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Articles Index

Second Language Teacher Education Today by Jack Richards
The Moral Lives of Teacher Educators by Bill Johnston
Introducing Language Teacher Cognition by Simon Borg
Action Research in Teacher Preparation: Scaffolding Reflective Practitioners by Daryl Gordon & Diana Schwinge
Integrating Action Research into Pre-Service Coursework by Sarah Jourdain &Prosper Sanou
From Alexandria to Salamanca: " La Profesora va a su primera conferencia" by Janet Beckmann
New Standards Expected to Impact Foreign Language Teacher Preparation by Eileen W. Glisan
Teacher Education: Still the Heart of the Matter by James E. Alatis
Research Criteria for Tenure in Second Language Acquisition by Bill VanPatten & Jessica Williams

*See also our page on Certification


September 2009

Second Language Teacher Education TodayJack Richards

by Jack C. Richards (abridged from Dr. Richards' plenary address at the Sixth International Conference on Language Teacher Education.)

 The growth of Second Language Teacher Education

Second Language Teacher Education (SLTE) is a relatively new specialization within language teaching and, in the form that we know it today, dates from the 1960s. It was during the 1960s that language teaching began a major period of expansion worldwide and that new methodologies emerged to reinvigorate the field of second and foreign language teaching. The origins of specific approaches to teacher training for language teachers began around this time with training programs designed to give prospective teachers the practical classroom skills needed to teach the new methods. The discipline of applied linguistics dates from the same period, and with it came a body of specialized academic knowledge and theory that provided the foundation of the new discipline. The relationship between practical teaching skills and academic knowledge, and their representation in SLTE programs has generated a debate ever since.

But the field of SLTE did not really begin to establish its own identity within language teaching until it was recognized that an understanding of the nature of teacher-learning is central to both theory and practice in language teacher education.  A focus on teacher-learning as a field of inquiry seeks to examine the mental processes involved in teacher-learning and acknowledges the “situated” and the social nature of learning. Teacher-learning is not viewed as translating knowledge and theories into practice but as constructing new knowledge and theory through participating in specific social contexts and engaging in particular types of activities and processes. This latter type of knowledge, sometimes called “practitioner knowledge”, is the source of teachers’ practices and understandings.

 The knowledge base of SLTE

The subject matter of a discipline is generally referred to as content knowledge. Content knowledge refers to what teachers need to know about what they teach (rather than what they know about teaching itself), and constitutes knowledge that would not be shared with teachers of other subject areas.  Two aspects of content knowledge need to be distinguished: disciplinary knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge. Disciplinary knowledge refers to a circumscribed body of knowledge that is considered by the language teaching profession to be essential to gaining membership of the profession. Disciplinary knowledge is part of professional education, and does not translate into practical skills. When language teaching emerged as an academic discipline in the 1960s, this disciplinary knowledge was largely drawn from the field of general linguistics, but today it encompasses a much broader range of content. Pedagogical content knowledge on the other hand refers to knowledge that provides a basis for language teaching. It is knowledge which is drawn from the study of language teaching and language learning itself and which can be applied in different ways to the resolution of practical issues in language teaching.

 The role of teacher cognition

Another aspect of the paradigm shift that gave rise to the field of SLTE was the emergence of an interest in the nature of teacher cognition. Teacher cognition encompasses the mental lives of teachers, how these are formed, what they consist of, and how teachers’ beliefs, thoughts and thinking processes shape their understanding of teaching and their classroom practices.

Teacher cognition research introduced into language teaching research a focus on teacher decision-making, on teachers’ theories of teaching, teachers’ representations of subject matter, and the problem-solving and improvisational skills employed by teachers with different levels of teaching experience during teaching. Two aspects of teacher cognition are particularly crucial in SLTE.  One is pedagogical reasoning skills, and the other is theorizing from practice. Pedagogical reasoning skills are the cognitive processes teachers employ when they plan and conduct lessons around lesson content. Teacher-learning also involves developing a deeper understanding of what teaching is, of developing ideas, concepts, theories and principles based on our experience of teaching. This is known as the theorizing of practice.  The belief system and understanding we build up in this way helps us make sense of our experience and also serves as the source of the practical actions we take in the classroom.

The theorizing that results from these reflections may take several different forms. It may lead to explanations as to why things happen in the way they do, to generalizations about the nature of things, to principles that can form the basis of subsequent actions and to the teacher’s personal teaching philosophy.

 The role of context in teacher-learning

Teacher-learning is situated, i.e. takes place in specific settings or contexts that shape how learning takes place. The location of most teacher-learning in SLTE programs is either a university or teacher training institution, or a school, although on-line teacher learning is a growth area in teacher education. Each of these different contexts for learning creates different potentials for learning. In campus-based learning, the course room is a setting for patterns of social participation that can either enhance or inhibit learning. In school-based experiences, learning occurs through the practice and experience of teaching. In the course room learning is contingent upon the discourse and activities that course work and class participation involve. In the school, learning takes place through classroom experiences and teaching practice and is contingent upon relationships with mentors, fellow novice teachers and interaction with experienced teachers in the school.

 A rethinking of teaching methods and strategies

Current views of teacher-learning move beyond the view of the teacher as an individual entity attempting to master content knowledge and unravel the hidden dimensions of his or her own teaching, and consider learning as a social process. Rather than teaching being viewed as the transfer of knowledge, it is understood as creating conditions for the co-construction of knowledge and understanding through social participation. There are several forms such participation may take.  One strategy is known as dialogic teaching, that is, teaching which centers around conversations with other teachers focusing on teaching and learning issues during which teachers examine their own beliefs and practices and engage in collaborative planning, problem solving, and decision-making. It is often through dialog that teacher- learners create and experience different representations of themselves. This may take the form of both spoken dialog in group conversations as well as through journals or on-line dialogs.

Collaborative approaches to learning are central to current pedagogies of SLTE. The collective knowledge, experience, and thinking of the participants together with the course content and the course-room artifacts, provide the resources through which they learn. Key concepts in a collaborative approach to learning are Vygotsky’s notions of the zone of proximal development (ZPD) and mediation. These two constructs present a view of learning as a process of “apprenticeship”, where apprentices collaborate in social practices with teacher educators as well as mentors, critical friends and peers to acquire and construct new forms of interaction and thinking. In addition to collaborative forms of teacher development, professional development is also increasingly viewed as something which is self-directed, inquiry-based, and directly relevant to teacher’s professional lives.

 Joining a community of practice

Language teaching is sometimes considered a solitary and private activity, something teachers do within the confines of their own classrooms. But this view of teaching fails to capitalize on the potential for learning and growth that comes from participating in a community of teachers having shared goals, values and interests. The school or the teaching context then becomes a learning community and its members constitute a community of practice, Lave and Wenger’s concept for learning that takes place within organizational settings, which is socially constituted and which involves participants with a common interest collaborating to develop new knowledge and skills.

In language teaching this often takes the form of collaboration among teachers in order to better understand the nature of the teaching and learning that goes on in classrooms, to share knowledge and skills, to bring about changes in practice when necessary, and to capitalize on the potentials that team work and group collaboration can bring about. In order to create a community of practice in a school, opportunities need to be created for teachers to work and learn together through participation in group-oriented activities with shared goals and responsibilities, involving joint problem solving. Collegiality creates new roles for teacher, such as team leader, teacher trainer, mentor, or critical friend.

 The professionalization of language teaching

The professionalization of language teaching is seen in the growth industry devoted to providing language teachers with professional training and qualifications, in continuous attempts to develop standards both for language teaching and for language teachers, to the proliferation of professional journals and teacher magazines, conferences and professional organizations, to the demand for professional qualifications for native-speaker teachers, and to the greater level of sophisticated knowledge of language teaching required of language teachers. Becoming a language teacher means becoming part of a worldwide community of professionals with shared goals, values, discourse, and practices but one with a self-critical view of its own practices and a commitment to a transformative approach to its own role.

 The need for accountability

The scope of language teaching world-wide and the subsequent growth of SLTE programs have created a demand for greater accountability in SLTE practices. One way to approach the issue of accountability is through the identification of standards for SLTE programs. Critics of such an approach argue that the standards themselves are largely based on intuition and are not research based, and also that the standards movement has been brought into education from the fields of business and organizational management and reflects a reductionist approach in which learning is reduced to the mastery of discrete skills that can easily be taught and assessed.

Another dimension of accountability relates to the impact of SLTE programs. Despite the huge investment in teacher training programs in different parts of the world in the last 30 years, there is very little research available on the impact of such investment. Research often confirms that there is often little immediate evidence for change in teacher’s practices as a result of training. Individual and contextual factors can impede adoption of educational innovations, including the amount of risk involved, the communicability of the innovation, compatibility with existing practices, the number of gatekeepers involved, the perceived benefits of the innovation as well as the organizational, political, social and cultural context in which the change is being attempted.


Language Teacher Education has expanded considerably both in breadth and in depth since its origins in training approaches associated with the major teaching methods of the 1960s and 1970s. Through the efforts of scholars and researchers on the one hand, the field has redefined its goals, its scope, its conceptual frameworks and its teaching methods. And on the other hand, growing demand for effective teacher education programs has highlighted the need for a coordinated organizational response, and this has led to the demand for greater accountability through standards, curriculum renewal, professionalism, and the development of internationally recognized qualifications for language teachers. The field of language teacher education has thus come of age, providing the foundations in theory and research that are needed both to support and interpret the educational practices of the profession.


August 2009

The Moral Lives of Teacher Educators

Bill Johnston

Bill Johnston, Indiana University

The Moral Dimension of Teaching

For many years, researchers viewed teaching as a purely instrumental activity involving the transfer of knowledge and skills. The same was true of teacher education. It was only in the 1980’s that educational researchers began to conceive of teaching as something more—as an activity that is deeply and inescapably moral in nature.

What, do we mean, though, by “moral”? A simple definition is offered in the following:

Morality is that set of a person’s beliefs which are evaluative in nature, that is, which concern matters of what is good and what is bad, what is right and what is wrong. (Johnston, 2003, p. 6)

In other words, teaching is “moral” because it involves making decisions about what is good and right (and what is bad and wrong) for your students. The moral dimension of teaching and teacher education is clearly visible in at least three important aspects of our work. First, all teaching involves relation, and all relations between people are moral in nature—the way we treat one another is always a matter of good and bad. Second, all teaching aims at changing students. The assumption must be that this change is for the better—that is, our teaching makes students’ lives in some way richer, more fulfilled and more fulfilling. Third, the classroom is such a complex environment, and each class so unique, that educational research can never tell us exactly how to teach—at most it can give us some guidelines. For the most part we have to rely on what I call “professional faith”—the informed belief that we are teaching the best way we know how.

How, specifically, has the moral dimension of teaching been conceptualized? A number of useful formulations have been proposed, each of which adds to the repertoire of ways in which we can talk about, and investigate, the moral dimensions of teaching. John Dewey (1909) started the conversation in modern times by distinguishing between “the teaching of morality and the morality of teaching”—that is, the difference between the explicit teaching of values, and the unconscious ways in which we convey moral meanings and judgments simply through our presence, actions, and words in the classroom. One of the first large-scale empirical studies to examine the moral dimensions of teaching, that of Jackson, Boostrom, and Hansen (1993), took the notion of “the morality of teaching” further and proposed three areas in which teachers act morally on their learners: classroom rules and regulations; “expressive morality” (the moral messages we send by our way of being and acting in class), and the curricular substructure, or the usually unspoken values that lie in the materials and topics we cover (what is often called the “hidden curriculum”).

Another major contribution was Nel Noddings’ Caring (Noddings, 1984). In this book, Noddings begins by arguing that each encounter between humans is both unique and inescapably moral. She goes on to describe what she calls the “caring relation,” an asymmetric relation between parent and child, or between teacher and student, comprising the one-caring and the cared-for. Noddings argues that relation is “ontologically primary,” that is, relation comes before individual identity. Johnston and Buzzelli (2008) take this notion further in portraying the teacher’s task as one of “caring for the many.”

Moving into the realm of language teaching, Johnston (2003) depicts the moral dimension of teaching as composed primarily of moral dilemmas, that is, decisions in which each choice carries both good and bad consequences. Johnston further notes that in language education especially, cultural differences represent different and often competing values; he also points to the moral complexities of teaching adults, a situation in which overt moral instruction seems inappropriate yet, in the case of teaching across cultures, also necessary. Influences on the moral decisions made by teaching include (but are not limited to) privately held beliefs and values; personal relations with students, colleagues, and others; religious and spiritual convictions; professional and cultural group values; and institutional loyalties.

The Moral Landscape of Language Teacher Education

If we accept the premises outlined above, we must accept too that language teacher education is equally imbued with moral meaning: that teaching is moral action; that each encounter with a student or a group of students is in important ways unique; and that the language teacher educator also is faced with difficult and often ambiguous moral dilemmas as a fundamental part of her work. In this section, I outline three concrete examples of such dilemmas, setting each against the background of the moral landscape of language teacher education.

Example 1

Johnson (2003) describes her work as practicum mentor with a Muslim student teacher called Ali. Sharing her ESL class with Ali, Johnson describes a series of incidents that forced her to challenge her own expectations and assumptions. For example, Ali asked to be excused from class for short periods to be able to make his late afternoon prayer; Johnson worried that this would disrupt the class, when in fact no disruption occurred. Summing up her experience with Ali, Johnson states:

this inquiry has forced me to question my own values and assumptions, not to look for answers so much as to rethink what I thought I already knew.              (p. 790)

Johnson’s experience with Ali could only be understood by examining her own values and how they related to classroom interaction.

Example 2

A few years ago, with my colleague Cary Buzzelli I conducted a year-long study of our teacher education classrooms. One part of the study focused on a methods course I taught. In this class, one day toward the end of the semester a Taiwanese student named Shue came to class visibly distraught. It transpired that she had attempted to use some materials based on ideas from my methods course in a practicum class she was taking at the same time, and had been roundly criticized by the practicum instructor. Her predicament revealed a moral dilemma inherent in the program I was working in—my loyalties were torn between my student, on the one hand, and a colleague, on the other. I advised Shue to simply comply with the practicum instructor’s requirements, and said she would have plenty of time to experiment with her teaching after she graduated at the end of the present semester. But Shue saw this as a moral inconsistency on my part, and in her reflective statement summing up her experiences in the course she wrote:

While I question the teaching of this teacher [the practicum instructor], I wonder what rights we have as students when we feel that we have been treated wrongly. I consulted the professor of this course about this issue and the first question he asked me was “What benefits could I get in resolving this problem?” Of course there are no benefits for me, but is it not the point of morality being selfless so that we benefit others? I am not satisfied with the professor’s advice that students have the “right” to keep their silence. I believe that it is also the right of the students to give feedback to the teacher about our understanding in taking part in the teacher’s assessment of students’ needs.              

In short I feel that there is a contradictory [sic] between the professor’s beliefs and his advice to students. (Johnston & Buzzelli, 2008)

Example 3

Brown and LeVelle (2007) recount the story of a radical change introduced into the methods component of the MA program in which they work. In an effort to encourage their students to take a more critical and emancipatory stance towards language teaching, the existing readings were replaced with more critically oriented texts, centering around Kumaravadivelu’s (2003) book on post-methods. Yet the course was a failure; in one instantiation in particular, the students became withdrawn and indeed hostile towards their instructors. Brown and LeVelle comment:

We entered the classroom envisioning students as willing, eager participants who would work at co-constructing the class with us. These students would be flexible, contributing their own ideas, searching out ways to BECOME a teacher instead of a formula for being one. [...] We expected that this search for becoming would be inspiring and challenging. Instead, we were challenged. As one student wrote:              

I must admit that the class often feels repetitive and busy, yet contentless. When I’m feeling particularly cynical and frustrated, it seems as if I’m being force-fed nothing more significant than some trendy faux-radicalism for white academics... (p. 210)

Yet Brown and LeVelle have the courage to write openly and lucidly about this failure, using the writing as an opportunity to analyze what went wrong and learn for the future. In their case, the act of writing itself becomes a moral act.


In each of these examples, rather than presenting aspects of practice as problems and then revealing a solution, the author or authors explore existing practices and find themselves uncovering hidden conflicts and dilemmas, or in the case of Brown and Levelle, analyzing an attempt at a new solution that failed to achieve the desired effect. In all cases, decisions made by teacher educators are shown to involve complex moral dilemmas in which, while there might be better and worse ways to proceed, any possible course of action involves both desirable and undesirable consequences.

A  New Approach to Research in Language Teacher Education

For those practitioners and researchers in language teacher education who find the perspective outlined here to be compelling, the question naturally arises of what this means for the conduct of research in our field. It would seem that a combination of certain qualities—the unique character of each teaching encounter; the fact that we are teaching students to become teachers; and the equally important fact that in language teacher education, in the great majority of cases those who do the teacher education also conduct research into it—this combination, then, suggests to me that self-study of teacher education is a particularly apt and useful form of research.

Self-study of teacher education emerged from a special interest group (SIG) in the American Educational Research Association (AERA) in the early 1990’s. This SIG brought together teacher educators who were using action research and other forms of self-study to investigate their own classrooms in rigorous yet context-sensitive ways. This SIG continues to operate, and much published research has resulted, including several books (e.g. Hamilton, 1998; Loughran & Russell, 2002). Self-study of teacher education emphasizes what Watson (2007) calls “small stories,” and often focuses on critical incidents (Tripp, 1994) in teacher education practice. Dinkelman (2003), in arguing for the importance of self-study in mainstream teacher education, presents five arguments for why it is an especially appropriate model for teacher educators who are conducting research:

  1. The congruence of reflection with the activity of teaching.
  2. The potential of self-study for knowledge production.
  3. The opportunity to model reflective practice.
  4. The value for students of participating in self-study.
  5. Possibilities for programmatic change.

Self-study produces inquiry that is: focused on situated practice: that is, on actual classes taught by particular teacher educators to particular teacher learners. It is narrative-based, accepting the premise that teachers and teacher educators learn through narrative forms of knowing as least much as through propositional knowledge. It is reflective, encouraging the practitioner to think critically about her own practice. And it is theorized, meaning that we don’t merely describe “what we did” in a given class, but strive for deeper conceptualizations of our work and alternative ways of understanding the processes and outcomes of teacher education.

Self-study of teacher education offers an extremely useful approach to conducting research on the moral dimensions of language teacher education. Research, of course, is itself a value (Johnston, 2003), and as pointed out by Dinkelman above, self-study can be part of what we might call the professional integrity of the teacher educator—by conducting research on our own classroom, we are showing our students what good teachers do. But beyond this, self-study can reorient us in the very purposes of the research. First, in the tradition of ethnographic and other qualitative research, it can reaffirm the importance of conveying the realities of actual teacher education contexts and classrooms. Second, as suggested in the previous section, much present writing in teacher education follows a problem-solution pattern—the teacher educator/researcher identifies a problem, then outlines an almost always successful solution.

A self-study approach can allow us to go beyond the problem-solution pattern, which fails to reflect the majority of teaching situations anyway, and move towards a literature of exploration, of problematizing, and of dilemma: that is, a literature recognizing that we need to think beyond where we are now, and that we may not succeed at new ideas the first time around (much as happened to Brown and Levelle [2007]); a literature that aims to question and problematize our current practices, as Johnson (2003) was seen to do; and a literature that recognizes the moral complexity of the classroom, and is more interested in exploring the ramifications of any choice made by the teacher, rather than adjudicating simplistically between right and wrong (as was the case for Johnston and Buzzelli, 2008).

Examples of self-study in mainstream education can be found in the collections cited above. What would it look like in language teacher education? I point to the examples discussed in the previous section. In addition, Johnson and Golombek (2002) offer a collection of teacher narratives that provide a fascinating model for self-study research in language teacher education. Lastly, I note the work of Morgan (e.g. 1997, 2004), who for some time now has produced small-scale, contextualized and theorized analyses of incidents in his own work as a language teacher and teacher educator that, among many other things, give a clear sense of what self-study could usefully look like in the field of language teacher education.

Closing Words

Moral dilemmas are present in every moment of classroom life. They are not problems to be overcome, but rather constitute the fundamental fabric of all teaching. As researchers, our job is to unearth them, to reveal the values underlying them, and to consider the moral consequences of different actual and potential courses of action. As practitioners, a heightened awareness of the moral dimension of our teaching frees us to make better choices, but also allows us to grasp the complexities of our work, and to understand more profoundly how our own choices as teacher educators are seen by, and shape the work of, the teachers who are our students.

References and Bibliography              

Baier, A. C. (1994). Moral prejudices. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.              
Brown, K. & LeVelle, K. (2007). Reconfiguring the TESOL methods sequence. In B. Johnston & K. Walls. (Eds.), Voice and vision in language teacher education. Selected papers from the Fourth              International Conference on Language Teacher Education (pp. 205-224). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition.
Buzzelli, C. A. & Johnston, B. (2002). The moral dimensions of teaching: Language, power, and culture in classroom interaction. New York: RoutledgeFalmer.
Dewey, J. (1909/1975). Moral principles in education. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.
Dinkelman, T. (2003). Self-study in teacher education: A means and ends tool for promoting reflective teaching. Journal of Teacher Education, 54, 6-18.
Edge, J. (1996). Cross-cultural paradoxes in a profession of values. TESOL Quarterly, 30, 9-30.
Grossman, P. & McDonald, M. (2008). Back to the future: Directions for research in teaching and teacher education. American Educational Research Journal, 45, 184-205.
Hamilton, M. L. (Ed.). (1998). Reconceptualising teaching practice: Self-study in teacher education. London: Falmer.
Hansen, D. T. (2001). Exploring the moral heart of teaching: Toward a teacher’s creed. New York: Teachers College Press.              
Held, V. (1993). Feminist morality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.              
Held, V. (2006). The ethics of care. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Jackson, P. W., Boostrom, R. E., & Hansen, D. T. (1993). The moral life of schools. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.              
Johnson, K. A. (2003). “Every experience is a moving force”: Identity and growth through mentoring. Teaching and Teacher Education, 19, 787-800.              
Johnson, K. E. & Golombek, P. R. (Eds.). (2002). Teachers’ ways of knowing: Narrative inquiry as professional development. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.
Johnston, B. (2003). Values in English language teaching. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Johnston, B. & Buzzelli, C. A. (2007). The moral dimensions of language education. In S. May & N. Hornberger (eds.), Encyclopedia of language and education. Vol. 1: Language policy and              political issues in education.(pp. 95-104). Berlin: Kluwer.
Johnston, B. & Buzzelli, C. A. (2008). Caring for the many: The moral complexities of teaching and teacher education. Paper given at the TESOL Convention, New York, NY, April.
Kumaravadivelu, B. (2003). Beyond methods: Macrostrategies for language teaching. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Loughran, J. & Russell, T. (Eds.). (2002). Improving teacher education practices through self-study. London: Routledge Falmer.
Morgan, B. (1997). Identity and intonation: Linking dynamic processes in an ESL classroom. TESOL Quarterly, 31, 431-450.
Morgan, B. (2004).Teacher identity as pedagogy:Towards a field-internal conceptualization in bilingual and second language education. In J. Brutt-Griffler & M. Varghese (Eds.), Re-writing              bilingualism and the bilingual educator’s knowledge base (pp. 80–96). Clevedon, England: Multilingual Matters.
Noblit, G. W. & Dempsey, V. O. (1996). The social construction of virtue: The moral life of schools. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
Noddings, N. (1984). Caring: A feminine approach to care in schools. New York: Teachers College Press.
Russell, T. & Korthagen, F. (Eds.). (1005). Teachers who teach teachers: Reflections on teacher education. London: Falmer.
Sockett, H. (1993). The moral base for teacher professionalism. New York: Teachers College Press.
Tripp, D. (1993). Critical incidents in teaching: Developing professional judgment. London: Routledge.
Watson, C. (2007). Small stories, positioning analysis, and the doing of professional identities in learning to teach. Narrative Inquiry, 17, 371-389.

July 2009

Introducing Language Teacher Cognition
Simon Borg, Centre for Language Education Research, School of Education, University of Leeds
Adapted and reprinted from:

Borg, S. (2009). Introducing language teacher cognition. JACET Summer Seminar Proceedings - Perspectives on Language Teacher Development, No. 8, pp. 1-5.

The Origins of Teacher Cognition Research
Teacher cognition research is concerned with understanding what teachers think, know and believe. Its primary concern, therefore, lies with the unobservable dimension of teaching - teachers’ mental lives. As a tradition of research in education, the study of teacher cognition stretches back over 30 years (see Borg, 2006 Chapter 1, for a historical overview).  In the 1960s, research on teaching focused on the search for effective teaching behaviours – i.e. behaviours that would result in greater learning (typically measured through achievement tests). This was called a process-product model of research and the goal was to identify these effective behaviours in the belief that they could then be applied universally by teachers. In the 1970s, though, this view of teaching started to be questioned. Developments in cognitive psychology highlighted complex relationships between what people do and what they know and believe; educational researchers thus became more aware of the fact that in teaching too, teachers’ mental lives played a role in their instructional choices. In other words, teachers were not robots who simply implemented, in an unthinking manner, curricula designed by others; rather, teachers exerted agency in the classroom – they made decisions, both before and while teaching, and these decisions thus became a new focus for educational researchers. The questions being addressed now were not simply ‘what do teachers do?’ but also ‘what do they think?’, ‘what decisions do they make?’ and ‘why?’. The notion of universally applicable teaching behaviours was viewed increasingly critically as the uniqueness of different educational contexts – and particularly the uniqueness of teachers and learners as human beings – was acknowledged.

A key point in the emergence of teacher cognition research came in 1975 when an influential panel of academics, convened as part of a national education conference in the USA, deliberated on the value of this field of inquiry and concluded in their report that:

         it is obvious that what teachers do is directed in no small measure by what they think....To the extent that observed or intended teaching behaviour is "thoughtless", it makes no use of the human teacher's most unique attributes. In so doing, it becomes mechanical and might well be done by a machine. If, however, teaching is done and, in all likelihood, will continue to be done by human teachers, the question of relationships between thought and action becomes crucial. (National Institute of Education, 1975: 1)

This report argued that, in order to understand teachers, researchers needed to study the psychological processes through which teachers make sense of their work. This emphasis on cognitive processes was a major departure from the views of teaching and teachers dominant at the time; teaching was no longer being viewed solely in terms of behaviours but rather as thoughtful behaviour; and teachers were not being viewed as mechanical implementers of external prescriptions, but as active, thinking decision-makers.

As a result of this report, significant research funding for the study of teacher cognition became available to researchers in the USA. The result was a rapid growth throughout the 1980s and 1990s of research examining various aspects of the psychological dimension of teaching. Early studies focused on teacher judgement and decision-making (e.g. Clark & Yinger, 1977; Peterson & Clark, 1978; Shavelson et al., 1977) and remained more closely aligned to educational psychology than teaching and teacher education; in the 1980s, a wider range of concepts and accompanying terminology - most notably beliefs and knowledge - emerged to support investigations into teacher cognition. Teacher knowledge subsequently became (and perhaps has remained) the dominant concept in mainstream educational research on teacher cognition. Several types of knowledge were suggested in the literature, with pedagogical content knowledge (Shulman, 1987) and practical knowledge (Elbaz, 1981) being among the most notable and enduring. I will not analyze these various concepts here (for a discussion see Borg, 2006, Chapter 1); the point to make is that in the 1980s the study of teachers’ mental lives became established as a key area of research in the study of teaching. The value of understanding not only what teachers do but also how they think was widely recognized and this was reflected in the volume of research undertaken into these issues. There was also increasing interest in teacher cognition in the context of pre-service and in-service teacher education and the study of teachers’ beliefs and knowledge contributed in a significant way to developing understandings of the process of teacher learning (Kennedy, 1991).

Collectively, the body of mainstream research on teacher cognition has allowed more sophisticated understandings of the relationships between teachers’ cognitions and practices to emerge and before moving on to discuss research specifically in the field of language education I will summarize (based on Phipps & Borg, 2007) what is generally accepted today about the nature of teacher cognition and its relationship to what teachers do:

  • teachers’ cognitions can be powerfully influenced by their own experiences as learners;
  • these cognitions influence what and how teachers learn during teacher education;
  • they act as a filter through which teachers interpret new information and experience;
  • they may outweigh the effects of teacher education in influencing what teachers do in the classroom;
  • they can be deep-rooted and resistant to change;
  • they can exert a persistent long-term influence on teachers’ instructional practices;
  • they are, at the same time, not always reflected in what teachers do in the classroom.
  • they interact bi-directionally with experience (i.e. beliefs influence practices but practices can also lead to changes in beliefs). 

Language Teacher Cognition
Interest in the study of teacher cognition also eventually impacted on the field of second and foreign language education (I will use L2 here to refer to both these areas). However, it was not until the mid-1990s that the study of L2 teacher cognition was established as an important area of activity – that is, some 10 years after it had emerged in education more generally. Freeman & Richards (1996) can be seen as a key early publication which highlighted the value of understanding language teaching by examining the mental side of teachers’ work; the same year also saw the publication of Woods (1996), a book length study of teacher cognition; while this text was not as influential as that previously mentioned, by having ‘teacher cognition’ in its title it did bring this term to the wider attention of L2 researchers.

From the mid-1990s onwards there was a rapid and steady increase in the volume of research examining various aspects of what L2 teachers know, believe and think and of the relationships of these constructs to what teachers do. Borg (2003) reviewed 64 such studies while Borg (2006) examined close to 200 (though studies of L1 education contexts were also included in the latter review); at least 30 more had appeared by late 2008 (I maintain an up-to-date bibliography on language teacher cognition at There is no doubt then that the study of language teacher cognition is now an established field of inquiry.

This research has confirmed in L2 education contexts many of the findings from mainstream education summarized above; in addition, though, it has provided insight into the specific challenges faced by L2 teachers; for example, perhaps the most researched area has been L2 grammar teaching (see Borg, 2006 Chapter 4 for a review) and this work has developed our understandings of the way teachers teach grammar and of the thinking behind their practices (e.g. in explaining grammar and correcting learners’ grammatical errors). Recent work by Andrews (2007) has been particularly important in examining the kinds of knowledge teachers draw on in teaching grammar. Reading (e.g. Collie Graden, 1996) and writing (e.g. Tsui, 1996) have also been the focus of some studies, though the volume in each case has been relatively small; studies of teacher cognition in relation to L2 reading instruction have been particularly scarce. Other aspects of L2 teaching have received even less attention from a teacher cognition perspective and thus very little is known about teachers’ beliefs and knowledge in relation to the teaching of L2 vocabulary, listening and speaking. These are all areas which merit research attention.

In terms of the L2 education contexts studied, much of the work available has been conducted with teachers (often native speakers of English) working with adult learners, typically in university or private school settings where classes are small. In contrast, there has been much less work in primary and secondary state school contexts where non-native speakers of English work with larger classes of learners. The area of young learners has been particularly under-studied from a teacher cognition point of view.

Interest in the study of language teacher education continues to expand world-wide. Language teacher educators are realizing the potential that the study of teacher cognition has for improving understandings of what teachers do and for contributing to teacher education at both pre-service and in-service levels.

Andrews, S. (2007). Teacher language awareness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Ball, D. L., & McDiarmid, G. W. (1990). The subject-matter preparation of teachers. In W. R. Houston (Ed.), Handbook of research on teacher education (pp. 437-449). New York: Macmillan.
Borg, S. (2003). Teacher cognition in language teaching: A review of research on what language teachers think, know, believe, and do. Language Teaching, 36(2), 81-109.
Borg, S. (2006). Teacher cognition and language education: Research and practice. London: Continuum.
Calderhead, J. (1996). Teachers: Beliefs and knowledge. In D. C. Berliner & R. C. Calfee (Eds.), Handbook of educational psychology (pp. 709-725). New York: Macmillan.
Carter, C., & Doyle, W. (1996). Personal narrative and life history in learning to teach. In J. Sikula (Ed.), Handbook of research on teacher education (2nd ed., pp. 120-142). New York: Macmillan.
Carter, K. (1990). Teachers' knowledge and learning to teach. In W. R. Houston (Ed.), Handbook of research on teacher education (pp. 291-310). New York: Macmillan.
Clark, C., & Yinger, R. (1977). Research on teacher thinking. Curriculum Inquiry, 7(4), 279- 304.
Collie Graden, E. (1996). How language teachers' beliefs about reading are mediated by their beliefs about students. Foreign Language Annals, 29(3), 387-395.
Elbaz, F. (1981). The teacher's "practical knowledge": A report of a case study. Curriculum Inquiry, 11, 43-71.
Fang, Z. (1996). A review of research on teacher beliefs and practices. Educational Research, 38(1), 47-65.
Freeman, D., & Richards, J. C. (Eds.). (1996). Teacher learning in language teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Grossman, P. L. (1995). Teachers' knowledge. In L. W. Anderson (Ed.), International encyclopedia of teaching and teacher education (pp. 20-24). Oxford: Elsevier.
Kennedy, M. M. (1991). An agenda for research on teacher learning.   Retrieved 8 September, 2008, from
Munby, H., Russell, T., & Martin, A. K. (2001). Teachers' knowledge and how it develops. In V. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of research on teaching (4th ed., pp. 877-904). Washington, D.C.:              American Educational Research Association.
National Institute of Education. (1975). Teaching as clinical information processing. (No. Panel 6, National Conference on Studies in Teaching.): National Institute of Education.
Peterson, P. L., & Clark, C. M. (1978). Teachers' reports of their cognitive processes during teaching. American Educational Research Journal, 15, 555-565.
Phipps, S., & Borg, S. (2007). Exploring the relationship between teachers' beliefs and their classroom practice. The Teacher Trainer, 21(3), 17-19.
Richardson, V. (1996). The role of attitudes and beliefs in learning to teach. In J. Sikula, T. J. Buttery & E. Guyton (Eds.), Handbook of research on teacher education (2nd ed., pp. 102-119). New              York: Macmillan.
Shavelson, R. J., Atwood, N. K., & Borko, H. (1977). Experiments on some factors contributing to teachers' pedagogical decisions. Cambridge Journal of Education., 7, 51-70.
Shulman, L. S. (1987). Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the new reform. Harvard Educational Review, 57(1), 1-22.
Thompson, A. G. (1992). Teachers' beliefs and conceptions: A synthesis of the research. In D. A. Grouws (Ed.), Handbook of research on mathematics teaching and learning (pp. 127-146). New              York: Macmillan.
Tsui, A. B. M. (1996). Learning how to teach ESL writing. In D. Freeman & J. C. Richards (Eds.), Teacher learning in language teaching (pp. 97-119). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Verloop, N., Van Driel, J., & Meijer, P. C. (2001). Teacher knowledge and the knowledge base of teaching. International Journal of Educational Research, 35(5), 441-461.
Woods, D. (1996). Teacher cognition in language teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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March 2009

Action Research in Teacher Preparation: Scaffolding Reflective Practitioners

Daryl Gordon and Diana Schwinge, Adelphi University

Integrating Action Research into Pre-Service Coursework
Dr. Sarah Jourdain, Director of Foreign Language Pedagogy, Stony Brook University Dr. Prosper Sanou, Director of French, Stony Brook University

Action Research in Teacher Preparation: Scaffolding Reflective Practitioners
As part of their training as preservice ESL or bilingual teachers, students at Adelphi University’s Ruth S. Ammon School of Education design and develop an action research project. Using the tools of action research to investigate a practical issue of concern to their teaching practice, students critically evaluate teaching methods learned throughout the program, look deeply into the lived experiences of teachers and students in the classroom, and develop an inquiry stance in order to learn about students’ developing language proficiency, interests, and experiences in and out of the classroom. Action research, defined as “systematic, intentional inquiry by teachers about their own school or classroom work” (Cochran-Smith & Lytle 1993: 23) is gaining strength within teacher preparation programs, as evidenced by the growing number of action research textbooks (Lankshear & Knobel 2004; McDonough & McDonough 1997; Stringer 2008; Wallace 1998).

Adelphi University, located in Long Island, New York, prepares teacher candidates to teach in an extremely diverse range of K-12 and adult classroom settings. Teacher candidates prepare to enter ESL, bilingual and foreign language classrooms throughout the New York City metropolitan area, as well as EFL classes in foreign countries. Students typically take the action research course as a capstone course in the semester before their student teaching, but they may also take the course concurrently with student teaching or while teaching in public schools. Preservice teachers conduct research within a classroom in which they are participant observers, while student teachers and inservice teachers collect data on their own classroom practice.

Teacher candidates develop their own research question, review relevant literature in professional journals, collect and analyze classroom data, and share findings through final presentations. They also engage in data analysis presentations, in which each student provides a sample of data and poses a question to the group about how to interpret the data or how to represent the data in their final paper. Data shared in these sessions might include a passage from their research diary, notes from a student reading conference, a sample of student work, student or parent surveys, or interview excerpts with experienced teachers. This process helps teacher candidates to develop a reflective stance toward classroom events and student learning and to consider a wide range of potential responses as a teacher. The data analysis presentations also helps students learn about ethical standards when conducting classroom research and the importance of maintaining anonymity when sharing data.

Students develop individualized research questions based on the language teaching methods they are learning, questions or concerns that arise in classroom observations, and previous experiences with teaching. For example, a preservice teacher working with elementary students conducted an action research project to investigate how using songs for instruction helped early elementary ESL students acquire vocabulary and grammar. An ESL teacher candidate who had been a mainstream middle school teacher expressed concern that his teaching methods had not effectively involved ESL learners in his mainstream class. He initiated a project which looked closely at the experience of one 7th grade student in the mainstream classroom and developed suggestions for mainstream teachers to better meet the needs of ESL learners in his school. Students have also examined the particular needs of newcomer or SIFE (Students with Interrupted Formal Education) students and researched ways for differentiating instruction within an ESL class with students of varying proficiency levels.

Students who are practicing teachers are encouraged to use action research methods to find new solutions to the difficulties their students have in class. A teacher of Native Spanish Literacy learners in a public high school searched for options beyond K-W-L charts to develop students’ emerging reading strategies in their bilingual classes. She reviewed several strategies before she conducted action research on using the IEPC (Imagine, Elaborate, Predict, and Confirm) strategy.

An international student also researched reading strategies, but from her own perspective as an EFL teacher in Taiwan. In her observations of American ESL and mainstream classrooms, she remarked on the focus on reading strategy instruction and wondered how a greater focus on reading comprehension could be included in her EFL courses in Taiwan. During her participant observation in a bilingual Mandarin classroom, she closely documented the teachers’ method of teaching reading strategies and proposed how she would include reading strategy instruction in her EFL courses.

We invite readers interested in action research courses for preservice and inservice teachers to join our discussion section at the Conference on Language Teacher Education in May 2009. We will share insights into the development of the course, the course syllabus, activities, and sample student projects. Participants will share how they developed action research courses in their institutions and how action research can be used to encourage constructive conversations about the real practice of teaching. Some of the topics we plan to discuss include:

  • What research questions do teacher candidates develop and how are these questions connected to their settings?
  • How do instructors scaffold teacher candidates in the development of a research question, literature review, data collection, and data analysis?
  • How can teacher candidates be encouraged to continue the process of action research through professional development communities? We hope to see you at the conference and hear your ideas and experiences about action research courses for teacher candidates!

Cochran-Smith, M. & Lytle, S., Eds. (1993). Inside/Outside: Teacher Research and Knowledge. New York: Teacher’s College Press.
Lankshear, C. & Knobel, M. (2004). A Handbook for Teacher Research. New York: McGraw Hill.
McDonough, J. & McDonough, S. (1997). Research Methods for English Language Teachers. London, UK: Arnold Publishers
Stringer, E. (2008). Action Research in Education. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Wallace, M. (1998). Action Research for Language Teachers. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press

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March 2009

Integrating Action Research into Pre-Service Coursework

Dr. Sarah Jourdain, Director of Foreign Language Pedagogy, Stony Brook University Dr. Prosper Sanou, Director of French, Stony Brook University

“How do we know which methods really work in practice?” asks a future language teacher. Answer: Try some out. If we would like our pre-service teachers to come away with more than just a theoretical knowledge of pedagogy, we must provide them with opportunities to experiment with teaching methods even prior to student teaching. A thoughtful, systematic approach is needed; however, to avoid the conclusion that teaching is somehow a haphazard, piecemeal throwing together of anything that pops into the teacher’s mind. An effective means of introducing teacher candidates to teaching methods as well as to the practice of classroom research is to engage them in the process of Action Research (AR) which allows them to test hypotheses, while simultaneously encouraging them to act reflectively.

For the past eight years we have been able to offer, through the Professional Education Program (PEP at Stony Brook University, a course entitled Foreign Language Acquisition Research in which we integrate the implementation of AR into the pre-service development of teacher candidates. This is a required course for two populations: Pre-service graduate students enrolled in one of our MAT (Master of Arts in Teaching) programs in languages (French, German, Italian and Spanish) and in-service teachers enrolled in one of our language MA programs (French, Italian or Romance Languages). Thus we typically have a balance of practicing and pre-professional teachers who collaborate to conduct AR studies over the course of a 15 week semester.

As an introduction to action research, the course overviews research strategies and techniques that can be used by teachers in conducting research in their own classroom settings for the improvement of practice, a better understanding of practice, and a transformation of the situation in which practice occurs. The primary objective of the course is to prepare teachers to do action research in schools. Other chief objectives include the development of a professional community, teachers’ recognition of their own expertise, and the illumination of power relationships. Through action research, our pre-service and in-service teachers learn about their profession by researching their own experiences. They realize that teachers can be researchers (knowledge producers as well as consumers) in their classroom settings, both to add to their own understandings about teaching and learning and to contribute to the broader field of education.

In this course, we guide our students through the four phases of an AR study:

1. Planning: Gathering insights, researching, reflecting, and forming a hypothesis;
2. Acting: Implementing a plan, collecting data, and analyzing data;
3. Reflecting: Interpreting data, comparing expectations to outcomes, deciding what to do next; identifying new questions;
4. Connecting: Sharing results, connecting AR to broader goals and new puzzlements.

In addition to conducting AR group projects, students are asked to keep an individual research notebook in which they regularly record their experiences in carrying out action research. By so doing, they reflect on their practices, formulate ideas for action or changes in practice, and evaluate those actions. Groups are also encouraged to meet outside of the classroom as they deem necessary to participate in a "research notebook response group” where they discuss and transform group processes, collaborative reflection and action.

Our Teacher Candidates’ experiences with AR have never failed to be enlightening and have repeatedly confirmed the power of AR to foster critical inquiry. One illustration of this comes from a study of our teacher candidates’ responses to their AR in the fall of 2008. This study assesses AR as a tool for meeting Stony Brook University’s Professional Education Program (PEP) Proficiencies for Teacher Candidates. A group of pre-service and in-service teachers were engaged in collaborative AR. AR notebooks, AR notebook response groups, questionnaires, and interviews were used to gather information on these pre-service and in-service teachers’ beliefs on AR and (pre)professional development. Here are some comments from teacher candidates at the end of the course:

  • I have to note that I really enjoyed this class and the colleagues that were in my group. When I registered for this course, the word “research” made me a little anxious. I am glad I took the course. I will always remember the questions that I need to ask myself as a practitioner, and the contribution those questions will make on my classroom practice and research… I now know that it is important to always pose problems about your own practice or to have critical friends critique your practice if you truly want to improve as a teacher. G. D.M.
  • As a future Spanish teacher, this reflecting notebook helped me to understand the importance of finding out or at least to find solutions to classroom problems. After all it is our responsibility as teachers to continually search for whatever it takes to help our students and to improve our way of teaching. M. C.

We noted similar comments from teachers and teacher candidates conducting AR in the fall of 2007. We found that the experience of one group in particular serves to illustrate the transformational nature of AR: A group of four pre-service teachers sought information about whether the amount of target language (TL) use by teachers has an effect on the level of anxiety students feel in the classroom. As part of their pre-service preparation, these teacher candidates had read about the Affective Filter Hypothesis as well as subsequent research on anxiety and motivation in the classroom, and they had read about the benefits of maximizing TL use in the classroom. However, they had also heard anecdotes from teachers and peers that students often become frustrated in foreign language courses when the entire period is spent in the TL. The study that these pre-service teachers designed and conducted allowed them to conclude that students are neither more anxious nor less comfortable if teachers use only the TL in class. This study helped these pre-service teachers to gain deeper insight into theories, dispel anecdotal myths, and understand how classroom research can be conducted. One of the four teacher candidates involved in this study stated that her experience with AR left her both “satisfied and intrigued.” She felt satisfied that her group had formed a better appreciation of students’ perceptions and feelings regarding L2 usage. At the same time, her brief taste of AR left her wanting to know more: “I feel like we have barely scratched the surface of FL classroom student motivation. I would love to eventually be able to perform some action research studies with my own classes when I become a teacher myself. In the long run, it can only benefit me and allow me to grow as an educator.” By integrating AR in pre-service coursework, we can foster this sense of curiosity while teaching the tools necessary for future critical inquiry.

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From Alexandria to Salamanca: La Profesora va a su primera conferencia
Janet Beckmann, Bishop Ireton High School, Alexandria, Virginia

Last night was the first snowfall of the year here in the Washington area; it’s a good time to curl up with a cup of tea and think of warm nights in Salamanca, Spain.


That was the site last July of the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese 88th Annual Conference. I teach high school Spanish here in Virginia, and this was my first AATSP conference. Spending a week in Salamanca is wonderful, any month of the year, but I wanted to finish these six conference days energized, eager to implement in the classroom what I had learned.

And that I did. So here are some strategies to make a conference work for you.

  1. Most important are the people you meet. Talk to everyone; what you glean from speaking with fellow attendees over a cup of coffee in the morning or a glass of wine in the evening helps put personalities and interests to names in the official program. And this is key when you survey the list of workshops.

  2. Workshops! There are hundreds! Imagine eleven offered simultaneously; how do you choose? Ask all those people you meet (point 1) what sessions they recommend. Often the program précis indicates which workshops are geared to particular teaching strategies and/or provide handouts. Some presentations are readings of published articles; is the subject one that intrigues you?

  3. The plenary sessions are important because they give substance to the names and the issues you read in your official publications. Your organization is more than its individuals; the meetings helped me feel connected to AATSP. And also, when you meet your officers later (point 1), you’ll have some topics of conversation.

  4. Prowl the displays. Sign up for further information, collect promotional pieces. Posters are obvious magnets for teachers, but I was even more excited by novel real-language resources.

  5. Often excursions are offered with the conference. Arrive in time to be a tourist. Partly you are fulfilling point 1 (your seatmate on the bus, the people across from you in the restaurant), and partly you are seeing a city or a museum that’s new. We encourage our students to travel; this is teaching by example.

  6. Look and listen to everything with the idea of what you can immediately bring to your teaching. Ask the clerks in the music stores what is hot, and buy these CDs for your classroom. Collect local magazines and menus. I used one camera exclusively for photos of me, and I created a display using vocabulary of prepositions and place words with these pictures. Here is "Teacher in the lavender garden" and there is "Teacher under the hand of the statue."

  7. Find time to be outdoors, to walk, to be alone. You know your own rhythms.

  8. Talk. Talk a lot. We language teachers can become trapped in the language levels of our students. Use these days as a chance to bring forth the language you love.

  9. And, finally, include plenty of moments to share meals with other conferees. These serendipitous encounters can give unexpected pleasures (e.g.. the source of the best alpargatas in Madrid), and I think you’ll come home awed by the expertise of fellow teachers (point 1 yet again!) and energized by ideas.

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New Standards Expected to Impact Foreign Language Teacher Preparation
By Eileen W. Glisan Dept. of Spanish & Classical Languages, Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Glisan is the author of the textbook: "Teacher's Handbook: Contextualized Language Instruction", and co-chair of the NCATE Foreign Language Teacher Standards writing team. She is nationally recognized for her numerous achievements in the field of foreign language education, and for exemplary service to the profession.

With the imminent release of the newly designed ACTFL Program Standards for the Preparation of Foreign Language Teachers, foreign language teacher preparation in the U.S. could be entering an exciting new era.

Approved by t he National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE*) in October 2002, the standards are the product of a collaborative project between American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) and the National Foreign Language Standards Collaborative. Two drafts of the standards were released to the profession over the past eighteen months with a call for dissemination and feedback on each draft. The final draft of the standards appears on the ACTFL website,

Once approved, the new standards will be used by NCATE in reviewing curricula of foreign language (FL) teacher preparation programs for national recognition. They consist of six content standards and sixteen supporting standards that describe the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that foreign language teacher candidates should demonstrate in order to be effective beginning teachers. These standards may be used by any institution seeking to evaluate its program in terms of current expectations for FL teacher candidates. The six content standards are:

  • Language, linguistics, comparisons
  • Cultures, literatures, cross-disciplinary concepts
  • Language acquisition theories and instructional practices
  • Integration of standards into curriculum and instruction
  • Assessment of languages and cultures
  • Professionalism

The standards are expected to have a significant impact on teacher preparation programs in three key areas:

1. Collection of Candidate Performance Evidence

FL teacher preparation programs in institutions seeking NCATE accreditation must submit evidence that their teacher candidates have the necessary knowledge, skills, and dispositions to help students in grades P-12 learn. The evidence that these programs submit must be performance-based and include multiple assessments.

This approach stands in stark contrast to NCATE's traditional system that required institutions to make a case for accreditation based on their course syllabi and faculty vitae. FL teacher preparation programs will now need to develop an ongoing assessment system through which they gather candidate performance evidence such as portfolios, lesson plans, case study reports, presentations, papers, examinations, interviews, projects, and P-12 student work samples.

2. Development and Assessment of Candidates' Oral Proficiency

Programs must develop candidates' proficiency in all areas, with a special emphasis on oral proficiency. Candidates should have opportunities to communicate in the target language outside of class and to participate in structured study abroad or immersion programs. Upper-level courses, including literature and culture courses, should be taught in the foreign language and place an emphasis on "growing" and assessing candidates' proficiency. Programs must develop a system for assessing candidates' proficiency and providing diagnostic feedback in an ongoing manner. Oral proficiency expectations should be established for benchmark points in the program (e.g., entry to the program, mid-way through the program, prior to student teaching).

The new standards require programs to verify that their teacher candidates have attained a minimum proficiency level in speaking and writing at the "Advanced-Low" level as described in the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines-Speaking (1999) and the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines-Writing (2001); the level is "Intermediate High" for candidates teaching target languages such as Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.

Candidates' oral proficiency levels must be verified by a test that is administered by a central testing service such as Language Testing International (LTI) or the Texas State Board for Educator Certification. Tests such as the official OPI and the TOPT ensure reliability of the rating because the testing services have procedures in place to validate the ratings.

Although exit oral proficiency ratings must be reported using the OPI or TOPT, programs are encouraged to assess candidates' oral proficiency at various points in the program as a form of "prescreening" and to give diagnostic feedback to candidates. This type of testing may be done through informal means such as the advisory OPI or the Simulated Oral Proficiency Interview (SOPI), both of which are based on the official OPI but are not administered by a central testing service that validates the ratings.

3. Collaboration between Colleges of Education and Departments of Foreign Languages

Colleges of Education and Departments of Foreign Languages will need to collaborate in order to enable their teacher candidates to attain the standards. All instructors in both foreign language and education courses should model effective instructional practices, including the integration of technology. Course work and field experiences should be closely integrated. Candidates must take a methods course that focuses on the teaching of foreign languages and is taught by a faculty member whose expertise is foreign language education. Field experiences, including student teaching, must also be supervised by a qualified foreign language educator.

It is anticipated that the new ACTFL Program Standards for the Preparation of Foreign Language Teachers will serve as a catalyst for opening dialogue among the various stakeholders in the teacher preparation process, for improving preparation programs, and ultimately for ensuring that entering foreign language teachers have the knowledge, skills, and disposition to be effective professionals.

* NCATE ( is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education as a professional accrediting body for teacher preparation. NCATE determines which colleges of education meet rigorous national standards in preparing teachers and other classroom specialists.

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Teacher Education: Still the Heart of the Matter
By James E. Alatis Co-director, NCLRC

Dr. Alatis has had a long and distinguished career as a foreign language educator. He is the Senior Advisor for International Language Programs & Research, and Dean Emeritus of the School of Languages & Linguistics at Georgetown University. As Chief of the Language Research Section (NDEA) for the U.S. Office of Education, he was instrumental in determining priorities for the U.S. government's funding of language programs. Countless linguistics and language students have benefited from his mentoring, teaching, and guidance.

Language teachers are the often unsung heroes and heroines of our society, frequently under appreciated in some circles, and often rewarded only with the tremendous psychic benefits afforded by the service-oriented satisfactions, with which this noble profession has long been associated. As paragons of virtue and self-sacrifice, language teachers are models worthy of emulation by their students and colleagues, and the cornerstone of our democratic society. It is to these legions of teachers to which this article is dedicated. I congratulate you and applaud you, as a teacher myself, and wish you continued success in your careers.

Let me state at the outset that I use the word "education" in my title advisedly. I have been known to say somewhat humorously: "Training is for dogs, education is for people." Behind the humor, however, is a serious point: The preparation of quality teachers of any subject, but especially teachers of second or foreign languages, requires a special kind of competence, based on academic principles, practical experiences, and personal attributes, that result in truly remarkable professionals.

First, in common with that of all teachers, the preparation of language teachers is based on sound general education courses or experiences, which have helped them become well-educated persons with a strong background in the liberal arts and sciences. Second, language teachers have had academic specialization courses or related experiences, which have helped them become proficient in their area of concentration. Mere knowledge of the language they teach is not enough. They are not drillmasters in the replicative sense, nor do they engage in mindless repetition of regurgitated knowledge.

To such enlightened teachers, the study of language and linguistics involves more than mere mastery of mechanics. Instead, they are committed to a dynamic and intellectual environment that stimulates thought, discussion and analysis. Third, the vast majority of language teachers have been exposed to professional education courses or experiences, which have helped prepare them to become the master teachers that they are.

Some years ago I wrote an article entitled, "Toward a Lapse Theory of Teacher Preparation" aimed at providing guidance for prospective teachers and administrators in English as a Second or Foreign Language. The word "LAPSE," however, did not refer to "lapsus linguae" or slips of the tongue, but rather, served as an organizing acronym for the kind of courses or experiences that should be included in any teacher education program in English for speakers of other languages. While this article referred to the TESOL Guidelines for the Certification and Preparation of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages in the United States, these attributes were equally, though conversely, applicable to teachers of the "other" foreign languages in the U.S. or abroad.

With this as a background, let me spell out the broad, basic principles upon which such preparation has been based: The L, in LAPSE, stands for linguistics and includes introduction to linguistics, phonetics and phonemics, morphology and syntax, semantics (i.e., sound, form, and meaning) and contrastive linguistic and cultural analysis of both the source language (i.e., the student's home language) and the target language (i.e., the language being learned). The L also stands for the language of the student, and may also be extended to the study of Literature.

The A stands for anthropology, or anthropological linguistics, and is well covered by general courses on cultural anthropology or specific courses entitled 'Language and Culture.' The P stands for Psycholinguistics, or the psychology of language acquisition in general. It includes behavioral, cognitive, cooperative, and associative psychology and their interaction with linguistics and language teaching and learning in general. It also includes learner strategies, of which Dr. Anna Uhl Chamot, my co-director, is universally recognized as one of the world's leading experts and proponents.

The S stands for sociolinguistics (i.e., language in culture and society), and refers to the social, regional, functional, and historical varieties of language. It also includes pragmatics, or language use in context of situation, and discourse analysis, or language beyond the sentence in all forms and modes. My Georgetown colleagues Dr. Deborah Tannen and Heidi Hamilton are among the world's leading scholars in this rapidly expanding field.

The E stands for professional Education, and includes all things pedagogical. It includes Foundations of Education, Human Growth and Development, Bilingual Education, and Developmental Reading and Writing. It specifically refers to methodology courses on approaches, methods, and techniques of language teaching and learning. Ideally, such courses are broken down into two components: a) theory and practice, and (b) materials preparation and techniques. Here also are included the indispensable Education practicum, supervised practice teaching, and such important activities as demonstrations, observation, and peer teaching in live classroom situations.

Frequently, one component of the course includes an experience in learning another language, usually an uncommonly taught language, as a "shock language." This is normally the case where there is no time for a separate course, in which the language laboratory, or more recently, language-learning technology, including the use of computer-aided instruction, is covered. Also, if there has been no special, individual course available, the equally indispensable field of foreign-language assessment, or Language Testing is introduced. Here, my Georgetown colleagues David P. Harris, and the late Robert Lado have been the earliest pioneers. More and more attention is now being given, in such methodology courses, to special techniques of developmental reading and writing as they relate to second-language acquisition.

The list of courses and the resulting competencies which they imply, of course, were never intended to be exhaustive or limiting, but only broadly suggestive of the content of a comprehensive foreign- or second-language teacher-education program. The competency objectives suggested are overlapping and are those which are normally included in courses and education whose primary objective was to help prospective and in-service teachers understand the nature of language and language systems, the process of language learning, and the interrelationship between language and culture. They also included courses, education, and experience whose primary objective was to provide theoretical and methodological foundations and practical experience leading to competence in teaching situations.

In short, the knowledge implied consists of an interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, applied linguistics approach, based on the most recent research on first- and second-language acquisition, anthropological linguistics, psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, and, most recently, discourse analysis and language-learning strategies. Thus, language teachers are not merely trained, they are educated in the broadest sense of the word.

To conclude, good teaching and learning takes place when competent teachers with non-discouraging personalities, cherish their pupils and use non-defensive, learner-centered approaches, methods, and techniques. They approach their students with an attitude of unconditional positive regard. But they must be competent, and have undergone the kind of preparation, either through formal education, or sheer practical experience, implied by the Guidelines formulated by our leading professional organizations and now reflected in the various Standards statements presently under preparation in a large spectrum of educational fields. Qualified language teachers are thus among the most widely knowledgeable and broadly educated professionals in the community of scholars.

There are thousands of such qualified teachers in our schools today, who, through membership in honest professional organizations, are engaged in a kind of perpetual self- improvement and dedicated service that marks the true professional. They are "willing to go the extra mile." They keep up with recent research and communicate regularly with such organizations as their Language Resource Centers, including the joint GW/GU/CAL National Capital Language Resource Center. They belong to their professional organizations and participate in their activities, read and publish in their journals, and serve on their committees. Once again, I salute you, and dedicate this article to you. As they say in Spanish-adelante!

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Research Criteria for Tenure in Second Language Acquisition: Results from a Survey of the Field
Bill VanPatten & Jessica Williams, The University of Illinois at Chicago

Bill VanPatten is Professor of Spanish and Second Language Acquisition at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His research interests include the role of input in acquisition, input processing, and the effects of instruction. He does stand up comedy as a sideline.
Jessica Williams teaches in the M.A. TESOL program at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she also directs the ESL composition program. She has published on variety of topics in second language acquisition, including second language writing, lexical acquisition, and the effect of instruction.

One of the vexing professional problems for language departments involves the criteria for evaluation of an assistant professor for tenure and promotion when the field of research is second language acquisition (SLA). The problem is vexing for the junior faculty member who struggles between what drives the field of SLA research, and what drives the field of traditional literary studies. The problem is equally vexing for department administrators who oversee the tenure process. On the one hand, these administrators suspect that traditional criteria don't (or shouldn't apply), and on the other hand, given that they themselves are typically not members of the SLA research community, they have no first-hand knowledge to use.

In such tenure cases-and indeed during the mentoring of the junior faculty member prior to tenure-questions such as the following arise: Does the tenure candidate "need a book"? If not, what is expected in terms of scholarly research? Which presses are important and which journals hold prestige? Should joint publications count? What will the outside reviewers be looking for in the tenure profile and does it match what we are expecting of the junior faculty member?

To begin addressing this problem, we conducted a survey of over 70 tenured SLA specialists at major research universities in the United States and Canada. Respondents have appointments in a variety of departments, including English, Linguistics, Foreign Languages, as well as departments dedicated specifically to the field, (e.g., Second Language Studies). The purpose was to ascertain their views of appropriate criteria regarding scholarship for promotion and tenure in SLA. Our article first presents the quantitative findings of the survey and then presents a discussion of key issues as raised by the respondents. We review current practices for evaluation of scholarship of SLA faculty in departments whose primary focus is on literary and cultural studies. In our discussion, we offer recommendations for establishing a set of standards for the review of junior SLA faculty. We also present the respondents' general evaluations of major journals and presses in which SLA scholarship is regularly published.

The basic findings of this survey include the following points.

  • A single-authored book is not an expected accomplishment for tenure.
  • Journal articles are the expected venue for publication in the field for junior scholars.
  • Approximately 7-8 articles or book chapters in respected venues are an estimate of generally accepted standards of quantity for tenure and promotion.
  • SLA scholars demonstrate strong consensus on the quality and relevance of journals and academic presses in the field.
  • Joint authorship should be encouraged.
  • Textbook authorship may be considered in the tenure portfolio, if the audience for the book is graduate students and if it demonstrates expertise in SLA, not just pedagogy.
  • The workloads of language coordinators must be taken into account in evaluating performance.
  • Mentoring of junior SLA faculty who are isolated in literature departments should be a departmental priority.
  • Language and literature departments need to be educated as to what constitutes research in the field of SLA.

It is clear that there is concern among those in SLA research that the field is not as well understood by colleagues in humanities as it could be. The result has been some tension between what scholars in SLA expect out of a junior colleague and what those in literary studies view as appropriate expectations for the same person. We hope that these results will help departments determine appropriate research expectations of junior faculty in SLA and develop specific standards for promotion and tenure. We should note that the findings here pertain primarily to research, rather than the other two standard tenure consideration categories: teaching and service.

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