Are you Growing as a Teaching Professional?

My interest in professional development (PD) in the ELT field was renewed after attending the IATEFL conference in April 2016.  Many of the workshops that I attended explicitly mentioned PD and the presenters effectively linked their topics with our development as teachers.  At the conference, I also discovered teacher competency frameworks developed by Cambridge English and the British Council.  These types of frameworks are not used in Canada, where I teach, so I was very interested in finding ways to use them as a TESL Trainer. Finally, I reflected on how the frameworks could help teachers plan and assess their own professional development and this resulted in an 8 Step Process for Planning our PD. 

Just last week, I had the wonderful opportunity to present on this topic at TESL Canada.  (I am happy to share my PowerPoint slides).  I strongly believe that all teachers can and should continue to develop their professional skills throughout their careers.  I personally still attend conferences even after more than 20 years as a teacher.   Whether you are a new teacher or have years of experience, I strongly believe that continuous PD is important for all ESL teachers. 

What is Professional Development?

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) defines PD as:

  • the conscious updating of professional knowledge and the improvement of professional competence throughout a person’s working life;
  • a commitment to being professional, keeping up to date and continuously seeking to improve; and
  • the key to optimizing a person's career opportunities, both today and for the future.

Harding (2009) suggests that PD for English language teachers be:

  • continuous--professionals should always be looking for ways to improve performance
  • the responsibility of the individual learner to own and manage;
  • driven by the learning needs and development of the individual;
  • evaluative rather than descriptive of what has taken place; and
  • an essential component of professional and personal life, never an optional extra.

Planning for PD

Planning is an important part of reaching any goal therefore planning for one’s own PD assists teachers in defining and meeting their own short, medium and long-term career goals.  Given that conferences are planned months in advance, if one wishes to attend or present, it is essential to plan for these events.

The following 8 Step Planning Tool (it is posted on my website at was designed to assist teachers in planning, documenting and reflecting on any learning or training that is needed. 

Step 1 – Self-Assessment

Before you start, think about your strengths and areas for improvement.  You may have been observed by a colleague or supervisor so their comments will help you to plan your PD.  Cambridge English and the British Council have some excellent frameworks and self-assessment tools that are free (find links in the References below).

Step 2 – Learning Outcomes

Just as we write Learning Outcomes for our lesson plans, it is important to write out specific and measurable Learning Outcomes for our PD. 

Step 3 – Research

Identify sources of PD.  Think about the resources you need (books, online courses) and who can help you (ask colleagues and supervisors). Use social media to track information on free webinars, websites, articles and teaching information.

Step 4 - Plan

Planning is required.  Without a specific plan, the year will pass with little time left to complete any PD.  ELT conferences are planned several months in advance should you wish to submit a proposal to present or attend.

Step 5 - Record

Record the Type of PD, Source, Number of Hours and Learning/Application from this Activity. (Download the complete form at

Step 6 – Reflect

Writing something down helps us to think about it.  (The same reason why we ask our students to take notes).  Reflecting on the CPD activity helps you to integrate the learning and see how you can apply it.

Step 7 – Review

This final stage helps us to measure our progress and find any gaps in our learning.

Step 8 - Repeat

Make PD Meaningful to you


It is important to make your PD meaningful otherwise it becomes an uninteresting chore.  Find creative ways to engage in content to improve your skills as a teaching professional. 

Here are some suggestions:

  1. watch webinars
  2. volunteer
  3. serve on a board/affiliate
  4. edit journals/newsletters
  5. publish ESL/TESL related articles, book reviews, or books
  6. take a course to learn another language
  7. become a mentor
  8. attend a conference session and find ways to share what you learned with your colleagues and/or blog*

*Here is a wonderful example! Thank you Barbara Anna Zielonka!

My Challenge

Over the years, I have heard teachers say things like “I can’t learn anything new” or “I don’t attend conferences because what could someone possibly teach me?” I disagree with these statements.   My challenge for teachers who feel that they have nothing new to learn from PD, think about ways that you can give back to your community or teacher tribe.  For example, teachers can take part in collaborative research projects; challenge yourself to think about the content in a new way and then share it or present a webinar or present/co-present at conferences.

My personal view is that teachers can always find ways to improve their skills.  What we need to remember as teaching professionals is that our students deserve the best possible teachers. 

British Council. (2015). Continuing Professional Development Framework for teachers,

Cambridge English Teaching Framework. (2017).

Harding, K. (2009). CPD: Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is not new but it is increasingly seen as necessary in ELT in the UK and around the world. Keith Harding introduces an idea whose time has come. Modern English Teacher. Vol 18 No 3.

Mares, C. (2016). 50 Ways to Be a Better Teacher: Professional Development Techniques.
Happy teaching!  Patrice

Online Resources Library

Are you interested in submitting a proposal for an upcoming ELT event? TDSIG has organised a list of closing dates for events 

Do your students need Five-Minute Activities to Improve their English?  Have them check out There are short activities using great content (e.g. TEDTalks)  to improve their  English listening skills, vocabulary and grammar.


About Me

My name is Patrice Palmer OCELT, M.Ed., M.A. I have more than 20 years’ experience as an ESL Teacher, TESL Trainer, and Curriculum Writer in Canada including 7 amazing years in Hong Kong. I have taught students from 8 to 80 years in a variety of programs such as ESP, EAP, Business English, and language programs for new immigrants in Canada. I now work as a teacherpreneur doing the things that I love such as writing courses and books, blogging, sharing teaching materials, and providing instructional coaching to new teachers Having a flexible schedule allows me to conduct short-term training around the world at any time of the year. For more teaching resources, please visit my website at
Copyright © 2016 Patrice Palmer, Global Training, Coaching and Development. 


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