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Ensuring development during CELTA lesson feedback

14 March 2019

Ensuring development during CELTA lesson feedback

Olga Connolly, BKC-International House Moscow, Russia


My talk was a report of a two-year study, which was the basis of my Master’s dissertation investigating the correlation between CELTA tutors’ beliefs about their developmental role in post-lesson feedback and the realisation of these beliefs in practice. To do the research I analysed the recorded feedback sessions using a set of criteria devised as a result of the literature review. They reflected the trainers’ influence on the four educational constituents that contribute to development: attitude, awareness, knowledge and skills (Freeman, 1989). My research showed that feedback addressed all of them and was largely developmental.

Developing attitude

Post-lesson feedback is one of the most significant parts of any training course, because it is an opportunity for tutors to trigger changes in teachers’ awareness through their contribution to feedback discussion. These contributions or interventions were divided by Heron into six categories of intervention (2001). They can be authoritative (prescriptive, informative, confronting) or facilitative (cathartic, catalytic and supportive). Two of them are clearly evaluative: confronting and supportive as the former encompasses critical evaluation, and the latter shows praise. The others can be both evaluative and developmental.

My research revealed that developmental discussion took remarkably more time than delivering evaluative comments, which shows that tutors prioritized it. Interestingly, evaluation and development were closely interlinked regardless of the individual style of the trainer. In fact, neither critical or praising comments stood on their own, but were followed by discussion about rationales and consequences. This not only appeals to cognition but also increases motivation. However, deficit-based exploration prevailed over strengths-based exploration: while issues were usually discussed very thoroughly, there was less attention paid to analyses of good practices. This is disappointing, as the recognition of success is one of our natural expectations, and the wise trainer should take advantage of this.

Developing awareness

Using their intervention tutors can influence teachers’ self-awareness in the teaching process and their role in it. Self-awareness, however, is impossible without constant reflection, which is developed through discussions of the reasons for behaviour, suggested strategies, techniques or alternatives, and exploring alternatives. Without understanding the reasons one cannot appreciate the value of actions and without discussing alternatives one cannot deal with problems. These were the two most common ways of raising trainees’ awareness used by the tutors during feedback, which is a positive feature.

Trainer talk plays a crucial role in developing awareness. Exploring reasons and discussing alternatives were scaffolded by the tutors. This appeared in various forms from simple prescriptions to a more cognitively engaging speculative questions (Engin, 2013). Tutors used a variety of scaffolding techniques. However, the most productive ones were those that scaffolded a discovery with further exploration of rationales and alternatives. Such a model serves teachers’ self-development on the course and beyond.

Developing knowledge

Focusing on individual learners as a starting point for developing teachers’ strategic competence is a great bottom-up strategy. Surprisingly little emphasis was made on teachers’ influence on the learning process in contrast to the attention paid to teachers’ actions. In some feedback sessions students were only mentioned as doers, while in others the focus was totally on teachers’ actions without a deep exploration of individual students’ features, reaction to tasks, etc. Tutors should probably make more explicit links between those in order to push trainees in thinking about connecting teacher’s actions with learners’ outcomes.

Developing skills and strategies

To evaluate the development of skills and strategies, I analysed tutor interventions as recipe-based (discrete-item, self-focused teaching) and strategy-based (dealing with most common classroom situations and making conscious decisions with a stronger focus on the learner). Strategy-based comments were widely used. Recipe-based comments were quite common too, but they were often followed by a rationale or a strategic suggestion applicable to a number of similar situations. I called the result of strategy-based discussions “thinking between the lines” as they allow each trainee to make their own inferences without imposing the “right” answer.


The research confirmed that trainers’ feedback is largely developmental. It also proved that evaluation during feedback serves developmental purposes as it reinforces developmental effects.

The quality of training impacts both teachers’ professionalism and the well-being of their future students. Therefore, through discovering ways to encourage positive changes in trainees will benefit both future teachers and students. Apart from my personal professional development, I hope that this research will be of value for other teacher trainers and educational managers.


  • Engin, M. (2013). Questioning to scaffold: an exploration of questions in pre-service teacher training feedback sessions. European Journal of Teacher Education, 36(1), 39-54
  • Freeman, D. (1989). Observing teachers: three approaches to in‐service training and development. TESOL Quarterly, 23(1), 27-45
  • Heron, J. (2001). Helping the client: A creative practical guide. Sage