Promoting professional development: Knowing yourself

Minako Inoue, Health Science University


Quick guide

  • Keywords: Professional development, knowing yourself, views, attitudes, beliefs, metaphor
  • Learners: Teachers, teacher trainers (supervisors), administrators
  • Preparation time: 5 minutes or less
  • Activity Time: 20 to 30 minutes
  • Materials: Paper, chalkboard


Although My Share usually targets students, this activity is designed for teachers, teacher trainers, and administrators. Educators agree that professional development is crucial to improving teaching effectiveness. As devoted professionals, many of us read journal articles to keep up with research, attend conferences, and communicate with  colleagues. However, we are often busy preparing classes, grading papers, and performing administrative tasks. In what follows, I describe a professional development activity that uses metaphor as a means to reveal our preconceived ways of thinking. This activity, which I first experienced at the Hunter College summer program in New York, does not require lengthy preparation time or many participants, and may be used in either small or large groups. I introduced this activity at a small group faculty meeting in which members had different specialties, worked in different fields, and taught different types of students. It became quite a learning experience to know how others thought of their teaching situations. At the same time, it served as a warm-up activity that helped activate productive discussion. This activity can also be used as an icebreaker to break down barriers among workshop participants, create a positive atmosphere, and motivate active participation.


Step 1: Think up words related to teaching, for example: classroom, teacher, students, teaching, learning,orinstruction.

Step 2: Create incomplete sentences using the vocabulary from Step 1 as subjects, for example: A classroom is …, A teacher is …, My students are …

Step 3: Decide on the sentences you will use for this activity while considering your time allocation and focus.


Step 1: Write the term metaphor on the board and discuss the following questions:

  • What is a metaphor?
  • When do you use metaphors?
  • What are some common metaphorical phrases or expressions?

Step 2: On the board, write the example sentences you developed in the preparation stage. For example:

  • A classroom is a …
  • A teacher is a …
  • My students are…

Ask participants to write down and complete these sentences using metaphors. Example answers I have received include:

  • A classroom is a jungle, blank canvas, ocean, nest, stage.
  • A teacher is a mother hen, actor, clown, lighthouse.
  • My students are bees, ants, buds, young leaves.

Step 3: Ask volunteers to read aloud and clarify their complete sentences. They should explain their thinking behind each choice of metaphor. Elicit questions from the group and encourage the sharing of ideas.

Step 4: Next, ask participants to discuss their metaphor choices, what they represent or imply, and how they reflect their vision, style, and beliefs.

Step 5: Finally, ask participants for their thoughts on this activity, including what they learned.


Metaphors are a primary mode of mental operation (Lakcoff & Johnson, 1980). They define our reality, the way we think, experience, and behave in our everyday lives. In this regard, this activity can serve as a tool for revealing our beliefs, attitudes, emotions, experiences, and circumstances as a teacher. These attributes are often formed unconsciously and become the basis of our teaching practice, which includes choosing materials, delivering instructions, interacting with students, and evaluating students and ourselves. This activity can also reveal our current psychological condition, such asstress levels and how satisfied we are in our work. Knowing ourselves and analyzing our beliefs and practices objectively becomes a solid and powerful foundation for improving the quality of our teaching practice. Moreover, sharing and reflection time provide a valuable opportunity to learn from other educators. This activity contains various possibilities to bring us to more effective and coherent teaching.


Lakoff, G. Johnson, M. (1980). Metaphors we live by. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.