Learning to teach foreign languages: case studies of six preservice teachers in a teacher education program
Abstract (Summary)The purpose of this study was to investigate the conceptual links that six preservice teachers made between the theory and practice of teaching and learning foreign languages during a one-year, graduate-level teacher preparation program. The theoretical construct chosen to frame this notion of preservice teachers' developing understanding was pedagogical content knowledge. Foreign language pedagogical content knowledge was defined as including the following understandings: what it means to know a foreign language, how learners learn a foreign language, what should be taught in a foreign language class, how to teach foreign languages, and how school and classroom contexts impact the foreign language teaching and learning. Sources that may contribute to the development of that knowledge were also investigated. The three sources researched in this study were the participants' foreign language methods courses, their field experiences, and their previous experiences as language learners.Data were collected over the course of three quarters. The data sources included observation notes from methods courses, journals from methods courses, post-observation conference transcripts from field experiences, individual and group interviews, and final projects for the master's program.Although the participants developed understanding in all five aspects of foreign language pedagogical content knowledge, they focused most often on the two issues of how to teach and how teaching contexts affect instruction. Foreign language methods courses contributed to the participants' pedagogical content knowledge by providing an introduction to the nature of foreign language teaching, the language of the profession, and the theory of language teaching and learning. Field experiences provided a setting in which to test the validity of the foreign language education theory and practice received in methods courses. The participants' positive and negative experiences as language learners appeared to sensitize them to certain theories and practices of foreign language education.The findings suggest the importance of providing beginning foreign language teachers with (a) a balance of theoretical background and practical preparation in methods courses, (b) continued professional development in the beginning years of teaching, (c) model mentors in field experiences, (d) case study work based on field experiences, and (e) reflection on prior language learning in the teacher education program.
School:The Ohio State University
School Location:USA - Ohio
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Date of Publication:01/01/2000