Towards an ELF-aware teacher education
In light of the above, what is needed is an approach that will help teachers to appreciate (a) principles that arise from ELF research and (b) how these principles might have a bearing on their own teaching context. Such an approach would start teachers on a reflective journey in which they think critically about established teaching practice and their convictions concerning English as a medium of communication.
In this chapter, we present insights from a teacher education project (called the English as a Lingua Franca-Teacher Education (ELF-TEd) project, http:// teacherdevelopment.boun.edu.tr/) that attempted to do exactly that. The project was headed by the authors and its first phase was carried out during the 2012-2013 school year at Bogazici University in Istanbul, Turkey. It involved EFL teachers from Turkey and from Greece who were interested in finding out more about ELF and the impact their discoveries might have on their teaching. The project had two phases. In the first phase, we asked participants first to read excerpts from the published literature on ELF, EIL, and World Englishes (henceforth WE), and then to respond to questions aimed at helping them to reflect on implications for teaching. In the second phase, we asked them to design lessons or sets of activities that employed what they had learnt about ELF. Subsequently, they were expected to teach and record these lessons, and then, as a final step, write their reflections on the whole experience.
The reflective process is based on a proposal by Sifakis (2007). It is intended to make teachers conscious of their deep convictions about Standard English, the role of native speakers, the importance of mutual intelligibility in interactions involving non-native speakers, and their own role as feedback providers in the classroom. The suitability of the transformative framework (Mezirow 1991; Mezirow and Associates 2000) lies in the fact that it prompts participants to consider what Mezirow calls a 'disorienting dilemma', namely, a psychological situation triggered by a life experience or event on which participants can build a critical mechanism that will help them, with input from their colleagues, to confront and ultimately change their established 'frames of reference'. In the ELF-TEd project, the disorienting dilemmas were stimulated by the readings provided and the questions that were asked.
At the core of the ELF-TEd project is the notion of 'ELF-awareness'. We did not require teachers to accept the ELF 'gospel', nor did we merely inform them about ELF and related issues. Instead, we exposed them to those issues, prompted them to think about them, and asked them to connect what they were learning to their own context for teaching. For this reason, it was essential that they design, teach, and evaluate lessons that embodied their engagement with the issues. As a result, it was hoped, participants would take a step toward becoming 'ELF-aware' teachers, in the sense that they would be fully aware of constraints on their teaching and autonomous about using their knowledge of ELF to the advantage of their learners.
Twelve teachers participated in the study (11 from Turkey and one from Greece). Four taught in primary schools, three in Turkey and one in Greece, four in secondary schools, and four in a university. In this chapter, we analyse the perceptions of three non-native secondary school English language teachers throughout the different stages of the project in order to see how these perceptions relate to classroom practice. The three teachers worked in three different state schools - two in Istanbul and one in Sakarya. They taught English to ninth and tenth graders (14-16 years old). Perin taught in Sakarya, a one-and-a-half hour drive from Istanbul. Gamze taught at a highly competitive Anatolian High School in Istanbul, and Sude taught at a less competitive high school, also in Istanbul. Gamze, with more than 20 years of teaching experience, was the most experienced of the three. Perin and Sude had been teaching for between five and ten years. Perin was in the process of completing an MA programme, whereas Gamze and Sude already had MA degrees. None of the teachers had any prior knowledge of ELF. Perin responded to 55 questions, almost half of the questions on the project portal based on the readings on ELF and ELF related publications that were assigned weekly; Gamze and Sude responded to all 118 questions. All three teachers prepared, implemented, and evaluated lesson plans and participated in discussion sessions in which they shared their plans and evaluations.
The first phase of the ELF-TEd project lasted eight months, from 1 October 2012 to 31 May 2013. Every two weeks we had face-to-face focus-group meetings with the teachers where we discussed issues arising from their reflections. Perin missed two of these meetings, but Gamze and Sude, besides contributing actively to the website, attended all of them.