Vol. 4. No. 4 R-10 December 2000
Return to Table of Contents Return to Main Page

Teacher Education
Karen E. Johnson (Ed.) (2000)
Alexandria,VA: TESOL
Pp. vi +216
ISBN 0-939791-81-1 (paper)
US $29.95 (members US $25.95)

Karen Johnson's Teacher Education, part of the Case Studies in TESOL series, presents insights into 11 teacher education programs or courses. The book has two main strengths. First is the diversity of the contributions. There are chapters on making language teacher education (LTE) programs multicultural, using the community as a resource in LTE, the use of computers or portfolios, how to do action research within LTE programs and advice for being a jet-in-jet-out consultant. Second, the book is clear and accessible. There is next to no dense academic prose and most chapters provide clear advice on how to do what is done in their program, either through checklists, examples of tasks given to students, or simply lists of steps to be taken. Thus the book provides clear insights into ways of integrating many ideas, activities, and technologies into LTE programs and, as such, is a valuable resource for anyone involved in teacher education.

The main problems with the book stem from the format used. Each chapter has five sections: a) Introduction, b) Context, c) Description, d) Distinguishing Features, and e) Practical Ideas. The problem with this is that in most chapters what is presented in the Distinguishing Features and Practical Ideas sections has already been stated in the Context or Description sections, so there is often quite a lot of repetition. The space used for repetition could have been much better spent on adding more details about the actual functioning of the programs and courses in question. Many chapters gave only general descriptions of what they did, which makes it harder to evaluate whether the same thing could be done in another LTE program (examples will be given in the description of individual chapters).

The book is divided into four sections: an introduction by the editor, descriptions of innovative LTE programs, descriptions of specific LTE courses, and descriptions of the experiences of LTE teachers. In the first chapter Karen Johnson introduces the rest of the book by giving a very brief summary of some of the current trends in LTE: collaboration, reflection, the situatedness of learning, and the theory-practice connection. This chapter does a good job of introducing the programs and courses presented in the rest of the book, but does not attempt to provide an overview of the whole field of teacher education.

The first section contains four chapters, each describing interesting local innovations in LTE programs. In chapter 2 Donald Hones describes a program which aims to raise teacher learners' awareness of the problems of second language students through classes on multiculturalism, networking with working teachers, research on the families of ESL students, and action research projects aimed at meeting student needs. In chapter 3 Nancy Clair and Carolyn Temple Adger report on facilitating a group of working teachers who were reading the state standards for English language arts and evaluating the standards' connection to their personal planning and teaching practices. In chapter 4 Dorit Kaufman describes a program where ESL and content teacher learners are matched together for projects to help the ESL teachers learn about problems students have with understanding content and to raise content teacher learners' awareness of the problems ESL students have in their classes. Lynne Diaz-Rico ends this section with a description of a program that stresses learning to do a variety of teaching tasks in a variety of cultural contexts. [-1-]

All four chapters present interesting and inspiring programs. Chapters 3 and 4 stand out because they provide more detailed descriptions of the activities in their programs and a wealth of checklists and activity sheets that make it easy to picture how the programs work and whether the same thing could be done in other programs. Chapters 2 and 5, on the other hand, remain relatively vague. For example, Hones describes a class on the connection between language, culture, and power that sounds quite interesting, but does not provide detailed examples of what is actually done in class. He says that the teachers use autobiographical poetry, but provides no examples of actual poetry, no description of the assignment, and no insights into what students learn by the exercise.

The next section presents a series of innovations in LTE courses. In chapter 6 Paula Golombeck writes about using journals to help teacher learners examine and make sense of their experiences teaching and reading about teaching. Tim Murphy presents a course that focuses on developing teacher learners as professionals (which he defines as researching their teaching, writing articles, and giving presentations) in chapter 7. In the next chapter Lia Kamhi-Stein reports on a course using a Web dialogue journal. The section ends with Yu Ren Dong's chapter on encouraging reflection with portfolios. All of these chapters provide excellent insights into the reasoning behind the courses and the activities in the course itself, whether it is the wealth of assignment sheets in chapter 6 or the portfolio excerpts provided by Lu Ren Dong. A particular treat is Kamhi-Stein's description of a Web dialogue journal, a kind of discussion list where teacher learners and mentors can log on, read what others have already written, and write their thoughts on the burning issue of the day.

What is missing from these chapters, however, is a focus on the central theme of the chapter. Too often it seems as if the authors list everything done in the course regardless of its relevance for the theme of their chapter. For example, while there is a clear argument for reflection in chapter 9 and a nice description of the portfolios, there is next to no discussion of how the portfolios can help teacher learners reflect. In her assessment of the teacher learners' journals Golombek mentions that they helped reduce the dominance of her opinions in their ideas about the material and its relevance for their teaching practice. However, she does not mention whether the journals helped the teacher learners make sense of their experience and the readings, nor provide journal excepts showing this, even though this is the purported focus of her chapter. Chapter 8 is supposedly on using the Web and e-mail in LTE classes, but Kamhi-Stein devotes a chunk of her chapter to describing other elements of her course (observation of teacher learners' teaching, videotaping classes, and portfolios) which seem to have little to do with computer technology. This space could have been better used to give more details of how to get such a Web site set up, what problems might come up, how to deal with potential student resistance to the idea, and so forth. [-2-]

The last section looks at LTE teachers. In chapter 10 Bill Johnston presents action research he did on a methods class he taught, looking at the conditions for dialogue in his classroom between himself and the teacher learners and among the teacher learners themselves. Of particular interest are his findings that some activities made some of his students feel "silenced"--that they could not communicate what they wanted. Marilyn Lewis gives practical lists of things to do or think about when working as a short-term consultant in a foreign country in chapter 11. In the last chapter, Heidi Guefrachi and Sulah Troudi describe a course developed for supervisors of educational districts in the United Arab Emirates to help them prepare and give in-service workshops for teachers in their districts. The goal of the course was to help supervisors move from giving lecture-style teacher workshops to more participatory workshops. Although this sounded nice there was little detail given of how they did this in the course or if it had an effect on the supervisors' workshops.

In summary, this is a book which could have been a great book with more focus and detail, but which will just have to settle for being a pretty darn good book. For those actively involved in LTE, it will be interesting and inspiring reading.

Nat Bartels
University of Leipzig
<bartels@data.ntz.uni-leipzig.de >

© Copyright rests with authors. Please cite TESL-EJ appropriately.

Editor's Note: Dashed numbers in square brackets indicate the end of each page for purposes of citation.. 

Return to Table of Contents Return to Top Return to Main Page