Academic journal article Babel

Learning Models in Professional Experience for Language Teacher Education Students

Academic journal article Babel

Learning Models in Professional Experience for Language Teacher Education Students

Article excerpt


The current diverse cohorts of language teacher education students are the future of our profession. In the university in which this study took place, with a typical annual cohort of around 20, students are diverse in age, in cultural and linguistic background (Moloney & Giles, 2015) and in their critical abilities (Moloney & Oguro, 2016). The nature of professional experience encountered in schools is a critical personal experience for them, and ideally provides a model of the professional learning communities they will engage with as teachers.

Professional experience is regarded as a 'site of learning' (Le Cornu, 2015, p. 3), of untapped potential for the development of both the teacher education student and his/her supervising teacher (Grudnoff, Haigh, & Mackisack, 2017) and, more broadly, for teacher professional learning across what is now recognised to be a whole-school responsibility (Hagger & Mcintyre, 2006). Recent reports (e.g., NSW Government, 2013; Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group (TEMAG). 2014) have recommended a variety of new models and practices, w ith an emphasis on partnerships between schools and universities to strengthen the links between theory and practice (Allen, Howells, & Radford, 2013; Stenberg, Rajala & Hilppo, 2016). This development has been framed by the AITSL Professional Standards (2011) which are driving this process at both state and national levels. The Professional Experience Framework (NESA, 2017) describes new roles and responsibilities for teacher education students, supervisors in schools, and their university support teams, and emphasises the importance of collaboration and whole-school responsibility in professional experience.

This article has three sections.

* First, it briefly examines the significant challenges faced by one student of language teacher education in professional experience in an isolated supervision context.

* Second, it describes two professional experience projects carried out by Macquarie University (the initial one was a pilot undertaken in 2016 using instructional rounds, which found there were benefits from enhanced collaboration between students, supervising teachers and university; the other, in progress at time of writing, is positioned within a whole-school focus on a professional learning community, and includes the experience of peer coaching).

* Third, this article suggests that a peer-coaching approach has much in common with intercultural enquiry pedagogy, and thus has particular potential in language teacher education, to broaden experience, skills and outlook.

The article was written in collaboration with a student of language teacher education, Frank, whose experiences form the basis of the case study in this paper. The article does not generalise from his experience, however. The authors recognise that many different models of professional experience exist across universities, and that many universities are finding solutions to the issues identified in this study. Some material from this article was first presented at the Modern Language Teachers Association of New South Wales (MLTANSW) conference in March 2017.

Part 1: Professional experience - a complex task

Teacher education students may come to their first professional experience with limited knowledge of the diversity of school environments (Merryfield, 2000). A constructivist understanding of learning (Vygotsky, 1986) indicates that the knowledge they gain at university is interpreted in relation to prior know ledge. Similarly, their knowledge and goals within their first professional experience must be constructed, and progressively built, in relation to this prior know ledge. All teacher education students need ample opportunity to make observations and time for guided critical reflection on their own assumptions (Alger, 2006; Ward & McCotter, 2004). …

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