Professional Development for Teachers of Core French and ESL
  (in French-language schools)
- Executive Summary

Final report

Prepared by Miles Turnbull, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning
OISE-UT
© CASLT, 2000

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

     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.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

     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 comments.
     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.

SAMPLE

     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?

METHODOLOGY

     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.


SAMPLE

     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 CANADA: CASE-STUDIES

The third part of the project aimed to gather data from randomly selected, homogeneous groups of Core French and ESL teachers addressing the following questions:

  • 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 projects?

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).

METHODOLOGY

     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

Part 1:

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 teachers?

     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.

Part 2:

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 programs?

     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 written-only test.

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.

Part 3:

Question 1: What are each participant's personal PD needs?

Question 2: What do participants perceive as their colleagues' PD needs?

          Participants 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 teaching.
          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 this study.

Question 3: How does each teacher use technology in his/her teaching and for PD?

          Few participants 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?

          Participants 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 PD?

          There was a general openness to using technology as ONE way to deliver professional development.

Question 6: What do participants know about CASLT, its role and its technology projects?

          There was some general awareness of CASLT. Few teachers knew about CASLT's website and its technological projects, but were keen to learn more.

RECOMMENDATIONS

          The findings 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 future research.

Professional development

  • Given that a majority of Core French and ESL teachers indicated that resources
    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 more
    attention.
  • CASLT might consider developing classroom materials targeted at the following
    topics (based on survey results): Motivating intermediate Core French students, autonomous learning strategies, cooperative learning in Core French/ESL. A
    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 help
    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 to
    develop its web

Future research

  • 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 that
    would help understand teachers' belief systems related to technology and how these beliefs influence teachers' intended and actual classroom use of
    technologies in their second language classrooms. I recommend that such
    research be qualitative case studies using a variety of data collection methods
    to allow for an in-depth understanding of the factors that influence teachers'
    uses, or non-uses, of technology in their classes.
CASLT: http://www.caslt.org