A discussion on ways to maintain continuous professional development.

Photo of teachers at a training, or simply photo of a group of teachers.

Source: Alistair Berg, Getty Images

In order to understand the concept of Continuous Professional Development (CPD), it is first worth looking at the differences between Teacher Training and Teacher Development.

Teacher Training can be seen as the process of equipping an individual with the means to carry out the job of teaching. This is normally done by means of a course of training that presents the individual with a series of skills that meet the requirements of different aspects of teaching. In the specific field of language teaching, these would consist of skills and techniques to teach grammar, lexis, pronunciation, reading, writing, listening and speaking, plus the more general skills involved in classroom management.

For the most part it is fair to say that Teacher Training is a process that comes from "outside" – from a course and from a trainer or group of trainers. Teacher Development, on the other hand, comes from within the individual and requires a commitment from that individual to move forward in some way as a teacher.

Adrian Underhill’s definition of Teacher Development is particularly succinct:

"Teacher development is the process of becoming the best teacher one is able to be, a process that can be started but never finished" (IATEFL Issues, June/July 1999, 149: 17).

One way of looking at this kind of development is to question what experience means. Does "10 years" experience mean the same year experienced 10 times or has the individual with that experience moved forward, experimented and developed as a teacher during that period?

If Teacher Development comes from within the individual practitioner how does this differ from the notion of CPD? First and foremost, it is to do with the commitment of the organization where the individual is employed. CPD implies both the commitment of the individual and the commitment of the institution. Teacher Development can be regarded as more or less a voluntary activity but CPD is much more a requirement for all employees of a given organization, the aim of which is to benefit not only the individual but also the organization and, ultimately, the profession as a whole. In order to implement CPD the individual teacher makes a commitment to develop and move in some way and that commitment is endorsed and actively supported by the organization There are numerous ways in which a teacher can develop and the active support of the organization will greatly expedite this process. Some of these modes of development may involve teacher training, others will simply involve discovery. Concrete examples of such development might be attending external events such as workshops, seminars or conferences, following a specialized training course, getting a higher qualification, becoming a member of a Special Interest Group (for example, the IATEFL Pronunciation SIG), leading in-house and external workshops and seminars, writing teaching materials, publishing articles, becoming more informed about current literature on language teaching and linguistics, and observing other teachers and being observed oneself.

With the active support of the institution many of these goals can be achieved. A motivating factor introduced by some institutions is to have a "points system" where points are awarded for different developmental activities. Attaining a specific points total over a given period of time will indicate to the current employer or to a potential employer that a particular teacher is in the process of active Continuous Professional Development and as a result this teacher will be more employable and more eligible for more responsible posts within a given organization.