This paper explores the impact of a 4-stage Train-the-Trainer programme held over 6 months in a suburban district of Guangzhou, Guangdong Province between 2016 and 2017. The key purpose of this paper is to build on lessons learned and inform key local decision makers in English teacher Continuous Professional Development (CPD) within Guangdong province on what effective, well planned models of cascade training might include, and how they could be better utilised to maximise positive impact. 

The research was originally undertaken to be presented at the 2021 Language Teacher Education and Development in the Greater Bay Area International Conference in Guangzhou, China. The results of the research also have relevance to English teacher CPD across mainland China.

This research is also of significant importance to the British Council English for Education System’s (EES) future strategy within China as it contributes to our knowledge of English language teacher cascade programmes and how they might be adapted and implemented within the China context to support national educational priorities I.e., supporting English teacher training in rural areas. This knowledge can potentially support better integration of sustainable models of teacher training and CPD opportunities in future grant-funded work under Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) funding, or through other relevant British Council supported programme initiatives.

The 2016 Train-the-Trainer programme in Guangzhou used an adaptation of the British Council’s Trainer Development Course (TDC) to provide support for 2 cohorts of teachers from the primary and junior high sectors in developing a foundation in English teacher training and workshop creation for future cascade training.

This paper explores and notes the changes in circumstance of teachers who took part in the 2016-2017 TDC training, and what challenges they still face. In doing this we identify what needs there are for trainers in the local context, and speculate on how adaptation of an intensive TDC model or similar programme could be improved, supplemented, or changed to maximise its effectiveness. 

To identify if trainee responses might differ from other local teachers due to their experience on the TDC training a Control Group of in-service teachers who did not receive the TDC training were also consulted to cross-reference perspectives and needs. 

Specifically, the paper hopes to address the following questions about the context and experience of teachers from the Training Group, 5 years on:

  • Has the training resulted in greater opportunities to train and develop? How?
  • What challenges have teachers met as cascade trainers after the course?
  • How have the perspectives of the participating teachers changed since the training?


The report highlights some key findings that will be important for future programme design that aims for greater longitudinal impact and also notes key recommendations for both the British Council (or other training providers) and their local partners. The recommendations that emerged from the research were:

Local authorities, oversight bodies and the British Council 

1. Cascade training should be integrated with a longer-term strategy of support in terms of resources, building local trainer communities and utilising expert support where applicable; with clear milestones agreed for trainer development between a “TDC” training provider E.g., the British Council, and local partner. An intensive cascade training model alone, without support, is insufficient to maintain teacher motivation or confidence. 

2. There should be further investigation of how cascade programmes can support and integrate with central government initiatives, e.g., Fupin poverty alleviation, by providing CPD opportunities for teachers of English (and other subjects) in rural and under-developed areas. This can directly improve the quality of English language training provision for students in these areas whilst also developing sustainable, skilled, and effective local trainer cohorts. Such initiatives provide the opportunity for programmes to increase their positive impact by putting newly acquired training skills to immediate practical use whilst also providing replicable, quality training delivery that directly benefits rural contexts in line with national priorities. 

Local authorities and oversight bodies 

3. A clear follow up calendar of training opportunities should be agreed and scheduled for those trainers who would like the opportunity to develop as trainers, with feedback and support provided where applicable. This can help maintain momentum and confidence in what teachers have learned as trainers and encourage continued communication between the Training Group. 

4. District wide trainer communities of practice should be facilitated I.e., not only within the same school ‘echo chamber’, and trainers should be encouraged to contribute and share their ideas. Platforms where replicable resources can be locally stored and shared would also support future training quality and reduce planning burdens. 

5. Further training and support on areas of trainer need identified in the report should be provided. These include, but are not exclusive to, more effectively giving feedback, providing formative assessment and guidance to peers and support in developing inclusive practices. 

6. Local school support (I.e., providing time to develop materials and conduct training sessions) of new trainers, post-training should be confirmed in advance of their teachers’ participation in cascade training. 

Local schools 

7. Local schools must commit to providing the time needed for teachers to research, prepare, and participate in follow up activities. Where possible internal and external trainings to share ideas and knowledge should be encouraged. Any resources designed could be shared and contributed to a larger trainer pool through active school networking or district support.