How to Develop as a TEFL Teacher

Rachel Rowland
How you can improve and develop as a teacher, whatever stage of your career you’re at

There’s always a lot of focus on how new TEFL teachers can improve, but what about those of us who are more experienced? However long you’ve been teaching, there’s always something new to learn. If you feel like you’re getting a little too comfortable in your teaching routine and need to up your game a bit, read on to discover how you can improve and develop as a teacher, whatever stage of your career you’re at.

Reflect on Your Lessons

Remember when you were training on your TEFL course and produced mountains of paperwork for each lesson? You knew exactly what each stage of the lesson was going to achieve, and after the lesson, you’d reflect on whether or not your plan worked, and how to improve it. Teachers don’t have time for this sort of heavy paperwork for every lesson of the week, but if you feel like you need to improve as a teacher, one of the best ways to start is by reflecting on how you’re doing right now.

Take a good look at one of your recent lesson plans. Are there parts of the class that don’t serve a genuine purpose? Are you playing the same old games every week, or giving out crosswords just to keep the kids quiet? Think about whether the students achieved something worthwhile in the lesson, or if they need something more challenging. Make a point of writing down your thoughts and make a list of improvements to make in the next lesson. Doing this periodically will help you nurture an attitude of positive reflection.

Sharing Ideas

Whether you work in a big school, a small school or teach online, you can learn a lot by connecting with other teaching professionals. Observing a lesson is a great way to pick up tips and ideas – it mightn’t be something concrete like a particular game or classroom activity, but maybe just the way in which the teacher has a rapport with the students, or how they manage classroom behavior.

If you work in a larger school, a great way of sharing ideas can be through workshops. One teacher can present an activity or idea that works well for them, and demonstrate it to other staff. It works well to have workshops as a regular event where everyone gets the chance to share and learn. Presentations don’t have to be long – just five minutes or so at the end of a weekly staff meeting could help everyone to progress.

If you aren’t able to connect in person, there are countless online forums and groups you can join. Making friends with other teachers can be a great way to improve your knowledge, as well as linking with new materials or even hearing about new teaching opportunities. Also, remember that a more experienced teacher might not necessarily have the best tips – a new teacher fresh off a TEFL course could also have some insightful comments to improve your teaching.

Professional Development

If you are serious about improving as a teacher and would like to follow a structured course or training session, there are endless resources online, many of which are free. From professional courses to MOOC’s, you can find something to really help you improve.

  • MOOC – Massive Online Open Course. A MOOC is a free course you can do online, often provided by top universities as a taster of something you can study with them.
  • First Aid. Whether you’re hoping to transfer into mainstream teaching or want to stay working as a TEFL teacher, being proficient in first aid can be a handy skill. While a professional course is best, following a free online course is a great way to test out if this is something you want to know more about.
  • Resources for Kids. Everyone knows ‘Baby Shark’, but did you know that it was produced by PinkFong, a company that has countless online resources and apps to aid your teaching? Another similar company is called Super Simple and they even have dedicated teaching resources and demo videos – perfect if you teach kindergarten.

Request an Observation

New teachers get observed all the time, and it’s a nerve-racking experience, but most teachers will agree that its beneficial. Once you’ve been teaching for a few years, your senior teachers and Director of Studies will probably observe you less frequently, if at all. While this might feel like a relief, remember that there’s always something new you can learn and that even the best teacher in the world will have off days.

 Requesting an observation from a more senior member of staff can help you to highlight areas of your lessons that might need improving. They might be able to tell you that you need to focus on certain types of activity or improve the way you set up different tasks. If you know there’s something you need to improve on, ask your observer to focus on that in particular, and take on board the advice that they give you.

Needs Analysis

As a teacher, particularly a more seasoned one, it’s easy to think that we always know better than the students. However, listening to your students can be a vital way to pick up ideas on how to develop as a teacher. Doing a needs analysis or questionnaire (with older, more fluent students) might help you learn how to make the lesson better for everyone.

For example, you might have assumed that a group of serious university students would just like to study quietly with plenty of writing activities, when they may actually prefer a few classroom games to keep their interest high. Similarly, you might assume that a class of shy teens wouldn’t like extroverted talking activities, but give them the chance to act a role in a fluent speaking activity and they could easily surprise you. However, be cautious in taking their preferences with a pinch of salt – if the students just want to play games and watch YouTube videos for the whole lesson, you know they’re not taking it seriously!

Learn something new

It can be hard to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, particularly if they speak a different language. Do you know what it’s like to be immersed in a language you don’t understand? The experience of being a student can really help to develop how you are as a teacher. Being in that position – inexperienced in something, getting things wrong, being confused, feeling like you’re making a fool of yourself – can help foster empathy for the students you teach. Whether its learning a new language, trying a new sport or attending a social event where you don’t know anyone, doing something out of your comfort zone can help you appreciate what your students are going through.

Get in the Habit

There are always new things you can learn as a teacher. From new games and classroom activities to new resources and teaching methods, this is an industry that never sits still. The best way to stay on top of your game is by continually seeking out new information. Read news stories that highlight breakthroughs in research or important awards in the education sector. Follow blogs, bloggers, and Twitter users that talk about teaching, whether they’re sharing top tips, games, or just talking about the teaching experience. Read books on pedagogy, study learning styles, look into CLIL (Content and language integrated learning), and anything else that will grow your knowledge of teaching.

Written by Rachel Rowland for
Rachel Rowland has been teaching English since 2003, which has taken her all over the world to Jakarta, Bali, Kuala Lumpur, Istanbul, Puglia, and Erfurt. Teaching English has allowed her to travel the world and meet a wide range of interesting people, as well as gain a better understanding of herself. For the last two years she’s been working with TEFL Org, delivering TEFL courses and helping others develop their teaching skills and achieve their TEFL dreams.


  • Robert Mcbain says:

    Some super advice here very valuable.

  • Joanne says:

    Really useful articles
    Thanks a million
    You remind us that we are alive and it’s absolutely necessary to make little fresh starts both for us,as teachers, and our students…

  • Lyn Manabat says:

    Thank you very much for this post. Really useful for people to wants to start a career in teaching language.

  • Eva says:

    Appreciate great information and encouragement to think outside the box.

  • MERIEM says:

    Thank you for these clarifications

    i think that a teacher should love his/her job to give , teach well .Also , he/she should love her/his pupils or students to be gentil , comprehnsiv .

    Kind regards

  • Bijan says:


    First, thank you for presenting this subject.

    Second, a real Teacher Must have two factors at the first step:
    1. He/She loves to teach and his students.
    2. His/Her goal Must not be the only money.
    If he/she wants to earn a lot of money, he/she MUST choose another job.

    Best wishes,
    from the Persian Gulf

  • Mohammad Khan says:

    Actually a positive suggestion that most teachers hate to practice while super beneficial.

  • Suad Al kuif says:

    really useful material

  • Patty says:

    Very useful content! Thank you so much!

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