Category Archives: reflection

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 I returned home and made a call to my brother in Kathmandu to visit the central library of TU and get some unpublished theses in pen drive.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 secondary 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.

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/

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/

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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/