CPD for English Teachers: What, How and When? Musings on the IATEFL 2017 Plenary speech at Glasgow

Good morning Glasgow and Good morning or Good afternoon the World. Thus spake Gabriel Diaz Maggioli, the opening plenary speaker of the 51st annual conference of IATEFL at Glasgow on 4 April 2017. It’s past 1:30 pm in India. Four years back I attended the opening plenary of IATEFL, Liverpool in person. It was a bright sunny morning with a gentle breeze. Today I am attending it online sitting in an air-conditioned room in Bangalore! A hot afternoon with a scorching sun outside.

The IATEFL International Annual Conference and Exhibition is one of the main events in the English Language Teaching calendar and is attended by over 2,500 ELT professionals from more than 100 countries. The delegates attending the IATEFL conference get a unique opportunity to exchange ideas with fellow ELT professionals which leads to their Continuous professional development as English teachers. Thanks to the British Council, teachers unable to attend the conference in person can attend it virtually.
The first plenary speaker,Gabriel Diaz Maggioli, the tenured professor of TESOL Methods at the National Teacher Education College, Uruguay applies the lessons learned in the classroom to his roles as writer, researcher, administrator and teacher educator.
Gabriel, spoke on “Empowering teachers through continued professional development :framework, practices and promises.” It was amazing to see how the speaker presented his case logically, forcefully and persuasively. His connection with the ground realities was well pronounced in his talk, he was free, frank and objective in his assertions. Based on research findings, he stated that “10% of teachers actively take part in professional development and 90% don’t.”

There is no denying the fact that language teachers need ongoing professional development, but how many language teachers get the opportunity of institutionalized professional development program? Even when language teachers get the opportunity of attending institutionalized professional development programs, they find them, to quote from Gabriel’s speech, “disconnected from the reality of the classroom, too short, no follow up, too much talking, very little doing, outdated, too low a level, cannot apply it, no time to talk to colleagues, no support implementing it.” Gabriel pointed out that standardized (one size fits all or one size fits most), prescriptive, decontextualized and superficial professional development programs fail to help the practicing language teachers in their professional journey
While listening to Gabriel who is an internationally acclaimed CPD specialist as well as a CPD practitioner, I felt that a proper understanding of the concept of CPD is the root cause of failure of CPD in our education system. Well, What does CPD stand for? Continuous Professional Development or Continuing Professional Development or Continued Professional Development? CPD is a buzz word, it is fashionable to talk about the importance of CPD and the various means of attaining the illusory CPD…… continuous, continuing or continued.
The best definition of CPD that I have come across till now defines CPD as “a planned, continuous and lifelong process whereby teachers try to develop their personal and professional qualities, and to improve their knowledge, skills and practice, leading to their empowerment, the improvement of their agency and the development of their organizations and their pupils.” ( Padwad, A and Dixit, K.2011. Continuing Professional Development: An annotated bibliography, British Council.)
Gabriel categorically stated that CPD cannot be done TO the teachers, it can be done WITH the teachers. It is not a commodity to be handed over to the novice teacher by an expert. It is a collaborative journey for which teachers need time, affordability and support. It is a lifelong, continuous and voluntary process, it is not a few isolated in-service teacher training programs, refresher courses or orientation programs which are often ‘full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,’
‘Teachers Choice Framework’ outlined by Gabriel during the talk may give directions to teachers interested in CPD. According to this Framework, the goals of CPD can be achieved by (a) working in communities, (b) coaching, (c) Study Groups, (d) Critical Friends Team,€ Collaborative action Research, (f) Exploratory Action Research,(g) Lesson Study, (h) Learning Circles, (i) Mentoring, (j) Professional Portfolio and (k) Dialog Journals.
Continuous Professional Development may take different forms, but the urge for CPD should come from within. As Gabriel pointed out, 90% teachers don’t care for CPD, what do they care for? Nothing. Towards the end of his talk, Gabriel referred to the role of IATEFL and TESOL in contributing to the cause of CPD. But how many English teachers are the active members of these two umbrella organizations? Not to speak of IATEFL, how many English teachers of India are the members of English Language Teachers Association of India? How many English teachers are aware of the existence of these organisations?
The formation of voluntary teachers organisations for professional development does not cost a fortune, but how many teachers are interested in forming such voluntary organisations?
Conference maketh a full man, Bacon said. Are we ready to confer with our colleagues for becoming full man or woman professionally?
Much have I travelled in the realm of Continuing Professional Development /inviting the wrath of my Principals, ridicules of my colleagues and the complaints by my friends and relatives who felt that CPD was my obsession. Being undeterred by the detractors of CPD, I continued my journey to attain that illusory CPD which has sustained me during my professional journey and saved me from academic isolation and hibernation.

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