Pre-service teacher beliefs about language learning: The second language acquisition course as an agent for change

Deborah Busch, University of Pennsylvania


Second language (SL) teachers bring a myriad of beliefs, assumptions and knowledge to language teaching and learning. As Anderson et al. (1995) have indicated, the beliefs, or folk pedagogics (Bruner. 1996), that pre-service teachers bring to SL teacher education programs may limit the "intake" of subject matter taught in professional education courses, and may, as Kagan (1992) notes, serve as a filter through which others' teaching performances are interpreted. As little is known about the impact of teacher education programs on these underlying beliefs systems, researchers have suggested that such programs need to incorporate self-reflective approaches early on to help pre-service teachers uncover and identify (1) what beliefs they hold, (2) how those beliefs were developed, and (3) how they change as a consequence of the components of the teacher education program. This large mixed methods study, which sought to answer these questions, investigated the effects of an introductory SL acquisition course (20 class sections) on the beliefs of pre-service k-12 teachers (N=381) enrolled over a three-year period at a state university in California. Two different beliefs surveys, administered at the beginning and end of each course, and the teachers' written comments explaining their pre-and post-course differences constituted the data for the study. The results revealed statistically significant differences in pre-course beliefs based on extent of experience in foreign language countries and contact with second language learners, and significant differences in pre- to post-course beliefs about the length of time for acquisition, the nature of errors and role of error correction, views of traditional methods of teaching, and the role of grammar in acquisition. In their post-course commentary, the teachers attributed changes in their beliefs to the SLA course content and activities, most notably, tutoring an ESL student (the first contact for some teachers). It was also found that depth and breadth of knowledge was revealed in the teacher commentary—information which could not be gleaned from the beliefs surveys alone. Overall, the study demonstrated how pre-service teacher beliefs evolve within the context of a professional education course. Implications for language policy, course design, and student/teacher evaluation are discussed.

Subject Area

Language arts|Bilingual education|Teacher education

Recommended Citation

Busch, Deborah, "Pre-service teacher beliefs about language learning: The second language acquisition course as an agent for change" (2008). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3309403.