Taking the ITTT 120-hour online TEFL course (Unit 1): Teachers and Learners

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After reading through all of the introductory material and FAQ’s on the ITTT 120-hour online TEFL course, without further a do, it was time today to begin working my way through the course towards the final goal of getting the ITTT TEFL / TESOL certificate. I typed in my username and password into the ITTT user interface and logged into my account.

At the top of the Home Page, I found the ‘Units’ tab where I could see a list of the 20 units on the ITTT 120-hour online course. It will be my job to read and work through all 20 units on the TEFL course before I can finish the course and earn my TEFL certificate through ITTT.

The first unit was ‘Teachers and Learners’. This was the only unit available to me, as ITTT trainees need to complete each unit and do the multiple-choice test at the end of each unit before the next one opens up, so I clicked on Unit 1: Teachers and Learners and downloaded the PDF for this unit.

Starting Unit One: Teachers and Learners

The PDF downloaded quickly and was 12 pages long. The unit covered the roles, qualities and responsibilities of English as a Second Language teachers, what they need to be doing in classes and things in classes that they may need to consider. The unit wanted TEFL trainees to consider the vital question ‘what makes a good teacher?’ with the central idea being that a good teacher is someone who cares about his / her teaching, but cares even more about the students.

The Role of the TEFL Teacher

After considering what makes a good teacher in an ESL setting, next up was the different roles teachers have to play in the classroom. These roles included:

  • A manager or controller - when the teacher is in charge of the class and is running an activity which is quite different to when students are learning autonomously.

  • Organiser - when the teacher is giving instructions, putting students into pairs, groups, etc, bringing language activities to a finish and setting up feedback.

  • Assessor - error correction and giving feedback to ESL students.

  • Prompter - giving students the confidence to produce language and to go on with their speaking by perhaps asking further questions or using subtle gestures.

  • Participant - where TEFL teachers sit in on the circle of an activity as an equal and not as a teacher.

  • Tutor - a more personal role where teachers work with students individually during quieter periods or during special activities.

  • Resource or facilitator - ITTT trainees learn about those times when language teachers just need to stand back and let the students produce language, whilst still listening in for times when students may look for support.

  • Model - when the teacher needs to model language and give examples for the language learners to follow closely.

  • Observer or monitor - when English teachers are watching language activities, making physical and mental notes of language errors, so feedback can be given at a later determined stage.

I found this section of the unit to be invaluable, particularly to people coming into TEFL for the first time and with little or no classroom experience. When I first began teaching myself, I actually found myself in a position where I was asked to teach a group of Italian students for a ten-day immersion trip to the UK, BEFORE my TEFL course had started (it’s a long story!) and knowing the above would have helped me enormously in knowing what to do and the things I needed to consider in the classroom. As a first unit in the online TEFL course, I think ITTT has got this spot on.

What makes a good learner?

Next on the Unit 1 section was the different types of learner that teachers may come across on the job as a teacher, both in terms of age (young learners, teens and adults), and in terms of level, beginner, elementary, pre-intermediate, intermediate, upper-intermediate and advanced. Of course, you will sometimes come across young children who are at upper-intermediate level, and adults who are beginners, so the ITTT course helps teachers to consider closely the different combinations of learner you’ll have. But not only that, the ITTT online TEFL course also looked into what makes a good learner and problems which might come along with each level, for example, naughty children, moody and uncooperative teens, etc. Considering this and preparing for this is a key part of an ESL teachers arsenal and unit one of this online TEFL course has ticked the boxes.

What I might add to the unit

If I had to make a criticism of the first unit, it would be that the ages of learners were set at: Young learners (under 7), pre-pubescent (8-12 years), teens (13-18 years) and adults (18+). Having taught in China and the UK for over 16 years, I can tell you that there is a big difference between teaching a 13 year-old and a 17 year-old, and nationality matters a lot, too. Chinese 13 year-olds and French 13 year-olds are worlds apart in the way they behave in the classroom, and the unit didn’t really touch on cultural differences in learners. Also, increasingly, many new job opportunities are arising in China in kindergartens where teachers are teaching 2-3 year olds. The skill set and teaching approaches required to teach these ages differs greatly and perhaps a section now needs to be added or written for this.

Having said this, it is possible that by putting in too much into this unit might act to bamboozle trainees with too much information. Much of the above, and how to deal with these situations, are just things you pick up with real ESL classroom hours on the job.

Common European Framework and my Grade

Finally, unit one of the ITTT course looked at the Common European Framework (CEF), which is basically an Europe-wide recognised language-level indicator. Knowledge of this will be important for those using the ITTT TEFL certificate in Europe and the UK.

Overall, this unit gives a very strong start to the online TEFL course and builds a solid foundation for the next 19 units. A definite 9.5/10!

Taking the Unit One Test

I spent a little time on the task assessment where I had to consolidate what I had just read and made written notes concerning the role of the teacher, what makes a good learner, how age might affect the learner and classes, and student motivation. After this, I clicked on the Take the Test tab and worked my way through 20 multiple-choice questions, which were mainly a, b, c, d or e. At the end, I clicked the green button to submit my score to ITTT and got back an immediate result (I scored 100%….sweeeeet!) and this saved to my progress tracker.

Unit 2 of the ITTT 120-hour online TEFL course has now opened up (Parts of Speech) and I’ll be doing this tomorrow!

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by Stuart Allen

Stuart AllenComment