10 Professional Development Ideas for ESL Teachers

Professional development for ESL teachers doesn’t only help you work more effectively—it helps you learn how to engage with students regardless of their age or nationality.

Continue reading to learn more about ESL professional development ideas and how they can be used to make you a better teacher.


1. Schedule ESL Professional Development Presentations

The goal of an ESL professional development presentation is to help you and your colleagues become better ESL teachers. Weekly, bi-weekly or monthly presentations provide multiple opportunities to talk about something related to teaching ESL, as well as share ideas and strategies with each other.

Good professional development presentations focus on identifying pain points or weaknesses commonly found in the classroom and formulating actionable solutions to overcome them.

Presentations can focus on topics such as:

2. Share Teaching and ESL Professional Development Ideas

Another great way to encourage professional development is to put a “resource box” in the teacher’s office. The idea is to have teachers write down teaching ideas, fun activities and teaching strategies and put them in the box. You can then open the idea box once a week during a teacher’s meeting and look at all the ideas and resources submitted.

If the idea of using a physical box sounds too archaic, you can also create a document or spreadsheet using Google Docs or Google Sheets, respectively, and give your colleagues permission to edit the document. They can then type teaching ideas into the document, which everyone can talk about during the next staff meeting.

3. Regularly Schedule Staff Meetings

Teacher’s meetings are an effective way to make sure that everyone’s on the same page when it comes to teaching goals, deadlines and teaching strategies. Unlike presentations, where everyone listens to one person talk about a specific topic, meetings require everyone to participate in the discussion and share their ideas and experiences.

Staff meetings work best when they’re weekly or biweekly. That way, all staff members are more likely to stay up-to-date with news, resources and anything else related to teaching ESL. These meetings are also a good way to get feedback on teaching material like textbooks and software.

You can also turn staff meetings into short training events that focus on learning how to use new hardware and software, in addition to exploring ways to help students learn English more efficiently.

4. Host Teacher Training Workshops

Workshops are a common way for educators to learn new teaching strategies and improve their pedagogical skills. Lasting anywhere from a full day to a week or longer, teacher training workshops are typically filled with lectures and activities that focus on specific areas like creating teaching aids, building rapport with students and using technology in the classroom.

One useful technology to bring into the classroom is FluentU, which provides engaging content for your students, no matter what age range or skill level they are.

FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language lessons.

With FluentU, you can take a step back from the traditional textbook approach and encourage your students to learn languages in a more natural way.

5. Attend Virtual Courses and Seminars on ESL Professional Development

Sometimes, teachers are unable to attend workshops and seminars in person due to scheduling conflicts and travel expenses. Fortunately, advancements in technology have made it easier for teachers to attend professional development courses without having to travel across or outside the country.

For example, the TESOL International Association hosts a number of online skill-building workshops and courses throughout the year, including virtual seminars covering:

  • Cultural understanding in the ESL learning environment
  • Bringing social issues into classroom lessons
  • Ways to teach grammar more effectively

The best part about TESOL’s virtual seminars and courses is that they cover anything and everything involving English education and students, such as social and cultural factors that could influence the way students from various backgrounds learn English.

These courses help teachers take a more balanced and mindful approach to their students’ strengths and weaknesses, which in turn can improve the learning experience as a whole.

6. Take Advantage of Resources Covering ESL Professional Development Ideas

The best way for you and your colleagues to grow professionally is to have access to resources designed specifically for ESL teachers. The goal is to incorporate a number of different ideas and perspectives, making it easier for teachers to think outside the box when teaching in the classroom.

Here are some free resources to help you continuously grow as an ESL teacher:

  • British Council TeachingEnglish: The British Council has a wealth of free materials for ESL educators looking to sharpen their teaching skills and learn new and creative ways to engage with learners.
  • The TEFLology Podcast: True to its name, this podcast covers various topics related to Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL). Many episodes feature interviews with experts sharing their thoughts and perspectives on the field.
  • TEFL Training Institute Podcast: This podcast has a similar format as The TEFLology Podcast. Some episodes have just the regular hosts talking about the topic at hand, while many others have expert interviews.

7. Consider Participating in a Fellowship Program

While many ESL teaching jobs don’t require that you hold anything higher than a bachelor’s degree, additional qualifications could also aid your professional development.

For example, if you’re a U.S. citizen, hold a graduate degree in a field related to teaching the English language and have relevant experience, you may be qualified for the English Language (EL) Fellow Program. The fellowship lasts for about 10 months, and participants have the opportunity to teach in institutions of higher education in over 80 countries around the world.

As an EL Fellow, you can engage in specialized projects including but not limited to Curriculum Development, Program Evaluation, Testing and English for Specific Purposes (ESP).

8. Forge Authentic Relationships With Experts on Social Media

If you’re on a website like LinkedIn, you may already be following ESL/EFL teachers who regularly post about the industry and trends related to it. Instead of simply being a passive follower, you can comment on their posts that sparked your interest, engage in thoughtful discussions with them and gain expert insights you may not find anywhere else.

Building professional relationships isn’t too different from building other types of relationships. As long as you both benefit from your connection in equal measure and genuinely like each other, being in contact with an expert in your field will not feel like an entirely self-serving endeavor.

9. Subscribe to E-newsletters Related to ESL Professional Development

Instead of searching for teaching strategies and ESL industry updates via the digital behemoth that is the World Wide Web, why not let this information come straight into your inbox?

Many ESL teaching blogs offer the option to subscribe to their newsletter, such as the following:

10. Evaluate Student Feedback Carefully

Professional development activities shouldn’t be limited to what you do once classes end. If you’re unsure as to what aspect of your teaching you need to improve, student feedback can give you valuable clues.

For example, if students say something along the lines of “your classes are informative, but they’re boring,” you can take courses on how to make teaching ESL classes more fun without sacrificing their educational value.

Also, if your school doesn’t already employ a student feedback system, you can create your own. Here are some ideas on how to do so.


Professional development for ESL teachers is an ongoing project. It may sound cliché, but teachers refer to themselves as “lifelong learners” for a reason. Being a good teacher is more than just learning how to teach from a textbook—it also requires you to learn how to connect with students from different backgrounds and learning styles, and come up with teaching strategies that work best for each individual learner.

By gathering and executing ESL professional development ideas, you’re able to continue to improve your teaching skills, as well as help your students reach all of their academic goals.

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