Monthly Archives: October 2020

Welcome to the Fourth Quarterly Issue (October- December, 2020), 12(97)

ELT in Nepal: Rethinking authenticity, creativity, and localization

Credit: blog.contactcenterpipeline.com

English has long been dominant in the Asian educational landscape, stemming from an instrumental ideology of envisioning upward socioeconomic mobilities. In a country like Nepal where most citizens are looking for their better future, learning English skills is associated with “hopes” and “desires,” also allowing the development of uncritical narratives of the roles and status of English. While we can’t ignore the importance of English for various purposes as well as creating equal opportunities for ALL children to learn English, we must also be critical of the influences the uncritical recommendations and practices of English can have on local language ecology. For example, while the State is struggling to effectively implement mother-tongue-based multilingual education and there is a decline in appreciation for the use of mother-tongue in education (both because of elite narratives created at the macro-level), stressing the role of English in education as a medium of instruction or even asking for its legalization in other social domains is not only wrong but harmful. One must be very careful in defining the role and status of English in Nepal.

This, however, doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t teach English but disrupt the perception of, for example, “We can’t survive without English.” There are people surviving without English in Nepal and beyond. Nevertheless, there is no wrong in teaching English as an additional language. The more languages children learn, the more creative and critical they become. So, teaching English as a foreign language in Nepal is an important part of the K-12 curriculum but we need to re-envision it from the “local” viewpoints to create a safe and comfortable space for Nepali multilingual and multiethnic children. ELT teachers and practitioners need to reflect on ELT practices that create injustice and inequalities for various social groups, often originating from dominant language ideologies and mechanisms.

In this special issue, we have tried to address the issues of “authenticity”, “creativity”, and “localization” in ELT practices. We sought contributions to the teaching and learning of English, highlighting authenticity in ELT, which refers to a sense of ownership of teaching/learning materials and cognitive and social activities in ELT classrooms: for example, whose texts, whose varieties of English, whose culture and knowledge we consider as valid. ELT practitioners and learners also employ creativity in incorporating meaningful texts for a realistic world, that is, what strategies (e.g., translation, codemixing/codeswitching, translanguaging) we use to make our teaching/learning processes more accessible to our students. Meanwhile, we need to (re)think if and to what extent we localize our teaching/learning activities for sustainable and linguistic, and culturally responsive practices. We hoped to together challenge the hegemonic ELT practices in Nepal, warranting more linguistic human rights and linguistic and cultural identities.

In this issue, we have included four blog posts and one exclusive interview. In the first post, Umesh Saud critically analyzes a recently published English language textbook of Grade 11, with special attention to the types of texts that are included and the ideologies embedded in the process of selecting those texts. He argues that avoiding/minimizing local and indigenous culture, contexts, and texts in ELT textbooks is the result of the prevalence of the traditional westernized ideology and advocates the promotion of Nepali culture through the inclusion of indigenous texts in the textbooks.

In the interview, Dr. Ram Ashish Giri dives deep into the status of English in Nepal and its future, policies, and practices of English language teaching in multilingual Nepal, ‘authenticity’ in ELT, ‘localization’ in ELT materials, and the roles of English teachers and practitioners.

Similarly, in the second blog post, In the third article, Mohan Singh Saud (also the author of the grade 11 textbook) shares his ideas of rethinking authenticity concerning ELT texts and materials in the changing world and shares his experiences of the politics of undermining the textbook author’s agencies during the text selection.

Likewise, in the fourth article Binod Duwadi shares teachers’ perceptions of non-verbal communication like eye contact, facial expressions, and gestures and their pedagogical implication based on the views collected from English teachers.

Finally, in the fifth blog post, Gyanu Dahal reflects on the situations of teaching English before and during COVID-19, indicating how the classroom culture has been changed due to this emergency and the challenges teachers and students faced to cope with this situation. Reflecting on her own experiences, she suggests some tips for effective virtual lessons and needs for teachers to be equipped with skills and traits for online teaching.

Here is the list of blog posts and interview of this issue:

  1. Undermining of “local” in new English textbook for Grade XI by Umesh Saud
  2. English is one of the local languages in Nepal: Dr. Giri
  3. Rethinking authenticity in ELT texts and materials: A perspective of an author by Mohan Singh Saud
  4. Roles of nonverbal communication in large ELT classrooms by Binod Duwadi
  5. Changing assets in ELT classroom culture: Reflections on teaching during the pandemic by Gyanu Dahal

Now, I would like to thank the entire team of ELT Choutari in general and Mohand Singh Saud (the associate editor of this issue), Jeevan Karki, Ganesh Bastola, Babita Chapagain in particular for their rigorous effort in reviewing and editing the blog pieces. Similarly, I am thankful to all the team of reviewers for their reviews and recommendations for publications. I’m equally thankful to all contributors to this issue and special thanks go to Dr. Ram Ashsish Giri for his exclusive interview.

Finally, if you enjoy reading the articles, please feel free to share in your circle, and of course, drop your comments in the boxes below. Likewise, please write about your experiences, reflections, case studies, reviews, or any other scholarly pieces for our future publications and email us at 2elt.choutari@gmail.com 

Wish you a happy Tihar and Chhat festivals!

Happy Reading!

Pramod Sah, Ph.D. Candidate & Killam Scholar
Guest editor of the issue
(Department of Language & Literacy Education,
Faculty of Education, The University of British Columbia, Canada)

Undermining of “local” in new English textbook for Grade XI

Umesh Saud

In the context of Nepal, there are a large number of schools using English as the medium of instruction and most of them are private schools that prescribe English textbooks from foreign publications, mainly Cambridge and Oxford University Press. This has led to a situation where many of our school children consider foreign culture and even languages as more valid in comparison to their native culture and languages. And in many cases, children cannot write and speak in their native languages properly. The craze for English is so strong that young learners normally neither fully identify themselves with the foreign culture nor they appreciate their cultural values. It is partly because such prescribed textbooks make them alien to their socio-cultural settings.

After nearly two decades, the curriculum for Grades XI and XII compulsory English was finally upgraded. Since the 10+2 curriculum was first introduced, the country has witnessed a sea-change in terms of cultural awareness, political awareness, social values, and other fundamental aspects of human life. The development of the new curriculum and the textbooks was expected to reflect such critical changes. This article seeks to examine how well the new compulsory English textbook of Grade XI designed by Nepal’s Curriculum Development Centre, caters to the needs of today’s generation and accommodates the changes vis-a-vis the national interest of promoting the native culture. Further, I have shown whether or not the contents included in the textbook are in line with the spirit of the 2019 National Curriculum Framework (NCF).

Representation of texts in the textbook and their critical analysis

The Grade XI textbook has been divided into two sections — Language Development and Literature Studies. Under the first section, i.e. Language Development, there are 20 units with themes ranging from humanity, ecology, history to science and technology. The relevance of the literary texts kept under each thematic units can be a matter of discussion but the way various kinds of activities have been incorporated in the section is of course praiseworthy. The Literature Studies section is divided into four units. Literary texts under this section have been categorized into four literary genres — short stories, poems, essays, and one-act plays respectively. The course designers have seemingly tried to make this section more inclusive and diverse so that students can enjoy a variety of literary works. However, the rationale behind the selection of these predominantly foreign canonical literary texts and the selection criteria for those texts call into critical deliberations for Nepali educationists.

The new textbook has seven short stories, five poems, five essays, and three one-act plays. Among the short stories, The Oval Portrait by American writer Edgar Allan Poe, God Sees the Truthbut Waits by Russian Writer Leo Tolstoy, The Wish by British writer Roald Dahl, Civil Peace by Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe, Two Little Soldiers by French writer Guy de Maupassant, An Astrologer’s Day by RK Narayan, an Indian writer, have been included in the textbook. One cannot deny the greatness of these literary writers and their timeless works, but when we talk about teaching culture through language we expect the short stories of Nepali writers’ writing in English too if we have to sensitize today’s generation to the cultural and other issues of the Nepali society. Although texts have been adopted from multiple contexts, including India and Nigeria, which are non-Western countries, more numbers of Nepali texts would be beneficial and culturally reflective.

Likewise, in the poetry section, of the five poems, one is by Nepali Poet Vishnu Rai and others are by Robert Burns, a Scottish, William Shakespeare, an English poet, E.E Cumming, an American, Tran MongTu, a Vietnamese. It is true that these writers’ works are timeless and have universal appeal, but it is never a good idea to ignore the work of Nepali poets who have tremendously depicted the pains and sufferings of Nepali citizens in their literary works. Vishnu Rai’s poetry has been included, but the poem Corona Says may lose significance by the time these textbooks reach the students—it’s not reflective of Nepal’s linguistic, cultural, and social context although it portrays a current picture of the COVID-19-induced crisis. It can also appeal to stop the mindless activities of humans but doesn’t represent the unique Nepali culture. The poem All the World’s a Stage by William Shakespeare already features in the textbook of Grade X optional English. It is now beyond one’s understanding of what urgent need the textbook designers might have felt while choosing this poem. It could also mean that the author did not consider building cohesion across grade levels.

The third section has five essays (one is a speech by Steve Jobs). Most of these essays are of American writers except for the one by a British-Indian writer. Much can be debated about the relevance of these essays for Nepali students. In this section too, Nepali writers have got no space. The last section contains three one-act plays. One of the three plays is Refund which is so popular that there would be hardly any school which has not staged this play on different occasions. More importantly, today’s teenagers are more attracted to reading fiction. Instead of three plays, one play and one novel by a Nepali writer could have been included in this section. But quite obviously, the course designers have utterly failed to address this issue.  And it should also be noted that the first section of the textbook — Language Development — does have both literary and non-literary texts. Except for one interview with social entrepreneur Mahabir Pun, there is nothing that represents the Nepali columnists and writers who write in English, and the issues faced by Nepali youths in particular and Nepali people in general. The preface of the textbook further states that an attempt has also been made to incorporate the emerging needs of the learners. But the way, literary texts have been selected, it seems that neither the cultural issues nor the students’ interest have been taken into consideration.  While selecting literary texts, one should accord top priority to the interest of the target group, but the literary works have been selected as per the literary taste of a few individuals involved in designing the syllabus and the textbook.

This tendency to look down upon the local writers who strive to take the Nepali literature in the international arena, on the one hand, is counterproductive for protecting national identity and diverse cultures of the country and, on the other, discourages them to write further in languages such as English. Many promising Nepali writers are writing in English but this kind of apathetic and indifferent attitude towards them and their literary creations might render a severe blow to the growth and expansion of Nepali Literature.

Nepali writings in English emerged as early as the 1950s with Laxmi Prasad Devkota being the pioneer of the first generation of Nepali literary writers in English. Many followed Devkota in the coming decades such as Mani Dixit, Tek Bahadur Karki, Abhi Subedi, Ramesh Shrestha, Padma Prasad Devkota, DB Gurung, Laxmi Devi Rajbhandari, Deepak S. Rana, Kesar Lall, Dhruba K Deep, Yuyutsu RD Sharma, and M L Karmacharya. Many of them could not come to the limelight mainly due to lack of good readership in the country and also because of policymakers and educationalist’s personal prejudice. Yet, many of them are still actively contributing to the Nepali literature in English. Towards the turn of the 20th century, Samrat Upadhyay, Manjushree Thapa, Sheeba Shah, and Sushma Joshi emerged as the new names in the field of Nepali literature. These literary figures got recognition across the world. These writers have, to a larger extent, helped to promote Nepali literature in the global arena, but these writers not getting any space in the English course books for Nepali students to read is very unfortunate and exposes the indifference of those involved in designing the textbook.

The decision to change the textbooks for Grades XI and XII was appreciated by teachers and other stakeholders. They were expecting that the textbooks would introduce something new that could cater to the needs of the present generation. But the way literary texts have been chosen for the course, it seems that course designers are still motivated by the ideology of Westernized knowledge and the fact that a good representation of English has to be measured only through British and American canons. The textbook writers have yet again followed in the colonial footsteps of their predecessors and repeated the same mistakes.

A language is the reflection of culture and tradition. Thus, it is obvious that when we learn a second language, we do learn about the culture embedded therein. In recent years, we have seen how cultural awareness and identity issues have taken the entire world by storm, including in Nepal. Even teaching of other languages in schools is seen as linguistic encroachment, mainly when they don’t draw on the local. The belief that the English language is a must for academic and professional success has been challenged and subverted to some extent. People have become aware of the cultural encroachment transpiring through language. As a result, English is often claimed to have multiple varieties own by local speakers. A variety of English languages have been widely accepted and given recognition too. Efforts are afoot to teach local and foreign cultures through second languages in recent years. While teaching second languages through literature, it is imperative to see the cultural aspects as well. But such a serious concern has been completely ignored, which is very unfortunate, and to some extent against the spirit of the curriculum and the NCF.  The preface of the new textbook states that “the National Curriculum Framework advocates for the promotion of skill-oriented, life skill-based, employment-driven, and value-based school education. It envisions developing the human capital dedicated to the nation, nationality, national integrity, and Nepali specialty” (DoE, 2020, preface). By largely ignoring the works of native writers, one cannot think of producing human resources with Nepali specialty. I do not claim that the only way of promoting nationality and national integrity is through the inclusion of native writers’ literary creations, but it will certainly be the first step towards this end.

I, personally, believe that many students in the country now have better linguistic competency in English than Nepali, or any other native languages for that matter, especially in urban areas. They prefer reading literary texts written in English. This shows that they are also the victim of the poor mentality that Nepali writers cannot write better in English.

Conclusion

Finally, it is high time the policymakers and course and textbook designers need to take took the issue of language and culture seriously. Talking about cultural encroachment through language and linguistic chauvinism is not enough. The incumbent government is hell-bent on introducing a clean-feed policy for the foreign television channels broadcasted in the country. And the government is defending the new policy stating that the clean-feed policy will help stop cultural encroachment done through various advertisements created in languages other than Nepali.  If television advertising in foreign languages is considered cultural encroachment, what about the literary texts that are completely based on foreign contexts and cultures? If we cannot promote Nepali literature through Nepali languages, why cannot we promote Nepali literature by translating them into the languages, such as English, spoken by more people across the world? So, let’s begin this movement first with our academic courses, especially such courses which are compulsory for all students. The inclusion of local writings in academic courses will not only help protect Nepali diverse cultures but also take the Nepali literature to a new height and help produce more affluent Nepali writers in English.

About the author: Umesh Singh Saud is the Head of the English Department at DAV Sushil Kedia Vishwa Bharati School, Kathmandu. He is also a sub-editor at ‘The Himalayan Times’ national English daily.

 

References

Department of Education (DoE). The national curriculum framework. Kathmandu: Government of Nepal.

Saud, M. S. (2020). English (Grade 11). Sanothimi, Bhaktapur: Curriculum Development Centre.

Cite as: Saud, U. (2020). Undermining of “local” in new English textbook for Grade XI. http://eltchoutari.com/2020/10/undermining-of-local-in-new-english-textbook-for-grade-xi/

English is one of the local languages in Nepal: Dr. Giri

Ram Ashish Giri, PhD

Ram A. Giri, PhD, academic staff at Monash University, English Language Centre, Melbourne, teaches and researches issues related to ELICOS courses, TESOL, language testing, and language (education) policy. In his extensive career spreading over Nepal and Australia, he has published in international journals, written book chapters, and published edited books. He is the editor-in-chief of the Journal of NELTA and sub-editor of TESL-EJ.

Our Choutari editor, Jeevan Karki has spoken with Dr. Giri about the status of English in Nepal and the extent to be used, policies, and practice of English language teaching to avoid educational inequalities in multilingual Nepal. Moreover, the interview has also explored the concept of ‘authenticity’ in ELT, pros, and cons of adopting the foreign textbooks and other instructional materials including the ideas of localizing English language teaching, and the roles of English teachers and practitioners to balance the influence of English in our teaching-learning practices. Now, here is the exclusive interview for you.

 1) In Nepal, English has already received a considerable space in the school and university curriculum as a compulsory language subject and, more recently, as a medium of instruction starting from as early as grade one. So, to what extent do you think English is required in our education system? How do you see the status of English in Nepal in the current sociopolitical situation?  

There are two parts to this question: why and to extent, English is required in our (education) system, and its status in the current socio-political system. Both of these should be looked at in their proper contexts. I will address the second part first because I think that it is the prelude for the first part.

Status of English in the current socio-political situation: As the readers of ELT Choutari may be aware, the label of ‘English as a foreign language’ and ‘English as the most important international language’ in Nepal was unceremoniously attached to it in the 1950s and endorsed in successive educational plans by the then so-called experts of education. Although the reports and articles published in the 1960s have challenged this labelling as unrealistic and inappropriate, I am not going to delve into the argument here because the label, for me, is unimportant. What is important is how people saw the status of English then and how they see it now.

I might add here that English was the language in- and of-education prior to 1951, and 44 percent of the population who participated in the first-ever national survey on education was in favour of keeping English as a medium of instruction in the planned school education. That was about 70 years ago. Let’s briefly outline what has changed in Nepal in the last 70 years.

  • The literacy rate in Nepal has changed: In 1951-52, the literacy rate was around 4 percent and only 1 percent of school-age children attended school. According to some internet reports, the literacy rate in 2020 is around 90 percent and 76 percent of children are enrolled. The children who attended school since then would have some literacy in English. So, we can safely claim that the literacy rate in English has also changed/improved.
  • There has been a change in the people’s attitude towards the language: People no longer see it as a subject they must study to get a degree. They see it as an essential graduate attribute which prepares them for being a functional citizen in the globalized world today.
  • There has been a change in how people use English. It is a second or an alternate language for a significant number of people in the country. There are many educational and economic domains where English is used as the primary language. Similarly, in many social domains, it is an alternate language. People do not simply use it to gain social prestige, they use to express themselves better.
  • There has been a change in the source and means of knowledge. Knowledge bases and knowledge sources have become multidisciplinary and multiple norm-referenced. In the globalized context, knowledge is sourced through the internet and the primary means of accessing it is English, the language of the internet. The Nepali users of English do not worry about what variety of English they are taught or whether it is multi-norm referenced.
  • There has been a change in why people learn English today. The target of ELE in the past was to access knowledge from the print media. Now it is learned to access educational, employment, and better life opportunities globally. The purpose of learning English today is more realistic, practical, and locally appropriate.
  • There has been a change in how people learn English. The conventional methods are no longer the only methods of learning English. More and more students and teachers work together today to negotiate what they need/want to learn and how they want to learn it.

Given these changes, we need to re-assess the label which is unfairly attached to it for so long. In other words, its status in the Nepalese context must be reassessed in the light of the current practices and situated appropriately in the national life and educational curricula. Let’s now turn to the second part of the question, the question of its requirement.

The requirement of English in our (education) system: You may have noticed, I have put the word ‘education’ in the parenthesis, and that is on purpose. I think it is relevant first to see why English is required in the national system before we can understand its place in education because the education system of any country is subservient to its national system. The national system dictates what type of education the country should adopt and how it should deliver it.

The requirement of English in Nepal has already been determined. The Federal Government of Nepal, for example, has been using it as a second language. It has become the language of education at all levels. Many provincial governments have committed, they have even signed a treaty to use it as the third language under the three-language formula. So, the socio-politics of Nepal has dictated its requirement and space through its directives for how it should be used in national life including education. What it has not done is that it has not formulated a policy consistent with its directives.

Considering the varying situations and uses of English, Nepal needs to re-assess the roles English plays in the lives of its people. More importantly, it needs to re-assess its status because the Nepalese users of English are not being served well in the existing provisions. Therefore, a new national framework for its status, roles, uses, and space in education needs to be constructed which recognises the different types of English literacy situations. A new approach to its education, recognizing its multiple needs, therefore, should be developed in order to serve the Nepalese population better.

2) You mentioned that English is an alternate language in many social domains for a significant number of people in Nepal, hence its status should be reassessed. But if you see the figures of the Central Bureau of Statistics (national body of government), there is only 0.007% (2032) speakers of English as a mother tongue, while we do not have any statistics of the proficient speakers of English yet. So, isn’t it too early to claim it? Could you elaborate?

As you may be aware, a sizeable section of the Nepalese population is monolingual native speakers of Nepali. The only other language for many of them, particularly those who are educated, they use outside their home/ community is English. In many economic and education domains, such as tourism and (private and higher) education, it is an alternative language. Now some people use the term ESL (English as a second language) or even ELF (English as a lingua franca) to refer to the situation. For me, these terms connote differently. The term ESL, for example, focuses more on the learning/teaching aspect of the language rather than its use. Similarly, ELF is a means of inter-community or intra-national communication. By using the term, English as an alternative language (not to confuse it with English as an additional language), I refer to the myriads of situations in which people use English to participate and respond to when their native language does not serve them best.

In order to be effective, creative, and confident communicators in such situations, such users negotiate their English by appropriating proficiency in terms of accuracy and fluency, communicative skills, and language repertoire for different types of participants, and purpose of the interaction.

Now let’s turn to the data you have quoted in your question. First of all, it is old data reported on the 2011 (2012) census. Secondly, the reported population is the native speakers of English. And finally, the concept of English as an alternative language does not include native speakers of English but those who alternate their native language with English. And as I mentioned above, there is a sizeable section of the Nepalese population who already do that.

3) Historically, English has always been said as the language of elites and elites are believed to have appropriated English for their benefits. While English still functions as a second/third/fourth language for the majority of multilingual children in Nepal. So, there appears to class-based injustice and inequalities in English language teaching. In your views, what measures can be taken in the policies and practice of English language teaching to avoid such inequalities?

As is widely reported, English was imported and has been used in Nepal for ideological reasons, which helped the elites to establish a linguistic edge over the caste/class-based divisions in the Nepalese society. An example of the primacy of English is evident in the fact that English was made compulsory in education even before Nepali (the official/national language) was (Nepali was introduced as a compulsory subject in school only in 1951; whereas English had been compulsory and the medium of instruction since the beginning of school education in Nepal). In addition, English language education (ELE) initially restricted to the elites has also helped establish a form of neo-colonialism in Nepal. The language became a yardstick for employment and educational and occupational opportunities which were made available exclusively to the English-speaking elites. This has been the basis of social injustice and social inequalities. But things have changed now. With the new generation of English users, a new school of thought has emerged that sees English as neutral, democratic, and, more importantly, liberating.

This new line of thinking is based on three perspectives. First and foremost, it suggests that Nepal’s identity in the new context should be redefined with English as an official language in it. They believe that that English in Nepal is no longer an elite language, nor is it tied to any caste or class. Rather it has become everybody’s language and therefore is one of the local languages. The second perspective is that as English is used in more and more domains by more and more people, it should be given official status to remove the confusion and uncertainties surrounding it. Finally, the third perspective contends that it must be appropriately situated in the Nepalese language landscape on the principles of language ecology and linguistic co-existence. So, the answers to what measures can be taken in the policies and practices to avoid such inequalities are in the three perspectives presented above. However, I will reiterate them here again.

In order to address inequalities, the following measures can be taken:

  1. There is a great deal of confusion and uncertainties around what space Nepal should accord to English language education because the government lacks a clear and consistent ELE policy. In order to avoid these, the government should legislate it giving it an official status. Please note, it has already officialized it in its directives.
  2. Legislating it should give ELE an official regulating body something like ‘The National Institute of English Language Teaching’ whose job can be to regulate the distribution of human and materials resources and monitor an effective practice of ELE throughout Nepal.
  3. The official status will also place emphasis on addressing the issue of scarcity of trained and qualified English teachers in rural Nepal,
  4. It will ensure equitable access to quality ELT for all, especially the disadvantaged sections of the population, and finally
  5. An equitable and consistent policy will address the disproportionate distribution of ELT facilities and resources.

4) English, when promoted as the official language due to political imperative, has become the only dominant language in the educational landscape and administrative use limiting the growth and scope of other local languages for example in Rwanda and Cameroon. Research globally shows that students perform better in their local/mother tongues and the government of Nepal in its constitution and policy documents has also warranted and prioritized the use of local languages. So, why do you propose English to be the official language in multilingual Nepal which is not even the official language at the federal level in the USA ?

Legislating English, ambitious and problematic though it may sound, is not as problematic and chaotic as if we work out what to do, why to do it, and how to do it. First, we need to change our attitude towards the language and its legislation. People may see the problem in the very word of ‘officialising’. Let’s look at some of the ways the term ‘official language’ can be viewed. One view can see English – an official language as one of the languages that are accepted by the government of Nepal, which is taught in schools and colleges and is used as an alternative language in certain domains such as information and communication, official document, education, tourism, national and international companies, diplomacy and so on. Secondly, English could be given a special legal status, which could be used within the specified domains for communicational and transactional purposes. One other way of viewing it could be to legislate ‘official multilingualism’ where the government recognises multiple official languages with English among them. Under this system, all official languages are situated in the national space based on the principle of co-existence.

Furthermore, I am not suggesting that it should be legislated ‘overnight’. That could be disastrous. What we should commence doing is to prepare ourselves. We as a country should be prepared for this first. In order to be prepared, we need to initiate a conversation first with grassroots users or end-users of the language. We need to engineer the right attitude in the stakeholders. We need to develop the right strategies and adequate infrastructure. Above, all we need to situate English appropriately in the language landscape of Nepal. All of these processes are time-consuming processes, but if we want to do it in ten years’ time, we have to start the conversation now. Now whether or not it will become dominant will depend on how we situate it in our linguistic landscape. English is dominating our linguistic landscape now. As we have seen lately, it is replacing Nepali in several socio-economic domains. Not legislating will not stop its domination.

5) School-level English language curriculum of Nepal considers English as the most prominent means of international communication, language for global mobilities, and a means for academic success. What’s your perspective on this common belief?

The three aspects mentioned in the question sound great. It captures what may be called ‘the extrinsic view’ of English in Nepal. However, as it is evident, it fails to capture the local sentiments towards the language. It does not recognize the fact that English has already taken a significant position in the life of the Nepalese people. In other words, it lacks an intrinsic perspective on English.

6) In a country like Nepal, there is a tendency to adopt textbooks and other instructional materials developed elsewhere, mainly in the Western countries, and there is a lack of local reflections in such materials. What are the positives and negatives of this practice? 

Using commercially marketed textbooks and instructional materials is a double-edged sword. By this, I mean that it has some pros as well as some cons. In my personal opinion, they do more harm than good. Let me explain this further. First of all, I will take up the pros. The marketed materials, especially those published by the western presses, are prepared by a highly trained team of experts and go through rigorous processes of reviews. In other words, the texts and exercises have been tried and tested on English language principles and organised and paced appropriately for a particular age-group of students. Therefore, the quality of such text materials and exercises can be assured. Such textbooks are visually attractive in that they contain colourful pictures, drawings, and charts. In addition, the accompanying workbooks, CDs, audios, and videos are of high quality. They work as a source of an appropriate model and input especially for those teachers who have learned English as a foreign language themselves. Such textbooks often come with comprehensively prepared teachers’ books (teachers’ manuals) which provides step-by-step guidance and support to teachers.

Now I look into the cons.

Such textbooks are prepared for a particular group of children, for a particular set of aims, on a particular approach, and with a particular context in mind. If such textbooks are appropriate for a particular group of children, there is no certainty that they will work for the children in Nepal. The Nepali learners of English may have a different route or pace of learning English. Their needs, objectives, and therefore, their interest in learning English are likely to be different. Such textbooks and instructional materials are prepared on the publishers’ prescribed approaches and their chosen context. These approaches and contexts are usually different from those of the approaches and contexts adapted in Nepal. Most important of all, they may be culturally insensitive. In other words, such materials are not culturally authentic. So, they do not help achieve the aims with which teaching English in Nepal. On the other hand, if the materials do not match the students’ pace and level, they can create demotivation or frustrations in them.

7) In the case of the Nepali English language teaching context, how do you define “authenticity” in both preparing and delivering lessons? What could be some ways to incorporate such authenticity in classrooms?

The term ‘authenticity’ is often misunderstood and misinterpreted. In the Nepali English language teaching context, authenticity in language lessons may be defined as lessons that are prepared and delivered in order to meet the learning targets of the students in the social contexts they learn English in and to fulfil their prospective needs. Now, this definition may sound a bit simplistic, but I tend to think that it is not. I will explain it with the help of three expressions, i.e., the authenticity of ELT practices should be passed on three principles: feed-up, feed on, and feedforward. Firstly, the lessons teachers prepare and deliver should be based on appropriate learning principles and designed to meet the current targets of the learners. The teachers and learners both need to understand what they are doing during the lessons, what materials they are going to use, why they are going to use such materials, and in what ways they are going to help achieve their learning goals. In other words, they should feed up in unpacking the learning targets and the curricular elements associated with them. Secondly, the materials and methods need to be grounded in the reality of learner needs and contexts. In other words, the preparation and delivery of lessons should be fed on the reality of the contexts in which the students learn and use English. For example, if the lesson is about ‘giving and receiving telephone messages’, the materials teachers use should be ‘actual’ conversations grounded in actual contexts in which students are likely to give and receive messages, e.g., giving and receiving messages about assignments, requesting and receiving messages about examinations, giving and receiving personal details at a bank, and so on. Similarly, if the lesson is about ‘pollution’, the materials used should be the ones that are written about their own cities published in the local newspapers or magazines, or broadcast on local radio or telecast on local TVs. Finally, the lessons should be designed in such a way that the language elements that they learn should feedforward to their future needs and activities on the related topic. Authentic materials, thus, have intrinsic educational value. It keeps them informed about what is happening in the context they live in.

8) Could you please also share your ideas about localizing English language teaching, also in terms of linguistically and culturally responsive teaching? 

In Nepal, we have had no engaged discussions or conversations on the issue of how English language teaching can be localised despite the fact that the teaching and learning of English are now increasingly intricately intertwined with a wide variety of local cultures, including regional and national cultures. I am aware that some institutions/universities of Nepal, particularly those in the west, are planning to develop locally appropriated text materials for their localised teaching practices.

For linguistically and culturally responsive teaching, the text materials, and their teaching practices need to include four cultural dimensions: (1) the aesthetic dimension (local art and literature); (2) the sociological dimension (local customs and practices); (3) the semantic dimension, the manner in which a culture’s conceptual system is embodied in the language (local English); and (4) the pragmatic dimension, which pertains to linguistic and paralinguistic rules and skills that guide speakers to appropriate use of rhetorical styles for communication purposes (local use).

9) What should be the role of English teachers and practitioners to minimize the hegemonic influence of English in our teaching-learning practices?

In some ways, this question is related to the previous question. The hegemony of English is exercised through practicing Anglocentric norms, models, and teaching materials. This gives the learner the feeling that they have to speak/use the language as the native speakers do, and they are learning a language that does not belong to them. They do not identify themselves with it. English teachers can play a significant role in minimizing this hegemonic influence. They can change the lens through which our students look at English. They can, for example, develop in them a critical view of English, its ownership, its plurality, and complexity. In other words, they can raise students’ awareness of world Englishes, by detaching English from its Anglocentric linguistic and cultural model and methods, and then by localizing it considering the way(s) in which it is used and experienced locally. In other words, English teachers can shift the focus from norm, teaching methods, and materials of the Centre (Anglocentric) to teaching strategies, contexts, knowledge, and culture of the Periphery (Local) for the development of ELT curricula, materials, and methodology.

 

Note: Now the floor is open for you. If you have any concerns or comments on the interview, drop them down in the box below. Your constructive feedback and questions are always welcome. Thank you!

Cite as: Giri, RA (2020). English is one of the local languages in Nepal. http://eltchoutari.com/2020/10/english-is-one-of-the-local-languages-in-nepal-dr-giri/

Rethinking authenticity in ELT texts and materials: A perspective of an author

Mohan Singh Saud, PhD Scholar

Setting the scene

The concept of authenticity “is a pervasive ideology within ELT” (Holliday, 2006, p. 385), which initially referred to the texts and materials reflecting native-like features and produced by the native speakers of English. However, at present, it is believed that such ideology damages the ELT profession as well as popular perceptions of English and culture disbelieving the cultural contribution of the non-native speaker teachers. Kumaravadivelu (2016) also argues that native-speakerism represents an unresponsive ‘native speaker’ hegemony in ELT. This ideology is what Phillipson (1992) calls ‘native speaker fallacy’. Along with the application of Communicative Language Teaching (CLT), practitioners often talked of authentic texts and materials in ELT. More recently, new approaches and concepts have been proposed and even practiced, such as Kumaravadivelu’s (1994) notion of post-method pedagogy, Kachru’s (1985) World Englishes, McKay’s (2002) English as an international language, and Jenkins’ (2006) English as a lingua franca (ELF), which have challenged the native speaker fallacy.

There have been debates regarding the concept of authenticity, indicating a need for rethinking authenticity in ELT texts and materials. In response to the traditional EFL approach, it is essential to focus pedagogy considering the diversity of the local context with various purposes of learning English. Scholars argue that ELT should be culturally sensitive and socially responsive valuing multiculturalism.

The discussion above proves to rethink authenticity in ELT texts and materials of ELT, especially in non-English speaking countries. Authenticity is a relative contextualized concept since “authentic materials may mean different things for different people” (Shomoossi & Ketabi, 2007, p.149), and was the main focus of CLT in the past (Bax, 2003). In this background, this article explores the concept of authenticity concerning ELT texts and materials.

Authenticity as a social construct

A traditional definition of authentic materials refers to the materials created by native speakers of English and are used to teach for second or foreign language learners of English (Day, 2004; Rafalovich, 2014). However, my perspective on the authenticity of ELT materials is different. Agreeing with Rafalovich (2014), I believe that the authenticity of ELT texts and materials is determined by needs, availability, classroom environment, teacher-student relations, and the perception of the reader. Any text can be authentic if it is produced in English (or even bi/multilingual), may it be by a native or non-native speaker of English, and if it can be appropriated for the classroom teaching-learning purposes.

The main concern about the authenticity of texts was in relation to CLT in ELT. Those teaching materials were considered authentic, which were produced for real-life communicative purposes and used for teaching-learning purposes. CLT placed more importance on using authentic materials in the classroom. Thus, authenticity in the traditional sense is a social construct based on the ideology of native-speakerism promoting English culture. This notion needs to be reconsidered as English is no longer the language of the native English speakers only. As such, I define authentic texts as those texts that are written in English reflecting different cultures and can be appropriate in ELT.

Glocal ELT materials

With the globalisation of the English language, English no longer belongs to any single nation or group and new forms of English have been emerged in non-Western contexts (Kachru, 2004). As such, authentic materials do not mean those produced in Anglophone countries, but those could be produced in any part of the world and can be adaptable to teaching-learning purposes. It is essential to rethink the authenticity of materials that better meet their students’ diverse needs and those texts and materials should promote cultural awareness and intercultural understanding among them (Nault, 2006).

Although ELT texts and materials tend to adopt the contents from English-speaking countries and native English speakers, the globalization of the English language has demanded them to be inclusive across cultures. Materials must be culturally sensitive and socially responsive. ELT pedagogy is truly pluricentric (Sharifian, 2014). English is a pluricentric language, with variations in the spelling, pronunciation, vocabulary, etc. between the United Kingdom, America, New Zealand, Australia, and other English-speaking as well as non-English speaking countries, including dialectal variety within these areas. As such, no national authority can set the standard for the use of English. Moreover, a tripartite traditional distinction between English as a Native Language (ENL), English as a Second Language (ESL), and English as a Foreign Language (EFL) (Quirk, Greenbaum, Leech, & Svartvik, 1985) have been debated, and Kachru (1985) put forward the three-concentric-circles model of World Englishes with inner-outer-expanding circles distinction.  English, therefore, spoken in different countries and regions is increasingly taken as a pluricentric language. This reflects the need of focusing on the culturally sensitive and contextually appropriate use of English.

Byram (1997) proposed intercultural communicative competence (ICC) for effective and appropriate communication with people from various language and cultural backgrounds. The basic tenet of ICC advocates the need of including texts and materials from various cultures which could raise cultural awareness among the learners. Various studies have shown the importance of integrating varied cultures in the ELT curriculum to develop intercultural communication. Therefore, it is important to rethink the inclusion of the local and indigenous texts and materials in producing ELT textbooks and other materials in Nepal, with a multiplicity of linguistic, ethnic, religious, and cultural groups. It is time to challenge and resist the ideology of preferring texts and materials produced by American or British writers and ELT industries, but all those across the culture around the world that can be appropriate for teaching and learning English. Doing so will assure justice for all cultures and the true application of inclusive pedagogy in ELT.

Reconsidering native speaker mindset in text selection

I have been involved in selecting texts in the process of ELT coursebook development. Although I advocate the inclusion of local and indigenous texts for the expansion of native knowledge prioritizing non-native English speaker writers, it has been difficult in practice due to some other obstacles and our traditional ideology that only the native speakers’ texts can be appropriate, standard, and authentic. This kind of mindset needs to be challenged and textbook/material developers need to take inclusive, glocal, and pluricentric perspectives while selecting texts and materials appropriating the needs and level of learners.

Moreover, it is not easier to get the suitable texts to the level and needs of Nepali learners. I wanted to represent the local and indigenous texts and materials in the coursebook, but such texts are not easily available. Nonetheless, I attempted to include texts from diverse cultures across the world considering that authenticity remains in the text rather than who and where it was produced. I hope the textbook and material developers in the days to come would respect local culture and value Nepali writers rethinking the authenticity of texts and materials in ELT in the context of Nepal.

Conclusion

The concept of authenticity appeared in English language teaching along with the advent of the communicative approach in the 1970s. However, this article has argued that the authenticity of texts and materials used in English language teaching should be rethought

to reflect the multiple perspectives inherent in EFL pedagogy. Any text and material that is culturally sensitive and socially responsive can gain authenticity in the globalised context of English and English language teaching. It is recommended that the English curriculum should include the texts and materials representing varied cultures.

It is crucial to rethink text authenticity in ELT instead of promoting the traditional notion of authenticity of texts and materials in relation to CLT. It can be justifiable to use appropriate materials that will be fruitful and purposeful for students to learn the language effectively. Therefore, it is advisable to choose appropriate materials that will best suit students’ needs for language development, regardless of the origin and the originator of the materials. Even if the materials are produced by non-native English speakers, they can be taken as authentic if they serve the purpose of developing language and are readily accessible, appropriate, need-based, and socially responsive.

About the author: Mohan Singh Saud is Associate Professor of English Education at Kailali Multiple Campus, Tribhuvan University, Nepal. He is a PhD scholar at Graduate School of Education, Tribhuvan University, Nepal. He is also the author of Grade 11 compulsory English textbook under Curriculum Development Centre, Nepal.

 

References

Bax, S. (2003). The end of CLT: a context approach to language teaching. ELT Journal, 57(3), 278–287.

Byram, M., (1997). Teaching and assessing intercultural communicative competence. Bristol, England: Multilingual Matters.

Day, R. (2004). A Critical Look at Authentic Materials. The Journal of Asia TEFL, 1(1), 101-
114.

Holliday, A. (2006). Native-speakerism. ELT Journal, 60 (4), 385 387. https://doi.org/10.1093/elt/ccl030

Jenkins, J. (2006). Current perspectives on teaching world Englishes and English as a lingua franca. TESOL Quarterly,40(1), 157-181.

Kachru, B. (2004). Asian Englishes: Beyond the canon. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.

Kachru, B. B. (1985). Standards, codification and sociolinguistic realism: The English language in the outer circle. In R. Quirk, & H. G. Widdowson (Eds.), English in the world: Teaching and learning the language and literatures (pp. 11-30). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kumaravadivelu, B. (1994). The postmethod condition: Emerging strategies for second/foreign language teaching. TESOL Quarterly28(1), 27-48.

Kumaravadivelu, B. (2016). The decolonial option in English teaching: Can the subaltern act?. TESOL Quarterly50(1), 66-85.

McKay, S. L. (2002). Teaching English as an international language: Rethinking goals and perspectives. New York: Oxford University Press.

Nault, D. (2006). Going global: Rethinking culture teaching in ELT contexts. Language, Culture and Curriculum19(3), 314-328.

Phillipson, R. (1992). Linguistic imperialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Quirk, R., Greenbaum, S., Leech, G., & Svartvik, J. (1985). A comprehensive grammar of the English language. Harlow: Longman.

Rafalovich, M. (2014). Reconsidering authenticity in ESL written materials. Hawaii Pacific University TESOL Working Paper Series12, 96-103.

Sharifian, F. (2014). Teaching English as an International Language in Multicultural Contexts: Focus on Australia. In R. Marlina, & R.A. Giri (Eds.), The pedagogy of English as an international language: Perspectives from scholars, teachers, and students (pp. 35-46), (Vol. 1). Springer.

Shomoossi, N., & Ketabi, S. (2007). A critical look at the concept of authenticity. Electronic Journal of Foreign Language Teaching4(1), 149-155.

Cite as: Saud, MS. (2020). Rethinking authenticity in ELT texts and materials: A perspective of an author. http://eltchoutari.com/2020/10/rethinking-authenticity-in-elt-texts-and-materials-a-perspective-of-an-author/

Roles of nonverbal communication in large ELT classrooms

Binod Duwadi, MPhil Scholar

In this piece of article, I have attempted to explore teachers’ perceptions regarding eye-contact; facial expressions (mimics) and gestures (body language) and their pedagogical implication based on the views collected from ten English teachers from five community schools of Kathmandu valley.

Introduction

Teachers often complain about discipline, lack of attention and motivation, and many other challenges in large classes. In such classes, many of which lead to a communication breakdown between teachers and students or between students themselves. It is known that speech is only one of the forms of communication. Experts believe that most interpersonal communication takes place in a nonverbal mode. People’s faces disclose emotions and telegraph what matters to them (Santrock, 2001). Two aspects of non-verbal communication are the use of eyes and facial expressions; both of which are powerful tools to convey messages. Yet, most of our learners’ time in the classroom is spent with their eyes firmly fixed on books, whiteboard, projector, windows, or roaming randomly around the class. Ergin and Birol (2005) indicate that the real communication between people begins when they maintain eye contact, hence eye contact plays a crucial role in communication. If a person maintains eye contact with you, it indicates that the person is interested to start communication with you, while avoiding eye contact shows that the person is not interested or lacks the confidence to start the conversation.

While the use of eyes and facial expressions are reported to assist teachers in managing classrooms, direct eye contact with teachers in our context is considered disrespectful. According to Gower and Walters (1983), the main applications of eye contact in the classroom are to show that the teacher is taking notice of students who are talking; check that everyone is concentrating; indicate the students who want to communicate, and encourage contributions when one is trying to elicit ideas. A teacher can identify that students have something to say by looking at their eyes and face and teacher’s eye contact with students also helps to hold their attention and encourage them to listen to others talking (Snyder, 1998). The use of eyes, mimics, and gestures are also believed to help establish rapport with students. Rossman (1989) believes that the teacher’s body language and eye contact play an important role to set the climate of the classroom. A teacher who never looks at students in their eyes could be due to a lack of confidence, which gives students a sense of insecurity (Gower & Walters, 1983; Pollitt 2006).

Facial expression and eye contact reflect teachers’ confidence. Teachers need to be present in the classroom before learners and welcome them individually with a combination of eye contact and their names as they enter the room. Ledbury et al. (2004) report that eye contact is, fundamentally, time and effort saving even in a large class setting. Research reveals that teachers can save time and effort with specific messages delivered by eye and facial expressions like praises, encouragement, or disapproval. However, the role of non-verbal communication like eye contact, facial expression, and gestures in English language teaching-learning in a developing country like Nepal requires more intensive investigation. Therefore, I am interested in this area and have attempted to explore teachers’ perceptions of non-verbal communication and their implications in teaching-learning of English language.

Pedagogical practices in relation to non-verbal communication

Based on the qualitative research method associated with the interpretive paradigm, I collected the data from ten English teachers from five community schools of Kathmandu valley. The teachers were asked to share their experiences of non-verbal communication and its uses in their large classroom via email. They were given the freedom to report and reflect on any of the issues or incidents they find worthwhile or significant indicating why those moments were significant and critical to them. Information from the ‘critical moments reflection’ reports revealed two major categories based on the research questions as follows:

Teachers’ perceptions on eye contact

Five teachers stated that teachers’ eye contact is a source of motivation and coordination for the students towards the lesson making them feel important and confident as well. T4 states:

I think the relationship is crucial between teacher and student. The way we look at our students, their eyes seem serious towards the class, as they are found motivated towards our lesson, at that time I feel motivated and encouraged.

Similar to the perceptions of most other teachers, T4 reported that eye contact makes students feel important as when the teacher looks at students, they feel that the teacher is interested in them and cares for them. Moreover, eye contact for T4 helps to maintain concentration and boost the motivation of students. On the other hand, for T5, eye contact is a tool to manage the large class she says:

My class is sixty-three, so it is quite large, students make noise, that is very tedious to control, when I look at them, one by one, they remain silent to some extent, perhaps they are aware of my class.

T6 reports a similar experience, “As I find my class noisy, I feel stressed, and I use minimum eye contact for a while without talking to them, they also do not make noise, no matter the class is large.”

Their views are similar to the views of Gower & Walters (1983) as they believe that eye contact can be used to ensure that everyone is together in the lesson, to notice the student who is talking, and to encourage contributions, participation.

Likewise, the other five teachers reported that they perceive teachers’ eye contact as a means to maintain attention in the classroom, which is similar to the views of Gower and Walters (1983) and Snyder (1998) that eye contact is used to hold the attention and maintain focus in teaching-learning. T6 uses eye contact for a similar purpose as he mentions, “By looking at my students directly in their eyes, they pay attention to me and they listen to me, what I am saying in my class.” Similarly, T7 uses eye contact to increase motivation, maintain attention and most importantly to approve and disapprove of students’ behaviour as he says, “My eye contact is crucial for me and my class as it obtains the motivation of the students. This way students pay attention to the lesson. I acknowledge my student’s behavior that is posed in my classroom.” Eye contact also plays an important role in behaviour management of students. By simply fixing our eyes at students’ with an unhappy facial expression signals them to drop their behaviour, while soft eyes with a smile signals that the teacher is interested and wants them to continue what they are doing.

Moreover, it also can be a tool to assess students’ understanding of the lessons as a lack of understanding is displayed in students’ eyes in the form of restlessness or lack of confidence. T9 has a similar experience:

When we are confident, we feel easy to see our students face, otherwise, it is not easy to look at the students’ faces one by one. It is easy to evaluate our student’s situation, how they are presenting in the class.

Teachers’ perceptions on facial expression and gestures

The teachers mentioned that facial expression and gestures are the sources of motivation, enthusiasm, and confidence in learning, oneself, and others. T1 mentions:

Another thing that took my students’ attention is when my students speak, I always listen to them and show I am reacting by moving my body at least by one gesture. This makes my class motivated, encouraged, and enthusiastic. This gives us strong confidence to move on.

Signaling students with some non-verbal clues gives sufficient information about whether students are doing right or wrong and whether they should continue or drop the action. Such non-verbal clues are sometimes stronger than lectures. Teachers should be aware of their body language and the message it conveys because their body language can either encourages or discourages students in classroom engagement and participation as T3 notes that, “My students report me that my body language encourages them and they do not hesitate to talk to me. They say my body language is encouraging and they feel secure in their class.”

The teachers also reported that they perceived mimics and gestures as a source to maintain the attention and readiness of students to resume the teaching-learning activities. They reported that body language is very useful in managing students’ behaviour in a large classroom. Moreover, it also helps students to understand the discussion and lesson better. T10 uses various non-verbal clues to demonstrate and express the intended meaning during the discussion as he notes that, “By using various demonstrations and expressing the posture I make my class well managed.”

Conclusion

The participant teachers mostly perceived the non-verbal clues like eye contact as a source of motivation, concentration, enthusiasm, and a tool for gaining and maintaining attention during the teaching-learning processes. Although there are major similarities in the teachers’ perceptions of non-verbal communication like eye contact, mimics, and gestures, and using them in teaching-learning, some teachers perceive and use them differently. For instance, they use non-verbal clues not only to control the classroom but also to better elaborate the intended meaning of discussion and to encourage students in active participation in teaching-learning activities.

According to cognitive scientists, meaningful learning occurs if students’ attention is captured as information processing that begins with learners paying attention to the stimuli. Most of the students indicated how motivated they become as a result of the teacher’s eye contact, mimics, and gestures feeling comfortable, confident, and significant. Teachers’ non-verbal communication creates a comfortable and relaxing atmosphere for them, and this enables them to have self-confidence which also leads to increased participation and contributions to the lesson. When students participate in the lesson, they are more likely to ask questions which also increases their understanding of the topics. Teachers are recommended to be aware of the importance of nonverbal communication and use it in favor of learners to create a more motivating, comfortable, confident environment in class for better classroom management.

About the author: Binod Duwadi is an MPhil scholar (English Language Education Programme) at Kathmandu University. He is the Head of the English Department at Amar Jyoti Secondary School Kathmandu, Nepal.

 

References

Ergin, A. & Birol, C. (2005). EgitimadeLletisim. Ani Yayincilik. Ankara.

Gower, R. & Walters, S. (1983). Teaching practice handbook. Oxford. Heinemann.

Ledbury, R, et al, (2004). The importance of eye contact in the classroom. The Internet TESL Journal. X(8)

Pollitt, L. (2006). Classroom management. TESOL course articles. Retrieved from http://www.tesolcourse.com

Rossman, R.L. (1989). Tips: Discipline in the music classroom. Reston. VA. MENC.

Santrock, J. (2001). Educational psychology. New York: McGraw Hill.

Snyder, D. (1998). Classroom Management for Student teachers. Music Educators Journals. 37-40.

Cite as: Duwadi, B. (2020). Roles of nonverbal communication in large ELT classrooms. http://eltchoutari.com/2020/10/roles-of-nonverbal-communication-in-large-elt-classrooms/

Changing assets in ELT classroom culture: Reflections on teaching during the pandemic

Gyanu Dahal

Introduction: Changing contexts of teaching

The COVID-19 pandemic has posed unprecedented challenges for people around the world. Due to this crisis, we all are locked inside the home and no one can deny that life has suddenly and unavoidably become more difficult and complicated for everyone, including language teachers. All the schools and colleges are closed. So, these days regular face-to-face classes have been switched to virtual (online) classes. Conducting virtual classes is a new mode of teaching and learning for both teachers as well as students. The school closures have not only threatened teachers and students, but also parents to cope up with the entirely new situation. It has become a matter of anxiety and a nuisance for all of us.

Teaching is often said as one of the most stressful professions, even before the pandemic. Response to the Covid-19 pandemic has created a long list of new stressors for teachers to deal with, including problems caused by the emergency transformation to online language teaching. During this crisis, everything has happened so fast that it does not seem realistic to adopt a holistic solution that is easy to implement, and that works for everyone (Moorhouse, 2020).

I always realized that teaching and learning is a social and dynamic process. Teachers and students used to get enough time to be social in face-to-face classes. Students’ attendance was good. They seemed happy with teachers and there were personal connections between teachers and students. We could use facial expressions, body language, a physical gesture which is used to motivate students to work on time and to create a positive classroom environment, but there is a distance between teachers and students in virtual classrooms. They are deprived of physical closeness. The main negative aspect that was predicted and experienced in online teaching was the lack of interaction. The pandemic caused many teachers and educators to rethink and reshape their educational practice. These are the issues from which every teacher is suffering.

In many countries, teachers were given very little time to convert their face-to-face classes to online teaching via synchronous and/or asynchronous methods, often despite challenges concerning the availability of necessary digital devices, prior training in online teaching techniques, and/or effective online learning support platforms. In most cases, teachers have not been trained in the necessary technical and pedagogical skills to integrate digital technology instruction.

The typical days for language teachers around the world have been stressful enough, given their heavy workloads, time pressures, and difficult juggling roles. These days, we are not only stressed due to the reasons mentioned above but it’s because of sudden adaptation to online teaching. Furthermore, teachers are unhappy with the indifferent behavior of students, their passivity, and less enthusiasm in the online classroom. Students used to be very active and participatory in those days in comparison to now. The teachers indulge in the thought as to how to make students active and energetic in the class. There are concerns about low students’ attendance, reasons behind not submitting their assignment on time, and effective ways of assessment. In what follows, I have discussed my own experience of running online classes smoothly and effectively.

My learned experiences and suggestions to fellow teachers

Based on my personal experiences, I have listed several suggestions that might help fellow teachers to hold their virtual lessons effectively and successfully.

Prepare a lesson plan

Every teacher should develop the habit of making plans before starting their lessons. Allen (2003) explained that a lesson plan is a route map or mind map of teachers designed for a specific topic of a specific day. A plan helps to run classes smoothly without being distracted. It helps to become confident and mindful of what is to happen in lessons. When teachers are equipped with a lesson plan, they never find themselves mislead and likely to reach their teaching goals. Unlike the face-to-face mode of teaching, I would recommend fellow teachers to plan their lessons shorter for online teaching and try creating more opportunities for interactions.

Develop multiple classroom activities

In face-to-face classrooms, teaching was easier and more comfortable. We could quit or add some activities by observing students’ motivation and engagement. But now, before conducting online classes, we should set a plan with a variety of activities that can keep the students active and interactive. For this, we can use break out rooms, we can let the learners use the microphone, turn on the camera, and allow them to use a chatbox. It helps learners be active, interactive, and collaborative. Collaborative learning encourages understanding, fosters relationships, builds self-esteem, reduces anxiety, and stimulates critical thinking (Panitz, 1999). We should encourage our students to share their ideas, inspire them to participate in all the activities actively and enthusiastically, motivate them to be interactive in the classroom asking open questions.

Be vigilant in assigning and correcting work

Teachers assign homework to the students to practice the content and language they learned during the class. However, it’s not a good idea to assign homework at the end of the lesson because you may not have enough time to explain how to write it, and also students may not have enough time to ask questions if it is not clear for them. For doing homework correction, one effective way can be to display the corrections in PowerPoint slides and encourage students to do self-correction or in small groups in break out rooms. Sometimes, teachers can ask students to write answers in the chatbox and read their responses mentioning their names. At this difficult time, it is important to give compliments to students regardless of their failure to produce correct and sufficient work as it keeps them motivated. However, teachers need to correct their work and offer positive feedback.

Use of students’ L1

Researchers believe that the use of students’ L1 facilitates the teaching of a target language (Cook, 2001). Teachers use students’ L1 for various purposes like facilitating communication, conveying meaning, facilitating student-teacher relationships, and scaffolding, and peer learning (Cook, 2001). It also maintains confidence and self-esteem because it is linked to the learner’s identity and emotional wellbeing. At this challenging time when the instruction may not be delivered effectively during online teaching, it is important to use students’ mother tongue or the languages they are more comfortable with. The use of English-only may create difficulties and frustration for them.

Develop a positive classroom culture

Creating an environment where students feel safe and free to take part is equally important. Every teacher should love to have their students waiting to come to class every day to learn, feel safe, and have a sense of family with their classmates and their teachers. For this, I’m always mindful of creating positive classroom culture. It is a space where everyone should feel accepted and included. Students should be comfortable with sharing how they feel, and teachers should be willing to take it in to help improve learning.

Every student, teacher, and parent needs to be involved in playing a part in creating a positive classroom culture. Teachers present in class not only to teach for academic success but also to preserve student’s physical, social, and emotional needs. Teachers should never forget students’ variations, in the classroom, there may be students who have a troubled home life and do not get the motivation or emotional support from their family, but coming to a very friendly classroom culture and understanding is very beneficial in changing their views on themselves and other adults.

Teachers must be aware of the classroom culture they develop before starting new sessions. We need to take into mind what each student needs to feel comfortable in the classroom and give them a safe space to be themselves. Having a good classroom culture in starting days will give children a positive and friendly connotation with the teachers and learning. If students experience a bad classroom culture in the beginning, they will be less motivated to continue on their learning excursion with the best mindset.

Conclusion

Today’s teachers should be equipped with some specific skills that help teachers to succeed in their efforts to teach a language: for example, designing and implementing appropriate instruction for classroom assessment and student engagement, organizing and facilitating students’ participation, and providing guidance and support. We should motivate students and show enthusiasm and interest in learners. We can support our learners to promote group interaction, collaboration, and teamwork by setting some activities. We can also use different communication tools (e.g., email, video chat, text messages, etc.), for active communication and social presence to engage online learners. We can personalize our instructions, stories, messages, and feedback to make our class environment livelier by adding the appropriate sense of humor when possible. We can maintain a warm, and friendly, atmosphere by creating and developing respectful relationships by showing sensitivity and empathy when communicating online. We can offer some advice and suggestions from our learners for betterment. All these skills, tasks, and competencies can help us to be highly respectful online educators. Moreover, teachers should try these to possess some personal traits such as being highly motivated, supportive, visible, organized, analytical, respectful, approachable, active, responsive, flexible, open, honest, and compassionate.

About the Author: Gyanu Dahal is an English language teacher in Little Angels’ College of Management/School. She has also worked as a trainer and mentor in British Council projects. Her scholarly interests include mentoring, exploratory action research, and teacher education.

 

References

Allen, G.T. (2003). Important points about planning lessons. California: Philadelphia.

Cook, V. (2001). Using the first language in the classroom. Canadian Modern Language Review, 57, 402–423.

Harbord, J. (1992). The use of the mother tongue in the classroom. ELT Journal, 46, 350– 355.

Moorhouse, B. L. (2020). Adaptations to a face-to-face initial teacher education course ‘forced’ online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Journal of Education for Teaching. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/02607476.2020.1755205

Panitz, T. (1999). Collaborative versus cooperative learning: A comparison of the two concepts which will help us understand the underlying nature of interactive learning. U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED448443.pdf

Cite as: Dahal, G. (2020). Changing assets in ELT classroom culture: Reflections on teaching during the pandemic. http://eltchoutari.com/2020/10/changing-assets-in-elt-classroom-culture-reflections-on-teaching-during-the-pandemic/