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Archived Content from Conference Held in May 1999 

Building on our Strengths:
Second International Conference on Language Teacher Education


Multiple Players, Multiple Policies, and the Potential of Standards as Organizer

June Phillips, Weber State University

Teacher education policies have reflected the adage that since everyone has gone to school, he or she assumes to be an expert on the schools. Voices from all segments of the public speak with great authority on what schools should do, how they should change or revert to tradition, who they should be employing and for how much, what students should study and for how long and so on. In what other area would society at large attempt to set policies for a profession in which they do not practice?

The attention paid to teacher education at the policy level in the US surges and ebbs, but as with the tides, it never ceases completely. At this turn of the century, it is surging: politicians, business people, religious leaders all focus on teacher education and the schools as a means to implement their agenda, agenda that are frequently much broader than the education of the nation's children. It is easy for educators to get caught in the whirl of mandates and guidelines from overlapping agencies or propositions. However, when one separates out the various initiatives, it becomes clear that some policies are transitory while others will have a real influence on the preparation of teachers. In particular, policies which converge in their basic tenets even though they may target different dimensions of teacher education do have the potential to reform.

This paper will concentrate on national policies that have achieved support in a number of states and that together could shape teacher education from the university experience through a teacher's career. The three-legged stool model includes program accreditation through the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), licensure of beginning and continuing teachers through the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC), and accomplished teacher certification through the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). If these programs, each with a set of principles or guidelines for assessment, targeted a distinct set of outcomes or were constructed on dissimilar theoretical models, policies to implement them would fail. At this time, translation of any of these programs into specifics for language education is just beginning, and the consensus that has formed in the profession around the general framework of the Standards for Foreign Language Learning: Preparing for the 21st Century (1996) and Standards for Foreign Language Learning in the 21st Century (in press) suggests that the student standards have a high potential for organizing the work needed to develop teacher and program standards.

From the student standards, one can identify specific skills, bodies of knowledge, and ways of thinking that should constitute the preparation and the professional development of teachers who will be responsible for the longer sequences and broader goals that will characterize language study into the next century. The standards document also contains several frameworks for the study of languages and cultures that must begin to appear in teacher education programs at both the preservice and inservice levels: the framework of communicative modes that reorganizes a four-skills approach into one where interpersonal communication is seen as capitalizing on the capacity to negotiate meaning with another individual, and where interpretive and presentational communication require interaction with text; models of learning about cultures that draw upon processes of observing and thinking rather than finite facts and fictions; commitment to content-rich or -enriched learning that crosses the disciplines and moves into communities of language users. Policy can mandate program approval processes, licensure, and certification, but the implementation is dependent upon a core of beliefs and practices that permeates how those policies are transferred into procedures.


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