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Review of  International Perspectives on English Language Teacher Education


Reviewer: Ana Lucia Simoes Borges Fonseca
Book Title: International Perspectives on English Language Teacher Education
Book Author: Thomas S. C. Farrell
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
General Linguistics
Issue Number: 27.2053

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Reviews Editor: Helen Aristar-Dry

SUMMARY

International Perspectives on English Language Teacher Education: Innovations from the Field, is the latest edition to the International Perspectives on English Language Teaching series. It was edited by Thomas S. C. Farrell and first published in 2015, by Palgrave Macmillan. It consists of twelve chapters preceded by the Contents, a List of Figures and Tables, the Series Editors’ Preface, which outlines the objectives and the structure of the book, and a Note on Contributors. It is not only one more book for those interested in innovating and redirecting their practices concerning second language teacher education. Each one of the twelve chapters of the book is thought-provoking and takes the approach of impelling the readers to action; this is the reason this book differs from others dealing with similar themes. By providing the readers with descriptive and interpretative analysis of an innovation in language teacher education that arose due to emerging needs or contextual changes, Farrell succeeds in exposing the challenges faced by teachers in different parts of the world and the way they deal with such challenges creatively. The concrete examples in the book, which highlight the strong points and weaknesses of the ‘innovations’ (Mann & Edge, 2013) adopted in a variety of contexts, encourage teacher educators to have their own experiences in improving novice language teacher education. The book is certain to keep ‘resonating across contexts’, as Farrell puts it, because preparing novice teachers (but not only novices!) to embark on their careers and face the challenges by innovating and experimenting is an endless process.

The first chapter, ‘Second Language Teacher Education: A Reality Check’, by Thomas S. C. Farrell, makes us reflect on whose needs teacher educators should devote their attention to while preparing second language teachers: their own or the teacher learner’s needs? How to narrow the gap that makes it difficult for novice teachers to teach in their first years is still a burning issue, which second language teacher education programs seem not to have been able to resolve yet. The difficulty in monitoring novice teachers’ development and bridging the disjuncture between theory in second language teacher education programs and practice in real classrooms points to a long and challenging way to go.

The second chapter, ‘Constructivist Language Teacher Education: an Example from Turkey’, by Simon Phipps, describes the case of an innovative in-service language teacher education program in Turkey. Employing a reflective and an inquiry-based approach in the aforementioned case study, the author shows that both approaches integrate theory and practice successfully, in order to achieve the desirable balance between academic study and professional development. Contrary to what some might think, the experience suggests that academic rigor is not sacrificed when a reflective/constructivist approach is integrated into the process of preparing teachers.

The third chapter, entitled ‘Encouraging Critical Reflection in a Teacher Education Course: a Canadian Case Study’, by Thomas S. C. Farrell, outlines and discusses the results of graduate students’ reflections on the importance and impact of sociolinguistics. It is shown that the students’ knowledge of sociolinguistics applied to second language teaching enables them to understand that teaching/learning a language is not something mechanical that can be extracted from the surrounding society. Such understanding is certain to lead the students to write reflective assignments as a means of creating an awareness of self as future teachers and encourages them to keep practicing critical reflection.

The fourth chapter is entitled ‘Teaching Everything to No One and Nothing to Everyone: Addressing the Content in Content Based Instruction’, by Margo DelliCarpini and Orlando B. Alonso. The authors report on the effects of a TESOL teacher education program restructuring that implemented coursework specifically designed to prepare pre-service teachers to engage in Content Based Instruction (CBI) tied to the academic curriculum through Two-way CBI and teacher collaboration. It also focuses on the needs of growing populations of English language learner students (ELLs) in US schools, considering there is still a lot to be analyzed when it comes to having mainstream teachers prepared (or not) to develop both content and language for ELLs.

The fifth chapter, entitled ‘Dissonance and Balance: the Four Strands Framework and Pre-Service Teacher Education’, by John Macalister and Jill Musgrave, evaluates course effectiveness and emphasizes the importance of such practice, since the latest studies have not been encouraging about the effectiveness of teacher education courses, particularly in what concerns changing teachers’ beliefs. Thus, the innovation implemented in a New Zealand University Graduate Certificate in TESOL, the Four Strands Framework, which consists of equal strands of meaning-focused input, language-focused input, meaning-focused output and fluency development, draws on second language acquisition research to provide key principles that can be applied to any teaching and/or learning situation.

The sixth chapter, ‘Materials Design in Language Teacher Education: An Example from Southeast Asia’, by Jack C. Richards, focuses on the importance of reaching a creative approach to materials design no matter what the specific skill area intended to be worked at is. Inducing language teachers to write course materials for use in countries that are members of Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SAMEO), this case study ends up revealing that developing classroom materials requires from the teachers different and complex kinds of knowledge and that such an activity is a ‘valuable component of their professional development’, as the author puts it.

The seventh chapter, ‘Translanguaging Principles in L2 Reading Instruction: Implications for ESL Pre-Service Teacher Programme’, by Leketi Makalela, argues in favor of considering language learners’ existing linguistic and cultural experiences instead of adopting a monoglossic approach. The program described in the study reveals that using translanguaging techniques towards the development of a cohort of ESL for elementary schools in South Africa has positive effects on the teaching of reading.

The eighth chapter, ‘Creative Enactments of Language Teacher Education Policy: A Singapore Case Study’, by Lubna Alsagoff, discusses the necessity of thinking about English in new ways, considering its rapid global spread and the fact that this situation changed its profile and the profile of its users. Therefore, knowing that the number of L2 speakers outnumber the number of L1 speakers implies that representing the increasing heterogeneity of English has become increasingly difficult. The Singapore case study points to the complexity of English language teacher education in multicultural contexts and to the importance of having teacher education programs responding positively to the policies of their nations.

The ninth chapter, ‘Changing Practice and Enabling Development: The Impact of Technology on Teaching and Language Teacher Education in UAE Federal Institutions’, by Helen Donaghue, investigates changes that happened in the foundation program in tertiary institutions in the United Arab Emirates. Aiming to equip Arabic speaking Emirati students with the academic skills they need for undergraduate studies, with emphasis on improving their English language proficiency, while implementing iPads in the tertiary foundation programs, shows that the use of technology in English language teaching and learning reflects a global trend and reveals some of the challenges that teacher educators are to face.

The tenth chapter, ‘Using Screen Capture Software to Improve the Value of Feedback on Academic Assignments in Teacher Education’, by Steve Mann, focuses on the provision of feedback on academic writing tasks and assignments. It describes the audiofeedback provided through screen capture software (Jing) in a UK teacher education context and highlights the importance of using visual focus and auditory commentaries while providing feedback to students, who receive it well because it offers more advantages than written feedback.

The eleventh chapter, ‘Developing Novice EFL Teachers’ Pedagogical Knowledge through Lesson Study Activities’, by Hao Xu, indicates that when novice teachers participate in lesson study activities, three stages of learning exist; these demonstrate different characteristics of pedagogical knowledge development by pointing to the necessity of utilizing lesson study activities differently in different stages. This experience in a Chinese context reveals that a combination of two formats of lesson study activities, that is, school-based and non-school based formats, may be an effective solution regarding in-service language teacher education.

The twelfth chapter, ‘Reflective Practice as Innovation in SLTE, by Thomas S. C. Farrell, summarizes what the book is about: what teachers need to learn and to know in their preparation programs in order to succeed in their first year of teaching, which is still an unresolved matter. Dealing with innovations is, therefore, an important issue because it impels teacher educators to reflect about their practices, and reflection must be at the heart of any research/case study that is being carried out. After all, it is as Bailey and Springer (2013:108) suggest, “reflective teaching exemplifies innovation because… it is perceived as new… which is intended to bring about improvement”.

EVALUATION


International Perspectives on English Language Teacher Education: Innovations from the Field is an invaluable source for postgraduate and graduate courses in foreign and second language teaching as well as for researchers in the field of language teaching and learning. Its empirical studies are of the uttermost importance for those willing to study the experiences described and adapt them to their needs and realities, to better their practices in the classroom and to understand that most teaching programs still do not prepare teachers for the unpredictable challenges to come in their careers, particularly in their first years of teaching.

Despite fitting with other literature on the topics discussed, this book goes beyond the existing literature because it impels those interested in second language teacher education to take action; it clearly demonstrates that if one is motivated and interested in innovating, no matter what the context is, important and excellent results can be achieved.

The volume coheres and all the authors achieve their goals with the description of the case studies presented in the book. The fact that the authors themselves comment on the shortcomings of the case study they carried out, instead of just pointing out some of its merits, is something that deserves the appreciation of readers, as the authors ensure that the contents are genuine and the ideas can be practiced.

Equipping those interested in improving second/foreign teacher education with local responses that can be applied to global problems everywhere, at any time, is one of the major strengths of this book. The empirical investigations into teacher educators and teaching programs, novice teachers’ development, reflective practices, and teacher cognition teacher development, amongst others, are also relevant.

Each chapter in the book provides an effective overview of the issues being investigated and each one of the case studies is described in detail. Disciplinary resources, such as sociolinguistics and its intertwined topics, widens teacher educators’ and novice teachers’ understanding of the necessity of being familiar with different areas of knowledge if we are to expect significant changes in our teaching/learning practices.

Another strength of the book is the fact that the studies presented use a variety of research methodologies, which can be adapted to various situations.

As to the book’s shortcomings, I believe the authors themselves make references to its drawbacks: small sample sizes of participants in some case studies, short duration of the programs devoted to innovation, and lack of time for metacognitive reflections from the part of the ones engaged in the actions, amongst others which do not impair its quality. One suggestion I have to make is that a glossary be included at the end of the book, to clarify the terms that are specialized or newly-introduced.

In brief, the book is an invaluable source of empirical studies for researchers, teachers, and graduate students interested in improving their teaching and learning practices. Those in search of studies that will inform them about recent literature in second language teacher education and about empirical investigations that can be used as models for future studies are going to find some of the answers they are looking for in this book. Undoubtedly, this is a book that provides ‘food for thought’.

REFERENCES

Bailey, K., & Springer, S. (2013). Reflective Teaching as Innovation. In K. Hyland & L. Wong (eds), Innovation and Change in English Language Teaching Education. New York: Routledge, 106-122.

Mann, S. & Edge, J. (2013). Innovations in Pre-Service Education and Training for English Language Teachers. London: The British Council.

Richards, Jack C. (2013). Curriculum Strategies in Language Teaching: Forward, Central and Backward Design. RELC Journal 44, 1, 1-33.

Wright, T. (2010). Second Language Teacher Education: Review of Recent Research on Practice. Language Teaching 43, 3, 259-296.
 
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Ana Lúcia Simões Borges Fonseca is currently working as a professor at the Department of Foreign Languages, at the Federal University of Sergipe, Brazil. Her main areas of interest are language policy, language planning, public policies, academic mobility, internationalization and teacher formation.

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Format: Hardback
ISBN-13: 9781137440051