TESOL’s New Strategic Plan

The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) has more 21,000 members, representing 10,000 organizations. On 2–3 June, the Executive Committee of TESOL International Association (Yilin Sun, Andy Curtis, Deena Boraie, and Rosa Aronson) attended, together with around 100 participants from different associations, two days of ASAE talks and presentations. One of the recurring themes was the tremendous importance of strategic plans and planning.

As I’m based in Ontario, Canada, I looked around for local definitions, and found that, according to the Canadian Government, “Strategy has been defined as ‘that which has to do with determining the basic objectives of an organization and allocating resources to their accomplishment.” The Ontario Ministry goes on to explain that “a strategy determines the direction in which an organization needs to move to fulfil its mission. A strategic plan acts as a road map for carrying out the strategy and achieving long-term results.”

Although that definition comes from quite a different field to language education, it does describe what TESOL International Association (and many other organizations we met at the ASAE professional development days) are aiming to do to when they create strategic plans. Although the terminology may differ (e.g., “goal” and “objective” are sometimes used interchangeably), the point of the exercise is the same—to articulate clearly and concisely what the organization wants to achieve, and to state how it will go about meeting those goals and objectives.

TESOL’s current Strategic Plan, which runs from 2011 to 2014, has three main Goals:

  1. English language learners receive quality education through TESOL International Association’s leadership in the field.
  2. TESOL International Association members participate in the association to build expertise and are recognized for their involvement and professionalism.
  3. Individuals and organizations look to TESOL International Association to inform policy and practice.

It would be very difficult for anyone to convincingly argue that these are not very worthy goals for the association. But one problem with them is that they are “never-ending,” as they cannot be completed. They are life-long commitments that a professional association makes to its members and to the field. So, a subcommittee within TESOL’s Board of Directors has been discussing the possibility that our current goals—or some version of them—could be more effectively expressed as something like a mission statement.

To go back to our friends at the Ontario Ministry, they describe a mission statement as establishing “what the organization plans to do, for whom, and for what benefit it will exist. The mission statement identifies organizational purposes and the reason for its existence. It addresses the ‘what’ questions, i.e., what is our role?” TESOL does have a mission statement, which is: “To advance professional expertise in English language teaching and learning for speakers of other languages worldwide.” But as the association approaches its 50th anniversary in a couple of years (2016), now may be a good time for us to think about creating a vision statement as well, perhaps based on our existing three main goals, on some new goals, or on some other vision.

If you go to TESOL’s website, you’ll find a page that lists what we currently refer to as our three main goals, together with four objectives under each of those goals, making 12 objectives in all. Three of the key questions that the Board subcommittee have been considering are:

  1. Which objectives in the current Strategic Plan (2011–2014) are worth keeping in the next Strategic Plan (2015–2018)?
  2. Which objectives can be considered completed?
  3. Which objectives can be considered not completed, but we still want to keep in the next Strategic Plan?

On that page, you will also see a timeline for the development of the new plan, from March this year, starting at TESOL 2014 in Portland, to TESOL 2015, next March, in Toronto.

The members of the Board subcommittee working on the new Strategic Plan are:

Andy Curtis (President-Elect)
Deena Boraie (Past President)
Rosa Aronson (Executive Director)
John Segota (Associate Executive Director)
Lillian Wong (2012–2015)
Luciana Oliveira (2013–2016)
Aya Matsuda (2014–2017)

We very much welcome your input on this process. However, as blogs are not designed for detailed feedback, if you have any suggestions please send them directly to me, and/or to any of us on this subcommittee. We look forward to hearing from you.


About Andy Curtis

Andy Curtis
From 2015–2016, Andy Curtis served as the 50th president of TESOL International Association. He has coauthored and coedited around 200 publications and worked with more than 50,000 language educators in more than 100 countries. His current research is focused on the New Peace Linguistics. He is an online professor in the Graduate School of Education at Anaheim University, and he is based in Ontario, Canada, from where he works as an independent language education consultant for organizations worldwide.
This entry was posted in TESOL Blog and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to TESOL’s New Strategic Plan

  1. Andy, I enjoyed your discussion of the strategic planning process at our business meeting. Would it be possible to get a copy of the new TESOL strategic plan? I noticed that it is not yet available online. I’m working with our affiliate to help them move forward with rethinking our strategic planning process and want to use this as our starting point. thanks! Roberta “Birdie” Morgan

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.