Professional Development for Teachers
of Core French and ESL
(in French-language schools) - Executive Summary
Prepared by Miles Turnbull, Ph.D.
Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning
© CASLT, 2000
I am grateful to the Canadian Association
of Second Language Teachers for the funding provided to make this study
possible. I would also like to thank the board members of this association
for the assistance they provided me in locating contact information for
the participants in this study. Of course, the project would never have
happened without the volunteers who participated in the study. I am especially
grateful to Gerry Pelletier in New Brunswick, and Eleanor Morris in Alberta,
who helped me organize focus group interviews in their cities.
I would also like to recognize my research
assistants who helped me immensely: Agustina Tocalli-Beller, Hameed Esmaeili,
Carole Bracco and Claude Guillemot. Also thanks to Michelle Pon, administrative
assistant in the Modern Language Centre at OISE-UT.
This study was undertaken 10 years following
the publication of the National Core French Study (LeBlanc, 1990)
and 14 years after CASLT sponsored a general review of the literature
on the professional development (PD) of Core French teachers (Lamarre,
Roy, Hainsworth & Ullmann, 1986). It is appropriate now, at the dawn
of a new millennium, and a decade since the National Core French Study,
that an empirical study be conducted in Canada to assess the state and
professional needs of Core French teachers' professional development as
the Canadian Association of Second Language Teachers (CASLT), other professional
organisations, universities and governments plan for the future.
This report is divided into 4 principal
sections. The first section includes the objectives, methodology and results
for The state of affairs of PD for Core French and ESL teachers.
Section two describes the objectives, methodology and results for University
involvement in pre-service and in-service education for Core French and
ESL teachers. Section 3 includes the objectives, methodology and results
for Part 3: Needs assessment for PD of Core French and ESL teachers
in Canada: Case-studies. The final section of the report contains
a summary of the study and its results, recommendations and concluding
This executive summary presents the research
questions and methodology for the three parts of the project first. This
is followed by a summary of the findings for each question, as well as
a summary of the recommendations offered at the end of the report.
Part 1: THE STATE OF AFFAIRS OF PD FOR CORE FRENCH AND ESL TEACHERS
The first part of the project addressed three questions:
- What type of professional development is currently being offered for
Core French and ESL teachers at the provincial/territorial, school board
and school levels in Canada?
- What commonalties and differences exist across Canada in terms of
existing professional development for Core French and ESL teachers?
- What do participants perceive as the greatest professional needs for
Core French and ESL teachers in Canada?
Data were collected using survey methodology.
A copy of both English and French versions of the survey can be found
in Appendix A. The English version of the survey was sent to 197 educators,
identified by CASLT board members as individuals responsible for Core
French teachers' professional development. The French version of the survey
was sent to 54 individuals identified by CASLT board members as individuals
responsible for ESL in Québec. Both English and French versions
of the survey were sent to 6 people in New Brunswick, 1 in PEI, and 1
in Manitoba, identified by CASLT as individuals responsible for ESL programs
in their jurisdictions.
Individuals were contacted to solicit
participation either by email or FAX. Volunteers returned the survey responses
electronically, by FAX or by regular mail. A reminder to respond was sent
twice to the individuals who had not returned the survey.
The research team received 74 completed
surveys for the Core French component of the study, representing an overall
response rate of nearly 40% (37.6%). The response rate varied greatly
among provinces and territories. The research team received 15 completed
surveys for the ESL component of the study, yielding a disappointing response
rate of 24.1% and as a result, one must be cautious when interpreting
the ESL results because of this small sample size.
Part 2: UNIVERSITY INVOLVEMENT IN PRE-SERVICE AND IN-SERVICE EDUCATION
FOR CORE FRENCH AND ESL TEACHERS
The second part of the project aimed to identify current university involvement
in pre-service and in-service for Core French and ESL teachers. The following
questions were addressed:
- What is the current involvement of faculties of education and university
French departments in pre-service and in-service programs for Core French
and ESL teachers? How many students are involved in each program?
- What is the nature of the pre-service and in-service programs? What
are the admission requirements of the pre-service and in-service programs?
- What role does technology play in pre-service and in-service education
for Core French and ESL teachers?
Data were collected using survey methodology.
A copy of the survey is included in Appendix B. The survey was sent to
31 educators working in faculties of education and to 60 faculty members
from university French departments.
Individuals were contacted either by email or by FAX to solicit participation.
Volunteers returned the survey responses electronically, by FAX and by
regular mail. A reminder to respond was sent twice to the individuals
from the original sample list who had not returned a survey.
The research team received 17 completed
surveys from individuals working in faculties of education, representing
an overall response rate of 54.8%. The research team received only 12
responses from university French departments (20%). None of the respondents
indicated any involvement in either pre-service or in-service education
for Core French or ESL teachers. In many cases, this response was an email
message indicating that this survey did not apply to them.
Part 3: NEEDS ASSESSMENT FOR PD OF CORE FRENCH AND ESL TEACHERS IN
The third part of the project aimed to gather data from randomly selected,
homogeneous groups of Core French and ESL teachers addressing the following
- What are each participant's personal PD needs?
- What do participants perceive as their colleagues' PD needs?
- How does each teacher use technology in his/her teaching and for PD?
- What factors influence teachers' uses of technology in their teaching
and for PD?
- What is the potential for technology as a medium for delivering PD
- What do participants know about CASLT, its role and its technology
This part of the project was exploratory. The overall aim was to raise
issues that could feed into future research and development projects (e.g.,
a large-scale national needs assessment with Core French teachers).
Focus group interviews were conducted
in 3 cities: Toronto, Ontario; Bathurst, New Brunswick; and Calgary, Alberta.
A separate interview was conducted in each city for elementary and secondary
teachers. Each focus group included teachers with a range of classroom
experiences. Most groups also included native speakers of French and English.
The focus-group interviews lasted 60 minutes, were tape-recorded and transcribed
selectively for analysis.
SUMMARY OF FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Question 1: What type of professional development is currently being
offered for Core French and ESL teachers at the provincial/ territorial,
school board and school levels in Canada?
It is clear that different groups or individuals
assume responsibility for PD in most jurisdictions. A large majority of
Core French participants indicated that school board co-ordinators deliver
PD. Slightly more than a third of respondents reported that PD is organised
by the Ministry of Education, whereas about two fifths of respondents
reported that schools assume responsibility for some Core French PD. Findings
from the ESL component of the study are similar. A large majority of respondents
reported that ESL PD occurs at the school level whereas a near majority
indicated that school board co-ordinators deliver PD. A majority of respondents
also indicated that some PD is organised by the Ministry of Education.
A wide variety of PD activities are currently
offered to Core French and ESL teachers in Canada. The most common professional
activities reported include workshops and in-service meetings. About one
fifth of respondents also reported that school-based initiatives form
the basis of some of their annual PD. A near majority of respondents also
indicated that there are teachers involved in action research in their
board. Many ESL teachers also indicated that conferences organized by
their professional association were important for their professional development.
Question 2: What commonalties and differences exist across Canada
in terms of existing professional development for Core French and ESL
It is clear that there is considerable
similarity in terms of the type of PD offered across the country for Core
French and ESL teachers.
Respondents from Alberta reported the important
role played by a regional PD team (the Southern Alberta Consortium). No
respondents from other jurisdictions referred to regional PD teams.
There was a considerable range in the number
of PD days offered for Core French and ESL teachers. This variation cannot
be linked to region though. It is notable that the mean number of PD days
for the ESL teachers is higher, in general, than for Core French teachers.
Question 3: What do participants perceive as the greatest professional
needs for Core French and ESL teachers in Canada?
Resources were at the top of the needs
list for both Core French and ESL teachers at all levels. Assessment and
evaluation was perceived as important by about a fifth of respondents
for elementary and intermediate Core French teachers and by about a quarter
of secondary Core French teachers. Curriculum modification techniques
were perceived to be important for elementary Core French teachers by
about a fifth of the respondents. Student motivation was perceived to
be an important PD topic for intermediate Core French teachers. Technology
was perceived to be an important PD topic by more respondents for secondary
teachers than for teachers at either elementary or intermediate levels.
The ESL respondents also suggested that autonomous learning strategies
and cross-curricular integration are important topics for ESL teachers
at all levels. Teachers' language skills emerged as an important topic
amongst 15% of respondents for elementary Core French teachers and amongst
an important number of ESL teachers at all levels.
Question 4: Do Core French and ESL teachers have access to technology
for PD? Are PD leaders willing to participate in electronically delivered
PD? How do PD leaders perceive their teachers' willingness to participate
in electronic PD?
A large majority of Core French and ESL
respondents reported that access to multimedia facilities and equipment
is currently easy, somewhat easy or very easy. About one fifth of respondents
indicated that technological access is somewhat difficult.
Almost one fifth of Core French respondents,
and just over a quarter of ESL respondents, reported that PD is currently
delivered by their jurisdictions using electronic means. About a quarter
of Core French respondents, and two fifths of ESL participants, reported
that they currently use electronic media to do some of their PD. However,
about two fifths of Core French and ESL respondents reported that they
have never done any PD delivered via technology.
Although only about a quarter of respondents
currently use electronic media to do some of their PD, a majority of Core
French and ESL respondents indicated that their personal willingness to
participate in PD delivered electronically is either somewhat or very
strong. About a quarter of Core French respondents and about 15% of ESL
participants reported that they are either somewhat unwilling or unwilling
to do PD electronically.
Two fifths of participants believe that
the Core French and ESL teachers in their jurisdictions would be either
somewhat or very willing to do PD using technology, whereas slightly more
than a quarter of participants reported that their Core French and ESL
colleagues would be either somewhat unwilling or unwilling to do so.
Question 1: What is the current involvement of faculties of education
and university French departments in pre-service and in-service programs
for Core French and ESL teachers?
A large majority of the respondents are
involved in pre-service education for both elementary and secondary Core
French teachers. However, only about half of these respondents reported
involvement in in-service programs for Core French teachers at both elementary
and secondary levels.
About 60% of respondents reported offering
pre-service education for ESL teachers at both elementary and secondary
levels. About two fifths of respondents reported involvement in in-service
programs for elementary ESL teachers, whereas only slightly more than
one fifth of respondents reported involvement with in-service education
for secondary ESL teachers.
Question 2: What is the nature of the pre-service and in-service programs?
What are the admission requirements of the pre-service and in-service
All respondents indicated that it is possible
for students to complete a practicum session in a Core French or ESL setting,
and a large majority of respondents indicated that a practicum in a Core
French or ESL setting, depending on the student's specialisation, was
required in their program. The reported length of practica varied considerably,
due in large part to differences in program type.
A large majority of respondents reported
that students were required to complete some form of language proficiency
testing before admission to their pre-service program. In addition, about
half of the respondents reported that language proficiency is an admission
requirement for in-service programs. A majority of respondents reported
that their proficiency test assesses candidates' four language skills.
About a fifth of respondents reported having either an oral-only or a
Question 3: What role does technology play in pre-service and in-service
education for Core French and ESL teachers?
A large majority of respondents reported
that pre-service students from their institution learn about computer
mediated language teaching, whereas only slightly more than a third of
respondents reported the same for their in-service programs. About a third
and a quarter of respondents reported that some components of their pre-service
and in-service programs, respectively, are currently delivered via computer.
Most participants did not offer many details
about how technology is integrated into their programs and there was little
in common amongst the responses given.
Question 1: What are each participant's personal PD needs?
Question 2: What do participants perceive as their colleagues' PD
responded to both of these questions at the same time. While a variety
of PD topics (see page 21) emerged from these interviews, there was an
overwhelming cry for teaching resources to support Core French and ESL
All of the
participants in these focus groups expressed a concern that most PD for
Core French and ESL teachers is voluntary and occurs after school and
on weekends. There was a strong feeling that school boards give priority
to PD sessions specifically designed for Core French and ESL teachers
during school hours. It was clear that Core French teachers currently
receive more subject-specific PD than the ESL teachers interviewed in
Question 3: How does each teacher use technology in his/her teaching
and for PD?
reported using technology in their classrooms. Some participants reported
using technology for finding resources via the Internet and for word processing.
Question 4: What factors influence teachers' use of technology in
their teaching and for PD?
reported that their use of technology in the classroom was affected by
access to and quality of hardware, lack of training and technical help
and time pressure. There was, however, a feeling that many of the current
obstacles to using technology in the classroom could be eliminated soon.
Question 5: What is the potential for technology as a medium for delivering
a general openness to using technology as ONE way to deliver professional
Question 6: What do participants know about CASLT, its role and its
some general awareness of CASLT. Few teachers knew about CASLT's website
and its technological projects, but were keen to learn more.
from this research study provide support for CASLT's efforts to improve
the professional development of Core French and ESL teachers across Canada.
Recommendations are proposed in two areas: professional development and
- Given that a majority of Core French and ESL teachers indicated that
are in great need, CASLT should continue to develop field-tested,
classroom-ready resources such as CASLT's assessment packages and the
web-based technology projects. Publicity for these resources may need
- CASLT might consider developing classroom materials targeted at the
topics (based on survey results): Motivating intermediate Core French
students, autonomous learning strategies, cooperative learning in Core
list of resources, or reviews of resources, could also be included.
- Although language maintenance and development were mentioned by only
some of the project's participants, CASLT should investigate ways to
second language teachers across Canada practice the language they teach,
using technology (e.g., a Listserv).
- Given the general openness to PD using technology as the medium expressed
by a majority of respondents, CASLT should continue to explore ways
develop its web
- Future research that investigates how and why teachers use or do not
use technology in their classrooms would benefit future web site development,
and would provide insights for second language teachers and researchers
would help understand teachers' belief systems related to technology
and how these beliefs influence teachers' intended and actual classroom
technologies in their second language classrooms. I recommend that such
research be qualitative case studies using a variety of data collection
to allow for an in-depth understanding of the factors that influence
uses, or non-uses, of technology in their classes.