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How do you teach English when
you can't speak it?
by Eleanor Watts
- 2

The approach to training teachers and faciliators

I guess that some hackles may have risen at my use of the term tool-kit! Is the profession, nay art, of teaching to be reduced to the status of labour, or at best craft? Michael Wallace (1991, 15) distinguishes between three models of teacher education: the craft model, the applied science model and the reflective model. In the craft model, the master practitioner demonstrates to the student teacher how things should be done. In the applied science model, the findings of scientific knowledge and experimentation are conveyed to trainees by experts. In the reflective model (that favoured by Wallace), trainees combine received knowledge with their own experiential knowledge of the classroom.

Indian teacher education falls largely within the applied science model, since it relies heavily on theories delivered by non-practising experts. I suggest that, to redress this imbalance, the craft model is preferred initially, as trainers cannot reflect upon experience they do not have and opportunities for reflection in a week long course are very limited. The proposed course will focus on a video of demonstration lessons conducted by a competent, local primary school teacher, a teacher's handbook and a cassette of songs, thus stressing practice over theory.

A modified reflective model for the facilitators

The training for facilitators will fall largely within the reflective model. It will consist of a one or two week face to face training, followed by an on-line course of several months. Participants will be able to use the video machine, which will later be used in teacher training, at their local teacher's centre. Since cybercafes are now widespread in towns of the Indian subcontinent, it should be possible for participants to read the email tasks of all the members of their group and make follow-up comments without leaving their normal place of work.

They will work in groups of fifteen with a tutor who reads their written submissions each week. They will be required to watch the video, read the teacher's handbook or other readings and then try out lessons in an ordinary primary classroom. This will give them much needed practice in the methods they advocate. As English is good, they should be able to express their responses to their experiences over email. In general, they will follow a reflective model because they will have the time and resources to do so.

A modified craft model for training the teachers

The training for teachers will fall largely into the craft model. It will consist of a single week-long training, probably in a class of fifty teachers as there are no resources to train the primary teachers at greater depth. Therefore, there will be little time for assimilation of new ideas or reflection. A video machine and audio-cassette player will be provided at the teacher's centre so that the videos can be discussed and the songs practised. However, the on-line element is not practicable for primary teachers, partly because it would be impossibly expensive to conduct with the thousands of teachers who need training. In addition they will not have the English skills to frame their thoughts over the email and many live in villages where there is no access to computers or video machines.

While I believe the reflective model to be the ideal one, it may not be realistic. Teachers in India face very difficult working conditions and are frequently under-educated and poorly motivated. When the teachers go back to their own classes, they will not have videos or audio-cassettes (many do not even have electricity in their schools) and will need to rely on the handbook, assisted by their memories of the video lessons and tunes they have learnt.

In the proposed course, there would be an unashamed attempt to "convert" trainers and then teachers to using certain carefully chosen communicative activities. However, the trainers would be encouraged to criticise and adapt the ideas in both the face to face and email sessions. It is to be hoped that they would take something of this critical spirit on to the teacher trainings they subsequently conducted. They would also gain much needed practice - and therefore credibility - in using the methods they advocate.


Canagarajah, A.S. (1999) Resisting Linguistic Imperialism in English Teaching Oxford OUP

Holliday, A. (1994) Appropriate Methodology and Social Context CUP

Ur, P. (1996) A Course in Language Teaching CUP

Wallace, M. (1991) Training Foreign Language Teachers: A Reflective Approach CUP

Widdowson, H. (1993) "Innovation in Teacher Development." Annual Review of Applied Linguistics (1993), 260-275 CUP


Eleanor Watts is a freelance teacher trainer, teacher and writer. She has published more than thirty primary school textbooks for India and Africa, The Blackboard Book (an ideas book for teachers in low-resource contexts) and several children's stories.
Eleanor has also devised two teacher training videos for

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