Welcome to Third Quarterly Issue of ELT Choutari 13(100)

Dear Valued Readers,

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”. 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:

  1. Teachers’ wellbeing and pedagogical success by  Rejina KC
  2. A novice teacher’s reflection from the obstacles to the exploration by Dasharatha Rai
  3. Engaging learners in the Google classroom: A reflection of an English teacher by Yadu Prasad Gyawali
  4. Challenges of teaching English in rural context: A reflection of a teacher by Shankar Khanal
  5. A reflection on my Masters’ thesis writing by Deepak Bhatt
  6. My learning during pandemic by Parista Rai
  7. Engaged research in applied linguistics: Reflections from practice by Dr. Prem Phyak

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 2elt.choutari@gmail.com.

Thanking you.

Happy reading!

Ashok Raj Khati
Jeevan Karki

Teachers’ wellbeing and pedagogical success

Rejina K C
            Rejina KC

Abstract

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.

Keywords: Teacher wellbeing, pedagogical success, positive and negative emotions.

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.

Teachers’ wellbeing

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.

Conclusion

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.

References

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Becker, E., S, Goetz T., Morger, V., &Ranellucci, J. (2014). The Importance of Teacher’ Emotions and Instructional Behavior for their Students’ Emotions Experiences Sampling Analysis. Teaching and Teacher Education, 43, 15- 26.

Blazar, D. & Kraft, M. (2017). Teaching and Teacher Effects on Students’ Attitudes and Behavior. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 39(1), 146-170.

Cann, R. (2019). The Importance of Teachers’ Wellbeing. Education  <https://cdn.theeducationhub.org.nz/wp>

Caprara, V. G., Barbaranelli, C., &nMalone, S. P. (2006). Teachers’ self-efficacy beliefs as determinants of job satisfaction and students’ academic achievment. Journal of Psychology. Vol 44 (6), 473- 490. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsp.2006.09.001

Chang, M. L.(2009). An Appraisal Perspective of Teacher Burnout: Examining work of Teachers. Educational Psychology Review, 21(3), 193-218.

Cohen, D. K. (2011). Teaching and Its Predicaments. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Cotton, P. (2008). Psychological Injury in the Workplace. In Psych, 30 (20), 8-11.

Diener, E, Lucas, R. E, &Oishi, S. (2002). Subjective Wellbeing: The Science of Happiness and Life Satisfaction. In C. R. Snyder & S. J. Lopz. (Eds). The Oxford Handbook.

Dibbon, D. (2004). A Report on the Impact of Workload on Teachers and Students. Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers Association

Duckworht, A. L, Quinn, P. D, &Tsukayama, E. (2012). What No Child Left Leaves Behind The Role of IQ and Self-Control in Predicting Standardized Achievement Test Scores and Report Card Grades. Journal of Educational Psychology, 104(2), 439-451.

Frenzel, A. C. (2014). Teacher Emotions. In L.innenbrink- Garcia & R. Pekrun (Eds.), Handbook of Emotions in Education, pp. 494- 519. New York: Routledge

Hamre, B. K, &Pianta, R. C. (2009). Early Teacher-Child Relations and the Trajectory of Children’s school outcomes through Eight grade. Child Development. 72(2), 625- 638.

Hanushek, E. A., &Rivikin, S. G. (2010). Generalizations about Using Value-Added Measures of Teacher Quality. American Economic Review, 100(2), 267-271.Kyriacou, C. (2009). Effective Teaching in Schools: Theory and Practices (3rd ed.). United Kingdom: Nelson Thornes Ltd.

Mercer, S. (2021). An Agenda for wellbeing in ELT: An Ecological Perspective. ELT Journal Volume. 75/7. Mercer, S., & Gregersen, T. (2020). Teacher Wellbeing : A Smart Approach. Teacher Wellbeing, Oxford University Press <https://oupeltglobalblog.com/2020/03/09/teacher-wellbeing-a-smart-approach-sarah-mercer/>

Mohan, R. (2013). Teacher education. PHI Learning Pvt. Ltd.

Murti, K. (1974). On Education. All India Press.

Porter, T. (2020, June 22). Reflecting on Teacher Wellbeing During COVID- 19 Pandemic. Regional Educational Laboratory Program. Retrieved from https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs/regions/pacific/blogs/blog28_reflecting-on-teacher-wellbeing-during-COVID-19-pandemic.asp

Safari, I. (2021). RELATIONSHIP between Iranian EFL Teachers’ Self- efficacy and Their Burnout Level in University and School. International Journal of Foreign Language Teaching & Research, 9(35), 25- 38.

Sanusi, I. T, Olaleye, S., & Dada, D.A. (2021). Teaching Experience During COVID-19 Pandemic: Narratives from Research Gates. xvConferenciaLatinoamericana de Tecnologias de Aprendizaje, pp. 1-6.

Schwartz, S. (2020, Nov 16). Survey: Teachers and Students are Struggling with Online Learning. Education Week. https://ed.week.org/teaching- learning /survey

Seligman, M. E.P., R. M. Ernst, J. Gillham, K. Reivich & M. Linkins. (2009). Positive Education: Positive Psychology and Classroom Intervention. Oxford Review of Education. 35/3. 293-311.

Seligman, M. E.P., R. M. Ernst, J. Gillham, K. Reivich &M. Linkins. (2009). Positive Education: Positive Psychology and Classroom Intervention. Oxford Review of Education. 35/3. 293-311.

Sparks, D. S. (2017). How Teachers’ Stress Affects Students: A Research Round-Up. Education Week. https://www.edweek.org/education/how-teachers-stress-affects-students-a-research

Todd, P. E, &Wolpin, K. I. (2003). On The Specification and Estimation of the Production Function for Cognitive Achievement. The Economic Journal, 113(485), F3- F33.

Toraby, E., & Modarresi, G. (2018). EFL Teachers’ Emotions and Learners’ Views of Teachers’ Pedagogical Success. International Journal of Instruction, 11 (2), 513- 526. https://doi.org/10.12973/iji.2018.11235a

Author’s bio:

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.

 

A novice teacher’s reflection: From the obstacles to the exploration

 

                 Dasharatha Rai

Flashback

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 bla,.blabla. 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 thatI 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 BalaramAdhikari 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, the sentence structures and critical thinking in an unexpected away. 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 the students in the class. If we become more democratic, then students may take advantages from us such as gossiping in the class, not doing assignment and home works sincerely, seem reluctant to take part in the 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 the 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 the students are not motivated in learning nowadays. It happens when teachers cannot meet the demands of the students. 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 ‘BrahmacharyAashram’ 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 Merocreationa web-magazine for youths and children.

 

 

Engaging learners in the Google classroom: A reflection of an English teacher  

 

    Yadu Prasad Gyawali

Abstract

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.

Context

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:

  1. What are the perceptions of students in using Google Classroom in higher education?
  2.  In what way instructor observes and experiences the use of Google Classroom while implementing in undergraduate classes?

Methods

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.

Results

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.

Conclusion

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.

References

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.

Cohen, L., Manion, L., & Morrison, K. R. B. (2007). Research Methods in Education. Routledge. https://books.google.com.np/books?id=i-YKKgtngiMC

Geiller, L. (2014). How EFL Students Can Use Google to Correct Their “Untreatable” Written Errors. 22(2), 26-45.

Karaaslan, H., & Çelebi, H. (2017). ELT Teacher Education Flipped Classroom: An Analysis of Task Challenge and Student Teachers’ Views and Expectations. 13(2), 643-666.

Kobayashi, M. (2015). Students’ Evaluation of Google Hangouts through a Cross-Cultural Group Discussion Activity. 16(2), 28-39.

Kokoç, M. (2019). Flexibility in e-Learning: Modelling Its Relation to Behavioural Engagement and Academic Performance. 12(12), 1-16.

Lambert, V. A., & Lambert, C. E. (2012). Qualitative descriptive research: An acceptable design. Pacific Rim International Journal of Nursing Research, 16(4), 255-256.

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: A Framework for Teacher Knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054.

Mishra, P., Koehler, M. J., & Henriksen, D. (2011). The seven trans-disciplinary habits of mind: Extending the TPACK framework towards 21st century learning. Educational Technology, 22-28.

MOEST. (2020). Vidhyarthi Sikai Sahajikaran Nirdeshika.

Nepal Education Cluster. (2020). COVID-19 Education Cluster Contingency Plan, 2020. https://doe.gov.np/assets/uploads/files/04caa85f3247842d8175a25d5bcccdbc.pdf

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.

Author’s bio:

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.

Challenges of teaching English in rural context: A reflection of an English teacher

                   Shankar Khanal

Introduction

English has become an indispensable part of the educational curriculum in Nepal and it is one of the most used languages in the world. English has been the medium of expressing our ideas, feelings and emotions. 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 are very poor in both competence 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.

Conclusion

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.

Author’s bio:

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.

A reflection on my Masters’ thesis writing

 

             Deepak Bhatt

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 secondarily level. Mr. Bhatt is currently working as an English Teacher at Sainik Awasiya Mahavidyalaya, Teghari Kailali.

 

My learning during pandemic

                Parista Rai

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.

Author’s bio:

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.

Welcome to Second Quarterly Issue of ELT Choutari 13(99)

Dear Valued Readers,

Namaste!

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.

Here is the list of six blog posts of this issue:

  1. Identity construction of the Nepali EFL students by Arjun Basnet
  2. Assessing English language learners in remote teaching-learning by Puskar Chaudhary 
  3. What makes English language teaching effective? by Prakash Bhattarai
  4. English medium instruction in school education: parents’ perspectives by Dipak Prasad Mishra and Surendra Bhatt
  5. Enhancing patriotism through the local contents in ELT materials by Bhan Singh Dhami
  6. Dear teachers, you can write and publish! by Jeevan Karki

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 2elt.choutari@gmail.com .

Thanking you once again for your continued readership, professional support, and volunteering enthusiasm to work with us collaboratively!

Wishing you a Happy Nepali New Year 2078!

Stay safe, stay healthy and happy reading!

Ganesh Kumar Bastola, Lead Editor of the Issue
Mohan Singh Saud, co-editor of the issue

Identity construction of the Nepali EFL students

Arjun Basnet*

Context

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 study

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.

Conclusion

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.

References

Block, D. (2007). Second language identities. London: Continuum.

Clarke, M. (2008). Language teacher identities: Co-constructing discourse and community. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.

Falsafi, L. (2010). Learner identity: A sociocultural approach to how people recognize and construct themselves as learners. An Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation Submitted to the University of Barcelona.

Gee, J. P. (2001). Identity as an analytical lens for research in education. Review of Research in Education, 25, 00-125.

Kachru, B. (1983). The other tongue. Chicago: University of Illinois Press.

Gee, J. P. (2005). An introduction to discourse analysis. New York: Routledge.

MacLure, M. (1993). Arguing for yourself: identity as an organizing principle in teachers’ jobs and lives. British Educational Research Journal, 19, 311-322.

Norton, B. (2013). Identity and language learning extending the conversation (2nd ed.). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Norton, B., & Toohey, K. (2002). Identity and language learning. In R. Kaplan (Ed.), Handbook of applied linguistics (pp. 115-123). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Pavlenko, A., & Lantolf, J. P. (2000). Second language learning as participation and (re) construction of selves. In J. P. Lantolf (Ed.), Sociocultural theory and second language learning (pp. 155-177). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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

Shields, R. J. (2015). Walking into the ESL classroom: A narrative inquiry through the eyes of latino American immigrants in Southern California. An Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation Submitted to Drexel University, Philadelphia.

Toohey, K. (2000). Learning English at school: Identity, social relations, and classroom practice. Cleveland, UK: Multilingual Matters.

Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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/

Assessing English language learners in remote teaching-learning

 

Puskar Chaudhary

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

 Introduction

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.

Research Questions

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?
Methodology

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.

Observations

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.

Discussions

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.

Feedback

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

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.

Conclusion

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.

References

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.

Coniam, D. (Ed.). (2014). English language education and assessment: Recent development in Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland. Singapur: Springer-Verlag.

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 NELTA16(1-2), 97-106. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3126/nelta.v16i1-2.6133

Rivera, C. (2006). State assessment policy and practice for English language learners: A national perspective. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers Inc.

Shrestha, P. (2014). Alternative assessment approaches in primary English language classrooms. Journal of NELTA18(1-2), 148-163. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3126/nelta.v18i1-2.10337

Stanley, G. (Ed). (2019). Innovation in education remote teaching. British Council.

Stiggins, R. J. (1991). Relevant classroom assessment training for teachers. educational measurement: Issues and Practice, 10(1), 7-12.

Swertz, C., Motteram, G., Philp, H. & Gonul, S. (2007). Language learning with certified live online language teachers: Teacher Manual. Retrieved from https://www.scribd.com/document/198458088/LANCELOT-Teacher- Manual

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/

What makes English language teaching effective?

Prakash Bhattarai

Abstract

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.

Introduction

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.

Teacher

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).

Teaching materials

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).

Learners

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.

Conclusion

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.

References

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 medium instruction in school education: parents’ perspectives

Dipak Prasad Mishra
Surendra Bhatt
Abstract

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

Introduction

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.

Method

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.

Conclusion

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/

Enhancing patriotism through the local contents in ELT materials

Bhan Singh Dhami

Abstract

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

Introduction

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.

Research question

This study aims to answer the following question:

  1. What are the perceptions of Nepali English language learners on ELT and patriotism?
Theoretical framework

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.

Methods

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.

Tools

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.

Conclusion

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.  

References

Bar-Tal, D. & Staub, E. (1997). Patriotism: Its scope and meaning. Retrieved from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/259389114

Bhandari, B. (2016). Teaching English in Multilingual and Multicultural Contexts in Nepal. Tribhuvan University Journal30(2), 17-24. https://doi.org/10.3126/tuj.v30i2.25542

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

Giri, R.A. (2015). The many faces of English in Nepal. Asian Englishes, 17:2, 94-115, DOI: 10.1080/13488678.2015.1003452

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.

Kodelja, Z. (2019).  Education and Patriotism. In: Sardoč, M. (ed.), Handbook of patriotism, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-30534-9_19-1

Kumaravadivelu (2001). Toward a Postmethod Pedagogy. TESOL quarterly Vol. 35 (4) winter.

Marginson, S. & Dang, T. K. A. (2017). Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory in the context of globalization. Asia Pacific journal of education, 37:1, 116-129, https://doi.org/10.1080/02188791.2016.1216827

Nussbaum, M. C. (2013). Political emotions: why love matters for justice. Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA

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

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

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/

Dear teachers, you can write and publish!

Jeevan Karki

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:

  1. Why am I doing what am I doing?
  2. Why am I using this method instead of another?
  3. What if I try this over that?
  4. Is this method facilitating the learning of my students? If yes, why? If no, again why?
  5. Which methods and techniques do my students enjoy and learn from the most?
  6. 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.

Concluding remarks

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.

Welcome to the 12th Anniversary Issue of ELT Choutari 13(98)

Blogs are the stepping stones for one’s writing journey

It gives us immense pleasure to release our twelfth-anniversary issue and the first quarterly issue (January- March) of 2021.

The 12 years of academic journey to promote and enhance local scholarship has produced 12 resourceful volumes, 98 issues, and more than 600 blog posts, articles, and interviews, and more than thousands of comments, questions, and interaction from our readers. Most importantly, the literature on Choutari is increasingly being cited around the world.

Reflecting on the contributions of ELT Choutari, what stands out most to us is its contribution to groom and encourage the young, emerging, and first-time authors to publish their blogs, which is a great way of building a robust local scholarship. Looking at the issues of the past three years, it was found that ELT Choutari has published the blogs of 42.46% of such authors. In a recent survey, out of some suggestions, one respondent expressed, “encourage young writers to get involved in preparing scholarly writeups.” Looking at the publication trends on ELT Choutari, we can proudly say that ‘yes we are encouraging and grooming young writers’. And we would like to grow the quantity and quality of their write-ups in the years to come despite the fact that it is often challenging to push forward the new authors to draft their first write-up. Although it often challenging to make them write, we are confident that their rich experiences, practices, and native perspectives would definitely contribute to the scholarly conversation to advance their profession.

We believe that blogs are the first step to start the writing journey of young, emerging, and first-time authors. When I look back to my own writing journey, it goes back to my first blog published on ELT Choutari. Starting as a blogger, I gradually learned the writing and publication process, which eventually boosted my confidence to publish op-eds and research papers in national and international journals. Therefore, blogs are a great way to begin one’s writing journey as they are informal, personal, and based on the lived experiences, which are interesting to read and easier to develop than writing a research paper. The young and first-time authors on ELT Choutari have also started blogs based on their lived experiences, which are as simple as how they learned the English language, challenges and best practices of teaching, reflective narratives of preparing their thesis, or reflections on the events they attended. Therefore, if anyone wishes to write and publish but not sure what to write and how to write, we strongly suggest to start with a blog.

Writing and publishing is also a great tool for one’s professional development. Anyone wishing to write goes through a serious literature review, which definitely expands their professional horizons. Moreover, writing requires deep and critical thinking, reasoning, evaluating, and reflecting, which brings more clarity on our thoughts and professional actions. Our survey shows that the majority of our readers are teachers, who have both painful and joyful experiences and such experiences are very fertile to start their blogs and eventually contribute to their own professional development.

Presenting you the anniversary issue, we are excited to offer you the five diversified blogs and papers including one bonus blog! In the first scholarly article titled Teacher identity and the new forms of governmentality in higher education in Nepal, Raj Kumar Baral & Prem Phyak explore the crisis of teachers’ academic identity amidst the highly politicized system of university through the powerful narratives.

Similarly, Ashok Raj Khati on his post Understanding thesis writing as a socio- cultural practice in the university than a ‘ritual’ shares his scholarly perspective on the burning issue of ‘research and thesis writing’ in our university system with very engaging anecdotes and claims that graduate research should be advanced through the socio- cultural perspective rather than only treating as the cognitive activity.

On the other hand, in his research paper English teachers’ perspectives on classroom interaction: A phenomenological study, Bhim Lal Bhandari shares his findings on the practices and perspectives of English teachers on classroom interaction between teachers-to-students and students-to-students for effective language learning.

Likewise, Samita Magar on her blog, Two good practices of teaching vocabulary: reflection of a teacher presents two practical and replicable good practices of teaching vocabulary to English Language Learners (ELL) based on her action research.

Presenting you a different taste, Karuna Nepal on her blog Exploring the readers’ response and reflections shares some interesting responses and reflections of the Choutari readers based on the findings of a fresh survey, which ranges from the purposes and motivation of our readers for navigating our magazine to their expectations and feedforward.

Lastly, as an editor’s choice, we offer you a blog on Assessment for learning: 4 tips for teachers, which offers four practical ways of using assessment for learning (not only for assessment for the sake of assessment). One of the reasons behind sharing this blog is to meet the expectation of our readers wishing to blogs offering tips on teaching-learning, which was suggested to us through the survey. Hope you will enjoy it.

Here is the list of posts for your further exploration:

  1. Teacher identity and the new forms of governmentality in higher education in Nepal by Raj Kumar Baral & Prem Phyak
  2. Understanding thesis writing as a socio- cultural practice in the university than a ‘ritual’ by Ashok Raj Khati
  3. English teachers’ perspectives on classroom interaction: A phenomenological study, by Bhim Lal Bhandari
  4. Two good practices of teaching vocabulary: reflection of a teacher by Samita Magar
  5. Exploring the readers’ response and reflections by Karuna Nepal
  6. Assessment for learning: 4 tips for teachers by Chris Thorn 

While releasing this issue, we take the pleasure of welcoming and introducing Karuna Nepal (MPhil) and Sagar Poudel (MPhil) to our editorial team. Having a strong background of teaching English from schools to universities, both have published blogs, research papers, and have presented papers on conferences extensively. Likewise, they are associated with ELT Choutari as reviewers for the last one year.

Now, I would like to thank all the contributors of this issue. Likewise, I would like to offer special thanks to Karuna Nepal, the co-editor, for her rigorous support during the process of reviewing and editing the articles. Likewise, sincere thanks to Ganesh Bastola, Karna Rana, Nanibabu Ghimire, Ashok Raj Khati, Ekaraj Koirala, Sagar Paudel for reading and reviewing the blogs rigorously. In addition, Praveen Kumar Yadav deserves special thanks for giving Choutari a new theme and design.

On the occasion of our 12th anniversary, the current editorial team would like to extend our sincere gratitude to all our founding members, past editors, contributors, well-wishers and most importantly our readers.

Finally, we request you to drop your comments for the blog posts and papers you read, share them in your network, and consider writing your own blog post for our upcoming April- June issue.

Thank you!

Jeevan Karki, Lead editor of the issue

 

Teacher identity and the new forms of governmentality in higher education in Nepal

Raj Kumar Baral
Prem Phyak, PhD

Introduction

The purpose of this article is to discuss the identity construction of teachers in higher education in Nepal, particularly in Tribhuvan University (TU). The article is based on our research on the narratives of teachers working in TU. We focus on how teacher identities are shaped by the existing broader socio-political context and the hierarchical structural arrangement of the university. Our arguments in this article are informed largely by the sociocultural perspective of teacher identity. This perspective considers teacher identity as a phenomenon which evolves in interactions with external and internal factors sharing their assumptions, positionings and sense of belongings. We are particularly interested in unravelling the professional trajectories of junior faculty members, known as lectures, working in TU. Due to space limitation, we are unable to include complete narratives, but we have tried to cover the most striking experiences that the teachers have shared with us during our in-depth interviews.

Understanding Teacher Identity

Teacher identity remains as one of the major aspects of teaching professional development (e.g., De Costa and Norton, 2017). How teachers define their own selves and how their selves are defined by others play a critical role in shaping their professional identities. Understanding teacher identity is important for two reasons: a) it helps us identify the state of teachers’ job satisfaction and their commitment to the profession; and b) the knowledge of teacher identity construction provides a framework to understand the institutional culture that shapes teachers’ professional trajectories. Teacher identity is not a fixed entity; rather it is a dynamic and evolving experience that involves complex interactions between both internal and external factors.

Thomas and Beauchamp (2007) argue that professional identity stands at the core of the profession and thereby provides the framework for teachers in the construction of their own ideas of “how to be” and “how to act” as a teacher (p. 230). The importance of identity is also highlighted by Palmer (2007) who notes that a strong sense of identity is the trait common to all good teachers. As he argues, our teaching experiences reveal who we are and that “teaching holds a mirror to the soul” (p. 3), adding that we cannot know our students until we know ourselves. In our teaching, continues Palmer, “We teach who we are” (p. 2). De Costa and Norton (2017) argue that both individual and psychological factors shape the self-image and other-image of particular teachers. For them, teacher identity is shaped by institutional cultures, structures, and values.

Methodology

The identities of teachers we have discussed in this paper are based on the analysis of narratives from six teachers from TU, who are anonymized as Teacher A, B, C, D, E and F. The participants are mostly the lecturers who are at the bottom of the professional hierarchy, according to the university’s rule. In order to collect the data, we had in-depth interviews with each participant. We also had informal conversations with the participants. All the interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed for the purpose of analysis. In addition, we also took field notes of events and activities that the participants took part in. In the remainder of the paper, we discuss major identity-related data under two different themes.

New culture and new identity

The participants in this study reported that ‘a new culture’ has emerged in the universities in Nepal. The new culture the teachers describe is the ‘bhaagbandaa’ (share) culture. One of the teachers (Teacher A), for example, said that ‘accept or not we have ‘bhaagbandaa’ in our university’. He explains that bhaagbandaa has been ‘the core system in TU […] is run by bhaagbandaa […] all officials are appointed on the basis of their affiliation to the political parties.” He argues that “if the appointments are made on the basis of party politics, then academic identity is not important here [university].” In the case of Tribhuvan University, the faculty members are divided into different groups such as ‘Democrat Teachers’ and “Progressive Teachers’. The democrat teachers’ group is the sister organization of Nepali Congress while progressive teachers’ group is affiliated to Nepal Communist Party. These teachers’ groups have organizations at the national and local campus level. As Teacher A shares, these groups have membership of their respective political party and follow what their party leaders ask to do. Teacher D reveals the reason behind university teachers being a member of a political party and unionized as party members. She shares that “teachers become a cadre to get niyukti (appointment) in different positions such as campus chief, Dean, directors, rectors, registrar, VC.” She reveals that “appointments in academic positions are shared among the teachers who belong to the party groups.”

The new culture of governance in the university has seriously affected the teachers’ professional identity. As Teacher C tells, university teachers are now “recognized by their affiliation to the party groups, but not by their academic work.” What is more interesting is that the teachers who lead the party-based organizations are considered ‘powerful’ and ‘hartaakartaa’ (decisive/influential), as Teacher C says, in the university. He further says that the teachers who lead the party groups ‘seek their bhaag (share) in each appointment of the university’. Consequently, the identity of the teachers who would like to remain independent from partisan politics remain invisible. The story shared by Teacher D reflects this situation: I was asked to be open and support one group of the teachers. They told me that they would help me for the appointments as well. It’s not easy to remain far from the political groups. These groups are key actors in the university. They recommend the names of the teachers for the academic appointments. Different groups of teachers negotiate and decide the share of the position.

The teachers agree that this kind of new culture has been very powerful in the functioning of TU. As Teacher D argues, “teachers who have good academic background are hardly appointed in academic positions if they don’t have political affiliation.” This view is supported by Teacher F’s reflections that “academic identity is important, but it is less important now. Teachers’ political affiliation seems to be more decisive.” These views indicate that a new culture of bhaagbandaa, on the basis of partisan politics, has positioned the academic identity of teachers invisible and unrecognized. More importantly, this culture has promoted new identities of teachers recognized as ‘pragatisheel’ (progressive) or ‘prajaataantrik’(democratic) rather than experts in their field of inquiry. Our discussions with the teachers also show that the new culture has affected the governmentality of the university system.

New form of governmentality and teacher identity

The new culture as mentioned above has created a new form of governmentality in the university system. The teachers in the discussions said that most appointments, including part-time teachers and non-teaching staff, are done on the basis of political bhaagbandaa. Teacher E said “every decision is made on the basis of bhaagbandaa, mostly directly and sometimes indirectly. You know if campus chiefs or other authorities make decisions without consulting political groups, they cannot implement their decisions.” For Teacher E, “due to political bhaagbandaa, the authorities cannot work independently.” One of the major issues that the teachers have highlighted is how they are ‘forced’ to become a member of one specific group. Teacher B, for example, tells that he had participated in programs organized by one of the groups because he did not like to be ‘an odd person’ in his campus. After attending such programs, he now feels that “he has other colleagues to support him if he faces any problem in the university.’’

According to the participants’ views in this study, the new form of governmentality, created by the bhaagbandaa culture, forces teachers to join politically affiliated teachers’ groups. For example, Teacher D shares that the teachers with strong academic, research and teaching background are rarely appointed in decision-making positions. She claims that this situation has hindered “innovative academic and other professional activities” in the university. As decision-making positions are filled with ‘bhaagbandaa’, the appointees become ‘loyal’ to their groups, but not the institution. In many cases, such appointees are ‘under control’ of their ‘factions’, and they hardly make policies and implement innovative ideas. This situation reproduces the status quo and contributes to creating an ‘unfriendly environment’ for academic activities.

The new governmentality has affected the early career teachers (lecturers) in many ways. For example, Teacher B asserts that ‘we are not free to say something because we do not know much about politics in the university’. He finds “lack of academic activities in his campus” and argues that “most discussions among university teachers are about national politics and political leaders.” As a junior faculty, he feels that the new culture has ‘divided the university teachers according to the partisan politics. This environment, as Teacher F claims, has invisibilized the academic and professional identity of teachers. As space for collective and collaborative academic activities is rare, junior faculty members do not have much opportunities to build their professional identity. In fact, Teacher F argues that the existing environment is demotivating for him. Although he can work independently, he says that “if you and I start a work together but we belong to different factions, at some point, the factions will discourage us. Why are you helping that person of another faction? They say I should work with our own members. This is never motivating. This will take us nowhere.”

The above discussion shows that in the new form of governmentality, university teachers are expected to become a member of political groups. Since most activities, including opportunities for professional development, are decided by the teachers’ factions, the identity of teachers who are not active members of such groups remain invisible.

Conclusions

In this brief article, we have discussed how teachers’ professional and academic identities are shaped by the political culture, bhaagbandaa politics, in Nepal. We understand that the arguments discussed here are based on the views from six teachers only, but the issues discussed here reflect how a new form of governmentality has been formed and how it has created a sense of uncertainty regarding professional development of the junior faculty members. The teachers’ perspectives as discussed in this paper show that teacher identity, most professional identity, of Nepali university teachers is heavily affected by the divisive political culture based on partisan politics.

Authors:

Raj Kumar Baral is a lecturer at central department of English at Tribhuvan University Nepal.  Dr. Prem Phyak currently teaches at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

References

De Costa, P. I. and Norton, B. (2017) Introduction: Identity, transdisciplinarity, and the good language teacher. The Modern Language Journal, 101, 3-14.

Palmer, P. (2007). The courage to teach: Exploring the inner landscape of a teacher’s life (10th ed.). San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons.

Thomas, L., & Beauchamp, C. (2007). Learning to live well as teachers in a changing world: Insights into developing a professional identity in teacher education. The Journal of Educational Thought, 41(3), 229-243.

Can be cited as:

Baral, R. K, & Phyak, P. (2021, January). Teacher identity and the new forms of governmentality in higher education in Nepal [Blog article]. ELT CHOUTARI. Available at: http://eltchoutari.com/2021/01/teacher-identity-and-the-new-forms-of-governmentality-in-higher-education-in-nepal/

[Note: since you have come up to here reading the whole piece, please share your feeling, feedback or any question related to this post in the comment box below, which will encourage the author. Thank you!]

Understanding thesis writing as a socio-cultural practice in the university than a ‘ritual’

          Ashok Raj Khati

Introduction

Developing academic writing is an essential skill for the students in higher education to achieve academic success and to demonstrate that achievement. My experience as a university student shows that learning in higher education involves adapting to entirely the new ways of knowing –new ways of understanding, interpreting, and organising knowledge –which mainly requires an ability to write well in a purely academic style. Furthermore, students’ academic abilities in higher education are usually evaluated through several writing-related course assignments, research, review papers, and publications. Therefore, academic writing needs the greatest attention in higher education in all contexts.

The purpose of this blog piece is to discuss the thesis writing practices in Nepali universities in light of two theoretical orientations: the traditional autonomous model and the socio-cultural model. As theoretically guided by social perspectives of academic writing, I relate some thesis writing anecdotes from Nepali universities along with my own writing experience to discuss the thesis writing practices and support the main argument of the write-up. My central argument is that thesis writing as a requirement to receive a degree at any cost is based on the traditional autonomous model which considers the process of writing as a highly mental and cognitive activity. As this model seems to be incapable of capturing the context in which the writing takes place, the socio-cultural theoretical orientation offering a more culturally sensitive view of academic writing practices has been increasingly gaining recognizable space in Nepali academia.

Thesis writing practice

Let me begin the discussion with a story. A year ago, one of the ‘back paper’ students (a student who attempted the board examination more than one time) of master’s level came to my residence and requested me to provide a topic for his thesis writing. He told his stories that he was not able to pass the papers in time that would qualify him for writing a thesis. Finally, in two attempts (after two years), he was able to meet the requirements to start the thesis writing process. As he was a high school teacher of English in the western part of Nepal, he further shared that he did not have enough time to go through the overall processes of thesis writing. I could guess that he wanted to complete his thesis writing in any case as early as possible. I offered him some of my ideas on different topics of interest related to ELT (English language teaching). To my surprise, he proposed me to write a proposal for him and he would pay for it. I did not respond to his unethical proposal for a moment. After some time, I persuaded him that I could assist him to review his proposal if he, at least, could prepare a draft. Since then, he went out of my contact. Later, I learned that he hired somebody to work for him.

This is a story of a thesis writer who perceives that a thesis should be submitted at any case and cost as it has been four years to accomplish the master’s degree. The student was entirely unfamiliar with the preliminary research activities such as sources of research topics and proposal writing. Karn (2009) states that one of his students (a student from a Nepali university) seemed to have assumed that thesis can be submitted in any manner, and he did not seem to pay any heed that there is a proper style of writing and the theses should adhere and abide by the standards set by the Department. In a similar line, Neupane Bastola (2020) explores that students’ focus was on the completion of a thesis rather than learning. Her research participants in the study –ten supervisors, complained that their students were interested only in the completion of their thesis to such an extent that thesis writing was just ‘a ritual for the majority’ (p. 10). The above anecdote also signifies the reasons behind some unethical conduct such as having a thesis written and plagiarism. Most importantly, the context clearly indicates that writing a thesis has merely been a requirement to receive the degree for many students, rather than learning research and academic writing skills.

In my experience, as another side of analysis, thesis writing issue is also deeply rooted in our teaching of writing skill from the school level. Students were never taught writing as a process-based activity. The teachers in schools and universities teach about writing not writing itself. For instance, students are made to memorise what a paragraph means rather than making them write a paragraph on different topics. In schools, teachers generally write paragraphs, letters, and essays on the board and students just copy them. They even memorise those notes including essays for the examination. Furthermore, there are ‘ready-made’ paragraphs, letters, job applications, and essays in the markets; the “Bazaar notes”. In a way, these notes make the teachers’ lives go easy. In the university, many students strive to create original pieces of writing. To meet the date for assignment submission, students ‘copy and paste’ in rush. They do not receive enough opportunity to practice writing in the classrooms. Interestingly, it has also been observed that the teachers and university faculties who have never produced a single piece of original writing in their career grade the students’ papers for their creativity and originality in writing (Khati, 2018).

Let me share another story. A professor had a nasty dispute with a student during his second semester in a university class for some reasons. Their professional relationship collapsed thereafter. Coincidentally, the same professor was assigned as the thesis supervisor to the student at the end. Then the student brought a student union leader and threatened the professor and pressurized him to award marks for the thesis as per his (student’s) wish. When the professor tried to persuade him about the thesis writing process, he attempted a physical attack on him with the help of his friends. The student blamed that the professor was not his nomination as a supervisor instead the professor was blamed to take revenge of the past and managed the formal process of appointing himself as a supervisor in the department. Finally, the case grew bigger and bigger among students and professors, and the issue, of course, an academic one was eventually politicalized.

The story is an extreme example of unethical conduct in the university, and it can be analysed from different angles. On the one hand, many students come to the phase of thesis writing with no prior experience of writing anything except in the examination. They do not make themselves well prepared and creative enough to begin the thesis writing process. In this connection, Bhattarai (2009) also observes that students neither examine the research problem critically nor do they defend it satisfactorily. She further mentions that if the thesis supervisor tries to convince them about the right track of the thesis writing process, they feel that they are unnecessarily harassed.

On the other hand, the story also demands the supervisors’ awareness of their expected supervisory roles. Tiwari (2019) seems to be very critical of the roles of the thesis supervisor and raised some ethical concerns on the role of thesis guide in the way they were not professionally supportive to students to enhance the collaborative process of writing of the thesis. He further articulated that all his participants in the research voice came in a way that their supervisors were not cooperative and professional in supporting students’ thesis writing. For instance, delayed response to students’ writing is a major complaint among students. In a similar vein, Sharma, (2017) also points out that thesis supervisors need to consider and be familiar with the expectations of thesis candidates. The scenario evidently depicts that thesis writing is taken as the locus of all master’s level programs. It further stresses that university departments need to take the necessary steps to change this scenario in terms of the theoretical orientation of the thesis writing process, reconsidering the rationale of making students write theses at any cost and practicalities of thesis writing.

Writing as an autonomous cognitive activity

In my observation, the problem mainly lies in the theoretical model of implementing the courses of thesis writing. Traditionally, thesis writing has been taken as a highly mental and cognitive activity, an isolated writing activity of the student which is context-independent. Universities conduct mass orientation of students in a single venue regarding the thesis writing guidelines or procedures irrespective of their socio-cultural backgrounds, level of experiences, diverse disciplines, and areas of interest. Students are oriented as a homogeneous group of people in which student’s writing is based on relatively homogeneous norms, values, and cultural practices. Homogeneous here refers to the uniform and universal writing norms and practices.  Furthermore, they are given ‘good’ or ‘bad’ types of feedback in terms of the language they use in their writing. Students do not have many empowering experiences as a one-way socialization process of writing takes place. It is because the traditional model focuses on a set of learnable universal skills for writing a thesis that is separate from the discipline and institutional contexts that considers academic or thesis writing as a predefined set of rules that student writers need to adapt to. Lea and Street (1998) criticise this deficit model which represents student writing as somewhat reductionist meaning, it is dependent on a set of transferable skills, and language proficiency rather than critical thinking.

This ‘one size fits all’ model, therefore, is incapable of taking account of culturally sensitive views of academic writing practices as they vary from one context to another. It further ignores that students’ writing in higher education is ideological in nature. In our context, universities’ departments execute the ‘processes’ of academic writing and thesis writing entirely from a traditional perspective in the way over-reliance on the ‘product’ based model has made it more difficult for students to attain and accomplish the work.

Writing as a socio-cultural practice

Thesis writing, however, is not considered an easy task in all academic contexts even outside Nepal. The experiences –pains and pleasure –of students vary in different contexts. Let me share you two excerpts from two success stories (reflections) of thesis writing in a Nepali university T. Rai (2018) shares her experiences this way:

“During this journey of writing a thesis I experienced most suffering and stressful time, I feel like that a woman suffered during in labour pain. It was in the sense that I had no option escaping from it because I spent about a year preparing this thesis and face several problems, challenges, dilemmas, and fear from the early days of preparing proposal to facing thesis viva. These several painful moments during the process however made me strong and led towards its successful completion”.

She compares the thesis writing pain with the labour pain that a woman suffers. It shows the real struggle of a thesis writer from the early days of writing thesis to defending thesis viva at the end. She gets satisfied after going through several stages of thesis writing during that whole year. Likewise, M. Rai (2018) told her story in this way:

“No doubt writing a thesis is a hard work. But it becomes harder for students like me who have a limited idea about a subject that I am going to study. My study was always focused on ‘how to pass’ the exam. I rarely voyaged beyond the prescribed books and rarely generalised the things in life that I have studied. I always had due respect to my teachers and their PowerPoint slides and I became successful to note and rote them. I was like a ‘broiler kukhura’ (poultry chicken, not free range), who merely depends on others. Since I started writing my Master’s thesis, I realised the real sense of reading and writing.”

She brings a powerful message in her reflection as an indication to shift the traditional approach of lecturing, rote learning and receiving the degree. She made an important point that she was just fascinated by the teachers’ presentations, obeyed them all the time, and made some notes for the examination during two years of her regular study. However, she realized the real sense of reading and writing that begins only after she started the thesis writing process. It indicates that writing a thesis brings varieties of activities and writing practices on the part of students.

These two thesis writers describe the stories on how a thesis writer in the university experiences writing in an early stage, how they struggle or become a part of different reading, writing activities and other academic practices to accomplish the work. While going through the whole stories of two thesis writers, it provides a sense of academic writing as the process of socialization in an academic community. Here, socialization refers to a locally situated process by which a university student from various linguistic and cultural backgrounds becomes socialized into a new academic community, such as a university department. The process involves the thesis writers’ engagement in various academic activities in their communities of practice. Therefore, academic writing in higher education needs to be taken as a social practice, not simply a technical and learnable language skill rather it is always embedded in socially constructed epistemological principles (Street, 2015). Street earlier in 1984, viewing literacy as a plural concept, coined the term ideological and the other is autonomous which is seen as a unitary concept without reference to contexts.

Under the socio-cultural framework, master’s level students as novice researchers and writers gradually learn to access university culture, understand disciplinary discourses, and engage themselves in different academic writing activities in their academic communities. They learn to write from others as an outcome of academic socialization such as discussing their writing drafts with their supervisors, sharing research and writing ideas with peers and upper-grade students, seeking language help from doctoral students and preparing papers for conference presentations. During their engagement in several writing activities, they negotiate with their own life experiences and worldviews or diverse ideologies. Here, the writing is not viewed as a text production activity; but a range of practices centering around the writing act, including reading sources, teachers’ guidelines and comments, advice and guidance from peers as well as teachers, and their own reflections on and observations of their learning experiences (Fujioka, 2007). The final output –the thesis –is the product of negotiation and renegotiation of different disciplinary and institutional ideologies. In the end, the learning from the thesis writing journey changes the thesis writer’s identity and he or she possibly becomes an entirely different person.

Conclusion

To sum up, many thesis writers in Nepal, if not all, view thesis writing as a ‘ritual’ activity. Against this backdrop, the universities’ departments should come up with an appropriate and effective package of thesis writing with theoretical and practical clarity and make the students understand the value of thesis writing –a learning experience, an opportunity to enhance their academic writing skills and a process-based academic practice –in the university. Thus, changing the view of a one-way assimilation into a relatively stable academic community with fixed rules and conventions (Morita, 2004) to the collaborative writing practice which takes account of socio-cultural aspects of the writing is really important at present. This viewpoint considers academic writing as a social-cultural practice and involves several collaborative activities of writing among teachers, supervisors, department heads, peers, upper-grade students, conference organizers, and even publishers. It promotes participatory and engaging academic practices of students in writing in an academic community which, to a greater extent, helps to eliminate unethical conduct during the thesis writing stage in higher education in Nepal.

The author: Ashok Raj Khati is a PhD student at Graduate School of Education, Tribhuvan University Nepal. Mr. Khati is currently working as the principal at the Sainik Awasiya Mahavidyalaya Kailali, located in far western Terai of Nepal. His areas of interest include developing writing skill in general and academic writing in particular.

References

Bhattarai, A. (2009). The first activity in research. Journal of NELTA, 14(1), 21-25.

Fujioka, M. (2007). Academic writing development as a socialization process: Implications for EAP education in Japan. PASAA, 40, 11-27.

Karn, S.K. (2009). Give me an easy topic, please: My experience of supervising theses. Journal of NELTA, 14(1), 63-70.

Khati, A. R. (2018, July). The third quarterly issue of ELT Choutari: Special coverage on writing education. [Editorial]. ELT CHOUTARI, 10(80).  Available at:  http://eltchoutari. com/2018/07/welcome-to-the-third-quarterly-issue-of-elt-choutari-special-coverage-on-writing-education-vol-10-issue-88/

Lea, M., & Street, B. (1998). Student writing and faculty feedback in higher education: An academic literacies approach. Studies in Higher Education, 23(2),157-172.

Morita, N. (2004). Negotiating participation and identity in second language academic communities. TESOL Quarterly, 38, 573-603.

Neupane Bastola, M. (2020). Engagement and challenges in supervisory feedback: Supervisors’ and students’ perceptions. RELC Journal, 1–15.

Rai, M. (2018). Thesis writing: a hard nut to crack (a student’s experience). In ELT Choutari. Available at: http://eltchoutari.com/2018/04/thesiswriting- a-hard-nut-to-crack-a-students-experience.

Rai, T. (2018). Thesis writing: a next step in learning. In ELT Choutari. Available at: http://eltchoutari.com/2018/04/thesis-writing-a-hard-nut-to-crack-astudents- experience.

Sharma, U. (2017). The role of supervisor and student for completing a thesis. Tribhuvan University Journal, 31(1-2), 223-238.

Street, B. (1984). Literacy in theory and practice. CUP: Cambridge.

Street, B. V. (2015). Academic writing: Theory and practice. Journal of Educational Issues, 1(2), 110-116.

Tiwari, H. P. (2019). Writing thesis in English education: Challenges faced by students. Journal of NELTA Gandaki (JoNG), 1, 45-52.

Can be cited as:

Khati, A. R. (2021, January). Understanding thesis writing as a socio-cultural practice in the university than a ‘ritual’ [Blog article]. ELT CHOUTARI. Available at: http://eltchoutari.com /2021/01/understanding-thesis-writing-as-a-socio-cultural-practice-in-the-university-than-a-ritual/

[Note: since you have come up to here reading the whole piece, please share your feeling, feedback or any question related to this post in the comment box below, which will encourage the author. Thank you!]

English teachers’ perspectives on classroom interaction: A phenomenological study

Bhim Lal Bhandari

Abstract

Classroom interaction is a crucial tool to involve learners in the learning process and enhance their learning efficiency. This study aimed at exploring English teachers’ perspectives on classroom interaction in learning English language. To achieve the purpose, this study adopted phenomenological qualitative research design and involved four secondary level English teachers purposively to collect their perceived experiences. Information was gathered using semi-structured interviews and informal discussions. The theoretical framework carried out by this study was Social Constructivism of Vygostky. The result showed that the English language teachers had positive perceptions towards classroom interaction as it engaged students in communicative activities and facilitated them to learn more effectively and naturally than learning on their own. Moreover, the teachers experienced that classroom interaction promotes learners’ autonomy, confidence, cooperation, a friendly learning atmosphere and the critical thinking abilities. This study also concluded that the English language teachers should go beyond methods for successful, effective, and research-based teaching and learning. 

Keywords: Classroom interaction, communicative activities, comprehensible input, learner autonomy

Introduction

Classroom interaction is two-way communication which facilitates learners to make meaningful and comprehensible input and output. In this regard, Brown (2000) explains, “interaction is the collaborative exchange of thoughts, feelings, or ideas between two or more people, resulting in a reciprocal effect on each other” (p. 165). Involving learners in interactions through group works and project works, teachers can increase opportunity of enhancing learning English. However, this sort of interaction and discourse in most classrooms is a one-way communication from teachers to students (Hurst et al. 2013). Such practices create students to remain passive and get limited opportunity for interaction and learning. In fact, meaningful interaction is the heart of communication and an effective way of learning language (Brown, 2001). Therefore,  language learning is the result of meaningful interaction with students in the target language. When students interact with each other, they use simplified forms of language. Consequently, it makes easy for them to understand the original texts. In addition, it increases their competency, autonomy and promotes the rate of Second Language (L2) acquisition and ensures the route of L2 interlanguage development. Therefore, it is important for the learners to provide interactional input for communicative effectiveness and corrective feedback and recast (Hedge, 2008). Thus, through interaction a language learner can get more opportunity to use language.

In order to get experience in English communication, the learners require regular interaction using the target language as it is the heart of communication (Brown, 2001). It is worthy to explore classroom interaction in learning English as it is significant for the teacher to build interactive and communicative teaching-learning activities involving learners. In this line, Jones (2007) states, “when students are working together in English, they talk more, share their ideas, learn from each other, get involved more, feel more secure and less anxious, and enjoy using English to communicate” (as cited in Sari, 2018, p. 47). Reflecting on my own teaching-learning, I feel that one cannot do everything individually however; the effort of a group makes everything possible. In this regard, Rivers (1987) claims that interaction plays a significant role in the language classroom as it increases students’ language store. Moreover, it contributes to the ongoing discourse of language teaching as the study promotes a shift from teacher-fronted teaching to a student-centered teaching. 

Interaction motivates students for their active engagement and participation in teaching-learning process. Therefore, the study about classroom interaction is considerably important and worthy to investigate and analyse. Without being engaged in communicative activities, we cannot expect learners to be competent language users. Gass (1997) and Long (1996) state that interaction provides learners with opportunities to receive comprehensible input and feedback (as cited in Muho & Kuran, 2014). Interactive classes encourage students to take more responsibility for their own learning. However, only little attention has been paid to interaction in language classrooms and there has been only limited study on interaction between student to student and student to teacher in the context of Nepal. Therefore, it is an agenda to be addressed in my research.

To address the purpose, this study has aimed to investigate the following question:

  1. How do the English language teachers perceive the classroom interaction in learning English language?

Literature review

This section deals with the review of pertinent literature on classroom interactions. In doing so, at first, the previous studies on classroom interactions have been reviewed followed by theoretical background and policy perspective on classroom interaction. Based on the reviews of the previous studies, I present the research gap that has been identified.

Classroom interactions and its significance on English language learning (ELL)

Classroom interaction assists learners to be critical thinkers so as they get more opportunity to use language. It makes communication meaningful and encourages learners to comprehend and internalize not only linguistic features of language but also social, cultural, pragmatic discourse and other extra linguistic features of language. The learner-centered techniques or interaction patterns such as group work, pair work, open-ended questions, collaboration, full class interaction (Ur, 2008) and  involve learners in the target language interaction. Interaction helps them be active participants in their own learning process. Thus, interaction is considered as one of the major requirements to enhance the logical capacity of the students. Moreover, interaction is an effective strategy in teaching and learning English as students get opportunity to practice the target language.

Effective interaction can increase the students’ participation and their language performance in the classroom. It encourages them to work independently in the learning process. When students are engaged in direct classroom activities, they can learn better. The students who are active in classroom interaction can share and transmit the information and learn better. Meanwhile, those who are passive in the classroom will have less opportunity to learn language. Therefore, the quality of teaching and learning process in the classroom is mainly determined by how actively the teacher and students interact with each other. In this regard, Brown (2000) explains “interaction is the collaborative exchange of thoughts, feelings, or ideas between two or more people, resulting in a reciprocal effect on each other” (p. 165).  Thus, interaction occurs when two people give and receive messages in a communicative process.

Beside this, Jones (2007) stated learners share their ideas and learn from each other while working together. They get more involved, feel more secured and less anxious, and enjoy using language. A teacher requires designing tasks, project, group work, pair work etc. for promoting the interactions and other decision making activities (as cited in Nisa, 2014). Doing a significant amount of pair work and group work, receiving authentic language input in real-world contexts, the learners produce meaningful language. Such communicative classroom tasks prepare them for actual language use (Brown, 2007), which supports to minimize teacher’s talk.

The study conducted by Hussain and Bakhsh (2011) investigated the effects of classroom interaction on students’ academic achievement at secondary level . The study showed a positive effect of the classroom interaction on students’ achievement as the experimental group performed significantly better than the control group on the post-test. It indicated interactive learning actively engaged students in the learning process with various interactive activities in the classrooms. 

In the same way, Pujiastuti (2013) examined interaction analysis focusing on the investigation of the verbal classroom interaction, types of teacher talk, implications of teacher talk on students’ motivation, student talk and teacher’s roles in classroom interaction. The study indicated the need for the increased students’ talk to learn English. Another study of Sundari et al. (2017) revealed that teachers applied at least three types of interactional patterns in English as Foreign Language (EFL) classroom such as teacher- whole class interaction, teacher-fronted student interaction and student-student interaction which assisted students to communicate their ideas and feelings to each other to improve their language. 

Likewise, Sari (2018) examined classroom interaction in English language class in Indonesia and explored that learner-centered activity such as group work which forces students to talk to each other spontaneously; ask each other questions; and respond in a natural way. They learnt English from engaging in activities. Hence, it is important for the teacher to build interactive and communicative teaching-learning activities involving more students in interaction.

The aforementioned literature review showed the significance of classroom interaction for learning English language in foreign contexts in general. However, the classroom interaction in foreign contexts and community schools in Nepali contexts are not identical. Therefore, it is important to explore the phenomenon from Nepali perspectives. Moreover, as far as my knowledge, the previous studies have not explored the classroom interactions applying phenomenology design in Nepali context. Therefore, this study is different from others so that it could  fulfill the existing research gap in classroom interaction in ELL at secondary level community schools.

Theoretical perspectives

As a theoretical basis for my study, I adopted social constructivism learning theory developed by Vygotsky in 1978. This theory believes that learners construct knowledge individually based on their prior experience and new information. In this context, Jonassen (1991) asserted the basic belief of constructivism is that knowledge is actively constructed by learners rather than transmitted by the teacher; learners are active knowledge constructors rather than passive information receivers (as cited in Wang, 2008). I also believe learning is an active process that involves learners in learning by means of social interaction. Similarly, Vygotsky (1978) points out teachers, learners and peers must interact in order to share ideas and experiences to solve the problems. Learners learn language through the process of sharing and interaction that helps them learn together. Therefore, this theory is in favour of social interaction for better learning. Liaw (2004) states that social constructivists, however, argue knowledge is the outcome of collaborative construction in a socio‐cultural context mediated by discourse. Learning is fostered through interactive processes of information sharing, negotiation and discussion (as cited in Wang, 2008). This theory focuses on social interaction for learning language. Process-related awareness is crucial in the constructivist classroom along with learning awareness, language awareness and intercultural awareness. Holistic language experience is the soul of this theory in the language classes, which depends on a content-oriented, authentic and complex learning environment (Aljohani, 2017). So, individualization of learning and autonomy of learners is essential in the constructivist classroom.

Policy perspectives on classroom interaction

National Curriculum Framework (2007) and (new curriculum frame 2019) of Nepal has given special value to the promotion of teaching learning in the classroom by employing research-oriented and interactive approaches. It clearly states that the main objective of language learning is to develop language ability for lively participation in day to day social life. However, only few teachers activate their students and promote interactive learning in English classrooms as they have not realized the value of classroom interaction for effective teaching and learning activities.

Methodology

The present study adopted qualitative method. Qualitative research places emphasis upon exploring and understanding “the meaning individuals or groups ascribe to a social or human problem” (Creswell, 2011, p. 45). Within the phenomenological design, four trained English teachers from two community secondary schools of Rupandehi, Nepal were purposively selected for their lived experiences on classroom interactions. The research site was chosen because of easy access and the availability of the trained teachers in conducting classroom interactions. Out of four participants, three were males and only one was female. These participants were selected purposively based on two factors: whether they use classroom interaction in teaching and learning English; and their intention to participate in the study. The teachers were chosen only from secondary level because it is regarded as the level to give more interaction in the English language learning process. This also involves identifying and selecting individuals or groups of individuals that are especially knowledgeable about or experienced with a phenomenon of interest (Creswll & Clark, 2011).

Furthermore, this study adopted phenomenology as the research design because it is associated with lived experiences of an individual. In the process of information collections, phenomenology helped the researcher to capture and explore perspectives of teachers in classroom interactions. With the semi-structured interviews method, the teachers were involved as the participants to express their lived experiences in classroom interactions in ELL. The average length of the interview was about 40 minutes. Taking consent from them, the researcher recorded their experiences/views and later transcribed on Microsoft word processing. Then, the information were organized and categorized into different themes to generate the meaning followed by interpretation and analysis of the themes. During the information gathering, the researcher protected participants’ right to privacy, confidentiality and used their pseudonyms while analyzing.  

Results and Discussions 

This section presents findings gathered from the interviews on classroom interaction in ELL. First, the perceived experiences of teachers were presented then subsequent discussions were made against the findings.

Teachers’ perspectives on classroom interaction

Teachers’ perspective on classroom interaction included their perceptions, beliefs or understanding for the use of interaction for effective teaching and learning process. It deals with how English teachers perceive classroom interaction from their perspectives. The researcher asked how they interact with the learners and make them interact with their friends. In this regard, Suman responded, “I involve my students in interactive activities such as group work, debate, role play etc. so that they can share ideas with me and with their friends. As a facilitator, I support them on how to do the task”. His lived experience reveals that interactive activities encourage students to enjoy learning as the class is student-centered.

In this vein, Prem shared, “In my understanding, interaction is question-answer between teacher and students. It is a student centered technique which maximizes student talking time”. Perm’s response mainly highlights question-answer between the teacher and students, and the positive perceptions of the participants on interaction as it activates students in the class in different tasks, discussions and interactions. Regarding this, Nunan (1990) asserts, learners learn more by reducing teacher taking time” (p. 21). A similar perception of classroom interaction can be inferred from the response expressed by Manju who explained, “classroom interaction includes all classroom activities such as pair work and group work which make learning student-centered as teacher is one of the participants in communicative activities”. Manju’s perception in classroom interaction reveals the meaning that pair/group work-based learning promotes the speaking time of each learner and assists them to interact and work independently (Harmer, 2001). Thus, interaction increases learner autonomy.

Similarly, Shiva responded, “in the classroom, I speak less and provide more time to the students with different tasks”. This response mainly highlights his positive perception as it activates and engages students in interactions with different tasks. Manju and Shiva’s views are in harmony with “social constructivism which emphasizes the role of interaction in knowledge construction. Social constructivists believe knowledge is socially constructed through collaboration” (Sardareh & Saad, 2012, p. 346). Therefore, I believe classroom interaction is highly beneficial to provide opportunities to the learners to engage in learning language naturally. 

From the above explanations it is clear that classroom interaction-based teaching is the demand of the day that benefits and facilitates learners in understanding the subject matter. The participants revealed their positive perceptions of classroom interaction as explained by Rohmah (2017) who claims it is important for the teacher to build interactive and communicative teaching-learning activities involving more learners in interaction. His view is in harmony with the assumption of constructivism also.

Learning English through interaction

Interaction in the classroom plays a significant role in acquiring and learning the target language. It helps students learn more by communicating with their peers. When students are involved in interaction, they are expected to get more language exposure. Regarding this, Rivers (1987) asserts that through interaction, students can increase their language store as they listen to or read authentic linguistic materials, or even the output of their fellow students in discussions, joint problem-solving tasks, or dialogue journals’’ (as cited in Nisa, 2014, p. 125). Interaction increases students’ input and output in the target language. Regarding this, Prem stated, “in my view, interaction increases students’ competency and enhances appropriate skills for communication. Through speaking activities, they can construct knowledge”. His experience reveals that students become confident and competent when they get more exposure. Thus, they construct knowledge through interaction. This is supported by Luk and Lin (2007)  who claim that interactions in language classrooms are important social activities for students through which they not only construct knowledge, but also build confidence and identity as competent language users (as cited in Thapa & Lin, 2013). So, language teachers have to involve learners in social activities. His view is similar to Ellis (1990) who persistently advocates that the interaction is meaning-focused and carried out to facilitate the exchange of information and prevent communication breakdowns. Regarding this, Manju insisted, “I usually engage my students in group work, pair work, debate, language games, question answer etc. These activities enhance learning English as they decrease and minimize their anxieties”.

The above opinion of Manju illustrates how group work, pair work, debate, language games, question answers etc. assist the learners to increase classroom interaction and support to learn language. This idea is closer to Gillies (2006) who pointed out that free group discussion can help the learners to be clear of ideas. Moreover, co- operation in a group also contributes to a pleasing and encouraging environment to the learners and decreases their anxieties by facilitating them to self-learn and share information. This is supported by Ketch (2005) who asserts “conversation helps individuals make sense of their world. It helps them build empathy, understanding, respect for different opinions and ownership of the learning process” (p. 8).

Prem and Manju’s views are in harmony with Thapa and Lin (2013) who explain that in language classroom, interaction is an essential social activity for students through which they not only construct knowledge, but also build confidence and identity as competent language users (as cited in Nisa, 2014, p. 125). Therefore, orienting the students to interact with their teacher and fellow friends supports to build their knowledge as well as their confidence. Likewise, Naimat (2011) states, “interaction, for students, will strengthen the relationship, either among them or with their teachers since it gives them the chance to learn from each other and get feedback on their performance” (as cited in Nisa, 2014, p. 125). The idea is similar to constructivism as Vygotsky (1978) claims learning is the result of interaction between peers through collaboration.

Teacher as a facilitator

The success of classroom learning depends on the classroom environment and students’ active involvement. The teacher gives priority to student interaction in the classroom environment. As a facilitator, he or she facilitates learners to learn in course of teaching. Regarding the role of teacher in classroom interaction, Shiva emphasized, “As a facilitator, I facilitate my students to speak. I organize class hours; admire them and try to create a climate in which they can express their views spontaneously”. His lived experience shows that he manages class hours for their interaction creating a conducive climate in which they can express their views spontaneously. In this regard, Prem shared, “I plan lessons and give freedom to organize different interactive activities by giving guidelines and dividing them into groups for communication”. He organizes different classroom activities by dividing the students into groups then he facilitates them in the communication process. The above illustrations are supported by Glasersfeld (1989) who states that social constructivism emphasizes learners’ active participation in learning.

The above evidence also indicates that teachers facilitate the communication process among all the participants in the classroom with various interactive activities by providing prompts to do the tasks. The finding of the participant is in harmony with Wallace, et.al (2004) who assert that frequent collaboration gives chances to students in communicating meaningful ideas with one another and being active learners (as cited in Sari, 2018). Teachers play the prominent role and control the moves of lessons, manage who to talk, when to talk and how much to talk, and they also become students’ speaking partners and language models. Li (2006) states that when teachers create a safe and non-threatening learning atmosphere, students feel comfortable, participate and develop confidence then they learn and accomplish proficiency (as cited in Hurst et al. 2013). Thus, they make learning easier for them with a clear way to find the solution.

Maximizing student interaction in ELT class

In order to maximize student interaction in ELT class, the teacher should establish a friendly and relaxed learning environment. Routman (2005) asserts “students learn more when they are able to talk to one another and be actively involved” (as cited in Hurst et al. 2013, p. 207). In short, social interaction is vital to the learning process.

If there is a trust and supportive rapport among the learners and the learners to teacher, then there is a better opportunity for useful interaction. In this regard, Suman asserted, “I make pairs and small groups to maximize interaction. I ask questions on the topic and allow them time to listen, think, process their answer and speak”. It is therefore, learners get opportunities of using language with one another through communicative activities in class. Since interaction is at the heart of the social constructivist theory of learning, learners construct knowledge through interaction with others. Manju stated her lived experiences  “Increasing student talking time and managing seating arrangements properly, I allow the whole class to be involved in pair work for speaking. In addition, I encourage interaction between them rather than only between me and them”. She claims that she encourages student- student interaction in the class through pair work. The expression of Manju clearly shows that interaction engages all the students in speaking English. The view expressed by her is supported by social constructivism that requires students to actively participate in their learning process and reflect on their own learning (Vygotsky, 1978).

Thus, Manju and Suman  stress on interaction using pair and group works in English language teaching and learning. In this regard, Wallace et.al (2004) claim that frequent collaboration provides opportunities to the students in communicating meaningful ideas with one another and being active learners (as cited in Sari, 2018). They reported that when they engage their learners in interaction in English language teaching and learning, they find the students learning in collaboration, rather than depending on the textbooks. Likewise, Rohmah’s (2017) study explored that learner-centered activity such as group work forces students to talk to each other spontaneously; ask each other questions; and respond in a natural way. He concludes that it is important for the teacher to build interactive and communicative teaching-learning activities involving more students in interaction. In this line, Nunan (1990) claims, Learners learn more by reducing teacher taking time” (p. 21). By minimizing teacher talks, it  provides opportunities to the learners to work independently; they engage themselves in pairs, or in small groups. Similarly, constructivists also claim that interaction is a learner-centered activity in which there is high involvement of students. 

Students’ participation in learning English through interaction

Teaching and learning does not take place in a vacuum but students learn language through interaction. Language teaching and learning need group work so that they can exchange their ideas. In this regard, Confucius asserted, “tell me I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand”. When the learners take part in communicative activities actively, they construct meaning through the process of interaction. In classroom interaction, the learners can have verbal practices, non-verbal practices, pedagogical practices and personal practices. Teacher’s talk, teacher’s questions, error correction, student responses and students’ questions are verbal practices. 

In this regard, Prem inserted, “When students are asked to do the task in small groups in small classes, they engage actively; share ideas to each other and learn English”. This statement indicates that tasks in small groups or in small classes engage learners actively so that they can share ideas to each other. In this context, Louis (2006, p.1) asserts, “when learners participate in their own learning, taking an active part in making decisions, they might feel a sense of ownership and commitment to the process and learning becomes meaningful” (as cited in Breaute, 2016). The creative cognitive engagement of the learners inside and outside the classroom supports them to engage in learning English collaboratively. In this vein, Suman insisted:

By putting the students into pairs or small groups, I engage them in interaction. I encourage and facilitate them to express and share their own ideas, opinions and feelings with their peers. I establish a climate of cooperation in a friendly atmosphere.

The above illustration demonstrates that without active involvement of students in language learning, they cannot learn language naturally. Language learning will not be effective without allowing enough time for students to respond to the teacher. His view is supported by Scriverner (2005) who asserts that the teacher has to maximize the interactional activities in the classroom by setting friendly and relaxed learning environments as well as allow enough thinking and speaking time and turn to the students.

Shiva shared, “when my students of mix-ability work cooperatively, they solve the problem”. Working cooperatively helps learners develop important social skills. Learners with varied social backgrounds, intellectual skills, and physical capabilities work together to learn the subject matter, solve problems, and accomplish tasks (Adaba, 2017). They learn to accept the value of individual differences. A sound relationship needs to be established on the basis of mutual respect between the teacher and the learners. In this regard, Prem viewed, “my students enjoy working together sharing ideas to each other. They generate ideas in the process of interacting. They bring the solution doing the task collaboratively”. The extract above portrays the idea that teacher’s friendly behaviour supports their learners to learn more. The teacher claims that modified interaction provides them comprehensible input. This view is supported by Brown (2007) who stated that interaction is the basis of L2 learning, through which learners are engaged both in enhancing their own communicative abilities and in socially, constructing their identities through collaboration and negotiation.

Prem further added, “I believe students learn better through interaction with their friends and teachers. Interaction helps them improve critical thinking skills and use other students as well as teacher’s comments on their work to enhance their learning”. He believes when he involves students in communicative activities, they learn better from interaction and improve critical thinking skills. His view is supported by Routman (2005) who asserts “students learn more when they are able to talk to one another and be actively involved” (as cited in Hurst, et al. 2013, p. 207). 

Social constructivism also emphasizes the role of interaction and knowledge sharing in an individual’s understanding and knowledge construction. “Social constructivists believe knowledge is socially constructed through collaboration” (Sardareh & Saad, 2012, p. 346). A variety of interactional patterns in language classrooms may affect the language learning process as well as the development of language proficiency.  

Conclusion and recommendations

The study explores that English language teachers have positive perspectives on classroom interaction. The activities of classroom interaction like pair work, group work, and problem-solving exercises promote learners’ autonomy and confidence in learning, maximizing exposure to English language since they are the tools for comprehensive input. Moreover, the teachers experienced that classroom interaction promotes cooperation, a friendly learning atmosphere, and the critical thinking abilities of the students. The student-centered interactive activities keep the learners always active and enable them to learn effectively and successfully at their own pace. These findings of this study imply that the teachers are still in favour of communicative language teaching rather than context-sensitive techniques and methods of language teaching and learning in the present post-method era. The teachers’ preferences on communicative approach based interactive activities cannot fully value the learners’ differences and discovery-based learning. A gap is seen between teachers’ perspectives and the global trend of English language teaching and learning. In this sense, this study concludes that English language teachers should go beyond methods for successful, effective, and research-based teaching and learning. The learners should be engaged in context and individuals’ suit and sufficient exposure and activities to English language for making them able to compete in the global market.

Though this study contributes to an understanding of English teachers’ perspectives on interactive learning and also opens a space of discussion on method or post-method in the context of English language teaching in Nepal, it has some limitations in its scope and methodology.  Since it is a small scale phenomenological qualitative research investigating English teachers’ perspectives on classroom interaction, its findings may have limited applicability. Therefore, a large-scale study incorporating all stakeholders such as teachers, students and guardians needs to be carried out covering a greater area and huge population. The future researchers can conduct research using classroom observation technique and focused group discussion to uncover a detailed and more comprehensive picture of teachers’ and students’ perspectives on classroom interaction. Nonetheless, this study has indicated the need of teachers’ awareness towards post-method pedagogy in English language teaching to cope with the global challenges rather than only preferring communicative approach based classroom activities.

The Author: Bhim Lal Bhandari is a reader in English Education at TU in Butwal Multiple Campus, Rupandehi. Currently, he is pursuing MPhil in ELE at Kathmandu University. He is also a life member of NELTA, and has published about a dozen research articles in national and international journals. He has also presented papers in national and international conferences and webinars. His areas of interests include SLA, teacher education and ELT methodology.

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References

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Aljohani, M. (2017). Principles of “constructivism” in foreign language teaching. Journal of Literature and Art Studies, 7(1), 97-107.

Breaute, V. P. (2016). Creating an avatar to become a “spect-actor” of one’s learning of English for specific purposes. The Euro CALL Review, 24(1).

Brown, H. D. (2000). Principles of language learning and teaching. Pearson Longman.

Brown, H. D. (2001). Teaching by principles: An interactive approach to language. Pearson Longman.

Brown, H. D. (2007). Teaching by principles: An interactive approach to language. Pearson Longman.

Creswell, J. W. (2014). Qualitative inquiry & research design: Choosing among five approaches (4th ed.). Sage Publications.

Creswell, J. W., & Clark, V. L. (2011). Designing and conducting mixed method research. Thousand Oaks. 

Gillies, R. (2006). Teachers’ and students’ verbal behaviours during cooperative and small group learning. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 76, 271-287.

Glasersfeld, E. (1989). Constructivism in education. In T. Husen, & N. Postlethwaite (eds.), The international encyclopedia of education research and studies (pp. 162-163). Pergamon Press. 

Government of Nepal Ministry of Education (2007). National curriculum framework for school education in Nepal. Curriculum Development Centre. 

Harmer, J. (2001). Mistakes and feedback? The practice of English language teaching. Pearson Education. 

Hedge, T. (2008). Teaching and learning in the language classroom. Oxford University Press.

Hurst, B., Wallace, R., & Nixon, S. B. (2013). The impact of social interaction on student learning. Reading Horizons: A Journal of Literacy and Language Arts, 52(4). https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/reading_horizons/vol52/iss4/5

Hussain, L., & Bakhsh, K. (2011). The effects of classroom interaction on students’ academic    achievement at secondary school level. Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences, 2(3).

Ketch, A. (2005). Conversation: The comprehension connection. The Reading Teacher, 59(1), 8-12.

Muho, A., & Kurani, A. (2014).The role of interaction in second language acquisition. European Scientific Journal, ESJ, 16. https://doi.org/10.19044/esj.2011.v16n0p%p

Nisa, S. H. (2014). Classroom interaction analysis in Indonesian EFL speaking class. English Review: Journal of English Education, 2(2), 124-132.

Nunan, D. (1990). Introducing discourse analysis: Penguin English. 

Pujastuti, R. T. (2013). Classroom interaction: An analysis of teacher talk and student talk in

English for young learners. Journal of English Education, 1(1), 163 -172.

Rivers, W. M. (1987). Interactive language teaching. Cambridge University Press.

Rohmah, I. I. T. (2017). Classroom interaction in English language class for students of Economics Education. Arab World English Journal, 8(2), 192-207. https://dx.doi.org/10.24093/awej/vol8no2.14

Sardareh, S. A., & Saad, M. R. M. (2012). A socio-cultural perspective on assessment for 

learning: the case of a Malaysian primary school ESL context. Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences, 66(2012), 343 – 353. 

Sari, F. M. (2018). Patterns of teaching-learning interaction in the EFL classroom. TEKNOSASTIK, 16(2), 41-48.

Scriverner, J. (2005). Learning teaching: A guide book for English language teachers. Macmillan.

Sundari, H., Rafli, Z., & Ridwan, S. (2017). Interaction patterns in English as foreign language classroom at lower secondary schools. English Review: Journal of English Education, 6(1), 99-108. DOI: 10.25134.

Thapa, C. B., & Lin, A.M.Y. (2013). Interaction in English language classroom to enhance students’ language-learning. http:neltachautari.wordpress.com/2013/08/01 Interaction-in-English-language classrooms- to-enhance-Nepalese students- language- learning.

Ur, P. (2005). A course in language teaching: Practice and theory. Cambridge University Press.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Harvard University Press.

 Wang, Q. (2008). A generic model for guiding the integration of ICT into teaching and learning. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 45(4), 411-419, 10.1080/14703290802377307.

Can be cited as:

Bhandari, B. L. (2021, January). English teachers’ perspectives on classroom interaction: A phenomenological study [Blog article]. ELT CHOUTARI. Available at: http://eltchoutari.com /2021/01/english-teachers-perspectives-on-classroom-interaction-a-phenomenological-study/

 

Two good practices of teaching vocabulary: reflection of a teacher

Samita Magar

This blog post presents the two good practices of teaching English vocabulary for primary level students based on my action research “enriching vocabulary of the primary level English language learners”. Among several intervention techniques used in the research, I shall discuss key two techniques including my personal reflection as a student and teacher.

My experience of learning and teaching English vocabulary

Reflecting back on my own learning process, we had to learn the meaning of difficult English words by rote in our native language (i.e. Nepali). We were taught English vocabulary through the Grammar Translation Method in isolation. As a result, we were not able to use them in our day-to-day life though we learned the words. I could read the words but could never speak in English by the time I completed the school level education. Now, I think that students’ language learning is shaped by the exposure they receive in the target language in and out of the classroom. Forget about using the English language outside the classroom, we rarely heard our teachers speaking in English, so I only knew words but was unable to use them in real communication.

I was destined to be an English teacher but before I started teaching, I had doubts whether I could teach English in English medium schools having schooled with such a background. I had a feeling that the students taught in English medium could communicate effectively in English. I even had a thought that the students studying in English medium schools in the capital city (Kathmandu) might be far better than the students from peripheral parts of Nepal. I had doubts that I would not be able to communicate effectively with them and handle the classes in English medium school if I had the opportunity. This feeling continued for years when I was teaching in my hometown. Later, I started teaching in a school in Kathmandu city, I explored that the reality was different than what I had thought.

In my classes, I gradually found most of my students were Englishizing the Nepali verbs. For instance, if they had to say ‘I forgot to do’ they were using ‘I  birsing (Nepali equivalent for forgetting). If I asked them to speak in English, they would use the suffix ‘ing’ at the end of Nepali verbs to form English sentences. This phenomenon occurred repeatedly in my classroom. Then I felt that it was happening because of the low command over vocabulary and lack of continuous practice. 

On the other hand, they used to listen to me with patience but often failed to answer the questions I asked and they would ask me to translate words into Nepali. Very often they used to stop me and ask the meaning of vocabulary and I used to get surprised when they were not able to comprehend and communicate in English even in the fifth grade. Similarly, while writing a paragraph, they often used to count the words more than five times. I realized that it was the result of having less exposure in English and having a very limited repertoire of English vocabulary, like the situation I went through in my student life. 

The situation demanded some investigation and intervention to improve their vocabulary. Therefore, I prepared a list of the ‘most frequently used 2000 words’ and told them to tick the words they knew. From my initial inquiry, 50 percent of them knew around 1000 words (50%), while a few of them were familiar with 1500 words. As a teacher of English, this finding encouraged me to support my students to enrich their vocabulary at least up to the level of 2000 words. So, they could communicate in English more fluently and express their ideas better than earlier. Finally, I decided to carry out an action research on teaching vocabulary. I used several interventions and I would like to share two of the effective techniques in the rest of my blog.

1. Sharing one word each day technique

This was one of the intervention techniques based on everyday practice. There are many other techniques for teaching vocabulary items but I chose ‘sharing one word every day’. It is because I believe that if the learners cannot use the learned words to express themselves effectively, they have not achieved mastery over the words and the real learning starts when they can assist their peers in vocabulary. 

In this technique, firstly, the students were assigned to choose one word from the lesson discussed in the classroom. They could consult the dictionary and keep the record in the diary every day. The record included the dictionary meaning of the word and contextual meanings, word class and its usage. Then they could share their words in the class with their classmates and support them in using the words in daily communication. It was really difficult to manage time to let every student share their words personally in the whole class. Therefore, they worked with peers first and later five students got an opportunity to share what they learned after the pair work. Similarly, it was equally difficult to follow  them up regarding the use of the words in daily communication and observe their improvement. However, I managed to continue the same activity every day. As a result, they demonstrated increased confidence in their communication, especially in their verbal communication.

2. Speakers’ club technique

I wanted to see my students using the learned words confidently in their day-to-day conversation and overall communication. So I formed a speakers’ club, where they could have speaking practice. I made them practice freely without worrying about accuracy. I gave them topics which were discussed in the previous classes so that they could feel comfortable to speak. The familiar and simple topics encouraged them to speak. When they were familiar with the format of speaking, I provided them a word as a theme to speak. They had to speak on the topic and also remember the theme and use the words related to the theme. However, it took time to get them to understand the theme, its related vocabulary and the way of presentation. So I gave them a demonstration on a topic, which helped them a lot to understand it well. Despite having challenges at first, this intervention remained so effective. As a result, they enriched the use of their vocabulary level and it also gave a good impression to the students of other classes as well and they were invited as speakers in the club. Therefore, forming a speakers’ club even in lower grades was not difficult for me. Since I succeeded in that activity, I proposed to the school administration to include it in the co-curricular activity every Friday which was a great accomplishment for me and my students. With the continuous support and encouragement, gradually my students  were ready to deliver impromptu speeches. I always provided them with positive feedback and supported them by showing the better ways to improve. Finally, with the permission of the school administration, we were able to include a short speech session in the assembly every day.

Conclusion

To sum up, vocabulary represents one of the important aspects of learning a language and learning the language remains incomplete without mastery over vocabulary. Robust vocabulary enables a learner to communicate fluently and effectively. Thus, empowering the learners to master vocabulary should be one of crucial tasks language teachers, and several strategies and techniques can be used to do so. Therefore, I shared two of the techniques I tried with my students and would love to hear your ideas, tips and techniques of teaching vocabulary in the comment section below. 

The author: Samita Magar is an emerging writer. She currently works as a secondary level English language teacher at Manthali secondary school, Ramechhap. Ms. Magar has completed Masters in ELT from Kathmandu University. She is a life member of NELTA and she has presented her papers in the international conference of NELTA.

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Can be cited as:

Magar, S. (2021, January). Two good practices of teaching vocabulary: Reflection of a teacher [Blog article]. ELT CHOUTARI. Available at: http://eltchoutari.com/2021/01/two-good-practices-of-teaching-vocabulary-reflection-of-a-teacher/

 

Exploring the readers’ response and reflections

          Karuna Nepal

Introduction

ELT Choutari, initiated in January 2009, is Nepal’s first collaborative and most-read digital ELT magazine which contributes to the ELT discourse in particular and education in general. Initiated by ELT pioneers and enthusiasts, it has been serving as a virtual forum to connect ELT professionals and engage them in critical discussion on the diversified issues of ELT. Most importantly, it has been a great platform for the young, emerging and passionate scholars to share their voices, stories, and native perspectives. In addition, it has also generated theoretical discussions, multiple perspectives on different ELT issues, and scholarly debates from the established experts from home and abroad. Likewise, it brings academics, policy-makers, teachers, and students together to supplement scholarly discourse on ELT and more. This forum has also been a huge resource bank for researchers and ELT practitioners for the last 12 years.  

In this context, with the purpose of understanding the views, preferences, and expectations of our readers, authors, and well-wishers, we conducted a digital survey. For this, a google form was used with both close-ended and open-ended questions, and data were elicited through it. 79 responses were obtained altogether. The options given for close-ended questions were mutually inclusive where a participant could choose more than one option. Among the respondents, 77.2% were teachers, 25.3% were trainers, 24.1% were research students, 21.5% were researchers and 15.2 % were graduate students. 

Analysis and discussion 

In this section, the elicited data are presented and discussed under four subsequent themes: preferred contents of the respondents, the motivation behind reading our contents, expectations of our readers, and feedback and suggestions.

Preferred contents of the respondents 

In order to explore the preferences of our readers, we asked them to choose the types of articles they prefer reading on ELT Choutari. Here, they could choose more than one option. The following pictorial representation illustrates the data in an explicit way.

Through the responses, it was revealed that three-fourth of our readers (i.e. 75.9%) preferred reading articles related to teaching tips. Since the majority of the navigators (i.e. 77.2%) were teachers, it was obvious that teaching tips are mostly sought for. Following this were the readers who liked reading research papers i.e. 59.5%. The third preference was given to scholarly ideas with a personal touch i.e. 44.3%. Similarly, 41.8% readers read ELT Choutari for reflective blogs, 31.6% read for theoretical discussion. And finally, 1.3% of the readers read interviews. So, it shows that ELT Choutari should offer articles and blogs related to teaching tips, research papers, and scholarly writing with a personal touch and reflective narrative. Moreover, interviews were also preferred by a few respondents, which was chosen under the ‘others’ options. Had there been a separate option for ‘interview’, it would have been the preference of more.  

Motivation behind reading our contents

Our second intention was to explore the motivation of the readers behind reading our contents. Thus, we inquired the respondents about the reasons for reading the articles and resources on ELT Choutari. The following diagram represents the data elicited under this heading.

The given figure reveals that most of the readers (i.e. 70.9%) have a general purpose of enriching their knowledge and updating themselves. The second reason for reading the resources on ELT Choutari is for preparing classroom lessons/topics and 53. 2% of our readers are guided by this motivation. Similarly, 32.9% of our readers are the researchers who navigate our resources for reviewing the related literature for their research. Following them are the students comprising 16.5% of the respondents who take support from this forum while preparing their assignment. Additionally, a few readers (i.e. 1.3%) read our articles to be familiar with recent perspectives.

The expectation of our readers

To explore the expectations of our readers regarding the types of content they would like to read in the future, an open-ended question was asked. In this line, it was found that the expectations of the majority of readers range from theoretical discussion to practical tips, for instance, classroom management, classroom interaction, teaching literature, reflections on classroom practices, and ELT tips. This indicates that the articles on ELT Choutari have been meeting the expectations of the majority of the readers. Besides this, there are some expectations regarding the innovative topics in the field of teaching-learning such as critical pedagogy, teaching English in a multilingual society, post-method pedagogy, eco-pedagogy, ICT in education, etc. The respondents further expected the articles to cover more research-based contents which would supplement them with the proven facts and generalizable ideas. Moreover, personal anecdotes and reflections should also be given due emphasis.

Feedback and suggestions

For obtaining feedback and suggestions for improvement, an open-ended question was asked with our readers. After analyzing their suggestions it was revealed that most of the respondents were satisfied with the contents of our magazine since they have suggested the continuation of the same. However, some of them wished for more updated content capturing the latest trends in the field and more articles based on the research. Similarly, some of the readers have suggested widening the readership so that more people would be benefitted. There are some respondents who have also suggested us to follow the standard procedures of review so as to maintain the standard of peer-reviewed journals.

Conclusion

Although the readers seem to be satisfied with the contents on ELT Choutari, there is a need to accommodate itself with the flow of the time. Valuing the suggestions from the readers, attention should be given to readers’ expectations for research-based articles, practical teaching tips, and more scholarly discussion and discourse on critical issues like multilingualism, critical pedagogy, justice in ELT, authenticity, and creativity in ELT. Similarly, it is recommended to train and orient young and emerging authors time-to-time to develop original and relevant content with excellent presentation. Moreover, it is often criticized ELT Choutari for enjoying only a limited readership despite having excellent contents and resources. Therefore, effort and attention should be oriented towards maximising our readership and impact. Finally, to generate more generalizable ideas, it is recommended to launch more surveys in the future to reach more readers.

The author: Karuna Nepal is an English faculty at Innovative Sunshine College. She also teaches at Shree Krishna Secondary School. She has completed her M.Phil. in English from Pokhara University. Her areas of interest include translation, philosophy, and literature.

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Can be cited as:

Nepal, K. (2021, January).  Exploring the readers’ response and reflections [Blog article]. ELT CHOUTARI. Available at: http://eltchoutari.com/2021/01/exploring-the-readers-response-and-reflections/