Planning Your Own Professional Development

October 20, 2012

Workshop Review: Anthony Gaughan

By Dale Coulter

Anthony Gaughan, a teacher trainer and highly-active member of ELTABB and committee member of the IATEFL teacher development special interest group, kindly made the journey from Hamburg to speak to us on a crisp Berlin October afternoon to speak about planning your own professional development.

Using his experience as a teacher trainer and a selection of activities from Duncan Ford’s The Developing Teacher, he encouraged us to reflect on our on-going professional development from a number of different perspectives, drawing from the wealth and diversity of experience of his audience.

The reflection took the form of a stage by stage guide:

  1. The proposal stage
  2. The design stage
  3. The presentation stage

The Proposal Stage

The teacher is the centre of the process of development; this was the message taken away from the start of the presentation. What is meant by this is that teachers can develop in terms of themselves, the teacher and their students, their colleagues, their institution and their profession.

Starting with ‘me’, we discussed an area we had recently earmarked as something to develop. These choices ranged from “improve my grammar teaching” to “find out what a TBLT (Task-Based Language Teaching) lesson format looked like in practice. To delve deeper into this, we looked at a development cycle for the teacher, involving a self observation format to pick up on potential development strands within one’s teaching practice. While Anthony was not prescriptive about the type of format that should be used, advising us instead to try a number and modify to find what works best, he did provide an example lesson self-evaluation tool shown in ‘mirror mirror’. One thread here was that development is cyclical and the real benefit of it lies in repetition and reflection.

Reflective diaries came up in the subsequent discussion and a number of participants agree that such a format aids a teacher to put such a cyclical model into practice and track it.

To look at teachers and their students, we were shown some activities to obtain feedback from students. Gathering this information can take the form of immediate, or ‘hot feedback’ during the lesson or post lesson ‘cold feedback’, focusing on learner and enjoyment. The latter came as some surprise to me. Surprisingly, I had never considered, after a classroom activity had gone well, the option of asking students about the views on why.

The workshop moved on to teachers and their colleagues. Among other things, something that stood out was peer observation. Having picked a focus, a teacher can ask a trusted colleague to come and observe a lesson, giving the observer a set of criteria for the lesson drawn up from self-evaluations. Anthony was quick to state that it’s important to set a task for the observer and a good idea to communicate the feedback in spoken or written form after the lesson, however the teacher prefers.

Drawing on feedback between colleagues, we then reflected on different types of talk possible to achieve get different results from conversations. Without going to full on with psychology, we remembered some potentially troublesome conversations had and which tactic we used. The experience certainly made me consider how I speak to people in the workplace.

It seemed quite fitting that at an ELTABB workshop the next topic was how to develop in relation to the teaching profession. As an experience conference presenter, Anthony outlined how possible it is to speak at an international conference such as the IATEFL conference no matter how much experience in teaching you have and coming up with an idea can be as doable as ‘brainstorm-create-check-do’. I can’t help but think some seeds were sown in the workshop participant’s minds; good news for the up-coming ELTABB workshop programme!

The next stage of the workshop put the participants in the driving seat. To start us off on the professional development journey, we were given three questions to think about:

  • What 3 things about my teaching or teaching self do I want to develop?
  • Which of these do I want to achieve within the next: 12 months; 6 months; 1 month?
  • How can I get this done? Who can support me?

After a little thought on the topic and brainstorming some ideas, it was time to split into groups to draw up some action plans, putting into practice what we had just looked at. In two groupings, we supported and advised each other on the best pathway to success on our aims.

We reconvened later to share our action plans with the rest of the workshop. Some of the points that came up were:

  • Teach grammar more creatively
  • Try to provide better placement testing for my students
  • Use visuals and lighting more effectively in my classroom

At whatever stage of your teaching career you might find yourself, not losing track of your development is a key ingredient in the recipe for raising your motivation and continuing success in the workplace. I’m sure participants in the workshop will have walked out much clearer on how development, centred on your daily challenges, that encompasses your learners, your colleagues, your institution and your profession, is a positive step towards the teacher you want to become.

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