Week Fifteen: Teacher Development

What was this week’s module about?

This time we were focusing on Teacher Development. After some initial reading about how Teacher Development (TD), aka Continuing Professional Development (CPD), should be structured, we explored different approaches in relation to a exam question. One of the things that pulled me into the Dip rather than the Delta is a consistent focus on teacher development in the exam: there is always a question to answer on this area, which brings the qualification much more squarely into the domains where a lot of candidates (including myself) want to head in their future careers: management and training.

You seem pretty passionate about this!

Indeed I am. Training is where I want to go (more), and so engaging with the theories behind it has been really insightful. There have also been a tonne of practical applications and examples of CPD.

What was the forum task this week?

This was a great one. We were paired up with another person on the course and tasked with interviewing them about their professional journey. We needed to report on the interview in the forum, detailing information about a critical period in their teacher development. If you’re not sure what mine is, I suggest you scout around for my post on mental health. From others there were stories of inspiring teachers, crap teachers, crap managers, inspiring lecturers, and a very strong reaction to Covid-19.

The really interesting thing has been about how the forums have been used this week. Our course director reported cases of forum fatigue after the Christmas break, and reduced expectations and deadlines for forum participation. Generally it’s quite quiet in there (don’t get me started on the YL extension, either). This week was the opposite. I think because the focus was on people rather than methods, everyone was much more willing to engage.

What can you tell us about CPD then?

For starters, the way that I did it when I was DoS, ADoS, or Centre Manager, was not really CPD. See, there are two ways of doing it. Top-down approaches are led from managers and superiors, and led to teacher training. Bottom-up approaches are based on the teacher choosing to develop. The most effective ways of doing this are all collaborative: you should be working with your colleagues to develop professionally, and the choice to do it should come from you guys rather than your manager.

It helps answer a big conundrum from my experience: despite great training workshops and peer observation programmes, teachers in my last school resented opportunities for development. It didn’t make sense. But when did any of those teachers choose to do those things? Hardly ever! The whole process was based on our formal observations at the start of the year: figuring out our teachers’ weaknesses and then designing a training programme to fix them. That’s training, and it’s good. But it’s not really CPD.

Instead, if I had run those observations, done those feedbacks, and asked teachers to come back to me in a week with three things they wanted to improve, then we might have been closer to CPD. The trick would be, I think, to then present teachers with a list of possibilities and facilitate the CPD options. Training workshops aren’t out of the window either. If you need to top up assessment skills or explore ways of listening, a whole-team session is totally valid. We just can’t fall into the trap of thinking that a scheme of whole-team sessions amounts to CPD. For that, we need teachers to work together and to be in control.

Positives all-round, then?

Well, almost.

I KNEW it! What happened?

It’s been a challenging week for me personally, juggling the course and this weekend’s TESOL Spain presentation. I’ve had ambitions to speak there for years, but when I applied for it in July 2020 I had no idea that I’d be doing the Diploma as well. The workload has been almost unbearable at times, and it has definitely spilled over into my personal life. Personal growth moment: for the first time in my career, I have the balls to admit I’ve taken on too much, and will be very careful not to do it again!

Were there any lows?

Besides the stress, I had some negative feedback on an assignment. Let me be clear: the mark was an excellent 24/30, but the comments were definitely on the harsh side, and quite contradictory of advice from other tutors on the course. The critique was justified, but the rudeness of the comments were not. It really makes you wonder about the student experience. We have a change of tutors every week on the Dip, which makes having a tutor you don’t really gel with for one or two weeks less of a strain. What about the times when you don’t like your teacher and there’s no other option? Must be murder!

What about highlights?

Sinead Laffan is one of the best teachers I’ve had in my life. Inspiring, engaging, and human.

What’s next?

A REST! See you in two weeks!