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Problems with the CELTA - by Jonny G, Sept 9 2011
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LongShiKong



Joined: 28 May 2007
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Location: China

PostPosted: Fri Nov 08, 2013 6:38 am    Post subject: Problems with the CELTA - by Jonny G, Sept 9 2011 Reply with quote

In preface to 'Problems with the CELTA', let me add:

Although I did a generic TESOL in 2001, after years of teaching mostly kids I decided to take the CELTA:
a) as a refresher--It's been years since I taught intermediate and above;
c) to expand my employment options;
b) as a confidence booster--I prefer to learn from mistakes in training;
c) for the level of feedback and prof'l support I've seldom had in China;
d) as a personal challenge--how well will I respond to critical feedback;
e) as the prerequisite toward other qual's;
f) out of curiosity---those who think it strange that a critic of credentialism and ELT would sign up for the CELTA might think it even stranger that I do so while copy/pasting comments such as this:

-------------------------------------------------
Problems with the CELTA
by Jonny G, Sept 9 2011 as posted on this site.

I have to admit that, reflecting on my CELTA and CELT-YL extension courses after three years post qual experience, I can't help but feel let down by many aspects of the courses.I never really enjoyed the intensity of the CELTA or YL extension. I felt that, whilst I improved my teaching during the course in the teaching practices, this improvement didn't necessarily transfer over to the classroom after the course, because the TP practice was so unrealistic (4 hours planning for 40 minutes teaching!- like thats going to happen on a 25 hour a week schedule!). By the end of the courses, in the last TPs, I felt like I was teaching much better than the first TPs and like I'd suddenly become a super-teacher - but this feeling quickly subsided when I got back to work and started teaching in a real classroom.

I got frustrated after both courses, expecting my classroom teaching to be as good as it was on the courses, and failing. I quickly slid back in to old ways of teaching (like playing far too many games with young learners, going through the textbook with adults). It took me years of reading and classroom practice to build back up to teaching lessons like the ones I taught on the cambridge courses.

Essentially, although there was a great deal of classroom practice, I feel like they barely deserved the label of being practical teaching courses. Impractical teaching courses seems to be a better label.I also felt like I didn't have time to absorb the massive amounts of theory in such a short time, and that subsequently many of the things I was taught were lost along the way.

I also don't really buy some of the theory. For one example, the emphasis on top-down reading. It seems clear to me, after a lot more experience, that learners need to understand the words and grammar more than they need to understand the context. Predicting content seems a very limited tool with little value outside of the classroom (apart from for EFL exams).

All the focus on not having to understand all of a text seems silly - in the real world, when having a conversation, we don't get a load of general questions before we listen to each other. We have to understand every word being said to respond appropriatly. Learners need to do a similar thing!

I later found out that this is a matter of active debate in the ESL world, but on the CELTA they teach it like its gospel. I feel they should have been clearer that there were different approaches / points of view on this issue and encourage teaachers to read and develop thier own style/approach.

Finally, I still feel like there's a lot in the CELTA-style of teaching that I'm not convinced by.

I've seen a few teachers teach young learners who don't have CELTAs, but actual teacher's qualifications, and I felt like thier lessons were much better. They didn't really minimize thier TTT at all, didn't stage thier lessons CELTA style and didn't really use many CELTA techniques, but the children responded much better to them, and seemed to learn more / know more English than all the CELTA style teachers I've seen. I learnt a lot from watching the way they interect naturally with children and encourage similar interation between children.

One teacher, for example, refuses to drill his students because he considers it 'inhumane', yet his students have the best pronunciation of any set of students I've seen. He corrected them natrually and taught them via repeated exposure, rather than repitition drills.

CELTA teachers often seem to believe that they've learnt the 'correct' way and that non-CELTA style teachers are doing it all wrong, even when thier students are learning more from thier non-CELTA approach. I feel like in some ways, the CELTA encouraged narrow mindedness in a field where (with so much ongoing research / things that haven't been researced) there can't really be said to be a 'correct' way to teach.

Anyone else feel all these frustrations with CELTA methodology?


Text separation into paragraphs, courtesy LongShiKong.
--------------------------------------------------

I'll reserve my own comments on this until I complete the CELTA and 'join the club', but I welcome grad comments.

PS: I attempted to post this on the Teacher Training Forum but got a 'naughty language' error.
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fluffyhamster



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PostPosted: Fri Nov 08, 2013 10:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I posted about the same thing a while back (but no worries!), not sure it'll generate that much discussion this time round either LOL.
http://forums.eslcafe.com/job/viewtopic.php?t=101998
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Sashadroogie



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PostPosted: Fri Nov 08, 2013 10:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

He makes a couple of interesting points, but in the main he is whinging that an entry-level course helped him to teach better lessons, but then left to his own devices he regressed to his previous sloppy habits.

As for the time spent planning, there is some truth that this does not reflect real-life teaching. But then again, an assessed TP is not billed as a real-life teaching context,so this criticism seems a little off.

Again criticising reading skills because they do not reflect real life is again missing the point. Reading in an EFL classroom lesson is not the same as reading in our own language. Pre-teaching, prediction exercises etc. are employed to lesson the cognitive and lexical load on learners who will certainly struggle with English language texts, especially at lower levels.

As for Celta being gospel, it may be true that various trainees come away thinking that, but that is hardly a charge that can be levelled at Cambrdige. And few in Cambridge would claim that they and they alone have the only insight into ELT that matters. But for such a short course, it is obvious that one cannot cover the multiplicity of approaches that could be taken in a language classroom.

Any claims made about 'best kids' pron I have every heard' are worthless, needless to say. It is akin to the best EFL teacher I ever saw didn't have any quals. Best? Says who? And why?

While there may not be one single way to teach 'correctly', there are quite few ways to teach appallingly, excessive TTT being top of the list. Celta will at least root some of them out.

It is worth it for that alone.
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nomad soul



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PostPosted: Fri Nov 08, 2013 10:47 am    Post subject: Re: Problems with the CELTA - by Jonny G, Sept 9 2011 Reply with quote

LongShiKong wrote:
PS: I attempted to post this on the Teacher Training Forum but got a 'naughty language' error.

I'm not sure why, but generic tends to be one of the 'naughty' words. Shocked
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fat_chris



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PostPosted: Fri Nov 08, 2013 11:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sashadroogie wrote:
It is akin to the best EFL teacher I ever saw didn't have any quals.


Such claims always get an Rolling Eyes from Yours_Truly.

Sashadroogie wrote:
Celta will at least root some of them out.


Some of the Aussies might also consider "root" to be one of the 'naughty' words.

Warm regards,
fat_chris


Last edited by fat_chris on Fri Nov 08, 2013 11:18 am; edited 2 times in total
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santi84



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PostPosted: Fri Nov 08, 2013 11:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I wouldn't say people go on about CELTA like it is gospel. I personally feel like a mother telling her teenager "Well, if you're going to do it anyways, please, use a condom!" Laughing

If you want to teach without solid teaching qualifications, please, at least take this CELTA and keep yourself out of too much trouble!
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LongShiKong



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PostPosted: Fri Nov 08, 2013 7:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

@FluffyHamster: I must be getting old. I'd even responded to your identical thread. In fact, when I posted this, I thought about your critical thread from much earlier about the CELTA (forerunner).

@Sasha, and D-M (from Fluffy's thread): Well said!

Before my TEFL in Vancouver, I wanted to spend time observing/volunteering in priv lang schools there hoping the experience would better prepare me but school admin wouldn't allow it.
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LongShiKong



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PostPosted: Fri Nov 08, 2013 8:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Any thoughts on these comments from the original thread?

Quote:
Part Time | Submitted on 23 September, 2011 - 01:35
Your experience may initially make things harder for you as you may have to change long term classroom habbits, whereas the 'blank slates' fresh from University tend to take to everything like fish to water. However, you will certainly feel more comfortable in the classroom after you finish than they will, even if they appear to do better on the course.


Quote:
My experience | Submitted on 7 February, 2013 - 06:34
I found the course much too prescriptive about what I consider to be really small things. For example you put students into pairs to talk about a subject, give them 2 minutes to talk about it, and then spend 5-10 minutes on open class feedback- and this is supposed to be done for every activity. What a waste of time in a 40 minute lesson, and how boring! When I didn't follow this method, for lack of time, my lesson was marked down. I can see why OCF is a valuable tool, especially for newer teachers to minimise TTT, but there are other techniques that you can use as well. I also had a lesson marked down because I didn't fold A4 sheets of paper to seperate the activities. As far as I was aware though there is no law that says you have to do this! I never did before starting CELTA, and have never had a problem with Ss rushing through all the activities when they weren't supposed to.
----------
...we weren't even given a reading list to be able to learn more about the subject. I felt that CELTA was presented as everything you will ever need to know about teaching, and that the CELTA way is the only way, when this is very definitely not the case.
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Sashadroogie



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PostPosted: Sat Nov 09, 2013 8:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Comments on the original thread? It is so, so easy to see which of the trainees thought they knew everything better than the trainers. Can you imagine what dealing with such egos would be like? Dear oh dear.

The Celta just cannot win. First, it is attacked for condensing too much into a four-week course. Then it is attacked for not telling trainees EVERYTHING that a random crank trainee may think it vitally important.

Folding A4 paper to separate activities? what on Earth is the writer on about?

Arrrrggghhhhh. Passing the Celta is not so hard. Hard work, in terms of effort - yes. But hard to understand what is required? Everything that is required of trainees is clearly laid out, well in advance (including reading lists). Claiming that this only becomes clear in the fourth week is probably more to do with cretinish stubbornness, or just willful stupidity, on the part of said trainee.

No sympathy for any of those whingers. None.
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Sashadroogie



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PostPosted: Sat Nov 09, 2013 8:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

But at least some of the other comments are good for laugh! For example, sentiments which can be reduced to "I am having major issues with basic concepts on the Celta, and I think none of it will help me in a real classroom anyway, nor the Delta - but I'm considering a Masters!"

How can you not love it?!!
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fluffyhamster



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PostPosted: Sun Nov 10, 2013 10:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

How's this for a bit more "whingeing"? From somebody I've been in dialogue with.

"The whole impression I got from the initial ELT training course I did was that lessons should be busy, with lots of 'pace', lots of oral practice, which often meant drilling, and correcting, relentlessly but nicely, and then giving the learners gradually a bit more scope and a bit more, until in the end they were using a new item 'freely'. It was certainly great fun and very different from what I'd considered teaching to be like previously, and I went along with it quite happily for a while. But then it gradually began to seem less and less like me, I wanted to slow things down, give more time for working things out, trying things out. And as I needed to spend less energy on thinking what I was doing and see the lesson more from the learners' point of view I began to realize that for some of them it was really a bit of a game, that they could apparently reach the point where they were getting it right, as long as the focus of the lesson was clear and they were channelled toward saying certain things, but it didn't help them much when they came back the next week and they'd forgotten it all, or when we met outside the school and chatted in English.

In retrospect it seems there was a sort of conspiracy that there were certain things that it was OK to do and others that weren't. Maybe a lot of it was just fashion for a while, and maybe just in a small sector of the English teaching world. And maybe people like me even contributed to that conspiracy, or fashion, 'cos we allowed ourselves to be led by it. I feel much more relaxed now - I mean relaxed in lessons, 'cos I'm not trying to keep things moving fast all the time, but also relaxed about being able to choose how to do things, depending on what suits my style and what I think will work in that particular class, without worrying that the Teaching Police are going to come knocking on the classroom door to make sure I'm doing the right thing."


Last edited by fluffyhamster on Sun Nov 10, 2013 10:20 pm; edited 1 time in total
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spiral78



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PostPosted: Sun Nov 10, 2013 10:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
"The whole impression I got from the initial ELT training course I did was that lessons should be busy, with lots of 'pace', lots of oral practice, which often meant drilling, and correcting, relentlessly but nicely, and then giving the learners gradually a bit more scope and a bit more, until in the end they were using a new item 'freely'.


Many cert courses moved beyond this PPP approach years ago - even decade/s!

Fluffy - to make your comments more relevant to the real world of CELTA and equivalent certs, I think you need to take another, more modern one.


Keep in mind that many of us have kept up with what's going on over the past decade in cert courses through teaching on them or writing for them or observing them and etc. Your singular, probably substandard, and outdated experience - and apparent lack of continuing connections with teacher training courses - makes your arguments largely irrelevant.
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fluffyhamster



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PostPosted: Sun Nov 10, 2013 10:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Aww alright, you've got me, Spiral. That's Jonathan Marks, one of the co-authors of the excellent and on the whole still very relevant Inside Teaching (Heinemann 1994), which is one of those engages-you-in-a-dialogue sort of CPD books (I've never actually corresponded with him though, just to now be absolutely clear LOL). I was rather hoping that Sahsa would've come bowling straight back in and shouted "Rubbish! Opinions entirely devoid of merit!", but no such luck eh. Anyway, I rather think you're missing the point that just as there seemed to be questionable bits during my training (still no thoughts on my thoughts about Richards, anybody?), so there still appear to be questions being asked some fifteen years later (i.e. the URL that LSK has linked to, and the occasional negative comments on here. I've yet to address Sahsa's dismissals of the URL's comments, but I've already got the feeling they are probably somewhat glib dismissals). I am glad you agree though that my CTEFLA was probably substandard (as if such certs are ever truly uniform across all their centers and trainers! That's one thing I for one have never believed, and didn't need anyone to tell me, as if it excuses the variation. Anyway, once one admits that variation, one admits that there may be better and worse ways of training and teaching in general). Lastly, I see no reason why I would want to keep in touch with training organizations - like I said on the other thread, as if they are interested in what really anyone, least of all me, has to say, regardless of reasoning! There's more point in posting on Dave's (not always much more, but still...). But then, your dealings have been more with SIT than with UCLES, correct? Which may well be a nicer, cosier and more rewarding organization to deal with.

Last edited by fluffyhamster on Sun Nov 10, 2013 10:50 pm; edited 1 time in total
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spiral78



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PostPosted: Sun Nov 10, 2013 10:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

No, I'm not involved with SIT - but I have done teacher training over the past decade, both at newbie level and CPD, and for language and content teachers. PPP is a very basic tool sometimes applied in a fairly narrow range of class types.

Quote:
Lastly, I see no reason why I would want to keep in touch with training institutes - like I said on the other thread, as if they are interested in what really anyone, least of all me, has to say, regardless of reasoning!


Basically gotta say - get over it - your own course was long ago, far away, and quite possibly not very good. NOT a solid basis for ad infinitum argument with people who are more up to date and have wider experience with courses. There's a lot of info on here that's more relevant to today's CELTA/equivalents.
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fluffyhamster



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PostPosted: Sun Nov 10, 2013 10:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, who have you been involved with, Spiral? If the TT that you've provided or been involved with has been of the more independent sort, that might help explain and indeed justify your higher opinion of it.

Maybe just maybe I'll "get over it" when those who claim to know better actually bother to engage with some of the more linguistic points I for one try to raise (they have relevance for that thing called language teaching, y'know?). Ignoring a point doesn't make that point invalid, though it can of course help make it appear irrelevant and just as soon forgotten.

But hey, I'd still be interested to hear where exactly on here "There's a lot of info...that's more relevant to today's CELTA/equivalents". I don't recall reading much in the way of detailed descriptions of content, for example. Or can one just refer as always to some updated edition of a general guide such as Harmer to get the necessary lowdown?

To be perfectly frank, almost all the replies I've ever gotten in relation to my criticisms of even my own teacher training just seem to be saying "You imagined it, and just as you imagined it then, so people nowadays are imagining things now. Nothing is wrong, nothing to see here, move along, everything is fine, and above all just continue to trust and stump up." Feels a bit like gaslighting, I dunno? Anyway, my motives such as they are are primarily merely to offer linguistic advice and analyses to those who may feel their training is lacking in at least that area. Nothing wrong with that, is there? Even when it sometimes necessarily has to contradict or take issue with the (sub-)standard line.
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