Reader Response Journal

Empowering Teachers Through Professional Development by Alice Murray

This is a pretty basic, straightforward overview of types of professional development that teachers can engage in. The techniques covered include reflective teaching, keeping a teaching journal, keeping a collaborative journal, analyzing critical incidents, peer mentoring and peer coaching, teacher support groups and teacher support networks involving teachers from multiple schools, local and national teachers’ associations, collaboration between associations, international associations, and workshops and conferences. Murray also notes that reading (or writing) articles is perhaps the simplest form of professional development, but doesn’t elaborate. She uses an example of a teacher in Senegal who maintains a vibrant teaching practice in difficult circumstances because of her commitment to ongoing professional development, to illustrate the impact of these types of practices, and she provides examples from her career for many of the techniques she outlines. She also includes an appendix of advice from the Association of Teachers of English in Senegal on things to consider when starting a teachers’ association.

This is not an article I probably would have read on my own, but as part of the fellowship I’m in here in Ecuador, we have professional learning communities where we meet once a month to discuss teaching. As part of each meeting, we all read an article and use it as a starting point for discussion. As we near the end of our fellowship, one of the other teachers suggested that we read this article and reflect on our professional development throughout our time in Ecuador. The formal professional development components of the fellowship have been the monthly PLC meetings, maintaining a “teacher action plan,” which is an ongoing list of strengths, challenges and goals, and monthly-ish webinars, most of which have been focused on globalization, intercultural communication and international development, rather than teaching and education. We also each complete a fellowship project, which is pretty much whatever we want it to be, to present at our end of service conference. (Mine was a classroom research project on the effect of using multiple intelligence-aligned activities in a unit with my seventh graders.) Reflecting on the PD components of the fellowship has given me a much clearer sense of what works for me and what doesn’t. For example, I’ve been part of two different PLCs during my time here. The first worked much better for me than the second, because it was smaller and much more tightly focused on the month’s theme. We also gave ourselves a time limit for the meeting and separated social time from working time. In contrast, the second group is larger, more social and less focused on the theme, which makes it less effective for me. In addition, I’ve realized that I don’t like the monthly goals of the teacher action plan, so I have also been setting my own goals, using the same format I did during the internship component of my internship. (Murray doesn’t list goal setting as one of her professional development activities in and of itself, but several times throughout the article she mentions the importance of goals in relation to the other strategies.) I’ve been setting longer term goals in the six competency areas of my master’s program and working on them simultaneously, rather than setting one goal per month and not having them overlap. (In case you’re curious, the competency areas I set goals for myself in are 1) language, 2) culture, 3) learners and learning, 4) teachers and teaching, 5) self and others and 6) educational institutions, communities and professional life.) I’ve also found the webinars to not meet my needs, since they are not focused on teaching or education. Instead, I’ve been reading articles independently (and, starting in April, documenting them on this blog), which allows me to target my areas of interest. I’ve also been doing some of Murray’s other suggestions, such as being involved in the TESOL international organization and presenting at conferences. All in all, between this blog, setting and reviewing my six personal goals, conducting my fellowship research project and my writing/editing/presenting work within the field of TESOL, I feel like I’ve got a pretty good ongoing professional development routine worked out for myself.

Murray, A. (2010). Empowering teachers through professional development. English Teaching Forum, 48(1), 2-11.

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