Academic journal article Babel

Context, Content, and Teacher Education: Six Language Teachers in a Primary School Setting Discuss Their Language Teaching Identity

Academic journal article Babel

Context, Content, and Teacher Education: Six Language Teachers in a Primary School Setting Discuss Their Language Teaching Identity

Article excerpt

Abstract

Researchers have identified the importance of understanding language teacher identity in order to understand more about language teacher education(Johnson, Pawan, & Mahan-Taylor, 2005; Varghese, Morgan, Johnston, & Johnson, 2005). This paper reports on themes from semistructured interviews conducted individually with six inservice teachers of additional languages (Years 7 and 8) in a New Zealand upper primary setting. The focus of these interviews was to explore these teachers' understanding of what it means to be a language teacher in New Zealand primary Settings, a relatively new context for additional language teaching which has recently been enhanced by the addition of a Learning Languages learning area in the New Zealand curriculum (Ministry of Education, 2007). Themes from these interviews are discussed in terms of three areas: creating a context for student language earning the content of language teaching, and language teacher education. Findings are discussed in light of existing literature from Australian, American, and European contexts, and novel findings are highlighted.

Keywords

language teacher education, language teacher identity, New Zealand primary setting, language learning context, language teaching content

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Introduction

The recent introduction of the Learning Languages learning area in the updated New Zealand Curriculum (Ministry of Education, 2007) has given prominence and recognition to an area which had previously been placed in the same curriculum area with the learning of English for first language speakers. The elevation of this area of the curriculum to a learning area in its own right, and the requirement by the New Zealand Ministry of Education (MoE) that from 2008 all year 7 and 8 students had access to learning an additional language (Spence, 2004) has implications for the need to ensure that the additional language teacher education available in New Zealand is of a high quality. Several researchers have identified the need to understand language teacher identity in order to feed this into language teacher education (Johnson et al., 2005; Varghese et al., 2005). The motivation for this study--for wanting to understand what it means to be a teacher of additional languages in New Zealand primary schools--is to ensure that the preservice language teacher education provided in New Zealand is appropriate for the work done by teachers in this context.

Before an outline of international research concerning what it means to be a language teacher is summarised, the New Zealand educational context will be described, with particular reference to language learning in New Zealand primary schools.

The New Zealand Educational Context

Children in New Zealand are required to attend school between the ages of six and sixteen years (Years 1-13), although most children start when they are five years of age. The language of instruction is either English or Te Reo Maori. There is a range of possible configurations of this schooling. Years 1 to 8 are considered primary years, and may be received in either a full primary, or a primary school from Years 1 to 6 and an intermediate school (sometimes called a middle school) in Years 7 and 8. Years 7 and 8 can also be received in a secondary school which may encompass Years 7-13 or, more commonly, Years 9-13. There are state school options, as well as independent, integrated, special, home schooling, and distance schooling options (Spence, 2004).

Language teaching in New Zealand schools

In her 2004 overview of New Zealand language learning policy, Spence (2004) indicated that the number of language learners in New Zealand schools has increased over the last decade. Since then statistics indicate that the number of language learners in both primary and secondary settings has continued to increase. …

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