To read this content please select one of the options below:

Professional development of future foreign language teachers during short-term exchanges

Christian Helmchen (Department of Education, Universität Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany)
Sílvia Melo-Pfeifer (Department of Education, Universität Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany)

On the Horizon

ISSN: 1074-8121

Article publication date: 6 July 2018

Issue publication date: 22 October 2018




The purpose of this paper is to analyze the self-perceived influence of short-term exchanges in schools abroad on future foreign language teacher’s professionalization, regarding professional values and pedagogy and practice. It grasps students’ changes in the perception of values attached to short-term exchanges in a professional setting.


In the scope of the European project SPIRAL, four prospective foreign language teachers attended a two-week internship at schools in another country. This paper explores, resorting to a combined content and discourse analysis, their letters of motivation (two months before the exchange), emails sent individually to the local coordinator (one week after the arrival) and a focus-group interview (two months after the arrival).


Future foreign language teachers change their focus when referring to the values attached to their experiences at schools abroad: from an initial focus on language skills improvement, they come to value the intercultural pedagogic experience they lived, focusing on differences and similarities between professional values and pedagogical practices across the contexts.

Practical implications

A generalized introduction of professional exchange programs, both in pre-service and continuing teacher education, could improve teachers’ perceptions of global structural, educational, political and curricular contexts and demands. It would also help the teachers decenter from educational practices and professional habitus taken for granted, and raise their awareness of what it means to be educated and professionalized in other contexts.


Few studies have focused on short-term exchanges and their impact on teachers’ professional development. The present paper highlights the pedagogical, intercultural and identity-building potential of short-term exchanges in foreign language teacher education.



The SPIRAL Project is co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union. This publication reflects the views of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use, which may be made of the information contained therein.


Helmchen, C. and Melo-Pfeifer, S. (2018), "Professional development of future foreign language teachers during short-term exchanges", On the Horizon, Vol. 26 No. 2, pp. 103-112.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles