Seeking a New Framework of Initial Teacher Education,
Professional Development and Evaluation for Secondary School EFL Teachers in Japan


A Panel Presentation



Ken Hisamura, Professor, Den-en Chofu University;
Masachika Ishida, Seisen University;
Hiromi Imamura, Chubu University;
Mika Ito, Tokai University




The prime presenter first overviewed some features of teacher education in Japan and explained the two different questionnaire surveys conducted in 2008 by the SIG on English Education of Japan Association of College English Teachers. Next, Prof. Ishida suggested the inherent challenges of ITE by using the first survey results among the ITE providers. After that, Prof. Imamura, Prof. Ito, and the prime presenter provided some major findings regarding factors necessary for teacher education reform in Japan, in-service English teacher training and assessment, and EFL teacher professional competencies respectively based upon the second survey results among the local authorities.


The prime presenter first overviewed some features of teacher education in Japan and explained the two different questionnaire surveys conducted in 2008 by the SIG on English Education of Japan Association of College English Teachers. Next, Prof. Ishida suggested the inherent challenges of ITE by using the first survey results among the ITE providers. After that, Prof. Imamura, Prof. Ito, and the prime presenter provided some major findings regarding factors necessary for teacher education reform in Japan, in-service English teacher training and assessment, and EFL teacher professional competencies respectively based upon the second survey results among the local authorities.


1. ITE (By Prof. Ishida)


The ITE educators in Japan are facing the following three challenges. The first one is to examine the focus of content in the TEFL courses. There has been no agreement among the ITE educators as to the core content areas to cover in gTEFL methodology course,h since its areas are so diversified with so many things to be trained. The second challenge is to make English language proficiency a prerequisite for registering for the methodology course and teaching practicum, which the pre-service students must complete by the time when they are accredited with a teaching certificate. The current system of issuing a teaching certificate rather generously should be drastically changed by setting minimum standards for these fundamental components of teaching English. The third challenge is to integrate gtheory and practice,h mainly through collaborative partnerships with local schools in the community.



2. Factors necessary for teacher education reform (by Prof. Imamura)


The 13 items considered important by the majority of in-service English teachers in the previous survey regarding the license renewal system are judged acceptable by the local education authorities. This indicates that such factors as gStandardizing professional competencies and teacher evaluation based on classroom teachingh and gStructuring and implementing a flexible framework of professional developmenth are crucial to teacher education reform in Japan.



3. In-service English Teacher Training and Assessment (by Prof. Ito)


The results and data analyses suggest that the in-service teacher training carried out by the education boards vary widely. However, there are some shared perspectives or criteria for CPD among the education boards. For example, the majority provide regular training held every year at the training centers and on-site training using demonstration lessons and/or class observations at own school while the items concerning the improvement of pedagogical competencies, such as action research, were deemed more appropriate for individual training. It is worth noting here that about 60% of the education boards do no have any partnership or relationship with local universities, indicating that many universities produce teachers but they are rarely involved in PD for teachers.  There are also some shared opinions among the supervisors that teachersf competence stages are correlated with teacher training programs; learning fundamental teaching methodology and skills for novice and/or apprentice teachers, and learning materials, international understanding, counseling skills and assessment for practitioner or mentor teachers.  As for assessment, in-school training is perceived as most feasible by more than half of the education boards, such as regular demonstration lessons, portfolio containing a check list of self-assessment, training record and reflection, and action research. 



4. Competence Stages of English Teachers (by Prof. Hisamura)


The 22 question items were elaborated by referring to previous survey results and self-assessment descriptors in the EPOSTL (European Portfolio for Student Teachers of Languages) in order to explore the possibility of developing competence benchmarks for each stage: Novice, Apprentice, Practitioner, and Expert or Mentor. The results and data analyses show that 12 of them are appropriate descriptors of competence stages: four for Novice, five for Apprentice, and three for Practitioner. However, no items are regarded as appropriate for Expert or Mentor. This indicates that the notion of competence stages or professional competence is shared to some degree by superintendents and that more awareness of professional competence and more refinement of descriptors are necessary in order to define satisfactory professional competence stages.



5.Conclusion


5.1 Is it possible to establish a national appraisal framework of English teachers?


For In-service English Teacher Training: (1) On-site training should be maintained as a PD activity, (2) A close partnership between universities and local boards/schools should be built to improve teacher training system, and (3) The notion of four competence stages should be incorporated into the potential designs of the training programs.


For Assessment of PD training: Self-directed PD is necessary to plan a systematic appraisal system by combining practical teacher training and appropriate assessment.


5.2 Is it possible to develop a set of guidelines or dimensions for ITE programs and CPD for EFL teachers?


To make this possible, we will have to continue our research in two ways at present: to elaborate the band of self-assessment descriptors for EFL student teachers and disseminate it among teacher-production institutions and local authorities, and to refine the competence benchmarks stage by stage and promote greater awareness of professional standard(s) among practicing teachers and stakeholders.