Source: Teacher Development, Vol. 18, No. 4, 466–481, 2014
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This study explores how the newly qualified foreign language teachers’ (NQT) see their teacher work as an education expert. Furthermore, it also examines how their expertise develops in the working community at the outset of their career.
This study draws on a qualitative longitudinal study conducted at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, between 2003 and 2008.
The participants were 11 newly qualified foreign language teachers, who were all female and on average 24 years old at the time.
The data included the NQTs’ essays and journal entries which they wrote on events that had a significant impact on their teaching during their first three to four years of work.
This study shows that the NQTs have difficulty in putting their theoretical knowledge into practice during the first years at work and the effect of the working community on their professional development. This study suggests that language teachers’ conceptualization of teacher work is important in the developmental process of expertise.
Teachers that took the pathway of broad expertise consider language teaching as holistic education. These teachers need challenging tasks in order to not become frustrated but although empowered, they should not be left to work alone. Teachers that stressing foreign language and culture, less easily described expertise share the same conception of aims and goals of language teaching and teachers’ tasks.
They saw themselves as subject knowledge experts and did out-of-teaching duties, if they were asked. Most of them felt lonely, cooperation with colleagues was rare and they had little support from other teachers or the school principal. Based on the above, there appears to be an obvious need for individual support in the process of professional development during the pedagogical studies and at the beginning of the career.
When entering working life, teachers have both juridical and pedagogical responsibility for their pupils. Some NQTs conceptualised their work through discourses which reflected the transmission of information to the pupils and hence it was difficult for them to adopt the goals of language education.
These NQTs in particular would have benefited from the common discussion of teachers’ educational tasks. However, all the NQTs of the study expressed their need for systematic exchange of thoughts and support on their colleagues’ part. The findings of this study indicate that the role the NQTs took in the working community was nearly tied to their conception of foreign language teacher tasks.
The author argues that an NQT needs individual and collegial support both during teacher education and afterwards in working life but more research is, however, needed to define exactly what kind of support would be the most useful for NQTs’ professional development.