In recent years, several different titles have been adopted in the field of second language education, and the differences between these roles are not always clear to teachers or students. Many language teachers out there will probably find that their teaching practice encompasses many or all of these roles.

teacher is associated with giving information. This involves teaching materials and techniques.

trainer is associated with practicing language items with learners, so they can improve their communicative competence in a variety of social and cultural contexts. A trainer also teaches/trains professionals how to use ‘Business Communication Skills’ (presentations, meetings, emailing, networking, collaboration in teams, leading teams, etc.). The trainer does this by giving guided practice and feedback.

A coach is associated with empowering the learners to take charge of their own learning. A coach also works with mindset to overcome barriers and to build confidence. A coach helps students set realistic and measurable learning goals and encourages learners to achieve them. The role of the coach differs from the traditional teacher, in that the coach does not teach information, but helps the learner to claim ownership of the learning process and be more independent.

Most experienced teachers will argue that a language trainer has to do all three things to achieve the required learner outcomes. Good language educators teach materials, train by using techniques like guided practice, frameworks, scaffolding and so on, and coach by motivating learners and helping them to set SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time bound). On the one hand, if we put the teacher/trainer cap on, we are adopting the role of teacher as expert. However, if we don the coach’s cap, we must acknowledge that the client is the expert, and the focus is on the development of learner awareness, motivation, freedom and independence.

A lot of language learners suffer from psychological obstacles, which one could call a fight or flight mechanism. They run away from linguistically challenging situations, and they end up with a very fixed mindset rather than a growth mindset. A coach should be the type of teacher who can have a conversation with students to help them overcome these obstacles.

In recent times, a lot of trainers have chosen to specialise on this area, which is much closer to aspects of psychology and neuroscience than traditional TEFL training. This has been met by scepticism on the part of some language trainers, but also a great deal of enthusiasm from business people who want a more efficient and effective training.

Find out more about SMART goals:

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash


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