An A-Z of Dysfunctional ELT (P is for …)

Well, first, apologies to Scott Thornbury for ‘borrowing’ and distorting his title. This is the closest I’ll ever get to his altitude, so forgive my mutant magpie-Icarus act.

I present to you the first of the series An A-Z of Dysfunctional ELT – the art of getting things wrong, again and again. Each month, I’ll take a letter and explore some ideas about how we get things wrong.  And by ‘we’, I mean you, and you, and you. Oh, and me.  For example, C might stand for Communication (aw, don’t get me started…), or O could be Observation. You get the picture.


P is for (Continuing) Professional DevelopmentCPD2

There are a number of obstacles on the path to worthwhile professional development. The school is certainly one, and I like to think we can divide schools into three types when it comes to Professional Development:

1. The Empties

This is the school for the ‘jobbing’ teacher, where the owner thinks CPD is a sexually transmitted disease. Enough said. Teachers teach, variety and experimentation are frowned upon, and inflexibility is the order of the classroom.

2. The Half-Fulls

A few  input sessions per semester, mostly related to school processes/standards. You know the thing – how to use the ‘book’, how to mark the writing, how not to fail the students (because retention is more important than real assessment).  Some are pretty useful, others not,  but they are mostly uninspiring and non-developmental.

3. The Fulls

The manna from ELT heaven – regular, varied, and interesting input sessions;  sincere, constructive observations; personalization of development, with support and encouragement; and even the occasional bit of money to help it on its way.

Sure, we’d all love to be in a Full school (or nearly full, to be realistic), and if you’re in an Empty, get out as soon as you can if you want English teaching to be your future. But you know what? The school is only a small part of the story. The biggest obstacle to Continuing Professional Development is you.

Here’s a thought experiment – list all the things you did last semester/year as a way of improving your teaching practice and knowledge.  If you run out of fingers with which to count, then well done you, keep it up and make sure everyone knows what you’ve been doing.  If you have any fingers left, or you’re still sitting on your hands, then you need to pull one of those proverbial fingers out and get your skates on (on your feet, not your fingers, obviously).  How? Well, this blog entry is running out of space, so why make lists when others have done it for me:

More in my public Delicious page

What are you waiting for?


Murray, Denise E.  & Christison, MaryAnn (2010), Sustaining Professionalism. In What English Language Teachers Need to Know, Volume I: Understanding Learning (pp.197-215). New York, Routledge.

Thornbury, S. (2006) An A-Z of ELT: A Dictionary of Terms and Concepts Used in English Language Teaching. Oxford, UK.: Macmillan Education. (Also, see his great blog on the topic:

Previous Post
Three Worst Indiscipline Experiences…
Next Post
Is technology or teaching the problem?
Dennis Warren

I'm a teacher/trainer but I have a background in computational linguistics, and am interested in virtually everything. I hold a bachelor's degree in Linguistics and a master's degree in Cognitive Science.

15 49.0138 8.38624 1 0 4000 1 300 0