Professional Development for English Teachers Part 2
Part Two: Self-directed learning and professional development through actions
by Gerhard Erasmus and Hall Houston
In this second part of our article on professional development in Taiwan, we will go beyond qualifications and courses to other ways to pursue professional development, such as reading, writing, watching webinars, joining professional organizations, attending conferences, doing talks and presentations, and examining.
While it is often easier to not have to be worried about deciding what to learn and finding the motivation to complete what one has started, self-directed learning offers the opportunity to decide exactly what you want to learn and to do so at your own pace. Reading online, books or magazines are great ways to develop. There are two other ways that will be briefly discussed here, being joining professional organizations and webinars.
This organization has annual conferences and courses, as well as numerous publications that can aid in professional development.
International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language IATEFL
This international organization has regional conferences and a multitude of webinars and magazines along with various special interest groups (SIGs) that one can join for professional development.
There are basically two types of webinars; live and archived. Live webinars allows you to ask questions while recorded ones do not. Often the presenter would share his or her email address and they can be contacted afterwards. This is allowed for archived webinars too.
Sites with a range of high quality webinars are:
Macmillan ELT Webinars
Cambridge ELT Webinars
The British Council
Cambridge English Language Assessment
Professional Development through Actions
Another professional development route is getting published. You can write a short article about any aspect of teaching and be published in a periodical or on a website related to language teaching. The following are just a few websites and magazines that are eager to publish articles about teaching English.
English Teaching Forum
English Teaching Professional
Humanising Language Teaching
Modern English Teacher
One Stop English
Presenting and training
There are numerous conferences at universities in Taiwan throughout the year. While attending these could be a good source of development, the process of preparing and delivering a presentation is an excellent way to develop. The same applies to teacher training projects whether at your own place of employment or elsewhere. The Forumosa website has a list of conferences on the Teaching English in Taiwan forum (www.forumosa.com)
Another option is working as an examiner. There are numerous exams available in Taiwan which has either a face to face speaking component or allows for online marking. The most common would be the range of Cambridge English Language Assessment exams. Contacting exam centers directly or checking on the various exam board sites would be the best way to ensure that you are aware of when examiner positions open. Be aware though that there are minimum professional requirements and often the lowest qualification accepted is often CELTA.
Starting or joining a PLN
Once you get serious about your own development, it becomes easier to find likeminded individuals to share ideas with. You could then start a Personal/Professional Learning Network (PLN), where you could interact online or could meet in person for a chat. This could take the form of a book club, short presentations or just a group of friends sharing information about teaching. A big benefit of a PLN is that you will then be in contact with people who could collaborate with you on writing projects or put you in contact with others who could guide or develop your career.
The activities in this two-part article are only a few examples of the many ways one can develop as a teacher. Other PD activities not described in detail here include writing a blog, recording podcasts, making videos, creating a website, doing action research, taking a position of leadership and pursuing an advanced degree (Master’s or Ph.D.)
Our recommendation for new teachers is to start small. Read a few short articles on topics that interest you. Watch a webinar or two on something that you think will help you improve your teaching skills. And keep going! Always look for new PD activities.
Both of us agree that professional development can be enjoyable and ultimately rewarding for teachers. We hope teachers in Taiwan will reap significant benefits from the suggestions made in this article.
Gerhard Erasmus has an MSc Ed TEFL, a PGCE and a Cambridge Delta. He is currently the Director of Studies at a language centre in Taipei, Taiwan and actively involved in teacher training, from entry level qualifications to tutoring on the Cambridge Delta. He has authored a Young Learners series and consulted on various curriculum and training design projects. He also co-authored the ebook Brainstorming with Hall Houston. His main area of interest in ELT is teacher development including continuous professional development.
Hall Houston is a language teacher in the Department of Applied English at Kainan University in Taoyuan, Taiwan. He has a Master’s degree in Foreign Language Education from The University of Texas at Austin. He is the author of several books about language teaching, including Provoking Thought and The ELT Daily Journal. His practical articles have been published in English Teaching Professional, EFL Magazine, IH Journal, and One Stop English. His professional interests include second language listening, materials development, creativity and critical thinking. He is a Cambridge English teacher trainer and presenter.