“I know learning a language is hard work”: The impact of experiential knowledge on language teachers' professional practices

Year: 2012

Author: Herath, Sreemali

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


This presentation discusses how non-native ESL/EFL teachers' prior language learning experiences shape their professional philosophies and practices. There is a growing consensus in the field of second language teacher education (SLTE) that in order to know how teachers learn to teach, it is important to understand their previous learning experiences, and most importantly the contexts in which those experiences took place. Despite this call to explore teachers' prior experiences, little attention has been given to the role of prior language learning experiences on the formation of teachers' professional philosophies. This presentation responds to this call by drawing on three EFL teachers' language learning biographies. Particularly it explores, a) the nature of a non-native teacher's language learning experiences b) the insights about language learning that arise from these experiences, c) how these insights inform their professional practices, and d) the impact of language autobiographies and narrative inquiry in understanding teacher experiences. The findings of the study reveals how teachers' own formal and experiential language learning experiences function as a powerful contributor to teacher knowledge, and the strength of narrative inquiry in understanding the link between teachers' prior experiences and their practices. In conclusion the presenter discusses the use of language biographies in second language teacher education to enable teacher learners to better understand their language learning journeys and how their experiences shape their professional practices.