Argumentative Writing for Foreign Language Teachers

Martha_CastanedaMartha Casteñada, Executive Vice-President, Miami University

In the current political landscape, teacher candidates, junior teachers, and experienced teachers must demonstrate knowledge, skills, and dispositions.  One can argue the validity of these measures, but the reality is that all constituents need to demonstrate and articulate growth in the classroom.  For teacher candidates, one of the indicators used is the edTPA, the Teacher Performance Assessment. The edTPA requires a particular type of writing, a genre of sorts.

Ohio Foreign Language teachers are following best practices in the classroom.  Evidence of state-of-the art practices can be found on the OFLA listserv where teachers discuss performance assessment, proficiency, thematic units, etc.  In the remainder of this piece I will discuss what teachers can learn from writing about the edTPA that can help highlight the wonderful work place in language classrooms every day.

According to the authors of the edTPA, the assessment is designed to assess whether or not teacher candidates are ready to teach.  If you examine the assessment closer, you also discover that the edTPA evaluates whether or not teacher candidates can align their lesson plans with best practices and whether or not teacher candidates can evaluate student growth.  Teacher candidates complete three tasks: planning for instruction and assessment, instructing and engaging students in learning, and assessing student learning.

The first task, planning for instruction requires candidates to explain how plans build on students’ communicative proficiency in a meaningful context, how plans support varied student learning needs, how plans use knowledge of students to justify instructional decisions, and how planned assessment support the development of communicative proficiency.  The second task, integrating and engaging students in learning, requires teacher candidates to submit a video that demonstrate a positive learning environment and demonstrate students are engaged in developing communicative proficiency.  Finally, the third task requires teacher candidates to analyze evidence of student learning, provide effective feedback to students, and use assessment to guide future instruction.  For each of these tasks, in addition to the lesson plans, video, and feedback measures submitted, teacher candidates must write an instructional commentary that discusses instructional decision.

When discussing each of the three tasks and the instructional decisions made, it behooves the teacher candidates to make a claim, provide evidence, and discuss instructional decisions.   This essentially constitutes argumentative writing.  Teacher candidates must make a claim about their teaching, identify and incorporate evidence to support the claims, and support the claim with current Second Language Acquisition (SLA) research.

Argumentative writing strategies can and should be employed by teachers in the new era of teacher evaluation.  The argumentative genre can help teachers talk about reflective practices in their classroom, can demonstrate how practice is informed by theory, and can present the case in a professional manner.

This entry was posted in OFLA News: Association, Vol. 52, No. 3 - Spring 2014. Bookmark the permalink.

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