This is post number 2 in my series “7 Days 7 Ways: Continued Professional Development” in which I’m sharing ideas on how to integrate CPD easily into your teaching-packed lives! Way #2 was Blogs and that post can be found here.
Today’s Way is…
Reflection Groups & Learning Networks
As I mentioned yesterday, I believe reflection is an essential part of CPD. Even the informal chats you might have with colleagues over a coffee after class are very beneficial for your CPD as they (should!) encourage you to reflect on what and how you’re doing in your job. The idea of a Reflection Group is that a group or colleagues meet on a (semi-)regular basis to discuss and reflect together, and I find that giving a name to these get-togethers also helps the participants to really feel that they have done something constructive, rather than just ‘having a chat’. You can make your groups and get-togethers as formal or informal as you like, as long as the atmosphere is supportive and you can all talk though your experiences and questions, or strengths and weaknesses, or ideas and plans. You and the colleagues in your group can be at any stage in your careers, and with a focus in any field of teaching, but you will need be open for different perspectives and willing to make the most of the reflective environment.
It might also be good to set up some questions, or take it in turns to present an idea, a problem, a discussion topic, etc. to get your ‘meetings’ going. I also find bringing choccy biccies along to the meeting gets people into a talkative and sharing mood quite easily! But remember that the aim of reflecting is to learn and further your professional development, not to fall into a complaints sessions about all your lazy students!!
Your reflection group may be part of what is commonly termed a Personal Learning Network (PLN), built up of colleagues who provide each other with support and professional advice. Nowadays, many people, at least in ELT, use the term “PLN” to refer to an online group or community, so something like a reflection and learning group beyond your immediate and physical teaching context – an online learning and reflection network. To build up your own online PLN, you could…
- reflect in a blog – see yesterday’s post
- use Twitter – I tweet from @Clare2ELT if you’d like to start by following me, or you can join love chat threads such as #ELTCHAT every Wednesday afternoon
- use social networks like Facebook and join relevant groups – for example, I’m a member of “Teachers’ Awareness” and “TEFL English Teachers’ Network”
- Professional networking sites like Xing.com or LinkedIn – you can find jobs through these sites, but also join groups according to your interests and goals
- English teaching sites such as teachingenglish.org.uk where there are articles and downloadable resources, as well as forums where you can reflect and discuss with other English teachers.
- join an online course or MOOC, for example at FutureLearn.com – and then keep in touch with people who you enjoy working with throughout that course.
Whilst preparing this post, I also found an interesting video about how to use online CPD opportunities, such as building your own online Personal Learning Network. Nik Peachy (from whom I first learnt this idea of PLNs!) also has a good long list of links to websites and social networking sites which you can use to “Grow Your Own Personal Learning Network.“
By commenting on this post and following my blog, engaging regularly with me, with other readers and with other comment writers, you will already be starting to build up a an online PLN and supportive reflection group! So give it a try 😉