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The end of theory? : a comparative study of the decline of educational theory and professional knowledge in modern foreign languages teacher training in England and France

By Shirley Lawes


ABSTRACT\ud Educational theory is no longer a subject of debate in Initial Teacher\ud Training (ITT). The literature that exists shows that the need for theory is\ud contested and the general mood is anti-theoretical. The confused emphasis\ud on 'reflective practice' has led to a situation where 'practice' is re-described\ud as 'theory".\ud This study of ITT modern foreign languages (mfl) courses confirms that, in\ud mfl, where theoretical concerns were once strong, theory, both in terms of\ud the study of education and the applied theory of mfl has been marginalised.\ud This study of higher education (HE) teacher trainers' and student teachers'\ud views of theory is based on extensive interview data and analysis of the\ud content of three programmes: the Post Graduate Certificate in Education:\ud the PGCE/Martrise frangais langue etrangere, and the Certificat d'Aptitude\ud au Professorat de I'Enseignement Secondaire.\ud The findings of the study reflect the contemporary mood. Teacher trainers\ud expressed ambivalent attitudes to theory and thought that it is enough for\ud theory to be implicit in what is taught on their courses. Their notion of\ud 'theory' is, in fact, 'principled guidance for practice'. Both student teachers\ud and teacher trainers expressed an anti-theoretical attitude through an overriding\ud concern for the development of the practical classroom skills related\ud to meeting QTS standards. Student teachers expected mainly practical\ud guidance for teaching from their HE courses. Likewise, their reading was\ud limited to obtaining ideas and practical guidance for teaching and practiceorientated\ud course assignments. However, one course, the PGCE/Martrise\ud fIe shows that student teachers benefit from and value theory and that this\ud makes a perceptible difference to the quality of their ITT experience.\ud The conclusion of this study is that the pessimistic view of ITT implied by\ud the prevailing anti-theoretical mood and a sense that practice is developed\ud through practice can be challenged both programmatically and individually

Year: 2004
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