Quo Vadis, EFL Teacher Education?

posted by Jürgen Kurtz, Karlsruhe University of Education, Germany

What do we really know about the overall impact and the specific effects of initial EFL teacher education? Much of the current educational policy debate in Germany seems to be based on the intuitively appealing and seemingly plausible, yet premature and unrealistic assumption that a modularized, standardized, more rigidly evaluated and, ultimately, more intensively monitored teacher education program is desirable or necessary for producing better qualified teachers who as a result are better equipped to enhance target language and intercultural learning in EFL classrooms. However, from a scientific perspective, it is by no means clear how teacher education affects individual students and the quality of their teaching in the future. We are only just beginning to understand the complex interplay of the many factors influencing professional teacher development (see, for instance, Terhart 2004).

Teaching English as a foreign language can certainly not be reduced to ‘applied’ or ‘applying’ linguistics and psychology, and initial teacher education is definitely not what many German first semester TEFL students expect or might like it to be, i.e. an educational enterprise reduced to the prescriptive transmission of methodological recipes for teaching the target language.

All this is well-known world-wide. Initial teacher education should not of course aim at the practitioner per se. It aims at the reflective practitioner, seeking to provide an interdisciplinary, theory-driven and research-based array of courses, and – as far as this can be achieved under the given institutional circumstances – an optimal mix of theory and practice. The leitmotif of the reflective practitioner constitutes an enormous challenge though, especially because of students’ experientially-based and often deeply rooted preconceptions of teaching (their subjective theories), which often collide with the scientific theories and research evidence they are confronted with at university. A course of study that would mould a genuinely critical, reflective, innovative young teacher would necessitate an array of interrelated tasks that require time and a gradual professional maturing process that cannot be compartmentalized even further, cut down in breadth and width, and laid in the hands of the technocrats of evaluation and testing. What is now needed is the exact opposite, even if this puts much higher and more subtle demands on the university.

Terhart, Ewald (2004), „Struktur und Organisation der Lehrerbildung in Deutschland.“ [Stucture and Organization of Teacher Education in Germany]. In: Blömeke, S.; Reinhold, P.; Tulodziecki, G. & Wildt, J. (Hrsg.) [Eds.]. Handbuch Lehrerbildung. [Handbook of Teacher Education]. Braunschweig: Westermann, 37-59.



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