Some Ideas for Free Professional Development
In the world where free webinars and online tips are available on Facebook, Instagram or in our mailbox we no longer find them inspirational but rather mandane. Consequently, we start to feel that quality professional development will cost us more than what we want to spend on it. Here are some ideas that can help you take control of your professional development to make it meaningful and purposeful for you and your students.
1 Observing more experienced teachers and peers
This is definitely one of the easiest and most effective ways to continue developing and growing as a teacher. This is exactly the kind of professional development that is always accessible teachers working for a language teaching organization (LTO), such as state or a private school. It’s always a good idea to know why you’re observing other teachers; therefore, having a peer observation task at hand or at least knowing what aspect of your own teaching you’d like to improve will be helpful. You can ask senior teachers or your line manager for observation tasks or try to find them online, but they’re definitely a good thing to think about before you walk into your colleague’s classroom.
2 Inviting other teachers to observe your lessons
It’s impossible to know what comes first the chicken or the egg so feel free to start either with being observed by a colleague or observing them teach a class. Having another teacher observe your lesson, especially, a senior colleague of yours can give you a new perspective on your teaching and a clearer idea of what you might want to get better at. Yes, we know that being observed by other teachers is stressful and not always enjoyable. Also, the feedback you get after your lesson, no matter how constructive it is, is something most teachers dread as it hurts their feelings and self-esteem, but it all makes it worth it, in the end. You can approach such observations in different ways, either have your colleague observe your lesson with a list of things they want to get better at, or have them look at the aspects of teaching that they are interested in, which could also offer some invaluable insights.
3 Reading ELT Books
When making a list of free professional development ideas, I put this point before the next one, but then I realized that without reading up on the approaches and methodologies, the new activities we can do with our students won’t necessarily lead to positive outcomes. It is the reading and a deeper understanding of the principles of language teaching and learning, that helps us make better use of the classroom techniques and activities. Therefore, the first thing you need to think about is what you’d like to learn more about or get better at. It goes without saying that there’s no book which will tell you how to teach English so that your students learn it at last, better yet after a year or a month of taking classes with you. There are, however, books which will give you more information about teaching vocabulary or developing speaking skills which will help you make more informed decisions to improve the learning experience for your students and to help them achieve better results. It is also worth mentioning that reading can help you pursue your own interests at your own pace, so why not start reading up on something you really care about?
4 Trying out old new activities
Here’s the next step which is trying out something new in the classroom. For this, you can find unlimited resources, such as activity books, coursebooks or a plethora of online websites by either recognized publishers or creative teachers. Another idea could be finding an older activity book and doing something not new, but old. Simply remember that we’ve been teaching English for decades now and we could teach fantastic lessons without Kahoot or Quizlet. There’re fantastic activities out there in the world which could help your learners practice language in an unusual, but still very motivating way. Follow us on Instagram to see our selection of timeless ELT resourcesJ
5 Action research
Sometimes teachers use the classroom space for experimenting with new teaching techniques and approaches to improve their teaching and their students’ learning. This is often referred to as action research and can be done individually or with a group of colleagues to help maintain the levels of motivation and discipline. To get started you simply need to identify a problem or make an assumption about language teaching or learning that you’d like to prove or debunk. Action research can be empowering, motivating and rewarding.
Here are the steps you can follow when doing action research:
1. Identify the problem or formulate the assumption about language learning or teaching that you’d like to prove right or wrong, e.g., doing less homework can lead to better test results.
2. Make a list of your research questions that can help to solve the problem or prove the assumption, e.g., Will students appreciate getting less homework? Will that encourage them to do it more thoroughly? Will it apply to grammar or vocabulary as well? Will less homework increase their levels of motivation and encourage them to do more studying before the exam?
3. Read up on your topic of interest. You can read some methodology books or articles on this issue. Remember that it’s important to cover some reliable and reputable ELT titles as well as some recent research which is likely to be published in the latest periodicals.
4. Collect information about the current situation in your classroom. This could include analysis of the test results, student questionnaires, possibly even peer and self-evaluation tasks.
5. Plan your action research and conduct it. You need to have a clear idea of what aspect of your teaching you’d like to improve and decide on realistic steps you can take to get there. Now it’s time to take action and keep track of your findings.
6. Finally, it’s time to compare the newly collected data with that collected before you started your action research and reflect on the changes that took place. The last optional step would be to share your findings with the colleagues and the teaching community either through your Facebook or Instagram page or in some ELT journal.