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Being professional in English language teaching services: a Delphic panel study

John Walker (School of Management, College of Business, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand)

Quality Assurance in Education

ISSN: 0968-4883

Article publication date: 27 September 2011




The purpose of this paper is to develop an inventory of behaviours and attitudes expected of English language teaching (ELT) professionals in a services context.


A two‐stage Delphi method using ELT expert panellists, comprising managers and owners from the ELT sector. Delphi is indicated for complex problems, where interpersonal interaction is impractical and domination of participants is undesirable. It is recommended for the exploration of interdisciplinary themes and the evaluation of professional practice. The theoretical scope comprised professionalism, ELT, and the role of teachers as service providers in a commercial context.


A framework of 50 standards in ten dimensions was developed. Honesty and integrity was considered the most important dimension for ELT professionals.

Research limitations/implications

The usual Delphi limitations apply, e.g. potential validity issues, unrepresentativeness, and participant attrition. The findings are not claimed as generalisible or prescriptive. Suggestions for future research include: the work, status and relevance of ELT professional associations; imperatives of private versus tertiary ELT providers; professional development, its frequency, availability and relevance, particularly in the ELT private sector; and commercial versus educational priorities in the ELT sector. The research could also be replicated with Delphic panels of English language teachers.

Practical implications

The standards framework is of practical use to ELT institutions and ELT professional associations, either to adopt whole, or employ as the basis for developing their own code of conduct.

Social implications

The standards framework will contribute to enhancing the quality of the service provision in ELT institutions operating in a cross‐cultural context, and will benefit teachers, students, managers, institutions, and the sector as a whole.


No such research has been reported to date in the literature.



Walker, J. (2011), "Being professional in English language teaching services: a Delphic panel study", Quality Assurance in Education, Vol. 19 No. 4, pp. 307-334.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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