Professional development activities work

Man speaking at a conference

Anyone who’s organized professional development activities for colleagues has experienced that lingering worry. Will this be a good use of busy teachers’ time? Will it effect real change in their teaching?

An encouraging new study in ELT Journal suggests that yes, professional-development activities can have a marked affect on teaching practice.

This qualitative study explores the experiences of ten participants in Ministry of Education-organized training activities in Ankara, Turkey. Post-training interviews and observations suggested that the experience heightened teachers’ reflection on their approach, and led to substantive changes in their classroom practice.

Particularly interesting is the type of activities that seemed to have the greatest effect on teachers’ learning. Some training sessions were lecture-style, whereas others were more communicative, modeling the target teaching approach promoted in the training. The authors note that this latter approach had a profound effect:

“[T]he teachers mostly transformed the knowledge and skills they developed in the participant-based sessions where active learning, active involvement, and communicative activities such as role plays, drama, information-gap activities, hands-on activities, and small-group activities were employed…”

In post-training interviews and observations, this transformation was evident:

“[Teachers] increased their use of games, drama, songs, information-gap activities, and hands-on activities, and generally preferred pair- and group-work activities after attending the programme.”

This finding alone can bolster the spirits of any trainer hesitating to use communicative-style activities in their program. As this study shows, teachers ‘learn by doing’ just like students: showing, not just telling, is the key to transformative training.

Worth a read for: 

  • Professional-development organizers and teacher trainers.
  • Teacher managers and leaders.
  • Teachers interested in developing their practice.

Discussed in this post:

Sahin, I and Yildirim, A. (2016).  Transforming professional learning into practiceELT Journal.  70: 241-252.