March 2013 – Volume 16, Number 4
Language Teacher Education for a Global Society:
|B. Kumaravadivelu (2012)
|New York: Routledge
B. Kumaravadivelu, a linguist and language teacher, approaches teaching from a socio-cultural perspective rather than from a methods-driven platform. This is evident within the first pages of the text Language Teacher Education for a Global Society. The thesis of his text lies within the innovative modules he describes for the future of language teacher education. Rather than providing best teaching practices or transmission methods of teaching, Kumaravadivelu proposes reflective-intensive coursework for preservice teachers that leads to the use of critical pedagogy in the classroom. This text encourages teacher educators to focus their preservice teachers’ attention on reflection of personal teaching styles and cultural beliefs rather than on specific methodology that has worked for others in the past. The emphasis is on creating thoughtful, autonomous teachers who do not rely on a portfolio of teaching and motivational strategies, but rather challenge their students to invest in their education in meaningful ways that will produce authentic language outcomes that coincide with student language goals. Rapid reader response questions, reflective tasks and exploratory projects are included at the conclusion of each chapter encouraging the reader to interact with the reflective nature of the text. By completing the tasks outlined, the reader begins engaging in the modular model for teacher education that Kumaravadivelu subsequently describes.
In the opening chapter (Re)Visioning Language Teacher Education, Kumaravadivelu explains that teacher education denies the boundaries of the classroom, and spills into the social and political arena:
Any sophisticated framework [for teacher education] must necessarily take into account not only issues such as teachers’ knowledge, skills, dispositions, cognition, and beliefs but also factors such as educational, social, cultural, and ideological movements as well as major swings in the political pendulum. (p. 1)
He challenges educators to discourage assumptions that teaching English always propagates western knowledge, devalues local language and cultures, and solely benefits the economies of western nations. Kumaravadivelu writes from a post-national, postmodern, postcolonial, post-transmission and post-methodological framework. The “posts” on which he focuses the argument of his text include the concepts of disappearing national borders, embracing diversity and culturally relevant teaching of language and culture, denouncing traditional methods of teaching that lead to assimilation and encouraging an anti-methods approach, respectively. After a thorough explanation of his lens using postmodern ideas, Kumaravadivelu sets the parameters for his model on three operating principles: particularity (situational understanding), practicality (the relationship between theory and practice) and possibility (critical pedagogy that leads to sociopolitical consciousness).
Kumaravadivelu explains his methodological model through a clear narrative of each of the elements of KARDS (Knowing, Analyzing, Recognizing, Doing and Seeing). The model begins with an analysis of the difference between knowledge that he describes as the product of learning and knowing, which is the process of learning. He categorizes the knowledge that teachers bring to the classroom in terms of: professional knowledge (the content based knowledge of the teacher), procedural knowledge (the classroom culture cultivated by the teacher) and personal knowledge (one’s reflection on personal beliefs and assumptions). Kumaravadivelu accents the importance of distinguishing what teachers know from how they come to know, explaining that this distinction has implications in how teachers educate their students and interpret their teaching. This text argues that only by first understanding what one knows and where those perspectives originated, may the educator begin to analyze their knowledge.
While Kumaravadivelu’s model is recursive by nature, with no clear demarcation of phases, he describes the element of analyzing next. This chapter asks teachers to analyze instruction both from the learner’s perspective as well as from the goals of the instructor. He speaks to the students’ motivating drive behind language learning and the teacher’s responsibility of analyzing this motivation. He cautions against some of the previous literature on ethnolinguistic affiliation which can lead to unintended goals of cultural assimilation, and instead focuses on the implications of learner autonomy in the classroom, and how language teachers can work with students to create a curriculum that provides language assistance in the changing face of global English.
In the section, Recognizing, Kumaravadivelu argues that, “teacher education programs have a responsibility to encourage and enable present and prospective teachers to reflect seriously on how they construct and reconstruct their teaching Self” (p. 55). Teacher identity, beliefs and values are the tripod surrounding the goal of Recognizing. He maintains that only through constant reevaluation and recognition of beliefs can teachers develop a healthy relationally caring environment within their classrooms. Kumaravadivelu challenges readers with the Exploratory Projects at the conclusion of this chapter. The “Care Justice” project asks potential teachers to evaluate their ability to balance care with justice when faced with a moral dilemma and to determine which elements are influential in their teaching. It is through exercises such as these, that the author provides activities for students in teacher education programs utilizing the outlined model.
In both Doing and Seeing Kumaravadivelu discusses the importance of maintaining a significant amount of collaboration with others as well as analyzing classroom power dynamics. He explains Doing and Seeing in the context of expressing multiple perspectives of teaching and a dialogic nature of discussions among all facets of the teaching community including educators, students and researchers. He encourages educators to go beyond the confines of “seeing” to seeing-as and seeing-that, which transcends the “immediate sensory perception” (p. 100) to experience a critical relational nature of seeing and knowing in the context of student, classroom and culture.
In short, Kumaravadivelu’s text is a well-defined framework that outlines his model in a manner that allows the reader to follow along as he layers ideas and concepts of knowledge and understanding. The activities included provide teacher educators with a number of tasks to begin using in teacher preparation and create sound and welcome platforms for conversation and debate.
Elena Tosky King
University of North Carolina, Charlotte
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