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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Exploratory Practice in the FL Teaching Methods Course: A Case Study of Three Graduate Student Instructors’ Experiences

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The foreign language (FL) teaching “methods” course—which serves an increasingly diverse population of graduate students with varied teaching and learning experiences, professional goals, and developmental trajectories (Allen & Negueruela-Azarola, 2010)— is often the only dedicated space for graduate student instructors (GSIs) to develop integrated theoretical and practical knowledge about collegiate language learning and teaching (Bourns & Melin, 2014). This article describes how the reflective teaching framework of exploratory practice (EP) (Allwright 2003, 2005) was used in a combined German/Spanish FL teaching methods course at a large state university in the U.S. in order to foster ongoing reflective teaching practice and provide learning opportunities for GSIs with different experiences and training. Through qualitative analysis of three learning teachers’ written reflections, the study shows how graduate students worked with EP to understand their own classrooms and teaching programs in personally-meaningful and developmentally-appropriate ways. Analysis of the GSIs’ reported learning outcomes and their ability to follow EP’s seven guiding principles in their journals reveals key differences between the novice and more experienced GSIs, suggesting it may take time for those new to teaching to understand and fully integrate the principles into their reflective practice. Implications for methods coursework are discussed.

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