Learning How to Teach Languages Online: Voices from the Field

Carla Meskill, Natasha Anthony, Gulnara Sadykova


At this moment, fully online language courses are being taught all around the globe. In addition, blended courses offer an integration of online and live instructional experiences. This study examines who is instructing online language courses and what they point to as additive and advantageous to their online language teaching development. We set out to survey higher education faculty as to how they developed their knowledge and practices. Through an online survey and follow-up synchronous interviews, we asked practicing online language educators about the sources of their expertise. The resulting dataset has much to inform professional development and instructional support generally, as well as broader research and educator communities regarding the ongoing, open-ended, peer-supported, and social nature of this kind of educator learning. As more language educators move their instruction online, the question of how to maximize the pedagogical potential of the new medium can best be addressed by those who have successfully made and embraced this move.


Online language teaching, professional development in online teaching, learning to teach online, teaching languages online, pre-covid

Full Text:



Adnan, M. (2018). Professional development in the transition to online teaching: The voice of

entrant online instructors. ReCALL, 30(1), 88-111. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0958344017000106

Albion, P. R., Tondeur, J., Forkosh-Baruch, A., & Peeraer, J. (2015). Educators’ professional development for ICT integration: Towards a reciprocal relationship between research and practice. Education and Information Technologies, 20(4), 655-673. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10639-015-9401-9

Almarza, G. (1996). Student foreign language teacher's knowledge growth. In D. Freeman, & J. C. Richards (Eds.), Teacher learning in language teaching (pp. 50-78). Cambridge University Press.

Arnold, N., & Ducate, L. (2006). Future foreign language educators’ social and cognitive collaboration in an online environment. Language Learning & Technology, 10(1), 42–66. http://dx.doi.org/10125/44046

Barab, S.A., MaKinster, J.G., & Sheckler, R. (2004). Designing system dualities: characterizing an online professional development community. In S. Barab, R. Kling, & J. H. Gray (Eds.), Designing for virtual communities in the service of learning (pp.53-90). Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1080/01972240309466

Baumann, U., Shelley, M., Murphy, L., & White, C. (2008). New challenges, the role of the tutor in the teaching of languages at a distance. Distances et Savoirs, 6(3), 365-392. https://www.cairn.info/revue-distances-et-savoirs-2008-3-page-365.htm

Borg, S. (2003). Teacher cognition in language teaching: A review of research on what language educators think, know, believe, and do. Language Teaching, 36, 81–109. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0261444803001903

Borko, H. (2004). Professional development and teacher learning: Mapping the terrain. Educational Researcher, 33(8), 3-15. https://doi.org/10.3102/0013189X033008003

Bruner, J. (1996). The culture of education. Harvard University Press.

Can, T. (2009). Learning and teaching languages online: A constructivist approach. Novitas-Royal, 3(1), 60-74. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/26605646_Learning_and_Teaching_Languages_Online_A_Constructivist_Approach

Cochran-Smith, M., & Lytle, S.L. (1999). Relationships of knowledge and practice: Teacher learning in communities. In A. Iran-Nejad, & C. D. Pearson (Eds.), Review of research in education (Vol. 24; pp. 249-305). American Educational Research Association.

Colibaba, A., Vlad, M., & Peterscu, L. (2012). Online learning for foreign language educators: using social networking for creating autonomous personal learning networks. In Proceedings of the 8th International Scientific Conference eLearning and Software for Education (Vol. 2, pp.391-396). Universitara Publishing House.

Colleges & Universities Employment Pages and profiles for 2,700 colleges and Universities. HigherEd360. (n.d.). https://www.highered360.com/hr/

Comas-Quinn, A. (2011). Learning to teach online or learning to become an online teacher: An exploration of educators’ experiences in a blended learning course. ReCALL, 23(3), 218-232. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0958344011000152

Comas-Quinn, A., de los Arcos, B., & Mardomingo, R. (2012). Virtual learning environments (VLEs) for distance language learning: Shifting tutor roles in a contested space for interaction. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 25(2), 129-143. https://doi.org/10.1080/09588221.2011.636055

Compton, L. K. (2009). Preparing language educators to teach language online: A look at skills, roles, and responsibilities. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 22(1), 73-99. https://doi.org/10.1080/09588220802613831

Cook, K. C. (2007). Immersion in a digital pool: Training prospective online instructors in online environments. Technical Communication Quarterly, 16(1), 55-82. https://doi.org/10.1080/10572250709336577

Curran, E., & Murray, M. (2008). Transformative learning in teacher education: Building competencies and changing dispositions. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 8, 103-118. https://doi.org/10.12691/education-5-10-6

Dabner, N., Davis, N., & Zaka, P. (2012). Authentic project-based design of professional development for educators studying online and blended teaching. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 12(1), 71-114. https://citejournal.org/volume-12/issue-1-12/current-practice/authentic-project-based-design-of-professional-development-for-teachers-studying-online-and-blended-teaching/

Dartmouth. (n/d). https://home.dartmouth.edu/.

Ernest, P., Heiser, S., & Murphy, L. (2013). Developing teacher skills to support collaborative online language learning. The Language Learning Journal, 41(1), 37-54. https://doi.org/10.1080/09571736.2011.625095

Feinman-Nemser, S., & Flodden, R. E. (1986). The cultures of teaching. In M. Wittrock (Ed.), Handbook of research in teaching (3rd ed., pp. 505-526). Macmillan.

Freeman, D. (2009). The scope of second language teacher education. In A. Burns, & J. C. Richards (Eds.), The Cambridge guide to second language teacher education (pp. 11-19). Cambridge University Press.

Gee, J. P. (2004). Learning language as a matter of learning social languages within discourses. In M. Hawkins, (Ed.), Language learning and teacher education: A sociocultural approach (pp. 13-31). Multilingual Matters.

Hadar, L. L., & Brody, D. L. (2013). The interaction between group processes and personal professional trajectories in a professional development community for teacher educators. Journal of Teacher Education, 64(2), 145-161. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022487112466898

Hampel, R., & Stickler, U. (2005). New skills for new classrooms: Training tutors to teach languages online. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 18(4), 311-326. https://doi.org/10.1080/09588220500335455

Hawkins, M. (2004). Language learning and teacher education: A sociocultural approach. Multilingual Matters.

Houterman, M. (2017). A new professional learning landscape for English language teaching. People and Places, Spring 2017, 56-57.

Johnson, K. E. (2006). The sociocultural turn and its challenges for second language teacher education. TESOL Quarterly, 40(1), 235-257. https://doi.org/10.2307/40264518

Johnson, K. E. (2009). Second language teacher education: A sociocultural perspective. Routledge.

Kamiya, N., & Loewen, S. (2014). The influence of academic articles on an ESL teacher's stated beliefs. Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching, 8(3), 205-218. https://doi.org/10.1080/17501229.2013.800077

Kanno, Y., & Stuart, C. (2011). Learning to become a second language teacher: identities‐in‐practice. The Modern Language Journal, 95(2), 236-252. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-4781.2011.01178.x

Koehler, M., & Mishra, P. (2009). What is technological pedagogical content knowledge? Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1), 60-70. https://citejournal.org/vol9/iss1/general/article1.cfm

Kohnke, L. (2021). Professional development and ICT: English language teachers’ voices. Online Learning, 25(2), 36-53. https://doi.org/10.24059/olj.v25i2.2228

Lantz-Andersson, A., Lundin, M., & Selwyn, N. (2018). Twenty years of online teacher communities: A systematic review of formally-organized and informally-developed professional learning groups. Teaching and Teacher Education, 75, 302-315. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2018.07.008

Leary, H., Dopp, C., Turley, C., Cheney, M., Simmons, Z., Graham, C.R., & Hatch, R. (2020). Professional development for online teaching: A literature review. Online Learning, 24(4), 254-275. https://doi.org/10.24059/olj.v24i4.2198

Lee, L. (2016). Autonomous learning through task-based instruction in fully online language courses. Language Learning & Technology, 20(2), 81–97. http://dx.doi.org/10125/44462

Lewis, T. (2006). When teaching is learning: A personal account of learning to teach online. Calico Journal, 23(3), 581-600. https://doi.org/10.1558/cj.v23i3.581-600

Lindeman, E. C. (2015). The meaning of adult education. Ravenio Books.

Liu, M. H., & Kleinsasser, R. C. (2014). Fostering online professional development between EFL preservice and inservice educators: Affordances and challenges. 英語教學期刊, 38(2), 29-64. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/302049510_Fostering_Online_Professional_Development_Between_EFL_Preservice_and_Inservice_Teachers_Affordances_and_Challenges

Macià, M., & García, I. (2016). Informal online communities and networks as a source of teacher professional development: A review. Teaching and Teacher Education, 55, 291-307. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2016.01.021

McNeil, M. (2016). Preparing educators for hybrid and online language instruction. Issues and Trends in Educational Technology, 4(1). http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2016.01.021

Merlot. (n.d.). https://www.merlot.org/merlot/index.htm.

Meskill, C., & Anthony, N. (2007) Learning to orchestrate online instructional conversations: A case of faculty development for foreign language educators. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 20(1), 5-19. https://doi.org/10.1080/09588220601118487

Meskill, C., & Anthony, N. (2015). Teaching languages online. Multilingual Matters.

Meskill, C., & Anthony, N. (2018). Teaching children online: A conversation-based approach. Multilingual Matters.

Meskill, C., Anthony, N., & Sadykova, G. (2020). Teaching languages online: Professional vision in the making. Language Learning & Technology, 24(3), 160-175. http://hdl.handle.net/10125/44745

Meskill, C., & Sadykova, G. (2011). Introducing EFL faculty to online instructional conversations. ReCALL, 23(3), 200–217. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0958344011000140

Mezirow, J. (1991). Transformative dimensions of adult learning. Jossey-Bass.

Nazari, M., & Xodabande, I. (2020). L2 educators’ mobile-related beliefs and practices: contributions of a professional development initiative. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 1-30. https://doi.org/10.1080/09588221.2020.1799825

Palmer, D. J., Stough, L. M., Burdenski, T. K., & Gonzales, M. (2005). Identifying teacher expertise: An examination of researchers’ decision making. Educational Psychologist, 40(1), 13–25. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15326985ep4001_2

Pineda Hoyos, J. E., & Tamayo Cano, L. H. (2016). E-moderating and e-tivities: The implementation of a workshop to develop online teaching skills in in-service educators. PROFILE Issues in Educators’ Professional Development, 18(1), 97-114. https://doi.org/10.15446/profile.v18n1.44269

ten Dam, G. T. M., & Blom, S. (2006). Learning through participation. The potential of school-based teacher education for developing a professional identity. Teaching and Teacher Education, 22(6), 647-660. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2006.03.003

Shin, D. S., & Kang, H. S. (2018). Online language teacher education: Practices and possibilities. RELC Journal, 49(3), 369-380. https://doi.org/10.1177/0033688217716535

Schrenk, N., Alves, K., Van Dam, D., & Schrenk, B. (2021). Reflecting on best practices for online learning in a post-COVID-19 world. Online Learning, 25(4), 486-504. DOI: 10.24059/olj.v25i4.2460

Stein, M., Smith, M., & Silver, E. (1999). The development of professional developers: Learning to assist educators in new settings in new ways. Harvard Educational Review, 69(3), 237-269. https://lsc-net.terc.edu/do/paper/8226/show/use_set-teacher_pd.html

Stürmer, K., Könings, K. D., & Seidel, T. (2013). Declarative knowledge and professional vision in teacher education: Effect of courses in teaching and learning. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 83(3), 467-483. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.2044-8279.2012.02075.x

van Es, E. A., & Sherin, M. G. (2002). Learning to notice: Scaffolding new educators’ interpretations of classroom interactions. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 10(4), 571-596. https://www.learntechlib.org/primary/p/9171/

Vinagre, M. (2017). Developing educators’ telecollaborative competences in online experiential learning. System, 64, 34-45. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.system.2016.12.002

Whyte, S. (2011). Learning to teach with videoconferencing in primary foreign language classrooms. ReCALL, 23(3), 271-293. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0958344011000188

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.24059/olj.v26i4.2964

Copyright (c) 2022 Carla Meskill, Natasha Anthony, Gulnara Sadykova

License URL: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/