something about teacher training, common sense and Newton… I guess


September 13, 2010 by Willy Cardoso

When I said the secret dream of every teacher, the one to be a teacher trainer, is a dream of unspeakable consequence I was trying to be sarcastic, which usually doesn’t have the desired effect.
I couldn’t help but to mull over such consequences,
and to google over* too,
After all, I have long suspected that there was something wrong with common sense.

Teacher-trainers can be seen as ‘the gatekeepers and caretakers of ELT’. They create teachers who will further reproduce such discourses. It is here that the discourse, by shaping those who will become practitioners, itself becomes common sense, the accepted norm. As trainers produce teachers who operate within such discourses – and who see what they do as common sense – so teachers ‘train’ learners in the very same discourses. Learners also come to see what they, and their teachers, do as common sense – which in turn reinforces the power of such training. Indeed, it creates a demand for it. Mallows, David. (2002) Non-linearity and the observed lesson ELT Journal, v56  n1


The tired discourse Mallows mentions is the Newtonian one, the action-reaction thing – in very simplified terms. (see [annoying] demonstration below)

This mechanistic, linear view of teaching and learning – full of dichotomies and either/or’s that still abound worldwide, from Callan Methods to Cambridge CELTA handbooks – seems to have a long life ahead, for common sense is among the most stubborn of human inventions.

But that’s not really the point.

My final question is:

Do you think teacher trainers/educators/developers are in the best position to change whatever there is to be changed and at the same time they are very able to retard progress once they function also as the bridge between research and practice?


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6 thoughts on “something about teacher training, common sense and Newton… I guess

  1. Good question. I think Teacher Trainers certainly have the most power. I know with myself I certainly followed everything I learned in my CELTA course the the letter. I accepted it as best practice. It was until really diving into teaching more thoroughly that I realized there was a lot more out there and CELTA was simply the tip of the iceberg.

    Now, as a trainer, I’ve seen it again and again. Teachers do what they were trained to do and often reject methods that come out of that paradigm. Ask a newly qualified CELTA teacher if they should ever use L1 in the class. Ask them if TTT is always bad. I have always gotten the same answer from every teacher I ask and most often have 4 years plus experience under their belts by that time.

    So yes, trainer influence is huge. As Trainers we need to make sure we teach what we believe to be best practice but always leave the trainees believing there is more out there. They need to find and discover on their own. We have to teach them to question what we tell them and others tell them as well.

    • I still remember when I went back to Brazil, after taking my CELTA in London, some students complained to the DOS that my teaching had changed and that they liked me better before. The biggest change was that I started to select lesson aims, and would do everything to achieve those aims, the students were used to a more go with the flow type of lesson. On the other hand, CELTA was a stepping stone to my increasing interest in ELT even though what I practiced in the course had nothing to do with my context back home.

      The most important point you raised I think is that of allowing and encouraging trainees to question what trainers tell them. Something that I seldom see in pre-service / standardized training.

  2. Alex Case says:

    I agree, the power of trainers is great. That’s why you should train in a way that takes that power away from you. Easier said than done, as that could also be something you unwittingly pass on unquestioned to others…

  3. Alex Case says:

    PS, Brazen Careerist is an interesting addition to your blogroll. Any connection to TEFL?

    • I’m a big fan of this blog. The only connection to TEFL is that I used it a lot in my Business English classes, Penelope’s style is a really good model to relax the stiffness of topics like hiring and firing, mentoring, etc.
      It was also a good introduction to the world of blogs, since most of my students had never read one, let alone commented.

  4. […] in something about teacher training, common sense and Newton… I guess […]

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