Annual CLERA Distinguished Lecture
Second Annual CLERA Distinguished Lecture, October 2012
Classroom-based experience in second language teacher education
Presented Wednesday 10 October, 2012 by Professor Michael Legutke, University of Giessen, Germany
The focus of Professor Legutke’s lecture was the important role of classroom-based experience in teacher education. He began by discussing the rationale for integrating school-based experience, noting that previous learning experiences have an impact on the theories and perceptions that student teachers bring with them. He then elaborated on basic principles for designing teacher education programmes and identified three major learning approaches: the research approach; the experiential approach; and the experimental approach. In his work with language teachers in Germany, over time he has substantially developed and implemented an experiential learning model. He went on to outline and illustrate this model, noting that it was made up of both direct and indirect classroom experiences.
The first scenario in the model is an introduction to ELT that involves processes of reconstruction and orientation. Participants are engaged in reflecting on fundamental concepts of the discipline including the notion of what makes the best and worst teachers. This scenario involves both content and processes – teachers read the relevant literature but relate it to what they bring from their own experiences. Using only the medium of English in order to strengthen language skills, they also use portfolios and ‘critical incident’ analysis to arrive at their evaluations and definitions. When working with classroom documents, participants are encouraged not to make value judgments but to see things from ‘the teacher’s viewpoint’. They are invited, for example, to be a teacher in the ‘hot seat’, responding to their peers about questions related to practice or vice versa, being the ones to ask questions. The kind of task that might be involved here is to ask them to imagine they are one of their former teachers, good or bad. They are asked to consider what recommendations they would make to that teacher and what research questions they would ask about the teacher. In this scenario, there is a mixture of top-down lecture, exploration and discussion. Tutors working on the programme attend the lectures and later hold tutorials to talk through the course readings with the participants.
The second scenario involves a practicum, which builds on the lecture of the first scenario. Concepts and practices are now discussed with a clear reference to specific groups of learners. The preparatory sessions include reconstruction and micro-teaching from which the participants must come up with a research project to be carries out during the practicum. This project eventually results in the simulation of a regional teachers’ conference where the participants present their research to their fellow students and their host teachers.
The third scenario involves cooperative courses with regional schools to introduce classroom-based action research. Groups of students are connected to a specific school where they must teach modules to small groups of five learners. These modules link with content they have encountered in the teacher education programme and with the specific curricular requirements of their host school. They are able to prepare their teaching in the university classroom before it is taken out into the school to try out. Afterwards they bring their experiences back into the university classroom for discussion. Host teachers participate in these final presentation either face-to-face or via the Internet.
Scenario four relates to exploring task-based learning and teaching, particularly focusing on the role of the teacher. In undertaking this exploration, he argued, it is important that university teachers also become appropriate role models reflecting the kinds of practices they are promoting. An example of a task completed by the participants might be Exploring American Education. Participants are given tasks to prepare before attending class, such as choosing a school for a family relocating from Europe to Washington State and finding information about schooling from sources such as websites, books and film. In the classroom ‘ad hoc’ groups of three to five participants are formed so that students can share the results of their explorations and select a speaker to report on their behalf to the whole group.
Professor Legutke commented that it is inevitable that teachers in training come with an ‘apprenticeship of observation’ from many years of their own schooling. This experiential model aims to redirect their assumptions through opportunities to experience teaching first hand and to test out notions of teaching practice and the role of the teacher through classroom research. He argued that there is a prevailing myth that teacher education operates by acquiring knowledge about teaching rather than through teaching. He called this ‘the hegemony of packaged knowledge’. Instead, effective language teacher education should be reoriented to focus on school-based experiences that provide teachers-to-be with critical and reflective perspectives toward their future teaching.
Abstract: Although classroom-based has received continued attention since the 1990s, current practice of teacher education often lacks consistent and convincing models. Classroom-based experience not only appears to be incompatible with academic curricula, but also seems difficult to implement in view of institutional constraints and cross-institutional incompatibility. Starting from current research on the relationship between teacher knowledge and the activity of language teaching itself I will argue that classroom based experience must be an integral part of teacher education. I will elaborate on a set of design principles, which have emerged from a continuous critique of established practice, and illustrate different ways of integrating classroom-based experiences into teacher education programs, which have been developed in Germany.
Biography: Michael Legutke is professor emeritus of TEFL at the Justus-Liebig University of Giessen in Germany. He has worked at the Department of Research at the Goethe-Institut Munich, as German Language Consultant to the Pacific Northwest of the United States and as language teacher in Germany. His research has focused on task-based language learning, teacher education, on electronic literacy, and on teaching English in the primary school.