Cambridge Train the Trainer – Week 1 (And an update!)

This is part of the series Cambridge Train the Trainer.

This is the first in a series I am calling Cambridge Train the Trainer, however I am using this post specifically to tell you all about what’s been happening the last few months as well, as it has been far too long since I have written anything (I’m sorry!).

Where have you been, Jim?

The last few months have been pretty crazy (understatement of the year?). With the shift to online teaching, many new challenges have presented themselves, from working with large young learner groups to thinking about how to carry out teacher training via distance. It has been a GIGANTIC learning curve, however I definitely feel that we are now getting into the groove of things and I might even say that I am beginning to enjoy the online dynamic! Some very interesting things will come out of this pandemic regarding ELT, and I think one of these will the focus on distance learning – my feeling is that those academies that fail to maintain an online presence may struggle, at least in the near future. What does this mean for teacher training? Well, we can already see that the major pre-service courses have moved online as have a number of others, which I think is excellent. The difficult part now, especially regarding the planning of development courses internally, is looking at how to integrate teacher training that focuses on online teaching when many of us are new to this. I would love to hear any of your thoughts on this! It certainly is going to be a challenge, but one that I am looking forward to.

On a different not, while all this madness and has been playing out, you could say I have been pretty lucky as I have had the opportunity take on a number of development courses focused specifically on teacher training. I’d like to take a quick look at these in this post today.

Short course – Lesson Observation and Feedback with Jeanette Barsdell

At the start of March, I participated in a short course on observing teachers run by Jeanette Barsdell, author of ELT Lesson Observation & Feedback Handbook (I wrote a review of this here). The course was nothing short of brilliant for a number of reasons. The first is that it was super practical – not only did we speak about our experiences with being observed, observing and giving feedback, we actually carried out observations (both of online and face-to-face classes). The second is that it was really rewarding to work with other trainers, all of whom had far more training experience than myself. This combined with Jeanette’s guidance has helped me understand some of the finer points of lesson observation and feedback while also solidifying my own beliefs and attitudes towards the process – it’s great to find out that what you are doing is right!

Now, I won’t go into all the details about everything we covered as we would be here for an extremely long time, however I will share with you all some of the major takeaways.

  1. Know what you believe as a trainer: One activity we completed was focused on trainer beliefs and making them explicit. We were asked to say whether we agree to a number of statements such as Trainers should provide teachers with feedback on lesson plans prior to the lesson or Trainers should help teachers if asked. Jeanette really emphasised the point that as trainers we need to be very aware of what we believe and see how that influences our observations, and, more importantly, if we work in an organisation with multiple trainers we all need to be consistent, i.e. we all need to follow the same ‘rules’ so that teachers understand what to expect regarding the role of the trainer, the process, etc.
  2. Observe with other trainers: This is a lead of from the previous point. Every now and then take the time to watch a lesson with another trainer and compare notes – you’ll be surprised by what you both have the same and, sometimes, what you have differently.
  3. Interaction patterns are a good indicator of a good or bad lesson: We as trainers know that when lesson are too teacher-led, there are generally quite a few development/action points that we would like the teacher to focus on. Jeanette pointed out that for specific types of lessons, there a varying times for different types of interactions, however in general if there is more than 30% T-L interaction it is likely that the lesson is going to be weak. The idea of TTT and T-L interaction has always been in my mind and something I have always been aware of, however looking at the lesson plan and calculating, or even better getting the teacher themselves to calculate what percentage of time they have allowed for learners to interact together is something I haven’t done before.
  4. Frame feedback with Do… in order to….: Trainers are expected to give feedback, however teachers need to be given feedback that also provides them with a reason for why something needs to be changed. Framing feedback comments with in order to is a really efficient and clear method of ensuring teachers understand what could be improved to achieve x. For example, Your board work at times was messy and a little confusing for learners (some were discussing what you were writing and how it linked to the content). Create clear sections (e.g. one section for vocabulary another for boarding of content) on your board in order to ensure that learners know what type of information they are looking at and that they understand how it related to the lesson. This seems really simple, however it is really easy sometimes to forget this, especially when giving oral feedback.
  5. Ensure teachers use what learners create: This was a light-bulb moment for me. Often I have seen teachers (and I have been guilty of this myself as well!) do some kind of idea-building activity at the start of the lesson and then move on to the next part of the lesson without using the information, ideas, etc. created in the initial activity. Jeanette pointed out that teachers need to ensure they are using this content for a number of reasons. The first is that if learners are creating it, they have that language to use – if there is too much learner created content and teachers don’t use it, learners will start to become resistant and won’t continue to produce as much as language as they can. They need to be shown that what they are creating is relevant. The second is that, more often than not, then activities that don’t link efficiently with follow-on activities do not meet their aim, or they simply don’t have a clear aim. So, we need to ask, why are we doing this?

Cambridge Train the Trainer

Last week I started the course, Cambridge Train the Trainer. It is something I have wanted to do for a very long time. Why? Well, there are a number of reasons. One, I am always looking at new ways to better myself as a trainer and I feel that courses such as these are necessary. Two, it is great to take on new development challenges for myself that will directly benefit my academy and the teachers I work with. Three, I get to meet and work with other trainers from around the globe!

This week, we covered getting to know you activities and started to look at the differences between teachers and learners (and what they bring to the learning environment). It’s been very insightful so far – in fact looking at some of the getting to know you activities that have been suggested has made me think that many of mine are in need of change! A number of the activities that I am really looking forward to trying out include:

  • Getting to know you board game: Teachers complete a board game in which there are questions designed to get teachers speaking about themselves and their professional experience.
  • Guess the question: The trainer boards a list of answers without the questions – teachers need to work together to work out what the questions are.
  • 9-square grid: Teachers are given a nine-square grid. They then write a word in each square that matches with an experience they have had in their life, be it personal or professional. Teachers then move around the room and talk about these experiences with their peers (who have to guess what the experience was).

Another great thing that I had not thought about before is the idea of backwash from training sessions. That is, if we want teachers to do certain things, then we should do them ourselves in these sessions. Makes sense!

We also touched upon the importance of reflection, something I am a very strong advocate for. I aim to write a short reflective post for each week of the course – hopefully I can share most of the knowledge I learn with you all.

I hope you all are safe and sound. Stay posted!


  1. Sandy Millin says:

    Thank you for sharing your reflections here Jim. They both sound like interesting courses. How did you find out about Jeanette’s one? Can you link to the Cambridge course too? Are they paid courses? How much time do they take each week?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Sandy! Thank you for your comment.

      So, TtT is paid. I went through ITI as they have the course completely online. I did Delta Mod 2 through them as well and was really happy with Sally and the team. Well worth a look!

      The course with Jeanette was free. I have her on LinkedIn, and she advertised the course as she was bored during lockdown haha.

      With regard to time each week. Jeanette’s was not much at all, maybe about an hour, plus the two for the zoom call. For TtT, I would say about 4 – 5 plus another hour for reflection. Well worth it though.

      I’ll be able to give you a better overview once I’ve finished, but at the moment it feels like it’s been worth it.

      Take care!



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