Planning courses – logistics and course design

Topic Focus

To consider what we, as trainers, need to do, before our courses actually begin.

60 minutes

Planning courses can take some time, so start early!

Task 1: Planning courses

Make some notes on the following question. 

What do you think you need to consider when planning a teacher training course?

Now watch these videos in which an experienced teacher trainer talks about what they think are important considerations when planning courses. Are their ideas the same as yours?

What factors do you think influence the contents of a teacher training course?

Manuel Flores-Lasarte, Teacher Trainer

What elements do you think make up a teacher training timetable?

Manuel Flores-Lasarte, Teacher Trainer

How do you organise timetables for TT courses?

Manuel Flores-Lasarte, Teacher Trainer

How do you plan teacher training courses - i.e what other considerations do you have?

Manuel Flores-Lasarte, Teacher Trainer

Manuel mentions the following:

Considerations are the same as any teaching course: who are the teachers, what’s their context and what are their needs.

Experience vs inexperience.

Reflection and the apprenticeship of observation. You can find out more here.

Where the teachers work: i.e. their context.

Teachers’ needs and expectations.

Depends on the course: a practical course will involve a lot of practical support, e.g. support with lesson planning and preparation, observing lessons and giving constructive feedback; most courses include input sessions and it is important to provide a good model.

Teachers need input on what they are going to be doing on a course; i.e. how to teach.

Reflection might be in the middle.

Towards the end input sessions will be more specific.

First look at the syllabus and the content of the course (important for exam courses).

Content; time available; how to increase participation.

It’s very important to provide a model in terms of what you want your trainee teachers to do. 

How can trainee teachers apply what they learn in their own contexts.

Task 2: Logistical considerations when planning courses

In the previous topic we looked at the needs of trainees when we are planning a teacher training course. There are also other, perhaps more practical, elements to think about. Here are some we think are important when planning courses. There is a word missing in each consideration – try to complete each one.

Why do you think they are important when planning a new course?

Listen to a trainer talking about why he believes these are all important considerations when planning a teacher training course.

Now decide if they are important in your context or not.

Task 3: Course timetables/course outlines

Think of your course timetable like a jigsaw: that is, how each piece fits together to create a whole.

Think first
Suggested answer

What elements do you think make up a teacher training timetable?

This depends on the needs of your trainees, the type of course you are working on (e.g. a very short in-service course; a month-long pre-service course), and the requirements of the course (if accredited by an external body). Course contents also depend on the aims of the course; that is a practical teaching course would presumably include some teaching practice!

Most courses are likely to include: teaching practice, trainer input, assignments, lesson planning and feedback.

Task 4: Factors influencing a timetable

There are several factors which could influence your timetable. Think back to Task 2 in this topic where we suggested some considerations when planning courses. Several of the suggestions would affect timetable planning. Can you think of any others?

The main consideration is that the course is logically organised

For example, on pre-service courses with teaching practice, it would be logical to focus on how to teach a reading lesson, before asking your trainees to do this. 

You should also consider how focused your trainees will be on your course. For example, on an intense course with a practical element, it might not be a good idea to have input all day and then teaching practice in the evening as this may result in trainees thinking about their upcoming lesson rather than your input.

On courses which involve trainees writing assignments, you may want to ensure that you give your trainee teachers enough time (either as a set time slot within the course or as homework/self-study) to write the assignments.  

You may also want to ensure that trainees (especially newer teachers) are given sufficient support in preparing their lessons. 

Finally, when designing a timetable, do not forget the aims of the course! The timetable should try to achieve these!

Task 5: Example timetables

Look at these two examples of timetables.

  • Is there anything missing from each one?
  • How would you reorder them?

Click the timetables for a downloadable version. 

Week 1:
  • As this is a course for pre-service teachers, some inclusion of guided lesson planning workshops or tutorials would be welcome. 
  • It is unfair to give new teachers an input session on teaching grammar and lexis and then immediately ask them to teach ‘language’. 
Week 2: 
  • There is an input session on teaching receptive skills, but teachers are asked to teach writing.
  • It is unclear why the lesson planning workshop is after teaching practice. 
Week 3: 
  • Observation of experienced teachers should come before trainee teachers are asked to teach to give them some idea of what teaching involves. 
  • There is no input session on teaching pronunciation. 
  • It is unclear why a workshop on reflection takes place a week after teaching when teachers and observers may have forgotten the lesson. 
  • It is unclear what the Q and A session is. 
Week 4: 
  • Trainee teachers are expected to teach pronunciation and speaking after receiving no support in delivering these kinds of lessons. 
  • The session on grouping students should perhaps come earlier in the course.
  • Although it is a good idea to include a review of grammar and lexis, a session on a different system would be more beneficial.
Week 5:
  • It is unclear what the course assignment is. On such a short course, it might not be necessary to include one. 
  • There is a second teaching practice session on speaking: focus on a different skill would be more beneficial to the trainees.
  • Materials and resources may be useful but on such a short course, presumably the trainee teachers have been given materials to use in their teaching practice. 
Week 6: 
  • It is unclear why an introductory session on classroom management is right at the end of the course. 
  • The teachers have already taught both speaking (twice) and writing, so it is unclear why an input session is included here. 
  • Assignment feedback might be better supplied in writing, so the course’s limited time could be used for something more relevant to the teachers. 
  • There is no reflection time.
  • It might be worth including a flipped approach to the timetable with trainee teachers given tasks before and after the face-to-face sessions. 
  • There are few sessions on classroom management and none on learners (i.e. differences, abilities, needs, etc). 
  • There is very little content for an initial teaching course; this timetable would be more suited as a ‘taster’ course. 
  • It is unclear on what day and at what time each session takes place. It is also unclear how long each session lasts.
  • There are feedback sessions on teaching only in weeks 1 and 5.
  • Teaching practice is right at the end of the day when the trainees may be tired. They may have also spent the whole day thinking about their lessons and not focused on anything else. 
  • It is unclear why an input session has been scheduled right before teaching practice (see reasons above). 
  • As these are practising teachers more reflection may be beneficial. It might be worth also including more opportunities for lesson planning.
  • Experienced teachers may benefit from team planning and peer feedback. 
  • Teaching practice is quite short (30 minutes).

Task 6: Planning a timetable