Back to the Classroom: Lessons Learnt by a Teacher Educator

Aug. 15, 2010
Source: Studying Teacher Education, Volume 6, Issue 2, August 2010 , pages 131 – 141.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The author is a teacher educator at the Faculty of Education of the Malta State University.
The author returned to classroom teaching

1. To better understand the challenges faced by student teachers in implementing Communicative Language Teaching for teaching English at secondary school level.
2. To reflect on pedagogical practices for teaching English with the aim of renewing the author's knowledge in practice as a teacher educator;
3. To achieve a connection between the return-to-school experience and improvement in teacher education (Loughran & Northfield, 1996, p. 10).

The author kept field texts that recorded intensively the day's events, including reflections on her teaching, relations with learners, relations with staff and school management, coffee-break conversations, school activities such as staff days, subject meetings and parents' meetings, lesson preparation and materials development.

Implications for Practice
Through this self-study the author formed a more developed understanding of the learners' role in learning; their prior learning and past classroom experiences are brought heavily to bear on new learning experiences (Loughran & Northfield, 1996, p. 121).  
The author was determined to persevere in attempting teaching techniques that research has shown to aid in learning a second language and which, in the end, the learners benefitted from.

Furthermore, early implementation among primary and secondary school learners should ensure that a particular culture of language learning is fostered. Therefore, ensuing benefits in terms of language learning and motivated learners must feature prominently if student teachers are to develop the tenacity needed to go against the prevalent culture.

Another implication for practice concerns the bigger picture of teacher education.
The preparation of primary school teachers and the preparation of secondary school teachers tend to happen in isolation from one another. However, the author claims that closer collaboration is imperative for the pedagogy for language teaching and learning to run through the school years in a seamless fashion.

Furthermore, the author argues that ways of teaching that are actively advocated on teacher education programmes are not being taken up by teachers in the field; the use of language games, crossword puzzles, and the internet should be more widespread. The same applies to modes of organizing learners within the classroom so that pair work and group work are considered normal organizational work structures.

Implications for Policy
The practicum is crucial to a student teacher's development. It is therefore important for the teacher education institution to forge links with schools to ensure that student teachers are given the maximum support possible to help them put into practice the views of language learning and teaching that are proposed by that institution.

The author suggests the procedures by which student teachers are placed in schools should be re-examined. Currently, the system is dominated by a randomness that works against some students and in favour of other. The author argues that different schools place unequal demands on teachers, hence the teacher education institution should strive to assign field placements as fairly and as sensitively as possible.

Finally, the author suggests that the courses in theories of classroom management should help student teachers move towards a new conceptualization of the conditions in which language learning takes place, one that includes dynamic interaction among learners and new engaging activities.

Loughran, J. and Northfield, J. (1996) Opening the classroom door: Teacher, researcher, learner Falmer Press , London.

Updated: Jan. 30, 2011