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The Cambridge guide to Second Language Teacher Education. Edited by Jack C Richards and Anne Burns. Cambridge University Press

Reviewed by Danny Norrington-Davies, IH London

Necessity is the mother of invention, and the idea for this collection came from a course Anne Burns and Jack Richards taught in Sydney in 2006. Having chosen to organise the course around key readings in second language teacher education (SLTE), the authors wanted a book that presented a broad and contemporary look at current issues in this field. They wanted a “state of the art survey of issues, debates and approaches in contemporary SLTE” which would build on the areas covered in ‘Second Language Teacher Education’ by Richards and Nunan (1990).

The result is ‘The Cambridge Guide to Second Language Teacher education’. This collection of articles by prominent academics and researchers explores an impressively wide range of issues and contexts. It will be of particular interest to teacher trainers and educators, pre and in-service teachers, those following graduate or undergraduate courses, researchers and academics, and people in charge of co-ordinating and administering professional development programmes.

The book is divided into 30 chapters based around seven themes. Though each chapter allows for an in-depth view of specific aspects of theory, research and practice, with so many overlapping issues, trends and viewpoints being explored, many of the chapters echo and reference one another.

The first section looks at ‘The landscapes of SLTE’, providing a brief overview of the main issues and themes in the field today. It begins with Donald freeman examining how practises and the scope of SLTE have changed over the last 50 years before Karren Johnson identifies the main trends that have developed from these changes. This section also includes chapters on the rare issue of Critical Second language Teacher education, and a deeper look at social and cultural perspectives in SLTE.

The second section focuses on ‘Professionalism and the language teaching profession’, including an interesting look at the strengths and weaknesses of certificates and qualifications (Shaun Barduhn and Jenny Johnson). Of particular interest to me as a trainer was Lía D. Kamhi-Stein’s chapter on non-native speaker teachers on teacher preparation programmes. She argues that these courses should help ‘demistify’ the notion of non-native speakers and help them develop a sense of ownership of English.

Section three examines ‘Pedagogical knowledge in SLTE’ and asks what needs to be taught on teacher education programmes, highlighting knowledge about language, knowledge about acquisition and knowledge of professional discourse conventions as being the key components. In chapter 13, Rod Ellis argues that the relationship between instruction and L2 acquisition (Instructed SLA) may be the area of study with most relevance to teacher education today, and explores ways that this can be incorporated into training programmes.

This is followed by a section exploring ‘Identity, cognition and experience in teaching’. I particularly enjoyed the chapters by Thomas Farrell, which contained interesting views on novice and expert teachers and puts forward the idea of preparatory courses for 1st year teachers being more than just survival guides, arguing that there is a difference between ‘learning to teach’ and ‘learning to be a teacher’. Amy Tsui then expands on this by asking whether being an ‘expert teacher’ is a state or a process.

The next two sections look at ‘Contexts for SLTE’, and include chapters on cross-institutional projects, distance learning, the role of technology and ‘SLTE through collaboration’. Section six begins by stating that “teacher learning is not something that teachers need to achieve on their own” and goes on to look at collaboration, team teaching, mentoring and supervision. These chapters should be of real value to managers and development co-ordinators.

Finally, section seven is concerned with ‘Second Language Teacher Development’ through action-research, research and practice. In the last chapter, Sandra Mackay explores the challenges teacher educators face when introducing this on courses, such as the belief that research is something done on, rather than by teachers.

Though this is a collection about second language teacher education, it is also about being a teacher and being part of a community of professionals. It should, therefore, appeal to any teacher or teacher educator reflecting on their own practices and beliefs and anyone interested in current issues, theories, practices and approaches.

 

 

 

 

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