Bridging the Gap between University Supervisors and Hispanic Students' Interpretation of English Language Development Teaching Practices during Intern Teacher Fieldwork Supervision in Inner-City Middle Schools of Los Angeles

Article excerpt

Introduction

One critical issue that has remained largely unaddressed during intern fieldwork supervision is the role of students in the different supervision models. Research studies in fieldwork supervision such as Waite (1994), Kosnik and Beck (200), Pajak (2002), Pryor and Kuhn (2004) and Gimbert and Nolan (2003) seem to have focused essentially on the contributions of supervisors and intern teachers to instructional practices. This is why Erickson and Shultz (1991) argue that students' views are hardly reflected in discussions of theories and practices of learning. Breen and Littlejohn (2003) put it bluntly: "learners' own unfolding interpretations of what is done in the classroom and how it relates to their own learning agendas are rarely the focus of overt consideration" (p. 9).

These studies in fieldwork supervision have virtually the same underlining philosophical assumption which is to equate teaching with learning. Therefore, there is emphasis on intern teachers' acquisition of knowledge about the school subjects, application of appropriate methodology and the role of university supervisors in guiding intern teachers to link knowledge with classroom implementation as the main requirements for intern teacher fieldwork supervision. Implicit in this practice is the assumption that intern teachers' training is all that accounts for students' learning. Obviously, this approach seems to disregard students' perceptions of the instructional practices as critical to what or how students learn.

However, as a result of emerging studies in classroom research such as Slimani (1992), Johnson (1995) and Block (1996) and education as Potthoff and Kline (1995), Gentilucci, (2004), Brown (2003) and McCombs and Whisler (1997) researchers and educators are taking a new look at the experience of teaching and learning in the classroom. Kanno (1999) argues for emphasis on learning rather than teaching in order to create an avenue for intern teachers to learn to listen to their students' voices. Similarly, in a study of classroom communication between teachers and students, Johnson (1995) concludes that students often misinterpret teacher's expectations and intentions. Thus it is critically important that university supervisors gauge the perceptions of students as part of the supervision process. This is consistent with the long-held position that learners' perceptions of the instructional practices are critical to their learning, ability to create opportunities for learning, classroom participation and the creation of positive learning environment--such as student-student and student-teacher rapport.

I am mindful of the fact that the call for integrating students' perceptions into intern teacher fieldwork supervisions might sound unrealistic. However, as educators, what is not unrealistic is to ask teachers, researchers and educators to challenge old assumptions and beliefs about what works well to facilitate the teaching and learning processes in the classroom. This is why in the last twenty years, researchers and language teachers have shown increasing interests in learners' involvement in different aspects of the curriculum in language teaching and learning. Such efforts have broadened our perspectives of learners, particularly in such areas as needs analysis, motivation, prior learning and life experiences, learning styles, and preferences, cultural backgrounds, and cognitive skills.

I concur with Slimani's (1992) assertion that it is inadequate to use teachers' plan as a measure of what students learn. Slimani is right to call for an adoption of evaluative criteria which use students' viewpoints as part of the integrated measurements in order to improve the evaluation of what students learn. Barkhuizen (1998) asks the pertinent questions: "Firstly, how do teachers know what their learners think or feel? Is it simply intuition or some evaluation procedure used? …