Self-Directed Professional Development. Can you do it through Webinars?


More and more is being written about self-directed professional development (SDPD) as teachers (and indeed all professionals) start taking responsibility for their professional development into their own hands. This increased interest in SDPD is in part due to experiences during the pandemic, where many teachers were thrown into a situation whereby they had to re-learn how they taught overnight, often without guidance from their institutes. As such they looked elsewhere and so their professional development became more self-directed.

But what exactly is self-directed professional development? Simply put, it’s when teachers take the initiative to decide upon and plan their own of professional development. They are, as Mercer, Farrell and Freeman (2022) point out, “opportunities which a teacher purposefully and intentionally seeks out with the conscious aim of critically examining, extending, or improving their professional practice as a language teacher.” In other words, they are taking ownership of their professional development, rather than it being prescribed by an institute or ministries of education (or indeed the lack thereof). SDPD can range from more formal actions, such as going to conferences, completing a course or participating in action-research, to more informal actions like keeping a reflective teaching journal, attending webinars, reading a books/research papers/blogs – the list goes on and on.

Text by: Alex Warren

In any case, this got me thinking about how teachers could best use the resources that we offer at National Geographic Learning for SDPD. With over 150 recorded webinars available from www.eltngl.com/webinars plus more PD training videos across our course companion sites (eltngl.com/voices, eltngl.com/reflect, eltngl.com/impact, eltngl.com/ourworldpd), there’s a huge amount of content. But are teachers – you – actually getting the most out of them for your personal development? Or are you just watching them and ticking some professional development boxes for your institutes? Because surely watching a webinar should be more than just watching, right? There should be learning and development too and that comes through active participation – before, during and after the viewing process.

So, with that in mind, here are some tips and ideas to consider when planning some well-deserved self-directed professional development with NGL webinars.


– With over 150 webinars to watch, it’s a good idea to decide on a topic that interests you beforehand – it’ll save you time looking through and randomly choosing something that you “think” might interest you.

- To help you do this ask yourself what aspects of your work you find interesting or puzzling; or what innovations or trends could be relevant to you and what you want to achieve by watching a webinar.

-  Use the filters to help you find a webinar topic that you think will be of benefit for you.

- Once you’ve found something that piques your interest, read the overview to make sure it’s going to be right for you.

Get Ready to Learn!

- Most of the recordings are around the one-hour mark so make sure you set aside enough time to watch them.

- It might sound obvious, but put your phone away to avoid distractions.

- Activate your existing knowledge – brainstorm what you already know about the topic. This will facilitate greater clarity and understanding when watching the webinar (just like you do with your students!).

- To help focus, prepare some questions that you want answered beforehand, or write down three things that you want to learn from the webinar.

- For many of the webinars the accompanying slides are available in PDF format. Download and print these out beforehand and annotate them as you’re watching the webinar.

While Viewing

- As you’re watching the webinar make sure you take notes using your preferred method – mindmaps, linear notes, Cornell Method, OneNote or the presentation PDFs. This will ensure that you are an active recipient of the information rather than just a passive listener.

- Remember, you’re not watching live, so make use of the pause button to stop the webinar and take time to reflect on what has been said or to give yourself more time to take notes.

Post Viewing  


Reflection is so important in the learning process – for students and teachers alike – so make sure to set aside time to reflect post-viewing. To help you with this, it’s useful to have some question prompts to guide the process. For example:

  • What are my main takeaways from this webinar?
  • Did the webinar meet my expectations and needs or satisfy my curiosity about the topic?
  • What questions do I still have about the topic?
  • Has my viewpoint/opinion changed from viewing the webinar? Has it reinforced my existing views? Why/why not?
  • Is there anything I want to challenge/disagree with in the webinar?
  • Does the information and ideas presented differ to other articles/research/ webinars I’ve read/watched? How?
  • What did I use to think about this topic? What do I think now?
  • How might I reframe the ideas presented in the webinar?
  • What ideas/activities am I going to try out in my class?
  • What other action am I going to take? How will I apply what I’ve learnt?


Sharing what you’ve watched and learnt as “retrieval practice” helps makes the content more memorable as well as helping to clarify your thoughts on the subject matter. As such it’s always a good idea to summarise – either verbally or written – what you’ve learnt, alongside your own reflections and thoughts. You could do this by:

  • writing a short paragraph describing what you watched in a learning journal
  • writing a blog about the webinar and your takeaways
  • share what you learnt with a colleague – dialogic reflection has been shown to help deepen understanding as well as memorization.

A Final Word

The real beauty of self-directed learning is that you have complete autonomy on how you want to do it and what you want to achieve. Yes, there should be some kind of structure to the process, but the suggestions made here are just that – suggestions. You know how you learn best, so use the ideas above as a pick and mix menu to help you make the most of the content and help you achieve your self-directed learning goals.

Follow Up Task:

Take control of your own learning. Choose a webinar from the www.eltngl.com/webinar archive and use some of the ideas in this article to start (or continue) your self-directed learning journey. Once you’ve taken the plunge, feel free to share your self-directed learning experience.