Training Korean EFL Teachers

I had an inkling that training teachers might be rewarding, but so far reality is exceeding my expectations. I’m currently teaching an intensive TESOL (TEFL) teacher training course. Here we teach Korean EFL teachers skills and methods so that they will be able to teach using English-only and also so that they will be able to teach for communicative competence. The enrolled teachers come from all over this province, Gyeong-sang-buk-do. They have taken a month away from their children, husbands, wives and lives in order to improve their teaching and English language skills . Their desire to improve, despite their perceived shortcomings, has been motivating to say the least.

Although the teachers have a deep need to learn, they are also facing personal and professional obstacles.  Many of the teachers arrive to the program with low self-confidence when it comes to teaching English; even if some of them have been teaching the subject for over fifteen years.  Their lack of confidence arises from their limited practical training in teaching English for communicative purposes.  The Korean education system encourages teachers to teach for the test, which is limited to grammar translation and reading decontextualized texts.  In this kind of system there is no need for teaching communication skills. Another obstacle is that some of these teachers haven’t often used English to communicate. They themselves have only had to use English in order to pass the grade and achieve their goal of becoming a teacher. Once a teacher, the need or the chance to use English to communicate has almost been null. With such an education system and experiences against them, it is hard to understand how the light of communication still shines within them.

Regardless of the limitations, the desire to communicate exists. I feel their desire when they are all ears during my lessons and when I have to ask them to stop their discussions in order to move on to the next task. It is a language teacher’s dream to have a class of students who talk too much in the target language. I also see the desire when at the end of my lessons they thank me for all the work I put into preparing. When my students are motivated, I’m inspired to plan a great lesson. Their gratitude and determination has helped me realize that motivation is contagious. It also makes for a substantial teaching bonus.

KITT TEFL Training Winter 2010


10 thoughts on “Training Korean EFL Teachers

  1. Hi Josette, Happy Children’s Day!
    Sorry I didn’t realize you had replied! I would really love to pick your brain about SIT after reading your reviews about their TESOL program. I am interested in pursuing a masters in international education/development, and I know they offer a program, too. Can you email me so we can chat about it more? notanothertourist(at)gmail(dot)com
    I look forward to hearing from you :)


  2. Josette, one of my former co-teachers went through this program last semester and another is participating this semester. I am so happy that it is available for local teachers because it really boosts their levels of fluency and broadens their understanding of teaching English… which in turn boosts their confidence in applying what they have learned when they return. I wish more teachers had the opportunity to participate, so keep up the good work!


    1. I really appreciate your comments. It’s motivating to get feedback from you. It helps me understand the impact this training has once they returm to their contexts. I saw from you blog that you were in the Peace Corps. Do you have any connection to The SIT Graduate Institute in Vermont?


  3. Thank you for your answer. I found that it needs more time to think about to adjust to my classroom because there’s only few materials to use directly into my classroom. I can borrow some ideas, of course, but teachers do not have enough time to surf the internet and replan it. I want to make a workbook copiable and based on the text book also , so any teacher in Korea use it directly into their lessons.^^


  4. I looked for some information about ice-breaker. Wow! ESLflow is really fantastic! I found some interesting game on that site. I though ,thoush,,it’s not perfectly possible in this efl sitation. DO you know any efl website?


    1. Hi Yunjung! I’m happy to learn that you enjoyed that site. I’m so impressed by the resources we find online. I have often used ESLflow. Most of the sites are geared towards ESL, but that doesn’t mean the activities won’t work in an EFL context. I usually just ignore the ESL acronym, and use it in with my Korean students. The only time ESL activities won’t translate into EFL activities is when cultural contexts are involved. For example, some ESL activities ask the learner to do activities outside of class (e.g. interview native speakers). Of course in the EFL context this would pose quite a challenge. I just skip over these actvities and find some that will work. What do you think? Did my answer help you?


  5. Thnak you for your preparation of your teaching in the Intensive English Teahcers training program which started on this March. I agree with your opinon fully, and I recognize our need to improve English competence as well as the confidence. I think situations are more complicated than you know. We will get to know each other and we’ll learn as far as we can. I expect you and I will be able to enjoy this training program though you will push us go forward more and more. We totally understand that you will help us to achieve not only personal goals and coverage goal(?). That’s all for today, but I will visit your blog sometimes. See you in the classroom.


    1. Dear Son Youngju,
      I really appreciated your comments. I look forward to learning more about your teaching contexts in order to help you excel in teaching English as a foreign language. I think you are right; we will learn a lot from each other during this training program. Thank you for reading! I hope to write more soon. See you Tuesday!


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