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Expanding your reach: using Teacher Development Circles

Expanding your reach: using Teacher Development Circles

This blog is a continuation of Navigating growth: a practical exploration of Teacher Development Circles. In these two blogs, I examine the Circles of Development proposed by Foord (2019) and offer practical activities for each of them.

In the first blog, I focused on the two inner circles: “you” and “you and your students.” In this blog, I would like to examine the three outer circles: “you and your colleagues,” “you and your school,” and “you and your profession.”

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Source: Foord (2009, p.14)

You and your colleagues: Co-planning

Co-planning, or collaborative planning, is when two teachers discuss and develop lesson content together. In my experience, this can be a powerful catalyst for growth because it brings together different teaching styles and alternative perspectives, which ultimately leads to richer learning experiences for students.

Before a co-planning session

1. Team up with a colleague, select a lesson (or part of a lesson) to plan together and briefly discuss (either in person or via email) the class and the teaching context.

2. Later, individually brainstorm possible ideas and approaches for the lesson and bring these to the co-planning session.

During the co-planning session

1. Share the ideas individually brainstormed and provide feedback. Consider the learning outcomes and how you would approach the material.

2. At the end, you can reflect on the experience of co-planning and share your ideas. For example, you could discuss:

How helpful was the co-planning? What did you learn from each other? When did you show an openness to new or different ideas? When an opposition? What might you do differently the next time you co-plan?

If one, or both, of you goes on to teach the lesson separately, or you co-teach the lesson together, you could meet up again to discuss how the lesson went.

As a learning opportunity, co-planning will not disappoint. In my experience, it can create a stimulating space for personal and collective growth. By sharing practices and discussing choices, it often prompts you to rethink and re-evaluate your own classroom practices and underlying beliefs. You will not only learn from your colleague, but you will also learn about yourself.

You and your school: Taking on a new role and new project

A teacher’s life lies predominantly in the classroom and emphasising development within that space. However, moving beyond this can bring a refreshing change. Initiating a new project for your school provides a great way to broaden your impact beyond the familiar four walls.

To do this, you can take the initiative and request a meeting about taking on a new challenge for your professional growth as a teacher. Discuss some suggestions for projects that could benefit both you and the school and agree on your time commitments and any other expectations. Settle on a project, plan it and then do it.

Upon completion, assess the project’s success for both the school and yourself. Did the project meet both your expectations? Would you like to take on another project?

For instance, when I was working in Poland, I proposed organising film nights at the school because I was passionate about film and its potential as a vehicle for language learning and cultural understanding. The initiative not only enriched the school environment but also provided an opportunity to have an impact beyond my own walls.

You and your profession: Attending a conference and reporting back

My initial foray into engaging with the profession involved attending a conference. What an experience it was! It was positively liberating to move beyond my school and connect with fellow teachers from different teaching contexts.

An activity I would like to share is on reporting back on a conference you have been to. This is something that my previous teaching context encouraged and for incredibly good reasons.

Reporting on a conference, whether verbally or in writing, can help you consolidate your learning and disseminate knowledge, and it may encourage your school to sponsor you as the benefit can extend to the entire school. If your school does not have a tradition of this, here is a suggested approach:

Find a conference that interests you and discuss with your manager the benefits of going to the conference for you and your school. Propose reporting back on it in some way, via a workshop, a meeting, or an e-mail.

At the conference, take notes so that you can prepare your report or workshop. For a report, consider topics such as: the most impactful workshops, the most interesting ideas, the most relevant contacts for your school. For a workshop, you could share some valuable ideas (ensuring due credit is given to the original authors) that can contribute to the collective growth of your teaching community.


Our exploration of Teacher Development Circles has revealed practical strategies for various areas, such as co-planning for professional exchange and bonding, initiating new projects for personal growth, and attending conferences to broaden professional horizons. These activities offer a glimpse into the benefit of using Teacher Development Circles as a framework for thinking about and going about developing as a teacher.

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