Creative Education
2013. Vol.4, No.12, 752-756
Published Online December 2013 in SciRes (
Open Access
Looking Back at the New Knowledge Bases of EFL Teacher
Hongmei Zhu
College of International Studies, Southwest University, Chongqing, China
Email: zhm66676@
Received October 10th, 2013; revised November 10th, 2013; accepted November 17th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Hongmei Zhu. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attri-
bution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the
original work is properly cited. In accordance of the Creative Commons Attribution License all Copyrights ©
2013 are reserved for SCIRP and the owner of the intellectual property Hongmei Zhu. All Copyright © 2013 are
guarded by law and by SCIRP as a guardian.
This article discusses the trend of reconceptualizing EFL teachers’ knowledge base to avoid the separa-
tion between theory and practice, which is in particular reflected on the establishment of some new EFL
teachers’ knowledge domains. However, the horizontal categorizing approaches of teachers’ knowledge
establish another gap between theory and practice and the hierarchical approach formulates so much ab-
stract knowledge for teachers. The construct of knowledge of EFL classroom interaction is a pilot inquiry
to create an interface between “theory knowledge” and “practice knowledge” from the teachers’ needs. In
the end of the article, a rough knowledge framework is constructed for EFL classroom interaction on
teachers’ needs.
Keywords: EFL Teachers’ Knowledge Base; Knowledge Domains; the Knowledge of EFL Classroom
In recent years, a great debate continued in language teacher
education across millennium (Jourdenais, 2009: p. 650). The
fuse is the argument on the role of SLA (second language ac-
quisition). One party insists that the role of applied linguistics
and SLA is ancillary and “should not be the primary subject of
language teacher education (Freeman, 1989)”. The other party
holds the contrary opinion. In the end, the two parties concede
respectively. Freeman (2004) accepted SLA or knowledge of
language was still in an important position in language teacher
education. Tarone & Allwright (2005: p. 19), representatives of
the opponents, admitted that social constructivist and individu-
alist were important in language teacher education. In their
arguments, “the noninterface fallacy (Tarone & Allwright, 2005:
p. 12)” is a hot topic. This fallacy is to do “way with academic
content courses” and to make “the teacher learning situation
identical to the target teaching situation” (Tarone & Allwright,
2005: p. 12). On this fallacy, it is easy to find out the debate
originates from the idea which occupy the first position in lan-
guage teacher education, academic knowledge or personal prac-
tical knowledge. This article aims to analyze these trends of
reconceptualizing EFL teachers’ knowledge bases under this
debate circumstance, to summarize the merits and shortcomings
of various categorizing approaches of EFL teachers’ knowledge
bases and to propose a new construct of the knowledge of EFL
classroom interaction.
The Reasons for Reconceptualizing EFL
Teachers’ Knowledge Base
As professional reform occurred, an advocacy was popular
for establishing a new and systematic knowledge base in tea-
cher education. It is believed that there exists “a codified and
codifiable aggregation of knowledge, skill, understanding, and
technology, of ethics and disposition, of collective responsibil-
ity-as well as a means for representing and communicating it
(Shulman, 1987)” in teaching. This trend also influences EFL
teacher education. In EFL teacher education, it is busy criticiz-
ing the traditional “lagged behind” teaching models and recon-
ceptualizing “advanced” one. Reconceptualizing teachers’ knowl-
edge base is included in this movement because it is the base of
curriculum design and the central act of the reform in EFL
teacher education. Simply put, there are at least three reasons to
reconceptualize EFL teachers’ knowledge base.
The need of professional movement. In fact, at the end of the
nineteen century, teaching, as a major, was listed on college
curriculum. In the 1940s and 1950s, American Normal Univer-
sities had all transited to Teacher College completely. Although
teaching, as a major, had got a legitimate position in colleges
and universities, there are many critiques on its quality (Liu
Jing, 2009: p. 181). In this case, several reports are presented to
improve teaching as a profession and the New Reform on
teacher education was proceeding rapidly (Shulman, 1987).
Various approaches were proposed for promoting teaching pro-
fessional, such as reflection-in-action (Schon, 1987). Profes-
sionalizing of teaching is based on a more fundamental premise
that a standard of teacher education must be raised and articu-
lated clearly in terms of the requirement of professional move-
ment. In other words, it is necessary to establish some new
knowledge bases for teaching.
The need of bridging the big gap between theory and practice.
This gap handicaps the efficiency of applying research findings
Open Access 753
to EFL teaching practice, which may result in a great waste. For
example, applied linguistics is a fundamental source for EFL
teaching at the beginning (Richards, 2011: p. 20). Nevertheless,
the academic knowledge of linguistics are far away from teach-
ing after teaching methods became unpopular, which leads to
the great debate (Jourdenais, 2009: p. 650) we just mentioned.
It is necessary to bridge theory and practice in teacher educa-
tion and the first step is to undertake a new knowledge base.
The need of education globalization. In the report of Trans-
forming Teacher Education, it is clear to point out “all systems
of teacher preparation have to rethink their core assumptions
and processes in the new global context (Kumaravadively, 2011:
p. 2)”. In education globalization, the traditional ways of tea-
cher education is criticized because the teachers are viewed as a
blank vessel (Freeman & Johnson, 1998), in which what tea-
cher education do is to help teachers “comprehend and eventu-
ally master the content knowledge (Kumaravadivelu, 2011: p.
8). In global context, however, it is expected that teachers “to
play the role of reflective practitioner, who deeply think about
the principles, practices, practices and processes of classroom
instruction and bring to their task a considerable degree of crea-
tivity, artistry, and context sensitivity (Kumaravadivelu, 2011:
p. 9)”. Apparently, there are completely different viewpoints on
the teachers’ status in education globalization from that in tra-
ditional teacher education. Reconceptualizing EFL teachers’ knowl-
edge base is of urgency.
Reconceptualizing EFL Teachers’ Knowledge
Base, Especially the Domains of the Knowledge
As we noticed, it is urgent to reconceptualize EFL knowl-
edge base. The new knowledge base should mention the teach-
ers, their practice and the interface between theory and practice.
Freeman & Johnson (1998) openly declared to reconceptualize
the knowledge base of language teacher education on which
there are four points should be taken into account for the new
knowledge bases of language teacher education: the activity of
teaching itself, the teacher, the contexts, the pedagogy. Con-
cerned about these points, most of scholars try to keep balance
and put forward multifarious knowledge domains. To conclude,
there are three categories according to different categorizing
forms: horizontal categorizing method; hierarchical categoriz-
ing method; combining the two methods. Table 1 presents
some typical examples of horizontal categorizing method.
From the table, many domains are included in the researches
on EFL teachers’ knowledge base. In these reconceptualization
researches, a new curriculum often follows (e.g. Richards, 1998,
2011). Gong Yafu (in press) even proposes his new knowledge
base as a standard for being qualified teacher. However, a puz-
zle easily emerged that theory and practice are in independent
positions even if coining PCK. Gong Yafu lists it as one im-
portant part of teachers’ knowledge, PCK is coined for combing
theory and practice, but as Shulman (1987) said it was “the
blending of content and pedagogue into an understanding of
how particular topics, problems, or issues are organized, repre-
sented, and adapted to the diverse interest and abilities of
learners, and presented for instruction (Shulman, 1987)”. What
we can infer is that PCK is an integrated body of knowledge
and all the knowledge domains can not separate. However, we
don’t know how these knowledge issues blend. Thus, these
knowledge domain just make a claim to combine the theory and
Table 1.
EFL teachers’ knowledge domains horizontally.
Researcher Categories of TEFL teachers’ knowledge base Method
Richards (1998: pp. 8-12)
Theories of teaching
Teaching skills
Communicational skill
Subject ma tt er knowledge
Personal reasoning
Decision making
Contextual kn owledge
Literature analysis
Tsui (2003: pp. 250-251)
Knowledge of English
Language p edagogical knowledge
Language learning knowledge
Knowledge of managing learning
Other curricul um knowledge
Knowledge a bout the learner
Empirical study
(1999, cited from Zhu Xiaoyan, 2004: p. 61)
TLA (Teacher language awareness)
Subject matter cognition
Knowledge of le arners
Knowledge of curriculum
Knowledge of pedagogy
Knowledge of c ontext
Literature analysis and empirical study
Gong Yafu (in press)
Subject ma tt er knowledge
Pedagogical knowledg e
Pedagogical content kno wledge
Knowledge of the learners and their characteristics
Knowledge of e ducational contexts
Knowledge of t he curriculum and educational ends
Empirical study
Han Gang (2011)
Pedagogic al knowledge
Theoretical knowledge
Practical know ledge
Educational k nowledge
Empirical study
Open Access
practice. Additionally, the interrelationship among these do-
mains has not attracted too much attention in Table 1. For ex-
ample, theoretical knowledge, theories of teaching or content
knowledge are still set apart from practical knowledge. Practi-
cal knowledge is described less distinctly on the relation to the
theoretical knowledge. Just as Richard (2011: p. 16) said “they
are not in any hierarchical relationship and there is some over-
lap among them”. It is apparent that what most scholars do is to
clarify what kind of knowledge EFL teachers may have, such as
Gong Yafu, etc. If these knowledge items are in horizontal po-
sition, it is worthy noticing how the interface between theory
and practice builds up.
In this case, hierarchical categorizing method is proposed,
which binds theory and practice together. Zhang Gang (2009: p.
162) points out a concentri circle form to describe EFL knowl-
edge base. Emancipating, practical and technical levels are in-
troduced as Figure 1.
This figure presents EFL teachers’ knowledge in a multilayer
circle. The central one is technical knowledge, the middle is
practical knowledge and the outside is emancipatory. In teach-
ing act, teachers need applying some, even all of them. Al-
though this figure combines theory and practice together
closely, it hasn’t been explained in detail and is uneasy to oper-
ate to build up personal theories. Besides, there are other re-
searches based on this categorizing method. For instance, Wang
Rong & Han Gang (2005) point out that it is important to main-
tain harmonious situation of technical knowledge and practical
knowledge. Particularly, life knowledge, critical knowledge and
practical knowledge should work in harmonious. However,
these categories are extremely abstract and is not easy for tea-
chers to experience and digest.
Luckily, Tsui (2003) combines the two methods. Although
she categorizes EFL teachers’ knowledge into separate items,
she points out “the delineation of teacher knowledge as con-
sisting of separate domains is more analytical than real (Tsui,
2003: p. 247)” and concludes three features of relations among
these knowledge issues in teaching act after an empirical study
of four EFL teachers, that is, the integration of knowledge, in
relation with specific context and situated possibility, “theoriz-
ing” (theorizing practical knowledge) and “practicalizing”
(practicalizing theoretical knowledge) (Tsui, 2003: pp. 246-257).
In other words, she makes a detailed categories and a clear expla-
nation on the interplay of these new domains. Particularly, the
Figure 1.
EFL teachers’ knowledge base (Zhang, 2009: p. 162).
third feature describes the relations between theory and practice
directly and explicitly. Moreover, she thinks that “the transfor-
mation of formal knowledge to personal practical knowledge
through personal interpretation of formal knowledge in the
teachers’ own specific contexts of work (Tsui, 2003: p. 265)”
and “making explicit the tacit knowledge (Tsui, 2003: p. 265)”
are two critical differences between expert teachers and nonex-
pert teachers.
To sum, the purpose of reconceptualizing EFL teachers’
knowledge is to bridge teaching theory and practice, to elevate
EFL teachers’ status and finally to establish EFL teaching pro-
fession in society. Many scholars engaged in it and illustrated
different knowledge domains from various perspectives. New
EFL teachers’ knowledge bases are built up on three categoriz-
ing approaches: horizontal approach; hierarchical approach;
combing both. The first two approaches have good points and
bad points as well. The last approach is a try to absorb their
good points.
EFL teacher education takes advantage of these new knowl-
edge bases greatly, on which many curriculum design expli-
cated that teaching practice should be emphasized deeply and
teachers are encouraged to reflect their experience, beliefs and
teaching decision in order to “theorization” or “practicaliza-
tion”. For example, the Suggestions on Promoting Teacher
Education Curriculum Reform (Education Ministry, 2011) was
enacted in China, in which pre-service teachers are required to
engage in teaching practicum of at least 18 weeks during the
period of studying in their normal universities. Nevertheless,
these knowledge bases are not fittable for in-service teachers.
Surely, from pre-service teachers, researches’ and education
policymakers’ perspectives, these domains are rich, systemati-
cal and sophisticated. EFL in-service teachers, however, have
not much time to consider various knowledge domains. What
they mostly mention is not a variety of knowledge domains, but
their classroom teaching (Liu & Meng, 2009). If a large body of
EFL teachers can not enjoy the benefits from it, the efficiency
should be suspected of the teacher education reform and the
reconceptualizing act of EFL knowledge base. After all, it is the
teacher who determines whether the reform succeeds or not.
Therefore, it is suggested to reconceptualize EFL knowledge
base from the teachers’ need. Between theory and practice, it is
the teacher who conceptualizes and experiences their relevance
(Graves, 2009: p. 120). Only based on their needs are they sti-
mulated to frame or reframe the knowledge base at best.
Constructing new knowledge base should understand schools
and schooling as the social and cultural context for teaching
learning (Freeman & Johnson, 2005: p. 28). Take teacher edu-
cation in China as example. On three quantitative researches on
EFL in-service teachers’ reflection objectives in China, most
teachers focus on classroom teaching and attach attention to
students’ behavior (Meng, 2011; Liu & Meng, 2009; Xu & Li,
2012). Some studies on pre-service teachers also get the similar
findings. For example, Wang Rong (2012) found out EFL tea-
chers’ talk and classroom interaction appear frequently in pre-
service teachers’ reflection reports. Since EFL teachers con-
cerned about classroom teaching, it is necessary to construct
knowledge of classroom interaction because interaction is the
fundamental fact of L2 classroom (Allwright, 1984). Besides,
in EFL classroom, interaction carries two roles: the object of
Open Access 755
teaching and the carrier of teaching, while in other subject
classroom it just carries the role of the latter. Classroom inter-
action is hence more important than that in other subject lessons.
Possessing Classroom Interactional Competence (Walsh, 2006:
p. 130) becomes one essential language competence for a TEFL
teacher. One point should be noticed that it refers to verbal
interaction specially. Due to the importance of interaction in
classroom teaching and EFL teachers’ needs, it is helpful to
construct the knowledge of classroom interaction.
With reference to the merits and shortcoming of the above-
mentioned knowledge bases, the knowledge of EFL classroom
interaction should represent the close connection between the-
ory and practice, the human agency of the teacher and explicit
knowledge domains. The concentral circle form can be bor-
rowed because a circle entailing different knowledge is an inte-
grated body. Two dimensions are listed clearly for teachers to
understand and digest. Here presents a figure of the knowledge
of EFL classroom interaction.
As shown in Figure 2, there are two dimensions: the class-
room management of teaching and learning; the enactment of
curriculum. They represent two aspects of PCK proposed by
Tsui (2003: pp. 65-66). In essence, the knowledge of EFL
classroom interaction is a kind of pedagogical content knowl-
edge. It involves public knowledge and practical knowledge as
well. In teaching, the teacher will use both of them. Teaching,
however, should base on a specific curriculum and the teacher
should manage the classroom. Curriculum represents the sub-
ject discipline aim. For example, New National curriculum
standards for senior English (2012) formulates that the students
must acquire language knowledge, language skills, learning
strategies, culture awareness and good attitudes in English tea-
ching in China. All the teaching materials and practice should
proceed under the guidance of the curriculum, so does class-
room interaction. To manage teaching and learning is to create
or sustain “an orderly environment so students can engage in
meaningful academic learning, it also aims to enhance students’
social and moral growth (Evertson & Weinstain, 2006: p. 4; as
cited in Kumaravadivelu, 2011: p. 29)”. Nevertheless, there are
very few teacher education programs that “offer well-organized,
hands-on experience in management strategies (Kumaravadi-
velu, 2011: p. 31)”. In fact, interaction can reflect and realize
the management of teaching and learning in classroom. Ku-
maravadivelu (2011: p. 30) points out two important aspects of
the management of learning: topic management and talk man-
agement. In verbal interaction, the teacher should care about
topic and talk as well. Topic relates to the content of classroom
talk and talk is linked to the topic closely. For example, IRF
(initiate-response-feedback) is often found in classroom and
every move proceeds around the initiating topic. In a word, the
knowledge of EFL classroom interaction should mention the
curriculum and the management of learning, that is, in accor-
dance with the curriculum requirement, manage the topic and
In conclusion, it is necessary to reconceptualize EFL teach-
ers’ knowledge base for professional development. The three
categorizing methods have good points and bad points as well.
Owing to the individual characteristic of the act of teaching,
reconceptualization is suggested to start from the teachers’
needs, especially for in-service teachers. Based on three large-
Figure 2.
The dimensions o f the knowledge of EFL classroom inter action .
scale quantitative investigation on in-service teachers’ reflec-
tion objectives in China, classroom teaching is focused mostly.
Consequently, the teacher can try to conceptualize their knowl-
edge from reflecting classroom teaching. What’s more, interac-
tion is the fundamental fact of L2 classroom, so the teacher can
start from establishing their knowledge of EFL classroom in-
teraction. Eventually, a pilot and rough framework is estab-
lished by hierarchal categorizing method for the knowledge of
EFL classroom interaction. It is composed of the management
of teaching and learning dimension and the enactment of the
curriculum dimension. Its nature is practical content knowledge,
which is a blending of technical knowledge and practical knowl-
The current study coins the knowledge of EFL classroom in-
teraction based on the overview of new knowledge bases of
EFL teacher education. It is without doubt that the creation of a
new term in social science needs more extensive and intensive
research supports. The future researches on the knowledge of
EFL classroom interaction can explore other perspectives on
the reasons why it is important and worthy of being emphasized
in EFL teachers’ knowledge base.
Allwright, R. (1984). The importance of interaction in classroom lan-
guage learning. Applied Linguistics, 5, 156-171.
Andrews, S. (1999). Teacher language awareness. Cambridge: Cam-
bridge Press.
Education Ministry (2011). The suggestions on promoting teacher edu-
cation curriculum reform.
Freeman, D. (1989). Teacher training, development, and decision-mak-
ing: A model of teaching and related strategies in language teacher
education. TESOL Quarterly, 28, 27-104.
Freeman, D. (2004). Comments on Robert Yates and Dennis
Muchisky’s “on reconceptualizing teacher education. Readers Re-
act...Common misconceptions about the quiet revolution. TESOL
Quarterly, 38, 119-127.
Freeman, D., & Johnson, K. E. (2005). Response to Tarone and All-
wright. In D. J. Tedick (Ed.), Second language teacher education:
Open Access
International perspectives (pp. 25-32). London: Lawrence Erlbaum
Freeman, D., & Johnson, K. E.(1998). Reconceptualizing the knowl-
edge-base of language teacher education. TESOL Quarterly, 32, 397-
Gong, Yafu. STEPSS—Standards for teachers of english in primary &
secondary schools.
Graves, K. (2009). The curriculum of second language teacher educa-
tion. In A. Burns, & J. C. Richards (Eds.), The Cambridge guide to
second language teacher education. Cambridge: Cambridge Univer-
sity Press.
Han, G. (2011). Constructing pedagogical content knowledge for EFL
TEachers. Shanghai: S h a nghai Foreign Languag e Education Press.
Jourdenais, R. (2009). Language teacher education. In M. H. Long, & C.
J. Doughty (Eds.), The handbook of language teaching (pp. 647-658).
Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
Kumaravadivalu, B. (2011). Language teacher education for a global
society: A modular model for knowing, analyzing, recognizing, doing,
and seeing. New York, NY: Routledge.
Liu, J. (2009). A historical study on American thought of teacher edu-
cation in 20th century. Beijing: Beijing Normal University Press.
Liu, X. D., & Meng, C. G. (2009). Investigation on EFL teachers’ re-
flection and its influential factors. Foreign Language Teaching in
Schools (Middle Schoo l s ), 12, 1-7.
Meng, C. G. (2011). The investigation on EFL college and university
teachers’ reflective teaching and practice. Foreign Language World,
145, 44-54.
New National Curriculum Standards for Senior English in China (2012).
Pilot version.
Richards, J. C. (1998). Beyond training. Cambridge: Cambridge Uni-
versity Press.
Richards, J. C. (2011). Competence and performance in language
teaching. In Y. Wu, & L. Zhang (Eds.), Cultural construction and
teacher development of foreign language teachers-papers presented
at the third national symposium on foreign language teacher educa-
tion and development (pp. 16-46). Beijing: Foreign Language Teach-
ing and Research Press.
Shon, D. (1987). Educating the reflective practitioner: Toward a new
design for teaching and learning in the professions. Oxford: Jossey-
Bass Inc. Pub.
Shulman, L. S. (1987). Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the
new reform. Harvard Educational Review, 57, 1-22.
Tarone, E., & Allwright, D. (2005). Second language teacher learning
and student second language learning: Shaping the knowledge base.
In D. J. Tedick, (Ed.), Second language teacher education: Interna-
tional perspectives (pp. 5-25). London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associ-
Tsui, A. B. M. (2003). Understanding expertise in teaching. New York:
Cambridge University Press.
Wang, R., & Han, G. (2005). Understanding pre-service EFL teachers’
‘Reflective Practice’. Foreign Language Theory and Practice, 3, 82-
Walsh, S. (2006). Investigating the classroom discourse. New York,
NY: Routledge.
Xu, J. F., & Li, B. B. (2012). The investigation and research of the
status quo of EFL college and university teachers’ reflection in China.
Foreign Language World, 151, 6-15.
Zhao, G. (2009). Thinking of the curriculum system of primary English
teacher education. In W. C. Zou (Ed.), The research of Chinese fun-
damental English teacher education (pp. 131-143). Shanghai: East
China Normal University Press.