Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Letters to the Editor

Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Letters to the Editor

Article excerpt

Dear Editor,

In the past several decades, we have witnessed increased attention to teacher quality and vigorous debates about issues surrounding it, such as what constitutes quality, how quality can be attained in teacher preparation programs, and how to assess quality to bring about student learning and predict teacher success (see, e.g., Ball, Thames, & Phelps, 2008; Darling-Hammond & Lieberman, 2012; Goodwin et al., 2014). Work on this issue has trickled down into specific disciplines, including foreign language (FL) teacher preparation (see, e.g., ACTFL, 2013; Hlas & Hlas, 2012). Indeed, central to this discussion has been the question "What do teachers need to know and be able to do in order to teach effectively?" (Ball et al., 2008, p. 394). Within this context, and as acknowledged in a recent article on the state of teacher education, "what counts as content knowledge is an interesting and unsettled question" (Arbaugh, Ball, Grossman, Heller, & Monk, 2015, p. 437).

Kissau and Algozzine (2017) have contributed to this discussion in their recently published article, which focuses on the "content knowledge" of FL teachers and the performance of preservice FL teachers by examining their scores and ratings on external assessments that are ostensibly designed to measure that knowledge. We commend the authors for presenting an overview of the three assessments that teachers may be required to take (depending on the state in which they earn certification) together with test results from one group of 21 native and nonnative teacher candidates of French and Spanish (i.e., preservice teachers) who completed these three assessments. In addition, they alluded to challenges that teacher education programs face by virtue of preparing candidates who enter certification programs via different tracks (e.g., traditional or lateral) and who have varying degrees of oral proficiency in the target language, as is often the case with native speakers and nonnative speakers.1

We take issue, however, with three facets of the article:

1. the authors' treatment of content knowledge and their "expanded definition" (p. 127) of it in light of currently existing work in this area on FL teacher preparation;

2. the authors' reductive use of assessment results to expand the definition of content knowledge and draw conclusions regarding candidate content knowledge and teaching effectiveness; and

3. the authors' suggestion that teacher candidates could "compensate for deficiencies in common content knowledge with strengths in other areas" (p. 129).

On "Broadening the Concept of Content Knowledge"

In their discussion of content knowledge, Kissau and Algozzine adopted the framework suggested by Ball et al. (2008) in defining an expanded view of content knowledge to include the ability to explain specialized conceptualized knowledge to students and to design and differentiate instruction to facilitate learning. While one could have a debate about the label content knowledge and whether, for example, that designation is appropriate for a skill such as oral proficiency (as measured by the Oral Proficiency Interview [OPI]), this dialogue is beyond the scope of our response. Of greater importance here is that in presenting the categorization by Ball et al., the authors failed to include the focused question that Ball and colleagues proposed to guide the study of content knowledge necessary for teaching a particular subject area: "What do teachers need to know and be able to do in order to teach effectively?" (2008, p. 394). What is questionable is the operationalization of content knowledge in their study and the conspicuous absence and recognition of already existing and well-articulated teaching content standards as presented in the ACTFL/CAEP (Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation) Program Standards for the Preparation of Foreign Language Teachers (ACTFL, 2013). These program standards have been used in the field since 2002 in teacher education programs, particularly those seeking program recognition by the ACTFL/CAEP. …

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