#IATEFL 2016 - Self-motivated Professional Development

Time to move onto this month's second cycle of ten then...

You may have heard that there is a gathering of language teachers taking place in Birmingham in the UK at the moment called the IATEFL Conference. I had the pleasure of attending last year's event in Manchester but this year, I find myself unable to be there in person, instead experiencing it all vicariously through Facebook updates, Twitter feeds, and the online coverage.

I must say the online coverage is superb. Although it is logistically impossible to cover every session, the fact that non-attendees get to watch a few sessions at a time and place of their choosing (and for free) is great. Finding myself too busy to watch any full sessions over the last couple of days, I have listened to a few interviews safe in the knowledge that I can catch the presentations of interest next week, the week after or even later.

As a registered blogger, I will be reporting on sessions about technology in and out of the classroom (fitting in as it does with my ICT Coordinator position), academic management (ditto), reflective practice (as a personal area of interest) and any hot topics that come up (like the native/non-native debates that seems to be trending online).

I start with some of the interviews, particularly those featuring my fellow Teaching English Associates Kieran Donaghy, Lizzie Pinnard, Sandy Millin, Chia Suan Chong, and Vicky Saumell (whom I was interviewed with last year!) Ably hosted by Paul Braddock (back in the Paddock ;) ), they each responded to the following question:

"Some teachers have quite a negative view of CPD, especially as there seems to be little financial incentive for it. What would you say some of the more intrinsic motivational factors are that people could take into account when they think about their own professional development?"
That's a tough one! How can we get teachers interested and invested in CPD for its own sake? Luckily, I was not in the hot seat this time and instead got to hear everyone else's responses first before adding my own below.

Both Lizzie and Kieran mentioned how taking the lead in your own PD helps keep you out of a rut. Engaging with different ideas helps keep things interesting and there is always something to learn, with Kieran making the key point that you can then pass these things on to your students and colleagues, who will then in turn benefit.

Chia emphasised how easy it can be to download an article or bookmark a blog post and then read it one-handed (all demonstrated with the realia of a bouncing baby on her lap!) when you have a few free minutes. Sandy added that finding a main source of PD input such as the articles and blogs shared through the Teaching English Facebook page or a calendar of upcoming webinars can help you take a little and often approach - no need to read, watch, and join in on everything, however.

They also talked about the importance of going beyond your immediate area of interest, something that definitely chimed with me as I have learnt a lot over the years from teachers in EAP contexts, Business English teachers, and others who work in environments very different from my own. Good ideas are always good ideas and they can be adapted, experimented with and put to use in a variety of contexts.

Vicky added that curiosity helps. If you are interested in learning more about teaching and language learning, CPD is a natural progression. It is also important for senior members of a teaching team to lead by example and show other teachers what they can learn and how it will benefit them, something I intend to do in my new role.

Ease of access, learning new things and the benefits for your own teaching are all key points in promoting the idea of self-directed CPD. I would also add the ideas of reflecting, contributing and sharing. Don't just stop at reading an article or attending a webinar. Actively think about it and how it is applicable (or not) to your context. Try it out in class and then reflect on how it went and how it could be improved next time.

Share with your colleagues and also with the same online communities you visit. Comment on blog posts that resonate with you and reply to Facebook/Twitter updates that caught your interest. Relate your own experiences.

And slowly build up to contributing. Write your own blog posts (either on your own blog or as a guest poster on a blog you read regularly). Offer to host a webinar. Write an article for a SIG newsletter or an ELT magazine. Submit that proposal you've been thinking about to IATEFL for the 2017 conference or to a local event.

It's the same advice I give my students about working on their language outside class. Don't just read or listen. Engage with the information in front of you. Be pro-active and open-minded and you'll find CPD very rewarding indeed.


  1. Thank you David.
    I am following your blog for the last two years and could know the details of IATEFL conference and other postings of yours. All your postings are very informative and useful


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