Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

The Knowledge Base Efl Teachers Need for Effective Practice: Targeting Theoretical Accounts and Practical Demands

Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

The Knowledge Base Efl Teachers Need for Effective Practice: Targeting Theoretical Accounts and Practical Demands

Article excerpt

1. Preliminaries

The major goal of language teaching is to enhance students' understanding and learning. Teachers need to be equipped with various kinds of knowledge and skills to estabhsh and maintain effective teaching environments that enable them to achieve that goal . So teachers' professional knowledge may be considered the single most important characteristic in instruction. Elbaz (1983, p.ll) points out that "the single factor which seems to have the greatest power to carry forward our understanding of the teacher's role is the phenomenon of teachers' knowledge." The topic of teacher knowledge and the nature of the knowledge base have emerged as one of the central concerns of research in language teacher education over the last few years. That's why recent years have witnessed increased interest in evaluating the effectiveness of teacher education processes and how teachers and student teachers interpreted and gave meaning to the teacher education programs they experienced (Zeichner , 1999).This led to emergence of a number of theoretical frameworks. The most influential of these was possibly Shulman's (1987) formulation of the knowledge base of teaching as comprising a set of different categories of knowledge:

1. Content knowledge

2. General pedagogical knowledge (pedagogical issues that transcend subject matter)

3. Curriculum knowledge

4. Pedagogical content knowledge (the special amalgam of content and pedagogy that is uniquely the province of teachers)

5. Knowledge of learners and their characteristics

6. Knowledge of educational contexts (at both micro- and macro-levels)

7. Knowledge of educational ends, purposes, and values (p.97)

It was not until the mid-1990s, however, that serious thought began to be given to the question of what the knowledge base of language teaching might be. Up until this point, there had been a largely unchallenged assumption that what language teachers needed was declarative knowledge about the language which they were teaching. Under this conception, what teachers "knew" was the structure of the language they taught, and also some largely mechanistic pedagogy for "transferring" that knowledge to students.

Thus, historically, the knowledge-base of L2 teacher education has been grounded in the positivist epistemological perspective. It has been compartmentahzed into isolated theoretical courses and separated from teaching, leading to what teacher educator D.L. Ball (2000) has referred to as the persistent dichotomy between subject matter and pedagogy. The content of language teacher education program positioned disciplinary knowledge about formal properties of language and theories of SLA as foundational knowledge for the professional preparation of the teacher. Thus, viewing L2 teaching as a matter of translating theories of SLA into effective instructional practices (how L2 teachers should teach), L2 teacher educators historically defined the knowledge base of language teacher education largely in terms of how language learners acquire a second language and less in terms of how language teaching is learned and how it is practiced (Freeman & Johnson, 1998).

2. The Nature of Teacher-Learning

A focus on the nature of teacher learning has been central to a rethinking of both the content and dehvery of S/FLTE programs. Teacher learning from traditional perspectives was seen as a cognitive issue, something the learner did on his or her own. Nunan (1995) describes this learner-centered view this way: it is the learner who must remain at the center of the processes, for no matter how much energy and effort we expend; it is the learner who has to do the learning" (p.55). Teaching was then viewed as a transmission process. When couched within a transmission model the process-product paradigm examined teaching in terms of the learning outcomes it produced. Process-product studies concentrated on the link, which was often assumed to be causal, between the teacher's actions and the students' mental processes so in product-process research the aim was to understand how teachers' action led or did not lead to student learning (Freeman, 2002). …

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