What is your CPD plan? by Shaun Wilden

CPD seems to be one of the ELT buzzwords of 2012. The annual IATEFL conference seemed to have a greater emphasis on it than ever this year, with everyone from the publishers through to exam bodies (re)launching initiatives aimed at CPD and the language teacher.

In case you don’t know, CPD stands for Continuous Professional Development; a term for the process of taking responsibility for your own development as a teacher. A process that includes how you manage your CPD, record it, and find the most suitable way to grow beyond your initial training. While CPD is not a new idea, the fact we live in digital times means that it has never been easier to find a CPD path that best suits you as a teacher.

It all seems far removed from when I took my first steps into the world of academic management and teacher training. Back then the subject of teacher development was somewhat of a contentious issue in and around language schools. ‘What’s the best way to do it? How do we encourage teachers to do it? What kind of development do they want? How much will you pay me for doing it?’ These were just some of the questions that I was asked. But this list is nowhere near as long as the list of excuses I was given by teachers for not wanting to develop.

With ELT being such a mixed bag of ideas, approaches and teaching types, finding the perfect teacher development scheme for a school is akin to trying to solve some of the world’s greatest mysteries. In a time before the internet and the advent of collaborative networking, teacher development was often defined by school resources, along with the free time of the DoS and the willingness of teachers. I can remember being part of teacher trainer teams with a whole plethora of ideas from reading circles, action research projects and pre-dip courses. However, getting teachers enthused was always tricky, so invariably teacher development defaulted to the Friday lunchtime workshop of ‘here’s a cool activity you can try in class’. Those teachers who were willing to go a bit further and take responsibility for their own continuous professional development found themselves an appropriate IH course to take and then go on and to do the DELTA. At IH World we recognized this by introducing our Advanced Teaching Award scheme, which gave credits for every course done.

Now, while there is nothing hugely wrong with this model of teacher development, at its heart it did treat everyone the same and did not wholly allow for a personalized action plan. As anyone who has looked into CPD knows, it can take many guises; from attending a conference to writing an article. For a profession that wanted to be taken seriously, the lack of plans, portfolios, and even an all-round positive attitude to CPD, did it no favours.

But as I said, this was the state of play when I first started. Since then the world we work in and the way we work has changed immensely. One of the biggest changes, technology, got started in 2002. That’s when the term web 2.0 was first used and I think in the decade since then, web 2.0 has quietly gone about revolutionizing teaching, while at the same making CPD more varied, accessible, and most importantly, normal. Let me explain.

CPD has many guises:

  • Attending workshops
  • Giving workshops
  • Being observed
  • Peer observing
  • Teaching A1 to C2
  • Doing a teaching course
  • Doing a language course
  • Creating material
  • Mentoring
  • Action research projects
  • Writing an article
  • Writing a blog
  • Attending a conference
  • Arranging an extracurricular event
  • Reading a teaching book

And so on

What web 2.0 has done is open these up beyond the realms of the Friday afternoon workshop. Now you can attend conferences and workshops online - there are almost too many online events to choose from. The teacher is no longer bound to the fixed slot, they can attend at a time that suits them, quite often for free, and given the price of many conferences, this factor should not be overlooked. Web 2.0 has also made research easier – want to know about using songs in the classroom then you can Google, join a Facebook group, find it on Wikipedia, watch it on YouTube, and via Twitter or other such social networks, you can even ask the ELT world at large their opinion. And for one further illustration, web 2.0 has given teachers a voice that writing an article for publication could not do. By blogging, teachers can openly reflect, share their favourite idea, and tell those interested about a piece of research all at a click of a button.

Blogging in itself has become the focal point for many teachers’ CPD as it not only provides a place to record, manage and plan their CPD steps, but also acts as an immediate record of what they’ve done and what they’ve achieved.
So, given this immediate access to the ELT profession worldwide, it is no surprise that 2012 seems to be the year of CPD as I said at the beginning. IH World has been leading the way in online CPD since 2007. If you want to do an IH course that your school does not run, you can do that online. We’ve also started running live online workshops and conferences for teachers in the network. Many of our teachers are active members of the blogosphere, contributing, not only to their own blogs, but those of [this link is from the original article in 2012 and may be outdated www.ihteachers.com] and the ihplatform.

Trying to build on this, we felt it was time to replace the now outdated Advanced Teaching Award. We wanted to reflect on what IH teachers did and encourage them towards CPD, tying this in with their career paths in IH schools and recognizing all the things they do as an IH teacher. After many online planning sessions, a period of consultation with schools and a lot of feedback, we can now say we have come up with an idea we like.

The International House Continuous Professional Development Scheme has four levels; from the teacher who is just starting out to the academic manager. It tries to give achievable goals at each stage. Each level reflects what we believe a teacher is doing at that stage of their career and the idea is that it goes hand in hand with their everyday work schedule. You can find out more about each stage and how it works in terms of gaining certification on [this link is from the original article in 2012 and may be outdated http://ihworld.com/teacher_development/].

Whatever your take on CPD, I think you’ll agree that this really is an exciting time to be a teacher. Never before has it been this easy to develop yourself and find the training, resources or connections that will make you make a better teacher. The question is then, what is your CPD plan?