Gary Barkhuizen: Language Teacher Educator Identity

When I wrote my post on social media, I made positive comments about Twitter. Not only can this social network help you connect with like-minded individuals, but you can also find out about some interesting offers. This tweet caught my attention a couple of months ago. Gary Barkhuizen, a professor at the University of Auckland, announced that his brand new book was available for free for a limited period of time. Since I like collecting useful resources, I took advantage of that option and downloaded the book. To my delight, I found out that Language Teacher Educator Identity is based on the author’s interviews with English teacher educators based in Colombia.

Gary Barkhuizen: Language Teacher Educator Identity

At the beginning of the book, Barkhuizen lists fourteen types of language teacher educators, ranging from academic leaders to teachers of English for specific purposes. He also differentiates between continuing professional development, which focuses on developing a knowledge base, and intervention-based teacher training. I am particularly interested in the latter because even though you can learn a lot from reading books and academic articles, I feel that I have made a lot of progress as a teacher thanks to my CELTA and Delta Module Two tutors. A simple comment from an experienced teacher trainer who has observed your lesson can lead to positive changes in your teaching practice. Of course, many teachers eventually figure out a lot of things by themselves, but quality teacher training can considerably speed up the process.

By the way, it was quite amusing to see the usual Colombia vs. Columbia mix-up in the book. This is a touchy subject because Colombians usually aren’t happy to see their country’s name misspelled. The good news is that this is the first time I have seen someone make the mistake the other way round! It seems Barkhuizen (or possibly his editors) decided to join the good fight by referring to the place of his doctoral studies in the US as ‘Teachers College, Colombia University’. Twice. I for one approve of this change in spelling conventions!

The main body of the book refers to a study that was conducted with seven teacher educators enrolled in a doctoral programme at a Colombian university. Barkhuizen interviewed them twice, and the book includes their biographical information and key comments from the interview. This is very valuable data and I really enjoyed reading it. I was particularly intrigued by mentions of decolonial pedagogy and social justice in some of the respondents’ answers.

As its name implies, Language Teacher Educator Identity deals with who teacher educators are, what they do, and how they feel about their role. Barkhuizen points out that the transition from being a language teacher to working as a teacher educator often leads to experiencing identity tensions because teaching students is not the same as training teachers. I hadn’t really thought of this before, but since I would like to become a teacher trainer in the future, this is something I need to be aware of.

The author also makes several recommendations relevant to language teacher education pedagogy. I agree that is important to take the context of teacher education and language teaching into account, and that teacher educators should make their goals explicitly clear. It is also necessary to pay attention to the teachers’ needs. Not doing so may result in delivering ineffective workshops serving only as a box-ticking exercise with no practical use. Another crucial point is keeping in touch with new knowledge and not relying on outdated ideas.

After describing what roles teacher educators usually fulfil, Barkhuizen focuses again on Colombia. He references Viáfara and Largo’s article Colombian English Teachers’ Professional Development: The Case of Master Programs, which is worth reading. Among other things, the authors mention ineffective policies, lack of support, unfavourable job conditions and other issues that MA candidates and graduates have to face, which won’t surprise anybody working in education. Barkhuizen then refers to his interviews with the group of Colombian teacher educators again, this time presenting their reasons for pursuing their PhD degree. It was nice to read their honest answers, and many teachers who are in the same situation will undoubtedly sympathise with them.

The final section includes forty questions encouraging research into teacher educator identities. I appreciate the fact that the author doesn’t shy away from topics such as opposing or resisting the existing system and its practices, which is something that deserves to be researched. There are quite a few thought-provoking topics that I would like to find out more about. I would definitely be interested in reading experienced teacher trainers’ answers to some of the questions.

Language Teacher Educator Identity is a book that focuses on an area that doesn’t usually receive much attention. Barkhuizen refers to relevant research and his own study conducted with Colombian teacher educators. What I really like is that the book is interspersed with the author’s personal stories relevant to each area, which is perfectly appropriate for a text dealing with identity. I am glad that the Twitter post promoting Language Teacher Educator Identity appeared in my feed because this book provided me with plenty of food for thought, and I will definitely read it again if I become a teacher trainer at some point in the future.

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