We’re all familiar with Cambridge English from their CELTA and Delta course and you might know that they have recently developed the Cambridge English Teaching Framework. But did you know you can access a lot of their CPD resources for free? This month Cambridge English are launching 5 Teaching Challenges to help teachers further their professional development and generate new ideas for teaching.

Liz Robinson, Marketing Strategy Manager for Teacher Development at Cambridge English, explains a bit about the idea behind the project that launched this month.

We wanted to create a simple and engaging way to share our expertise in teacher development for free. Teachers can already access our webinars, online and blended teaching qualifications, courses, and more. But we wanted to curate our resources in such a way that the right materials are linked to specific learning goals teachers may be working towards.

We hope that by offering teachers valuable content in this streamlined, digestible form, they can dip their toe into different areas of professional development and grow in confidence as they do so.

Briefly what is the Teaching Framework?

The Cambridge English Teaching Framework is for teachers, teacher trainers, directors of studies and academic managers. It divides teaching competency into 5 categories across 4 stages of development. It helps teachers think about where they are now and where they would like to get to.

What are the Challenges?

We chose one Challenge for each Framework category and based the final content on feedback from teachers about their development priorities.

The five challenges are:

  • create a professional development plan that works for you
  • find new ways to motivate your learners
  • find new ways to identify and correct your learners’ mistakes
  • be more confident using digital resources
  • grow your confidence using English in class

Interesting that teachers report not being confident about their English skills. Are these teachers with the CELTA?

It’s unlikely that teachers with CELTA will feel under-confident using English in class (the language requirement for CELTA is high C1 or C2) but these challenges are for all teachers. There are lots of teachers out there who would like to increase their own English level and be more confident using English in class.

What does the digital challenge look like?

We know that many teachers would like to use digital resources more but they don’t feel confident enough to do this.  Many feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of material available and don’t feel they have the necessary skills to handle the technology. As with all the challenges, we take a step by step approach to help teachers be more confident using digital technology.

Keeping a learning journal is an important element of all our challenges. In week 1, teachers start by making notes about the types of technology they use in their lessons and their reasons for using it (if they don’t use much technology then they reflect on the reasons for this).  They then read an article about integrating technology and try an activity out in class where they ask their learners to find out about digital tools and report back.

Each week there are extension activities – in week 1 these involve reading about and reflecting on the differences between ‘digital natives’ and ‘digital immigrants’. We will also encourage teachers to share ideas and experiences, or simply join in the teaching challenge conversations by using the hashtag #5teachingchallenges.

Over the five weeks teachers get input from a range of online sources to:

  • learn more about digital skills
  • find out about the kinds of digital resources they can use
  • plan new activities to use with their classes
  • learn about how they can reflect on their classroom practice
  • try out new activities and reflect on their effectiveness

What kinds of teachers are the challenges aimed at?

We have taken a global perspective in designing these challenges and are trying to reach teachers who, for reasons such as time and money, do not have regular access to professional development.

We also think there is an opportunity for schools to incorporate the challenges into their CPD programmes and encourage teachers to present what they have learned to their colleagues in staff seminars. The challenges are free and the time commitment from teachers each week is relatively low (1-2 hours). Some weeks teachers will be asked to try something new with their learners. These steps take a little longer as teachers need to add the activity to their lesson plans, deliver the lesson and then reflect on it afterwards.

How do the challenges work?

Teachers choose the challenge they feel will help them the most and sign up for it on our website. The challenge starts as soon as they sign up and a new step will follow each week via email.

Over the five weeks we will help teachers achieve their goals by providing videos to watch, articles to read, tasks to do and ideas to reflect on. Once they’ve completed the challenge, teachers will receive a Record of Achievement to complete and add to their portfolio. They can track other teachers’ progress with links to their #5teachingchallenges blog posts.

The British Council ran a MOOC for teachers last year. How similar are your approaches?

The 5 Teaching Challenges are delivered by email, with content hosted on our website and YouTube, rather than a MOOC platform. Unlike a MOOC teachers can sign up for, and start, their challenge at any time. This means that they can do a challenge when it’s most convenient to them.

However, the guiding principles of the challenges are similar to those of a MOOC – giving free access to high quality content structured around learning objectives. Just as the British Council based their recent MOOC on video content they already had, we are recycling content from Cambridge English Teacher, webinars and our teaching qualifications and adding to it with tasks to support learning, such as pre-reading activities, and encouraging the use of a learning journal for new ideas and reflection.

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