The CELTA Trainee Book by Scott Thornbury and Peter Watkins is the first book to appear if you search for books on CELTA at Amazon.
Scott Thornbury is also the co-author of Meddings, L. and Thornbury, S. (2009). Teaching Unplugged: Dogme in English Language Teaching.
The obvious question arises: How does Scott Thornbury reconcile the views expressed in these two books?
Let’s look at CELTA.
CELTA = Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults
It’s a product of Cambridge English and, according to them. “The essential TEFL qualification that’s trusted by employers, language schools and governments around the world”.
More than 100,000 people did the CELTA course in 2016. There are more than 800 Approved Centres in more than 60 countries.
International House offers CELTA preparation Courses. Cost: 1,450 pounds sterling. Duration: 4 weeks. One of the recommended book for the course is The CELTA Trainee Book by Scott Thornbury and Peter Watkins.
The CELTA Syllabus is as follows:
Topic 1 – Learners and teachers, and the teaching and learning context
- 1.1 Cultural, linguistic and education backgrounds
- 1.2 Motivations for learning English as an adult
- 1.3 Learning and teaching styles
- 1.4 Contexts for learning and teaching English
- 1.5 Varieties of English
- 1.6 Multilingualism and the role of first languages.
Topic 2 – Language analysis and awareness
- 2.1 Basic concepts and terminology used in English language teaching to discuss language form and use
- 2.2 Grammar – grammatical frameworks: rules and conventions relating to words, sentences paragraphs and texts
- 2.3 Lexis – word formation, meaning and use in context;
- 2.4 Phonology – the formation and description of English phonemes and the feature of connected speech
- 2.5 The practical significance of similarities and differences between languages
- 2.6 Reference materials for language awareness
- 2.7 Key strategies and approaches for developing learners’ language knowledge.
Topic 3 – Language skills: reading, listening, speaking and writing
- 3.1 Reading (basic concepts and terminology, purposes, decoding meaning and potential barriers);
- 3.2 Listening (basic concepts and terminology, purposes, features, potential barriers)
- 3.3 Speaking(basic concepts and terminology, features, language functions, paralinguistic features, phonemic systems)
- 3.4 Writing (basic concepts and terminology, sub-skills and features, stages of teaching writing, beginner literacy, English spelling and punctuation)
- 3.5 Teaching (key strategies and approaches for developing learners’ receptive and productive skills).
Topic 4 – Planning and resources for different teaching contexts
- 4.1 Principles of planning for effective teaching of adult learners of English
- 4.2 Lesson planning for effective teaching of adult learners of English
- 4.3 Evaluation and lesson planning
- 4.4 The selection, adaption and evaluation of materials and resources in planning (including computer and other technology based resources)
- 4.5 Knowledge of commercially produced resources and non-published materials and classroom resources for teaching English to adults.
Topic 5 – Developing teaching skills and professionalism
- 5.1 The effective organisation of the classroom
- 5.2 Classroom presence and control
- 5.3 Teacher and learner language
- 5.4 The use of teaching materials and resources
- 5.5 practical skills for teaching at a range of levels
- 5.6 The monitoring and evaluation of adult learners
- 5.7 Evaluation of the teaching/learning process
- 5.8 Professional development responsibilities
- 5.9 Professional development support systems
There are two components of assessment:
You will teach for a total of six hours, working with classes at two levels of ability. Assessment is based on your overall performance at the end of the six hours.
You will complete four written assignments: one focusing on adult learning; one on the language system of English; one on language skills; and one on classroom teaching.
Some questions about this syllabus:
- Why is the question of “How do adults learn an L2?” not more prominent?
- Why is PPP the dominant teaching method?
- Why is it assumed that using a coursebook is an acceptable way to teach?
- Why is it assumed than learning an L2 is a matter of mastering “The 4 skills”?
- Why is it assumed that presenting grammar points in a pre-determined order will lead to their being learned in that order?
- Why is teaching vocabulary treated as distinct from teaching grammar?
- Why isn’t more time devoted to criticising a PPP methodology?
- Why are the criteria for assessment of teaching practice based on a PPP methodology?
- Why is only one of the written assignments on teaching?
- How much can be covered in a 4 week course?
In my opinion, as I hope the questions above indicate, the CELTA course is based on a false view of how adults learn an L2 and on a teaching methodology which flies in the face of SLA research. The structure of the syllabus is unbalanced and gives no overt declaration of the principles of ELT on which it’s based. The course attempts to cover far too much and fails to give any serious consideration to how adults learn an L2. The instruction on the language itself, and the teaching practice, encourage an out of date approach to both. It is, in short, a crap course, a piece of commercial, well-marketed dross. Education relies heavily on teachers, and the CELTA course is an affront to teacher education. For all the high fallutin baloney of the syllabus, the course is an ill-considered, backward-looking, inadequate, badly-administered disgrace.
So what about Scott Thornbury’s book?
If I were doing the CELTA course I’d find the book infuriating. It’s main part consists of 40 Units where every bit of the CELTA syllabus is examined in a “Think For Yourself” format . Warm-up activities are followed by the Main Question (How would you classify Learner Styles?), and then more questions meant to make you think. Instead of just telling you what you need to know, the book leads you up a series of garden paths. If I were a newcomer, I’d throw it out of the window very quickly and read anything, anything else, like Parrott on grammar, for example, or Scrivener’s Learning Teaching, which, for all the matters that I disagree with him about, is well-considered, well-organised, and, as always, very well-written. The 40 Units of Thornbury’s book faithfully mimic the CELTA syllabus without the slightest hint of critical evaluation or any appreciation of the newcomer’s ignorance of ELT. The whole book is appalling, right up there with Natural Grammar, and evidence that Thornbury , rather like another hero of mine, Ridley Scott, has at least as many badly-conceived duds to his name as he does good works. He’s erratic; you can’t trust either his style or his judgment.
And What About Dogme?
Quite apart from its failings as a book, the most obvious question to ask Thornbury about his CELTA guide is “Why did you write it?” Why did he decide to help novice teachers through a course which so evidently contradicts his published views on ELT? Thornbury is, after all, the inventor of Dogme, the man who so famously talks about McNuggets; the man who adopts the view that learning languages is best explained by emergentism; the man who so passionately argues the case against the current domination of coursebook-driven ELT; the man who, in short, stands out among the leading lights in current ELT as “The Voice Of Progress”. Why did this man write a book, albeit a really bad book, aimed at helping people through one ot the most inadequate training courses ever devised?