Teachers' Professional Knowledge for Teaching English as a Foreign Language: Assessing the Outcomes of Teacher Education

By Konig, Johannes; Lammerding, Sandra et al. | Journal of Teacher Education, September-October 2016 | Go to article overview

Teachers' Professional Knowledge for Teaching English as a Foreign Language: Assessing the Outcomes of Teacher Education


Konig, Johannes, Lammerding, Sandra, Nold, Gunter, Rohde, Andreas, Strauss, Sarah, Tachtsoglou, Sarantis, Journal of Teacher Education


There has been a growing interest in conducting research on teacher knowledge in recent decades. Following the influential work by Shulman (1986, 1987), researchers have been building on the differentiation, put forward in the analysis of teacher knowledge, between content knowledge (CK), pedagogical content knowledge (PCK), and general pedagogical knowledge (GPK). They assume that such knowledge can be identified and contributes to the effective teaching of students and their learning outcomes. Recent empirical educational research has started to assess teacher knowledge directly and provides evidence that subject-specific knowledge and skills on the part of teachers are decisive factors with respect to the achievement of their students (e.g., Baumert et al., 2010; Hill, Rowan, & Ball, 2005; Sadler, Sonnert, Coyle, Cook-Smith, & Miller, 2013). Teacher education effectiveness research has established the importance of measuring teacher knowledge as an outcome at various stages of teacher education (Blomeke, Felbrich, Muller, Kaiser, & Lehmann, 2008).

The studies that actually test teacher knowledge mainly focus on teachers of mathematics (Ball, Thames, & Phelps, 2008; Baumert et al., 2010; Hill et al., 2005; Schmidt et al., 2007; Tatto et al., 2012), thus enriching our understanding regarding mathematics as a core school subject worldwide (Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development [OECD], 2014). However, it remains an open question if such new insights are relevant to other subjects. Among those, teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) has aroused particular attention, not least due to the fact that English as a lingua franca (House, 2003; Jenkins, 2013) is the most influential language worldwide (Weber, 1997) and the most commonly studied foreign language at European schools (Eurostat, 2012). At the same time, TEFL is distinct from the teaching of other subjects for various reasons (Borg, 2006; Bums, Freeman, & Edwards, 2015; Canagarajah, 2013; Larsen-Freeman & Cameron, 2008) and, therefore, requires both a specific teacher knowledge base and specific learning opportunities during teacher education (Freeman, 2002; Freeman & Johnson, 1998; Tarone & Allwright, 2005).

Against this background, this article proposes a conceptualization and operationalization of the professional knowledge of future middle school teachers for TEFL, whom we directly assessed using tests developed by our research group. Our investigation will be exemplified by data from preservice teachers in Germany as a sample country in which English, as well as German and Mathematics, belongs to the three core subjects taught at school. We first examine construct validity by looking at the structure of cognitive measures, namely, CK, PCK, and GPK, and extend this to include language proficiency as a distinct characteristic of foreign language teachers (Borg, 2006). Second, we examine curricular validity by comparing such measures with specific learning opportunities during initial teacher education. The overall aim of this article is to contribute to a more precise outline of professional teacher knowledge for TEFL and its relation to teacher education, which has been identified as a research gap (Nold, 2013; Tarone & Allwright, 2005).

Research on Teachers' Professional Knowledge

Differentiation of Teacher Knowledge Into CK, PCK, and GPK

That teacher knowledge makes a significant contribution to effective teaching and student learning is broadly accepted (Darling-Hammond & Bransford, 2007; Gitomer & Zisk, 2015; Grossman & McDonald, 2008; Munby, Russell, & Martin, 2001; Woolfolk Hoy, Davis, & Pape, 2006). Research on teacher expertise underlines the importance of teachers' professional knowledge for the successful mastering of tasks that are typical of their profession (e.g., Berliner, 2001, 2004; Bromme, 1992). The most frequently cited heuristic to classify components of teachers' professional knowledge was provided by Shulman (1987). …

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