P. Markham

University of Kansas (UNITED STATES)
This study investigated ESL preservice and inservice teachers working theories of SLA. The participants were graduate and undergraduate students enrolled in three different semesters of a second language acquisition course. Among the participants, there were inservice and preservice teachers who were reading and discussing formal, public research and theoretical articles about second language acquisition. The findings are associated with the following set of research questions: Research Question #1 - What are these teachers’ initial living educational theories in regards to formal SLA theory? Preservice teachers come to the course having fairly vague personal/informal theories of SLA that are only tangentially related to formal SLA theory. However, the data are based on a total of two preservice American teachers and one preservice international student. Conversely, inservice/experienced American teachers come to the course with better-articulated personal theories that are more obviously related to formal SLA theory. Inservice/Experienced International teachers also come to the course with more developed personal theories that are somewhat clearly related to formal SLA theory. Research Question #2 - What do the teachers’ course assignments reveal about their living educational theories in relationship to the public theories they have been presented in class? All of the groups reported ways to apply insights gained from the formal theories presented in the course to their current or future teaching regardless of their initial personal/informal theories. However, this outcome was likely influenced by the question presented in each lesson that directed the students to report what they had learned in a given lesson that might help them become better teachers. Research Question #3 - How do various groups of teachers discursively assert modifications to their theories and/or intended changes to their practice? Preservice teachers (both American and International) asserted the most changes to their initial, vaguely described, personal/informal theories and also reported some changes in their future teaching practices. American inservice/experienced teachers mostly reasserted their initial personal theories. However, they also somewhat frequently described changes in their future teaching despite their rearticulated personal theories. Inservice/experienced international students also remained fairly solidly committed to their personal/informal theories, but were also somewhat willing to adjust their future teaching. The results of this study tend to reaffirm some outcomes of prior studies, but there are valuable additional insights associated with the present investigation. Specifically, the preservice teachers, though few in number, exhibited more willingness to change their practice in the future, but still expressed sporadic confirmation of original beliefs. Perhaps a reason for the students in all categories to demonstrate some inclination toward confirming their original beliefs while at the same time expressing openness in trying out new practices is that the students didn’t feel that experimenting with new practices necessarily negated their commitment to their original beliefs. In addition, the participants were apparently more committed to practical results than their personal theories if the new practices proved to be sufficiently successful.
keywords: education, research.