Teaching Practicums Abroad: Increasing the Professionalization of Preservice Foreign Language Teachers

Teaching Practicums Abroad: Increasing the Professionalization of Preservice Foreign Language Teachers

Karin Vogt (Heidelberg University of Education, Germany)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0169-5.ch022
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European student teachers have the opportunity to complete a work placement at a partner school in a target language country. The focus of this study was on 35 undergraduate preservice teachers who completed a teaching practicum placement in the United Kingdom (UK) and Ireland between 2010-2014. Data from five years of reflective reports were content analysed and complemented with focus group discussions after the students' stay abroad. This chapter briefly outlines the structure of the teaching practicums, delineates data collection and analysis methods, and discusses the results in order to gauge the potential of such experiences for students' intercultural learning and overall professional development. Results indicated an interconnection of categories with the ‘professionalization' of preservice teachers featuring most prominently.
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Collentine (2009, p. 218) defined study abroad as the ‘context [which] takes place in countries where the L2 enjoys an important sociological and functional status, entailing a combination of planned curriculum and host family’. While this definition of a study abroad context is rather limited to university undergraduate students pursuing a more or less rigorous degree program, I would like to argue for a broader definition of the term that encompasses different formats of instruction in the framework of a curriculum and also other forms of housing arrangements. A working definition for this chapter would be for study abroad to be part of a university degree program that enhances professionalisation and global citizenship through increased opportunities for intercultural and experiential learning, among others.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Otherness: The quality and/or state of being different, of belonging to an out-group.

Homestay: Private housing hosted by a local family that often includes a private or shared bedroom, meals, and laundry. Homestay experiences usually provide the greatest immersion in the host language and culture, giving students first-hand experience with family life in the host culture and the opportunity to use the host language in an informal setting. In many cases, the host family welcomes the student as a member of the family and provides a support network.

Erasmus (European Community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students): A program of the Socrates II educational initiative of the European Commission that offers university students from more than 30 European countries the opportunity to study at other European institutions with which their institutions have established direct partnerships. Founded in 1987, it was incorporated into the broader Socrates educational program in 1995 and then into the new Socrates II program in 1999. University credits are transferred as universally recognised ECTS credits. Students, who are required to have completed their first year of study, pay home university fees and not those of the host institution; most students receive financial grants from the Erasmus program to offset part of their expenses. Sojourns range from three months to one year. Over 2,000 universities participate in the program.

Cultural Immersion: A sojourner’s engagement with and interaction in a host culture, with the goal of extensive involvement with host culture members.

Study Abroad: A more or less mandatory part of a university degree programme that enhances professionalisation and global citizenship through increased opportunities for intercultural and experiential learning.

Teaching Placement/Practicum Abroad: A period of time spent in a target language school by preservice teachers as part of their teacher education course.

Acculturation: Modification of a person’s cultural identity due to adoption of and/or adaption to traits of other cultures. That is, the adjustment of an individual to a foreign culture. Applies to the process of acquiring a second culture, which is added to and mixed with the individual’s first culture.

Professionalisation: The process of developing professionalism as a foreign language teacher, involving self-concept, methodological tools, routines and other teaching-related aspects.

Reflective Practitioner: A concept that highlights a reflective attitude with practising teachers in order to enhance their professionalism.

Cultural Frame of Reference: Network of values, norms, views, concepts etc. on the basis of which an individual perceives and interprets data, events or ideas, and on the basis of which actions are effectuated.

Culture in Context: The aspects of culture that are immediately related to preservice teachers’ school environments.

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