By Tory Thorkelson
According to edglossarry.org, “[i]n education, the term professional development may be used in reference to a wide variety of specialized training, formal education, or advanced professional learning intended to help administrators, teachers, and other educators improve their professional knowledge, competence, skill, and effectiveness.
When the term is used in education contexts without qualification, specific examples, or additional explanation, however, it may be difficult to determine precisely what “professional development” is referring to.”(Italics mine). If you are still wondering what PD/Teacher development entails, check out this site for some ideas/resources: https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/teacher-development .
The question above is one that probably concerns long-term educators more than short- term teachers, but I think it should be one that we all pay attention to for both the good of our students as well as ourselves. As in the above definition, it is the italicized part of the above definition that concerns me here. Let me explain my reasons for this below.
Learning from Colleagues.
All of us have skills and specializations as educators that can be useful for our colleagues. For example, my office mate was an award winning debater during his college years and has taught me practically everything I know about using debating in my undergraduate classes. Take every opportunity to get to know your colleagues as people as well as educators; you never know when their knowledge and experience will be helpful with a current or future course offering.
Coursera, iTunes U, even Stanford Online. There are numerous free or paid courses offered online now that are accessible to anyone with a computer and Wifi or internet access. Publishers like Cambridge also offer online seminars on a regular basis and the International Teacher Development Institute is one group that offers a variety of training options and resources for busy teachers (https://itdi.pro/itdihome/ ).
No matter how limited your time and resources, there is something for everyone here or in the Facebook groups mentioned below. Incidentally, this site has 25 sites offering free or paid courses online: https://www.lifehack.org/articles/money/25-killer-sites-for-free-online-education.html
Reading online and off.
From H. D, Brown to Diane Larsen Freeman, Jeremy Harmer to Jill Hadfield, Jack Richards to Scott Thornbury, there are certain names and books that are seminal works in the field of ESL/EFL. However, there are other sources for professional teachers to read about the latest in pedagogy and practice. One of my favorites is: https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/teacher-development/publications which offers something for almost every teacher and at all levels and they add new offerings on a pretty regular basis.
Joining a Facebook group.
While some people may not trust Facebook as much as they used to, I find it invaluable for keeping up with the day to day or month to month issues in our field. Here are just a few groups that I follow regularly in Korea:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/217083508419459/ (Academics in Korea)
https://www.facebook.com/groups/1570794106467532/ (Foreign Teachers in Korean Universities)
https://www.facebook.com/groups/1594825630806512/ (EFL Writing Instruction)
And I just bookmarked: https://www.facebook.com/iTDi.Pro/
Some groups are more active than others and some are more useful to me personally as well, but by skimming through their posts once or twice a week I get at least a sense of what is on the minds of my fellow educators and occasionally a warning about changes that may be coming to our programs and classes in the not too distant future.
For example, many universities are using apps to take electronic attendance and I read about many of the pros and cons of these apps before our university started using its own just last semester. It definitely helped me feel more prepared for that transition than I might have been otherwise.
Teacher’s Meetings and Conferences.
As I have written about previously, I have been fortunate enough to be involved with KOTESOL since 1998. It also has an active Facebook group with 3,571 members at the current time (https://www.facebook.com/groups/kotesol/ ). For those who want to take their Professional Development to the next level, an organization like KOTESOL offers regular monthly meetings, chapter conferences, national and international conferences and a few other events – both professional and social to meet the needs of educators all across Korea.
Publishers like Oxford and Cambridge also offer teachers’ days at least once a year and some local TESOL programs also offer their own conferences. This link offers a good list of local and international ESL/EFL organizations around the world: http://www.multilingualbooks.com/eslassoc.html#inter
Ultimately, the choice to further develop your skills professionally is up to you. The options for what to do and how to do it are numerous and are becoming easier to access by the day wherever you are. The only questions remaining are what will you choose to do and how fulfilling it will be for you and your students.