Building a Well-Prepared Languages Teaching Force: Turkish Teacher Perspectives

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Teacher quality is a central issue in the provision of languages. This paper reports on a study that examines teachers' perceptions of the obstacles to creating a well-prepared and well-supported languages teaching force. In one-on-one interviews, teachers of Turkish in Australia identified the essential knowledge base, understanding, and skills of high-quality teachers of Turkish, emphasising command of formal and informal Turkish, fluency in English, relevant professional preparation, knowledge of language pedagogy, understanding of the Australian school culture, and ability to establish connections with students and the broader community. Problems with the quality of teachers of Turkish were attributed to inadequate language-specific professional development and current school practices in hiring and rehiring teachers. Recommendations to improve teacher selection included relying on an independent committee to review candidates' linguistic and pedagogical knowledge, experience, and interest in teaching Turkish. Participants suggested that teachers' engagement with professional development and progress toward obtaining teaching credentials should be considered in annual performance evaluation and rehiring decisions. Viable ideas to enhance language-specific professional development included capitalising on seasoned teachers' knowledge and facilitating professional exchanges among teachers via an interactive website. The study has important implications for successful uptake of The Australian Curriculum: Languages pertaining to professional preparation and ongoing support of languages teachers, for Turkish and other languages.

Key Words

Australian languages education, Turkish teaching in Victoria, secondary teachers of Turkish, languages teacher quality, languages teacher preparation, languages teacher professional learning

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INTRODUCTION

Teacher quality is a central issue in the provision of languages. Influential reports, policy documents, and comprehensive literature reviews on languages education in Australia report that teacher quality affects both language program quality and student learning (ACARA, 2010; Kleinhenz, 2007; Liddicoat, Tognini, Fishmann, Harbon, & Kohler, 2005; MCEETYA 2005; Nicholas, Moore, Clyne & Pauwels, 1993). In the context of a larger effort to improve the quality and outcomes of languages education, recent policy discussions have focused on the essential knowledge base, understanding, and skills of languages teachers and the professional and instructional resources needed to improve languages teacher quality throughout Australia.

The Australian Federation of Modern Language Teachers Associations (AFMLTA) advanced the debate by designing a set of professional standards for teachers of languages and cultures to assist teachers of languages with ongoing professional learning and teaching (AFMLTA, 2005). The AFMLTA professional standards describe accomplished languages teachers as active learners who develop their knowledge of the languages and cultures that they teach through ongoing engagement in professional education, reading, and research. Furthermore, the standards emphasise teachers' understanding of language development in school settings and skills in addressing the varied language profiles and learning styles of students in their classes. Languages teachers are also expected to have a general knowledge of educational theory, practice, and class management as well as language policy and curriculum frameworks. The professional standards also underline language teachers' skills in building relationships with students, colleagues, and the wider school community. The 2005 standards represent professional consensus on what languages teachers should know, understand, and be able to do and have recently been supplemented with a professional learning program to develop leadership in languages teachers and an additional standard for lead teachers (AFMLTA 2012) (See http://afmlta. …