An in-depth evaluation of the initial training of foreign language middle-school teachers in Portugal.
This study is the first of its kind undertaken in Colleges of Education in Portugal and
has relied heavily on research evidence obtained from Europe, especially Great Britain,
the United States and Canada.
Until the mid 80s, primary school teachers were trained in Portugal in non-higher
education schools - Escolas do Magisterio Primärio. Middle-school teachers were
prepared only in Universities.
In 1985/86 Colleges of Education were formed and started training Professores do
Ensino Bdsico (primary and middle-school teachers) by means of curricula which were
specified by Government for both primary and middle-school teachers during the first
The policy designed by the Ministry of Education, mainly through the Portaria No
352/86, is not considered to be the most appropriate means of contributing to the
improvement of Portuguese teacher education. This is particularly true with regards to
foreign language middle-school teacher education, since this subject was made
subsidiary to core primary school teacher preparation.
The present study analyses some of the effects of the policies created by the national
educational authorities on FL middle-school teacher training in Colleges. It also
examines the effects produced by the policies, structures and processes defined and implemented by some of these institutions in order to train middle-school language
teachers. To attain this aim, the methodology for the study focused mainly on
information obtained from:
(1) one questionnaire administered to all the 4th year FL student teachers
(157 students)a ttending the Portuguese/Frencha nd Portuguese/English
courses in the public Colleges of Education in the year of 1991/92.
This questionnaire served as the starting point from which all the
relevant information gathered in the experimental and control group
Colleges was contrasted and validated;
(2) the observation of 64 lessons conducted by 16 experimental and control
group College students in middle-schools within the framework of their
practicum (from January through June 1992);
(3) 47 interviews representative of the views expressed by College
teachers, co-operating teachers and student teachers working in these
In order to better contrast the data obtained from the experimental and control group
Colleges, an experimental programme was designed by the researcher, the Programme
Connections. This was implemented in two Colleges throughout the whole school
year (1991/92). The Programme provided the teachers and the students in the
experimental group Colleges with the conditions which enabled comparisons to be
made with conventional programmes. Thus, part of the empirical research focuses on
a comparison between these students trained through the Experimental Programme
Connections and those who were not. The pros and cons of the two methods are then
analysed accordingly and discussed in the light of recent findings from the literature. The findings indicate that the existing conventional programmes of training for modern
language teachers needs to be changed in a number of ways. Thus, this study restates
some of the current principles and practices underlying FL middle-school initial teacher
training policies. As a result it is hoped that future teachers will:
(1) reveal a better scientific and methodological preparation from their ITT
(2) begin their profession in a more confident manner;
(3) help develop schools by acquiring a more comprehensive understanding
of how these institutions really function.
The study also calls attention to the need for more appropriate and better continuing