How Foreign Language Teachers in Georgia Evaluate Their Professional Preparation: A Call for Action

By Cooper, Thomas C. | Foreign Language Annals, Spring 2004 | Go to article overview

How Foreign Language Teachers in Georgia Evaluate Their Professional Preparation: A Call for Action


Cooper, Thomas C., Foreign Language Annals


Abstract:

The purpose of this article is to report on a collaborative project among members of colleges of education, colleges of arts and sciences, and high school foreign language departments. The project involved conducting an online survey of 341 current foreign language teachers in Georgia in order to determine how these K-12 teachers perceived and evaluated the effectiveness of their professional preparation. Close to 60% of the teachers in the sample were graduates of colleges and universities in Georgia. Most of the others had received their training from various other colleges and universities in the United States, and 51 individuals reported that they had graduated from foreign institutions. The survey consisted of 42 questions asking teachers to evaluate their preparation in language skills, knowledge of foreign language standards, planning for instruction, methodology, using technology in instruction, meeting the needs of socially and economically diverse students, classroom management skills, and professional growth. The survey results strongly suggest that foreign language teacher development programs should include (1) more time spent in carefully supervised and monitored prestudent-teaching field experiences; (2) more careful mentoring of student teachers during the student-teaching internship; (3) more time spent in language learning experiences in countries where the target language is spoken; (4) more emphasis on developing foreign language proficiency in the requisite university classes; and (5) more effort spent on teaching effective classroom management.

Introduction

One distinct point of consensus has clearly emerged from foreign language professionals' discussions of teacher development over the last few years: Teacher preparation programs must be the result of collaborative approaches designed to maximize the effects of any and all strategies for improvement (ACTFL, 2002; Raymond, 2002; Schulz, 2000). As Schulz stated, alluding to a long-standing argument on this matter:

Part of the problem is that teacher development programs are isolated in schools or colleges of education and that the long-standing schism between education and FL departments has resulted in mutual name-calling; the responsibility for teacher training must be shared equally by the schools (administrators and practicing teachers), the disciplinary departments (specialists in literature, cultural studies, language, linguistics, and applied linguistics), and colleges of education. (p. 518)

The belief that teacher preparation can be improved through collaborative efforts is also one of the guiding principles of the Georgia Systemic Teacher Education Program (GSTEP), a grant initiative funded by the U. S. Department of Education and the Georgia Department of Education involving three institutions of higher learning in Georgia: Albany State University, the University of Georgia, and Valdosta State University. The purpose of the grant is to enhance and improve all phases of teacher preparation by summoning the collaboration of all entities and departments involved. To work on this initiative in the area of foreign languages, a committee was formed at the University of Georgia that consisted of representatives from the Departments of Language Education, Classics, Romance Languages, and Germanic and Slavic Languages, as well as from from the foreign language departments of Grayson High School and Brookwood High School in metro Atlanta.1

The purpose of this article is to report on a collaborative project of the FL GSTEP committee that conducted an online survey of current foreign language teachers in Georgia in order to determine how these K-12 teachers perceived and evaluated the effectiveness of their professional preparation.

Previous Literature

There is a precedent for evaluating teacher education programs with questionnaires that obtain data on various aspects of the programs and elicit suggestions for program improvement. …

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