Professional Development for Experienced Teachers Working with Adult English Language Learners

This brief addressed topic of professional development for experienced teachers working in the English as a second language (ESL) classroom. 

A. Rodriguez
S. McKay
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
Center for Adult English Language Acquisition (CAELA)
Publication Year
Resource Type
Instructional Material
Number of Pages
Product Type

This brief takes up the infrequently addressed topic of professional development for experienced teachers working in the English as a second language (ESL) classroom.   The authors identify characteristics and needs of experienced teachers as compared to novice ESL teachers.  Lastly, the authors describe and suggest three appropriate categories of professional development activities for experienced teachers: Action research; Mentoring, coaching, and peer observation; and Opportunities for reflection. Each section category contains the rationale for the use of these types of activities and concrete suggestions for implementing particular types of projects fitting within each broad descriptive category (e.g., under the Opportunities for Reflection section the authors address study circles and reflective writing)

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What the experts say

Program Improvement Collection Reviewer Comments

This brief makes the case for the importance of professional development for experienced teachers to the development of teacher expertise and long-term career satisfaction.  Although the article focuses primarily on the needs of ESL teachers, the descriptions and implications are apt for teachers across the entire ABE field.  In a field characterized by part-time teachers, high teacher turn over, and limited professional development opportunities, professional development resources are allocated primarily to novice teachers, with few formal opportunities for learning provided to experienced adult education teachers. The brief underscores the need for experienced teachers to also be engaged in meaningful professional development and cites specific characteristics of and methodologies for professional development that promote teacher learning, even for those teachers who may be resistant or reluctant learners.

Useful features: 

  • The discussion of the characteristics of the expert teacher (in contrast with not only the novice teacher, but also the experienced “non expert” teacher) that identifies key elements of teaching excellence;
  • The identification of the types of professional development activities and practices that are needed for experienced teachers to promote expertise in teaching and further teacher development.

English Language Acquisition Reviewer Comments:

This brief targets professional development for a particular segment of ESL professionals: experienced teachers working with English Language Learners. Professional development initiatives are often planned with newer teachers in mind, but this brief raises considerations for teachers who have been in the classroom over five years and deals with the questions of how to keep them enthusiastic about their work and in a professional growth mode.

Useful features:

  • Experienced teachers are often presenters for newer teachers and colleagues. The authors suggest other roles for them as mentors, coaches, or action researchers engaged in reflective teaching;
  • This would provide a sound starting point for helping experienced teachers formulate a professional development agenda with their peers;
  • The brief would stimulate discussion around specific goals at different points in a teacher’s career. It would be productive for experienced teachers to have the opportunity to define their “growing edges,articulate their learning goals, and map strategies for further exploration.
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