CPD FOR ELT TEACHERS: 7 WAYS TO BETTER INVEST YOUR TIME

Are you looking for ways to invest in yourself to grow professionally? If so, here are some resources that might be useful to both new and seasoned ELT teachers.

‘Have it Your Way’

How many times have you gone to a CPD course, or sat in front of the computer watching a webinar, hoping to experience some sort of professional transformation and ending up with the same feeling of wasted time? But what if it has nothing to do with the course or the speaker? What if it has everything to do with you?    

I’ve been on both sides of this experience, as a teacher and a teacher trainer, and I have often seen how one and the same workshop may be viewed as a waste of time by one teacher and as a game changer by another. It all depends on the person behind the lens. We all aim to become better as teachers but navigating through different options of professional development and making them work for us is an entirely individual process. What we need to do is to find our own optimum development path. 

How to Find Your Way

There are no magic or no-effort recipes, but what I know for sure is that we don’t need to do things we don’t enjoy. I don’t mean to say that we shouldn’t try to delve into something seemingly boring, but we definitely shouldn’t force it – ‘if it’s not your thing, it’s not your thing’ (and there’s nothing wrong with that).  CPD doesn’t have to be boring and painful. Look at what you do every day, things that fulfill you and your CPD options and mix them up to produce a workable path with bite-sized bits that will lead you to your goal. This way you will not spend your time on some meaningless pursuits but invest it in doing things that feel meaningful.

CPD Options

A glance at our ELT blogosphere may tell us a lot about various professional development paths. This post outlines some key areas of professional development (in no particular order), but it should not be treated as an ultimate list of all CPD options. Here, I mainly focus on some free and readily available resources that I have tried on myself and seen some gains. 

  • Learn

There are myriads of seminars, webinars, MOOCs, online or blended courses, crash courses and you-will-never-be-the-same training sessions that you can do.

Pitfalls:  Signing up for as many courses as possible, neglecting their quality or usefulness for your current teaching career, may be justified only if you’ve planned to have all the walls in your house papered with certificates. Otherwise, before you dive into this sea of global knowledge, try to decide on your focus and ask yourself why and how it might help you in your teaching practice.

The starting point:

Coursera, Futurelearn, or learning specific ELT skills at the British Council or iTDi. 

Coursera offers various general courses and courses in particular areas, such as teaching grammar – Teaching Tips for Tricky English Grammar, writing – Teaching Writing Specialization, listening, speaking and pronunciation – Teach English Now! Second Language Listening, Speaking, and Pronunciation, teaching online – Learning to Teach Online, etc.

I have completed quite a number of MOOCs there, but one very recent course that I believe will be very useful for all educators is Uncommon Sense Teaching (in 2 parts). The course is based on the Uncommon Sense Teaching: Practical Insights in Brain Science to Help Students Learn written by the course authors/instructors. The course provides great explanations and solid insights into learning, and how they apply to learners. It shows how to keep students motivated and engaged, especially with online learning, how to help students remember information long-term, so it isn’t immediately forgotten after a test, and how to teach inclusively in a diverse classroom where students have a wide range of abilities. It is worth every minute of your time.

Uncommon Sense Teaching

Oakland University, Bloomsburg University, Salk Institute, ~16 hrs

This course will give you practical new insights and help you discover how to bring out the best from all your students.

Uncommon Sense Teaching, Part 2

Oakland University, Bloomsburg University, Salk Institute, ~14 hrs

In Part 2, you will explore in more detail the value of forgetting, how to motivate students, how to avoid educational fads, and how to support learners with dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, and other syndromes that relate to learning.

  • Create

There are teachers who are born to create. Their creations – new lesson plans, teaching aids and materials, games, apps, etc. – organically develop from what they are doing or learning. This direction of professional development is not as ‘easy and fun’ as it might seem (a look behind the scenes of Tekhnologic snaps a pretty good picture) and requires much more time, energy and experience to acquire, but if you are cut out for it, it will make you feel happier and more self-fulfilled. Check some blogs of creative teachers to see which area/areas may get your creative juices flowing.

The starting point

Pitfalls: Even if you produce something utterly unique and original, you will still need feedback from your peers to develop. Create your own blog/website (see HOW TO CREATE A TEACHER WEBSITE IN 3 STEPS) to share your ideas or materials or

  • Join

a community. Join an international or local association of the like-minded and help them grow (and grow with them).

The starting point: The IATEFL’s blog, Facebook groups (e.g., British Council Teacher Community), Twitter ELTchat (#ELTchat) or edchats, websites/social media pages of local teacher associations, etc. You can also check this 20 Teacher Groups on Facebook.

Pitfalls: Some groups may seem not really open to newcomers. They already have their well-established ‘heroes’ so it might take some time to fit in and truly become part of their community.

If you do not feel ready to lead or share your ideas with the community, you can always resort to reading blogs, listening to podcasts & watching vlogs.

  • Read, listen & watch

I always learn something from reading blogs and journals for educators, listening to podcasts or watching YouTube channels for teachers. They challenge me to think of a bigger picture of education and try out new approaches and see what might yield the best results.

The starting point: Check this list of magazines and journals for English language teachers, latest news and resources in education on Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day, or this list of podcasts for ELT teachers

Pitfalls: They say hidden bias lurks in the darkest corners of our sub-conscious. If you are not open-minded to new ideas, they will never be effective.

Being well-informed involves knowledge about lots of different things, including your own teaching.

  • Reflect

Exploring your own classroom practices gives you an opportunity to think about what works and what doesn’t in your classroom and guides your professional development.

The starting point: 

Pitfalls: Reflection is about critically examining oneself. This path often requires sharing your emotions and feelings and being able to admit to your weaknesses – it definitely takes guts to admit publicly that your lesson was rubbish.

Source: https://www.arttoself.com/ups-and-downs/

Searching for solutions might often lead you to

  • Research

‘It’s not just about your research skills. It also sharpens how you support your beliefs and assumptions on effective teaching.’ Doing research might help you support your views and approaches to teaching with data rather than using your third-eye power of extrasensory perception.

The starting point: 

IATEFL Research SIG: The Research SIG brings together practitioners and researchers who share a common interest: research into real classroom issues. 

Cecilia Nobre: 10 Tips to maximise your chances of getting a PhD scholarship

Pitfalls: Doing research can be scary if you have never done it before, and oftentimes the language of science may be quite difficult to read. It is important to set small, manageable goals, and slowly build on them, taking things one step at a time, not to feel overwhelmed.

  • Your Way

There is no one-size-fits-all wikiHow tutorial on how to find your ideal development path – you know yourself and your needs far better than anyone else. Trust this and make better time investments. 

Disclaimer: This website may contain affiliate links. This means that I will receive a tiny commission if you do make a purchase at no additional cost to you. All opinions are my own. I recommend only the products that I believe in.

9 Comments

  1. Thank you very much for this post Svetlana, and for the mention! I have just recommended your blog to teachers willing to start writing and sharing ideas. So grateful to be in your PLN and learn about teaching together.

  2. Really useful post! That Uncommon Sense Teaching course sounds great – will look into it when I’ve more time. I love a good MOOC too – there’s a good one that comes up once in a while on Dyslexia and Foreign Language Teaching/Learning. Worth a look if you haven’t done it https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/dyslexia
    Some great suggestions and links in here (thanks for mention btw!). I’ve enjoyed watching SpongeChats when I can, and Martin Hajek’s blog is a good read because lots of what he talks about is a completely different context for me. Sandy Millin’s IATEFL updates recently… whoa! Awesome! I’m still playing mega catchup on those.
    Do you follow Education Rickshaw blog? He covers a lot on the ‘Science of Learning’ and is quite informative. Bit more general education but worth a look if you don’t follow already.

    Anyhow, hope all is good with you. Great to see you blogging again this year and the site’s looking great 🙂

    • Thanks for the pointers, Pete, I’ll check that out! I haven’t followed Education Rickshaw blog before, and I’m looking forward to exploring it. Hope all is good with you. Loved your recent post – you never fail to amaze me. Let me know when you publish your first humour and satire novel, I’ll be first in line to buy it)

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