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8 Benefits of Professional Development in ELT

teachers engaged in professional development

The importance of professional development for ESL teachers cannot be understated, and just like an effective teacher addresses students’ needs, effective professional development should address the teacher’s specific needs. These may vary depending on the individual’s strengths and weaknesses, teaching context, and career stage.

For instance, online teachers often deal with a very diverse student population and need to learn effective techniques to reach all of their students. Independent online English teachers have to handle interacting with students but also the marketing and business aspects of running an independent teaching venture and must master these skills. A well-designed professional development program should provide teachers with learning opportunities that meet their specific needs, help them deepen and broaden their skills, challenge their assumptions, and foster cooperation.

Let’s take a closer look at the specific benefits of teacher professional development in ELT!

Read about the types of professional development opportunities available to ESL teachers!

1. Reflecting on one’s teaching practices

One of the greatest benefits of professional development in ELT is to provide teachers with an opportunity to reflect on their teaching practices. As the purpose of professional development is to improve students’ learning outcomes by making teaching more effective, teachers should start by becoming cognizant of what areas in their teaching need improvement. A well-designed ESL teacher development plan will inspire teachers to evaluate their practices and challenge their assumptions about teaching and learning.

Learn more about the importance of continuous professional development and how to map out your unique learning path with the guide, Self-Guided Professional Development in ELT.

2. Learning from others and sharing one’s own expertise

When engaged in professional development, teachers can compare notes with other teachers and share their expertise. A particularly useful concept in this regard is that of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). PLCs refer to groups of educators who cooperate regularly to share their expertise and collaborate to improve their teaching.

Jennifer Kelly, in “Collaboration, Collegiality, and Collective Reflection: A Case Study of Professional Development for Teachers,” writes that “PLCs can allow for collaboration and reflective practice, where teachers come together with their colleagues to actively learn about and reflect on their practices.”

Teaching can be a solitary business, especially in the age of online classes. Participating in professional development can provide great opportunities to exchange experiences and challenges and form inspiring and lasting connections.

Bridge Expert Series webinars are a great way to learn from others in the industry! Gathering industry leaders in round-table discussions on topics ranging from pedagogy to teaching English online to career advice, Expert Series webinars provide a flexible solution for ESL teacher development. You can register for free to watch live webinars or join the community to access over 75 on-demand webinars and earn a certificate of professional development for every completed webinar.

Independent English teachers, or teacherpreneurs, may find it particularly useful to find learning communities and other opportunities to network and collaborate, as working online independently can be a solitary pursuit. Bridge’s Teacherpreneur Academy provides access to an exclusive platform for resource sharing, continuous learning, and direct engagement with networking sessions and expert-led workshops.

panelists speaking in a Bridge Expert Series webinar.
The library of on-demand Expert Series webinars is organized in pathways such as 21st-century teaching, Business English, teaching methodologies, and more.

3. Boosting your resume

Prioritizing professional development can do much to boost a teacher’s resume. For example, investing some time in TEFL certification can open new career opportunities for teachers, whether they teach online or in person. Many schools require certification of at least 120 hours as a prerequisite for hiring, but those who go above and beyond and earn additional credentials, such as Specialized Certification or Micro-credential Course Certificates, stand out from other applicants and are usually better paid.

Specialized Certification can also help you break into new TEFL niches, such as Teaching Business English or Teaching English Online. Micro-credentials, on the other hand, are short courses that offer targeted training in ELT subfields like Teaching English Pronunciation or Teaching IELTS Exam Prep. Professional development TEFL courses can help take your career to the next level and set your resume apart from others, as it shows your dedication to lifelong learning.

4. Revitalizing your teaching practices

We have all experienced that moment when the teaching routines we have relied on for a while start to feel boring or stale. Like actors on a stage, teachers need inspiration to be effective communicators and involve students in the learning process. One of the benefits of professional development in ELT is to revitalize one’s teaching practices. There is a thrill in learning something new and a sense of anticipation that makes teaching exciting again and that makes teachers look forward to the time when they can apply the newly-acquired skills in their classroom.

Check out 8 strategies for avoiding burnout when teaching English online.

a laptop screen showing a Bridge TEFL course
Many professional development courses and resources can be done online.

5. Bolstering the ESL department as a whole

For teachers working within a traditional ESL department, the benefits of professional development extend to the department as a whole. Administrators can tailor professional development to address specific issues and can receive direct input from teachers to address the specific learning needs of the student body.

The advantages of a professional development program organized at the department level are many:

  • It can address the specific learning needs of the student population.
  • It can benefit from teachers’ cooperation and peer observations.
  • It can create a working environment where teachers feel inspired and supported by their institution.

Read about trends in English language schools’ investment in teachers’ continuing professional development.

a teacher posing with collegues
Professional development not only benefits individual teachers but also ESL departments with the influx of new ideas and opportunities for collaboration and growth.

6. Keeping abreast of new teaching techniques and trends in education

Teaching techniques are continually evolving. With the introduction of computer technology, the internet, artificial intelligence, and the use of learning apps in schools, new techniques that leverage these tools crop up all of the time. While teachers cannot be expected to know about all of them, they should be selectively aware of those that can help them better meet their needs and those of their students. A well-thought-out ESL professional development plan can assist teachers in this task.

In addition, some teaching techniques arise in response to new trends in education, some of which will likely find their way into schools. Thus, teachers should keep themselves informed, and school administrators should provide adequate professional development to support their teachers.

Teachers can explore learning opportunities to leverage tools like teaching English using videos, podcasts, or AI tools for English language placement, leveling, and progress monitoring. There are also short, targeted courses like Bridge’s Micro-credentials that provide ESL teacher development in 21st-century skills like promoting digital literacy in the classroom and teaching communicative, collaborative, and interpersonal skills.

Looking for a way to keep track of TEFL events? Follow or subscribe to Bridge’s TEFL/TESOL Events Calendar to stay up to date on online and global TEFL professional development opportunities. Check out upcoming events in the preview of the calendar below:

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7. Getting support

Professional development can benefit ESL teachers by providing them with the needed support to develop their skills and be successful in their careers.

This is especially true for novice teachers who often start working directly after completing their TEFL/TESOL certification. In “Novice-Service Language Teacher Development: Bridging the Gap Between Preservice and In-Service Education and Development,” Thomas S. C. Farrel explains how “most novice teachers (…) from the very first day on the job must face the same challenges as their more experienced colleagues, often without much guidance from the new school and institution.”

Also, just like students’ learning, professional learning has an affective element. “Teachers are more likely to engage with others in the learning process, and, therefore, take more risks with a level of support (..)” (Kelly, 2015).

Find out how to get more support by building an online ESL community of practice.

8. Standing out at your current job and qualifying for promotions

In addition to boosting a teacher’s resume when job seeking, looking for professional development opportunities enables teachers to stand out at their current workplace. Employers will take note of which teachers prioritize continued learning, and the more skills you acquire, the higher your chances are of obtaining salary raises and qualifying for promotions. 

Independent online English teachers can also stand out among the competition and increase their portfolio of students by showcasing their professional development badges and certificates. By showing your commitment to continuous learning and professional growth on your website, marketplace profile, or social media profiles, you share not only your expertise but also your dedication to lifelong learning.

Professional development in ELT comes in many shapes and forms, from online TEFL certification to school-sponsored workshops to webinars. A well-thought-out professional development plan is an excellent opportunity that will likely produce these many benefits and assist ESL teachers in developing their professional skills and careers.

Continue your professional development by exploring Specialized Certification that helps you break into new niches or Micro-credential courses that allow you to upskill in targeted ELT areas.

Linda D'Argenio is a native of Naples, Italy. She is a world language teacher (English, Italian, and Mandarin Chinese,) translator, and writer. She has studied and worked in Italy, Germany, China, and the U.S. In 2003, Linda earned her doctoral degree in Classical Chinese Literature from Columbia University. She has taught students at both the school and college levels. Linda lives in Brooklyn, NY.