Date of Award

1997

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Education

School

School of Education

Faculty

Faculty of Education

First Advisor

Mike Breen

Abstract

This study looked closely at the attitudes of TESOL teachers to a range of approaches to teacher education, with particular emphasis on the role of classroom observation. The influence of pre- and in-service training and the school environment was probed through semi-structured interviews and confirmatory discussions. Participants for this qualitative study were practising TESOL teachers at the Centre for International English, Curtin University, Western Australia. The approach taken was to allow them, as far as possible, to identify issues in teacher education for themselves. At the same time, their words were used, where possible, to describe attitudes to these issues. Any categories which emerged during analysis were regarded as flexible and dynamic. The research shed useful light on the attitudes of teachers with implications for teacher educators in TESOL. It found that informants introspecting on teacher education were mainly concerned with classroom events, but also believed factors outside the classroom and teaching itself, such as personal experience, to be worthy of consideration. The range of contexts in which teacher development takes place is represented in this study as the 'Action- Reflection continuum', which covers six linked aspects. Teaching, the first aspect, is at the 'action' end of the continuum, which then moves through Observing, Being observed, Hearing and Talking about Teaching, Reading and Writing about Teaching, and finally to Personal Development, at the 'reflection' end. Within the individual aspects of teacher development a range of main factors were found to be influential. These were the degrees of experience, comfort, formality, reality, contact with others, and the appropriate balance between theory and practice. A number of clear and consistent views emerged. Teaching itself was clearly a major context for development and unobserved teaching was felt to be extremely valuable at both pre- and in-service. At the same time feedback was considered to be so crucial that some form of observation was essential and unavoidable. When teachers themselves are observed by senior staff, a range of situational factors influence the level of comfort experienced and development taking place. Clearly peer observations were felt to be valuable and less threatening in general. They were felt to be most useful at in-service level, but generally conducive to teacher development. Informants also felt that there were developmental opportunities outside the classroom, particularly of an informal nature, via workshops and other staff interactions, and via personal reflection. The findings of the study support the now strong conviction amongst many of those writing about teacher education that experiential and reflective approaches are preferable to purely behavioural. Previous findings that teachers wish to be actively involved in their own development, participating and interacting with colleagues within a framework of strong institutional support, are also vindicated. At the same time it is clear that more traditional supervisory and evaluative approaches to such matters as classroom observation are still felt to be essential.

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