How Has Language Education Changed Over Time?

This month we published Language Education in a Changing World by Rod Bolitho and Richard Rossner. In this post the authors explain what inspired them to write the book and why they think it is needed.

We’re pleased: after a long period of gestation and writing we’ve just received copies of our new book Language Education in a Changing World.

So what inspired us to write the book, and why do we think it is needed? Combined, our experience in language education spans 100 years. We have become increasingly aware that the time-honoured segmentations of foreign language education, teaching and learning of the language of schooling, language sensitive subject teaching and so on are no longer meaningful, if they ever were.

We have tried to take stock of how language and communication permeate and impact on all education at all ages, and in the book we review some of the thought-provoking work done by the Council of Europe and specialists in the fields of educational applied linguistics, multilingualism and pluralistic approaches. How have these perspectives impacted on learning in the classroom over the last 40 years? What is being done around the world – or at least in the parts of the world where we have been able to glean information – to incorporate holistic views of language and students’ language repertoires in education, and in teacher education? What could be done to foster dynamic collaboration among teachers and teacher educators across the curriculum? These are some of the questions we have addressed. It was quite a learning experience for us!

In the book we take a fairly close look at four or five areas in particular. We start with an exploration of the role of language and languages in learning and teaching, before going on to look at the recent history and current state of foreign language education and the somewhat controversial impact of English in education. In the second part of the book, we examine teacher education, both pre-service education and continuing professional development for teachers of languages, as well as the extent to which language and communication issues are addressed in the education of teachers of other subjects. The third part of the book focuses on policy around language in education and the roles various stakeholders play in influencing and implementing – or resisting – change. Then we end with our own wish list of future developments in policy around language in education and teacher education.

As potential readers, we had in mind education professionals of all kinds who are interested in exploring the role of language in the teaching of all subjects across the curriculum, including teachers of language, other teachers as well as teacher educators. We hope policymakers, textbook writers, curriculum developers and researchers will also find the book useful. Whatever their role and specific interests, we would welcome readers’ reactions to the contents of our book, and the policy recommendations we have made.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like The Action-oriented Approach by Enrica Piccardo and Brian North.

Language Teacher Agency Matters!

This month we published Theorizing and Analyzing Language Teacher Agency edited by Hayriye Kayi-Aydar, Xuesong (Andy) Gao, Elizabeth R. Miller, Manka Varghese and Gergana Vitanova. In this post the editors explain how the idea for the book came about.

We witnessed scholars’ and teachers’ growing interest in language teacher agency throughout the process of producing this volume. This book idea was hatched over dinner at AAAL (2016 in Orlando, Florida) before a colloquium on language teacher agency in which we editors had all participated. The colloquium attracted a large number of keen attendees and ended with a lively discussion that we all enjoyed. It became clear that many of the attendees were also doing research on teacher agency, and we decided that it was important to bring these developing research studies together into an edited collection. A few months later we posted a Call for Papers, and we were overwhelmed by the response: we received more than 100 submissions! Language teacher agency clearly matters everywhere as these submissions include studies based in urban schools and rural schools, in university classes and church-based volunteer-provided classes, located in diverse national contexts including Australia, China, India, Japan, Mexico and the US. Now, several years later, we are delighted to see a good number of these submissions developed into chapters.

Language teacher agency is not easily defined, in part, because it is always contextually mediated. It thus seems inevitable that scholars will use different methods and focus on a range of topics in order to understand teacher agency in the particular contexts they are exploring. The chapters in this book explore teacher agency in relation to social justice and equity efforts, teacher identity and professional development, teacher evaluation processes, curricular decisions and innovations, and the creation of new teaching practices. It is likewise clear that scholars will adopt different theoretical approaches to help them make sense of the on-the-ground practices and activities that they observe. In this volume, authors draw on ecological theory, sociocultural theory, actor network theory, critical realism, and positioning theory. Our book is not prescriptive in nature; in other words, we do not tell teachers what they should do to be an agent. However, through systematic data collection, the chapters successfully document the complexities associated with language teacher agency in strikingly different contexts, which we believe offers unique insights, implications, and strategies for language teachers. Given the range of perspectives offered in this collection, we are hopeful that it will spark new and continually diversifying research approaches and methods.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Language Teacher Psychology edited by Sarah Mercer and Achilleas Kostoulas.

 

What Makes a Good EFL Teacher and How Can Teacher Educators Best Support Them?

This month we are publishing Early Professional Development in EFL Teaching by Chitose Asaoka. In this post the author explains how she came to study student teachers’ professional development in a Japanese EFL context.

Over the last twenty years, I have worked as a teacher educator of English as a Foreign Language in Japan. In order to become a secondary school teacher in Japan, you need to attend a teacher certification programme offered at a university and acquire a teaching qualification upon graduation. As a teacher educator in one such programme, I have always tried to mentor and accommodate student teachers (most of whom are native speakers of Japanese) through many situations and contexts.

In a teacher certification programme, student teachers learn about up-to-date approaches and methods of teaching English, such as communicative practice and student-centred approaches. They also learn how to use English effectively as a medium of instruction, which is one of the most-recently introduced education policies in Japan. During a three-week period of teaching practice at schools, however, many of the student teachers face the reality of the classroom and are asked to adjust to school contexts. Thus, they often cannot freely put what they have acquired into practice. For example, I frequently hear post-practicum stories from them, where they are asked to teach with the grammar-translation method, since passing the entrance exam is still a big priority for students. Moreover, they are not often allowed to teach in English, for various reasons, which is different from their pre-practicum expectations.

In many such cases, student teachers are often isolated and struggle to resolve the challenges by themselves. I am also remote from their actual school-based experiences and can only monitor their development through their teaching logs or stories when they come back to the university. Thus, questions were raised in my mind, and I started to feel the necessity to re-examine the process of student teachers’ professional development in a Japanese EFL context, as well as the kinds of experiences and challenges that they typically go through. For them to become good English teachers, what qualities are necessary, and what kinds of support can we provide as teacher educators? These questions inspired me to embark upon an empirical study in which I monitored how student teachers developed their teacher expertise, how their views on what makes a good English teacher shifted and developed, and what factors had an impact on their learning-to-teach processes.

Through detailed case studies created from interviews and reflective journals, this inquiry delves into the particular context of initial teacher education in Japan and draws out unique perspectives on student teachers’ professional development in initial teacher education. This book also shows the possible need to intervene at various stages of language teacher education, which is highly relevant for other settings of initial teacher education programmes beyond Japan. I hope that the findings presented in this book will be of interest and value to future teachers, in-service teachers, teacher educators and researchers interested in teacher education and the professional development of foreign language teachers.

Chitose Asaoka
casaoka@dokkyo.ac.jp

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Reflective Practice as Professional Development by Atsuko Watanabe. 

Reflective Practice as Professional Development

This month we are publishing Reflective Practice as Professional Development by Atsuko Watanabe. In this post, Atsuko explains a bit more about the background to the book.

Reflective Practice as Professional DevelopmentThis book attempts to fill an important gap in the professional development of English teachers in Japan.

In March 2003, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) in Japan announced an action plan, Japanese with English Abilities, to foster the English abilities of Japanese nationals. The action plan had an unprecedented impact on the nation’s extensive English language teaching sectors, one of which was a compulsory teacher training seminar for all the English language teachers of public junior and senior high schools in Japan to improve their ‘teaching ability’ of English. MEXT was influenced by the business community which promoted the importance of improving teachers’ English proficiency in order to compete at an international level. What was missing from the teacher training seminar was taking account of the teachers’ experiences. Reflective practice, which encourages the teachers to look back and examine their ideas and experiences of teaching, is an essential element of professional development.

This book illustrates a study of reflective practice which was conducted with a group of in-service teachers. By looking back at one’s teaching, reflective practice also allows teachers to enhance self-awareness and to foster autonomy.

As reflective practice was a new concept in Japan, the book took into account some Japanese conventions which are deeply rooted in the culture, such as tatemae (official front) and honne (real intent) in communication, and hansei (self-critical reflection). As a researcher, I attempted not to influence the honne of the participants and not to engage them in hansei. This approach involved the teachers in different types of dialogue: with the researcher, with other teachers, and with themselves. The book also explores what it means to reflect, and examines whether reflection follows a hierarchical sequence and specific stages. The book discusses the following:

  • The reflective continuum as opposed to hierarchical stages of reflection
  • Consolidation of professional identity for novice teachers
  • Consolidation of professional identity for experienced teachers
  • Teachers’ exploration of teacher cognition
  • Teachers’ engagement in reflective interventions, focus group discussion, journal writing, and interviews.

This book outlines a novel approach of allowing teachers to look at their teaching through different perspectives which lead them to develop professionally through shaping and reshaping their professional identity and teacher cognition. Through the illustration of the researcher’s engagement in reflection and reflexivity, the book is also useful for researchers who are interested in conducting a study of reflective practice. Reflective practice is an essential part of professional development and this book will help all teachers to understand reflective practice and engage in it in their teaching contexts.

Exploring Japanese University English Teachers'€™ Professional IdentityFor further information about the book, please see our website. You might also be interested in our other title Exploring Japanese University English Teachers’€™ Professional Identity by Diane Hawley Nagatomo.

Face and Enactment of Identities in the L2 Classroom

This week we published Face and Enactment of Identities in the L2 Classroom by Joshua Alexander Kidd. The book explores Japanese students’ identities in the English language classroom and outlines a professional development model for teachers to build their pragmatic awareness. In this post, Joshua introduces the key themes of his book.

Face and Enactment of Identities in the L2 ClassroomHow would you describe your book?
It focuses on examining classroom discourse as interpreted through the voices of Japanese students during L2 learning activities. A broad corpus of classroom recordings, student retrospective interviews and teacher interviews are scrutinised with attention to cross-cultural pragmatics, politeness theory, face and identity. The data reveals moments when interpretations of classroom interaction deviate from communicative intentions. Significant disparity is evident between socio-cultural and individual affiliations attributed to language use and the implications for students as they engage in the complex process of forging and performing new identities while adjusting to the unfamiliar demands of the L2 learning environment.

Joshua's daughter youngest daughter on her last day at elementary school
Joshua’s youngest daughter on her last day at elementary school

What is the significance of the cover image?
It was chosen to convey that the heart of the book lies in the journey the students’ generously share through candid reflections. This photograph is of my youngest daughter’s first day at elementary school in Japan and she was thrilled to be carrying her randoseru school bag and partaking in the toukouhan (commuting group). Within the toukouhan the older students, assigned to the head and rear, are responsible for getting members to school safely and on time. This was a particularly exciting time for my daughter as her big sister was hanchou (leader) of the merry band.

Why the focus on face and identity?
Face and identity influence the complex and dynamic ways in which individuals present themselves verbally and non-verbally during interaction. Language and issues of identity are closely bound together, as too are language and the management and negotiation of face. Nevertheless, there has been little attention within the research community to how the constructs of identity and face are interrelated and the impact on the student within the language classroom. These two formidable conceptual areas provide fresh insight into the communicative negotiation of face within the broader framework of identity.

What themes do you examine?
We found that what students and teachers consider standard and conventionally acceptable language use and behaviour differ markedly according to social, cultural and individual frames of reference. Of concern here was that students’ communicative strategies were regularly misinterpreted or disallowed. Pervasive patterns of language use, attitudes, and behaviour were collapsed into four themes for examination:

  • Student collaboration
  • Japanese identities
  • L1/L2 usage
  • Student silence

Analysis was carried out through a composite theoretical framework which draws on a critical account of Brown and Levinson’s ([1978]1987) concept of face duality and notions of social and cultural interdependency, discernment and place as advocated by Japanese scholarship.

You conclude with a professional development model. Why?
This model addresses the crucial question: What does it all mean? Findings highlight the need to actively build teacher/student pragmatic awareness (L1 and L2) in order to facilitate positive learning experiences and strengthen interactive competence. Our model is based on continuing reflection from authentic sites of engagement and follows a pedagogic and exploratory cycle of teaching and learning developed around five phases: Awareness, Knowledge Building, Critique, Action and Evaluation. The model holds that culturally responsive curriculum and teaching practices can foster a classroom environment in which socio-cultural diversity and individuality are valued and celebrated. 

Dr Joshua Alexander Kidd, Utsunomiya University, j.kidd6776@gmail.com

For further information about this book please see our website or contact the author at the email address above.