View Content #26063

Content Type4
TitleBuild Your Professional Learning Plan

This Activity of the Week, designed at the National Foreign Language Resource Center, is designed to accompany today's Topic of the Week article about professional learning opportunities for online language educators.

Build your professional learning plan

Recent research by Darling-Hammond, Hyler, and Gardner (2017) has revealed that effective, high-quality professional learning experiences embody the following features:

  1. They are content focused.
  2. They are informed by principles of active learning and adult learning theory.
  3. They enable and support collaboration and are typically embedded in practice.
  4. They use models and provide modeling of effective practice.
  5. They include coaching and expert support.
  6. They provide opportunities for feedback and reflection.
  7. Their duration is adequate to learn and apply new concepts, receive feedback, and engage in reflection.

For online language teachers, finding this type of professional learning experiences can be challenging. However, it is possible to build your own customized professional learning plan while keeping these features in mind.


Your goal for this activity is to create your own professional learning plan to improve your knowledge of online language learning and teaching. We recommend that you download two small files: the first one contains a table with guiding questions and tasks associated with the guidelines presented below. The second contains a template that can be used to document outcomes of your customized professional learning experience.


1. Content focus

Choosing content that suits your needs is essential for quality professional learning. Start by exploring resources for online world language educators created by the National Foreign Language Resource Center (NFLRC) at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and the ACTFL Distance Learning SIG as part of the ACTFL Mentoring Program for Online Language Teachers. These resources comprise a collection of over 40 lessons designed for online language educators grouped into four main sets:

  1. Introduction to Online Language Learning (core lessons)
  2. Designing Interaction for Online Language Learning
  3. Materials Development for Online Language Courses
  4. Assessment in Online Language Courses

Is there content you are interested in that is not listed here? Let the NFLRC know to take into account your needs as we create additional content in the next few years:

2. Active learning and adult learning principles

Professional learning that adheres to these principles takes into consideration the experiences that adults bring to the table and acknowledges that such experiences can be a valuable resource to anchor new learning (Knowles, Holton III, & Swanson, 2012). Additionally, it allows teachers to select topics of their choice and to reflect on their own practice and learning. Active learning also provides opportunities for teachers to engage in the same or similar learning experiences they are designing for their students as part of their professional learning.

3. Collaboration and correspondence to practice

Opportunities for collaboration and correspondence to practice or job-embeddedness are key ingredients of high quality professional learning. One way to incorporate these qualities into your professional learning is by participating in a mentoring experience with a seasoned online language teaching professional. If you are an ACTFL member, you can enroll in the ACTFL Mentoring Program for Online Language Teachers. Alternatively, you can also identify a peer online teacher and arrange an informal teaching partner experience. Such experiences may include regular discussions (for example, once or twice a month) and occasional observations.

4. Models and modeling of effective practice

Seeing how other teachers teach online can be a great help to visualize effective practices. The easiest way to avail yourself of this type of experience is by participating in a mentoring program such as the one described above.

5. Coaching and expert support

Even if you are a seasoned online language professional, having a peer professional participate in or observe your practice can help you identify what to improve and how to do so. Again, participating in a mentoring program can help enrich a professional learning experience by incorporating elements of coaching and expert support.

6. Feedback and reflection

The typical logistical challenges of brick-and-mortar settings to create opportunities for feedback and reflection can be easily overcome in online settings, since online learning experiences are relatively easy to capture and share.

7. Adequate duration

Quality professional learning activities provide sufficient time to learn and apply new concepts, receive feedback, and engage in reflection.

This table provides potential questions and tasks associated with the guidelines described above, and this one allows you to document outcomes of your professional learning experience.


Darling-Hammond, L., Hyler, M. E., Gardner, M. (2017). Effective teacher professional development. Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute.

Knowles, M. S., Holton III, E. F., & Swanson, R. A. (2012). The adult learner. Routledge

SourceCASLS Activity of the Week
Inputdate2018-11-22 10:45:22
Lastmodifieddate2018-11-26 04:16:35
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Publishdate2018-11-26 02:15:06
Displaydate2018-11-26 00:00:00