Contextualising English as a foreign language teacher training: Teachers' voices

Year: 2008

Author: Najar, Robyn

Type of paper: Refereed paper

This paper argues that what teachers know about teaching is largely socially constructed out of experiences and the classroom contexts in which they practice. This paper reports on the early findings of a two-week English as a foreign language (EFL) teacher training programme. The programme was conducted in the People's Republic of China, Sichuan Province in Chengdu City. Eighty eight primary school teachers from a combination of city and rural schools participated. A reflective practice approach to the programme and teachers' classroom practice was encouraged. Emergent themes based on written reflections by teachers during the programme are presented. Findings reveal that teachers did not merely restate what they had learnt in class. Teachers internalised and reflected on particular principles of teaching related to the programme curriculum, and combined these principles into practical outcomes that resonated for them within their individual teaching contexts. There were four emergent themes: getting students to talk in class; teacher as facilitator; managing student behaviour; and games and group work activities. Interestingly, out of sixty hours of instruction centred on cognitive, affective and linguistic principles for foreign language (FL) teaching, and over 180 reflective written pieces, the common emergent themes were simple, personal and meaningful ones. This paper concludes that encouraging teachers to reflect on and articulate their teaching and learning enables them to discover connections between sociocultural context, beliefs and teaching practices. In addition, the voices in this paper remind teacher educators that the decisions teachers make are most likely to be influenced by the exigencies of the classroom and the community in which the learning takes place, and that the highly interpretive nature of teachers' work results in the development of a personal rather than an externally imposed theory of teaching.