Training vs. Development in ELT

Training vs Development.png

Teacher training vs. development - what’s the difference?

Training is selected for you and usually attendance is compulsory. Whether it’s relevant, useful or interesting is pot-luck.

Development is an activity that you choose to engage in. Most likely it’s relevant, useful and interesting as well.

The key difference is the freedom of choice.

How much time do you spend training vs. developing?


Training is normally of a one-size-fits-all variety.

A workshop for everyone set by your organisation, is training. Showing everyone how to use new coursebook or product, is training. Training is standardised, measured and delivered in a neat package.

Training is necessary, especially for newer staff who might not be knowledgeable enough to know what to do next.

Training can be great. It helps raise the minimum standard and it’s usually done in work hours. It can even help with teacher retention. Furthermore, a good trainer will be engaging, will differentiate, and will introduce the latest concepts, ideas and industry best practices.

If you’re really lucky, training will also have feedback and some follow up.

The one thing training doesn’t have, is freedom of choice. You can’t choose the topic, the method, the timing, or the amount.

And that’s the issue. The lack of control can lead to boredom, frustration, or even resentment (“Why do I have to sit here and listen to something I already know when I’ve got marking to do!”)

That’s where ‘development’ comes in.


Self-guided development usually starts as an itch, a problem that you want to solve.

From “how do I get young Jimmy to behave in class?” to “why do I keep messing up my grammar explanations to my upper-intermediate class?” you wind up investigating something. When you find the answer, your teaching life (and your students’ experience) becomes better.

And then you start again.

Development is driven by wanting to be a better teacher, by caring for your students, and even by wanting to have an easier time of it. Genuine development is all the things that training can’t be – i.e. you can choose the topic, the method, the timing and the amount.

So What?

So why don’t we all just develop by ourselves?

A few things can get in the way of effective development. Teachers have too many teaching hours and no time to do anything but survive. They’re not sure what to do next. They’re relatively inexperienced.

Or it could be that a teacher has a passion for a certain area that really doesn’t coincide with their or the school’s objectives (i.e. they really want to learn the local language and practice it at length in every class they teach…)

Also, self-guided development is often a solitary practice, which means no feedback.

Final Thoughts

Both training and development are effective for their purpose. Training can ensure a minimum standard, whereas self-guided development is needed for consistent, long-term improvement.

Teachers: what’s the next thing you want to develop? What catches your attention? What problems do you want to solve for your learners or for yourself?

Trainers: how can you encourage development in training sessions? How can you differentiate training sessions more?

Managers: how can you make more time for development? Do you have to have that next training session, or can you talk to teachers individually about what they’re doing to develop?

What do you want to develop next? Let me know in the comments!