Language Teacher Beliefs
Within the last decades English language learning has taken such an important turn that enough countries have decided to include, within their languages policies, new programs that will encourage their population to acquire English as a second language (L2) in order to boost their economies; as a result, the need for a better language teacher training is not only pivotal for the success of students acquisition, as not only students need to be encouraged, but teachers should also become a model to those whom they teach.
Notwithstanding, the central role of the aforementioned training should not be based on a unique standard, as such, may not be possible to consider, since Snow and Katz (2009) assert that such standardization would vary according to the defined context; that is, a Colombian teacher would need a different preparation in language teaching than a Japanese. Furthermore, the current situation for teachers is by no means easy as the professional position of a teacher exerts a need for meeting codes and some imposed standards while trying to recreate their own identity in the classroom (Gonçalves, Rios, and Alves, 2013).
Additionally, teacher training cannot be considered as a single matter in which a teacher receives lessons on how to instruct, due to, as Freeman and Johnson (1998) states, teachers are not just vessels where to pour pedagogical knowledge. They are experiences and not just machines that reproduce a specific knowledge altogether; as a result, Kettle and Sellars (1996) claim that it is important to acknowledge the importance of considering the link between the teacher’s beliefs and actual practice.
It is then asked from the language teacher not only a review of his theoretical knowledge on the teaching practice, but an actual reflection of his beliefs and practices, not to be confused with the taking of certifications such as the DELTA, as these certifications (Ferguson and Donno 2003) are only the first step in the teaching and training process; but having teachers self-assessing on different aspects of their practices as “[…] teaching as a reflective practice and the teacher as a “reflective practitioner” fits with the current discourses of policy and reform in the sense that teachers need to act and perform successfully in a wide range of teaching situations” (Gonçalves, Rios, and Alves, 2013. Pg. 58).
The perception of the degree of success a teacher achieves and promotes in students is proposed by Bandura (1997) as the “self-efficacy theory”, and it entails a perception that teachers develop towards the result of their teaching efforts. Such perception has a positive impact on teachers’ practices when it somewhat overestimates the teacher’s real competence, and according to Tschannen-Moran, M., Woolfolk Hoy, A., & Hoy, W. K. (1998) it motivates the teacher to be resilient in the face of difficulties. Thus, providing tools that enable the teachers an insightful way to evaluate their own performance is key to promoting professional growth.
About the nature of teacher self-efficacy, Ghasemboland and Hashim (2013) state that, according to Tschannen-Moran et al. (1998), “teacher self-efficacy is cyclical in nature.” meaning, teachers come to gather information about their own efficacy from their teaching experience, the contact with students and peers, the difficulties found throughout the courses, the mismatches between theory and practice evidenced in the lesson implementation and their own accurate and mistaken decisions when trying to find the best way to promote learning and keep a high motivation among students.
According to Bandura (1997) and his “self-efficacy theory” «like all self-efficacy Judgments, teacher self-efficacy is context-specific» (p. 118), meaning, the result of the teachers’ analysis of their own experiences and beliefs serves as prime matter for the development of new goals and strategies for achieving such goals, including the necessary effort they expect to invest. Once these strategies are applied, a new process of gathering and analysis starts, making self-efficacy a permanent improvement process.
This process should be acknowledged as fundamental in the professional development of any ESL/EFL teacher, and should be considered a cornerstone for the implementation of a research culture among the teaching community and the promotion of professional confidence among the professionals in the field. Furthermore, the impact of self-efficacy over the moral of a teacher can be decisive when facing challenges, as stated by Gibson and Dembo (1984) :
Teachers with a high sense of self-efficacy are confident that even the most difficult students can be reached if they exert extra effort; teachers with lower self-efficacy, on the other hand, feel a sense of helplessness when it comes to dealing with difficult and unmotivated students (p.570).
Moreover, it is important to consider the implications and possible impact of self assessment, self-efficacy, and beliefs. Giving the teachers a tool to test the beliefs shaping their practice can open new possibilities to rethink the bases of ELT in specific contexts.
In conclusion, as the plethora of conditions for teacher training are many, ranging from contexts, teaching beliefs, language knowledge, among others, it is awry to pretend that proper teacher training is based only on some pedagogical theories created outside of the teacher contexts, that is, applying a code of behavior expected of them is nothing but a message of distrust on their current practices and reflection. There is a need for a proper tool to allow self-assessment and reflection within the context of practice while taking into account the teacher’s beliefs of language learning and teaching.
Now that the importance of teacher’s self assessment has been stated, please take a few minutes to reflect on your practice as a teacher by asking yourself: On a scale of 1 to 4 (1 being the lowest and 4 the highest)
Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. Macmillan.
Barduhn, B., & Johnson, J. (2009). Certification and Professional Qualifications. The Cambridge guide to second language teacher education, 59-65.
Gibson, S., & Dembo, M. H. (1984). Teacher efficacy: A construct validation. Journal of educational psychology, 76(4), 569.
Gonçalves, T. N., Rios Azevedo, N., & Alves, M. G. (2013). Teachers’ beliefs about teaching and learning: An exploratory study.
Katz, A., & Snow, M. A. (2009). Standards and second language teacher education. The Cambridge guide to second language teacher education, 66-76.
Saydee, F. (2016). Foreign language teaching: A study of teachers’ beliefs about effective teaching and learning methodologies. Journal of the National Council of Less Commonly Taught Languages, 18, 63-91.
Tschannen-Moran, M., Hoy, A. W., & Hoy, W. K. (1998). Teacher efficacy: Its meaning and measure. Review of educational research, 68(2), 202-248.