What are the CELTA Grades?

What are the CELTA grades? What do they mean? Can I get an ‘A’? Who decides my final grade? Can I disagree? All of your questions answered.

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So let’s start off, what are the CELTA grades?
They’re very simple, they’re (A) (B) (Pass) and the one that you don’t want of course is (Fail) so there are technically four, but three grades are the ones that mean that you’ve passed.

What do they mean?
Basically they mean how much help you need after the CELTA course, so obviously they reflect what you did during the course. There’s no secrets because we have the information available for you. You can find this on the Cambridge website. The information is freely available.

So basically your pass grades, your A, B, or Pass reflect on how much you have learned and been able to apply during those four five or ten weeks depending on the format of the course that you attended. And more importantly, they reflect how much help you’ll need after the course.

So and as we’ve said before, the Pass grade, which is absolutely fine and is what the majority of candidates gets at the end of the course. It means that you have satisfied most of the grading criteria. So you might be better at some things and not so great at others, and that’s the same for all of us because we’re only human. Maybe you’re better at teaching grammar than skills or vice versa and maybe you’re really good at teaching vocabulary. But you find it difficult to analyze grammar well in class, or you find it difficult to provide meaningful practice as it’s often labeled in according to CELTA criteria, so when you leave it means you can do nearly everything, you can meet most of the criteria on the course, but you’ll still need some help after you finish.

So this means that you should work somewhere where they provide regular observations, or where the head of English or the director of studies, depending on where you work maybe, helps you with your lesson planning sometimes or maybe checks.
So that’s what the Pass means, you can do pretty well mostly along the course, but you will need maybe some help for the first few months in most cases. It’s usually for the first three to six months some people might feel happier with a year’s support. It all depends on the individual because we’re all different. 

The person who gets a Pass (B) needs significantly less support, so maybe this means they can teach most kinds of lessons. So we’re talking again grammar skills, vocabulary, to  generally good standards. They can do most of those types of lessons quite well, they were able to understand the input sessions and then apply them well in the classroom, perhaps a bit better than we would expect for the time involved.

So when they leave the course, they’ll need less support, maybe a couple of observations, maybe two or three observations a year, maybe an occasional look at the lesson plan. Even for experienced teachers, I’m sure we’d all appreciate somebody having a quick look at our plans and say “have you thought about so…?”
Of course the more you learn, the more you realize there is to learn so there’s always something that you haven’t thought of that somebody else’s thought.

So the (A) person usually they’re few, they’re very rare birds, but they can apply very quickly what they’ve learned from the input sessions into their lessons. They can teach grammar skills, lessons, vocab lessons, perhaps to a very good standard, sometimes excellent.

So the Pass person can plan effectively with guidance and Pass (B) they can plan effectively with some guidance. So these are important words “guidance” and “some guidance” and then we go to Pass (A) candidates can plan effectively with minimal guidance. These are probably the most important factors that tutors take into consideration when awarding final grades how much support and how much guidance you will need.

Now, of course the main point of CELTA grading and probably the most important aspect is your teaching in class. So again, you see the keywords again in teaching. Pass candidates can generally deliver effective language and skills lessons, with a degree of success. Maybe sometimes they’ve had one or two weak language or skills lessons, but overall they can teach language and skills lessons well enough.

Now your (B) person can deliver, not generally now. They can deliver and they can use a variety of classroom teaching techniques successfully. So you’ve got “a degree of success”, which is okay, and then you’ve got “successfully” so we’re going up.

And here with the Pass (A) they can deliver effective language skills lessons using a variety of classroom techniques successfully. So again, they’re very similar, but of course, the big difference here is planning because often the people who plan better, especially when it comes to analyzing language often deliver more effective lessons, especially with still doing a language lesson such as a grammar lesson or vocabulary lesson, you’ll notice as a tutor that the person who analyzes the language very well tends to teach those lessons very well.

So this comes back to your planning being reflected in your teaching. What can also happen is sometimes people plan very well, but they don’t teach great. Let’s say they’re okay in the class, maybe because of nerves or they forget their lesson plans or sometimes people don’t stick to their plans which sometimes leads to things going wrong, you know, and of course there are times when your lesson plan might be great, but maybe it doesn’t suit the students and you realize this during the lesson and you do something about it, but they’re not always completely clear-cut. 

The awareness of learners
So the Pass person shows some awareness of learners and some ability to respond, so that learners will benefit from the lessons. So awareness of your learner’s is very important. It means that you know when they don’t understand, if they’re having difficulties, so the aware teacher realizes

So you go to the (B) now, we’ve got good awareness of learners and can respond, so they’re aware. They realize the students might be struggling with a grammar point or they’re not practicing the skill that you wanted them to practice. 

Now, your Pass (A) person shows very good awareness of learners, so they are constantly aware of the learners in the lesson and they usually fix the problem immediately. They sense it, they get it very quickly, so these are the important things. They realize what’s going wrong or what needs fixing and how to fix it.

Sometimes they realize the lesson plan suddenly isn’t working for the students, so they’ve got to adapt to think on their feet, which is what most teachers do in real life, we’ve all done that. Sometimes we’ve made what we thought was a very good lesson plan or an excellent plan, but sometimes once we get into class and the lesson starts with sort of “Wait a minute. Okay, I need to think on my feet here and change what I’m doing.”

So near to last is reflection.
And this is a big thing again on CELTA courses is your self awareness of how your lessons went. We want you to be able to say “okay, well these parts of the lesson went well, the students understood me, I was doing a grammar lesson and the students practiced the grammar, they were able to use it in a conversation. However, I think when I was giving instructions, I wasn’t very clear because I had to give the instructions two or three times or when I was monitoring. I realized that some students didn’t understand.”

This is your self-reflection. Again, self-awareness, so you’ve got awareness of the learners in the class and then you’ve got self-awareness when you’ve finished your lesson. I think this is crucial and a very important point when you have the awareness you as a teacher are aware of what you’re doing and what your students need. So the candidates can reflect on some key strengths and weaknesses and generally use these reflections to improve. This comes back to the feedback also provided by your tutor, some candidates definitely read their feedback notes very carefully.

So if you look at the (B) person they can reflect on key strengths and weaknesses and again generally use their reflections to develop their teaching skills. When you get to the (A) person, they can reflect on key strengths and weaknesses and consistently use these reflections to develop their teaching skills.

So you usually notice with very strong candidates on the course that every time you’ve written something down as something to work on, you see evidence of it in the following lesson and that’s a wonderful thing for a tutor to see and I’m sure that the candidate feels good about himself or herself too.

We don’t write too much, yes, we do write some detail, but we usually have an overall paragraph and three or four strengths on one side and some action points on the other. Of course, the format will vary from center to center, but in general, of the courses that I’ve worked on in various countries or assessed that’s pretty similar, we all do things in a fairly similar way because it’s easier to write the feedback to make it accessible to you as the candidates.

So this is the overall, which helps tutors make decisions. So overall, the candidate’s planning and teaching show satisfactory. You have a clear understanding, there are still quite a few things you need to work on but you’ve got the idea. So you know how to teach a language lesson or skills lesson, you show a satisfactory understanding of the process. 

The (B) person, their planning and teaching show good understanding, so it’s all levels of degree and the final one for the (A) person shows excellent understanding so we go from satisfactory to good to excellent.
So these are all the factors that help the tutors decide on your final grade. 

Remember, on every CELTA course, two people decide on your final grade.
That’s why you teach four or five lessons with one tutor and one class and then you change over halfway through the course and you teach another four or five lessons with another tutor. Because this is a Cambridge rule, two people have to assess you as a teacher because we want to see how you progress between the levels.

So you’re always assessed by minimum two tutors and on the last day of the course of the last week of the course, the assessor will come in and go through various portfolios and we have to explain how we graded you and why we chose those grades. And if the assessor disagrees with us, he or she will say “well, hang on a minute, that can’t be this because…” So in effect you’re graded by three people so that other person doesn’t actually know you. There’s another person that comes in, looks through your portfolio and in some cases sees you teach.

There is a bureaucratic thing here, at the end of the course after the assessor’s meeting and after all the lessons have been taught, the person who moderates your course, they’re here to check on the tutors. They’re here to check that we are doing our job correctly, that we are applying the grading criteria correctly.

So we give you feedback on the course, now it’s our turn to be inspected and that’s what makes CELTA courses different from many other teaching courses, because everything is checked all the way around. So we have a meeting with the assessor. We explain to him or her why we’re giving these grades. They usually agree, sometimes we disagree and we have to give reasons why and at the end of the course, the last day, we decide on the final grades according to our meeting and we send those off to Cambridge.

I’ve got a grade and it seems like I’m not happy with it. Can I disagree?
Yes, of course you can. Now remember, you can also disagree during the course if you didn’t agree with your tutor’s evaluation then go and ask him or her to explain if you didn’t understand the feedback notes. Then he or she will explain to you again why your lesson was graded this way, whether it was “to standard” or “not to standard” lesson. “Not to standard” means your lesson failed, sometimes happens and so your tutors will explain.

So the course has ended, your certificates arrived and you found out that you got this grade, you’re very welcome to disagree. It is your right as a CELTA participant. What you have to do, there’s a procedure outlined in your candidate booklet. So this is a booklet that’s given to you when you are accepted onto the course. The procedure is explained to you at the beginning. There are usually pages like three and six that you read and you signed on the first or second day of the course.

Basically, you have Stage 1 and Stage 2. So if you disagree, you have to come back to your tutor and say why you disagree with the grade. Then again, he or she will explain again you were graded this because so and so. They might have to go through your portfolio, go through your lessons to show you why you were graded this way, and if you still disagree, there’s a form that you fill in and you send it to Cambridge. They tell you they will look at your portfolio, so it gets sent to Cambridge and a team of people who have never seen you in their lives will also have a look at it. And to be honest with you, in most cases they do agree with the tutor. And because this is why we have assessors to make sure we did it right the first time and also say that the mistakes haven’t been made.

You have a second chance to appeal, so if Cambridge comes back and says, “no your tutors were correct for this reason this reason,” then you can appeal again. In both cases you have to pay for it. You also have to talk to your tutor. Cambridge won’t process your appeal, your complaint, until you speak to your tutor and your tutor also fills in part of that form. 

When applying for a job, is the grade important?
No, in most cases no, it should never be important because the important thing is passing the CELTA course. Like I said, passing is number one. 

I think this is always a danger sign if an employer says to you, “Oh, why didn’t you get an A or B?” This means that your employee doesn’t actually understand the grading system of the course. Sometimes, some centers might want to know, maybe because they don’t have the time to spend with somebody who’s Pass, they just want somebody who’s an A or B because they can throw them into the classroom and not worry about them. But that’s also a bit of a danger sign because perhaps they don’t take teacher development very seriously, so it’s not an organization you want to be part of. 

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