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Academic management: running an in-house development programme


This guide focuses on:

  1. How to distinguish between development and training
  2. How to identify what the aims of a development programme should be
  3. Four ways to organise a development programme
  4. How to include everyone you work with

If you are looking for ideas about the content of a programme, there are plenty more on this site.  More of that later.


An important difference

In-house development isn't all about you and it isn't all about what the institution wants.  Primarily, it's about what people want, what they perceive they need and what they might find enlightening and entertaining.
Clearly, you and your institution want some positive outcomes and some improvement in certain areas (that's one meaning of 'development') but you need to separate two ideas now because confusing them leads to trouble:

in-house training programmes
are focused on the institution's needs.
You may, for example, be planning a new kind of course, breaking into a new market or introducing new technology or materials.  If you want people to take advantage of any of this and perform efficiently and professionally, they'll need some training.
This is, however, essentially not about the people, it is about the institution and the skills it needs to have at its disposal.
It is externally driven because the targets are imposed beforehand by someone else and are not negotiable.
In-house training programmes should not be confused with or masquerade as development programmes.
in-house development programmes
are focused on the individuals who work in your team: their needs, their ambitions and their concerns.
Goals and intended outcomes are set internally by negotiation.
There is no immediate pay-off for the institution (in fact, there may well be a cost).

Setting up a training programme

Training programmes are easy enough to arrange.
It's a 5-step procedure.

  1. Write down the skills you need your teachers to acquire and to what level.
    For example, using interactive display technology, teaching English for Academic Purposes, teaching teenagers etc.
  2. Source the expertise (in-house or via an external consultant).
    There are plenty of people advertising themselves as educational consultants in ELT and not all of them are very good.  Ask around and take personal recommendations.  They are usually not cheap.
  3. Set up the training sessions (times, duration etc.).
    Make sure everyone who needs the skills can attend.
  4. Require people to attend.
    Make it a contractual obligation.
  5. Measure the outcomes.
    By observation, by questionnaires, by getting views in a meeting etc.

The focus of what follows is not on in-house training programmes, it is on development programmes and they require just a little more thought.


Identifying aims

A development programme, virtually by definition, is about individuals.  However, if you intend to have an institution-wide programme, there will obviously have to be a bit of negotiation to find areas of common interest.  For that, you need a meeting and for a meeting, you need an agenda.
This meeting and the follow-on development sessions should be in the institution's time and be paid.  If it is:

  1. People will see that the institution values their development and is prepared to pay a little towards it.
  2. Everyone will attend consistently and regularly because it's part of the job.
  3. People will not resent any loss of their free time.

A simple way to start is to make distinctions between the sorts of knowledge that teachers need to master to be called an expert teacher:

  1. Subject knowledge:
    1. lexicogrammar (language systems)
    2. semantics (meaning)
    3. pragmatics (functional language)
    4. phonology
  2. Methodological knowledge:
    1. theories of learning
    2. theories of language
    3. alternative approaches (lexical approaches, Dogme, Community Language Learning, Silent Way etc.)
    4. lesson design (TBL, PPP, TTT etc.)
  3. Procedural knowledge
    1. elicitation
    2. concept checking
    3. monitoring
    4. feedback routines
    5. checking learning
    6. presenting
    7. practising
    8. reinforcing / consolidating

One way to go with this is to get everyone to score themselves out of 10 in each of these areas and then compare notes.  A neat way is to produce a score sheet which graphically represents the individual's self-appraisal profile.
It can look something like this:

Mark your score with a X and then join all the Xs to make a zigzag, bending line.
Now compare the shape of your line with other people’s and form up into groups with similar profiles.
In your groups, prioritise the areas that should form part of your development agenda.
Settle, if you can, on two or three areas to address.

Area Scores
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Subject knowledge
Methodological knowledge
    theories of learning                    
    theories of language                    
    alternative approaches                    
    lesson design                    
Procedural knowledge
    concept checking                    
    feedback routines                    
    checking learning                    
    reinforcing / consolidating                    

Individuals insert a X in the column of their choice and then draw a line joining all the Xs up.  That gives a graphical way to see similarities and differences between people.
If you would like that score sheet as a PDF file, click here.  You can, of course, copy that table into a word document and make any adjustments you like.
There are some ideas in the Development section of this site that you may want to look at (and use, even).  There also ideas in the article on What makes an expert teacher?

At the end of this process (which may take some time), you should have two or three (or more, or fewer, depending on the size of your team) groups of people with similar interests and perceived needs.


The next step

What's next?  Well, there are a number of ways forward.  They may not all be appropriate, depending on the outcomes of the aims-identification procedure.  You can, naturally, combine any and all of the routes.


Route A

Sharing expertise in-house

  1. Gather up all the score sheets with the priorities written at the bottom.
  2. Identify the top area of each group.
  3. Look through the sheets to find out if anyone has scored themselves as 8 or better in those areas.
  4. Approach that person / those people and ask them if they will run a short workshop for the other members of the team on the topics.  (If there are no obvious in-house candidates for one or two of the areas, go for route B, C or D.)
  5. Draw up a weekly timetable with as many of the topics as possible.

Route B

Exchanging ideas in-house

  1. Make a list of the top two priorities for each group (there may be some overlap).
  2. Draw up a timetable of workshops in which people can exchange ideas and think about the areas together.
  3. Draw up some kind of task sheet or action plan for the workshops (if you don't, not much will happen).
  4. Run the workshops with either yourself or a senior member of staff in the chair.
  5. Make notes of outcomes and distribute them.
  6. Encourage people to put the ideas they have found into practice and have a report-back meeting.  This is an important step.

Route C

Reading and research

  1. Identify the most important areas for each group.
  2. Find / buy / borrow / steal sources of wisdom in these areas.  This could be books, journal articles, websites etc.  If possible, gather together at least two different resources.
  3. Form the groups up in terms of their priority areas.
  4. The task is to read and research using the materials you (or they) have discovered and then discuss and put in practice what they find out.
  5. At the end of the process, they should meet again to produce a report on the action plan they drew up, what they found out and the outcomes of trying to put the ideas into practice.
  6. Have a full teachers' meeting at which each group presents its findings.
  7. Keep good records and make sure everyone gets a copy of what was said.

Route D

Getting in the experts

  1. Find the three most frequently prioritised areas.
  2. Locate experts in the area, in your organisation, in your country, from overseas all depending on your budget.
  3. Invite the experts to come and lead a workshop / deliver a training session etc. on each area in turn.
  4. Allow enough time to elapse between each session for people to be able to take away the ideas, try them out and report back.
  5. Keep good records and notes and make them available to everyone.

Routes B and C are obvious candidates for combination.

There are some ideas in the development section of this site concerning ways in which individuals can gauge their own progress.  That, too, is part of professional development.


Involving everyone

Up to now, we have only considered a development workshop programme for the academic staff and to do with purely academic matters.  In other words, it is about professional rather than personal development.
That is often the way these things are arranged but it needn't be.
Most institutions, even small ones, employ a number of non-teaching staff – administrational people, caretakers, caterers, cleaners, technicians etc.  There is no obvious reason why a development programme should not involve them, too, although, rather obviously, it will have different targets.
All the routes above can be used but Routes A and D have obvious advantages in this respect because you need an expert who can lead a workshop / training session from which everyone can benefit.

You still need to identify some aims and interests but this time, the whole staff is involved and your score sheet will look somewhat different.  Here's a suggestion.

Area Scores
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Physical development.  Learn to:
    dance (what sort: __________)                    
    play a sport better                    
    get fitter                    
    eat healthily                    
    do yoga / taichi / qigong etc. (which: __________)                    
Mental development.  Learn to:
    handle stress                    
    manage time                    
    counsel others                    
    think more clearly                    
    learn better                    
    read faster                    
    speak another language (which: __________)                     
    stop smoking / drinking / overeating etc.                    
Doing things.  Learn to:
    make cakes                    
    drive better and more safely                    
    garden better                    
    use office programs                    
    paint in water colours                    
    draw cartoons / caricatures                    
    write poetry                    
    make jewellery                    

There's no PDF for that table because part of the process will be to start with a list of suggestions and let the staff expand it to include the favourites from their wish lists, while deleting anything that appeals to nobody.

Once you have identified the targets, you can select an appropriate route, start the process and have a good deal of fun while building relationships within your institution and gaining a better understanding of each other.
This kind of development programme also serves the institution by breaking down barriers.
Taking this route often results in surprising revelations concerning hidden talents and skills that you never knew your colleagues had.  Try Route A before resorting to Route D.


Encouraging everyone

One role of any in-house development programme is to encourage teachers to develop themselves either by following a personalised programme (see the link below to some ideas on this site) or by upgrading their qualifications.
If you have people whom you believe should be considering moving on to a more advanced course such as the Cambridge English Delta, there is a link below to a page on this site which sets out why they should do this and what is involved.  It also has an index of links to some crucial guides to start them off.

Related guides and documents
identifying aims for the copy of the score sheet as a PDF document
the Development section the index to the section of this site which includes various developmental strands
considering Delta? this is a guide for people considering the next stage of qualification with an index of links to crucial preparation guides
What makes an expert teacher? for an article that tries to explain where you are going
gauging progress for ways to measure outcomes and success