One-Stop Guide to In-Service Development for ESL Teachers

You are a unique breed. As an ESL teacher, you’re not only responsible for teaching K-12 students in a content area, you must also teach them the English language. In-service professional development for you isn’t about going through the motions to get the required CEUs in before your teaching certification expires. It’s about ensuring that you always bring the highest-quality curriculum and the most passionate instruction into your classroom and to your ESL students.

Professional development is the process of improving job-related knowledge and skills through continued learning. Ideally, a teacher’s professional development activities should focus on the well-being and the intellectual, physical, emotional, and social development of their students, despite their cultural, economic, or linguistic background.

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However, English as a Second Language (ESL) in-service teachers must ensure their professional development initiatives are reflective of their students’ cultural, economic, and linguistic backgrounds. ESL teachers must know how to navigate the complexities involved with teaching students from different cultures and backgrounds. They must apply unique strategies that address the barriers to meaningful instruction that learners of a second language often encounter.

You are undoubtedly ready and willing to tackle these challenges head on because you are inspired and motivated by the children you teach every day. You know that continued learning in your profession is not just about earning CEUs or meeting the professional development requirements of your school or district, but about continually reflecting upon your teaching and updating your practices to address the needs of your ESL learners.

You also know that as you learn new skills and gain new knowledge, you are effectively lowering the barriers to learning for your ESL students, while at the same time piquing their curiosity and inspiring in them a love of learning.

The Face of High-Quality In-Service Professional Development for ESL Teachers

Meaningful, beneficial professional development opportunities will allow you to develop and build upon a comprehensive, high-quality curriculum that will address the unique needs of your ESL learners.

What does high-quality professional development look like?

Effective and worthwhile professional development for in-service ESL teachers will:

  • Build upon their foundation of skills, knowledge, and expertise.
  • Include many opportunities to engage ESL teachers as learners and offer them the opportunity to apply new skills and knowledge.
  • Provide feedback on performance and include follow-up activities.
  • Provide opportunities to measure changes in teachers’ knowledge and skills.
  • Provide opportunities to measure changes in student performance.

Here are some of our favorite ESL educator resources for finding high-quality professional development activities and programs:

Teaching English to Speakers of Other Language (TESOL)

Teaching English to Speakers of Other Language (TESOL) is an international association of professionals who work together to advance the quality of English language teaching through advocacy, standards, research, and professional development. TESOL members include teachers, students, administrators, researchers, authors, curriculum developers, and more.

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TESOL is, by and far, the leader in professional development programs, advocacy efforts, and publications for ESL teachers.

Professional development opportunities for in-service ESL teachers include:

  • TESOL Virtual Seminars: TESOL virtual seminars are one- to two-hour webcasts focused on key issues in ESL and EFL (English as a Foreign Language). Seminars can be accessed online. Some of the past seminars included:
    • Practical Tips for Integrating Pronunciation into Your Lessons
    • The Critical Role of Perception in Second Language Listening
  • Online Courses: TESOL online courses provide ESL teachers with convenient, online courses that are enhanced through peer-to-peer exchange and instructor feedback. Some of the courses offered include:
    • Grammar 1: Phrasal Structures
    • Grammar 2: Multiclause Structures
    • ESL for Secondary Mathematics Teachers
    • ESL for Secondary Science Teachers
  • Self-Study Courses: Self-study courses allow ESL teachers to complete their study at their own pace for a truly individualized learning experience. Some of the self-study courses offered include:
    • Fundamentals of TESOL
    • Teaching and Assessing Young Learners
  • TESOL International Convention and English Language Expo: The TESOL International Convention and English Language Expo is the largest professional development event in the TESOL field, featuring more than 6,500 attendees, 1,000 education sessions, and 150 exhibits. The interactive sessions allow educators to develop a global perspective through the exchange of ideas and practices. Attending this event will allow you to catch up on the latest trends and develop a professional network of ESL educators.
  • Online Certificate Programs and Leadership Training: Allows ESL teachers to advance their career while gaining valuable knowledge and skills in leadership and related areas. Certificate programs include:

Imagine Learning

Ahead of the Class, sponsored by Imagine Learning, is a great resource for educators and administrators working with English language learners. In-service professional development opportunities are offered through a variety of platforms, including free webinars.

Free Webinars: Imagine Learning’s free webinars provide ESL teachers with the latest in pressing educational issues. A sampling of some of the past webinars include:

  • ELLs and Common Core Academic Standards: Successful Strategies for the Content Classroom
  • Authentic Conversation: The Key to First and Second Language/Literacy Development in the Early Years
  • A Systematic Approach to Leveling the Playing Field for ELLs
  • Academic Success for English Learners
  • Removing Barriers to Learning for Long-Term English Learners

Stanford CLAD ELL Modules

The Stanford CLAD ELL Modules is a professional development resource for educators working with English language learners. The modules are part of the former Stanford CTEL/CLAD Program, a three-course online program that led to CTEL/CLAD certification. Although the program no longer exists, Stanford released the online resources to the public, free of charge. The modules include classroom video samples, assignments, and links to articles and information.

The ELL Modules include:

  • English Language Learner Policy and Theory
  • Language and Content Instruction at the Elementary Grades
  • Vocabulary Development and Academic Language
  • Listening and Speaking
  • Writing
  • Reading
  • Testing and Assessment
  • ESL/ELD at High School
  • Native Language
  • Teaching High School Science Using SDAIE
  • Teaching High School Math Using SDAIE
  • ESL/ELD at Elementary and Middle School
  • SDAIE in Middle School
  • Culturally Relevant Teaching

Reading Rockets: Professional Development Webcasts

Reading Rocket’s Professional Development webcasts are one- to two-hour video programs that ESL teachers can use for professional development or for staff development workshops. Some of the webcasts aimed at ESL teachers include:

  • Preschool for ELLs
  • Academic Language and English Language Learners
  • English Language Learners with Learning Disabilities
  • Reading to Learn: ELLs in Grades 4-6
  • Teaching English Language Learners to Read
  • Comprehension: Helping English Language Learners Grasp the Full Picture
  • Assessment of English Language Learners

Graduate Degrees for ESL Teachers: Satisfying Professional Development Requirements While Advancing Your Career

The pursuit of graduate-level courses or a professional (post-licensure) master’s degree in education with a concentration or emphasis in ESL allows bachelor’s-prepared ESL teachers to advance their knowledge and skills in the education of linguistically diverse students, expand their career opportunities, and satisfy the continuing education requirements of their teaching certificate and the professional development requirements of their school, district or state licensing body.

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Some of the degrees in this area of study include:

  • Master of Arts in English Language Learning (PK-12)
  • Master of Science in Education: Teaching English Language Learners (K-12)
  • Ed. in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)
  • Master of Arts in ESL
  • Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction: English as a Second Language concentration
  • Master of Science in Education: English Language Learning and Teaching

Consisting of between 40-60 credits and about two years of full-time study, professional master’s degrees for certified and licensed ESL teachers cover a wide range of topics relevant to teaching English to speakers of other languages, including applied linguistics, assessment and evaluation, classroom management, and cultural communications.

Coursework often includes:

  • Foundations in ESOL
  • Methods and Learning Theory
  • Second Language Acquisition
  • Language and Culture
  • Curriculum and Materials Design
  • Research Methods

These programs generally culminate in a final project, such as a capstone project or thesis. A thesis allows practicing ESL teachers to perform extended research on a topic of interest.

Many professional master’s degrees for the ESL teacher are offered in an online or hybrid format designed to accommodate the busy schedules of working educators.

These programs offer an interactive web-based format that allows students to engage with faculty and peers.

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