No longer ‘signed up and shipped out’

June 2010

 

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TESOL training comes of age. PAUL TRUASHEIM shares his experience of Australian achievements in teaching the teachers of English as a second language

Australia’s response to the demand for English language training for visiting students and in other countries has been reasonably swift, cohesive and flexible.

More than 10 years ago the Language Training Institute (LTi) became the first organisation in Australia to have a Certificate IV course in teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) accredited by the Australian government accreditation authorities.

Paul Truasheim says they were looking for consistent benchmarks of quality for people wanting to learn how to teach English effectively.

Truasheim says they wanted a complete suite of TESOL teacher training publications providing seamless support for anyone, anywhere, wanting to secure their ticket to the world of English language teaching by completing an Australian government-approved certificate level qualification for which the publications were specifically written.

This opportunity and need came as a result of the Australian government’s training reform agenda which involved the creation of a framework to facilitate the development of courses and subsequent training of people with skills for employment.

Before this the only equivalent TESOL qualification being offered in Australia gained its recognition from the UK. It was consequently difficult for Australian education and training organisations to gain the necessary approval to train TESOL teachers, and as a flow-on effect such courses were not so easily accessible to people wanting to start their TESOL career.

From about 2000 to 2005 there was a rapid growth in the number of training providers offering TESOL courses. This came as a result of organisations like LTi developing the Certificate IV in TESOL course and providing a lower-cost, readily available alternative to the traditional UK-bred version.

The challenge for students in the past five years has been to select a course and training provider to match the quality of the training they could readily access.

LTi’s strategy for ensuring the quality of its course has been attributed to two main factors. Firstly, we invested heavily in the writing and publication of another Australian first – a full suite of TESOL teacher training textbooks and workbooks. The two textbooks and associated workbooks provided to all students create a solid and consistent basis for mastery of the theoretical content of the course.

Secondly, the course requires solid practical teaching experience. The student must be involved for a minimum of 20 hours in both the observation of experienced teachers and in actual English language teaching.

This is where poorer quality courses have failed students – offering ‘role plays’ as a substitute for real ESL teaching experience, or perhaps just an hour or two of real classroom experience before being ‘signed up and shipped out’ to foreign shores – or to the local language school which has already had far too many experiences with poorly trained staff.

Beyond these key ingredients of good training resources and genuine practical experience, students should look for courses delivered by experienced trainers. With experience comes the breadth and depth of understanding required to impart the particular skills and abilities needed for teaching English to speakers of other languages.

One of a potential student’s first and very up-front questions should be: “Who will be my trainer, and what are their qualifications and experience?”

TESOL teacher trainers for certificate level courses do not have to be professors, but they should at least have had several years of teaching experience, with a minimum of 800 hours of that experience being specifically TESOL-related. They should also be qualified at least one level above the level of the course being undertaken by the students.

Track record for TESOL resources

The Language Training Institute is the first Australian organisation to publish a suite of TESOL teacher training texts and workbooks for TESOL teacher trainers and trainees that correlate exactly to an accredited Certificate IV in TESOL course.

The publications include all the theory assessment tasks required for completion of the 12 core units and the 11 elective units of the course. In addition, the study and practice teaching guide provides detailed requirements for completion of the comprehensive practice teaching component and includes a range of forms used for reporting on and observation of the trainee’s practice teaching experience, and a trainer’s guide and workbook answers. All publications are written for adapting to face-to-face classroom delivery and distance education, or ‘blended learning’ mode.

About 3000 students have been trained by LTi and other organisations using the LTi TESOL course or the publications around Australia and in China, Korea, Malaysia and Singapore, including native and non-native speakers of English.