Train the trainer: professional skills in Dubai

What’s the best thing about working for an international organisation? There’s always so much going on, so many opportunities to learn something new and to meet like-minded people – just like last week, when I had a chance to take part in a workshop for trainers of professional skills.



I won’t give you all the details, but here are my biggest takeaways:

  • a lot of teacher training skills and techniques can be transferred to professional training
  • that said, we should be careful not to call trainees ‘students’: the training room is not a classroom after all
  • there are things happening outside traditional young learner and adult ELT that are just as exciting

And a traditional link: a website recommended by the course tutors. It’s a great resource for workplace training sessions, with a lot of activities that can also be used in Business English classes and ESP: games, puzzles and more games!


MA in Norwich: Day 14 of 14

Here are reflections on the course from three other participants – and this concludes my MA in Norwich series.

Interview 1


Hi, I’m Eman Abdalla from the British Council Sudan.

What has the course confirmed for you?

This course has confirmed that there was just a little information about finance. Still, it gave me the opportunity to meet the founder of this institute, and he told us all about the financial concepts linked to the academic aspects.

What was new?

The hierarchy of the academic management, the teacher lifecycle, the assessment, observation, how conflict can be resolved, how to debate stuff. I’m going to take all this back to my BC office.

What are you unsure about?

They are doing MA for teachers, why not MA for academic management? This is my suggestion.

Interview 2


Hello, my name is Marina Evdokimova, I am the owner of the London Express school in a small city in Russia. In total I have 600 students and 25 staff: teachers, admin staff, directors and so on. The main purpose of me coming here was to think about professional development, appraisal systems, and develop my leadership skills.

What has the course confirmed for you?

That we need to work on our skills, no matter how much experience we have there’s always room for improvement, that there are a lot of new theories and ideas in the management. Yes, another goal was to get international experience from my colleagues from all over the world, and that was confirmed: how the management system works in Hungary, in Spain, in Ukraine, in other countries. That was very very important for me.

What was new?

I can’t say that there was a lot of new stuff, but maybe that we have to pay more attention to professional development. The system that we have at our school is more quantitative, and I need to make it more qualitative. That was a new point and we’ll think it over and try to create a new system, or make changes in the existing system.

What are you unsure about?

I’m sure about everything, there’s nothing that I’m not sure about. I’m pretty satisfied with the course, there are a lot of thoughts that I want to think. Everything was important. Maybe not all things that we covered on this course are applicable to my country and to my school realia, unfortunately, but it was a good idea to have a perspective and to see how things are done in different countries in language education.

Interview 3


Hello, my name is Javier, I’m from Spain. I have my little Castle School in the South East of Spain.

What has the course confirmed for you?

That technology is something really helpful for my school, for students, and for teachers too. It makes things faster, shared, very interesting and can be implemented depending on the person who is using it. This has been confirmed because I’ve been using it for the last eight-nine years and people are happy with this.

What was new?

I am now aware that I have to write all the documents about the job descriptions, structure of the company, span of control, what is the educational culture of my school and the observation system and the goals for the teachers. This is what I must do as soon as I arrive because I feel that teachers either know all this or not, but things that are written make this crystal clear.

What are you unsure about?

Many things! For example, I am unsure about the ways to make my teachers stay at my school. That’s one of my concerns, and that’s my plan of action.

MA in Norwich: day 13 of 14

The course is over, and I’m staying in London for a few days, waiting for my plane to take me back home. Going through one Kübler-Ross stage after another – I sooo hate goodbyes!

Remember those ‘confirmed/new/unsure’ interviews with the tutors? Well, I’ve been lucky to collect a few from the participants (watch this space), and here is one with myself.

What has the course confirmed for me?

Much as I enjoy all things techie and digital, I think there are a lot of advantages to face-to-face education. The level of engagement is much higher, the course is more intensive and affects the whole person, not only the logical mind. Don’t get me wrong, online courses are useful and necessary, I have done quite a few and will keep doing them. And yet face-to-face remains my preferred option.

What was new?

Loads and loads of new ideas to try out, dozens of books and articles to read, hours of exciting conversations to remember… But the most unexpected thing that happened to me was falling in love with Norwich and the UEA campus. How I miss those friendly churches, forests and fields! (Stage: depression)

What am I still unsure of?

Hmm… On a practical level, there’s a lot I don’t quite understand, or remember, or don’t know how to apply yet (I could go through the whole Bloom here). Still, I know where to look and who to ask for answers, so it’s not really being unsure. On a more abstract level, I am trying to analyse what has changed in me because of this course, and – I’m not really sure if I’ve become a better manager and a better person. Have I learned not to act out of habit, will I be able now to analyse situations and make more principled decisions? Somehow I don’t think it’s going to be easy.

P.S. Sorry guys, I know this last bit was awfully banal, but the best things in life are not truly original, are they? 🙂



At the Norwich Railway Station: me on a training course

MA in Norwich: day 12 of 14

The last two days of the course were very much participant-driven: most of the time on Thursday and Friday we prepared, presented and discussed our action plans. It was great to see all the different elements of the course come together! I’ll write more about my impressions in a later post, and now – the interview with our tutor Tony Prince based on the reflection activity I used for the previous post.


What has this course confirmed for you?

I would say the main thing is the value of action plans. They allow people to not just reflect on what they’ve done and consider which of those things are really important, but consider how that actually gets put into practice and what the stages are, and then getting feedback on that from the tutor. And what will be interesting tomorrow [i.e. Friday] is for people to get feedback on that from other people.

What was new for you?

What I’ve done that’s new is the lesson that we had this morning that was not just on the use of technology, but on the way in which technology can be used to facilitate teacher development, personal development. I think that’s an important aspect that we’ve missed out on in the past as we’ve discussed technology but haven’t tied it into the other aspects of the course. And maybe, to come back to what’s also been confirmed, the importance of keeping tying everything together, to make sure that everything fits and is repeated, and recycled, and reconsidered, and reflected on.

What are you still unsure about?

I’m not sure about how you ensure with two tutors that the content is adequately recycled, revisited, reconsidered, because the danger is that because one tutor has delivered the materials, the other tutor doesn’t know exactly how it has been covered. They know what’s been covered and they know why it’s been done, but they don’t know how, so they don’t know what’s been touched on in particular. I keep coming back to this idea that you only learn something new if you are given the opportunity to revisit it in three different ways. I recognise the value of multiple tutors, but I think there’s a danger that there is no adequate recycling because you can’t know exactly what the other person has done, because you’re not in the class. 

MA in Norwich: Day 11 of 14

If I wrote here about the value of reflection, I’m sure I would be preaching to the converted. So, I’ll go straight to the activity that has often been used with us on the course in one form or another: think of one thing that the course has confirmed, one thing that was new for you, and one thing that you’re still unsure of.


Simple, but effective. In fact, I liked it so much that I decided to turn the tables and ask our tutors the same questions.

Martyn Clarke:


What has this course confirmed for you?

Two years ago the course had a repositioning about what the key issues are for academic managers who come on these courses. The idea was that it was about managing people, in particular managing groups of people and the challenges this brings rather than marketing strategies, financial areas etc etc. So what’s been confirmed to me is that this is the focus of most people, and that’s actually been exemplified in the case studies which came out.

What was new?

The focus on the case studies is a new activity, and having this in our group-directed session was really interesting. Using course participant-generated case studies made the focus very personal for the group. But the other new thing that’s helped was that combining it with a review, with the basic idea of the course – to turn habits into choices, to make your management decisions one of principled, criteria-based selections rather than ‘what I’ve always done on instinct’ – combining that half way through the second week was the perfect timing.

What are you still unsure of?

How that would apply to a lot of the courses I run which are in closed groups for an institution. Would that work to the same extent because in their case studies everybody would know each other? It might not be so generative if participant-generated. I’m not sure of how that activity would translate if I were to develop the case studies, how the people would respond. I’ve got to try it out in the next course.

MA in Norwich: Day 10 of 14

Wednesday was the day of flexibility: one of the best things about NILE is how they respond to feedback and adjust the course to our needs.

We: wouldn’t it be great to have some way to systematise all information and use it at the same time… 

NILE: ok, how about each of you sends your tutor a situation from your work context, and we’ll do case studies together? Here are the guidelines. And here are your updated cases. And the discussion task. And the organiser for making notes. And the mindmap of all important points.

We: there’s no session on financial management, maybe you can give us a reading list?

NILE: it’s not part of the syllabus, but here are some books. And here’s a special 2-hour session with our founder and president who will answer all your questions about finance. (And for those who are not interested, there are 7 other teacher-training workshops to choose from.)

We: the sessions end too late for us to do anything interesting!

NILE: Nothing to do in the evenings? Jeremy Harmer will sing you songs and read poems, and Jamie Keddie will tell you stories.

jamie keddie

Would you call this ‘exceeding expectations’?

MA in Norwich: Day 9 of 14

What do you think about change management? To me, this topic has always seemed particularly exciting (and started my love affair with IATEFL back in 2016!) So, I hadn’t expected to hear anything new – until Tony in one fell swoop retold a few books  (The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt and Switch by Dan and Chip Heath: here’s a rather good summary of Switch) and gave us a whole new model to manage change.

In short, if our inner world is represented by a rider (the rational brain) riding an elephant (the emotional lizard brain), the elephant is always stronger, and it’s hard to change where it’s going. We need to be clever about it: direct the rider (appeal to logic), motivate the elephant (work with emotions), and shape the path (create the right environment). There’s a lot more detail to the model, and I can’t wait to try it when I get back to work – though, to be totally honest, I hate to be leaving  Norwich so soon.


Since I couldn’t find any elephants in Norfolk, here is the mammoth mural in Sheringham.




MA in Norwich: Day 8 of 14


A street in Norwich

The highlight of the second Monday for me, perhaps surprisingly, was language. ‘Discombobulated’, ‘espoused’, ‘accretion’,a curate’s egg‘ – I challenge you to put all these words into one training session! (Just to be clear because my lexical reputation is at stake here: I had known them before, but hearing words like this is a rare joy.) All this happened against the background of exploring visual metaphors, suggestopedia, gallery walks to chamber music (‘Why? Why not!’ (c)) and, finally, good old PPP (or rather, the first P) to cram just a bit more information into our heads.

PD board

What’s in the suitcase?

What were we talking about? Teachers, of course, their professional lifecycles, their development and how we can support it. Oh, by the way: did you know that ‘to develop’ is an intransitive verb?

MA in Norwich: Day 7 of 14

Sunday, a day to reflect and recuperate. I attended a service at the Norwich Cathedral (for cultural rather than religious reasons), did some shopping and spent the rest of the day reading The Goblin Reservation and sorting through my course notes.


A ‘roof boss’ in the cloister of the Norwich Cathedral.

So, what have we got so far? From the big picture (educational and organisational cultures) we have moved to local contexts, managers and leaders, groups, and finally teachers and their performance. Each session was more challenging than it seemed at first glance: both tutors (Tony Prince and Martyn Clarke) are very experienced, so there is a lot of incidental knowledge you can get from their anecdotes and examples. And when you try to apply even the most basic principles to your own context – this is when your cognitive abilities stretch and creak!


Another roof boss, to illustrate the stretching.

It’s fun.

MA in Norwich: Day 6 of 14

The weekend is not exactly free: we actually have a small home assignment and a big cultural component of the programme. We were given the choice of either Cambridge or the coast, free train tickets and several pages of useful information. I’d been to Cambridge before, so I opted for the coast – can you seriously say no to the sea?


An hour on the Bittern line, then half an hour by Coasthopper (love those names) and another in a tiny boat, and I was basking in the sun with the seals. The seals looked much better than me because I’d forgotten to put sunscreen on my neck and shoulders.


Still, it was worth it, and a quick ice-cream in Sheringham with its beautiful cliffs sealed the deal (sorry, this pun was just asking to be used).


By the way, we had a discussion in one of the course sessions about content-related marketing and how the cultural and social programme of the school is necessary even if few students take part in it. Why? Because you put yourselves in the position of an expert and try to educate your students through these activities, show them that most learning happens outside the classroom. There must be some connection between this and my coastal trip – what do you think?