LINGUIST List 28.78

Wed Jan 04 2017

Review: Applied Ling; Lang Acquisition: Freeman (2016)

Editor for this issue: Clare Harshey <>

Date: 28-Jul-2016
From: Laura Dubcovsky <>
Subject: Educating Second Language Teachers
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Book announced at

AUTHOR: Donald Freeman
TITLE: Educating Second Language Teachers
SERIES TITLE: Oxford Applied Linguistics
PUBLISHER: Oxford University Press
YEAR: 2016

REVIEWER: Laura Dubcovsky, University of California, Davis

Reviews Editor: Helen Aristar-Dry


“Educating Second Language Teachers” by Donald Freeman presents core ideas and practices rooted in second language research and effective teaching. The author treats theoretical and practical dimensions, weaving together a historical perspective on second language teacher education with personal narratives on classroom experiences. The book is divided into four sections. The first part addresses prescriptive and descriptive positions, pinpoints their opposite characteristics, and includes them within a broader framework of language as a social process. Freeman explains that, “The challenge [of the teaching profession] is to re-center our work on a descriptive understanding of what language teachers know and do and how they learn these things…” (pp. 6-7). In Chapter Two the author poses “what- where- how” questions to guide the discussion of language use in second language education. He defines the culture of the classroom, explains how to integrate planning, teaching, assessing and materials, and shows ways of learning to teach language, both during formal preparation and continuing professional development (Table 1.1 p. 7).

In the second part Freeman examines various teaching methodologies, as well as some implications of becoming a (second) language teacher. In Chapter 3 he differentiates three types of teachers’ background knowledge, and situates the path of becoming teachers on a rough continuum, ranging from “born experience,” to “know-how made over time,” to “formally prepared” positions (Figure ii.1 p. 41). The author also mentions well-known programs, such as Japan English Teaching (JET) and the English Program in Korea (EPIK) that exemplify the different backgrounds’ expectations. Next Freeman deconstructs the complicated notion of second language transmission, which involves disciplinary content as well as means of instruction. The author highlights the hybrid nature of second language education, which enables language teachers to set up curriculum , interact and circulate within disciplines, such as history, psychology and sociology. Moreover the hybrid condition facilitates teachers’ development of linguistic and professional strands, which assure the double socialization that builds on language teachers’ peculiar identity. Finally Freeman introduces two capital educational theories. In Chapter 5 he points out key concepts of the situated learning theory, such as learning in place, engaging teachers in the classroom language, and adapting content in the social environment. The author focuses on attributes of the collective learning, including problem solving, multiple roles, collaborative work skills, and confronting misconceptions (Table 5.2 p. 91). In Chapter 6 Freeman follows two main educational ideas embedded in the sociocultural theory: how to make meaning, and what travels or can be transferred when teaching languages. He applies the activity system’s components - tools, subjects, goals, rules and norms, community and division of labor - to typical classroom situations, such as students’ raising hands and a peer teaching science lesson. Regardless of the native or formal background, the implicit or explicit type of preparation, and the educational theory, it is apparent that learning to teach languages constitutes a non-ending and interconnected process that takes place in social situations.

The third part involves mental activities that affect the field of second language teaching. Chapters 7 and 8 focus on the “thinking” process and trace the historical path, showing methodological changes along generations. Therefore Freeman describes relevant methods that respond to behavioral approaches - Grammar Translation, Audio-lingual and Direct Method-, as well as meaning-based perspectives, such as Community Language Learning, Natural approach, Suggestopedia and Silent Ways. He expands on the combination of several Communicative Methods and the current search for Heuristic Methodologies, which are more oriented toward teachers’ action research and reflective uses of language (Table 7.5 p. 145). Then the author analyzes seminal works based on decision-making (Shavelson 1973, Woods 1996) and thought processes (Clark and Peterson 1986, Borg 2003) and claims that, “The process-product paradigm waned in favor of the qualitative-hermeneutic paradigm”... and that… “… conceptions of thinking moved away from cognitivist views of information processing to favor situated cognition...and ultimately socio -cultural theorizations...” (Chapter 8 p.161).

The following two chapters address the mental process of “knowing.” In Chapter 9 Freeman lays out distinctive foci and strategies that characterize different types of knowledge. While in the sixties major emphasis was given to disciplinary knowledge in an attempt to understand the “what” or content, during the 70s the focus was pedagogical knowledge, interested in the “how” or ways of teaching. Likewise, in the 80s and 90s people move to a situated knowledge, integrating the “who” and “where” into the educational scene, while today heuristic knowledge is motivated by reasoning and looking for “why” questions (Tables 9.1 and 9.3 pp. 163 and 183, respectively). The author provides a model of knowledge-for-teaching languages that is rooted in Shulman’s familiar notion of pedagogical content knowledge (1987). As shown in Figure 9.3 (p. 180) the model presents language uses within the classroom and in the professional world.

In Chapter 10 Freeman incorporates the concept of “geography of knowledge” (Finnegan 2013) to synthesize the interplay of material and immaterial forces that co-exist in the teaching experience. As the author explains, the geography is made up of concrete places, actions, and people as well as abstract ideas, beliefs, and attitudes. He follows different institutions and settings, such as TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), IATEFL (International Association of Teaching English as Foreign Language) and ELT (English Language Teaching) to show that in spite of the different “metaphorical maps” they mostly share the same “learn-then-apply” procedure and similar structural features of pathways, providers and purposes (Table 10.1 p. 189). Chapter 11 emphasizes the mental process of “reflection,” which leads to a deeper and more enduring understanding of the classroom problematic. Freeman encourages a reflective posture that activates teachers’ heuristic knowledge, drawing from personal experiences, institutional context, norms and appreciation (Figure 11.1 p. 218). Above all he states that teaching preparation programs should stimulate candidates’ ability to question their own practice and connect theories with their teaching experiences.

In the last part Freeman presents a design theory, following sociocultural principles. In Chapter 12 he describes key elements of the theory, including tools and opportunities, social facts, local and professional languages, and communities (Figure 12.1 p. 230), while in Chapter 13 he analyzes language and change, adding the articulation between social facts and professional identity, as teachers become recognized and recognizable members of their language community (Figure 13.1 p. 240). In closing, the author states that the descriptive position of his design theory, “ought to provide a reasoned basis on which to evaluate, to reform, and to innovate in educating second language (as well as other) teachers” (p. 252). The book offers three appendices that illustrate how Freeman’s design theory is applicable to language teacher education activities (Appendix A), language teacher education programs (Appendix B), and assessments (Appendix C).


“Educating Second Language Teachers” is strongly supported by Freeman’s vast experience in language teaching education. The author addresses a broad audience of experienced and novice language teachers, supervisors and trainers. Moreover he attempts to reach public and private areas, as he examines teachers’ visible actions within educational practice as well as the mental processes that enable them to reflect on their teaching experience. The book is well organized in four distinctive parts, each of them divided in similarly structured chapters, starting with a short statement that encloses the main ideas and closing with a final paragraph that revisits the initial argument. The author expresses an open intention of using clear signposts to make the book accessible to readers. To this end, he also interpolates tables and figures that facilitate his explanations, as well as vivid examples taken from his personal educational career, other studies, and efficient language programs.

In addition Freeman follows several themes that make the book coherent and cohesive. Among them, he emphasizes the premise that teaching languages is similar to and different than teaching other content areas, as he already expresses in the subtitle, “The same things done differently,” and clarifies this continuously throughout the chapters. Other important themes focus on language teachers’ need for professional and disciplinary socialization, problem-solving attitudes, and the crucial mastery of language both as an object of study and medium of instruction. Although Freeman demonstrates his robust knowledge of language teaching throughoutthe book, sometimes he falls into broad explanations of more general and comprehensible educational principles, leaving less space for specific language preparation topics, theories and strategies.

Above all, “Educating Second Language Teachers” contributes to the field of language education by relating (second) language methodologies to historical movements and key generational shifts. Freeman not only revises old notions, but he also provides a new design theory and poses central challenges in teaching languages, which will benefit all readers. While novice teachers will gain a complete and up-dated picture, experienced professionals will feel stimulated by the dynamic perspective on linguistic matters. Undoubtedly the book offers a solid foundation that will bolster the language preparation of new generations of language teachers.


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.

Clark, C. and P. Peterson. 1986. Teacher's thought processes. Handbook of research on teaching. M. C. Wittrock. New York: Macmillan. 255-299.

Finnegan, D. 2013. Geography of knowledge: Oxford Bibliographies.

Shavelson, R. 1973. What is the basic teaching skill? Journal of Teacher Education 24. 144-151.

Shulman, L. 1987. Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the new reform. Harvard Educational Review 57(1). 1-22.

Woods, D. 1996. Teacher cognition and language teaching. New York: Cambridge University Press.


Laura Dubcovsky was a lecturer and supervisor in the Teacher Education Program from The School of Education at the University of California, Davis. She has a Master’s in Education and a PhD in Spanish linguistics with special emphasis on second language acquisition. Her areas of interest combine the fields of language and bilingual education. She is dedicated to the preparation of prospective bilingual Spanish/English teachers, especially on the use of Spanish for educational purposes. She collaborates as a reviewer with the Linguistic list serve and bilingual associations, as interpreter in parent/teachers conferences and at the school district, and as translator for outreach programs in museums and school sites, building home/school connections . She has taught a course that addresses Communicative and Academic Spanish needed in a bilingual classroom for more than ten years. She also published the article, Functions of the verb decir (''to say'') in the incipient academic Spanish writing of bilingual children. Functions of Language, 15(2), 257-280 (2008) and the chapter, “ Desde California. Acerca de la narración en ámbitos bilingües” In ¿Cómo aprendemos y cómo enseñamos la narración oral? (2015). Rosario, Homo Sapiens:127- 133.

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