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Models of Inquiry-Based Professional Development

This is my second blog post in response to my reading of Second Language Teacher Education: A Sociocultural Perspective by Karen E. Johnson, specifically to Chapter 7 on Inquiry-Based Approaches to Professional Development.  This chapter is really important to me because it combines my research interest on the professional development of English language teachers with my current position as curriculum coordinator at CESL, where one of my roles is to support and provide professional development for our faculty.

Chapter 7 describes five models of inquiry-based professional development, which I am reviewing as options to implement.  They are as follows:
  1. Critical Friends Groups
  2. Peer Coaching
  3. Lesson Study
  4. Cooperative Development
  5. Teacher Study Groups
Critical Friends Groups
This model focuses on "exploring and analyzing the dynamic nature of student learning" through the use of protocol-guided conversations, which provide the participants (teachers) with a lot of structure.  A great resource to learn more about this model is the National School Reform Faculty from the Harmony Education Center.  When you click on the link, you will understand how thorough this model is.  I'm not sure if CESL faculty needs something this structured to help meet our goals, so I will run it by them to see if there is any interest.

Peer Coaching
A great resource on peer coaching can be found through ASCD's website.  Don't confuse peer coaching with instructional coaching, which was a model being used in my previous institution.  Peer coaching differs from instructional coaching as it is less hierarchical.  For peer coaching, instructors observe each other and give feedback that is appropriate and acceptable to them.  Instructional coaching requires an instructional coach that may or may not be a peer and may or may not be a full-time faculty member.  Administrators may prefer the instructional coaching model more because the instructional coach is both administrator and teacher whereas the peer coaching model is more hands-off from the administration.  I'm a more trusting individual, so I would have no problems implementing peer coaching if CESL's faculty seem interested in this.  I believe elements of peer coaching already occur here.

Lesson Study
This model is more research-focused than the previous two models.  Teams of teachers work in depth to develop a lesson or a series of lessons that focuses on a particular topic or subject.  The team of teachers conduct research on both the content and student learning process prior, during, and after the implementation of the lesson or unit.  This seems like an appropriate professional development model for CESL's English for Academic Purposes courses, which use the sustained-content language teaching approach.  I'll soon learn how appropriate this model is when I start teaching an EAP course or two in the fall semester.

Cooperative Development
This model focuses a lot of the affective side of building a community of supportive colleagues.  From what I see at CESL, we already have a positive environment of trusting and helpful teachers.  Cooperative development offers a tight framework that allows programs to become more supportive and understanding.  More details on this can be found at  I think the success of this model depends on leadership that is open and trusting, otherwise it will not work and the discussions will be forced and insincere.

Teacher Study Groups
This model works when a program like CESL works in close collaboration with other university departments and professional associations like TESOL that are interested in researching the pedagogy, learning process, and language acquisition that takes place in the classroom and other learning spaces in and around CESL.  Of course, this is an ideal model but it takes a lot more effort to build a professional development model that includes all parties: faculty, administration, researchers, and the departments they represent.  I wonder if any IEP has implemented or attempted to implement this model.

Next Steps

I'm interested mostly in the first three models.  Peer coaching seems the easiest to establish here since elements of it are already in place at CESL.  Lesson study looks to be a great model to attempt with the EAP courses.  Before any of this happens, I would like to hold a meeting regarding professional development and perhaps organize a professional development committee if need be.

Are there any IEPs that have used these or other professional development models?  I'd like to learn more on how they have been successful or not.


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