Header Image Header Image

Archived Content from Conference Held in May 2001 

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


Summary of Presentation:
"A Sustainable Teacher Training Program
through Immersion in Australia:
Using Market Forces to Our Advantages "

Tony Erben, Ph.D., University of South Florida · May 19, 2001


A dominant debate in western higher education circles is currently concerned with the commodification of knowledge (Poole, 1998). These developments are broadly associated with managerial changes that some have called 'steering at a distance' (Marceau, 1993), whereby the impact of the state on individual higher education workers is maintained (and intensified) at the same time that pressure is applied to 'wean' universities from government funding (Danaher, Gale and Erben, 1999).

This paper explores how a language-based immersion teacher education degree program has confronted these external market forces by developing a range of competitive platforms which are income generating though at the same time curricula enriching initiatives. It is argued that current changes in higher education in the western world in general and in teacher education in particular require language educators and teacher educators to (re)negotiate their professionalisms. We mean by this that language educators are compelled to re-examine their attitudes towards, and values within, education and its practices as they (individually and collectively) steer new courses through the state and the market.

We illustrate this argument by drawing on the experiences of two unique university teacher education degree programs which are delivered through immersion in Australia. In referring to these experiences, I will attempt to contextualise these programs as the language teacher education profession enters the new millennium.

Immersion And Postsecondary Education

Due to their unique place and function in society as well as their position on the educational ladder postsecondary institutions, ie, universities, have had a rather belated encounter with immersion education. In fact it wasn't until the late 1970s (Day and Shapson 1993: 452) that universities in Canada were obliged to address a range of issues as a direct result of the growth of immersion education in schools, the increasing number of immersion graduates from schools and the overall educational success of immersion programs. Naturally, these issues are contextually framed and dependent on the historical development of immersion in each and every country where immersion education occurs (Walker and Tedick, 2000). Suffice to say that in countries with larger and longer immersion education traditions the influence on universities has been greater. Three issues are of particular importance here, 1) the linguistic needs of immersion school graduates at university, 2) principles of immersion pedagogy use at the university level and, 3) immersion teacher education. It is to this last point that I now draw.

Immersion Teacher Education

Calls for more research into immersion teacher education have been made since the mid 1980s (Obadia 1984, Tardif 1984, Lapkin, Swain with Shapson 1990, Allen, Swain, Harley and Cummins 1990, Day and Shapson 1993), though as yet there remains yet again only a few studies which have attempted to investigate, or even frame, the dialogic processes involved between immersion teaching and immersion teacher education (Obadia 1985, Frisson-Rickson and Rebuffot 1986, Majhanovich with Grey 1992, Bernhardt 1992, Erben 1993, Shapson and Day 1993, Erben and Bartlett 1994).

Lapkin, Swain with Shapson (1990) signal the need for more research into immersion teacher education and call for its inclusion as a major research focus for the nineties. They ask:

"How do we best study what immersion teachers are doing in their classrooms? Why do teachers do what they do (beliefs)? What are immersion teacher education programs doing (policies, beliefs, practices)?"(p. 668)

These questions are particularly poignant in a context where immersion programs have been implemented, expanded and exported throughout the world and where the demand, especially in Canada, for qualified immersion teachers has risen exponentially, yet where universities have only made half-hearted attempts to engage with the philosophical, conceptual, pedagogical and organisational basis of immersion teacher education. As Obadia (1985: 416) states: "Les solutions temporaires semblent avoir revtu un caractre permanent."

It is not the aim of this paper to enter the debate regarding how immersion teacher education programs should be organised or even conceptualised. However, it is my intention to offer the experiences of how one institution in rural Australia has operationalised its immersion teacher education programs in a context of globalisation, international competitiveness in higher education and the need to service student-client needs in preparation for entering future employment markets.

The presentation draws attention to these politico-economic forces which have framed the experiential responses of the immersion degree programs at Central Queensland University in terms of;

  • The 'New Millenium' University Teacher Educator / Academic
  • Asia, Australia and the Marketisation of Immersion Education
  • The Educational Politics of Implementing Immersion Programs
  • Platforming a University Immersion Degree Program for Economic & Academic Sustainability: Responses from the Field
  • Establishing for your own Immersion Program: Learn from our Experiences
  • A Benchmark of Success: Some Fundamentals
  • Foreign Language Teacher Education in the Future: Suggestions

Based on the above principles and guiding framework, this presentation is a rationale for immersion teacher education in the future and how we may come to think about it operationally, strategically, philosophically, economically, and scholasically.


Allen, P., Swain, M., Harley, B. and Cummins, J. (1990) Aspects of classroom treatment: toward a more comprehensive view of second language education. In B. Harley, P. Allen, J. Cummins and M. Swain (eds.) The Development of Second Language Proficiency. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Bernhardt, E. (ed.) (1992). Life in Immersion Classrooms. Clevedon, Multilingual Matters.

Danaher, P.A., Gale, T.C. and Erben, T. (1999) (Re)Negotiated Professionalisms in an Australian Teacher Education Faculty: Steering Between the State and the Market. A Paper presented at the 19th annual seminar of the International Sociey for Teacher Education, University of Kent, Canterbury, England. 10-17 April.

Day, E.M. and Shapson, S.M. (1993) French immersion teacher education: A study of two programs. In The Canadian Modern Language Review, 49 (3), pp. 446-465.

Erben, A. (1993) The importance of the practicum in teacher development. What happens in an immersion teacher training program? In the inaugural journal of the Australian Association of Language Immersion Teachers, 1, (1).

Erben, A. and Bartlett, L. (1994) The meanings and effectiveness of immersion in a LOTE pre-service teacher education program. A paper presented at the Australian Teacher Education Association Conference, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane.

Frisson-Rickson, F. and Rebuffot, J. (1986) La formation et le perfectionnement des professeurs en immersion: pour des critres nationaux. Ottawa, Association canadienne des professeurs d'immersion.

Lapkin, S. Swain, M. with Shapson, S. (1990) French immersion agenda for the 90's. In The Canadian Modern Language Review, 46,(4).

Majhanovich, S. with Gray, J. (1992) The practicum: an essential component in French immersion teacher education. In The Canadian Modern Language Review, 48, (4), pp. 682-696.

Marceau, J. (1993). Steering from a distance: International trends in the financing and governance of higher education. Canberra, ACT: Australian Government Publishing Service.

Obadia, A.A. (1984) Le professeur d'immersion, le pivot du nouveau bilinguisme as Canada. In The Modern Canadian Language Review, 41, (2), pp. 376-387.

Obadia, A.A. (1985) La formation du professeur d'immersion française au Canada: Une conception philosophique et pédagogique en devenir ou à la recherche d'une troisiéme voie. In Canadian Journal of Education, 10, (4), pp. 415-426.

Poole, M. (1998). 1998 Buntine Oration: Reframing higher education: Mind the market. Education Review, 2(10), ACE News insert, 2-4.

Tardif, C. (1984) La formation des enseignants en situation d'immersion. The Canadian Modern Language Review, 41, (2).

Walker, C.L. and Tedick, D.J. (2000) The Complexity of Immersion Education: Teachers Address the Issues. Modern Language Journal, 84, (I), 5-27.


Back to Conference Information.

Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA) • 140 University International Center • 331 - 17th Ave SE • Minneapolis, MN 55414