Teacher Voices: A Virtual Forum for ELT Professionals

by Fenty Lidya Siregar

Victoria University of Wellington (Wellington, New Zealand)



Teacher professional development (TPD) is fundamental since effective teaching comes from a teacher who actively constructs his or her knowledge and skills through different means and is reflectively engaged in exploring his or her own teaching development  (Richards, 2002). In the past, we might have thought that institutions or government agencies were responsible for providing training for TPD. However, Richards and Farell (2005, p. 15) argue that “[t]eachers can plan many aspects of their own professional development.” In other words, TPD can be carried out by individual teachers who take the initiative.


Although TPD can start with individual teachers’ initiative, it does not mean teachers have to do it alone. ELT professionals can certainly find teacher support groups to enhance their professional development. Nowadays, these support groups are mushrooming on the Internet. Teacher Voices is an example of a virtual English teacher support group that enables its members to virtually meet like-minded colleagues across the globe and at the same time provides a forum for TPD.


Teacher Voices: Language Teacher Professional Development Group, usually known as TV for short, is a Facebook group which was started and is moderated by Handoyo Widodo, an English lecturer at Politeknik Negeri Jember (State Polytechnic of Jember), Indonesia. Besides Handoyo Widodo, TV is also run by two other moderators, namely, Willy A. Renandya and Flora Debora Floris. The former is a language teacher educator at the English Language and Literature Department, National Institute of Education, Singapore, and the latter is a senior lecturer at the English Department of Petra Christian University, Surabaya, Indonesia. Figure 1 below is a screenshot of TV’s Facebook page.


Figure 1: TV’s Facebook page.


Specifically, TV was designed as a site for the professional development of classroom teachers, textbook writers, curriculum specialists, and researchers in English language teaching or applied linguistics and not for improving its members’ English competence. However, many of the members, who come from English as a foreign language (EFL) countries, seem to have benefitted from being exposed to the English language used on TV, which is lexically and grammatically rich.


TV has a large membership and provides readers with a wide circle of contacts, including ELT scholars who are teaching in Asia and other continents. In 2012, this relatively new Facebook group had less than 1500 members but as of July 2014 the number has gone beyond 7000. Some of the members are established Asian ELT scholars such as Ahmar Mahboob (a senior lecturer in the Department of Linguistics, Sydney University, Australia), Masaki Oda (Director of the Center for English as a Lingua Franca (CELF), Tamagawa University, Japan), Gana Subramaniam (Director of Studies in the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Nottingham, Malaysia), and Melchor Tatlonghari (a retired RELC language specialist and an adjunct professor at the University of Santo Tomas and the Philippine Normal University in Manila, the Philippines).


Becoming a TV member is very easy. First, a person just needs a Facebook account. Then, one only needs to access the Facebook group and request to join. Once a Facebook account holder has been approved by one of the TV moderators, he or she can directly enjoy a plethora of information about free teaching materials, free journals and upcoming conferences, including reminders of the abstract submission deadlines. Also, members can exchange teaching and learning ideas within minutes. A third and the most valuable experience is that members can build up a network of connections for help and advice for their research.  If you are a novice teacher or researcher, you can learn how to conduct research from other members who have already become experts in ELT and published papers and books extensively.


Nevertheless, the second and third advantages mentioned above can only be enjoyed maximally if both expert and novice members are active in joining discussions, as well as following or starting a thought-provoking topic. TVmoderators usually initiate the latter and tag experts in the field for the topic to get involved in the discussion. However, it is individual members’ initiative that plays a big role in bringing and elevating the dialogue to the next level and making the most of the dialogue. Figure 2 below is a screenshot of TV that illustrates a discussion on members’ perception about TV initiated by one of the moderators, Willy A. Renandya:


Figure 2: Discussion on members’ perception about TV.


As a free support group for language teachers, TV appears to be managed well. It has regulations which were conceptualised to provide a conducive and friendly platform for all members. One of the regulations is related to an overt language policy which requires its members to carry on discussions in a collegial, informal manner but still employ formal English. Thus, members are expected to avoid the use of slang and colloquial language, such as ‘i’ for ‘I’, ‘r’ for ‘are’, ‘u’ for ‘you’, ‘4’ for ‘four’, etc. Another regulation is related to file and questionnaire distribution. For the former, members are allowed to share useful articles, PowerPoint slides, or other visual or non-visual materials related to English teaching and learning. They should not share any files for business and self-promotions. Circulating any copyright-protected journal articles, books, or materials is also prohibited.  To be able to distribute a survey questionnaire for research or other purposes, members have to obtain prior ethical clearance from relevant authorities in their institution.


To sum up, transforming an online support group into a community requires moderators who have passion in developing others and members who are self-motivated to learn, share, and support one another. TV seems to have been successful in this transformation.


My recommendations are based on my personal experience of actively participating in TV and inspiration drawn from the guidelines of TPD suggested by Richards and Farell (2005, pp. 15-17).

  1. Before joining any discussion in TV, “decide what you would like to learn about your teaching and about the field” since we need to “set realistic goals and establish a time frame”. We do not want to stare at the computer or phone screen all day long and neglect other responsibilities.
  2. Before initiating a topic, “identify a strategy to explore the topic you are interested in” and try to prepare a thought-provoking topic that will enthuse others to contribute to the discussion.
  3. When you find interesting occurrences or challenging experiences in your classroom, “decide what kind of support you will need” to make the most of your experience and “talk to people who have taken part in a professional development activity” who are TV
  4. When you learn, read, listen to, and write something new related to ELT, “evaluate what you have learned, [read, listened to, written] and share the results with others”.
  5. If you need another researcher to collaborate with in your research, “select a [member] or [members] to work with wisely”.


In conclusion, TPD is a never ending journey for ELT professionals who strive to be effective teachers and TV is a good example of a virtual platform for them to embark on. However, it is an individual member’s active and well-prepared participation that can make his or her professional development and interaction on TV meaningful as well as beneficial.



Richards, J. C. (2002). 30 Years of TEFL/TESL: A personal reflection. RELC Journal, 33(2), 1–35. doi:10.1177/003368820203300201

Richards, J. C., & Farell, T. S. C. (2005). Professional development for language teachers:

Strategies for teacher learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Teacher Voices. https://www.facebook.com/groups/teachervoices/


About the author 

Fenty Lidya Siregar is an Indonesian English teacher who is currently pursuing her PhD studies at the School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies at Victoria University of Wellington. Her research interests include teachers’ beliefs, intercultural communicative competence, and language policy.

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