Blog de la facultad de Ciencias de la Educación

27 de agosto de 2018

Bilingual Pedagogical Strategies for Teacher Education

By Adriana Marcela Sánchez Beltrán M.A.

The following article presents a pedagogical experience in the teachers’ education program of specialization in charge of the Bilingual Education Course offered to English teachers. It also exposes the main challenges and misconceptions of the class participants.

From the perspective of in-service teachers, we are constantly searching for alternatives to improve our practices since the theories studied in undergraduate programmes seem to be insufficient when facing and managing daily teaching situations. This circumstance has motivated quite a number of teachers to accomplish new studies and enrol in either masters’ or specialisation programmes.

The Bilingual Education course explores the many ways in which bilingual education has evolved over time. The analysis of second language acquisition theories, different language teaching and learning methods, and programme models for English language learners allows teacher-students to guide their own research. During the course, teacher-students can examine current trends in curriculum, instruction, and assessment applied to the field of bilingual education and learn to determine students’ needs, specifically in relation to language learning. However, the scenario for the teacher educator assuming the challenge of teaching other teachers is an endeavour that entails an array of variables since most of the participants have been influenced by myths (McLaughlin, 1992) and misconceptions.

The first misconception found was the idea of teachers’ training. Some teachers access the bilingual education class expecting a list of tips, an absolute truth in regard to what teaching is, or what the best model, method or international text book is. They also expect to be trained to improve their practice throughout a coaching session. In post-graduate teacher education, teacher-students are constantly required to read, compare and contrast, reflect, analyse, discuss and assume a critical stance of texts from local and international scholars, which turn into a demanding venture due to the insufficient academic background to which they have been exposed.

The second myth to be clarified is the idea that whatever is used in other countries or contexts is always better. In addition to the lack of information in terms of the theoretical background of materials development, and teacher-students still think that methods and materials produced abroad are somehow more suitable. As mentioned by Kumaravadivelu (2014), “In the educational arena, the control has been exercised mainly through the propagation of methodological orthodoxy and through the publication and distribution of related instructional materials” (p. 80).  In line with this view, Núñez, Téllez and Castellanos (2013) affirmed that

There is very little interest in promoting local proposals that meet specific local realities.  Additionally, the social perspective is diluted or lost in the materials that have been traditionally used, since what has been sold in the global market, time and time again is “grammar”. (p. 11)

Thence, publishing houses sell a product and the consumers (institutions, teachers and students) buy not only the content, but also the ideology behind the teaching and learning materials even knowing they are not close to our context.

The third myth has to do with English teachers who do not perceive themselves as materials developers, and so prefer to rely on materials that are already published rather than producing their own. As mentioned by Núñez et al. (2013), designing materials “demands an informed methodology that allows validating the efficiency, appropriateness and relevance of materials within the context of learning a language” (p. 10).  Therefore, an essential goal of the teacher education programmes should be the design and implementation of courses on materials development aimed at providing teachers with theoretical foundations and practical insights to enable them to analyse their teaching context, and design materials that respond to their own needs, and the students’ needs and interests.

Another vital aspect when teaching teachers, is to promote critical thinking based on the assertion that, as teachers, we are called to be agents of change and transformation of the way languages are taught. In this respect, Núñez and Téllez (2009) argued that teachers “act as agents of permanent change” (p. 184), and Núñez, Téllez and Castellanos (2017) underscored that “they [in-service English teachers] benefited in many ways by being critical change agents within their institutions’ curriculum” (p. 60). To do so, it is fundamental to set an example on the way the classes are planned and developed, by selecting relevant content and having our language learning and content objectives defined and understanding that learning a language implies, as mentioned by Baker (2001), language proficiency and language ability, which are distinct from language achievement. Additionally, languages go beyond the teaching of the structural system, since both the materials we design and the discourse we use entail cultural and ideological representations. Besides, we must consider our social responsibility in developing critical thinking skills in our students without indoctrinating, independently from the subject we teach, considering that bilingual teachers nowadays, are in many cases, in charge of teaching math, science and social studies, in addition to the English classes.

Finally, among the teaching methods, in-service teachers tend to adopt the more familiar ones due to the institutional requirements. However, classes cannot end up being a quilt made of pieces of information or proven effective methods. It is necessary to know the features of the context, the students’ conditions, and consequently, select a method that suits the particularities of the population, to help the teachers become effective materials developers for the local context.  Assuming the challenge of teaching colleagues has been a privilege; and discovering alternative ways to teach and new ways of interaction has been a plus. Having the best professors during my master’s studies has proven that we learn more by what we live and practice than by what we are told.


References

Baker, C. (2001). Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism (3rd ed.). Clevedon,       U.K.: Multilingual Matters Ltd.

Kumaravadivelu, B. (2014), The decolonial option in English teaching. TESOL

                        Quarterly, 50(1), 66-85.

McLaughlin, B. (1992). Myths and misconceptions about second language learning: What         every teacher needs to unlearn. Retrieved from      https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED350885.pdf July 27, 2017.

Núñez, A., & Téllez, M. (2009). ELT materials: the key to fostering effective teaching and        learning settings. PROFILE Issues in Teachers’ Professional Development, 11(2), 173-    186.

Núñez, A., Téllez, M., & Castellanos, J. (2013). Proposal for the research line materials             development and didactics ascribed to the research group: Critical pedagogy and           didactics for social transformation. Unpublished manuscript, School of Education,        Universidad Exterando de Colombia, Bogotá, Colombia.

Núñez, A., Téllez, M., & Castellanos, J. (2017). Teacher–developed materials in a master’s       programme in education with emphasis on English didactics. In A. Núñez, M. Téllez,     & J. Castellanos (Eds.), The role of teacher- developed materials in fostering English   language skills. (pp. 13-56). Bogotá, Colombia: Departamento de Publicaciones        Universidad Externado de Colombia.