TEFL Teacher Development

Benefits and techniques of teacher training and development
By Lucy Pollard

This article will deal with issues of training. We will look at the benefits of training for the organisation and the individual, issues to be taken into account before starting a training programme and different ways of developing staff. The article promotes a pro-active approach whereby training is used to enhance a school’s services, motivate staff and address staff problems.

The advantages of investing in training could be considered as self-evident but I think it’s worth outlining them briefly. The benefits are twofold: to members of staff and to the school or organisation.

Benefits to the organisation include:

  • Better trained teachers enhance the quality of product offered to clients. Teachers should have, at the very least, training in basic techniques and methods.
  • Training allows staff to keep up with developments in the TEFL field (i.e. going further than basic training). New knowledge is acquired and applied in the classroom. This in turn helps the school stay ahead of competitors by offering courses or services that clients might not find elsewhere.
  • When teachers have new goals to work towards, they have increased motivation which is obviously a bonus for the organisation.
  • Staff seem to like being trained. Regular training and development sessions can attract the type of teacher who wants to develop. If training is good quality and ongoing, it can be a reason for motivated staff to stay which is always a good point for a school.
  • Training helps avoid “routinisation”. Some teachers can get into a rut and treat all classes as the same, however different their needs may be. Training can help change this.
  • If teachers are performing below standard, training can address or even help to solve these performance problems. Training can be part of your system for dealing with poor performance.

The benefits to individuals include:

  • They have new goals to work towards and increased motivation.
  • Training can help teachers have more confidence. They can feel better equipped to tackle a wider range of levels or groups and to try out new ideas.
  • They acquire new skills which helps improve their status within the school. They can have their opinions on the subject they trained in respected.
  • Pay rise. In some situations, training can lead to progressive levels of responsibility and salary

Having outlined the benefits of training, we will look at issues to consider before starting up a training programme. Issues for the organisation to consider include: commitment in terms of money and absent teachers. Firstly, it is important to consider the budget available. Look at the benefits that will be gained, by whom and by how many people and then study this along with the cost of training before committing yourself to any training programme. External courses are often seen as the best solution, but they are not always the best answer and they can be costly too. The school also needs to think about costs in terms of how long teachers will be absent (if this is the case) and how to deal with classes of the absent teacher. Will someone else teach them or will the classes be postponed and the teacher deal with them later? To counter the budget problem, we will look at training that doesn’t involve costly external courses below.

With any investment of money and time in training, it’s important to ensure that a maximum number of staff gain maximum benefit. One way is to implement a cascading system whereby teachers returning from training share their newly-acquired knowledge with colleagues by giving a training session or by informal sharing of ideas and materials. By using this method, more people benefit from the training activity. Whichever method you use to share the knowledge, decide this beforehand. It should also be stressed to any member of staff who attends a training event what is expected of them upon their return.

After training, the organisation must make every effort to provide teachers with opportunities to use their newly acquired skills and knowledge. If not, it is not a good use of your budget. Furthermore if skills are not put into practice, staff could lose these skills and even begin to question the benefits of training.

Also, bear in mind that multi-skilled, better trained staff will expect more flexibility and mobility in the organisation. You can consider extending the types of courses taught by the teacher or extend the types of courses you offer to the public. Also, think about providing rewards; e.g. extra responsibilities, time off work to attend training or a pay rise if qualifications are obtained.

For individuals, one issue to consider before attending a training event is that commitment is required that can go beyond regular working hours e.g. time for reading, planning lessons, travelling to the place of training... If management decide to implement a cascading system, teachers will also need time to converse with colleagues after the input session.

Planning a Training Programme

Before planning any training programme, it’s a good idea to carry out an audit or needs analysis of your staff’s current skills, knowledge and aspirations.

  • Are new systems and / or technology about to be introduced? If so, this is an area for training.
  • Establish the objectives of the training programme and of the school; the content of the training programme should always be relevant and linked to the job description and duties.
  • Consider whether you want staff to acquire general awareness or to learn skills and be ready for action
  • You can start by looking at problems in performance. These are often caused by an absence of skills or knowledge. Identify any skills and / or knowledge that may be lacking and aim to provide training in these areas. However, you should examine very carefully the causes and solutions before deciding on the type of training to initiate.

Choosing Participants

Choose the participants carefully. Some ideal characteristics of individuals for training include: openness, willingness to change; previous positive experience of training.

Training

It’s useful here to take a look at some forms of training and development that can be carried out without requiring an external training programme. Some methods include:

  • Shadowing: this is where a person follows a more experienced colleague in their work duties. This is a useful method for preparing one person to take over the job of another.
  • A similar means is by job rotation: two people swap roles or classes for a short period. Both people involved in the swap can learn from the new role they fulfil and from seeing how another person handles their job. This works best with experienced members of staff.
  • Connecting to on-line forums or seeking out on-line training is another viable method. This is especially good for autonomous learners and people in areas where there’s limited access to other methods.
  • Setting guided reading tasks involves members of staff reading about an area they wish to develop and discussing what they read with more experienced members of staff. The person reading learns and the other member of staff who supervises or assists starts out in the role of trainer.
  • Projects and development plans involve a member of staff setting themselves a goal for development, usually discussed with a senior member of staff. They explore ways of achieving these goals through semi-autonomous work which can include reading, observing teachers of other classes, attending seminars... These goals are drawn up with a timeframe and at the end of the allotted time, progress towards the goal is discussed between the two people involved in the initial goal-setting. Again, the person overseeing the development plan learns training skills.

Trainers

Who gives the training? It is important that the person has knowledge of the subject matter, credibility and good interpersonal skills. Being a facilitator is considered by many to be more important than being an instructor.

Evaluation

After the training event, it’s essential to carry out some form of evaluation. Areas to look at include: What was the participant’s contribution? Did they learn what they expected or hoped to learn? Has performance in the classroom improved? To what extent? How effective were the trainers? Were the objectives and design of the training programme appropriate?


© Lucy Pollard 2007
Lucy Pollard has worked as a teacher, teacher trainer and Director of Studies for over 15 years. Her teaching experience is very varied: adults, English for specific purposes and English for academic purposes, as well as teenagers and young children. She has worked with multi-lingual classes in the UK and in various European countries. Lucy is available for teacher training and staff training in Western Europe, and further afield. Please contact lucy@tefl.net if you are interested.