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Focus on the Learner - help with CELTA Assignment One

Updated: Jan 18

Focus on the Learner - help with CELTA Assignment One

On a CELTA course, you'll have to complete four written assignments. Each assignment is between 750-1000 words. The assignments can be assigned in any order, but most typically, the Focus on the Learner assignment comes first.

The first part of the assignment is a profile of the learner, or learners. Your tutors may set this up in a number of different ways, and might ask you to write a profile of one student or of a group of students. You may be asked to collect an example of the student's writing or to record them speaking. Then you'll have to write a profile of the student.

Typically, you're asked to give some general background facts, like age, nationality and occupation. This should be easy! You're then asked to give some more specific information that might inform how these students learn or what they want or need to learn. This will include their first language and their previous learning experiences, but you will also probably be asked to comment on motivations and possibly on learner preferences or styles.

If you're discussing motivations, it's good to mention the idea of intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation. Learner styles aren't really seen as very valid any more, but if you've been asked to mention them, the most common ones to discuss are visual, auditory and kinaesthetic.

I've used words like 'comment' and 'mention' because the important thing to remember is that you're not writing an in-depth profile of the student or students. You're writing a short profile of two or three hundred words. This is not a research paper for a masters degree and so if you've only collected a little information about the student(s), that's OK.

Because it's the first section, I've noticed that many CELTA trainees tend to spend a long time writing this part of the assignment, and then less time on the later sections. However, in my experience, it's the later sections of the assignment that tend to be the parts that people are asked to resubmit, so make sure to give the later sections plenty of time as well.

In the middle part of the assignment, you'll probably be asked to identify some of the student's (or students') strengths and weaknesses. You might be asked to comment on their ability with the skills (reading, writing, listening and speaking) or just with language items (grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation). Make sure to read the question given carefully, so you know exactly what you're being asked for. There's no point in listing ten points about a student's grammar mistakes if you were asked about their reading and listening skills.

The final, crucial, sections of the assignment are the ones that most often cause trainees to be asked to resubmit. You will be asked to identify errors that the students have made or language areas that they need to work on. The main mistake here is when a CELTA trainee is vague. You can't simply say that that the student gets tenses wrong. You need to say which tenses the student is mixing up. You can't say that they often mispronounce words. You need to say which sound they're pronouncing wrongly.

If you are specific in your analysis of the students' errors, then the final step should be easy. This is where you're asked to identify appropriate materials for students to help them with this error/language area. Again, in different CELTA centres you might be asked to do different things - some will ask you to find a freer practice activity, others will be fine with any exercise. What is essential is that it focuses exactly on the error the student has made and/or the need you have identified. You should also make sure that the exercise or activity you've found is appropriate to the learner's level and learning preferences that you described earlier in the assignment.

In summary, to succeed in your Focus on the Learner assignment:

  1. make sure you read the instructions from your tutors and follow them.

  2. don't spend too much time on the general profile at the start -- make sure it's clear and then move on to the later, more focused parts.

  3. make sure your description of the students' language needs/errors is specific

  4. make sure the activities or exercises match the needs/errors as exactly as possible.

Dr Connor O'Donoghue hails from Ireland and he started teaching English as a foreign language in Poland in 2003 and he became a CELTA trainer in 2008. He has taught and trained in Ireland, the UK, France, Italy, Slovenia, Macedonia, Poland, Russia, Kazakhstan and Vietnam. Connor also holds a Masters and a PhD in Education from Trinity College in Dublin. He has previously managed large teacher training centres in Vietnam and in London before founding DC Teacher Training.


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