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CATESOL Book Review: Enacting the Work of Language Instruction, High-Leverage Teaching Practices – Vol. 1 By Eileen W. Gusan & Richard Donato

Michelle Skowbo

Book Review - Enacting the Work of Language Instruction, High-Leverage Teaching Practices – Vol. 1

By Eileen W. Gusan & Richard Donato

Engacting the Word of Language Instruction: High-leverage Teaching Practices, Eileen W. Gusan & Richard Donato, ACTFL

By Chia-Ning Jenny Liu & Kara Mac Donald 

Enacting the Work of Language Instruction, High Leverage Teaching Practices consists of two volumes. Both books provide a set of practices that prepares teachers in training, new teachers, and veteran teachers to offer effective instruction, which have been used in numerous pre-service and in-service teacher training programs. The first book, Enacting the Work of Language Instruction, High-Leverage Teaching Practices – Volume 1, was published in 2017, and was followed by Volume 2 expanding the focus of practices in 2021 due the popularity of the first volume. Due to the relevance of both volumes for ELT and supporting learners, the November book review offers a review of Volume 1 and Volume 2 is reviewed in the December issue. 

The book opens with the first chapter (i.e. Introduction) dedicated to a reflection shared by Kate Paesani of CARLA, University of Minnesota, on designing a methodology course for a diverse population of pre-service and in-service teachers. She does this to lay the ground for the introduction of the book, as her course and the book focus on linking theoretical concepts to instructional practice through classroom observation and hands-on practice to connect teachers’ knowledge to what they do, praxis. She explains high-leverage teaching practices (HLTPs) and explains how the core practices are different from a method or approach, and their applicability for a range of instructional contexts and teachers with various levels of professional experience.

Before outlining the six HLTPs, the book begins with a Preliminary Chapter: Introducing High-Leverage Teaching Practices (HLTPs) explaining that the books are focused providing new teachers not theory or best practices, but rather a understanding how to analyze and unpack teaching practices into practice-based steps: instructional moves. In doing so, teachers are better able to select different instructional practices for learners’ needs at hand. The book reflects the field’s practice-based teacher education focus and describes from where HLPTs were developed in 2004 through the University of Michigan’s initiative for teacher education. The chapter outlines characteristics of HLTPs and HLPTs in foreign language instruction. The chapter closes with the structure of each chapter and features of the text.

Chapter 1: HLTP #1: Facilitating Target Language Comprehensibility begins by reviewing three areas of research in support of appropriate target language (TL) use, i) Input Hypothesis and comprehensible input, as well as the role of comprehensible output, ii) modified interaction in collaborative interaction and its impact on metalinguistics awareness, iii) role of language as a mediational tool in learning from sociocultural perspectives, as well as ACTFL’s world readiness standards on target language use. Next the chapter addresses considerations in using the TL. Does one explain use of the L1 to reduce cognitive demand on learners in a particular instance or maintain TL use and provide different means of support and/or explanation? As a means to analyze instruction and support TL use the guide, the Interaction and Target Language Comprehensibility (I-TLC) Tool is presented, outlining its principle parts and sub-categories to describe the instructional moves for providing communicative and comprehensible TL use to learners. Each of the principal categories, i) Creating Comprehensible Language, ii) Creating Contexts for Comprehension, iii) Creating Comprehensible Interactions are analyzed in detail for instructional practice.

Chapter 2: HLTP #2: Building a Classroom Discourse Community focus is on how to generate effective opportunities for spoken communication in the classroom through the creation of an active discourse community. As part of this, there are two essential practices to ensure that there is significant interaction and information sharing, which are student-teacher and student-student communication. With the practice defined, the chapter moves to the research surrounding classroom discourse patterns and the gaps in teacher-student and student-student communication. From this, the authors give recommendations on how to develop an effective interpersonal and presentational communication. Next, analysis of teacher-student communication is examined, and five interconnected steps are described, and a similar discussion is offered for the analysis of student-student communication (i.e. communicative and group interaction) and instructional steps.

With spoken communication addressed, the next topic addresses guiding learners through genuine TL input (e.g. authentic written and oral texts) in Chapter 3: HLTP #3: Guiding Learners to Interpret and Discuss Authentic Texts. Literature and ACTFL’s world readiness standards on interpreting authentic texts and function of social communication as part of negotiating meaning and creating knowledge are presented to frame this HLTP. Guidance on selecting texts and developing discussion around it are provided, followed by mechanisms to help learners interpret and engage with such text/s are discussed. The authors use examples from a particular TL published work to model how to deconstruct a text from three angles: i) selection of an authentic text, ii) designing the order of interpretive activities, iii) delivering the activities with learners. 

As a logical next step, Chapter 4: HLTP #4: Focusing on Form in a Dialogic Context Through PACE starts with the widely debated aspect of language teaching, which is focusing on grammatical structure teaching, so called “ focus on form” teaching. It further provides the literature that supports such practice and identifies two instructional methods that commonly occur in language classrooms: deductive instruction and inductive instruction. The chapter then shifts to discuss the shortcomings of these two approaches and proposes to focus on teaching linguistic forms through dialogue inquiry in meaningful contexts. A suggested approach, the PACE approach was discussed, and it refers to Presentation, Attention, Co-Construction and Extension. The PACE approach is selected because it maximizes teachers and students’ usage of the target language and fosters a discourse community that encourages interactive and meaningful dialogue that helps learners to gain the insights about the relationship of the forms, meanings, and applications. The chapter later shares the details of the deconstruction of the practice and provides suggestions when applying it to language classrooms. The chapter concludes with the instructional goals and challenges of the PACE approach. It is suggested that through meaningful dialogue contexts that help students to analyze and develop all modes of communication, not as isolated and separated pieces, between language and culture that better achieve the communicative goals and purposes. 

Chapter 5: HLTP #5: Focusing on Cultural Products, Practices, Perspectives in a Dialogic Context provides the framework that supports the cultural goal that learners should engage in target language-based explanations of cultural products and practices and examine the relationship of cultural perspectives of the target language. The chapter begins with the different ideas of cultural products (e.g., foods, currency, texts); cultural practice (e.g., greeting, holiday celebrations, sports); and deeper meanings of culture as a system of shared values and beliefs/cultural perspectives. Then it moves to research and practice that addresses conceptualizing culture and proposes the question whether language and culture are really connected in instruction. It is often said that language and culture cannot be separated from each other, yet language and culture instruction is often conducted as separated instructional tasks. The author then shares the model that integrates cultural and language instruction through images that echo the learning goals outlined by Byram (1997, 2008) and Schultz (2007). The acronym IMAGE represents 4 steps of the model, including Images and Making observations, Analyzing additional information, Generating hypothesis about cultural perspectives, and Exploring perspectives and reflecting further. Detailed explanation of each step and examples are provided and allow readers to have a deeper understanding of how to apply them into their own language classrooms. The chapter concludes with the authors suggesting that the major goal of language instruction is transcultural competence, and learners are taught to “comprehend speakers of the target language as member of foreign societies, and to grasp themselves as Americans-that is, as members of a society that is also foreign to others” (MLA, 2007, p4). Lastly, it is important to provide students with culturally relevant pedagogy and culturally responsive teaching to help learners reflect on cultural diversity that exists in classrooms and beyond. 

Chapter 6: HLTP #6: Providing Oral Corrective Feedback to Improve Learner Performance focuses on teachers’ oral corrective feedback. It draws from research that learners tend to receive feedback as opposed to having errors overlooked. Two critical points were addressed prior to providing error corrections, which suggests errors are a natural part of language acquisition and prove that language development is taking place. In that vein, the teacher’s approach should be prioritizing meaning-making and communicative interaction rather than focusing on correcting every error. Further, the author summarizes research and theory that support corrective feedback and several corrective feedback types are addressed, such as explicit correction, recasts, clarification request, metalinguistic feedback, elicitation, and repetition. Some are explicit while some tend to be implicit. The chapter then moves to share considerations about providing corrective feedback, including discussing the role of feedback with the learners, when to provide corrective feedback, how to use one practice over another, and when prompts or reformulations would be used in providing corrective feedback. The chapter ends with deconstructing the practice and provides scenarios for teachers to practice in making decisions when and how to provide corrective feedback in the classroom. Rubrics to assess the practice and the instructional goals and challenges are shared when putting the practice into a large context. 

Chapter 7: Putting HLTPs into Practice: A Cycle of Enactment is the final chapter of the book and provides an instructional model that can be implemented in a cyclical fashion that teachers can use to enact the high-leverage teaching practice presented in previous chapters. The cycle of enactment includes six phases of instruction, including: deconstruction, observation and analysis, planning, rehearsal and coaching, enactment, and assessment. The chapter gives a detailed description of each phase and recognizes that the cycle is dynamic and interactive so teachers can go back and forth between phases. The chapter then shifts to the challenges of implementation of the enactment cycle in real classrooms. It then concludes with final thoughts about implementing high-leverage teaching practice in the classrooms and suggests practice-based teaching has much potential in the language teaching field in the future. 

Having an understanding of the practice-based focus of this first volume on highly relevant realms of FL instruction (e.g. ESL), the demand for a second volume is understandable. Ensure you check the CATESOL Blog, Book Review, for Volume 2, which  addresses additional skills and areas regarding HLTPs.