Article notes – Teacher Beliefs and Teacher Training – Helen Basturkmen

‘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, Basturkmen looks at teacher beliefs and, more importantly, ways of ‘uncovering’ these. My tutor, Kate Gregson, gave this to us as extra reading, and I’m really glad she did because it is a brilliant article. Let’s get into all the goodness.

Basturkmen first starts by talking about how defining beliefs is not ‘easy’. After providing us with some definitions, she then goes on to focus on two types of beliefs: Espoused and Beliefs in use. The first of these are beliefs “which [teachers] can articulate and of which they are aware” (Basturkmen, 2007, p.8). The second are beliefs that “guide [teachers’] practice and of which they are not necessarily aware” (Basturkmen, 2007, p.8). To recap, espoused beliefs are those which we as teachers know we know, and we take as ‘fact’ from our perspective. Beliefs in use, on the other hand, are those underlying beliefs which we might be able to fully articulate, or know the reason why they are held.

Basturkmen also provides a list of reasons to focus on teacher beliefs in teacher training. Her suggestions are quite brief, so I’m just going to put in a screenshot from the article.

Basturkmen, 2007, p.8

All of these points are really, really important. I feel that as I’ve progressed as a teacher educator, I’ve shifted from the idea of ‘sharing my knowledge’ to making teachers aware of their values, attitudes, beliefs, etc. and then mediating ideas that might be applicable to them. I feel that as teachers’ beliefs are rarely heavily influenced by training courses or ‘transmitted’ information, it is best to guide teachers to new understandings and perspectives (often easier said than done). One of the most poignant points, however, is that of the idea of cognitive dissonance and/or congruence between stated beliefs and practice, which we turn to now.

In the last section of the article, Basturkmen talks about a project in which teachers beliefs were elicited and then compared to their practice. It was interesting to see Basturkmen’s comments regarding those teachers who were engaged in ‘hotspots’ (Woods, 1996, cited in Basturkmen, 2007, p.9). Hotspots are those moments in which “a teacher notices inconsistencies between different beliefs, or beliefs and practices” (Basturkmen, 2007, p.9), and personally I think these moments are some of the most powerful in terms of teacher development and teacher self-awareness.

But, I’ve skipped a large section of the article. Before the project, Basturkmen talks about ways in which teacher educators can elicit teacher beliefs:

  • Think-aloud techniques: Basically, teachers are asked to carry out a task and as they are doing it say what is in their minds/what they are thinking. I’m currently planning a mini-course on exploiting coursebooks, and I’m thinking to use something like this for focusing on teachers’ planning practices with coursebook pages.
  • Recall techniques: These techniques involve the teacher doing an activity (e.g., teaching a lesson), and then the trainer asking certain questions that focus on their thinking at certain moments in the activity (e.g., “what were you thinking at this moment”). This idea of stimulated recall is not new, but I feel it is underused in ‘training contexts’; that is, in research contexts, it is used a lot, but many trainers don’t use this as it takes time. In post-observation feedback sessions, I try to use stimulated recall with the video or summary of the teacher’s lesson, and it seems to get the discussion going quite well.
  • Cues to elicit spontaneous comments: If I understand correctly, these are like sentence completion tasks, but the idea is that you give this ‘prompt’ to the teacher, and then they don’t have any time to think about their answer. They have to answer immediately. The idea behind this is that given time to think, teachers may change their real beliefs/thoughts for idealised beliefs, etc.

Basturkmen does say that eliciting espoused beliefs can be quite straightforward – teachers are aware of these and so simply asking them is likely to get the response we need. However, beliefs in use are difficult, as teachers don’t really know what they beliefs, so they are susceptible to response bias; that is, they may give an answer they feel the researcher wants to hear. I really like what Basturkmen says regarding beliefs in use:

“Direct questions are not helpful here as teachers may simply report what they would wish to be the case. They may report what they think is desirable or the right answer. Simply asking teachers to be honest is not an effective strategy.”

Basturkmen, 2007, p.8

So, in effect, for dealing with/eliciting beliefs in use, we teacher educators need to be very careful how we go about it.

This article was short and to the point, but it delivered a lot of really useful information for teacher educators. Highly recommended!

For those of you who’d like to learn more about teacher beliefs, and the importance of working with them/eliciting them, I’d highly recommend Richard’s Beyond Training, Roberts’ Language Teacher Education, and Wright and Bolitho’s Trainer Development.


Basturkmen, H. (2007). Teacher Beliefs and Teacher Training. The Teacher Trainer Journal, Volume 21/1.

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