Language Teacher Cognition: Perspectives and Debates

  • Simon BorgEmail author
Reference work entry
Part of the Springer International Handbooks of Education book series (SIHE)


Teacher cognition – the unobservable dimension of teachers’ professional lives – has been the focus of empirical and practical interest in language teaching since the mid-1990s. This chapter reviews current perspectives and debates in this field of inquiry. The starting point for the analysis is the term teacher cognition itself, with a discussion of concerns about its scope and mentalistic heritage. Further contemporary critiques of language teacher cognition research as predominantly “cognitive” and “individualist” are also addressed, with particular attention to the problematic nature of the latter characterization. Methodological issues in the study of language teacher cognition are subsequently discussed, with an emphasis on the value of methodological pluralism and the role that both quantitative and qualitative research can play. Another theme that is examined is the highly intellectualized and theorized nature of some recent discussions of teacher cognition and the impact that such an approach has on the accessibility of the field to a wider audience. The issues discussed in the chapter are explored with reference to a set of contemporary publications on language teacher cognition, and this analysis highlights the predominance of smaller-scale qualitative work in which “cognition” and “belief” remain the dominant concepts. Examples of “theoretical retrofitting” are also in evidence, i.e., the use of more contemporary theories to justify the kinds of research that have been done for some time. The chapter concludes by presenting a contemporary definition of teacher cognition which reflects the various terminological, theoretical, and methodological themes that have been discussed.


Teacher cognition Teacher education Teachers’ beliefs 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Western Norway University of Applied SciencesBergenNorway

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