Second Language Teacher Education: International Perspectives
reviewed by Carla Paciotto - 2005
Title: Second Language Teacher Education: International Perspectives
Author(s): Diane J. Tedick
Publisher: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., Mahwah, NJ
ISBN: 0805848800, Pages: 348, Year: 2005
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Diane Tedicks carefully edited volume Second Language Teacher Education: International Perspectives is a timely and valuable contribution to the composite and often fragmented field of second language teacher education. The volume should be recommended reading for all second language teacher educators who are involved and interested in reforming and improving second language teacher education programs. Embracing an international perspective, the volume shows the complexity of the field of second language teacher education and considers the limitations of traditional second language teacher education programs but above all provides concrete directions for reconceptualizing their theoretical foundations and reforming individual programs.
The volumes contributions include almost all second language teacher education settings, from English as a foreign language (EFL) and English as a second language (ESL) to foreign language, language immersion programs, and transitional bilingual and dual-language programs, at both the school and university levels, within and outside of the U.S. contexts (Australia, Japan, England), addressing the needs of preservice and inservice teachers in education programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. This ambitious task, to provide a comprehensive view of second language education contexts and settings in an international perspective, is unified by the way the editor organizes the books contributions around concerns and research questions common across institutionally and culturally different settings. Specifically, the book is divided into four sections, each developing a specific theme: (a) the knowledge base of second language teacher education, (b) the contexts of second language teacher education, (c) collaborations in second language teacher education, and (d) second language teacher education in practice.
In the first section (The Knowledge Base), framing their chapter as a critique of Freeman and Johnson (1998), Tarone and Allwright (chapter 1) set the tone and the research agenda for the rest of the chapters by emphasizing the need to reform second language teacher education programs based on a reconceptualization of second language teachers knowledge base. They argue that such a reconceptualization should be developed around the distinctions among training (skills), education (knowledge), and development (understanding), and how different stages in teacher development (preservice, inservice) should prompt emphasis on one dimension over the others and should be centered on the question of how teachers learn to teach languages (p. 11). Such a question can be answered only through research endeavors that embrace longitudinal studies as the approach that can provide in-depth examinations of the multiple cultural and institutional realities of second language teaching and by keeping collaboration among researchers, teachers, and students central, in an attempt to understand how teachers beliefs and understandings influence second language acquisition processes in the classroom.
After a short response of Freeman and Johnson (chapter 2) to Tarone and Allwright that reproposes and accentuates some of the positions found in their previous (1998) article, the volume unfolds around Tarones and Allwrights theoretical and research guidelines, with the clear intent of transcending the skill- and method-oriented focus that tends to characterize most second language teacher education programs and research initiatives. The contributions of Scarino (chapter 3) and Johnston, Pawan, and Mahan-Taylor (chapter 4) illustrate inquiry in two international contexts aimed at the unveiling of the complex knowledge base that the language teacher draws on to shape, in the first case, the evaluation of individual students second language performance in the classroom and, in the second case, her professional identity. Specifically, Scarinos chapter presents the case study of a French as a foreign language high school teacher in Australia, focusing on the interplay of teacher knowledge, values, and ethical dispositions in the teachers evaluation tasks. Johnston, Pawan, and Mahan-Taylor portray an expatriate U.S. teacher in Japan and discuss how the sociocultural context plays an important role in teachers professional identity, knowledge, and beliefs. In both case studies, the authors propose an examination of the extent to which formal teacher education has contributed to the teachers practice, and both chapters suggest, in light of the data they present, that second language education programs should provide space for introspection and self-reflection and for discussion of issues of professional identity and the impact of sociocultural realities on teaching practice. Whereas these two chapters suggest how to modify teacher education programs, the following chapter, by Freeman and Johnson (chapter 5), proposes the case of an exemplary U.S. high school teacher of French as a foreign language and examines how that teacher has benefited from an innovative teacher education program that includes inquiry seminars focused specifically on teachers introspection and self-examination of classroom practice. In addition to teachers learning, Freeman and Johnson importantly focus on ways to capture student learning and teacher effectiveness beyond the traditional measures of performance, through holistic data collected from students.
The underlying theme of the second section of the volume (Contexts) is reform and challenge of the status quo across different institutional contexts and on different levels. Specifically, the various contributions examine how top-down educational policies are implemented and influence classroom practice, the rewards and challenges of localized reform of a foreign language teacher education program, and the reforming goals of a university-based transactional pedagogy course aimed at challenging inequality in language-minority education in the public school system. As the editor states, all these contributions show us examples of how
teacher educators [might] embed in their programs challenges to the status quo . . . [and how] challenges to the status quo get played out in traditional contexts be they in Japan, a university foreign language department, or elementary ESL and bilingual classroom in the US. (p. 100)
More specifically, Shohamy (chapter 6) offers a discussion of the non-theoretically-grounded No Child Left Behind (NCLB) testing policies and their negative impact on second language classroom practice and proposes a use-oriented testing approach and an agenda for teacher action against centralized power and authority. In the second chapter of the section, Hiramasu (chapter 7) describes Japans internationalization of its EFL school programs through the inclusion of native-speaking assistant language teachers in the classroom, together with a theory-driven EFL curriculum reform based on the inclusion of an oral communication component. The author presents her study of the implementation of these top-down policies and how they clash with Japanese teachers teaching traditions and training and the nature of standardized tests required to enter Japanese universities, still traditionally focused on grammar and reading and writing skills. Following these two examples of top-down policies and their inherent inadequacy, in chapter 8, Byrnes presents a very detailed account of an extensive microlevel reform of a teacher education program in a graduate foreign language department at a U.S. university. Here the focus is on an integrated approach to the education of teaching assistants, now an important section of the teaching body in foreign language departments. In this context, the challenge of the status quo is represented by the reduction of the typical marginalization of teaching assistants through an integrated curriculum project called Creating Multiple Literacy that provides graduate students with the opportunity to become rounded professionals by bridging their university teaching practice with their academic and research-oriented training. In the last chapter of Context, Poynor (chapter 9) takes us to the complexity of ESL/bilingual public education through an inquiry-based chapter portraying two ESL teachers and one bilingual teacher from their preservice times to their first year of practice, inquiring whether and how a university reading and language arts methods transaction course affects their ability to challenge the status quo surrounding the ESL/bilingual education context. Giving space to the voices and struggles of the teachers and her own powerful voice as a public school teacher in the past and the challenges she herself encounters as a transaction educator, the author ends the chapter by suggesting the inclusion in teacher education programs of a space for building a collective text in which language teachers are provided with
a space to share our stories and to figure out what our collective text said about teaching and education . . . because it is through a collective text that we all become better equipped to challenge these seemingly unchanging hierarchical and marginalizing systems. (p. 173)
The importance of collaboration and conversation among teachers for the improvement of classroom practice and for challenging the status quo connects well with the third section (Collaboration), which deals entirely with systematic and planned collaboration among higher education institutions educating teachers, among schoolteachers themselves, and among university teachers themselves in institutional settings. In the first contribution of the section, Edge (chapter 10) provides a snapshot of the rarely talked about and researched topic of collaboration among (U.K.) university English as a second or other language (ESOL) educators and provides an interesting model of dialogic interactions among colleagues articulated around the roles of speaker and understander, in which individual introspection is shared by a community of teachers committed to facilitate self- and communal understanding. Beyond the obvious goal of improving ESOL educators practices, the aim of such dialogic practice is to transmit in the teacher education endeavors the values of liberty, equality, and community as a way to counter the overall message of centralized, commercially driven, manipulative, dispiriting hegemony (p. 184) with which the English language tends to be associated.
In subsequent chapters, the idea and practice of collaborative conversation as professional development activities expand to relationships and projects developed between universities and public schools and how structured and regular conversations among schoolteachers, university teachers, and researchers can help change classroom practice. Particularly insightful and useful are three examples of collaboration between university and public school contexts based on the integration of action research and teacher inquiry in teacher professional development programs, illustrated by Smith (chapter 11), Cormany, Maynor, and Kalnin (chapter 12), and Dubetz (chapter 13), addressing, respectively, the contexts of part-time university ESL instructors, an urban high school, and an urban bilingual program. The three chapters show the importance of developing teacher inquiry practices as fundamental components of teacher education programs, as action research has led to new understanding of self, curriculum, and theory and through these understandings to changes in teaching practices (p. 219). They also powerfully illustrate the potential, for teacher professional development, of action research, in which our experiences challenge superficial inservice activities and one-shot workshops and speak to the need to move teacher research from the margins of a teachers work to a core component of practice (p. 229).
The final section (Teacher Education in Practice) is a highly useful collection of chapters that provide resources and detailed descriptions of the characteristics of innovative teacher education practices. This section is introduced by Snow (chapter 14) and Cloud (chapter 15), who present components to be included in, respectively, high-quality graduate level ESL/EFL teacher education programs (initiation into the professional discourse community; the role of native and nonnative speakers in the profession; infusion of technology; knowledge of standards and accreditation processes; performance-based assessment; and new partnerships and roles) and teacher education programs specifically addressing the contexts and needs of dual-language-instruction teachers and providing the practical knowledge needed by teachers in those programs (characteristics of innovative dual-language-instruction programs; on-site, school-based study programs; visits to other programs; networking among teachers; development projects; and intensive institutes).
In the two subsequent chapters, we are presented with two cases of education programs attempting to address the multiplicity of tasks and contexts second language teachers might encounter in their careers. Specifically, Erben (chapter 16) describes the unique case of the Canadian immersion program model applied to a teacher education program serving preservice immersion education teachers. The program is the first in the world to train primary school teachers in Japanese language, primary education, Asian literacy, and immersion pedagogy in an integrated approach. The author illustrates the rewards and challenges of this impressive practicum-driven curriculum, which trains preservice teachers for teaching in a multiplicity of settings and serving in administrative capacities. Bigelow and Tedick (chapter 17) illustrate a case in which teacher education programs for ESL, EFL, bilingual and immersion teachers are combined, a setting relevant to many preservice and inservice teacher education programs in the United States, discussing an integrated program for preservice and inservice teachers at the graduate level that nonetheless addresses the needs of the different groups in different teaching contexts. The section and the volume end with a very timely chapter by Walker, Ranney, and Fortune (chapter 18) that addresses the huge gap present in most of the current preservice teacher education programs: the lack of courses designed to prepare mainstream teachers for teaching English language learners. Here the authors identify the institutional and curriculum obstacles that make the inclusion of this needed component very hard to implement and, at the same time, offer an example of a cohort-based and content-based course, providing a detailed description of rewards and challenges that could prove very useful to educators interested in similar initiatives.
As is clear from the wide variety of settings and themes presented, Tedicks volume provides stimulating and inspiring reading for all teacher educators in the various settings and contexts of second language education. Even though the volume necessarily presents only a few examples of each specific setting and context of second language education, the research approaches and the practices illustrated are relevant for much of the field of second language teacher education and teacher education in general.
Finally, the volume contributes a multiplicity of perspectives to the growing dissent found in schools and academic circles in regard to the view of education that current U.S. educational policies impose, in that all of its contributions are based on and corroborate with their data the notion of learning and teaching as nonquantifiable productive processes that transcend what we can see, the behaviors and measurable performances of teachers and students that make up most of the day-to-day studies of classroom (p. 94) aimed at evaluating the effectiveness of education practices. All of the authors seem to clearly embrace the notion that the processes of teaching and learning are the result of the internalization of the broader human cognitive and symbolic artifacts, such as social values and beliefs, the cumulative knowledge of ones culture, and scientifically expanded concepts of reality (Vygostky, 1978, p. 126). In this perspective, the contributions of this volume successfully attempt to unveil this complexity through autobiographical narrations of teaching and learning realities, introspection-based and dialogic inquiry practices, and socially situated studies on which innovative teacher education programs should base their reforming efforts.
Freeman, D., & Johnson, D. (1998). Reconceptualizing the knowledge base of language teacher education. TESOL Quarterly, 32, 397418.
Vygostky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.