NNEST of the Month
Wen-Hsing Luo, Ph.D., Associate Professor of the Department of English Instruction at National Hsinchu University of Education, Taiwan. Her research interests include English teaching, teacher professional development, and NNEST-related issues.
NNEST blog June interviewer: Shu-Chun Tseng
1. Thank you for agreeing to be our NNEST Blog June guest. Could you please tell us your linguistic, educational and professional background? What attracts you to English and to become an educator?
First of all, I’d like to express my appreciation to NNEST Blog Editorial team for this interview. I was born and grew up in Hsinchu County, which is located in the northern part of Taiwan. My mother tongue is Hakka, which is one of the Chinese languages. I first started learning Mandarin Chinese, which is the official language in Taiwan, when I began formal schooling. Like most of students of my age in Taiwan, I started English education when I entered the junior high school, that is, at the seventh grade. In 2003, I received a Ph.D. degree in Curriculum, Teaching and Learning from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/U of T), and moved back to Taiwan and started teaching at the tertiary level. Currently, I am an associate professor in the Department of English Instruction at National Hsinchu University of Education.
I became an English teacher when I started to teach at a private language institute in Taipei. At the time, I was teaching English to Taiwanese students and Mandarin Chinese to foreigners. Along with my teaching, I found that English teaching is fascinating, and that was why I decided to pursue further studies in this field and became an English educator.
2. You have published several journal articles and presented conference papers on the collaborative teaching model for NESTs and NNESTs. Please tell us what sparks your interest in this topic.
In 2004, I began research on collaborative teaching of EFL by NESTs and NNESTs in Taiwan, and for the past years, I have continued studies on this topic. I was intrigued by this topic when I found that Hsinchu City had included NESTs as teaching resources in every elementary school in this city since 2001 when English education in Taiwan started at elementary schools. I was interested in how NESTs worked with local English teachers in Taiwanese elementary schools and what the impact of the NEST program would be on teachers and students alike.
3. We noticed, your study is supported by the Hsin-Chu City government in Taiwan. Would you please describe the prevailing situations of the collaborative teaching model for NESTs and NNESTs in Taiwan? For example, are there any differences in the use of this teaching model in public schools and private language institutions, which are not supported by governments?
The studies I conducted at elementary schools in Hsinchu City show that NESTs had to co-teach with either a Taiwanese teacher of English (TTE) or a homeroom teacher in whose classroom they had been assigned to teach. The practice of collaborative teaching of EFL by NESTs and local teachers (i.e., TTEs and Taiwanese homeroom teachers) falls into three categories: traditional team teaching, monitoring teacher (in Maroney’s (1995) classification) and a combination of these two. Teaching episodes commonly seen in the classes co-taught by NESTs and local teachers are categorized as follows:
Traditional team teaching: this type of collaborative teaching was uncommon and could be observed only in classes co-taught by a NEST and an experienced TTE. In a traditional team teaching class, both NEST and TTE were jointly responsible for instruction.
Monitoring teacher: this type of collaborative teaching usually occurred in classes taught by a NEST and a homeroom teacher whose English proficiency was limited. In a class of this kind, the NEST alone was in charge of the instruction, and the local teacher mainly monitored students’ behavior.
Combination of traditional team teaching and monitoring teacher: this type of collaborative teaching was most commonly seen and could be found in classes taught by a team of a NEST and a TTE or a NEST and a homeroom teacher. In a class as such, the NEST led the instruction for the students, while the local teacher worked as an assistant.
In Taiwan, the term “collaborative teaching” connected primary to English teaching by NESTs and TTEs at elementary schools where NESTs are to work with TTEs as an English team and to support the research and development of English teaching methods and materials. The practice of collaborative teaching by NESTs and local teachers in the school system in Taiwan is different from that at private language institutions in the way that at the private language schools most of NESTs and their Taiwanese co-teachers are not licensed teachers.
4. Based on your research, what are the major advantages and disadvantages of adopting this teaching model in an EFL setting like Taiwan?
Based on my studies, the major advantages of collaborative teaching by NESTs and local English teachers in Taiwan include: (1) students will receive English input from NESTs while TTEs provide linguistic assistance for low-achievers in the class, and (2) being taught by NESTs, students become less afraid of speaking English with foreigners, while TTEs help monitor students’ learning. Yet, the practice of collaborative teaching is not without its disadvantages. The major disadvantage is that if TTEs work with inexperienced NESTs, who do not have TEFL-related experience and background and are new in the NEST program, collaborative teaching will become tiring for TTEs and does not motivate student learning as it should.
5. What are the challenges that most local English teachers and NESTs in Taiwan face in a collaborative teaching environment? In what way have you prepared those teachers for their challenges?
The previous studies show that the challenges facing TTEs and NESTs in Taiwan are: (1) teachers have different perceptions of the formats of collaborative teaching, and (2) teachers are uncertain about the role played by each of the team teachers in the classroom. Additionally, a challenge specific for TTEs is: working with inexperienced or opinionated NESTs. As the turnover of NESTs is very high, many NESTs are not experienced in collaborative teaching of EFL. Working with inexperienced NESTs presents a big challenge for TTEs.
To help teachers tackle these challenges, the English Education Advisory Committee of cities or counties where the NEST program is implemented has provided TTEs and NESTs with pre- and in-service training sessions related to collaborative teaching of EFL.
6. As a scholar returned from overseas back in Taiwan, what advice would you give to local NNES teachers to better prepare themselves for being confident and professional teachers?
I think it is important for local English teachers to realize the advantages of being NNESTs and to continue putting efforts in professional development. Only when local English teachers think they are on an equal footing with NESTs in English teaching profession, do they find confidence in what they teach and consider themselves professional.
Luo, W-H. (2010). Collaborative Teaching of EFL by Native and Non-native English-speaking Teachers in Taiwan. In A. Mahboob (Ed.), The NNEST Lens: Non Native English Speakers in TESOL (pp. 263-284). Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
Luo, W-H (2010). An Inquiry into Teacher Knowledge for Collaborative EFL Teaching in Elementary Schools in Taiwan. Journal of National University of Tainan, v44(1), 2010, 89-109.
Luo, W-H. (2007). A Study of Native English-speaking Teacher Programs in Elementary Schools in Taiwan. Asia Pacific Education Review, v8 (2), 2007, 311-320.
Luo, W-H. (2007). A Collaborative Model for Teaching EFL by Native and Non-native English-speaking Teachers. Curriculum and Instruction Quarterly, v10(3), 2007, 187-202.
Luo, W-H. (2006). Collaboration between Native and Non-native English-Speaking Teachers: How does it work? The Journal of Asia TEFL, v3 (3), 2006, 41-58.
Maroney, S. (1995). Some notes on team teaching. Retrieved May 7, 2012, from http://www.wiu.edu/users/mfsam1/TeamTchg.html