Cambridge Train the Trainer – Week 8

This is part of the series Cambridge Train the Trainer.

Boom! Last week done. And it was a big week. I kind of don’t even really know where to start – there was so much great information and stuff that we were involved in. Let’s start general and then get specific, it’s easier that way. Basically, we looked at course development and developing as a trainer. These two areas are extremely important for me, not only because they are what I am involved in constantly, but also because they are the two areas that I think there is a lot less materials available for trainers to get ideas from (when compared to other areas of training) – I’m always looking for more ideas!

Course development

Where do you start when planning a course? Well, if you’re doing your Delta or DipTESOL, you usually start by reading Kathleen Grave’s, Designing Language Courses: A Guide for Teachers, or Jack Richards’, Curriculum Approaches in Language Teaching: Forward, Central, and Backward Design. From here, you read, read, read, create and conduct a needs and wants analysis, determine your course objectives and outcomes, plan, create material, and work out how the course is going to be evaluated. Pretty straightforward, right? Yes, I know I’ve left out a few minor details, and I have also left out the countless nights spent over the computer and stuck in books. But in essence, that’s what you do. But what about teacher training courses? Where on earth do you start? Well, the process is rather similar, however there are some other considerations that need to be thought about:

  • Intensive course or drip-feed? Is the course going to be an everyday-for-three-weeks course? Or will it will be held on one Saturday a month throughout the academic year?
  • Breadth of content or depth of content? Do you cover many different topics that may or may not be linked by a theme? Or, do you choose one topic and cover this topic in great detail?
  • Coherent course or stand-alone sessions? This ties in with the previous point – are all the topics linked by a theme or are they random (well, maybe not random – they may come from varying development strands)?
  • Process approach or product approach? Are teachers going to be actively involved in interaction, discussion, etc. or are they going to learn from the production of something (e.g. materials). They make a good point on this course that these points are not part of a dichotomy, but rather they go hand-in-hand, often with one outweighing the other slightly.
  • Open syllabus or closed syllabus? Are all the session already planned in? Or is the room to choose the sessions are the course progresses, perhaps based on the emergent needs of the teachers?
  • Generic needs or specific needs? Is the course designed for teachers in general or do you have a specific group in mind?

All of these have their pros and cons, as with everything. And, to be honest, I think these considerations are also taken into account for language courses, we just focus a little more on the language side of things (e.g. grammatical syllabus, task.based syllabus, etc.). I found these considerations made the whole process of conceptualising the programme very useful, and I wish that I had found these definitions sooner!

Test of objectives – Design a course

So, we covered in a bit of detail what is involved in course design, we analysed the course we are taking at the moment, using the aforementioned considerations, and then, as you would expect, we created our own programme. Our task was to design a 25-hour course at very ‘late notice’ for a group of sixteen rural primary and secondary teachers with the course aims being:

  • to make participants aware of basic classroom management techniques
  • to give participants practice in using basic classroom management techniques.

We were not given any other information about specific needs and wants, which made things a little interesting. In one sense it made planning the course easier as you could plan for teachers in general. In another sense it made it more difficult because I was unsure of which areas to include to ensure everyone benefits as much as possible.

Following the creation of our course, we then uploaded it to the group Padlet, and from here we each evaluated one other person’s course using the following questions:

  • Are the learning outcomes clear?
  • Is the rationale clear?
  • Is the content appropriate?
  • Is the content well-organized?
  • Does the plan include a balance of trainer and teacher activity?

I think that more questions need to be asked for when you are designing complete courses. We only designed the general course ‘overview’ and I didn’t include detailed student-learning outcomes (SLOs), materials, etc. Other questions I might ask include:

  • Are the SLOs clear and linked to the overall course objectives?
  • Are the course materials appropriate?

Feel free to have a look at my programme and answer the questions – I would love some more feedback!

Where are you as a trainer?

In the second half of the week we looked at what makes a good trainer and looked at three development stages for trainers: From teacher to trainer, Autonomous trainer, and Lead Trainer. These development stages come from the Cambridge English Trainer Framework, a brilliant tool you can use to see where you are at. I feel that I am confidently at the Autonomous Trainer stage now, with my fingers reaching into parts of the Lead Trainer stage. What about you, where do you fit in the trainer development stages?

But, it’s not all about where you are now. It’s also about finding out where you can go from here, and so another important aspect we looked at was the ways in which trainers can continue to develop. Here are some:

  • Get feedback from your peers through course evaluation forms
  • Get observed giving feedback
  • Observe other trainers
  • Research topics
  • Share ideas with other trainers
  • Team train
  • Attend and present at conferences
  • Read journals, articles, etc.
  • Write materials
  • Get back into the classroom or experiment with different levels and types of learners
  • Take a course

SMART goals

As we do with our learners and teachers, we should also be setting ourselves development goals – or rather, SMART development goals. I remember reading about these some time ago, but it was good to be involved in creating my own for my own development. This obviously tied in with ways trainers can develop further, and so we had loads of ideas to use. Here is my SMART goal:

  • Specific: I want to be able to use exploratory talk more effectively in oral feedback sessions with teachers in my context so that these feedback sessions are as effective and developmental as possible.
  • Measurable: Success will be measured by the quality of responses that are provoked through the use of exploratory talk, i.e. how much do teachers contribute to their own feedback following uses of exploratory talk.
  • Achievable: I will achieve this goal through the use of recording devices and audio analysis. These tools will ensure that I can be sure that I have improved.
  • Relevant: This is a relevant goal as developing my ability to use exploratory talk more effectively will directly affect the quality and effectiveness of oral feedback sessions, something I am heavily involved in on a regular basis.
  • Timed: I aim to complete this goal by the end of term one. I will begin by recording my first feedback sessions (around week 3 of term one) – this will be used as a diagnostic test. From here I will record and analyse following sessions until I am certain that I have achieved my aim.
  • Evaluate (This was an extra category that the trainers from Cambridge added in): I will be able to evaluate this by analysing past recordings and data, and I will also be able to ask teachers how they felt with the questions, etc. that I was asking. I will create a short questionnaire that they can fill out following the session.

So, that’s my development goal (well, one of many really). What about you and your development goals, as either a teacher or a trainer?

Final note

Well, that’s the end of the course, folks. It’s been a great one, and I look forward to future development courses. I still have a lot of questions about training and how other trainers do them, but this course certainly has cleared up a number of doubts and solidified in my mind that much of the stuff I am doing/including in my development programmes is appropriate. I think you can all gather that I would recommend this course to current and future trainers; I think this is a brilliant step for senior teachers looking to explore teacher training, or experienced trainers who are looking for a few extra ideas and some stronger theoretical grounding.

I would like to say a big thanks to the course providers, Cambridge English and International Training Institute. Also, thank you to Tom Godfrey for his guidance and comments throughout the course, to my course colleagues for their contributions, and, of course, to my boss, Patrick, for his help in being able to attend the course. And, a big thank you to all you reading – it means the world!


  1. ROWA DOUGLAS says:

    It was an excellent course, Jim! Keep up the great work!


  2. Martin Hajek says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the course. It looks like a very interesting option for experienced teachers.


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