The Power of Collegial Conversations for Teacher Development: A Dialogue in Progress

collegial

What you’ll see below is my idea for a session at TESOL 2017 (it’s actually the text of my proposal). TESOL’s enormous annual jamboree is happening just up the road in Seattle this year.This is kind of exciting though I can’t quite wrap my head around the idea of actually heading HOME rather than some hotel at the distant end of each marathon day. This will be my 6th TESOL convention if I’m counting right, and only the 2nd one I’ve submitted something for.

Last year’s workshop was good fun and, we thought, a solid success. So this year I’m again collaborating with colleagues on a session concerned with reflection on an initial teacher training course. But I also wanted to do my own thang, so I also submitted something a bit different, something I felt really came from my heart.

We find out whether or not the proposals are a go for TESOL at the end of October (on Halloween, I believe…spooky!). I’m posting this here in the hopes that I might get a little bit of feedback from peers in the meantime and, well, because the very act of sharing helps me further process a thing, too, whether or not any feedback occurs. And whether or not the session is accepted, it’s something I’d really like to keep thinking about and act on experimentally in ever more more concrete ways.

So thanks for checking it out! You’ll find some question prompts at the bottom of my post which perhaps might inspire you to respond. It’s something I imagine many people can relate to. Please share ideas, comments, questions or anything else in the comments section! It’ll all help with developing the idea further and inform my session (on the off-chance my poorly written proposal actually makes it through the evaluation gauntlet!).

The Power of Informal Collegial Conversations for Teacher Development

(A 45-Minute “Dialogue” Session)  

Abstract
Programs of teaching workshops, class observations, and supervisory feedback provide valuable tools for change, but a simple conversation with a fellow teacher can also actuate significant growth and spur development. Why? How? Dialogue participants will share experiences and explore ways to capitalize on conversation for organic, personalized teacher development outcomes.

Session Description
In an increasingly complex and dynamic global ELT industry, interest in practical and effective approaches to teacher development continues to grow. While demand ensures barriers to entry remain low for novice teachers and initial teacher training courses remain quite short, there is wide recognition that in-service continuing teacher development is crucial for improving instructional quality as well as providing dedicated but low-paid teachers with opportunities for rewarding personal growth.

The aim of this session is to outline, explore, and practice a particular way of teacher development that is not often recognized and exploited for its potential: teachers’ “collegial conversations”, the informal but focused conversations with peers anchored by a description of a recent critical incident, an articulate or off-handed reflection on a particular or general classroom challenge or success, or a request for an opinion on a future instructional decision teachers naturally initiate. Dialogue will focus on sharing personal perspectives on the role these conversations have played in feeding, fueling, and organizing participants’ own teacher development from an internal source, and how encouraging, facilitating, even ‘training for’ them could form the basis for an innovative teacher development program.

Drawing on the Vygotskian perspective on all learning as socially situated and jointly constructed, Underhill’s ideas about teacher development as personal development and the role of groups in developing self-awareness, and Edge’s well-developed Cooperative Development (CD) framework for development, the presenter will outline a proposed model in which conversation forms the cornerstone of a radically context-sensitive, participant-appropriate, and needs-focused teacher development program before participants are prompted to debate, discuss, question, and co-construct ideas for possible collegial conversation-based models for teacher development work.

Thoughts? 🙂

  1. Do you value informal conversation with peers as a real source of profession development? If so, how does this source compare to organized/official sources?
  2. Where and how do these conversations and interactions with peers happen?
  3. What was the last “collegial conversation” you had and how did it/might it impact your ongoing development, even in a subtle way?
  4. Have you heard of Cooperative Development (CD) before? Tried it?
  5. What would you hope to happen in a session like the one described above?
  6. Do you think it has any chance of being accepted? Wait, don’t answer that! 😛

conversation-image

Image: http://bit.ly/2dkPouN

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By the way, I’d like to mention that I’m happy to see TESOL tweaking the old “Discussion Group” session type to give it more of a sense of fluidity (personally, I don’t really like the term “roundtable discussion”, it sounds stiff and formal). Peer-to-peer, hoorah!  🙂

dialogue

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Jonny Ingham shared this account (by Lizzie Pinard) of a CPD session which embodies the exact thing I’m exploring: here: https://reflectiveteachingreflectivelearning.com/2014/03/24/cpd-and-a-cup-of-tea-in-the-sunshine-go-on-give-it-a-go/

And in the comments section of that post, Jonny Ingham mentions that the session was inspired by this post on “Be the DOS” here: https://bethedos.wordpress.com/2014/03/18/its-good-to-talk-isnt-it/

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Oh, and one last thing: I’m just gonna park this here! 🙂

Hope to see you soon Carol! 🙂

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16 thoughts on “The Power of Collegial Conversations for Teacher Development: A Dialogue in Progress

  1. Matthew this sounds really interesting.

    Here are some brief answers.

    1. Yes and always have. Moreso in the absence of!
    2. Work, colleagues’s place, over lunch at a food place, Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp
    3. Recently during my TinT. Reinforced my confidence in the power of a good old chat with a peer.
    4. No
    5. Not sure…
    -perhaps results of some research in ways this is done and the impact it’s had on those involved.
    – info on CD
    – basically a session I’d enjoy which would inspire me to do more of it and how to improve the way I do it.
    6. Yes! Hope so. There isn’t enough on PD so it’d be great.

    Thanks for writing this. It’s already inspired me to look into it.
    All the best with it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like your #3 answer about “confidence”. More than explanations of things or new techniques, etc. sometimes what we really need is a boost of confidence, isn’t it?

      I agree that “there isn’t enough about PD” to a large degree. Maybe it’s just me but I found myself looking at a conference schedule the other day and feeling almost ZERO interest in ANY of the “try doing this thing” sessions. Instead, I was intrigued by the “trying to understand this thing” sessions, which I think of as PD focused even if “this thing” is a classroom technique, etc. Somehow I no longer thing of the former as ‘developmental’.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting! Here’s my hasty response as I trundle to work:
    1. Do you value informal conversation with peers as a real source of profession development?
    Yes! I am lucky to work with a real mix of teachers, all of whom are happy to offer advice when a question is raised. From the recently qualified to those with decades of experience, there’s always a new perspective.
    2. If so, how does this source compare to organized/official sources? For a start, it’s relevant and super-personal, so it addresses my needs. It’s also timely – it’s ‘right now’ which I think helps with finding the best solution for that issue at that time.
    3. Where and how do these conversations and interactions with peers happen? In the staffroom, over a coffee machine huddle, on twitter.
    4. What was the last “collegial conversation” you had and how did it/might it impact your ongoing development, even in a subtle way? #TBLChat just this week. Really made me think about the importance of criteria in task-based classrooms and how I can develop them for very young learners.
    5. Have you heard of Cooperative Development (CD) before? Tried it? No.
    6. What would you hope to happen in a session like the one described above? I’d like to hear about how much of an impact it has and something maybe about an idea that what is actually discussed isn’t as important as having the discussion itself (There might be doubts about the quality/accuracy of what is discussed)? Not sure, but curious!

    Do you think it has any chance of being accepted? Wait, don’t answer that!😛
    I hope so, I’d certainly like to know more and it sounds like you know what you’re talking about 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Staying with the numbered question prompts to keep it sorted:

      1. What do you think accounts for this workplace culture where everyone is connecting, communicating, and contributing cooperatively?

      2. The “right now” aspect, I think, is THE KEY to this. Here and now, that’s where teachers live, so that’s where PD should live, too.

      4. #TBLchat – I hope to be present for a live one soon. 🙂

      6. Thanks for this! “an idea that what is actually discussed isn’t as important as having the discussion itself (there might be doubts about the quality/accuracy of what is discussed)? Not sure, but curious!” This reminds me of something in the book “On Dialogue” by Krishnamurti and David Bohm, I’ll have to track that down.

      Thanks again HL! Lots of feedback food for thought!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Coming back to this a little late, but I really wanted to answer your first question above. I’ve been working in the same school for more than 10 years and, during a period of ‘neglect’ from academic management, teachers kind of just started helping each other, sharing lessons and ideas and offering advice. I think we were just very lucky to have a group of teachers who got on and were willing to collaborate (we are, as Anne H has mentioned recently, pretty awesome humans 😀 ). Over the past few years, it’s just developed into a staff room culture of sharing and support, even though academic management has greatly improved (and is often in the middle of it all!). Not everyone participates and people can add or take what they want from it, but those who realise the benefit of it, really benefit from it, if you see what I mean.

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  3. Sounds like a good one, Matthew. Cooperative Development sounds like an ongoing dialogue with all parties egging one another on to develop, which leads to buy-in, as Edge says, you cannot develop a teacher; the teacher must want to develop. My colleague and I at school do much tge same thing.

    Also, thanks for the contributions to #TBLTChat, Helen. It’s always great to hear your point of view.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Before I respond to all the great comments above, I’d just like to say: I THINK MY CREATORS FORGOT INSTALL THE EDIT-REDRAFTING CHIP INTO MY MAINFRAME. Look at this junk: “Edge’s well-developed Cooperative Development (CD) framework for development” Blarrgg! One of many even less graceful spots. I do think I may have written this in an instant passionate blur at 11:57 the night proposals were due….but geez.

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  5. Wow, Mathew, this sounds like a great idea, I really hope it gets accepted and… I wish I could be there!
    Anyway, here are some answers from me:
    1) I do very much, I actually find this kind of informal chat much more useful on a practical level, as it is completely contextualised on the school / students I work with and it is with someone who is not in a position of assessing me.
    2) These conversations happen mainly in the staff room, on my blog and on Twitter for me. 🙂 If they happen in the teacher’s room, its is generally someone throwing a question at the people in the room, or me asking my DoS for help.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Giulia, your responses suggest that I should get started on writing up a survey about this. I would *predict* that many would echo your sentiment here when you say “I actually find this kind of informal chat much more useful on a practical level, as it is completely contextualised on the school / students I work with and it is with someone who is not in a position of assessing me.” I just wonder if everyone who has that experience also fully and consciously realizes this is so, because there’s rarely much acknowledgement of such casual ‘unofficial’ interactions as a primary source of development.

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      1. I’d say almost nobody acknowledges it, I didn’t either before you drew my attention to the fact that they are in fact informal training sessions!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Do you value informal conversation with peers as a real source of profession development? If so, how does this source compare to organized/official sources?
    Where and how do these conversations and interactions with peers happen?

    Most definitely, especially as I get to the stage where I’m the most experienced and/or qualified person in a school, so it can be difficult to get formalised training that applies to me within my work environment. Informal reflective discussions happen in the staffroom, but mostly through facebook messages, especially with one or two friends who are at similar stages in their career.

    Looks like an interesting talk. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for the reminder, Matthew! It’s obviously an effective strategy. I’ve had lots of good intentions but this is my first blog comment in ages.

    So, to answer some of your questions, I do place enormous value on informal conversation as a source of professional development, whether that be with peers and colleagues or with friends, family, learners, neighbours, etc. It may be that we have more to learn from conversation with someone from a different context rather than someone who has been through similar training, read similar books, or come to believe the same things. Informal conversation with colleagues can be stimulating, inspiring and interesting but can also be frustrating. But whether enjoyable or not, all can be thought provoking and have potential to prompt new insights, understandings and avenues to explore.

    I’ve found that conversations and interactions with peers happen in the office as one of us is grappling with an issue and just need someone to help us think it through. They happen you join in to a conversation that is going on near you. They can come before and after organized events or in the parts of those organized events where we are told to talk to the people next to us. They can happen after blog post, on Facebook and Twitter– I have found such interactions extremely valuable in the past and miss them now that I’m not as active as I used to be.

    Such conversations often happen as you are doing something else – preparing or reviewing a lesson, getting on with admin, waiting for a presentation to begin. I think that one thing that is important to me is that there is an element of choice in who I have such conversations and interactions with. I really enjoy a face-to-face chat with people who are interested in trying to understand something about our practice and our work. It can be valuable if we start from a position of (slight) disagreement but it’s also good to have a chance to explore new approaches, ideas and projects with like-minded colleagues and like Hada mentioned feel more confident that what we might be on the right track with our thinking and practice.

    I hadn’t heard about Cooperative Development but have clicked through from your link to read about it. I’m not sure about the idea of trying to formalize something informal and I’d be a bit wary of imposing a framework or of adopting a certain style of speaking, but I really don’t know much about it at all.

    In a session like the one you propose, I think I’d like to be able to have a conversation about conversation, sharing our experiences and trying to identify what it is that makes it work and what we learn or gain from such interactions. I think it would also be useful to consider how such learning might be inadvertently prevented and how we can value and facilitate the learning and development that might come from conversations without trying to control and/or require conversations.

    I think it would be very interesting session and would really like to hear that it was accepted. Whether it is or not, I think it’s something that we should be exploring more and providing space for…without controlling it! (Not easy, I don’t think.) There are not always many opportunities to just sit down and talk at conferences. I don’t really get to go to that many but the bits I remember most from the Manchester IATEFL conference – and the things I still think about now – came out of conversations with very interesting people. Like I said in my tweet – way back when – I’d definitely come to your session (if I was closer, could afford it, etc)

    Liked by 1 person

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