LINGUIST List 23.3654

Sun Sep 02 2012

Review: Applied Linguistics: Hüttner et al. (2012)

Editor for this issue: Rajiv Rao <rajivlinguistlist.org>



Date: 02-Sep-2012
From: Derya Kulavuz-Onal <dkulavuzmail.usf.edu>
Subject: Theory and Practice in EFL Teacher Education
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Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/23/23-172.html
EDITORS: Julia Hüttner, Barbara Mehlmauer-Larcher, Susanne Reichl, and BarbaraSchiftnerTITLE: Theory and Practice in EFL Teacher EducationSUBTITLE: Bridging the GapSERIES TITLE: New Perspectives on Language & EducationPUBLISHER: Multilingual MattersYEAR: 2012

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

SUMMARY

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

The book begins with a brief information about the contributors, the majority ofwhom are affiliated with universities in Europe. Following the information aboutthe contributors comes the editors’ introduction, which summarizes the purposeof this book and provides short summaries of each chapter. The book takes asituated learning approach to language teacher development and education, andassumes a perspective in which the concepts of theory and practice are notclear-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; Addressingestablished paradigms.

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

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

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

The chapters (4-7) in the second part of the book are directed more towardteacher educators and teacher education programs. Chapter 4, “CreatingLanguage-Assessment Literacy: A Model for Teacher Education”, by Armin Berger,proposes a conceptual model for the development of language teachers’ assessmentliteracy. He argues that assessment literacy is an essential knowledge base inlanguage teachers, yet preparation of language teachers for language testing hasprimarily focused on the theoretical background for standardized and high-staketesting, which does not target teachers’ day-to-day practices with respect toassessing learners’ language. Therefore, in his conceptual model for teachereducation 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 languageteachers, and emphasis on creating opportunities for teacher candidates toexperience both individual and collaborative approaches to developing andimplementing assessment procedures.

After this contribution, Penny Ur, arguing for an ‘acceptable grammar’perspective, proposes a practical model for the teaching of grammar in Chapter5, “Grammar Teaching: Theory, Practice and English Teacher Education”. Her modeldraws upon both focus-on-form in communication, as well as consciousness-raisingand learning-through-exemplars. She further illustrates this model through a fewactivity examples and asserts that explicit grammar teaching still has a role incommunicative language teaching; student teachers should be encouraged inteacher education programs in a way that promotes understanding how explicitgrammar teaching could be integrated with communicative language teaching.

Additionally, Chapter 6, “Cognitive + Communicative Grammar in TeacherEducation”, by David Newby, also discusses grammar teaching in teacher educationprograms. Newby argues that teacher candidates are not given enoughopportunities 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 andvarious communicatively oriented theories. Then, he further illustrates thefundamental stages of this model: awareness, conceptualization,proceduralization, and performance. He concludes the chapter by suggesting waysof 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 attentionto the teaching of literature in teacher education programs, which is a commonpractice in teacher education programs in Austria. Because many student teachersthink that what they learn in literature classes is not relevant to their futureteaching practice, she explores the potential of literature for teachereducation and illustrates how critical reading and the discussion of literarytexts are ideal to inform student teachers’ reflective processes. In this sense,she suggests that reflection could be introduced in these classes, which, inturn, can help student teachers build connections between literary contentknowledge and pedagogical content knowledge.

Chapters 8-10, comprising the third part of the book, offer examples ofimplementations in European teacher education contexts. In Chapter 8,“Supporting the Transfer of Innovation into Foreign Language Classroom: AppliedProjects in In-service Teacher Education”, Sandra Hutterli and Michael C. Prusseexemplify a teacher training module that involves network learning forcontinuing education for in-service teachers of foreign languages (notnecessarily English only). This model was first implemented in a Certificate ofAdvanced Studies course in foreign language teaching at Zurich University ofTeacher Education. After providing background and the challenges of implementingnew methodologies in foreign language classes, the authors describe the learningnetwork and how it was planned by illustrating the projects in-service teacherscarried out in their own school communities and as part of an assignment forthis course.

Julia Hüttner and Ute Smit discuss training of student teachers to teach Englishfor Specific Purposes (ESP) through a materials development approach in theircontribution, “Developing Student Teachers’ Pedagogical Content Knowledge inEnglish for Specific Purposes: The Vienna ESP Approach”. This approach has beendeveloped as part of the University of Vienna’s Certificate in teaching ESPModule, which includes four one-semester courses in which student teachers learnand 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 inESP in teacher education programs and that the process of developing materialsallows student teachers to develop their experiential knowledge about the natureof ESP teaching. They further illustrate their approach by explaining threeprojects undertaken by the student teachers in this module.

In the last chapter of this part, “The EPOSTL (European Portfolio for StudentTeachers of Languages): A Tool to Promote Reflection and Learning in Pre-serviceTeacher Education”, Barbara Mehlmauer-Larcher describes the content, aim, andstructure of this portfolio tool. She explains that one of the aims of this toolis to help student teachers assess themselves by encouraging them to reflect ontheir learning process. Additionally, it assists communication among studentteachers, their mentors, and their teacher educators. She then describes how itwas implemented in the EFL Teacher Education Program at the Center for EnglishLanguage Teaching in the Department of English at the University of Vienna.Finally, she reports on the findings of a study conducted to explore the impactof 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 EFLteacher education. Chapter 11, “NESTs versus Non-NESTs: RethinkingEnglish-Language Teacher Identities”, contributed by Irena Vodopija-Krstanovic,gives an overview of the latest discussions and understandings on the notion ofnative speaker ideology in EFL teacher education and how this influences nativespeaking teachers’ (NESTs’) as well as non-native speaking teachers’ (NNESTs’)identities. Moreover, the author further reports on a study conducted at alanguage teacher education program in Croatia to explore how the NEST/NNESTdistinction is conceptualized by lecturers and student teachers and how it isreflected in classroom practice. She suggests re-examining teacher education inlight of the recent sociocultural turn and critical approaches to teachereducation.

Last but not least, Chapter 12 of the book, “Multilingualism Pedagogy: BuildingBridges between Languages”, is contributed by Eva Vetter. As multilingualism andmulticulturalism are realities in the European context, as well as in many partsof the world, the author investigates how much the multilingualism perspectiveis likely to bring about changes for language teaching, language teachers, andteacher educators. She asserts that both teachers and learners are multilingualresources that could be drawn upon in a language classroom, as language learningis linked to all linguistic resources the learners already have at theirdisposal. In this sense, she calls for a multilingual turn in language teachereducation, as multilingualism relates to teachers’ competences in a broadersense. In order to achieve this, she suggests that offering intercultural andplurilingual experiences to student teachers be an integral part of teachereducation programs.

EVALUATION

“Theory and Practice in EFL Teacher Education: Bridging the Gap” generallyachieves its aim in providing examples and implementations of promoting studentteachers’ understanding of how theory and practice build upon each other. In myopinion, the book continuously engages in discussion about this gap, but Parts 2and 3 give more concrete and practical examples on how to deal with it inteacher education programs. Although every chapter in the book has its owncontribution to the discussion of bridging the gap between theory and practice,I found the first chapter, contributed by Widdowson, and the closing chapter, byVetter, to be the most compelling. Widdowson initiated a thought-provokingdiscussion of how teachers can critically think about the theories of languageteaching and adapt it in the most pedagogical and communicative ways that complywith their students’ own reality. He argues that ‘real’ or ‘authentic’ languagemay still be irrelevant to language learners’ realities since authentic languageis always context-dependent, and since language is used to complement thecontext rather than duplicating it. I also found his examples from real corporavery powerful in demonstrating how the use of such authentic language inlanguage classroom does not help students engage with the language in meaningfuland communicative ways. This illustration is helpful for especially noviceteachers in their attempts to meaningfully and pedagogically bridge theory andpractice 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 theuse 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 byconsidering the current realities of the world as it continues to grow withmultilingual individuals. In my opinion (agreeing with Vetter), this should bean important consideration in language teacher education programs today.Language teachers not only serve as teachers but also portray models ofsuccessful multilingual and multicultural individuals. However, withoutproviding contexts and experiences for pre-service teachers to develop thiscompetence and awareness, it would not be possible for them to convey the valueof multilingualism, multiculturalism, and linguistic diversity to languagelearners. In this regard, the suggestion to include more intercultural andplurilingual experiences in language teacher education programs offers animportant 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 languagesand cultures but also better value and use their students’ linguisticrepertoires in their future language classrooms.

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

Each part of the book is thematically organized, and later chapters build uponearlier ones. For example, in terms of the discussion of the knowledge base oflanguage teacher education, quite a range of topics are covered, such asgrammar, ESP, literature, and assessment. The last of these topics isproblematic, as student teachers are not easily able to make connections withtheir future practice. In this sense, the implementation ideas presented in thisbook 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 requirementsfor language learners, as well as language teachers in Europe, etc., in thisbook. The fact that the book is heavily contextualized in European teachereducation programs can be appealing for readers who are interested in beinginformed more about the European context and issues in EFL teacher educationpractices in Europe. However, those who are not familiar with this context, andwho do not find it relevant to their own context, might find the book to be oflimited 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 themajority of the world’s population is either bilingual or multilingual, this notonly complicates the native speaker ideology for both language teachers andlearners, but also makes it inevitable for language teachers, and thus, teachereducators, to consider this fact in language teaching practices and in teachereducation.

The book makes frequent reference to Shulman’s (1987) concept of pedagogicalcontent knowledge (PCK), as the development of this knowledge base is mostlyconnected to bridging the gap between theory and practice. However, what seemsto be lacking in this book is a discussion of technological pedagogical contentknowledge (TPACK), introduced by Mishra and Koehler (2006), which builds onShulman’s PCK. It suggests another knowledge base, technology, and argues that21st century teacher education should prepare student teachers for meaningfultechnology instruction and use in their practices. In this sense, Parts 2 and 3of this book could have been more strengthened and enriched with an inclusion ofa discussion of how EFL student teachers’ TPACK is developed and constructed inteacher education programs.

All in all, the book is an invaluable contribution to language teaching researchand practice, as it discusses current conceptualizations, understandings, andperspectives 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 sothat they see that we need both in teacher education programs.

REFERENCES

Mishra, Punya & Matthew Koehler. 2006. Technological pedagogical contentknowledge. 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

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


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