Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Collaborative Teacher Research: Learning with Students

Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Collaborative Teacher Research: Learning with Students

Article excerpt


This qualitative case study explores how collaborative teacher research serves as a professional development model for practicing teachers. The purpose of the study is to examine how participation in a collaborative teacher research group affected three French teachers' understandings of one state's foreign language standards, and to look at how those understandings were realized in a collaborative teacher research (CTR) project. This article specifically focuses on the results emanating from how the three French teachers individually and collaboratively interpreted and implemented foreign language standards while participating in CTR. Data were collected from workshops, journal entries, classroom observations, lesson plans and materials, workshop evaluations, the teachers' research, and e-mail conversations. Results show that the teachers learned about the standards primarily from collaborating with their students.


New Visions in Action (NVA), sponsored by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) and the National Foreign Language Resource Center (NFLRC) in Iowa, is moving forward a national agenda for foreign language education in an effort to meet goals set forth in the national K-12 foreign language standards (Met, 2000). These standards provide a vision of instruction for which teachers need a high level of language proficiency, extensive cultural competence, a repertoire of approaches that are learner centered and focused on communication, and knowledge about implementing strategies for working with diverse learners who have not traditionally enrolled in foreign language classes (Phillips, 1998).

Foreign language pedagogy, described in the manner of the National Standards (1999), will not be realized without sustained professional development for practicing teachers. Past professional development programs have been criticized for their "one-shot" structure, top-down approach, and failure to address the specific needs of foreign language teachers, resulting in little or no effect on classroom instruction. This professional development paradigm is changing. Current literature discussing professional development concurs that it must be long term, collaborative, content specific, job embedded, inquiry based, and focused on the needs of teachers and the goals we are setting for our students (Alien, 2004; Clair, 2000; Diaz-Maggioli, 2003; Klonsky 2002; Kreeft Peyton, 1997; Lewis, 2000; lieberman & Miller, 2000; McCarthy & Riley, 2000). Further, teachers must be actively involved in both its design and implementation (Bartz & Keefe Singer, 1996; Darling Hammond, 1997; Glisan, 1996; Kreeft Peyton, 1997).

The Teacher Development Task Force-one working group of the NVA project-is in the process of establishing a national framework that defines effective professional development for foreign language teachers. Part of the work of the task force involves identifying criteria for the creation and evaluation of professional development programs and subsequently identifying and showcasing exemplary program models. Empirical data from studies investigating the effectiveness of professional development programs are needed to inform the group's ongoing work. NVA has, in particular, called for research on the effectiveness of alternative professional development models (Curtain, 2000).

Action research offers a viable solution. Although this type of research, from here on referred to as collaborative teacher research (CTR), is recognized for promoting teacher development and change in teaching practice (Anderson, Herr, & Nihlen, 1994; Burns & Hood, 1995; Freeman, 1998; McNiff, 1993), and as an insightful means for contributing to the knowledge base of teaching (Allwright; 1993; Somekh, 1993; Stenhouse, 1981) we are only beginning to know how foreign language teachers carry out this type of research (Burns, 1999). In addition, while collaboration is the critical component of successful teacher research, it has tended to be promoted and conducted in an individualistic way (Burns, 1999). …

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