Language Evolution: The Windows Approach addresses the question: "How can we unravel the evolution of language, given that there is no direct evidence about it?"
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Date: Wed, 5 Jan 2005 16:47:46 +0100 From: Clemens Fritz Subject: Second Language Teacher Education: International Perspectives
EDITOR: Tedick, Diane J. TITLE: Second Language Teacher Education SUBTITLE: International Perspectives PUBLISHER: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates YEAR: 2005
Clemens Fritz, Freie Universität Berlin
'Second Language Teacher Education' (SLTE) is collection of papers which derive from the Second International Conference on Language Teacher Education held at the University of Minnesota in May 2001. The papers have been expanded and improved by blind refereeing. The contributors are mainly American, but the focus is not restricted to the US. Japan, Australia and Great Britain as well as general studies are also part of the volume. The papers are written not only by well-established, internationally known scholars, but also by members of a younger generation of researchers. Moreover, five out of eighteen chapters come from practising teachers. SLTE brings together perspectives of teachers and teacher educators in a variety of second language settings. Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL), English as a Foreign Language (EFL), foreign language education and bilingual or immersion education contexts are all considered. In this the book is valuable since it furthers much needed communication between research areas which, though closely related, more often than not ignore each other. The international perspective adds to this. The editor stresses (xxii) that "Second language teacher educators are very aware that there are similar debates and efforts in the world of first language education [...]". In this recognition lies another fruitful approach to the topic of language teaching.
STRUCTURE OF THE BOOK
SLTE contains eighteen chapters in four sections. These are: 1. The knowledge base of second language teacher education. 2. The contexts of second language teacher education. 3. Collaboration in second language teacher education. 4. Second language teacher education in practice. Each section is preceded by an introduction explaining its scope and summarizing the respective papers. Naturally, some of the chapters reflect all four themes but had to be put into one section only. This task was carried out by the editor with much care. References are given at the end of every contribution. The book closes with a helpful index divided into an 'Author index', containing the names of all authors mentioned in any of the chapters, and a 'Subject Index'. An index of abbreviations is sadly missing.
Section 1: The knowledge base of second language teacher education. 'Knowledge base' refers to what second language teachers need to know and understand in order to be effective teachers. This, of course, has implications for teacher education. The knowledge base comprises diverse subjects such as theoretical knowledge, classroom experience, beliefs and attitudes, values and ethical dispositions, teacher socialization and learning, teacher cognition, teacher identity and reflective learning.
Chapter 1: Tarone/Allwright, "Second language teacher learning and student second language learning: Shaping the knowledge base" This chapter is largely a reply to Freeman/Johnson (1998) which has proven to be very influential in the field of language teacher education. Freeman/Johnson (1998) argued for a reconceptualization of the knowledge- base of language teacher education since they saw that language teacher education programs do not sufficiently reflect current research. Moreover, social context as an issue is underrepresented. Tarone/Allwright are afraid that the common goal, namely the influence of scholarly research on educational practices, is undermined by the generalizing claims in Freeman/Johnson. Tarone/Allwright believe that language teacher education programs should be redesigned to avoid the 'Academic fallacy', i.e. the belief that taking university courses alone makes an effective teacher, and the 'Noninterface fallacy', i.e. the belief that only classroom experiences make effective teachers.
The authors argue convincingly that teachers need to be educated differently at different levels of their own teaching experiences. Their second major point of disagreement with Freeman/Johnson is the assumed virtual exclusion of the learners' position succinctly summed up in the phrase "teach is not an intransitive verb; it is not an action one does by oneself" (17f). A small reference error and a spelling mistake on p. 17 about Figure 2.1 in the book is unusual, since the book is carefully edited.
Chapter 2: Freeman/Johnson, "Response to Tarone and Allwright" It is also rather unusual that responses to a paper can become a paper of their own. But this is an exception and not an unhappy one. The tone is scholarly and clarifies where Tarone/Allwright misunderstood Freeman/Johnson (1998) and where they agree to disagree. This response indeed is a further contribution and was well-worth including. Only citing the same, non-essential, quote twice in so short a paper seems a bit odd (Prufrock: That is not what I meant at all).
Chapter 3: Scarino, "Introspection and Retrospection as windows on teacher knowledge, values and ethical dispositions" Scarino is interested in getting to know teacher knowledge, their values and ethical dispositions. She does this by interviewing three experienced teachers over a two-year period about their evaluations of a group of 30 students. Some interviews are done over a recently produced text, introspection, others in retrospect. The insights gained are revealing and will possibly stimulate further research.
Chapter 4: Johnston/Pawan/Mahan-Taylor, "The professional development of working ESL/EFL teachers: A pilot study" The authors intend to examine the lives of 12 graduates from a U.S. masters program over a period of five years. There are two principal research questions: "(a) What happens to teachers after the master of arts (MA)? and (b) How do the careers and professional development of working teachers match up with our assumptions about such teachers' needs, interests, and concerns?" (54) The socio-political and socio-cultural context of teacher development is divided into four parts: teacher life stories, professional development, teacher beliefs and knowledge and teacher identity. In this paper a pilot study about Bea, an American teacher in Japan, is presented. Her interviews form the body of a corpus of statements which is then further investigated.
Chapter 5: Freeman/Johnson, "Toward linking teacher knowledge and student learning" Freeman/Johnson differentiate between action, activity and tools. In their words these three can be likened to: 1) action = passing a ball; 2) activity = a whole soccer game, i.e. all actions and also tactics, etc. and 3) tools = football, goalpost, etc. They stress that teaching, even good teaching, alone does not necessarily lead to learning. Only the active participation of the students of the language-classroom can achieve this. The authors proceed with an example of a use of an overhead projector as a multifunctional tool in language learning. They show how it is effectively used by a teacher of French in a high school in Vermont.
Section 2. The contexts of second language teacher education. 'Context' means the contexts in which second language teacher education takes place, the classroom contexts (ESL, EFL, etc.), and the geographic, social, cultural, political and institutional contexts.
Chapter 6: Shohamy, "The power of tests over teachers: The power of teachers over tests" Shohamy discusses how tests are used by authoritative bodies to enforce new policies. Teachers become mere instruments and their professional qualifications and experiences are disregarded. Teachers need to be emancipated and become critical users of tests.
Chapter 7: Hiramatsu, "Contexts and policy reform: A case study of EFL teaching in a high school in Japan" The author explores the impact of two recent reforms in Japan, the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program and the revision of the English curriculum towards more oral skills. Under JET, recent university graduates from abroad are encouraged to come to Japan and fill the role of team-teachers in foreign language classrooms. Not all teachers are happy to have native speakers in their classrooms, since they are afraid of being less knowledgeable than their team mates. The development of oral skills are also hindered by the type of university entrance exams in Japan.
Chapter 8: Byrnes, Towards a comprehensive conceptualization of teaching assistant education: Contents, commitments, structures" Byrnes investigates foreign language teaching at the university level in the US. She is especially concerned with the curriculum for graduate teaching assistants and claims that language learning and culture learning are too much apart and should be integrated much more.
Chapter 9: Poynor, "A conscious and deliberate intervention: The influence of language teacher education" ESL and bilingual education at the elementary level are looked at here. The method of 'investigation' is rather strange. Poynor weaves her own life story and that of two teachers into a narrative account of what they experienced in classrooms using a particular teaching method. The value of this is not immediately clear to the reviewer.
Section 3. Collaboration in second language teacher education. This section stresses the importance of cooperation and collaborative relationships. This encompasses institutional collaboration as well as collaboration among teachers and teacher educators themselves.
Chapter 10: Edge, "Build it and they will come: Realising values in ESOL teacher education" This paper is very personal. Edge explores the political, economic, military and cultural values typically associated with English and compares them with his own set of beliefs and values. He concludes that the teacher's convictions must take precedence and that discussions with colleagues can help in this. Edge considers himself to be en vogue with this procedure. Educators no longer want to say what is right or wrong. "They offer their own evaluation and they invite their readers to ask ... 'What can I learn from this'" (p. 182).
Chapter 11: Smith, "The impact of action research on teacher collaboration and professional growth" Smith documents the collaboration of three language teachers in an English Language Institute in the U.S. The research questions are: "1. How does the facilitated collaborative relationship of a triad of teachers responsible for the same classes of students develop over 1 year? 2. How do these teachers view the relation between their efforts to collaborate and their professional development?" (p. 202) The 'testees' and the students comment favourably on the outcome of the experiment. Importantly, the teachers agreed to continue their cooperation even after the end of the actual project.
Chapter 12: Cormany, Maynor, Kalnin, "Developing self, developing curriculum, and developing theory: Researchers in residence at Patrick Henry Professional Practice School" The authors are two teachers and one researcher, all documenting the results of personal development and collaboration Patrick Henry High School, an establishment which managed to rise from bottom to top through intensive efforts on part of the teaching staff. Researchers in residence and action research are taken as important tools for developing teacher skills and promoting the welfare of students and the school as a whole.
Chapter 13: Dubetz, "Improving ESL instruction in a bilingual program through collaborative, inquiry-based professional development" The last chapter in this section deals with bilingual classrooms in the U.S. and the problems of learners of English whose first language is not English. This is a very interesting topic and certainly needs more attention. This type of language situation is quite frequent and teacher education in this area is limited.
Section 4. Second language teacher education in practice. The final section looks at how the work of second language teacher education is accomplished. Program models and underlying philosophies are showcased and examples given.
Chapter 14: Snow, "Key themes in TESOL MA teacher education" Snow identifies six key themes of high quality teacher education. These are (a) initiation into the professional discourse community, (b) the role of native and non-native speaking teachers in the profession, (c) infusion of technology, (d) knowledge of standards and accreditation processes, (e) performance-based assessment, and (f) new partnerships and roles (p. 262).
Chapter 15: Cloud, "The dialogic process of capturing and building teacher practical knowledge in dual language programs" Cloud explores dual language education in the U.S. Particular attention is given to school-based study groups, program visits, networking among dual language teachers, curriculum development, and intensive institutes.
Chapter 16: Erben, "Teacher education through immmersion and immersion teacher education: An Australian case" Immersion as a way of teaching languages started in the 1960s in Canada and is most prominent there and in Australia. Erben describes how immersion teachers are educated in Queensland, Australia and critically evaluates the courses' effectiveness. The method of immersion and the type of teacher education shown appear exemplary.
Chapter 17: Bigelow/Tedick, "Combining foreign and second language teacher education: Rewards and challenges" Bigelow and Tedick showcase preservice and inservice programs for teachers at the University of Minnesota. They argue for an integrated approach which brings together ESL, ELF, bilingual and immersion teachers, since contact between the different professions is profitable for all sides. The rewards are found to outnumber the challenges.
Chapter 18: Walker, Ranney/Fortune, "Preparing preservice teachers for English language learners: A content-based approach" In the final chapter the diverse language proficiencies of students in a classroom are addressed. For demographic reasons, there are many students whose first language is not English. At the University of Minnesota there are special courses to help content teachers to grapple with the different linguistic needs of their students. In these courses the preservice teachers are grouped in cohorts, of maths teachers, of English literature teachers, etc., so that actual classroom problems can be addressed.
"It is hoped that these descriptions of second language teacher education in practice will spark further ideas and innovations on the part of the teacher educators who read this volume." (p 259; Tedick, the editor) Although most of the papers are interesting in themselves and the editing of the papers conforms to high standards, the above-mentioned hope needs qualification. It is obvious that the publishing of conference proceedings with such a broad scope make it impossible to build one coherent volume. Apart from the notable exception of chapters 1 and 2, the contributions are almost completely unrelated. This is interesting for a researcher who look for many new approaches and research projects. For teachers and teacher educators this is less than optimal.
Some issues are less well covered than could be wished. Multicultural and multilingual contexts, an area of growing importance, come up only in two chapters (13 and 18). In immersion and the development of language skills of the general population, Canada and Australia take the lead. But Canada cannot be found at all in the volume and Australia only in two chapters (3 and 16), with chapter 3 not being Australia-specific. The claim for an 'international approach' is further diminished when looking at the papers in detail. Chapter 10 supposedly deals with Great Britain, but is in reality a very theoretical line of arguments with no reference to Great Britain whatsoever. Chapters 4 and 7 are about Japan, but in chapter 4 there is only an interview with an American teacher in Japan which intends to investigate her professional development. Chapter 7 alone provides real insights into teachings at a Japanese school. Another issue wanting is student needs and actual teaching. As rightly stated in chapter 1 "teach is a transitive verb". This is hardly visible in many of the papers. Thus the editor's 'dedication' "This volume is dedicated to teachers around the world who devote their professional lives to helping others learn languages" (v) does not really capture the intended audience.
All in all, this book can be thoroughly recommended for researchers world- wide. Teacher educators and teachers, however, may find it less useful than expected.
Freeman, D. and Johnson, D. (1998). Reconceptualizing the knowledge-base of language teacher education. TESOL Quarterly 32, 397-418.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
After studies in Regensburg, Germany, and Galway, Ireland, Clemens Fritz graduated with a master's degree in English and History in 1995. For ten years now he has worked and published on early Australian English. A particular focus is on Irish English and its survival in Australia. In 1998 the reviewer started a two-year teacher training programme and has been teaching English, history and drama in a German secondary school since 2000.