Article notes – Four perspectives in teaching teachers – Gabriel Diaz Maggioli

‘Article Notes’ is a set of blog posts in which I write down my notes about articles that I read. These notes are not meant to be ‘academic’ or ‘formal’; rather, they are my ramblings and immediate thoughts in reaction to the content I read. I’ve written them up to help me remember the article, and to share my thoughts with those who are interested. I welcome your feedback and comments!

Summary and notes

In this article, Diaz Maggioli aims to present us with a simplified overview of the four ‘traditions’ within teacher education:

  • Look and learn: In effect, this is the traditional, transmission model of language education; Wallace (1991) would call it the craft model. This model, in effect, sees the trainer, or Teacher or Teachers (ToTs) (Diaz Maggioli, 2011), as the model “to be emulated” (Diaz Maggioli, 2011, p.5). Diaz Maggioli notes that most pre-service courses work from this model, and that many other short courses do also as teachers are required to “give proof they can faithfully reproduce the methods, techniques and procedures taught in the course, as well as handle the teaching materials associated with these” (Diaz Maggioli, 2011, p.5).
    • Positives: Easy to implement; focus is on practice more than theory, which might feel more relevant to teachers; helps get more teachers into classes quickly; can be good for introducing new techniques and procedures.
    • Negatives: Gives the impression that there is one way to do things; doesn’t take teachers’ lives, experiences, and perhaps more importantly, context into consideration; fails to “engage trainees in constructing dialogues with” theory (Diaz Maggioli, 2011, p.5).
  • Read and learn: This tradition is present in many graduate-level courses, and was “born mostly as a reaction to the “look and learn”” (Diaz Maggioli, 2011, p.5). Basically, rather than “looking”, ToTs are encouraging teachers to read and work from established theory. In effect, the ‘researchers’ and ‘pedagogues’ prescribe what works best, and teachers are expected to follow this advice/prescribed methodology. Much like “look and learn”, this tradition sees “knowledge about teaching as a fixed body” (Diaz Maggioli, 2011, p.5).
    • Positives: I really like what Diaz Maggioli (2011, p.6) says: “this tradition also has value in that, when used in the right way, it gives trainees access to success stories experienced by researchers and teachers”. This model has value as those that do carry out research often do so with the intention of bettering teaching, and as such teachers should ‘read and learn’. By reading and learning, teachers engage in practice in a more formal and, perhaps, informed manner.
    • Negatives: Theory AND practice are necessary, so only working from a ‘read and learn’ tradition clearly means that teachers are lacking that ‘practical’ element. Furthermore, as Diaz Maggioli (2011, p.5) writes, “this emphasis denies trainees the possibility of claiming ownership of the teaching process they engage in, since theory prescribes what is to be done in practice” – in effect, ‘read and learn’ creates a disconnect between research and teachers’ day-to-day lives. Kumaravadivelu touches on this quite a lot, also because by looking at ‘theory’, there is a misconception that there is only one way of doing things.
  • Think and learn: So here we move to the ‘cognitive’ tradition, heavily influenced by Schön and others (see Roberts for more info). Here we see a shift in the role of ToTs – they have “shifted from that of informant of theory and procedures to that of facilitator and model of professional thinking” (Diaz Maggioli, 2011, p.6). In this tradition, teachers are expected to research their own teaching and reflect on their practices. Diaz Maggioli touches on Schön’s concepts of Reflection-on-action and Reflection-in-action here, focusing on the continual creation of teacher knowledge. By engaging in and using these strategies, teachers can “realize the educational practice [they] espouse” (Diaz Maggioli, 2011, p.6).
    • Positives: This tradition focuses on the teachers themselves, and helps them engage with their own practice through action research and reflection. It aims to “help trainees THINK like professional teachers” (Diaz Maggioli, 2011, p.6), and draws on their experiences in this journey. Think and learn, then, sees teacher learning within a constructivist paradigm, with each teacher constructing their own ‘reality’, moving away from the transmission-focused, behaviourist model of teacher education.
    • Negatives: One of the biggest criticism Diaz Maggioli points to in this article focuses on reflection. He (2011, p.6) notes that “the think and learn perspective targets mostly the reflection carried out by individual teachers”, and that as this reflection as individual and rarely shared, something critical is missing – the ‘social’ element. I also remember both Roberts and Farrell touching on the ‘difficulties’ with reflection in teacher education, noting that certain models (especially from the 80’s and 90’s) lack ‘social’ elements.
  • Participate and learn: The last of the traditions Diaz Maggioli touches on this article is the participate and learn tradition/model. This is the tradition most teacher educators aims to implement (at least I hope this is the case) in context around the world – that of the socio-cultural/constructivist model. Diaz Maggioli (2011, p.6) writes that this perspective “sees learning as embedded in the practices of communities made up of old timers and newcomers” – basically, groups of teachers work together to construct knowledge, with learning “no longer viewed as the property of an individual’s mind, but as a collective endeavour of a community engaged in developing a specific form of practice” (Diaz Maggioli, 2011, p.6).
    • Positives: This model engages all teachers, and has the power to empower teachers through engaging with their own practice. Diaz Maggioli (2011, p.6) also notes that this models not only helps teachers learn skills, but also helps them in “reasoning teaching”. So, we try to get the best from the ‘think and learn’ tradition whilst combining the socio-cultural aspect – is this the perfect model?
    • Negatives: Diaz Maggioli (2011, p.6) notes that for this model to be effective, teachers need to have “the skills, knowledge, and dispositions which are characteristic of members” of the community in which they find themselves. This, then, means that we can’t simply take one teacher from one context and plonk them in another, thinking that they will assimilate the values, attitudes, beliefs, dispositions, etc. of the new community. In fact, someone with beliefs, etc. that go strongly against the community may find development in this model potentially face-threatening.
Diaz Maggioli, 2011, p.7

Diaz Maggioli (2011, p.7) finishes the article by saying that the participate and learn tradition “helps us incorporate all three preceding traditions into a unified whole”. I really like the metaphor he uses:

“A good metaphor to help us understand this is that of those Russian nesting dolls (called ‘matryoshki’). These have the same shape, although each one has a different size, but they fit inside one another in terms of design”.

Diaz Maggioli, 2011, p.7
Photo by cottonbro on

This was one of the ‘extra’ readings from the NILE MATD module, and it is quite a good overview on models of teacher education. Of course, there is more to each of them, but I feel that this is a good ‘cheat sheet’ for the models 🙂


Diaz Maggioli, G. (2011). Four perspectives in teaching teachers. The Teacher Trainer Journal, Volume 25/3.

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