners, learning styles, learners’ problems and difficulties, ways of making content more accessible to learners.
  • Understanding of curriculum and materials. Deepening one’s understanding of curriculum and curriculum initiatives, use and development of instructional materials.
  • Research skills. Knowledge of reach approaches used to investigate one’s own classroom practices and to conduct small-scale classroom research.
  • Career advancement. Acquisition of knowledge and expertise necessary for personal advancement, including mentoring and supervisory skills.