The Challenges Facing the Foreign Language Teacher Educator: A Proposed Teacher Education Model...

The Challenges Facing the Foreign LanguageTeacher Educator: A Proposed TeacherEducation Model for EFL

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The Challenges Facing the Foreign Language Teacher Educator: A Proposed Teacher Education Model for EFL (by Carol Goldfus) by Mind Map: The Challenges Facing the Foreign Language  Teacher Educator: A Proposed Teacher  Education Model for EFL (by Carol Goldfus)

1. A new model – bilingual literacy. The proposed model, “One brain – two languages: theory, research and professional development” places English as a foreign language within the larger framework of literacy acquisition and language proficiency in at least two languages, the mother tongue and the foreign language and is manifested in ‘bilingual literacy,’ a term I have coined to address the situation where the levels of proficiency (attainment) of each language are at different levels: the mother tongue being more proficient than the foreign language, but also recognizing that the underlying cognitive processes for language learning are the same. This approach to foreign language acquisition builds on current research in bilingualism (Nicol, 2001) and assumes that “literacy is an extension of language learning to print which involves more than decoding” (Westby, 2002:73). Language learning involves a multitude of complex cognitive processes taking place in the brain (Berninger, 2004).

2. Professional development of staff. Any curriculum plan should acknowledge students’ specific needs, expectations, proficiency levels and attributes. Moreover, it should account for specific institutional expectations and constraints (Woodward, 1991) and should make provision for ongoing professional development. On-going, inGoldfus Journal of NELTA, Vol. 16 No. 1-2, December 2011 7 service training in small interest groups should be conducted so as to ‘retrain’ veteran teachers and absorb new faculty. In our setting, we have moved slowly. Every course is being researched so as to provide an understanding of both the pre-service students’ learning, the development of the academic course, as well as the effect of such action research on the lecturer developing the courses. In many cases, they have had to reassess their courses and to update themselves in their field. New faculty members with expertise and doctoral study in one of the program fields– linguistics, special education, foreign language instruction, and literacy—have been recruited. Teaching loads have been adjusted to acknowledge the greater connections expected between theory and practice within the college classroom.

3. Challenges in foreign language teaching:

4. The brain and language learning: The last decade of the twentieth century has been called the ‘decade of the brain’—a period during which, with the participation of healthy individuals of all ages and with the benefit of sophisticated equipment such as the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and magnetoencephalography (MEG), rigorous scientific research began to unveil the complex workings of the brain. Using these sophisticated imaging techniques to monitor the brain activity of children and adolescents while they are reading, writing and speaking has provided exciting opportunities to learn about the learning processes and has brought brain research into the educational setting.

5. Learning disabilities and foreign language acquisition: As early as the early 1970 seventies, Dinklage, (1971) pointed out that the foreign language problem was as much a problem of pedagogy as it was a learning difficulty. In recent years, teaching a foreign language to students with language learning disabilities has been called the “ultimate foreign language challenge” (DiFino and Lombardino, 2004; Sparks, Schneider and Ganschow, 2002). The reason has to do with the ways in which instruction of second language learners and of children with language learning difficulties are handled in schools.

6. Literature and cinema. ‘The students love these courses and have become acquainted with a variety of new texts and teaching strategies that can be used in the classroom. Following our departmental discussions these courses have undergone quite a change. The literature and cinema courses no longer have a purely academic character – we now put more emphasis on grammar and writing as well as on the relevance of these academic studies to the practical work in the field.’

7. Theory versus practice: As in so many fields, developing a bridge between theory and practice is a persistent problem. In the field of foreign language teaching, Swaffar (2003) suggests that practice has substituted for theory and the result is a resounding emptiness and a discipline in crisis. It has become clear that we need something other than a recipe approach to teaching skills, grammar, and vocabulary; we must acknowledge that teaching language teaching cannot be effective without content: “If language teachers do not even begin to have some understanding of educational and applied subject theory, they will be mere technicians and feel themselves to be such” (Lawes, 2003:27). Thus, there is a need to re-define professional practice in light of a new type of teacher education (CochranSmith, 2005). The ‘scientist-practioner approach’ (Berninger et al. 2004), in which teachers study their own practice against a backdrop of relevant research represents one way in which teacher education might evolve.

8. As a result of the multi-cultural classroom in the 21st century, language teacher educators face new challenges; for example, young learners and those with language-based difficulties. In order to respond to these evolving needs, a new professional approach that combines theoretical knowledge with practical application is proposed. This approach targets what it is that teachers should know about literacy acquisition in at least two languages - a mother tongue and, in this case, English. The contribution of this proposed model to language education is to produce a teacher with declarative knowledge and research tools on the one hand, as well as the ability to cope with a heterogeneous classroom in a multicultural society on the other. This paper also intends to show how pre-service teacher education would benefit from an interdisciplinary approach with a combination of declarative knowledge and procedural knowledge with all teaching being ‘science-based practice’.

8.1. Abstract

9. 1. Foreign language teaching, which has often been placed on the backburner as the ‘stepchild’ of education (Swaffar, 2003), can no longer be regarded as a peripheral department.

10. 2. The increasing number of English Language Learners (ELL) (Klinger, 2006) in the schools as a result of migration has created a new group of learners whose presence in turn requires rethinking aspects of teacher education.

11. 3. There is a problem where the mother tongue of the pupils differs from English in both orthography and directionality.