TEIS Newsletter

TEIS News, Volume 20:3 (December 2005)

by User Not Found | 10/31/2011
In This Issue...
  • Leadership Updates
    • Letter From the Chair
    • Letter From the Editors
  • Articles and Information
    • Connecting Personal and Professional Knowledge in a Reflective Teacher Education Course
    • Shifting Practice: Reflection as a Tool for Teacher Development
    • Learning and Teaching Through Professional Development
    • Spirituality in Teaching and Research: A Personal Account
  • About This Member Community
    • Call for Contributions
    • TEIS Leadership Team 2005-06
    • Teacher Education Interest Section

Leadership Updates Letter From the Chair

Paula Golombek, pxg2@psu.edu

Greetings to all TEIS members!

As I sit here looking out the window at the overcast skies and rain falling, I am looking forward to the TESOL convention in Tampa. Not just for the sunny and warm weather, but for renewing acquaintances, seeing old friends, and discussing the challenges of teacher education. It is also our prime opportunity to set an agenda for the Teacher Education Interest Section.

Now that our electronic mailing list is functioning—thanks to JuYoung Song—it seems that we should be better able to engage in meaningful dialogue and grassroots activities. Yet, as I face another e-mail, and the demands of my professional and personal life take control of my schedule, I recognize the limitations of our virtual community and the importance of our meeting at TESOL. I would like to encourage all of you to attend ourBusiness Meeting on Wednesday, March 15, 5-7 p.m., Room 3 of the Convention Center. This is a time not only to elect new IS leaders but also to encourage new members and activities. If you have a particular concern, please e-mail me. And if you would like to run for a leadership position, please attend. We will be electing a coeditor for the newsletter, a webmaster, and an incoming chair-elect.

What this means is that two of our hardest working members will be stepping down. I, with all the members of TEIS, extend our deepest thanks to Chuang Wang for putting together so many thoughtful newsletters and to Katya Nemtchinova for her technological skills as webmaster. These are important positions to fill, and I am certain that Chuang and Katya will provide guidance to their successors. Judy Sharkey will become the new chair and Adelaide Parsons will become the incoming chair. I would also like to extend my warm thanks to Mark Tanner, outgoing chair, who has guided me through my year with his knowledge and superb organizational skills.

I encourage you to support TEIS by attending various sessions. The Academic Session, entitled “Challenges for TESOL Teacher Education Across Contexts,” and the InterSection done in conjunction with Elementary Education, entitled “Teachers Resilience Under Mandated Reforms,” provide a space to discuss the intersection of globalization, high-stakes testing, top-down educational reform, uneven distribution of resources, and the agency of teachers. We also are participating with Applied Linguistics in their InterSection on “Incorporating SLA Theory Into Teacher Education.” This critical discussion should spark reflection on how we conceptualize the sense-making processes of teacher-students. It is encouraging to see a continued discussion on issues such as reflective journal writing and so-called “nonnative” language teachers. Less-discussed but increasingly important issues, such as language learners with special needs, will also be on the program.

I would also like to encourage you to volunteer and/or stop by the Teacher Education Interest Section booth. Many thanks to Rachel Grant for coordinating this project, and to Elza Major and Julia Austin. Thanks also to Judy Sharkey for organizing the Discussion Groups. At 7:30 in the morning and 7:00 in the evening, we need to make a special effort to show them our support. My appreciation also goes out to Chuang Wang and Joel Hardman for their stellar work with the newsletter (and for keeping to deadlines!).

The Interest Section Assembly takes place on March 16 from 1 to 5 p.m. in room 5 of the Hyatt Regency. This group, formerly known as the Interest Council, seems a bit amorphous to most of us, so it is important for us to understand how this governing structure works and what our role is. A TEIS representative will attend this meeting.

I look forward to seeing you all in March.


Letter From the Editors

Chuang Wang, cwang15@email.uncc.edu, and Joel Hardman, jhardma@siue.edu

Self-reflection, one form of autoethnography, is part of the qualitative research paradigm. It uses the researchers’ prior experience to shed light on particular issues that might be significant in current situations. The researchers pay attention to their physical feelings and thoughts and use systematic recall to document and try to understand their experience. This self-questioning technique is quite demanding because researchers have to be sufficiently retrospective throughout the whole process. In this issue, we present four articles from teacher educators as well as classroom teachers who shared their experience in making teaching more meaningful and successful by reflecting on teachers’ personal knowledge or experiences. Through the description of a practice teaching course for preservice teachers in which the teachers benefited from reflecting on their past experiences and beliefs, Wong and Tsang argue for a more constructivist approach and a link to previous knowledge with new understandings. Whereas Wong and Tsang share some of the activities that they used in their preservice Practice Teaching course, Sharpe provides a case study with a classroom teacher whose understandings of language teaching were changed by reflective teaching practices with her supervisor during an ESL methods course. The classroom teacher learned how reflective teaching practices can be used to create opportunities for authentic student interactions.

The other two articles are about teachers’ knowledge and beliefs. Recognizing the gaps in teacher knowledge resulting from different educational backgrounds and various types of teacher-education training, Gennaro and Henthorne note that self-reflection can be a good form of professional development to help teachers become aware of potential areas of improvement. Some strategies that Gennaro and Henthorne share with our readers include assessment of the problem, engagement in professional activities, and involvement in community (“coffee talk”). To examine spirituality and religion in teaching and research, Bradley takes a personal account of the process of researching and writing a pilot study that he presented at TESOL 2005. He reflects on his emotional moments while interviewing his participants and transcribing the data in his pilot study and documents his break from Protestant fundamentalism and embrace of a pan-religious spirituality. He argues that “teachers will find it difficult to foster a comfortable classroom environment if they themselves do not feel safe exploring their inner worlds.”



Articles and Information Connecting Personal and Professional Knowledge in a Reflective Teacher Education Course

Matilda Wong, matildaw@umac.mo, and Wai-King Tsang, entsanwk@cityu.edu.hk

As TESL teacher educators, we are often concerned about how we can best help preservice teachers become competent English language teachers. For a long time, a lot of teacher preparation programs tended to provide student teachers with formulas of effective teaching or toolkits in which they found models of teaching techniques or suggestions of teaching ideas. However, this transmission-oriented approach of behavior shaping has increasingly been found to be inadequate for enhancing teacher learning (Calderhead & Shorrock, 1997; Cochran-Smith, 2000). Teacher education needs to take a more constructivist approach and provide student teachers with multiple opportunities to link previous knowledge with new understandings (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2001). It is important to acknowledge that student teachers do possess personal knowledge of teaching and learning accumulated through their past experiences and such knowledge, when contextualized within teaching situations, helps to inform practice. When student teachers are able to connect their professional knowledge acquired from teacher preparation programs with their own experiential knowledge of teaching and learning, new knowledge can be constructed and this is how active teacher learning takes place (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2001).

In this article, we discuss a Practice Teaching course offered in the BA TESL program run by the Department of English and Communication, City University of Hong Kong. We teach this course to preservice teachers in their final year of the 3-year-program. Through this course, which includes a 5-week practicum component, we hope to raise our student teachers’ awareness of their personal knowledge and help them contextualize and link this knowledge with the professional knowledge they gain in their teacher education program. To enable them to make such connections and construct new knowledge, we added an element of reflective inquiry in the required assignments set in the course outline.

The first assignment is writing an autobiography. In this task, student teachers write a language learning autobiography in which they reflect on the language learning experiences they had in the past, both inside and outside of school contexts. In addition, they write about their philosophy of teaching and learning English as a second language in Hong Kong. To guide their reflections, we give them specific questions that focus on their earliest remembrances of language learning and their beliefs in English language teaching and learning. By reflecting on and explicitly writing out their past experiences and beliefs, our student teachers become aware of who and what have been a strong influence in their past learning experiences and how this influence helps shape their present teaching and learning beliefs. These past learning experiences, commonsense understandings, and present beliefs and philosophies, which student teachers may not have noted before, are part of what formed the personal knowledge they hold.

During class time, we also give student teachers the opportunity to engage in small-group discussions of assigned articles they have read. In general, these articles are about current issues in language policies, teaching, and learning in Hong Kong. Student teachers are encouraged to respond critically to the issues raised and discussed in the articles and, in particular, to cite examples from their own experiences, which can be from their past as students in school, from their present as university students, or from their past experiences as teachers (if they had any). Again, we give them guiding questions to help focus their discussion. In other words, the readings provide the stimulus for reflection and for seeing issues of language teaching and learning in light of their own experiences. Student teachers share examples from their own experiences as students and/or as teachers, which helps them connect professional knowledge in personally meaningful ways.

During the 5-week practicum, near the end of the course, student teachers have to make a daily reflective journal entry with responses to their practicum experiences. They are given particular issues or themes as initial guidelines for reflection during the practicum. Our main aim of encouraging such kind of ongoing reflections is to give these student teachers an opportunity to pause regularly to keep track of their own teaching, to uncover and articulate their own taken-for-granted assumptions about what good teaching should involve and what a teacher’s role should entail, to examine the sense they can make of their assumptions and beliefs in their teaching, and to develop a link between their assumptions and the professional knowledge they have acquired about language teaching in the context of a real classroom.

To further enhance the process of reflection, student teachers are required to write a special journal entry. This final entry is written after the 5-week practicum and can be regarded as a summing-up of the overall practicum experience. This piece of reflection helps them look back at the changes in their own understandings of teaching and learning. For this final entry, student teachers specifically write about how they now see themselves as language teachers and draw on particular instances to explain what new understandings they have gained of language teaching and learning. In this task, they have the opportunity to revisit their beliefs and philosophies with regard to the experience they had during the 5 weeks of practice teaching and to confirm or revise their personally constructed knowledge. In this way, they can make meaning of experience and shed new light on their understanding of teaching and learning English.

To sum up, we have briefly shared some of the activities and tasks that we used with our preservice BA TESL students in the Practice Teaching course. We have found this approach of reflective inquiry effective in raising student teachers’ awareness of the personal practical knowledge they possess and helping them see the role this experiential knowledge plays in their process of learning to be an English language teacher. By contextualizing their personal knowledge and connecting it with the professional knowledge presented to them, student teachers may open up an avenue through which they can develop new understandings of how practice can be.

References

Calderhead, J., & Shorrock, S. B. (1997). Understanding teacher education: Case studies in the professional development of beginner teachers.London: The Falmer Press.

Cochran-Smith, M. (2000). The future of teacher education: Framing the questions that matter. Teaching Education, 11, 13-24.

Cochran-Smith, M., & Lytle, S. L. (2001). Beyond certainty: Taking an inquiry stance on practice. In A. Lieberman & L. Miller (Eds.), Teachers caught in the action: Professional development that matters (pp. 45-58). New York: Teachers College Press.

Matilda Wong has taught in the Department of English and Communication at the City University of Hong Kong. She is currently assistant professor in the Faculty of Education, University of Macau. Her research interests include second language teacher education, teaching writing, and teaching speaking.

Wai-King Tsang is associate professor in the Department of English and Communication at the City University of Hong Kong. Her research interests are second language acquisition, teacher education, and teaching writing.


Shifting Practice: Reflection as a Tool for Teacher Development

Amy Sharpe, sharpeamy@yahoo.com

Introduction

Experienced mainstream teachers in U.S. schools often are being recruited to instruct English language learners (ELLs) as the population of ELLs continues to increase across the country. When these experienced teachers matriculate into English as second language (ESL) and bilingual certification programs, they encounter new theories and methodologies that require them to shift their current thinking and teaching practices. In recent years, reflective teaching has been touted as a tool that helps support such change (Edwards, 1996; Franke, Carpenter, Fennema, Ansell, & Behrend, 1998; Freeman, 1996; Lee, 2004; Pennington, 1995). This article focuses on one experienced teacher who used reflective teaching practices in an advanced ESL methods course to help change her understandings of language teaching. The focal teacher’s use of reflection can inform teacher educators and teachers about the value of reflection for experienced teachers encountering new issues in their teaching.

 

Definition of Reflective Teaching

Reflective teaching has become a buzzword in education in the past 20 years. Most educators would agree that the practice of reflective teaching has value for teachers and makes them more thoughtful in the decisions they make (Risko, Vukelich, & Roskos, 2002; Tremmel, 1993; Van Manen, 1977; Zeichner & Tabacknick, 1991). The phrase reflective teaching however, conjures up multiple interpretations and definitions. This discussion frames my conception of reflective teaching. First, reflective teaching means one has “mindfulness” (Tremmel, 1993), an awareness of what one is doing and the implications or consequences of one’s actions. Then, according to Dewey (1933), one needs to be open-minded, wholehearted, and responsible as a reflective practitioner. Finally, reflective thought enables teachers to plan according to goals and intentions, being deliberate, understanding actions and making them intelligent (Dewey, 1933). The teacher in this case study is a mindful, open-minded, wholehearted, responsible, and deliberate practitioner who conceptualizes reflective teaching as the goal for all teachers.

 

The Advanced ESL Methods Course

The Advanced ESL Methods course is the penultimate course in the certification program at a large midwestern university in the United States. The final course in the program is student teaching. The methods course is a five-credit semester-long course. Three credits align with the weekly class meetings and two credits align with the teaching practicum, although they are integrated. The goals of the methods course are to expose teachers to current teaching methodologies that support language learning, to integrate theory with practice, and to promote opportunities for reflective teaching. The course promotes teachers’ use of reflection in a number of ways, including class discussions, postings on the class electronic mailing list, teachers’ analyses of videos of their practice, the final portfolio, supervisory conferences, and lesson reflections.

 

Classes are formatted as workshops based on the weekly topics identified in the syllabus. The workshops encourage teachers to reflect, to relate their previous experiences with the weekly topics, and then to connect the readings and workshop activities to their teaching. In addition, each week, all teachers are expected to post a written reflection on the class electronic mailing list that shows their engagement with the focal topic and its connection to their practice. At the end of the course, teachers create a portfolio to be handed in. The portfolio includes a teaching philosophy, a reflective narrative (meta-analysis) on self-selected electronic mailing list postings, two written reflections of observation visits, an evaluation of a website or conference attended, and a curriculum project.

The practicum teachers must submit a lesson plan to the supervisor and revise according to feedback before each lesson, meet with the supervisor after the lesson, and write a lesson reflection. For the second observation the supervisor videotapes the lesson. Afterward, the teacher and supervisor meet to analyze the video, and the teacher identifies an aspect of practice to improve on during the semester.

 

Brief Case Study of One Teacher

The following data from one teacher’s experience in the methods course illustrates how reflective teaching practices can help shift teachers’ understanding of language teaching. Sara, the focal teacher, is 55 years old and has taught elementary school and music in a variety of settings in her career. For the practicum, Sara taught a sixth-grade social studies class composed entirely of ELLs. The 16 students came from Bolivia,Columbia, Mexico, India, and Laos.

The supervisor visited Sara three times for formal classroom observations. For the first observation, Sara read a Hmong story to the students and designed activities to demonstrate that people of different cultures can live and work together. In the lesson reflection Sara described some of the lesson and recognized some weaknesses in her teaching. “The postobservation meeting was interesting and helpful as we talked about the lesson. I realized as I was reading the story that I felt like the experience was too teacher-centered. There was no interaction between the students” (Lesson reflection, 10/10/03). Sara recognized, as she was reading the story, that she was talking too much and the students were just listening. This self-monitoring of one’s actions in the midst of the action is called reflection-in-action (Schon, 1983). She then noted there was no interaction between the students. Thus, in this excerpt Sara realized a couple of problems with her lesson: too much teacher talk and no student interactions.  As a result of Sara’s reflections on her lesson and the discussion with the supervisor, Sara’s goal for the teaching practicum was to create more opportunities for authentic interactions between students.  Sara’s issue happens to be one of the weekly topics in the methods course.

The second observation lesson introduced ELLs to Native Americans in the United States and continued the class’s study about different cultural groups. For part of the lesson, the ELLs had to complete a study guide with a partner. During the supervisory conference Sara said, “The study guide was the thing I felt least good about . . . I felt like it didn’t lend itself well to a good interaction between the kids. It wasn’t the same as last time where they just sat there and listened to me, but some of them are choosing not to interact with each other, so how do you force them? That’s what I need to figure out” (Supervisory conference, 10/27/03).

Sara shared her disappointment with the lesson, the study guide, and the students’ interactions. Although Sara designed an activity that the students were supposed to complete cooperatively, some students still chose not to interact with each other. In discussion with the supervisor, Sara pinpointed a problem, wanted to remedy it, and asked for help from the supervisor. In this reflection, Sara demonstrated progress in understanding and implementing her identified issue. For the first observation lesson Sara did not include an activity that allowed for student interaction, but for Sara’s second observation lesson she designed a task she thought would result in student interaction.

For the final observation lesson Sara developed an activity that required students to interact. Native Americans continued to be the content of Sara’s sixth-grade social studies lesson. Students worked in pairs and each student had an index card with a unique fact about Native Americans. In order to complete the assignment, each student had to share the information on his or her index card with his or her partner. Sara’s lesson reflection revealed the outcome:

One of the major points of discussion was that of the interactive nature of the lesson activities. This is one of my “issues” for the semester and we agreed that this part of the lesson went well as the students were actively engaged in talking with each other, reading fact cards together, looking for information and quizzing each other. (Lesson reflection, 11/4/03)

Opportunities for authentic interactions dominated the discussion between Sara and the supervisor in this final conference. Through experimenting with different participation patterns and reflecting on their efficacy (guided by the supervisor), Sara addressed the issue of student interactions over the semester. In this written reflection, Sara retold the highlights of the lesson and recounted the progress she made toward her goal of creating opportunities for authentic interactions. The act of writing the reflection may reinforce thinking on a topic. It is evident that the lesson reflection served this purpose for Sara, and gave her the chance to recognize what happened and record her accomplishments.

Conclusion

In the data pieces shared above, we tracked Sara’s progress: She identified one of the effective pedagogies from the methods course that was lacking in her teaching, named authentic interactions as her issue (with guidance from her supervisor), moved incrementally toward the goal, and ultimately accomplished it. Sara learned how reflective teaching practices, through the lesson reflections and supervisory conferences, can be a tool for improving her teaching.

This brief case study of Sara, one teacher in an ESL methods course, demonstrates the power of reflective teaching practices for a teacher who must shift her ideas about what constitutes effective teaching. The reflective process, which the methods course promotes, aided Sara in her pursuit of visibly achieving this effective language pedagogy in her teaching: She created opportunities for authentic interactions in her classroom. Sara shows us that engagement in mindful and deliberate reflection can help teachers gain new understandings of effective ESL language teaching. With appropriate support and scaffolding, reflection can be a valuable tool for teacher development.

References

Dewey, J. (1933). How we think: a restatement of the relation of reflective thinking to the educative process. Boston: DC Heath and Company.

Edwards, F. G. (1996). Implications of a model for conceptualizing change in mathematics teachers’ instructional practices. Action in Teacher Education, 18,19-30.

Franke, M., Carpenter, T., Fennema, E., Ansell, E., & Behrend, J. (1998). Understanding teachers’ self-sustaining, generative change in the context of professional development. Teaching and Teacher Education, 14(1), 67-80.

Freeman, D. (1996). Renaming experience/reconstructing practice: Developing new understandings of teaching. In D. Freeman & J. Richards (Eds.),Teacher learning in language teaching (pp. 221-241). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Lee, O. (2004). Teacher change in beliefs and practices in science and literacy instruction with English language learners. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 41(1), 65-93.

Pennington, M. (1995). The teacher change cycle. TESOL Quarterly, 29(4), 705-731.

Risko, V., Vukelich, C., & Roskos, K. (2002). Preparing teachers for reflective practice: Intentions, contradictions and possibilities. Language Arts, 80(2), 134-144.

Schon, D. (1983). The reflective practitioner. New York: Basic Books.

Tremmel, R. (1993). Zen and the art of reflective practice in teacher education. Harvard Educational Review, 63(4), 434-458.

Van Manen, M. (1977). Linking ways of knowing with ways of being practical. Curriculum Inquiry, 6(3), 205-228.

Zeichner, K., & Tabachnick, B. (1991). Reflections on reflective teaching. In B. Tabachnick & K. Zeichner (Eds.), Issues and practices in inquiry-oriented teacher education (pp. 1-21). London: The Falmer Press.

Amy Sharpe is a doctoral candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research interests include reflective teaching, language teacher education, and relationships between teacher education programs and schools.


Learning and Teaching Through Professional Development

Kristen di Gennaro, kristendigennaro@yahoo.com, and Tom Henthorne, thenthorne@pace.edu 

  • Why do we say an apple instead of a apple?
  • What’s the difference between the simple past and the present perfect?
  • We’ve gone over articles so many times you’d think everyone would understand how to use them correctly by now!

Were these sentences uttered by a student or a teacher? At our presentation at TESOL 2005, we read a list of about 12 such phrases and asked participants to attribute them to either students or teachers. As we had anticipated, most of the sentences were attributed to students by the participants who called out their answers. When we went through the answers, however, we revealed that each item on our list was actually uttered by a professor of English.

The purpose of this introductory task was not to ridicule our colleagues, but rather to help us highlight some of the misconceptions about language, language learning, and language teaching that we and our colleagues may hold. We believe these statements illustrate the need for all of us to continuously reflect on our teaching and the limits of our knowledge as we increase our understanding of our material, our students, and the learning process itself.

Background

The state of teacher education and professional development is a current concern in our field. In fact, the idea for our presentation came from discussions in the Forum section of recent issues of TESOL Quarterly and elsewhere concerning the knowledge base of teacher education (Bartels, 2004; Freeman & Johnson, 2004; Johnson, 2000; Yates & Muchinsky, 2003, 2004). We did not intend during our presentation to take sides on this debate, but rather to recognize that teachers come to our field with varying educational backgrounds and different types of teacher-training experience. As a result, there are often noticeable gaps in teacher knowledge (as our introductory task illustrates). Our concern in this presentation, then, was to recognize that there are gaps in our knowledge base, and to find strategies for addressing these gaps in our education through building a professional community. We leave it to teacher educators to decide if and how these gaps should also be addressed in teacher education programs.

Our Assessment of the Problem

In our view, the problem has three main aspects. First, many teachers do not engage in adequate self-reflection, a primary and necessary step of professional development. Without self-reflection, one may not even be aware of potential areas of improvement and what questions to ask colleagues or seek answers for in professional journals and conference talks. Second, many teachers seem to be afraid to acknowledge the limits of their expertise. At our university, for instance, we’ve seen that some teachers are assigned ESL courses without any formal training in relevant theory or practice. And even in cases where teachers have extensive theoretical backgrounds, they may fail to make connections between theory and practice. Third, there is very limited community among ESL instructors, and even more limited institutional recognition and resources, all of which prevents ESL instructors from being considered part of a professional community.

All of these issues can be addressed if we all engage in multiple types of professional development and promotion of the profession. We’ve also learned that along with increased opportunities for professional development comes a greater sense of community among colleagues and, ultimately, a greater sense of professionalism. B y engaging in more professional development, we actually create a greater demand for professional development as we and our colleagues become more aware of our professional goals and needs. We also raise the profile of the ESL profession, thereby making it easier to secure additional resources and recognition. Below we offer concrete suggestions and approaches that we have found successful.

 

Encourage Self-Reflection

Programs should recognize and encourage self-reflection as a form of professional development. For example, programs could provide equipment for teachers to videotape classes so they can evaluate themselves on the basis of a set of guidelines or use the recorded segments as benchmarks for future observations. Where video recording equipment is not available, teachers could write their observations and impressions immediately following a class in a teaching journal, which could then be reviewed periodically. Just thinking and writing about a class gives teachers a greater sense of awareness of what was successful or not in the class in question. Where the teaching situation allows, teachers could also be encouraged to observe one another and exchange teaching techniques and ideas.

Make Materials and References Available

It may be difficult to encourage professional development if teachers do not have access to publications and materials in the field. For this reason, we found a space on campus, accessible to all ESL teachers, where we can place teacher’s manuals, course syllabi, professional books, and current issues of journals in the field. We also distribute sources via e-mail and inform faculty of TESOL-related websites where they may read about research findings and teaching ideas.

Engage in “Formal” Professional Activities

Many departments require teachers to meet for orientation meetings and perhaps midsemester norming sessions. These regular formal meetings could be exploited as opportunities for teachers to ask questions and share ideas related to professional development. In addition to faculty meetings, ESL programs could offer workshops for non-ESL faculty in other departments. For example, at our university, many professors in various disciplines teach courses requiring writing assignments. Faculty from ESL could share their expertise in teaching techniques and responding to writing. Whenever there are university-wide institutes and research groups, ESL faculty should be present to interpret advice from an ESL perspective. Teachers should be encouraged to engage in action research, which could eventually lead to conference presentations and publications at TESOL and related conferences.

Institute and Encourage Community Involvement

One of the more innovative professional development programs that we have instituted at our university began as an informal chat session which allowed ESL faculty and friends to gather once a month to share research findings, disseminate conference information, practice future presentations, and generate ideas for paper and presentation proposals. We called this monthly meeting “Coffee Talk” to emphasize the casual nature of the sessions, and modeled it after programs we were familiar with at the University of Pittsburgh and West Virginia University

What began as a small, sporadic meeting between friends has since become so successful that we have had to find a larger conference room to accommodate our group. Some of the reasons for its success, we believe, stem from the more formalized characteristics of Coffee Talk. For example, we decided to schedule meetings regularly, so that we now meet the first Wednesday of each month at a set time, rather than vary the schedules and leave participants confused as to when we are meeting. At each meeting, we always use a printed agenda as a starting point, even if deviations from the agenda are heartily encouraged. Most important, we follow up each meeting with printed minutes including a list of who attended and what was discussed, which we distribute to all interested faculty and administrators.

The attendance list is not intended to penalize those who do not attend, but rather to acknowledge those who take time out of their busy schedules to engage in professional development. (As many of our ESL faculty are adjunct professors, it is especially important to recognize the extra effort and time they put in to attend such meetings.) The minutes serve several other purposes as well. For example, the summaries of our discussions are useful reminders for attendees of what was learned, and can help inform those who couldn’t attend as well. Second, by forwarding the minutes to our department chair and dean, we are able to provide documentation of how we are all engaged in professional development to better serve our department and students. An indirect benefit of such “self-promotion” is that we have helped raise the status of the ESL program and perhaps the field as a whole as we have demonstrated to others the professional nature of our discussions and concerns. Finally, one of the greatest benefits is that we have strengthened our community of ESL faculty, something that is especially important at a university where we are often seen as a service program within the service department of English. In short, Coffee Talk has evolved into a real network of support for us and our colleagues, so much so that even non-ESL full-time tenure-track faculty members have asked to be included in future meetings.

Include Informal Professional Development Opportunities

The success of Coffee Talk was a mixed blessing, however, as the formal elements that, we think, led to its success also ran counter to our original idea of offering a nonthreatening casual environment for ESL teachers to talk about teaching issues. To fill this void, we started another type of professional development modeled after the numerous knitting groups we had noticed around our university and neighborhoods. “Knit Pick,” as we named our more casual gatherings, is very different from Coffee Talk in that there is no agenda, no minutes are printed, and participants are free to discuss any issue that they wish. As we are all in the same field, conversations invariably revolve around teaching or student concerns.

If you can’t go to the conference . . .

One of the more demanding professional development opportunities that we also offer our colleagues is a 1-day conference. For 3 consecutive years, with the support of our local TESOL affiliate, New York State TESOL, we have put together a full day of presentations, workshops, and publishers’ displays that enable our colleagues to gather current information from other TESOL professionals as well as gain experience presenting their own projects to our peers from local schools.

Raise the Profile of ESL Program Within the Institution

As we have suggested, organizing events such as Coffee Talk, Knit Pick, and conferences helps build community and promotes faculty development. We have also found that staging such events helps raise the profile of the ESL program within the university, making it more likely that our work will be recognized and that resources will be made available to us. Other means of raising ESL’s profile include developing contacts with people in other programs and departments, participating in university-wide committees and task forces, and educating administrators about the importance of ESL issues in the university’s mission and goals. The one thing all of our initiatives address is the need for self-reflection, on the part not only of teachers but of programs and institutions as well.

Conclusion

As recent debates within the TESOL community suggest, educators increasingly recognize that gaps in teacher knowledge adversely affect learning outcomes and that, therefore, these gaps must be addressed.

Although we have yet to systematically assess the success of our various initiatives, there are some preliminary indications that positive change has occurred. We know, for example, that turnout has been increasing at Coffee Talk and that more non-ESL faculty are attending the events we organize. We also know that the university has been more responsive to our needs, setting aside funds for adjuncts presenting at conferences and providing material support for events and activities. Finally, ESL faculty are receiving more invitations to participate in university policy meetings.

Despite some progress, much still needs to be done. ESL faculty, most of whom are adjuncts, need to be compensated fairly for both in-class and out-of-class work. We also need more administrative support so that ESL faculty can focus on teaching rather than office work. Finally, we need to expand the community, drawing in people who, though not ESL faculty in the strict sense of the term, share common interests and challenges.

We believe that many of the problems ESL teachers face both in and out of the classroom can be addressed through the development of a dynamic teaching community. It is important to professionalize ESL within the institution while at the same time preserving the grassroots elements that distinguish ESL from other programs and departments.

References

Bartels, N. (2004). Another reader reacts . . . Linguistics imperialism. TESOL Quarterly, 38, 128-133.

Freeman, D., & Johnson, K. E. (2004). Comments on Robert Yates and Dennis Muchinsky’s “On reconceptualizing teacher education”: Readers react . . . Common misconceptions about the quiet revolution. TESOL Quarterly, 38, 119-127.

Johnson, K. E. (Ed.). (2000). Innovations in TESOL teacher education: A quiet revolution. In K. E. Johnson (Ed.), Teacher Education (pp. 1-7). Alexandria, VA: TESOL.

Yates, R., & Muchinsky, D. (2003). On reconceptualizing teacher education. TESOL Quarterly, 37, 135-146.

Yates, R., & Muchinsky, D. (2004). The authors respond . . . Defending the discipline, field, and profession. TESOL Quarterly, 38, 134-139.

Kristen di Gennaro is the director of the ESL program at Pace University and a doctoral student in applied linguistics at Teachers College, Columbia University, where she also teaches in the TESOL certificate program. Her research interests include second language writing assessment professional development strategies for part-time faculty.

Tom Henthorne is an associate professor of English at Pace University and a fellow of the South Coast Writing Project. His research focuses on literary and cultural criticism, administrative theory, and pragmatics.


Spirituality in Teaching and Research: A Personal Account

Christopher A. Bradley, chriskyoju@hotmail.com

My purpose in penning this brief article is to reflect on a pilot study I presented recently (Bradley, 2005a). The process of researching and writing that paper was intricately woven with my personal spiritual journey. In reflecting on that process, I also hope to encourage readers to consider ways in which their deeply held beliefs (whether they consider these beliefs to be related to spirituality or not) are manifested in their teaching situations or their research.

In the process of writing this article, I wondered if some readers might feel uncomfortable with its title. When the words spirituality or religionappear in print, after all, wariness may be an instinctive reaction on the part of some, given the high media coverage of fundamentalist groups such as Al Qaeda and the Christian Coalition. As Stephen Glazer (1999) has pointed out, high-profile cases in which certain conservative Protestant groups in the United States have advocated mandatory prayer in public schools have caused some teachers to feel suspicious of any perceived links between spirituality and education. Glazer has averred, too, however, that because of an overemphasis on such suspicions, many teachers tend to minimize the importance in teacher development of fostering the inner dimensions of the human heart.

While recognizing that there are likely as many definitions of spirituality and religion as there are practitioners of various faiths, I have adopted as my working definition teacher educator Parker Palmer’s (2003) succinct view of spirituality: “the eternal human yearning to be connected with something larger than our own egos” (p. 377). In my view, if one takes this definition at face value, it is possible to be an agnostic or an atheist yet still be spiritual in the sense that one can choose to foster meaningful connections with people. Bill Johnston (2003), for example, though he has openly acknowledged that he is an atheist, has held, too, that “language teaching is a profoundly value-laden activity” (p. 1). He has noted that such values are manifested in the complex moral decisions that teachers are called upon to make with regard to interactions with students, language assessment, and their own professional development. In contrast to spirituality, religion in our times has tended to be viewed in a rather exclusivist manner. The original Latin root of the word actually refers to a reconnection but Joseph Campbell (1991) has pointed out that “it becomes a set of theological works in which everything is reduced to a code, to a creed” (p. 174). The results of quantitative self-report studies carried out by psychologists Peter Hill and Kenneth Pargament (2003), though, indicated that many participants viewed spirituality and religion in a similar manner. I feel, therefore, that these two terms cannot be separated completely.

In their narrative study on spirituality and classroom pedagogy in higher education settings, Cranton and Carusetta (2004) found that the more experienced teachers tended not to separate their private persona from their public (classroom) persona. For a short position paper (Bradley, 2005b) I wrote a brief narrative touching upon how salient events in my spiritual journey have affected me as a teacher and a researcher. In today’s piece, I want to examine a few ways in which certain findings in my pilot study (Bradley, 2005a) are related to my continuing spiritual journey. In the aforementioned pilot study, I took a case study approach in which I interviewed second language (L2) teachers of differing religious backgrounds to try to uncover some of their perceptions regarding how their spiritual beliefs impacted their pedagogical practices. I presented an earlier version of that study at TESOL 2005 in San Antonio.

The pilot study (Bradley, 2005a) was a modest step on my part toward the integration of my research self with my personal self. In the position paper to which I referred earlier (Bradley, 2005b), I detailed my own break from Protestant fundamentalism and later embrace of a pan-religious spirituality. In my pilot study, one of my interviewees, whom I shall call Helen, recounted a similar stage she had gone through in her own spiritual journey. For her, the initial break with Protestant fundamentalism had the downside of “really missing a spiritual community.” During my 10 years in Japan, as well, I have been unable to find a spiritual community that both rejects an exclusivist claim on truth and embraces an intellectual and heartfelt search for various spiritual paths. Thus, to a large extent, I can identify with the loneliness to which Helen referred.

Another emotional moment for me occurred when I transcribed the assertion by Dave, a participant in my study (Bradley, 2005a), that he had become “more and more comfortable with allowing mysteries to be mysteries rather than having to put everything into a formula and have everything defined in black and white terms.” In my own spiritual journey, I have been subjected to hurtful comments by Christian fundamentalists who insisted on drawing a clear line in the sand between good and evil, whereby they defined evil as that which contradicted their exclusivist theology. Thus, in the eyes of fundamentalists, my own pluralistic beliefs are damnable offenses in the sight of the divine. Insightful comments, though, such as those of Dave, vindicated my convictions.

One final thought I would like to share from my interviewees comes from Julie. Despite having faced prejudice at the hands of some Protestants of a more conservative stripe, Julie expressed a sincere admiration for their enthusiasm. By contrast, I must admit that I have at times, because of unpleasant experiences in my teenage years with members of a Protestant sect that is quite conservative theologically, been party to a fear of spirituality in general. Before presenting my pilot study at TESOL this past March, for instance, I was concerned that some individuals of a fundamentalist bent could potentially express open hostility against my pluralistic views. To my pleasant surprise, though, the audience was full of curious, open-minded individuals who came from various spiritual traditions, Christian or otherwise. Perhaps I still need to learn from Julie that my dealings in my youth with fundamentalists can be viewed positively as an important stage in my own spiritual evolution.

Stephanie Vandrick (1997) has held that L2 students have the right to study in classroom environments in which they feel unthreatened regarding their marginalized identities. These identities are sometimes related to such factors as gender orientation, race, and religious affiliation. Surely, however, teachers will find it difficult to foster a comfortable classroom environment if they themselves do not feel safe exploring their inner worlds. My own such explorations (in the form of my continuing spiritual journey), in which my research participants have in some ways become my guides, have been transformative for me. I hope that readers of this humble piece will be party to reflections (whether or not they deem such reflections to be spiritual) that will help transform their teaching and their research in ways that will benefit their learners and themselves.

Parker Palmer (1998) has cited the determination by civil rights activist Rosa Parks to live “divided no more” (p. 168). Perhaps Parks’s most famous step toward this unification of her innermost beliefs with her public actions came on December 1, 1955, when she dared to sit in the whites-only section of a public bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Palmer has encouraged educators to follow the courageous example of Rosa Parks by taking steps to integrate their deepest values with their classroom personae. I believe that when teachers explore their spiritual selves and thus take a step toward wholeness, their students can only benefit.

References

Bradley, C. (2005a, April). Spirituality and L2 pedagogy. Paper presented at TESOL 2005, San Antonio, Texas.

Bradley, C. (2005b). Spirituality and L2 pedagogy: Toward a research agenda. The Journal of Engaged Pedagogy, 4(1), 26-38.

Campbell, J. (1991). The power of myth. New York: Anchor Books.

Cranton, P., & Carusetta, E. (2004). Developing authenticity as a transformative process. Journal of Transformative Education, 2(4), 276-293.

Glazer, S. (1999). Introduction. In S. Glazer (Ed.), The heart of learning: Spirituality in education. (pp. 1-14). New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam.

Hill, P., & Pargament, K. (2003). Advances in the conceptualization and measurement of religion and spirituality: Implications for physical and mental health research. American Psychologist, 58(1), 64-74.

Johnston, B. (2003). Values in English language teaching. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Palmer, P. (1998). The courage to teach. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Palmer, P. (2003). Teaching with heart and soul: Reflections on spirituality in teacher education. Journal of Teacher Education, 54(5), 376-385.

Vandrick, S. (1997). The role of hidden identities in the postsecondary ESL classroom. TESOL Quarterly, 31, 153-157.

Chris Bradley is a doctoral candidate in education at Temple University. He conducts qualitative and statistical research on the motivation and spirituality of language teachers and language learners. Mr. Bradley currently resides in Japan with his wife, Akiko, and their daughter, Sakura Michelle.



About This Member Community Call for Contributions

The TEIS newsletter encourages submission of articles and book reviews on topics of significance to teacher educators. We also solicit TEIS voices from all of our members.

Articles should be between 800 and 1,500 words and may be program descriptions, course descriptions, “best practices,” teaching techniques, or articles on any topic of interest to ESOL teacher educators, especially those of sociopolitical interest or issues not commonly addressed in the literature.

Book reviews of between 300 and 500 words should provide the reviewer’s analysis of books that are relevant to the practice and theory of teacher education.

TEIS voices are paragraphs of approximately 100 words that introduce a teacher educator’s work. TEIS voices serve as a networking tool as well as an opportunity to shine a spotlight on a teacher, program, or country we might not otherwise read about.

All manuscripts should follow the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (5th ed.). We publish three times a year: February, May, and November. Please send your contributions to Joel Hardman at jhardma@siue.edu before January 1 for the February issue, April 1 for the May issue, and October 1 for the November issue.


TEIS Leadership Team 2005-06

Past Chair: Mark Tanner, Brigham Young University, mark_tanner@byu.edu

Chair: Paula Golombek, Penn State University, pxg2@psu.edu

Chair-Elect: Judy Sharkey, University of New Hampshire, judy.sharkey@unh.edu

Future Chair-Elect: Adelaide Parsons, Southeast Missouri State University, ahparsons@semo.edu

IS Council Representatives

Rachel Grant, Penn State University, rag022@aol.com

Elza Major, University of Nevada, Reno emajor@unr.edu

Julia Austin, University of Alabama, Birmingham, jaustin@uab.edu

Web Manager

Katya Nemtchinova – Seattle Pacific University, katya@spu.edu

Electronic Mailing List Manager

Ju Young Song, Ohio Sate University, song.151@osu.edu

Newsletter Coeditors

Chuang Wang, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, cwang15@email.uncc.edu

Joel Hardman, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, jhardma@siue.edu


Teacher Education Interest Section

TESOL’s Teacher Education Interest Section (TEIS) provides a forum for ESOL teacher educators and other TESOL members to raise, discuss, and address issues relevant to the education, preparation, and continuing professional development of teachers who work with ESL/EFL learners around the world. It creates opportunities for ESOL teacher educators to learn, interact, collaborate, and share with one another.

 

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