Welcome to the Professional Development issue of our magazine. For a lot of you this is the start of the holidays and a time to recharge the batteries after a hectic school year. It is also a good time to reflect on the year gone by and to consider tweaks to your approach, style and content for next year. Or maybe just do some reading and decide that what you are doing is fine.
It has been fascinating editing this issue, and as I went through the articles I started to realise not only how important professional development has become but also how many different ways there are to go about it. The growth in the internet has obviously brought so many more opportunities for development, whether through attending online conferences, reading blogs, being directed to recommended online content through social media, taking part in online forums or participating in professional courses online.
The development of the web has also meant that a huge, global circle of experts, colleagues, reviewers and friends is available to all of us at any time of the day or night. This online community of practice allows us to set up research projects, run surveys, share ideas and materials or simply ask questions. In many ways it acts like a giant virtual staffroom and, like any staffroom, there are those we come to rely on for the sheer efficient, usefulness of their advice and support and others who don’t quite match our needs. The benefit of the internet is that we have the choice as to who we want to listen to.
Articles have come in from all parts of the world and one theme that is very present is reflection. It seems that the one thing we all need time and space to do is think about our teaching and how it impacts on the learning taking place. One way of aiding this process is to record occasional lessons with your smartphone and spend some time objectively assessing it. Noticing the way you look at your students, the type of questions you ask, the language you use, how equally you share yourself around the class will act as a really useful development tool.
As an example of this I recently noticed that my own training sessions were becoming more trainer-centred and I was not allowing enough silence for participants to consider the questions I had asked. Since becoming aware of this I have made a conscious effort to allow more thinking space in my workshops, which I think has allowed participants to get more from them. This sort of small adjustment is often all that is needed not only to refresh your own teaching but to make it more engaging and useful for your learners.
Our next issue will look at the whole area of methodologies and approaches. We all have our own individual approach to teaching and most of us borrow from a wide range of teaching methods and techniques. There is still no certainty as to which method works best and how long it should take to acquire various levels of linguistic competence, but with more and more teaching being linked to learning outcomes and more and more published materials following the same route it is a good time to look at our approaches and take stock. As ever, I would be delighted to get opinions from a wide range of teaching situations.
In the meantime I am sure this issue will have ideas and suggestions which will be of use to you in the teaching year to come. Enjoy reading it!
Editor: Robert McLarty
Robert McLarty has been involved in Business English teaching since 1979. He is a teacher and teacher trainer, and has run a number of RSA Diploma and teacher-training courses. From 1986 to 1997, Robert was the Director of ILC Paris. In 1998 he moved to Oxford to run OISE Oxford and in 2004 he joined Oxford University Press' ELT Division as Publishing Manager, Business English.
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