Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes: an #ELTchat on changes in teachers’ beliefs and practices over time







The main players (it was quality over quantity):




Marisa started us out by mentioning that “lots of things have changed in our teaching because of tech” suggesting the many external influences on change. Both external and internal sources of change were focused on during our chat. Glenys replied to Marisa with a counterpoint: “In fact I don’t think much has changed except for some technical gadgets & they’re not very important”.


The chat quickly shifted into more self-initiated, experience-based changes. Many participants talked about how ineffective they were in early days:

  • Do you remember self as a novice teacher? I also have some pretty frightening videos of me so – Marisa
  • I’d like to apologise to my first year’s worth of classes – Tyson
  • Early on I think I was much more technique focused. less people focused – Marisa
  • Amazed how some Ss learn INSPITE of their teachers – Marisa
  • I was SO guilty and sad feeling for my first couple of years, after every class I felt like I’d delivered an injustice upon them – Matthew

It makes you wonder about all the TEFL people who DON’T make it past those first couple of years, and never get a chance to change and grow enough to recognize this!


Major changes in coursebook usage was something several people shared:

  • Those first years were just straight from the textbook for me – David
  • I haven’t used a coursebook for ages – Marisa
  • Interchange was my formative textbook… now I can’t remember the last time I used a CB. That’s changed for sure. – David
  • Interchange for me too! A good one to start with I think – David


How we’ve changed our image of ourselves as members of a “real” profession sparked some discussion:

  • I’ve also changed my level of investment and resulting professionalism by far since then too. I used to think ELT was not a career – Tyson
  • ^ Matthew shared an article in response to Tyson’s comment.
  • I think that’s a great part of any English teacher’s career. When you decide to stay. – David
  • That probably is the foundational catalyst for a cascade of change in practice, beliefs, perceptions, efforts, etc. – Matthew
  • …I made the final decision to commit when I was 32, tbh. Before that, just half invested – Tyson
  • Like most, [I decided] when I came back home from teaching abroad. Make or break time – David


One of the central themes was a shift from focusing on teaching to focusing on learning:

  • I used to go into class weighed down with paper bags of “stuff”. Barely noticed the Ss – Glenys 
  • I remember early lessons full of long grammar explanations probably because I was enjoying learning the details of the language – David
  • I wasn’t enjoying it – I was just trying 2talk myself into something that felt true mostly ;P Didn’t really catch lang. bug until halfway through. – Matthew
  • My MA was a key changer in my teaching – I learnt to read and DO research – this was major for me – Marisa


We talked about changes in what we teach, how we teach it based on teacher education and increased language awareness:

  • My teaching has dramatically changed based on my changing level of language awareness. Maybe as much as method, this influenced change. – Matthew
  • I think the pendulum I keep noticing in my teaching is from more to less of a focus on form. – Chris
  • For me the focus tends to start from genre and context and go to form rather than the other way round – Marisa
  • Fascinating to me: how much ‘apparent’ change happens on short courses like CELTA, but then longer arc of deeper change starts over afterwards – Matthew


A few people (including Jim Scrivener, in slowburn!) talked about how “change” actually meant an informed return ‘back’ to earlier things:

  • In some ways change has brought me BACK AROUND to early stuff but w/ wrinkles now. Like reading aloud, or dictation, etc. – Matthew 
  • I think a lot of my journeys haven’t been “used to / now” but wide circles back to near where I started (I hope more skilfully)…e.g. Totally rely on Coursebooks > hate cbooks and condemn > own the book as integral but non-controlling element of the course – Jim Scrivener
  • How much has CELTA or DELTA changed over the years? – Tyson
  • not that much but some top down #ELTchat but the trainers have changed, and so bottom up change is unavoidable? – Matthew 
  • The syllabus hasn’t changed much – more so on the delta than the CELTA – but it’s flexible actually – can’t see why some ppl rant. – Marisa




As the chat wrapped up, I created a Google Doc for people to keep sharing on this topic. Here is what folks have shared there so far (don’t hesitate to join in!):


I used to… Now I….
Teach straight from a coursebook and teacher’s guide (Tyson) Never do that; just my own materials and authentic texts / listenings, etc. (Tyson)
Teach students who were traveling abroad for fun and learning some English to travel (Tyson) Teach students who are very focussed on an end-goal i.e. academic study (tyson? yep )
Be just concerned with techniques, my performance, the material etc – the ss were very secondary figures in that configuration (marisa) I tend to do quite the opposite now – begin from my perception of their needs (or their own statements) and connect much more closely with my students or trainees
Find creating a good rapport very difficult – or may be i was indifferent? Marisa These days it’s very easy for me to do that – have a lot more confidence in myself i guess – older – wiser, etc…. 🙂
This might be an obvious change w/ experience, but: simply being SCARED of/in lessons. Feeling nervous about the lesson ahead of time, and feeling anxious during the lesson… – Matthew Nowadays, I describe the classroom as the most consistently comfortable room I spend time in in my life. It’s like a respite from all the other rooms…students are the best people to be around, there’s ALWAYS something to talk about/do, and I’m really in my element. If anything, I’m now scared to deal with non-students! ;P
Be afraid of people writing to me etc Marisa Will connect with anyone and everyone! 😀
Think that the true “weight” of learning was actually on ME, not the learners. This SLOOOOOOOWLY transformed. I did “talk the talk” of what I percieved as “student-centered teaching” but it took years to “walk the walk” in a way that felt truly different.

– Matthew

Now I’m a so-called “student-centered” instructor, but I see that as a kind of ‘game’ of sorts, rathan than a black n’ white dichotomy. For learning to happen at various points the teacher is best “at the center” and sometimes not.
Share very little of my work – isolation syndrome i guess ( in pre social media sharing times) MC I cannot conceive how it was possible to do that and not share everything!!!  Marisa
^ Exactly this for me, too. Well, I guess I actually always shared A BIT. In the hopes of reciprocation, mostly. My early “social media” was a VBulletin chat forum for EFL Ts in Thailand.  – Matthew ^ yes, this this this. Me too. I scratch my head when I see folks not ‘getting’ that to share is so important..that not to share is so….important! So much of a hold-back..seems to me now.
I used to find it hard to judge input sources and students’ level & language needs, so I taught lots of lessons that were either too easy & thus boring, or too hard & just frustrating! (Clare) Now I’m better able to judge which materials are about the right level, adapt them if necessary, and change my tasks or language production expectations, even spontaneously, to make the lessons more worthwhile for the learners, whatever input we’re working with. (Clare)
I used to be teaching focused (Fiona). Now, I’m learning focused (Fiona).
…write on the WB less, or at least for fewer reasons


…write on the whiteboard more, for more varied purposes (pronunciation highlights, more emergent language, quick sketches, etc.)
write packed handouts with complex information. Marc use minimalist design with bare minimum information in instructions. Less is more. Much richer communication. Marc
I used to talk a lot – teacher centered lessons. Silvia Now I talk much much less. How do I know for sure? My throat is never sore, not even after a 7 hour teaching day. Silvia
I used to use students’ L1 quite a lot in the classroom. Silvia Now I speak English almost all the time. Silvia
I used to use coursebooks and teacher’s books. Silvia Now I create my own materials or adapt and redesign what I like from any given coursebook. Silvia
I used to rely almost totally on the provided materials. Now, I find students race through the coursebook and we spend a lot of time talking about “what’s new?”, community events, what’s going on in their lives, watching music videos, going on field trips. Classroom is much more language-rich, and students gain confidence to use it correctly and colloquially.  Ellen


Update: David Deubelbeiss also chimed in during the slowburn, sharing a link to a post about teacher change here: 


Also, a bonus: 3 tweets of what’s changed for Cecilia Nobre…





JC Cover Shot!

…keep reading here:

Some other interesting research connected to this topic:

Emotions as a lens to explore teacher identity and change: A commentary

Key concepts in ELT: the Apprenticeship of Observation 

 Check out the next few weeks’ #ELTchat topics (and make your own suggestions) here.



11 thoughts on “Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes: an #ELTchat on changes in teachers’ beliefs and practices over time

      1. OK, well I hope that one does the trick. That happens to be, I think, one of the last CDs I ever bought (Bowie at the Beeb). What a great collection!


  1. My biggest change has been going from being a teacher-centred performer, who used too much unnecessary language in the classroom, to a learner-centred teacher. There is still an element of what I call the ‘learner-centred performer’ (a term which I coined for Jamie Keddie earlier this year) and part of that is my own confident style but have cut down TTT and leave a lot more student thinking space and time for comprehension.

    Liked by 1 person

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