Language Teacher: Lesson 4
Putting Methods into Practice
Methods courses have mixed results when it comes to changing teachers’ pedagogical practices. Unfortunately, some methods courses are overly theoretical and lack a practical component. For example, beginning teachers may understand a new method intellectually in a methods course but avoid trying out the innovation in their classrooms until they have more practical experience.
We encourage you to test the new ideas throughout the modules in your own classroom and then reflect on the results. Don’t be discouraged if things don’t go well on the first try. Developing your teaching skills is an iterative process that requires multiple attempts at mastering a new practice:
1. try out the new practice in your classroom;
2. reflect on how things went;
3. make adjustments and then try it again!
Dr. Abrams on how to get the most out of a methods course.
What do you think is the proper relationship of theory and practice for the novice language teacher? Can you master a teaching practice without understanding why it works?
How this Course is Different
Each module within this online methods course is taught by a different instructor who has his or her own teaching style and beliefs about language teaching. Some viewers may find this diversity a bit disorienting at first. But, as you progress through the modules, you will likely begin to see common threads that run throughout the instructional content.
Dr. Abrams on her experience participating in the Foreign Language Teaching Methods course.
Beginning language teachers are often preoccupied with their performance in front of their students and may need to be encouraged to try out new practices that may mean risking failure and embarrassment. It can also be discouraging to realize that there is still much to learn. Nevertheless, the beginning teacher Elena found the large amount of new content in this online methods course to be intellectually stimulating. In fact, she notes that the course gave her a new perspective on language teaching.
Elena a beginning language teacher reflects on what she got out of the course.
Elena describes teaching as an “active process?” How would you describe language teaching?
Becoming a foreign language teacher doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and effort. First of all, one should strive to master the foreign language. And, as you probably know by now, learning a language is a life-long task. There are always new vocabulary words and expressions to learn.
Dr. Garza on continuing professional development and life-long learning.
The Advantages of Non-native Speakers as Teachers
There is no doubt that native speakers will always have a special intuition about the language. But a native speaker’s intuition doesn’t automatically translate into effective language teaching. As Dr. Garza points out, being a non-native teacher brings with it a set of special advantages too, namely the ability to understand the language learner because of personal experience. Moreover, non-native teachers make excellent role models for their students who may not believe that they can ever learn the target language (“I learned this language well so you can too!”).
Dr. Garza claims that a professional language teacher must be a life-long learner because languages and cultures constantly change. Have you already noticed changes in your target language—new words, new spellings, new genres? For example, the Internet has given rise to a plethora of neologisms and new language practices? What parts of the target language have you yet to master?
This introductory module had several goals:
1. to give you important background that will be referred to in the other modules (e.g., technical terms, different pedagogical approaches);
2. to frame this course in terms of professional development;
3. and to emphasize that professional development is a life-long commitment.
Remember that becoming a language teacher is a developmental process. It takes time. It takes experience. But most of all, it takes reflection. As you work through the modules in this online course, continue to reflect on your own professional development—where you are now and where you’d like to go in the near future.
[Module Instructor Dr. Zsuzsanna Abrams, Associate Professor of German and Dr. Tom Garza, Associate Professor of Russian]. 2010. [Language Teachers]. In Foreign Language Teaching Methods. Carl Blyth, Editor. Texas Language Technology Center, University of Texas at Austin. http://coerll.utexas.edu
The material is provided free of charge for those that wish to study it.
How ever a no obligation exam is available at the end of this module.