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Review of  Theory and Practice in EFL Teacher Education


Reviewer: Derya Kulavuz-Onal
Book Title: Theory and Practice in EFL Teacher Education
Book Author: Julia Hüttner Barbara Mehlmauer-Larcher Susanne Reichl Barbara Schiftner
Publisher: Multilingual Matters
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Book Announcement: 23.3654

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Review:
EDITORS: Julia Hüttner, Barbara Mehlmauer-Larcher, Susanne Reichl, and Barbara
Schiftner
TITLE: Theory and Practice in EFL Teacher Education
SUBTITLE: Bridging the Gap
SERIES TITLE: New Perspectives on Language & Education
PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters
YEAR: 2012

Derya Kulavuz-Onal, Second Language Acquisition and Instructional Technology,
University of South Florida

SUMMARY

“Theory and Practice in EFL Teacher Education: Bridging the Gap” is a collection
of papers that addresses complex issues surrounding language teacher education
particularly geared toward English as a Foreign Language (EFL) and the education
and development of teachers in this field.

The book begins with a brief information about the contributors, the majority of
whom are affiliated with universities in Europe. Following the information about
the contributors comes the editors’ introduction, which summarizes the purpose
of this book and provides short summaries of each chapter. The book takes a
situated learning approach to language teacher development and education, and
assumes a perspective in which the concepts of theory and practice are not
clear-cut notions, but rather engage in a complementary relationship.

The book consists of 12 chapters divided into four thematically titled parts:
Conceptualizing the issue of theory and practice; Developing language teachers’
knowledge base; Assisting language teachers’ knowledge construction; Addressing
established paradigms.

The chapters (1-3) in Part 1 essentially discuss the concepts of theory and
practice in language teaching, and the relationship between the two, by bringing
in various perspectives. In the first chapter, “Closing the Gap, Changing the
Subject”, Henry G. Widdowson suggests that teachers recognize and make explicit
the theoretical implications of their practice through critical reflection. He
also illustrates how this could be done through a discussion of the tenets of
communicative competence, and how a simple text can be changed into one that
could be more communicative, contextually appropriate, and relate to language
learners’ reality.

What follows Widdowson’s discussion is the chapter contributed by Amy B. M. Tsui
on “The Dialectics of Theory and Practice in Teacher Knowledge and Development”.
She starts with an overview of conceptions of teacher knowledge as: practical
knowledge, personal narratives, content knowledge, and situated knowledge. She
then explores the dialectical relationship between theory and practice by
describing two cases of language teachers. She finishes her discussion by
arguing for how teachers’ tacit knowledge, or “practice”, eventually feeds
explicit knowledge (which becomes “theory” after all), and how such explicit
knowledge further informs practice.

In the last chapter of this part, “Moments of Practice: Teachers’ Knowledge and
Interaction in the Language Classroom”, Joachim Appel takes an ethnographic
stance to language teacher development by exploring multimodal language teaching
interactions as they occur in the classroom, and how these moments, and their
context and participants, could further inform our understanding of the
development of teachers’ knowledge in practice. In this sense, he argues for the
practitioner’s voice in bridging the gap between theory and practice.

The chapters (4-7) in the second part of the book are directed more toward
teacher educators and teacher education programs. Chapter 4, “Creating
Language-Assessment Literacy: A Model for Teacher Education”, by Armin Berger,
proposes a conceptual model for the development of language teachers’ assessment
literacy. He argues that assessment literacy is an essential knowledge base in
language teachers, yet preparation of language teachers for language testing has
primarily focused on the theoretical background for standardized and high-stake
testing, which does not target teachers’ day-to-day practices with respect to
assessing learners’ language. Therefore, in his conceptual model for teacher
education programs, he calls for a balance among content of assessment literacy
(from large-scale testing to classroom-based assessment that targets learning),
assessment qualifications that he deems necessary to develop in language
teachers, and emphasis on creating opportunities for teacher candidates to
experience both individual and collaborative approaches to developing and
implementing assessment procedures.

After this contribution, Penny Ur, arguing for an ‘acceptable grammar’
perspective, proposes a practical model for the teaching of grammar in Chapter
5, “Grammar Teaching: Theory, Practice and English Teacher Education”. Her model
draws upon both focus-on-form in communication, as well as consciousness-raising
and learning-through-exemplars. She further illustrates this model through a few
activity examples and asserts that explicit grammar teaching still has a role in
communicative language teaching; student teachers should be encouraged in
teacher education programs in a way that promotes understanding how explicit
grammar teaching could be integrated with communicative language teaching.

Additionally, Chapter 6, “Cognitive + Communicative Grammar in Teacher
Education”, by David Newby, also discusses grammar teaching in teacher education
programs. Newby argues that teacher candidates are not given enough
opportunities to engage with theories even though they learn about them.
Therefore, he proposes an alternative approach that he calls Cognitive
+Communicative grammar. In this approach, he draws on cognitive linguistics and
various communicatively oriented theories. Then, he further illustrates the
fundamental stages of this model: awareness, conceptualization,
proceduralization, and performance. He concludes the chapter by suggesting ways
of mediating pre-service teachers’ understanding and application of this model.

Finally, in the last chapter of this part, Chapter 7, “Stronger Intervention:
The Role of Literature in Teacher Education”, Suzanne Reichl draws our attention
to the teaching of literature in teacher education programs, which is a common
practice in teacher education programs in Austria. Because many student teachers
think that what they learn in literature classes is not relevant to their future
teaching practice, she explores the potential of literature for teacher
education and illustrates how critical reading and the discussion of literary
texts are ideal to inform student teachers’ reflective processes. In this sense,
she suggests that reflection could be introduced in these classes, which, in
turn, can help student teachers build connections between literary content
knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge.

Chapters 8-10, comprising the third part of the book, offer examples of
implementations in European teacher education contexts. In Chapter 8,
“Supporting the Transfer of Innovation into Foreign Language Classroom: Applied
Projects in In-service Teacher Education”, Sandra Hutterli and Michael C. Prusse
exemplify a teacher training module that involves network learning for
continuing education for in-service teachers of foreign languages (not
necessarily English only). This model was first implemented in a Certificate of
Advanced Studies course in foreign language teaching at Zurich University of
Teacher Education. After providing background and the challenges of implementing
new methodologies in foreign language classes, the authors describe the learning
network and how it was planned by illustrating the projects in-service teachers
carried out in their own school communities and as part of an assignment for
this course.

Julia Hüttner and Ute Smit discuss training of student teachers to teach English
for Specific Purposes (ESP) through a materials development approach in their
contribution, “Developing Student Teachers’ Pedagogical Content Knowledge in
English for Specific Purposes: The Vienna ESP Approach”. This approach has been
developed as part of the University of Vienna’s Certificate in teaching ESP
Module, which includes four one-semester courses in which student teachers learn
and experience how to approach ESP texts, specific methodologies to teach ESP,
and material development for ESP. They argue that there is a lack of training in
ESP in teacher education programs and that the process of developing materials
allows student teachers to develop their experiential knowledge about the nature
of ESP teaching. They further illustrate their approach by explaining three
projects undertaken by the student teachers in this module.

In the last chapter of this part, “The EPOSTL (European Portfolio for Student
Teachers of Languages): A Tool to Promote Reflection and Learning in Pre-service
Teacher Education”, Barbara Mehlmauer-Larcher describes the content, aim, and
structure of this portfolio tool. She explains that one of the aims of this tool
is to help student teachers assess themselves by encouraging them to reflect on
their learning process. Additionally, it assists communication among student
teachers, their mentors, and their teacher educators. She then describes how it
was implemented in the EFL Teacher Education Program at the Center for English
Language Teaching in the Department of English at the University of Vienna.
Finally, she reports on the findings of a study conducted to explore the impact
of this implementation and the potential of the EPOSTL as a tool for reflection.

The last part of the book addresses more general established paradigms in EFL
teacher education. Chapter 11, “NESTs versus Non-NESTs: Rethinking
English-Language Teacher Identities”, contributed by Irena Vodopija-Krstanovic,
gives an overview of the latest discussions and understandings on the notion of
native speaker ideology in EFL teacher education and how this influences native
speaking teachers’ (NESTs’) as well as non-native speaking teachers’ (NNESTs’)
identities. Moreover, the author further reports on a study conducted at a
language teacher education program in Croatia to explore how the NEST/NNEST
distinction is conceptualized by lecturers and student teachers and how it is
reflected in classroom practice. She suggests re-examining teacher education in
light of the recent sociocultural turn and critical approaches to teacher
education.

Last but not least, Chapter 12 of the book, “Multilingualism Pedagogy: Building
Bridges between Languages”, is contributed by Eva Vetter. As multilingualism and
multiculturalism are realities in the European context, as well as in many parts
of the world, the author investigates how much the multilingualism perspective
is likely to bring about changes for language teaching, language teachers, and
teacher educators. She asserts that both teachers and learners are multilingual
resources that could be drawn upon in a language classroom, as language learning
is linked to all linguistic resources the learners already have at their
disposal. In this sense, she calls for a multilingual turn in language teacher
education, as multilingualism relates to teachers’ competences in a broader
sense. In order to achieve this, she suggests that offering intercultural and
plurilingual experiences to student teachers be an integral part of teacher
education programs.

EVALUATION

“Theory and Practice in EFL Teacher Education: Bridging the Gap” generally
achieves its aim in providing examples and implementations of promoting student
teachers’ understanding of how theory and practice build upon each other. In my
opinion, the book continuously engages in discussion about this gap, but Parts 2
and 3 give more concrete and practical examples on how to deal with it in
teacher education programs. Although every chapter in the book has its own
contribution to the discussion of bridging the gap between theory and practice,
I found the first chapter, contributed by Widdowson, and the closing chapter, by
Vetter, to be the most compelling. Widdowson initiated a thought-provoking
discussion of how teachers can critically think about the theories of language
teaching and adapt it in the most pedagogical and communicative ways that comply
with their students’ own reality. He argues that ‘real’ or ‘authentic’ language
may still be irrelevant to language learners’ realities since authentic language
is always context-dependent, and since language is used to complement the
context rather than duplicating it. I also found his examples from real corpora
very powerful in demonstrating how the use of such authentic language in
language classroom does not help students engage with the language in meaningful
and communicative ways. This illustration is helpful for especially novice
teachers in their attempts to meaningfully and pedagogically bridge theory and
practice by taking into account their local circumstances and their students’
needs. It helps them see how theoretical knowledge (e.g. as in the case of the
use of authentic materials in language classes) should not be taken for granted,
but adapted for their own teaching situations.

In addition to the first chapter, the last chapter, on multilingualism pedagogy,
was also appealing in the sense that it provided a different perspective by
considering the current realities of the world as it continues to grow with
multilingual individuals. In my opinion (agreeing with Vetter), this should be
an important consideration in language teacher education programs today.
Language teachers not only serve as teachers but also portray models of
successful multilingual and multicultural individuals. However, without
providing contexts and experiences for pre-service teachers to develop this
competence and awareness, it would not be possible for them to convey the value
of multilingualism, multiculturalism, and linguistic diversity to language
learners. In this regard, the suggestion to include more intercultural and
plurilingual experiences in language teacher education programs offers an
important addition to the knowledge base of teacher education at the same time.
Such an addition would help them not only grow as advocates of world languages
and cultures but also better value and use their students’ linguistic
repertoires in their future language classrooms.

As for the readership, the book is a good fit for advanced readers in this
field, such as advanced graduate students, teacher educators, and teacher
education program designers. As the name suggests, it also discusses issues
conceptually, which leads me to believe that it is not targeted for a novice
reader in this field.

Each part of the book is thematically organized, and later chapters build upon
earlier ones. For example, in terms of the discussion of the knowledge base of
language teacher education, quite a range of topics are covered, such as
grammar, ESP, literature, and assessment. The last of these topics is
problematic, as student teachers are not easily able to make connections with
their future practice. In this sense, the implementation ideas presented in this
book provide examples for those programs that experience similar issues.

There are references to various certification processes in European countries,
Common European Framework for Languages, portfolio and assessment requirements
for language learners, as well as language teachers in Europe, etc., in this
book. The fact that the book is heavily contextualized in European teacher
education programs can be appealing for readers who are interested in being
informed more about the European context and issues in EFL teacher education
practices in Europe. However, those who are not familiar with this context, and
who do not find it relevant to their own context, might find the book to be of
limited use.

The book also gives insights into future research in EFL teacher education,
particularly with the contributions made in the last part of the book. As the
majority of the world’s population is either bilingual or multilingual, this not
only complicates the native speaker ideology for both language teachers and
learners, but also makes it inevitable for language teachers, and thus, teacher
educators, to consider this fact in language teaching practices and in teacher
education.

The book makes frequent reference to Shulman’s (1987) concept of pedagogical
content knowledge (PCK), as the development of this knowledge base is mostly
connected to bridging the gap between theory and practice. However, what seems
to be lacking in this book is a discussion of technological pedagogical content
knowledge (TPACK), introduced by Mishra and Koehler (2006), which builds on
Shulman’s PCK. It suggests another knowledge base, technology, and argues that
21st century teacher education should prepare student teachers for meaningful
technology instruction and use in their practices. In this sense, Parts 2 and 3
of this book could have been more strengthened and enriched with an inclusion of
a discussion of how EFL student teachers’ TPACK is developed and constructed in
teacher education programs.

All in all, the book is an invaluable contribution to language teaching research
and practice, as it discusses current conceptualizations, understandings, and
perspectives to the long-standing debate on the gap between theory and practice,
and attempts to bridge this gap in a constructive way for student teachers so
that they see that we need both in teacher education programs.

REFERENCES

Mishra, Punya & Matthew Koehler. 2006. Technological pedagogical content
knowledge. Teachers College Record 108 (6). 1017-1054.

Shulman, Lee S. 1987. Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the new reform.
Harvard Educational Review 57 (1). 1-22.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER
 
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Derya Kulavuz-Onal is a doctoral candidate and a graduate teaching assistant at the Second Language Acquisition and Instructional Technology program, University of South Florida. She has taught EFL, ESL at the college level, and supervised prospective English language teachers. Her research interests primarily revolve around second language teacher education and development, technology and teacher education, communities of practice, and qualitative research.

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