Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Foreign Language Student Teaching: Do Supervisor Qualifications Really Matter?

Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Foreign Language Student Teaching: Do Supervisor Qualifications Really Matter?

Article excerpt

Abstract: According to national standards for foreign language (L2) teacher education programs established by the ACTFL and the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), L2 student teachers must be supervised by university faculty who are qualified L2 educators. An exploratory study was conducted to better understand the impact of content-specific pedagogical knowledge, L2 experience, and qualifications on the effectiveness of the university supervisor. Its purpose was to compare the beliefs of L2 teacher candidates and supervisors with and without L2 teaching qualifications to explore the extent to which these three groups share similar beliefs about effective L2 teaching. Results indicated that all participants demonstrated general pedagogical knowledge associated with good teaching practices. However, supervisors without L2 teacher training and experience were less familiar with theories of L2 acquisition, standards, and best practices than were their counterparts with L2 teaching qualifications. Lacking pedagogical content knowledge related to L2 teaching, the generalist supervisors were unable to provide appropriate feedback to their L2 interns, had lower expectations for their interns, and relied more heavily on others to provide them with support.

Key words: mixed methodology, national standards, teacher beliefs, teacher- preparation, university supervisor

Introduction

The national standards for teacher certification established by the ACTFL and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) as well as by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP1) recommend that foreign language (L2) teacher candidates be "supervised by a qualified foreign language educator who is knowledgeable about current instructional approaches and issues in the field of foreign language education" (ACTFL, 2002, p. 2). This recommendation rests on a solid body of research indicating that the student teaching internship is the most important component of the teacher preparation program (Caires & Almeida, 2007; Ferber & Nillas, 2010; Metcalf, 1991). During this culminating experience, interns have the opportunity to apply and reflect on the general and content-specific theories, methodologies, and strategies they have learned throughout their coursework, and to learn new strategies.

One of the key players in this culminat- ing experience is the university supervisor. Mclntyre (1983) noted that the university supervisor helps student teachers improve their teaching performance and coaches for mastery of teaching strategies. Furthermore, Ferber and Nillas (2010) identified supervi- sor practices as one of the three main factors, along with interactions between the student teacher and the cooperating teacher and support from the teacher education pro- gram, that determine in large part the effectiveness of the student teaching experi- ence. Additional recent research has contin- ued to support the pivotal role played by the university supervisor: Turunen and Tuovila (2012), for example, argued that the supervisor helps teacher candidates see the link between the theory discussed in their coursework and their actual classroom practice. Other research, however, has suggested that the university supervisor plays only a facilitative role in the student teaching experience (Beck & Kosnik, 2002; Karmos & Jacko, 1977). Zimpher, deVoss, and Nott (1980) and more recently Fayne (2007), for example, reported that the university supervisor serves as an interme- diary between the university and the school and acts as a confidant to the student teacher. Despite the professional uncertain- ty with respect to the role of the university supervisor, there is little argument that this role is an important one. Even those who have argued that supervisors play a second- ary role (Fayne, 2007; Zimpher et al., 1980) have acknowledged that they have the responsibility of providing feedback to interns to improve their practice. …

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