Earlier this month two Directors of Studies working in different language centers asked me a similar question: how can we ensure that both new and experienced teachers at the school are happy** with the professional development opportunities they have? One big concern for both schools was running regular workshop sessions where everyone is present (either because the center policy requires this, or because it is their own choice)
** Notes about happiness:
- this is a very subjective concept, and happiness is so different form person to person.
- for a language center, it is important to keep the students happy (thus the PD sessions are aiming at the ‘average’ and are aiming to ensure that the colleagues are sharing experience (and oftentimes, that the more experienced colleagues are helping the newer teachers meet customer expectations, etc.) – I am aware that this is perhaps a broad generalization, but it is based on my own experience of working with the above-mentioned language centers.
- based on 1 and 2, we often find that the more experienced teachers become, the less ‘happy’ they are about the PD system at their school, especially when it comes to workshops ‘for everyone’. There are a lot of complaints that ‘there is nothing new’ and ‘this is 10th time we are talking about […]’, etc.
I am sharing some thoughts on this challenge below, and then of course invite you to comment and… share more.
How can we find topics that interest the experienced teachers?
- ask them directly (during a coffee break, at lunch, while choosing a course book, etc.)
- listen to what they are talking about (an interesting activity? a question their student asked, etc.)
- ask what they are reading (and read it too)
- ask about their students and lessons (oftentimes, it is the new teachers who get all the attention, and there is simply no time to listen to the more experienced colleagues)
Formats of sessions: how can I ‘keep surprising’ the experienced teachers?
- Question and Answer format (‘Something I would have liked to know about the topic at the beginning of my career’ can be a good starter)
- Watch a video with a different ‘watching’ task (for example, new teachers could take notes about the ideas and think about their students/levels, etc. whereas experienced teachers could be reflecting which of the ideas shared they have already tried, whether it worked or not, why, etc. You can show them a short activity shared by Macmillan Education ELT, for example, this one on Dictogloss.
- Watch a session from an international conference, e.g. the well-known IATEFL online Silvana Richardson’s session from 2016 is still available (you only need to register for free)
- read some ‘tips from the expert‘, e.g. by Jim Scrivener or Scott Thornbury and discuss what works or does not work and/or needs modifications, etc.
Facilitator’s** Concerns: What if…
…they already know what I am bringing to the session?
- sometimes they only heard the term (the words) and would love to learn more about the ideas and application
- you can see how confident they are about the topic, and perhaps offer them to be ‘guru’ during the session, answer the questions from the others, etc. (which might be a new format of the session!)
- you might decide to find out what exactly they read on the topic, and/or have tried out in class; if possible, think where in the session you can let them share
- it never hurts to acknowledge that there are 1-2 people in the room who will also be contributing to the session ideas (and invite them to share resources, ideas, etc. in the group/social media)
… someone is giving an answer too far away from the topic, and/or if the belief is too different from mine?
- you can ask what the others think about the point (sometimes this means the teacher who asked the question needs to say it again)
- you might give an example from a recent shared experience, then ask about pros and cons of this idea
- you could also share your own point as a belief based on your experience (which they hopefully respect)
** Note: by ‘presenter’ or ‘facilitator’ here I mean the new Director of Studies of an academic leader who is making her first steps in the managing role, so such sessions for the whole teaching team often become a challenge.
my earlier posts about session formats…
- about designing a session for teachers
- about a watching task for a session
- on using interactive lectures
- on presentation formats (can be used for in-service sessions, I think)
- on Motivation (for teachers or students)
… and great posts about some alternatives:
- Alternative to the Friday afternoon seminar by Sandy Millin
- How useful are CPD sessions in ELT? by David Pickup
- Five Models on Teacher-Centered PD by Mary Burns
What do you think?
Thank you for reading! 🙂