This article is designed to help take some of the pain out of managing your staff’s professional development and attempt to improve staff opinion of it. Teacher professional development is a crucial part of academic management and hopefully by the end of this article readers will have a better idea of how to use Cambridge English resources to individualise their in-house PD program. By getting teachers to evaluate their skills against the Cambridge English Teacher Framework, academic managers can then use a range of resources such as ‘Ways to Develop Further’, the #5 Teaching Challenges and the Cambridge English Teacher platform to provide structured, individualised professional development for teachers at all levels of experience and skill. The end goal of course being to upskill teaching and create a positive approach to PD
But why listen to me?
Well most of the time I think my family and friends would agree that you shouldn’t. I sometimes wonder if I would remember to breathe if left to my own devices. But two things I know a little bit about are English language teaching and teacher training. I have been a teacher, senior teacher, DoS, principal, and teacher trainer throughout a 15 year career both in Australia and abroad and I am currently the Director of Lexis TESOL Training Centres.
I started teaching at age 20, by pure chance. I arrived in Hungary and needed to eat, so did a CELTA course and started teaching. After that I was pretty much left to my own devices in terms of professional development. I had no idea what I needed, no idea what was available, and no idea where to get it. The school I worked for did provide PD but it was very general and as the only native speaker, I was quite often expected to run it. Basically I bought a copy of About Language by Scott Thornbury and winged it until it was time to do DELTA. What would have been really useful then would have been some way to evaluate my proficiency as a teacher, find specific areas for improvement, and targeted tasks to help me improve – preferably from a trusted source rather than old mate online offering some suggestions.
What would have been really helpful then would have been ‘The Cambridge English Teaching Framework’.
The Cambridge English Teaching Framework describes the competencies of teachers in five categories across four levels:
- Learning and the learner
- Teaching, Learning and Assessment
- Language Ability
- Language Knowledge and Awareness
- Professional Development and Values
It allows teachers (and institutions) to identify where they are in their development and where they want to go.
Ok but how do you use it? It takes a certain amount of self-awareness to read a descriptor and say ‘yep, this is me’. So this is where the Cambridge English Development Tracker comes in.
The Tracker makes the Framework easier to engage with. Teachers are guided through the Tracker answering questions about their knowledge and skills and then the Tracker uses the results to create a profile of the teacher. Teachers can then see an overview of their skills and knowledge mapped against the Framework, and can also look at an in-depth analysis within each category.
This is quite useful for the individual teacher, but in my opinion the best thing about this is how it can be used by academic managers. My favourite feature on this is that each teacher can share their profile with a reviewer – at Lexis English Sunshine Coast the teachers all share their profiles with me – and then I can view all of the profiles alongside each other which then informs my decision making when planning the professional development program for my staff.
For the purposes of this article and so as to not break any confidences with my teachers I have created 3 profiles to view alongside each other. We have the:
- Fresh out of CELTA teacher
- The moderately experienced teacher
- The super duper post-DELTA loads of experience teacher
By viewing them alongside each other I know what category people need development in and at what level they currently are in each category.
I have found this to be ridiculously useful once I can convince staff to do it. Once I had this from my teachers I had a much better idea of their needs and wants and could then plan the PD schedule to suit them. Another perk was that I could see which teachers were strong in which areas and so get them to help me in delivering the PD program.
So the Tracker and the Framework show us what our teachers want and need, but what resources are available to provide individualised PD?
Most academic managers have budgetary constraints when devising their PD schedules and for that reason I am going to focus on 3 from Cambridge English, two of which are completely free and one which is as good as. These are:
- ‘Ways to develop further’
- #5 Teaching Challenges
- Cambridge English Teacher
These can be found on the Framework Category pages and look at each of the five categories of the Framework and make suggestions on professional development options for teachers at each stage of development for that area. Suggestions are grouped into:
- Clips to watch
- Articles and journals to read
- Things to do including practical lesson plans, handbooks and activities
- Study – courses and qualifications
Because the suggestions are grouped according to development stages, as an academic manager I can use these to offer personalised PD to each of my teachers regardless of experience, on the same topic. And because the material is all online, teachers can access it at a time that is convenient to them, rather than having to try to get all the teachers in the same place at the same time on the same day.
I have found the Framework, Development Tracker and ‘Ways to Develop Further’ to be a fantastic basis to get teacher PD going, but there is so much more out there. I have long been a believer in mini-projects and action research but a lot of the time it falls by the wayside when student numbers rise and teachers get busier. This is why I have started using #5 Teaching Challenges with staff looking to push themselves a little further.
Why should I regurgitate here what Cambridge English has put together in a nice little video for you? Have a look – just watching the video will help you generate some ideas about how this free resource can be utilised.
The #5 Teaching Challenges is a great resource for teachers. Essentially there are five challenges to choose from, each challenge takes 5 weeks to complete and requires about 1-2 hours of commitment per week. I have often found that new teachers respond really well to this resource and it is one I suggest to all my trainees when they finish CELTA as post course development.
The challenges are:
- Create a professional development plan that works for you
- Find new ways to motivate your learners
- Find new ways to identify and correct your learners’ mistakes
- Be more confident using digital resources
- Grow your confidence using English in class
Teachers can get a record of achievement for each completed challenge which can be added to their professional development portfolio. Something that is becoming increasingly important in today’s workplace.
The last one I would like to look at today is the Cambridge English Teacher site. This is one that tops all of the others, in my opinion, and for academic managers out there, I would seriously consider looking into institutional membership.
While this is a great resource for individual teachers, and if your school doesn’t have institutional membership then I’d bite the bullet and join as an individual, the benefits for academic managers are huge.
The site provides a wealth of teacher development material alongside a community for discussions and sharing. There are courses, webinars, journals, discussion forums, recruitment options and wonderfully for institutional membership, the ability to monitor and direct teachers’ learning.
The courses are currently grouped under 6 categories – the five Framework Categories and one on Contexts, and there are a tonne to choose from. For new teachers there are courses such as Grammar for Teacher: Language Awareness, while for those needing something more specialised you might look at one of the Cambridge exam courses or Teaching with Technology. Basically as an academic manager you can assign the course for your teachers related to their needs, interests and level of expertise. While these courses aren’t free, they aren’t expensive, and they provide that structure and quality that takes time to develop and the fact that they are Cambridge English courses gives that sense of recognition that I have found helps to motivate my teachers.
The webinars are also fantastic and can be viewed live or on replay. There are a host of subjects and topics to choose from and they are presented by a good range of industry professionals – with a few of the bigwigs thrown in too for good measure (to be fair I’ll watch anything Scott Thornbury has done). But what I have found is that these have been great for facilitating debate and discussion amongst my teachers. Not only in a formal setting – which is how I started off using these – but also between teachers in the staff room during breaks. My original use was to set one a week before a staff meeting and then allocate time at the end of the meeting for discussion. I started off with webinars based around practical teaching topics but have expanded this to look at more theoretical topics. The fact that everyone has watched the webinar before the meeting means that everyone has something to contribute, whether it is ‘I agree’ or ‘rubbish’ but everyone gets involved! It helped to generate that self-awareness I was looking for from my teachers.
With the more experienced teachers I am moving onto setting journal articles of their choosing which I will also read so that we can discuss one on one. This is a bit more time consuming but the individual attention that the teachers receive is great for their development and more importantly, for their sense of self-worth. See I believe, and always have, that teacher development is crucial, but it isn’t just the development itself that is important, it is the attitude that can be engendered in the teaching staff that will inspire them to take control of their own development. My long term goal for this resource and PD program is to get teachers to take responsibility for their own development and run it themselves. While this may not be totally achievable, giving them the tools to be able to do that and help them to continue learning is the teaching part of my job now as an academic manager. These Cambridge English resources give me a structured and professional way to do that.
Cambridge English Teaching Framework:
Cambridge English Teacher Development Tracker:
Ways to develop further:
#5 Teaching Challenges:
Cambridge English Teacher: