TEIS Newsletter

Training, Development and Teacher Education (from Spring/Summer 1989, Vol. 5, No. 1)

by User Not Found | 10/31/2011

This is a revised and extended version of an article that originally appeared in the EFL Gazette July 1988

I suggest that training and development are two complementary components of a fully rounded teacher education, but that at the moment we focus mainly on training at the expense of development, at the expense of balanced teacher education, and perhaps at the expense of teachers fulfilling their own potential.

I see most teachers training at the moment as being essentially concerned with the necessary knowledge of both the topic that is to be taught, and the methodology for teaching it. The emphasis is on classroom skills and techniques, and on using the materials and resources that are currently considered helpful to learning.

I see teacher development as being essentially concerned with the effects that the teacher herself has on the learners and on the learning atmosphere of the class, as distinct from the effect of her techniques and materials. The emphasis is on developing those personal capacities that affect a teachers' presence in class, including their effectiveness at "people skills" and their awareness and attitudes.

The argument for training in this sense may go like this: "I believe that my effectiveness as a teacher depends largely on my pedagogic skills, and my knowledge of the topic I am teaching, and on all the associated methodology. My teaching is only as good as the techniques or materials that I employ, and I improve by learning more about them. I acknowledge that the kind of person I am affects my teaching, but I don't really see what I can do about this other than by further training and by gaining experience,"

The part of me that argues for development may say things like: "I believe that my effectiveness as a teacher depends largely on the way I am in the classroom, on my awareness of myself and my effect on others, and on my attitudes towards learners, learning and my own role. I value my facility with pedagogic skills, and my knowledge of the topic, but it is the "me' who operates them that primarily influences their effectiveness. I teach only as well the atmosphere that I engender. I believe that education is change and that I will not be able to educate unless I am also able to change, otherwise my work will come to have a static quality about it that is not good for me or for my students."

Development means change for me, in the direction of becoming the best kind of teacher that I can be, gradually bringing out my own potential to the full and keeping myself on the same side of the learning fence as my students. This is die only way that I can keep alive a sense of challenge and adventure in my teaching career, and avoid getting in a rut. If I am in a rut, then so is my teaching, and then so are my students, and learning from a rut is tedious, slow and uninspiring.

There is a component of our entire teaching manner that has nothing to do with our technical abilities or linguistic competence and this component can be uniquely developed in each of us. But it does not just develop automatically with time. If you reflect on the teachers you had when you were at school, and if you select one of your best and consider what it was that caused him or her to have such an impact on you, who would you choose? What was it about them and what they did? And how did that have such an effect on you?

I have put these questions to many groups of teachers. Most people have found this an absorbing exercise and were able to answer the questions fully. And one of the interesting points that emerges time and again is that the lasting power of the impressions left by significant teachers in our past often has less to do with their own qualities and how they are related to us.

Perhaps they inspired us, gave us a sense of fun, purpose or security; perhaps with them we were not afraid of mistakes, or we felt accepted, valued, respected; perhaps they raised our self esteem, enabling us to value ourselves more during those lessons. Perhaps they were expert in their subject and conveyed to us their enthusiasm in a way that affected and inspired us. Whatever it was they almost certainly helped us to feel good about ourselves and about our learning.

Carl Rogers, the American educator and psychologist studied these qualities in teachers, and found that there were three particular characteristics of good teachers which could be further developed in any teacher who had the commitment to do so. The three qualities are empathy, acceptance and authenticity.

By empathy he meant the ability to experience what it is like in the learner's situation, how things look for him or her at any point in a lesson. By acceptance he meant a positive regard for the learners that is unconditional, that has no strings attached, that is not conditional on the learners doing what the teacher wants in order to earn acceptance or regard. By authenticity he meant the ability to be fully ourselves in the classroom to be able to respond as a human as well as a teacher, to be genuine, not to play a role.

Why do these and similar qualities not figure in our teacher education? Why are they not as much a part of our search for effectiveness as all the other issues in our training? Do we presume that we have no need to develop these qualities? Do we assume that we cannot develop any further? Do we assume that these qualities are not relevant despite the evidence of our own learning experience? These are just some of the questions that seem to be avoided.