Commenting on my post ‘Who Needs Dogme‘, @alastairjamesgrant, IH’s very own Dogme-gician, asks me:
Be it Trinity, CELTA or whatever, we have all learnt our initial teacher training tools through the use of course books. Are they therefore essential?
My reply got too long and took too long to write (when I should have been doing other things today) to leave as a comment, so it’s become a blog post. Here it be:
No we haven’t, Al. We’ve learnt our initial teaching techniques (which is what I presume you meant to say?) by teaching and getting feedback on our classes from our peers and our tutors. Course books are most often involved in this process, but the continued insistence of a lot of Dogme-gicians such as yourself to lump all the blame for ‘bad teaching’ on course books is the lazy argument that makes my Dogme-friendliness dwindle.
CELTA courses are about so much more than course books and there’s plenty of room for even a pure (i.e. all ten commandments) Dogme lesson within the CELTA framework if candidates want to teach that way. On our course at IH Buenos Aires Teacher Training we show candidates different lesson frameworks: a receptive skills lesson, a test-teach-test lesson, a text-based guided discovery lesson and sometimes a situational presentation, as well as showing videos of a TBL lesson and a functions dialogue build. Two of these six involve course book texts, but there’s no need for them to and I’ll change them for authentic texts my past students have brought to class if you like.
The candidates are given a coursebook to work with and supporting notes from us about how to adapt the course book to these lesson frameworks and make them more communicative and student-centred at the same time. We see this support as essential for candidates to be able to focus on certain aspects of their teaching at a time (I hope even the most Dogmatic Dogme-gician would agree doing a Dogme-esque lesson in week one of a CELTA without being able to give clear instructions, monitor or give useful feedback is a recipe for disaster). By week three they are encouraged to become more independent and react to the course book materials with their students in mind, adapting or supplementing or rejecting them as they see fit (with tutor guidance where required) and in week four the candidates are choosing what to teach and how to teach it all by themselves. If we added a loop input Dogme style session in to complement the other lesson-types and changed those two course book texts for more authentic ones then we’d have a very Dogme friendly CELTA course – and I’m working on it.
Why do CELTA courses get so much blame? There is no criteria on a CELTA course that says you need to show good techniques with course books. If you look at the CELTA syllabus, course books aren’t mentioned once and only three points even come close:
4.4 The selection, adaptation and evaluation of materials and resources in planning (including computer and other technology based resources)
4.5 Knowledge of commercially produced resources and non-published materials and classroom resources for teaching English to adult learners
5.4 The use of teaching materials and resources
That’s three points out of a total of 45 (if we include the skills breakdown points). And the point that comes closest to mentioning course books (4.5) also discusses ‘classroom resources’, which may well mean a CD player or IWB if you’re (un)lucky enough, but aren’t classroom resources also what Dogme-gicians are meant to be using instead of course books?
CELTA is all about giving candidates the tools and techniques to teach in the classroom. All Dogme-gicians use these tools, so please stop criticising the CELTA. Criticise CELTA courses or CELTA trainers who put the course book before the student in their teaching practice if you want, but it’s simply not CELTA’s fault. It’s not even course books fault that some teachers don’t put their learners at the centre of their classes, but I’ll save that for another day as I have work to do.