Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Meeting top-down TD halfway – #CELTAchat: an example of a bottom-up initiative

This blog post is based on a 100-word proposal for TD Success Stories From Around the World for the TDSIG Web Carnival on 24 February 2018

It was submitted using the given brief:
  • A description of local context and what TD looks like there
  • A narrative account of TD initiative
  • How this could inspire and inform elsewhere
  • How PLN contributes to success

TD for CELTA teacher trainers is provided by Cambridge Assessment English via Fronter.  It takes a top-down, prescriptive approach to successfully achieve its objective for standardisation.

Also for the purpose of standardisation, all CELTA courses are externally assessed* initiating dialogues between external assessors, trainees and course tutors, which can be extremely valuable for personal, course and centre development. This establishes a connection from top-down to bottom-up development but is fairly isolated and generally confined within the boundaries of Cambridge, the specific course and the course centre provider.

Working together on a CELTA course in Rome while sharing ideas and discussing developmental issues around delivering initial teacher training, we thought how wonderful it would be to connect with other like-minded trainers to share ideas and discuss TD on a much wider, open platform.
We looked to technology to deliver something completely different to the top-down provision of Fronter and external assessment and came up with the idea of creating a #hashtag group on Twitter and calling it #CELTAchat.

Meeting top-down TD halfway, #CELTAchat is an example of a bottom-up initiative.

#CELTAchat provides TD in a collaborative, global space on Twitter, taking a descriptive approach with online monthly chats based on elected topics, summarised into blog posts.

@fionaljp ” I love being a freelance teacher trainer as it really gives me the opportunity to reflect on how I do things by seeing how others approach various aspects of training in a variety of different contexts. While working with Giovanni and Darren in Rome, we came up with the exciting idea of creating #CELTAchat and extending this experience by sharing ideas and discussing TD in teacher training online where trainers could potentially collaborate globally.”

                                                                         @GioLic1976 “Although I've been a resident trainer in Rome for the last 5 years, I make it a point to work at a different CELTA center every summer. I find that this has really helped me develop as a teacher trainer as you get to observe how things are done in different contexts. Darren and Fiona first came into my CELTA world in Rome a couple of years ago. It was soon clear to me that we had a long story of collaboration to write! It was probably one of our end-of-course espresso breaks that did it. We all agreed that more bottom-up CPD opportunities were needed for trainers and Fiona (our technology mentor) had the answer! “

@bellinguist “I became a freelance trainer to learn how other centres and trainers approached the different aspects of the CELTA course and to extend my knowledge. Now, with #CELTAchat, I can do exactly this on a monthly basis as well as exchange good practice with so many other tutors. Giovanni, Fiona and I would often chat and exchange ideas during our breaks or at the end of the day, and we decided to open up the dialogue using social media as the platform for our discussions.”

#CELTAchat was informed and inspired by #ELTchat and in turn could potentially inform and inspire any group wishing to take the initiative for bottom-up TD.  

#CELTAchat is on the first Monday of the month from 7-8pm GMT/ 8-9pm CET on Twitter and then goes into asynchronous mode for 24 hours for those trainers that can't make the live chat. Topics are suggested on the monthly Padlet that gets posted a week or so before, then trainers vote & (hopefully) join in the chat on the specific chosen topic for that month.

Any group of teachers could potentially create a specific #group on Twitter for teacher-generated, bottom-up, personalised TD.  #groups can set their own perimeters and boundaries in terms of participants and time and be as open or closed as required providing flexibility.  In terms of #CELTAchat, we have a global audience of participants from all over the world.  The chats are not exclusively for CELTA teacher trainers - all trainers are welcome and we are lucky to have both CELTA teacher trainers as followers and Trinity CertTESOL trainers followers too.

The success of #CELTAchat, and any #group, is dependent upon its PLN to generate monthly chats on a range of topics, sharing ideas and best practice because as a bottom-up, online initiative it is teacher-led.

As #CELTAchat is online using Twitter as the platform, participation encourages successful development of digital literacies, for example:
  • Using social media for TD - e.g. Using Twitter
  • Using Tweetdeck or Tweetchat to follow #groups more easily - you need to sign up for Twitter first
  • Understanding how hashtags work
  • Following threads in #chats
  • Sharing links
  • Volunteering to write summaries of chats
  • Blogging - summaries are written up on the CELTAchat blog

So, how does it work?

If you or your colleagues are teacher trainers and you haven’t got a Twitter account - sign up.  Put #CELTAchat in the search box in the top right-hand corner and write a Tweet to say hello - don’t forget to include #CELTAchat so we can see your tweet. Follow #CELTAchat and the participants in the chat.

Just like initial teacher training courses, participating in #CELTAchat is experiential, so just join in and give it a go!

If you want to create your own #group for TD, basically follow the same advice and all the best!

TD - Teacher Development
PLN - Personal Learning Network

*a situation currently undergoing change     

                                                                                                                                     By Fiona Price                                                   


  1. I'm glad you submitted a proposal, Fiona, and particularly happy to see it turned into a blog post. Having started a chat myself (#eapchat, which turned into #tleap), I know how inspiring, but also a great deal of work it can be to maintain and encourage participation. Well done to you and your colleagues.