Tony Gurr

So, you wanna be an ELT Teacher Trainer…huh?

In ELT and ELL, Teacher Training on 04/01/2012 at 7:28 pm

Those of you that know me intimately (well, maybe not “that” intimately) will know that I spend some of my “free time” working with teachers and school leaders on various development programmes and LEARNing opportunities (gotta plug the blog – it is, afterall a brand new year)!

Right now, I’m getting ready to work with a bunch of ELT teachers – who have taken the “leap” and are planning the “transformation” into the role of ELL Teacher Educator (sounds so much better than “ELT Trainer”, dunnit)?

I was pulling together some on-line “bedtime reading” resources together as pre-sessional prep – and actually went back to one of my very first posts (almost a year ago to see what had changed – to see if I have changed)!


In that post, I made a few observations – as have others before and after me:



  • There is no one best “route” for becoming a teacher educator – and sometimes many of the so-called “trainer-training” programmes that have sprung up over the years are a waste of time!
  • There is no one best “trainer profile” – trainers and teacher educators come in all shapes and sizes (but many of them are “rounder” than most – and, not sure why, a large proportion of them still smoke)!
  • Teacher training or educator LEARNing, as a job, is about “service” – to teachers and the profession. It’s about“serving” – not being “served”.
  • Teacher-training is really about who you are, what you know, what you stand forand how you share all of that and get others to “find their voice” and share what they have to offer.
  • It’s bloody hard work – not just about “winning the crowd” or “having a laugh” (what I call the “ka-ka-kee school of teacher training”) – and requires a lot of varied and multiple experiences if you really want to add value to the LEARNing and teaching of others.


NONE of these have changed – over the past 12 months!



What had changed for me, however, was the resources I was recommending to people. In my early days as a teacher trainer, I focussed vey much on “content”. If I was working with ELT professionals, all my recommendations were about ELL – if I was working with engineering lecturers, all my stuff would come from the literature about “engineering education” (go on, I dare you, try and find that kind of stuff)!

With the recommendations I have been making more recently, there’s much more of a “variety” – much more “transdisciplinarity” (is that a real word, acaba)! This has got to be a good thing and it made me realise that I have another area in which I am walking-my-talk.

Yes, reading is good – and sexy – but reading outside of our disciplines, our comfort zones is sexier!


Anyways, I thought I’d share the most recent “bedtime reading list” with you – especially, if you are thinking of taking the “leap”:






What I will say, to wrap up, is also that a few other of my ideas and bits of advice (from last year) also remain unchanged.

Just as we are starting to realise that “intelligence is learnable” (finally), we are starting to see that teacher training abilities can be learned – but require Disraeli’s “three pillars”.



So, what does all this mean for teachers who are thinking about moving into teacher training (or educator LEARNing):

  • Watch a lot – go to as many training sessions as you can, check out as many conference papers as you can, get on the web and find other presenters. LEARN like your hair’s on fire!
  • Reflect a lot – think about the sessions you go to and draw up a list. Think about the “best” training sessions you have been to – ask yourself: What worked? What mattered most? What did the presenter/facilitator “do” and how did that make you feel? – DO IT! Also, think about the “worst” sessions you went to – ask yourself: How did I feel? What got in the way of my learning? What stopped my engagement? DON’T DO IT – EVER!

Most importantly:

  • Get your hands “dirty” a lot – as a wise man (I actually thought it was a woman last year) once said:



You will LEARN more by doing “teacher-trainer-type” things and “failing” than by reading a bookand you will figure out how to make it happen, if you really want it!


  1. Thank you for so freely sharing this wealth of resources Tony!

  2. Tony,

    I was thinking as I was reading this and remembering how I got started as a teacher trainer myself – I must confess I never actually followed a trainer training course myself – and how I also tended to focus much more on the content, too, early on.

    This is also reflected in my early handouts – choc-a-block with information…. So much so that I sometimes now give them out as summaries for reading/reflecting after a session 🙂

    And yes, it’s really really hard work and the learning and self-questioning about what makes US tick as educators and how that reflects in the way we deliver input and how we appraise teachers in their learning-teaching efforts never stops.

    I have, over time, trained several trainers myself and it is an interesting process to observe.

    The confidence of people with very little training experience just about kills me sometimes 🙂

    Anyway, I just stopped by to say thanks for this great post and resources which I am going to share with my colleagues and thanks once more for listing my blog post.

    I have been thinking a lot about what makes a great teacher trainer recently.

    I don’t think there are many posts or much research on this.

    May be those of us involved should start thinking about writing about this.


    • Hi Marisa – Thx for dropping in. Yes, a great idea – like many of us, I have a pile of unfinished posts (many of which will probably never see the light of day) 😉 – Perhaps, I can dust one off 😉 I’m sure you have a few that you can do the same with 😉

      Take care,


  3. Hi Tony, as usual, a good read on a Saturday morning, which s the only time I seem to get since beng a full time Hazirlik ICT in ELT proponent and 24/7 advocator takes, has taken over my life. But not complaining because I believe that what makes a trainer/presenter more affective is by introducing activities, ideas and practices that participants can leave the session with. I have seen too many postulations and so called aforethought from “gurus” as the basis for their spread the word to the masses paradigm. I try to give something that fellow teachers can use in their classes, and always pre state that is not about taking and using exactly as I do, but to adopt the concept and adapt it to their own needs. If teachers take ownership of my ideas I am fine with that. I want them to develop and improve them for their needs and context. The altruism as seen on Twitter has convinced me that this philosophy is what we all need to embrace as teachers and presenters/trainers. As I have posted on my blog about the Five Stages of Learning, it can be transferred to PD as well. If teachers were to practise more than they preach to students, the whole set up for conferences, pd sessions and online learning would improve greatly.
    By the way, loved your ESU rant- session. There are times when that type of knowledge transfer is necessary, and ESU really fit that bill.

    • Good Morning David 😉

      Thank you for the kind words about the ESU “rant” – it’s funny, more and more people have been saying that about my stuff of late. I guess I am getting more “radical” in my old age – isn’t it supposed to go the other way? 😉

      Totally agree on the sharing front – and twitter is a GR8 way to care n’ share (I may reach 6,500 tweets by the end of today – have no idea how many I have “read” and acted on) 😉 Yes, I took a look at your 5 stages a while back – nice! I’m a total believer in helping to create better “DOers” – as long as we are “THUNKing DOers”. I think this is what is missing from a lot of PD (not that we have enough of it) – encouraging teachers to question and challenge themselves (their institutions, too) and a focus on TEACHer LEARNing 😉

      Be good!


  4. I am a teacher trainer for Cambridge University Press, and I can say well done with this blog. I’m a huge fan. I also wanted to comment because I know Tim McMahon (whom you’ve quoted) and you may want to know that he, too, is in the field of teacher training. He’s co-author of a very good book for encouraging student leaders, called exploring leadership, and I know he’d be thrilled you have put his quote right where you did. Please keep up the good work!

  5. […] what is thought to make a ‘trainer’. It’s interesting to read side-by-side with this old blog post by Tony Gurr  which was recently tweeted (back) out by […]

  6. […] can I read about trainer knowledge and skills?’ I think this blog post by Tony Gurr is a good starting point: offers resources and ideas on various trainer skills. I think to me […]

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