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10 Trending Professional Development Topics in ELT

Written by: Laura Baecher
Published on: Jul 3, 2023

Teachers chatting
Photo credit: dglimages/ Adobe Stock

When the school year comes to a close, it’s a great time to look at some of the trends, key topics, and themes in teacher professional development (PD). The term “trending” can have a negative connotation, suggesting that an idea is simply a passing fad—but the intention in this article is to recognize the great responsiveness and energy in our wide global TESOL community and to remark on how flexible and forward-thinking our profession is. In so many ways, PD topics in our field are years ahead of other fields, and in so many institutional contexts, the English language teaching (ELT) professionals are the vanguard of change and positive growth. This progressive dynamic within the field of ELT means that PD is continually evolving and offers educators extensive opportunities to learn and grow professionally and personally. From accessing ideas via the printed word via blogs, newsletters, books, and journal articles to sharing information and ideas in videos, webinars, and online conferences, there is an abundance of PD available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Many topics continue to surface year after year, as these relate to ever-relevant topics, such as developing materials, integrating content and language objectives, or addressing the needs of young learners. Apart from these familiar topics, and in no particular rank order, here are 10 topics that have appeared frequently in the TESOL community. To arrive at the list, I reviewed a number of publications, including the program books from several ELT organizations, news and blog posts, and English language teacher newsletters. (Note: Accessing the conference program book after a conference is completed can be a useful strategy to keep your finger on the pulse of what is of high relevance to educators in any given year.) Following are the topics that appeared quite often

10. Overcoming Teacher Burnout

PD in this area focuses on recognizing the stress teachers are living in on a daily basis, approaches to self-care, and finding ways to create better structures within schools so that teachers can address dilemmas that are within their locus of control.

To learn more, read:

9. Mindfulness

PD in this area focuses on social-emotional learning; student, teacher, and staff well-being; and intentionally creating space in the curriculum for learning about ourselves and implementing routines and practices that promote self-awareness and positive ways to collaborate with others.

To learn more, read:

8. Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy

PD in this area focuses on identifying our own biases and identities as teachers, and then learning more and celebrating students’ home cultures, languages, and experiences and seeing these as resources upon which to build curriculum and classroom community.

To learn more, read:

7. Translanguaging

PD in this area focuses on challenging monolingual assumptions (like English-only policies) and strategically and thoughtfully creating classrooms tapping into the research that shows that home languages are a powerful resource for learning content and developing English language skills.

To learn more, read:


PD in this area focuses on curricular, programmatic, and policy decisions that can support English learner students and educators who identify as members of the LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, among other sexualities) community, to ensure their voices are heard and to address stereotypes, bias, and microaggressions to make for more inclusive classrooms and workplaces.

To learn more, read:

5. Formative Assessment

PD in this area focuses on how to move away from a testing culture to one in which ongoing, low-stakes assessment informs teachers’ understanding of learners’ progress and the impact of their curriculum in order to make in-the-moment adjustments, with consideration of “ungrading” and other approaches that emphasize self-assessment over testing.

To learn more, read:

4. Creativity

PD in this area focuses on how to spark creativity in learners by making classroom activities more language-rich through setting up tasks that are high engagement, open ended, novel, and use approaches from theater education and the arts.

To learn more, read:

3. Technology for Communication

PD in this area focuses on using the availability and access of online conferencing and collaborative writing tools to connect English learners from different parts of the world.

To learn more, read:

2. ChatGPT/AI

PD in this area focuses on how to understand the ways in which artificial intelligence platforms such as ChatGPT are changing the nature of writing assignments and the assessment of writing in English learning contexts, with an emphasis on capitalizing on and incorporating these tools into teaching and student work rather than resisting them.

To learn more, read:

1. Teaching in the Postpandemic Era

PD in this area focuses on changes in workplace environments, use of curriculum and technology, applicability of previously adapted learning frameworks, and how to reengage both students and teachers in face-to-face instruction as well as continuing to utilize distance learning.

To learn more, read:

Questions to Ask Yourself

As you plan your professional development for the upcoming school year, ask yourself these questions:

  • Which topics do you want to learn more about?
  • Which topic do you believe should be a focus of your institution’s PD agenda?

NOTE: A version of this article first appeared in the TESOL Blog, 22 December 2022.

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Dr. Laura Baecher is professor of TESOL at Hunter College, City University of New York. Her research interests and publications relate to teacher education, including educational technology in teacher learning, observation and coaching for English language teaching, and professional development in TESOL. Her recent books are Using Video to Support Teacher Reflection and Development in ELT and Reflecting on Problems of Practice in TESOL. She has served as chair of TESOL International Association’s Teacher Education Interest Section, an English language specialist for the U.S. Department of State, and president of the New York State TESOL affiliate.


This article first appeared in TESOL Connections. Reprinted with permission.