Transforming Language Teaching and Learning

Three International Teacher Education Studies

by Patrick Farren (Author)
©2018 Monographs XXII, 466 Pages
Series: Rethinking Education, Volume 11


This book examines the beliefs and attitudes of teacher educators, teachers and student-teachers about the impact of language teaching and learning. It draws on three research-based studies carried out by the author in collaboration with colleagues at the National University of Ireland, Galway, King’s College London and the Lynch School of Education, Boston College. The volume begins with a clear outline of various approaches to research-based practice and a scholarly consideration of language acquisition and learning theories, before embarking on a journey across three countries that reflects on partnerships and dialogue. The focus of each study is the ongoing interaction between participants and the data is drawn from semi-structured interviews, focus group discussions, surveys and classroom observations, as well as referencing the work of student-teachers. As the studies unfold, «transformative language pedagogy» is seen to enhance the social-psychological model of autonomous language teaching and learning by offering it a critical and moral-philosophical underpinning. The book offers valuable insights into language teaching and learning and, importantly, into the intersection between teaching, learning and being in the world.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • List of Figures
  • List of Tables
  • List of Acronyms
  • Foreword (Jane Jones)
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: My Journey and My Teaching and Learning Beliefs: Where Am I Going? And Why?
  • Chapter 2: Practitioner Research and Current Studies
  • Chapter 3: What Theoretical Framework Informs These Studies? Autonomous Language Teaching and Learning and ‘Transformative Language Pedagogy’
  • Study 1
  • Chapter 4: Irish Post-Primary School Education: Background and Programmes
  • Chapter 5: Study 1. School of Education, National University of Ireland, Galway: Data Analysis and Discussion
  • Study 2
  • Chapter 6: UK Post-Primary School Education: Background and Programmes
  • Chapter 7: Study 2. School of Education, Communication and Society, King’s College London: Data Analysis and Discussion
  • Study 3
  • Chapter 8: Massachusetts, USA, High School Education: Background and Programmes
  • Chapter 9: Study 3. Lynch School of Education, Boston College, MA: Data Analysis and Discussion
  • Conclusion
  • Appendices
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • Series index

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I would like to acknowledge the kind invitation from Dr Jane Jones, School of Education, Communication and Society, King’s College London, and from Dr Maria Brisk, Lynch School of Education, Boston College, MA, USA, to carry out research at their respective universities, and for their professional advice and support. In addition, I would like to thank Professor Emeritus David Little, Trinity College Dublin, for his professional advice and support during the NUIG study, as well as all participants in the three studies. Finally, a word of thanks to Dr Andrea Lynch, NUIG, and Eoine Coffey for proof-reading the manuscript.

This publication was grant-aided by the Publications Fund of the National University of Ireland Galway / Rinneadh maoiniú ar an bhfoilseachán seo trí Chiste Foilseachán Ollscoil na hÉireann, Gaillimh.

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The creation of the narrative in this book has been likened by the author, Patrick Farren, to a journey. As can be seen from his career history that he shares with readers in the introductory pages, this particular venture is just part of his longer trajectory in teaching, teacher education and research spanning many years and several continents. It is a type of journey I can identify with having myself spent many decades as teacher, teacher educator and researcher in diverse institutions in a number of other European countries and in the US. Patrick Farren and I have a deep and shared belief in teacher education as a moral endeavour, in the pursuit of social justice and equalising opportunity. This is a morality that has nothing to do with imposed strictures but all to do with the belief in each individual’s dignity and the huge impact teachers have on young individuals in their care.

We also share an enveloping interest in language education (in this book sometimes referred to as MFL for modern foreign languages for terminological historic reasons) that is par excellence a subject that can transform an individual through linguistic and intercultural expansion. Indeed, transformation, unsurprisingly, is a key theme of this book.

Following a reflection on practitioner research formats and a scholarly consideration of language acquisition and learning theories to provide a framework for the book, we move to rich studies of partnerships, collaboration and dialogue in three distinguished institutions in three countries, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland, King’s College London in the UK and Boston College in Massachusetts, USA, where teacher education is considered as a critically reflective and transformative project. As Farren details in graphic detail, these studies of what are arguably first-class teacher education programmes, required considerable physical travel, across the Irish Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, to universities in major cities and schools in urban settings and in rural areas. As a teacher educator for all seasons, Farren intersperses his accounts with detail of the settings, the April sunlit office at King’s College London overlooking Waterloo Bridge, ← xix | xx → a trudge through the snow one November on his way to a Boston school. The studies unfold like stories before switching to incisive, questioning but always warm description and analysis of the whole process of the initial teacher education period in each study.

Driven by Farren’s fervent belief in the moral purpose of teacher education, the respective three narratives provide deeply satisfying, engaging and challenging pictures of initial teacher education and the exceptionally good educational work being undertaken in the three university institutions and their partnership schools. The work is, of course, a shared commitment of a wider community of practice that includes teachers, pupils, parents and others involved in the community. It is noticeable that central voice is given to the participants in the teacher education studies be they academics, teacher educators, mentors in school, and especially to the student teachers. The accounts of all the participants provide mirror reflections of the important themes raised in the first part of the book, such as collaborative learning, knowledge construction, expressing meanings that come from within, formative assessment, socio-cultural and intercultural awareness, literacy, critical literacy, and leadership with moral consciousness.

Each study stands on its own as a case of situated teacher education, providing a series of joined-up pedagogical dialogues about language teaching, learning and assessment. Each has its unique learning points, for example:

NUIG: its innovative and successfully embedded use of portfolio processes that support student teachers, its collaborative work with schools, its language pedagogy that supports student-teachers in creating conditions that support learners in developing the capacity to express their meanings in the target language.

KCL: its acclaimed work with Assessment for Learning (Assessment in the Classroom) and the development of a teacher education culture that enables student teachers to develop highly nuanced assessment skills and self-regulated ways of learning in the classroom

BC: against a rather under-privileging of MFL in the curriculum in the region, BC’s coordinated languages policy, inclusive of TELL (Teaching English Language Learners) and Secondary English, powers a strong belief ← xx | xxi → in language teaching as inquiry, relating to the area’s curriculum strand of critical disposition, and is strongly imbued with a social and moral purpose.


XXII, 466
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2019 (April)
Transformative pedagogy teacher education autonomous language teaching and learning target language use metacognition inter-cultural awareness leadership assessment European Language Portfolio
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Wien, 2018. XXII, 466 pp., 24 fig. b/w, 28 tables

Biographical notes

Patrick Farren (Author)

Patrick Farren is a lecturer in education at the National University of Ireland, Galway. He has experience in language teaching and teacher education in Ireland, France, Spain, Libya, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the US. He was previously the editor of Teanga, the journal of the Irish Research Association for Applied Linguistics, and his research interests include language teaching and learning, addressing English language learners’ needs, bilingualism, interculturalism, inquiry based teaching, critical pedagogy, the history of education, philosophy and Middle Eastern culture.


Title: Transforming Language Teaching and Learning
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488 pages