EDITORS: Julia Hüttner, Barbara Mehlmauer-Larcher, Susanne Reichl, and Barbara Schiftner TITLE: Theory and Practice in EFL Teacher Education SUBTITLE: Bridging the Gap SERIES TITLE: New Perspectives on Language & Education PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters YEAR: 2012
Derya Kulavuz-Onal, Second Language Acquisition and Instructional Technology, University of South Florida
“Theory and Practice in EFL Teacher Education: Bridging the Gap” is a collection of papers that addresses complex issues surrounding language teacher education particularly geared toward English as a Foreign Language (EFL) and the education and development of teachers in this field.
The book begins with a brief information about the contributors, the majority of whom are affiliated with universities in Europe. Following the information about the contributors comes the editors’ introduction, which summarizes the purpose of this book and provides short summaries of each chapter. The book takes a situated learning approach to language teacher development and education, and assumes a perspective in which the concepts of theory and practice are not clear-cut notions, but rather engage in a complementary relationship.
The book consists of 12 chapters divided into four thematically titled parts: Conceptualizing the issue of theory and practice; Developing language teachers’ knowledge base; Assisting language teachers’ knowledge construction; Addressing established paradigms.
The chapters (1-3) in Part 1 essentially discuss the concepts of theory and practice in language teaching, and the relationship between the two, by bringing in various perspectives. In the first chapter, “Closing the Gap, Changing the Subject”, Henry G. Widdowson suggests that teachers recognize and make explicit the theoretical implications of their practice through critical reflection. He also illustrates how this could be done through a discussion of the tenets of communicative competence, and how a simple text can be changed into one that could be more communicative, contextually appropriate, and relate to language learners’ reality.
What follows Widdowson’s discussion is the chapter contributed by Amy B. M. Tsui on “The Dialectics of Theory and Practice in Teacher Knowledge and Development”. She starts with an overview of conceptions of teacher knowledge as: practical knowledge, personal narratives, content knowledge, and situated knowledge. She then explores the dialectical relationship between theory and practice by describing two cases of language teachers. She finishes her discussion by arguing for how teachers’ tacit knowledge, or “practice”, eventually feeds explicit knowledge (which becomes “theory” after all), and how such explicit knowledge further informs practice.
In the last chapter of this part, “Moments of Practice: Teachers’ Knowledge and Interaction in the Language Classroom”, Joachim Appel takes an ethnographic stance to language teacher development by exploring multimodal language teaching interactions as they occur in the classroom, and how these moments, and their context and participants, could further inform our understanding of the development of teachers’ knowledge in practice. In this sense, he argues for the practitioner’s voice in bridging the gap between theory and practice.
The chapters (4-7) in the second part of the book are directed more toward teacher educators and teacher education programs. Chapter 4, “Creating Language-Assessment Literacy: A Model for Teacher Education”, by Armin Berger, proposes a conceptual model for the development of language teachers’ assessment literacy. He argues that assessment literacy is an essential knowledge base in language teachers, yet preparation of language teachers for language testing has primarily focused on the theoretical background for standardized and high-stake testing, which does not target teachers’ day-to-day practices with respect to assessing learners’ language. Therefore, in his conceptual model for teacher education programs, he calls for a balance among content of assessment literacy (from large-scale testing to classroom-based assessment that targets learning), assessment qualifications that he deems necessary to develop in language teachers, and emphasis on creating opportunities for teacher candidates to experience both individual and collaborative approaches to developing and implementing assessment procedures.
After this contribution, Penny Ur, arguing for an ‘acceptable grammar’ perspective, proposes a practical model for the teaching of grammar in Chapter 5, “Grammar Teaching: Theory, Practice and English Teacher Education”. Her model draws upon both focus-on-form in communication, as well as consciousness-raising and learning-through-exemplars. She further illustrates this model through a few activity examples and asserts that explicit grammar teaching still has a role in communicative language teaching; student teachers should be encouraged in teacher education programs in a way that promotes understanding how explicit grammar teaching could be integrated with communicative language teaching.
Additionally, Chapter 6, “Cognitive + Communicative Grammar in Teacher Education”, by David Newby, also discusses grammar teaching in teacher education programs. Newby argues that teacher candidates are not given enough opportunities to engage with theories even though they learn about them. Therefore, he proposes an alternative approach that he calls Cognitive +Communicative grammar. In this approach, he draws on cognitive linguistics and various communicatively oriented theories. Then, he further illustrates the fundamental stages of this model: awareness, conceptualization, proceduralization, and performance. He concludes the chapter by suggesting ways of mediating pre-service teachers’ understanding and application of this model.
Finally, in the last chapter of this part, Chapter 7, “Stronger Intervention: The Role of Literature in Teacher Education”, Suzanne Reichl draws our attention to the teaching of literature in teacher education programs, which is a common practice in teacher education programs in Austria. Because many student teachers think that what they learn in literature classes is not relevant to their future teaching practice, she explores the potential of literature for teacher education and illustrates how critical reading and the discussion of literary texts are ideal to inform student teachers’ reflective processes. In this sense, she suggests that reflection could be introduced in these classes, which, in turn, can help student teachers build connections between literary content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge.
Chapters 8-10, comprising the third part of the book, offer examples of implementations in European teacher education contexts. In Chapter 8, “Supporting the Transfer of Innovation into Foreign Language Classroom: Applied Projects in In-service Teacher Education”, Sandra Hutterli and Michael C. Prusse exemplify a teacher training module that involves network learning for continuing education for in-service teachers of foreign languages (not necessarily English only). This model was first implemented in a Certificate of Advanced Studies course in foreign language teaching at Zurich University of Teacher Education. After providing background and the challenges of implementing new methodologies in foreign language classes, the authors describe the learning network and how it was planned by illustrating the projects in-service teachers carried out in their own school communities and as part of an assignment for this course.
Julia Hüttner and Ute Smit discuss training of student teachers to teach English for Specific Purposes (ESP) through a materials development approach in their contribution, “Developing Student Teachers’ Pedagogical Content Knowledge in English for Specific Purposes: The Vienna ESP Approach”. This approach has been developed as part of the University of Vienna’s Certificate in teaching ESP Module, which includes four one-semester courses in which student teachers learn and experience how to approach ESP texts, specific methodologies to teach ESP, and material development for ESP. They argue that there is a lack of training in ESP in teacher education programs and that the process of developing materials allows student teachers to develop their experiential knowledge about the nature of ESP teaching. They further illustrate their approach by explaining three projects undertaken by the student teachers in this module.
In the last chapter of this part, “The EPOSTL (European Portfolio for Student Teachers of Languages): A Tool to Promote Reflection and Learning in Pre-service Teacher Education”, Barbara Mehlmauer-Larcher describes the content, aim, and structure of this portfolio tool. She explains that one of the aims of this tool is to help student teachers assess themselves by encouraging them to reflect on their learning process. Additionally, it assists communication among student teachers, their mentors, and their teacher educators. She then describes how it was implemented in the EFL Teacher Education Program at the Center for English Language Teaching in the Department of English at the University of Vienna. Finally, she reports on the findings of a study conducted to explore the impact of this implementation and the potential of the EPOSTL as a tool for reflection.
The last part of the book addresses more general established paradigms in EFL teacher education. Chapter 11, “NESTs versus Non-NESTs: Rethinking English-Language Teacher Identities”, contributed by Irena Vodopija-Krstanovic, gives an overview of the latest discussions and understandings on the notion of native speaker ideology in EFL teacher education and how this influences native speaking teachers’ (NESTs’) as well as non-native speaking teachers’ (NNESTs’) identities. Moreover, the author further reports on a study conducted at a language teacher education program in Croatia to explore how the NEST/NNEST distinction is conceptualized by lecturers and student teachers and how it is reflected in classroom practice. She suggests re-examining teacher education in light of the recent sociocultural turn and critical approaches to teacher education.
Last but not least, Chapter 12 of the book, “Multilingualism Pedagogy: Building Bridges between Languages”, is contributed by Eva Vetter. As multilingualism and multiculturalism are realities in the European context, as well as in many parts of the world, the author investigates how much the multilingualism perspective is likely to bring about changes for language teaching, language teachers, and teacher educators. She asserts that both teachers and learners are multilingual resources that could be drawn upon in a language classroom, as language learning is linked to all linguistic resources the learners already have at their disposal. In this sense, she calls for a multilingual turn in language teacher education, as multilingualism relates to teachers’ competences in a broader sense. In order to achieve this, she suggests that offering intercultural and plurilingual experiences to student teachers be an integral part of teacher education programs.
“Theory and Practice in EFL Teacher Education: Bridging the Gap” generally achieves its aim in providing examples and implementations of promoting student teachers’ understanding of how theory and practice build upon each other. In my opinion, the book continuously engages in discussion about this gap, but Parts 2 and 3 give more concrete and practical examples on how to deal with it in teacher education programs. Although every chapter in the book has its own contribution to the discussion of bridging the gap between theory and practice, I found the first chapter, contributed by Widdowson, and the closing chapter, by Vetter, to be the most compelling. Widdowson initiated a thought-provoking discussion of how teachers can critically think about the theories of language teaching and adapt it in the most pedagogical and communicative ways that comply with their students’ own reality. He argues that ‘real’ or ‘authentic’ language may still be irrelevant to language learners’ realities since authentic language is always context-dependent, and since language is used to complement the context rather than duplicating it. I also found his examples from real corpora very powerful in demonstrating how the use of such authentic language in language classroom does not help students engage with the language in meaningful and communicative ways. This illustration is helpful for especially novice teachers in their attempts to meaningfully and pedagogically bridge theory and practice by taking into account their local circumstances and their students’ needs. It helps them see how theoretical knowledge (e.g. as in the case of the use of authentic materials in language classes) should not be taken for granted, but adapted for their own teaching situations.
In addition to the first chapter, the last chapter, on multilingualism pedagogy, was also appealing in the sense that it provided a different perspective by considering the current realities of the world as it continues to grow with multilingual individuals. In my opinion (agreeing with Vetter), this should be an important consideration in language teacher education programs today. Language teachers not only serve as teachers but also portray models of successful multilingual and multicultural individuals. However, without providing contexts and experiences for pre-service teachers to develop this competence and awareness, it would not be possible for them to convey the value of multilingualism, multiculturalism, and linguistic diversity to language learners. In this regard, the suggestion to include more intercultural and plurilingual experiences in language teacher education programs offers an important addition to the knowledge base of teacher education at the same time. Such an addition would help them not only grow as advocates of world languages and cultures but also better value and use their students’ linguistic repertoires in their future language classrooms.
As for the readership, the book is a good fit for advanced readers in this field, such as advanced graduate students, teacher educators, and teacher education program designers. As the name suggests, it also discusses issues conceptually, which leads me to believe that it is not targeted for a novice reader in this field.
Each part of the book is thematically organized, and later chapters build upon earlier ones. For example, in terms of the discussion of the knowledge base of language teacher education, quite a range of topics are covered, such as grammar, ESP, literature, and assessment. The last of these topics is problematic, as student teachers are not easily able to make connections with their future practice. In this sense, the implementation ideas presented in this book provide examples for those programs that experience similar issues.
There are references to various certification processes in European countries, Common European Framework for Languages, portfolio and assessment requirements for language learners, as well as language teachers in Europe, etc., in this book. The fact that the book is heavily contextualized in European teacher education programs can be appealing for readers who are interested in being informed more about the European context and issues in EFL teacher education practices in Europe. However, those who are not familiar with this context, and who do not find it relevant to their own context, might find the book to be of limited use.
The book also gives insights into future research in EFL teacher education, particularly with the contributions made in the last part of the book. As the majority of the world’s population is either bilingual or multilingual, this not only complicates the native speaker ideology for both language teachers and learners, but also makes it inevitable for language teachers, and thus, teacher educators, to consider this fact in language teaching practices and in teacher education.
The book makes frequent reference to Shulman’s (1987) concept of pedagogical content knowledge (PCK), as the development of this knowledge base is mostly connected to bridging the gap between theory and practice. However, what seems to be lacking in this book is a discussion of technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK), introduced by Mishra and Koehler (2006), which builds on Shulman’s PCK. It suggests another knowledge base, technology, and argues that 21st century teacher education should prepare student teachers for meaningful technology instruction and use in their practices. In this sense, Parts 2 and 3 of this book could have been more strengthened and enriched with an inclusion of a discussion of how EFL student teachers’ TPACK is developed and constructed in teacher education programs.
All in all, the book is an invaluable contribution to language teaching research and practice, as it discusses current conceptualizations, understandings, and perspectives to the long-standing debate on the gap between theory and practice, and attempts to bridge this gap in a constructive way for student teachers so that they see that we need both in teacher education programs.
Mishra, Punya & Matthew Koehler. 2006. Technological pedagogical content knowledge. Teachers College Record 108 (6). 1017-1054.
Shulman, Lee S. 1987. Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the new reform. Harvard Educational Review 57 (1). 1-22.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Derya Kulavuz-Onal is a doctoral candidate and a graduate teaching
assistant at the Second Language Acquisition and Instructional Technology
program, University of South Florida. She has taught EFL, ESL at the
college level, and supervised prospective English language teachers. Her
research interests primarily revolve around second language teacher
education and development, technology and teacher education, communities of
practice, and qualitative research.