Tony Gurr

DIY Professional Development

In ELT and ELL, Quality & Institutional Effectiveness, Teacher Training on 23/03/2012 at 12:40 pm

In Glasgow yesterday (you might have heard that there’s a wee shindig there this week) there was a lot of talk about teacher professional development.

We had Richard Gresswell telling everyone about how social media is simply one of the best forms of CPD. I have to admit he’s right – I drew the “short straw” and ended up having to sit out Glasgow 2012 to “look after the shop” here in Turkey.

Twitter to the rescue – aided and assisted by the thumbs of Jemma Gardner, who sends us so many tweets that I’m amazed she can pick up so much from the sessions she’s sitting in on. Thx Jemma!

I heard Michael Swan was also rumoured to say (finally) that “too much grammar can be damaging” (and is not very “sexy”, anyways). He recommends that all us teachers do more PD and get “better” at it (rather than simply “doing more” of it).

Totally agree – but wonder if he would be saying these things if “Practical English Usage” or “How English Works” were coming out this month?

There was a lot of chatter about “reflective practice” – with Scott Thornbury telling everyone that it is the most important thing any teacher can do and Josh Round doing a session on putting the “C” and “P” back into CPD. Good lad that Josh!

God, I love twitter and internet access – almost as if I was there!


But, I’m going to jump back and focus in on Richard Gresswell’s session in this post (mostly because I also have online access to his PPT and session PDF) – as I got so many tweets on what he was saying.

To be totally honest, Richard was doing a bit of “plug” for the British Council’s “new” CPD Portal – nothing wrong with that (it has some very good stuff)! He also introduced conference participants to the BC’s CPD Frameworka 6-level descriptive model of how teachers “evolve” over their careers:

He also outlined a 4-stage “model” of possible “best practice” CPD opportunities for teachers across the 6 levels:

OK – it did remind me a bit of the US Homeland Security “Threat Levels” – just watch those Level 6 “Terrorists” out there in their “PD bunkers”… – but it was good to see the thinking behind it. Thinking that many schools, colleges and universities just do not seem to do – but let’s come back to this later!


Richard also touched on issues such as:

  • What exactly is CPD?
  • Why is CPD so important?
  • Why do so many institutions simply not do enough CPD?

Ahhh, you know me so well…the 3rd of these really caught my attention (check out his PPT above for more detail on the other questions)!

His response to the last of the three questions was really “tagged on” right at the end of the session (wish he had said more – but this actually gave me something to “add” and blog about) – and he noted that CPD frequently does not happen because of MONEY, TIME, DIFFICULTY and CULTURE (internal and external).

To be sure – these things are important. However, they can be overcome when institutions truly value PD (even better, CPD).

The real problem is that all but very few schools, colleges and universities walk their talk  when they say “we put teachers first – they are our most important asset” (every single one of them “says” this). Sadly, many of them still pay “lip-service” to the idea that we have to invest in our teachers. They just don’t seem to get that making broad “motherhood statements” about what you say you believe is not the same as actually believing it – and doing something about it!

Yes, CPD takes time to get rightCPD is difficult…and costs money.



The teachers of any educational institution are the most critical players in the LEARNing of students and also in student SUCCESS. If institutions were really all about student LEARNing and SUCCESS, they would put both students and teachers at the heart of their decision-making (and budget planning).

Schools (colleges and universities, too) need to GET REAL!

They need to move from “lip-service” to meaningful service – they need to get to know what their teachers need, they need to start providing real opportunities that support the professional learning of their teachers and they need to create the conditions that allow teachers to actively engage in those learning opportunities.


Instead of this we still frequently see so-called “PD Strategies” that are based on:

  • Abdication of responsibility for teacher LEARNing to publishing houses (especially in disciplines that are viewed as “cash cows” for textbook producers)
  • One-off (and hit-and-miss) “events” that are frequently viewed as a “waste of time” by teachers themselves
  • “Flavour-of-the-month projects” that by their very nature do little to promote real teacher LEARNing, distract from longer-term, meaningful projects and (to add insult to injury) add to the workload of teachers

What the British Council have done (and Richard outlined in his IATEFL presentation) is a great start. Indeed, and to borrow Josh’s words, it really starts to put the “P” back into CPD – “professional” (Josh’s “P” was actually for “personalized”).

Now, we have to look at getting the “C” in there – “continuous”.

We need to do more!


If school and college leaders (really, really) want to get serious about teacher LEARNing – they have to get “informed” about what teachers need:

Teachers do NOT need:

More stand-and-deliver, one-shot workshops that are plucked from an “off-the-shelf” folder of laugh-and-giggle “recipes” and have little relevance to how teachers do business in the classroom!

Teachers need:

  • to be involved in diagnosing and formulating their own LEARNing needs
  • to participate in setting their own LEARNing and professional development goals
  • to be involved in the planning their own LEARNing opportunities
  • to be in control of choosing and implementing appropriate LEARNing strategies
  • to be encouraged to identify meaningful LEARNing resources / materials
  • to be seen as “proactive LEARNers” (rather than “reactive trainees”)
  • to feel that their experience and backgrounds are valued – and that they are respected as a “whole person”
  • to LEARN in a “warm, friendly and informal climate” that provides for flexibility in the LEARNing process
  • guidance and support that maintains their motivation to LEARN and keeps them actively involved in their own LEARNing  
  • to know why they should bother to LEARN something
  • opportunities to solve real-life (and school-based) problems (not be spoon-fed training content)
  • opportunities to discover, critique and create
  • to LEARN-by-doing and engage in active experimentation (and reflection on mistakes and failures)
  • “just-in-time” professional development (not the “just-in-case” variety)
  • training support that is task-oriented and contextualised (rather than the “same-old, same-old” workshops)
  • peer support and group-based activities, as well as individual attention from “trainers” or “mentors” 
  • to know that their needs form the basis of any PD programme and that self-direction is the core principle of these programmes
  • to share responsibility for and take ownership of monitoring the progress of the LEARNing experience
  • to be involved in evaluating LEARNing outcomes and measuring their success
  • to experience a sense of progress towards their goals – and a sense of real LEARNing and growth as professionals

Dream much, Tony? 


Come on – it’s a set of thunks…a start! But, there’s also the option of doing it for ourselves – till then!


As a “stop-gap” – I would like to offer a 12-step plan for teachers that might want to thunk a wee bit more about “taking back” control of their own PD.

… a DIY-plan for doing our own Professional Development: 

STEP 1 – Read, learn and discuss more about “professional development” and the things educators are talking about – and what they “mean” for your LEARNers and your LEARNing-and-TEACHing context!

STEP 2 – Be the change you want to see in education! (nuff said – who is going to disagree with Gandhi)!

STEP 3 – Begin with the end in mind (Go on – click on it – dare you)!

STEP 4 – Just do it!

STEP 5 – Start small, begin slowly and focus on doing a few things “differently” and “well” (Rome was not built in a day…)!

STEP 6 – Know that for real improvement in LEARNing and TEACHing, we need to build in a “curriculum perspective” into our planning (what do they say – “a lack of planning is almost as bad as planning to fail”)!

STEP 7 – Remember that for real change in LEARNing and TEACHing, we need to build in an “assessment perspective” into our planning (after all, we all know that if it ain’t “tested”, it don’t get done)!

STEP 8 – Use technology – and, network, network, network (it’s never been easier)! But always remember LEARNing is not about the hardware, the software, or the webware…it’s the “headware”, dummy!

STEP 9 – Review, evaluate and upgrade – Microsoft does not still “control” the world because it always gets-it-right-first-time (actually, it hardly ever does), it does well because it learns from our frustrations and pumps out upgrades faster than you can say “where’s my credit card”!

STEP 10 – Remember “best practice” is seldom ever enough – it is, more often than not, about somebody else’s solution to somebody else’s problem. Surely, it’s better to heed what Covey tells us about the “end” and “bearing it in mind” – and look for “Next Practice” for ourselves!

STEP 11 – Know thy learners, their needs and their current “headware” (you never know – you may not have to “teach” as much as you thought)!

STEP 12 – Damn! Why can you never think of a 12th Step – when you need one! Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference


Tom Peters once said that the ultimate aim of any leader was to “create an awesome place to work” – he also said a “key” to this was to “train, train, train”!

Smart guy, that Peters bloke! I wonder how many of our educational leaders might want to read more of what he says…and “do” something about it?



This post, so I am told by those lovely happiness engineers at WordPress is NUMBER

That’s a lot of words – thank you ALL for taking the time to drop in and have a read!


    Why did I not discover this post, and indeed this blog, earlier?!

    Thank you so much for putting this all down “on paper” in one place!!

    I actually just chanced upon the post as I’m in the middle of a CPD series of blogs myself – perhaps you’d like to check it out, comment, share, etc. 🙂

    It would be my pleasure to greet you as a readers!

    Day #2 of my Continued Professional Development Posts!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: