What’s IPDP you may ask…It stands for Individualized Professional Development Plan. It’s the type of professional growth you sketch out for yourself – for your own growth. It does not include the type of PD your workplace or professional organization requires of you – the type you have to complete because …well…you have to. IPDP is like a box of chocolates. You carefully select the box, indulge in it, and savour every morsel. The only difference is the after-effect – there is no guilt. You “IPDP” simply because you love it and it fulfills a need – whether it be a promotion, a new job, an opportunity to network, or a life-long learning ambition. In other words, you are in control of your choice (please don’t think about PD opportunities you would like to attend but cannot afford…that’s another blog).
Where am I going with this you may ask? I would like to discuss the responsibility that comes with IPDP because sometimes we get lost in the “I.” From this perspective, IPDP becomes individualistic when it should be collaborative; this happens when we don’t stop to think of IPDP as an opportunity to give back. How can we move from “I” to “we”? We could try to indulge in scholarly practice (also known as SoTL for Scholarship of Teaching and Learning1). To me, this is the best part of IPDP. It asks us to share our expertise by being active participants – not just consumers of content.
Let me indulge a little more and share with you my top five IPDPs for 2014 – 2015:
Volunteering – especially in your field – is invaluable. For example, volunteering as guest blogger for TESL Ontario has given me lots of opportunities to engage in scholarly practice. This opportunity has helped me in my reflective practice too (which is a topic my fellow blogger Tamsin Cobb discussed in a previous blog). To write a blog is a very personal endeavour which happens to take place in a very public platform. This oxymoron (private-public) is exactly what writing is all about because it requires writing with an audience in mind on matters that are of personal interest.
Students have to be exposed to a topic before they can self-assess their needs. This is what I took with me from listening to Dr. Eunice Jang on December 2, 2014, when I attended an assessment colloquium organized by York University’s Graduate Program in Applied Linguistics. Although diagnostic assessments are useful to determine students’ needs, the results need to be communicated beyond grades or benchmarks so that learners become active participants in the process. This means that as educators we need to have an ongoing conversation with our students for them to recognize their weaknesses and strengths. Makes sense.
3. Classroom Teaching:
Say what you mean. In May 2014, I attended the College Association for Language and Literacy Conference (CALL) at Humber College. Christine Evans, the keynote speaker, asked attendees to reflect on the way we give instructions to our students. For example, what does it mean when we ask students to read ahead of time and “to be ready to discuss”? Do we mean let’s talk about it or let’s analyze the content? Do students know the difference? Hence, we need to explain what we mean and ask students for feedback to make sure we are on the same page. Modelling the thinking process should be part of our teaching plan.
If you tweet, beware that not all hashtags are worth joining. So far the one I recommend the most is #profchat. The conversations are on Tuesdays at 8:00 PM ETS and topics vary from week to week. When you join, you will see the questions for that particular session. Each question-lead begins with Q plus the question number and a colon (Q1:), while the responses begin with A followed by the question number and a colon (A1:). I have found the topics to be quite interesting, and it forces participants to keep focus in 140 characters or less2. Hashtags are a good way to know what is going on in the Twitter education-community. It’s amazing how much learning can happen in just a few string of words!
5. Webinar moderating:
Going back to item number 1, moderating for TESL Ontario webinar series has been another amazing volunteering experience. It has given me firsthand skills on managing interactions within an online platform and – best of all – it has provided me the opportunity to meet peers – who like me – are committed to professional growth.
Your turn now. What have you learned through IPDP – or PD? What would you like to share?
By the way, did you know volunteering opportunities are vast in our field? TESL Ontario posts these often and TESL affiliates offer many opportunities for engagement. For example TESL Toronto is looking for members to join the executive. What are you waiting for?
 If you want to learn more about the SoLT, please visit Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher education at http://www.stlhe.ca/special-interest-groups/scholarship-of-teaching-and-learning-canada/
2 Characters include spaces. Twitter users, however, get around this limit by using screen shots, abbreviations, and contractions similar to texting language.