I doubt if many people would say that learning throughout one’s life is not a good aim to have. However, as far as CPD (Continuing Professional Development) goes, I have always been disheartened to see how some teachers are happy to go on much as they always have done, doing a reasonable job but not developing to any great extent. Meanwhile, others strive to push their boundaries and actively create challenges for themselves, learning from their experiences and adding to their skills and their self knowledge, often in their own time.
Many of us are somewhere in the middle. We want to develop professionally, and while we are mindful of maintaining a healthy work-life balance, we are prepared to find the time we need within our working lives to learn, develop and thereby improve our practice.
I recently did some research for a conference presentation via an email questionnaire to experienced teachers, to find out about their CPD. Most of the 34 teachers who responded had been teaching for ten years or more, in private language schools, universities and colleges. One question asked if they considered their CPD opportunities to be good, adequate, inadequate or non-existent; more than half of them said they considered their CPD to be good or adequate. Another question asked what activities they had been involved in to keep up their CPD. I also asked those who considered their CPD to be inadequate what activities would be ideal for them.
These were the areas which emerged:
There is a lot to be learnt through taking advantage of all the experienced and expert practitioners in the field of ELT, by attending sessions they may give at conferences or, if teachers are lucky, talks that are available in their vicinity. Reading readily-available articles and books written by ‘experts’ and participating in online events or blogs with invited professionals is an alternative if ‘experts’ are not available in the flesh somewhere near you.
Similar to the above, but not necessarily with known ELT professionals. Often teachers get a lot more out of smaller, more intimate workshops where there is the opportunity to discuss and debate ideas and opinions and take away ideas for classroom activities and to reflect on.
These may include an interactive virtual conference such as the annual IATEFL online conferences sponsored by the British Council, or the blogs on the TeachingEnglish website, or other forums and discussion boards set up to encourage participation around ELT topics by teachers from all over the world.
Joining other teachers in the staffroom discussing their next lesson or the materials they are using is one of the easiest and most effective ways of developing, especially if you borrow the ideas and try them out in your own classes.
Another easy way to learn that can include internet materials and journals as well as actual books, which can be expensive and difficult to obtain in some parts of the world. We can read anywhere in any short piece of snatched free time.
While reading is done individually, what is learnt can be formalised in discussion in a reading group. Set a text to read and come together with colleagues a few weeks later to discuss its content. So much can be learnt through sharing of impressions and discussing issues the reading material raises.
Programmed action research
You may be lucky enough to have a head of department or principal who wants research results which shed light on what is going on in his or her institution, and is prepared to provide time for teachers to provide the evidence. This is one interpretation of programmed action research, though there are lots of others, and teachers cannot help but learn from the experience and the results.
Individual action research
Similar to the above, but teacher-directed and not ‘imposed’. Often very small scale, nevertheless so much can be learnt from studying your students or yourself in the classroom, and there is a huge range of aspects of teaching which you can put under an action research microscope.
This can range from a small in-school meeting where teaching ideas are shared right through to a session at a large international conference. All conference speakers started small and all teachers have something to say. This is a particularly effective way to develop due to the planning and research which takes place before the session as well as the discussion and feedback which it provokes.
Similar to the above, writing ranges from short articles right through to books. Keeping a diary and reflecting on your teaching is a good way to start and there are plenty of models out there to learn from, while the preparation and research necessary teaches you as much as the writing and rewriting itself.
Doing a formal course
This is often the first thing people think of when they think about professional development. But it is often the most prohibitive due to time and expense, and often courses do not provide exactly what is needed. If you are lucky enough to be able to follow a course, however, make the most of the time you have laid aside for thinking and learning, because doing a course is a great way to develop.
Membership of professional bodies
This can provide opportunities and facilitation of many of the areas above, and although subscriptions can appear expensive, there is often so much offered by a professional body that it justifies the expense. Prepare to be active though, as so often you will get more out of it the more you put in yourself.
The teachers I surveyed also talked about the following things they had done that they found helped their professional development:
- engaging in new professional activities, doing things for the first time
- peer observation
- trying out different methods/approaches in class (sort of like action research)
- reflective and exploratory practice, though not programmed or formally monitored
- being trained up as a teacher trainer
- completing an online course to be an e-tutor
- participating in projects in a group with fellow professionals
- forming a local group: to discuss issues and take turns to lead sessions.
As you see there are plenty of ways to keep up your continuous professional development in ELT. If a number of these activities are combined into a planned, interlinked programme, with monitoring and evaluation, even if only by the teacher him or herself, there can be real, satisfying results for teachers wishing to keep up and improve their professional development.
Hello Jenny Johnson,
During the last 14 years that I have been teaching, I have heard several tearchers' comments about CPD. Some teachers consider in-house PD sessions, class observations and feedback, reading and dicussion an important component of CPD; while others believe that you can develop professionally only when you receive a degree or a diploma, or when you are sent on exposure visits to insititutions better than your own. Yet another catagory of teachers that I have met think that they know enough, and that there could be no other person able enough to train or to educate or to develop them.
At the moment, I am busy preparing a session on CPD for teachers in my school. While jotting down my own experiences and the ideas of other teachers, I started searching for experiences and ideas of professional teachers and researchers world-wide; and, it was then that I found your article and all the comments sent by teachers from around the globe. I feel that I could use many ideas given in your article and also take some from the comments that follow (I will definitely cite the reference!).
So, thank you for writing such a comprehensive and thought provoking article.
Dear Jenny & All
This is a very comprehensive list indeed and it is good to be able to visualise in such a neat way how many different options teaches actually have to seek their professional development. Some of them will certainly appeal, and/or be more feasible, in one context than another, but more and more up it is up to teachers and communities of teachers to find ways of investing in their own lifelong professional development.
We in the ELT e-Reading Group try to provide the space and the materials for teachers to engage in discussions based on literary texts and I'm really thankful to you for having mentioning Reading Groups as one of the tools teachers can use in CPD.
Cheers - Chris
There are different ways I try to continue my professional development:
1- Surfing the net to get recent information. Lovely information from online communities.
2- Downloading some recorded sessions from different conferences
3- Participating and attending face to face workshops organized by the British Council in Sana'a, Yemen. Participated in Hornby Summer School 2008,Qatar
4- Cascading some of the Hornby Summer School workshops to English teachers in Sanaa.
5- I plan to deliver sessions on" Your Global Home" in different places in Yemen
6- Interested in reading about training trainers courses.
7- plan to have an MA degree in using ICT in English classrooms in particular and in education in general.
sorry: I missed this post from you! Thank you for your comments. It is good to see that you are hard at work to keep up your professional development.
I like your ideas: they extend on from what we have been talking about and also bring in more use of the internet, which makes a lot of sense these days.
- Surfing the net: very often this does come up with a wonderful variety of articles and information
- Downloading audio podcasts: very useful for listening to and learning from wherever you happen to be.
- Downloading video clips: makes better watching than much TV these days!
- Cascading: what a great way to learn while at the same time helping others to learn and spreading the word!
- I don't know 'Your Global Home' but it sounds like it is also on the net - is it?
Good luck with your MA! A very useful field for teaching for the future.
all the best
I would like to congratulate you for your excellent contributions here at TE. You sound very efficient, presenting practical ideas and professional development advice.
If you allow me, I would also like to share my main CPD modes. I must confess that I have been experiencing most of the ones you have pointed out in your feature. When I was very young in this challenging profession I started to be a member of the APPI (Portuguese Association of Teachers of English) in my country. The very first workshops, lectures, annual conferences were the first seeds launched to help me grow. I really felt by then it started to be very motivating and contributed to open other horizons. I have met some outstanding experts such as Jeremy Harmer, Mario Rinvolucri, Philip Prowse, Allan Mathews,Luke Prodromou, amongst others.
I have attended two formal courses in England (Saffron Walden), which provided me with much more than methodology and new trends in our profession. They helped me to reflect on how important it is for us, teachers, to develop social and cultural skills, and expand our knowledge to influence more positively our learners in our daily interactions.
These days, (very recently retired), I am delighted to come here very regularly to exchange some views and share opinions with our dear Colleagues from around the world. I've also been enjoying some discussion boards related to Poetry and Reading groups. My two sons usually comment:"Keep being a teacher for all seasons..."
thank you for your comments! They are very much appreciated.
I was interested to see that you joined APPI when you started out in your teaching career. It does seem to me that teachers' associations are a very useful way to keep up CPD, most particularly in that the events and communication do sow seeds of future growth for teachers, and do open up horizons. Before I joined IATEFL I had a very narrow idea of what was really going on in teaching and training all over the world. I learnt that there is in fact a lot of useful and motivating activity going on both at a local level and an international level, and this certainly helped my growth.
Good to see also that even when retired, good teachers continue to do what they can to stay in touch and up to date. It is great to see that you come here regularly to share views and opinions, in fact it is great to see that the site is so busy!
Are you in Portugal? I must say that it is one of my favourite countries - and I adore the language!
Hi Jenny, Krishna and others,
I have just joined Krishna & Amol Padwad's ECT club and am trying to get my young crew to join too. Motivating teachers is not so easy after all I find.
I ,of course, never cease to stop learning and am looking fwd to this online club.
What Krishna says is so true for a large part of India and I am glad at least someone here in my new assignment felt the need for CPD and invited me to encourage the trainers here.I am enjoying my work...post-retirement.
Earlier, I had taught ESP:Theology for 26years and worked a lot by myself and for the 50 odd theological colleges in India.
Last year , however, I was called by another theological college to train Theologians to teach English and I did ...and they were most receptive as they felt the need for strong English language skills.They enjoyed it. I did a 5 day workshop and called it "ESP:Theology does a face turn! "
So, CPD can be inter-disciplinary too.
Hi Iris, Monica, Iryna, Neli, Krishna, Rania, Heath ..... and all the others I talked with a year ago!
how are you? I am sorry I have not been back contributing to the teachingenglish site for a while, but there have been some good things that I hope you have been following.
I'm writing to you now because at the IATEFL Conference this year I am talking about my experience on the site and talking to teachers about CPD. I have two questions for you:
1. Would you mind if I include you in the teachers' comments I refer to in my talk?
2. If so, I'd like an update on your CPD in the last year. What kind of things have you been doing, and have you tried anything new, perhaps as a result of talking to me last year on the site?
I hope all is well with you and I hope to hear from you soon.
all the best
It's nice to hear from you again. Frankly speaking, it is unbelievable that a year has passed.
1. Of course, you may refer to my comments if you think it's worth doing and they can be of any help.
2. As for my professional development, I think nothing special as I have been working as an ESP university teacher: teaching, designing new courses for specific purposes of our university students, which were initiated by the authorities in reply to students' demands, writing materials in a team of my colleagues to be used not only by us, but by the other ESP university teachers (we managed to design a coursebook for Engineering students which is based on our reflections on teaching and learning as well as the materials provided by students), giving workshops and presentations to share my experience in teaching, learning and materials design with Ukrainian colleagues. The most part of the described were done in different teams.
To encourage professional development of our Departmental colleagues we have initiated a competition for young teachers (up to 30) Foreign Language Teacher - Innovator. Happy to say it was a success and a good stimulus for young teachers to learn, find out and create something new, not used before and as the result, to develop professionally. The results are encouraging.
Personally I am exploring possibilities of ICT use for EFL teaching and learning as well as for professional development and teacher training by participating in Forums, Groups, studying at online courses etc. Within ELT SharePoint group at this site I am exploring English Teacher Profile and Professionalism of EFL teacher, in particular.
Besides, how can you define professionalism?
Unfortunately, it's impossible to describe everything done through the last year. But hope, I was helpful to you and the other EFL teachers in any way.
Good luck at the IATEFL Conference, which I will be following online.
All the best from Ukraine
thank you for your comments. It is indeed unbelievable that a year has passed!
Your ESP work looks like it has been keeping you busy, and I hope has been enjoyabe for you too.
I like the idea of the Foreign Language Teacher -Innovator competition - what a good idea! Would love to hear about the results: are you writing it up anywhere?
Defining professionalism is very difficult, as you say. I think it has to do with
- concern to do the best job we can do
- keeping our students foremost in our lessons
- keeping up to date with new developments
- reflecting on what we do so as to come up with new theories and understandings
- applying what we learn to our classrooms
there is also the concern to improve the status of our profession, which we can only do by proving how professional we are!
I am very glad to see you again "pushing our boundaries"...
As for your two questions:
1- If you think some of my CPD references might be useful or somewhat inspiring to other Colleagues, you can include them, of course. I would certainly be very grateful to you.
2- Beyond what I had already written here at the TE website, on talking to you, I would like to add further activities I have been doing:
* I have been expanding linguistic, and cultural knowledge via www.macmillandictionary.com . Reading experts' blogs has been very fruitful. I keep taking my notes on different language aspects;
* I regularly read British online newspapers, mainly www.telegraph.co.uk for the latest world news, features on culture, book reviews, art exhibitions/events. (I've even participated in the readers'comments related to Alexander McCall Smith's novels,"Corduroy Mansions"; "The Dog Who came in from the Cold")
* It has also been absolutely enriching, and a delightful experience to be able to contribute to BBC Global MInds, the BBC community where we can post our feedback focusing on what we watch, listen to or browse at the BBC platforms.
* ELT e- Reading Group, currently coordinated by Chris Lima, is also part of my "benchmarks". There we have been learning a lot from exchanging ideas with colleagues of other cultures. It is also a very interesting platform for discussing literary texts. It has been challenging, and has added an extra to our writing interest.
I wish I could see you (not just virtually...) at Harrogate for this year's IATEFL Conference.
Many Thanks for your attention.
Thank you for your comments. You are keeping active and busy both professionally and personally in a broad-ranging number of ways!
I am interested in the ELT e-reading group (thanks for your comment, Chris Lima, earlier in this thread!) and I intend to look into it because I read a lot but rarely talk about what I read with anybody. While not an area for that reading group, I am engrossed in reading about EIL and ELF at the moment: fascinating stuff!
Curiously, individual reading does not score highly as popular on my CPD poll. Only 6% of people say they do it often, I find that strange. I guess it could be because of lack of time, but I think you can read anywhere in snatched moments.
Take care and best regards
Pleasure to hear from you, and know you currently are very much involved in EIL and ELF. I also think this is a fascinating area within "The World of English". By the way, are you planning to post any blog entries focussing on it?
As for the low percentage in terms of "individual learning" it seems to be due to a lack of time as most colleagues complain about. But I believe it also is a question of how to manage our tasks, and devotedly spare some moments to Reading. For the benefit of our soul and mind.
Still associated with "Ways to continuing professional development", I also find useful the "professional side of Twitter" , quoting Gavin Dudeney. Particularly when we are following experts like you and him alongside other reliable sources.
Thanks so much for sharing your experience and insights. I try to develop myself as much as possible, online virtual communities, presenting at TESOL, reading, practicing, observing, training teachers, etc. However, I find that the teachers that I work with often have more personal demands than I do. They have children, spouses, and family matters to tend to (and more traditional family/religious expectations) .. and since we are here in Mexico where pay levels are minimal ($3 to $10 USD/hour) without benefits in many cases, many teachers have 2 or 3 jobs, etc. Most teachers here do not even get paid time for in-service training and development. In richer countries these demands may be similar but most likely greatly reduced.
Any ideas how these teachers can integrate professional development into their already stressed lives?
Frank in Mexico
thanks for your comments and nice to meet you!
OH dear, this is the bleak side to the professional development conundrum! How do we solve the problem of enabling teachers to integrate professional development into their already stressed lives?
Do you know, I don't have an answer for this. You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink. Teachers, if they feel the need, if they truly have inside them a great desire to improve, will, dare I say it, find, beg, steal, borrow .... conjure up the time! We find time for all kinds of stuff that is important to us, even if we are working long days and have lots of other commitments. I don't think there is much we can do except let them know how enjoyable and rewarding we find it ourselves.
Is it that unusual not to be paid for training and development time (unjust as it may be)? The teachers I surveyed told me that most of their CPD activities took place outside of paid time. But they did them anyway!
Sorry not to be very helpful here Frank. Does anyone else out there have a more positive outlook on this than mine?
Good to see you are so active in TESOL and I like your Mexico ning! Which, by the way, is probably the best answer to this question!
all the best
Thanks for different ways of teacher development , they give me ideas. I would add : Reflecting on your work which helps me a lot. Reflecting gives me ideas , helps me to improve , urges me to find ideas on the side ,from experts like you , my peers and students.
I absolutely agree with you that you can't make a person develop if the person doesn't feel the need . I am sorry for such people because they don't know the joy of novelty , variety and independence that continuous professional development brings into their classes.
Withe best wishes, Neli
I fully agree with your ideas on the necessity of CPD through the life, but your classification of CPD areas has puzzled me a little bit as there is no differentiation between teacher training/education and professional development. In fact, while undergoing teacher training courses teachers develop in this or that way, though sometimes there are some or few teachers who resist change in case they are not happy with the innovations or they have no desire to change anything in their teaching as they are satisfied with their work.
Here a question appears: Do you agree with Wallace's distinction between training/ education and professional development : 'training or education is something that can be presented by others; whereas development is something that can be done only by and for oneself' (1995: 3).
If yes, how do you think are there any other differences between teacher training, education and professional development? Between teacher training courses and developmental courses?
What do you think?
I will also be happy to hear from the teachers/trainers using this site.
P.S.: For you to know: I am an ESP/EFL university teacher (15 years of teaching experience), a member of the National ESP Curriculum Project Team and a member of the National Trainer Development Scheme. Within the Projects I underwent special training in ESP Curriculum Development in Marjon (UK) and took PGrCert Course in ELT Trainer Development (University of Exeter). I was a lucky one to be trained by Rod Bolitho and Mike Scholey (Super trainers!). So as you see, I combine my work as a EFL/ESP teacher with teacher/trainer training, syllabus and materials design, doing various research, participating in various projects, organisations, online communities etc.., i.e. use various forms of CPD.
thank you for your comment. This is an area dear to my heart! What is the difference - and what are the similarities - between training and development! It's a really good question and I am sure you find teachers around you ask it often.
Certainly it is an area we attempted to deal with several times in the IATEFL Teacher Trainers and Educators Special Interest Group. There is also a Teacher Development SIG, and teachers would always be confused by which one to join and why they were not combined. We held joint events to highlight the similarities and the differences!
One answer I do believe, Iryna, is in what you say:
[quote]Wallace's distinction between training/ education and professional development : 'training or education is something that can be presented by others; whereas development is something that can be done only by and for oneself' (1995: 3). [/quote]
Teacher trainers/educators give training courses and in so doing they train teachers, who develop as a result of the training but also and perhaps more so as a result of what they themselves put into the process. Teacher training courses sometimes seem to have both aims: to 'train' teachers and to 'develop' them: but I would say the 'develop' side is really to assist the teachers to develop themselves.
You also raise the issue of teachers who do not develop as a result of training, as you say they do not feel or see the need to: they do not invest in their development .... and there is no change, unsurprisingly!
As for the CPD activities: they are all certainly applicable to development, as they are all practical things we can arrange as individuals to do as part of our chosen development path, and many of them can also be utilised by trainers/educators in their training courses.
Does this make sense to you?
Pleased to meet you, and thanks!
all the best
Excellent article. It elaborates on several very useful points. From personal experience, I have used extensively self-reflection based on peer observation. I see that peer observation is mentioned in the article among the other suggested ways of professional development. It is very useful because it occurs in a non-formal, non-threatening situation where two colleagues feel comfortable about observing one another and providing feedback. One can also use peer observation to try out new lesson plans or activities to get a colleague's opinion before making it part and parcel of one's teaching. Rania
thank you for your comments.
I agree with you that peer observation is very useful, and I like the fact that it is non-threatening. Reflection as a result helps us to improve what we are doing and extend our repertoire of teaching skills and activities.
I mentioned earlier in another post that it is good for the observed teacher to decide what they want their colleague to look out for and comment on afterwards. Do you have 'points to look out for' when you observe each other or do you look at everything and comment on the most useful areas? And is there any written record that you can look back on later?
all the best
Your article has given expression to the ideas that I have in my mind regarding CPD. Here in
- CPD is basically an issue of teacher motivation which is an ignored area in ELT,
- teacher motivation is fundamentally an intrinsic issue,
- needs to be addressed in informal mode, and for this
- “talk is the fuel of teacher development” (Wright: 2000)
thank you for your really encouraging comments. It is wonderful to see what a group of truly dedicated teachers can do to overcome their circumstances!
I agree with you entirely. Motivation is essential for CPD, and motivation comes from within. We cannot be developed, development is something we do to ourselves (as Adrian Underhill and many others have said). It is the teacher who will feel the need and will make whatever arrangements they can to ensure they have it.
The ETCs sound brilliant: a great way to haul yourselves out of that deskilling situation. And it all comes from talking.
Thanks again, Krishna, and I wish all of you in the ETCs all the best!
Your comment made me reflect about the difference between training and development! Training is somenthing usually imposed from outside, it usually involves prescription, whereas development is something that comes from inside and it involves discovery and creation! I liked the idea of setting up an ETC for professional development where through collaboration, sharing and a good chat you are finding your path of self-development! Nice to hear from you, And it seems that this is what we´ve been also doing here, isn´t it?
I can't agree with you that training always a prescription. Maybe you have bad experience what I can't say about myself and my colleagues.
As a trainer I can say that any imposed change often causes a resistance. That is why while trainings I usually start from creating friendly and secure environment encouraging personal and professional development, building a team of teachers/trainees involved in the process of learning at the training course, bringing creative atmosphere in the classroom...
What you were saying about ECT for professional development CAN be true for trainings. The main aim of teacher trainings is to help teachers to develop professionally. Good trainer will never use the prescribed plan of actions for the workshop, s/he will develop a framework of actions for teachers starting from where they are instead of pulling or pushing to where s/he is. That is why, while preparing framework of actions for the coming training workshops I also develop professionally as a teacher and as a trainer.
I fully agree with you that being here and sharing our ideas and having a 'good chat' with teachers from different countries is an excellent way of CPD.
It was really nice to meet you and have a chat. Hope I was not imposing and prescribing, was I?
Reading your article I realized that along those long learning/ teaching years in private language schools, like the experienced teachers you interviewed, I´ve also been creating a NICE cocktail of opportunities to keep up my CPD ! Although I must admit that I´m a balanced professional, always being mindful of maintainig a healthy work-life balance cause apart form teacher I´m also a caring mother of 3 with a hubby, a dog and a house who do absorb much of my time as well. And I also have my personal hobbies as a way to relax me such a yoga, trekking, going for long brisk walks, swimming etc.. For me, a non-native teacher, I feel that the challenge is even bigger cause I also have to improve my language! That´s why I love taking part in online communities, I miss this interaction . Recently I took an online course for teachers of English, Teacher´s Link at PUC SP which was a great experience. It was my first experience with such a channel and I really liked it... we used to have enriching forum discussions about different topics. The expertise that I acquired in that course opened new opportunities for me among them the chance to be here! Now I´m having the opportunity to talk to professionals all over the world, including native tutors, like you.So this is the advantage of creating new learning challenges for yourself! Another experience that worked greatly for me was a reflective and exploratory practice through video recording. I had my own lesson recorded and then I had the chance to watch it many times observing different aspects of it with a tutor. It can be shocking when you first see yourself, especially if you are too self-conscious, but then after the initial shock, you start seeing other things in the lesson, focusing more on your students and their learning! It seems to me that the crucial element in this teaching field is not to be mechanical. We should try to see each lesson as a unique moment and be always open to learn form that moment and be ready to learn from your students as well. I guess that if we follow this simple recipe we will always keep up our CDP. As Schon states we should reflect on our action, in other words not take things for granted!
thanks for this response! It was great to read about what you do in both sides of your life, your professional and your you/family/home life. It just made me think how busy teachers are these days, especially when they have a partner, children (how old are yours, by the way?) and even a dog! It's true, there is so much else to do and get done in our lives, apart from busy working teaching days!
You have raised lots of issues that really interest me:
- work life balance
- on-line communities
- expertise (vs experience)
- new learning challenges
- reflective and exploratory practice
- self awareness (through being videoed)
- oh and yoga and walking!
I can see I am just not going to have time in this guest contributor month to explore everything I would like to!
Great to see that you have taken advantage of lots of CPD opportunities, as well as doing lots of courses, both language and training. Being videoed is particularly effective, as you say: you notice first all the odd tics and gestures which are part of us without us even realising (can be embarrassing!) but then more importantly you are able to really see and re-view again your students' reactions and how they are learning. Really interesting!
Thank you, well done, and keep it up!