Languages Teacher Education in Australia

AEF’s latest research report, What Works 10,  focusses on the state of languages education in Australia. It identifies 6 key issues:

  1. Shrinking of languages teacher education offerings
  2. Lack of language differentiation in teacher education
  3. Concurrency of language and methodology studies
  4. Nationally consistent and standardised assessments in languages teacher education
  5. The long road to specialisation
  6. Nationally consistent licensing for languages teachers

What Works 10 highlights the urgent need to prioritise a focus on languages teacher education in Australia.

As language teachers, we know the highlights and challenges of learning specific aspects of our languages. Future language teachers who receive tuition on how to teach their specific language certainly are advantaged, compared to those who receive a generic languages methodology instruction. Where tutorials on Japanese method, French method etc. are run, subject specialist tutors can provide students with in-depth learning experiences, built from a wealth of classroom experience. Scripted languages present unique challenges in teaching in our classrooms, and require a specialist focus.

Many language teachers work in isolation in their schools, so ongoing professional development opportunities, and time to network and share with others, online and face to face, is of utmost importance.

What are your thoughts on languages teacher education in Australia? In your experience, what has been really successful in preparing you as a language teacher? What would your number one wish for improvement be?

1 thought on “Languages Teacher Education in Australia

  1. Hi Leanne,

    Really nice to find a central space for open discussion of these key issues. Registering my details so I get the automatic update.

    In response to your point about methods courses. maybe one option is for Australian universities to offer language methods which rationalise courses by grouping the character-based, script-based and Roman scripted languages? While there would still be some problems at a superficial level, LOTE student teachers clearly can benefit from learning together. This approach would also provide LOTE student teachers in language methods with lower enrolments with opportunities to gain access to a vibrant learning community and experienced LOTE teachers from a variety of contexts and languages.

    Another idea would be for increased cooperation between Australian universities when it comes to language teacher training. Last time I checked, student teachers from any subject are currently unable to undertake a teacher qualification course on a cross-institutional basis. This means that a LOTE student teacher based in a regional area who did a major in a language which is not taught as a method at the local university has to complete all training at another university to complete teacher training requirements, even though it is only teaching method which is unavailable at the local provider.

    Another issue is that each method lecturer approaches teacher training differently. For this reason, iit doesn’t seem reasonable to assume that the language method training of one is more and/or less effective than another. Inevitably, differences exist which would become evident in the graduate’s teaching proficiency. Perhaps a survey of LOTE methods graduates across the country would help to address these issues. In the mean time, these are the reasons why I find it hard to fully support the specialist method model.

    While national licensing is clearly an important issue, it would seem very difficult to ever imagine a situation where we have national accreditation of language teachers. The meetings between accreditation bodies would present many challenges, not to mention the ancillary issues that would eventuate. What impact would national licensing have on the flexibility of state-level systems where practices are deeply embedded? This would require a significant cultural change in each organisation.

    Another challenge is for universities to develop a LOTE teacher training curriculum which satisfies professional registration requirements at primary and secondary level in community languages and LOTE. For example, secondary LOTE teachers aren’t qualified for permanency in NSW DEC primary and community language programs despite having demonstrated advanced LOTE proficiency after 3 or 4 years of undergraduate and postgraduate studies. Additional testing should not be required when a LOTE teacher has documented evidence of advanced language and teaching proficiency from an accredited institution. At the same time, other teachers such as special ed are able to apply for an exemption based on experience. This same exemption doesn’t apply for language teachers.

    Now that we are making progress with the Australian Curriculum, hopefully these loose ends can be addressed in the future.

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