Pulverness, A. (Ed.) (2002).
: York Conference Selections.
, Kent: IATEFL, 75
in which the references and bibliography
in this volume)
have been restored
is available from
Teacher Trainers and Educators
ITEFL Special Interest Group website:
4.3 The shape of the language teacher
Lancaster University, England
There are two broad views on what makes a language teacher effective. One focuses on
teachers' language and methodological knowledge/skills, the other on teachers'
personality. Here I present a framework which:
conciles these views, giving equal weight to all elements
proposes a way to visualise their interrelations
takes into account research findings indicating that teachers' practices are mostly
fluenced by their
I have expanded Julian Edge's term 'person-
language'. Each word points towards an indispensable element in a language teacher's
profile (Fig. 1).
knowledge and skills
knowledge and use
The following tables show the key aspects of each element.
Ability to observe, think critically,
Sensitivity to context
Attitude towards change,
diversity, quality, co
Perception of learning,
teacher/learner roles, development
Views on methodology
Own views on learning/teaching
Seeing implications of theory
Planning and teaching
Balancing support and challenge
Views on language
Awareness of own views on
Own language use
Ability to see the implications of
language analysis, draw conclusions
from own contact with language
Sensitivity to learners' language level
This framework depicts a teacher's effectiveness as the area of a triangle, with each
side representing the degree of develo
(Fig. 2). The larger the area,
the higher the effectiveness.
Apart from comparing different triangles, it Is also helpful to compare the sides of
individual triangles, that is, examine the
of each element.
All elements are
They are utilised to their full capacity and
combined to maximum effect (Fig. 2).
One element is far
The less developed element limits the effect of
others (Fig. 3). This representation can also explain why teachers using different
methodologies show comparable success: combinations of different levels of
can produce equal triangles.
One element is far
. The more de
veloped element cannot be fully
There is some overlap between the elements. For example, teachers' perception/
knowledge of language will influence their teaching; their general level of self-
will affect their awareness of their beliefs about language/learning.
An equilateral triangle will have the largest area of any triangle of the same perimeter.
This can be seen as a metaphor for the benefits of well
It is essential that all three elements are above
'threshold of acceptability'. True,
such cut-off points are arbitrary, but such thresholds are already used in education and in
determining entrance to professions.
Limited/faulty language knowledge will communicate inaccuracies. Inappropriate
methodology will make learning too time-consuming and may discourage learners. An
uninterested or offensive teacher will offer little support and few opportunities, and may
The triangle framework is a crude representation of the complex interrelations that make
up the profile of a language teacher. It is proposed as a point of departure, a way to
visualise the interaction of the basic elements contributing to a language teacher's