What does it take to be an international teacher trainer?

Have you ever considered being an international teacher-trainer?

Perhaps you have sat through a workshop and thought you could do better than the person leading it? Perhaps you want to share some of the great ideas you use in your classroom with other teachers? But do you have what it takes, and do you really know what it involves?

At Cambridge International Examinations we have been looking at the nature of professional development we offer to teachers. We organise over 1,000 training events each year and run large-scale conferences in Cambridge and across the world. Many excellent trainers have been working with us for years on these. However, new restrictions regarding ‘exam seminars’ placed on all qualification awarding bodies by Ofqual, the UK education regulatory authority, combined with our own desire to improve the quality of what we do, has led us to seek additional recruits.

In 2015 we have set out to spot new talent. We have run a number of selection events in the UK and will be holding events in, India, Malaysia and the USA in the next six months.

What are we looking for?

We require trainers who understand our programmes, qualifications and, for syllabus-based training, our marking and grading process. We look for people who are engaged and engaging, and who can understand the needs of our teachers.

A classroom of adults is a different prospect to a classroom of children. In the last century, the American educator Malcolm Knowles popularised the theory of andragogy first put forward by the German, Alexander Kapp, in 1833. Andragogy suggests that adults have particular rationales for learning:

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

Before becoming a trainer, it is worthwhile reflecting on your own feelings as an adult learner. How do you best develop your own practice? How do you best retain information?

Training in context

Training adults is a complex business and not something that you can step into without preparation and practice. Even the most experienced trainers never make assumptions and always review how well their last workshop went.

We recently devised a six-day project in Pakistan and learnt a great deal. For the first time, we had the opportunity to take some teachers from learning to be trainers to training their own groups of teachers in a concentrated period of time. We knew a limited amount about what to expect from our trainees and were pleased to discover a group of willing participants. We found teachers who could make the metacognitive step from being excellent practitioners to being able to explain new ideas and methods to other teachers.

We deliberately steered clear of syllabuses and concentrated instead on general teaching skills. The concept of ‘active learning’ was the key to the training delivered during the week. We wanted the teachers to experience for themselves what it was like to be in the classroom so they could understand the importance of facilitating with clarity. We wanted to steer them away from any thoughts of teaching from the blackboard. The pivotal point was when each teacher gave a ‘showcase’ of their talents – a brief snapshot of what they would be like as a trainer: something we ask all prospective trainers to do at our selection events.

Training essentials

In essence, whether we are observing prospective or experienced trainers, we are hoping to see evidence of excellent practice in each of six straightforward criteria:

Planning

Does the session outline show clear learning aims/objectives, a clear, logical structure and a range of activities?

Managing the learning environment

Are the timings well managed? How are materials distributed? Is there a safe, collaborative environment for the participants?

Materials

Are the materials the trainer uses relevant and of good quality?

Delivery

Is the training well-paced? Is the trainer speaking clearly and audibly?

Content knowledge

Does the trainer demonstrate a thorough understanding and knowledge of the subject?

Feedback

Does the trainer ask questions and check understanding?  How does the trainer handle questions from the participants?

This isn’t so different in many ways from what you might expect from a teacher of children. There is, of course, the added dimension that you are with adults and may be far from home in a place you’ve never been to before. Training teachers brings its own challenges and asks you above all to be flexible, open-minded – and to reflect on how you might feel to be trained by you!

If you think you’ve got what it takes, wherever you are in the world, look out for our next recruitment drive.

[1] Knowles, Malcolm (1980). The modern practice of adult education: From pedagogy to andragogy. Wilton, Connecticut: Association Press.

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  1. Very interesting. I think an essential ingredient of teacher trainers should be the ability to advance consciousness and create the conditions for human agency

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  3. Hello. You can sign up to our blog alerts by filling in the blog sign-up on the right of this page. Thanks

  4. Well written!
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  5. The best professional development workshops I’ve been to are ones where participants are given a chance to share their experiences with each other in a small group setting. The worst are lecture style workshops where the presenter talks the whole time.

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