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Archived Content from Conference Held in May 2001 

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


Summary of Presentation:
"Reconceptualizing Foreign Language Teacher Education in the US:
Standards within a Professional Continuum"

Eileen W. Glisan, Indiana University of Pennsylvania · May 19, 2001

Addressing the question, "What characterizes innovative foreign language teacher education programs in the U.S.?", requires a much broader view of the process of teacher preparation and development than the profession has had in the past. Historically pre-service "training" programs and in-service professional development programs were conceptualized and administered as two separate entities. Pre-service programs featured a distinct division between university coursework and a school practicum that followed it. This narrow traditional view of teacher preparation has unfortunately kept our profession from recognizing that the development of teaching expertise, as well as that of language proficiency and cultural awareness, is a life-long process that occurs throughout a teacher's career.

In order for innovation in foreign language teacher education programs to occur, our profession must embrace the notion of a "professional continuum" that takes teachers from the entry level to the accomplished level over the course of a career. This panel presentation will explore this continuum and how it can be used to spark effective, innovative teacher education programs in foreign languages across both pre-service and in-service levels.

Teacher education is being transformed as a result of current research in teacher development and reform, as well as nationwide endeavors to establish professional standards for teachers. It is an exciting time to have a role in foreign language education, since our profession is involved in three interrelated efforts nationwide:

  1. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) for accomplished teachers,
  2. The Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC) for beginning teachers (interlinked with NBPTS standards), and
  3. The National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) for teacher education programs within departments, schools, and colleges of education (aligned with INTASC and NBPTS standards).

We already have NBPTS standards that describe what accomplished foreign language teachers should know and be able to do. We are in the process of developing both INTASC and NCATE standards to ensure that beginning language teachers have the necessary knowledge, dispositions, and skills to be effective in our classrooms. The five core propositions of NBPTS have helped us to reconceptualize the goals and objectives of foreign language teacher education:

  1. Teachers are committed to students and their learning.
  2. Teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students.
  3. Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning.
  4. Teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience.
  5. Teachers are members of learning communities (NBTPS, 1994).

As a result of the new NCATE 2000 unit standards, schools of education will be expected to show how their teacher candidates demonstrate the knowledge, dispositions, and skills necessary to help all students learn. This performance-based accreditation system is a radical departure from the traditional inputs-based system, whereby schools of education used data such as course descriptions and faculty qualifications to make a case for accreditation.

This panel discussion will explore how these national efforts and current research are beginning to have an impact on teacher education programs in foreign languages.

Although our profession is poised to have an impact on teacher education programs like never before in our history, this change is not without its challenges. Currently foreign language teachers are in great demand while the profession and nation are raising standards and demanding increasing accountability from teachers and students. The context for teacher education has changed in recent years as a high percentage of the teaching force is entering retirement, fewer prospective teachers are entering the profession, and school districts are expanding language programs. Given this high demand for and low supply of language teachers, school administrators are often forced to fill vacancies with individuals who lack sufficient knowledge and/or skills in the foreign language and in teaching. Further, new teachers are increasingly entering our classrooms by means of "alternative certification" programs, which vary widely in their effectiveness.

This panel discussion will explore the challenges that the current "supply and demand issue" poses for maintaining high quality of foreign language instruction in an approach that advocates a professional continuum for teacher education,

The information and ideas presented by the panelist will hopefully be used as the catalyst for an informative and lively discussion with the panel and audience, as we explore together the current state and future of language teacher education.

National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. 1994. What teachers should know and be able to do. Detroit, ML NBPTS.


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