CELTA vs. SIT TESOL

I posted this on a thread on Dave’s ESL cafe a while back (pre MA and other TT exp.), in response to a (somewhat common) query into how the courses differ:

“I’ve taken both courses. I took the CELTA in 2005 and the SIT TESOL in 2007. I can say from personal experience that the courses are generally ‘equivalent’ in terms of structure, content, and the overall focus on a core cluster of teaching practice methods and techniques.

The main difference in my experience was the ‘intensity factor’: in this regard I found the CELTA to be superior – that is, if you’re looking for a course that is extremely challenging, really grinding for most. Keep in mind, however, that the CELTA was my first course…the SIT TESOL, for me, was bound to feel comparatively easy as it was a re-tread, essentially. I’d been though the mill a bit. Other trainees on the SIT TESOL had a very similar challenging experience I had had on the CELTA two years before.

Trying to ‘look from above’ at this, as much as possible anyway…I personally found the SIT TESOL to be a biiiiit more ‘laid back’, even while keeping trainees essentially as busy and focused as the CELTA did. Perhaps it’s a cultural thing: SIT is a very progressive Peace Corps school in Brattleboro, Vermont and Cambridge is…well, it’s Cambridge!

So I’d recommend either to you. From my perspective – having taken both of these, sat in for awhile on another local course, and talked with at least 100 people about their various TEFL courses over the years…you’re golden either way, these courses are the cream of the crop if you’re at all ‘serious’ about getting started in ELT.”

Once I’m in the thick of it as a new CELTA trainer (provided I make it through basic training!) perhaps I’ll have a different tune to play. Will I realize how many more fundamental differences there actually are between the two courses? I took the CELTA in 2005 and the SIT TESOL in 2007. Have the two courses since moved closer together in some ways, perhaps? Does the more explicit emphasis on Reflective Practice and Dewey and the Experiential Learning Cycle on the SIT TESOL get a bit more play on the CELTA nowadays? Has the SIT TESOL laid off of ‘learning styles’ somewhat? For that matter, I suppose all this all leads to: how much have either really changed at all? For these questions I have no solid answers at this moment (I’d assume they have shifted and flexed in certain ways in response to developments in the field, etc). Just a newbie’s wonderings…perhaps obviously chomping at the bit!

Will all be revealed during secret and esoteric CELTA trainer initiations? 😉

Maybe I just need a subscription to http://www.tttjournal.co.uk/ 🙂

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3 Responses to CELTA vs. SIT TESOL

  1. Matthew says:

    I’ve noticed that this is has been one of the more popular hits on my new blog. Doubtless that’s because of people googling (or whatever) for a bit of research when looking at courses and comparing these two. At least that’s what I imagine. I’ll try to go deeper into this in future posts – it’s certainly worthwhile and there’s plenty of there there. In the meantime, this is something to have a gander at http://bit.ly/1baxhBG but keeping in mind it’s attached to a site that is referring people for the SIT TESOL, I believe. The google search ‘CELTA vs. SIT TESOL’ gets plenty of stuffy stuff and chatboard discussions (of varying quality). Anyway, it’s not something I’ll harp on forever but it’s interesting to see that this has been the top hit-getter here so far.

  2. I’m curious to know about your perspective over a year after you wrote this post. 🙂 I just googled “the difference between CELTA and SIT”, and here you are. I am looking for input as we launch our special brand of an SIT TESOL course.

  3. Matthew says:

    Hi Josette!

    It’s a blast to have old posts (quoting even older posts) come back up in the stream. Of course this is a topic that’s always in style. 😉

    BTW, I’m really interested in what you’re embarking on right now with SIT teacher training in Korea! As it happens I was also just cleaning up some things in my apartment today I came across some materials from my SIT course in 2007, and they’re (still) so good. Steve Tait was my primary SIT course tutor and he really opened my eyes (and heart!) to so much more possibility of authenticity in the classroom.

    As to your question, I suppose I’d say both yes and no. You know reflections on the nature and character of initial teacher training have been coming up a lot recently – among other sparks, Mike Harrison and Willy Cardoso’s recent posts about it and several IATEFL talks on TT. Just this morning I watched Bill Harris’ “Where are we now? Current teaching paradigms in pre-service training” talk (http://bit.ly/1O63Pzh), and actually the most interesting bit was a comment from an audience member at the end. The guy says he’d been a CELTA course tutor & assessor for 10 years and then switched over to the TRINITY Cert. and says “I’m very disappointed…” and essentially says CELTA trainers are ‘tied’, the course is prescriptive, contrained…as opposed to, according to him, courses like his which ‘set them free’ more and are creative, etc. He says CELTA grads are much more limited in their scope, what they feel they ‘need’ to do in lessons, etc. Harris patiently allows this discussion to play out a bit. He (I think rightfully, and accurately) points to the lack of prescriptive strictures that are actually ‘handed down’ from Cambridge, and the importance of the tutors, who are, after all, free to be creative, open, ‘not evil’. ;P

    So, reading my description above, there’s clearly a hint of that comparing CELTA and SIT TESOL as well – and quite naturally so! One of my CELTA tutors was Lawrence Kinsella, notoriously straight-talking, sometimes harsh, break-you-down-all-the-way-down types. The input sessions were amazing, but the course materials were simply laid out and stuffed summarily into our folders each day. In contrast, on the SIT course as we covered key concepts they went up onto colorful, artful posters which were collected and hung on the walls around the training room. The trainers smiled more, and generally came off as more sympathetic. Steve Tait, mentioned above, came across something like a saint; Kinsella, a special kind of devil genius.

    I’m getting off track, perhaps. There does, I think, seem to be a ‘culture’ or at least a strain of one in the CELTA world of a kind of conservative old-school attitude and an accompanying strictness that, well, most CELTA grads can easily commiserate about.

    But after a year as a CELTA trainer myself, I know what Bill and a few in his IATEFL audience are saying when they mention describe the ‘freedom within the system’ of the CELTA. Anthony Gaughan’s ‘Dogme CELTA’ proves the flexibility…for those who would flex it. As for me, I may not come across as *conspicuously* progressive or radical in my trainer style, but what I do is NOT old fashioned, NOT uncreative, NOT ‘strict’ in the negative sense of that word, and NOT meaningfully constrained by it being the CELTA to an extent that I find problematic. There are larger possibilities and paradigms in ELT that I don’t think are fully exploited really anywhere that I hope to see shifted, and I’m not sure which initial teacher training course, if any, is really ‘in the lead’ in that way. In fact, I’m wary of a general and easily employed by me proclivity for entertaining a notion of linear, forward-facing progress from older, less perfect knowledge and approaches to newer, more perfect ones. So whatever *is* ‘old fashioned’ about the CELTA may also be a strength.

    I recently attended a wonderful mini-conference at Rennart in NYC. While things were winding down I wandered into the SIT TESOL certificate course training room and saw all those colorful posters on the wall. I took a bunch of pictures and spent most of my bus trip back to Boston jotting down thoughts on how to make my own training session materials more ‘colorful’ in any literal and less literal ways. But I don’t just look towards the SIT for inspiration…it’s everywhere!

    AND, how much richer can I help make the reflective process? Reflection was another element that was, in my memory anyway, more *conspicuously* focused on during my SIT experience. Well, as a CELTA trainer I basically view each day of training ‘backwards’ in terms of what’s primary. That is, the last part of the day, the teaching practice feedback, is first in terms of importance and ‘yield’. Everything feeds into the experience of teaching and the reflection & feedback-learning that precedes it. I don’t think this is radical for SIT or CELTA folks.

    I’d love to hear more about the SIT program you’re putting together. Another thing that’s exciting to me right now? The fact that the incoming TESOL president is an SIT-connected super-reflective person, Andy Curtis. And the incoming president of IATEFL, who ‘liked’ my post above, is, like, a member of my online PLN! The internet is amazing…

    …which reminds me I have to ‘go’ (what does that even mean here?): I’m currently training up to be an e-moderator/online course tutor for blended online/F2F CELTA courses and have a weekly reflective journal to write and submit.

    I wish you all the best with the new course and can’t wait to find out how it’s going!

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