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Globe: A Virtual Home for English Language Educators around the World

English Language Teacher (ELT) Professional Development is often a top -down process directed from education ministries using trainers or key experts to run workshops and deliver training sessions. One of the problems with such a blanket approach can be that content does not always meet the needs of individuals and tends to stifle rather than empower personal professional development. The alternative is to adopt a more bottom-up approach. This means using processes that encourage self-determination, self-motivation, and peer collaboration. Bottom-up translates into a variety of self-directed learning activities, which range from sharing experiences to more evidence-based activities like Action Research, Critical Friends Groups and Exploratory Practice. We know from field studies carried out between 2002 to the present, in contexts ranging from Vietnam to Macedonia, that activities such as these, i.e., those that place teachers in the role of investigator, tend to promote a renewed enjoyment in teaching, stronger teacher / learner relationships, mutual teacher / learner respect and higher achievement around learning outcomes – for teachers and learners alike.

Research featured in a series of articles edited by Dkilitas & Hanks (2018), also indicates that there is much to be gained from linking up English language teachers around the world. Where these connections are made, teachers can support one another in their professional learning, build valuable professional relationships and enrich the learning environment by bringing together different socio-cultural experiences of education. However, whilst we know these Interglobal relationships can be of enormous value, there remains a general lack of online opportunities to bring ELT professionals together and provide a democratic space for evidence-based collaborative activity.

As the world has lurched sideways with the impact of COVID-19, it occurred to me that perhaps now was the time to do something about that. Like many other independent education consultants, I found myself with more time on my hands than expected, and no excuse to not get stuck in.  A ‘call to arms’ email from TransformELT (a Global Educational Consultancy organization I have previously worked with) asking for suggestions for new project ideas that they could support, catalyzed me into further action.

TransformELT is a forward-thinking English Language Teaching consultancy building innovative strategies for change. They are actively engaged in projects around the world and keen to support endeavours that empower teachers and educators in their professional journeys.

After a series of online meetings with Transform ELT directors in Spring 2020, the idea for Globe was conceived. This was followed by a period of developing and refining both the concept of Globe and the online space in which to house our virtual community. We then road tested the online platform with 26 highly respected and experienced ELT consultants. They put Globe through its paces and their feedback helped us to make additional tweaks. Globe is now live and welcoming in new members.

So, what exactly is Globe? Well, the clue is in the name. We are an online global community, where individuals working in ELT – teachers, teacher trainers, curriculum developers, writers – can come together and grow their knowledge, skills and attitudes. We employ a flat, network structure which enables multidirectional interactions, with all members having an equal voice. Our team of highly experienced and dedicated mentors are there to support and guide members, whilst always encouraging member autonomy, collaboration and democratic decision making.

Activities revolve around PLCs, mini communities which target a specific area of ELT, e.g., Teaching and Training with Technology, Materials and Resources Development and so on. Each PLC has a dedicated mentor. Members generate discussions and activities and share their outcomes with the wider Globe community. Outcomes range from findings from their research to concrete materials for use in the classroom. However, what really sets Globe apart is that it includes a space for entrepreneurial educators to develop, test and market commercial ideas too. We believe that many good ideas fall by the wayside through a lack of informed support. Globe aims to fill that gap.

Globe also houses a Resources database and a Wiki. The database contains curated resources in the form of PDFs, audio files, Webinars, links to external resources – anything and everything relating to ELT. Many items have been donated by the mentor team and would not otherwise be easily accessible to all comers. The Wiki is a collaborative reference resource which will grow into a shared body of knowledge for the Globe community.  It follows the common wiki format, with each page interlinking with other related pages – which makes for a deeper and broader reading experience.

And finally, Globe provides the chance to create new professional friendships and broaden professional networks through dedicated social forums.

A key driver in the Globe story has also been our desire to make the community accessible to everyone. We know that the socio-economic circumstances of English Language educators around the world can differ greatly, but that shouldn’t preclude them from moving forward in their professional journey. This belief in equity is the basis for our ‘pay what you can’ approach to membership. We offer free membership for the first month and then it is up to the member to decide what they contribute. We also intend to offer free membership as part of our endeavours to reach out to those most in need.

So where are we now?  Well, our membership is beginning to grow, and we are a delighted to announce that our first collaborative research project will be presenting its findings at the MATSDA – Materials Development Association International conference 11 -12 August this year. Our theme is “Designing a framework that promotes creativity and criticality in online teacher learning and associated digital materials”. We have also opened a virtual café where we bring together members from across the world to meet in an informal social setting and discuss trending issues. These ‘Coffee and Chats’ are proving a great way to generate collaborative projects, as demonstrated by the research mentioned above.

And to wrap up – Where do we see Globe going in the future? Well, that is indeed the big question. If we hold to the Globe ethos of equality and self-determination, then I guess we should say that is up to the members themselves. And whilst the last 18 months has been a period of challenge for all of us in the world of ELT, it has also been a year of reflection, reevaluation, reinvention, and resourcefulness. We hope we can add a small “revolution” in ELT Professional Development and entrepreneurship to that list too!

Jennifer Law is the Globe co-founder and Senior Consultant with Transform ELT. After a series of career opportunities ranging from serving as an officer in the British Army, running her own travel company and working in the Natural History section of a museum in Borneo, Jennifer joined the ranks of the English Language Teaching profession.

Like many, she started as a CELTA qualified teacher working in a Learning Centre in Brunei Darussalam where she quickly caught the ‘I can do this better’ bug. She read voraciously, studied voraciously, worked too many hours a day and slowly moved on from surviving in the classroom to finding ways to creatively meet her learners’ needs. Since those early days she has expanded her knowledge and skill set in a variety of directions, including continuous professional development, teacher training, curriculum development and writing for international publishing houses. She has worked with Education Trusts, College groups, Ministries of Education and corporations across a variety of projects large and small.

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