CELTA requires experience before taking?

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CELTA requires experience before taking?

Unread postby ICAL_Pete » 05 Feb 2010, 14:39

NB I think this is an important issue to discuss so I'm starting this on a new thread so as not to hijack other threads.

I believe that before taking a CELTA it's best to have a couple of years teaching under your belt. It is a controversial stance, I know, and I know there are adherents on either side of the fence. I don't take this stance from a commercial point of view but based on my experience as a teacher and teacher trainer for many years; I said it when I took the course before I even became involved in teacher training.

Why do I think this?

Well, when I took my CELTA there were a mix of us in the class. Some, like myself, had a number of years experience teaching, others were completely new to the subject.

CELTA is an intensive course. As an experienced teacher I found myself working as hard as I did in University to log and understand everything that was being taught. Some in the class felt it was even harder than University study.

What I did find was that my previous knowledge of the subject matter and teaching saved me a LOT of extra work. To take a simple example, when our teacher was talking about a particular grammar issue I didn't have to stop and think about what the difference between a definite or indefinite article was or perhaps the way in which the past perfect was constructed and used.

Instead, because I'd been teaching this kind of thing already, I knew and could move on. At the same time, those in class without this knowledge had more to study and learn.

Ok, observed teaching practice is always nerve racking, but I'd been in class loads of times and this side of thing didn't really phase me. For those who hadn't been in class before, this lack of knowledge about what to expect from students was another hurdle added.

Those who disagree with me may well point out that if you have experience before CELTA you may well have fallen into bad habits in your teaching. Maybe, yes, but you can unlearn those things and realise what you may have done wrong in the past. Not so difficult.

Of course I'm generalising. I'm sure there are those out there who took the CELTA course with no previous teaching knowledge and sailed through it. Good luck to them. All I know is that I'm glad I had the experience beforehand. I think I got a lot more out of the course because of it.
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Re: CELTA requires experience before taking?

Unread postby systematic » 05 Feb 2010, 19:04

Thank you for that. From my own experience of having employed hundreds (well, dozens) of CELTA graduates, I think you have offered, based on your own personal history, a very fair and balanced opinion.
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Re: CELTA requires experience before taking?

Unread postby Lucas » 05 Feb 2010, 20:36

The few reasons why people take a preliminary course are that people don't want to spend $2,000 on a course for a gap-year career and many ESL schools do not hold high standards for certification requirement and hire any backpacker that knocks on the door. Many teachers are also lazy and want a quick certificate to travel abroad, disrespecting the students who spend a lot of money and time to get a better chance at life.
TEFL is not rocket science but there is a way of teaching it and not because you are a native English speaker or have a Masters in any other area does it mean that it will be easy. Anybody who is willing to become a good teacher can take the CELTA, Trinity, or equivalent course without having any teaching experience and do very well because these courses are very complete. Of course, it means that during the 4 or 5 weeks of the course, you'll be studying a lot to cover in a short period of time what a university course covers in 1 year. But people do very well and the pass rate is very high.
We've had trainees who had previously taken a course at very bad online schools and then struggled in our Trinity and TESL Canada courses because they found that they had to prepare a lot of intensive assignments and had to unlearn the fact that lesson planning is not just about playing fun games and talking a lot in the classroom. Of course trainees can unlearn a lot of the bad things, but what about their students who paid a lot of money for their classes and had to deal with a bad teacher all along? Then the teacher upgrades the certificate and teaches English in his/her own country while these students from developing countries continue to get bad teachers. So I strongly disagree with encouraging teachers to take a shorter certificate if they have the funds and the time to take a more advanced level of training. This is not to say that your course is bad, because I haven't heard any complains from Ical graduates but there are a few schools that have brought a bad reputation to the whole online industry by providing quick and easy certificates, so by encouraging people to take preliminary courses you are allowing these schools to continue to provide a bad service. And I don't mean to say that CELTA or Trinity are specifically great and cannot be topped, as any qualified person or group can create an equivalent program, but instead of raising the industry standards by providing more advanced courses, you are luring people into taking preliminary courses, which is not right.
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Re: CELTA requires experience before taking?

Unread postby pokedmund » 05 Feb 2010, 22:03

I've just started my CELTA course (part time) and I'm really enjoying it. Is it Hard? Yes! But then, the good things in life are never easy. I'm also enjoying meeting the 11 people I'm working with and building up my network. Much better than studying on a computer screen!

My only query to this topic is how do you get experience before taking a CELTA? If you are already employed as a teacher to teach students English, then you should be at a good enough level to continue teaching English to other Students without a further Qualification (or go for a DELTA).

Also, I've emailed many agencies and schools in Hong Kong, asking about the TEFL qualification that is required. They have all come back to me with requesting over 100 hours of teacher guided input, which the CELTA provides. CELTA also provides me with a nice introduction to teaching experience:

1st lesson I'll teach = 20 mins, then 30 mins, etc, etc.

So does the CELTA require experience before taking? The answer is no, the CELTA requires students to have a passion and a reason as to why they want to teach English.
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Re: CELTA requires experience before taking?

Unread postby systematic » 06 Feb 2010, 03:24

I'm pleased to see Lucas admitting that there are some providers offering courses of dubious quality. There are equally a large number of backstreet EFL schools employing anyone, including backpackers, on the black. What is being forgotten here is that the world of EFL is as wide as it is diverse. Although many teachers are employed in mainstream primary and secondary schools, even more a re quietly serving in vocational colleges, universities, and as in-house teachers in large companies, international hotels, airlines and transport, and aircrew & pilot training centres. The armed forces also employ a large number of civilians to provide foreign language lessons to the troops, and in Military Academies.
The bottom line is that the market establishes the quality, not the course providers.
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Re: CELTA requires experience before taking?

Unread postby Alex Case » 06 Feb 2010, 22:41

A friend of mine is taking the Cambridge DELTA two years after she took the CELTA and then got her first teaching job. Just the fact that she is taking the DELTA has already got her a promotion, and in the chain she works for in a year or two she could be in a position where they pay large relocation allowances and international school fees for her kids. The only other qualification that school accepts is the Trinity Cert TESOL, and pre-cert experience counts not one jot towards position on the pay scale, promotion etc. In fact, the box on the application form simply says "post qualification teaching experience" and there is nowhere you can even write experience before your cert.

The above is an extreme example, but if you want to work for IH or Bell rather than EF or Wall Street (and trust me, you do, even though the package is not quite what I described above), then the same things are basically true. By reputation the school I worked for in Japan is somewhere between those two divisions I just explained, and you could get a job without a Cert. However, with a Cert you could be Senior Teacher in two years and DoS in four. If you didn't have a Cert and wanted to climb the slippery slope, you'd need to take a month off work and go and do it sooner or later.

Some of the 100 other ways ICAL Pete is totally wrong:
- Why teach badly for two years and make you and your students suffer when a CELTA will help you from day one?
- Why work in a crappy school for two years when you can work for IH from your first job?
- CELTA is designed for people with no teaching experience, and the pass rate among such people is in the high nineties
- In the early stages of the course, people with prior teaching experience suffer worse than people with none because they have to unlearn bad habits. At the end of the course their chance of getting a B is a few percent higher than people with no experience- hardly worth two years learning on the job
- If you stay in TEFL you are going to have to do it sooner or later, so surely do it before you get married, before are in a job you will need to take unpaid leave from, or before you miss out on a job or promotion due to not having it
- Ironically, having a CELTA means you are more likely to end up in a school with support to help you teach better and not having one usually means being in a school where you are left to it despite not knowing what the hell is going on
- It will take you at least a couple of years of working to observe and be observed as many times as you get in 4 weeks on a 120 hour TEFL course, and the feedback you get will be much more useful than the feedback you get from your Dos. Observed teaching practice is by far the most useful teacher development tool
- Future lucrative jobs like DoS, IELTS examiner, teacher trainer etc will probably depend on having it, and it is possible that only post Cert experience will count
- Ditto for entering the Cambridge DELTA or Trinity Diploma courses
- Even if you can work abroad without one, if you want to work in a regular school rather than a residential summer camp when you go back home for the summer (and you do!) you will need a well known Cert
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Re: CELTA requires experience before taking?

Unread postby systematic » 07 Feb 2010, 05:46

For the very serious minded, especially those who still don't have that required university degree, but are considering of making a career out of TEFL, an MA TESOL may be worth considering. The OU for example offers a distance course (no to be confused with online because SS still have to present for exams). But that is all a different topic.
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Re: CELTA requires experience before taking?

Unread postby Alex Case » 07 Feb 2010, 05:58

In terms of teaching ability, a pre-experience MA is usually worse than nothing because you get such a head full of (untested) theory that you find yourself unable to concentrate on the practical things you need to do. See my blog for lots of recent discussion on theory and practice, most of which suggests that you need practice to make sense of the theory and therefore judge its suitability for your own situations (my summary of Rod Ellis on SLA- see blog for original quote).
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Re: CELTA requires experience before taking?

Unread postby ICAL_Pete » 07 Feb 2010, 11:32

Hi Alex, you've brought up a lot of new points in your post. Just sticking to the one which pertains to the original post, I would love to see detailed statistics on pass rates amongst CELTA graduates who have had prior experience against those who have not. Do you know if they are collected and exist for reference?

My original point was that I believe having experience before CELTA makes the course easier and I still maintain that position. This comes from my personal experience and discussion with colleagues who have taken CELTA.

Just to make my position plain as I think reading your comments that you've misunderstood me, I'm not saying that CELTA should not be taken! On the contrary, it's a very good course to take... but for experienced teachers.
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Re: CELTA requires experience before taking?

Unread postby Alex Case » 07 Feb 2010, 14:19

Yes, I know that's your line Pete. It may just be coincidence, but that is also the line of other online providers such as i to i. All my points above were debunking exactly that myth- with the CELTA, the sooner the better. I would also be interested in seeing such stats (though I doubt they both collecting them from the individual centres), but as the vast majority of CELTA candidates have no teaching experience (100% on my own CELTA course, about 95% on the CELTAish courses I was a trainer on) and the pass mark is in the high nineties, it isn't really very relevant.
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Re: CELTA requires experience before taking?

Unread postby ICAL_Pete » 08 Feb 2010, 11:27

Alex Case wrote:Yes, I know that's your line Pete. It may just be coincidence, but that is also the line of other online providers such as i to i.


I think you'll find it's the line of many people, not just providers and certainly not just online providers. Likewise it's the line of CELTA providers that their intake don't need to have experience!

Alex Case wrote:All my points above were debunking exactly that myth- with the CELTA, the sooner the better.


Reading through your post again, Alex, I think I'm right in saying that the only arguments you have for why CELTA doesn't require experience beforehand is because

a) the teacher may have picked up some bad habits

b) the course is designed for new teachers

Am I correct in that? (The other points you made were about the necessity of CELTA for work at better schools in higher positions which, in general, I agree with.)

As for the "bad habits" argument, yes some teachers (obviously not all) will have picked up bad habits prior to taking the course. Any course in fact and not just CELTA. But it's not a difficult process to unlearn bad habits or replace them with good habits.

And as for CELTA being designed for new teachers, that may be the case but I saw teachers without experience struggling a great deal more with CELTA (and in some cases dropping out) than those with experience. Obviously a small sample so a good break down of statistics (drop-out rate, previous experience, pass levels and so on) would be very interesting. Do you know if Cambridge even collect this data? (I know we do and keep very careful analysis of who takes our course, their background and final grades, etc so I'd be surprised if Cambridge don't.)
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Re: CELTA requires experience before taking?

Unread postby pokedmund » 08 Feb 2010, 12:28

And as for CELTA being designed for new teachers, that may be the case but I saw teachers without experience struggling a great deal more with CELTA (and in some cases dropping out) than those with experience.


I'm about 25% into my CELTA at the moment and all of us have no experience of teaching at all. The material is taught from scratch, explaining how to be a English Teacher.

I like my CELTA because it's part time and fits around my working life. My course also GIVES me experience of teaching DURING the course. I will be teaching my first 20 minute class this Tuesday and 40 minutes class on Thursday (VERY NERVOUS!).

- Am I struggling because I don't have teaching experience? Yes, I am, but I'm regularly in contact with my fellow students and constantly asking my CELTA tutors for advice who have been very supportive and pointed out where I'm going wrong.

Would I prefer to get teaching experience before taking the CELTA? Not really, because this would have involved having to quit my job and become a teacher of English in a foreign country that accepted my e.g TEFL online certificate, and to be quite honest, what if I decided teaching wasn't for me on my first day at work in another country whilst I'm a million miles from home? Apart from CELTA, I could not find any "TEFL" course in London that offered real life teaching experience during the course.

If anything goes wrong with my CELTA (e.g. fail the assignments / decide that I'm not up to being a teacher) then at least I have my job to fall back on. The CELTA will put me in a real life teacher situations and if I have what it takes, I'll do well. If I don't, I will drop out,will have lost a month's wages, but gained knowledge for life that I'm not cut out to be a teacher.

But finger's crossed I do well tomorrow and Thursday!
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Re: CELTA requires experience before taking?

Unread postby Alex Case » 11 Feb 2010, 13:14

Pete, all my points are relevant to taking the CELTA the sooner the better, not to needing it eventually, and anyhow if you might need it eventually why would you ever do another course that just covers the same material? Certainly not to save money, as you keep on claiming.

As I have stated, people with experience do tend to get slightly higher marks that people without and are less likely to drop out, but that is because the people who would drop out would not take the course and probably aren't still teaching because they had such a hellish time teaching without ever having had observed teaching practice. The other question is who would be the better teacher- 2 years' experience and then the CELTA, or the CELTA and then 2 years' experience. The answer is the latter, without any doubt.

The CELTA (and other well respected courses such as Trinity, and many people tell me SIT) are the best preparation to do your first job well and to enjoy it and continue to improve once you start teaching. There seems to be little excuse to teach with less, especially considering how short 4 weeks and 6 hours of observed teaching practice already is. If your excuse is that you don't have 2000 dollars, then maybe you should reconsider flying to a foreign country to take a bad job (because the good ones are reserved for CELTA or equivalent graduates) you know nothing about that you will be trapped in because you can't afford to fly home.
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Re: CELTA requires experience before taking?

Unread postby ICAL_Pete » 11 Feb 2010, 13:31

So it appears that we agree that experience before CELTA will lead to a slightly easier time of it (in terms of better grades and less likelihood to drop out). Do you teach CELTA Alex or perhaps have someone at Cambridge you know well enough to see if they can provide the statistics on this? That would make fascinating reading I think as at the moment we're all tending to speak from personal experience and anecdotal evidence.
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Re: CELTA requires experience before taking?

Unread postby Alex Case » 11 Feb 2010, 14:13

Can we also agree that it is a tiny effect and totally unimportant for other reasons, e.g. people taking the CELTA with experience not being the same group of people who are thinking of taking it before getting experience, and a 5% (I guess) higher chance of getting a B not really worth two years of teaching badly for less pay in crappy schools and screwing up your chances for promotion for life if you compare yourself to people with the same number of years of experience. You really are clutching at straws!
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Re: CELTA requires experience before taking?

Unread postby nstodi » 14 Aug 2010, 23:04

I would like to reply to this one without having read all the posts yet. I agree that the CELTA course may be much easier for those who have either earned a degree in English or have taught before. I have just completed my second CELTA week and I find the grammar and language analysis input sessions very easy. (I have a Linguistics degree and I have taught English during my degree) I know that we have some trainees in our group who have no teaching experience and most of them do struggle. Either with the terminology or the Teaching Practice preparations and the actual teaching practice.

I can only agree that the course itself is extremely stressful and that the CELTA method is questionable but in the end I have learned more in the last 2 weeks than in any teaching job or Uni class I have ever had.
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Re: CELTA requires experience before taking?

Unread postby Alex Case » 15 Aug 2010, 08:57

I prefer to see "struggling" and "stressful" as getting your money's worth. If you spent 4 weeks without learning anything, you'd really have something to complain about. The fact remains that the pass rate for CELTA is very high, and that most of those people passing have no previous language teaching experience or previous relevant studies
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Re: CELTA requires experience before taking?

Unread postby alkyone » 16 Aug 2010, 00:34

hi everbody ı'm new in this forum ı need your help about courses abroad ,ı'm 2 years experienced teacher and ı want to improve myself on adult teaching,which country or which courses should ı attend.if u inform me about this ı'll appreciate u in life time.ı'm esl teacher from turkey
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Re: CELTA requires experience before taking?

Unread postby LinguRing » 18 Aug 2010, 05:01

Having taken the CELTA myself before having any experience teaching (about ten years ago now), looking back I would much prefer to have had some experience first to know what I wanted to get out of the course. The certificate itself will definitely help landing a job in some situations, but I'm sure I would have benefited more if I had taken it after a couple of years teaching as some other people on the course were doing.
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