Teaching Practice: why do you need it?


This post aims at helping candidates preparing for a training course. It is addressed to teachers who have never undergone any official training, either pre-service teachers or more experienced ones. It may prove especially useful to teachers who have only had traditional academic experiences and never been on a hands-on, practical course. What makes a practical course different from more traditional course formats including lectures and written exams is the element of teaching practice. It is therefore very apposite to take a closer look at it. So, let’s get started!

Usually referred to as TP, teaching practice is a series of actual lessons with real students in a real classroom, either a physical or an on-line one. It can range from informal micro-teaching sessions of 15-20 minutes, where the other trainees on the course may play the part of students, to formally assessed sessions of up to 60 minutes, which play a crucial role in your passing a course. Obviously, the first kind of TP can prepare you for the second. Most of my comments below aim at describing the more formal kind of TP.

Typically, the students are non-native speakers of English, often teenage or adults, in a monolingual or multilingual setting. They may be attending regular English classes, or they may be offered a free English course on which they will be mostly taught by the trainees. In the first case, you may or may not be the regular class teacher, but you will have to work closely with the regular class teacher anyway, in order to make the best of the situation and integrate the TP into the series of regular lessons seamlessly. This means you may choose to do your TP with one of your own classes, if that is feasible within the course limitations. In any case, however, you will have to teach at least two different levels of instruction. In the second case, which is becoming more and more common, you will have to teach a class which you have – at best – seen only once or twice being taught by an experienced teacher. If you are also being assessed at the time, which you will most probably be, you can understand that the stakes can be high and stress levels may go through the roof.

More often than not, you will have been given specific materials to work with, e.g., a page off a coursebook, and you will have received support by your course tutor on how to prepare a lesson plan via written notes and/or a tutorial. You are also encouraged to work with the other trainees on the course when preparing your lesson plan and adapting your materials. However supportive your tutor may be though, you will probably feel uncomfortable being observed while you teach, especially if it’s your first time!                                                                                                

The obvious answer to that is that teaching is a craft, a practical trade. You can learn only so much from talking about it and analysing it but, unless you actually do it, you can never get the full picture of what it entails. So, what are the practical aspects of teaching that TP offers insight to?

  • Teaching techniques, of course.
  • Classroom management skills: an actual lifesaver in real classrooms.
  • First-hand experience of the actual language problems real learners are facing.
  • Some awareness of how different learners learn: the skills and strategies involved and the ensuing challenges.

Beyond developing these core aspects of teaching, TP also has a more dynamic character: it focuses on progress throughout the course by providing a scaffolding process for you to build upon until you feel more confident with handling lesson planning and actual teaching more independently. This is why the actual objectives of TP change as we move on towards the end of the course.

At the beginning, TP mainly aims at:

  • Allowing you to simulate a real teaching situation under sympathetic supervision and support.
  • Giving you the opportunity to try out new techniques.
  • Getting you used to being observed, as it is common practice in many teaching situations.
  • Exposing you to learners at a range of levels so that you develop some understanding of the different approaches required.
  • Developing a sense of responsibility for your learners.

As the course moves on, more objectives come to play:

  • Offering you the opportunity to have your teaching evaluated and to receive constructive criticism.
  • Becoming more independent as a teacher by gradually increasing the freedom to make your own choices.
  • Helping you develop your own teaching style.
  • Developing self-evaluation and self-awareness.
  • Assessing your progress on the course.

That last point is the one most trainees focus on, often at the expense of all these other benefits mentioned above. This “tunnel vision”, albeit quite understandable, can create two very common misconceptions:

Needless to say, this is wrong. TP is an opportunity to experiment and find your boundaries. Your tutor should let you know that and should also be very clear as to what you need to focus on, to begin with. For example, no tutor expects a perfect – or even a fully completed – lesson plan in your first TP! The idea is that you make short achievable steps from TP to TP, with the full support and guidance of your tutor; and, above all, that you learn from your mistakes. Mistakes are not viewed as definitive proof of failure but rather as an opportunity for growth. You may fail again and again but everything is going to be alright as long as you show that you are learning from your mistakes and that you are improving.

There are actually three channels to record your progress on during such a training course:

Woman is showing the problem in documents

–> Self-reflection and self-evaluation, by keeping regular written records and discussing them with your peers and tutor.

–> Feedback from observers, either your tutor or your peers or both. Many useful insights can be gained by comparing notes on a and b.

–> Feedback from your students, e.g., on what worked for them and what didn’t, on what their interests and problems are, etc.

Finally, I’d like to close this post with a list of what you should expect after completing a series of well-designed TP sessions:

  • Increased awareness of the language areas you are teaching.
  • Increased awareness of what helps learning in a particular class and what doesn’t.
  • Control of basic classroom management skills (giving instructions, making corrections, etc.)
  • Ability to present, practice and revise specific areas of grammar, vocabulary, etc.
  • Ability to use activities and texts to develop language skills, e.g., listening, writing, etc.
  • Ability to use your coursebook to plan a series of lessons relevant to what your students need to learn.
  • Ability to help learners develop awareness of how they learn and what learning strategies suit them best.
  • Ability to think critically and creatively about your own lessons.

Alexandra Koukoumialou

Alexandra is a CELTA and DELTA trainer with ACE TEFL. She has been a teacher trainer for over 10 years now, doing both online and face-to-face courses, while working with hundreds of trainees both locally and internationally. Her background in teaching makes her training style practically oriented, as she enjoys designing her own materials and sharing classroom tips. She has been passionate about teaching for most of her life and she brings that to her training courses, together with her enthusiastic personality.

Bibliography: TEACHING PRACTICE, Gower, Phillips & Walters, Macmillan, 2005

All pictures by Freepik.com and Lovepik.com

Self reflection: understanding what you’re doing in class

green tree
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Not as simple as it sounds!

Teaching is the ultimate multi-tasking context: you need to check your plan/coursebook/ worksheet, keep an eye on multiple students at the same time, check your watch, monitor your voice and your language, problem-solve on the spot…  I could go on, but we’ve all been there and there’s no need!

In that light, the idea that teachers should observe themselves and monitor their performance while they are teaching can look like an unreasonable expectation.  Yet, being able to reflect on what you did in class is a consistent assessment criterion on teacher training courses, like the CELTA, which requires you to teach and observe others teaching, as well as give feedback to other teachers and get feedback from both your peers and your tutors. Unsurprisingly, some trainees feel that there is no point in evaluating themselves as well and can even be annoyed that they are required to do that on top of everything else.

But let us try and address some common points raised on courses regarding reflection and self-evaluation.

Why should I do this if my tutor is going to give me feedback after my lesson anyway?

The feedback you get from your tutor will be kind, constructive and detailed but its impact will be limited if you remain blissfully unaware of what happened, what worked and what did not work in class. Becoming aware of your own actions and decisions, and the students’ reactions to them, provides an opportunity for growth and development which you should not deny yourself! In other words, this is where actual learning takes place for you. For example, if you believed that explaining grammar in great detail to a class who already knew what you were talking about was a strength of your lesson, that says a lot about what you need to still learn and develop in your teaching.

How can I do this when I’m so engrossed in my teaching that I hardly remember what exactly I said or did afterwards?

Composing a self-evaluation report is not about training you in holding the minutes in a meeting, but rather about honing your teaching instincts (more about that in a minute). For a minute-by-minute analysis of your lesson, if you really need one, it makes more sense to turn to your tutor and colleagues, who were observing you and had the time to take detailed notes. What you are really working on when doing your self-reflection after the lesson is putting into words your own feelings about the lesson, the learner reactions that you perceived and your impression of the overall effectiveness of your teaching. You can do this after the lesson, at different times. What works best for a lot of teachers is making a couple of brief notes immediately after the lesson, recording feelings and first impressions while still fresh; then, revisiting these notes later, when several hours have passed, and re-examine initial ideas as well as decide what the main strengths and weaknesses were. At that point, it helps to try and remember concrete examples from the lesson to support your impressions.

But I cannot do this, no matter how hard I try! I feel I have nothing to say really.

This is more common than one might imagine. Although offering trainees the opportunity to realise how they are progressing on a course is a fundamental principle of most teacher development courses, the ability to do so is by no means an innate talent: it is a skill that needs to be practised and learnt, like most things about teaching. In order to do that, you need to:

  1. be aware of the learner reactions and contributions during the lesson.
  2. realise which tasks worked and which didn’t
  3. be able to distance yourself from the actual process and observe it objectively

Concentrating on these three points, you should be able to make some headway in your reflection process. (If you would like more about how to compose a reflection report, we’d be happy to take that up in another post.)

TIP: Record yourself teaching once or twice – please do not cringe – and see what happens. You’ll be amazed by what you can learn by observing yourself teaching. I still find it fascinating after decades of experience; there are so many things I hadn’t noticed I was doing!!! And seeing something for yourself beats the tutor trying to draw your attention to it every time.

It is very disheartening to have one picture in your head about your lesson, and then, during feedback, be proven wrong in key points.

Although not all self-reflections are proven wrong like this, it does happen often, and it can be disappointing. Needless to say, the reflection process itself is not to blame for that, but it does draw attention to our own misconceptions or even shortcomings. And as much as this can be quite unpleasant to feel, it is an essential part of the growing and developing process.

Imagine we held training courses only for perfect teachers, who are never wrong! That would go well! First, we would not have any trainees, and second, even if we did, they would not have much to take from the course, thus defeating the whole point of taking one.

Accept making mistakes as the best thing that can happen to you on a learning course.

I have to prepare and teach a lesson, observe my peers teaching and offer them feedback, and then I have to reflect on my own lesson, all within a few hours. Can’t I just skip it?

It is true that a teaching practice day can be quite heavy, especially if you are doing an intensive course. And it is also true that many trainees “switch off” after their own teaching spell takes place. This may be because they are genuinely tired, or because they find the whole feedback/reflection process quite boring, feeling that all they need is be given a grade for their lesson and go home. Or it can be both! This is what usually happens in those cases:

  1. Trainees use vague formulaic expressions both in their own self evaluations and in their feedback to their peers, e.g., good elicitation, used CCQs, great rapport, etc. They even repeat the same points lesson after lesson, but they are unable to offer ONE concrete example of these points when asked.
  2. The whole group spends 3 or more hours teaching, observing and giving feedback and all this time is not really taken advantage of.
  3. The tutor remains the main source of feedback, which is neither fun nor as constructive as it could be.
  4. Trainees may leave the session without a clear idea of what they should or should not do in their own lesson, or, even more importantly, no idea of WHY they should or should not do X or Y.

The whole reflection –  feedback – re-evaluation process breaks down and a core part of the course does not really function.

If you take one thing:

Please regard self-reflection as important as planning your lesson: if you do not do it, it is like throwing your lesson plan out of the window. You will not know whether the plan worked or not, why, which parts need changing, etc. Train yourself to reflect on what you did and use the conclusions as the basis for your next step.

Alexandra Koukoumialou

Alexandra is a CELTA and DELTA trainer with ACE TEFL. She has been a teacher trainer for over 10 years now, doing both online and face-to-face courses, while working with hundreds of trainees both locally and internationally. Her background in teaching makes her training style practically oriented, as she enjoys designing her own materials and sharing classroom tips. She has been passionate about teaching for most of her life and she brings that to her training courses, together with her enthusiastic personality.

Use feedback like the tool it is …

handheld tools hang on workbench
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… and make the most of your training

Taking the decision to invest in a teacher training program is not an easy one – perhaps it never was. Leaving your comfort zone and testing your limits in search of growth is never easy, but it takes even more courage to do so in a global environment of fear, uncertainty and huge financial insecurity. So, if you are considering this or you have already committed to it, kudos to you! 

What we want to do here is to share some insights gained from our training experience, regarding how you can benefit the most during the actual training phase. Some of it may seem obvious and self-explanatory but it is easier said than done! We hope to help with the done part.

Approach this with an open mind

If you have invested wisely, then you are sailing to unchartered territories. That means you have selected a reputable course, run by professional trainers, and gauged at your actual development needs. What you are looking for is going beyond what you have known – or think you have known – so far, and extending your professional abilities, your craftmanship and your perspective on the teaching/learning process.

            Do not hamper yourself by sticking to stereotypes, pre-conceived ideas, or rigid expectations. Let yourself free to absorb what the journey has to offer.


  • Bring your own personality into the course, with your learning preferences and your individual needs
  • Bring your professional and cultural background: as long as they are not tying you down to a set mentality, they can be invaluable.


  • Start on a defensive mode: the course is not designed to question your principles or your effectiveness

Understand the trainer-trainee relationship

It is very much like your relationship with your learners. It is neither a superior-subordinate relationship nor a service provider-customer one; or at least it should not be. It is primarily a relationship targeted towards growth. Both parties have a lot invested in it and they both stand a lot to gain from it. And it is to both their interests to work together as smoothly as possible.


  • Regard yourself as a willing participant on this journey which should be enjoyed at every opportunity
  • Regard your tutor with the same respect and positive attitude that you expect them to regard you
  • Expect your tutor to get you to question the validity of everything we do or do not do in class and think out of the box.


  • See yourself in a passive role. This may lead to a passive-aggressive stance. 
  • Expect to be given ready-made solutions that magically fit all occasions

Be an integral part of the feedback process

Many hands-on, practical courses centre around the reflection-feedback process. This may come in stark contrast to more traditional educational theories or clash with beliefs cultivated in more traditional educational systems or cultures. Considering that our educational background, including that of the author’s, is often traditional, one may start to see why many trainees’ attitude towards the reflection-feedback process can be sceptical. 


  • Take an active part in feedback: 
    • give your own opinion
    • ask questions
    • compare different perspectives
  • Go beyond the surface:
    • search for reasons behind success or failure
    • look for what can be tweaked next time
    • dig for the underlying beliefs that made you take this or that decision
  • Ask for feedback from your colleagues and offer them some as well. When doing the latter, be as specific as possible; vague comments or solely positive ones do not help your colleagues improve any more than they would help you.
  • Celebrate your wins! Even if there were problems, there must have been several things you did right in a particular lesson: list them, paying special attention to the ones that used to be problems earlier on the course. Then pat yourself on the back!


  • Regard your reflection process as separate from feedback: realising what you have just done in class is something your tutor cannot help you with – only you can.
  • Just wait for your tutor to tell you how your lesson went
  • Automatically reject any negative feedback: ask for reasons and then examine them carefully. 
  • Beat yourself up if your lesson was not perfect; there may be setbacks but just because everything was not positive about your lesson that does not mean you should give up entirely!

Take the next step

The biggest mistake you can make regarding the reflection-feedback process is to see feedback as the end of the line; as a definitive assessment of your worth and progress that defines what sort of teacher you are (going to be). Many trainees are trapped in that sphere of negativity and are unable to move on. 


  • See feedback as a tool: one you have purchased at great cost in terms of time, effort, and money. Use it as such.
  • Base your next steps on the action points you got from your feedback. Feedback should be translated to practical, actionable steps you can follow immediately. If you feel this is not the case, please inform your tutor promptly.
  • Give it time to sink in: you may need time to process the feedback you have received, leave behind any strong emotions the whole process may have generated and look at the action points coolly and objectively. This is especially useful with intensive courses, provided you have at least two days between teaching practice sessions.


  • Hesitate to ask your tutor for support, especially after an unsuccessful lesson. Any professional tutor should be happy to discuss your concerns, listen to your ideas for the next lesson and generally be as helpful as possible.
  • (On the tail of the previous point) Expect your tutor to plan your lessons for you! This is NOT conducive to your own development: professional tutors should know that and avoid doing it. 
  • Do not be afraid to check whether you have understood what the feedback included: ask for or offer specific examples from your lesson to support a specific point.

If you take one thing…

Please don’t give up the effort after repeatedly failing to meet your action points: it takes time and a lot of effort. In any case, most reputable courses allow for a couple of failures along the line. Keep trying not for your tutor or just to get the certificate; do it for yourself and your own personal satisfaction. Nothing compares to the sense of achievement you feel when you have overcome a weakness or even turned it into a strength.

Alexandra Koukoumialou
Alexandra Koukoumialou

Alexandra is a CELTA and DELTA trainer with ACE TEFL. She has been a teacher trainer for over 10 years now, doing both online and face-to-face courses, while working with hundreds of trainees both locally and internationally. Her background in teaching makes her training style practically oriented, as she enjoys designing her own materials and sharing classroom tips. She has been passionate about teaching for most of her life and she brings that to her training courses, together with her enthusiastic personality.