May 2011


orange-arrow A Taste of Teacher Development from iTDi
Ideas cooked up in Asian EFL classrooms
Gareth Knight
Managing Director, International Teacher Development Institute

On Tuesday, 10 May 2011, Gareth Knight shared his ideas about how professional development should be designed, implemented and developed to help us improve as teachers.

Beginning with the premise that while teachers can undertake professional development alone through reading and self-study, Gareth argues that collaboration and shared experiences in a community of like-minded souls brings the best results.

Accepting that many teachers find themselves working in environments were colleagues are not as interested in professional development or at the same stage in their professional development, his on-line institute is designed to bring educators from different backgrounds and teaching environments together to share their ideas and learn from others as they learn about themselves.

To do this journey of reflection, he suggested nine core areas of interest that educators should be constantly monitoring and sharing with others…

1. Beliefs as a Teacher
One of the first steps to becoming a better teacher is to explore what you believe. You must ask questions, reflect and continually learn more about two basic things: what is happening in your classroom and learning in general.

2. Expectations
Expectations are a very big part of learning. We must not only challenge our students but we must challenge ourselves as well. Finding the right balance between “strict but kind” is the key to being an effective teacher.

3. Classroom Interaction
Teaching is simply a decision-making process: before, during and after the lesson. Before and after you can take your time, but during the lesson, you must decide immediately and as such developing these in-class skills can make you a much better teacher.

4. Classroom Goals
Defining your overall goal for the classroom is very important as it affects everything you do. Each teacher is different. My primary goal is to connect with students and build a team of learners together. What is yours?

5. Learner Autonomy
This means teaching students how to learn by themselves in the future. Sometimes teaching is not teaching (if they are not really listening) and sometimes not teaching is teaching when we step back and allow them to learn from one another.

6. Extensive Approach
Improving reading, writing, listening and speaking takes both accuracy and fluency practice. In our EFL context, there is not enough balance between fluency and accuracy. If there is more balance, there will be better results.

7. Theory of Learning (TOL)
If you decide how you assume people learn a language – that is your Theory of Learning. There is no one correct TOL. Teachers who have defined their own TOL are more informed about learning, more confident and can be clearer in their teaching.

8. Theory of Practice (TOP)
Your Theory of Practice comes out of your TOL. All of the things you decide are worthwhile activities to do become your TOP. Even if you are wrong sometimes, you will be more successful than a teacher who just blindly follows a teacher’s manual.

9. Reality
Whatever beliefs you develop as a teacher, you must work within your context. You must fit your beliefs into the reality of your teaching situation as best you can. If you ignore the rules and expectations of your school, you may not be around long enough to succeed.

Gareth went on to mention how iTDi is led by veteran teacher and researchers who all remain committed to teaching and continually learning new ways to connect and engage with their students.

“We are EFL specialists supported by world-class linguists, working together to shape the messages that we present. In our Teacher Development Program, we aim to do three things: support your growth, inspire your spirit and fill your mind with useful ideas” he added in closing out his presentation to a large group of interested educators.

Gareth Knight has been an EFL professional in Asia for 22 years, based in Tokyo and then Bangkok. He has managed language schools, taught MA TEFL courses, authored course books and was the ELT Director for Cambridge University Press, Asia. Gareth has long been committed to helping teachers create their own paths of professional development. To further this he has founded the International Teacher Development Institute.

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