Book: Language Learning and Teacher Education

I’ve been reading recently Hawkins, M.R. (Ed) Language Learning and Teacher Education: A Sociocultural Approach. It has a number of articles influenced by SFL and also similar approaches focusing learner identity within the classroom and, in particular, a Vygotskian perspective to classroom practice. The book moves through five parts, giving a very good account of a shift from a traditional approach to ESL focusing on individual learners in isolation to one in which learning is “embedded in and shaped by situated social interactions” (p. 3).

Parts 1 & 2 present a theoretical overview of this concept of learners engaging in the construction of what Gee describes as “socially-situated identities” (p. 17), not through ‘learning English’ but through participation in “Discourse” (p. 24) which is ways of enacting and recognizing social identity and activity through language. Parts 3 & 4 give a description of the pedagogical applications of this approach for the classroom in various contexts, mainly in Australian and US ESL programmes, while Part 5 discusses the implications of a sociocultural approach for language teacher education.

Overall, the book gives a very informative and stimulating introduction to sociocultural approaches to language teaching. I especially liked the point-by-point comparison of this to traditional Second Language Acquisition. I think the best thing about the book, however, is the inclusion of several learner stories throughout that really bring the real-world implications of teaching and learning a second language to life.