One of the things that sucked me into academia was the promise of life long learning. I enjoy learning new things: asking questions and seeking the best possible answer. It’s exciting because there are so many perspectives out there—and a fruitful exercise is to consider as many of them as you can before judging any single one too harshly. How does one maintain this life time of learning? Certainly, there is (trying) to keep up with the literature in your chosen field/subfield. But, there is also continued professional development. And, good professional development often occurs at conferences and seminars hosted by the slew of professional organizations that you might belong to (e.g., TESOL, AAAL, NCTE, BAAL, IAWE, IATEFL, TIRF, NABE, etc.). However, if you’re looking for more formalized professional development—beyond the choose your adventure of the literature or conventions—then you have to dig a little deeper. Since I’m based in China for much of the year, I’m a fan of programs that can be done online, since it’s easier to fit into my schedule. Since I’m hitting that end-of-contract slump as I wait for reappointment, I’ve been asking myself, “How do I want to develop this year?”
I’m hitting that end-of-contract slump as I wait for reappointment, I’ve been asking myself, “How do I want to develop this year?” This has led to some rather deep searching of the web-based PD opportunities, as well as considering options like taking up piano or actually sticking to a workout regimen. Here are some of the more exciting options that I’ve found. Please note, I have not been asked to promote any of these. Just sharing my findings.
TESOL International Association
I went to the TESOL convention in 2016 because it was in Baltimore, near my U.S. home, and it was during our spring break. As conferences go, it was a little big for my liking. TESOL, however, is great because it has a slew of practitioner-friendly resources to allow us to continue our professional development. This includes a bunch of great online workshops and seminars to help us continue our professional development, and these are often led by some bang-up people in the field. In the past, they’ve done workshops on teaching grammar and on training teachers (see here for a complete list). One of my new favorite things though is the certification programs.
They currently have five certification programs, of which I have experience with one and with applying for another one. If you’re interested in transitioning to leadership, I would highly encourage you to take a look at their ELT leadership management certificate program. This is offered both at TESOL and affiliate conferences throughout the year and covers issues in management, hiring and HR, and budgeting and costing. It was an educational experience, even with my experience as a leader at the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL). Then, there’s the advanced practitioner certificate program, which gives you a chance to work with a mentor to do an advanced study on topics like CALL, business English, etc. To me, this is a good opportunity to advance your current credentials by taking a semi-guided look at a new area of interest. The application process is a bit intense, as they require you to submit an application with a couple of essays/statements of purpose, a CV, and two letters of recommendation, one of which has to come from your current supervisor or someone familiar with your teaching. But, I think it’s worth it. I’m currently waiting to hear back about my application to the program.
National Council of Teachers of English
NCTE is another bang up organization, although I’ve only ever been to the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC), which is also a huge conference. But, NCTE also offers some great, web-based PD resources. They offer three main options: self-paces investigations, web-based seminars, and facilitated online courses. Of these, the self-paced investigations (SPIs) looks the most attractive.
In an SPI, you carry out a short, but intense, examination of current issues in English education, like college/workplace preparedness. You engage with readings and work through some activities. Many of these investigations are targeting K-12 educators, and look fascinating. Personally, I might do the “Building Academic Langauge” module, as it can transfer to higher ed easily, and it’s the population that I would want to work with if I switch over to K-12.
They also have a series of real-time, web-based seminars that you can sign up for, with topics ranging from culturally responsive inquiry and teaching to building confidence for ELLs. I’d encourage you to take a look if you have a solid internet connection and can find one that fits your PD needs. They also have some on-demand seminars on a range of topics if you’re looking for something that you can do at 11 pm after the kids have fallen asleep/you’ve actually finished all of your work for the day.
The Center for Applied Linguistics
Many years ago (2010 to be precise), I considered applying for an internship with CAL, but I didn’t think I’d be competative, so I didn’t. Now, I see that they offer a couple of workshops targeting K-12 professionals continuing PD needs, and they look brilliant. They have three online courses that you can take on instruction for ELLs, Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) fundamentals, and ELL literacy development. Each class is comprised of multiple modules to give you a good grounding in each of the topics at hand. And, they’re entirely self-paced. So, if you have a stack of 70 essays to grade—or, need to take a mental health week, you can do so, and it won’t interrupt your progress.
What else is out there?
I’m curious as to how other people go about sustaining their professional development long-term. So, if you have ideas, share them in the comments! I’d love to hear from you.