Any school relies heavily on its teaching body, a group of qualified individuals trained to impart specialized knowledge and skills to the students in their care. In the case of the Academy of English, it is the delivery of English as a Foreign Language. One of the key professional traits of a good teaching practitioner is his/her commitment to teacher training as well as continued and professional development.
Teaching staff at the Academy of English require a minimum of a university degree, preferably in modern foreign languages, second language acquisition together with an English language teaching qualification, such as Teaching English as a Foreign Language Certificate (TEFL) with an in-class practical training provision. Holders of a Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (CELTA) or Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (DELTA) are highly sought after qualifications at the Academy of English. Alternatively, staff may also possess an MA or PhD in Teaching English as a Foreign Language and/or Applied Linguistics. In addition to university qualifications, we are keen to engage people with significant teaching experience, both at home and abroad, and an enthusiasm for continued professional training and development (CPD).
Given that the English language and also its teaching methods and approaches are in constant flux, it is imperative for teachers of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) to keep abreast of developments. In doing so, the pedagogical management does its utmost to provide the best level of support for our teachers, so that they can pass this level of support on to the students in the classroom, regardless of whether the classroom is a kindergarten room or a company setting.
The Academy of English attaches the highest importance to teacher training and professional development of all of its staff. On entry after the recruitment process, a mapping of the teacher’s competencies occurs according to the descriptor-based Cambridge English Teacher Competency Statements. These competencies are divided into five categories and four levels: Learning and the Learner; Teaching, Learning and Assessment; Language Ability; Language Knowledge and Awareness; and Professional Development and Values are the categories. Teachers then rate their competencies at four levels on the scale: Foundation, Developing, Proficient, Expert. This self-assessment allows the pedagogical management to assess the teacher’s individual training needs on entry for the forthcoming academic year.
In catering for the training needs of the staff at the Academy of English, we are an institutional member of Cambridge English Teacher. Parallel to lesson teaching, each member of staff follows five specific courses chosen by him/herself individually. These courses range from classroom management to lesson planning, from teaching Cambridge-specific tests to Content Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) from teaching pronunciation to teaching young children. In completion of these courses, teachers receive a certificate from Cambridge Teacher.
The Academy of English enjoys very strong links to external training providers and external examination bodies. From trainers from Klett to Cornelsen Verlag [publishing house], from Cambridge to Hueber, staff from the Academy have benefited from excellently delivered sessions by top trainers, from whom they have acquired special classroom insights and practical suggestions to delivery content language material effectively and creatively in the classroom. As we have a keen interest in broadening the Academy’s reach to other professionals outside the Academy, we throw open our doors for these training events, inviting teaching professionals from other institutions to take part in these teacher training days and take ideas with them; but, at the same time, also engage in constructive discussions about their own teaching settings and environments. We have always found this cross-institutional exchange of ideas to be of mutual benefit to all parties as we are a firm believer in the maxim: no individual or individual school has a monopoly on good ideas. We are, therefore, in the business of sharing ideas, innovation and good practice to succeed as well as learning from one another on a collegiate level. We are proud to have hosted teachers from local Gymnasien [UK equivalent of a grammar school], the University of Oldenburg, the Volkshochschule in Oldenburg and Cloppenburg as well as the Jade Hochschule [The Jade University of Applied Sciences]
Staff at the Academy of English have participated in a range of training events at the Hamburg English Language Teaching Association, known by its acronym HELTA. Workshops, publisher promotion events and special English Days do much to compliment the Academy’s training provisions even further and give teachers the opportunity to exchange ideas among colleagues in the Hanseatic city of Hamburg.
Active attendance and participation in special English Days outside the Academy hosted and organised by other language institutes and centres as well as examination bodies also compliment the training provisions at the Academy. In the past, staff has visited and participated at the Oxford Teacher Training Event at the University of Hamburg in 2013, the didacta fair in Hanover in 2014, English Day organised by Hueber at the Volkshochschule (VHS) in Bremen in 2015 and the Klett English Day at the local VHS in Oldenburg. In attending these events, teachers receive a certificate of participation for their portfolio and, moreover, also broaden their expertise and skills as well coming into close contact with fellow teaching professionals from other institutions.
Irrespective of the amount of planning conducted by the pedagogical management for training, freelance teacher trainers often find it difficult, at times, impossible to fit in formal training into their hectic schedules, not least because of the flexibility of lessons at the Academy. To that end, the Academy organises and promotes the use of webinars. Often made available at short notice, these webinars, free to the Academy of English, deal with various topics. Recent webinar themes include Creativity in the Classroom, Teaching Listening Skills, Behaviour and Discipline as well as text book usage in the digital age. The providers of these webinars include Cambridge University, the International Association for Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL), TELC examination board, Oxford University Press and Macmillan.
In its medium-term strategic plan, the Academy of English has identified the expansion of teacher training provisions as a top priority in helping its staff gain further skills and competencies, but also to offer more formal qualifications to equip internal and external teachers for the challenging EFL market in the coming years. In securing the John Trim Memorial Library, we have an excellent academic resource that can underpin theoretical understanding with a range of classes where teachers have the space to apply what they have learnt and receive constructive feedback from the most qualified of English teacher trainer professionals. Various models of formal, internationally recognized teacher training qualifications are being evaluated for their quality.
The pedagogical management is responsible for conducting yearly staff appraisals. Staff appraisals at the Academy of English are informed by the latest research into appraising staff performance and motivation as well as building on strengths and identifying areas for future development through a constructive approach to lesson observation and feedback.
Lesson observations, both formal and informal, are conducted regularly at the Academy. Led by our Trainer Team Leader, sessions are observed and disseminated along a broad range of categories: (a) quality of planning and preparation; (b) style and effectiveness of teaching delivery; (c) appropriateness and fulfilment of aims and objectives; (d) student progress and attainment; (e) mode and means of assessing students (formal and informal); (f) classroom management (management of time, resources, space, people); (g) integrated language and grammar content; (h) ratio of student-to-teacher speaking time; (i) classroom rapport (including behaviour and discipline); (j) ability to overcome and respond to problems in the classroom. After the completion of the formal lesson observation, staff receive comprehensive written feedback taking the aforementioned into consideration as well as identifying strength and areas of improvement for future practice. The lesson observations are also discussed, in detail, at the staff appraisal review meeting. The approach adopted in these sessions is a constructive and teacher-centric self-reflective approach.
These staff appraisals and the lesson observations serve to:
- allow the teaching professional to self-reflect and judge his/her own practice;
- be observed as a teaching professional by the Trainer Team Leader;
- give the teaching practitioner room to discuss and deliberate on current courses and future plans; and
- identify future teacher training needs in line with the teacher’s own self-assessment and the professional recommendations of the Trainer Team Leader.
Yearly staff appraisals and the insights gained from lesson observations also play an important role in future planning for staff training and continual professional development.