Making sense of language teaching: teacher's principles and classroom practices

Document Type

Journal Article


Oxford University Press


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences


School of Education




Breen, M. P., Hird, B., Milton, M., Oliver, R., & Thwaite, A. (2001). Making sense of language teaching: Teachers' principles and classroom practices. Applied linguistics, 22(4), 470-501.


From observed lessons and subsequent interviews and elicitation procedures, 18 experienced teachers of ESL to adults and children in an Australian context described their classroom practices and explained these in relation to the underlying language teaching principles that they say as guiding their work. The purpose of the study was to discover the meanings the teachers gave to their classroom work in terms of the particular relationships they identified between practice and principle. Despite being undertaken within a particular teaching situation, the study revealed both individual and group diversity in the practices they adopted and in their underlying principles. In addition, a practice widely adopted across the group appeared to be based upon diverse principles, just as a single principle that was commonly shared among the teachers was associated by them with a wide range of practices. Closer examination of the whole group data, however, revealed a particular pattern in the links that the teachers made between principles and practices. The complex relationships uncovered in the study between thinking and action in the work of experienced language teachers have implications for curriculum innovation, teacher education, and for language classroom research.




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