Novice-service teacher development begins at preservice levels in SLT preparation programs and continues into the first years of teaching in real classrooms. It includes three main stakeholders—novice teachers, second language educators, and school administrators—all working in collaboration to ensure a smooth transition from the SLT preparation program to the first years of teaching. The idea is that the knowledge garnered from this tripartite collaboration can be used to better inform SLT educators and SLT programs so that novice teachers can be better prepared for the complexity of real classrooms.
Johnson (2009) has proposed that the knowledge base of SLT education programs inform three broad areas:
(1) the content of L2 [second language] teacher education programs: What L2 teachers need to know; (2) the pedagogies that are taught in L2 teacher education programs: How L2 teachers should teach; and (3) the institutional forms of delivery through which both the content and pedagogies are learned: How L2 teachers learn to teach. (p. 11)
However, there is still no consensus in TESOL about what specific courses, and their connection (if any) to TP, should be included in SLT preparation programs. And as Mattheoudakis (2007) has observed, “The truth is that we know very little about what actually happens” (p. 1273) in many of these courses. Part of the reason for this is that most SLT preparation programs vary so much in their nature, content, length, and even philosophical and theoretical underpinnings, so it is no wonder, as Faez (2011) has recently indicated, that there is still “no agreement in the field as to exactly what effective language teachers need to know” (p. 31). In this article, I do not enter into the debate of what should (or should not) be included in SLT preparation (but see Chappell and Moore, this issue, for a discussion on why it should include a strong linguistics component). Instead, I outline and discuss what should be added to existing courses in the program (regardless of the philosophical and theoretical underpinnings of that program), including a supplementary course that is focused exclusively on exploring the first years of teaching through reflective practice.
During SLT preparation programs, preservice teachers can be better prepared for what they will face in their first years in two ways. The first way is by making clear connections in all the preparation courses to teaching in the first year by including the completion of reflective activities and assignments that are related to the subject matter of that course. For example, at one point I had preservice teachers assess the origins and nature of their beliefs about grammar teaching and the way these could shape their classroom decision making and teaching in their TP and their first years of teaching (Farrell, 1999). A second, and more direct, way of addressing the needs of novice teachers is to add a supplementary course called Teaching in the First Years (Farrell, 2009), which provides opportunities for preservice teachers to develop skills in reflective practice so that they can better manage challenges, conflicts, and problems they may face in their first years of teaching. As Feiman-Nemser (2001) explains, “Preservice preparation is a time to begin forming habits and skills necessary for the ongoing study of teaching in the company of colleagues … and [learning] that serious conversations about teaching are a valuable resource in developing and improving their practice” (p. 1019).
Teaching in the First Years could promote the development of skills in anticipatory reflection (reflection-for-action). This reflective approach supports Wright's (2010) observations that SLT preparation should place “an emphasis on the student teacher's learning to teach, and becoming a thinking teacher,” which “in turn means a great deal of reflective activity programmed into learning experiences” (p. 273). Such reflective activity can include exploration and analysis of beliefs and practices (Mattheoudakis, 2007; Shin, this issue; Urmston & Pennington, 2008), life histories (Jalongo & Isenberg, 1995; Johnson & Golombek, 2002; Xu & Connelly, 2009), critical incidents (Farrell, 2008a, 2009; Shin, this issue), case studies (e.g., Farrell 2006a, 2007a; Mann & Tang, this issue; Xu, this issue), teacher metaphors (e.g., Farrell, 2006b, 2007a; Mann, 2008; Warford & Reeves, 2003), and teacher identity development (Amin, 1997; Farrell, 2012; Golombek & Jordan, 2005; Kanno & Stuart, 2010; Kiely & Askham, this issue; Park, 2007; Xu, this issue). In addition to these, and as Wright (2012) has recently pointed out, one of the main learning priorities for many novice teachers in their first years is how to manage the classroom context. Shin (this issue), for example, discovered that although novice Korean English teachers were required by government policy to teach English through English, they could not do so because of issues with classroom management. Wright (2012) maintains that this can be best accomplished with regular access to opportunities to learn in classrooms through teaching and observation of other teachers. For example, these types of reflective activities can be further enhanced by linking case study analysis to the classroom observations, journal writing, and class discussions that are part of many current TP assignments.
During this supplementary course, graduating preservice teachers could also be encouraged to make a profile of the school they would like to teach in, and, if they intend to teach in the immediate area, they could talk to current teachers, invite practicing teachers to the course as guest speakers, and observe some initial classes before they take up employment (either full- or part-time), rather than having to learn all this while in their first years.
The First Years
When novice teachers enter a real classroom for the first time, some educators, administrators, and even novice teachers assume that all they must do is apply all the knowledge they accumulated during their teacher preparation programs and all will be well. After all, the reasoning goes, they would not have been given this knowledge if it was not useful and applicable to their work. However, most experienced language teachers know that this is far from the truth, and they will readily admit that it may take years (or even a lifetime) of teaching just to balance lesson content and delivery (see Faez & Valeo, this issue). Richards (1998) points out that novice teachers do not translate the knowledge they obtain from their SLT preparation courses into practice automatically, because teachers must construct and reconstruct “new knowledge and theory through participating in specific social contexts and engaging in particular types of activities and processes” (p. 164). As mentioned previously, novice language teachers have the complex task of not only being able to successfully match the content of what they are teaching to whom they are teaching, but also learning about “the texture of the classroom and the sets of behaviors congruent with the environmental demands of that setting” (Doyle, 1977, p. 51).
Although SLT educators are aware that novice teachers face many issues and challenges in their first years (Warford & Reeves, 2003), it is interesting to note that many TESOL programs still have limited information about how their graduates are faring in their induction years, or even what their graduates' work lives involve (Baecher, this issue). Because of this paucity of knowledge about novice English language teachers' experiences, novice-service teacher development includes the provision for some form of contact to be maintained between SLT educators, SLT programs, schools, and novice language teachers during their first years. In fact, establishing more SLT education–school partnerships is important for SLT preparation programs, because in order to establish an effective knowledge base for second language teacher education SLT educators must have an adequate understanding of schools and schooling and the social and cultural contexts in which learning how to teach takes place (Freeman & Johnson, 1998). Freeman and Johnson (1998) state,
Studying, understanding, and learning how to negotiate the dynamics of these powerful environments in which some actions and ways of being are valued and encouraged, whereas others are downplayed, ignored, and even silenced, is critical to constructing effective teacher education. (p. 409)
This SLT educator–novice teacher–school arrangement can be formal or informal. In a formal arrangement, SLT preparation programs and the schools where novice teachers are placed can collaborate when designing and implementing novice teacher induction programs (Faez & Valeo, this issue). Some schools and institutions have their own induction program that includes the provision of mentoring of novice teachers, but it may not be mandatory and it may not have a prescribed pattern of support, and mentors may not get the proper recognition in schools (Mann & Tang, this issue). Mentor teachers may need training in how to explain what they know intuitively about teaching so that they can articulate this clearly to novice teachers, and this can be accomplished by more collaboration between the school and SLT programs that can help facilitate such training. If schools already have a mentor who covers TP, then they can probably assist the appointed novice teachers in their school as well. At the very least, Mann and Tang (this issue) suggest, novice teachers need priority in timetabling to allow for meetings with their mentors in order to discuss aspects of their work and observe each other's lessons. That said, Brannan and Bleistein (this issue) also note that support from a mentor (which may be infrequent anyway) alone may not sufficient to meet the needs of novice teachers; rather, the combination of support from multiple sources (such as mentors, coworkers, and family) may be needed if they are going to survive their first years. As such, Brannan and Bleistein maintain that preservice English language teachers should be educated in how to build a social support network and given strategies for developing mentoring and collegial relationships, because such measures can increase the quality of their teaching experience and lead to an increase in teacher efficacy beliefs during their first years.
If these formal relationships are not possible, for whatever reason, it is still important for SLT educators to continue to monitor novice teachers' development during the first years so that they can develop case studies of what really happens during these formative teaching years. In order to make these case studies real, however, they should be generated by the novice teachers themselves, because as Elbaz (1988) has noted, there seems to be a gap between what teacher educators and researchers produce (and interpret) as reconstructions of novice teachers' knowledge and experience and the novices' own accounts and interpretations of what they experience. So novice teachers should be encouraged to tell their own stories of the various issues and challenges they face in their particular setting during their first years. I have suggested the use of a story structure framework of orientation-complication-result as one way of imposing some order on these stories and experiences so that novice language teachers can have a sense of structure when reflecting on their experiences (Farrell, 2006a). As Jalongo and Isenberg (1995) have noted, this type of story framework can offer both preservice and novice teachers a “safe and nonjudgmental support system for sharing the emotional stresses and isolating experiences of the classroom” (p. 162). Shin (this issue) discovered that participants reported that sharing their stories let them reflect on their teaching practices and that they found such sharing empowering. SLT educators can then build up a corpus of such first-years stories from a variety of different contexts, and these case studies can be fed back into SLT preparation programs for preservice teachers to explore. Such real case studies can thus better inform the curriculum of SLT preparation programs, and preservice teachers can use them, as Wright (2010) has noted, to reflect on their beliefs and narratives and an investigation “into the professional contexts of teaching and learning for which [they] are being prepared” (p. 273).
During their first years, novice teachers also have a responsibility to ensure that they are doing everything they can to assimilate the school culture and the TESOL profession in general. For example, novice teachers can implement the various forms and types of reflection that they learned in their SLT preparation programs so that they are able to respond to whatever difficult issues (both inside and outside the classroom) they may encounter in their first years. In this way, the reflective practice skills preservice teachers have learned during their SLT preparation programs are translated into their own personal reflective practice during their first years.