CPD: What does it mean to you?

CPD (Continuing Professional Development) is a well-used phrase. But what does it really mean? What does it involve? To me, it covers a whole multitude of things:

Courses

This is arguably the most obvious element. You identify a gap in your skill set or a need for general upgrade of your skills/knowledge and search for a course to suit your needs. Courses come in all shapes and sizes, varying in length, focus, outcome, commitment requirements, cost and so on.

The DELTA (Diploma for English Language Teaching to Adults) or its Trinity counter part, the Trinity Dip. TESOL, is a popular choice for qualified ESL teachers wanting to take the next step. These are internationally recognised professional qualifications with a practical focus. The DELTA is a modular qualification and modules can be taken separately or concurrently, distance or face-to-face, part-time or full-time, intensively or non-intensively. The trick is to make the right decision regarding which of these options will work for you. Being a level 7 qualification, the DELTA gives you a number of credits towards a Masters qualification, depending on the university and the course chosen.

M.A.’s (Master of Arts) or M.Sc.’s (Master of Sciences) are generally considered to be more theoretically focused. Popular choices for teachers include Masters in English Language Teaching, Applied Linguistics and TESOL and pure Applied Linguistics. Some M.A.s manage to combine the more theoretical focus of an M.A. with practical application. One such is the Leeds Met M.A. in ELT, which focuses on what you can do with the theory rather than on just learning and writing about it: in the second semester, for example, you design materials, undertake research, develop multimedia tools and write a journal article. First semester content depends on whether or not you choose to do the integrated DELTA option.

Shorter courses

I think these tend to have a narrower focus and there are lots of options out there. International House, for example, has a range of courses, of various lengths, some blended and some purely online. (I shall be doing the Young Learner training, starting tomorrow!) I won’t go into depth on all the courses available out there, or it will treble the length of this post! 😉

Work-based CPD

This, most obviously, would include workshops (both attending and delivering), formal observation, peer observation and the opportunity to participate in short training courses. And, I have discovered, if you work somewhere that truly values CPD (actively, not just paying lip service), then these things become amazing opportunities.

I had my first formal observation earlier this week. Scary scary. BUT the DoS had emphasised that this was developmental rather than a test and an opportunity to experiment. So I experimented for the first time with some techniques I’d read about shortly prior to the observed lesson. It was so valuable to then be able to discuss the techniques, difficulties in applying them and ideas for continuing to apply them, during the feedback with my DoS. I now have a lot of detailed feedback notes to read and reflect on before I next teach. However, I have also already had two classes, directly following the feedback, and tried to put into practice the ideas discussed during the feedback, with some good results. So exciting!

There have been two workshops since I started here, too, both very thought-provoking and useful. It’s always good to be back in the learning seat. In due course, I hope also to deliver one, as I think this would be a very valuable experience. In addition to this, last weekend I did some Cambridge speaker examiner training for KET and PET exams, which was an interesting process.

Personal CPD

This is everything you do to learn that doesn’t come under a formal label! In this diverse category comes things like:

  • attending (and/or presenting at) conferences (face-to-face or online)
  • attending (or giving!) seminars (or webinars)
  • reading journals/professional magazines
  • reading relevant books
  • reading relevant blogs
  • using Twitter (e.g. participating in #Eltchat discussions, following up links)/Facebook (e.g. the British Council TeachingEnglish Facebook page.)
  • writing blog posts
  • writing journal/professional magazine articles/contributions
  • making learning materials
  • carrying out classroom-based research projects
  • reflecting on your teaching/development and making plans for what to try out next.
  • being a language learner again (!) (Being a learner in a language classroom again has shone a whole new light on learning, to consider as a teacher!)

For Me:

I found my Delta and M.A. immensely challenging and rewarding. But I think what comes next is equally important. The CPD doesn’t stop when you finish the course and get your certificate. The course provides you with new knowledge, techniques, methodologies etc. but true CPD is what you do with all of that afterwards. Do you put your certificate in a file and then continue as before? Or do you experiment with everything you’ve learnt and look for new things to try out and connect to your previous learning?

At the moment, I have a couple of projects on the go that are very much the result of having done the Multimedia and Independent Learning module of my M.A., that will culminate with my first webinar (in February next year) and recently I’ve also been exercising my materials development learning in making materials for the Global Issues month as well just for my own use with learners. And I’m finding all of this really satisfying, interesting and exciting. I think, too, that having a supportive DoS is key to effective CPD – there’s nothing like being actively encouraged to develop and helped to do so.

To me, CPD is the spaces between the words. It’s what and how you learn but also, all-importantly, what you do with what you learn, it’s being aware of opportunities and taking them when they arise. It’s what herbs and spices are to cooking – not strictly speaking necessary but it turns a bland dish (one day of experience repeated for twenty years) into something delicious and taste-bud tantalising!

I’m sure I’ve missed plenty of CPD options out of this post, so please comment with any additional CPD ideas you have! Inspire me!! 🙂 What does CPD mean to you?

What (ELT-related) book/article/other resource are you currently reading?

I thought it would be interesting to try and find out what everybody is currently reading and their opinion of it: The idea is that the more people post, the more books are mentioned, then the more reading ideas/inspiration there will be to tap into for everybody, myself included! 🙂

Here is mine:

What: Vandergrift and Goh (2012) Teaching and Learning Second Language Listening: Metacognition in Action. Routledge.

Why? Am currently re-reading this because I want to use some of the ideas with my intermediate class next week. (I finally have the same class for longer than one week! Last week I had this class for the first time, shared with another teacher who has just left, and this coming week I’m not sure who I will be sharing it with.) Anyway, one of the learners has recently been to see the DOS and expressed concerns that she doesn’t feel like she’s progressing and feels that listening is a particular weakness. So I’m hoping that bringing metacognition into the equation might help matters for her.

What’s it about? It consists of three parts: Learning to listen, A Metacognitive Approach to Listening and Listening in Other Contexts. Each of these parts contain several sub-chapters. It’s very theoretical, references lots of research and, importantly, makes the application of the theory very explicit, providing lots of activities that can be used in the classroom.

How have I used it? I used this metacognitive approach to teaching listening as one of the three approaches on which my materials for the materials development module of my M.A. in ELT  were based (the other two being TBL and Tomlinson’s text-based approach) and have been incorporating some of the features of the pedagogical sequence that Vandergrift and Goh put forward in my teaching since having read it the first time around. This book was a post-Delta discovery that I found completely by accident, as I was rootling around in Leeds (as vs Leeds Met) library in order to max out my Sconul membership! It’s possibly one of the top books – in my opinion – that I’ve read during my course, which is saying something! And now I have the perfect opportunity to try out some of the bits I haven’t yet used and see if I can make even a very small difference for this learner and the rest of her class, none of whom are confident listeners. I will also try to find the time to blog about how it goes… (If the dissertation-beast will let me… :-p)

Now over to you! (And I really hope at least some of you will participate… 🙂 ) What are you reading? Why? What’s it about? How have you used what you have read so far/how do you plan to use it? Please share with me, and everyone else who happens across this post, by posting your answers in the comments box below – as much or as little as you feel like typing. NB If you are not currently in the middle of reading something, feel free to post about the last thing you finished reading or dipped into…