TELL me more: How can language teacher educators use the TELL framework and resources?Rebecca Damari

The Teacher Effectiveness for Language Learning (TELL) framework has been available for over a decade. For years, we at PEARLL have been hearing anecdotes about the TELL framework and tools being used in language teacher training, but we never had much information about who was using it and how they were using it. To try to learn more, we administered a survey in the spring of 2023, distributed to language teacher educators around the world. 1

Who Responded to the Survey?

Survey respondents work with teachers and teacher candidates in a variety of settings. About half train K-12 language teachers in college or university-based programs, while the rest are district supervisors or mentors, provide continuing education for certified teachers, or train teachers in other contexts. The teachers trained by survey respondents teach or plan to teach a total of nearly 20 languages. Two-thirds of respondents reported using the TELL framework for five years or more.

Why did respondents decide to incorporate the TELL framework into their teacher training?

Overall, the TELL framework and tools seemed to fill a need for language teacher educators at the intersection of general teacher education, best practices for language teaching, and usability. Several respondents mentioned that TELL has elements in common with other frameworks, such as comprehensible input, the ACTFL Core Practices, and broader state evaluation standards or tools, but has other advantages, such as:

–  Addressing additional areas of teacher practice, including classroom management, that are not addressed in other frameworks 

–  Being “more robust for training,” as well as “clear and actionable” 

– Providing “more specific criteria” than other available rubrics 

Respondents described the TELL framework as “the most comprehensive framework for World Language educators,” and described the TELL tools as user-friendly.

How do respondents use the TELL framework in their teacher training?

Teacher educators reported both (1) using the TELL framework and tools themselves, when they set goals for their teacher education classes or when they observe student teachers, and (2) encouraging their students and mentor teachers to use TELL resources.

A majority of respondents reported encouraging or requiring teacher candidates to use TELL feedback tools for self-reflection or evaluation, or encouraging mentor teachers to use those tools for observation, reflection, and feedback. A smaller number of respondents reported encouraging or requiring teacher candidates to use TELL to set unit or lesson goals in their student teaching, and some reported requiring students to set goals for themselves based on TELL criteria, for example setting one goal for each week. One respondent, who trains elementary teachers of an indigenous language on a reserve in Canada, wrote that their teacher training program focuses on a different TELL domain each month, and teachers complete self-assessments for each domain, with team review at the end of each month.

TELL resources that respondents report using include the full class observation form, focused feedback forms, and self-assessments. One district supervisor reported training building leaders to use the TELL feedback tools and also encouraging every world language teacher in their district to create a profile on Catalyst, a self-assessment tool and online portfolio aligned with the TELL framework.

What else did teacher educators want to see from TELL?

Respondents mentioned a few ways that the TELL framework and resources could be more useful for them and their students, and fortunately PEARLL has already started addressing some of their concerns.

Some respondents asked for video content to help their students understand what the TELL framework looks like in real classrooms. We now have a growing Library of Practice on PEARLL’s Youtube channel. In each video, a practicing classroom educator reflects on the role of one criterion in their practice and shares examples from their classroom.

Some respondents mentioned that the TELL framework, with its many criteria and sub-criteria, can be somewhat overwhelming to students. In response to similar feedback, we have recently developed six Learner Pathways, which focus on a small number of learner engagement behaviors addressing a single question such as “How do students move from understanding input to language production?”

Thank you to the language teacher educators who responded to our survey. We learned a lot from you!

1 The survey was distributed to PEARLL’s email list of over 15,000 language teachers and teacher educators, as well as to an extensive mailing list of language teacher educators and to ACTFL’s Teacher Development SIG. We also asked each survey respondent to share the survey with any colleagues who use or may use the TELL framework and tools in their teacher training. Despite this wide reach, and the survey being available for approximately two months, only fifteen respondents began the survey, with nine respondents answering all the questions. We present the results of this survey as describing the experience of the teacher educators who completed it.