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Introduction:
Voices from the Field

Bill Johnston and Suzanne Irujo

In May of 1999, a group of language teacher educators who worked in many different contexts in many parts of the world gathered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, for a conference on "Research and Practice in Language Teacher Education." The sub-title of the conference was "Voices from the Field," and its aims were to bring together research, theory, and best practices from all contexts of language teacher education, and to initiate and sustain meaningful professional dialogue across languages, levels, and settings. In keeping with the purposes of the First International Conference on Language Teacher Education, the Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA) of the University of Minnesota is pleased to extend the dialogue by publishing some of the "voices from the field" that were presented at that conference.

A Short History of Language Teacher Education Research

In the field of language teacher education, there has long been an unusual relationship between research and practice. In many other fields — one need only think of language teaching itself — there is often thought to be a gap between research and practice. Researchers claim that teachers ignore research findings; teachers, in turn, complain that university-based researchers do not acknowledge the realities of classroom teaching. This "dysfunction" (Clarke, 1994) is an ever present source of tension.

Language teacher education is different. In this field, in the overwhelming majority of cases the researchers are the practitioners. This means that research is usually of a very different nature. Researchers often research their own settings, or settings they work in and are familiar with. Thus, the topics are those that arise directly from the issues faced by practitioners, while the findings are of immediate relevance in practical as well as academic terms. Furthermore, much research focuses on single settings and inevitably involves the researcher her- or himself. There has always been a strong tradition of qualitative research and a continuous undercurrent of reflexivity in this work, as exemplified in several of the papers in these proceedings.

Conversely, as can also be seen from the following papers, where language teacher educators set off primarily to describe programs, courses, and settings, they do so with an increasingly sophisticated use of theory and analysis that they have acquired through their roles as researchers. In this way, from both sides the distinction between research and practice is blurred, and it can be said that in this particular field they are two aspects of the same thing.

The present collection, then, sees research and practice in language teacher education not as two distinct areas or domains of activity, but rather as different yet strongly interrelated facets of our work as teacher educators. The purpose of this introduction is to place the work presented here in the context of developments over the last ten or fifteen years in which language teacher education has emerged as a legitimate and important field in which inquiry and practice have developed a uniquely supportive relationship.

The first significant milestone in the development of this relationship was Bernhardt and Hammadou’s (1987) survey of research in the area of language teacher education. Bernhardt and Hammadou cited 78 papers published on this topic in the preceding 10 years. Yet as they pointed out, the vast majority constituted straightforward descriptions of programs or aspects of them, or pieces of practical advice (what Bernhardt and Hammadou call the "perceptions of experienced foreign language educators" [p. 293]). Bernhardt and Hammadou found only 8 papers that focused on empirical (i.e., data-based) research.

At about this time, many of those involved in teacher education, teacher training, and teacher development were beginning to come together professionally. TESOL’s Teacher Education Interest Section began in 1983. The Teacher Development Special Interest Group (SIG) of the British based IATEFL was established in the mid-1980s; a related but different SIG on Teacher Training was set up a couple of years later. For some years now ACTFL has had a Teacher Development SIG; while NABE has a Professional Development SIG.

The first notable publication that was rich in both theoretical approaches and empirical data was Richards and Nunan’s (1990) edited collection entitled Second Language Teacher Education. Several papers from this book (for instance, Bartlett’s [1990] essay on reflective teaching, and Lange’s [1990] description of a program driven by the notion of teacher development) have become classics of a kind in the field. Further landmark publications included the ACTFL volume on teacher education in foreign language education (Guntermann, 1993), and Freeman and Richards’ (1996) collection of reports specifically focusing on teacher learning. This was followed by a special issue of TESOL Quarterly in Fall 1998 devoted to teacher education; parallel issues in foreign language journals such as Modern Language Journal or in publications in bilingual education such as the Bilingual Research Journal have not yet been forthcoming, though these publications are beginning to include writings on language teacher education with greater frequency than before. Most recently, Johnson (2000) offers a series of detailed descriptions of teacher education practices in a wide range of settings.

The growing number of publications has been matched by greater activity at conferences and meetings. Most notable were a series of conferences organized by Jack Richards and his colleagues in Hong Kong in 1991, 1993, and 1995 (Flowerdew, Brock, & Hsia, 1992; Li, Mahoney, & Richards, 1994; Sachs, Brock, & Lo, 1996). These conferences, which de facto focused almost exclusively on ESL/EFL contexts, served as the inspiration for the First International Conference on Language Teacher Education, held in May 1999 and organized by the Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA) of the University of Minnesota, from which the papers in this collection were drawn. This meeting was the first to bring together those working in teacher education and teacher development in different areas of language teaching: ESL/EFL, foreign languages, bilingual education, and immersion education; and at all levels of language learning from K-12 to tertiary. The work done at these meetings has been matched by the growing presence of presentations, workshops, colloquia, and so on at language teaching conferences such as TESOL, ACTFL, IATEFL, NABE, and elsewhere.

At the present moment there is a wealth of material being published in the area of language teacher education. A survey similar to that of Bernhardt and Hammadou’s in 1987 would today reveal literally hundreds of sources. The literature being written today is increasingly sophisticated in its use of theory, its methodologies, its analyses, and its descriptions of practices and processes in language teacher education and language teacher development. Furthermore, it is addressing an ever-widening range of substantive issues and concerns.

In these proceedings, we have chosen to focus on three particularly important areas of research. We regard these three areas as among the most significant currently being addressed and discussed by researchers and practitioners in language teacher education. They are: the knowledge base of language teaching; processes of language teacher education; and sociocultural and political contexts of language teacher education.

The Knowledge Base of Language Teaching

The topic of teacher knowledge and the nature of the knowledge base has emerged as one of the central concerns of research in language teacher education over the last few years.

Recent interest in the teacher knowledge base emerged in general education in the 1980s. A number of theoretical frameworks were proposed; possibly the most influential of these was Shulman’s (e.g., 1987) formulation of the knowledge base of teaching as comprising a set of different categories of knowledge:

  • content knowledge
  • general pedagogical knowledge (pedagogical issues that "transcend subject matter")
  • curriculum knowledge
  • pedagogical content knowledge (the "special amalgam of content and pedagogy that is uniquely the province of teachers")
  • knowledge of learners and their characteristics
  • knowledge of educational contexts (at both micro- and macro-levels)
  • knowledge of educational ends, purposes, and values (adapted from Shulman, 1987, p. 8).

It was not until the mid-1990s, however, that serious thought began to be given to the question of what the knowledge base of language teaching might be. Up until this point, since the early years of theorizing about language teaching (Fries, 1945; Lado, 1957) there had been a largely unchallenged assumption that what language teachers needed was declarative knowledge about the language which they were teaching. This assumption is encapsulated in the very term "applied linguistics," which Pennycook (1994, p. 127) reports to have been coined in 1948, and which was used to refer primarily to the training of language teachers, even though its use could clearly be extended (as it has been more recently) to many other domains. Under this conception, what teachers "knew" was the structure of the language they taught, and also some largely mechanistic pedagogy for "transferring" that knowledge to students. The great majority of the masters programs in TESOL offered in the U.S., Canada, Britain, Australia, and elsewhere based their curricula on such a view of what teachers need to know. At the same time, in foreign language teaching an equally unchallenged assumption has been that foreign language teacher preparation should consist primarily or exclusively of an undergraduate major in the language in question that focuses largely on literature, cultural knowledge, and language proficiency, with little or no attention paid to pedagogical kinds of knowledge (for a critique of this assumption see Lafayette, 1993).

A serious reevaluation of this view of teacher knowledge did not really begin until researchers such as Freeman (e.g., 1989, 1993), Johnson (1992), Woods (1996), and others started to conduct research based on empirical data from actual language teaching. Gradually the central focus of teacher knowledge began to emerge. Perhaps the first major formulation of this notion was found in Woods’ (1996) construct of BAK, or beliefs, assumptions, and knowledge. Woods proposes BAK as a set of interrelated "propositions ... and the relationships among them" (p. 196), analogous to schemata but incorporating the more value-laden elements of beliefs and assumptions.

It is also worth pointing out that the emergence of this field of interest parallels the more general development of inquiry in general education, with an initial concern with teacher behaviors leading to an examination of cognitive issues in teaching and finally to a more complex and contextualized sense of teacher knowledge as played out in classrooms (for an account of this history, see Freeman, 1996).

This new view of teacher knowledge — and consequently of what teacher education should look like — has perhaps been most forcefully and cogently argued by Freeman and Johnson (1998). In their paper, which served as the introduction to a special issue of TESOL Quarterly devoted to teacher education in ESL/EFL, Freeman and Johnson proposed a radically new view of the knowledge base of language teaching, one which is rooted in sociocultural context and in what teachers actually do in classrooms: "We argue that the core of the new knowledge-base must focus on the activity of teaching itself; it should center on the teacher who does it, the contexts in which it is done, and pedagogy by which it is done" (p. 397).

Much of the most recent empirical research has, either explicitly or implicitly, been addressed to Freeman and Johnson’s call for a revised understanding and appreciation of the nature of teacher knowledge. This line of inquiry is still in its infancy, however, and further research is urgently needed. We have little empirical evidence to support, critique, or reevaluate the customary components of teacher education programs — coursework in syntax, phonology, pragmatics, second language acquisition, sociolinguistics, and so on. We still have precious little understanding of how teachers acquire the knowledge they have. We do not fully appreciate the huge variety of sources of knowledge that teachers draw on, or the different kinds of knowledge that may be needed in the vastly different contexts in which language teachers work. And we do not know nearly enough about how the disparate kinds of knowledge — pedagogical, linguistic, institutional, interpersonal — intertwine and are played out in the context of teaching.

To help further the discussion on the knowledge base of language teaching, we have chosen five papers from the conference to include in this collection. The first two argue both for and against some of the customary components of teacher education programs. In "How Can SLA Theories and SLA Researchers Contribute to Teachers’ Practices?" Julie Kerekes examines the effects of a second language acquisition course, which is a traditional component of language teacher education programs, on teachers’ practices. Jean Marie Schultz challenges the traditional focus on language acquisition and methodology in her paper, "The Expansive Nature of Interdisciplinary Language Teacher Education," and argues for an interdisciplinary curriculum. The next two papers deal with the variety of sources of knowledge that teachers draw on and their interdependence. Eva Ponte’s paper, "A Study of the Role of Teachers’ Beliefs and Knowledge about Assessment and Instruction," shows how one particular teacher’s beliefs about assessment changed through the implementation of portfolio assessment, and how those changes affected his practice. In "The Interaction between Students’ Beliefs and Teacher’s Beliefs and Dilemmas," Ana Maria Barcelos discusses the dilemmas that arise from the influence on the teacher’s own beliefs of students’ beliefs about student and teacher roles. The last paper shows the need for different kinds of knowledge in different contexts. Kim Potowski, in "Educating Foreign Language Teachers to Work with Heritage Spanish Speakers," shows the need for knowledge of language varieties among foreign language teachers who teach native speakers, and outlines a response to that need.

Processes of Language Teacher Education

A second strand of empirical and theoretical research in language teacher education has comprised an examination of the actual business of conducting pre-service and in-service teacher education. As views about teaching and learning have changed during the past two decades, the processes of teacher education have also changed. In 1990, Richards and Nunan spoke of a movement underway at that time from "approaches that view teacher preparation as familiarizing student teachers with techniques and skills to apply in the classroom," to "approaches that involve teachers in developing theories of teaching, understanding the nature of teacher decision making, and strategies for critical self-awareness and self-evaluation" (p. xi). More recently, this movement from a transmission of knowledge framework to a view of teaching and learning as reciprocal interaction around knowledge has been further extended in teacher education to view learning as the creation of knowledge. Freeman (1998) presents a call for the formation of a new discipline of teacher-research as a way to facilitate teachers’ investigations.

Much of the early writing about language teacher education dealt with the area of processes, and many of the categories used by Bernhardt and Hammadou in 1987 remain of interest to researchers and theorizers in the field. However, the focus of the earlier categories has changed, in many cases due to influence from work done in other areas of teacher education. Program descriptions often incorporate sociocultural and political aspects as they relate how programs are developed or change in response to particular contexts (e.g., Hudelson & Faltis, 1993). Studies of teacher behaviors have become more qualitative in an effort to understand not only what occurs in the act of teaching, but also why it occurs; much of this work is based on recent changes in our understanding of the knowledge base of language teacher education (Gebhard, 1990; Johnson, 1996; and others). Studies of observation and supervision are investigating new models that move away from transmission of information about "good" or "bad" teaching (e.g., Fanselow, 1988). Conceptualizations of inservice opportunities have been enriched by the work done around reflective teaching and action research (Edge, 2001; Edge & Richards, 1993; Kamhi-Stein & Galván, 1997; and others). There is also a growing group of studies in which teacher educators further their own professional development, as well as knowledge about the processes of teacher education, through reflective studies and action research (Mercado, 1996; Bailey, et al., 1998; Irujo, 2000; Johnston, 2000; and others).

There is much that we still don’t know about the processes of language teacher education. As we develop programs that bridge the gap between theory and practice in language teaching and learning, we need to understand what difference this makes in teachers’ understandings of teaching. As we implement innovations in our own programs, courses, and teaching strategies, we need to find out how teacher learners respond to these innovations, and how they affect teachers’ practices. As we look at programs that are developed or changed in response to particular contexts, we need information about what effect these adaptations have. As we look at teachers’ reflections, actions, and research, we need to think about how these processes interact, and how, singly or in combination, they can help teachers implement their own innovations. We have moved away from studies that tell "This is what we do," to studies that also tell "This is why we do it." Now we need studies that will tell "This is what happens when we do it."

In these proceedings, five papers address some of these issues. We begin with a theoretical perspective. In "Three Major Processes of Teacher Development and the Appropriate Design Criteria for Developing and Using Them," Dick Allwright examines contemplation and action, reasons for engaging in them, and the results of various combinations of contemplation and/or action for understanding and/or change. The next two papers begin to make the connection between what we do in teacher education programs and what effect these processes might have. Michael Legutke and Marita Schocker-v. Ditfurth discuss "Redesigning FL Teacher Development: A European Perspective"; they describe a seminar that uses both face-to-face and computer communication between pre-service and in-service teachers to bridge the theory-practice gap. Leslie Poynor, in "A Drop of Color: What’s the Point of ESL/Bilingual Language Arts Teacher Education?" looks at the effect of a language arts methodology course on the ideologies of two pre-service teachers. The last two papers provide two very different examples of how a course or a program can be adapted to respond to the needs of a specific context. Shelley Wong, Yuh-Yun Yen, Francis Bangou, and Carmen Chacon describe in their paper, "Collaborative Research on Using Electronic Mail To Facilitate Student Voices in a Second Language Acquisition Course," how electronic communication was used in the course to encourage the participation of non-native speakers. In "Revising a TESOL Program to Better Prepare Second Language Teachers for Low Incidence Situations," Birna Arnbjörnsdóttir describes the changes that were made to a fairly traditional MATESOL program in order to better serve the specific population of the program.

Sociocultural and Political Contexts of Language Teacher Education

Another area in which a growing literature has emerged is that of the sociocultural and political contexts in which teacher education, teacher development, and teacher learning take place. This literature has run the gamut from broad descriptions at the national level to the study of teachers’ lives and identities, and comprises both straightforward descriptions and theoretically sophisticated analyses.

Of course, just as good teacher education takes into account the sociopolitical context in which it is situated (Dubin and Wong, 1990; Lewis, 2000), so any good study takes into consideration features of the social, cultural, and political context when examining aspects of teacher education and teacher development. The importance of using these issues as a framework for examining other aspects of language teacher education is emphasized in studies such as Freeman and Johnson’s (1998) reconceptualization of the knowledge base, and Tedick and Walker’s (Tedick et al., 1993; Tedick & Walker, 1994) analysis of what must be done to ensure the success of second language education for both majority and minority students.

Sociocultural and sociopolitical issues have been placed center stage in various areas of research. A small body of research has looked at broad questions of language teacher education policy response to education reform in particular contexts (Samuel, 1998; Claire & Adger, 2000; and others). We have also seen a series of descriptions of various national contexts and the programs that operate within them. Examples of this type of study include Lopriore’s (1998) study of a systematic in-service intervention for teachers of French, German, Spanish, and English in Italy; and Guefrachi and Troudi’s (2000) description of a course for school English language supervisors in the United Arab Emirates. There is also a growing literature that focuses at the institutional level, looking at programs or components of them such as single courses (Mercado, 1996 on dialogue as critical reflection; Crookes & Lehner, 1998 on critical pedagogy in teacher education; and others).

The standing of language teaching as a profession has also been a subject of several studies and position pieces. A distinct line of inquiry within this general field has addressed the question of whether teachers can be said to have careers (e.g., Johnston’s 1997 study of Polish and expatriate teachers working in Poland). Related to the recurring notion of marginalization that runs through much of this literature is the issue of teacher empowerment in language teaching and language teacher education (e.g., Ullman, 1999).

Finally, the teacher as individual has also been a subject of research, especially as it relates to the issue of language teacher identity (Moran, 1996; Johnston, 1999; and others). One central concern relating to language teacher identity is the status and role of non-native speakers of the language they teach (e.g., Braine, 1999).

Thus, using a range of analytical focuses from national programs and reforms through programs and courses to individual teachers, we have moved towards an appreciation of the complex social, cultural, and political forces at play in the field of language teacher education. Here too, however, there is still much to learn. Above all, given the undeniable influence of context on both knowledge and processes, detailed analyses of specific teaching and teacher education contexts are needed both to help understand the contexts themselves and to give us a richer sense of the field. At the same time, the process of reexamining key constructs from professional discourse (such as "profession," "career," or "non-native speaker teacher"), which has proved so fruitful, ought to continue. Finally, it is important that researchers in language teacher education continue to explore new theoretical ways of conceptualizing the relationship between the processes of teacher education and teacher learning and the sociopolitical and sociocultural contexts in which these processes take place.

The five papers from this area of inquiry that are included here begin to address the unanswered questions in different ways. In the first paper, "Professional Development as a Site for the Conceptualization and Negotiation of Bilingual Teacher Identities," Manka Varghese provides a detailed analysis of a summer in-service institute and the sociocultural context in which it occurred; she examines the different interpretive frameworks of presenters and participants in the institute and discusses how they affect the teaching/learning process. The next three papers examine the key constructs of "professional" and "non-native speaker teacher." In "Perceptions of Professionalism among Elementary School ESL Teachers," Tina Scott Edstam examines beliefs held by a group of elementary ESL teachers around issues of collaboration, marginalization, and devaluation of their roles. Linda von Hoene and Nelleke Van Deusen-Scholl look at the construct of professional from the perspective of college foreign language lecturers; in "Creating a Framework for the Professional Development of Lecturers: The Berkeley Model," they describe the evolution of a professional development program that changed the concept of "professionalization" from one of top-down, summative assessments to an opportunity for collaborative reflection and formative development. Mae Lombos Wlazlinski looks at "A Non-Native English Teacher Educator’s Response To Prevailing Sociocultural Conditions," describing how course materials and instructional criteria were changed because of the ethnic homogeneity of the students in the program. The last paper in this section examines the conceptualization of language learning and language teaching as a "foreign/native" dichotomy, and the detrimental effects of this dichotomy on language education; Anna Hahn, in "The ‘Foreign’ in Foreign Language Education," argues for the need to rethink the constructs of foreign and native.

Conclusion

As this brief literature review demonstrates, the field of language teacher education has come a long way since Bernhardt and Hammadou’s (1987) overview. There is a great deal more empirically based research which draws on an ever wider repertoire of methodological techniques, theoretical orientations, and substantive concerns. The practice of language teacher education has also grown, offering innovative approaches in everything from program design and course content to classroom interactions and evaluation techniques. In short, the field has become much richer and more sophisticated in terms of both research and practice. The papers in this collection emerge from the intellectual and practical contexts we have described; each, in its own way, pushes our thinking about research and practice forward in important ways.

 


References

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Bartlett, L. (1990). Teacher development through reflective teaching. In J. C. Richards & D. Nunan (Eds.), Second language teacher education (pp. 202-214). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bernhardt, E., & Hammadou, J. (1987). A decade of research in foreign language teacher education. Modern Language Journal, 71, 289-299.

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