The Reading Matrix
Vol. 5, No. 2, September 2005
Second Language Teacher Education: International Perspectives
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
New Jersey, USA
Pp. xxiv + 348
Reviewed by Sujung Park
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Most readers probably know that every book has its intended audience(s) and my personal experience with most books tells me one additional thing: They try to reach as many audiences as possible for some reason—perhaps profitable reasons. This book, Second Language Teacher Education: International Perspectives by Diane Tedick, however, is in the very other direction and targets quite a narrow audience. She says upfront that “this volume is purposefully about second language teacher education specifically. It is by and for second language teacher educators around the world” (p. xxii). More specifically, the text is centered on four themes about second language (L2) teacher education: the knowledge base, contexts, collaborations, and practice.
The first theme examines what teachers need to learn and understand and how that needed knowledge base is incorporated into L2 teacher education for both preservice and inservice teachers. The first two chapters, respectively by Tarone and Allwright and by Freeman and Johnson, center on this theme, and debate what comprises the knowledge base of L2 teaching. Most notably, Tarone and Allwright argue that L2 teacher education is quite different from other forms of teacher education. They present an example of language teachers in which they have to learn to attend to both content and language unlike content teachers. Freeman and Johnson disagree with this position, however, by stating that there are fundamental learning processes involved with teacher learning irrespective of subject matters. What is lacking in their response is the concrete illustration of the similarities between general and language teacher education as well as the counterargument of Tarone and Allwright’s example illustrated above.
The rest of the chapters on the theme introduce inservice teachers’ actual practices and discuss how their knowledge bases operate in their classrooms. Angela Scarino describes the intertwined impact of a French teacher’s knowledge, values, and ethics on assessing students’ writing. Bill Johnston, Faridah Pawan, and Rebecca Mahan-Taylor report on a US-born TESOL graduate who faced identity clashes while teaching in Japan as well as her struggles due to inadequate preparation she received from her MA program. In terms of identity, the American teacher was not prepared to be perceived as a representative of a typical American and to not be acknowledged as a professional by the Japanese society. This, though from one individual’s experience, poses a consideration of restructuring the knowledge base in current TESOL programs in the direction in which they deal with possible obstacles that may await their students teaching abroad. The final chapter written by Freeman and Johnson again presents a historical account of how teaching and learning have been connected, and illustrates a French teacher’s practice in which students internalize not only content but also her values and experience or processes with language learning and even teaching.
The second theme focuses on various contexts of L2 teacher education. Elana Shohamy in the first chapter examines the detrimental power of tests over language teachers and classroom learning. For instance, Korea’s one day high-stakes national exam determines an individual’s future quality of life, and it forces teachers to teach to the test. In order to improve this situation, she suggests that democratic approaches to testing are needed (i.e., perceiving testing as measuring comprehensive rather than homogeneous knowledge) and in multicultural societies like the US, this view is especially encouraged. In the following chapter, Sachiko Hiramatsu reports, in the context of English education in Japan, that irrespective of communicative curriculum reform, teachers still prioritized grammar and reading comprehension, major part of a college entrance exam. This is directly accounted for by negative impacts of tests over classroom practice, as discussed by Shohamy. On the other hand, this may be also due to the underlying education system in an EFL country like Japan or Korea (Liu, Ahn, Baek, & Han, 2004). In fact, Li (1998) investigated the implementation of Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) in Korean secondary English classrooms, and found that the principles of CLT are not likely to operate in grammar-based EFL teaching contexts that usually accompany teachers’ linguistic deficiency, students’ low motivation towards communication, large class size, inadequate support from the educational system, and other elements. Turning to Hiramatsu’s context, team-teaching introduced as a way of adapting CLT to the EFL context is another element that is relatively new to EFL teachers. She reports that team teaching by a native teacher and a non-native teacher varies in terms of its advantages due to Japanese teachers’ perceptions of native teachers, either being ‘threats’ or ‘stimulus.’
The third chapter moves to the context of the education of graduate foreign language teaching assistants (TAs). Heidi Byrnes proposes a reconceptualization of TA education with a major emphasis on socializing TAs into the professional community as experts of both language (teacher) and knowledge (researcher). In order for the linkage to happen, she argues that a close faculty-to-TA relationship, in addition to that of supervisor-to –TA, is necessary. As a way of faculty support, offering a graduate course may help students (or TAs) open their eyes into research and connect theory and practice. For example, studies by McDonough (in press) and Park, Wang, & Kuroshima (in press) illustrate that their action research course improved TAs’ classroom practices by drawing on the relevant theory by way of the instructor’s guidance and peer feedback. The fourth chapter, by Leslie Poynor, addresses similar concerns that Johnston, Pawan, and Mahan-Taylor investigate—the influence of preservice training on actual practice after graduation. In other words, Poynor describes the difficulties of progressively trained teachers implementing their knowledge base into a traditionally oriented classroom, such as isolation from other teachers and no one to consult. The implication of this study is that teacher preparation programs should assist to establish the environment of collaboration among their graduates in order to help them overcome the obstacles that they may need to confront after graduation.
The third theme naturally arises from the previous chapter—collaborations in L2 teacher education. In the lead chapter, Julian Edge explains his own values associated with teacher education via the terms ‘liberty,’ ‘equality,’ and ‘community.’ Then, he illustrates his style of communicating his values to his colleagues through a particular collaborative discourse involving ‘Speaker’ and ‘Understander.’ The next two chapters continue to speak to the value of collaboration but in a different way—action research. Lorraine Smith, author of one of the chapters, examines college part-time teachers’ collaborative work over the course of one year of study and its positive impact on their professional growth. The success of this particular project is significant in that it contributes to the body of action research by filling in how collaboration and professional development can emerge and evolve with the underrepresented college part-time teachers in research. The other action research chapter is framed within a ‘Professional Practice School (PPS)’ partnership between public schools and public universities. Sharon Cormany, Christina Maynor, and Julie Kalnin describe two high school teachers’ professional growth in their respective inquiries. Cormany mentions several L2 acquisition theories in her section, and this might hinder some of the readers from understanding it fully, but in terms of action research methodology, this chapter is highly recommended. It provides very detailed descriptions of how the two projects were conducted from the beginning to the end. [See Burn (1999) for a comprehensive presentation of action research methodology in L2 contexts.] In the fourth chapter, also situated in the PPS but this time in the context of an elementary bilingual classroom, Nancy Dubetz, a university liaison, describes how a collaborative, problem-solving study group of teachers tries to enhance ESL instruction by sharing their classroom problems. This chapter ends with a discussion of the changes in a teacher’s theory of practice, as a result of participating in collaborative work.
The fourth and final theme of the book is L2 teacher education in practice. The authors showcase how their respective teacher training programs integrate knowledge, contexts, and collaboration. The first chapter, by Marguerite Ann Snow from the MA TESOL program at Cal State, identifies the following six themes that reflect a high quality TESOL program: initiating students into the professional discourse community (see also chapter 8 by Byrnes), addressing the needs of both native and non-native speakers, taking advantage of technology, familiarizing students with various standards and accreditation demands, creating reliable and fair performance-based assessment, and understanding new partnerships (see chapter 12 by Cormany et al. and chapter 13 by Dubetz) and roles (see chapter 15 by Cloud). In the following chapter, Nancy Cloud pays attention to dual language instructors and explores what should constitute their knowledge base, how the program’s effectiveness is being documented, and what challenges face the implementation of dual language programs. Tony Erben continues, by asking the same questions as Cloud, to examine the success story of an immersion Japanese teacher education program in an Australian university. The teacher immersion program is very interesting and promising in terms of its applications to other similar contexts, for example, EFL contexts in which many nonnative teachers of English have difficulty teaching and communicating in English. Future research is highly warranted in order to extend its benefits to other contexts.
The final two chapters, showcasing L2 teacher education programs, are contextualized in the teacher education programs at the University of Minnesota. Martha Bigelow and Diane Tedick argue for the value of integrating teachers from different contexts, focusing on their common grounds. This is clearly demonstrated in the study by Park et al. (in press) that TAs from diverse language programs successfully collaborated with each other to work toward their professional development. The other chapter by Constance Walker, Susan Ranney, and Tara Fortune points out the endlessly increasing number of ESL learners in K-12 contexts and explores how to aid preservice teachers in dealing with these learners by describing one of their teacher education courses newly created for this particular group. Their experience obtained by this ‘trial run’ would be quite useful for other teacher educators who might feel a need to implement such a course in their own institutions.
In summary, this book covers various knowledge bases required of different contexts around the world and discusses language teacher research methodologies. Thus, for preservice and inservice teachers as well as teacher educators, this text may broaden their horizons and help them reflect upon the issues and topics being of interest in the current teaching profession. However, if a reader is looking for a text that is context-specific, say, language teaching in bilingual contexts, this book is not the best choice, though it might indirectly spark some ideas that can be adapted to the specific context. In short, this collection of articles devoted to L2 teacher education would best suit those who want to have a broad but in-depth picture of the current field of language teacher education.
Burns, A. (1999). Collaborative action research for English language teachers. CUP:
Li, D. (1998). “It’s Always More Difficult Than You Plan and Imagine”: Teachers’
perceived differences in introducing the communicative approach in South Korea. TESOL Quarterly, 32(4), 677-703.
Liu, D., Ahn, G-S., Baek K-S., & Han, N-O. (2004). South Korean high school English
McDonough, K. (in press). Action research and the professional development of graduate
teachers’ code switching: Questions and challenges in the drive for maximal use of English in teaching. TESOL Quarterly, 38(4), 605-638.
teaching assistants. Modern Language Journal, 90.
Park, S., Wang, Z., & Kuroshima. S. (in press). Professional development through action
research for language educators. In M. Bigelow & C. Walker (Eds.), Creating Teacher Community: Selected papers from the Third International Conference on
Language Teacher Education. Minneapolis, MN: Center for Advanced Research
on Language Acquisition.
Sujung Park received her MA in TESL in 2001, and is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Division of Cognition, Learning, Language, Instruction, and Culture in Educational
Psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research interests include second/foreign language acquisition and pedagogy, specifically, task-based
interaction and teacher education.