is normally assumed that teacher trainers are responsible
for the education of teachers in general. But what
about their own progress in their careers? Being a
teacher trainer involves much more than having a certain
post in a given institution. The search for further
development has to be a constant aim if one takes teacher
training seriously. It is in fact at this stage that
one should go deeper in his/her studies, reflection
It seems to be crucial for teacher trainers to go
beyond aspects already proposed for the training/development
of teachers. First of all it is necessary to demystify
the idea that the word trainer has got a negative connotation.
Although associated to pre-service, i.e., preparing
teachers to start their work in a specific institution,
it also involves helping teachers to become independent
and confident, thus setting their own goals for their
The need for constant reflection requires constant
questioning of a series of aspects involved in teacher
training and education. The following questions can
help teacher trainers think about their careers:
1. What is the
difference between being a teacher and a teacher
trainer? Does one exclude the other?
2. Teachers have difficulty organizing the progress
in their careers. What can we say about teacher trainers?
Are you afraid of the word trainer ? Do you prefer
to be called facilitator/mentor/ tutor ?
3. What are the difficulties that we (teacher trainers)
face ? Are we engaged in continuous education ourselves
or are we just passing on the knowledge we have acquired
so far ?
4. Are we preparing teachers to face this changing
world/ global world in which the behavior and the expectations
of students and also the social and emotional aspects
play an important role, or are we just concentrating
on techniques and new trends in teaching the foreign
Normally in pre-service it is expected that the trainers
prepare teachers to work on learning strategies in
the classroom, but only emphasizing the direct strategies
proposed by Rebecca Oxford, and normally presented
and worked with in different teaching materials. These
strategies include cognitive strategies that have to
do with dealing with the language itself (reasoning,
analysing, practicing, using rules, and some others),
memory strategies which help storage and retrieval
(applying images and sounds, creating mental linkages,
reviewing well and employing action), compensation
strategies which mean dealing with the lack of knowledge,
guessing intelligently and overcoming limitations.
As part of
the continuous educational process, trainers should
help teachers work on the indirect strategies
also proposed by Rebecca Oxford. They certainly cater
for a more humanistic perspective in teacher education,
involving meta-cognitive strategies related to planning
and organizing the students’ learning and centering
and evaluating the students’ learning, affective
strategies basically working on feeling and emotions
related to the process of learning a language and finally
the social strategies associated with human intra and
inter personal skills.
Analysing both sets of strategies, i.e. the direct
and indirect strategies, it seems to us that the indirect
strategies have to be more carefully studied since
they are very important in the process of learning
a language. If students are aware of their strengths
and limitations, they can learn how to cope with them,
avoiding what Benson calls cognitive distortions, illogical
ways of thinking that can lead to negative emotional
states. When people can identify their cognitive distortions,
they can begin to challenge them.
It is necessary to be aware of the possible cognitive
distortions so that we learn better how to deal with
the teachers and the students in our classrooms. They
may include the following behaviors:
or nothing thinking. You tend to evaluate situations in extreme,
black-or-white categories. For example,
a straight –A student who received a B on an
exam concluded, “Now I’m a total failure.” This
type of thinking is often the basis of perfectionism.
Any mistake or imperfection is feared as the sign
of a complete loser, inadequacy and worthlessness.
2. Overgeneralization. You see a single negative event
as part of a continual pattern of defeat. One job interview
that does not lead to an offer, arouses fears of life
lifelong unemployment. The pain of rejection is generated
almost entirely from overgeneralization.
filter. You pick out a negative detail in any situation
and dwell on it, thus perceiving the
whole situation as negative. For example, after a
midterm a student becomes depressed because she could
twenty out of one hundred questions. When her test
was returned, a note said : “Congratulations
! You got eighty out of one hundred, by far the highest
grade of any student this year.”
the positive. This is the tendency to transform
neutral or even positive experiences into
negative ones. For example, upon receiving a compliment,
you think to yourself: “They’re just saying
that to be nice.” This is one of the most destructive
forms of illogical thinking because the price you
pay is the inability to perceive good things in life.
to conclusions. You conclude the worst,
even thought it is not justified by the facts . Two
Mind reading : You assume that someone is reacting
negatively to you, but you don’t bother to
check it out. For example, you leave a message on
a friend’s answering machine but she doesn’t
immediately call back; you automatically assume
she does not want to talk to you.
Fortune-telling: You anticipate that things will turn
out negatively, and you feel convinced that your prediction
is an already established fact. For example, a woman
waiting to take a routine mammogram assumes she will
be told she has cancer. This is often referred to as
6. Magnification. You exaggerate the significance of a negative event
or a mistake. For example, if your
bus is late and you have an important meeting, you
say to yourself “I can’t take this .” This
is an exaggeration - of course you can “take
this”, you are already taking it. Conversely,
you may inappropriately minimize positive personal
qualities or events until they appear trivial. For
example, when, complimented on an outstanding job,
you say, “No big deal !”.
reasoning. You consider your emotions evidence of
the truth. For example, you say, “I
feel inadequate” and you think “therefore
I must be a worthless person.”
8. “Should” statements. You
try to motivate yourself by saying, “I should do this” or “ I
must do that.” These statements not only make
you feel pressured and resentful, but also, paradoxically,
apathetic and unmotivated. Notice how much better it
feels to say “I want to do that “ or “I
choose to do this”. “Should statements
directed toward others usually annoy them.
9. Labeling. This is name-calling. When you make a mistake, rather
than simply acknowledging this one
mistake, you label yourself, saying, “I’m
a such a jerk” or “ I’m so stupid
and blame. You assume responsibility for negative
event when there is no basis for doing
so. For example, a student does not do his homework,
but the teacher feels worthless and inadequate because
the student is not motivated. This causes unnecessary
guilt and self-blame. Conversely, some people blame
others for negative events or feelings, even when there
is no basis for doing so. For example, a man stalled
in his career might say, “If my wife were more
supportive, I would be a success.”
These distortions will vary from person to person
and, of course, from group to group. The same way teachers
should be aware of the potential distortions in their
groups, teacher trainers should try to spot them in
their trainees and help them deal with them. A very
effective way of studying the cases would be through
the development of action research as proposed by David
Nunan or exploratory teaching as proposed by Dick Allwright,
since research is necessarily a concern of teacher
trainers and trainees.
about the continuous education of teacher trainers,
it seems that the image of a loop applies
perfectly well. The concerns and aims that teachers
should have regarding their everyday practice and their
students are similar to the ones of teacher trainers
regarding their trainees. After all, a teacher trainer,
no matter if he/she calls himself a facilitator, a
mentor, a tutor or anything else is in essence primarily
a teacher who should provide a very good model for
his trainees. If not, the loop may not work – do
what I say, but don’t do what I do should not
be the message conveyed.
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Views, Supplement 4:3: Teacher Development. Oxford:
OUP, September, 1997.
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BENSON, H. The Wellness Book. New York: Fireside, 1992.
FANNING, P. Visualization for Change. Oakland: Calif:
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MEICHENBAUM, D. Cognitive Behavior Modification an
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NUNAN, D. Action Research in Language Education.
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