Language Teachers: Lesson 1
In this module, you will hear from two teacher educators (Dr. Zsuzsanna Abrams, Associate Professor of German and Dr. Tom Garza, Associate Professor of Russian) who will share their thoughts about essential skills and knowledge foreign language teachers need to acquire in order to count themselves full-fledged professionals.
1 Joining the Profession
Expert knowledge and qualifications of the foreign language professional.
2 ACTFL Guidelines and National Standards
Guidelines for assessing language proficiency and standards for defining what language learners should know.
3 Principles of Communicative Language Teaching
Descriptions of Communicative Language Teaching and its associated practices.
4 Professional Development
Impact of FL Teaching Methods courses on professional development.
What You Need to Know
Becoming a foreign language teacher means becoming a member of a professional community. In turn, becoming a member of a community means acquiring the common knowledge and shared values of that community. According to Dr. Garza, beginning teachers should aim to acquire the following:
1. A knowledge of the spoken and written language.
2. A knowledge of how language in general is put together.
3. A knowledge of pedagogy.
These three types of knowledge translate into different professional abilities. For example, the first knowledge area means that the teacher can speak and write the foreign language with a high level of proficiency. The second knowledge area implies that the teacher can explain the workings of grammar and vocabulary to naive learners in a way that is both logical and informative. The third knowledge area—pedagogy—is crucial for putting things into practice. In other words, applying this knowledge to your own classroom means knowing how to create an environment conducive to learning.
Dr. Tom Garza answers the question: What knowledge do language teachers need to have?
Take a few minutes to conduct a self-assessment. How would you rate your knowledge of these three areas? What are your strengths and weaknesses as a teacher?
What does it mean to be a professional? What does it mean to “professionalize” the field of foreign language teaching?
Dr. Zsuzsanna Abrams on becoming a member of a profession.
According to Dr. Abrams, a foreign language professional understands that he or she is a member of a larger “community of practice,” that is, a group of people who share interests, values and behaviors. According to Lave and Wenger (1991), two cognitive anthropologists who coined the term community of practice, it is through the sharing of information and experience that individuals develop themselves personally and professionally. In fact, to be a professional requires the teacher to take part in activities outside his or her classroom such as attending workshops or conferences.
Finally, to be a professional requires that the teacher keep up-to-date by reading about recent pedagogical developments.
Currently, what professional activities do you participate in? How often do you talk to other teachers about your own teaching? Where do you get new ideas for your classroom practice?
Members of a professional community share an understanding of the profession’s history, in this case, a knowledge of the different teaching methods and how they have changed in the past fifty years or so. In this video, Dr. Garza recalls earlier language learning methods by recounting his own history as a language learner. He mentions three predecessors to today’s communicative methods: grammar-translation method (GTM), audiolingual (ALM), and cognitive code method. Most of these early methods stressed learning about the language rather than using the language.
Dr. Garza gives a historical perspective on language teaching.
Describe the method(s) used by your foreign language teachers. As a language learner, were you exposed primarily to methods that emphasized learning about the language or learning by using the language?
[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.