ERIC Identifier: ED289362
Publication Date: 1987-11-00
Author: Jarvis, Gilbert A. - Bernhardt, Elizabeth B.
ERIC Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics Washington DC.
Foreign Language Teacher Education. 1987 Update. ERIC Digest.
The rhetoric surrounding the preparation of foreign language teachers--like
the teacher education rhetoric in general--has changed significantly in recent
years. An optimistic interpretation of the renewed interest would be a hope that
the next several years will see significant change in the preparation of foreign
language teachers. As of now, however, Stern and Strevens (1983) are still
correct in their conclusion that "we lack an established theory of teacher
education, that research is sparse, that some major differences of view persist,
and that even the main issues are not yet sharply defined" (p. 1). A recent
survey by Bernhardt and Hammadou (1987) revealed that the entire population of
published documents dealing with foreign language teacher education since 1976
consisted of only 78 articles. Of these articles a mere eight reported empirical
data. Bernhardt and Hammadou conclude that the research base in foreign language
education consists of "the perceptions of experienced foreign language
educators...rather than (of) a principled collection of data and information"
(p. 293) on effective teacher education. In other words, the research base
consists of "craft" knowledge learned by trial-and-error experience (Jarvis,
COMPONENTS OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE TEACHER EDUCATION PROGRAMS
Teacher education programs in foreign language consist, in general, of
subject-matter coursework, general education requirements, and specialized
education content. These domains have remained relatively unchanged over the
past two decades. Recent reform movements in American education, however,
characterized by position papers such as those of the Carnegie Commission, A
NATION PREPARED: TEACHERS FOR THE 21st CENTURY (1986), and The Holmes Group,
TOMORROW'S TEACHERS: A REPORT OF THE HOLMES GROUP (1986), will potentially have
a major impact on the composition of each of these teacher education areas.
Subject Matter Content. Coursework for prospective foreign language teachers
in the late 1980s consists principally of advanced literature and civilization
courses. These courses introduce students to the broad array of literary and
cultural trends generally from historical and genre perspectives. One or two
courses in composition and/or conversation and stylistics are usually included
in the program. Unfortunately, hard data on the actual composition of this
coursework from one foreign language teacher education program to another are
unavailable (Bernhardt and Hammadou, 1987). However, data on teacher education
programs in the teaching of English as a second language show that courses such
as linguistics and English grammar predominate in these programs (Bowen, Madsen,
and Hilferty, 1985).
General Education Requirements. Teacher education programs also generally
include generic courses in educational psychology, philosophy of education, and
general methods. These courses give potential teachers skills in classroom
management, mainstreaming, and the management of public school systems. The
general education requirement may also include field experiences in schools in a
variety of grade and subject matter areas; these experiences help future
teachers develop a sense for the public school system on a variety of dimensions
and also help them understand the commitment they are undertaking in becoming
public school teachers.
Specialized Education Content. Fortunately, many large institutions are now
able to offer specialized methods courses in foreign language teaching. The
development is consistent with the Holmes recommendation for subject-matter
pedagogy. These courses focus specifically on the delivery of language
instruction at a variety of levels and to a variety of student populations. In
addition, these institutions are able to offer field experiences and student
teaching experiences supervised by foreign language teaching professionals. A
less fortunate side, however, is that these courses are often taught by
professionals who were trained during the audiolingual period and who may still
view teacher education in terms of components such as the use of drilling and
"culture capsules" rather than techniques in communicative language teaching.
Smaller institutions are frequently unable to offer specialized courses.
These institutions are able to offer their students only general education
courses and generic supervision. Frequently, the foreign language teacher
training is delegated to an inservice teacher who is also the cooperating
teacher in the student teaching experience, and the supervision of that
experience is left to a university supervisor with no expertise in foreign
STATE CERTIFICATION AND CREDENTIALING SYSTEMS
Certification standards vary from state to state, and not all states have
reciprocal agreements; what one state acknowledges as competence in foreign
language teaching another does not. Moreover, it has become increasingly clear
within the past decade that what previously constituted "competence in foreign
language teaching" is no longer viable. New research and new perspectives
integrated from fields such as sociolinguistics, pragmatics, artificial
intelligence, and literary theory have relegated grammatical competence to
subskill status. New skills and competencies are now being demanded of
prospective teachers. By and large, these new skills are the focus of discussion
among certification agencies.
The language proficiency of teachers is a growing concern at present. The
Bernhardt and Hammadou survey found language proficiency as the main theme in
over 30% of the publications on teacher education and an adjunct theme in 17% of
them (Hammadou and Bernhardt, 1987). As of 1983, only 10 out of 50 states in the
United States required prospective teachers to take an examination in any
specialized area for certification. In fact, only in Massachusetts and Georgia
are foreign language teachers required to demonstrate oral proficiency in the
language in which they are seeking certification (Reschke, 1985). More recently,
several states are beginning to discuss the implementation of oral proficiency
requirements: Illinois, Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, and Missouri (Dragonas,
1987). Although Massachusetts has developed its own proficiency test, most other
states are considering the use of the Foreign Service Institute Oral Proficiency
Interview as a required assessment measure.
Oral proficiency is not the only concern of state certification agencies.
More than 40 states have enacted laws mandating teacher testing in subject
matter as well as in teaching skills. The largest teacher testing program, the
NTE, is administered by the Educational Testing Service. The National Teacher
Examination (NTE) Program has clients nationwide. The National Examination
consists of a "core battery of tests in communication skills, general knowledge,
and professional knowledge" (Asfar, 1987). In addition, in foreign language, the
NTE has specialty area tests in French, Spanish, and German. These tests
evaluate primarily grammatical and cultural knowledge--not communicative
ability. A pedagogical knowledge component is under development.
LOOKING TOWARD THE FUTURE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE TEACHER EDUCATION
Bernhardt and Hammadou (1987) point out the irony in the lack of attention to
secondary school teacher development in the past decades. In their survey, they
found that the preponderance of discussion in teacher education had focused on
the graduate teaching assistant and university professor level. They state:
"Considering that most foreign language teaching in the U.S. is done at the
secondary level, this is a disturbing finding" (p. 293). Yet, as we come to the
end of the decade, the foreign language profession has begun to attend to
teacher education at the secondary level. Hence, the future for reform and
improvement is bright. The critical factor, now that public attention has been
turned toward teacher education, is research: research on the most appropriate
distribution of content coursework, on field placement and experience, on the
topic sequence in methods courses in communicative language teaching, and on
supervision. A database in these areas will provide a powerful vehicle for the
education f sophisticated foreign language teachers for the 21st century.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Asfar, D. ASSESSING TEACHER COMPETENCE. THE NTE FOREIGN LANGUAGE TESTS. Paper
presented at the Conference on Policy Issues in Foreign Language Education;
Retrospect and Prospect, Columbus, OH, l987.
Bernhardt, E. B. and J. A. Hammadou. "A Decade of Foreign Language Teacher
Education." MODERN LANGUGE JOURNAL 71 (1987): 289-299.
Bowen, J. D., H. Madsen, and A. Hilferty. TESOL TECHNIQUES AND PROCEDURES.
Rowley, MA: Newbury House, l985.
Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy. A NATION PREPARED: TEACHERS FOR
THE 21ST CENTURY (Report of the Task Force on Teaching as a Profession).
Hyattsville, MD, l986. ED 268 120.
Dragonas, P. J. IMPLICATIONS OF THE NATIONAL REFORM MOVEMENT FOR FOREIGN
LANGUAGE TEACHER EDUCATION. Paper presented at the Conference on Policy Issues
in Foreign Language Education; Retrospect and Prospect, Columbus, OH, 1987.
Hammadou, J., and E. B. Bernhardt. "On Being and Becoming a Foreign Language
Teacher." THEORY INTO PRACTICE 26 (1987): 301-306.
Holmes Group. TOMORROW'S TEACHERS. East Lansing, MI, 1986. ED 270 454.
Jarvis, G. A. "The Psychology of Second Language Learning: A Declaration of
Independence." MODERN LANGUAGE JOURNAL 67 (l983): 393-402.
Reschke, C. "Proficiency-based Foreign Language Teacher Certification: The
Texas Project." ADFL BULLETIN 16 (1985): 17-21.
Stern, H., and P. Strevens. "Georgetown University Round Table on Languages
and Linguistics 1983: In Retrospect." In H. H. Stern and P. Strevens (Eds.),
GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY ROUND TABLE ON LANGUAGES AND LINGUISTICS 1983. Washington,
DC: Georgetown University Press, l983.