A Different Approach to Success


By Gregory Moskos

[This article was first printed in the Fall 2015 issue of TEAL News.]

During a BC TEAL (Association of BC Teachers of English as an Additional Language) conference at UBC, I attended a seminar titled Reflecting on the Precarity of Postsecondary EAL Teaching Careers. A question was posed along the lines of, “Why do people choose to teach in EAL?” I came out with an answer before thinking about it: “We dreamed of something, but it didn’t quite work out. So, EAL teaching became our Plan B.” People in the room gasped in response and a few others disapproved of my remark. I then realized it wasn’t a fair answer. Many of us have chosen to become teachers of English because we are drawn to the profession and the interest and inspiration it brings.

I’ve been teaching English as an additional language for about 10 years. As I approach the 10th anniversary of my first ever teaching position, I feel I am becoming better suited and more passionate as a language instructor. I can’t, however, discard my doubts about my future in this industry. Let’s be honest, language teaching is not a glamourous job. Unless you have one of the few continuing positions at a college or university, it doesn’t pay sufficiently well to live in any urban centre in Canada, where the majority of the jobs are. Nor does it provide the security and sustainability that we witnessed in our parent’s generation as we were growing up. (I’m a gen Y speaking about the Baby Boomers.) So what keeps us going in this industry? What is it that motivates us and instills in us the dedication to provide memorable and significant experiences for our students?

Let’s look at how we regard success in this industry. If you asked the average person to define a successful EAL teacher, he or she would likely say that such a teacher would be a teacher whose students improve their language in the shortest amount of time. We all concern ourselves with our student’s improvement in English language abilities. However, I believe there is more to success as an EAL teacher than how quickly our students approach fluency. I sense there is a hidden ambition for both teachers and students alike to connect with people in another language. Connection is vital for the health and success of any human being and being able to connect in a second or third language is a gift for anyone trying to adapt to a new society. The great thing about these connections is that they can be experienced for language learners both beginner or advanced.  So my focus in this reflection is less on language competency and more on the potential for students to connect with others.

I want to look at this through a philosopher from India named Jiddu Krishnamurti, and how his recommendations tie into to a few experiences I have had as a language teacher over the last 10 years. Essentially, I want to point out the experiences, opportunities, and leadership we experience in this field and how they matter for our determination to persist and grow as EAL instructors.

Krishnamurti is a teacher and writer of enlightenment, meditation, and inner revolution. His words that I want to share are from his book, The Awakening of Intelligence (1973), which contain transcripts of various speeches he gave around the world in the 1960s and early 70s. The following quote reveals the difference between pleasure and passion and how the latter is more enduring than the former. He says:

We divide pleasure in ourselves; we say it would be nice to have a lovely car or listen to beautiful music. There is great delight in listening to music; it may quieten and pacify your nerves by its rhythm and quality of sound; it may carry you away to distant places, far away, and in that there is great pleasure. But that pleasure does not detract you from your vital interest; on the contrary. When you have a tremendous interest in something, then that very interest becomes the major pleasure in your life; in that there is no contradiction. But when we are not sure of your major interest in life, then we are pulled in different directions by various pleasures and objects; and then there is a contradiction.

So I’m inviting us to consider whether the connections we make in EAL teaching, with both students and co- workers, can offer us this ‘vital interest’. It could be something that begins in teaching and branches into other areas of life, or vice versa. What I see now is that there is potential in our work to give us satisfaction and that this is what ultimately grounds us in our career as language instructors.

My first ever teaching position was in Victoriaville, Quebec in 2005. I worked as a language assistant at a purely francophone high school and I held sessions with groups of students from every English class in the school. My task was to help them practice their speaking skills in English. As this was my first teaching experience in a high school, I was apprehensive about maintaining a sense of confidence and firmness among teenagers. Surprisingly, I came to enjoy the task very quickly. I was amused by the energy I got from the students and the hilarious outcomes of their experimenting with the English language in a friendly, casual environment. At the Christmas party that year, the Vice Principal approached me and told me he had gotten much positive feedback from the students about my activities. I remember he said, “The students really enjoy getting away from their regular English teacher, and they find your activities fun and refreshing.” As I ponder my interaction with the students, I realize I have no proof that any of my students actually improved their English. What I do know is that they enjoyed the experience with me. They had interactions that influenced them in a positive way and that will give them a happier association with English down the road. Now I realize they are less likely to be swayed by the negative attitudes towards English speakers from a society that has a troubled past with English as the dominant language.

The second experience I want to reflect on was at a private language school in Vancouver. This school was particular in that it was a Japanese company that offered a program for Japanese youth who had a range of social or learning difficulties. During the time I taught in this program, I sensed that many of these students felt relief being away from their society`s pressures to conform to their peers’ and their teachers’ expectations. Some of them remained reticent throughout the entire program; however, there were a few who opened up and pushed themselves through the tension to speak English in front of students from different countries. In some cases, I could see that these students were improving in English; in other cases, it wasn’t so obvious. What satisfied me though is that I offered them a friendly environment where they could at least try to express themselves.  As the year went on, I could see them becoming more at ease interacting with their peers, both Japanese and from other countries. The experience I got from this was rewarding just by seeing these students interact in a new environment and in an unfamiliar language. My account of how well they improved their grammar and pronunciation was obviously secondary.

The final experience that I want to relate is teaching as a LINC instructor in Vancouver. This is the most challenging experience I’ve had as a teacher because I’m teaching immigrants, some of whom barely have the educational background necessary for learning a new language. The students come from a wide range of national, educational, and socioeconomic backgrounds. The levels I’ve taught have ranged from pre-literate to upper intermediate. What sets LINC students apart from high school students in Quebec, or a group of international students studying English temporarily, is that they have a desperate need to fit into Canadian society, whether they admit it or not. Unfortunately, many of them will continue to interact exclusively with people who speak their native language. However, I can say that there is one thing that lights a student up no matter what their goals are. And that is the moment when we can share an interest, experience, or sense of humour.  It’s almost like meeting someone at a party and you find yourself having that random conversation that brings two complete strangers together into a bond of appreciation, love, and understanding. It doesn’t happen every day but when it does happen, it makes every frustrating aspect of teaching seem trivial.

What I can say now, looking back over this decade of my career, is that these experiences are what made it worth being a language instructor. I am sure there are opportunities in every classroom that give a warm sense of connection to our students and set up the stage to have it spread to their classmates. This is the closest thing I can relate to Krishnamurti’s claim on finding a passion that satisfies me beyond my worldly pleasures and cravings. I know our classes seem limited at times about what we can offer our students, so the question I leave with you is: what ways can we foster connection among our students in the craziest, most creative, most spontaneous way possible?


Krishnamurt, J. (1973). The awakening of intelligence. Harper & Row. p. 283

Biographical Information

From the Fall 2015 issue of the BC TEAL newsletter:  Gregory Moskos has taught English in Quebec, Ontario and South Korea.  He is now an instructor for the LINC program in Vancouver, BC. He also writes music for piano and hopes to perform it in the near future.


This article is licensed under a

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Original reference information:

Moskos, G. (2015, Fall). A different approach to success. TEAL News. Retrieved from https://www.bcteal.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/BCTeal-Newsletter-Fall-2015-Final-2.pdf


Getting to Know Each Other: A Lesson Plan for “Liar Liar”


by Edward Pye

[This article was first printed in the Fall 2015 issue of TEAL News.]

This is an exciting and fun class activity that engages students in multiple skills as well as allows them to find out more information about their classmates. I often use it as an introductory game for intermediate to advanced level classes.


  • Practice written skills by producing several brief written explanations of events in students’ lives.
  • Practice speaking skills by creating questions and answers for these events.
  • Engage quick thinking and creative skills by making up explanations under pressure.


  • Before the class, cut up enough strips of paper so that every student gets three pieces each.


  1. First, hand out three strips of paper to each student and explain that students are going to write brief explanations about three different things about themselves: one on each strip of paper.
  2. Model the activity by writing three headings on the board:
    1. A Secret
    2. An Experience
    3. An Interesting Fact about me.
  3. Then fill in the headings with a corresponding sentence about yourself. This can be a good chance to teach grammatical phrases such as “When I was…”
  4. Give the students 10-15 minutes and have them write their own sentences: one on each strip of paper. It is important to tell the students that if they have a secret and they don’t want other students to know it, then they should not write it down. They should also not show their sentences to other students.
  5. As they finish, go around the class and check their sentences for errors.
  6. Once you have corrected their sentences, have them write their names on the strips of paper and collect them.
  7. Put students in teams of three. Teams of two and four also work, but three is the optimal number.
  8. One student from each team comes to the front and stands facing the class in a line.
  9. Find those students’ sentences from the collection and choose one sentence from one of them and read it out to the class. This sentence is the truth for one of the students at the front, but all the other students must pretend like this is their sentence.
  10. The sitting students now have to find out who is telling the truth by asking questions. The theory is that the students who are lying will have much slower and less in-depth and inconsistent answers than the student telling the truth.
  11. Each team can ask two or three questions which all the students at the front answer, and then the teams can deliberate for a minute to discuss who they think is telling the truth. Once they have their choice, the truth-teller is revealed and the teams that got it right get a point.
  12. You then play again with new students. The team with the most points at the end is the winner.

Biographical Information

From the Fall 2015 issue of the BC TEAL newsletter:  Edward Pye is a New Zealander who has been working in the international education field for a number of years. After completing an English literature degree at Otago University in 2001, he moved to South Korea where he taught for eight years in both the private school and university systems. Upon meeting his Canadian wife, he shifted to BC where he continued teaching as well as moving into the curriculum development field.


This article is licensed under a

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Original reference information:

Pye, E. (2015, Fall). Getting to Know Each Other:  A Lesson Plan for “Liar Liar”. TEAL News. Retrieved from https://www.bcteal.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/BCTeal-Newsletter-Fall-2015-Final-2.pdf

#CdnELTchat Summary for May 12, 2020 (eLearning Essentials: Using Instructional Design Principles for Online Language Training)


#CdnELTchat summary for May 12, 2020

By Bonnie Nicholas

The #CdnELTchat community was happy to welcome Linda Manimtim, MEd (TESL) as our guest moderator for our chat on eLearning Essentials: Using Instructional Design Principles for Online Language Training. Linda (@lindamanimtim) is based in Winnipeg and is an Instructional Designer at Red River College in Winnipeg and an EAL Specialist with the Professional English Group (PEG) Canada. She is currently working on developing eSkills, a digital literacy course for newcomers.

These are the questions that guided our conversation during the hour-long chat:

Q1: In your mind, what is (or what isn’t) instructional design? 

Q2: How is instructional design implemented in your context? How can instructional design be injected into current practice as painlessly as possible?

Q3: Especially with the immediate and necessary push to e-learning, teachers must often assume the roles of instructional designer AND instructor; what challenges does this present and how can we approach them? 

Q4: The primary purposes of any instructional designer are to analyze learning needs and to systematically improve learning experiences. What best practices are key to improving the e-learning language learning experience? 

Q5: UDL or Universal Design for Learning, is a way of teaching and learning that seeks to give all learners equal opportunity to succeed, by varying representation, engagement, and expression. How can we incorporate UDL for our online language learners?

Q6: How has your experience been with e-learning so far? What else do you want to know about e-learning? What resources do you think are essential?

The consensus was that instructional design is more important than ever, as #ELT around the world continues online for the foreseeable future. Thanks to Linda and to all the participants for being willing to share ideas and promising practices for designing online learning environments. Here are some highlights from our hour-long chat:

  • Instructional Design simply means analyzing current and future needs and improving learning experiences.
  • #ELT professionals are likely already intuitively using instructional design (ID) in their teaching, but there is value in using the ADDIE model to explicitly identify and apply Merrill’s principles, Gagne’s events, Bloom’s taxonomy, or Garrison and Anderson’s community of inquiry.
  • The shift to emergency online teaching and learning has made instructional design more important than ever. There hasn’t been a focus on ID in #ELT, but that is changing.
  • Good ID means using outcome-driven activities that will drive learning. ID is like the framing of a house: it holds everything up but you don’t see it. ID informs decisions, supports content, and builds consistency.
  • Use check-ins to help keep learners on track; focus on building community, making connections, and nurturing a positive learning environment in your online space. 
  • Build courses for those with low bandwidth and limited access, but ensure keeners have extension activities to challenge themselves. Focus on accessibility and readability. 
  • Universal Design for Learning (UDL) suggests having multiple means of engagement, representation, and action and expression. Having choices is important, and shifts responsibility to the learner.
  • Remember that we are still in emergency mode as we transform to online teaching and learning. We need to be patient with ourselves and our learners. Go slow and low. Stay connected with colleagues in your workplace, your #PLN, and your #CommunityofPractice.

We’ve collected the tweets from the chat using Tweetdeck; you can view the collection on Twitter (You’ll be able to read all the tweets from the evening’s conversation, even if you don’t have a Twitter account). We had many more questions than we had time to discuss, so we’ll be asking Linda back for round two in the fall. 

There is a scheduled #CdnELTchat, usually about every two weeks, with a posted topic and often a guest moderator with a special interest or expertise in the topic. During this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have also been having weekly drop-in check-ins. We will start our summer hiatus in mid-June, but please continue to use the hashtag #CdnELTchat to connect and to share information of interest to the #CdnELT community. You can also reach out to the #CdnELTchat team: Augusta Avram (@ELTAugusta), Jennifer Chow (@JennifermChow), Svetlana Lupasco (@StanzaSL), or Bonnie Nicholas (@BonnieJNicholas). Our Padlet is also always open for your questions and comments. We’ll start regular chats again in the fall; please let us know if you’re willing to be a guest moderator for a one-hour chat on a topic that you are especially interested in.

zAB6NaOy_400x400Bonnie Nicholas (@BonnieJNicholas) is an enthusiastic participant in the bi-monthly #CdnELTchat as well as a member of the #CdnELTchat team along with Svetlana Lupasco (@StanzaSL), Jennifer Chow (@jennifermchow), and Augusta Avram (@ELTAugusta). Bonnie teaches LINC at NorQuest College in Edmonton.




Professional Self-Development for Teachers: Have a Plan, a Clear Intent, and a Way to Sustain


by Li-Shih Huang, PhD

[This article was first printed in the Fall 2015 issue of TEAL News.]

“The best professional development is participatory and connectivist.”—Lee Bessette

The invitation to contribute a piece about professional development in this issue could not have been more opportune. Since taking the position of an elected director of professional development for TESL Canada this July [2015], I have noticed I am looking at the professional development of teachers with renewed interest and a different perspective. In my own work as an ELT professional on the one hand, and as a trainer of future ELT professionals on the other, my approach to professional development has been mainly through connecting at professional gatherings with like-minded researchers and practitioners who also have a strong interest in linking research to practice; engaging in practitioner research; attending webinars and conducting workshops; and devoting a portion of my writing to practitioners’ interests. But what about the majority of ELT professionals, who work in various institutions, schools, and cultural contexts where resources and opportunities might pose greater challenges for development?

For any ELT professional interested in professional development, a quick Google search of terms like “teacher training,” “teacher education,” “teacher development,” “(continued) professional development,” and “professional self-development,” to list just a few, will turn up an overwhelming number of articles and resources and amount of information on professional development, both within the context of ELT and in the broader field of education. Recent articles, such as “Do-It-Yourself ELT Professional Development” (from TESOL Connections’ special issue dedicated to professional development), “3 Ways for Teachers to Use Social Networks for PD,” and “3 More Ideas for PD on Social Networks,” have appeared just in July of this year alone. The 2012 handbook put together by the British Council, although situated in the U.K. context, contains applicable ideas about a wide range of continuing professional development activities, including conferences, groups, magazines, materials, membership, mentoring, observations, reflection, training, workshops, and so on.  Also, not a day goes by without mention on Twitter or Facebook of free or at-cost webinars, face-to-face workshops, or courses offered locally or across the globe. These sharings of highly practical tips about ways for practitioners to engage in professional self-development further highlight the need and importance of this aspect of our professional careers, no matter our career stage. Using social media such as Twitter, Google Hangouts, Facebook, webblogs, and the like to build PLNs (personal/professional/personalized learning networks), hold regular chats (common hashtags include #AusELT, #KELTChat, #ELTChat, #ELLChat) moderated and participated in by practitioners, and create teacher inquiry groups has also become a great means for practitioners to connect professionally in ways that transcend time and geographical boundaries.

Take one of the most commonly chosen PD activities—attending a free webinar. If you have attended one of these webinars in the last six months, let’s sit back a moment and take stock of what you have been doing PD-wise. Ask: To what extent did the content have an impact on your own day-to-day teaching practices? How transferable, with or without the facilitator’s help, have been those insights, whether from research or real-world teaching, to your own teaching contexts? As synthesized by Avalos (2011), at the core of PD “is the understanding that professional development is about teachers learning, learning how to learn, and transforming their knowledge into practice for the benefit of their students’ growth” (p. 10; emphasis mine).  The thing is, professional development, like anything worth pursuing in life, is personal and situated, complex and difficult to do well.

Rather than developing this piece as another article collecting a list of resources or ever-changing tools for PD (refer to the suggested open-access readings section for some recent coverage), I want instead to focus on a few personal reflections that have been percolating in my mind since they delve into the heart of issues about teachers’ professional self-development. In approaching my own professional development, I have asked myself: Do I have a PD plan that carefully considers what I get out of any PD activity in which I choose to participate? When I do decide to participate in a PD webinar or workshop, do I have a clear intent as to how the session will match my needs and, in turn, the follow-up action(s) I will need to take? Have I been able to sustain my PD endeavours consistently? If, like me, you have answered “no” to any one or all of these questions, then I invite you to read on.

1. What are the key modes of learning/PD in your plan? Help make your individualized plan more concrete with ingredients that meet your personal needs, career stage, and goals. Clearly, the multi-faceted, inter-related individual and contextual factors involved in PD mean that no single approach, method, or tool can determine what constitutes effective PD. Evaluate how each mode of learning helps you develop professionally, and be mindfully selective of tools that duplicate or serve the same or similar functions. Whether formal or informal, institution or teacher initiated, whether oriented to learning collaboratively or independently, each learning activity possesses affordances and constraints, and each takes place through different configurations of time, space, and people. What area of PD does the workshop attend to? Subject-matter knowledge related to English and language teaching? Pedagogical expertise? Self-awareness as a teacher? Understanding learners or curriculum and materials? Career advancement? (See Richards & Farrell, 2005, pp. 9-10; Farrell, 2014, pp. 18-19 for more.) The key is to figure out a combination of modes of learning or PD that will overcome relative constraints and create possibilities.

The following chart lists some examples:

Mode Function
Journal articles (e.g., ELT Journal, Language Teaching, and trade publications from professional associations) Discuss with colleagues or blog about how you can connect the readings with your own practice.
Social media Stay informed about free PD events, connect with other practitioners, and participate in ELT chats.
Attending/running PD events (online or in person) or professional gatherings Keep abreast of current issues and evidence-based best practices, connect with peers, and explore collaborative opportunities.
Engaging in practitioner research Empirically examine your own practices, share findings formally and/or informally.
Your turn

2. What do I hope to get out of a workshop I decide to attend? It’s important to attend workshops with a clear intent. Perhaps the most commonly chosen PD action is attending a one-time workshop, webinar, or conference to learn a new tool (or list of tools) or a new teaching method, but, as we all know well, impact beyond the session is often limited. Unless the tool or session is solving a specific problem that you can personally relate to in your teaching to make a difference to learner outcomes (Timperley, 2011), ownership of learning and subsumption and integration of what one has learned into one’s practical knowledge or teaching repertoire rarely occur. Upon reflection, is there one insight gained from attending the workshop that you could transfer to your own teaching and experiment with? If you are selecting from self-directed online workshops or courses, think about what you want to improve in your own classroom, and make a conscious effort to link what you are learning with practice through real-life experimenting that will help transform knowledge into practice. As Timperley (2011) put forward, for teachers to develop professionally requires a transformative, rather than an additive, change to teaching practice. Unlike teachers-in-training, for practicing professionals, Freeman’s questioning of how well a one-off workshop transfers still rings true more than two decades later: “Teaching is a social practice . . . where one cannot learn about it; one must learn through it” (Freeman, 1992, p. 16; emphasis mine). Individually and collectively working to examine our own practices, reflecting on outcomes, and articulating our experiences and learning to others can further provide the catalysis for transformative professional growth (Mezirow, 2000).

3. How do I sustain PD endeavours? Sustaining PD efforts is one of the greatest challenges in teachers’ professional self-development, especially while operating or competing against individual-, resource-, and context-related constraints. Look for inspiration within your unit and beyond by joining or forming professional learning networks tailored to your own needs or to shared needs and interests. PLNs are plentiful; the key is to find one where you feel a true sense of a community of learners (Rogoff, 1994), or a self-initiated, professional learning community with non-judgmental, shared support of each other’s professional development (Falk & Drayton, 2009; Kelly & Cherkowski, 2015) and where development is conceived “as transformation of participation rather than . . . either a product of transmission of knowledge from others or of acquisition or discovery of knowledge by oneself” (Rogoff, 1994, p. 209). Typically we board a bus because of where it is headed, but the path can often be unpredictable, and a change of direction can easily end a sense of belonging. If we get on a bus by first paying attention to who is on the bus, then the problem of fueling the bus to keep moving forward becomes less of an issue. Once you have carefully selected a network, take turns assuming a leadership role in your chosen network at the group, school, or association level, and find a framework for how and what the group wishes to develop in helping teachers come together to talk about and reflect on their work.

Taking the initiative to assume a leadership role in promoting a culture of professional inquiry will transform your own participation and empower you through empowering others. Many board members in our professional teaching associations are fine examples of practitioners who have taken on leadership roles to become agents of change. Within a professional learning community, one may draw on Reilly, Vartabedian, Felt, and Jenkins’s (2012) work about key principles that sustain a participatory culture: providing opportunities for (a) the exercise of creativity using a variety of tools, (b) co-learning where those involved pool their skills and knowledge, (c) heightened motivation and engagement through meaningful pedagogical experimentation, (d) learning that is deemed relevant to the interests of those involved, and (e) creation of a so-called “learning ecosystem”—that is, an “integrated learning system” that builds connections between home, school, community, and beyond (p. 5).

However one chooses to define “professional development” and what that entails (see Farrell, 2014), a teacher’s professional self-development becomes increasingly important at all stages of his or her teaching career. It’s a continuous and complex process, requiring the intellectual and emotional involvement of teachers both individually and collectively. Whichever mode(s) of learning teachers choose, depending on their needs and objectives, they must be willing to examine openly where they stand and actively pursue appropriate alternatives for change that are bound within a particular institutional culture that may or may not be conducive to learning. I echo Bessette’s statements that “the best professional development is participatory and connectivist,” and that it must be “driven by the needs and interests of those [participating] and allow for collaboration [among interactants] and beyond” (¶ 3). Whether you are at the receiving or giving end of a PD activity, an approach that is goal-oriented, purpose-driven, and people-centred will guide you through navigating the terrain of PD activities, resources, and tools available to you so that you can chart a course that suits your needs in any area or combination of PD areas, as first put forward by Richards and Farrell (2005).

What do you need to do, and to whom do you need to reach out to renew your PD endeavours? Do it now, and share your PD needs, discoveries, triumphs, and challenges here so that as members of our professional community, we can continue to energize one another and grow professionally.


Avalos, B. (2011). Teacher professional development in Teaching and Teacher Education over ten years. Teaching and Teacher Education, 27, 10-20.

Bessette, L. (2015, June 30). Arrested (professional) development [Blog post]. Retrieved from: http://learning.instructure.com/2015/06/arrested-professional-development/

Falk, J. K., & Drayton, B. (Eds.). (2009). Creating and sustaining online professional learning communities. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Farrell, T. S. C. (2014). Reflective practice in ESL teacher development groups: From practices to principles. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Freeman, D. (1992). Language teacher education, emerging discourse, and change in classroom practice. In J. Flowerdew, M. Brock, & S. Hsia (Eds.), Perspectives on language teacher education (pp. 1-21). Hong Kong: City Polytechnic of Hong Kong.

Kelley J., & Cherkowski, S. (2015). Collaboration, collegiality, and collective reflection: A case study of professional development for teachers. Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy, 169. Retrieved from: https://www.umanitoba.ca/publications/cjeap/pdf_files/kelly_cherkowski.pdf

Mezirow, J. (2000). Learning as transformative: Critical perspectives on a theory in progress. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Reilly, E., Jenkins, H., Felt, L. J., & Vartabedian, V. (2012). Shall we PLAY? Los Angeles, CA: Annenberg Innovation Lab at University of Southern California.

Richards, J.C. & Farrell, T.S.C (2005). Professional development for language teachers. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Rogoff, B. (1994). Developing understanding of the idea of communities of learners. Mind, Culture, and Activity, 1(4), 209-229.

Timperley, H. (2011). Realizing the power of professional learning. New York, NY: Open University Press.

Suggested Open Access Readings on PD for ELT Professionals:

Breland, T. (2015, July 1). Do-it-yourself ELT professional development. TESOL Connections: Professional Development Special Issue, July 2015. Retrieved from http://newsmanager.commpartners.com/tesolc/issues/2015-07-01/2.html

Crowley, B. (2014, December 31). 3 steps for building a professional learning network. Education Week. Retrieved from http://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2014/12/31/3-steps-for-building-a-professional-learning.html

Davidson, G., Dunlop, F., Soriano, D. H., Kennedy, L., & Phillips, T. (2012). Going forward: Continuing professional development for English language teachers in the UK. The British Council. Retrieved from http://englishagenda.britishcouncil.org/sites/ec/files/B413%20CPD%20for%20Teachers_v2_0.pdf

Haynes, J. (2015, July 2). 3 ways for teachers to use social networks for PD [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://blog.tesol.org/3-ways-for-teachers-to-use-social-networks-for-pd/

Haynes, J. (2015, July 16).  3 more ideas for PD on social networks [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://blog.tesol.org/3-more-ideas-for-pd-on-social-networks/

Pascucci, A. (2015, July 1). 5 easy steps for creating an online PLN. TESOL Connections. Retrieved from http://newsmanager.commpartners.com/tesolc/issues/2015-07-01/3.html

Wilden, S. (2012, Spring). What is your CPD plan? International House Journal. 32. Retrieved from http://ihjournal.com/what-is-your-cpd-plan-by-shaun-wilden

Biographical Information

From the Fall 2015 issue of the BC TEAL newsletter:  Dr. Li-Shih Huang is an Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics in the Department of Linguistics, and Learning and Teaching Scholar-in-Residence, Learning and Teaching Centre, University of Victoria.


This article is licensed under a

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Original reference information:

Huang, L. (2015, Fall). Professional Self-Development for Teachers: Have a Plan, a Clear Intent, and a Way to Sustain. TEAL News. Retrieved from https://www.bcteal.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/BCTeal-Newsletter-Fall-2015-Final-2.pdf



#CdnELTchat Summary for April 7, 2020 (The Digital Divide: Equity and Access in Emergency Online Learning)


The Digital Divide: Equity and Access in Emergency Online Learning
#CdnELTchat Summary for April 7, 2020
By Bonnie Nicholas

Teachers across Canada and around the world have been asked to pivot at short notice to online classes as the COVID-19 pandemic has changed teaching and learning for the foreseeable future. John Allan (mrpottz) recently hosted a couple of well-received Tutela webinars on on Coping with COVID-19 using online instruction and generously offered to follow up by guest moderating a #CdnELTchat on The Digital Divide: Equity and access in emergency online learning

All of us who have moved to emergency online teaching and learning know that not all students have the tools and resources to continue their learning online now that schools and other service-providing organizations have closed their physical spaces. This chat was an opportunity to begin the conversation around these important issues of equity and access. We’ve collected the tweets from the chat using Wakelet.

There were some common themes that emerged from the evening’s conversation:

  • We know that not all students have devices or reliable internet, and may be working in small shared spaces.
  • We need to be aware that students did not ask to be in an online class, and that there may be children in the room while parents are trying to learn.
  • Many students are accessing online course materials on the small screens of their smartphones; teachers need to be aware of this and check what course materials look like on a phone.
  • There is a need to advocate for equitable access to learning tools and resources, and to find alternate learning paths for students who are unable to participate in synchronous online classes.
  • Transitions classes could help students make the leap from face-to-face to online classes.
  • At this point, self-care and meeting the emotional needs of students are more important considerations than curriculum. 
  • We all need to lower our expectations as we work through this crisis. 

And some positive outcomes:

  • Teachers are working hard to improve their digital skills to be able to meet students’ needs in this new fully-online environment. 
  • Service-providing organisations have stepped up to support learners and teachers. 

These are the questions that guided our discussion. 

Q1: What percentage of your learners do not have access to appropriate internet and hardware? Is it affecting your instruction? 

Q2: What ways are you and your institution remedying this disparity? 

Q3: How can we ensure that our courses materials are accessible to all students? 

Q4: What distance learning strategies, activities, resources are you using to include and engage students with limited access to the internet? 

Q5: Are you altering your assessments to accommodate students without WiFi or devices?  How are you doing this?  

#CdnELTchat is a collaborative effort that we hope will lead to more reflective practice for all of us. Questions are collected in advance of each chat on Padlet, and then 5 or 6 are chosen for the hour-long chat. The Padlet, Questions and Topics for #CdnELTchat, is always open for comments. If you have any ideas for topics or have comments about #CdnELTchat, please send @StanzaSL, @BonnieJNicholas, @Jennifermchow, or @ELTAugusta a tweet. Please connect with the team if you are are interested in guest moderating a future #CdnELTchat. 

And in these challenging times, take care of yourself and your loved ones. Let’s stay connected with each other and support one another. Feel free to reach out and check in anytime with your colleagues in #CdnELTchat.

zAB6NaOy_400x400Bonnie Nicholas (@BonnieJNicholas) is an enthusiastic participant in the bi-monthly #CdnELTchat as well as a member of the #CdnELTchat team along with Svetlana Lupasco (@StanzaSL), Jennifer Chow (@jennifermchow), and Augusta Avram (@ELTAugusta). Bonnie teaches LINC at NorQuest College in Edmonton.




#CdnELTchat Summary for March 17, 2020 (Emergency Preparedness: Moving a F2F Class Online)


Emergency Preparedness: Moving a F2F Class Online
#CdnELTchat Summary for March 17, 2020
By Bonnie Nicholas

In mid-March, with concern deepening about the coronavirus pandemic, the #CdnELTchat team decided to offer a special chat for instructors who were looking at being forced by these emerging circumstances to pivot to online teaching and learning. Most of us had very little time to prepare for this unexpected change. Almost overnight, new phrases like social distance and flattening the curve have entered our lexicon. Teachers and learners were suddenly looking at their Learning Management Systems (LMS) not as a useful addition to their classroom, but as their virtual (and only) classroom and meeting place for students. Thanks to Nancy Van Dorp (@NancyVanDorp) for stepping up and agreeing to bring her expertise in online and distance learning as our guest moderator. 

Thanks as well to all the participants for their openness in sharing their worries and their hopes. Many ELT professionals with experience in online and blended learning shared advice, resources, and tips for instructors who were new to remote learning. We’ve collected the tweets using Wakelet, so they’re easier to read if you’re not on Twitter: Emergency Preparedness: Moving a F2F Class Online. (There are over 350 tweets!) We’ve also created a resources list; this is an open, editable Google Doc, so please continue adding links to useful websites and resources: Resources for Emergency Preparedness: Moving a F2F Class Online

If there was an overarching theme to the discussion, it was this: 

  • Lower your expectations. We are all just trying to make the best of an emergent situation. We are not trying to create the perfect online class. We will make mistakes. Technology will fail. This adjustment will take time.

Other suggestions from experienced online instructors that emerged during the chat:

  • Start by making sure to maintain connections with your students.
  • Think of the learning curve for students as they prepare for online learning.
  • Use the tools and resources you have and that your students know how to use.
  • Think about access and accessibility; some ISPs may be offering free or increased data capabilities during this challenging time.
  • Keep it simple; now is not the time to try everything. 
  • Reconsider mandatory synchronous sessions; explore asynchronous options instead. 
  • Plan but be flexible; circumstances will change and plans will need to be adjusted.
  • Maintain a strong online teacher presence but set clear boundaries.
  • Practice good self-care: exercise, eat well, spend (virtual) time with family and friends.

These are the questions that guided our discussion: 

Q1: What are the primary things we have to think about in relation to our ELLs and moving a F2F class online?

Q2: How can I prepare myself and my students to teach/learn remotely on short notice?

Q3: What are some good ways to make remote learning accessible for our ELLs?

Q4: If I can do only one thing well in online teaching, what should it be?

Q5: I’m going to be using online teaching/learning tools for the first time. What do you recommend?

Q6: There is a massive amount of information here on Twitter and elsewhere about moving from F2F to online / remote / distance learning. What is the best advice for teachers who are new to this kind of teaching and learning?

#CdnELTchat is a collaborative effort on Twitter, with a goal of leading to more connected, reflective practice for everyone involved in English language teaching in Canada. Are you passionate about a topic in ELT? Interested in being a guest moderator? Contact one of the team members: Jennifer Chow (@jennifermchow), Augusta Avram (@ELTAugusta), Bonnie Nicholas (@BonnieJNicholas), or Svetlana Lupasco (@StanzaSL).

zAB6NaOy_400x400Bonnie Nicholas (@BonnieJNicholas) is an enthusiastic participant in the bi-monthly #CdnELTchat as well as a member of the #CdnELTchat team along with Svetlana Lupasco (@StanzaSL), Jennifer Chow (@jennifermchow), and Augusta Avram (@ELTAugusta). Bonnie teaches LINC at NorQuest College in Edmonton.




#CdnELTchat Summary for March 10, 2020 (Fake News? Misinformation and critical information literacy in #ELT)


#CdnELTchat Summary for March 10, 2020
Fake News? Misinformation and critical information literacy in #ELT
Jennifer Chow

The mainstream media is not our only news source anymore. The way we consume information has changed. Many of our students get their news from Facebook, Twitter, WeChat, WhatsApp, YouTube news shows etc. On top of that, political leaders warn against trusting the mainstream media making it even more difficult to distinguish between real and fake news. With events such as the coronavirus outbreak, the result of misinformation or fake news can provoke serious consequences. What skills and tools do students need in order to evaluate the reliability of news sources? 

These are the questions that guided our discussion:

Q1: How important are information literacy skills to English language learners?
Q2: What skills do students need to become information literate?
Q3: How can we embed information literacy skills into the curriculum?
Q4: Many students get their news information from sources in their L1. How can we teach them information literacy skills that transcend language? 

You can read all the tweets from the chat on Wakelet, Fake News? Misinformation and critical information literacy in #ELT. I highly recommend reading the tweets because there were a number of useful resources that were shared. Thank-you to everyone who participated and shared resources. 

Here are some of the key takeaways from the chat:

  • critical thinking is in the Essential Skills framework and is a key part of information literacy
  • information literacy skills are required for full participation as an active citizen
  • it’s a skill for everyone, not just ELLs, but some key indicators might be harder for them
  • better information practices lead to better immigrant settlement outcomes
  • teach students how to use a tool like the CRAAP test (Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, Purpose) to evaluate sources as a starting point
  • help students look at the design, spelling, grammar, bias, motivation etc.
  • critical information literacy could be embedded in the curriculum, but it could also be an explicit unit and then tied in to any theme/topic 
  • the fundamental information literacy skills are language independent 
  • humour and satire can also be used to teach information literacy in a way that transcends language

We encourage everyone to continue the conversation using the hashtag #CdnELTchat. Here are all the great questions that we didn’t have time to discuss during the live one-hour chat: 

Misinformation Extra Questions

#CdnELTchat is a collaborative effort that we hope will lead to more reflective practice for all of us involved in ELT. If you have any ideas for topics or have comments about #CdnELTchat, please send @StanzaSL, @BonnieJNicholas, @Jennifermchow, or @ELTAugusta a tweet. We are also looking for guest moderators who are interested in leading a future #CdnELTchat. Send us a message with a topic of interest. 

Our Padlet, Questions and Topics for #CdnELTchat, is always open for sharing questions, ideas, and resources. We create our promo images using Canva and collect the tweets using Wakelet

Jen Bio PicJennifer is passionate about learning how technology can empower her students. After experiencing how technology enabled her to stay connected as an educator, a parent and an active citizen, she is motivated to find the same opportunities for her students. Twitter: @jennifermchow