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Novice EFL teacher development.

Abstract

This paper is the summary and discussion of the findings from a questionnaire and interviews designed to find out what qualities a novice EFL teacher should have, both to offer recommendations to EFL teacher training programs and to provide guidelines for the self-development of novice EFL teachers. Our research is focused on what educational concepts, knowledge structure and ability structure a novice EFL teacher should have. For the implications, we believe our classification and descriptions about educational concepts, educational knowledge and educational abilities might be practical worldwide in pre-service and novice EFL teacher programmes. And we suggest using Action Research for novice EFL teachers, in which reflection is very important.

Introduction

English instruction in China is important because of China's "open-door policy" and the rapid internationalization of the world. The need for more and effective English language teachers is greater than ever before. Accompanied with the rapid increase in the number of students going to senior high schools, China is seeing a growing need of "high-quality" teachers. EFL teachers (teachers of English as a foreign language), especially novice EFL teachers, constitute a key part of this gap for teachers in senior high schools. But what is a good (novice) EFL teacher? In answer to this question, one needs to find out what a novice EFL teacher, the school authority, as well as the society as a whole cares about. Evidence for this claim is provided by a number of recent studies on novice-expert paradigms (Feiman-Nemser & Buchmann 1985, 1986; Feiman-Nemser & Parker 1990; McDiarmid et al 1989), action research (Ge 2001; McDonough & McDonough 1997; Nunan 1990; Richards 1998; Richards & Lockhart 1996; Richards & Nunan 1990; Tarone & Yule 1989; Wallace 1998; Widdowson 1990; Williams & Burden 1997) and teacher development (Bartlett 1990; Lange 1990; Johnson 1990; McDonough & McDonough 1997; Richards & Nunan 1990).

So, we conducted a novice EFL teacher development study in five high schools in China's Tongxiang City. We defined a "novice teacher" as a person with zero to three years of teaching experience. It was our belief that these first three years are crucial to the development of a good teacher. We wanted to find out what qualities a novice EFL teacher should have, both to offer recommendations to EFL teacher training programs and to provide guidelines for the self-development of novice EFL teachers. We found that novice EFL teachers care about up-to-date educational concepts and a specific framework of both knowledge and ability.

Research methods

We administered a questionnaire in Chinese, made up of eleven open-ended questions focused on educational concepts, educational knowledge and educational abilities. Our respondents were three headmasters from three different high schools and twelve novice EFL teachers with eight to thirty-two months of EFL teaching experience from six different senior high schools in Tongxiang City. We also interviewed one headmaster, three novice EFL teachers and ten students, all of whom were from Zhejiang Tongxiang Senior High School. Different open-ended questions from those on the questionnaire were asked during the interviews. To reduce the anxiety of the interviewees, we just took notes during the interviews instead of tape-recording their responses.

Results

All 15 questionnaires were returned. Below is an analysis on the collected information.

1. What sort of concept regarding students' talents do you think a novice EFL teacher should have, e.g., to educate students to be English language experts or citizens with some quality of the English language, etc.?
 Three headmasters and ten novice EFL teachers replied that all the
 students can learn EFL well, and that it is their aim to educate
 them to be citizens with some quality of English. One headmaster
 and four novice EFL teachers added that language experts should
 also be included. Two wrote "Both." One left a blank.


2. What sort of concept of good quality should a novice EFL teacher have, e.g., to teach the students basic knowledge of the English language, or to strengthen the students' scientific and humanistic qualities, etc.?
 All the respondents said that good quality means more than "good
 examination marks." Good EFL teachers should be qualified both to
 teach the students basic knowledge of the English language, and to
 strengthen the students' scientific and humanistic qualities. Two
 headmasters and eleven novice EFL teachers also wrote "culture and
 society of English-language countries." Three headmasters and eight
 novice EFL teachers also wrote the methods and ability to learn EFL.


3. What do you think a novice EFL teacher should do to cope with the relationship between, say, the national high school English language teaching synopsis and textbooks, required and elective subjects, language and culture, etc.?
 One headmaster and three novice EFL teachers said it is important
 to have elective classes as the supplement to teach more than the
 information in the textbooks. Three headmasters and nine novice EFL
 teachers expected to fulfill the aims of the national high school
 English language teaching synopsis based on the textbooks (which are
 almost the same in the whole country). Three novice EFL teachers
 said selecting textbooks would be interesting. All said language and
 culture are both important, eight novice EFL teachers adding that
 they're inseparable.


4. To what extent do you think a novice EFL teacher should take into account the various models of classroom management?
 All responded that novice EFL teachers should make use of whatever
 is useful. Three headmasters and four novice EFL teachers added
 that structuring their own models is also important.


5. Regarding the development of learning and teaching, what aspects are important for a novice high school EFL teacher to consider?
 All the headmasters and novice EFL teachers mentioned the use of
 modern educational technologies and the technological development of
 students. Half the novice EFL teachers added they should keep pace
 with the rapid internationalization of the whole world.


6. What kind of language knowledge do you think a novice EFL teacher should have?
 All three headmasters wrote "all aspects of English." All twelve
 novice EFL teachers mentioned phonetics, grammar and vocabulary,
 with ten adding knowledge about English speaking countries. Two
 novice teachers added knowing about computers.


7. What kind of knowledge do you think a novice EFL teacher should have which may direct his/her high school EFL teaching?
 All wrote "teaching methodologies," "learning theories,"
 "psychology" and "pedagogy." One headmaster and five novice EFL
 teachers added research methodologies.


8. What kind of knowledge do you think a novice EFL teacher should have which may help him/her acquire information so as to help with his/her fast professional development?
 All the headmasters and novice EFL teachers replied "computers,"
 with two of the headmasters and ten of the novice EFL teachers
 adding the Internet.


9. What kind of teaching abilities do you think a novice EFL teacher should have?
 Three headmasters and nine novice EFL teachers answered "being good
 at explaining oneself." Five novice EFL teachers also wrote "a wide
 range of knowledge." All the headmasters and novice EFL teachers
 wrote "organizing teaching", "controlling the classroom" and
 "getting along well with the students." One headmaster added "good
 co-operation with other teachers."


10. What kind of operation abilities do you think a novice EFL teacher should have?
 All but three novice EFL teachers wrote "using modern educational
 equipment" and all but one headmaster and two novice EFL teachers
 wrote "organizing extra-curricular activities."


11. What do you think is very important to a novice EFL teacher's professional development?
 All three headmasters and seven of the novice EFL teachers wrote
 "doing research work." Three of the novice EFL teachers wrote
 "being able to use computers and using them in class often." Two
 left a blank.


Discussion

A novice EFL teacher should have up-to-date educational concepts

1. The concept of "talented students" A novice EFL teacher should bear in mind that each and every learner in ordinary schools is talented enough to learn EFL. When asked "How are you doing with your English? What's the greatest influence on this?" many students showed their confidence, and said that the worst thing to happen is "being looked down upon when they are unable to remember words or to do well in exams."

2. The concept of good quality A novice EFL teacher teaches more than the language itself. The ability to learn a language, an understanding of the culture and values of the English speaking countries and the scientific and humanistic qualities and so other aspects are equally important.

3. The concept of curricula It is the trend that EFL learning and teaching, both in form and content, will be multi-dimensional, modernized and diversified. A novice EFL teacher should adapt him-/herself to all kinds of activities in class, construct his/her teaching models and give the students a holistic view of the English language.

4. The concept of development A novice EFL teacher should also be clear that the students of part of our society and have to care about the relationship between the classroom and the society. EFL teachers should share more responsibility to help their students understand the world better. Meanwhile, it is important to perceive that teaching and learning enhance each other.

A novice EFL teacher should try to keep expanding his/her own structure of knowledge

1. Applied knowledge (surface level) A novice EFL teacher should have a good command of the knowledge of the English language, that is, phonetics, grammar and a considerable amount of vocabulary as well as knowledge about the English speaking countries. This knowledge is language-related.

2. Directive knowledge (mid level) A novice EFL teacher should have a good understanding of EFL teaching methodology, linguistic theories, EFL learning theories, evaluations, psychology, pedagogy, educational statistics, sociology, general knowledge related to other subjects like information technology, history, geography, physics etc., as well as EFL teaching research methodologies. In fact, all these are related to the teaching of the English language.

3. Methodological knowledge (deep level) A novice EFL teacher should have some knowledge of philosophy, mathematics, aesthetics, logic, systemics, informatics (that is, the science and art of turning data into information), cybernetics and so on. This is related to the teaching in general.

A novice EFL teacher should expand his/her own structure of ability

1. Teaching ability (surface level) A novice EFL teacher should be highly able to express him-/herself clearly in English and the native language, to analyze and synthesize teaching materials and design the teaching process, to organize and manage the teaching process, quality, routine work, classroom activities and the students ideological changes, to co-operate with other teachers, to supervise the students on learning methods and strategies, and to be able to control the EFL teaching process.

2. Operation ability (mid level) A novice EFL teacher should be able to organize in- and out-of-class activities of all kinds, to facilitate and evaluate the students' learning process and to employ modern teaching technologies like the OHP (overhead projector), CAI (computer-assisted instruction) and multimedia.

3. Development ability (deep level) A novice EFL teacher is usually expected to be highly creative, so as a basis, s/he should be able to acquire, process and disseminate information and to do research on the English language, teaching methodologies, application, learning theories and many other aspects concerned with EFL teaching.

Implications

There certainly seems to be a gap between the realities of novice EFL teachers and what we described. Yet, it is by no means far from practice. Our classification and descriptions about educational concepts, educational knowledge and educational abilities might be practical worldwide in pre-service and novice EFL teacher education programmes. A novice EFL teacher should be highly motivated so that s/he can become a "good" teacher. Yet, self-consciousness of what qualities constituent a good teacher is crucial, and so is peer and supervisor consent. Knowing what the aim is may help with the development. The response that a novice EFL teacher's language knowledge should include all aspects of English shows that people are developing a growing need for knowledge about the cultures and values of English-speaking countries.

It is surprising that all our respondents--those who completed the questionnaire and also those who were interviewed--consider it important to employ modern educational technologies because this concept is relatively new and only one of the five schools we visited has a multimedia-equipped classroom. But when asked about their use of educational technologies, almost all the novice EFL teachers we interviewed mentioned only the use of tape-recorders and overhead projectors. When we explained to them that modern educational technologies include more than that, they mentioned that there was a gap between what they want to do and what they are able to do in this respect.

Also, all our respondents consider computers and the Internet important for their acquisition of information to help with fast professional development. The students who were interviewed expressed their desire to use modern educational equipment as they think it is highly efficient, thought-provoking and interesting. The headmaster who was interviewed said that modern educational technologies are a most important factor regarding "an excellent teacher." This shows that EFL teacher-training programs should include courses about how to use modern educational technologies, as well as modern educational concepts such as those regarding the teaching process and the development of students. In addition, though all the headmasters and novice EFL teachers recognize the importance of teaching methodologies and pedagogical theories as factors that guide one to be a "better" teacher, only four novice EFL teachers mentioned the importance of knowledge of educational research. Yet all the headmasters and eight of the novice EFL teachers recognize the importance of research work for professional development. In EFL teacher-training programs, therefore, an important component should be helping trainees conduct research. We suggest including action research (AR), in which reflection is crucial, because it is understood by many as "action and research" (Ge, 2001:186). At the heart of AR is a cycle that alternates action and critical reflection. Action and research enhance each other. (Dick, 2001:21)

Conclusion

Up-to-date educational concepts, a specific framework for teaching theory and practice, and courses about computers, modern educational technologies, research methodologies, and the cultures and values of English-speaking countries should all be components in China's EFL teacher-training programs, so that at their very initial stage of teaching, novice EFL teachers are more competent than they would be without such training. All this can also serve as a guide to their professional development. Of course, professional development is never a final product. It is ever-evolving as the educator matures in practice. That's why they should highly value critical reflection. As Kemmis and McTaggert (1982) said, action research puts ideas into practice for the purpose of self-improvement and increasing knowledge about curriculum, teaching, and learning. The ultimate result is improvement in what happens in the classroom and school.

References

[1] Bartlett, L. (1990). Teacher development through reflective teaching. In J. C. Richards & D. Nunan (Eds.). Second language Teacher Education. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pp. 202-214.

[2] Dick, B. (2001). Action Research: Action and Research. In Sankaran, S. et al (Eds.). Effective change management using action learning and action research: Concepts, frameworks, processes, applications. New South Wales, Australia: Southern Cross University Press. Pp. 21-27.

[3] Ge, B. (2001). Bridging English as a foreign language learning and teaching in China: An Action Inquiry Approach. In Sankaran, S. et al (Eds.). Effective change management using action learning and action research: Concepts, frameworks, processes, applications. New South Wales, Australia: Southern Cross University Press. Pp. 185-195.

[4] Feiman-Nemser, S. & Buchmann, M. (1985). Pitfalls of learning from experience. Teachers' College Record, 87(1), 53-65.

[5] Feiman-Nemser, S., and Buchmann, M. (1986). The first year of teacher preparation: Transition to pedagogical thinking. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 18(3), 239-256.

[6] Feiman-Nemser, S. & Parker, M. (1990). Making subject matter part of the conversation in learning to teach. Journal of Teacher Education, 41(3), 32-43.

[7] Johnson, R. K. (1990). Developing teachers' language resources. In J. C. Richards & D. Nunan (Eds.). Second language Teacher Education. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pp. 269-281.

[8] Kemmis, S. and R. McTaggert. 1982. The action research planner. Victoria, Australia: Deakin University Press.

[9] Lange, D. L. (1990). A blueprint for a teacher development program. In J. C. Richards & D. Nunan (Eds.). Second language Teacher Education. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pp. 245-268.

[10] McDiarmid, G., Ball, D. & Anderson, C. (1989). Why staying one chapter ahead doesn't work: Subject-specific pedagogy. In M. Reynolds (Ed.), Knowledge Base for the Beginning Teacher. Oxford: Pergamon. Pp. 193-204.

[11] McDonough, J. & S. McDonough (1997). Research methods for English language teachers. London: Edward Arnold (Publishers) Limited.

[12] Nunan, D. (1990). Action research in the language classroom. In J. C. Richards & D. Nunan (Eds.). Second language Teacher Education. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pp. 62-81.

[13] Richards J C. (1998). Beyond training. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[14] Richards J. C. & C. Lockhart (1996). Reflective teaching in second language classrooms. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[15] Richards J. C. & D. Nunan (Eds.) (1990). Second language teacher education. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[16] Tarone, E. & G. Yule (1989). Focus on the language learner. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[17] Wallace, M. J. (1998). Action research for language teachers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[18] Widdowson, H. G. (1990). Aspects of language teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[19] Williams, M. & R. L. Burden (1997). Psychology for language teachers: A social Constructivist Approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ge Bingfang, Tongxiang Teaching and Research Institute, P R China

Ge Bingfang has been an EFL teacher since 1985. He is now a senior EFL teacher and researcher.
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Author:Bingfang, Ge
Publication:Academic Exchange Quarterly
Geographic Code:9CHIN
Date:Mar 22, 2003
Words:2904
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