Knowledge about Language and the ‘Good
University of Hong Kong, China
Chinese University of Hong Kong, China
Both of us have extensive involvement in ESOL teacher education, working mainly with
non-native speaker teachers of English, but also with native-speaker teachers. In our
work, we have encountered a variety of attitudes towards Knowledge About Language
(KAL) among the pre-service and in-service L2 teachers with whom we have worked.
For some, their perceived lack of KAL is a source of considerable anxiety: words like
‘fear’ and ‘panic’ are not uncommon when they discuss their feelings about grammar,
for example. At the same time, we have also frequently observed L2 lessons given by
pre-service and serving teachers where the object of learning, the language itself,
appears to have received far less attention than issues of methodology and classroom
management. As a result, the lesson has often seemed, to the observer at least, to be
presenting learners with confused and confusing messages about the language to be
learned. Since messages about language mediated by the teacher constitute a major part
of the input for learning within any lesson, we have become increasingly convinced that
the extent and the adequacy of L2 teachers’ engagement with language content in their
professional practice is a crucial variable in determining the quality and potential
effectiveness of any L2 teacher’s practice.
Arising from these experiences, our own research interests in recent years have led
us to investigate various aspects of L2 teachers’ KAL, with particular reference to
grammar (see, for example, Andrews 1994; 1997; 1999a; 1999b; 2001) and vocabulary
(McNeill 1996, 1999), and to explore the impact of those teachers’ KAL on their
N. Bartels (ed.) Researching Applied Linguistics in Language Teacher Education, 159-178.