Comparing experienced and inexperienced foreign language teachers’ beliefs about language learning and teaching

Evdokia Stergiopoulou

Abstract


Abstract. Teachers’ beliefs about language learning and teaching are an important concept to research as they affect the teachers’ decisions when teaching (Johnson, 1994; Richards, 1998). Research has focused on how teachers’ beliefs are formed (e.g. Lortie, 1975; Johnson, 1994) and on whether beliefs that prove to be inconsistent with the reality of the classroom can change (e.g. Weinstein, 1990; Brown and McGannon, 1998). Studies have mainly targeted the beliefs of inexperienced teachers and the effects of pre-service training on their beliefs (e.g. Joram and Gabrielle, 1998). There are also studies which compare the beliefs held by experienced and inexperienced teachers (e.g. Mok, 1994; Peacock, 2001). The study described in this paper comprises of two small-scale qualitative case studies carried out in Greece. The beliefs held by experienced and inexperienced teachers are compared and contrasted and the effects of pre-service training are explored. The focus is also on the factors that influence the shaping of teachers’ beliefs and on the needs of experienced teachers from training. Also, a framework is suggested that can guide research on teachers’ beliefs. The findings indicate that the context of work plays a pivotal role not only in the shaping of beliefs but also in aiding change. Also, with time, experienced teachers seem to focus more on the learner as a person rather than on language issues. There are small differences in the beliefs held by experienced and inexperienced teachers and no dramatic change has been identified in inexperienced teachers’ beliefs after training.

Keywords: teacher beliefs, training, experience

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