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Professional development

It’s as easy as ABC, says Abeer Okaz

What is meant by professional development?

Professional development (PD) is any form by which teachers seek to increase understanding of their teaching and students, and to expand and/or deepen their skills and knowledge. PD comes in different forms and teachers have a wide range of options to choose from. The focus of this piece is to highlight the challenges that some managers face when they propose and/or impose PD opportunities on their staff, to list different ways to get staff to believe in PD and include a variety of PD for teachers.

What are some challenges that stop PD from happening?

  1. Time: it is on the teacher’s wish list, especially during their busy periods.
  2. Finance: sometimes PD is above the teacher’s budget. Besides, not all institutions reward teachers who work on their PD with an increase in salary.
  3. Motivation: an important factor, as many teachers do not see the rationale behind PD opportunities.
  4. Relevance: teachers may not find PD sessions relevant to their teaching contexts and the challenges that they face in their classrooms.

How can you convince your team to pursue professional development?

  1. Personalise and tailor sessions to the teachers’ needs and teaching context, and make them practical with a little background theory.
  2. Support the idea that continuous PD improves students’ learning.
  3. Highlight the skills and updates teachers receive when attending PD sessions.
  4. Help teachers see the value behind what they are doing.
  5. Provide PD options so teachers can choose whichever of them they feel is the most relevant.
  6. Put into consideration time conflicts and outside school commitments.
  7. Ensure there is follow-up support so teachers can relate what they have been trained to do to with what they actually face daily.
  8. Show appreciation for prior experience and encourage trainees to pair up and share ideas and experiences.
  9. Ask staff to start their own profile/portfolio to highlight their credentials.

Why do teachers need to work on their profile/portfolio?

Teachers’ profile/portfolio is one way teachers can get all their credentials in one place. When starting that, teachers will:

  1. better understand their potential.
  2. highlight their experience and skills.
  3. be seen for the right reasons.
  4. may get new opportunities.
  5. connect with people from inside and outside their community.
  6. continually develop as a teacher.

What are some ideas to help teachers create their own profile/portfolio?

“I am strong at communicating with people”

Teachers need to go through three steps in order to create a professional profile/portfolio that best describes them:

  1. Know yourself. One way to help teachers know themselves is to use the SWOT analysis, which focuses on the teacher’s self-reflection of their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. It can be as simple as “I am strong at communicating with people, but I need to work on managing time and stress”. Try it yourself and see how it works for you. For more ideas visit https://www.mindtools. com/pages/article/newTMC_05.htm
  2. Expand your network. There are several ways for teachers to grow their networks and community. Personally, I have found the below suggestions helpful in expanding my network for the past 20-plus years:
  • Become a member of an association which you find beneficial to your teaching context. Examples of these are: IATEFL, ELT Ireland (your country TESOL – in my case NileTESOL), Eaquals, Africa ELTA, IATLA, etc.
  • Join groups/pages which are active and engaging so that you learn from other teachers’ experiences and get access to material. For example, Teaching House, ELT Footprint and BC teacher community, Electronic Village Online, Pearson/OUP/Macmillan, etc.
  • Engage in discussions, ask questions, broaden your knowledge and exchange strategies. This can be easily done via any of the social media platforms. I personally find Twitter and LinkedIn beneficial for being up to date and engaged with others in the ELT field.
  • Identify groups outside your immediate circle. Sometimes you learn best from those who are outside your comfort zone. I have found relevant ideas for teaching in The Economist, Dare to Lead, Digital Leaders, Harvard Business Review, etc.
  1. Take action. Now it’s time to find out how you can put all these ideas into effect. I’ve come up with five action plans that staff can choose from, which are as follows.

Share. One of the first steps of PD is to share and exchange what you already know with other teachers, including your experiences and material. There are several ways to share your work with others and particularly those who might not be as privileged as you and/or who work in a low-resource context.

The below list is just an example, but I am sure there is a lot more out there.


Speak. This is another way of getting your ideas and experiences out there. You can start locally, then go for the international events.

For example:


Your ABC professional development plan

A  Articles (write)

B  Blogs (start/follow)

C  Chat

D  Diversify

E  Expand

F  Follow

G  Get to know yourself

H  Help others

I  Initiate contact (with other ELTs)

J  Join a group/ page/ SIG/association

K  Keep looking for ideas/ being updated

L  Learn a new language

M  Mentor a colleague

N  Network with others

O  Observe a colleague

P  Podcast (follow or start one)

Q  Quit negativity

R  Research

S  Subscribe

T  Training

U  Update your social media profiles

W Workshops and webinars

X  Expand your network

Y  You can do it

Z  Zest up your lessons for you and your students

Publish. Similar to the share idea mentioned above, except that publishing has a formal look. Your work is published and gets read by those who get hold of a copy.

Contribute. This is the final plan that glues together all the above ideas because this is the part which reflects your dedication to the teaching community.

Stay in the loop. Make sure to follow up on what’s going on in the ELT field on a regular basis by doing the following.

PD does not have to be a burden. It can be as easy as ABC. You can choose whatever is relevant and beneficial to you, whatever is affordable and convenient for you and what matches your future PD plan.

Abeer Okaz is the DOS and educational consultant at Pharos University in Alexandria, Egypt. She is also a CELTA tutor and NILE consultant with over 23 years of experience in ELT, both locally and internationally.

Images courtesy of PHOTO BY PIXABAY and Library
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