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The value of training

November 14, 2006

Hello again,

In a recent posting here I talked about the skills needed by business English teachers. As usual somebody chose to comment that this kind of competence can be picked up along the way rather than by specific training. Unfortunately ...

...this attitude leaves our profession open to charges of amateurism.

I don’t think of training as a production line in which a raw recruit enters at one end and comes out as a fully-fledged teacher. But training provides the framework through which an individual can begin to develop as a teacher. The process is never complete; we are always learning and adapting.

The value of training is that it gives the teacher and opportunity to reflect on key areas without the pressure of actually being in the classroom as an employee. In the area of business English, for example, there are some new skills that need to be acquired: how to conduct and act on a needs analysis, how to understand the motivation of the hard-pressed business client, how to focus on communicative ability rather than linguistic accuracy, how to prepare clients for key business activities such as presentations and negotiations. There are also factors in the psychology of learning that may emerged when people used to being highly successful in their profession start to have doubts about their ability to express themselves in English. In fact, there are numerous issue that teachers need to address before they face a group of business people.

I have never understood the willingness of some people to detract from the value of training. Standing in front of a class of demanding adults is a daunting experience. The trained teacher takes comfort in the knowledge that he or she has done the basic preparation for the profession and can face the group with confidence. I am sure that, for some, ignorance is indeed bliss but the best teaches I have come across have all received as much training as they can get access to. I have never met a self-made teacher who was in the least bit convincing in the classroom.

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