Early Field Experiences in Language Teacher Education: An Ecological Analysis of a Program Implementation

Open Access
Rodriguez-Arroyo, Sandra
Graduate Program:
Curriculum and Instruction
Doctor of Education
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
July 24, 2009
Committee Members:
  • Miryam Espinosa Dulanto, Dissertation Advisor
  • Miryam Espinosa Dulanto, Committee Chair
  • John Daniel Marshall, Committee Member
  • Murry R Nelson, Committee Member
  • Karen E Johnson, Committee Member
  • teacher education
  • language teacher education
  • world languages
  • foreign languages
  • ecological approach
  • field experiences
  • early field experiences
  • Dewey
Language teacher education (LTE) has received increased attention over the last several decades. Language teacher educators, university researchers, classroom teachers, and future teachers have contributed immensely to existing knowledge on how language teachers learn to teach. Researchers and practitioners have finally acknowledged that future language teachers are not “empty vessels” and enter teacher education programs with experiences that influence their future teaching practices. Even though these publications have made important contributions to the LTE field, there are still many research areas to work on to advance language teacher education practices. One of these areas is the role of field experiences in the education of future language teachers. In the 1970s there was a strong call for the inclusion of early field experiences (EFEs) in teacher education programs that prepare future language teachers (FLT). Even though many LTE programs have responded to this request, not many research studies have been published on their role in LTE programs. To address this research gap, this dissertation presents data collected during a Pilot Early Field Experience (PEFE) specifically designed for future teachers interested in world languages teaching. John Dewey’s theory of experience guided this research study, which was designed to learn whether the PEFE could be considered an educative experience in the development of FLT. For this purpose, I analyzed the data according to the ecological approach, examining field experiences in order to gather details about several aspects of the PEFE (structure, content, context, and relationships). Results suggest that the FLT shared some common experiences during the PEFE, but their individual experiences differed from each other, making it difficult to determine whether the PEFE itself was educative or not. The PEFE’s ecological aspects played an important role in identifying this outcome. Therefore, before determining the educative value of a field experience it is necessary to first explore its ecological aspects.