For the last few months I’ve been considering different ways of offering professional development to teachers within a school. To that end, here is a collection of alternatives/supplements to weekly seminars in no particular order.
Lesson jamming: get together with a group of people for a couple of hours, take a prompt and come up with a lesson plan or two, which you can then take away and use. Read more about it (the penultimate section of the post) and an example.
Examining principles: consider your beliefs about what happens in the classroom and the materials you use in more depth, perhaps using some of the activities shared by Jill Hadfield in her IATEFL 2015 talk (the second section of the post)
Debate: take a controversial subject in ELT, and have a debate about it, perhaps encouraging teachers to find out more about it before the time. Potential topics could be the use of course books or whether testing is useful.
Webinars: watch a webinar together, then discuss it. Find some here to start you off.
Reading methodology books: but not alone! You could try something like Lizzie Pinard’s ELT Book Challenge or start a reading group as Gemma Lunn did. And it doesn’t have to be books, it could be blogs too.
Using ideas from one of these books about professional development
Action research projects: running workshops on how to identify areas of teaching to research and/or how to make the most of peer observation (or here), sending people off to do their projects, then bringing them back to report on their progress and share their results. Read about examples of projects.
Project-based professional development: as proposed by Mike Harrison, with the idea that teachers do a series of things related to a particular area they would like to investigate. I think it could be seen as a variant on action research.
Reflective practice group: encourage teachers to share reflections on their teaching regularly. Here’s an example from Korea.
Sharing is caring: as an extension, teachers could bring along their current problems in the classroom and the group can brainstorm solutions. This could also lead into more in-depth action research.
Critical incidents: “A critical incident is any unplanned event that occurs during class.” (Farrell in the Jan 2008 ELT Journal) Share an example of a critical incident and discuss different ways of responding to it.
Activity swap-shop: every teacher/four or five teachers bring along activities and share them with the group. They should take about ten minutes, and probably involve a demonstration followed by reflection on which groups it might (not) work with and why.
Video observation: watch part of a lesson together and discuss it. Try these if you don’t have any in-house recordings.
CPD and a cup of tea: as run at IH Palermo, with teachers working in small groups to discuss various questions related to teaching, with the hot drink of their choice. 🙂
Open Space: a kind of mini conference, as seen at bigger events like IATEFL conference
Free for(u)m: a very open structure, based on discussion: I’m…, ask me about…, tell me about…, as suggested by Marc Jones
Scholarship circles: as run at Sheffield University, consisting of a series of teacher-led groups focussing on different areas, as chosen by the teachers involved. You can join in with as many circles as you like.
Professional development groups: a suggestion from Josh Round where teachers take control of their own development.
Exploiting materials: brainstorming as many ideas as you can based on particular materials through the use of post-it notes.
Bite-size reflection: Anthony Gaughan and Phil Wade have put together a free e-book containing twenty 5-minute reflective ideas.
Let me know if you try out any of these ideas or if you have any to add to the list.
Zhenya Polosotova shared five different types of reflective sessions on her blog back in December 2013.
8 thoughts on “Alternatives to the Friday afternoon seminar”
Thanks for including my post 🙂
Some really good ideas!
Very useful and resourceful innovative guidelines and tips to all practioners of teaching.
thank you Sandy, this is a really useful list