Teaching Competence

Inspired by ‘What makes a great teacher’ video by Jo Gakonga, I decided to contemplate why teachers consistently work on their professional development. Although it’s incredibly difficult to pin down and come up with a concise definition, one of the components of a good teacher must be their professional competence, i.e. a good awareness of the teaching principles and the ability to teach effectively. How can teachers teach well? What comes into play?

Knowing your subject

There are at least 3 components here:  teaching principles, language awareness and language ability. This means understanding of how languages are learnt, choosing appropriate teaching techniques and having good knowledge of how to describe language. One of the ways to develop your competence is reading a wide range of books for teachers. I’d recommend ‘A course in English Language Teaching’ by Penny Ur and ‘Learning Teaching’ by Jim Scrivener. For brushing up on language, it might be worth consulting ‘Grammar for English Language Teachers’ by Parrott and ‘Practical English Usage’ by Swan.

Identifying your learners’ strengths and weaknesses

Many teachers agree that it is vital to start a course by running needs analysis but they sometimes forget to make amendments to their plan based on their finding of the ongoing observations that should take place during the course of study. This area might seem daunting. Although it is really tricky, consistency in monitoring and self-reflection can weave your magic. If you work with young learners, have a look at ‘Teaching Young Language Learners’ by Annamaria Pinter and ‘Children Learning English’ by Jayne Moon. Consider reading books on different learning styles, ‘Focus on the Language Learner’ by Tarone and Yule, ‘Learner English’ by Smith and Swan.

Motivating and engaging your learners

Easier said than done. To create interesting activities, select relevant materials and plan useful lessons you’ll have to take into account the information about your learners, their preferences and wants as well their gaps in knowledge. You also have to consider what they have already learnt to ensure that the input is comprehensible. An experienced teacher will be able to evaluate available teaching materials and adjust them to cater for their learners’ needs.

Last but not least, respond to your learners. Show your genuine interest and focus on what they are saying, not how they are doing that. Showing that their ideas make sense is a lot more important than highlighting how limited their language resources might be.

Some other useful books for teachers intersted in CPD:

  • Grellet, F. (1986). Developing Reading Skills. Cambridge university press.
  • Harmer, J. (2007). How to teach English. Longman.
  • Hedge, T. (2005). Writing. Hong Kong.
  • Larsen-Freeman, D. (2000). Techniques and principles in language teaching. Oxford university press.
  • Thornbury, S. (2006). An A-Z of ELT. Macmillan.
  • Thornbury, S. (1999). How to teach grammar. Longman.
  • Thornbury, S. (2005). How to teach speaking. Longman.
  • Wilson, J. (2000). How to teach listening. Longman.

My Delta Module One trainees also read the follwoing books:

  • Dörnyei, Z. (2008). Motivation strategies in the language classroom. Cambridge university press.
  • Hughes, A. (2003). Testing for language teachers. Cambridge university press.
  • Lewis, M. (2000). Language in the lexical approach. LTP.
  • Meddings, L., & Thornbury, S. (2017). Teaching unplugged: Dogme in English language teaching. Delta publishing.
  • Richards, J. C., & Rodgers, T. S. (2014). Approaches and methods in language teaching. Cambridge university press.
  • Roach, P. (2009). English phonetics and phonology. Cambridge university press.
  • Thornbury, S. (2004). About language. Cambridge university press.
  • Thornbury, S. (2005). Beyond the sentence. Macmillan.
  • Willis, J. (1996). A framework for task-based learning. Longman.