The weekly column

Article 78, October 2001

The Advanced Teaching Certificate - A Proposed Framework for Continuing Development in EFL

Alex Case
Central School of English, London


What is the Advanced Certificate?

As yet it is just an idea, but I think it is one that should be of interest to schools, teachers, teacher trainers, exam boards and the EFL world in general.


The Idea

The idea is to provide an internationally recognised post-certificate, in-house training package that is externally verified and certified, to give teachers credit for what they do to improve the way they do their jobs. I'll explain what I mean in more detail, but first I'd like to examine...


Why is it needed?

Basically, a new structure for continuing development is needed mainly because of a widespread dissatisfaction with the Diploma as it stands being used in the way it is. Frequently heard criticisms are that it is stressful, that time spent on the course can often be at the detriment of a teacher's lessons, that most people taking the Diploma get out of classroom teaching as soon as they can, and that it does not cover any of the things that these people go on to do such as teacher training and EFL management. I would add to these a feeling that I would not be too keen to employ a teacher on the Diploma as the school often has little to gain from it, at least until it is finished. There also seems to be a widespread feeling that it falls a bit between the stools, being neither sufficiently theoretical nor sufficiently practical, and perhaps that it is even becoming intellectually devalued in the role the new DELTA is taking on to provide more and more Diploma qualified teachers.

The idea of the Advanced Teaching Certificate is to provide a largely stress-free method of teacher development after just one years' teaching, providing schools with a large number of teachers who show and gain from a desire to continue developing and teaching. It would also allow teachers to gain credit for activities in teacher training, administration and EFL management. The Diploma would then be free to concentrate on what should surely be its role- giving teachers who are interested a deeper understanding of the things they are doing, be that a theoretical one or not, as teachers would no longer feel pressurised into doing the dip for the wrong reason or at the wrong time.


What exactly would the course consist of?

Firstly, people taking the course will not be expected to write essays- even of the practical sort asked for in the DELTA. Nor will there be pass/ fail lesson observations. The two criteria for course tasks will be:

  • The things they will do will be the sort of things they could go on to do in their actual EFL career
  • The things that are produced will be of immediate practical use to the school they are working for

Writing that could fit in with these criteria could be:

  • materials for school resource files or the school web-site,
  • guidance for school procedures (e.g. level testing),
  • reviews of new materials (possibly just as a completed form or notes),
  • things published in the EFL press,
  • worksheets for a CELTA course

Observations that would fit the bill would show:

  • an ability to experiment and use new materials (as there is no fail there will be no reason to do an old favourite for an observation- surely a pointless exercise),
  • an ability and willingness to reflect and improve (perhaps asking the observer to come in and observe a polished up version with another class),
  • peer observations with observation tasks completed and serious, useful feedback given to the person being observed

Others

  • In school workshops, perhaps based on a book of supplementary activities in the teachers' room
  • Teachers' admin meetings

In order to achieve any of the above, teachers will need to do a certain amount of reading of EFL books, magazines and web-sites and attend regular in-house and external training .There is great flexibility in what they choose, however, as long as it helps them in the aims of stretching themselves and directly affecting their teaching


How long would it last?

The course would be in modular form and last anything from one to three years. Teachers could start it after one year of full time teaching in their chosen field (general adults/ children/ business).


How would it be administered?

The course would be mainly run within the school, providing a structure within which the Director of Studies could organise teacher development within his/ her school. Should more than one school want to team up for workshops, peer observation etc. this should be easy to arrange. In order to provide an internationally recognised certificate, however, there will need to be an external controlling body. This body should be able to remain reasonably small and unbureaucratic due to the fact that they are not checking if anything passes or fails, but simply if it is being undertaken with the right attitude of self-discovery and experimentation. Also, the Director of Studies has everything to gain from a teacher completing coursework well, as this is material of immediate use to the school decided on between the director and the teacher. Finally, the cost of registration could be kept down by requiring senior staff on schools involved to provide some outside evaluation of other schools' Advanced Cert courses. I see no reason why the total cost should be more than a couple of hundred pounds, probably split between the teacher and the school.


What do I have to gain?

As a teacher, you will gain an internationally recognised certificate to show for all your effort, effort you may well be putting in now. It should also boost your efforts, if you have more good intentions than self-motivation like myself. You should also have gained a whole range of experience in different parts of EFL and have gained some idea of what you want to do next. If that includes the Diploma (which I do recommend, see [1])it will be because you are genuinely interested in what it has to offer; and you should have gained the experience and self-confidence to make the whole thing a much easier and more rewarding experience. On a less idealistic note, you will be infinitely more employable (see below).

As a school, you will be able to employ teachers who are interested in improving themselves and your school. And when they finish you will have a bunch of experienced teachers ready to move into other positions in your company as they become available, as well as bulging files in the teachers' room. You will also be able to use your affiliation to this qualification as a sign of quality to set you apart from other less professional schools, perhaps as a overseas equivalent of 'British Council Recognised'.

As the scheme becomes more widespread, you will also have a good way of judging the quality of experience of the teachers who apply for jobs in your school. As a Director of Studies, what I wanted to know when interviewing teachers was if they knew their way around the teachers' room resources, whether they had been working in a quality school with regular training and observations, and whether they had a critical but positive attitude to the use of textbooks and other materials. I wanted a teacher who wanted to and would know how to contribute something to the school apart from their classroom time. Occasionally, I was looking for someone who I could train up into a more senior position. If the interviewing teacher had an Advanced Teaching Certificate I might think I was on the right track for all of the above.

As a Director of Studies, you will have a structure within which you can put together continuing development in your school. Rather than this meaning you taking lots of workshops and meetings, you will be doing the much more satisfying job of training other people to do them. Much the same thing goes for observations. The external body organising the Advanced Cert would be able to support you in this role, and no doubt a wide range of conferences etc. would soon spring up over time. Your role within this organisation to go round to other schools could also provide valuable ideas. The whole experience may well provide a means for yourself or your school to move into teaching the Cert and/ or Dip

As a teacher trainer on the Cert or Dip, you will have the pressure taken off you to make an expert teacher in 4 weeks or accept someone onto the Diploma who is patently unready or only interested because they think it will a route out of classroom teaching (it happens!).


Making a start

Hopefully, whatever your position in EFL you have found something in here that makes you think something can and should be done, if not exactly what I have suggested. If so, this could be the start of something big. It is, however, early days. What is needed is an open, honest and LOUD exchange of ideas. So, please use every forum you can to change this germ of an idea into a debate, and then hopefully into a finished idea and finally a reality. I'd be very pleased to hear your comments myself at alexcase@hotmail.com

[1] Article 'How was the Dip?- a personal reflection on the DELTA', Alex Case ,tesl.net , September 2001


About the author

Alex Case has 6 years' experience as a teacher, teacher trainer and Director of Studies in Turkey, Thailand, Spain and the UK. He is currently back full-time in the classroom and enjoying it more than ever.

 

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