How do you teach English
you can't speak it?
by Eleanor Watts
The approach to training teachers
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
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 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
Wallace, M. (1991) Training Foreign Language
Teachers: A Reflective Approach CUP
Widdowson, H. (1993) "Innovation in Teacher
Development." Annual Review of Applied Linguistics (1993),
|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 India.firstname.lastname@example.org
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