It has been said that it is teachers who have fuelled the theory-practice divide as their own craft knowledge is what determines what makes a good teacher.

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.



This is a great article. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. Unfortunately, many teachers are bound by the fact that many authorities place testing above actual learning. I hope you find success with this.

As a researcher, I feel sad that I could not find a place to apply my findings, which as a teacher, i did not find time to research. I always thought of having a place where I could share my ideas and see them experimented/applied in the real classrooms. And it is always a sad part of the practicing teachers unable to find time to look for new ideas. They always stick on to their traditional method of teaching and they feel quite comfortable with it.

I think that it is very difficult for busy teachers to keep up to date with theory and research in TESOL and it was one of the reasons for developing where practitioners can watch video webcasts and get a flavour of emerging issues without necessarily having to plough through the books and articles. (FYI Keith Johnson cited above delivered the first keynote on the development of the communicative approach – interesting stuff I think).

Hi! Yes, it´s not easy to do research when you´re a super full-time secondary school teacher and it´s not easy to do proper teaching when you´re forced to publish, research, supervise sutdents, etc. The parts that I'll post until March describe what a group of teachers from Argentina think about theory and practice.
Best, Dario.

I do not see as Grenfell (1998) sees as the theory-practice divide.
However, on the other hand, while implementing theory one realises how the learners perceive it. How the teacher plans to develop the connection between the KG part with the learners’ their context, their learning background and assimilation and accommodation of new set of theory with the existing knowledge they posses.
 It would also provide an opportunity to understand various dimensions of learners’ environment, their context, and their learning abilities and on these bases language teachers bridge the gap between the theory (facts) and practice (the constructed meaning and application of these facts in real life).
I do agree with many colleagues that due to time constraints teachers do not do much research
Rozina Jumani

Hi Rozina,I guess I agree with you in the sense that there shouldn't be a sharp division. Even though theory and practice are distinctive by definition the truth is that they inform each other qua a symbiotic relationship. Best, Dario

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