Welcome to the Fourth Quarterly Issue of ELT Choutari: Special Coverage on Teaching Reading #Vol. 10, Issue 89

First Let’s Talk About Reading Skills Then the Only Habit

Source: Richard_Rivera

Longman Dictionary of Applied Linguistics defines reading as the process of “perceiving a written text in order to understand its contents.” The written text here indicates written symbols of languages. Therefore, reading is making meaning from written symbols. Reading can be both aloud or silent. When you are reading this paragraph, perhaps you are reading silently and making the sense of what I’m trying to convey. Now, please read this statement aloud, yes please start reading aloud and feel the difference yourself. Have you read? That’s great. You read aloud so easily and subconsciously at the moment but I bet it took a great deal for your teacher to make you able to correlate each written symbol and their corresponding sounds and pronounce words accurately, which you just did without much effort and feeling that. Ok, just a moment for you to think, can we read silently without first being able to read aloud? Umm, generally not. Reading experts urge that a reader reads silently once s/he is fluent enough and to be fluent, one should have a considerable practice. And the practice comes from reading aloud. Therefore, the sub-skill of being aware of symbols and their corresponding sounds is a basic skill for reading.

In order to explain the process of reading more clearly, researchers have identified five components required for reading success. They are Phonemic awareness (sound- symbols relationship), phonics (name of the symbol and its sound), sight-word recognition, and fluency (NICHD, 2000), as well as vocabulary (Stahl & Bravo, 2010) and comprehension (Snow, 2002). Once we teach our children these five components of reading effectively, the children become independent readers and being an independent reader is the foundation for being successful in all areas of education. Check yourself now. You are reading this editorial independently because of these five components. Yes, our reading skill is based on these components and all other reading strategies we learn as we grow are also based on them. Similarly, our reading habit comes from these basic reading skills. Until and unless we children master these basic reading skills, we cannot expect a good reading habit in them. The ultimate goal of reading is to comprehend the text or grasp the meaning, which is equally important for any early grader to any university graduate.

Now as a teacher, future teacher, teacher educator or policy maker, we need to ask ourselves, in our reading lesson, do we really teach reading skills in our classes (like phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, reading fluency and comprehension)? When we remark our children do not have a reading habit, have we assessed whether they have a proper reading skill? How do we assess the reading skills of children? Mostly in written? Isn’t that somehow funny that we assess oral reading skill in written? These are some questions I leave up to you to reflect on our teaching reading practices.

Presenting you a special issue on reading skills and reading habits, we have opened up a discussion on developing reading skills- reading skills required for an early grader to the skills required for a university graduate. Moreover, we also have tried to capture some of the practices of promoting reading habits in this issue. We have covered six posts in this issue, which all are based on the experience of the authors. Some of the posts explore the challenges in developing reading skills and reading habit followed by some ways out. Likewise, other offer wonderful strategies and tips for accelerating reading skills at school level and also in research level. Moreover, some post views reading as the means of exploration and experience. Interestingly, this issue brings up the writing from three ladies and three gentlemen, gender equality, isn’t it? It is so good to see them coming up with academic discourse here at Choutari.

Read our posts to explore more about reading. Please follow the link below, read, drop your comments for the writers, share the posts among your circle and most importantly, write your experiences, reflections, best practices, challenges and so on in your profession and email us at 2eltchoutari@gmail.com. We will take your writing in the process.

Finally, wish you all a joyous, colourful and brightest Tihar and Chhat festival. Have a good time. Here is the list of the posts for this issue:

  1. Let’s Borrow Something from Nepali Language Classrooms into English Classrooms: Ekraj Koirala (Siddhartha)
  2. Some Ideas of Developing Reading Habits in Children: Babita Chapagain
  3. How to Review Literature Effectively: Sharing My Research Experiences: Karna Rana, PhD
  4. Why There is No Good Reading Habit in Our Students: An Exploration: Nabina Rokka
  5. My Experience of Teaching Reading in Higher Secondary Level: Yashoda Bam
  6. A Professional Journey of Exploration, Experience and Expression: Balram Adhikari

Catch you up in the Janauary issue now.

Before closing the page, I would like to thank all the contributors in this issue and I would also like to special thank Ashok Raj Khati and Karna Rana for their rigorous reading and review of the articles.

Jeevan Karki, The lead Editor of the issue

Follow me at Twitter: @G1Karki

Let’s Borrow Something from Nepali Language Classrooms into English Classrooms

Ekraj Koirala (Siddhartha)*

I worked as an English language teacher, then worked as a teacher trainer. Now I have taken the new role of basic reading skills development expert in the Nepali language! Actually, it has been an interesting experience for me to work in the teaching-learning of both languages. Now, I am now trying to see how English language teaching can help Nepali and vice-versa. With the recent development of the five component- based reading approach around the world, the focus of reading skill development in native language has been shifted. And the latest approach is giving better results. In this post, I am trying to explore the trends and gaps in reading skills teaching in English language and share some encouraging changes in the reading skills in the early graders in the Nepali language. Finally, I propose to borrow the five component- based reading approach from the Nepali language classrooms into the English classrooms.

Reading skills in English language classroom

Though the curriculum states English as the second language in the classroom, there are students from many different backgrounds, which makes Nepali the second language for them and English after that. In a way, it is taught and practised as the foreign language. One of the general objectives of primary level English curriculum (Primary Education Curriculum, 2063) is “…to help them develop enthusiasm for reading so that they will be responsive and knowledgeable readers” On the other hand, one of the objectives of reading in early grades (1 to 3) is to “put sounds together to read words and sentences and read words and simple sentences, and understand them.” English teaching as a subject in early grade aims of developing students’ ability to use English effectively in real life situation as per the national curriculum framework of Nepal.

As the curriculum suggests teaching-learning activity is to be based on oral-situation-approach. However, during my time of working closely with teachers and students as well as the close observation of teaching-learning in classrooms, I found only a handful of teachers using target language i.e. oral situational approach in the classrooms and most of them use the grammar-translation method to deliver the lessons. Mostly, teachers are active and take more talking time in the learning process, while students are passive receivers and get no or insufficient time to use or practice the language in the classroom. As a result, students learn about the language only not the language itself. During the lessons, for instance in alphabet teaching, teachers ask students to follow him/her like, a… for apple, b… for ball, c… for cat… The early graders are provided with the Nepali translations of new words from the teachers and they are also supposed to mug up the meaning of a particular word in Nepali. Even teaching chant is done in a very unsystematic way where students read chant like reading any other text. Yes, read not sing! Students are seen decoding the letters but cannot decode (read) words or utter them at once. On the other hand, those who decode do not understand the meaning. In my observation, a very few numbers of teachers engage students inchild-centredd activities as prescribed by the curriculum. Group work, pair work and other learning strategies with specific learning tasks are very rare in the classroom activities. As the most popular strategies the teacher uses are; explain unfamiliar words and text in Nepali, read aloud, choral reading, reading by a few students, and answers the comprehension questions using the grammar-translation method. During my observation, I found few measurable gaps in teaching English in early grades (1-3) such as;

  1. Less exposure of English language: Not only the students get less exposure to use the target language in the classroom but teachers themselves use handful expressions of English. Few short expressions of English is used such as stand up, come in, ok, you read, did you understand, now read, your turn, turn page no are the most common expressions as the classroom language.
  2. Focus only on teaching items rather than skills: The teachers only cover the teaching items of the textbook where they focus only on the contents. They are less aware of the basic reading skills such as phonological awareness, concepts of print, letter-sound association and blending of sounds, syllable reading, vocabulary building, comprehension and fluency.
  3. Comprehension teaching is less focused: The main emphasis of teaching is mostly based on the drills and deliver the meaning of the whole text in Nepali. Although reading comprehension is regarded as the essential part of reading, it is mostly neglected during the lesson. Actually, teachers read the text and write the answers on the board and students are asked to copy that. Now the question is who is learning here- teacher or students? Students are not prepared to strengthen their reading comprehension.

Nevertheless, a few good examples of letter recognition is seen in English learning. Few teachers were seen using readymade domino game to link relationship with sound and letter. Students were able to utter correct pronunciation of English letters after the domino practice. They were able to decode the letters in words. When it comes to the matter of word reading, a few students were able to decode words with proper pronunciation. Generally, they were able to decode the monosyllabic words such as bus, high, red etc. but had difficulty in multi-syllabic words. In my observations, I found most of the teachers struggling in making students read words at once. In addition, teachers are struggling to develop vocabulary, reading fluency, and reading comprehension in students.

Reading skills in Nepali language classroom

While working closely with teachers and students and closely observing the Nepali language classes, I found some changes in teaching the Nepali language.  First, there is an extension of time for the Nepali language in schools. With the emphasis of giving more inputs and exposure of Nepali language to students, two periods a day is allocated for it. Second, a new approach called five components based learning approach is used in teaching the Nepali language. And third, a new strategy called gradual release of responsibility is used in teaching learning process.

Now let me basically share about the five component based reading with a short account of classroom activities and the gradual release of responsibility strategy. The five component- based reading includes phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, reading fluency and reading comprehension.

Teachers start his/her ninety-minute class with the everyday lesson with Phonemic Awareness activities like sound recognition, blending syllables into words and segmenting words into syllables. Then they gradually move to Phonics activities like introducing letter, its corresponding sound and possible words that it comes with. In addition, they involve students in stroke writing, syllables (Brahakhari) reading, word reading and reading a short decodable text. Moving onto the next component of Vocabulary, teachers introduce the vocabulary before presenting a decodable text/story. They introduce three new words with proper pronunciation, meaning and use in a sentence. Then the students are asked to read the text/story to improve their reading Fluency followed by necessary support and model reading from the teacher. Then to assess the reading Comprehension, teachers use factual and inferential questions. Finally, to test the students reading and writing skill, teachers use dictation technique.

In order to teach these components, teachers use the Gradual Release Responsibility strategy. There is basically three phase of presenting a learning item according to this strategy. At first, the teacher demonstrates the new skill of language for a few times, which is known as “I do”. During this time, students are only supposed to watch and listen to the teachers. Then the teacher and students practice the skill together, which is known as “We do”. Finally, the students are given the responsibility to demonstrate the new language skills, while the teacher observes closely and supports them. This phase is known as “You do”. This concept is developed to transfer the new skills of language from teacher to student in a non- threatening way. After all, the ultimate goal of teaching is to enable students to demonstrate knowledge and skills themselves. Gradual release of responsibility believes that students should be presented with a good demonstration of what the teachers expect from them. Then the teacher should slowly engage students in the activity. This phase is mostly teacher guided but both teacher and students are involved. Finally, the students are asked to practice and demonstrate the skill. This concept can be illustrated in the following figure:

Gradual Release of Responsibility- Pearson & Gallagher (1983)

Student learning in the class

I was surprised to see that most of the students in classrooms were able to decode the taught letters and bring themselves into storybooks of different genres from classroom corner library. Teachers, on the other hand, were seen feeling comfortable in doing the lesson in a structured way. They shared that they had never ever experienced such a learning environment in the classroom since they begin to teach the Nepali language. And they believe that this approach is significantly supporting even the students from non- Nepali background to learn Nepali in a better way.

In the follow-up discussion, the teachers expressed that a majority of students have been dropping out from schools when they reach the upper grades. They also revealed that the majority of droppers could not read the text properly and comprehend the meaning. Consequently, they feel ashamed, disheartened, ignored and are punished in many cases and leave the school.  Those who continue their education struggle to achieve better.

Researches have shown that students who do not learn to read in the early grades are more likely to repeat the grade. Those who are upgraded are more likely to drop out of school. In Nepal, if 100 students enroll in grade one, only 30% of them stay in school till the end of their school education. About 70% of students drop out of the school system. It is believed that this horrible situation will lessen once they get competency over the language during their early grades and achieve overall academic success.

Achieving the objectives of the English language curriculum primarily in early grade is inevitable in order to retain the students in upper grades. If students cannot achieve competency over the English language in early grades, their academic success in upper grades cannot be ensured. To address the lacking part in English learning and make the students competent reader in English, Nepal government should introduce five components based reading approach as the core approach to teaching language in early grades. As discussed with cases of Nepali language above, students in this approach get good opportunity to practice reading skills in a carefully guided environment. Moreover, it controls teachers from being active every time and gradually releases the responsibility of learning from teacher to students.

References:

Curriculum Development Centre (2007). Primary Education Curriculum (in Nepali). Curriculum Development Centre, Ministry of Education.

Pearson, P. D. and M. C. Gallagher, (1983).The Instruction of Reading Comprehension. Contemporary Educational Psychology, (8), 317-344.

* Mr Koirala is an MA from Tribhuvan University. He has been working in the capacity of literacy officer in an organization. His area of interest also includes writing, theatre performance and art.

Some Ideas of Developing Reading Habits in Children

Babita Chapagain*

It is always important for the teachers and parents to read children’s literature themselves, understand the effectiveness of extensive reading and create an appropriate environment for children to read books. This article presents the existing teaching reading culture to young learners in Nepal and ideas for teachers and parents to provide opportunities to read and support their children’s learning.

The Context

Several studies have been done globally in the field of language teaching regarding the importance of the use of children’s literature for their learning. However, in the context of Nepal’s public primary schools, this is a very rare practice. (Koirala & Bird, 2004: 128). Koirala and Bird (2004) mentioned that the culture of reading for pleasure is very limited in the context of Nepal. It does not mean that people do not read books or other publications.

The government has invested a large amount of money in primary education and showed a willingness to reform the education system. However, the education system is conventional, and it needs to be transformed to meet contemporary global education. For instance, the government provides textbooks for the school children and the children follow the texts and instructions of the textbooks which they have to do for getting promoted to the upper grade every year. There is a rare access to the library of reference books and additional reading materials for the children in schools, and neither the schools (excluding few schools,  having managed fund for the library), have managed resources to develop a library in their schools. Although some international organizations such as Room to Read and Nepal Library Foundation have been working to enhance educational opportunities through public libraries by donating English as well as Nepali story books in rural communities, their work in limited areas is unlikely to reach every corner of the country and most of the children in Nepal are still far away from such opportunities. Unless the government invests massively in education particularly in providing learning resources, the current support for the schools by a limited number of non-governmental organisations may not result in the immediate change in the traditional culture of reading. In addition to this, a lack of awareness among teachers and parents is another obstacle to foster a reading culture of children. For instance, when a question is raised about reading culture at home and at school, the majority of Nepali people consider reading means reading prescribed textbooks and understanding a text refers to enabling children to answer the questions based on the text. Moreover, it is a general tendency of the people that they tend to treat their children in the same way once they were treated.

In addition to this, the education system in Nepal lacks a holistic approach to teaching and learning a language and it is focused on teaching one aspect of language at a time in isolation entirely based on textbooks in general. For instance, the students are taught Nepali or English alphabet in preschool which can take over a year as it has no meaning for the children. Similarly, the students may know prepositions, but they have no idea of presenting it in context and it takes many years for them to internalize and use language in their everyday life. Beard’s (1991) study in children developing literacy found that a fundamental support of parents and teachers can help children set up their learning goals. Therefore, parents and teachers need to feel that young learners need exposure to develop their reading habit which serves as a vehicle to make a tremendous difference in their language development, intercultural understanding.

My Experience as a Teacher Trainer

When I was a teacher trainer at one of the organizations at Kathmandu, I worked in a training project ‘Bringing English to Classrooms’. During that training period, I conducted some story-based activities to provide the teachers with hands-on knowledge regarding the effectiveness of using literature throughout the curriculum. Teachers also wrote stories themselves for their students and made books using the local materials available. The teachers enjoyed a lot in my sessions and seemed to believe that stories can play a powerful role in language learning. However, in the beginning, many of them were not sure if they could take what they learned in the training centre. They came up with questions such as ‘how is extra reading possible while both teachers and students are busy completing the course syllabus fixed by the school administration and preparing for exams?’ So, it was still challenging to persuade the teachers that reading widely does not mean it has to be separated from their everyday task based on the syllabus but the two can be integrated. During our monitoring phase, I found some of my trainee teachers who implemented what they had learned and some of them were still not sure how it would exactly work in their school where they still lacked enough books, time and concrete ideas. From the training programme, I learned that some teachers could not transfer the skills they had learned from the training to their classrooms. And the limited time the project had did not allow me to go for regular mentoring.  Had I got further opportunities to follow those teachers, the result would have been far better than what our project really achieved. On the other hand, the teachers who were aware and who could internalize the process succeeded in implementing what they learned. It made me believe that it is possible for the teachers to establish a new culture if the teachers are aware, self-motivated and are mentored carefully.

Why is child literature important?

Literature not only helps children learn to read but also helps them develop an appreciation for reading as a pleasurable aesthetic experience. Likewise, a team of researchers (as cited in Pantaleo, 2002) claimed that “literature entertains, stretches imagination, elicits a wealth of emotions, and develops compassion.” (pp. 211). A piece of story stimulates readers to generate questions, can give new knowledge and provides encounters with different beliefs and values.  Good stories can work as a powerful device to show children right direction, help them make decisions, learn to empathize and become good humans. It can change their perception and attitude towards certain things. For instance, from the story ‘The Grouchy Ladybug’ written by Eric Carle, children learn the importance of being friendly and interacting politely with others in the community. Literature also opens the springboard for discussions. For instance, after reading ‘The Giving Tree’ children can discuss for hours regarding human development, their behaviour, selfishness and so many other issues. Thus, using literature is a natural medium of teaching children a second language, developing a love for literature in the learners and motivating them to read and grow as a ‘human’.

Why extensive reading across the curriculum and what teachers can do?

An act of reading extensively is likely to produce positive attitudes and interest towards reading. Materials, which are interesting at the appropriate linguistic level, always motivate students positively. Such materials give pleasure and generate interest in reading and support language learners to develop their overall language skills and progress academically. Day (1997) compares the pleasure and achievement the students get from extensive reading with a garden where it is always spring. Children’s literature or real books used in language classrooms and across the curriculum also contributes to foster their lifelong reading habits, good problem solving as well as decision-making skills (Ghosn, 2013). The more children get to read books, the better speaking and writing competence they acquire. In this regard, Harmer (2001:251) argues that “what we write often depend upon what we read” and so do the children as they draw attention to the structure of written language and begin to internalize its distinctive features of language when they read or listen to stories. Thus, they also learn to speak simultaneously when they get to participate in the activities where they require speaking skills such as dramatization and making predictions.  Therefore, it is very important for the teachers to read books, promote reading and give children enough opportunity to interact with books by surrounding them with good texts in the school.

It becomes easier for the students to understand the concept of the curriculum content and it broadens the horizon of their understanding if they get to participate in such activities based on stories. For instance, children have fun by listening to the story; ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ and simultaneously they get the concept of the lifecycle of a butterfly. Thus, through the practice of reading extensively across the curriculum, teachers can encourage young learners to read and have the love for literature. This way, the teachers can scaffold them to acquire competence in language as well as the subject content.

Conclusion

Teachers can start collecting reading materials through various sources or develop stories themselves working collaboratively in co-ordination with the headteacher despite the difficult circumstances with lack of resources. Most importantly they should be aware and make themselves familiar with child literature. Teachers can make a difference in the language classrooms for young learners if they have a good selection of stories with beautiful pictures, various sentence structures and repetitive patterns and stories that represent a various culture of Nepal. Therefore, the teachers need to realize it is important to maximize reading opportunities in school and encourage parents to read to and/or with their children at home.

*Ms Chapagain is working as a freelancer teacher educator. She earned her Master’s degree in English Language Teaching (ELT) from Kathmandu University. She has also completed MA in ELT (with specialization in Young Learners) from the University of Warwick, the UK as a Hornby Scholar 2014/2015.

References

Beard, R. (1991). International perspectives on children’s developing literacy.  In C. Brumfit, J. Moon and R. Tongue (Eds.), Teaching English to Children: From Practice to Principle. Collins ELT.

Day, R.R., & Bamford, J. (1997). Extensive reading in the second language classroom. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Ghosn, I. (2013). Humanizing teaching English to young learners with children’s literature. CLELE journal, Volume 1, Issue 1, 39-57

Harmer, J. (2001). The Practice of English Language Teaching. (3rd Ed.) Longman: Pearson Education Limited. Longman: Essex England.

Koirala, N. & Bird, P. (2004). Library Development in Nepal: Problems and prospects. EBHR-38, 128

Pantaleo, S. ( 2002). Children’s literature across the curriculum: An Ontario survey. Canadian Journal Of Education, 27, 2 & 3: 211–230

How to Review Literature Effectively: Sharing my Research Experiences

Karna Rana, PhD

In my experience reading through the existing documents and reviewing relevant literature is a challenging job in the research process. The process of reviewing literature continues from the beginning of thinking about research to finalising a research paper or thesis. I believe that a researcher begins a research right from the beginning to think about what the research problem is and explores relevant information to the research problem. A researcher uses own bank of knowledge and various documents as a reference to define the research problem. However, it is not an easy job for anyone to explore resources and to find relevant information in the resources. Here, the researcher needs to have skills in reading documents and reviewing the literature and most importantly select the right resources from a vast ocean of resources such as the physical library, digital library and websites.

Let me share my experience of exploring resources, finding right documents, reading through lines and picking relevant information from the documents. When I started my second Masters in Education at the University of Bedfordshire in England in 2009, I struggled a lot to understand and learn the way of searching documents in both physical and digital libraries and had to wriggle when I was unable to recognise right information in the available resources. I cannot remember how often the library liaisons and tutors helped me explore digital books, journals and website information. It took a while to recognise the right information in journals, book chapters, newspapers and websites. I believe the way I learnt to read documents and review information relevant to research problems, questions or purposes is a generic skill needed for researchers to review literature. As you read a document, remember what to review.

In the beginning days of my Master’s research, I used to randomly pick information from documents, but gradually my tutors’ support and guidance, and the seminars I attended helped me to improve my way of reading skills and develop skills of reviewing literature. As a result, I was able to review the literature for my research more comfortably and systematically. Moreover, I was able to reflect the skills in my doctoral research activities from the beginning of developing a research proposal to the end of finalising thesis at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. The following diagram provides a guideline:

The above diagram (Presented by Professor Janinka Greenwood in the Creativity & Change Lab at the University of Canterbury) provides a fundamental guideline for reading documents and reviewing literature. The circles are interconnected in a literature and having the diagram on their mind can help a researcher to explore the right information in the documents and review literature systematically. The Topic in the diagram refers to the research topic. As a researcher or writer one needs to have a clear topic or the area to explore the right documents and the information within the documents. Moreover, the key aspects in the documents need to be relevant to the researcher’s own research area to relate the literature of the document. On the other hand, the Context in the diagram refers to the context of the research that the researcher has focused. When reviewing literature from journal articles, book chapters or other resources, a researcher needs to locate the context of the research information in the documents and provide the context in own review of the literature. The information becomes meaningful only in the contexts, the researcher must consider the context as an important aspect of the literature review process. The next important aspect of the literature review process is the Intention of the researcher which helps to read a wide range of texts in a document and explore the right content s/he wants to draw from the document. Another important aspect is the Criticality. The researcher needs to analyse how the information of the document relates to the topic and interpret it. It is a very important aspect in the process of reviewing information and interpreting in the body of literature because there is always a chance of biases. The researcher needs to reduce prejudices in the reviewed information.

When I started my doctoral research in education at the university, I got a good platform to learn reading skills and the skills of reviewing literature. Regular seminars in our research lab provided me with more opportunities for learning the strict discipline of reviewing literature such as exploring archived documents in a digital repository and printed materials, selecting right documents, scanning and skimming information in the documents. A researcher can use keywords and phrases to explore relevant materials available online from google, google scholar, EBSCOhost, digital library, etc. Similarly, the key terms and ideas of research can be helpful to select relevant books, journals and previous theses in the physical library. Moreover, the key ideas (specific topics) of the research can lead to reading through journal articles, specific chapters of bulky books and other documents. When reviewing literature, the researcher needs to have specific ideas to pick information from the resources such as journal article, book chapter, newspaper or other web pages and to interpret the information without any prejudices. The above diagram gives an idea to follow reading documents and what information to be reviewed from the resources. While reviewing any literature or a journal article, the researcher needs to bear in mind: who the researcher is, when the research was published, what the research is about (topic/ area), where the research took place (context), how the research was conducted (methodology) and what the results are. I believe that these key ideas help the researcher explore relevant information from documents, note key information when reading, interpret the information systematically and save valuable time.

Why There is No Good Reading Habit in Our Students: An Exploration

Nabina Roka*

Many formal and informal discussions emphasize that developing EFL reading at public schools of Nepal is challenging. In this narrative writing, I am therefore trying to investigate the existing scenario of EFL reading in our public school, its impact on developing reading habits and some hints for promoting it.

Let me share an incident that took place in my class. I asked a student to read a simple reading text. In the beginning, he was ready but he tried a little and stopped. I asked him why he stopped but he had no answer to it. He felt insulted in front of the class and flushed in anxiety. At first, he thought he could but as he tried he couldn’t because his reading skill did not support him. Majority of the students who belonged to public school had a similar story (perhaps, still have), a sad story of having difficulty in reading an English textbook fluently. This story reminded me to recall my first stumbling days where I put my full effort, mind and heart to memorize those individual letters ABC…XYZ without knowing what reading actually means. So, till the date, I remember the interesting way of our reading. We were taught to read word meaning in such a way, h-o-u-s-e- house mane (means) ‘ghar’ and gradually started to read sentences.

Reflecting back to those days, what I feel now is that our reading in my time was probably focused on developing the ability to read English alphabets. Later, it was associated with the production of words and sentences than context, meaning and many more. So based on my experience as an ELT practitioner, I do not find any significant difference between past and today. No doubt that reading is definitely a skill, an active skill along with other three fundamental skills of language. Some studies (e.g Dabarera et.al, 2014; Ismail, 2015& Lee, 2012) related to reading skill reported that reading is one of the significant skills foreign language students need to learn for academic success in English. .  .

Firstly, we were taught in Nepali even in English language class. Our teacher translated English text into learners’ native language (Nepali) as far as possible. As a result, we are compelled to think in Nepali and literally translated the language into English. This process involved the use of grammar-translation method in language learning and we are still practising it (nani dekhi lageko bani).  In our English class, our English teachers used to explain the text into Nepali and asked us to memorize the difficult word meaning. When he taught a lesson, he followed the ethics of grammar-translation method.  He read the text and translated into Nepali language, so did the students.  Thus, we never felt that it was our English class and we were reading in English. On the other hand, we felt bored like my SEE students when their teacher starts giving a lecture in English class. The interesting thing happened in both classes (classes of my time and now) were similar where students requested their teacher to tell the text into Nepali. In this respect, I would like to add a statement of my SEE student.

She shared, “Miss, can you please explain it in Nepali? We did not get you?” (Translated)

This is only the very common example. As we are using the Nepali language in most of the English class, it automatically creates a problem in reading. Throughout the observation, we experienced the same and even understood that students might have felt difficulty in reading due to the deep impact of the dominant method. There is a lack of concern and exposure of English inside the class. The contexts are also limited.  It is my experience that the teaching and learning English in public schools is oriented to how to pass the exam.

The students of public schools did not have exposure in reading from English teacher, parents and elders for developing reading skill since the past till now. So, reading becomes a complex process for them. The students do not know what makes them a good reader and what the right way of practice developing reading skills is.

Another reason behind the lack of students’ motivation in reading is due to the lack of additional reading materials. Most of the public schools of Nepal do not have the access to reading room i.e. library in schools. Even though there is a library, students are not trained how to find appropriate books and read fluently. Moreover, lack of trained English teachers, lack of enough teaching aids students of the public school are poor in reading. If we could provide reading related book like English magazine, storybook, poem, drama and so on to our students from the early grades, there might not be seen such problems in the field of English language teaching. So, establishing a resourceful library is essential for the development of students’ better-reading habit.

Similarly, the reason behind our students’ demotivation in reading (mostly in public school) is the teachers’ own reading habit. Therefore, teacher and their reading habit can be one of the sources of inspirations for the learners. I, thus, think that to improve the quality of present government aided education system and more importantly to develop the reading habit to the student, every school should establish a teaching community of practice. McLaughlin and Mitra (2000) emphasize that teachers’ community of practice is an important vehicle for sharing ideas and getting help from each other in their educational practice.  I hope schools can be the best model for teachers along with their students for developing reading skill. In my view, only establishing a library is not sufficient to promote reading habit, but there should be an environment for reading community to enhance the better reading of their young learners. It means there should be a practice of taking children to the library, choose appropriate books and read, then share what they read with their friends and others.

Finally, motivation is one of the key strategies a teacher can use to make his/her students sound in reading. Motivation has positive power for transforming individuals towards wellbeing, Therefore, I felt that at the beginning, mostly the students require a great deal of support and guidance from their ELT teachers. If they get the proper guidance and motivation, they can enhance their reading.

Ms Roka is a recent graduate from the Department of English, TU. Her master’s thesis explores identity construction of female EFL teachers in Nepal.

References

Dabarera, C., Renandya, W., & Zhang, L.J. (2014). The impact of meta -cognitive Scaffolding and monitoring on reading comprehension. System, 42,462-473.

Fairbairn, J., & S. (2001). Reading at university. A guide for student. Philadelphia: Open University Press. USA

Harmer, J. (2001). The practice of English language teaching. London: Longman.

Harmer, J. (2007). How to teach English. London: Pearson Longman.

McLaughlin, M. & Mitra, D. (2000). Theory based change and change based theory: going broader. Journal of Educational change, 1(2), 1-24.

Middleton, E (2011). Reading Motivation and Reading Comprehension. An unpublished thesis of Master of Science in Graduate School, Ohio State University.

Richards, J.C., Rodgers, T.S. (1999). Approaches and methods in language teaching. Original (1986), Third Edition, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wyatt, M. (2012). Issues in supporting the teaching of reading in English as a second language to Arabic speaking children. The reading Matrix.vol. 12, 2.

A Professional Journey of Exploration, Experience and Expression

Bal Ram Adhikari*

This paper recounts my professional journey as a university teacher that I started nearly one and a half decade ago. In this narrative account, by exploration I mean textual exploration, experience stands for direct contact with language, working in and through language, and expression has to do with communicating ideas through writing.

Underlying assumptions:  i) learning ceases with over-repetition; exploration gives continuity and safeguards against fossilization; ii) language has to enter into and move through the experiential zone; iii) expression is vital for communication; communication failure leads to professional alienation.

First two years and repetition of sickness

When I started teaching at the university, the entry requirement I possessed was the Masters degree. It was the only professional competence I possessed to teach Masters course. I had some level of confidence because I was going to teach the same course I had studied. The campus where I started my university career was like my home. However, I did not have extensive reading and writing experience apart from coursework, particularly the Masters thesis. My knowledge in the subject was limited. I was confined to the given course, but the subject I thought, for example, Translation Studies demanded interdisciplinary readings in Linguistics, Applied Linguistics, contemporary critical theories like post-structuralism. Apart from reading across these different subject courses, the courses also required me to have experience of translation.

When I recall those early days, particularly the first two years or so, I was a course-teller rather than a teacher. Gradually, I felt more comfortable with the course content, since I had repeated the same course. Also, I felt more secure in the class. However, the lack of job satisfaction led to the devoid of academic charm. I was suffering from what Nietzsche has called “repetition sickness” (Myerson, 2001).

My key professional responsibility

What lies at the heart of my profession is teaching the prescribed courses to prospective English teachers. That is, my first and foremost duty is to stand in front of the class and deliver lectures to the students in the classroom. Other professional responsibilities include supervising researchers, training teachers, designing courses, compiling and editing course materials. Again, all these revolve around the key responsibility i.e. teaching.

Classroom teaching has limited reaching

After some years when I started attending the conferences and visiting the academic forums and creative writing workshops, I began to realize that classroom teaching has limited reaching. I was alienated from the broader academic community. It often struck me that only by confining myself to classroom activities, I might not be able to expand my professional presence beyond university premises. Only by teaching one cannot grow professionally. This feeling would often strike me.

I often asked myself:

  • To what extent can I call myself a professional teacher?
  • Do I only teach or do I also READ?
  • Do I only teach and read or do I also WRITE?
  • Do I only teach, read and write or do I also SHARE?
  • Do I only teach, read, write and share or do I also CARE the emerging writers?

These questions were in fact inspired by Penny Ur’s (1991) notion of professionalism. The questions like these urged me to set on the journey of exploration, experience and expression by means of reading, writing and translating documents.

Desire for expanding my professional presence

I prefer not to limit myself to the reading and writing within my profession. I love plunging into the open space of reading and writing beyond the given profession so that I can traverse neighbouring disciplines, and bring back insights and information to expand and strengthen my profession. I have sensed that it has helped me expand my core identity as an English teacher. Apart from a teacher, now I can also call myself a writer and translator. Translation and creative writing have connected me to the broader audience.

Reading for exploration and experience

Reading is a process of exploring texts as well as information. I normally explore three zones of texts. I often begin with the core zone i.e. the texts prescribed in the course. It’s vital for my professional survival and success of my students in the examinations. However, reading the course texts is not enough. Then, I explore additional texts related to the core zone. I call them the texts from the peripheral zone. I need to deepen and widen my reading experience. To this end, I site the prescribed topic or text in the neighbouring disciplines like linguistics, literature, philosophy, and also refer students to such disciplines to broaden their understanding. Whenever I have time, I choose one of the areas and take to independent reading. I call this the texts from the outer zone. Let me give an example, poststructuralism and translation, a topic from the course. The course requires me to deal with the topic from the linguistic perspective only. Apart from linguistics, I move to peripheral texts that shed light on the topic from the literary and philosophical perspectives. Later I suggest students to carry out an independent study of poststructuralism when they have time.  Thus, as an advanced academic reader, I encourage my students to move to the outer zone from the core.

This exploration helps the reader experience the content and language from different disciplinary perspectives, with varying degrees of intensity. Moreover, it is the process of reading across the disciplines. With such exploration, we become the members of broader academic and creative communities. However, there is a risk involved in such a reading. The reader should not forget to return home i.e. his/her own discipline, say ELT in our case. The only aim of reading beyond the home profession is to enrich one’s professionalism in terms of language and content, not just to become a textual wanderlust.

Writing for exploration, experience and expression

I realized, very late though, that writing is equally intensive and hard to reading, but it is also a source of self-satisfaction. This exploration needs more physical and mental preparedness, more commitment and more motivation than reading. While writing this article, I am exploring my inner and outer worlds simultaneously. Writing requires me to explore my own consciousness by reflecting on professionally who I am, what I am doing, what my expectations are, what my students expect from me, and how I can contribute to my professional community. In a similar vein, I need to explore relevant information available in the textual world to such questions. Writing is the combination of information that I collect from various sources.

Writing is an event. It is the event that engages the writer in language, in content and in context. For example, I, while writing this article, am experiencing English directly. I am not just thinking about English but thinking in and doing through English. I am face-to-face with its components ranging from spelling at the lowest level to discourse at the highest.

I always find myself in crisis while writing because every time I am unsure of spelling. I look for suitable words, proper structures, natural flow in the texture, effective rhetorical devices, relevant information and striking insights. Moreover, by writing I am linked with my students beyond the classroom. It has extended my presence beyond the classroom and multiplied the number of my audience. It has also helped me become a producer of knowledge rather than a mere consumer.

Translation for exploration, experience and expression  

Translation has been instrumental in shaping and expanding my profession in terms of language, content and my identity. My early inclination to translation was due to my desire to improve my English. Later this inclination morphed into a life-long passion and profession. When I start translating a piece of work, I find my English inadequate. So, I need to search English dictionaries for better words, suitable expressions, natural sentence constructions and effective rhetorical devices. It has compelled me to be a tenacious language learner. Moreover, supplementary reading is a must in translation. In order to translate a Nepali book in English, I need to read peripheral English books. For example, when translating Yasodhara, a poetic play in Nepali by Sharada Subba, I had to explore several books and even movies in Buddhism. That led me to the path to Buddhist literature. Old Path White Clouds is one of them. Apart from being helpful in translation, insights from reading of the books like this have broadened my understanding about life and my relationship with students. This book has changed my attitude to teaching as service rather than merely a means of livelihood.

Moreover, while translating, I am engaged in the double helix of reading and writing. My reading is directed to writing. I need to read the text in the deepest possible level and (re)write it in the most accurate way. In both the cases, I am in intimate contact with language. Drawing on my experience, I agree with Sujeet Mukherjee’s (1981) revelation – Reading for translation is the highest form of reading. This acute process of reading has given me a means of expression. I have been expressing myself through translation for many years by now. I believe that I can contribute to the disciple by translating and writing about translation.

Benefits I have reaped from this triune journey

I have reaped a lot of benefits from this triune journey. Some of them are as follows:

  • Contribution to university courses: Selecting texts for such courses as Interdisciplinary Readings is next to impossible without wide reading. With this, I have been able to contribute to university reading courses, particularly in the text selection from literature, philosophy and critical theories.
  • Exposure to language and content across disciplines: I find myself shuttling back and forth across different reading zones. It gives me a sense that I am studying about language, content and its style. This makes my reading interesting and exciting. I can directly experience English used in other disciplines. Such reading exposes me to a variety of language and content. It has helped me guide students, earn their trust. This has improved my English and given me content to contemplate, to teach and to write.
  • Safeguard against professional lethargy: Constant reading, writing and translating has freed me from professional lethargy.
  • Knowledge contributor: My role as a teacher is not only the consumer of knowledge but also the producer of knowledge.
  • Sharing beyond the classroom. I have been able to share my ideas beyond the classroom by means of print and electronic media.
  • Self-humility: Finally, the journey has taught me self-humility i.e. I don’t know but I try to know.

References:

Mukherjee. S (1981). Translation as discovery. India: Allied Publishers.

Myerson, G (2001). Nietzsche’s thus spake Zarathustra. UK: Hodder & Stoughton.

Ur. P (1991). A course in language teaching.  Cambridge: CUP.

 

*Mr Adhikari is a lecturer of English Education at Tribhuvan University. Moreover, He is also a translator, editor, poet, and essayist. You can follow him on Twitter @balaramadhika14/bal ram adhikari

Thesis Writing: A Big Learning Opportunity

 Background

“Thesis” this word always had been a matter of mystery for me since I started master level because every senior I talked

Nabina Roka

said that the toughest part of the study was thesis writing. They shared their success, failure, complexities and challenges they faced in terms of writing a thesis. When I approached that level, I was at a loss because I could not find myself more confident. However, I have always been prepared and concerned about this matter and became curious from very beginning. More, I often remembered my sister who used to share her experiences of writing a master thesis and energized me as thesis is ‘something especial’  which requires a lot of patience and handwork. Before approaching this level, I might not be more serious about this matter meanwhile a kind of feeling came in my mind like, oh my god, “it is a tough writing”. Keeping those things in mind, I prepared for it .As a result, I reached at its final result. During this journey of writing a thesis I experienced most suffering and stressful time, I feel like that a woman suffered during in labour pain. It was in the sense that I had no option escaping from it because I spent about a year for preparing this thesis and face several problems, challenges, dilemmas and fear since the early days of preparing proposal to facing thesis viva. These several painful moments during the process however made me strong and leads towards its successful completion.

 Early Preparation for Conducting Research

I could visualize my classmates and found the same inherent problem like me in terms of writing a master thesis. At that time our concern was on thesis ‘topic’. Though initially, I have no idea about thesis writing, yes! Of course, I have a desire to carryout out research quite differently than other (to be honest, till that time, I had no vision to carry out the research on totally new area and design, I don’t know why but it can from my inner heart my …..).Therefore, I have always been concerned about this matter with little knowledge about thesis writing since the very beginning of master level. Times flies very fast eventually, I approached to the first rehearsal stage of preparing research proposal for the partial fulfillment of assignment of research methodology subject. For preparing this proposal, like other friends of mine, I visited CRC and read out some theses and prepared proposal without knowing the real essence of writing well proposal. Actually, it was in third semester, without having proper knowledge on it I submitted to the Department. I was curious to know the feedback of my work. It is all because I was thinking that this work would be helpful for my further process of thesis writing. On the contrary, it did not happen to me. I neither got feedback from my teacher (initially he promised to return back with feedback) nor he returned checked copy. Feeling little depressed, immediately, after the completion of this project, I went to one of my senior teacher of our faculty and expressed my research interest. I shared my interest on doing research in new topic. Then, he advised me as, “sounds interesting! I wonder if you find the literature of that topic in our own ELT context.” He further added that he however might not be sure either I can ….  Being confused, I remained silent because I had no more option instead  of quitting it .Thus, I just quitted it and thinking on doing research in quite easier topic than earlier. Eventually, I appeared final exam and worried thinking about thesis topic. After the completion of exam, I immediately visited CRC and brought some theses and decided to carry out survey design research as others.

The Moment Somewhat I understood Area and Topic

The Department of English Education published the notice of thesis supervisor. I saw my name under the supervision of respected guru Dr. Prem Bahadur Phyak. I heard his name and his contribution in English language teaching. But, before that time, I had no formal visit to him. Some days later, he called a first meeting for a discussion. On that particular day, we gathered and discussed on general matters. My friends were sharing their ideas one by one after introducing themselves. When my turn came, I was really confused whether I could tell. Feeling little comforted I tried, but it went difficult for me to speak over there because before that time I never became serious about “area” and “topic”. Though I became nervous, I successed to speak something about topics, I brought. Meanwhile, he understood my intention, made me feel comforted. After discussing with him, somewhat I understood and got little idea on area and topic. I knew the area ‘gender’ but became confused how to carry out the research on it. I returned back home and laid down restlessly continuously thinking on it. But the question “how to carry” had drawn my attention. After a long debate within, I decided to do it and immediately requested to my supervisor for providing some materials related to gender. He immediately sent me a pile of reviewed works. Next day, I downloaded and printed out all, I had. Then, I started to read. I read and underlined the words which I considered most important. I read each article several times but became tired and frustrated when I understood nothing.  However, I kept on reading.

Gradually, we were called for second and third meeting for a discussion. In those productive meeting, I learnt many things but felt little uneasy because I was still in dilemma and not sure how to start and what to do later? Meanwhile, I saw some of my friends were confidently sharing their ideas .On the other hand, I found some of them were in dilemma (still) like me. Although I was in dilemma, I observed them and I felt little comforted. But till that time, I could not dare to speak. To be frank, finally, I tried to express my inner intention with my facilitator, ‘Sir, I went through all but understood nothing’. He simply replied, Nabina, “You show your interest on gender. Your issue is great. So, don’t be afraid. Be positive and just spend some more time on it”. This time, probably I felt little more comforted than earlier meetings. In such way, our last group meeting before preparing proposal was end with the discussion of choosing area, population and selecting research design particularly.

Experience of Preparing the First Draft of Proposal

Once I decided my area typically gender, having little knowledge about that field, I started working on it. As I mentioned earlier section, ‘I read but understood nothing’ later appeared as a milestone for me as it motivated me to do the work quite impressively. Keeping the quotation ‘understood nothing’ in my mind, I started to read. I spent about two and half months for reading and generalizing the ideas in my proposal writing. I had done it with paying full attention. Meanwhile, I found, it was as tougher as I thought. At that time, I encountered with several challenges. So, I had frequent visit with my facilitator and getting constructive suggestions for further improvement.

Finally, I prepared the first draft of proposal and visited to my supervisor with little excitement. I handed this draft piece to him to observe my first attempt of writing a proposal. On the other hand, I noticed that my facilitator focus was on my writing ability than the particular topic (It is because, in our earlier meeting, he used to say that not to worry about topic. It may change according to the demand of the study during any of the phase of working). He spent sometimes observing it and commented on my writing skill. As I remembered his first question as, ‘why did you start with definition in your writing, Nabina….?” however, I did not have answer of it. I was really surprised and suddenly said to him, ‘Sir I found the same writing culture when I observed some theses and I did the same here’.  (He laughs).Later, he had kindly awoken me. I got an exposure. During this discussion, I started getting more and more ideas related to language, content, related literature review, organization skill and methodology. It was the time he opened my eyes quite widely. On the other hand, I was embarrassed in front of him it is because I found myself in the very beginning stage of writing. As a result, I had to change my concept paper i.e. proposal for next time.

On that day, our discussion summarized with introducing new word ‘identity’. Though, I fascinated by the word became worried thinking on my investment in preparing earlier proposal. Again I returned back home and stayed restlessly. I was really in dilemma what to do again. I immediately emailed him. He provided pile of articles related to teacher identity. During that time, I faced the same problem as earlier (but not exactly it was) as I did not have many ideas on teacher identity because it was totally new area than earlier for me. Meanwhile, I tried to read quite widely. I spent some weeks, losing my sleep, hunger and ignoring many more. Then, after reading some complex articles (In the sense that, I have not such habit of reading such article by heart, instead I read some just for reading, assignment  purpose) about teacher identity, I consulted several times with my facilitator as it was really hard for me to make even  a general concept on it. Having discussion with facilitator about the issues related to female English teachers’ professional development and more importantly as being a female ELTpractioners, exposure to the difficulties other working female(teacher) have in their personal and professional life, I started fascinated  more by the term “identity”. This time, reading turned out quite enjoyable. But on the way to working, I felt bored and became somewhat redundant as I could not frame my ideas properly. During this phase, I had a several visit with him and expressed my problems as, ‘Sir I went through all articles but could not organize my ideas properly? He kindly advised me ‘you can’ but please does it passionately.

I then determined and followed his suggestion, continuing my job of preparing proposal. Since that day, the word “identity” sounded in my mind (is still). After all, I spent another one and half month for preparing next proposal. During this phase, I worked hard despites the difficulties I faced. As a result, I successed to write all the parts except introduction. Again, I spent some more days for preparing the introduction part. During the whole proposal writing, I found that writing introduction was most challenging and time consuming in comparison to other parts. Finally, after a several draft, it was submitted to proposal defense. After the successful completion of proposal defense I did required correction by following the suggestion provided by the research proposal evaluation committee for further improvement. Since the days of submitting research proposal to the department even today I feel that starting writing had impacted in my several writing draft so it can be appeared as strong basis for writing present proposal for me furthermore, it extends my horizon of knowledge in the interested area and got the chance to be familiar with the recent practices and trends in researching and academic writing.

Journey of Data Collection and Interpretation

My journey of data collection started after the phase of facing proposal viva. Regarding data collection, I was worried thinking on how it would be going on and whether I could find the expected participants. During the phase of proposal writing, I talked with some female ELT teachers whom I knew but later I found them being confused and trying to escape by remarking time limitation. So, I became worried and went to Pokhara .In order to fulfill the requirement for my research, I visited several public schools of valley. I asked help from my family and head of visited school to provide information. After the several days’ attempt, I met participants who were willingly taken part in my study.

After a phase of planning. I provided them a written consent letter for getting ethical approval. Then after having agreement with them, I conducted my first interview in August 2017. I met with my participants individually for narrative session. The interview was conducted in different places, time and context according to their own comfort than mine. At the very beginning, I started the first interview session by asking more open ended questions, to make them feel free with me. So, I started the conversation with more general questions like what are you doing now? How do you feel right now? etc. I was inquiring in such a way for exploring their present experiences and more importantly, I did it for rapport building. Gradually, I entered into their personal and professional life.  At the same time, I audio- recorded their each interviews.

A month later, to explore more about them, I again needed their help. So, I had a telephone call with each participant for our second meeting. We again fixed our meeting for follow- up interviews. Gradually, this happened in first week of September 2017. In this session, our visit was on different places like their own home, school’s premise, coffee station and so on.  At that time, we largely discussed about their personal and professional life. I mainly focused on the hindering and supporting aspects of their personal and professional life as it was the major objective of this research study. This time, we became more close to each other. So, without hesitation, they openly shared their stories though I noticed, they repeated the past events and even shared the events which they remembered during our ongoing conversation. (Feeling more comforted) In the same way, they even added new stories which they never shared to others. Listening to their unique lived voices, I lost myself with their lived stories and became nervous. At the same time we laughed and cried together. In this way, they not only shared their lived experiences, I also shared my growing interest on carryout out research on this area and growing journey of becoming a teacher. We talked for hours as there were no certain boundaries and fixed time. So, after having the interviews, I provided the question for written narrative. Despite their interviews and written narrative, I have a frequent visit to them on social sites. Furthermore, I observed their activities, facial expression as they were significant factors to explore their hidden reality of becoming an English language teacher. In such way, I collected pile of raw data.

Data Interpretation Stage

Data analysis started after translating (Nepali interview into English) and transcribing lengthy narratives. After two months rigorous hard work, I had prepared myself for data analysis and interpretation. When I stared to analyze raw data, I faced the same problem whether I would go further or escaped from it. Finally, despite the difficulties, I determined and did it. I collected data without having sufficient ideas on how to analyze and interpret them. I again glanced my eyes into the pages of narrative researches which I already have.  I turned the pages of these books but could not find anything I needed and again consulted with my supervisor. He suggested me to follow the framework for analyzing narrative data. (To be frank) I actually didn’t know what would be the framework. I consulted several researches and become frustrated. Later, I went through the work of Riesman (2008) for a discussion of thematic approach to narrative analysis and adopted her ideas which I thought more significant for my research study.

Few months later, I informed about my work to my supervisor. Until that time, I just completed fourth chapter of my thesis and visited with him. Few days later, he informed me about my work. On that day, he provided me more valuable suggestions as how to organize the narratives of participants effectively and how to put relevant literature in this part to make the research sound. Although I got the amount of exposure, while preparing this part, I encountered exactly the same condition as I faced during first proposal draft. I know, I am in the journey of research but I become really confused whether I would ‘go’ further or ‘leave’ it. Then, I remained silent for some days and looking for another simple way. However, I could not. I had no more option to quit it because I already spent half year working on it (faced proposal viva before 5 months). I tried numerous times and finally decided to continue. During this phase, I faced several challenges and lived through stressful time. Since interpretation to submission for thesis viva, I had numerous visits with him. Finally, through trial and error, I successed to arrive it’s completion and got its present shape.

Challenging Aspects of My Study in Terms of Preparing Thesis Writing

I discussed about my struggles, dilemmas and challenges I had been facing during this research project in the aforementioned section. More importantly, here I have presented these points as some consideration of my thesis journey.  I decided to carry out this research entitled Identity Construction in Female English Language Teachers Professional Development: A Narrative Inquiry without having knowledge on this area, even I did not think that I might to carry out the research on this very topic. However whole thesis journey energized me and finally I arrived  to my destination. Though I have no idea originally to this topic, later it went well. As a result, I found the work much more manageable than I thought it would be. However, throughout this thesis journey, I was spending most of my time working on this research project without having proper sleep, hunger, laugh and many more. It was therefore a very challenging (still is) stage and kept me going on and on.

First, I felt quite easy to carry out the research related to female teacher because this research project was partly inspired by my own personal experience as being ELT practioners however researching on female teacher identity construction particularly is challenging issue for me. It was because “identity” itself is a new area and has not been researched in the context of Nepalese ELT scenario.  Furthermore, I did not find the large amount of researches on this matter around the world teacher education.Infact, there were comparatively less number of researches, have given due emphasis on female teacher identity construction. So, selecting the area and carrying out research related to identity construction is challenging task.

Second, we know reviewing literature play a significant role to make every research sound and fruitful. However, we did not pay due respect on it. People might say, ‘Once we prepared literature in proposal writing we might think that we need not to review it again’. Even, I heard such argument time and again from my friends and seniors. To be frank, not only them, I was not exceptional in this matter. Before approaching that stage, I have an ideology that it might be true. On the contrary, later, I know the value and its impact throughout whole writing. So, I realized that it is an ongoing process. Meanwhile, another concern of my study was related to proper organization of ideas. It was not only the problem I faced in thesis writing, I am still suffering, writing this reflection.

Third, challenge I faced when I simply could not find the respondents for my research Though I  talked earlier( when I was writing proposal)with some female ELT teachers later trying to escape from this research project by pretending for not having time. Then, I became little frustrated and again was searching for required participant for my study. Finally, after my one week hard work, I met some female teachers who were searching a place for sharing their stories. Again, I need to consider other factors like rapport building, conducting interviews, time management, selection of language used for interview and so on.

Fourth idea which I considered is the relationship between researcher and participants throughout the whole thesis process. Throughout this journey, I noticed that in narrative research, the role of researcher is different from other such studies because of the relationship between researcher and participant. As I mentioned in third point, building rapport is the most difficult one in my early days and more concerned with whether I could build better relation to explore their hidden reality.  So, I need to view myself both from insider and outsider perspectives. However, I did not forget my role in this thesis writing.

Last but not least, another concern of my study was accurate representation of meaning in terms of what was expressed in Nepali and what resulted from translation into English. Maintaining core meaning and ideas of participants was a central issue for me. Therefore, I was always afraid of possible effect of misleading the interpretation of gathered data. During the whole thesis process, transcribing (took more than 2 month) and translating were most difficult tasks.

In this way, despite the difficulties I encountered, my interactions with participants provided huge insights on exploring female teacher identity construction, their everyday experiences, contradiction, dilemmas, frustration they experienced in their personal and social life. More importantly, I understood the value of shared story in ELT teaching and learning and its impact in educational change throughout this thesis journey.

My Final Thought, Suggestions and Acknowledgement

After all, the final result made me more energetic as I had been working with ignoring many obstacles, challenges and complexities. To be honest, it was not my earlier goal to submit my thesis on this very topic. But, later due to my strong desire and more importantly the part of motivation which I had from my supervisor, I started my journey of the research in May 2017 within four female teachers who are teaching in basic level at different public school of Pokhara Lekhnath-Metropolitan city. Starting from first stage of selecting area, preparing first research proposal draft, facing proposal viva, conducting interviews, analyzing and interpreting data with finding out conclusion, I passed several joyful and painful moments which sometimes motivated and frustrated during the whole process of working. To be honest, most of the time, I experienced the painful situation and no doubt that I was writing from the level of ‘fear and dilemma’. In fact these dilemmas and fear later made me strong and confident. Most importantly, throughout my educational journey, this firsthand experience enabled me to understand the real value of study from school days to graduation.

Next, during my working days, I observed some of mine friends carried out their theses within limited time and even I heard the thesis, “selling and buying” culture. Yes! Honestly, I am not sure about this rumor but was afraid of it. Instead, I want to say to you all that definitely you have to tackle with many ups and down moments like me during thesis process and you may deserve the result of your hardworking. So, I advised to all prospective researchers not to scare about word “thesis”. You must understand the essence of writing thesis before started writing further. If you do that it will be easier for your further steps.

Further, people I met often told that everyone writes thesis but it does not matter how you write, the goal of writing a thesis is just for getting marks than nothing else. Instead, my stressful time provided me an insights on what is thesis writing in real sense, what is my role as a researcher? Somewhat I got the chance to be familiar with little about thesis writing. Thus, I would like to suggest to all fellow students, you must grab thesis writing as a learning opportunity as you will get the chance to enlighten you and your knowledge on your interested area.

Now, I am at the end of this reflection writing, at this journey I highly indebted to those generous souls whose collaboration makes this journey of knowing mine and others’ possible. Most importantly, I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to my respected guru and thesis supervisor Dr.Prem Bahadur Phyak, for his sound professional guidance, full attention, timely advice, expertise and encouragement throughout the whole thesis process in spite of his busy schedules and over whelming responsibilities. I am really grateful to him for everything.  More, I have a due respect to all research proposal evaluation and thesis approval evaluation committee for their support and encouragement in completing this research study.  I have a due respect to Prof.Dr. Tara Datta Bhatta for his  encouragement and enlightening ideas on language .Similarly,I would like to offer my sincere gratitude to Prof. Dr. Bal Mukunda Bhandari for his invaluable suggestion. I would equally offer my sincere gratitude to Mr. Laxmi. Pd Ojha for being there and provided suggestion for further improvement. Further, my entire research would not have been accomplished without the help and support of my participants. So, I have a due respect to them who believed me and enthusiastically taking part in this study.

Ms. Nabina Roka is a recent graduate from the Department of English, TU. Her master’s thesis explores identity construction of female EFL teachers in Nepal.

Thesis Writing: A Next Step in Learning

Tara Rai

Writing is a rigorous process. A good writing needs enough practice on the part of the writer. Moreover, academic writing is well organized and needs good effort. As a part of the academic course, I carried out a research on “Feedback in English Language Learning: Teachers’ Practices and Students’ Perceptions”. I went through several hard times during this research. The problem began from the very starting day of the writing process. The foremost problem I faced was to find out the way out for finding out the topic that I was interested in. It was not that easy for me to find out the area of my interest on which I was about to carry out the research. Hardly, I decided to do my research on a given topic. The topic suddenly came in my mind when I reviewed many available literatures related to language teaching and learning. Going through several literatures, I came to know that the role of feedback cannot be neglected, especially, in the process of second language learning. As being a student of semester, I was thinking of the feedback practice at the university. I wanted to find out whether the students are receiving effective feedback in the classroom or not, whether they are satisfied with it or not. What different ways are there to provide feedback to the students? These all led me to choose this topic.

Literature review is the most important aspect in any research. You can guide your research very well if you have good review of literature. Review helps to find out the gap in any area. Moreover, you can come up with the contrasting idea after the review of the literature. Finding out the appropriate area of interest in any research is challenging to any researcher. In the same way, I also went through several sleepless and stressed nights thinking over the area of my interest in carrying out the research. Several nights, I wandered in dream of finding out the suitable topic for my research. I used to dream of the same thing-research topic but forgot after I woke up. I myself didn’t know in which area I was interested in. It took me a couple of weeks to think about the topic. At some point, I thought that I could not do. But then, I gathered the courage to do it. And finally, I decided the topic. The journey of carrying out research did not stop there. It was just the beginning and a lot more was to come.

When the topic suddenly came into my mind, I became so happy. But the happiness did not last for long as I thought of the whole process of writing it.  I was like…(कुहिरोको काग). Sometimes, I thought that I took it more seriously than it needed to be. But the other times, I thought that it was ok! At some point, I thought that it was not of my reach.

I thought like I was lost in the ocean. Sometimes, I thought of changing the area of research. But when the whole struggle of coming up to that level came into my mind, I forgot the idea of doing so.

I had my own kind of mental map when I planned for doing my research. I wanted to do it on my own way. But the turmoil came when I asked my supervisor about the topic and he led me to other way. This made me sad again-so sad that I stopped working on it for several days. But ultimately, it was my work and I had to do it at any cost. I started working with the proposal again. I worked to first, second and third draft giving it to the final shape.

During the process of writing these all the drafts, I took support and guidance from my supervisor, teachers and my dear friends. When my proposal got the final shape, I felt like achieving a great victory over the enemies. It was the day I took a step forward. It was half done but there was a long way forward to go. And the paths were not that easy. The paths were not pitched-graveled, sloppy and spiky. I stepped back many times and it took me several weeks to move forward.

Collecting the required data is the next challenge in any research. I wanted to do my research through the questionnaire and classroom observation of the teachers. Collecting the data taught me the next lesson-the lesson of sketching all the possible future before the task begins. A single prediction may not work as a whole. So, what a researcher needs to think is that there are many alternatives way forward and these all should be kept in mind before conducting any research. I wanted to do my research based on the classroom practice of the teachers and simply through the perceptions of the students. But, I failed many times in getting the right idea of doing so as I lacked the prerequisites necessary to it. So, I learnt the lesson of looking out for the multiple possibilities of any result. A single lens does not suffice a good research work. I also thought of changing the whole research work as I was quite unable to collect the required data from the sample. The problem added when I could not collect the data from the respondents. Hardly, the respondents returned back the filled up questionnaire. So, good rapport with the respondents is also a part of survey research. I myself was not satisfied with my work. But then, hardly, I collected the required data from the respondents and the observation of the classes. The data were not of good quality though.

After the collection of the data, I met my supervisor time and again for guidance. I was lost for almost more than a month for the analysis and the interpretation of the data. Looking out the ideas from the teachers and friends, finally, I came up with the first draft. It was very rough and incomplete. With the help of regular guidance and support of the supervisor, I did it. Working with the first, second and third draft, I came to the final version. Even after the final version, I thought that I was missing somewhere.

Doing good research itself is challenging and the tag of good student added more challenge to me. So, what I feel sometimes is being good is always challenging. Everyone has their eyes on you. It adds to your stress-stress not only in your research but in every step of your academic journey, eventually personal! Sorry! Being somebody is always dangerous!

Ms. Tara Rai is a recent graduate from the Department of English Education, TU. Her master’s thesis explores the practices of providing feedback in ELT.

Being Familiar with Academic Writing

Nani Babu Ghimire

Twenty-four years ago, on a fine morning, my maternal grandfather was having a conversation with one of his friends. He said, “My grandson wrote a letter in English and sent to his uncle in Okhaldhunga“. His friend replied, “It’s amazing. He has done a great job!” My grandfather felt proud of what his grandson (me) had achieved by writing a letter. This was my first piece of creative writing. The others I wrote were what I memorised. I also felt that I had achieved a great feat. I had gone through a book of local writer and followed the pattern of writing a personal letter. I have taught the English language in a community campus affiliated with Tribhuvan University for a decade. I am currently doing MPhil in English language education at Tribhuvan University. In this blog piece, I focus on how I got acquainted with academic writing during the first five months of the MPhil program.

I used to consider that the creative and academic writings are the same. Now I learned that academic writing is different from the creative ones. Academic writing is an activity of academics which requires a standard language. I got an opportunity to read what Greene and Lidinsky (2012) said: “Academic writing is what scholars do to communicate with other scholars in their fields of study, their disciplines (p.1)”. They further added that academic writers or scholars use specialised language to capture the complexity of an issue or to introduce specific ideas from their discipline. I learned that academic writing includes serious thoughts, complex sentences, specialised vocabulary, and variety in construction. Academic writing is thus authentic, objective, unambiguous, systematic and purposeful.

I have experiences of teaching, supervising masters theses and carrying out small-scale researches. I have also published a few journal articles in local journals. However, as a student of  MPhil, I felt I have not been much familiar with academic writing. One day our teachers in ‘Advanced Qualitative Research’ asked us a question: “Have you ever written a daily journal in your academic career?” We did not have the answer as many of us do not have the practice of writing even a page every day. They suggested us that novice academics should write a reflective summary of an article or any readings we have gone through on that day. Listening to them what I felt that I had not done what I am supposed to do to be an academic.

After two months, our teachers gave us some assignments to do. The teachers instructed us to write an introductory part of a research-based article on any topic. I was assigned to write a report on a selected topic choosing a research paradigm, an academic article and an experience on the influential professional issue. I found myself comfortable with the first two than writing an experience.

Regarding selecting the research issue and the problem, I had to strive a lot in the beginning. I was instructed to find an important issue, mostly in language education in Nepal in which I am interested in. I was able to choose an issue after going through several books, articles and interaction with teachers. I selected the issue and wrote a concept note on it and submitted to my professors. Then they advised us to link it with a theory, theoretical grounding of the issue. This was the most difficult part for me. I took support from my teachers and I went through many research articles and books. I wrote the theoretical framework of my issues as the second step for my assignment.

In the next step, they told us to collect data selecting appropriate research methodology. I have to mention the details of the methodology part. They made us practice developing themes from the transcription of our data. Finally, as the third assignment, they asked us to prepare a complete research-based article on the issue that we have selected as the first assignment. Doing a lot of practice, visiting different websites, studying research-based journal articles and taking help from teachers I completed my final assignment.

Reflection

The narrative that I mentioned above asserts to me that I am really satisfied with five months of my MPhil class. First of all, I took initiation to write a reflection on different issues that I am interested in and summary of the text that I studied. I learnt to choose the research issues and problems from the practical life for carrying out research. I learned to develop a theoretical framework on an issue of the research. Similarly, I got ideas to collect data using audiovisual devices, transcribe the recorded data in the paper following the rules and criteria of transcription, develop themes from the transcription, analyse and interpret the themes with the voices of my research participants and related literature. In a nutshell, I received a lot of ideas to write a research-based article in the first semester. I believe, it is an example of learning to create an academic writing.

At this point,

I started the journey of my creative writing by composing a personal letter when I was studying in Grade Ten. I have been a teacher in schools and colleges for several years. However, the MPhil program taught me to create an academic article. With this five-month experience, I felt that creating an academic article is different from writing in other forms as it has distinct features to be considered.

Reference

Green, S. & Lidinsky, A. (2012). From Inquiry to Academic Writing: A Text Book and Reader. New york: Bedford/ St. Martin’s.

Mr. Ghimire teaches at Siddhajyoti Education Campus in Sindhuli. He is currently pursuing MPhil in English language education from Graduate School of Education, Tribhuvan University.

Welcome to the April- June Issue of ELT Choutari: Special Coverage on Advancing Writing Education #Vol. 10, Issue 87

Editorial

We are delighted to present the second quarterly issue (April- June) of ELT Choutari of 2018. Standing at this point and looking back, we have been able to publish 87 issues in the past 10 years, and we believe that it has been a good source of learning and a place for expressing feelings, ideas and professional experiences. This has really encouraged us to keep the ball rolling.

Why skill for doing a job? Whatever we attempt to do, it requires particular skills to accomplish the task successfully. For example, the way of dressing up for a party, driving a car, decorating a room, painting a picture, performing a dance, designing a building, speaking in a conference, writing an essay or doing so and so activities are skills. In a generic sense, skill is an ability to perform an activity systematically. Whether preparing a cup of coffee or writing a thesis for a degree, skills specific to the jobs label the quality and taste of both of them. I believe that a customer enjoys the taste of coffee in a cup but not the cup in a cafeteria. Therefore, the owner of the cafeteria employs professional barista to attract maximum customers and increase the sales. However, customers always talk about the taste of coffee but not the barista who prepares a nice cup of coffee for the customers. Does it make a difference to the barista’s job and skill? Sometimes it does but mostly not.

An academic writer perhaps needs to understand this fact. Although it is not easy to develop academic writing skills, the skills play a vital role to offer a nice piece of writing to readers. It does not matter whoever you are like a barista in a cafeteria kitchen but the taste matters- the taste of your writing matters! I have heard several gossips among teachers and academics that they would like to be an academic writer but I have never heard how they would become a writer. How many postgraduate students internalise the role of a barista? I believe that a barista must have spent a long life preparing the coffee to become a professional barista. S/he might have learned the skills from several mistakes and losses.

This issue offers reading various experiences of several academics who share their struggles, challenges they faced, skills they learned and some degree of academic knowledge. These articles focus on skills of writing an academic paper and suggest that academics learn academic skills from their writing activities similar to a barista who learns skills of preparing coffee from the workplace. I believe that teachers, students and emergent researchers will be benefited reading these writings about “writings”.

In the first post, Thesis Writing: A Hard Nut to Crack, Muna Rai shares her anxiety, process and pain, and pleasure of writing her Master’s thesis.

In the similar second post, Sharing My Experiences of Master’s Thesis Writing, Mamata Bhattarai shares her reflective journey of thesis writing.

Likewise, in our third post, A Teacher’s Journal of Teaching Writing in Community School of Nepal, Bimal Khanal shares his experiences and feeling of teaching writing in the community school and perceptions of students.

Similarly, introducing our one of the popular genres “the interactive blog post”, Ashok Raj Khati weaves the policies, practices, processes and challenges in teaching writing in English Language Education (ELE) Program in Nepali Universities with the collaboration of the faculties of different universities in Nepal.

In the same way, in an exclusive interview with the expert from our thematic area of this issue, Dr Shyam Sharma focuses on the beliefs and assumptions about writing, need of writing today, issues and challenges in our writing education, and some ways forward.

In another post, Thinh Le shares tips for composing an essay and taking academic notes effectively based on his experience.

Finally, in the last post, our Choutari editor, Jeevan Karki presents you the seven special photos from different areas that can be used in teaching language skills especially writing.

Here are the seven posts for you in this issue:

  1. Thesis Writing: A Hard Nut to Crack (A Student’s Experience) by Muna Rai
  2. Sharing My Experiences of Masters Thesis Writing by Mamata Bhattarai
  3. A Teacher’s Journal of Teaching Writing in Community School in Nepal by Bimal Khanal
  4. Writing Practices in ELE Programs in Nepali Universities: An Interactive Blog Post by Ashok Khati
  5. Training Teachers to Integrate Writing Across the Disciplines: Dr Shyam Sharma
  6. Tips for Writing an Essay and Taking Academic Notes by Thinh Le
  7. Free Photos for Teaching Writing: Jeevan Karki

I would like to thank my dear friends: Jeevan Karki, Ashok Raj Khati and Praveen Kumar Yadav, the editors of http://eltchoutari.com/ for their support to bring this issue. To be honest, they have done much more than me on this issue and have ever put their greater effort to make this professional online magazine sustainable. The founders of this online magazine always deserve the core place of bigger thank you.

Finally, if you enjoy reading any post, please feel free to share in your circle and of course, drop your comments in the boxes below that will encourage us to keep moving. Similarly, you can send your reflective experiences, journals, best practices, book reviews, case studies, local and global perspectives on ELT, etc. You can email us your post at 2elt.choutari@gmail.com

Dr Karna Rana

Editor of the issue

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