Thirty teacher development activities you may have engaged in this year


congratulations courtesy of Stuart Miles

One of the many things I like about working at an educational institution, be it as a teacher or a s an administrator, is that our work has very clear and well-defined cycles. We finish a semester or year and begin a new one. I don’t think this is true for most professionals. They may finish projects or meet deadlines, but they are not bound to the “year” as we are. In the Southern hemisphere, where our school year really ends at the end of the year, I believe this is even more symbolic.


Thus, this is the time when we stop and take stock of what we have accomplished during the year, both personally and professionally. It’s time to think, “What have I done this year to become a better educator, a better professional?” We all know that teacher development is something that can be done only by and for oneself, and we also know that it goes way beyond taking courses and going to conferences.


As Mann (2005) states, language teacher development is a process of articulating an inner world of conscious choices made in response to the outer world of the teaching context, being wider than professional development and including personal, moral and value dimensions. Bailey (1992) and Willis & Willis (as cited in Mann, 2005) emphasize that innovation and change are necessary parts of teacher development. Padwad and Dixtid (2011) highlight the fact that by way of continuing professional development, teachers develop personal and professional qualities that will lead to their empowerment, the improvement of their agency, and the development of their organizations and their pupils. It is clear then that for teacher development to be successful, it has to have some sort of positive effect on their organizations and, ultimately, on their students.


Here is a list of some of the things I have seen teachers in my institution and my ELT colleagues do this year to develop professionally. Many of them are typical; others might not seem CPD activities at first sight but actually are if you think about the definitions above. If you are reading this post, I’m sure you will have done a good number of the activities listed. You should be proud of yourself and celebrate your accomplishments! If you have not done many of them, don’t worry. You can already start setting goals for next year.


As you go through the list, I invite you to reflect upon these issues:

  • How many of these activities have you engaged in?
  • What has been the positive effect on your students and/or on your organization? What change have you promoted or at least  initiated? How have you innovated?
  • How many of them would you have liked to engage in but didn’t and why?
  • Which of these would you like to engage in next year?

1)    Take courses.

2)    Teach teacher development courses.

3)    Read professional books, articles, blogs, websites, etc.

4)    Attend conferences.

5)    Present in conferences.

6)    Help organize conferences.

7)    Make new professional and personal connections in conferences and stay in touch.

8)    Join and participate in a professional learning community.

9)    Follow professional blogs and interact with their writers.

10)  Write for a blog, be it your own or a collective one.

11)  Share interesting articles and blog posts on social networks.

12)  Respond to colleagues about professional content shared on social networks.

13)  Attend webinars.

14)  Give webinars.

15)  Write an article for a journal or newsletter.

16)  Edit or write a book.

17)  Mentor a colleague, either formally (i.e. upon the institution’s request) or informally.

18)  Try out a new technique or a new technology tool / application and reflect upon its impact on your teaching.

19)  Teach a new age or proficiency level.

20)  Develop a new course.

21)  Help your institution pick a new course book or other educational materials by thoughtfully analyzing the choices and clearly explaining your rationale.

22)  Give feedback to your coordinators/supervisors about the materials and assessments produced and provide suggestions for improvement.

23)  Create and carry out formative assessments in your classes beyond the institutional ones, for the sake of gauging student learning and determining future directions.

24)  Develop materials for your classes and share them with other teachers.

25)  Learn another foreign language and use your experience to learn more about second language acquisition.

26)  Engage in action research and/or exploratory practice.

27)  Observe a peer and reflect upon the experience.

28)  Engage in some sort of planned and continuous activity to improve your English.

29)  Develop a collaborative project with a peer.

30)  Make it a point to stay abreast of what is happening in your country and around the world in order to enrich your classes and exchanges with your students.


What else would you add to my list?



Mann (2005). The language teacher’s development.  Language Teaching 38, 103–118.

Padwad and Dixit (2011) .  Continuing Professional Development: An Annotated Bibliography. British Council.


Imagine by Stuart Miles courtesy of

Isabela Villas Boas

Isabela Villas Boas holds a Master's Degree in Teaching English as a Second Language from Arizona State University and a Ph.D. in Education from Universidade de Brasília. She has been at Casa Thomas Jefferson for 33 years, where she is currently the Corporate Academic Manager . Her main academic interests are second language writing, teacher development, ELT methodology, and assessment. She also supervises MA dissertations for the University of Birmingham. She has recently published the book “Teaching EFL Writing - A Practical Approach for Skills-Integrated Contexts.

  • Erivelton Soares
    Posted at 13:03h, 08 dezembro Responder

    Thanks for sharing, Isabela. After reading your post, I am sure I am in the right track.
    Next year I will be attending my fourth semester at the University and since I have started my studies there, I frequently hear teachers and students talk about Teacher Development and stuff. They share their experiences and they also talk about the importance of taking courses in order to keep improving our language and teaching skills.

    However, as you said in your post, teacher development involves much more than only taking new courses and attending conferences, for instance.

    Sometimes I google, “Teacher development Courses”, “Webinars for novice English teachers” and what I could notice about these researches is that we can really find it all online.

    Here it goes my question:

    Since I am a novice teacher and have friends who are going through the same situation, is there any specific advice you could give us? Is there any particular thing we should be more aware of?
    Based on my experience at the university I can tell you that most of the students are more concerned about their English than other aspects such as methodology, lesson plans and so on.

    I am asking you this because I usually see friends who don’t feel confident about their language skills and for that reason they avoid attending conferences, taking Teacher Development Courses, writing for a blog, attending webinars and doing all the other things you suggested.

    Thank you,
    Best regards.

    • Isabela Villas Boas
      Isabela Villas Boas
      Posted at 23:29h, 09 dezembro Responder

      Dear Erivelton,
      I totally understand your colleagues’ insecurity. It is scary to throw yourself out there, especially if you are not confident about your English. I would recommend having a clear English development plan, with a goal and steps to reach it, and also focus on acquiring the basic knowledge for teaching. Take one step at a time and do make sure you learn the basics about teaching before focusing on frills. I know many novice teachers, especially of your generation, who skip the “basic knowledge” part and go straight to issues such as using technology, gamification, etc. What happens is that, while these teachers appear to be knowledgeable, their teaching actually lacks substance. Really learn second language acquisition, learning theories, methodology, phonetics and phonology, and how to describe language. I hope I have helped you somehow.

  • Isaac Wajntraub
    Posted at 17:33h, 09 dezembro Responder

    Olá Isabela. O meu nome é Isaac. Também sou professor de inglês.
    Foi bom você ter postado esta reflexão para que muitos dos nossos colegas parem e possam fazer uma reflexão a respeito desta nossa carreira que, nos dias atuais, não vem sendo levada tão a sério como devia, tanto por parte dos alunos, donos de escolas e, infelizmente, por parte de muitos “colegas” que vêm nessa profissão um ganho a mais no salário.
    Um feliz Natal e um ótimo 2016.

    • Isabela Villas Boas
      Isabela Villas Boas
      Posted at 23:30h, 09 dezembro Responder

      Oi, Isaac
      Pois é, nós precisamos lutar para que sejamos levados a sério e o primeiro passo é nos levarmos a sério!
      Boas festas para você também!

Post A Comment