Personal practical theories : exploring the role of language teacher experiences and beliefs in the integration of theory and practice
Abstract (Summary)The dominant model of teaching has shifted from a transmission model to an interpretive model with a concomitant focus on the role of teacher experiences and beliefs. This topic is explored from the perspective of six English as a Foreign Language teachers in Armenia. These teachers originally trained in Soviet and post-Soviet Armenia with a transmission model of teaching with a strong emphasis on grammar and translation. They later completed a threeterm Teaching English as a Foreign Language Certificate programme at a Western-sponsored graduate university in Armenia with a more interpretive model of teaching with a strong communicative language teaching orientation. The main research questions are: (1) How do EFL teachers develop personal practical theories? (2) What are the influences that shape personal practical theories? (3) To what extent are personal practical theories reflected in classroom practices? Interpretive analysis of e-mail interviews, classroom observations, and in-person interviews reveals that a variety of experiences and beliefs inform personal practical theories, including formal pedagogical education, personal experiences of language learning and teaching, personal beliefs and values, and the sociocultural context. Theory has several important roles to play in personal practical theories: it can offer explanations of experiences and practices as well as articulations of them, and it can offer directions for practices as well as hypotheses to test. Uptake of theory occurs through transmission, application, and critical reflection, all requiring interpretation. Classroom practices often, but not always, reflect personal practical theories. More experienced and more articulate teachers appear to have more coherent personal practical theories that are more consistently reflected in classroom practices. There are several implications for language teacher education programmes. Theory has a role to play in language teacher development. Teachers who voluntarily choose to engage in development are more likely to profit from it. Teachers need to become aware of what they do and don’t know. Teachers need to be autonomous in order to successfully adopt new practices. A professional community offers support to teachers. These implications are linked through a view of the teacher as an autonomous individual able to understand theory and practice as evidenced by the ability to articulate and integrate them in a personal practical theory reflected in effective classroom practices.
Advisor:Gary Barkhuizen; Rod Ellis
School Location:New Zealand
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Date of Publication:01/01/2005