British Council Webinar Series: Exploring Continuing Professional Development

The British Council TeachingEnglish (TEBC) Webinar series can be found on the TEBC website. This is the link to Paul’s webinar that took place on the 19th May 2016. This is a summary of that webinar.

TEBC summarises the webinar thus:

“He [Paul] talked about the British Council’s CPD framework for teachers and different factors that can influence successful continuing professional development. This webinar explored some of the ways we can focus on our continuing professional development (CPD). We looked specifically at the British Council’s new CPD framework for teachers, the self-evaluation tool and resources on TeachingEnglish for professional development.”

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This is the quote that Paul Braddock starts us off with, one that is apparently much-used if you look on Google. However, it’s not as universally accepted as Paul thought before he read around it. The quote has been changed in the following way:

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According to Paul, Husbands (2013) argues that what makes the most different to pupils is teaching. All teachers can be better but it’s teaching that improves and develops. Focusing on teaching focuses on more on the need to work continuously to improve the quality of teaching across schools. This is where CPD becomes essential. Especially as teaching changes and the skills needed change over time. What was a good teacher ten years ago might not be a good teacher now. Teaching needs to be develop.

Paul moves on to look at the 7 things that influence positive professional development, based on a report by Walter and Briggs (2012). What 7 things make professional development a positive thing for you?

Professional Development that makes the most difference to teachers is:

  • concrete and classroom-based (looking at what teachers do in the classroom e.g. action research)
  • brings in expertise from outside the school (Potentially expensive but expense can be kept down by use of webinars, online conferences, social media e.g. blogs)
  • involves teachers in the choice of areas to develop and activities to undertake (includes using tools to help you identify your areas for CPD and this is where frameworks come in)
  • enables them to work collaboratively with peers (physically within a context or with an online community of practice – requires time and space!)
  • provides opportunities for mentoring or coaching (again, offline or online includes being a mentor or a coach as well not just being mentored/coached)
  • is sustained over time (an action research cycle with the teacher him/herself as the focus)
  • is supported by school leadership (so the school recognises it’s important despite budget cuts etc.)

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In other words, investment in CPD is useful and worth money.

At this point, Paul introduces the British Council CPD framework:

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It is divided into 12 different aspects of professional practice:

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It is also colour coded by stages of development (Awareness, Understanding, Engagement, Integration). The BC was trying to address the misconception that CPD is linear. This is to be a tool that would more accurately reflect this. It is supposed to empower teachers by providing a framework for them to engage with CPD. Also to be used by groups of teachers for collaboration and cooperation. For more information about each professional practice see the document linked to above. He says it is designed to be flexible and teachers can change/adapt it to better fit their context. The process that you would go through is self-evaluation. The BC are currently developing a self-evaluation tool to help teachers decide which professional practice to focus on. At the integration level, this is where you’d then look at mentoring or coaching.

Next, Paul draws attention to the BC TeachingEnglish website. Within the Teacher Development tab, there is a section for Continuing Professional Development.

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Here, you can find resources linked to each of the professional practices in the CPD framework – articles, blog posts, webinar recordings etc. (Fab! Look forward to exploring this!) The idea is, once you identify areas for your own development, you can use this site as a starting point for research, to support you in your journey. Click on the picture above to visit the page. This is an example of access to outside expertise!

TEBC also already offer out-of-the-box full courses such as Primary Essentials, TKT Essentials, Learning Technologies etc. These run for about 12 weeks, moderated or self-access. They are now thinking about how they can provide training that addresses aspects of the framework more closely. So, they have started to modularise the training, so by next April there will be the option of modules packaged into courses or individual modules you can follow (a module running for about 3hrs of study). This is so that you can bring in some training once you have identified which aspects within the framework that you want to develop.

From the 5th to 9th October, there will be an online conference run by TEBC too. (5th October is World Teacher Day!)

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This CPD-focused conference is being launched to coincide with World Teachers Day.  A date for our diaries! The picture above links to the link shown, for more information. This conference is free and aimed at teachers as well as teacher trainers. It will run from approx. 11 to approx. 4 UK time.

Paul also encourages us to investigate the following names in relation to CPD.

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I’ll stick my neck out here and add Sandy Millin to the list! Her blog has a lot of useful content for developing teachers and also exemplifies reflection/reflective practice.

Here are the links provided by Paul finally:

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NB: You can access the teacher educator framework from the English Agenda website, which is a sister website to TEBC.

It’s clear that a lot of thought and effort has gone into producing all these resources to help teachers develop – the frameworks, the accompanying resource curation on the TEBC website, the modularisation of the training courses that is to come. I certainly look forward to trying out a module without having to commit to a whole course.  The abundance of resources available online for teachers looking to develop never ceases to amaze me and this is no exception. Thank you to the British Council and TEBC for doing their part in enabling this – by no means a small part.

Between discussions in the Teacher Education circle at work and watching IATEFL talk recordings such as the one by Kirsten Holt (courtesy of Macmillan) and the one by Shirley Norton/Karen Chambers (also made possible by the British Council!), I have been doing a lot of thinking about these teaching frameworks including the British Council one, so watching this webinar was the next logical step. I’m currently working on a few ideas of my own as to how teachers can use the British Council framework to develop, which should hopefully complement what’s already out there, so watch this space! 

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Post-IATEFL reflections: the challenges we take away?

You spend ages anticipating it, it finally arrives and then it’s over in a flash! That’s IATEFL for you. I’ve also heard it described as:

 “an unnaturally high concentration of TEFLers in a single location.”

“a human pinball machine” [@hughdellar: If you’ve never attended IATEFL, imagine being propelled round a human pinball machine containing everyone you’ve ever met in ELT]

…neither of which I would argue with!

What do you take away?

Now that it’s over, all that remains is a bunch of footage on the British Council Harrogate Online site, happy memories and hopefully other take-aways too. And I’m not talking pizza here. Neither am I just talking ideas, though there are plenty of those. (I’m glad I blogged so much – it means that now I have the opportunity of going back and reminding myself of all the ideas I’ve been exposed to over the last week!) I think a major take-away from a conference like IATEFL is that of challenge.

  • the challenge of grappling with all the new ideas you’ve met.
  • the challenge of actually experimenting with those new ideas in your school/lesson.
  • as a speaker, the challenge of reflecting on your talk/workshop and identifying what lessons you can learn from it, to improve for next time.
  • the challenge of articulating, at least to yourself, why it is that you don’t agree with everything that you heard, rather than dismissing anything that doesn’t fit in with your current beliefs as just plain wrong.
  • the challenge of deciding where CPD will take you next – and acting on that. (Is it just a personal action research/experimental practice plan? a training course? a renewed resolution to read more – books, articles etc? submitting a speaker proposal for a different conference?)

Challenge is important

Many attendees have been up-in-arms over the final morning plenary by Sugata Mitra (summary here), with quite a backlash of Tweets and Facebook posts resulting. – I think that’s great! They – and their beliefs – have been challenged. If you only ever attend talks that you completely agree with, your beliefs may become entrenched and less open to change/development/evolution. (That’s not to say that attending talks whose speakers you are on the same wavelength as is a bad thing: far from it – it can be quite a euphoria-inducing thing to hear somebody else articulate those things that you, yourself, feel strongly about. I think people quite naturally like to feel validated in what they believe.)

At IATEFL, the spread of topics and contexts that you can attend talks and workshops on, is phenomenal, and this is part of what is so special about it. In my Day 2 reflections post I comment on this:

“To me, IATEFL is about the learning (attending talks, giving talks) but also about keeping in touch with the big, wide ELT world that exists out there.”

Hugh Dellar touched on this during his talk, too, suggesting that when we attend conferences, we shouldn’t exclusively be looking for new ideas to take away and try in the classroom, but also look to engage with theories. To theories, I would also add different aspects of our profession: talks related to different areas of professional development, to contexts that we don’t currently work in and to research. Why? To broaden our horizons. To engage with our profession as a whole rather than just our tiny day-to-day slice of it. To challenge our beliefs and practices.

Challenge and growth

My three-part challenge to all participants of IATEFL 2014, whether live or online, is:

  • to not move swiftly on and forget about it till next year’s IATEFL rolls around but rather to reflect on what you’ve learnt and decide how it’s going to affect your beliefs and practice in the time to come: try new things out, experiment with adjustments and see if they are effective or not…find out more about anything that was new to you, and see where that takes you…
  • to fully engage with anything you disagree with. Debate it. Argue with it. But don’t just say it’s wrong and dismiss it. (And I can already see some people are engaging – fantastic!)
  • to remember how big and varied the profession is, when you’re back in your tiny slice of it and life has moved on and keep abreast of it through reading – books/journal articles/anything that reunites you with the wider world of ELT and opens your mind to what’s happening outside your little patch – and interacting with colleagues world-wide online through various channels of communication.

What would you challenge everybody to do post-IATEFL?

Or, how has IATEFL challenged you? Let’s share challenges, challenge each other and, in so doing, help each other stay engaged and on the ball?! 🙂

Thank you, IATFL, for an enriching few days and to everybody who has been part of my IATEFL this year. See you all next time?

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CPD and a cup of tea in the sunshine: go on, give it a go!

On Friday, we had a really fantastic CPD session. It was such a very simple idea, yet worked so effectively – well done, our DoS!

I really think all schools should incorporate this idea, or variations on it, if they can, from time to time (perhaps once or twice a term, depending on term length), so I thought I’d write about it here, for others to try.

Materials:

Sets of questions relating to teaching, professional development and career paths (e.g. about recent good lessons, bad lessons, favourite activities, recently used activities, memorable students, courses you’ve done, courses you’d like to do, how you got into ELT etc etc – the possibilities are endless!)

Time: 

As long as you have! – Whatever time allocation you have for workshops.

Procedure:

  • Put the kettle on. Allow teachers to get their tea/coffee and biscuits.
  • Put your teachers into small groups.
  • Let everybody sit around little tables (sunshine optional but much preferred!).
  • Give each group a set of questions and encourage them to discuss these together.
  • Change sets of questions periodically, change groupings periodically.
  • Repeat until questions/time have run out!

Yes, it’s that simple. 🙂

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CPD in the garden! 🙂 Photo taken from en.wikipedia.org via google search for images licensed for commercial reuse with modification.

Benefits:

  • Time to talk: never underestimate the value of time set aside for talking: though you could argue talking about classes etc happens in the staffroom, generally that is amidst lesson planning, admin and the usual 101 things to do. It was really nice to be able to just…talk! And learn from each other. The combined experience and knowledge in a team of staff is huge and varied, so time focused exclusively on tapping that was time well spent.
  • Increased motivation: we all felt rather up-lifted by the end! The atmosphere after the session was relaxed and happy, with us all feeling enthusiastic despite it being Friday and therefore the end of a long week – a real morale booster.
  • New ideas: talking to people about things they’ve done is a great way to collect some new things to try and to think about things you might not have thought about otherwise.
  • Reflection: Having to discuss your answers to the questions encourages you to reflect on them, and reflecting on your teaching/learning/development etc is always beneficial.

To all the DoS’s out there: It’s  well worth giving it a go! And a really good use of 1.5hrs of INSET training time.