Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Preservice and Inservice Instructors' Metaphorical Constructions of Second Language Teachers

Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Preservice and Inservice Instructors' Metaphorical Constructions of Second Language Teachers

Article excerpt


This article describes the first part of a study that explores the metaphorical language used by 64 second language (L2) Spanish and English as a foreign language (EFL) pre- and inservice teaching assistants and instructors in their conceptualization of L2 teachers and students. The article investigates the philosophical perspective embedded in their discourse and differences based on experience, academic background, and culture. The results of the study show the prevalence of the conduit metaphor in most participants' conceptualizations despite differing experience and academic and cultural backgrounds, except for a group of EFL teachers. The article also addresses similarities and differences and the role of metaphors in instructors' practice.

Key words: metaphors in second/foreign language teaching, philosophical perspectives, second/foreign language teaching methodology, teacher education

Language: Spanish


Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, an extensive number of studies (e.g., Carter, 1990; Mahlios & Maxson, 1998; Marchant, 1992; Munby 1987; Munby & Russell, 1990; Stofflett, 1996) explored the role that metaphorical language played in elementary, middle, and high school instructors' constructions of knowledge and analysis of their practice. These studies focused mostly on inservice teachers in charge of a variety of school subjects, but not on second language instructors.

Only in recent years have L2 researchers followed a similar line of research by resorting to metaphors to investigate, for example, the conceptualizations of English as a second language (ESL) students and education experts and of inservice and preservice L2 teachers. This study seeks to broaden the existing body of research by investigating the metaphorical language used by L2 Spanish graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) and instructors and EFL teachers in the United States, Argentina, and Spain in their conceptualizations of L2 teachers and students, and by exploring the participants' philosophical perspectives based on experience, academic background, and culture. The article presents the first part of a two-year study in which a questionnaire was administered to 64 American and international GTAs and instructors at two American institutions of higher education and at private schools in Argentina and Spain. The second part of the study involved interviews and classroom observations with some of the participants, but only the results of the questionnaire are addressed in this article.

Previous Studies

At present, it is commonly accepted that the notion of metaphor has transcended its traditional consideration "as a technique in poetry or prose for which certain rules apply, certain standards of acceptability are maintained" (Shibles, 1971, p. 1). Rather, a metaphor is seen as a much richer means of describing individual or collective experiences by transferring a concept from one domain of meaning into another, and integrating the new concept as part of a whole system of knowledge (Fauconnier & Turner, 2002). The analysis of metaphors used by teachers when describing their personal and professional development not only provides information about their attitudes or practices, but also offers insight into the internalized knowledge by which they understand what they do and say (Woods, 1996).

A number of studies in general education have examined the role of metaphors as a key dimension in the preparation and development of elementary, middle, and high school teachers in different academic areas (e.g., Clark & Petterson, 1986; Connelly & Clandinin, 1988). In addition, other studies have focused on the metaphors that entry-level preservice teachers bring with them as they begin a teacher education program (Mahlios & Maxson, 1998), the meanings given to the learning-to-teach process by education students in teacher preparation programs (Carter, 1990; Marchant, 1992; Stofflett, 1996), and the metaphors used by inservice teachers to describe their planning and decision-making processes (Cortazzi, 1991; Munby, 1987). …

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