How Far Is Georgia?: New Jersey's Teachers of Italian Evaluate Their Preparation



Abstract: This study examined the professional preparation of Italian teachers in New Jersey through the lens of Cooper's (2004) investigation in Georgia, which determined how K-12 foreign language teachers perceived and evaluated the effectiveness of their professional preparation. Unfortunately, however, that report did not have an Italian representation. In view of the undeniable presence of Italian in New Jersey, this replicate study attempts to ascertain the degree to which the perceptions and evaluations of teachers of Italian in New Jersey were similar to those of foreign language teachers in Georgia and to determine if there were specific findings that could be considered distinctive to Italian programs. The present study had 37 participants, all current teachers of Italian, 75% of whom had received certification in New Jersey. The survey they completed was based on 40 of the 42 questions asked to foreign language teachers in Georgia, and included several additional items such as level taught, second field certification, and place of certification. The quantitative findings for Italian teachers in New Jersey and foreign language teachers in Georgia were consistent in terms of participants' evaluation of teacher education programs and their teaching competencies. Additionally, in their responses to the open-ended questions, participants echoed many of the observations about foreign language teacher education programs outlined by Cooper (2004). However, Italian teachers in New Jersey also expressed concern about the following specific aspects of teacher preparation: (1) observe Italian classes, (2) work with mentors who help “fill-the-gaps” left by the programs, (3) participate in intensive language programs and methodology workshops (offered by some out-of-state programs), (4) participate in and network at conferences and in-service workshops, and (5) become members of relevant associations.