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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/

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.

[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!]

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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/

 

How to Review Literature: Sharing my Research Experiences

Karna Rana, PhD

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

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

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

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

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