Models of teaching
Wallace (1991) explains that professional expertise in language teacher education can be reached through three models
The craft model
This model leans towards practice and praxis and the concept of learning by demonstration. In other words, this model represents this idea of apprenticeship of observation (Grenfell 1998,7-8; Randall and Thornton 2001,35) by which a novice or trainee learns from observation and talking with a more experienced teacher who is assumed to be of the effective kind, whatever that means. Thus, the emphasis of this model is on the practical aspects of teaching and it might be supported that this observation will lead to explore the underlying reasoning for the actions observed.
This model includes some knowledge of the context, and learners and material, but then this knowledge is absolutely context-bound as what the novice learns is effective only in the context of observation. Then it is closely linked to the art-craft conception of teaching discusses above. In addition, there is no room for generalisation or trainees’ beliefs, and if that is imbued, the danger is that trainees may trial the very same techniques they observe with other classes obtaining unexpected results, let alone other surprises. Also, another threat posed by this view is that model teachers can transfer obsolete methods which bear no relation with a new set of goals.
The applied science model
The applied science model is heavily based on the transmission of knowledge from language educators to student-teachers. The kind of knowledge to be imparted comes from findings from research. These findings are used to develop theories of learning, general pedagogical knowledge, which are then applied to practice of a particular field, pedagogical content knowledge.
Once again, in this model, teaching is perceived as training and therefore student-teachers are provided with prescribed exercises and know-how technicalities to enable learners to practise. This view, though in contrast with the craft model as it is context-free, also falls short in the sense that it tends to overgeneralise principles of teaching and the foundational research behind them. It is a top-down model by which trainees are transmitted expertise from western wisdom (Hayes 2009).
This claim of general applicability ignores key components of the knowledge base which pay attention to context, learners and curriculum all within a more general framework of pedagogical knowledge. More often than not, this model can be found in INSET courses rather than in PRESET courses, where participants are given activities which worked for the trainers and are supposed to work at all context with, in the best of cases, minor changes to suit particular situations.
The reflective model
The reflective practitioner model with the central role of reflection has had a major influence since the 1980’s. In a nutshell, Grenfell (1998, 14) explains that in this model problems encountered in the praxis are framed for reflection and understanding of action. The model operates according to general schemes for practice and develops tacit knowledge in action. As regards action, we must make the distinction between reflection in action, i.e. during the language lesson, reflection on action based on a retrospective view of the lesson taught and, reflection for action, the undertaking of new courses of action for future lessons.
The role of reflection
One of the best ways to engage student-teachers in reflection is by introducing them into action research so as to feed in each AR cycle with their data collection and reflections on class investigation (Bailey et al. 2001, 133). Though it seems a very interesting course of action to take on board, one might wonder at what stage in the programme it is best to explore these approaches and whether student-teachers are willing to become involved in such a systematic way of dealing with reflection. One threat that might be found in this proposal is that theory, to put it simply, does not seem to be invited in this dialogue. Therefore, AR and this reflective approach might lack support in the sense that many of the issues which might appear in the process could be better explained under the light of scholarly disciplines, for example, SLA.
Concerns on reflection
Grenfell (1998, 14-15) feels that this stress on reflection is very much dependent on personal experience, something which trainees may lack and therefore find it difficult to draw connections between reflection and theory either derived from research or disciplines which make up the body of pedagogical knowledge.
One example of this concern can be exemplified through a study carried out in Taiwan (Liou 2001). Observation reports and practice teaching reports of prospective teachers at an EFL teacher education programme were analysed to see the development of critical reflection over a six-week period. Though they showed a progress from description to reflection, their contributions were not as substantial as expected. Therefore, the study concludes that more reflection should be encouraged so as to trigger a deeper critical reflective development. Again, we might feel that this implication is purely top-down rather than bottom-up as it can be claimed with regards to this trainee-centred model of teaching.
As regards the reflective model as a whole, it might be concluded that, though this model assigns great importance to teacher cognition and seeks to establish solid connections between ILTE with classroom practices, it is feared that it may discourage prospective teachers to become more involved in knowledge coming from scholarly sources. This issue is key in ILTE programmes as it will shape student-teachers’ beliefs as regards theory and practice in the profession.
Initially, the theory-practice debate may be understood as a continuum developed over time in which student-teachers move from a conception of teaching heavily influenced by theory to a conception in which theory and practice inform each other.
In my next two posts I'll finally share what my participants had to say about theory and practice and conceptions of teaching in reference to the models I summarised above.