February 2017
ARTICLES
NEST TRAINERS TRAINING NNESTS: DO WE REALLY NEED THEM?
Gökhan Öztürk, Afyon Kocatepe University, Afyonkarahisar, Turkey

Language teacher education and training has been central to ensuring the quality of language teaching and learning (Wright, 2010). With the growing recognition of English as an international language, this centrality of teacher training has been one of the primary concerns of the English language teaching discipline. For the last two decades, the field has made big efforts in both theoretical and practical levels to respond to this issue, and these efforts have led to the emergence of a relatively independent literature; second language teacher education (SLTE).

In SLTE, research has focused on how teachers learn to teach with a special emphasis on the following three stages. The first stage is the apprenticeship of observation, which states that before starting a teacher education program prospective teachers have already constructed certain conceptualizations on how to teach by observing their past teachers (Borg, 2006). The second stage is the preservice education, which is regarded as the core of a teacher's learning process. The final stage is the in-service teacher education in which teachers engage in several practices such as reflective teaching, action research, and trainings that contribute to their professional development.

In the last few years, Turkey, an English as a foreign language (EFL) context, has seen an increased interest in the third stage: in-service teacher education. Nationwide conferences, colloquia, and seminars in which Turkish nonnative-English-speaking teachers (NNESTs) share their research and teaching experiences are being organized by the groups and organizations that are specifically formed to promote such events. Also, training sessions, which are meant to improve specific teaching skills and are organized in more compact ways at the institutional level, are usually given by native-English-speaking teacher trainers (NESTTs) who are invited by publishing companies. As an experienced NNEST and a novice academician, I conducted a study a few months ago focusing on the perceptions of Turkish EFL instructors working at universities regarding such trainings; some of the findings of this study made me question the competency of NESTTs in Turkey and the relevance of trainings provided by them.

The study was a qualitative one carried out through semistructured interviews, and the participants were asked to elaborate on their experiences and opinions of these NESTTs. Some of the quotations shared below, which are from different participants for different trainers, were quite striking and expressed complete dissatisfaction with the competency of the NESTTs:

“It was writing [sic] on his CV that he was a graduate of [a] marketing department, and now working as a teacher trainer. For God’s sake, no one knows how he became a teacher trainer. I am sure it is because he is a native speaker….The only thing I definitely know is that a person whose major is marketing can teach me nothing about classroom management.”

“I can understand that he has worked in South or East Asia for years because he is a native speaker. Being a native speaker might be attractive in such places but not in Turkey, at least for me. Having worked in all these places as a teacher does not make him a trainer here because the context is totally different….What he tried to teach us was too superficial.”

More important, there were a lot of similar statements in the interview data. The existence of such dissatisfaction made me think about the notion of NESTTs training NNESTs in Turkey, and I think these participants are right. In all my experiences with these NESTTs in plenary speeches, trainings, or short talks, the situation was almost always the same. They come to the stage with a smiling face, utter a few Turkish words to look sympathetic, and start with some funny pictures on their slide show, but when it comes to the content of their speech, there is almost nothing meaningful. There is usually nothing new or innovative in their slides. It might be that their previous speeches were relevant or enlightening in other contexts, but what they present to us never goes beyond teaching the things that we already know. When I presented these findings in a recent conference in Turkey, I noticed that most of the practitioners were aware of this fact. However, NESTTs are highly preferable among decision and policy makers in Turkey. For example, a recent report outlining the state of English in the Turkish higher education system has been published by the British Council upon the demand of the Turkish Higher Education Council; interestingly, the supervisor of the project was a NESTT. As an EFL teacher, I should ask this question: Don’t we have a Turkish NNEST trainer or academician who is more familiar with our own context and could have supervised this project?

I would like to finish this brief report with my personal thoughts, which, I believe, will create some awareness among NNEST practitioners who might share the same ideas. In one of his recent articles, Cook (2016) uses an ironic title, “Where is the native speaker now?”, and highlights how the tendency toward native speakerism and native-speaker norms fell down through the years. Accordingly, we no longer see NESTs much in Turkey though they were quite popular in the 80s or 90s. Along with the NESTs, the quality and relevance of the books based on native-speaker norms are also being questioned. In other words, what I am trying to say is that “English: The Industry” (Mahboob, 2011) has lost its power in two important markets and is currently trying to open new ones, one of which is NESTTs for NNESTs. No matter what their major is, NESTTs are seen or presented as competent individuals to train NNESTs in Turkey; being trained by them is regarded as prestigious and such trainings are regarded as potential areas to invest in—merely because of their native language. However, I would like to point out that the competence of these trainers and the relevance of their training sessions should be questioned, and the notion of NESTTs as ideal trainers should not be exaggerated. Otherwise, in-service teacher training in Turkey turns out to be only a market for this industry, commercialization of English language teaching, and unfortunately we will not be able to educate our teachers as much as we expect.

References

Borg, S. (2006). Teacher cognition and language education. London, England: Continuum.

Cook, V. (2016). Where is the native speaker teacher now? TESOL Quarterly, 50, 186–189.

Mahboob, A. (2011). English: The industry. Journal of Postcolonial Cultures and Societies, 2(4), 46–61.

Wright, T. (2010). Second language teacher education: Review of recent research on practice. Language Teaching, 43, 259–296.


Gökhan Öztürk, PhD, has been teaching English for about 10 years and is currently working as an instructor at Afyon Kocatepe University, Turkey. His research interests are language teacher cognition, in-service teacher training, and novice teacher experience.