CPD ideas that may keep you moving

by Marcela Cintra


One of the biggest challenges in English language teaching is guaranteeing continuous professional development. Often times, teachers complain about the demands of the teaching profession and the lack of time and money to invest on their own development. In a changing world, people, cultures and languages are in constant movement, evidence of the need for continuous professional development for English language teachers. There is the urge for accompanying the progress in all areas. Each and every one of us should feel accountable for their own development and take action towards becoming a better professional. As Wallace (1991: 3) says, ‘training or education is something that can be presented by others; whereas development is something that can be done only by and for oneself’.

Underhill (1999) once said that ‘teacher development is the process of becoming the best teacher one is able to be, a process that can be started but never finished’. With that in mind, here are some ideas that demand initiative and may keep you moving towards developing accountability and professionalism:

  1. Lesson observations

Many schools have a systematised programme for lessons observations. The idea is that you go beyond this opportunity and propose the observations yourself. Either invite a peer, a supervisor to observe your lesson or observe a peer you want to learn from. It is important to have a focus to guide the observation and the reflection/ feedback that may follow.

Another possibility is asking a peer to film your lesson. This would allow you to observe your teaching from a different perspective and it may help you observe your lesson more objectively after watching it a few times.

  1. Listening to feedback

Students, peers and supervisors give feedback all the time, formally or informally. Their contributions may bring insight into what you cannot see about your own professional attitude and your overall teaching, for instance. This is probably the most difficult area to act on, as it requires great will power, purpose and awareness. Also, it takes collaboration from others. You will be accountable for the changing, and constructive feedback and support from peers and supervisors through the process is crucial for the results. Choose people you trust will be willing to help and listen to what they have to say.

  1. Studying a different language

Be a learner yourself. It will give you insight into language learning and the reflection may help you address your own students’ issues – the sort of difficulties one may have, study tips. Looking at yourself from the learners’ perspective may also contribute to adding empathy to your relationship with you learners.

  1. Establishing clear goals for development

What do you plan to be doing in five year? It is not necessarily finding a different position in English language teaching. What sort of skills do you want to develop as a teacher? What kind of teacher would you like to be? List your goals, plan the actions you need to take towards them and take action. Once again, you may choose to talk to people who will support you and give you tips about what to do.

  1. Taking exams and courses

Studying for an exam will help you better prepare learners for their own exams. It may also affect your own language awareness and knowledge. Courses are also opportunities for looking at teaching from different perspectives, and to bring other worlds into the ELT lessons (e.g. courses on culture, cinema, or even physical activities).

  1. Attending conferences and webinars

The more we look outside, the more we develop repertoire. One may argue that travelling to conferences is expensive. Have you ever applied for scholarships? Or taken the chance to watch them online? There are also very frequent webinars available on publishers’ and associations’ websites. Broadening horizons to look into different contexts, learn from a variety of other professionals will surely make a difference in changing lesson and learning outcomes.

  1. Keeping a blog

Setting up a blog is simple, but it takes focus and willingness to keep it active. Sharing ideas and experience with other teachers may contribute to your own sense of achievement and open doors for online discussions. Eventually writing leads you to look for different ideas to be more creative, learn more and impacts your own lessons.

  1. Engaging in action research

In this case, one must be willing to go beyond what they do and know. The biggest advantage is that you may choose to investigate an area of your teaching which is relevant to you. Think of research questions after selecting the focus and look into theoretical ideas to help you with the understanding of practice. Then, collect data from your own teaching and take informed action. I strongly recommend action research for experienced teachers who are seeking for change and development.

  1. Reading in English

In the latest IATEFL (Manchester, 2015), Martin Parrott highlighted the fact that an English language teacher should never stop learning English. The language is alive and the world dynamics contributes to changes. He also said that one never knows enough and studying the language will give you this dimension. Apart from that, reading in English (and about English) may show students how much you really care about your profession and set a model for development among your colleagues.

  1. Getting inspired, engaging and acting

International associations, such as the IATEFL or TESOL, often look for engaged professionals who are willing to volunteer and contribute to the English language teaching community in various ways. Being active in the communities may lead to developing knowledge, skills, awareness and attitude that will positively affect your teaching context as well. It is more than the exchange of ideas, it is also about promoting change towards the way teachers are perceived in society.

Underhill, A. (1999) ‘Continuous Professional Development’. IATEFL Issues, June/July, 149: 17.

Wallace, M. (1991) Training Foreign Language Teachers. CUP: Cambridge.