Open Access
Childs, Sharon Smith
Graduate Program:
Applied Linguistics
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
December 09, 2010
Committee Members:
  • Karen E Johnson, Dissertation Advisor
  • Karen E Johnson, Committee Chair
  • Meredith Christine Doran, Committee Member
  • Celeste S Kinginger, Committee Member
  • Patrick Willard Shannon, Committee Member
  • sociocultural theory
  • sociocultural perspective
  • language teacher education
  • teacher learning
Long before deciding to become second language (L2) teachers, novice teachers have subconsciously developed conceptions of teaching cultivated by their experiences as learners in both general and language education classrooms. This ‘apprenticeship of observation’ (Lortie, 1975) can foster deeply held beliefs about teaching that are carried with them as they enter L2 teacher professional development programs. Their beliefs develop from what they experience as participants in the ‘public’ side of education, but they do not experience the ‘private conversations’ in the minds of teachers. Novice teachers, then, are not aware of the conceptualizations that serve as the foundations for why teachers do what they do. The challenge for L2 teacher professional development programs is to move students of language teaching beyond their learning histories and tacit notions of teaching and mediate the development of theoretically and pedagogically sound, explicit conceptualizations of L2 teaching that may become the ‘psychological tools’ through which they think about and carry out their teaching. Using a sociocultural theoretical perspective, this study traces the learning of three second language teachers as they engage in the activity of teaching and learning in an intensive, university-level, language teacher professional development program. The findings suggest that even within the same professional development program there are tremendous differences in what and how teachers learn. The data indicate that the differences are mediated over time by their language learning and instructional histories, supportive relationships, and the agency they choose to exert on the activity systems that are part of their professional development experiences. L2 teacher researchers and professional development programs can benefit by recognizing the significant role L2 teachers’ prior experiences play in their learning and the power of individual agency and supportive relationships to mediate language teacher cognition.