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The Complete Professional Development Guide: Books You Need To Read In 2020

man reading bookTeaching during COVID-19 has challenged us to adapt quickly and learn on the go this year! But how much time have you spent on your own professional development, and how prepared do you feel for the start of next term? As the holidays approach there is a sense of relief as we get to have a well-deserved break, but it is also a chance to get ready for the new term, whatever it may bring. To help you prepare for every scenario, we’ve created an essential reading list with English language teachers in mind! Explore the pros and cons and get practical tips for teaching online, prepare to assess your students in new ways, and learn to prioritise your own wellbeing. We’ve got you covered with best-sellers and the latest professional development books and papers written by ELT experts.


Our Professional Development Book Of The Year

Teacher Wellbeing book cover

Teachers… have the power in their own hands to make things better and to nurture and enhance their own wellbeing. This is a welcome message at any time, but perhaps most of all now when there is so much uncertainty in the world.

– English Teaching Professional

Teacher Wellbeing

Our book of the year serves as a practical guide to help individual teachers promote and nurture their wellbeing. Discover effective tips and strategies to help you meet your needs, and improve your wellbeing by finding techniques that work for you. You’ll also find tips to help you maintain a healthy work-life balance, and nurture your personal and professional relationships.


Three Professional Development Best Sellers

Bestselling professional development book covers

  • Exploring Psychology in Language Learning and Teaching: This award-winning book explores key areas of educational and social psychology and considers their relevance to language teaching. Learn learners’ and teachers’ beliefs about how a subject should be learned and taught, relationships with others, the role of emotions in learning, and more…
  • How Languages are Learned 4th edition: Prize-winning How Languages are Learned shares how language learning theory works in the classroom and provides you with practical techniques and activities developed from research. Perfect for new and experienced practising teachers.
  • Teaching Young Language Learners 2nd edition: A clear introduction to teaching young learners. It covers child development, L1 and L2 learning, vocabulary and grammar, and more by combining theory and practice in an accessible way. It draws on up-to-date international research and classroom practice.


Support For Teaching Online

  • Mobile Learning: Get clear guidance and essential support for using mobile devices in and outside the language classroom. Full of practical ideas and activities, it emphasizes the power of the mobile device as a tool for language learning.
  • Learning Technology: Learning Technology provides a clear guide to how teachers can introduce learning technology to the classroom. Explore different ways of putting it into practice, including virtual learning environments, social learning platforms, blended learning and the flipped classroom, mobile learning, and adaptive learning.


Recommended Assessment Books

  • Language Assessment for Classroom Teachers: This book presents a new approach to developing and using classroom-based language assessments. The approach is based on current theory and practice in the field of language assessment and on an understanding of the assessment needs of teachers. Split into four parts, this book is the ultimate practical guide to classroom-based language assessment, with advice that can be applied in any classroom setting – both real and virtual! A professional development must-read!
  • Focus on Assessment: This book develops your ability to design, implement, and evaluate language assessment in your classroom, helping you relate the latest research and pedagogy to your own teaching context. Explore the multiple roles teachers play in language assessment such as ensuring a positive assessment experience and promoting learner autonomy, and improve your assessment competence with activities that help you to apply assessment theory to your own classroom.


Recommended Vocabulary Books

  • How Vocabulary is LearnedHow Vocabulary Is Learned discusses the major issues that relate to the teaching and learning of vocabulary. Written by leading voices in the field of second language acquisition, the book evaluates a wide range of practical activities designed to help boost students’ vocabulary learning, starting with ‘Which words should be learned?’…
  • Focus on Vocabulary Learning: Explore teaching vocabulary to language learners aged 5-18. Discover the considerable challenges of learning the vocabulary of a new language from a range of perspectives, and become equipped to teach with practical solutions. Find a rich variety of useful activities and examples from real classrooms, and ‘spotlight studies’ of important research, that link theory to practice.


ELT Position Papers

Our position papers provide expert advice and guidance on the burning issues shaping English Language Teaching today. Download them for free and you’ll also receive exclusive training and resources for your classroom.

ELT Position Paper covers

  • Global Skills:  Creating Empowered 21st Century Learners: Help every learner develop the skills they need for success in a fast-changing modern world! Get expert advice and discover the five global skills clusters that prepare learners for lifelong success and fulfilment.
  • Oxford 3000 and Oxford 5000: The Most Important Words to Learn in English: Interested in expanding your learners’ vocabulary? Discover our core wordlist of all the most important words for learners to know! Deliver a well-founded vocabulary syllabus with confidence, and encourage independent vocabulary learning at home.
  • Inclusive Practices in English Language Teaching: Create an inclusive classroom, and make learning a positive experience for each and every learner. Discover expert advice to help you identify and support students with special educational needs, and pick up practical solutions for building an inclusive classroom environment.

Professional Development On The Go!

Download our free focus papers to access bite-sized insights and practical tips for the ELT classroom! Each paper is easy to use, and immediately useful, covering topics like:

  • Online Teaching
  • Project-Based Learning
  • Mediation
  • Oracy Skills
  • Managing Online Learning
  • And more!


Which new teaching skills are you trying this year?

Let us know in the comments below!



Essential Summer Reading: 5 ELT Titles For A Rockstar Performance

Man on holiday with a bookWhat are you doing to prepare for the coming academic year? Harvey Chan, Associate Editor for Oxford University Press USA, picks his top 5 professional development books every ELT teacher should read this summer.

Just like musicians gearing up for the upcoming concert season, teachers need to mentally rehearse and reanalyze their teaching to prepare for the upcoming school year. Just as how the strings of a guitar can get rusty and its effectiveness can erode over time, instructors must constantly download the newest software updates for their technological devices. And like the myriads of scales, majors, and minors that make up the foundational core of music theory; theoretical principles in teaching methodology and Second Language Acquisition should lie at the heart of every pedagogical decision teachers make, both within and outside of the classroom. To gear up for the upcoming school year, here are five essential books for language teachers with the collective promise that everyone in their audience will sing their praises.

The Practice of English Language Teaching with DVD (4th ed.)Harmer, J. (2007). The Practice of English Language Teaching with DVD (4th ed.). Pearson Longman ELT.

Found in many ESL-training courses, this guide initiates those new to the field with everything they need to know about teaching in the classroom. Harmer takes teachers-to-be through the theoretical (major tenets in SLA to a methodological review) to the practical stages (classroom management, course and syllabus design) of teaching. An accompanying DVD also showcases nine native and non-native teachers in action, their execution of the principles outlined in the book, and personal reflections on the topic and methodology of the preceding lesson; giving readers a guided demonstration of what the performance should actually look like on stage.

Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching (3rd ed.)Larsen-Freeman, D. & Marti Anderson. (2011). Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press, USA.

Covering the classic to the contemporary, this comprehensive and historic overview of language teaching methods aims to equip teachers with and expose them to a wide array of methods used in language learning classrooms all over. A descriptive, rather than a prescriptive, approach that enables language teachers to analyze, reflect, and personalize on these techniques; Larsen-Freeman and Anderson cover everything from the nostalgic Grammar-Translation and Audio-Lingual Method to modern practices including Task-based Language Teaching and the Participatory Approach. New to this edition include a deeper examination of the political facets of language teaching, and the advent and application of technology in the classroom.

The Grammar Book: An ESL/EFL Teacher’s Course (2nd ed.)Celce-Murcia, M & Diane Larsen-Freeman. (1998). The Grammar Book: An ESL/EFL Teacher’s Course (2nd ed.). Heinle ELT.

For those who sweat at the thought of being thrown a curveball-of-a-grammar question, or those searching for ways to make grammar points stick to students’ memory (since they always seem to be forgotten in student writing), this technical reference guide explains in great detail all things grammar under the sun. Not a single grammar topic escapes Celce-Murcia and Larsen-Freeman’s careful scrutiny as they thoroughly explain each one with suggested activities for learners at varying levels and references for reading, all while anchoring each concept in a cyclical model of “Form-Meaning-Use”.

How Languages Are Learned (4th ed.)Lightbown, P. M. & Nina Spada. (2013). How Languages Are Learned (4th ed.). Oxford University Press, USA.

If you’re more interested in the inner workings of language learning, rather than of the language classroom, without being inundated with technical terminology and dense explanations; this book may just be the answer, coming pretty close to being a college-course substitute. The authors, Lightbown and Spada, take readers on a journey from how babies and children learn languages (First Language Acquisition) to how adults do so (Second Language Acquisition), with different variables, such as age, motivation, and personality, sprinkled throughout. A chapter discussion on how these theories play out in actuality in the classroom, supplementary activities and discussion questions for teacher reflection, and chapter summaries are new to the fourth edition, and prove to be refreshing and useful for educators.

Teaching Unplugged: Dogme in English Language TeachingMeddings, L. & Scott Thornbury. (2009). Teaching Unplugged: Dogme in English Language Teaching. Delta Publishing.

First introduced by Scott Thornbury in an article whose responses and comments reverberated through the online ELT community; this non-methodological method seeks to purify the learning experience by placing students at the heart of the interaction, and tapping into their beliefs, values, and experiences. Just like the mellow and minimalistic glow of the TV show from which the book takes inspiration, Meddings and Thornbury seek to strip teaching of all its irrelevant distractions and shiny embellishments, such as coursebooks, handouts, and A/V materials. Teaching Unplugged is broken down into three, easily-digestable parts that include an elaboration of the teaching philosophy, easy-to-apply activities, and practical implications outside the normal ELT classroom.