The Future of Professional Learning in TESOL

Earlier this month, the TESOL International Association held a summit in Athens, Greece on the future of our profession. This summit was recorded and can be viewed here:
 There were many takeaways from this summit, and I’ve been following reactions both internally, through the myTESOL online portal, and externally, through the Twitter hashtag #TESOLsummit. Below are some screenshots of tweets that got my attention.

These struck a chord in me because I believe CPD (collaborative professional development) is not the future of TESOL. It is the present! It’s what I’m doing right now on this blog and what I have been doing by engaging TESOL teachers and researchers online.
 However, online PD is not an option for many teachers, either because of accessibility or personal feelings towards social media and e-learning. On the flip side, accessibility and personal feelings towards massive international conferences keep many teachers away from the annual TESOL Convention. A viable alternative to online and traditional PD is the EdCamp, something that K-12 teachers have been doing for years with great success (Carpenter & Linton, 2016).

What is an EdCamp?

An EdCamp is a type of “unconference,” which is participant-driven and inquiry-driven. There are no plenary, keynote, or other types of speakers. Every session is a discussion on a topic decided upon by the attendees, which in this case were IEP faculty and staff. EdCamps were originally designed for and by K-12 educators in the United States. I wrote about this after we successfully held our first EdCamp last year at

What does the evidence say?

Research on EdCamps is quite new, but the leading researcher seems to be Jeff Carpenter at Elon University.

Last year, he co-wrote an article published in Teaching and Teacher Education regarding educators’ perspectives on EdCamps at This was an exploratory survey-based study that showed high levels of enthusiasm, “a preference among educators for participant-driven, teacher-led PD,” and “a strong sense of of responsibility for their own professional learning” (p.104). Because EdCamps are quite new, it’s too early to determine any longitudinal benefits affecting teachers, schools, and their students. But is there any evidence traditional PD opportunities have any benefits? I will be following this line of research closely. Right now I have a lot of anecdotal evidence to support EdCamps.

IEP Camps

The timing of the 2017 TESOL Summit on Futurology and our 2nd annual Shawnee Hills IEP Camp was a coincidence. They were only a week apart from each other, but both have reaffirmed my dedication to participant-driven discussion-based professional development. Furthermore, I think IEP Camps would be more beneficial if researchers were invited to understand the day-to-day issues and concerns teachers face. IEP Camps are a treasure trove for opportunities to close the research-practice gap and to promote action research. We look forward to seeing more IEP teachers in our region attend next year.
 I strongly support the growth of more IEP camps and other EdCamps associated with English language learning across the country and the world. I’ve been told that KOTESOL (Korea) will be experimenting with this model this year, and I hope they are successful. I am happy to provide free consultation to anyone who is interested in setting one up. And if my schedule and budget allows, I would even like to participate.

This post first appeared in


Carpenter, J.P. & Linton, J.N. (2016). Edcamp unconferences: Educators’ perspectives on an untraditional professional learning experience. Teaching and Teacher Education, 57, 97–108.

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