Thirty teacher development activities you may have engaged in this year

22 12 2015

One of the many things I like about working at an educational institution, be it as a teacher or a s an administrator, is that our work has very clear and well-defined cycles. We finish a semester or year and begin a new one. I don’t think this is true for most professionals. They may finish projects or meet deadlines, but they are not bound to the “year” as we are. In the Southern hemisphere, where our school year really ends at the end of the year, I believe this is even more symbolic.

Thus, this is the time when we stop and take stock of what we have accomplished during the year, both personally and professionally. It’s time to think, “What have I done this year to become a better educator, a better professional?” We all know that teacher development is something that can be done only by and for oneself, and we also know that it goes way beyond taking courses and going to conferences.


As Mann (2005) states, language teacher development is a process of articulating an inner world of conscious choices made in response to the outer world of the teaching context, being wider than professional development and including personal, moral and value dimensions. Bailey (1992) and Willis & Willis (as cited in Mann, 2005) emphasize that innovation and change are necessary parts of teacher development. Padwad and Dixtid (2011) highlight the fact that by way of continuing professional development, teachers develop personal and professional qualities that will lead to their empowerment, the improvement of their agency, and the development of their organizations and their pupils. It is clear then that for teacher development to be successful, it has to have some sort of positive effect on their organizations and, ultimately, on their students.


Here is a list of some of the things I have seen teachers in my institution and my ELT colleagues do this year to develop professionally. Many of them are typical; others might not seem CPD activities at first sight but actually are if you think about the definitions above. If you are reading this post, I’m sure you will have done a good number of the activities listed. You should be proud of yourself and celebrate your accomplishments! If you have not done many of them, don’t worry. You can already start setting goals for next year.


As you go through the list, I invite you to reflect upon these issues:

  • How many of these activities have you engaged in?
  • What has been the positive effect on your students and/or on your organization? What change have you promoted or at least  initiated? How have you innovated?
  • How many of them would you have liked to engage in but didn’t and why?
  • Which of these would you like to engage in next year?

1)    Take courses.

2)    Teach teacher development courses.

3)    Read professional books, articles, blogs, websites, etc.

4)    Attend conferences.

5)    Present in conferences.

6)    Help organize conferences.

7)    Make new professional and personal connections in conferences and stay in touch.

8)    Join and participate in a professional learning community.

9)    Follow professional blogs and interact with their writers.

10)  Write for a blog, be it your own or a collective one.

11)  Share interesting articles and blog posts on social networks.

12)  Respond to colleagues about professional content shared on social networks.

13)  Attend webinars.

14)  Give webinars.

15)  Write an article for a journal or newsletter.

16)  Edit or write a book.

17)  Mentor a colleague, either formally (i.e. upon the institution’s request) or informally.

18)  Try out a new technique or a new technology tool / application and reflect upon its impact on your teaching.

19)  Teach a new age or proficiency level.

20)  Develop a new course.

21)  Help your institution pick a new course book or other educational materials by thoughtfully analyzing the choices and clearly explaining your rationale.

22)  Give feedback to your coordinators/supervisors about the materials and assessments produced and provide suggestions for improvement.

23)  Create and carry out formative assessments in your classes beyond the institutional ones, for the sake of gauging student learning and determining future directions.

24)  Develop materials for your classes and share them with other teachers.

25)  Learn another foreign language and use your experience to learn more about second language acquisition.

26)  Engage in action research and/or exploratory practice.

27)  Observe a peer and reflect upon the experience.

28)  Engage in some sort of planned and continuous activity to improve your English.

29)  Develop a collaborative project with a peer.

30)  Make it a point to stay abreast of what is happening in your country and around the world in order to enrich your classes and exchanges with your students.


What else would you add to my list?



Mann (2005). The language teacher’s development.  Language Teaching 38, 103–118.

Padwad and Dixit (2011) .  Continuing Professional Development: An Annotated Bibliography. British Council.





3 responses

22 12 2015
Marco Rodrigo Skype English Lessons

A very interesting article Isabella!!!The notion that all these different activities actually count asprofessional development has broadened my approach to myown professional development in a way I hadn’t thought of before!It has actually brought my self-esteem as a teacher up to a completely new level!

Please allow me to elaborate a little on this.Normally I work with English File Third Edition. It’s the coursebook I usein most of my lessons.But 2 years ago I also started using Cambridge English Unlimited.I have come to the point of really hating the coursebook and “methodology”.I have a small number of students taking English Unlimited now becauseI have managed to phase it out with most of my students.A small number of students, however, are adamant about usingEnglish Unlimited. I believe they like it because they have never triedanything better… So this situation forces me to give the best lesson I can using a book I hateand following a “methodology” I don’t really believe in.Every lesson has been an ordeal for me. But the students enjoy it very much. The fact is that this situation has forced me to analyze the differencesbetween English File and English Unlimited and also try to understand whyI hate the latter so much. It has also led me think about my own role as a teacher usingboth coursebooks. Why is it that students in both situations seem satisfied, although I tendto think my lessons on English Unlimited are inferior?

After reading your article I can now understand that this situation represents an opportunity for professional development for me. It has been a tremendous insight !!Thank you !! You have a very deep insight into ELT, a fantastic and very unusual combinationof  deep, highly specialized theoretical/academic  knowledge coupled with extensive practical, in theclassroom experience and management of teachers. I have observed over the years that in our profession, the PhD teachers tend to workmainly in universities and thus lose touch with “real teaching” done in schools and language schools. By having obtained advanced degrees and working for Thomas Jefferson for so many yearsyou have managed to avoid this polarization and take in the very best of both situationswhich gives you a truly unique perspective. Quite often when I read texts or watch Webinars given by professors from famousuniversities in Europe, I get the feeling that they are really “Lost in Theory!” With you it’s different! It’s all really relevant !!I think that makes you an outlier in the terms described by Malcolm Gladwellin his book ‘Outliers’.

Thank you! Merry Christmas.  Best wishes,

Marco Rodrigo A. Ferreira Member of Cambridge English TeacherOnline Professional Development

From: TEFLing To: Sent: Tuesday, 22 December 2015, 15:06 Subject: [New post] Thirty teacher development activities you may have engaged in this year #yiv0387070094 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv0387070094 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv0387070094 a.yiv0387070094primaryactionlink:link, #yiv0387070094 a.yiv0387070094primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv0387070094 a.yiv0387070094primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv0387070094 a.yiv0387070094primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv0387070094 | isabelavb posted: “One of the many things I like about working at an educational institution, be it as a teacher or a s an administrator, is that our work has very clear and well-defined cycles. We finish a semester or year and begin a new one. I don’t think this is true fo” | |

23 12 2015

Dear Marco,
I was really touched by your kind words. What a wonderful Christmas gift to realize that someone out there has been reading what I have to say and appreciates my insights. The coursebook experience you mention is a great professional development opportunity indeed. Learning how to deal with different materials, even unwanted ones, and to adapt to students’ needs, even if they kind of go against our personal teaching approach and philosophy, is indeed a great opportunity for professional growth. I believe we need to let go of our fixed ideas that only formal professional development counts. I really try to bridge this gap between academia and real life and I’m glad you appreciate this effort. Unfortunately many professors have never been teachers, and those who have sometimes have lost touch of what it is really like to be a teacher. That’s why I really make it a point to continue engaged with teachers and teaching, despite my heavy administrative load. Thank you so much for taking your time to comment on my post and congratulations on your daily effort to continue developing professionally. It is a never-ending journey!

23 12 2015
Marco Rodrigo

Thank you for your kind reply Isabela! I received your text by e-mail. I was so excited by what I read that I just wrote my comments and clicked on reply, not realizing at that moment that my comments would be published online, publicly. Otherwise I would never have criticized English Unlimited. I was only expressing my personal feelings towards the coursebook. The students love it, and this is the reason for which I am still using it. Their English has also improved immensely. But I am very glad the rest of my text was made public. Thank you once more. I have been learning a lot by reading your blog. Marco Rodrigo

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