Because of the way that the profession has been institutionalised, teachers feel context bound and, because of the pressure within a certain context, theory seems detached from the real world. Trainees might see practice as context-bound, limited, and the best way of acquiring rapid survival techniques. However, it is this very view which limits their development towards a deeper language teacher ongoing education. On the other hand, trainers regard theory as a living body which facilitates longer term effects, generalisations and professional development since theory can be seen as context-free and therefore applicable to more than one situation if adapted wisely. This is what Grenfell (1998,10-11) sees as the theory-practice divide. How can these two views be reconciled? To what extent theories of teaching and second language learning and even views of language will be shaped and made to establish a dialogue with trainees’ attitudes based on how they were taught?
In this series of posts, I will explore a group of teachers’ view regarding this issue and how it impacts on their conceptions and models of teaching.
The theory versus practice debate in ILTE is taken further in Johnson (2006, 239-241). Johnson asserts is that this division might be better understood if we see it as theory/practice versus praxis since this latter construct captures how theory and practice inform each other. Praxis, then, is the sum total of experiences lived in the field, in the practicum, when student-teachers teach a number of lessons. Praxis realises the ongoing dialogue in trainees’ minds between expert knowledge and experiential knowledge in order to achieve a better understanding of themselves as teachers and their classroom practices.
Thus, the task for language teacher educators is to create public spaces which legitimise these processes so that future teachers might as well recognise as equally valid their praxis understanding under the light of theory in the philosophical-scientific sense. However, this creation of new spaces for discussion should not undermine the presence of SLA, applied linguistics or language learning as subject-matter in ILTE programmes for the creation of a zone which might be termed as the anti-research approach where anything might go (Bartels 2004,128-129; Tarone and Allwright 2005, 8-10).
As we can see, the balance between theory and practice towards praxis could be ethereal in teacher education. We must be aware, that a noticeable disparity of strands (Tarone and Allwright 2005,12-13) will respond to a particular conception of teaching and consequently to a specific model of language teacher education from a whole array of possibilities. This poses an interesting issue which takes us back to our initial discussion of training and development within language teacher education. How do ILTE programme designers see the field? Is it training and therefore practice/praxis supported by what efficient teachers do the core of the curriculum? Or is it seen as development and education and therefore programmes will be based on a deeper understanding of issues which transcend a particular context (Lawes 2002, 42)? These questions entail conception and models which will be our next concern.