What professional development do English language teachers need?
9 October 2018

Silvana Richardson, head of teacher development at Bell English, says simply providing opportunities for professional development is not enough. Instead, as she explained at our Academic Conference in January, teachers need a mixture of directed and chosen CPD that is directly relevant to them.

Teachers need:

  • learning activities consistent with taught principles
  • modelling of new strategies
  • to discuss how to transfer CPD content to the classroom
  • to experiment with new strategies
  • to analyse and reflect on implementation.

Transfer, experimentation and evaluation

"From my experience people don't spend enough time on transfer, experimentation and evaluating," she said, adding that teachers need consolidation, support and follow-up activities over a long period to embed their professional development training.

Michael Bradford of EC Brighton found her insights useful: "Silvana said something very good about CPD for teachers – or anyone else – and how it needs to be prolonged, reflective and not a one-off session, maybe with a more structured feel and reviewing how it is used in class. The idea would be to cover fewer topics but in more depth."

Silvana, who has worked in ELT for over 25 years, also recommended:

  • introducing strategies underpinned by evidence
  • giving teachers the opportunity to understand the rationale underpinning the new practices and the chance to reveal their own existing theories, beliefs and practices, challenging these in a non-threatening way
  • critically engaging with the knowledge base.

She said it was important to give teachers the opportunity to implement the new strategy, analyse the evidence and identify what does and doesn't work, with peer support.

Observation and feedback are crucial

"60 minutes with one theme doesn't really cut the mustard, does it?" she said, adding: "Teachers need considerable time to learn new strategies in sufficient depth, then apply them effectively in the classroom and embed them systematically as part of their practice. One-off sessions and short courses are not effective in creating necessary change."

Mel Judge of Stafford House summer school said: "Silvana's session on observation is something I'll use. She makes a grid to show which teacher has met, partially-met or not met the criteria."

Greg Nowak, academic manager of Anglo, Bournemouth: "I liked the session on impactful CPD – the main reason is for team building. As a summer school, teachers come to us for the short term and we don't have much time to do training sessions."

Continue your professional development at the Academic Conference 2019

The Academic Conference combines a day focussed on classroom practice and a day on academic management. Sessions cover subjects relevant to both teachers and academic managers and some delegate attend both days, often with staff members for whole-team CPD.

Earlier this year we heard big ideas from Michael Carrier, David Crystal and Catherine Walter. The conference was so successful that we're running it again on Friday 18 - Saturday 19 January 2019.



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