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CELTA – Schmelta

I’ve wanted to say this for a long time, but one needs courage to stand up and say something essentially disparaging about an institution, but I’m going to have to. The A at the end of CELTA and DELTA means “adult” as far as I’m aware. And honestly, I have yet to be persuaded that what is taught on these courses prepares trainee teachers for teaching ADULTS. Far be it from me to pooh-pooh well-established teaching aids, but I have yet to teach an adult – particularly a Business English student (10 years, I’ve been doing this) – who buys whole-heartedly into a running dictation, or minimal pairs bingo, or “Find someone who….” Honest to God, it used to make me cringe when I had to do assessed lessons for my DELTA and employ one of these juvenile practices to teach the 2nd Conditional or separable and non-separable phrasal verbs. Just STOP IT!!! THINK about who you are teaching. The National Sales Director of a multi-national pharmaceutical company will NOT have TIME to indulge in some puerile activity to get him to understand (moot point) the continuous aspect, nor will he thank you for avoiding his needs in order to so indulge. TEACH THE ADULT …. FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE!

Andragogy is NOT pedagogy. They are entirely different. Taken from wikipedia:

Knowles asserted that andragogy (Greek: “man-leading”) should be distinguished from the more commonly used pedagogy (Greek: “child-leading”).

Knowles’ theory can be stated with six assumptions related to motivation of adult learning:[1][2]

  1. Adults need to know the reason for learning something (Need to Know)
  2. Experience (including error) provides the basis for learning activities (Foundation).
  3. Adults need to be responsible for their decisions on education; involvement in the planning and evaluation of their instruction (Self-concept).
  4. Adults are most interested in learning subjects having immediate relevance to their work and/or personal lives (Readiness).
  5. Adult learning is problem-centered rather than content-oriented (Orientation).
  6. Adults respond better to internal versus external motivators (Motivation).

Also from Mr Knowles (love this man)

  • Trainees have an understanding and are able to state their own individual learning needs and goals.
  • Trainees can have control over their own rate of progress through training and can provide valuable input into what is to be learned.
  • Trainees can bring their own life and vocational experiences to the learning situation – Peer learning
  • Giving trainees the freedom to have their own theories and opinions is very important.
  • Learning should be applied to real life situations.
  • Tutors play less of a teaching role and become much more involved in managing the interaction between individual trainees.

    In short, the move from pedagogy to andragogy shows that for students,

  • Their self-concept moves from dependency to independency or self-directedness.
  • They accumulate a reservoir of experiences that can be used as a basis on which to build learning.
  • Their readiness to learn becomes increasingly associated with the developmental tasks of social roles.
  • Their time and curricular perspectives change from postponed to immediacy of application and from subject-centeredness to performance-centeredness.
  • Thank you, Mr Knowles. From this day forward let’s allow that  our students are adults and require different approaches to their learning. No more bloody Bingo!


    24 responses »

    1. Hi, I’ve just come across this via a tweet and to be honest, it got my goat a little, so in the spirit of discussion, I’d like to comment!

      Yes, it’s true that the etymology of the word ‘pedagogy’ is indeed ‘to lead a child’ or similar, the current definition refers to the process of teaching; the strategies or style of instruction. I understand that you might be pushing the boundaries in order to make a point, but reverting to all historical meanings of words would cause a bit of linguistic mess, don’t you think?

      Also, I’d be really interested to hear some more about your teaching context, as I can’t personally say I’ve come across teachers attempting to integrate your suggested level of game-playing into a business teaching environment. Furthermore, I have both the CELTA and the DELTA qualifications and have never been encouraged to do anything – particularly with regard to the DELTA course – without analysing the learners, their needs, desired learning styles and immediate context.

      Whilst agreeing with your points about the sometimes ‘wishy-washy’ nature of the communicative language teaching approach, and that the CELTA course (in particular) could be improved upon, I think that any teacher worth their salt is well able to carry out a needs analysis and teach the learners what they want to know and if they want to play bingo to practise a language point, then they bloody well can!

      • Hi Richard
        Many thanks for your comment. I confess to taking a rather extreme stance for the sake of the polemic, but it is something I feel quite strongly about. Teaching adults is a different thing from teaching children, whatever we choose to call it, and I feel that not enough emphasis is put on the differences when instructing people who are essentially training for a qualification to teach adults.

    2. I totally agree with the fact that teaching adults is different to teaching children, but I find your perspective interesting; from my point of view the problem is the opposite. CELTA trains teachers to teach adults, but then most go newly qualified teachers go straight to teaching kids, pretty much untrained for the situation they find themselves in!

      That was certainly the case with me and I believe that initial courses such as CELTA should offer an extra week focused on a particular area, be it YLs, business or ESP. It all depends on what a teacher’s focus will be post qualification.

      • Interesting! I have to say I found the same thing when recruiting for our Junior Summer School. The qualification almost exclusively is a CELTA which is also what the BC requires, yet most of the teachers I recruited had only had experience with Young Learners (what I was looking for admittedly). I think the qualifications that are required for one to become an EFL teacher, don’t prepare one for all the other bits – ESOL, ESP, EAP, YL, BE, to name but a few. Luckily, there are “further” qualifications for certain of these. I myself have done the Cert IBET which I found very grounded in the realities of BE teaching today. Perhaps it behoves us as teachers to be as well-qualified as we need to be in order to provide the best training we can for the people we are actually teaching.

        • Yeah, I manage a summer school myself as well, but don’t get any involvement in recruitment. I’ve had so many teachers over the years turn up with a CELTA but no experience teaching YLs. Crash course it is, then!

          As for me, I was lucky enough to do the IH YLs certificate, which helped immensely but not as much as working in a good school with experienced teachers as mentors. I suppose that’s the thing, isn’t it? Good schools provide support, bad schools don’t, simple as that!

        • Right on Richard!
          Funny that I get all the CELTAs with YL experience and you get them with adult experience. You think it may be geographical?

    3. I think a lot depends on the group of learners and their individual personalities. I once entered a class made up entirely of judges from the local magistrates course. They were all very serious, following the lead of the highest ranking judge in the room who wanted to learn grammar and not much else.

      However, on another ocassion I taught a group of soldiers undergoing language instruction before taking up NATO postings abroad. One of them was a bit reluctant to ‘get up and move’ but this time, the highest ranking ‘student’ literally ordered him to take part!

      On the one hand, I agree with Richard that more opitons are needed. On the other hand, how many people know exactly what they are going to teach when they do a CELTA. I certainly didn’t and after an initial period of general English, I have sinced worked with ESP groups, teenagers, kids and IELTS prep classes. I think the DELTA should be more varied though as most people know where they are going with their ELT careers by that point.

      Having said all that, I’ve never once done a running dicatation and I’ve only used bingo with kids!

      • Hi David
        Many thanks for your comment. Had to laugh at your “serious judges”! I think your point about the DELTA needing to be more varied is very valid. BE is not ESOL and maybe BE and ESP have similarities. I also think that if someone is going as far as taking the DELTA, they have decided that EFL is what they want to do for a good portion of their lives and maybe some sort of “specialisation” would be a good thing.

    4. Hi Candy,

      Glad you cleared up that your tone and title are there just for the sake of the polemic.

      The reason I am responding is that I think it would be a real pity if your post was read by someone who doesn’t know what the CELTA or the DELTA are all about and in trying to make a decision, concluded that they are rubbish courses just on the basis of your comments.

      They aren’t. Your ability to write this post is testimony to that; an enquiring mind is not encouraged by a rubbish course.

      Some comments regarding the points you have made:

      Knowles (who is introduced to our CELTA trainees on day 2) never said anywhere that games playing is not part of the range of activities that adults can or should be engaged in. If he has, and I have not noticed it, I am happy to stand corrected; “loving Knowles” is one thing and understanding the implications of what he said is another.

      My own, considerable, experience of teaching adults does not indicate what you claim, that ALL adults should be treated in quite the same way or that they do not enjoy language games. Some do, some don’t and it’s your job as a teacher to find out what suits your specific group of adults.

      As a CELTA and DELTA tutor and course provider for more than 20 years, I do not recall myself or any of the tutors I have employed ever encouraging our trainees to use activities unsuited to the group of learners they were teaching.

      Richard has a point about many CELTA trained teachers finding themselves in contexts where they have to teach young learners. But this is not the reason why a CELTA trainee has to learn a wide range of techniques. To not include drilling on this course because you support Dogme is doing your trainees a disservice and the novice teacher needs to learn a wide range of standard ELT techniques and TRY THEM OUT.

      Do you really think that a novice teacher fresh out of a CELTA is the best choice of teacher to teach on an ESP course which needs other skills and knowledge? I mean, properly designed ESP programmes, not the kind where you put a coursebook into a teacher’s hands and send them to off to teach “Business English” – which is what a lot of outfits do?

      For your information, while the A in CELTA does stand for “adults”, the A in DELTA no longer stands for that as it has been opened out to all types of specialisms, age groups and teaching contexts, and quite rightly so, I believe. This is something which I have worked hard towards for many years – through proper channels of course, such as syllabus consultations, statistical information and survey responses.

      Finally, may I ask you a question:

      How many other CELTA and DELTA courses do you in fact have experience of apart from the ones you yourself have attended?

      A smearing campaign of the CELTA-Schmelta kind is a very easy thing to do and difficult to UNDO so I would truly like to know whether your evidence is just based on your personal experience.

      I look forward to your response to this


      • Hi Marisa
        Many thanks for your comment which I read with great interest. To answer your question, I am DELTA trained and thanks to two of the best tutors I have ever had, found it a very tough but enlightening experience. Beyond that, however, I did the Cert IBET, which was very grounded in the realities of teaching BE today and even with the DELTA, I’m very pleased that I have the Cert IBET for my BE teaching. The rest of my experience comes from interviewing and recruiting upwards of 150 teachers during the last 10 years for both our BE centre and our YL Summer School. Almost all the teachers we have recruited have had a CELTA. Very rarely has anyone recruited for the YL programme, been able to transfer successfully to our BE centre. Although most of them had CELTAs, their experience was with YLs (admittedly what I was looking for, for the YL programme) but they felt overwhelmed and under-prepared for teaching at the BE centre. The teachers I have recruited for the BE centre, who have stayed the distance, almost all have DELTAs or MAs in TEFL or App Linguistics. Those who have only the CELTA, by and large, opt out and return to YLs because they feel out of their depth teaching adults – even though they are CELTA trained. Those who don’t leave, get themselves further qualified.
        I have advised every teacher who has been employed by us to go and do the DELTA and those who are interested in BE to try and do the Cert IBET.


        • Well, it makes perfect sense that the teachers who “stayed the distance” with your BE classes would be the more experienced and DELTA holders are always what I recruit myself for our own BE courses. An MA is a plus but I really look for a DELTA first.

          The CELTA is not really intended to produce BE teachers – even the best of CELTA courses cannot turn a novice teacher into what is required a competent ESP instructor.

          Willy is right in that you cannot turn someone into a good teacher in 4 weeks – it takes at least 3-5 years of applying what you have learnt on the CELTA, and by that time, most people become aware that they need further professional development to be able to deal with the demands of BE or designing their own courses and so on.

          What I am wondering about it is whether what you are trying to say that because your CELTA recruits were not able to deal with BE teaching, they are unsuited to the job of teaching adults and that is why they turned to teaching YLs.

          This is of course your opinion but, will all due respect, it is somewhat unfair to recruit someone for the wrong post and then blame the course they followed (in this case, the CELTA) because they are unable to rise to your expectations.

        • Hi Marisa
          What I was saying, initially, was that CELTA courses – and I will tweak that to say some CELTA courses and some CELTA tutors – seem not to equip the novice teacher with the correct/appropriate/relevant tools for teaching adults. Game-playing – fun and jolly though it may be – is not generally taken seriously enough by adults to make it an effective learning tool, particularly with those adults whose time for learning a new language is extremely limited. And merely “forcing” them to participate (something which has been done and been admitted to), is hardly going to make it better. ROLE-playing, however, may well step into the breach and CELTA trainees could really do with being given more pointers and more practice in how to set up, manage and take part in relevant role plays designed with adults in mind. I think it was Willy who declaimed passionately about pairwork. Almost to a man (and woman), my students loathe pairwork. As a result I never do it. Some CELTA trainees leave their course with pairwork and games as more-or-less their only stock-in-trade. They need more appropriate and relevant tools in their teaching tool kit. That is really what I was trying to say.
          Following very quickly on your heels, I now only recruit DELTA trained people – mainly because they at least have a better grasp of the workings of the language (another point that is better left to another day)- and am going to insist that within the first year of employment at our BE centre, they do the Cert IBET.

    5. This is a valid discussion. It clearly shows that however standardized CELTA may seem, in fact, they aren’t in practice when you take good arguments for and against it. Apart from personal experience, which means one can very well say it’s crap and someone else can love it to dead, I’d like to highlight that I think, and I say ‘think’, that one center can run a fantastic CELTA course and another one an incredibly lousy course.
      I was not happy with mine, for example, because it was 95% Presentation-Practice-Production and I don’t think it worked for the group I had. I got a minus mark in the self-assessment because I didn’t drilled enough, look at this, ‘self-assessment’ and the tutor gave me a mark!!! I could drill and showed that, but I didn’t do it ‘enough’, c’mon, give me a break, I had been teaching for over 6 years when I took the course.
      So, for me, it could have a better quality control. I have no idea how Cambridge manages the courses and I’m sure there are outstanding centers worldwide, but still, my experience says it lacks a better quality control.
      Was I part of a rare unfortunate event? Maybe yes, I can’t really say.
      Maybe they improved that since I took it, hope they did.
      (but when I go to McDonald’s in the countryside of Brazil or in West End London, I know what I’m gonna get, quality control – just to keep the playfulness of the argument:-)

      • Hi Willy
        Thank you so much for your comment. I think you raise a very important point. I had absolutey excellent tutors on my DELTA,which made the course very stimulating. But have heard from colleagues who had very negative experiences with their training. So is it the tutors that make the course, or the course content? I think our experiences answer that question.

    6. Hello Candy and all,
      Your rant on the overused standard teacher’s toolbox being a bit limited and juvenile came as a breath of fresh air to me. I’ve enjoyed many courses that have given me an extended set of useful tools, including Mark Powell’s LCCI Cert TEB. That said, once you’ve followed Knowles rules and students buy into what you are doing together, there will generally be a place for all sorts of activities that would appear juvenile out of context (as do many activities found in management training). It’s just this: It seems to me the world has become our students’ English playground to a degree it wasn’t 15 or even 5 years ago. Back then they might still have enjoyed playing in class; today they expect more focus and feedback, and will do their playing after they leave. This, at least, has been my experience.

      • Hi Anne!
        Thanks so much for this “breath of fresh air”! Looking at what kind of world we live in now, there is no room for sacred cows. Everything must be scrutinised and debated and thrashed out and picked up or left as the situation demands. Things are moving too fast for us to hold fast to the tried and tested. I really believe we are pioneers and need the same kind of courage.
        Candy 🙂

    7. Oh! Can I add a couple of three things ?

      – When I came back to Sao Paulo right after taking the CELTA in London, I was willing to try the CELTA way of teaching with my Business English students, well in fact, they were not exactly BE students, they had just ‘English’ lessons in their workplace, anyway, I tried things I’d never done before with them such as, pre-teaching, concept questions and one or another gadgetish teaching thingy. Two lessons later they called the DOS and said my lesson was not as enjoyable it used to be and that they wanted to have another teacher. So, definetely the course or the tutor I had was not to blame, I was! I was ‘blind’ in a way, trying to use things I thought were good without critically thinking about how it would fit in my context, especially because I already knew the students and they already had high expectations of me as a teacher.

      (just so you understand the rest, sometime later I became a DOS at the same school)

      – Out of the 12 people in my CELTA, I wouldn’t have hired 2 at the time, that training was not enough to cope with the demands of the students in my context. Again, ‘context’.

      – In my staff, after the charismatic ones, the foreign teachers that had greater, faster and longer acceptance among student were the ones with a CELTA qualification. They were by and large the minority, in Brazil there’s no minimum qualification for language teachers in the private sector. What made them different was that they showed they cared, in the form of careful lesson planning and an extra effort in studying the English grammar. The non-CELTA holders just popped up with a magazine article and had a chat about it with students.

      What I can take from this is that just a very _____ person would believe that a course/training, be it 4 weeks or 4 years, will equip her/him with all it takes to be a good teacher in contexts other than the one in which they were trained in.

      Thank you and sorry for the long post, it somehow made me recall too mant things.

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    9. Ummm…yeah..err…no. I’m doing a DELTA right now, and I have yet to encounter anything in the input sessions which I would label as childish. It’s been 10 years since I did my initial certificate and, though not via Cambridge, my trainer was certified to teach CELTA.

      While it’s easy to have a go at the CELTA/DELTA, I’m missing what you would teach/train instead. I’m actually a bit perplexed and at the same time curious as to why a “find someone who…” activity is for children but NOT adults. A CEO could be moving and shaking at a conference, searching for a ride from the airport, or looking for an employee suited to perform a certain task for him/her. Moreover, a CEO who can’t manage the basic language involved in such a task may not be a very effective CEO. At the same time, in my DELTA (at least), you’re choosing tasks based on level. So, I suppose “find someone who” wouldn’t be acceptable for advanced students. Was that the case in your DELTA? If so, perhaps you have good reason to rubbish it. And if that’s the case, maybe your invective is best targeted at the trainers you had and not the CELTA/DELTA experience as a whole.

      In fact, your choice to target CELTA and DELTA as one in the same (united by what? 3 classroom activities?) make me very suspicious as to whether you’ve actually completed both.

      I digress. Help us all. The CELTA and DELTA are both being continuously revised to reflect modern consensus about sound teaching. Take us all further by providing your alternative curriculum.

    10. Dear Robert

      What a fantastic idea for “Find someone who….” Excellent! This is what I’m talking about – taking the tried and tested, giving them an “adult” spin and sharing them with CELTA/DELTA trainees.

      Do you have any other such up your sleeve anywhere?


    11. Oh, OK. Got it.

      Let’s consolidate what’s been covered.

      -You’re surprised when teachers coming from a children’s background aren’t ready to teach Business classes, and this is the CELTA’s fault. Amazingly, people who get a business cert. are better suited to teaching business.


      -You had a great, “enlightening” DELTA experience but were playing children’s games during your assessed observations.


      -You allude to missing tools. Games are out. Pair work is dubious. The single tool you have cited in support of your position is…drum roll…role-playing!

      Indeed. Playing make believe dressed up for executives. That’s not childish at all.

      Sorry about the tone. I’m just feeling polemic.

      And wondering if this post is serious or for web traffic.

    12. I’m sorry this has got you so riled, Robert, but I hope you don’t mind if I don’t play along. I don’t do “personal”, especially with someone I don’t know, and the tone of this is becoming decidedly personal.


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