It gives us immense pleasure to release the fourth quarterly issue (October-December) of ELT Choutari, 2021 under the theme of ‘Teacher Research or Classroom-based research for teachers’ continuous professional development.’ As we talk about learner autonomy in the 21st century and the bottom-up approach of teaching and learning, it seems essential for teachers to wear a hat of a researcher and begin to explore the natural teaching context and be certain about their teaching approach and skills. We, therefore, felt that this discourse should be addressed on an academic forum like ELT Choutari. Unlike becoming fully dependent on imported ELT methodologies, one requires to explore classroom issues, involve their students in the research process, meaningfully reflect on their teaching, assess and refine their teaching method, always keeping students learning progress, that they are responsible for, at the centre.
Teachers are likely to hesitate when they are asked to carry out research because the term ‘research’ sounds, in general, like a heavy academic task that requires a great deal of time and energy. However, teachers can simply explore within their teaching time, in order to acquire deeper insights and understanding about their own successful teaching practices as well as challenges. This kind of exploratory research refers to stepping back from the present situation and beginning to take a careful look at one problem at a time and spend some time trying to understand the problem itself rather than acting quickly to solve it (Smith & Rebolledo, 2018).
Teachers see, hear or feel and know whether something is working or not working in their classroom but that knowledge is not sufficient to explain the reason behind the situation. The present issue of ELT Choutari aims to encourage English teachers to carefully examine the issue, gather information, reflect on our experiences, make interpretations based on the evidence gathered, develop the teaching method suitable to their context, plan to work differently, and help other teachers to learn from it. The writings in this issue reflect the firsthand experiences in the area of teacher research and reflective practice of the authors/teachers and thus the ideas can be directly replicated to our English language teaching-learning context.
There are five articles in this issue:
Ram Aryal,in his article ‘Supporting students’ learning through the use of group work in ESL classroom: An exploratory action research’ reports the finding of his four-week study on supporting students’ learning through the use of group work in a large ESL classroom where teacher’s individual support was almost impossible. He explains how the slogan ‘the friend next to you helped him to encourage his students to actively participate in group work and how he succeeded to establish a system where students in groups could learn from each other. He further asserts that classroom-based research directed him to understand his problem and find solutions within his own teaching context.
Likewise, Seetha Venunathan in her article entitled ‘Reflective practice – Rants and revelations’ asserts that a person who is responsible for someone’s language progress, should constantly access to their approach and skills as a teacher. She explains the importance of teachers’ meaningful self-reflection and beautifully expresses how reflection is a lot more than just ‘having a think’ about a lesson. Finally, she offers some valuable tips for how a teacher does reflect meaningfully.
Similarly, Gobinda Puri in his reflective piece ‘A teacher’s journey from classroom researcher to the mentor’ claims that a teacher can be a researcher, a writer and a teacher research mentor. He highlights the importance of Action Research as the best tool to improve the existing classroom situation and groom oneself as a professional teacher and researcher.
In the same way, Hiral Lal Moktan in his writing ‘Students’ use of mobile phones during Covid -19 Pandemic’ reflects his experience that he obtained during his online classes with students. He shares the pros and cons of using mobile during online classes. He further shares how the use of mobile phones can be made more effective for students’ learning in pandemics like Covid-19 from his own experience as a teacher.
Finally, Purnima Thapa in her article ‘Zoom technology as a tool in teaching during COVID-19 Pandemic: A Reflection of an English teacher’ reflects her personal experience of using zoom technology as a tool for teaching during online classes. She talks about its use and challenges in the rural context.
For ease of access, below is the list of hyperlinked articles:
Finally, I would like to thank our lead coeditor Sagar Poudel for his endless support throughout the process. We both are thankful to our coeditors and reviewers Ganesh Bastola, Ashok Raj Khati, Karuna Nepal,Mohan Singh Saud, Jeevan Karki, and Nani Babu Ghimire, Ekraj Koirala, Jnanu Raj Paudel and Rajendra Joshi, and the entire ELT Choutari team for their support and encouragement. Likewise, most importantly, we are indebted to all contributors of this issue.
If you enjoy reading these articles, please feel free to share in your circle, and of course, drop your comments in the boxes below. Likewise, please write and send us your teaching-learning experiences for which we will be happy to provide a space at Choutari. Our email is email@example.com
Wish you a happy Deepawali and Chhat Festival!
Smith, R & Rebolledo, P (2018). A Handbook for Exploratory Action Research. London: British Council.
For Burns (2010), Action research (AR) can be a very valuable medium to extend our teaching skills and gain more understanding of ourselves as teachers, our classrooms, and students. Some time ago, as a teacher, I was facing several classroom issues and I wanted to solve one of the issues immediately. Getting inspired from the study about Action Research, I carried out Exploratory Action Research (Rebolledo, Smith and Bullock, 2016) that helped me to explore my classroom issues regarding individual support to my students who were struggling to learn English. This article reports the finding of the four-week-long research on supporting students’ learning through the use of group work in a large ESL classroom where the teacher’s individual support was almost impossible.
There is a clear statement of the problem that I faced followed by the objective of this study. Moreover, the way I explored the causes of problems and the way out might interest the readers. There is a collection and analysis of enough data in the exploratory phase. The review of the concerned literature is another part of the paper. My real intervention actions with different evaluation tools have been presented under ‘Interventions and evaluation’. The findings of my research have been mentioned in the conclusion. I have tried to see the relevance of my research findings in different classroom situations. Finally, the annexure part includes different evaluation tools, participants’ responses and etc.
The story begins when I was posted as a community high school English teacher to the comparatively remote zone of my district which was mostly attended by two ethnic community students: Magar and Tamang. The students from these two communities made above ninety percent of the total students. English was their third language after their mother tongue and Nepali language. Students were often found to be speaking in their mother tongue even in English lessons being in their ethnic cluster.
There were sixty-four students in grade 10 and I had a forty-minute English lesson every day except Saturday. Because of the large classroom size, group work was difficult. I generally made mass presentation in front of class and asked the students whether they understood but most of the students expressed that they were not able to get the points. I tried to approach some students individually to make them clear but individual guidance was not always possible because of time constraint. So, I had to leave the class without satisfying my students and due to the time constraint, I could not give them constructive feedback. As a result, the poor students never improved, the frequency and type of mistakes increased and learning became ineffective. The level of English of most of the students was below average. Most of them could not communicate with the level of the course designed for them. Neither the teacher had time to talk to them nor the parents in their home could solve their learning problems. I was disappointed that if I had been able to maintain some degree of individual support to my students, their learning standard would have improved. It drew my interest towards scaffolding students’ learning through group work. Therefore, I decided to carry out small classroom-based research to find out why the problem occurred and how I could support each individual in my ESL classroom.
My Exploratory Research
I started to explore the reasons behind why I was unable to support my students individually. I prepared the tools of data collection and began to explore with a detail plan.
The exploratory phase provided me with some interesting findings that answered my question why my students lacked individualized teacher support. The first finding that touched me was the way students formed groups. The students were actually sitting in their ethnic cluster and using their mother tongue to understand English. Secondly, most students themselves formed their own ability groups. As a result, most of the benches lacked the students who could offer learning support to their classmates. The concept of group work and individual support had not been developed among the students. Thirdly, students expressed that they never noticed their teacher making effort to make them work in mixed ability groups so that they could learn from each other. Finally, both teachers as well as students agreed that the teacher’s individualized support was impossible because of the large number of students. Therefore, I decided to lunch my intervention influencing these three reasons with an aim to bring some change regarding individual support to all kind of learners.
Review of the related literature
To find out the opinion of experts about the possibility of individual support to all kind of learners in large classes, I began to look for various studies done in this area. Our major problem was to enhance students’ current level of ability. Lev Vigotsky (1978) proposed the concept of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), a metaphorical space between the child’s level of current ability to solve a particular problem and the potential ability. According to him, enhancement can be achieved with the careful assistance of someone else, usually a more knowledgeable expert, i.e. a parent or a teacher or more capable learners during collaborative tasks. One implication of the Vygotskian approach for language teachers is that it is important to pay attention to individual differences and consider alternative ways and levels of assisting learners (Burner, 1985).
Moreover, a teacher’s story from Cameroon seemed very useful in my context. Theorizing the story of Kuchah Kuchah from Cameroon, Kuchah and Smith (2011) have presented the instances of managing very large under-resourced classroom. Focusing on collaborative effort on bottom-up language teaching strategy, they extracted some principles for ‘autonomy of learners’.
Getting to know/building rapport with pupils/students
Negotiating with pupils/students
Viewing pupils/students as resource providers/as resources themselves
Building up credit with the administration and with other teachers
(Kuchah and Smith 2011, p. 137)
The theory seemed effective while administrating group works. The study of the literature offered me some insights that collaborative tasks help a great deal in the classroom where teacher’s individualized support is lacking. The concept of Vigotsky’s MKO (more knowledgeable one) encouraged me to mix diverse ability students in a group so that the support consolidates. The ideas of Kuchah and Richard, extracted from large class practice, offered strategic and procedural steps for intervention that guided me to implement various group work strategies where I could make my students work in small groups with careful guidance from my side. In the groups students could learn from each other and slow learners got support from their peers.
Interventions and evaluation
During my intervention and evaluation phase, students were given an opportunity to work in groups. The well monitored scaffolding initially started by ‘learning leaders’ and afterwards guided by the slogan ‘learn from the friend next to you’ established a system where students in groups could learn from each other. Details of intervention steps are given below:
For the detail intervention steps, I followed the detail action plan. Different groups were formed and during the process of forming groups, I found that most of the students were working in their won ethnic groups and the fast learners preferred to work with same ability classmates. Especially the girls from Magar and Tamang family were enjoying their ethnic groups while boys were mixed together disregarding their ethnic origin. Thinking that manipulating the existing group dynamics I would be violating the students’ right to choose their friends; I consolidated the existing groups with very less manipulation. I convinced some more capable students to be in different groups and fixed the learning leaders in each group so that one would be more responsible for the group work. Every day I observed the students working in their groups and tried to ensure that the students were learning from their friends.
I conducted different short orientation sessions for all the students in different groups and for the learning leaders separately. These orientation sessions guided my students participate in group discussions and encouraged the learning leaders to closely monitor their group without making their classmates feel inferior. I maintained daily journal where I jotted the findings of my observation and my feelings that I had during the daily activities. My own daily journal was a good source of information for my research work. When the students were busy in their group activities, I observed them, monitored them and provided them the instant feedback.
After they worked in groups for six days, I launched a student satisfaction survey questionnaire which would inform me how satisfied the students were in their group and how far they were learning from their classmates. My observation report and daily journal indicated that the students were gradually contributing in group work.
On the last day of week 1, student satisfaction survey was administered. The report was extremely satisfactory. Almost all the students responded they were hundred percent satisfied in their group responding the question: ‘Are you happy being in the group you are in?’ Out of fifty-five respondents, only two students responded that they would like to change their group although they were not completely dissatisfied. In the same way, almost all the students were satisfied with their learning leaders. More than ninety-five percent students agreed that they easily got desired support from their group members. Regarding the teacher’s support in the group, all fifty-five respondents agreed that the teacher’s support to the group was completely satisfactory.
Despite all these satisfactory results, more than fifty percent students thought that the teacher was not supporting them individually. Though the group activities, sharing and support system seemed fine and effective, I experienced a threat, i.e. the students who had difficulty in learning were simply copying ‘the right answers’ from their groupmates. Then my focus, as my plan, was directed towards how to make the students learn from their friends rather than merely copying ‘the right answers’. When I asked the logic after the ‘right answers,’ most of the students were dumbfounded. I thought something must be done. So, I decided to lunch series of orientation session for every group separately so it would function like a close counseling session. In the counseling session, I tried to make my students understand the true meaning of ‘learning’. Throughout the week I was checking, observing and finding whether they were truly learning. For this, I checked the understanding of two students from each group every day for four days and filled my observation checklist. By the end of second week, the tendency of merely copying the right answers had been gradually changing into seeking for true learning.
This week I was more directed towards reducing the learning responsibility load of the learning leaders. I tried to make the learning leader’s role more indirect and hidden. At first, I collected the opinions from three learning leaders about the learning tendencies and improvements of their classmates. They reported that their friends were trying to learn and there was big change in their attitude in comparison to the previous week. The major change according to them was that the students began to ask questions and clarify doubts rather than just copying the right answers. Responding to the question how they feel about the responsibilities they have to take as leaders during group work, they said they were satisfied and happy helping their classmates. However, I wanted to reduce the direct responsibilities of learning leaders; therefore, with their consent, I dismissed the title learning leader and launched the slogan ‘learn from the friend next to you’. If the students wanted to be clearer, they would approach the friend next to them or whoever could support them. Doing this, I thought, the individual support from each other would be strengthened.
Every day, I encouraged all the groups to learn from each other. I reminded them there was no leader in their group. When the students were busy in their group, I monitored them and provided them with instant feedback. If some students consulted me regarding some problems, I encouraged them to find the solution in group with their friends. I watched the learning process of each group very carefully and recorded their improvement with the help of my observation sheet.
I wanted to find out how the entire campaign had been from the prospective of the slow learners for whom this study had been launched. For this, I randomly selected twelve of them, two students from each group and administered questionnaires. Twelve students out of twelve responded that they would like to continue the practice and this practice brought some positive changes in their learning pattern. Almost all of them, ten out of twelve, believed that individual support system was really built in English class. In summary, students were satisfied with the practice and they said that the campaign was very useful.
Further, I received written responses from six slow learners and analyzed them. Most of the students responded that the practice of group work had really been fruitful, they began to learn instead of copying right answers. One of my students wrote- “At first, I used to be scared of asking questions and my confusions were never gone. But now discussing the confusion in group has been a very easy technique to solve any confusion” (Shuruma ma prashnaharu sodhna daraauthe ra sadhai confused rahanthe. Tara ahile samuhama chhalphal garda confusion haru samadhan garna nikai sajilo bhaeko chha). Another student wrote “The group leaders supported us immensely and they have been our true learning partner” (Toli netako support nikai thulo thiyo. Uni bata hamile sachchikai sikne awasar paayau). Similarly, another response was “We expect the same technique will be used for other subjects also” (Haami aasha garchhau ki anya wishayaharu maa pani yahi techniqueharu laagu garine chha.)
The exploratory phase of my classroom-based research gave me some useful insights into my actual problem and guided me through an action plan that I developed for changing the existing situation. From the intervention phase of my research, I learned that the student assisted individual support through effective group work is more useful, effective and possible in large class where individualized teacher support was not possible. Regular practice of working in groups helped students overcome hesitation and they began to clarify their doubts/confusion among themselves and got support from each other. Thus, making students work in mixed ability groups is the better way to scaffold students’ learning and it helps a great deal particularly in large classes. The practice of exploratory research carried out in my ESL class was extended to mathematics class and the report was very positive.
To conclude, this kind of regular practice of exploring classroom issues and solving problems within the classroom scenario made me more confident. I share my ideas with my colleagues and encourage them to carry out exploratory research during their teaching hours, without taking it as extra burden, for learning about their issues and solving problems.
Burns, A. (2010). Doing Action Research in English Language Teaching: A Guide for Practitioners. New York: Routledge.
Vygotsky, L. (1978). Interaction between learning and development. Readings on the development of children, 23(3), 34-41.
Kuchah, K., & Smith, R. (2011, June). Pedagogy of autonomy for difficult circumstances: from practice to principles. Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching, 5(2), 119-140.
Smith, R, Bullock, D & Rebolledo,P (2016). Champion Teachers: Stories of Exploratory Action Research. London: British Council.
Ram Prasad Aryal is an English teacher and a head teacher in Adarsha Secondary School, Gajuri, Dhading. He completed M Ed in English Language Teaching from Kathmandu University. He is a life member of Nepal English Language Teachers Association (NELTA). The core classroom practice is the area of his interest in ELT.
Reflection is one of those words that everyone knows, and everyone thinks they do quite effectively until someone comes along and really defines the word, and maybe asks some pertinent questions about the quality of those reflections. That is when everyone stops and has to reassess the whole concept. I am guilty of this, especially in the early part of my teaching career, and occasionally even now! Meaningful and effective self-reflection is one of the most challenging but more rewarding practices for an individual in any profession, but more so in teaching. One might ask why teaching is special in this regard. Teaching is actually quite a lonely profession in that while you may have excellent colleagues, at the end of the day, it is just you with your learners. No one else is in the classroom with you to support, challenge, question, or guide you. Being responsible for someone’s language progress requires you to constantly assess your approach and skills as a teacher.
What is reflection?
In some cultures, reflecting on your actions, behaviour, and development is taught from a young age but in others, the onus is on people around you to tell you how you are doing. In some professions, self-reflection is a part of the training, while in others, it is not given much attention. This can also vary between training programmes within a profession. In the world of ELT, this can result in novice teachers following their training blindly, experienced teachers stagnating in their approach, and managers being seemingly harsh during post-observation feedback conversations. It is true that most teacher training courses have some reflective practice built in. Trainees are informed about the benefits of reflecting on one’s teaching, but enough emphasis is perhaps not placed on how vital reflection is for both professional progress, and the planning and delivery of lessons on a daily basis. As Mann (2005, p. 105) describes, reflection is articulating “an inner world of choices made about the outer world of teaching”. Being able to describe, analyse, and evaluate teaching practice, and develop based on those thoughts is what effective reflection is. It involves both intellectual and affective aspects, both of which need to be explored. (Boud, Keogh & Walker, 1985 p. 3).
How do teachers reflect? – Types of ‘reflectors’ and issues
The most basic form of post-lesson reflection is to think about what went well in the lesson, what did not go well, and what the teacher would do differently next time. While this is a great starting point because at least it highlights that one must look at both positives and action areas, it can be limiting, and not very meaningful. Some will take these three aspects and reflect quite deeply but most teachers do not have the time or inclination for that. What often happens, and again something I am guilty of, is, the teacher finishes a class, has a quick little think about the overall lesson, can maybe identify one or two strengths and action areas, then gets on with the day. These thoughts are very rarely recorded anywhere, explored, or even revisited but the teacher can confidently say that they reflected.
Being a teacher, and having worked with other teachers as their mentor or manager, has exposed me to a range of reflection types. There is the ‘ranter’, who is extremely self-critical and feels nothing in the lesson went well. They can only see the faults and end up feeling quite dejected after a reflection leading them to avoid doing a reflective activity unless absolutely required. They also tend to try to change even good practice without realising it because they believe it was all bad. Then you have the ‘romantic’ who believes the lesson went very well indeed and there is nothing they would change. Finally, the ‘revelations’ type of teacher, who has several great ideas that come up from the lesson, that may or may not have to do with how the lesson actually went. However, more often than not, these ideas are not recorded, and end up being forgotten. It is rare to find a teacher whose reflections are balanced, objective, constructive, and truly meaningful, at least among novice teachers.
Moreover, thinking about what went well can be deceptive because many times, new teachers focus on lessons being fun but forget to look at how effective it is in terms of real-life application. So, while an activity or the lesson was fun and engaging, which could be defined as “having gone well”, students may not have left the class with new knowledge or skills. Similarly, the question about what the teacher could have done differently can be a little pointless. In a language institute, it is highly unlikely that you will teach the same lesson to the same group of students and so, doing the lesson again with changes seems irrelevant. You may teach a new class the same lesson, but the students would be different which would mean you need to adapt it to suit the new group anyway. It might seem obvious that the reflection needs to extend beyond the literal meaning of the question but as we have seen, teachers do not always have the time and/or interest, nor the training, to think about it in that much depth.
The final issue is that as teachers embark on the journey of meaningful self-reflection, they tend to focus on stating what happened in the lesson, rather than exploring why it did, what caused it, what reactions the learners had, etc. Reflections are often superficial like “students didn’t participate well”, “it was an engaging lesson”. It would help teachers to say at what stage did students not participate and why they feel that happened, or what about the students’ responses demonstrated that the lesson was engaging.
Tips for meaningful reflection
The question, then, is how does one reflect meaningfully? There are a few tips I follow and have shared with colleagues that we have found useful.
Be regular with your reflective practice and document it. You can choose what works for you. You need not do a detailed reflection after every lesson. You may choose to do it once a week or once a fortnight. Whatever you decide, it helps to stick to it. It is also a good idea to find a way to document your reflections so that you can revisit them, either for ideas or to check progress. There are many ways to do this.
Write in a journal. This is the classic method and works well. You can use different colours to highlight different types of reflections.
Use a digital tool. You can type up your reflections so they are all in one easily accessible folder, send an email to yourself, or do an infographic for your reference (if you are the more creative type).
Make a voice recording. Most phones have a recording app. It does not have to be a long recording, maybe just a few minutes to capture all your thoughts right after a lesson.
Have a focus area for each week/month. The tendency is to try and reflect on everything all the time. It can be more effective to identify some action or exploratory areas and just focus on one or two of those for a period of time. You can create a reflection document based on these focus areas to avoid being tempted to start thinking about all aspects of the lesson.
Avoid using passive voice. This one sounds almost ridiculous but it does make a difference. Many teachers write “This was done well.” There is no clarity on who did what, why, or how! While these may seem obvious, especially to the one writing, it can change your perspective when you write in the first person. Not only do you take responsibility for the good and the not-so-good practice, but you also think more deeply about it. So, try saying something like, “I clarified the language point in a meaningful way, using relevant examples”.
Have a reflection buddy (if possible). It is nice to have someone to discuss lessons and ideas with. Having someone who can observe your lessons every so often, give you feedback and ideas, and be a sounding board is wonderful.
Watch your own lessons. Depending on accessibility and consent from learners, it can be beneficial once in a while, to take a video of your lesson and watch it back. This can show us aspects of our teaching that we are not aware of. It highlights our tone of voice, choice of vocabulary, mannerisms, responses to students, etc. These are areas that often we think we do in one way but may actually be quite different in practice.
It is important to remember that reflection is a lot more than just ‘having a think’ about a lesson. (Harrison, 2012 p. 7) It involves asking questions, exploring aspects of teaching, and considering ways to develop one’s skills further. While it may seem tedious to incorporate reflective activities into a busy teaching week, having a routine and being prepared with documents or tools beforehand can result in reflection being thought-provoking, rewarding, enjoyable, and an essential aspect of your teaching practice.
Boud, D., Keogh, R., & Walker, D. (1985). What is reflection in learning? In Boud, D., Keogh, R., & Walker, D. (Eds.) Reflection: Turning Experience into Learning. London: Kogan Page Ltd.
Harrison, J. (2012). Professional learning and the reflective practitioner. In Dymoke, S. and Harrison, J. Reflective Teaching and Learning: A Guide to Professional Issues for Beginning Secondary Tecahers. London: SAGE Publications.
Mann, S. (2005). The language teacher’s development. Language Teaching 38, pp.103-118.
Venunathan, S. (2015). Impact of guided collaborative reflective practice on in-service English language teachers. (M.A. Dissertation). University of Warwick, Coventry, United Kingdom.
Seetha has been in the field of ELT for over 17 years. She has taught across contexts, age groups, language levels, and course types. She is now a freelance teacher, trainer, and CELTA tutor. Besides training and designing customised courses/workshops, she enjoys cooking, travelling, and meeting new people.
Many teachers do not easily believe that a classroom teacher can become a researcher, a writer, and a research mentor. However, they can contribute to the knowledge industry by exploring their own classroom contexts, analyzing local narratives, and sharing them throughout the world by writing papers, presenting the findings at the conference, and creating a community of practitioners. In this write-up, I have reflected on my experience of how I learned action research and became a research mentor. Furthermore, I have discussed how action research can be the best tool for the teachers’ professional development, students’ empowerment, and the change in the existing classroom situations.
Keywords: action research, empowerment, professional development, transformation
The heated discourse in academia nowadays is about research and innovation. People talk about research-based education in schools and universities. In Nepal’s context too, scholars often complain that education is not scientific, innovative, and practical. As a result, universities have also established research centers to encourage their teachers towards the research besides teaching in the classroom. In high school education as well, teachers are encouraged to do classroom-based researches or action researches by making the provision of awarding marks on action research for their promotion. However, the research culture is yet to develop in Nepal’s education. Therefore, the research needs to be redefined from the teachers’ perspective. In this reflective writing, I have argued for carrying out action research as the best tool to improve the existing classroom situation and groom oneself as a professional teacher and researcher.
My reflection as an action researcher
To begin with my practice of action research, I remember my first intervention to improve grade nine students’ speaking skills as an English language teacher in 2015. When I went to the class that contained 55 students (34 girls and 21 boys) and started teaching, I found pin-drop silence there. I thought I became successful in teaching the students and controlling them. I continued teaching for around fifteen days and asked them to reflect on what they learned during my teaching. Nobody answered me. I asked again if anything was wrong. One of the students hesitantly asked me for permission if she could speak in Nepali. After my permission, she shared, “Sir, you taught us very well because you spoke in English but we didn’t understand all”. Then, I further asked, “Why didn’t you ask me at the beginning? Another boy stood up and spoke in Nepali “Sir, hamilai ta Englishma kasari prasna sodhne nai aaudaina” (Sir, we don’t know how to ask the question in English.) These responses of the students made me upset for a while and I began to think seriously later. That evening, I posed some questions to myself such as: Was there any problem in my teaching? Why were the students not able to understand my English? How do my students want me to teach them? Should I tell them everything in Nepali? Soon, I decided to collect students’ views and plan accordingly for further teaching.
The next day, I asked some questions to the students (interviewed them) and found that only five out of fifty-five students understood my teaching in English but they could not ask questions easily. Many of them were reluctant to speak with me even in Nepali. They reported that they lacked basic language functions and speaking practice. Then, I planned to teach them speaking skills for about a month through role-plays. Providing sample dialogues (roles) based on various situations, I asked them to practice role-playing. Slowly, they developed their confidence and performed better. Later, they started writing skits for role-plays themselves. As a facilitator, I divided them into 10 different groups and let them discuss the social issues/problems they had observed or experienced in their homes or communities and prepare the skits to be performed in the class. They soon discussed in the group, selected the issue, developed the skits, and assigned the roles for each other. Their issues were also diverse such as child abuse, alcoholism, drug addiction, family conflict, girls trafficking, early marriage, domestic violence, and so on. I encouraged them to prepare the best drama afterwards and perform in the school hall in front of all the students, teachers, and guardians. Probably, my statement might have created more pressure on them and thus, they took extra time for rehearsal. Most of them worked hard and finally performed well. They received compliments from the audience too. They expressed that they were more confident after a month-long practice although they were pressurized to do the best performance initially. Moreover, I realized that their participation in speaking and other classroom tasks also increased. Later, they started asking questions confidently when they were confused during the instruction.
After completion of that project, I prepared a presentation focusing on my classroom context, the problem I faced, intervention that I adopted for change, and the success I achieved. Firstly, I presented the findings among my colleagues in school. I found my colleagues excited to see the changes in my students caused by the project. That presentation also inspired other colleagues in the school because they adopted such interventions for solving their classroom problems. Secondly, I presented the findings at the international conference as well. I got inspiration, from my friends who had already attended international conferences, to apply for the presentation. So, I developed a presentation abstract with the findings of the same project and applied it to IATEFL international conference 2016. They happily accepted my presentation proposal and awarded me a scholarship to travel and present my paper at the conference in the UK. It was a great opportunity for a classroom teacher like myself to attend and share my experience with the international community. It was only possible through my new intervention in the classroom. Finally, I wrote the reflection and sent it to the IATEFL voice newsletter and got it published in 2016.
I was excited to do such classroom interventions in the following years as well. In 2017, I developed another project to enhance the writing skills of grade eight students and succeeded to some extent. I again prepared the presentation proposal and submitted it to JALT international conference, Japan. It was accepted and supported by the organizer to travel to Japan and present my paper there. Being inspired by such a small but notable success in my career, I designed another project to address the classroom diversity of my students. I then developed the conference presentation proposal on how I addressed the classroom diversity and sent it to TESOL International Convention in the USA in 2017. They also accepted my presentation abstract with the scholarship to attend the TESOL Convention in Seattle, the USA, and present my paper. It was yet another opportunity of international exposure for me created through my tiny classroom intervention.
Later, I realized what I did in my classroom was none other than action research. My perception of action research completely changed after the realization that all the attempts of improving existing classroom situations through various teachers’ interventions were action researches. I used to think that research was beyond the access of teachers which would require specialized knowledge, skills, and practices. I was wrong because my experience mentioned above revealed that every teacher who approaches the real classroom problem with a new intervention strategy becomes a researcher. When I understood that action research means understanding a problem and solving it by oneself, I began to see every classroom problem from a researcher’s perspective, intervene and report to others for implication.
Understanding action research
Action research is understood and applied diversely according to the context since it is a research paradigm as well as a methodology (Goodnough, 2011). For example, Smith and Rebolledo (2018), termed it as teacher research since it is the ‘research initiated and carried out by teachers into issues of importance to them in their own work’ / ’research done by teachers into issues which concern them’ (p.18). It means the research carried out by the teachers for addressing the problems that arise in the practice systematically collecting data, analyzing it, and sharing what is found. Action research can be understood by various terminologies based on practices as well, such as teacher research, classroom-based research, exploratory action research/ practice, participatory action research, and critical action research. However, its basic essence seems to be the same. For example, in action research what intervention is taken to improve the situation is highlighted whereas, in the exploratory action research, the focus is given to the exploration of the causes of the problem before taking action.
Action research can have various dimensions and purposes. For example, Rearick and Feldman’s (1999) framework of three dimensions such as theoretical orientation, purposes of action research, and the types of reflection helped me to understand action research as an emerging research trend. Its nature, again based on theoretical dimensions, is technical, practical, and emancipatory. As indicated by Noffke (1997), action research broadly serves three purposes: personal growth, professional growth, and political empowerment. In my career, firstly, it served as a tool to understand my students, the nature of the problem, and classroom context as well. Secondly, it worked as a tool for my professional development. For example, due to my practice of action research in the classroom, I traveled to foreign countries, attended conferences, learned, shared, and developed professional networking. Thirdly, action research informed me about the economic, social, gender, lingual, racial, and ethnic inequalities inside and outside of the classroom. I realize that action research empowers not only the researchers but also the students involved in the project.
Teacher research which is carried out by the teachers for teachers is practiced elsewhere in the forms of action research or exploratory practice (Hanks, 2019). As stated by Smith (2020b) practice of teacher research has provided me the platform to empower other teachers and enhance personal and professorial growth. Although the concept and the purpose of action research vary, the action research involves practitioners in the self-contained cycle like plan, action, observe and reflect. In any action research, this cycle repeats until the improvement occurs in the situation. That is the main reason why action research is regarded as participatory, cyclical, or recursive research. Keeping these four stages in a spiral at the center, we can find the solution for any problem in the classroom.
Teachers as the researcher in the classroom (Mertler, 2009) can learn the value of action research as empowerment of the participants, collaboration, knowledge acquisition, and change. First of all, as I have narrated above, the student participants are empowered through action research. For example, in my case mentioned above, the students were not able to speak with the teachers at the beginning but after the intervention, they expressed that they had a high level of confidence. It reveals that action research can empower the students. The researchers themselves get empowered after gaining insights from the course of action research. Secondly, it fostered a collaborative culture among the students and stakeholders. Collaboration, as one of the fundamental 21st-century skills every student requires to develop, can be developed through action research. Thirdly, action research served me as a reliable means to acquire knowledge about the learners, context and contents in the classroom. It proves that the researcher can acquire knowledge by being involved in the action research. Finally, action research brought about changes in my students. Students became successful to interact with their friends and teachers in the classroom after the completion of the action. It reveals that action research is change-oriented research.
Carrying out action research in Nepalese classroom contexts is not free from challenges. I have also observed and experienced various challenges as a teacher and researcher. The first challenge for a teacher is the motivation towards research. I found some younger teachers who were in their early careers comparatively more motivated. However, the teachers who were in their late careers less motivated in the process of action research. Another challenge is the understanding of action research and systematizing it. Many teachers might perceive action research as s tough job although they have been doing it unnoticeably in their practice. For example, I used to tackle my classroom problems with new interventions and improve my teaching. However, I had not understood it as research and documented it systematically for a long time. Later, I realized the essence of it. Similarly, managing time for doing action research can be the next challenge because teachers can be overloaded with teaching duties. As a result, they may not have enough time for preparation and exploration. Besides, collaboration with colleagues and administration, creating a research-oriented environment in the workplace, and updating oneself according to the changed academic scenario can also be a challenge for carrying out action research.
Action research for teachers can be the best tool to groom personally and professionally. By exploring own classroom context, improving the existing situations, and empowering self and others through actions, a classroom teacher can contribute to the academia besides delivering course contents prescribed by the curricula. Moreover, action research provides the basis for a teacher to become a researcher, conference presenter, writer, and research mentor too. Although conducting action research requires teachers’ understanding, motivation, time, preparation, and dedication, it eventually supports them to transform themselves from a teacher to the researcher.
Goodnough, K. (2011). Examining the long‐term impact of collaborative action research on teacher identity and practice: the perceptions of K–12 teachers. Educational Action Research, 19(1), 73-86.
Hanks, J. (2019). From research-as-practice to exploratory practice-as-research in language teaching and beyond. Language Teaching, 52(2), 143-187.
Mertler, C. A. (2009). Action research: Teachers as researchers in the classroom. Sage.
Noffke, S. E. (1997). Professional, personal, and political dimensions of action research. Review of research in education, 22(1), 305-343. Retrieved from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.3102/0091732X022001305
Rearick, M. L., & Feldman, A. (1999). Orientations, purposes and reflection: A framework for understanding action research. Teaching and Teacher Education, 15(4), 333-349.
Smith, R., & Rebolledo, P. (2018). A handbook for exploratory action research. London: British Council.
Gobinda Puri is a lecturer of English at Janta Multiple Campus, Itahari. He is also the vice-chair in the NELTA Sunsari branch and the executive member in the Provincial committee, Province No. 1. Currently, he is pursuing his M.Phil. in English Education, at Nepal Open University. Besides teaching, he has interested in teacher research.
As the country was on lockdown due to the spread of Covid-19 for the second time, I, as a teacher was compelled to switch myself in the virtual mode of delivery. Both variants separated teachers and students; therefore, we started practicing online mode of delivery. I could not deliver the lessons in the very beginning. During the lockdown, the government instructed all the schools to facilitate the students in an alternative mode of teaching instead of physical facilitation. Rationalizing the fact of the transmission of Covid-19 in the community, we were compelled to operate schools and teaching in online mode which has been the bliss for all of us, teachers and students.
I teach English at the secondary level in one of the government schools of Ramechhap. Since it is a hilly region and we have to work with low resources. I feel regret to share but it was a very tough and tedious job to run the classes virtually in our territory. We had poor internet access and got a low bandwidth of internet connectivity. However, we had to try our best to replace physical classes. Firstly, I created a messenger group for tenth graders and started sharing notes and self-learning materials among them. After a few days, I saw the possibility of online teaching for the grade ten students. I proposed it to the school administration. Then, I, as the vice-principal, published a notice regarding online classes to explore the students’ perspectives. As a result, I noticed most of the students were ready to take online classes and their parents were likely to manage the internet connectivity along with android gadgets and smartphones.
It was the month of Ashadh 2078, we facilitated students in the online class. Before we launched the online classes, we had prepared all the pre-requisites for the online classes for the grade ten students. Fortunately, the majority of the students joined the class as they promised before. But, some students did not join the online classes for a week.
Thus, I gave a call to their parents and convinced them to create an environment for the online classes. Though they signaled positively, they did not manage the learning platform for their children for almost a week. During the online classes, we learned materials management, ppt slides preparation, lesson planning, etc. We were having a serious concern for the students’ learning and coping with challenges. The parents were hardly able to manage the smartphones and they were about to proceed with online classes.
To our surprise, the government broke out the lockdown and we switched into the face-to-face mode of delivery from the virtual one. The students who were unable to join online classes before were able to attend physical classes. More specifically, the government brought the policy of distributing SIM cards to students from grades four to twelve to facilitate the students with an alternative mode of learning.
As per the instruction, we collected all the documents needed to withdraw new SIM cards from the parents at school. Within a couple of weeks, we distributed the SIM cards to all the students from grade four to twelve withdrawing from the district headquarters. After the distribution of the SIM cards, we instructed all the teachers to facilitate the learning process through mobile phones. Some parents managed mobile phones but the rest of the others did not manage as they could not afford them. Hence, we were able to teach only those students who had internet access and a mobile phone.
It was interesting as well as painful to run the online classes smoothly. However, we continued the online classes through phone follow-up. By then, the majority of the students managed the mobile phones and started showing their active participation in learning. We had usual online classes every day but it was like a ritual.
I found that our students were not paying proper attention in their study rather they were habituated to playing the online game especially Free Fire and PUBG. Then, I started preparing different strategies. Preparing a prior mindset, I designed different language-related activities. Firstly, I asked them to find ten different words used in English while playing PUBG. They brought different words into the discussion. I often demonstrated those words which were new for the other students. I asked PUBG players to explain the meaning of those words which was going to be useful for them. I instructed all of them to find the antonym and synonym for those words. They explored based on their understanding. In the next lesson, I designed some other exercises and asked them to explore further.
During the virtual mode of delivery, I engaged them very interestingly. Sometimes, I would organize online debate competitions and sometimes I would organize quiz competitions based on the content from their lesson. The main purpose of preparing these materials was to help students explore their potential via online games. Finally, my students enjoyed the online platform because it was not time-consuming and boring for them. However, some lazy and below-average students hesitated to practice in online modes. In turn, they were equally happy to use mobile phones even if it was not fruitful for them. In my regular schedule, I never erased PUBG and Free Fire rather I encouraged. But the assignment would be related to the PUBG and Free Fire. Suppose, for example, if they would play the PUBG and Free Fire, they had to narrate all the events in about 250 words. At least, my technique of teaching free-writing was making sense for them. If they were not the PUBG players, they had to write something they were interested in.
Moreover, I taught grammar and freewriting together with the help of mobile phones. The students had already been familiar with the internet issues and I would offer them to find some interesting stories on google. They brought different stories copying from different sources. Then, they had to share all about the story they copied virtually. They had to check back and forth on their mobile phones to confirm if they had not understood the story completely. As a result, my students developed confidence in spoken English.
Fortunately, we were picking up on virtual learning. We almost replaced the face-to-face mode of delivery with the virtual one. The problems with the students in terms of regularity, punctuality, doing home assignments, etc. were likely to solve by ourselves. We took it seriously and started consulting the respective subject teachers whether they were performing well in their subjects.
Most interestingly, I encouraged my students to be critical and open up in online classes. Therefore, they could reflect on what they actually learned. It was difficult for them to speak up in the very beginning in the online class but later they slowly started questioning and critiquing. Sometimes, we would not be audible due to internet issues. Otherwise, I would prioritize the students’ needs and interests and ask them to accomplish their work timely. They learned about different apps such as Zoom, Skype, Proquest, Microsoft Team, Google Meet, etc. At least, they developed the concept about different terminologies such as email, Gmail, link, connection, internet, in the last few months.
Every weekend, we teachers sat and shared different techniques and strategies we employed. It was somehow difficult for math teachers to tackle students in the online classes. But the rest of the other theoretical classes would be easily handled and it was much effective as well. The PUBG and Free Fire players started playing those games because they had to write almost 300 words on what they played. Frankly speaking, some of the students were counseled very positively about the reason for not being able to attend the class. Later, it was diagnosed that the PUBG players would sleep late at night. Then, I successfully solved those all problems and the ratio of the regular classes remained constant in my online class.
The platform provided to the students in online classes was praiseworthy. The students got several opportunities to enhance their language skills. The students developed the habit of listening to the text and became able to solve the majority of the problems. I also focused much on spoken skills. Every week, they had to give their talk on some of the specified areas such as ‘Glory of Nepal’, The Most Interesting Place I ever visited in my Life’, ‘Pen is mightier than swords’, Mobile Phones in Students’ Life, ‘Role of youths’ in Nation’s Development’, etc. My students practiced speaking in English in different themes. To support them, I would often pinpoint their mistakes and would give immediate feedback. Then, they developed spoken fluency and accuracy by the use of mobile phones. More specifically, I would supply related reference materials in their respective groups.
The writing was also much focused in the online classes. The students were instructed to examine the pattern of writing. Sometimes, I would be giving them samples for letter writing and sometimes for application writing. They had to practice observing my samples minutely. I often designed varieties of materials for the classroom. They got an ample opportunity to explore the world around them. In every subject, they had to work and submit their assignments timely to their teachers. Online delivery remained one of the prior and successful techniques for secondary level students; however, it didn’t remain a milestone for basic education.
The students’ facilitation during the pandemic has been one of the pleasurable moments because we were not familiar with the effectiveness of the online classes. After a long investigation in different educational institutions in and around the world, we happened to practice alternative modes of delivery and it has been useful means of communication for all the learners around the world. Initially, we had a challenge but later we accepted it and developed at our own pace. Thus, the novice practitioners and the innocent students all learned several dynamics of online classes. The parental consciousness remained paramount for enriching students’ learning. The rigorous practice in every content from language to grammar and literature to writing have been taught succinctly via online medium.
In conclusion, learning without burden for students and teaching without burnout for teachers is essential for -the wellness of students and teachers. The students after being usual in using mobile phones geared up their learning. However, I realized that there are some individual factors including age, gender, ethnicity, educational background, and teaching experience, and so on. bring the variation on their understanding. Due to having a distinct socio-economical status in our society, we were straggling with the hardships of online classes but it was resolved in the latter stage of our lives. As a result, my students doubled their interest in learning than playing online games. Giving a lesson to every student should be viable and organized either we follow physical mode or we dictate virtual one. Achieving pedagogical goals require technological enhancement, students’ enthusiasm, and the well-being of the teachers. Therefore, I brought effectiveness in my teaching by examining the need and necessities of the students.
Students’ well-being is primarily judged by the cognitive abilities that they perform in their professional platform. Thus, online class and the use of mobile phones in the classroom has brought additional challenges to teachers’ wellbeing and pedagogical success. Effective and natural connections between the teachers and learners have been broken out. However, our dynamic students sharped their creative minds and learned to handle several awful situations. As a teacher, I often tried my best to make them feel not panicked by revising the previous lesson. The use of mobile phones was much helpful to gain self-confidence, self-esteem, and content knowledge.
At the end, my students learned to prepare some ppt slides, collected useful authentic materials, and developed presentation skills. From this experience, I came to know that offering opportunities and challenges to every individual are to make them able to reflect, rethink, and renew their existing knowledge and skills. Due to the massive use of the virtual mode of delivery, I myself became able to move a step ahead. It was extensively useful for both me and my students. The normal class was replaced virtually by the help of different videos, pictures, materials, and engaging tools. Thus, the use of mobile phones has been a prior tool in engaging students either in webinars or on other virtual platforms. So to say, this global pandemic created by COVID-19 has been a boon for many teachers like me because it demanded updated and upgraded professional expertise and gave a vivid glimpse of the students through innovative ideas and professional practices.
Hira Lal Moktan is an MPhil graduate in English Language Education from Kathmandu University School of Education. He has been currently serving as a vice-principal cum English teacher at Shree Dahoo Secondary School, Ramechhap. He is a life member of NELTA. His interests include research on Teachers’ Identity, Linguistics, and Discourse Analysis.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been considered a serious concern to people all around the world. On 30 January 2020 World Health Organization (WHO) declared the current outbreak that originated in Wuhan, China. In the context of Nepal, it was introduced on 20 February 2020. It is a kind of disease caused by the SARS CoV-2 virus. Due to the spread of COVID-19, we experienced a nationwide lockdown. It affected the nation socially, economically, and educationally. Almost all schools and universities were closed. Students and teachers were locked at home instead of going to school. We had no options in the beginning and later we started searching the different alternatives of teaching. As a result, we started communicating through Facebook Messenger. To achieve educational goals, we tried our best to find the best alternatives. Facebook Messenger was not handy in a large class and for visual interpretation. Therefore, we practiced Zoom technology. We learned to operate the Zoom application which provided a platform for both teachers and students to exercise teaching-learning activities appropriately. It has been widely used as a teaching tool that facilitated students alike the face-to-face classroom context.
Thus, this study intended to describe zoom technology as a teaching tool during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a reflection of an English teacher who experienced the COVID-19 pandemic massively. This study indicated that COVID-19 didn’t bring challenges only rather it brought equal opportunities as well. Therefore, this study has extensively concluded that operating the Zoom application was tough and challenging in the beginning but later it was a common and appropriate tool among all. It concluded that most teachers lacked the adequate skills to run the zoom app and those who were aware of the application had no access to the internet and digital devices. The technological enrichment and ICT paved the way for e-learning which could be affordable to families under poverty, and it would increase the competency of the learners in learning. The students learned time management skills, technological skills, and pedagogical knowledge during the COVID-19 pandemic in Nepal.
Keywords: COVID-19, Pandemic, zoom technology, lockdown, challenges, and opportunities
Teaching and learning are continuous processes to obtain new knowledge. There could be different techniques and strategies while teaching in the classroom. The physical appearance of teachers and students could make better sense for meaningful learning. Due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic all over the world, the education sector was mostly victimized. The rapidly growing pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges to Nepal’s education sector
Moreover, the government of Nepal issued a nationwide lockdown from 24 March to 21 July 2020 (as cited in Sharma, Banstola & Parajuli, 2021). Education was mostly affected. As a consequence of the lockdowns, schools and universities in Nepal were temporarily closed. Students and teachers became jobless due to COVID-19. It greatly affected all students, teachers, and parents, and all the concerned stakeholders. It provided challenges as well as opportunities for the teachers and students to explore the educational world around them. In the very beginning, COVID-19 created a chaotic situation and developed a great dilemma among all teachers, students, and parents because there were no ways in front of us. Pausing physical classrooms and staying at home was not the solution to such great problems for us. As a teacher, I felt a vacuum within myself and started thinking about its alternatives almost after a month. Facebook Messenger was only the online medium for the students to be connected. Slowly and gradually, we moved towards the other applications and we reached into Zoom Apps. Then, we started using zoom technology which was used as a tool to provide education to the students.
We are living in a modern world where technology is ubiquitous. Due to the ubiquitous presence of technology, the pedagogy of teaching and appropriate methodology has been essential for replacing the face-to-face mode of teaching with the virtual one. Inculcating technological awareness, pedagogical wellbeing, and technological content knowledge, we happened to exercise the contemporary practice of online delivery. The physical classroom environment was completely switched to the virtual one due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Traditional ways of teaching were replaced by an innovative way of teaching. To accomplish the educational goals, we have come across significant changes in our classroom practices. Thus, this paper aimed at exploring the effectiveness of zoom technology as a tool to teach during the COVID-19 pandemic in Aanbookhaireni Rural Municipality, Tanahun.
Both private and public schools employed online teaching via zoom technology. Zoom technology was not appropriate in the remote area of Aanbookhaireni Rural Municipality. However, it was widely used in urban areas of the same municipality. It was difficult for me to use zoom technology in the beginning but later I learned about it and started using it appropriately. It was challenging for the beginner teachers to use in the classroom due to a lack of knowledge and skills to operate it. Thus, it has been considered as a helpful tool to provide education to the student during such situations. Considering the zoom apps as a cloud-based asset Guzachevqn (2020) stated,
Zoom is a cloud-based service that offers meetings and webinars and provides content sharing and video conferencing capability. Furthermore, he argues zoom is the leader in modern enterprise video communications, with an easy, reliable cloud platform for radio and audio conferencing collaboration, chat, and webinars across mobile devices, desktops, telephones, and room systems.
To cope with the above statement through video conferencing students could share and receive information among other participants which were possible only through the use of zoom during the COVID-19 pandemic. And it helped to achieve the educational goals of any teacher. The most important thing is students are learning new technology by using zoom and obtaining their aims as well. Before lockdown we have only heard about such technology, now practically we have faced a new opportunity in the educational sector. Students and teachers as well become able to use mobile phones, computers, able to use the internet and social media which is essential in the present world. With the help of such technology, they get an education like in the general classroom. It helps to run a course of study which was disturbed by pandemic smoothly to meet the goals of the academic year. That is why it is said that zoom technology helped to reach the educational goals and provide extra knowledge to the students.
Situating the context
Teaching aims to convey information and help students develop content knowledge. In course of teaching, a teacher should use different techniques and strategies convenient and easier for the teacher. On the other hand, the teaching tool is also one of the essential foundations of the teaching and learning process that is why the teaching tool should be effective. Television, radio, computer, new technology, etc. were used as a teaching tool during the pandemic. Among them, most of the schools used zoom technology as a teaching tool during the pandemic to provide education with the help of the internet and the presence of mobile phones, computers, and laptops.
Implementing zoom technology as a tool became a challenging job for the teachers. Due to lack of idea about new technology, operating system and poor internet access we almost failed to implement in the initial phase. But later, we searched for the best alternatives and practiced the zoom application. Generally, people thought zoom was one of the applications which could be used easily but in reality, it was too complicated for all of us to use it appropriately. We had to explore out whether it works as a tool or not in the education system during the pandemic. Was zoom technology as a teaching tool significant to teachers? Thus, this study was intended to fetch the answer to those questions. Examining the various reasons, I explored the ideas and experiences of scholars in the field of language teaching in Nepal inculcating my own experience of using Zoom as a tool for teaching during a pandemic.
Impact of COVID-19 on education in Nepal
The spread COVID-19 pandemic or Coronavirus significantly disrupted every aspect of our life, including education. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on education in Nepal was tremendous even in its early stage. Dawadi, Giri and Simkhada (2020) argued that the alarming spread of the virus caused havoc in the educational system forcing educational institutions to shut down. The education system in Nepal had been affected mostly due to it and educational institutions had been made to shut down. It means the physical education system such as teaching in presence of students and teachers in the classroom was stopped. According to a UNESCO report, 1.6 billion children across 191 countries were severely impacted by the temporary closure of educational institutions (as cited in Dawadi, Giri & Simkhada, 2020). Similarly, UNESCO presented, more than 8 million students in Nepal (4.5 million females and 4.3 million males) of which primary and secondary school children represent 45% and 39% respectively were affected by school closures due to lockdown. The above data showed how the COVID pandemic was affecting the teaching and learning process in the Nepali educational system. It is the data on how the COVID, schools, and universities have affected during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Sharma, Banstola and Parajuli (2021), during the lockdown, children from poor, marginalized, and disadvantaged families who already have limited education opportunities outside school were most affected. Furthermore, child marriage has increased during the lockdown, students’ dropout rates were rising. The above data showed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the educational sector was severe. The government brought an alternative way of teaching such as online classes but the students in the remote village were out of reach due to the low economic status and low internet access. However, it impacted different assets of classroom teaching from sport or physical activity to curricular and extracurricular activities.
Digital learning access in education
The present scenarios indicated that students in Nepal are affected by various perspectives. Methodological switch from face-to-face classroom teaching to virtual one made teaching and learning effective and innovative. The closure of the physical classes brought a notable rise of online learning whereby teaching and learning were undertaken remotely and on a digital platform (Acharya, et. al, n.d.). Schools and universities were accessing digital learning in education as a teaching tool. During the COVID-19, almost all schools and universities ran their classes online. It paved a better way for the concerned stakeholders in academia in Nepal. For the fulfillment of the educational goals, the government of Nepal provided a Closer Uses Group (CUG) sim by adding an internet facility for rural schools to promote education during the pandemic. Digital learning was a trending tool to provide education during the pandemic.
Digital learning was a form of distance learning and its fundamental requisite was access to the internet, digital devices like laptops, mobile phones, smartphones, and computers. During COVID-19 pandemic digital devices were much practiced and become a mandatory asset in addressing the pandemic gap of the institutions. According to Thapa (2020), the contemporary situation made us more sensational and sensitive in the utilization of online, blended, and approaches of distance learning in Nepal. It was mostly growing due to the availability of electronic devices and internet access. The pandemic brought a change in digital learning in the context of the Nepalese education sector. The government of Nepal also provided online-based training to the teachers for the development of their professional knowledge. Digital learning gained an unprecedented acceleration due to the impact of the present pandemic. It seemed that Nepalese education culture was also on the way to making a grand shift towards accommodating innovative technology due to the globally increasing digital learning.
Zoom technology as a tool for teaching
Promoting the educational system which was destroyed by the COVID-19 pandemic was a challenge to the teachers. Due to the pandemic, the traditional teaching process changed and new ways of teaching were explored in our academia. By the time being every pedagogy also gets changed. Traditional teaching was replaced by online distance learning in this period. Zoom technology had been only the prior tool in our education sector that helped to provide quality education during the pandemic. Zoom is a cloud-based service that offered video conferencing capability with a content sharing facility. It was one of the new original software-based conferences that allowed both students and teachers to have an effective teaching-learning activity. It was very useful to the teachers and students who were taking classes virtually.
Zoom promoted English teachers to present the content of their lessons in various ways (Guzacheva, 2020). Furthermore, it was useful in screen sharing as well. It motivated English teachers to annotate their shared screen, making lessons more interactive and preparing for student-centered teaching. More specifically, video communications, cloud conferencing, video and audio conferencing, collaborative workshops, and webinars, etc. were common for all of us to use in our classroom during the pandemic. We used mobile devices, desktops, computers, and smartphones in our virtual delivery regularly. Emphasizing the usage of Zoom technology, we learned several skills such as video conferencing, designing an online lesson, preparing effective teaching-learning materials during the pandemic. Zoom had become an indispensable technology for the way I work, teach, and learn together by the screen sharing feature. Therefore, I successfully engaged my students in my online class showing them the materials like videos, pictures, stories, and lesson-related materials, etc.
As a result, the use of zoom technology became one of the prominent tools of learning and teaching during the COVID pandemic in the education sector. I felt it was one of the useful tools for online teaching in our context. With the presence of teachers and students through the different devices such as mobile, laptop, computer, etc. teaching-learning process became effective and lively through a cloud-based service that offers meetings and provides content sharing with video conferencing facilities.
Challenges and opportunities of zoom technology
Almost all schools and universities were not opened and it was not clear how long this situation would continue. The virtual class which was run by the direction of the government of Nepal had partly fulfilled the educational goals. On other hand, shifting to an online class was extremely difficult in the Nepalese context mostly due to poor internet access and lack of digital devices at their hand. There were no relevant guidelines, strategies, and courses about the legitimacy of the student’s learning on an online platform. We all were lacking in it because we had no such experience in conducting online classes. Indeed, most of the teachers did not have adequate skills to run online apps like zoom and others because they had neither been trained to do the job nor been involved in online teaching before. And another reason was that there was no access to the internet and digital devices in rural areas.
For the effective implementation of online classes, different facilities such as good internet connection and electronic devices like mobile phones, computers, and laptops were the basic requirements. Dawadi, Giri, and Simkhada (2020) presented that for most schools, in addition to infrastructure, unfamiliarity on the part of teachers and schools managers are barriers to providing distance learning. It was incomplete due to the many reasons while implementing zoom technology as a tool for teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, the absence of an appropriate exercise and prior lesson planning were the main reasons behind the ineffectiveness of the online class. Lack of technological devices, inadequate technological knowledge, lack of self-motivation, lack of lesson design skills, insufficient funds, reluctance to amend the policy, electricity integrated problems, etc. were the challenges of e-learning in Nepal (Acharya, et. al, n.d.). Alongside poor network connection, low internet access, and data privacy from the internet were other challenges that have affected the online zoom learning system in Nepal.
During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, online physical classes had been run almost everywhere which was a new experience for both students and teachers (Laara, et. al, 2021). Zoom technology had the potential to transform the education system by boosting educational opportunities, encouraging the development of new pedagogical methods, making the learning process more reliable, more efficient, despite many challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. Zoom technology as a tool to bring transformation in education mechanisms had presented various opportunities in the modern world. It provided the learners’ various skills about new technology and helped to achieve destined goals. The overall opportunities of e-learning were affordable to families under poverty, increase competency among facilities, development in ICT, increase time management skills, increase adaptation skills to international digital communities, and skills up technological literacy (Acharya, et. al, n. d.). So, it has been realized the teacher training center, Tanahun, made the online class more energetic, effective, and familiar for many of the teachers in our locality. Indeed, I implemented zoom technology which was significantly useful for enhancing the conceptual understanding of both teachers and students regarding their course content.
It is believed that COVID-19 didn’t come along with challenges only rather it came up with several opportunities. The impact of COVID-19 has been severely realized in different fields such as tourism, business, industries, and health in general and education in particular. The closure of physical classes and the initiation of the online class taught several lessons to use new technology and innovative ideas in our classroom context. Online mode of delivery especially zoom application created a space in our education sector fundamentally. Zoom application remained as one of the interesting technologies which provided the facilities for audio-video conferencing, video communications, cloud conferencing, collaborative workshop, webinars, and chat, etc. Pertaining to the need and necessity of the educational institution during the pandemic, most of the schools and universities used zoom technology as a teaching tool in Aanbookhaireni Rural Municipality, Tanahun. The use of zoom technology has been viable, effective and one of the best alternatives in our academia during the pandemic. Zoom application supported those schools, students, and teachers in obtaining content-related pedagogical knowledge and skills. It made every practitioner easier to grab the learning opportunity via the zoom application because it saved time, energy and became learner-friendly tools to solve the problems minutely. Thus, it was useful in breaching the gap in teaching in the Nepalese education context because it facilitated learners’ potentials and helped them explore their potentials.
Acharya, A., et.al (n. d.). Digital learning initiatives, challenges and achievement in higher education in Nepal Amidist COVID-19. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED609894
Dawadi, S., Giri, R.S., & Simkhada, P. (2020). Impact of COVID-19 on the education sector in Nepal. Challenge and coping strategies. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED609894
Guzachevaq, N. (2020). Zoom technology is an effective tool for distance learning in teaching English to medical students. Bulletin of Science and Practice, 6(5), 457-460. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.33619/2414-2948/53/61
Laara, R.A., Ashraf, M.A., Ning, J., Ji, P., Fang, P., Yu, T., & Khan, M.N. (2021). Performance, health, and psychological challenges faced by students of physical education in online learning during COVID-19 Epidemic: a qualitative study in China.
ELT Choutari is pleased to present you the third quarterly issue (July-September) of 2021. This issue has covered a wide range of areas of classroom pedagogy, online practices during Covid-19, ELT practices, and reflections of English teachers and practitioners.
English teachers in difficult times and circumstances have their own unique experiences of teaching English. During this global pandemic, we have seen many English teachers receiving opportunities of participating online conferences, seminars and courses right from their home. They have been receiving opportunities to interact and present in both local and global seminars. They are updating themselves with new skillsets of operating technology and using several online resources to facilitate English language learning. For instance, English teachers are increasingly using PowerPoint presentation, audio-video materials rather than depending on chalk and talk and translation method. They are also found using creative ways to assess students’ learning virtually. In a nutshell, English teachers are encouragingly updating and upgrading their skills to teach virtually via professional development opportunities.
On the other hand, many teachers are also facing challenges to reach out to their students as the electricity and internet connectivity is still a big challenge to majority of people in remote parts of the country. Schools have been closed for a long time and students from such remote geography are isolated from teaching learning. Sufferers are those students who are already struggling or underperforming in class and this pandemic is going to widen this learning gap hugely, which will take quite a good time and effort to maintain. Thus, time has come for stakeholders to invest and expand technology far and wide, and to capacitate teachers to make the best use of technology to deliver education during the emergency and ever (as a supplementary teaching-learning).
In this issue, the authors have brought different experiences of teaching and learning of English in different contexts. Moreover, as an editors’ choice, we have picked a blog piece of Dr. Prem Phyak titled “Engaged research in applied linguistics: Reflections from practice”. The piece was first published in the AAAL GSC blog (https://www.aaal-gsc.org/blog). Dr. Phyak opines that researchers should adopt engaged research framework to include the marginalized community in the research process not only as a research subject but also as a co-researcher to deconstruct the top down approach of researching based on his experiences and research practices. We hope these variety of contributions will be useful resources and sources of motivation for teachers and students to moving forward. Here is the list of seven blog posts of this issue:
We are really grateful to all the authors for their contributions to this issue. We are really thankful to the reviewers for their efforts to bring out this issue. We would like to thank the entire team of ELT Choutari: Ganesh Kumar Bastola, Mohan Singh Saud, Jnanu Raj Paudel, Babita Chapagain, Sagar Poudel, Karuna Nepal, Ekraj Koirala, Nani Babu Ghimire and Rajendra Joshi to materialise this issue. For this issue, we must thank Narendra Airi for his support in reviewing and proofreading the articles.
Finally, if you enjoy reading the blog pieces, please feel free to share in and around your academic circle, and of course, drop your comments in the boxes below. Likewise, please write about your experiences, reflections, experiments, reviews, or any other scholarly articles for our future publications. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Teachers need to be in good health to teach in an innovative, inspiring, and meaningful way. During their pedagogical journey, they may experience a variety of emotions. These experiences and emotions have a major impact on their as well as students’ successful schooling. The happiness of teachers is linked to their work satisfaction, professional relationships, and personal lives. The main purpose of this article is to review past and current literature related to the issues of teachers’ wellbeing and its adverse effect on their pedagogical success.
My perception of wellbeing
As an English language teacher in a private school and college in Kathmandu, I spend a lot of time and energy not only in the classroom, but also outside of it, because the job requires a lot of preparation time for assignments, lectures, and lesson plans. So far my experience is concerned, teaching in a private school is one of the lowest-paying jobs available, with no retirement plans or job security. Almost all teachers work on a contract basis and a part-time basis. Further, the COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated the teachers’ predicament. On one hand, teachers’ paychecks have been cut in half, and have to devote even more time preparing for online lectures and implementing new technology for teaching. On the other hand, working from home has made teachers’ work-life balance even more difficult. As a result, I am experiencing a negative impact from this change in both my personal and professional life.
I feel deprived of one of the basic needs of day-to-day normal life due to a lack of personal and emotional contact with students, colleagues, and close ones for an extended period. Staying at home twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week for months and months has been exhausting, stressful, boring, mentally unhealthy, and frustrating. As an ELT teacher, the unfolding situation has prompted an important question in my professional and emotional thinking. I am constantly wondering if I will be able to fulfill my professional obligations while also living my personal life to the fullest.
Based on a review of the literature on how pedagogical success and learning outcomes are affected, this research article is the result of my quest to understand teachers’ wellbeing and their negative and positive emotions. This question nags at the back of my mind whenever I reflect on my career as an ELT professional. I was curious about how teachers’ wellbeing affects their professional and personal goals. I was curious as to what teachers’ wellbeing entails, what factors contribute to it, and if there is anything that can be done to improve teachers’ wellbeing. What role can schools play in this endeavor? In line with these questions, this article vividly presents concepts of wellbeing and its components.
According to Mercer (2021), wellbeing, as a social construct, is considered not only for the individual but also for the entire ELT ecology. Although happiness, in general, is based on people’s perceptions, it is a deeply psychological construct that is difficult to define. According to one CESE (2014) report, teacher wellbeing is linked to the quality of their work and its impact on student outcomes. Mercer (2021) further argues that wellbeing is not void nonsense. It is deeply rooted in human existence within social communities and global ecology. Here, the term wellbeing does not denote an individual but the collective. So Mercer further states that ELT has got into this very intensely for understanding what wellbeing does mean for all the members of ELT community.
Wellbeing is synonymous with happiness and as Cann (2019) states ‘ life satisfaction’. There are two main theoretical perspectives on happiness: hedonic and eudemonic. The hedonic approach focuses on personal experience of happiness and an individual’s perception of balance between positive/negative emotions and their overall sense of life satisfaction (Diener et al., 1999; Mercer, 2020). The eudemonic perspective, on the other hand, is centered on self-actualization and the ability to derive a sense of purpose or meaning in life. Wellbeing brings pride and happiness, and happiness is more closely linked to effective teaching and learning in any educational institution (Cann, 2019). As a result, wellbeing appears to be one of the most important factors in pedagogical performance. Many studies have concluded that it is critical to promote teacher wellbeing to achieve better learning outcomes for students. Toraby and Modaresi (2018) suggest that when teachers are happy, they teach more creatively and their students achieve more (e.g. Caprara et al., 2006). Similarly, when students experience positive wellbeing in school and see positive behavior from teachers, they are more motivated and successful in their studies (e.g. Seligman et al., 2009). A positive relationship with coworkers to improve wellbeing is important for professional achievement and happy life.
Positive and negative emotions
The COVID- 19 pandemics have greatly disrupted the teaching and learning process (Sanusi, Olaleye & Dada, 2021), and it has created a lot of negative emotions among teachers and learners as infection numbers rise and is reported in news outlets and social media. Frenzel (2014) discussed negative emotions such as anxiety, anger, boredom, as well as positive emotions such as feelings of enjoyment and pride.
Dibbon (2004) has already brought the idea from his study that anxiety, anger, and boredom lead to the negativity of teachers’ wellbeing. Sanusi, Olaleye, and Dada (2021) describe the factors that create negative emotions such as “internet issues, including its cost, student’s participation rate, insufficient media instruction, lack of student’s preparation, and preference for face-to-face class”. The positive impact that COVID- 19 has brought is, among others, the learning of technology by the teachers to accomplish their tasks (Sanusiet et al., 2020). Positive emotions among teachers are likely to grow when they can adequately rely on their profession for sustenance and security.
Learning new skills and remaining consistent at work during the pandemic can provide an abundance of positive emotions. Teachers perceive their workplace as being stressful and anxiety-inducing and it exerts great pressure and stress on them (Salashour & Esmillie, 2021). One of the issues that must be addressed at the institutional level is the negative impact of negative teacher emotion (Toraby, 2018). Students’ performance may suffer as a result of negative emotions. Yoon (2002) researched student-teacher relationships in the classroom and concluded that students had a negative view towards their teachers as a result of the teacher’s stress and negative emotions. Such negative emotions are directly related to teacher burnout, which may reduce self-efficacy.
Burnout and self-efficacy
Learning without burden for students and teaching without burnout for teachers is essential for -the wellness of students and teachers. According to Maslach (2015, as cited in Safari, 2021), burnout is a psychological syndrome aroused from mental and emotional exhaustion that later develops as long-term emotional or interpersonal stressors. Also, long-term anxiety and stress may cause burnout. Some studies have also discussed the sources of burnout and have discussed briefly creating the issues (Safari, 2021; Maslach, 2015; Chang, 2009). It is pointed out that individual, organizational and transactional factors are the three main sources of burnout (Chang, 2009).
Individual factors include age, gender, ethnicity, educational background, and teaching experience. Traditionally, studies on education production function have focused on how teachers and their background characteristics influence student performance (Hanushek & Rivkin, 2010 et. al., Todd & Wolphin, 2003). Similarly, organizational factor denotes job satisfaction and workplace environment, which are linked to income, division of labor, classroom management, incentives, and the organization’s socioeconomic status.
Since self-efficacy is an important variable and can affect the rate and time of burnout, the relationship between self-efficacy and burnout is studied (Safari, 2021). The theory of social cognitive defines the term ‘self- efficacy’ as an individual’s faith in their capacity to be successful in certain conditions (Bandura, 2006).The theory defines that teachers’ self-efficacy is the belief in the ability to plan, organize, and implement different educational activities that are critical to achieving pedagogical goals. Implementation of the measures to control the level of burnout help to improving teachers’ mental, physical, and social wellbeing that supports to enhance their teaching effectiveness, interpersonal relationship and their job satisfaction (Safari, 2021). Hence, an effective teaching process plays a vital role in the performance and success of any institution.
Relation between wellbeing and pedagogical success
Teachers’ pedagogical success is primarily determined by their cognitive abilities as well as their academic and professional knowledge in the field (Toraby, 2018). Students prefer teachers who have both emotional literacy and professional literacy. Many studies have been conducted to investigate the cause and effect on the teachers’ wellbeing (Blazar& Kraft, 2017). The unpleasant emotions, which are experienced by the teachers such as tension, anxiety, frustration, anger, depression may result in dissatisfaction in their work (Kyriacou, 2009). Negative emotions in teachers have an impact on their wellbeing, which can lead to poor performance of the students. Therefore teachers need to focus on happiness since it can bring positivity and positive emotions that assist teachers in being content with their lives. In this way, many studies have concluded a moderate, positive correlation between teachers’ emotions and students’ views on teachers’ pedagogical success.
Teachers’ wellbeing is not only the matter of being satisfied but also has some dimensions for developing positive emotions that influence the success in teaching. Teachers’ psychological and sociological factors can influence their success and failure (Safari, 2021).Emotional exhaustion relates to the psychological problem whereas sociological factors here refer to the interpersonal relationships between teachers and their self-efficacy. So, control over the stressors helps to improve mental health issues, teaching techniques and skills, interpersonal relation that results to job satisfaction.
According to Cotton (2008), various dimensions such as quality education, classroom quality, classroom management, job satisfaction, language, teacher turnover, and self-efficacy affect teacher’s wellbeing. The success of teaching is, directly and indirectly, related to the beliefs that arise out of different theories in pedagogy. Positive emotions in teachers, according to studies, cause them to teach more creatively, and the learner(s) to achieve more. Toraby (2018) revealed that when students believe their teachers are enjoying their jobs, they learn more. Similarly, when students feel good in the classroom and during the learning process, they are more motivated and successful in their studies (Seligman et al, 2009). As a result, teachers’ wellbeing and positive emotions are critical factors in successful teaching and pedagogical success.
Teachers’ wellbeing amidst the pandemic
Mental health issues, stress, and anxiety are sweeping the world as a result of social isolation caused by COVID-19 led lockdown across the world for the last year. Due to massively increased coronavirus, schools and universities are some of the most severely affected areas in this regard. Teachers in remote and hybrid environments reported more challenges than those in solely face- to face instruction (Schwartz, 2020). While anxiety and stress among students due to online classes or even no classes are well reported, teacher’s wellbeing is not spared from the mental health pandemic.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges to educators including disruption in the management of day-to-day teaching stuff and a rapid transition from in-person to remote learning (Porter, 2020). Seeing the current situation, teachers’ wellbeing is affected adversely from the following three sides.
Teachers are forced to teach online, if any, without direct human interaction. As human interaction is the most important social ingredient for social health, the deprived teachers are unable to manage their emotional needs by merely teaching from home and not being able to go to physical classes. Teachers are forced to reply on computer screens for professional work, information, communication, entertainment, and so on. This helps to deteriorate not just the mental health of teachers, but also their physical health.
On the second side, millions of teachers across the world are losing or on the verge of losing their job. As private schools are struggling to survive amidst almost zero revenue and constant costs, teachers have to face with ever-increasing job insecurity and financial catastrophe.
Finally, the pandemic can hit a teacher’s family anytime. With little access to the vaccine among teachers, they are already one of the most vulnerable groups in society after medical professionals. This threat of disease has also put a lot of stress on teachers.
All these three factors have made teachers’ jobs even more challenging. They are neither being able to fully deliver what they have been doing for years and intend to do for the rest of their lives nor are they being able to receive extra support and incentive for all the extra effort they have to invest to switch from physical to online mode.
Many studies have claimed that teacher’s wellbeing, emotions, and students learning outcomes are an integral part of pedagogical success. Positive feelings coincide with teachers’ professional success and that success determines the teachers’ wellbeing. So, the display of emotion is considered vital in teaching success. Literature suggests emphasizing both the teachers’ wellbeing and students’ achievements for pedagogical success. Teachers’ positive emotion leads to better students’ achievement and success in teaching.
The pandemic has brought additional challenges to teachers’ wellbeing and pedagogical success. Effective and natural connections between the teachers and learners have been broken. Thus, the virtual world is nowhere near enough to meet the emotional need of the teachers and students.
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Rejina KC is a Nepalese ELT teacher-researcher. She is currently pursuing her PhD at Kathmandu University, School of Education, Kathmandu. She has a master’s degree in English from Tribhuvan University and an MPhil degree in Interdisciplinary Education from Pokhara University. Her research interests include literature in language classroom, creative writing in EFL and teachers’ wellbeing and motivation. She has more than a decade-long experience as an ELT teacher from ECD to the University level. She is passionate about learning different methodology in ELT teaching for fostering language competence and skills in both teaching and learning English.
Teaching became one of my ideal professions when I was a high school student. It was not because of I understood the susceptibility and nobility of teaching profession, but because of my personal impressions to the teaching profession. When I feel nostalgic for my high school, my memory shares only blurred images of the lessons taught in the cold and unsophisticated classroom of the village school. Rather, I vividly remember hanging on the branches of Kafal tree, being caught in the hooks of Aiselu, throwing stones at orange trees heavily laden with juicy oranges, and surreptitiously stealing plums, pears on the way to School. I grew up with nature and learnt more from the nature rather than from the school courses.
One of the things that attracted me to teaching is that I was enticed with a word associated with teachers. The word that vehemently pulled me in teaching profession is the holly term ‘Guru’. I was introduced this word by Purna B.K a Nepali teacher who spoke exquisite Nepali with correct pronunciation in a rhythmic tone. Since then, the term ‘Guru’ always became the dearest to me. It became an immutable aspect of my life. Though I was introduced the term by the Nepali teacher, I chose to be an English teacher. In my case, there are three things that motivated me to become an English teacher. Firstly, speaking English in my society is taken as social prestige and having tag of intelligent person. Secondly, I could not communicate in English even after completion of the SLC. Thirdly, my English teacher Mr. Nabaraj Tamang became a friend of mine more than a teacher. Among three, the feeling of inferiority for not being able to communicate in English always rumbled inside me. It proliferated my dream of learning English day and night. Therefore, in a dawn I strode to Kathmandu from village for pursuing dream to learn and become an English teacher.
After the completion of B.Ed. from Mahendra Ratna Campus Kathmandu, specializing in English education, I grew mature enough for teaching. My academic accomplishments placed me on the threshold of teaching. I started hunting for job in English medium schools in Kathmandu. Finally, one of my gurus in campus ascertained my interest in teaching and recommended me a school for teaching the students of grade nine and ten. I felt a little awkward to go for high school children particularly because of two reasons. Firstly, I had no experience at all. Secondly, to be honest, I did not have fluency in speaking. I was in a great dilemma what to do and what not to. At the same time, my guru made me a call and said, “Mr. Rai if you want to learn swimming, the level of water should reach up to your chin. Then, either you will swim or die. But, if I let you in the water that only submerge your knees, you will never sink and never learn swimming.” My guru indicated me that the more challenges I face the more competent I become. Eventually, I agreed to go for the students of grade nine and ten.
From the Obstacles
The first year of my teaching experience remained insomniac, frustrated and tiresome. As a novice teacher I did not have skills that are required to handle teaching and learning activities in the classroom except apprenticeship of observation and scanty theoretical knowledge. As I entered the classroom with coming led feeling of both excitement and awkwardness in the first day, around 40 bright, sparkling and curious eyes swallowed me at a glance with the warm greetings. Their sparkling and curious eyes were indicating that they wanted something new, something interesting from me.
The days were going well but slowly and gradually, I realized that something was falling apart. I came across some critical incidents while teaching in the classroom, particularly dealing with an effective lesson plan, teaching materials, fluency and delivery in speech, identifying the nature of students, controlling classroom so and so. As days went by the students ‘gestures and facial expressions in the classroom reflected that they were not satisfied with my teaching. I was winced by the students’ reactions. One day, I was dealing with one of the grammatical items the ‘Reported Speech’ in the class. I approximately delivered ten-minutes speech on the topic, presented two-three examples and offered some practice questions to the students on the board and asked them to practice. The first thing, students had to transform direct speech into indirect in copy. Secondly, each individual had to stand up and read out their answers to the friends. Thirdly, other students had to find the errors made by their friends and tell a correct answer. Finally, my job was to facilitate them. As I finished writing practice questions on the board, I went around the class and checked if students had written or not. One of the students in the last bench was sitting baffled. I asked him if he had written the practice questions. His answer was, Sir? “You haven’t done anything?” I inquired. He absently responded “No sir”. I was flabbergasted by the response. Alas! What can be more suicidal to a teacher if the students do not perceive what you are doing.
Similarly, in other days I prepared some charts and flashcards as the teaching materials to deal with vocabularies and some writing skills. However, the students showed no interest in it. Later on, I realized that my teaching materials were so clumsy and not attractive to draw the attention of the students. Interestingly, a few days later, I found some of the students were perfect artists in both painting and writing in the class. In the soliloquy I was stroke with some questions. Why the students of B.Ed. level are not trained to prepare suitable and attractive teaching materials by university lectures along with theoretical anecdotes? Why the B.Ed. level students are not engaged in classroom workshops to deal with preparing a comprehensive teaching materials?
The high school students expect flawless speech. But, in my case it was not. I do think that most of the university students still have the same problem as I had in speaking. As a novice teacher, surviving in the classroom was a great job. I delivered a sentence in a minute, means 45 sentences in 45 minutes. One of the reasons that interrupted my speech was grammar. When I delivered speech in the class, I focused less on speech and more on grammatical items like preposition, articles, tense and blah, blah, blah. Later on, I realized that over thinking on grammatical items created blockade in my brain, as a result, it could not activate my UG (the universal grammar). The next thing is that I focused more on transactional speech and less on interactional one. The transactional speech created more controlled situation in which learners became passive. In due course of time, I realized that much of our communication remains interactional. These were other reasons that the students were not motivated in the class. Meanwhile, I came across another question. Why do most of the students even in university level cannot master in speaking competencies?
Teaching became an arduous work for me at the beginning. I felt that I lost myself in a labyrinth of teaching. I bid farewell several sleeplessness nights. I could not zip my eyes properly by thinking about the students, my responsibilities towards them, expectation of administration so and so. Here, I realized a month of teaching practice conducted by campus did not adequately impart me the skills that is needed in the real classroom. No doubt, it introduces me the terms and conditions of practice teaching. But my profession demanded more than I could do. I critically view that practices teaching conducted by campuses across the country has not been as effective as it is supposed to be from both the practitioner teachers and the supervisors in most of the campuses in Nepal. Why our practice teaching cannot prepare a complete teacher?
Meanwhile, the theories that I studied in campus and real world practice fell apart. I should have straddled one foot in theories and another in practice but I fell into deep gorge of theories and practices. I have no idea at all whether theories and practices went along side in practice teaching or not. I do even have no idea whether the supervisors should guide the practitioner teachers to tie up their teaching learning activities with theories or not. Now, while sharing my experience I assume that the practitioner teachers should be taught to link the theories with practice in practice teaching as well. At the beginning of my teaching in the school I just entered the class told the students to turn out the page numbers and find the topic. Then I narrated what was given in the textbook. It made the students just a passive listener as a result they were bored. They were treated as a blank sheet of paper. This kind of teaching kept the curiosity, ideas, feelings, experiences and imagination of the students at bay. I followed the center to periphery approach. I remained in the center and the students in the periphery. I became like a strange creature among the students who does not know anything except what has been given in the textbook. It created social, psychological and linguistic gap between us. A teacher is motivated when he/she sees the pleasant countenance of his/her students but it did not happen so.
To the Exploration
After a year of my teaching I realized that I have ever had the worst teaching techniques. Then, I felt that I need to shift my teaching from deductive to inductive, inductive to deductive, transactional to interactional, interactional to transactional according to the situations. Concomitantly, I started bridging approach—methods and techniques. Understanding approach, methods and techniques demanded a rigorous and meticulous study. I had to wonder and ponder over every details while reading. I crawled over the books, research articles and journals to glean information on teaching. This is how, I became an autonomous learner.
I started presenting questions related to topics and asked the students to present their ideas and experiences rather than ordering them to turn the page numbers and listen. It helped me to create a floor for discussion. I used pictures related to topics and ask them to interpret it in their own words. I created space for sharing their experiences and stories. I ameliorated my teaching materials with critical consideration of the nature of the units. I took English as a language not a subject. It activated the students’ mind, body and soul at a time. They had to think and imagine, write down their thoughts and imagination from their heart, share their experiences and stories with their friends. I found that the students are extraordinary creative creatures. I ascertained that this is how my teaching was supported by rationalism. This is how I could generate linguistic, interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence of the learners’. Understanding and bridging different theories helped me select methodologies—methodologies further –techniques.
Having been explored different pedagogical implications. I worked further for my professional growth and the students’ academic excellence. Firstly, I critically and meticulously reviewed the curriculum to identify level wise competencies. Secondly, I specified the unit-wise four language skills such as Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing activities. Thirdly, I identified the grammatical items to be taught. Fourthly, I dealt with language forms and functions to be enhanced in the students. It provided me the ways to handle the subject matters and understand the nature of the course I was dealing with. It was just like turning my head to the outer world in the Plato’s allegory of cave.
The above mentioned activities helped me to prepare for my journey. However, my destination had not been cleared yet. I hadn’t been able to accomplish the defined objectives. The objectives were my destination. Therefore, I started preparing lesson plans in a copy not in head. Before it, I used to feel that the task of preparing lesson plans is extra-load of teaching or I used to believe that I am from education background and I know about it very well. Nevertheless, I prove myself wrong that I knew only the introduction and some elements of a lesson plan. But, implementing lesson plan and knowing about lesson plan are different things. I realized that no textbook or lecturer in university classes can anticipate what problem might occur during lesson or teaching except teacher himself or herself. The preparation of lesson plan helped me to ameliorate my teaching in multiple ways. Firstly, it helped me to manage and organize time and contents. Secondly, it helped me to set the step-wise activities to obtain the objectives. Thirdly, it helped me to substitute one activity with another. Fourthly, it helped me to ascertain different issues that arises while teaching in the class.
Slowly and gradually, I managed to handle the class smoothly. I lost myself in the unfettered pleasure of teaching. I was self-motivated by my own self-exploration of teaching and started preparing varieties of teaching materials. I rejoiced preparing lesson plans, making lecture notes to deliver speech coherently. I googled to find suitable and effective materials. I believe that effective lesson plan and teaching materials work as a panacea in teaching and learning activities. I did it all myself. During that time, I did not get any professional development support from the institution which I was engaged in, rather, judgmental and evaluative perspectives of my teaching. It also motivated me to work harder.
In addition, I read English books voraciously that miraculously developed my confidence and fluency in speaking. I read the books like ‘The First and the Last Freedom’, ‘Thus Spoke Jarathustra’ ‘The Sophie’s world’, ‘Shidhartha’, ‘Pride and Prejudiced,’ ‘The Old Man & Sea’, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, ’Things Fall Apart’ ‘The psyco-cybernetics’, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’, ‘Into Thin Air’, ‘The prophet’ ‘Kafka on the Shore’, ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’, ‘Three mistakes of My life’ ‘Animal Farm’, ‘The winner Stands Alone’, ‘The Zahir’, ‘The Alchemist’ etc. I cannot express how I am benefited by these books both mentally and linguistically. Reading became the most powerful Bhramma Astra to destroy all my glossophobia. I thank my Guru Balaram Adhikari for recommendation of the books and drawing me in reading. If he had not mentioned the names of the books while teaching the course ‘Interdisciplinary Reading’ in the class, I could have missed this contemplative and meditative field.
In my opinion, teaching is an ongoing process of self-exploration. It means a novice teacher should be taught and trained why and how to reflect their teaching learning activities. On the surface such experience may appear irrelevant. However, deep down they have the potential to generate theories of teaching. At the movement, I am reminded of well-known English educationist Kumaravadivelu. He assets that the genuine theory of teaching can emerge only from the practice.
Suggestions to the Novice Teachers
Based on my experience, I would like to share some of the tips that may help the novice teachers to deal with possible challenges in their professional life.
Dealing with contents
Study the curriculum meticulously to identify level wise competencies.
Study the syllabus thoroughly and identify language skills such as Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking.
Identify the unit-wise grammatical items to be taught.
Identify language forms and functions to be taught.
Make your lesson plan every day in copy not in head.
Make your objectives more precise and attainable.
Clearly mention your role and the students’ role with estimated time in each activity in the lesson plan.
Divide the activities into different steps with appropriate teaching materials.
Speak in a natural way with correct pronunciation, tone, pitch and intonation.
Create a floor for discussion to connect with students’ past experience.
Connect the taught lesson with students’ real life situation through examples and clarification.
Dealing with Besides Contents
Besides our expertise, we need to be aware about different things that contribute us to face the challenges and become a good teacher. I would like to share some of those things related with our profession.
Do Extensive Reading. In my experience, extensive reading plays a crucial role to develop our language. It develops our vocabulary, sentence structures and critical thinking in indirectly. Furthermore, if you take references of the books while teaching in the class with some quotes from them, the students will be motivated for reading.
Build an appropriate rapport with the students. We need to be both democratic and autocratic according to the situations with students in class. If we become more democratic, then students may take advantages from us such as gossiping in class, not doing assignments sincerely, becoming reluctant to engage in classroom activities etc. And, if we become more autocratic, then they cannot express their thoughts, become indifferent to us and learning becomes painful. Therefore, we need to maintain an appropriate rapport with the students.
Present yourself as a role model. We need to present ourselves as a role model. Our personality determines who we are. The way we think, speak and dress directly influence our students. For example, I have found some teachers especially male teachers untidy and careless in many places. I don’t think their uncombed hair, the shirts half tucked inside the trousers and half untucked, addressing the students with ‘Tah’ ‘Tero’ motivates students to become like them. Therefore, present yourself as a role model.
Renew yourself. We all know that learning is an endless journey. Therefore, we need to keep updating ourselves every time. Most of time teachers fail to arouse interest in learners while teaching. They complain that students are not motivated in learning nowadays. It happens when teachers cannot meet their demands. Today’s students are more informed than teachers. when learners are more informed than us it definitely adds challenges in teaching. For instance, our students can understand better English songs than us, they can understand more slang language and they may have acquired better pronunciation than us. Therefore, we need to keep sharping ourselves time and again.
Respect your profession. Living with dignity makes you realize your existential value. At least, we should spend 25 years of our age to become a teacher. This phase of life is called ‘Brahmachary Aashram’ the time of learning and exploring knowledge. By this time, we might have earned bachelor or master’s education. Thereafter, we enter to our professional life. However, our society does not understand the susceptibility and nobility of this profession. The teachers do still lack respect in our society. But, keep in mind, 25 years of rigorous study is not everyone’s cup of tea. The certificate we got from university is the outcome of our ‘Sadhana’. Therefore, always be positive and respect our profession.
Look at yourself in the mirror. Learning is something that most of people records in mind but not in copy. The thing that is recorded in the mind is formless, abstract and may be substituted with another learning in due course of time. Therefore, keep records of your feelings, experiences, ideas and thoughts regularly that helps you to evaluate your professional activities.
Author’ bio: Dasharatha Rai is a teacher, translator and spiritual practitioner. Mr. Rai has been working as an English language teacher and serves as a content coordinator at Merocreation, a web-magazine for youths and children.
The paper aims to explore the perceptions of learners towards Google classroom as an alternative learning management system and the experience of the instructor on the use of google classroom in the pandemic of Coronavirus. More specifically, it explores an essence of alternative modes of teaching-learning practices during pandemic in higher education institutions. It focuses on some possible virtual means of teaching-learning activities from home applying no-cost application. However, digital gap was observed in terms of knowledge, skills and locality of the learners. Additionally, the paper reported that the use of google classroom has been comfortable, feasible and meaningful to manage learning resources and assignments as the learners can save materials for future uses, submit assignments on time and develop collaborative learning situation among learners.
Language teaching and teacher education are interrelated, and they get changed in course of time, context and situation. Teachers’ education provides pedagogical knowledge and expertise for teachers. Teacher’ pedagogical wellbeing help teachers explore and implement appropriate strategy in the classroom. For the successful accomplishment of content knowledge, teachers must be able to adapt of new technology in the classroom pertaining to the level and interest of the learners. Moreover, teachers must bring tacit, embodied and integrated course skills to empower learners. However, it is not easier to educate and empower diverse learners and develop their capabilities without incorporating recent technological development for instructional purposes. Bates et al. (2017) report that technology innovation is directly related to societal transformation as we find the change or modification of social framework. It is the change in attitude, behaviors, and activities connected with cultural and economic values. In doing so, every teacher must contribute to his/her professional practice bringing diverse content connecting to pupil’s attitude, behaviors, and activities. Similarly, Geiller (2014)reports that the in-service teachers need to be involved in refresher courses as they need to bring technological emersion in the classroom through the use of applications of online community such as Google classroom . However, Bashir (2019) argues that teachers capacity, context and availability of the resources support to the adaptation to new learning style with the use of technological tools and application in distance and virtual mode.
While analyzing the situation about technological assets, teachers must pay proper attention on the mode of delivery (Baykal et al., 2019; Kokoç, 2019) and sometimes teachers must appropriately use of technologies in the classroom for the prior management of content, technological awareness and pedagogical knowledge(Mishra & Koehler, 2006; Shulman, 1987)for the successful delivery of contents knowledge. However, teachers should discharge the prior duties and responsibilities of the self and the students in the classroom. At the present context, teacher education is in the form of redesigning concepts. Velez-Rendon (2002) states that the evolvement of new perspectives in teacher education results in the paradigm shift towards the quality gradation and research-oriented activities. In my observation, we need to develop a strategy based on the learning context and learnability. We need to focus on the text, technology, techniques and team spirit for reforming teacher education in Nepal. Furthermore, Ozer (2020) explains that teachers must acknowledge student differences of timing, interest, style, knowledge and attitude through effective instruction and instructional techniques. Teachers must identify the desired outcome of instruction and determine ways to document and validate the achievement of those outcomes.
On the other hand, Chowdhury et al. (2018) exemplify that there are some other groups of teachers who are very keen and cling to the use of ICT. They feel they can give their best performance with the help of ICT. In one way, ICT has made their profession easy as well as challenging. The use of technology has made teachers comfortable in which they prepare short notes in the form of the slides and present in the class as per their convenience. In contrary, it is challenging in the sense that, they need to be upgraded and updated with the new innovation of technology. The current need of classroom engagement is substituted by the technological immersion through online mode and it has been one of the viable approaches during and after pandemic. The use of online mode eradicates any sorts of pandemic either that is coronavirus or any other emergencies. Teachers need to be involved in the alternative mode of teaching learning practices as discussed in (MOEST, 2020; Nepal Education Cluster, 2020). Therefore, the teacher’s technological capacity needs to be resourced through teacher education. As a result, they practice the appropriate teaching learning modality as per the context or locality and they attain what they wanted to achieve. Therefore, this study aims to explore learner’s perception in the use of Google Classroom and the experience of the instructor while implementing Google Classroom to the University (undergraduate) students. The guided research questions of the study were:
What are the perceptions of students in using Google Classroom in higher education?
In what way instructor observes and experiences the use of Google Classroom while implementing in undergraduate classes?
The qualitative approach following by focus group discussion and participant observation (Lambert & Lambert, 2012) were used to find out the perception of the learners in the use of Google classroom in the pandemic. The study was carried out in Mid-West University in undergraduate program under the English Education instruction Committee. The students studying in B.Ed Semester second and Semester fourth were the population of the study and six students were selected for the focus group discussion of the study applying a purposive sampling method as suggested by (Cohen et al., 2007).Similarly participant observation was held to reflect the situation of the use of Google Classroom by the researcher. The obtained information from focus group discussion and participant observation was analyzed by using a descriptive summary of the information.
Google Classroom an application that is easily and freely accessible became the choice of the University students for learning content and technological skills. For example Bashir (2019) reports the interactive use of online application for the development of cooperative context of learning through collaboration. Similarly, Geiller (2014) suggests the need of in-class training of online applications like Google Classroom to the learners as a result they can achieve the better performance in language skills. The discussions of the several studies in different contexts such as (Karaaslan & Çelebi, 2017; Kobayashi, 2015; Kokoç, 2019) report that Google classroom as an adoptable application in the developing countries has introduced new experiences of gaining knowledge and sharing skills through collaboration both in online and offline modes.
This section is divided into two subsections. The first section discusses on the learner’s perception towards Google classroom and the following subsections deals on the personal experience and the observation of the researcher.
Learners’ perception to the use of Google classroom
The students involved in this study found motivated to the use of Google Classroom. They were found growing their interest towards technology as they could explore resources, submit assignments, and interact with peers and teachers. They argued that they could access Google Classroom from mobile and laptop at home connecting broadband internet or mobile data. One of the students explained:
The use of Google Classroom was new for me, I involved actively in activities suggested by the instructor. I could access from mobile phone using mobile data. The Google classroom was useful for learning content, sharing ideas with peers and instructor. Its easy to use and we can access without paying any cost. (S1)
S1 reflected Google Classroom as a useful application which enables learners to participate in classroom activities and keep busy them in exploring resources. Some of the participants in the focus group discussion revealed that the use of Google classroom motivated them to the exploration of resources, develop collaboration among peers , however they faced some technological challenges such as power cut, instability of internet connectivity and lack of technological skills. For example, some of the participants expressed:
Google Classroom is the good application for us. For me I can explore reading resources and suggest friends to explore more with the link provided. Another thing is we can get other relevant resources with the help of the link provided by instructor. (S2)
I got excited with the use of Google Classroom, it’s like Facebook. I used to spend about Four hours in Facebook everyday but nowadays I spend only one hour in Facebook and other time I marked gor the Google classroom. I read the reading materials, submit assignment, comment on the issues provided by teachers and friends. Google Classroom made me different, and I became able to motivate myself in study. (S3)
In the pandemic, I was in the remote village where there was lack of internet. Only mobile data can work. I could only attend a class by teacher. Teacher instructed for the use of Google classroom for finding reading resources, submitting assignments and interacting with friends. Although, I had problem of internet in the village, I explored the resources in google Classroom and downloaded them through mobile data. I could read and develop assignment reading in offline mode. So, Google Classroom keeps me busy in pandemic and I realized it as a good and handy application. (S4)
These responses suggested that Google Classroom helped students to connect and communicate with the resources, peers, and teachers. Furthermore, students showed the positive influence of using Google Classroom for the purpose of study and submitting assignments and it is useful for sharing learning in the platform. However, there was digital gap in the implementation accordingly the level of knowledge, skills, locations and resource availability in the context of learners.
Personal experience: Reflection and observation
The world’s educational system has been extensively transformed. Teachers adopt and adapt several strategies in online learning management systems. They incorporate ICT, social media and web tools in English language teaching. Teachers practice different online tools and learning systems extensively in the classrooms for planning and sharing lesson contents, recording attendance, providing assignments, feedbacks and grading for the students’ work primarily in many developing countries of the world. In my personal experience, I have been using google classroom, Moodle, google docs, google sheets and google forms, etc. to empower students and to integrate students in google classroom pertaining to university classes in Nepal because teachers and students connect freely with Gmail accounts to experience varied skills and ideas about google classroom.
While observing the use of Google classrooms in higher ELT classes in Nepal, online platform has been an innovative practice for a concerned community of practice but it has been diverse due to less integration in educational settings particularly in English language classrooms. Brick and Cervi-Wilson (2015) opine that the ICT and educational policies have emphasized to transform traditional ways of teaching into technology-mediated ones by using ICT tools. So, there has been a huge gap between government documentation in policy and its practical implementation in educational sectors.
In my observation, there are several challenges to incorporate in the online platform in the ELT classes of Nepal. The problems and challenges vary in different institutions, teachers and students. They experience different practice and gain access to teaching students in the technology-mediated classroom effectively. They lack in internet access, and ICT tools. Moreover, they lack in teachers’ technological knowledge and skills and they are also poor at digital learning environment. In educational institutions, teachers adopt various potential applications into English language classrooms. Despite the world’s widespread practice of ICT technologies, social media, and online learning platform, it has been realized that teachers required to have the several tools and applications for online delivery such as Google classroom, google meet, Edmodo, zoom, and other dynamics of google features such google sheets, google docs, google drives to tackle students in different classes of Bachelor and Masters’ level. At the present situation of COVID-19 pandemic, what I have observed that participating students into the virtual platform of Google classroom has become more advantageous to address the current alternative demand of e-learning classes in higher education as it is handy and accessible to learners in the remote areas.
The use of alternative pedagogy has been the dire need of time. There are several choices for teachers and students to explore the world around them. Teachers teaching in the 21st century equip with content knowledge, technological awareness and a sense of responsibility in enabling students to achieve success in their personal and professional journey. We concluded that teachers are not the content provider alone rather they the researcher and practitioner and facilitators for the students. The knowledge and skills about the content must be intertwined with their personal, social and educational background. English language teacher education is expected to serve better learning exposure in virtual mode. However, it has a close association with the second as well as foreign language teaching-learning context. Teaching excellence requires technological knowledge and expertise more than a teaching degree or pre-service training. It can only be achieved when teachers are involved in ongoing processes of experimentation, reflection, collaboration, and research/publication on effective teaching. The use of learning management system such as Google classroom has been one of the vibrating assets to foster teaching learning situation and technological awareness for the learners in the language classroom (Rodriguez Moreno et al., 2019) which is helpful in enhancing technological knowledge in diverse classroom. Thus, it is believed that present situation demands practical knowledge, skills, training and insights(Mishra et al., 2011) in order to explore the good ELT practices and enhance cooperation and collaboration through the technological incorporation in the pedagogy and content development.
Bashir, K. (2019). Modeling E-Learning Interactivity, Learner Satisfaction and Continuance Learning Intention in Ugandan Higher Learning Institutions. 15(1).
Bates, J. E., Almekdash, H., & Gilchrest-Dunnam, M. J. (2017). The flipped classroom: A brief, brief history. In The flipped college classroom (pp. 3-10). Springer.
Baykal, N., Sayin, I., & Zeybek, G. (2019). The Views of ELT Pre-Service Teachers on Using Drama in Teaching English and on Their Practices Involved in Drama Course. 6(2), 366-380.
Brick, B., & Cervi-Wilson, T. (2015). Technological diversity: A case study into language learners’ mobile technology use inside and outside the classroom. 10 years of the LLAS elearning symposium: case studies in good practice,
Chowdhury, S. A., Arefin, A., & Rahaman, M. M. (2018). Impacts of ICT integration in the higher education classroom: Bangladesh perspective. J Educ Pract, 9(32), 82-86.
Özer, M. (2020). The contribution of the strengthened capacity of vocational education and training system in Turkey to the fight against Covid-19. Journal of Higher Education, 10(2), 134-140.
Rodríguez Moreno, J., Agreda Montoro, M., & Ortiz Colón, A. M. (2019). Changes in teacher training within the TPACK model framework: A systematic review. Sustainability, 11(7), 1870.
Shulman, L. (1987). Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the new reform. Harvard educational review, 57(1), 1-23.
Vélez‐Rendón, G. (2002). Second language teacher education: A review of the literature. Foreign language annals, 35(4), 457-467.
Yadu Prasad Gyawali is the Assistant Professor under the Faculty of Education at Mid-West University (MU), Surkhet Nepal. Mr. Gyawali is also a teacher trainer, consultant, and the editor for different journals. He currently serves as a member of the research committee under the faculty of education at MWU. He is also associated with Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA), Society of Transnational Academic Researchers (STAR) and also serves as a visiting faculty at Chandigarh University, India. Moreover, he has participated and presented different papers nationally and internationally. Mr. Gyawali is also an M.Phil. scholar at Nepal Open University, Kathmandu, Nepal. His areas of interests include teachers’ professional development, and ICT in education.
English has become an indispensable part of the educational curriculum in Nepal and it is one of the most used languages in the world. Teaching English as a foreign language in Nepal has been a challenging job in community schools in general and the context of rural areas in particular. Students in rural areas lack the competency and performance in English compared to their urban counterparts. Based on my ten years of teaching experience in a village in the far western part of Nepal, I have faced several challenges in teaching English. I reckon they are worth mentioning.
English as a subject not as a language
From the very beginning when I started my career as an English teacher, I found that most of the students, as well as teachers, have been taking it as a very tough subject like mathematics. The only target of the teachers was to prepare students for the final examination. Teachers are evaluated based on the result of the students at the final exams because teachers’ internal promotion depends on the learning achievement of the students. Permanent teachers are promoted depending on their performance appraisal. The skill and efficiency of students are ignored. Students were provided with the typical tasks to do like writing letters, essays, applications and other writings just for memorization and never learning of the meaning, forms and structures. It is done to preserve the reputation of the teacher as a good teacher. Another challenging factor is students’ belief about the nature of learning English as a subject consisting of a list of words and a set of grammatical rules which are to be memorized and separable skills to be acquired rather than a set of integrated skills and sub-skills.
There is a kind of fear deeply rooted among the students with this subject. I would like to add a reference of a student here: he said, “If I were the education minister, I would exclude English from the school level curriculum.” It clearly shows how students perceive English as a very ‘difficult subject’. They are always fearful about this subject. To lessen their fear, I tried to convince them by giving the example of Mumbai (at least one of every family member lives in Mumbai in connection with work) who can speak Hindi fluently within a short period- then why can’t we learn English? We only need to learn the structural language and do continuous practice. Without practice, we cannot even write the Nepali language correctly. I encouraged my students to practise English simple sentences along structures. As I and the students spent a few months eventually, they understood and responded in English. So that the teacher, as well as the students, should change the concept that they are teaching and learning a language, though it is taught and learnt as a compulsory course or subject at the school level in Nepal.
Role of teacher as a translator
Teaching English in the classroom means translations in the mother tongue which is another challenge in a rural context. I have a bitter experience with translation. When I started teaching English as a career in private English medium schools, I did not translate all the English texts into Nepali, I only spoke in English. But the strategy was not so effective. Students remained passive, making noise and teasing each other. I asked some of them at the end of the class for evaluation, but no one responded. I guessed it might be their hesitation towards a new teacher. But the next day, I was called by the headmaster, and I got embarrassed by what I heard from him. Students had complained that they did not understand what I taught to them as I did not translate the text into Nepali. Students were habituated only to listen to the voice in their mother tongue from the teacher. One of the students said, “We were waiting for your Nepali translation by the end of the class.” After that, I observed some English classes of other teachers and found that it had been a trend to translate words in their mother tongue. Most of them are neither emphasizing pronunciation nor language structures. It means students are not learning the language with correct structure but the only translation of the written words or text in Nepali.
Later on, we (English teachers) concluded that translation can never be taken as the only tool of teaching English. It can be helpful for classroom management, setting up activities or explaining vocabulary, for example. The translation was a significant part of English language teaching for a long time in our context; it is still in use in many contexts. In my experience, it helps students to understand the language but not how to use the language in real-life situations. It does not help learners develop their communicative skills, but encourages learners to use their first language. It may only be useful to those learners who are more analytical or have performance for verbal linguistics learning strategies. In rural contexts, translation only makes students passive, completely dependent on the teachers and does not encourage students to speak in English during class time.
Less focus on teaching and testing of oral language skills
Language testing is entirely different from testing of other subjects. It covers language skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing) and aspects (vocabularies, grammar and language functions). The national curriculum framework emphasizes the teaching of all four language skills in a balanced and integrated way. But in the community schools of rural areas, the teaching and testing the listening and speaking skills is less emphasized. I still remember that a few years ago, we used to have cassette players and other materials for listening and speaking tests and there used to be systematic testing. But nowadays we just provide marks without testing these two important skills. As a result, students have a misconception that they do not need to learn listening and speaking skills because they know that they will get more than 20 marks out of 25 as their practical marks. The SEE (Secondary Education Examination) board has developed criteria for testing students’ English language skills, the system requires students to face both written and oral examinations and students are expected to be able to perform a certain level of English language competence in both written and verbal forms. I talked about it with some English teachers in my neighbourhood and they responded that they have completely ignored two skills; listening and speaking. After consulting with some headteachers and pass out students, I found two reasons: 1) lack of supporting materials to teach and test listening and speaking skills. 2) Less focus on administering listening and speaking tests regularly in schools. Therefore, the teachers need to emphasize these four language skills to be tested.
Lack of ‘trained’ language teachers at lower grades
The school education structure of our country has been realigned from the basic level (ECD/PPE to 8) to the secondary level (9 to 12) after the eighth amendment of the education act. The primary level is the foundation of education. Primary level teachers are responsible for the delivery of all subjects because they do not have specialization in a particular subject while entering the service. They are supposed to teach all subjects. They might be qualified in other subjects but regarding the English language, most of them do not have the required level of competence and confidence in dealing with it. Most of the primary level teachers are indeed permanent with SLC (school leaving certificate) qualification and they do not receive training on content, pedagogy and modern technology to cope with the current demands of English language teaching methods and techniques.
In a training, I observed that primary level teachers hesitated to speak in English. Earlier when we collected the need, many of them wrote their training need in the Nepali language. It shows that teachers in early grades need a lot of language support, good practice, sharing culture and refresher training modules.
One of the teachers from the Achham district explained that teachers are not highly motivated to teach English effectively because of the lack of enough resources in schools, motivation from school management and the headteacher.
Therefore, English teachers need to change their mindset to get updated with new ideas, teaching techniques, and innovations. We can better use the resources available online and offline. School administration should not pressurize the teachers to complete courses. Learning can be fostered through managing classrooms and resources essential for students. Teacher training on the content, pedagogy and technology should be an integral part of teaching English as a foreign language. Small class sizes are better for enhancing target language skills than large classes. Recruiting qualified and trained teachers are a dire need in our context.
To conclude, teachers in our context face so many challenges while teaching English. We are emphasising upgrading students from one grade to another as exam-oriented teaching and learning has been a major focus. Learning a foreign language like English has not been given much emphasis in our pedagogical practices. Maximum use of mother tongue is in practice. School management and community support mechanism seem to be too weak to encourage teachers to better facilitate the English language courses. Most importantly, motivation and specialized training on the part of English teachers in a rural context is the need of the hour.
Shankar Khanal is an M.A. in English from Tribhuvan University. Mr Khanal teaches English at the upper secondary level (11 & 12) at Baijanath model secondary school in Achham district.
Writing on my personal experience of thesis writing, I experienced a way of learning during the selection of the topic for research, planning for data collection and overall writing process which taught me to strive for academic excellence. No two researchers are the same and no two research journeys are the same, even though academic aspirations could be similar among researchers. What you go through and what you experience on this academic journey is always unique. Any initial difficulty we have with academic writing will pay off when we discover new ways of looking at the world and of making sense of it.
The phrase ‘thesis writing’ had become a catchy phrase for me ever since I filled the form of the fourth semester of Masters Level at Far Western University. I had heard the inspirational stories of thesis writing from senior students and my professors about how they did and succeeded. I found their stories interesting, inspirational, and fearful too. As the time passed, our teachers suggested us to select the area for our research to be carried out and to get approval from the department as soon as possible. I had to accomplish the writing in time and to get awarded earlier.
I was the 34th researcher to carry out thesis in the department where many seniors were also struggling to complete thesis writing. Being the newly founded University, I could see the lack of sufficient literature available in our library. This made me disappointed for the area to be selected for a while. I collected some research works from senior batch students and friends from Tribhuvan University. I dwelt among many research areas and disciplines for more than a month in course of finding the area that interests me. After the vehement effort, I made up my mind to carry out research on teaching literature which interested me at the end. With the fear in mind, I went to campus to consult my supervisor and discuss the area that I had selected. The supervisor gave silent agreement to that but waited to see the particular genre to further go through. He also suggested me to read the literature so that I could have an idea to decide the genre and narrow down the area of investigation. This meeting encouraged me to go through the literature. I returned home and made a call to my brother in Kathmandu to visit the central library of TU and get some unpublished theses in pen drive. This was the time; the government had recently imposed lockdown in the nation. The librarian, despite the lockdown, provided seven or eight research works to my brother. The theses supported me with sound knowledge of literature for my research.
Then I visited the central library and Department of English Education and got some research works. All those documents assisted me to sort out a genre of literature for my research work. It had been the most suffering and stressful time for me to sort out the particular topic. Finally, I narrowed down the area as teaching drama in secondary level and teachers’ perception towards it. Till the time I came to finalise the topic, English Department had divided the students into different groups under the supervision of professors from the department. I found my name in the list under the supervision of one of the assistant professors from the department. Shortly I met my supervisor to finalize my topic and with some suggestions he approved my topic. My supervisor advised me to make my research a comparative study. We discussed and pondered on the challenges and issues of comparative study. After having a meaningful discussion, he urged me to write the proposal for the research work. I got success in finalizing my topic as it seemed ‘teachers’ perception in teaching English drama’. It was the moment that brought extreme happiness and provided me with rays of hope.
Now I had to start writing the proposal for the research which was just as to crack the hard nut for me. I consulted my teachers and some of the senior batch students to write proposal. They provided me some valuable ideas about what to include in the proposal. After this, I started working on my proposal. I spent many sleepless nights on the completion of the research proposal. I worked on the first, second, third, and fourth draft getting it to the approved form. During this process of writing a proposal, I got incredible assistance from my supervisor, teachers, senior students and my classmates. I stepped back many times during proposal writing; it took me many weeks to go ahead.
Collecting the required data for the research work is another challenging task to be performed during the research work. When I found myself in trouble, I used to talk to myself. I often had long conversations all by myself, but I did not understand a single word of what I was saying. As I was thinking about preparing the data collection tools, I received a call from one of my classmates, and he shared his confusions regarding the preparation of tools for data collection. He suggested that we had to meet the supervisor and we together went to the college and met him. We shared our problems with him. He, very clearly, explained about the tools, their administration, and reliability and so on. The meeting made me clear on what data collection instruments are, their reliability, preparation, administration, and many more. I came to know that the tools we choose to collect data depend on the type of data (quantitative and qualitative). I was told that the data is the backbone of any research. This moment triggred me to move ahead in course of developing tool(s).I decided to collect data using a questionnaire. I prepared the questionnaire including open and close-ended questions that were divided into six different categories: -problems of teaching drama, way of using literature, the significance of drama, relevance of content presented in drama, techniques used in teaching drama, and language used in drama. After working on the first draft of the questionnaire, I met my supervisor to discuss the questionnaire. He advised me to limit the number of questions up to 25 and make some other necessary changes. It took a couple of days for me to finalize the questionnaire. I selected the private and government schools purposively under non-random sampling. Getting responses using non-random sampling is faster, more cost-effective because the sample is known to the researcher. The respondents responded quickly as compared to people randomly selected as they had a high level of motivation to participate. This method made data collection easier to some extent. It was the time when the nation was in lockdown due to the Covid 19 pandemic. It became difficult for me to visit the schools to meet the English teachers as my respondents. I explained to them about my research work, and provided them with the questionnaires. Using different ways, I collected the phone numbers of the selected schools and built rapport with them. Then, I visited the teachers at their convenient places and time.
My first day of data collection journey was very memorable that I want to share it. As I entered into the premises of one of the schools in Kanchanpur, I found it was made quarantine for COVID-19 suspected people. It was full of Covid infected people. I found myself to be reluctant for a while to move ahead that the school had turned into the quarantine. But I had to collect the data at any cost and I moved towards the office room. I met the secondary level English teachers, described my research work to them and provided them with the questionnaires. I found all the respondents very cooperative and supportive, and they returned the filled-up questionnaires physically in time.
After the collection of data, I was completely lost for two or three weeks in searching for ideas to analyze and interpret the data collected. I read some unpublished master’s theses submitted to Tribhuvan University on my area of investigation. I took a highlighter and circled each paragraph on analysis of the data. These researches helped me with some valuable ideas about how to analyze and interpret the data though it was not enough for me to go ahead. With some ideas in mind, I met my supervisor and discussed the analysis of the data. He told me that it was the most important part of research work where researcher analyzes the data and give meaning to the data in terms of existing literature and looking the meaning from a theoretical lens. And finally he or she came to the certain generalizations. After spending a couple of days, I came up with the ideas to analyze and interpret the data. Then I struggled to write the very first draft, a rough draft by entering important data and interpretation. It was incomplete and rough. With the regular collaboration and guidance of my supervisor, I worked with the first, second, third and many drafts to bring it into the accepted format.
To sum up, it is really challenging work to research in a way to succeed and make it a model. I learned how to abide by the common principles of research and ask the right kind of questions, deal with seemingly insurmountable problems that had no obvious solutions. The experience gave me the confidence later on to propose and develop my knowledge base about research. The research experiences come in many forms in the lives of students. At this point, the key is to focus on exploring what interests the researcher, and what he/she does not enjoy doing which sometimes can be even more important. We do not need to be disappointed while researching though it can not be accomplished overnight. It requires rigorous effort, certain processes to be followed, and dedication on the part of the researcher. There is a saying “some people dream of success, while OTHERS wake up and work hard at it.” I kept myself under the quoted OTHERS, as I woke up and worked hard to make my dream come true. The journey of writing master’s thesis as a beginner in research sometimes becomes a very inspirational story for me to explore further. At the end, I am truly indebted to the pious souls whose contribution made my journey of wring thesis the most enjoyable and encouraging. Most importantly, I extend my sincere gratitude to my respected gurus and the supervisor for their incredible guidance, suggestions and love throughout the writing process.
Author’ bio: Deepak Bhatt is an M.Ed. in English (TESOL) from Far Western University. He has a decade experience of teaching English from primary to secondary level. Mr. Bhatt is currently working as an English Teacher at Sainik Awasiya Mahavidyalaya, Teghari Kailali.
During this COVID – 19 pandemic, we all have been facing adverse in all the sectors including education. Our dynamic students with creative minds could not remain untouched from this awful situation. But as a teacher I always thought and tried my best to make them feel not panicked by initiating remote teaching class. As I was a novice teacher to teach my students virtually, it took me long time to gain self-confidence to use online teaching tools which are available and have been using by many teachers. When I began to teach my students virtually, I did not have to follow the course that we have been adopting. So, I was thinking of an idea to teach reading texts to my learners in different ways. The reason, I myself was not happy with my teaching method as I used to tell my students to read paragraphs turn by turn. Later, I started explaining what was already given there. In fact, I was applying the traditional teaching techniques but I was not feeling comfortable with them. So, I thought of a different idea to make my learners productive in my class. I always wanted their involvement and active participation. In fact, I was not satisfied with the teaching technique that I was adopting. I thought for many days as I was in dilemma having many ideas that whether to or not to initiate. Finally, I was determined to transform one of my regular classes to totally student centered class.
As per my plan, I circulated my opinion to them and they also were willing to accept the challenge. As we all agreed upon the plan, I started to assign them different reading materials. Each day, a student had to present on the topic that s/he got and rest of the students had to come up with at least three questions to ask after their friend’s presentation. To raise questions, everyone had to go through the reading material and prepare questions as per their wish. At the end of the class, they all had to share our personal experiences among all the class members. Students’ presentation in the class transformed my class into a productive class as I always dreamt about.
In my first class, one of my students was so brilliant that was beyond my expectation. He came with some slides putting some pictures which were related to the given story that enriched his work. It was good indeed! The performance of my ninth grader was wonderful. At that moment, I recalled Benjamin Franklin’s famous saying, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn”. In line with this saying, I attempted to enhance their learning experience by assigning them do presentations. They were involved in the given task and class was engaging indeed. The next classes also went well. In fact, the students who raised questions were really excited to ask the presenter and have discussion. Observing the class, I felt that I had to initiate the same step on the same day.
The initiation was one of my best decisions I had ever made. From this experience I came to know that offering opportunities and challenges to every individual helps to cope with the fear of not being able to present themselves among their friends and teachers. Similarly, it made me think that reading comprehension texts which are given in the course book can be taught differently in the active involvement of our learners. It made me realize that I as a teacher have to reflect, rethink, and renew my existing teaching ideas to add flavor in teaching and learning activities and to innovate my own teaching techniques and students’ involvement.
The next thing is that we as teachers can collect authentic reading materials from authentic sources to use in our class that provides learners an opportunity to taste different genres. As I have experienced, when we go through the reading text for our regular courses, our learners tell us that they have already gone through them. It always struck in my mind and felt that students were not interested to go through the same text except to solve the exercises which are given based on the text. But, when I approached to my learners closely, it made them curious, responsible and creative. I always found my learners as curious readers. I thought why not to bring other different reading materials which make them inquisitive reader and help them to envision their creativity. For this, I tried to select some of the reading materials from the resourceful site https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/general-english/stories to offer my learners new experience and to motivate them to be involved in different reading activities.
Apart from aforementioned techniques, I was able to enhance my teaching skill grabbing a numbers of other opportunities during this situation. I was able to put my thought into practice which became fruitful for me and my learners. A year ago I would feel worried about conducting reading classes although I had new ideas to replace the commonly used technique. I did not have self-confidence to practice new technique, but this situation made me learn about myself and my learners. It was not just a hard time for me, instead it offered me various opportunities to reflect on my own work and relearn the several concepts about teaching and learning. I also got chance to explore that teaching reading can be taught in multiple ways to add the new flavor in teaching and learning process.
During this period, I myself became able to move a step ahead. It was entirely a learning period for me. My normal class was replaced by different related videos and pictures which were meaningful to teach my learners certain expressions and words in English. I could use the audio visual aids to my class virtually which were not possible for me in the physical class even though I was aware of the implication of those teaching aids. Using audio visual materials during regular intervals assists learners to provide clear understanding on the related topics. If I had to take physical classes, I would be unable to use all those resources to make my class more engaging, interesting and communicative.
Similarly, I invited my colleague to observe my virtual classes and provide feedback on them which made me reflect on my lessons from other’s point of view and improve further. At the same time, I got an opportunity to observe my fellow teacher’s lesson which broadened my perspectives on teaching and learning in the virtual classroom. Conducting peer observation was to some extent difficult to manage in physical class because of busy schedule of teachers. But when we started our class virtually, this idea came into my mind again and ultimately I was successful. It was really good experience of being observed by my colleagues and receiving feedback and having long discussion after the class. In fact, peer observation helps to address some issues in my class.
Through virtual mode, I took some free online courses which updated my professional skills. These course offered many innovative ideas from the teachers from home and abroad. Having discussion with the people from different countries is one of the best experiences that I have ever had during attending online courses and they offered me new insights in my area of interests. During the situation, I engaged myself attending webinars and workshops which helped me to develop professionally.
To conclude, this global pandemic situation has been a boon for many teachers like me to update professional knowledge and skill. It has really been a new experience of learning new ways, new strategies and ideas in my profession as an English teacher.
Mrs. Parista Rai graduated from Kathmandu University in 2016. Her first attempt to write a reflection was published in this magazine in 2014. She currently works as a full time secondary level English teacher at Holy Garden English Secondary School in Bhaktapur. She is a life member of Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA). She likes attending teacher workshops, training, reading and writing.
ELT Choutari is pleased to present the second quarterly issue (April-June) of 2021. This issue has covered a wide range of areas of applied linguistics, classroom pedagogy, ELT practices, and writing tips for teachers. This issue consists of six blog posts having diverse issues from mini research to reflective notes.
Due to the spread of the new variant of COVID-19, our country is back to lockdown. With this teaching-learning is going to suffer again, which will result a ‘learning crisis’ for a majority of students around the country who have limited Internet access and lack of digital facilities. The virtual mode of delivery may not be productive and long-lasting to mitigate the possible learning crisis unless we access digital devices (gadgets and smartphones) and broadband internet access with teachers, students, and their parents. And the role of teachers is equally important to be technocratic and pedagogically creative to enhancing students’ potentials in the virtual mode. Besides, the parents are to be capacitated to facilitate the learning of their children.
We know it’s not easy but we need to do something to keep the learning going. Therefore, teachers and parents are expected to play a pivotal role in engaging students in alternative ways to create learning opportunities for students. The parents must identify the available alternatives of learning like TV, radio, social media, virtual classes, etc. Likewise, schools and teachers should support them to explore the right alternatives in their context. Then they can encourage, support, observe and monitor the engagement of their children and manage necessary stuff to the extent possible. The teachers, on the other hand, can engage students in different activities in two ways; synchronously and asynchronously. They can also facilitate their students via different learning platforms such as Schoology, Edmodo, Easy Class, Google Classroom, and they can also use digital apps and tools such as online quiz using quizizz, Kahoot, ProProfs, Mentimeter, etc. to engage them in their learning wherever possible. Meanwhile, they also should support to develop contents to be delivered via radio or TVs.
During this emergency, teachers need to be more resourceful and innovative to keep the learning going. One way to be so is to keep themselves abreast of the ideas, alternatives, and ways out to deliver education during the emergency. A couple of months back, we had published particularly the pandemic issue and post-pandemic issues, which could be resourceful for you in many different ways. So, we recommend you go through them. Most importantly, we encourage you to reflect and write the challenges, alternatives, good practices, and striking moments during teaching-learning in the emergency and send to us for future submission.
In the first post, Arjun Basnet analyzes the processes of identity construction among students in the EFL classroom. He further discloses the various forms of identity construction such as discourse identity, social identity, affinity identity, L1 identity, and institution identity through positioning, becoming, and being. He argues students create their identity through the process of opportunity and achieve native-like English competence via YouTube and English songs.
Mr. Puskar Chaudhary, in the second post, investigates the assessment techniques and tools used by the English language teachers for assessing learning in the remote teaching-learning context. He states that assessment is an integral part of teaching-learning to examine the understanding of the subject matter and to evaluate whether the learning goals have been achieved.
Similarly, in the third blog post, Prakash Bhattarai shares his ideas about factors affecting effective English teaching-learning. He further highlights that the materials and methods teachers use in the language classroom should be contextual and culture-sensitive because the prescribed methods and materials developed by other experts may not work in all contexts. He further notes teachers should use the tasks that make learners active and creative to create an environment for learner autonomy and collaborative learning.
Likewise, in the fourth article Dipak Prasad Mishra and Surendra Bhatt explore the perceptions of parents on the implementation of English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI) in public schools through Bourdieu’s lens of the symbolic power of language theory. They further highlight the relevancy and appropriateness of EMI in the Nepali context. They argue that EMI has been taken as a symbol of power and linguistic capital to develop English skills in unpacking critical analysis and its practices.
Similarly, in the fifth blog post, Bhan Singh Dhami explores how the local contents and texts in English materials can be utilized to enhance patriotism among English language learners of Nepal. He further claims the use of local content, culture, and discourse in materials can strengthen patriotism and strongly urges the stakeholders to maximise them in the materials and courses.
Finally, in the sixth blog post, Jeevan Karki, one of the editors of Choutari reflects on his nearly decade-long experiences of writing, reviewing, and editing journey and encourages teachers that they can write and publish. With some practical tips, he offers the first-time and new teachers practical ideas on choosing the appropriate contents/issues to write, and the writing style and processes to follow.
We hope the current issue will be another resourceful package for classroom pedagogy, practices, and developing writing habits. We are grateful to all the contributors for their enthusiasm to bring innovative ideas, reflective practices, and pedagogy-enhanced teaching-learning activities and collaboration to continue the voyage of reading, writing, and supporting each other. Moreover, We highly appreciate the efforts of the reviewers during the process of a rigorous review of the manuscripts. More specifically, We would like to thank the entire team of ELT Choutari in general and Mohan Singh Saud (the co-editor of the issue), Jeevan Karki, Babita Chapagain, Sagar Poudel, Karuna Nepal, Ekraj Koirala, Nani Babu Ghimire, Dr. Karna Rana, Ashok Raj Khati,Jnanu Raj Paudel, and Rajendra Joshi in particular to materialise this issue.
Finally, if you enjoy reading the blog pieces, please feel free to share in and around your academic circle, and of course, drop your comments in the boxes below. Likewise, please write about your experiences, reflections, experiments, reviews, or any other scholarly articles for our future publications. You can reach us at email@example.com .
Thanking you once again for your continued readership, professional support, and volunteering enthusiasm to work with us collaboratively!
As an English professional teaching in English medium private secondary schools in Kathmandu valley, I found many students having different abilities, skills, attitudes, and behaviours. Among many students, I marked Aaravi as the School Prefect (the School Head Girl) who is good at speech. She was amiable among her friends. Prayush, the next student, is a nimble person always good at writing. He often bagged one or the other title including prizes in essay/poetry writing competition. Likewise, Chetan, the other student, seems to be confident in an oratory competition. The title ‘the Best Speaker’ would be of his own. At the same time, I remembered Anurodh and Aradhana, the other students who would neither do assigned work nor would speak English in the class in spite of having strict rules of speaking English in English Medium School. Actually, they were not dull, rather were slow learners. They constructed distinct identities like Aaravi ‘the School Prefect’, Prayush ‘a good writer’, Chetan ‘the best speaker’, and Anurodh and Aradhana ‘the slow learners’ despite the same teaching approaches adopted in the EFL class. Looking at all the students having different identities, I thought that students’ identity is ‘an issue’ (MacLure, 1993) found in English as a Foreign Language (EFL) class while participating in different EFL activities (Pavlenko & Lantolf, 2000). Student identity is shaped with a reference to the classroom environment where they are situated through various classroom interactions, conversations, behaviours, and actions. In this context, I situated Aaravi, Praysh, and Chetan as subconsciously legitimate members (Wenger, 1998) and Anurodh and Aradhana as incompetent members in the class (Toohey, 2000) because the first three situated their learning and later two failed to ‘situate’ according to the context.
This write-up discusses the identity construction of students in English medium secondary schools arguing the ideas of Block (2007) who says that the students have second language identities. My arguments in this article are largely informed to acknowledge how the student identities are constructed in second language learning in English Medium Secondary schools in Nepal.
Understanding student identity
Student identity is a fundamental issue that originated from the interest in the student’s subjective experience of being a self. Student identity is how the students understand their relationship to the world, how that relationship is constructed across time and space, and how they understand possibilities for the future (Norton, 2013). The identity of a student is constructed both in the formal and informal experience of becoming a student as a part of a worldwide community of professionals with shared goals, values, discourses, and practices. The students construct their identities understanding themselves, their actions, and their minds based on time and space by negotiating experience, community membership, nexus of multi-membership, and the relationship between local and global. They generate identity based on their works, social discourses, their grades, communicative power, narratives, etc., and form their existence in the class. Their mutual engagement in the classroom offers the possibilities for more personalized interaction which constructs student identity.
In the process of identity construction, language learners negotiate their sense of self in the learning process and contribute to their meaning-making process in second language learning. It is understood as a purely social construct of ‘being’ co-constructed by ‘self’ and ‘others’ to explore how they see their life based on interactional practices. According to Block (2007), student identity is an encompassing process of being active participants in their community of practice and showing their relationship among the members constitutive of and constituted by the learning environment. Shields (2015) says that the students in EFL class interlace between local culture and society and find their new existence into ‘being’. He argues that new experiences of learning English as a second/foreign language shapes individual learners and other students to construct learner identity. The students construct their identity perceiving themselves as an agency, classroom as their learning community, and learning as their mastering tool. The students do not autonomously construct their identities in a social, cultural, and political vacuum; rather socio-cultural and socio-political discourses. While participating in the class, the English learners construct multiple identities either by being a member of groups or having certain roles or being the unique biological entities that they are, and so on.
The identities of students that I have discussed in this paper are based on the analysis of narratives from seven students from English medium secondary school, anonymized as Andeela, Bishal, Deepak, Sulav, Sanjeev, Supriya, and Utsukta. The participants were the students studying in class IX and X in English medium schools. Only four English medium schools having more than 1000 students were chosen from Kathmandu and Lalitpur districts. To generate the data, I had in-depth interviews with each participant. I also had informal conversations with the participants. All the interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed in the meaning-making process. In addition, I also took field notes of events and activities that the participants took part in.
Students’ identity construction
The participants in this study reported that the students constructed their identity through the process of positioning, opportunity, and transformation. Within these three themes, the students were found constructing discourse identity, affinity identity, social identity, L1 identity, authored identity, being and becoming, student identity, and inner circle identity in the Nepalese EFL context. The students constructed their identities from their subjective experience as the learners and their extrinsic forces are the source of raw materials (Falsafi, 2010).
Positioning in students’ identity
On the basis of attitudes they possessed, behaviours they performed, actions they did, and conversations held among the friends and the teachers, the students ascribed different positions in the classroom. Sulav’s narratives gave me insight that the students construct discourse identity in the EFL classroom. This identity is constructed through the pattern of thinking, speaking, behaving, and interacting (Miller & Marsh, 2003, as cited in Clarke, 2008) with him as Sulav says:
I improved my English from sixth grade when one of my friends suggested me that I should listen to English songs, native speakers’ voice and watch English movies from YouTube. I did so and started reading novels, prose, and fiction which gradually improved my English.
I situated meaning from his discourse as a tool of inquiry (Gee, 2005) to understand his discourse positioning as a native-like fellow. Such a discourse identity was developed through English songs, listening to native speaker’s voices, and reading books. Social identity was constructed through the social position established by the students based on classroom norms, cultures, interactions, and conversations. Supriya’s expression ‘I actively take part in classroom interaction with the teacher and students’ reflected her classroom participation in the classroom context because the class was her social community of practice from where they learned trajectories of learning among the teachers and students actively participating in the classroom conversation. They constructed identity by participating in interaction actively in the social identification process involved the use of classroom resources to construct her identity. Utsukta’s claim of speaking compulsory English in the class was a claimed processor (Wenger, 1998) which gave a certain experience of participation, interaction, and communication in the classroom. Her social stance ‘the way of being in the world’ revealed her classroom world.
Sulav’s appointment as the School Head Boy, Spriya’s the School Prefect, Utskta’s the Vice-Prefect were their institution identity (Gee, 2001) proposed by their Principal considering their command over the English language. The institution empowered them to construct institution identity looking at his language propensity as Sulav recalls that ‘Principal sir chose me as the ‘School Head Boy’ thinking that my English is good.’ Andeela showed her smooth relationship with her dialogical process at both moments of expression, listening, and speaking and revealed her authored identity. Some of the students were found constructing affinity identity based on affinity group that varies on the basis of their interests, demands, age factors, and nature. This type of identity is revealed when the students perform certain types of actions in the classroom or school premises. The expression of Bishal ‘ …I always sit with Rashik and Ayush’ showed that Rashik and Ayush were his affinity members whose allegiance set him primarily a common endeavour or practice and secondarily to other students of the class in terms of shared culture or traits they possess. The affinity relation was not limited only to close circle within limited friends; it was limited to a large space with students having common cultures and norms. For instance, Sulav had a good relation with other students. Therefore, affinity identity is a focus on distinctive social practices that create and sustain group affiliation, rather than on institutions or discourse or dialogue directly. Some other students in the classroom were found constructing L1 identity; might always talking in Nepali as a crude identity marker (Block, 2007) despite strict school rules. The main reason for speaking their mother tongue was to be open up among the friends. This happened not because of lack of English proficiency but because of his L1 identity as a deep abiding pride.
Opportunity in students’ identity
Students’ equal participation in learning is an opportunity to the students of English medium secondary schools and their joint engagement in having interaction is supplementary. The statement of Supriya, Sulav, and Bishal ‘…the slow learner is given more priority in class’ revealed how the students in the class got an optimum chance of participation and how EFL teachers managed time for their students. Such opportunities provided to the students in the classroom helped them construct ‘Becoming’ and ‘Being’. The identity of the students was not found “static and one dimensional, but multiple and changing” (Norton & Toohey, 2002, p.116) when I saw hierarchical learning from their junior classes, Utsukta revealed:
I’m from Gulmi. My parents took me to Kathmandu from there and enrolled in Himalaya Higher Secondary school where I studied up to class five. In class six, I was enrolled in this school. My English is now good, yeah… good, better than others. I can speak English fluently and express my feeling better… My English teacher is supportive and he encourages me to do better in English. When I was in sixth grade, one of my friends suggested that I should listen to English songs and watch English films and so did I. I found English films and movies really original, and they helped my English in pronunciation, grammar structures, and vocabularies.
In the above excerpt, Utsukta constructed her identity as ‘becoming’. Her present condition as ‘a better learner’ is her ‘being’ or existence. Enrolling in that school and practicing English through English films and songs were her ‘becoming’.
Transformation in students’ identity
The students’ narratives clearly showed that they crossed a long gap to recognize the sense of who they were in course of time. I found the change in all my participants; especially Sulav, Supriya, Utsukta, and Deepak whose identity was changed in secondary education. Sulav’s identity as a native-like fellow, Supriya’s nimble social worker, and Utsukata’s obsessive orator was not transformed overnight, rather took a process of transformation in language capability and thinking power. Even after coming from a rural area, Deepak got mastery in the English language as a symbol of transformation to accomplish his dream of gaining an inner circle identity (Kachru, 1983). Deepak’s interpretation I am trying to make my English better to develop British-like competence was very powerful to me to construct students’ inner circle identity constructing in English medium schools in Nepal. I found that they were constructing such an identity from their complex participative experience and their overall behaviours (Wenger, 1998) to get a native-like orientation in their linguistic performance. All my participants narrated that they were trying to make native-like English. This clearly showed distinction between ‘us and them’ division with ‘inner, outer’ and expanding circle’ (Kachru, 1983) and central and periphery (Philipson, 1992). Deepak wanted to be in ‘inner circle’ (powerful Western countries where English language as a native language) from the peripheral dichotomy (Underdeveloped country where English is a second or foreign language) looking at the possibility that ‘centre’ has high stakes in maintaining his operation as he interpreted:
I want to do my higher study from Britain as Andrew suggested because of the excessive use of technology used in language learning. I need very good English, therefore, I am now practicing day and night to make my English native-like.
The excerpt above clearly illustrates Deepak’s interest in constructing inner circle identity by going to the UK, the powerful western country where English is their native language.
In this brief article, I have discussed the different processes of identity construction of students who were studying in English medium schools in Nepal. Through their lived stories, I found that the students were constructing their discourse identity, social identity, affinity identity, L1 identity, and institution identity through positioning, becoming and being and student as identified through the process of opportunity and inner circle identity by making their native-like English learning from native speaker’s voice from YouTube and English songs through transformation. The students’ perspectives as discussed in this paper show that student identity is constructed in English as a foreign/second language classroom through their active engagement. The identities were not found going parallel because the identities constructed in one field infused their identities in other fields. I found that the students are holistic social agents who have the power to construct different identities in the classroom. They actively take part in certain practices, construct identities, negotiate the meaning of their actions and take control over their learning in pursuit of their goals of learning English for which they require an extended amount of time, effort, and commitment.
About the author
Mr. Arjun Basnet is an M.Ed., M.A., and MPhil in ELE from Kathmandu University. Mr. Basnet is a teacher, teacher-educator, and freelance researcher. Mr. Basnet works as a full-time faculty at Bijeshwori Gyan Mandir Sainik Mahavidyalaya, Bijeshwori, Kathmandu. Currently, Mr. Basnet serves as a Visiting Faculty at Kathmandu University, School of Education. He is also a Life member of Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA). Mr. Basnet is interested in reading, writing, and research works.
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Can be cited as:
Basnet, A. (2021, May). Identity construction of the Nepalese EFL students. [Blog article]. ELT CHOUTARI. Available at: http://eltchoutari.com/2021/04/identity-construction-of-the-nepali-efl-students/
This paper aims to explore the techniques and tools used for assessing the English language learners in remote teaching-learning and to discuss the challenges and obstacles faced by the teachers while assessing the learners. Based on a collective study design, this paper presents a study on the assessment practices in remote teaching-learning. Data were collected from three English language teachers of basic education level using online interviews. The results showed that many English language teachers transitioned to remote teaching learning because of the COVID -19 pandemic and whether it is a face to face class or remote teaching-learning, assessment is an integral part of the teaching-learning to check the understanding of the subject matter and to evaluate whether the educational goals and standards of the lessons are being met. The assessments were taken more or less similar to the face-to-face mode via written or oral practices with the help of technologies and while assessing the learners, the teachers faced the Internet connection issues, investment of ample time for designing and organizing the assessment with the help of technologies. The teachers gained less support from the parents and students for conducting the effective assessment.
Keywords: Assessment, remote teaching-learning, techniques and tools, educational goals, integral
This study assessed the English language learners based on their mode of acquiring learning that is either through face-to-face or remote teaching-learning. Remote Teaching -Learning (RTL) offers teaching learning beyond the physical classrooms. It is the learning process where the teachers are separated from the learners in time and distance. According to Graham (2019), RTL is the practice of teaching a language interactively via videoconferencing. He further describes that it differs from telecollaboration which mainly focuses on enabling language teaching and learning to take place rather than on intercultural collaboration. In remote language teaching, both students and teachers interact through two-way communication technologies. Similarly, in Belz and Thorne’s (2006) view, RLT supports learners’ interaction with the teachers and peers, encourages them to have more dialogue, debate, and intercultural exchange. Remote teaching is also referred to as live online language teaching to refer to synchronous (i.e. in real-time) computer-mediated communication for language teaching (Swertz et al., 2007). In RLT, teachers focus on both pedagogy and technology to provide huge opportunities for effective learning and collaboration beyond the physical classroom. They involve approaches and techniques that are more connected with the technologies. Whereas, Whyte and Gijsen (2016) argue that there is an ample burden for the teachers to conduct the classes remotely than for regular face-to-face classes. Teachers are committed to helping the learners with these different ways of working and teaching them in the most effective way possible. Teachers require and prepare designed and written materials to take advantage of the teaching and learning context and delivery method (i.e. video conferencing). Therefore, remote teaching is an innovative way of bridging cultural and geographical distances and enables the teaching and learning of languages to students who would otherwise not have the opportunity.
At present, most English language teachers had to opt for remote learning because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many teachers had transition to remote learning with no advance notice or preparation earlier this year. Some are planning for remote learning in the fall when they return to school. It is important to remember that remote learning refers to a class that intends to meet face-to-face. The teachers have been practising to replicate remote learning as far as possible into the real face-to-face classes. It is not just enough with the engagement of teaching-learning activities. The learners should be assessed to check the understanding of the subject matter and to evaluate whether the educational goals and standards of the lessons are being met. The learners must be able to think critically, analyze, and make inferences. Hence, assessing them is the most challenging factor in RTL. Nitko and Broookhart (2013) opine that organizing assessment helps the teachers to collect the information about teaching-learning and well as the students’ performance to make the certain decision teaching. Assessment in English language teaching has been defined as “involving professional judgment based upon an image formed by the collection of information about student performance” (Stanley, 2019, p. 8). Similarly, Wolf (2020) states that assessments are a critical means of identifying learners and monitoring their achievements. Assessments also play a fundamental role in teaching and learning, since it helps to gather the important information about students’ needs, which helps teachers provide appropriate support and interpret their academic performance accurately. Assessment is one of the important aspects which is being treated as a teaching-learning process as well (Stiggins, 1991). Assessing learners is a very important and essential part of a teacher’s teaching (Nitko, 1996). It is an integrated process for determining the nature and extent of student’s learning and achievement (Linn & Gronland, 2005).
According to Stanley (2019), there are two types of assessment: formative and summative. Assessment can be formative when it is to improve learning and assessment is summative when it is for monitoring and certificating performance or achievement. During the year, formal and informal instances of the formative assessment provide information to Remote Teachers (RTs) and Classroom Teachers (CTs) about student learning so adjustments can be made to teaching.
Assessment is an important aspect of teaching-learning. It offers the teachers to go up to the next class and to figure out whether the students are included. It also helps to get the results of the teaching-learning activities. On the other hand, it makes the teachers ready to take a proficiency test and provide the students the grades.
This study sought to answer the following research questions:
How do English Language teachers assess students in remote teaching-learning?
What challenges do English language teachers face while assessing students in remote teaching-learning?
This is a qualitative study that used a collective case study design to explore the questions. According to Stake (1995), a case study is the study of the particularity and complexity of a single case, coming to understand its activity within important circumstances. It helps to collect the information in detail and understand the problem in-depth with its real-life context. The case study design is an important tool for exploring and describing a phenomenon in context while refining theory and identifying areas for more exploration (Yin, 2018). Data were collected from three English Language Teachers of Basic Education Level who were assessing students by using different techniques and tools and while assessing them in remote teaching-learning in one of the schools of Kathmandu Valley. The teachers were a diverse group in terms of their ethnicity, gender, and grade level experiences. I collected data, which included notes of observation and interaction during online classes and interview with synchronous tools like Zoom Cloud Meeting (5 times in total); written reflections for each teacher related to assigned articles, email and Facebook messages correspondence with pupils, and transcriptions of semi-formal small group interviews. I conducted two rounds of interviews individually with teachers and three rounds of interviews in a group. Each interview lasted approximately 40 minutes. I followed them twice a week. The data occurred in two phases. First, I divided the data sets for coding purposes. In this initial phase, I examined individual cases, techniques, and the tools used for assessing the students in remote teaching-learning. Comparing the responses, I coded and analyzed them into the four themes: Observations, Discussion, Feedback, and Self-assessment.
Next, I collectively asked the participants what challenges they were facing while assessing the students in the remote teaching-learning. The responses were kept under different themes in which the individual cases were combined and compared to create a collective case study. After collecting data by qualitative technique, the data were analyzed and interpreted qualitatively. The following sections represent the results obtained from data analysis.
Results and discussion
This study aimed to explore the techniques and tools adopted by English Language teachers for assessing students in remote teaching-learning and to find out the challenges English language teachers face while assessing students in remote teaching-learning. Therefore, the results gained via the interview data were put into two sub-sections: Assessment for learning techniques and Challenges.
Techniques and tools for assessing in remote teaching-learning
This section presents the data derived by observing the English Language Teaching (ELT) class to answer the first research question, exploring the techniques and tools adopted by English Language teachers for assessing students in remote teaching-learning.
Informal teacher observations: In remote teaching-learning, the teachers were found observing different things in their classes. They observed how well the students managed to focus when doing the tasks. Furthermore, how much time do the students need to do certain tasks? And whether the students were willing to volunteer or respond when called on. The teachers in the interview also added that they observed the students if they were prepared for the task or provide help.
Student-led observations: Teachers assessing English language learners using remote methods checked the students’ autonomy and responsibility in their learning. They were asked to follow the netiquettes as it was remote teaching. They were given responsibilities where they took attendance and gave their opinions on what was happening in the class. Furthermore, they were asked to provide the class report either to the class teacher or the subject teacher.
Teacher participants in the interview shared that they assessed the students in remote teaching-learning by giving different learning situations. They assessed through the discussions in the live classes. Discussions were done on the usages of techniques and digital tools by the teachers, about the language usage L1 or L2. In addition to this, the discussion where the students did share in a peer, small group, or the whole class was also assessed. Lastly, the assessment was made when the students were provided with options during controlled practice.
Students in remote teaching-learning were assessed based on the feedback given by them. Following things were taken into considerations when assessing the feedback given by them. Students were asked to give feedback when their peers participated or did any work. They would give feedback on their friends’ thinking process, presentation, content, gestures, etc. They were asked to provide positive and critical feedback which could motivate their friends to perform better and which would help to create a healthy atmosphere.
Self-assessment is another technique used by the teachers to assess English language students in remote teaching. They explained that they used active recall questions to check the students’ progress. The students were asked to do the self-assessments by preparing PowerPoint presentations, using digital tools to do their project works, encouraging them to write journals, blogs, etc. They were also asked to take objective tests with the help of google forms and other online platforms. Furthermore, they were asked to appear for the written subjective tests. Recording the voice or video on any academic topic was promoted which they had to send to the teachers. Finally, some teachers asked them to attend the class on time.
Challenges in assessing students in remote teaching-learning
This section presents the data derived by observing the ELT class to answer the second research question, exploring the challenges and the obstacles faced by the teachers assessing the learners in remote teaching-learning.
Students with the internet issues
The teachers have found that most of the learners had the Internet with low bandwidth. There were also the chances of power cuts and disconnection while taking the synchronous class. The teachers responded that because of low connectivity they had to turn off their camera and be connected with mobile data.
Students with not enough support
The teachers revealed that the students were getting less support from their parents and seniors regarding the use of laptops and digital tools while taking the classes. The children were also less supervised by the parents while taking the classes. There were more chances of getting distracted and being engaged in playing online games.
Widening gaps between students’ proficiency
The teachers explained that there was an individual difference in remote teaching-learning. All the students did not have the same digital literacy and level of competency. The children faced problems while submitting the assignments, communicating with the teachers, and handling the tools.
Difficulty in supporting individuals
It was very time-consuming for the teachers to prepare the lessons and spending more on screen. The teachers had to spend more time preparing PowerPoint presentations and giving feedback to the students because of the technical issues the teachers were unable to give the class and communicate with the learners properly.
The present study investigated the assessment techniques and tools used by the English language teachers for assessing the learning in the remote teaching-learning and the challenges and obstacles faced by the teachers while assessing them in the remote teaching-learning. Results of the study showed that assessment was an integral part of teaching-learning to check the understanding of the subject matter and to evaluate whether the learning goals were achieved or not. The teachers did the planning, implementing, and organizing of the lesson by using digital and printed materials to assess the learners. The teachers engaged the learners in the discussion in the remote learning, observation of the lesson, engaging them in the feedback and self-assessment. While following those techniques, the teachers also encountered challenges related to the technologies and with the students’ well-being.
About the author
Mr. Puskar Chaudhary is an MPhil practitioner at Kathmandu University. He works as a full-time faculty and coordinates with the Digital Literacies Programme at Triyog High School, Tokha, Kathmandu. He is also a life member of Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA) and International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL). His current interests include digital pedagogy, digital literacies programme, and teachers’ networking, and professional development.
Nitko, A. J. & Brookhart, S. (2013). Educational assessment of students. Pearson.
Belz, J. A. & Thorne, S. L. (2006). Internet-mediated intercultural foreign language education. Thomson Heinle.
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Hill, C. & Parry, K. (2014). From testing to assessment: English an international language (Applied linguistics and language study). Routledge.
Linn, R. L. & Gronland, N.E. (2005). Measurement and assessment in teaching. Pearson Education.
Rahman, M., Babu, R., & Ashrafuzzaman, M. (2011). Assessment and feedback practices in the English language classroom. Journal of NELTA, 16(1-2), 97-106. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3126/nelta.v16i1-2.6133
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Unruh, S. & McKellar, N. A. (2017). Assessment and intervention for English language learners: Translating research into practice. Springer International Publishing.
Whyte, S. & Gijsen, L. (2016) ‘Telecollaboration in secondary EFL: A blended teacher education course. In S. Jager, M. Kurek, and B. O’Rourke, (eds.), New directions in telecollaborative research and practice: selected papers from the second conference on telecollaboration in higher education (pp. 163-170). Research-publishing.net.https://doi.org/10.14705/rpnet.2016. telecollab2016.503
Wolf, M. K. (2020). Assessing English language proficiency in US K-12 Schools. Routledge.
Can be cited as:
Chaudhary, P. (2021, May). Assessing English language learners in remote teaching-learning [Blog article]. ELT CHOUTARI. Available at: http://eltchoutari.com/2021/04/assessing-english-language-learners-in-remote-teaching-learning/
Due to the widespread use of English language throughout the globe, teaching and learning English language has got really surprising importance. This has raised a number of questions related to effective English language teaching. In this scenario, with the help of the author’s own experience in teaching English language for more than a decade, this article elaborates different factors that are responsible for effective English language teaching. Teachers, methods and techniques, teaching materials, and learners themselves are such factors that are responsible for effective English language teaching.
English has been developed as a global language due to globalization in recent decades. It is the language of international trade, tourism, education, and diplomacy. Similarly, it has been developed as an international lingua franca. It is being a must to learn and speak English language to be one of the members of this globalized world. Due to the growing spread and need for the English language throughout the world, there is an amazing trend in learning English language. This amazing trend in learning English language for different purposes has resulted in the teaching of English language widely. Many institutions and language schools are active to teach the English language throughout the world.
In order to make learners achieve the goal of learning English language, the learners should be taught English language effectively. No doubt, effective English language teaching makes effective learning but there arise genuine questions i.e., what is effective English language teaching and what makes it effective? Defining effective teaching is difficult since it is a complex and multidimensional process that means different things to different people (Bell, 2005). Though it’s difficult to define, we can simply define ‘effective’ as being successful in producing a desired or intended outcome. Effective teaching involves the ability to provide instruction that helps the students to develop different knowledge, skills, and understandings intended by curriculum objectives and students learn irrespective of their characteristics (Acheson & Gall 2003, as cited in Uygun, 2013).
Effective English language teaching makes learners learn English language with ease. It means to say that learners become able to communicate in English language effectively within a short period of time. Students demonstrate an understanding of meanings rather than just simply memorizing facts in an effective English language teaching classroom (Ghimire, 2019).
Factors making English language teaching effective
After defining effective teaching in general and effective English language teaching in particular, there is still an unanswered question i.e., what makes teaching effective? There are a number of factors that make English language teaching effectively. In order to make it effective, there is a direct and/or indirect hand of all the stakeholders involved in English language teaching. Teachers, students, parents, institutions, and administrators are the stakeholders to name a few.
My experience of being an English language learner for ages and English language teacher for a decade reveals that different factors play a pivotal role in effective English language teaching. As per my experience, a teacher’s personality, knowledge (content and pedagogical), and learners’ activation, motivation, and readiness are prerequisites for effective teaching. Moreover, teacher’s knowledge of technology and being updated with the recent trends in English language teaching are must for effective teaching in this era. In this section, I have explained four factors i.e. teacher, methods and techniques, teaching materials, and learners.
There is a pivotal role of teachers for effective English language teaching. For effective English language teaching, English language teacher/instructor needs to be effective. An effective teacher is the one who possesses different components like content knowledge, general pedagogical knowledge, curriculum knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, knowledge of learners and their characteristics, knowledge of educational ends, purposes, and values, and knowledge of educational contexts (Clark & Walsh, 2002 as cited in Uygun, 2013). This shows teachers should have content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and socio-affective skills. To put it another way, an effective teacher is the one who has good command over the subject matter, good knowledge of the methods and techniques for the effective delivery, and good rapport with the students. Similarly, an effective and dynamic teacher should be enthusiastic, creative, tolerant, patient, kind, sensible, open-minded, optimistic, and flexible, and have a good sense of humour, positive attitudes toward new ideas, and some other personal characteristics (Ghimire, 2019).
Having content and pedagogical knowledge and some other personal characteristics as mentioned above is not sufficient for effective teaching in this era. Since this is the era of science and technology, it has a great deal of impact on teaching as in other sectors. Information and communication technology (ICT) has impacted each and every aspect of human life from which education sector in general and teaching-learning activities, in particular, cannot be an exception. Defining ICT Hafifah (2019, p. 21) states, “…ICT is defined as the activities of using technologies, such as; computer, internet, and other telecommunications media… to communicate, create and disseminate, store and manage information” and ICT in education means teaching and learning by the use of different ICT devices. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are being used in education to support students to learn more effectively by providing teachers with access to a wide range of new pedagogy (Dhital, 2018). Due to the use of ICTs in education, it has changed a number of factors like pedagogy, student-teacher relationship, the concept of literacy, and students’ learning achievement. Students and teachers who were only exposed to the traditional way of teaching-learning activities have shifted their way of teaching and learning. It helps students compete in this global market. ICT in education enhances learning, provides students with a new set of skills, facilitates and improves the training of teachers, and minimizes costs associated with the delivery of traditional instruction (UNESCO, 2014). Therefore, teachers should have the technological knowledge for effective language teaching. He/ She should be ICT literate along with the ability to use and incorporate ICT in language teaching. The teacher needs to be updated with the technological knowledge since it is always in a state of flux more so than content and pedagogical knowledge (Harris, Mishra & Koehler, 2009). In a nutshell, the teacher of this era should be ICT literate first and updated with the changing trends in ICT so that effective language teaching can take place.
Similarly, English language teachers should have a good command of English language. It does not mean that teachers should be native speakers of English. Even a non-native speaker who is good at English can be an effective English language teacher. The teacher should know the students (level, background, interest, need) and have a good rapport with them. The knowledge and command of the target language, ability to organize and clarify the contents, arouse and sustain interest and motivation among students, and fairness and availability to students are the desirable features of an effective second language teacher (Uygun, 2013). Moreover, an effective English language teacher should be clear and enthusiastic in teaching, provide learners with phonological, grammatical, lexical, pragmatic, and sociocultural knowledge.
Methods and techniques
Teaching methods and techniques used in language classrooms play a vital role in effective English language teaching. A method is often regarded as the heart of teaching-learning activities. It is the overall plan for the orderly presentation of language material. Different methods can be used for effective teaching. Since the methods which work best in one context may not be effective in the next context, a teacher should use methods that are context and culture-sensitive. It means the teacher should use the methods and techniques being based on the context where he/she is teaching. In this line, Kumaravadivelu (2001) writes; “Language pedagogy to be relevant must be sensitive to a particular group of teachers teaching a particular group of learners pursuing a particular set of goals within a particular institutional context embedded in a particular sociocultural milieu (p. 538)”. For this, teachers should use self-generated methods which best fit their context. Action research and reflective practice help teachers generate such methods. Teachers need to be autonomous, dynamic, reflective, and intuitive. In a nutshell, teachers should practise what they theorize and theorize what they practice (Kumaravadivelu, 2001).
For effective English language teaching, the teaching materials teachers use in language classrooms also play a vital role. Since the materials used in English language classroom make teaching lively and effective, teachers rely on different materials to support their teaching and their students’ learning. The teaching material, let it be commercially produced or self-made should address the needs, levels, and interests of the students. The materials used in language classrooms should be content and context-sensitive. They should stimulate interaction and be generative in terms of language, encourage learners to develop learning skills and strategies, allow for a focus on form as well as function, offer opportunities for integrated language use, be authentic, link to each other to develop a progression of skills, understandings, and language items, be attractive and have appropriate instructions and be flexible (Howard & Major, 2004).
Like other factors, a learner is also one of the factors that make teaching effective. Learners should be active and creative to carry out the activities conducted both in and outside the classroom. An active and creative learner is related to a successful learner who sets and accomplishes his or her own goals (Karen, 2001). According to Zamani and Ahangari (2016), “Good teaching is clearly important to raising student achievement, if teacher is not aware of the learner’s expectation and needs related to the course, it will have negative outcomes regarding the students’ performance” (p. 70). So, for effective teaching, a teacher should make the students active and creative. Making learners active and creative means engaging them with materials to work collaboratively with their friends making themselves responsible in the classroom activities. A teacher should provide such tasks which promote learner autonomy on one hand and collaborative learning on the other.
Being based on the above ideas, it can be concluded that there is not a single factor that makes English language teaching effective. The first and foremost requirement for effective English language teaching is an effective teacher. Teachers should possess content, pedagogical and technological knowledge, and socio-affective skills to make teaching effective. Secondly, the materials and methods the teacher uses in the language classroom should be context and culture-sensitive because the prescribed methods and materials developed by other experts may not work properly in all the contexts. For this, the teacher should develop their methods and materials that best fit their contexts with the help of action research and reflective practice. Finally, the learners should be active and creative for effective teaching and learning. For this, a teacher should use the tasks which foster learner autonomy and collaborative learning.
About the author
Prakash Bhattarai is pursuing his M.Phil. in English Education at the Graduate School of Education, Tribhuvan University. He has a decade-plus experience in teaching English language from primary to university level. Currently, he has been teaching at Kirtipur Secondary School, Kathmandu. To his credit, he has published a few academic articles in national and international journals. His professional interest includes ELT, Language planning and policy and English and multilingualism.
Bell, T. R. (2005). Behaviors and attitudes of effective foreign language teachers: Results of a questionnaire study. Foreign Language Annals, 38 (2), 259-270.
Dhital, H. (2018). Opportunities and challenges to use ICT in government school education of Nepal. International Journal of Innovative Research in Computer and Communication Engineering, 6(4), 3215-3220. doi:10.15680/IJIRCCE.2018.0604004
Ghimire, N. B. (2019). Five facets for effective English language teaching. Journal of NELTA Gandaki (JoNG), II, 65-73.
Hafifah, G.N. (2019). Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in English Language Teaching. Proceedings of MELTC (Muhammadiyah English Language Teaching Conference). 21-38. Muhammadiyah Surabaya: Department of English Education, The University of Muhammadiyah Surabaya.
Harris, J. B., Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. (2009). Teachers’ technological pedagogical content knowledge and learning activity types: Curriculum-based technology integration reframed. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 41(3), 393-416.
Haword, J. & Major, J. (2004). Guidelines for Designing Effective English Language Teaching Materials. Retrieved from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/237476568
Karen, S. (2001). First-year experiences series: Being a more effective learner. University of Sidney Learning Centre Publishing, Australia. Retrieved from: http://sydney.edu.au/stuserv/ documents/learning centre/EffectiveLearner.pdf
Kumaravadivelu, B. (2001). Toward a Post method Pedagogy. TESOL Quarterly, 35(4), 537-560.
UNESCO. (2014). Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in Education in Asia. Canada: UNESCO Institute of Statistics.
Uygun, S. (2013).How to become an effective English language teacher. Journal of Educational and Social Research, 3 (7) 306-311. doi:10.5901/jesr.2013.v3n7p306
Zamani, R. & Ahangari, S. (2016). Characteristics of an effective English language teacher (EELT) as perceived by learners of English. International Journal of Foreign Language Teaching & Research, 4 (14), 69-88.
Can be cited as:
Bhattarai, P. [2021, May]. What makes English language teaching effective? ELT CHOUTARI. Available at: http://eltchoutari.com/2021/04/what-makes-english-language-teaching-effective/
English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI) has become widespread due to globalization and the growing demand of developing nations, particularly in Nepalese public schools which are assumed as a symbol of quality education. This new trend of adopting EMI caught the attention of parents on the impact and changes in education. The study explores the perceptions of parents on the implementation of EMI in public schools through Bourdieu’s lens of the symbolic power of language theory. Based on an in-depth interview with three parents of Kanchanpur, the perceptions on the implementation of EMI in school education are explored. The data analysis reveals EMI is perceived as an investment for developing advanced English skills and an uplifting lifestyle. The result shows EMI is just a fashion and propaganda to increase the number of students. Despite the demand of parents in society, some public schools are switching to EMI without proper preparation. Also, EMI is the preference as a mantra of competition. Findings indicate that the public schools need to close their ears for howling mob i.e. EMI as synonyms of quality education without proper preparation and readiness because hunting needs loaded guns and hunting skills.
Keywords: EMI, fashion, social strata, competition
As English is an international language, its use in different areas of social science is growing rapidly all over the world. The use of English from business to education is rapidly increasing. The rapid use of English in different aspects of society is dominating other languages of the world. Further, the English language is becoming a global lingua franca that links critical turns such as globalization, global economy, transnational communication, education, and the Internet (Sah& Li, 2018). Since English is integrated into every aspect of life, it has become obligatory in order to uplift social, economic status in the globe. In this regard, Bourdieu (1993) states English has become one of the best sources of achieving power, linguistic capital, and access. We visualize the choice of English in different schools even in remote areas of the world. With this notion, non-native countries are adopting English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI) though its implementation is great intimidation to the indigenous languages (House, 2014). Its effect is visible in the education sector where these countries are adopting EMI even from the basic level. As a result, English is practiced as an academic subject from the very beginning of formal education (Dearden, 2015), as people assume that EMI provides better socioeconomic mobility (Sah & Li, 2018). So, the hegemony of English is vividly felt in every aspect of social life including school education.
However, EMI is one of the prominent issues in the context of Nepal where private schools have already adopted and public schools have been mushrooming. EMI is taken as the prestige of school though schools are under-resourced (Gnawali, 2018) and lacking will power in real classrooms. Implementing EMI in such a situation has created problems in students learning achievement and creativity. In this regard, Sah and Li (2018) say implementing EMI without proper preparation resulted in negative outcomes: students neither achieve content knowledge nor English language skills. On the contrary, Evans, and Morrison (2016) state the graduates of EMI schools seem more confident in English ability, received superior examination grades, and able to adjust to diverse social contexts. As the entire world has been emphasizing the English language, countries like Nepal, India, Indonesia, and Ghana have been switching towards EMI without proper preparation.
In developing and non-English speaking countries EMI has different faces. As an instance, EMI in Indonesia is taken as a symbol of prestige and power where English Language teachers play an agentive role (Zacharias, 2013) for its promotion. In the same way in Taiwan, students agreed that English instruction helped them improve their English proficiency (Chang, 2010) though, in Pakistan, it was neglected to point its negative effects in mainstream education (Ahmed, 2011). According to Haider and Fang (2019), English is proving linguistic capital for elites although the lack of opportunities in general school leads to failure in professional life in Pakistan. On the other hand in China, Hu, Li,& Lei (2014) portrait EMI as a gatekeeper of access to English and other potential benefits. As English and its use in education have been increasing, many public schools are adopting it massively as a medium of instruction. To put it in a nutshell, in some countries EMI is a boon and for a few others, it’s a bane.
Similarly, parents send their children to private schools in urban areas because of their global status. They are willing to get and give education through EMI, even though they have low economic status. English is synonymously taken as a part of skills development (Erling, 2014) so all parents prefer to send their children to EMI implemented schools. Similarly, English is taken as a superior language and English-educated people are taken as highly prestigious in the society, therefore, parents are demanding EMI even in public schools though policies encourage mother tongue-based multilingual education (Phyak, 2016). This shows the gap between policy and practice. Similarly, implementing EMI created tension among parents having low economic status though they strongly prefer it. In this vain, Poudel (2019), says in the context of Nepal, English is the most influential language among upper and middle classes. It has created the strata in society as EMI educated are taken as superior and Non-EMI educated are as inferior.
However, most of the research on the EMI is primarily focused on teachers’ readiness, policy analysis, the effect of EMI, and students’ demands. The real perceptions of parents from the root level have not been well explored among scholars and policymakers in the context of Nepal. This study, therefore, aimed to explore the perception of parents’ on the implementation of EMI in public schools. It further tried to answer the question ‘how do parents narrate their experiences of sending their children to EMI implemented public school?’
Despite these useful studies, there is still a dearth of research investigating the perceptions of parents on the implementation of EMI in public schools. This study, therefore, aims to explore the perceptions of parents on the implementation of EMI in public schools. This study addresses the following question:
How do parents narrate their experiences of sending their children to EMI implemented public school?’
Reviewing Nepalese language planning and policy status
Language planning is an important process that enhances and reforms the entire linguistic situation of the country. It is also the national or international strategy to promote the selected language(s). Many ups and downs are found in the language planning of our country. Regarding this, Bist (2015) writes that the Nepal National Education Planning Commission (NNEPC) 1953 AD suggested that English needs to be started from grade four to Bachelor level as a compulsory subject. However, through its report in 1956, the commission recommended removing English from the Medium of instruction, which was in practice since the Rana regime.
Furthermore, the Education Act (1971) was amended by The Education and Sports Related Some Nepal Acts Amendment Act (2007) with the policy that the Nepali language or English language or both languages shall be the medium of instruction in a school in its section seven, subsection one. Similarly, in subsection two (a) it is included that the mother tongue may be the medium of instruction up to primary education, and in subsection two (d) we can find the policy of English language medium while teaching a compulsory subject of English. Therefore, this document of the Education Act permits public schools to use English as a medium of instruction while teaching any academic subjects in the schools (Education Act, 1971).
Multilingual Education Directive (2010) declares mother tongue to be the medium of instruction at the pre-primary level and basic level in class (1- 3) to teach all subjects except Nepali and English subjects, and mother tongue or the language of government officials to be medium of instruction at basic (classes 4- 5) level. The Constitution of Nepal (2015) includes the right of every Nepali community living in Nepal to get education in its mother tongue up to the secondary level, in Article No. 31, sub-article No.5 (Constitution of Nepal, 2015). Regarding other language planning documents, Phyak (2016) says if we closely look at the Ministry of Education’s policies and plans such as Education for All, Millennium Development Goals, School Sector Reform Plan, and National Curriculum Framework, it wants to promote multilingual education by considering children’s home/community languages a resource for an equitable and quality education.
Symbolic power of language
The symbolic power of language believes education is one of the most effective means of immortalization of the existing social pattern (Benbenishty et al., 2005). It further gives proper justification for the social inequalities and recognition of the cultural heritage. More specifically, Bourdieu (1977) highlighted the symbolic power of language which is the symbol of imposition. Symbolic power here is a power of constituting given through utterances, of making people see and believe, of confirming or transforming the vision of the world (Loader, 1997). Further, the language given legitimate status involves the claim to be heard, believed, and obeyed and that can exercise its effectiveness and effectiveness of the mechanism (Bourdieu, 1991).
In the context of Nepal, EMI is practiced as a means to gain power in society. In our own experience, a person having good command over English gains high prestige and reputation. As Bourdieu (1977) said that the powerful language imposes different ideologies, the practice is seen in the Nepalese schools by implementing EMI. Existing scenario presents EMI as the symbol of power which controls the social aspects from education to economy. Likewise, EMI has brought strata among the schools in the nation. Schools having EMI tend to be superior than the non-EMI schools. This division is clearly seen in our context. So, analyzing this power play of EMI, Symbolic Power of Language theory was found appropriate in our study.
The review helped us to get an overview of EMI policies in Nepal and it has also revealed the importance of multilingual education in the context of Nepal. As the study aimed to explore the implementation of the English language as a medium of instruction, this review created a base for analyzing the real context which later helped us to frame out our findings. Further, analyzing the present status of local languages and imposition of English from the previous studies created the proper gap and demand to explore more.
As the study aimed to explore subjective realities from the real field, it is qualitative in nature. The site of the study was Kanchanpur (one of the districts of Western Nepal) and three parents whose children study in EMI implemented public school were our participants. To explore their perception of EMI, we chose them purposely. To maintain balance on the existing contemporary strata of the society, we selected one participant from the lower class (Ramesh) level and other two from the middle-class level (Sampurna and Ram).
Ramesh was from a lower-class family, aged in his mid-thirties. He enrolled his children in a public school implementing EMI. He was an auto driver having five members in the family. He had two daughters and a son studying in the same school. Similarly, our second participant Ram was a middle-class man, aged in his mid-fifties. He had stayed in Malaysia for three years and had one daughter who studied in class nine. Earlier, he had enrolled his daughter in a public school where the Nepali medium of instruction was implemented. He did not pay any monthly fees there. After coming back from Malaysia, he preferred to enroll his daughter in a public school where EMI was practiced even by paying. And the third one was Sampurna, a middle-class man with four members in the family having two daughters. He was a farmer and his wife was a housewife. He enrolled both his daughters in public schools where EMI was practiced.
We collected data through in-depth interviews. Moreover, we interviewed them thrice and it was audio-recorded. The first interview created the opportunity for the follow-up interviews which ensured the contextual experiences. We conducted a second round of interviews only after the data from the first phase were categorized into different themes, and the analysis was underway. The frequent informal conversations made our data more lively and interesting. The interpretive paradigm was employed to explore parents’ perceptions of EMI. After that, we coded data using thematic chunks such as English as a fashion, EMI as a symbol of power, and English as a mantra of competition. We developed all those codes after a careful understanding of the collected data. The codes were further put into analytical memos, which depicted emerging themes. These themes were developed on the basis of the research question and objective. As every participant is value-led, we valued the participants’ views and had prolonged engagement during formal interviews and informal tea talks. For ethical issues, we took the consent of the participants and used pseudo names for privacy so that it won’t harm their personal and professional life.
Results and discussion
As this research aimed to explore the perception of parents on implementing EMI in public school, they take it as symbolic power, fashion, and weapon to compete. On the basis of perceptions of the parents their themes were made and discussed in this section.
Power Play of EMI
From the parents’ perspective in Nepal, English is taken as a symbol of power since English education is taken as highly prestigious in society. The success story of private schools has led to many Nepalese parents who preferred an English medium education for their children regardless of their socioeconomic status. In this regard our second participant Ram (pseudonym) shared:
When I was in Malaysia, I came to know the value of English in today’s world. I was thinking of sending my daughter to an elite institutional school but I realized that I could not handle it from an economic perspective. Later, I enrolled her in a public school where EMI is practiced. I am happy right now because my daughter is learning English. I know those people speak English, they get respect in society and they will get jobs very soon.
It is believed that English-educated people are more intelligent and wise in the community though English is not widely accepted in everyday communication. According to Bourdieu (1993) language regulates the power and prestige in society which is seen as practice. In the same line our third participants Sampurna added:
I could not study at the campus level, I had a dream to send my daughters to college for higher education. My friends share that English is very important, the upcoming generation won’t get any job without English. Then only I realized the value of English in each and every sector. Sometimes I spent time with my friends in the teashop, everyone used to talk about their daughters and sons. They feel proud of themselves for sending kids to more expensive schools where English is primarily focused. I also felt that without English, no one would get a job and opportunity in this century. So, I have sent my daughters to public schools where English is prioritized.
Analyzing both of the views above, the English language has a great impact and position in the world so he preferred to send his daughter to EMI School not only for content knowledge but also for the English language. Participants believed EMI is very important in school education, it has increased the number of students in public schools and they know the value of the English language. They believed that English promotes prestige in the community and EMI helps students to facilitate the learning of content and English skills (Sah, 2020). It has become such a well-adopted medium of instruction in higher education in Nepal. Despite having low economic status, people show keen interest to enroll their children in English medium school because they know that English is a powerful language. Likewise, looking at it from the symbolic power perspective, lower class, marginalized and disadvantaged groups of people try to uplift their status with the use of powerful language (Bourdieu, 1993) i.e. English in the Society.
This shows EMI in today’s demand in developing countries like Nepal. So, English is for economic development, social mobility, and participation in the global economy (Bruthiaux, 2002) as English has achieved global status. English is taken as a weapon in order to bring happiness to family and community and uplift the socio-economic status of the people.
Fashion in the market
EMI is growing as a kind of fashion. This fashion is linked to “cultural capital” in a globalized society where parents of public schools want to switch schools (Lareau & Horvat, 1999). As new fashion first attracts the attention of the people who are not in the habit of being changed i.e. lower-class people, the same group of people are more attracted to enroll their children in EMI schools. In this regard, Bourdieu (1997) states cultural capital consists of familiarity with the dominant culture in society and especially the ability to understand and use “educated” language, and here in the community English is accepted as an educated language. In this line Ramesh provoked:
I have never ever studied English in my life. Nowadays, we are bound to learn English. My daughter always forced me to send her to an English medium school. The prime reason was that her best friends study in English medium school. In my locality, no one studies in public schools where the Nepali medium is practiced. Those incidents compelled me to enroll her in an English medium school. And we are happy for EMI in public school.
In the same line, Ram the first participant put forwarded his view as:
I see everyone sending children to the boarding school with well-ironed dresses and ties. This really touches the heart and made me feel like sending children to boarding school. This is a new culture now. Everyone sends children to boarding school even if they don’t have food to eat. Except for English, there is not much change in education but also everybody’s wish.
Participants believed that English provides a better academic and professional career in national and international arenas. Similarly, people believe they are inferior if they don’t study or educate their children in English Medium.
This is because, to some extent, receiving English instruction at a younger age gives sound input and proficiency (Bahrani & Sim, 2012). Participants and children believed that switching to EMI responded to the demand of the present day and would not be dominated by other colleagues in the community. This demand and wish of English from the point of view of symbolic power theory, has been developing and promoting the status of lower and middle-class people. The representational practice of English in education helps in achieving power in society (Hall, 1997). It is how an exhibition constructs and persuades meaning through demonstrating a path through meaning. It is believed that everyone is running behind English because of its popularity.
Mantra of competition
Many public schools have been opting towards EMI to compete with the institutional schools as well as other public EMI schools. The reason behind this is that the number of students is also decreasing day by day. Participants opined that EMI is just for competition rather than collaboration and quality education. In this regard, Ram said:
I have earned a BA in English. After that, I could not get a chance to resume my study because of family problems. Nowadays, I have been engaging in small businesses. Currently, I see that many public schools are switching to EMI. I confidently say that it is a big issue in today’s school education system. In public school, some teachers cannot even read accurately, how can they teach students effectively? There is not any sort of training and enough teaching materials. I believe that this is just for increasing the number of students by showing advertisements for EMI.
In the perceptions of common people, public schools are switching to EMI only just for the sake of advertisement so that they could increase the number of students although the teachers’ readiness, training, and proficiency are in debate. They have a motto to compete with children in the international market with the English language. In the same way, Sampurna viewed, “ Students having good English can tackle problems in the modern age.” He further added, “We were not educated with English so we are facing so many challenges in the digital era. So I send my children to EMI school”. So, the symbolic power (Bourdieu, 1997) of EMI as a linguistic capital is to compete with institutional schools in national and international markets.
It is evident that some public schools are switching to EMI without enough preparation and infrastructure (Sah & Li, 2018). With the motto of competition, many public schools have been implementing EMI but the part of proper preparation and readiness is not properly studied. This resulted in fragmentation in the result. In this regard, Sah and Li (2018) further believed students developed neither content knowledge nor English language skills. This vividly presents the lack of proper preparation and ineffectiveness of EMI in public schools even spending a huge amount of economic and other efforts. Similarly, EMI created the strata among the students in terms of the economy and social status. In the name of English, there has been a stratum of educational division and injustice for the children who are from a lower socioeconomic status and are not able to get access to EMI (Kuchah, 2018). This brings conflict among different ethnic groups in the community. In this line, Sampurna added, “English is a fake myth it does provide quality education but only attract the attention”. Students willing to have education in EMI are compelled to face psychological effects due to poor economic background as education in EMI is expensive, though EMI was taken as a strategy to sell the tag of EMI education in the linguistic market (Bourdieu, 1977). In a nutshell, EMI is just a showcase to increase the students in school rather than providing quality education.
The study employing Bourdieu’s (1977) symbolic power of language theory looked at the perceptions of parents on the implementation of EMI in school education. As the data revealed parents idealised EMI as a symbol of power and linguistic capital to develop English skills through its real flavour is not achieved because of the lack of preparation and readiness. Switching to EMI without enough preparation and supervision, under-resourced conditions, and improper lead resulted in students’ low proficiency in both English and non-English subjects. On the other hand, it was found EMI in public schools is just propaganda to collect more students which creates a problem for lower and middle-class people as it is more expensive. As this study was limited to the perceptions of parents in a district, future research can be in unpacking the critical analysis of EMI practices and their effect on classroom and students’ achievements in different parts of the country.
About the authors
Mr. Dipak Prasad Mishra is a research Scholar at Kathmandu University, School of Education. Mr. Mishra is Head of the Department of English at Valley View English School. He is a Life Member of the Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA). Mr. Mishra is interested in learners’ autonomy and critical thinking.
Mr. Surendra Bhatt is an MPhil Scholar at Kathmandu University, School of Education. Currently, he is the head of the English Department at Charles Darwin Academy (Management College). Life Member of the Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA), Mr. Bhatt is an executive member of the Geo-linguistics Society of Nepal. Deputy Academic Director of ISTER Nepal, Mr. Bhatta keeps interests in teacher well-being and teacher professional development.
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Can be cited as:
Mishra, D.K. & Bhatt, S. (2021, May). English medium instruction in school education: Parents’ perspectives [Blog article). ELT CHOUTARI. Available at: http://eltchoutari.com/2021/04/english-medium-instruction-in-school-education-parents-perspectives/
This article attempts to explore how the local contents in ELT materials can be utilized to enhance patriotism among English language learners in Nepal. The purpose of this study was to explore how the local contents in ELT materials support to enhance patriotism. By employing a phenomenological design of qualitative research with purposive sampling, the three graduate level English language learners were interviewed to collect the information for this research. Collecting audio-recorded interviews, the information was coded, analyzed, and interpreted thematically linking the information with relevant theories and previous studies. The results of this study indicate that the local contents and the texts of Nepali English writers’ in ELT materials and English courses can contribute to enhance patriotism among Nepali English language learners. This study also signals that all the stakeholders of Nepal’s ELT such as curriculum planners, course designers, and textbook writers should maximise the contents from Nepali contexts and culture in ELT course in Nepal.
Keywords: Patriotism, Local contents, Nepal-based contents, and Nepali English learners
In this rapidly materialized era, education system of the country can play a major role to strengthen patriotic feelings in its citizens. In the context of Nepal, the local contents in ELT can contribute to orient students towards working for the welfare of their nation. Recently, the government of Nepal has released the actual map including the Nepali territories Kalapani, Lipulekh, and Limpiyadhura that lie in the east of the Mahakali River. This new map is included in our recently published school-level English textbooks which is highly appreciable. Similar initiatives and the contents from Nepali contexts and culture can contribute to enhancing patriotism among students in ELT classroom.
ELT in Nepal should go beyond the teaching of how to listen, speak, read, and write in English. ELT should include how to reform society, preserve our own culture, and enhance patriotism. Nussbaum (2013, p. 3) focused on “an education that cultivates the ability to see full and equal humanity in another person, perhaps one of humanity’s most difficult and fragile achievements.” ELT should primarily promote Nepal-based knowledge and culture. Giri (2015) asserts that English has become an indispensable part of life for the Nepali people in recent years. As English is introduced more and more early and widely, the contents in ELT materials should be carefully selected and graded to promote Nepali cultures and languages.
As far as my knowledge is concerned, there is scarcity of studies conducted in this area connecting patriotism with ELT in the context of Nepal. Therefore, perceiving this gap in the literature, I conducted this research so that it could help the major stakeholders especially English curriculum planners, English syllabus designers, and English textbook writers of Nepal to design curriculum and syllabuses to address this issue in the future.
Purpose of the study
The purpose of this study is to explore how the local contents in ELT can be utilized to strengthen patriotism in English language learners. This study specifically aims to explore the perceptions of Nepali English language learners on ELT in the light of patriotism.
This study aims to answer the following question:
What are the perceptions of Nepali English language learners on ELT and patriotism?
Taking constructivism as a philosophical standpoint for this study, I take Vygotsky’s socio-cultural theory as a main theoretical base and ‘patriotism’ (Bar-Tal & Staub, 1997) as supportive theory.
Vygotsky advocates for socially constructed knowledge that can be obtained in society. In this sense, learning is considered a social process. Therefore, social phenomena and events have a significant role in learning a native or a foreign language. Learners live in their own societies; they have the feeling of intimacy with one another and they have deep love and respect for their society and geography. As Vygotsky considers learning as a social activity and the knowledge is socially constructed through interaction among the learners in social settings. Therefore, Vygotsky’s theory is widely popular in the sector of educational research which seems to be very useful in socially situated investigations of educational development and transformation (Marginson & Dang 2017). Furthermore, education should bring reformation in the mindset of learners to unite the nation in this rapidly globalized educational world.
According to Karsten (1908, p. 61), “For patriotism is not only a legitimate instinct of every healthy human being; it is the sacred duty of every citizen.” Kodelja (2019) highlighted that education and patriotism are closely connected to the learners. Therefore, patriotism can be taken as an indispensable part of the citizens’ life and this feeling is important and should be spread among the learners.
I conducted this research by using the phenomenological design of qualitative research. I collected the data required for this study using the unstructured interview technique from the Master’s level English language learners from Kailali district ranging from 25 to 30 years age. They were selected using the purposive sampling technique. They are mentioned as participant A, participant B, and participant C in this research. They were informed before, after, and during the research process about the aim of the research. Using two-step procedures, firstly, the information was collected, and secondly, it was analyzed by making different themes.
The information collection instrument consisted of background interviews and open-ended oral questions which were answered orally. The background interview covered the questions about their name, experiences, and present level of study. Mainly open-ended interviews were conducted by including research questions relevant to this study. The participants were asked to express their ideas and views on enhancing patriotism through ELT. Their views were audio recorded and transcribed.
Results and discussions
The results of the qualitative analysis are reported in three main themes: a) Patriotism as a backbone of Nepali ELT and learning, b) Patriotism as a lifeline of Nepali English language learners, and c) Patriotism as a guideline of Nepali ELT and learning.
Patriotism as a backbone of Nepali ELT and learning
When the researcher asked the question related to the connection of ELT and patriotism, participant A stated, “English is one of the foreign languages for Nepal. It is a language . . . for communication with foreigners. I hope we don’t forget our originality. For that the connection of patriotism with English language is essential.” Therefore, Nepal-based contents should be highly valued and included in both school-level and higher-level ELT materials. By including such contents in the materials, ELT classes can contribute to enhance love towards nation and its culture to the students. Saud (2020) stresses that the inclusion of local writings in academic courses will help to protect Nepali diverse cultures and the Nepali English literature will gain a new height. In fact, through the translation in English, we can showcase our culture and diversity globally.
Likewise, participant B expressed “In my view, without patriotism, the use of foreign language becomes meaningless. I don’t want to learn English to make my country a foreign land for me.” As participant B expresses ELT materials must include the local texts and foster the feelings of belongingness to the texts in the classroom. Therefore, English materials should prioritize patriotism in its contents, which can contribute to a dignified life of students in modern society.
Similarly, the participant C clearly stated “Where I was born and . . . where I stand determines patriotism. It is a backbone of English language teaching and learning and English should be taught and learned in this way. This is my understanding.” From the view of participant C, it is clear that patriotism should be the backbone of ELT materials and teaching- learning. Therefore, English can also be used as a tool to make Nepal known to the world. Saud (2020) states that ELT should be culturally sensitive and socially responsive valuing multicultural contexts. Eventually, patriotic contents help to strengthen any sort of solidarity for the welfare of the country and its people.
Patriotism as a lifeline of Nepali English language learners
Many Nepali learners are interested in English language learning due to its dominance in the whole world. However, many learners are leaving the country after learning English. Through the inclusion of patriotic contents, ELT materials can help to strengthen the students’ love towards the nation.
When the researcher asked another question regarding Nepal-based contents in English textbooks, participant A replied “In my opinion, the texts in English textbooks that we study are written by foreign writers. We should promote English texts written by Nepali writers. I think patriotism should be the lifeline for us.” Participant A reveals the status and representation of texts in our ELT materials and textbooks. In response to a similar question, the participant B opined:
In some English textbooks, I find some contents related to Nepal which we count on fingers. However, I think these are good signs of hope. Some of the Nepali English textbook writers prioritize Nepal-based content in English which is appreciable. I think so.
Participant B acknowledges the inclusion of local texts in ELT materials and is hopeful to increase in future. It certainly signals a ray of hope, but the proportion of the local texts, discourse and culture should increase in ELT materials. Saud (2020) states that a language reflects culture. However, different cultures can also be reflected in one language. Likewise, participant C expressed “The amount of local contents is very minimal. English writers of Nepal . . . attention, please. Without knowing Nepal, how do we promote patriotism?” Considering the opinion of participant C, patriotism can be promoted if the learners know Nepal and its cultures, and students get to know more about their country and culture, if they are exposed to more reading materials with local contents and cultures.
Furthermore, the participant A (being energetic) replied “If some lessons related to Nepal are included in the textbooks, it really helps to enhance patriotism in the learners. It’s essential.” From the view of this participant, it can be inferred that the lessons related to Nepal play a great role to enhance the patriotic feeling in Nepali learners of English. Similar is the opinion of the participant B, who stressed “We must learn Nepali contents and culture in English language classroom and live in Nepal being Nepali not only in the heart but also in mind.”
Likewise, the participant C replied, “If patriotic, cultural and social contents are included in the English textbook, learners become curious and show interest in English language learning.” The view of participant C also indicates the necessity of Nepali contents in English textbooks which helps to enhance not only patriotism but also facilitate learning English with ease. When the learners find the texts and contents from their local culture, it is easy for them to comprehend, as a result, their learning gets better.
Patriotism as a guideline of Nepali ELT and learning
Generally, common people believe that English is learned to go to a foreign country and earn money. It may be true to some extent, but it can also be learned to spread our history, culture, art, and knowledge in the different parts of the world.
In response to one of the researcher questions, the participant A says:
Let me talk about higher education. In English literature, many stories, poems, dramas, and novels written by foreigners are included in the course, but the texts created or written by Nepali writers are neglected . . . the textbook writers should include the creation of Nepali writers that represent patriotism. It can give Nepali flavor in English language teaching and learning.
We can take the gist from participant A’s view that Nepali texts should be included in English materials, which is the need of time. Therefore, the texts of Nepali writers’ should be given priority in English textbooks. Saud (2020) urges the material developers to value local culture and include more and more local contents and texts in the materials in future. In response to a similar question, participant B expressed “In my opinion, English should be used to strengthen our country. English language should be utilized to strengthen our relations with us and others. I think . . . patriotism is a guideline for English language teaching and learning in Nepal.” The intention of participant B is that English can strengthen our internal and international relations. For that, patriotism can be taken as a guideline to ELT and learning of Nepal. In this sense, English can strengthen our country.
Bhandari (2016) argues that teaching English in multilingual and multicultural contexts in Nepal can be considered as one of the major challenges in ELT. Teachers can play a significant role to minimise it as Giri (2020) advocates that English teachers can play an important role minimize the hegemonic influence of native speakers. The hegemonic mindset can also be changed if Nepali contents get space in the ELT of Nepal.
Answering a similar question, participant C stated “ELT in Nepal should be focused on Nepali contents and contexts. At least fifty percent contents must be related to Nepal and should be included in English courses.” In participant C’s opinion, it can be inferred that Nepali contents should be kept at the centre of the ELT and learning of Nepal. Furthermore, Giri (2020) clearly mentions an example of whether the lesson is about ‘pollution’, the materials used should be the ones that are written about their own cities. Therefore, Nepal-based content should be included in the ELT of Nepal to enhance patriotism among the learners.
In this post-method era of language teaching and learning, socio-cultural contents get focused to enhance patriotism through the ELT of Nepal. Kumaravadivelu (2001, p. 545) stresses that “post method pedagogy rejects the narrow view of language education that confines itself to the linguistic functional elements that obtain inside the classroom.” As ELT is an educational activity, relevant content should be added as per the necessity of the country.
The inclusion of local texts, discourse and contents in ELT materials can enhance patriotism by making learners aware of their nation and culture. Learning a foreign language is a right of learners, whereas being patriotic is a duty of a responsible citizen. The results show that Nepal-based contents should be prioritized for enhancing patriotism in Nepali learners in general and Nepali English language learners in particular. As the contents are significant rather than who has written the texts and where the texts have been written. However, it is also true that the texts produced in one’s context and culture are more comprehensible, readable, and learnable for the learners. Furthermore, the results of this study also indicate that the texts written by Nepali English authors should be included in school and university level English courses which help to strengthen patriotism to a greater extent.
The author: Mr. Bhan Singh Dhami is an M. Ed. fourth semester student of Kailali Multiple Campus, Dhangadhi, Kailali under Tribhuvan University of Nepal. He has been teaching since 2006 AD. Currently, he is a secondary level English teacher at Shree Khare Secondary School Gaurishankar RM -8, Dolakha. His areas of interest are academic writing, creative writing, English Language Teaching (ELT), learner autonomy, teacher identity and teacher professional development.
Karsten, G. E. (1908). Folklore and Patriotism. The journal of English and Germanic philology Vol. 7 (2), pp. 61-78 Published by: University of Illinois Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.com/stable/27699914.
Ward, S. J. A. (2017). Patriotism and Journalism. In: Sardoč, M. (ed.), Handbook of patriotism, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-30534-9_39-1
Can be cited as: Dhami, B. S. [2021, May]. Enhancing patriotism through English language teaching and learning in Nepal. ELT CHOUTARI. Available at: http://eltchoutari.com/2021/04/enhancing-patriotism-through-the-local-contents-in-elt-materials/
In my past nine years of association with ELT Choutari as a reviewer and editor, I reviewed and edited hundreds of manuscripts, and communicated with dozens of teachers to encourage them to write. Based on this experience, I argue that teachers are undoubtedly the right professionals to write and publish and every teacher (including schoolteachers) can do so.
ELT Choutari generally gives space to new and first-time authors, hence it encourages teachers and teacher educators to share their experiences through writing. While exploring the potential teachers to write and publish, I have come across different types of teachers. When I approach them, initially most of them show interest, gradually some of them drop with some excuses and a few of them try, nonetheless. Interestingly those who give it a try, majority of them produce publishable write-up when they are guided through a series of writing processes.
I would like to recall a case of a particular teacher here. He is a schoolteacher of English language having rich experiences of teaching English to speakers of other languages from a variety of backgrounds. He used to show interest in writing and publishing on ELT Choutari. Once I personally approached him and discussed the possible issues and areas to write following the call for articles. He was all set to go. The next week, when I followed up, he responded that he was going to start soon. Later, when I followed up, he said he had just begun writing something and would finish by the next week. The next week was the deadline but he didn’t respond. I told him that we could give a few days more if he wished to finish but he quit stating he would contribute in a future issue.
In the next issue, with multiple follow-ups and reinforcement, he submitted a write-up on teaching vocabulary. It was a well-organised write-up in about 2000 words. However, there were two major issues with it- structure and content. Structurally, it was heavily influenced by the format of research-based journal paper as he included even an abstract section for a blog piece. Talking about the contents, he went on giving an introduction to teaching vocabulary and explaining different methods and techniques of teaching vocabulary, which was followed by a few tips of his own. When I anlyased it, the majority of the content in it was merely the reproduction of what was already available. So, where is the voice of the author? He was only explaining and summarizing other’s ideas, which is readily available on Google.
Then I realised why teachers like him are anxious about writing and publication in Nepal. Instead of narrating his own real practices and experiences of teaching vocabulary, he went on explaining and summarizing others’ ideas, which can be challenging for first-time authors for two reasons. First, the ideas of others should be well reproduced and paraphrased to avoid plagiarism. Second, such a write-up is less likely to be published because it is commonly available on the Web. If I were him, I would compose the write-up on my first-hand experiences of trying out different methods and techniques. Sometimes teachers also devise their own techniques or strategies to fit in their context. Capturing the same experiences and practices would be fantastic content to write about as it would be easier to write one’s experiences, which would have enough space for the author’s voice.
Most of the Nepali English teachers are anxious about writing and publication and consider that it is not their cup of tea. One of the major reasons behind it is the lack of a culture of reflection and journaling. They have decades of teaching experience and they even teach their students how to write a good paragraph or an essay but paradoxically, they are unable to produce reflective writing themselves. They teach different language skills using multiple methods (including some local methods), but they rarely reflect upon their practices. Like, what’s working and what’s not working? What’s going good and what’s not? Which methods or strategies should I continue and which to drop? This culture of reflection and making notes would also develop writing habits and boost their confidence. However, they are simply following the teaching-learning principles and practices of their gurus, where there was rarely any scope of reflection and writing. Therefore, the present generation of teachers must break this tradition and should start the culture of reflection and documentation, which would enable them to write and publish with ease.
What to write and what not ?
There is a popular saying, which goes, “cut the coat according to the size of your cloth.” The same is true in the case of writing too. So rather than choosing a heavy topic or summarising others’ ideas, the easy way is to write what you do, see, face, or experience in your everyday classroom. Therefore, it is better to choose the issue or topic, in which you feel comfortable to write. In the above case, for example, the teacher could have focused on the challenges he was facing while teaching vocabulary and strategies he used to overcome the challenges. Or he could also have highlighted the methods and strategies, which were the best working in his context. Similarly, he could also have critically examined the popular teaching methods and strategies and their applicability in his context.
Writing issues and topics are right in your classroom, all you need is to reflect on your own practices and classroom phenomena. Please remember that classroom is a lab from where very powerful theories and practices have been developed. Therefore, the easy way of reflection is to ask questions like below to yourself:
Why am I doing what am I doing?
Why am I using this method instead of another?
What if I try this over that?
Is this method facilitating the learning of my students? If yes, why? If no, again why?
Which methods and techniques do my students enjoy and learn from the most?
Why don’t my students sometimes learn the way I want them to learn? What’s wrong with my process?
How to write?
First, we should remove the illusion that all writing and publication must be research-based and formal. Please remember, publishing papers in the journals could be your goal but initially, you can start with something as simple as a reflective narrative or a blog, which don’t necessarily require any research frame or literature review. Take this blog for instance. Is there any research frame or literature review in it? No, I’m just reflecting on my experiences, and adding my voice to it. So, you can also simply write about the good practices in your classroom, challenges, or striking moments in your professional life.
The simple way to write powerful writing is to choose simple but meaningful and relevant issues from our everyday practice and narrate it in a captivating way like the way you narrate something orally to someone. Choosing the right issue and narrating in the form of a story is one of the easiest ways of writing, which any teacher can do. Voice your ideas instead of summarizing others’ ideas. If your story is engaging and relevant, readers will read and enjoy it. I also started my writing journey with narrative reflections. For instance, see HERE.
Narrative reflections and blogs are the stepping stones in one’s writing journey. Our experiences serve as content in such writing and narration works as the writing style. And there is nothing right or wrong about the narration technique. Narrating is way easier than writing some formal academic composition. Reflective narrative and blogs are informal in styles, juicy to read and yet they can raise important issues. For instance here is one by Karna Rana , another here by Alban S. Holyoke, and here is another by Yashoda Bam. Once you are confident and comfortable on writing them, then you can gradually move towards other scholarly writing and research papers.
Writing can be as easy as narrating an interesting event to our friends and family. Therefore, choosing interesting practices, challenges, striking events, or observations from your classroom and putting them in the form of a story would produce a good write-up. Moreover, reading related literature also provides ideas and confidence in writing, so read a few blogs and guidelines HERE before starting your own. Write and show it to your colleague, who cares for writing. Hear his/her feedback, review, and finalise.
Dear teachers, writing and publication on the blogs and web magazine like ETL Choutari is not as hard as you think. Therefore, before wrapping up this piece, I would like to note the following:
Teachers have rich experiences and issues to write about. So why not to write?
Reading and writing are part of the teaching profession, so, let’s make it our professional practice.
If teachers don’t write, how can they expect their students to write?
Writing helps us to better understand and to be better understood.
You definitely have some good practices and success stories and if you document them, others will benefit, and you will develop a writing habit.
Now looking forward to reading your reflective narrative and blogs on future issues.
[Note: since you have come up to here reading it, please share your feeling, feedback, or any question related to it in the comment box below, which will encourage the author. Thank you!]
Can be cited as: Karki, J. (2021, April 20). Dear teachers, you can write and publish. [blog post]. Retrieved from: http://eltchoutari.com/2021/04/dear-teachers-you-can-write-and-publish/
The Author: Jeevan Karki is a freelance teacher trainer, researcher, and writer. He serves as an expert in designing materials and developing training for the literacy program at Room to Read. He has authored several op-eds and blogs including some national and international journal articles. He is also an editor of ELT Choutari and the Editor-in-Chief at MercoCreation.