Author Identity in Academic Writing

Ashok Raj Khati

Introduction

Students in higher education are supposed to write different forms of assignments during their studies such as essays, research papers, dissertations, articles, reports, etc. These assignments are commonly referred to as “academic writing” which follows certain conventions of structure, style and content. Through academic writing, scholars communicate with other scholars in their fields of study, their disciplines. Academic writing is a style of writing that is objective, unbiased, and focuses on supporting information with credible data and evidence. Furthermore, it is geared toward contributing to the body of knowledge on a topic or field of study. The language in academic texts tends to be “precise, impersonal and objective” (Hartley, 2008, p.3) in the sense that the writer avoids value judgments and biases and uses formal vocabulary, and references. As the academic writing is characterized by evidence-based arguments, precise word choice, logical organization, and an impersonal tone (Valdes, 2020), it allows researchers and students to contribute to the area of knowledge and academic debate. In this connection, this essay intends to introduce the voice of author in academic writing and discuss the concept of author identity from social perspective.

Voice of Author in Academic Writing

Students in higher education face several challenges in learning academic writing in Nepali and other contexts. University students with no prior experience of academic writing generally follow the models of academic style from the previous studies. It sometimes results the loss of students’ voice in their writing and also leads to other unethical issues such as copyright infringement and plagiarism. Morita (2000) points out that student’s linguistic, sociocultural and psychological difficulties affect their engagement in the classroom. One of her indications is that students’ academic entry in a new community also influences their academic performance. For the research level students, to create an impression of an academic writer drawing on certain discursive and non-discursive features in a particular piece of writing has been a real challenge in the beginning years in higher education institutions.

Academic writing carries the voice of writer following certain styles and established writing conventions. If we understand produced texts especially in higher education as social interactions, then constructing a ‘recognizable’ and authoritative identity in academic writing involves students dealing with the competing claims of individual creativity and knowledge on the one hand and the sets of values, attitudes to knowledge and linguistic forms embodied in the discourse of their discipline on the other (Morton & Storch, 2019). On the issue of the voice, Guerin and Green (2012) emphasize the importance of developing a strong authorial presence in doctoral writing. It obviously marks the shift from student writer to a writer that can position their research authoritatively within their discipline. Therefore, the identity is not optional in all academic writing; all texts say something about the writer, their position or the point of view, carry authorial voice, and use some textual features, although some are more marked than others.

In academic writing, it is important not only to present ideas, facts, and conclusions but to also have a stance of the writer. When a student writer is able to consistently communicate that particular point of view in their writing, they are using their voice. To establish credibility in the writing, it is necessary for writers’ opinions to be based on evidence rather than unsupported generalizations. In most academic writing, it is also necessary to express one’s voice in which the writer is synthesizing literature, developing theories or conceptual frameworks, and most importantly, advancing a new perspective. The voice of the writer can also be expressed in research papers, particularly in the discussion section as the writer makes the transition from the study’s results to arguments and conclusions. In doing so, many writers especially beginners in academic writing bury their voice in quotes from more established researchers. Although the ideas may be based on existing literature, the conclusions need to be based on writer’s original thoughts which clearly communicate his or her point of view or the stance (Brown, 2014).

Many writing scholars describe writing as a mode of identity expression. In this line, Hyland (2002a) describes academic writing as not simply an expression of content, but also a “representation of self”. In the similar line, Williams (2003) portrays writing as a reflection of the person on the page and writing is a deliberate construction and expression of identity on a page. It indicates how writer identity is interconnected with the expression in the text. Teaching writing through the lens of identity could help student writers understand how they can develop, express, and organize their unique thoughts and analytical stances on topics (Williams, 2006b). This understanding of students’ perceptions of themselves as writers is an important first step in developing academic writing and writer’s self in their writing.

Author Identity

To discuss author identity, it can fairly be helpful to reflect on who I am as I write research papers, journal articles and academic blog pieces. When I write those papers, I am bringing to varieties of commitments based on my interests, values and beliefs which are built up from my own academic history as an academic writer and research level student. In this regard, I am not a neutral being conveying the objective results of my research papers in my writing. I am someone who has been engaged with the larger academic community in Nepal for a decade. I have been writing and researching in the areas of language teaching, academic writing and education for a decade. I am a writer with a multiple social identity. I have an idea of the sort of person I want to appear in the pages of my research papers and other type of articles: ethical, insightful, critical, original and committed. I think I not only want to meet the requirements of writing of publishers, but also want to be a member of the academic discourse community. Therefore, I want to appear ethical, insightful, critical, original and committed in my writing that specify my academic, social and authorial roles and identities.

This essay, for example, might involve among other things, what I have read and heard about author identity, my disciplinary backgrounds, my previous experience in presenting and discussing ideas about identity in writing, and my interest in identity in academic writing. Furthermore, in this written paper, I am also constructing the voice of an academic writer by drawing on certain discursive features such as nominalization, use of hedges and boosters, reporting verbs, APA style citations, self-mention, and nondiscursive features, such as the choice of topic, description of research setting and the attention to historical details which creates the impression of an academic writer.

When people are producing texts, they are not only doing writing–presenting ideas in textual form –but are also being writers –creating a variety of meanings in the writing context (Rahimivanda & Kuhi, 2014). Being writers when they produce text, they are not assembling words and phrases, rather they carry their voice in the text following certain styles and established writing conventions. Through writing, researchers and writers instigate academic conversations in the academic community.  While making social interactions, the writers do not make the collection of ideas in the text, they are the people who create different meanings out of them in a particular context. And the text becomes a place where knowledge and writer’s identities are constructed.

In understanding identity in written discourse, it is important to distinguish between the identity positions of the writer that is external to discourse, such as the demographic information, and identity as constructed and negotiated through discourse. Although these two aspects of identity are inextricably tied to each other, my writing is mainly guided by the contemporary approaches to identity in written discourse, not as the material reality projected through writing but as a social construct that is mediated by written discourse. In other words, identity does not just reside in the text, it is not simply the sum of textual features, rather it is a social construct created in the complex interaction among various elements of writing (Silva, 1990), including the relationship between the writer and the reader, who interact through the text in a particular situational context (Hyland, 2008a). It evidently indicates that studying author identity in academic writing discourse requires not just an understanding of textual features but the perceptions and experiences of identity both by writers and readers.

Defining author identity, Pittam et al. (2009) say it is the sense a writer has of themselves as an author and the textual identity they construct in their writing. The simple meaning it implies that author’s sense of himself or herself as an author in the text construct his or her author identity. However, the definition excludes the social aspects of the writing such as interaction with readers mediated through the produced text. Thus, defining identity in written discourse has not been an easy task because the conception of voice has evolved drastically over the last few decades and because the shift has been a gradual and layered process, with multiple definitions coexisting (Matsuda, 2015).

Ivanic’s Framework of Author Identity

Despite the existence of various definitions, Ivanic (1998) provides a useful, overarching framework for understanding identity in writing. For him, identity is a plural, dynamic concept encompassing four interrelated strands of selfhood or writer identity: autobiographical self, discoursal self, self as author and possibilities for selfhood.

The autobiographical self refers to the writer’s sense of self—a writer’s sense of their roots, of where they are coming from—which is socially constructed. In other words, what a writer brings into his or her act of writing is an autobiographical self.  It is historically constructed and shaped by the past experiences and literacy practices with which he or she has been familiar with. Discoursal self is the self-representation in texts, which emerges from the text that a writer creates. It is constructed through the discourse characteristics of a text that reflects values, beliefs and power relations in the social context in which they were written. Therefore, the impression is created through the features of written discourse, which is also referred to as voice (Matsuda, 2001). The self as author is an aspect of the discoursal self, is the sense of being the author that the writer perceives and projects in written discourse. It is a sense of authorial identity that the writer develops and is perceived by the readers. The same piece of writing may be valued and assessed differently depending on the level of confidence and authority that is projected by the writer and perceived by the reader.

Ivanic (1998) makes clear that these aspects of writer identity are neither completely discrete nor mutually exclusive. They are also both enabled and constrained by the possibilities for self-hood, socially available identity options and discursive resources. It refers that the discourse is not just a set of textual features but it embodies socially shared assumptions and practices that allow people to construct their identity or ways of being in society. Those resources may include various discourse features and argumentative strategies from various genres that enable the writer to construct a sense of identity appropriate for the situation. These four elements are intertwined to make up the concept of a ‘writerly self’ (Starfield, 2007), an author identity in writing. For Ivanič and many other scholars, all aspects of writer identity are emerging and changing over time as well as socially constructed.

Thus, the writer’s identity does not singularly reside in the writer, the text, or the reader; rather identity is part of the interpersonal meaning that is negotiated through the interaction among the writer and the reader mediated by the text. Despite several definitions, contemporary definitions of writer identity in the literature seem to be converging as the identity in written discourse is multiple and dynamic which is constructed through socially shared resources for meaning making.

Author Identity as a Social Construct

The writer identity has become an important area of investigation in the literature. Identity had been an important consideration in North American writing studies since the 1960s; however, the concept of writer identity has not been included in the descriptions of written discourse in applied linguistics. Roz Ivaniˇc (1998) was among the first to articulate the role of identity in academic writing and he provides an overarching framework for understanding identity in academic writing. Hyland (2000) calls attention to the importance of interpersonal meaning in shaping interactions in academic writing genres, paving the way for studies of social identity in academic writing. However, because of the dominance of the individualistic view of writer identity, the study of identity in academic writing did not receive a major focus of research.

In 2001, the Journal of Second Language Writing published a special issue on voice (Belcher & Hirvela, 2001). Some scholars (e.g. Stapleton, 2002) argued that the place of voice was overstated in the literature and called for a shift of emphasis to topics that were more important for academic writing, such as ideas and argument.  Nevertheless, many researchers continued their efforts to focus even more on voice in academic writing. Matsuda (2001) states the voice as “the amalgamative effect of the use of discursive and non-discursive features that language users choose, deliberately or otherwise, from socially available yet ever-changing repertoire” (p. 40). This definition of voice in the written discourse as the effect recognizes the role of the reader as well as the writer and the text. In 2007 and 2009, Matsuda and Tardy examined the construction of an author’s discursive identity and concluded that the images of the author were triggered by both discursive features (e.g., signs of author’s language background, sentence structures, careful editing, and writing style) and nondiscursive features (e.g., breadth and depth of knowledge, topic choice, representation of the field, description of the research setting, theoretical framework, and research method). It indicates that author identity is not only constructed solely in the text, it is also created by the readers who go through the text.

Matsuda (2015) very notably, states that identity in written discourse involves both empirical reality that can be described and measured e.g., demographics and textual features and phenomenological reality that exists in people’s perceptions e.g., social constructs. In this connection, text-oriented approaches of writer identity are useful in describing how identity is manifested through textual features. However, an understanding of identity is not complete without a consideration of the writer’s choices as well as the readers’ perceptions that is triggered by various discursive and non-discursive features. Thus, the focus of analysis in the literature has shifted from the individual to the social conventions and how it has been moving toward the negotiation of individual and social perspectives.

Conclusion

The literature supports that identity in written discourse is a complex phenomenon, as it involves both empirical and phenomenological realities. Moreover, identity in written discourse is not external to discourse, it is not simply the sum of textual features, rather it is a social construct, a text mediated interaction between the writer and the reader in a particular situational context. Therefore, understanding identity in academic writing requires not just an understanding of textual features but the perceptions and experiences of identity both by writers and readers.

The author: Ashok Raj Khati is a PhD student at the Faculty of Education, Far Western University Nepal. He is also associated with Sainik Awasiya Mahavidyalaya (Military residential college run by Nepal Army) located in Kailali district where he serves the institution in the capacity of the principal.

References

Belcher, D., & Hirvela, A. (eds.). (2001). Voice in second language writing [Special issue]. Journal of Second Language Writing, 10(4), 227–322.

Brown, A. B. (2014, April 16). Hiding in plain sight: The problem of authority for academic authors [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.academiccoachingandwriting.org /academic-writing/academic-writing-blog/iii-hidingin-plain-sight-the-problem-of-authority-for-academic-authors

Guerin, C., & Green, I. (2012). Voice as a threshold concept in doctoral writing. Narratives of transition: Perspectives of research leaders, educators and postgraduates, Conference proceedings of 10th Quality in Postgraduate Research Conference.

Hartley, J. (2008). Academic writing and publishing. London: Routledge.

Hyland, K. (2000). Disciplinary discourses: Social interactions in academic writing. NY: Longman.

Hyland, K. (2002a.). Authority and invisibility: authorial identity in academic writing. Journal of Pragmatics, 34(8), 1091–1112.

Hyland, K. (2008a). Disciplinary voices: Interactions in research writing. English Text Construction, 1(1), 5–22.

Ivanic, R. (1998).Writing and identity: The discoursal construction of identity in academic writing. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Matsuda, P. K. (2001). Voice in Japanese written discourse: Implications for second language writing. Journal of Second Language Writing, 10, 35–53.

Matsuda, P. K., & Tardy, C. M. (2007). Voice in academic writing: The rhetorical construction of author identity in blind manuscript review. English for Specific Purposes, 26, 235–249.

Matsuda, P. K. (2015). Identity in written discourse. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 35, 140–159.

McKinley, J. (2017). Identity construction in learning English academic writing in a Japanese university. The Journal of Asia TEFL, 14 (2), 228-243.

Morton, J. & Storch, N. (2019). Developing an authorial voice in PhD multilingual student writing: The reader’s perspective. Journal of second language writing, 43, pp. 15-23.

Pittam, G., Elander, J., Lusher, J., Fox, P., & Payne, N. (2009). Student beliefs and attitudes about authorial identity in academic writing. Studies in Higher Education, 34(2), 153-170.

Rahimivanda, M. & Kuhi, D. (2014). An Exploration of Discoursal Construction of Identity in Academic Writing.  Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences 98, 1492-1501.

Silva, T. (1990). Second language composition instruction: Developments, issues and directions in ESL. In Barbara Kroll (ed.), Second language writing: Research insights for the classroom (pp. 11–23). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Stapleton, P. (2002). Critiquing voice as a viable pedagogical tool in L2 writing: Returning the spotlight to ideas. Journal of Second Language Writing, 11, 177–190.

Starfield, S. (2007). New directions in student academic writing. In J. Cummins and C. Davison (Eds). The International Handbook of English Language Teaching, 2, 875-890.

Valdes, O. (2020, August 27). An Introduction to Academic Writing. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-academic-writing-1689052

Williams, B. T. (2003). The face in the mirror. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy. 47(2), 178-182.

Williams, B. T. (2006b). Metamorphosis hurts: Resistant students and myths of transformation. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 50(2), 148–153.

Strategic Reading to Overcome Reading Struggles in Higher Level: A Memoir

Jeevan Karki

During my university degree and job in Nepal, I needed to read long texts, reports, and books, but I was a slow reader and would be distracted too easily while reading. Or let’s put this way, my reading strategy made it slow. Now, I’m a graduate student in a US university and reading demand is even deadlier, so I use different reading strategies to overcome the distraction and slow reading. In this blog post, I’ll share my reading strategies then and now highlighting some ineffective and effective strategies, which can be useful for students, researchers, and professionals.

How was my reading like?

We used to have five courses a year in campus and each course came with a couple of books or chapters to read.

“Guys, check the course books and the references list. These are the readings for this course.” Our teacher would say referring to course syllabus.

The course book would be one or two, but the reference list would be longer consisting of four/five other books or chapters to read.

One of us would ask, “Do we need to read all these for our exams?”

The teacher would say, “Well, yes and I would say you to read these for your life.”

I wouldn’t care what he meant by ‘read for your life’ but I was concerned the exams were based on those reading because we had/have paper-pencil-based annual exams and a majority of it would depend on our memory and writing speed. If each course would assign at least four readings, that would sum up twenty readings, which was worrisome. Oh my gosh! How could a person like me with a full-time job manage time for them?

My problem was I wouldn’t turn the next page until I know the meaning of every single word and make sense of every single sentence. I used to consult the bulky Oxford English dictionary and write the meaning of new/difficult words either in Nepali or in English all over the pages and sometimes I would note on a separate notebook to keep books clean. The funny thing was occasionally the meanings in the dictionary would be complicated than the words, which would further push me to check their meanings too! Can you imagine? Moreover, I would also go back and re-read sentences to make more sense, but this multiple ‘regression’ (Ahuja &Ahuja, 2008) not only impeded my reading speed but also impaired my comprehension because I used to engage in microstructures of text rather than inferring meaning and making sense from it in a big picture. Despite all this hard work, I would still be unable to make complete sense of the texts, which would result in ‘reading fatigue’. Then, I would be tired of reading and wouldn’t have any interest and motivation to read further. Isn’t that frustrating?

To make the matter worse, I often used to read aloud as I was told somewhere that it would make my pronunciation better (for speaking). Perhaps, read aloud benefitted my pronunciation somehow but it would result in slower reading and affect my comprehension terribly because I remember, while reading aloud, I consciously used to assess my pronunciation and lose the contextual cues and infer meaning from the text. The vocalization (even sub-vocalization) is subject to contribute to slower reading, reading fatigue and decreased comprehension (Ahuja & Ahuja, 2008).I wonder now, what was the purpose of my reading? Why was I distracted from the major purpose (which I believe is critical reading and meaning construction)?

Besides, I used to easily get distracted while reading. Does that happen to you? Like, you read a couple of sentences or paragraphs, then your mind is out on streets, playgrounds, café, parks, theatre, or it would dwell on some memories, though your eyes were still on the texts. These days, distracts are even deadlier with your mobile phones, tabs, or computers! It doesn’t only hold back our reading but also backfire our comprehension because when we pause reading, allow other thoughts to rule our mind, and resume it, we tend to forget the previous section. Sometimes, we don’t get the full picture without reading the entire section of the chapter or the entire text.

These were some of the reasons for me to get scared of long reading list in campus and similar was the problem with reading texts and reports in my job. Now, when I reflect on my reading journey, I find that it’s not how hard you read but how strategically you read that pays off. However, when we run behind making sense of every single word, it’s going to make things harder. It’s only a myth that one needs to understand every single word to construct meaning from a text. The knowledge of 90% words is enough for readers to comprehend texts(Hirsch, 2003), while mastery of ‘5000- 8000’ most frequently used words including key technical terms are good enough to construct meaning from texts as the rest can be guessed and ignored(Martinez & Murphy, 2012).Sticking on every single word would result in missing contextual clues, disconnect meaning between sentences, lose ability to infer the texts. Likewise, it’s also essential to retain the memory of the previous section/sentences and predict what’s coming up in the text. Reading also has a lot to do with smooth eye-mind coordination (Ahuja & Ahuja, 2008) and thought processing to maximize comprehension and critical reflection. Unfortunately, nobody ever taught me reading strategies and meaning construction processes from the text but only suggested the reading lists.

So, how do I read now?

When I joined the graduate program in a US university last Fall, I still had the same reading hangover and suffered a week or two. Professors would assign three to four research papers/chapters every week including weekly writing assignments. As I had two courses to study and one to teach, I was again trapped in reading (and writing). I would be doomed with slow reading and distractions as I had seven to eight readings worth 20 to 30 pages each. So, I started exploring the reading strategies of my classmates and also sought some advice from the professors, which relieved me to some extent. Based on these interactions, I changed my reading strategies and feel comfortable reading texts, papers, and chapters every day now.

First, I figure out the purpose of the assigned readings and the purpose of the authors. My class readings are basically aligned with the themes of the week and professors want us to have a general idea of the texts and dwell on a couple of major issues raised in it. So, I use skimming and scanning strategies. I skim through the title, abstract, key words, headings and sub-headings, infographs/tables/illustrations and reach the end. It gives me a very general idea of what’s the text is all about like having a big picture of forest before figuring out its trees. Ahuja and Ahuja (2008) compare skimming with overviewing the forest and scanning with spotting the trees.

After skimming, I only read those sections which are useful based on my task and purposes, then skip the rest. While reading these sections, I read the thesis statement or argument of each paragraph (and not read the entire paragraph) because that’s the crux of it and identifying the thesis sentence/argument in paragraphs also gives me idea of composing effective paragraphs. So, understanding writing helps reading and vice-versa, because the reading text is eventually a piece of writing.

I also make sure to highlight (underline, color or circle) striking ideas, arguments and major issues in the paper and write quick notes (very short) usually stating my feelings and evaluation over the ideas. I pay more attention in the conclusion section and would read every sentence because that’s where the author/s summarize the ideas of the papers, state the limitations, and show the scope for further studies. In doing so, I go through the notes or highlighted sections once again to summarize my understanding. Then I would pause and reflection on the ideas/issues raised and agree/disagree or advance my perspectives.

What about vocabulary? I still check a couple of words if there are new terminology on titles, abstract and key words section but I have stopped worrying about every new word that I came across. I know there are still multiple new/difficult words but believe me they don’t bother me much to construct meaning of the texts.

Another most useful strategy I use to avoid distraction and speed up reading is the timed reading. Yes, once I’m ready for reading, I turn off notifications on mobile or computer, disconnect Wi-Fi (on mobile) and set the time for the text, which has paid me off with great results in terms of both reading speed and meaning construction. When I set my target to achieve a definite amount of reading in a limited time, I train my mind and orient it towards my goals, which has been amazingly useful for me.

The reading strategies I discussed above are basically applicable for technical texts for university students, researchers or professional and I’m mindful these reading strategies can vary depending on types of texts (ex. literary texts) and purpose of your reading. So, I shared my personal reading struggles and lately practiced reading strategies, which may not necessarily reflect yours. As the purpose of this blog to generate discourse on reading strategies people use, I would appreciate if you could share your reading strategies in the comments below.

The author: Jeevan Karki is a graduate student and writing instructor at the University of Washington, Seattle Campus.

References

Ahuja, P. & Ahuja G.C. (2008). How to increase your reading speed. Sterling Paperbacks.

Hirsch, E. D. (2003). Reading comprehension requires knowledge—Of words and the world. American Educator, 10–29.

Martinez, R., & Murphy, V. A. (2012). Effect of frequency and idiomaticity on second Language reading comprehension. TESOL Quarterly, 45(2), 267–290.

Is the Process Approach to Teaching Writing Applicable at All Levels?

Binod Raj Bhatta

Process approach applies a certain process of teaching writing like brainstorming, information collection, making outlines, preparing the first and the second draft, reviewing, editing, proofreading, and finalizing the writing (Badger & White, 2000). Can we apply this process in the classroom while teaching writing skills or not? A debate among the scholars of language teaching and learning about this issue is all over the world. Though the use and demand of the process-based approach of teaching writing is increasing, some people think that this approach is impossible to apply in real classrooms. They argue that the application of the approach is not practical especially in primary classes and even in higher classes in which mixed level of students study together. However, some other people think that the process approach is suitable and applicable in all the classes and for all levels of students. I support this view because the process-based approach of teaching writing is taken as the paradigm shift to the traditional product-based approach of teaching writing skills which can be applied in all situations of writing teaching using some learning resources and modern technologies. Accepting it as the modern and student-centered approach, I used it in my class conducting the activities suggested by this approach and fostered the writing ability of my students despite its application related challenges.

Many English teachers argue that the effectiveness and application of the process-based approach of teaching writing skill is not possible and fit in all the context of Nepal because students of this level have a lack of vocabulary power and they could not bring the writing context and information about the writing content and could not produce a text being independent (Bhandari, 2011). But I cannot agree with the concept. If the process-approach is not applicable to teaching writing skills to primary students, then what is the alternative for it? We all know that writing skill is necessary and important to learn right from the primary level for various purposes of our life. Can we produce a text within a single attempt using product-approach or learn the text by heart which is produced by teachers or somebody else?  Of course, it is not possible to learn writing by heart. Writing skill is only developed through writing. However, the instructors have to play a crucial role in teaching writing skills to primary students. At this stage process-approach can be applied to teaching writing skills using the meta-language of writing (Raimes, 1983). For this, at the very beginning stage, very small things such as the sentence level of writing, words, and phrases can be developed in the students which is also part of writing skills. For example, writing their names, writing their family names, writing about their family, about themselves can be taught to the students in the early stages (Simmerman et al., 2012). For engaging them to write about their family using this approach, first, they can be asked to write the numbers of the family, their names, then they can be engaged to write the ages of all members, then their occupation, their likes, and dislikes. After collecting this information the students can be encouraged to make sentences using this information and small paragraphs gradually. In this way, the process-based approach of teaching writing skills is effective and applicable in primary or pre-primary students.

Cheung (2016) states that the process approach is economical in terms of time and money and it may bring monotony to the shy and introvert students in the language classroom. In his study, Cheung finds the negative attitude of the teachers and students towards the process-approach and their demand for product-approach in developing writing skills. But I think this is their misunderstanding of  taking the approach economic because process-approach reduces both time and money in comparison to the product-approach. The time that the students have to give for learning by heart or memorizing an already produced text is more than producing by oneself. Instead, the teacher can bring verities of learning resources like pictures, newspapers, maps, globes, diagrams, etc. as per the need and the nature of the writing to be written.

In my view, only the teachers and the students who do not have sufficient experience on the process approach  say that the process-approach is impractical and ineffective for teaching writing skills. Therefore, I would like to kindly suggest them to apply it for longer time so that they get higher achievement in writing obtaining sound exposure and experiences in it. Of course, it is a crystal clear fact that the process-approach requires more activeness of teachers and students. Both of them cannot remain silent and passive in the classroom as they have to bring context from diverse sources, brainstorm the information, jot down the information and prepare outlines, frameworks, and drafts which may be chaotic for some of the people but all these activities in the writing classroom develop 21st century skills of learners and the teachers that are related to critical thinking. This approach encourages creativity, activity, eagerness, learning curiosity, and enthusiasm to the teachers and the students. This approach highlights the autonomy of learners to make their learning planning and strategies. If the students are encouraged to learn and write, then they can apply in their daily life of writing. Then how can it be impossible to apply in the classroom while teaching writing skills to students of different levels? Of course, we can apply it in our primary classrooms.

Some teachers in developing countries like Pakistan take it as a burden to prepare and practice at home and they implement the traditional product-based approach of teaching writing skills neglecting the process-based approach in the English language classroom (Khan, 2012). They focus on the memorization of the readymade text or the pieces of text as the teaching-learning activities of free writing. But I do not think that this way of teaching can fulfill the needs and demands of the students of this era as their students may pass exams but maynot be able to not write for the international market being a creative and innovative writer if they continue this way of teaching writing skills for longer. I would like to suggest my readers who are still using the product approach to shift their way of teaching writing skills from product-based to process-based approach.  This approach has become practical and successful even in the early classes in developed countries like the United Kingdom (Fhonna, 2014). Not only in America but we can read and observe the practices of some of the developing countries like Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, India, and the Maldives, they are also shifting the teaching writing approach and methodology from teacher-centered to students centered i.e. they are gradually implementing the process-based approach of teaching writing skills. Why are these countries shifting their pedagogical epistemology if the process-approach is not practical?

Let me relate my observation of English teachers of Nepal, who have been teaching English language for decades. They say that the method which they use for teaching writing is the best. In this regard Bhandari (2011) argued that although the process-based approach is considered modern and scientific, it is not accepted by many English teachers and students because they feel comfortable while teaching and learning writing using the traditional product-based approach and they learn better while using it in the class. The students who are habituated of listening from the teacher in the classroom may love the lecture given by the teacher and feel tortured if the teachers ask them to do some writing activities. However, we should keep in mind that these students have missed their track of learning to develop their writing skills. Teachers and students, having this concept should remind that the process-based approach can only address and fulfill the intended goals and objectives of the curriculum because at our present school level, all curricula have also been designed based on the functional and the process-based approach.

Finally, I would like to link my own experiences of students’ disagreement on the practicality of process-approach in teaching writing here. When I apply this approach in my classroom while teaching writing skills, they ask me how they could apply the same process in the examination as they have very limited time in the exam hall. Of course, it can be used there too though the complete procedure may not be possible to apply, they should think about the writing topic, brainstorm the information related to the topic. Then they can write thinking and arranging the words, phrases, sentences, and the paragraphs.

The debate or the issues about the application of process-approach is an ongoing process as different people have different perceptions and views in a particular subject. However, we should not forget the Chinese proverb ”I hear I forget, I see I remember, I do I understand/know” which emphasizes the possibility and practicality and the guiding principles of teaching writing skills.

The author: Binod Raj Bhatta is a teacher at Sangkosh secondary school and CP college in Dhading district. Mr. Bhatta is also pursuing his M.Phil. from Nepal Open University.

References

Badger, R., & White, G. (2000). A process genre approach to teaching writing. ELT Journal, 54(2), 153-160. https://doi.org/10.1093/elt/54.2.153

Bhandari, J. (2011). Teaching writing through process writing. Master’s thesis Tribhuvan University.

Cheung, Y. L. (2016). Teaching writing. In English Language Teaching Today (pp. 179-194). https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-38834-2_13

Fhonna, R. (2014). An analysis of students’ free writing, 1.

Khan, H. I. (2012). English Teachers’ perceptions about creativity and teaching creative writing in Pakistan, 2.

Raimes, A. (1983). Techniques in teaching writing. ERIC.

Simmerman, S., Harward, S., Pierce, L., Peterson, N., Morrison, T., Korth, B., Billen, M., & Shumway, J. (2012). Elementary teachers’ perceptions of process writing. Literacy Research and Instruction, 51(4), 292-307. https://doi.org/10.1080/19388071.2011.557764

 

 

 

                                                                                                                            

An Anecdote of an English Language Teacher

Dipak Tamang

Introduction

Nepal is multilingual, multicultural and multiracial country with different ethnic groups that come from various linguistic backgrounds. Geographically, Nepal is a small country with myriad cultures and linguistic diversity (Aryal et al., 2016). According to the Census (2011), there are 123 languages spoken as the mother tongues in Nepal.  Being a multilingual nation, Nepal presents a unique case for its language policies and practice. Nepal has become one of the richest language laboratories in the world (Bhattarai & Gautam, 2007). When Nepali language is spoken as a lingua-franca among diverse linguistic groups in Nepal (Khati, 2011), English language, as a medium of instruction, has used in Nepalese government and private school. So this kind of trend has been developing still now.

Teaching English language has been integrated for language teacher socially and culturally. English language teaching has significant value in the foreign language learning. Only effective ELT can help the students to grasp the knowledge and skills in a proper way by developing positive attitudes towards school and self. Effective ELT classroom always provides more opportunities for students. After students’ engagement in the classroom of effective ELT, language learning can be meaningful. To support effective ELT, Bell (2005) says that “there is no single accepted definition of effective English language teaching. Effective English language teaching is a complex, multidimensional process that means different things to different people”. Effective English language teaching is not simple but it is full of complexity due to multidimensional process.

There are some aspects for effective teaching which are medium of instruction, active and creative learners, effective use of teaching learning materials, appropriate use of modern information technology and teacher training that I experienced in my teaching career.

Medium of Instruction in the Classroom

I used Tamang language as a medium of instruction to teach English at grade one for better understanding in learning English. Our students come from Tamang language background. They have no more English language exposure at home and in other places due to the majority of Tamang language spoken in society. When I use Tamang language as a medium of instruction in English class, they get motivated and get interested in learning, they interact with me without having any hesitation, fear and frustration. Teaching English by using Tamang language has played a vital role in students’ learning in English. I experienced that using mother tongue as a medium of instruction in teaching English has become fruitful, helpful and meaningful learning. In addition, the first language (L1) has a facilitating role in the process of second language acquisition (Schweers, 1999), and mother tongue has an active and a beneficial role in instructed second language acquisition (Ferrer, 2002).

Active and Creative Learners

I applied student-oriented teaching approach, participatory method, inductive teaching method, discussion method and interactive teaching method to make my students active and creative in their learning. Using student-oriented teaching approach helps the learners to be autonomous in their learning, be practical, motivated and interested in their learning. I used an inductive method for their better understanding in learning. For example, I taught simple present tense by giving many examples before telling the structure of simple present tense. When I taught English grammar in this way, most of the students in my grade four class learnt actively. When I used an interactive teaching method, my students constructed knowledge by interacting with their friends. Only an active and creative learner can set and complete his /her own goals (Karen, 2001). In addition, Zamani and Ahangari (2016) suggest “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”. The English language teacher should have a clear-cut mindset about managing child-oriented environment in the classroom with maximum relevant activities and teacher should have knowledge, skills and experiences to make the students active and creative in course of teaching learning process.

Effective Use of Teaching Learning Materials

I used Total Physical Response (TPR) cards to teach English vocabulary, theme pictures to interact and to discuss with students about the pictures in my class. I used TPR cards while teaching English vocabulary in my English class. I experienced that TPR cards and theme pictures were really useful and effective materials to teach English for Tamang students. When I used theme pictures and TPR cards at the time of teaching English, my students got more opportunities to involve in learning English words.

Teaching learning materials are the main sources that should be appropriate as per students’ level, age, background, need, interest and learning capacity. The materials available are textbooks, audio-visual aids, visual aids, pictures and the Internet. Only effective and attractive materials become meaningful to the learners. In this respect, Johnson (1989) states that “designing appropriate materials is not a science: it is a strange mixture of imagination, insight, and analytical reasoning” (p. 153). Designing material is a combination of imagination, insight and analytical reasoning with purposes. Pardo and Tellez (2009) emphasized as:

Effective materials make learners feel comfortable and confident because both the content and type of activities are perceived by them as significant and practical to their lives. However, the teaching materials by themselves are not sufficient to create effective teaching and learning settings since a lively EFL/ESL classroom depends largely on good materials used in creative and resourceful ways. Therefore, in the materials designed, language teachers need to lead their students to have materials interact appropriately with their needs and interests in order to facilitate learning.

According to above mentioned expression, when teacher uses effective materials in the classroom, the students feel comfortable and express their ideas confidently. Effective materials have content and activities. Only effective materials facilitate the students to fulfill their interest and need. Following Tomlinson (1998), these materials can be effective when these materials enhance learners’ knowledge, experience and understanding.

Additionally Murray (1991) claims that the teachers should play a vital role in facilitating the students’ learning by using materials and the teacher may influence the students’ learning process. When teacher designs and uses materials in the classroom of English language, he/she should address local culture-based contents within the English language subject, then only localization can take place globally in ELT. Curriculum designers should think up of including local contents when they develop curriculum and other pertaining stakeholders should also pay attention about including local content within the textbook.

Use of Information and Communication Technology

Information and communication technology (ICT) comprises of computer, laptop, mobile, voice- recording and so on. To teach English in an effective way, demand of ICT all over Nepal is found. In this context, I used a laptop to teach English pronunciation in my class two, my students got motivated and interested to learn about good pronunciation of English words. They learnt easily the pronunciation of English words by means of audio-video aids which was really effective in learning pronunciation. In this regard, Wang (2007) explained the importance of technology in learning as:

Technology, as a powerful and convenient tool which can provide learners with a rich resource, a visual environment as well as an instructional platform, plays a vital role in language learning. Technology stimulates learning motivation through collaborative learning and it also improves learning efficiency by integrating classroom learning.

Technology has become a powerful tool in relation to a rich and comfortable source for a visual instrument having a vital role. The teachers and learners use information communication technology to learn new things directly and indirectly by motivating themselves.

In this regard, Mohammadi et al. (2011) said, “As the world progresses, the use of e-learning, electronic devices, internet, computers in teaching and learning process increases too and we have to synchronize ourselves with it and increase our abilities to be able to work with technologies to increase our knowledge”.  Electronic gadgets are being used in English language classroom which are available around the surrounding. Most of the private schools have been using all the devices of technology for teaching English language from the classes of play group and nursery. The importance of using technology has been pervasively utilized. Technology provides opportunities for interaction, allows for immediate feedback, increases learner autonomy, simulates real-life situations and experiences through video, audio, and graphics. Regarding the appropriateness of ICT for effective ELT in the context of Nepal, Pun (2013) stated as:

The use of ICT in language teaching promotes students’ motivation and learning interest in the English language. If students are too dependent on their mother tongue, they should be motivated to communicate with each other in English through the use of ICT. The utilization of ICT can fully improve the students’ thinking and practical language skills and, thus, it can be used effectively in the English language teaching classrooms for non-native speakers of English in the context of Nepal. (p.29)

The scope of ICT has extended to promote students’ learning with motivation and interest in the process of English language learning. The students can learn freely new vocabulary with meaning in case of learning English words by themselves with the help of ICT in the classroom or at home. Therefore, ICT provides more information about learning any languages.

Participating in Teacher Training

When I participated in English teacher training, I came to know about my weakness about theoretical knowledge and practices of different teaching methods, using an appropriate teaching approaches, techniques and skills while teaching English. After participating in three/four times of English teacher training, I could become clear about using teaching materials, using methods, skills, approaches with having theoretical knowledge.

Teacher training is a platform of teacher development. It is a process which never stops but goes forward with different experiences, sharing knowledge, skills by doing self-reflection, self-evaluation and self-learning and self-discovery. Teacher training should happen time to time for refreshment and retreat.

Conclusion

In the context of effective teaching English in the pre-primary and primary level classes, English teachers should be aware of using medium of instruction in the classroom while teaching English for better understanding in learning English, using creative and constructive teaching activities that help the students to be active and creative in learning, using appropriate teaching materials for effective teaching in the classroom, participating in teacher training time to time for teachers’ development and building up teachers’ competencies in using pedagogical knowledge and practices in the classroom and use of  ICT while teaching English in the classroom for contextual and effective teaching practices in the present context.

The author: Dipak Tamang is a PhD scholar at Graduate School of Education, Tribhuvan University Nepal. Mr. Tamang also works as an MTB-MLE consultant at SIL International and Nepali National Languages Preservation Nepal.

References

Aryal, A., Short, M., Fan, S. & Kember, D. (2016). Issues in English language teaching in Nepal. S. Fan & J. Fielding-Wells (eds.), What is next in educational research? 141–155. Retrieved from: https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-94-6300-524-1_14

Bell, T. R. (2005). Behaviors and attitudes of effective foreign language teachers: Results of a questionnaire study. Foreign Language Annals, 38 (2), 259-270.

Bhattarai, G.  R. & Gautam, G. R. (2007). The proposed ELT survey: Redefining status and role of English in Nepal. Journal of NELTA, 12(1-2), 32-35.

Central Bureau of Statistic (2011), Population Census National Panning Commission Kathmandu, Nepal.

Ferrer, V. (2002). The mother tongue in the classroom: Cross-linguistic comparisons, noticing and explicit knowledge. Teaching English Worldwide10, 1-7.

Johnson, R. K. (1989). The second language curriculum. In Appropriate design: The internal organisation of course units. Chapter 9. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Karen, S. (2001). First year experiences series: Being a more effective learner. University of Sidney Learning Centre Publishing. Australia: Sidney. Retrieved from http://sydney.edu.au/stuserv/documents/learning_centre/EffectiveLearner.pdf

Khati, A. R. (2011). When and why of mother tongue use in English classrooms. Journal of NELTA,16 (1-2), 42-51.

Mohammadi, N., Ghorbani, V ,& Hamidi,F. (2011) .Effects of e-learning on Language Learning Procedia Computer Science 3, 464–468.

Murray, H. G. (1991). A time for local perspectives. In J. Murphy and P. Byrd (Eds.), Understanding the course we teach: Local perspectives on English language teaching,3-10. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Pardo,A. N. & Tellez, M. F. T. (2009). ELT Materials: the key to fostering effective teaching and learning settings. Profile: Issue in Teachers’ Professional Development, 171-186. Retrieved from: https://revistas.unal.edu.co/index.php/profile/article/view/11449/36802

Pun,M. (2013). THE use of multimedia technology in ENGLISH language teaching: A global perspective. Crossing the Border: International Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies,1(1),15.

Schweers, W. (1999). Using L1 in the L2 classroom. In English Teaching Forum, 37 (2), 6-9.

Tomlinson, B. (1998). Materials development in language teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wang, Y.J. (2007). Are we ready? A case study of technology-enhanced, collaborative language learning. Proceedings of the World Congress on Engineering and Computer Science. Retrieved from: http://www.iaeng.org/publication/WCECS2007/WCECS2007_pp499-503.pdf

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.

 

Welcome to Fourth Quarterly Issue of ELT Choutari 13(101)

Dear valued readers,

Greetings!

It gives us immense pleasure to release the fourth quarterly issue (October-December) of ELT Choutari, 2021 under the theme of ‘Teacher Research or Classroom-based research for teachers’ continuous professional development.’ As we talk about learner autonomy in the 21st century and the bottom-up approach of teaching and learning, it seems essential for teachers to wear a hat of a researcher and begin to explore the natural teaching context and be certain about their teaching approach and skills. We, therefore, felt that this discourse should be addressed on an academic forum like ELT Choutari. Unlike becoming fully dependent on imported ELT methodologies, one requires to explore classroom issues, involve their students in the research process, meaningfully reflect on their teaching, assess and refine their teaching method, always keeping students learning progress, that they are responsible for, at the centre.

Teachers are likely to hesitate when they are asked to carry out research because the term ‘research’ sounds, in general, like a heavy academic task that requires a great deal of time and energy. However, teachers can simply explore within their teaching time, in order to acquire deeper insights and understanding about their own successful teaching practices as well as challenges. This kind of exploratory research refers to stepping back from the present situation and beginning to take a careful look at one problem at a time and spend some time trying to understand the problem itself rather than acting quickly to solve it (Smith & Rebolledo, 2018).

Teachers see, hear or feel and know whether something is working or not working in their classroom but that knowledge is not sufficient to explain the reason behind the situation. The present issue of ELT Choutari aims to encourage English teachers to carefully examine the issue, gather information, reflect on our experiences, make interpretations based on the evidence gathered, develop the teaching method suitable to their context, plan to work differently, and help other teachers to learn from it. The writings in this issue reflect the firsthand experiences in the area of teacher research and reflective practice of the authors/teachers and thus the ideas can be directly replicated to our English language teaching-learning context.

There are five articles in this issue:

Ram Aryal, in his article ‘Supporting students’ learning through the use of group work in ESL classroom: An exploratory action research’ reports the finding of his four-week study on supporting students’ learning through the use of group work in a large ESL classroom where teacher’s individual support was almost impossible. He explains how the slogan ‘the friend next to you helped him to encourage his students to actively participate in group work and how he succeeded to establish a system where students in groups could learn from each other.  He further asserts that classroom-based research directed him to understand his problem and find solutions within his own teaching context.

Likewise, Seetha Venunathan in her article entitled ‘Reflective practice – Rants and revelations’ asserts that a person who is responsible for someone’s language progress, should constantly access to their approach and skills as a teacher. She explains the importance of teachers’ meaningful self-reflection and beautifully expresses how reflection is a lot more than just ‘having a think’ about a lesson. Finally, she offers some valuable tips for how a teacher does reflect meaningfully.

Similarly, Gobinda Puri in his reflective piece ‘A teacher’s journey from classroom researcher to the mentor’ claims that a teacher can be a researcher, a writer and a teacher research mentor. He highlights the importance of Action Research as the best tool to improve the existing classroom situation and groom oneself as a professional teacher and researcher.

In the same way, Hiral Lal Moktan in his writing ‘Students’ use of mobile phones during Covid -19 Pandemic’ reflects his experience that he obtained during his online classes with students. He shares the pros and cons of using mobile during online classes. He further shares how the use of mobile phones can be made more effective for students’ learning in pandemics like Covid-19 from his own experience as a teacher.

Finally, Purnima Thapa in her article ‘Zoom technology as a tool in teaching during COVID-19 Pandemic: A Reflection of an English teacher’ reflects her personal experience of using zoom technology as a tool for teaching during online classes. She talks about its use and challenges in the rural context.

For ease of access, below is the list of hyperlinked articles:

  1. Supporting students’ learning through the use of group work in ESL classroom: An exploratory action research by Ram Aryal
  2. Reflective practice – Rants and revelations by Seetha Venunathan
  3. A teacher’s journey from classroom researcher to the mentor by Gobinda Puri
  4. Students’ use of mobile phones during Covid -19 Pandemic by Hiral Lal Moktan
  5. Zoom technology as a tool in teaching during COVID-19 Pandemic: A Reflection of an English teacher by Purnima Thapa

Finally, I would like to thank our lead coeditor Sagar Poudel for his endless support throughout the process. We both are thankful to our coeditors and reviewers Ganesh Bastola,  Ashok Raj Khati,  Karuna Nepal, Mohan Singh Saud, Jeevan Karki, and Nani Babu Ghimire, Ekraj Koirala, Jnanu Raj Paudel and Rajendra Joshi, and the entire ELT Choutari team for their support and encouragement. Likewise, most importantly, we are indebted to all contributors of this issue.

If you enjoy reading these articles, please feel free to share in your circle, and of course, drop your comments in the boxes below. Likewise, please write and send us your teaching-learning experiences for which we will be happy to provide a space at Choutari. Our email is 2elt.choutari@gmail.com 

Wish you a happy Deepawali and Chhat Festival!

Happy Reading!

References:

Smith, R & Rebolledo, P (2018). A Handbook for Exploratory Action Research. London: British Council.

Babita Chapagain       

 Lead editor of the issue

Sagar Poudel  

 Co editor of the issue

 

 

Supporting students’ learning through the use of group work in ESL classroom: An exploratory action research

Abstract

For Burns (2010), Action research (AR) can be a very valuable medium to extend our teaching skills and gain more understanding of ourselves as teachers, our classrooms, and students. Some time ago, as a teacher, I was facing several classroom issues and I wanted to solve one of the issues immediately. Getting inspired from the study about Action Research, I carried out Exploratory Action Research (Rebolledo, Smith and Bullock, 2016) that helped me to explore my classroom issues regarding individual support to my students who were struggling to learn English. This article reports the finding of the four-week-long research on supporting students’ learning through the use of group work in a large ESL classroom where the teacher’s individual support was almost impossible.

Introduction

There is a clear statement of the problem that I faced followed by the objective of this study. Moreover, the way I explored the causes of problems and the way out might interest the readers. There is a collection and analysis of enough data in the exploratory phase. The review of the concerned literature is another part of the paper. My real intervention actions with different evaluation tools have been presented under ‘Interventions and evaluation’. The findings of my research have been mentioned in the conclusion. I have tried to see the relevance of my research findings in different classroom situations. Finally, the annexure part includes different evaluation tools, participants’ responses and etc.

Teaching context

The story begins when I was posted as a community high school English teacher to the comparatively remote zone of my district which was mostly attended by two ethnic community students: Magar and Tamang. The students from these two communities made above ninety percent of the total students. English was their third language after their mother tongue and Nepali language. Students were often found to be speaking in their mother tongue even in English lessons being in their ethnic cluster.

There were sixty-four students in grade 10 and I had a forty-minute English lesson every day except Saturday. Because of the large classroom size, group work was difficult. I generally made mass presentation in front of class and asked the students whether they understood but most of the students expressed that they were not able to get the points. I tried to approach some students individually to make them clear but individual guidance was not always possible because of time constraint. So, I had to leave the class without satisfying my students and due to the time constraint, I could not give them constructive feedback. As a result, the poor students never improved, the frequency and type of mistakes increased and learning became ineffective. The level of English of most of the students was below average. Most of them could not communicate with the level of the course designed for them. Neither the teacher had time to talk to them nor the parents in their home could solve their learning problems. I was disappointed that if I had been able to maintain some degree of individual support to my students, their learning standard would have improved. It drew my interest towards scaffolding students’ learning through group work. Therefore, I decided to carry out small classroom-based research to find out why the problem occurred and how I could support each individual in my ESL classroom.

My Exploratory Research

I started to explore the reasons behind why I was unable to support my students individually. I prepared the tools of data collection and began to explore with a detail plan.

The exploratory phase provided me with some interesting findings that answered my question why my students lacked individualized teacher support. The first finding that touched me was the way students formed groups. The students were actually sitting in their ethnic cluster and using their mother tongue to understand English. Secondly, most students themselves formed their own ability groups. As a result, most of the benches lacked the students who could offer learning support to their classmates. The concept of group work and individual support had not been developed among the students. Thirdly, students expressed that they never noticed their teacher making effort to make them work in mixed ability groups so that they could learn from each other. Finally, both teachers as well as students agreed that the teacher’s individualized support was impossible because of the large number of students. Therefore, I decided to lunch my intervention influencing these three reasons with an aim to bring some change regarding individual support to all kind of learners.

Review of the related literature

To find out the opinion of experts about the possibility of individual support to all kind of learners in large classes, I began to look for various studies done in this area. Our major problem was to enhance students’ current level of ability. Lev Vigotsky (1978) proposed the concept of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), a metaphorical space between the child’s level of current ability to solve a particular problem and the potential ability. According to him, enhancement can be achieved with the careful assistance of someone else, usually a more knowledgeable expert, i.e. a parent or a teacher or more capable learners during collaborative tasks. One implication of the Vygotskian approach for language teachers is that it is important to pay attention to individual differences and consider alternative ways and levels of assisting learners (Burner, 1985).

Moreover, a teacher’s story from Cameroon seemed very useful in my context. Theorizing the story of Kuchah Kuchah from Cameroon, Kuchah and Smith (2011) have presented the instances of managing very large under-resourced classroom. Focusing on collaborative effort on bottom-up language teaching strategy, they extracted some principles for ‘autonomy of learners’.

  • Getting to know/building rapport with pupils/students
  • Negotiating with pupils/students
  • Viewing pupils/students as resource providers/as resources themselves
  • Building up credit with the administration and with other teachers

(Kuchah and Smith 2011, p. 137)

The theory seemed effective while administrating group works. The study of the literature offered me some insights that collaborative tasks help a great deal in the classroom where teacher’s individualized support is lacking. The concept of Vigotsky’s MKO (more knowledgeable one) encouraged me to mix diverse ability students in a group so that the support consolidates. The ideas of Kuchah and Richard, extracted from large class practice, offered strategic and procedural steps for intervention that guided me to implement various group work strategies where I could make my students work in small groups with careful guidance from my side. In the groups students could learn from each other and slow learners got support from their peers.

Interventions and evaluation

During my intervention and evaluation phase, students were given an opportunity to work in groups. The well monitored scaffolding initially started by ‘learning leaders’ and afterwards guided by the slogan ‘learn from the friend next to you’ established a system where students in groups could learn from each other.  Details of intervention steps are given below:

Week 1

For the detail intervention steps, I followed the detail action plan. Different groups were formed and during the process of forming groups, I found that most of the students were working in their won ethnic groups and the fast learners preferred to work with same ability classmates. Especially the girls from Magar and Tamang family were enjoying their ethnic groups while boys were mixed together disregarding their ethnic origin. Thinking that manipulating the existing group dynamics I would be violating the students’ right to choose their friends; I consolidated the existing groups with very less manipulation. I convinced some more capable students to be in different groups and fixed the learning leaders in each group so that one would be more responsible for the group work. Every day I observed the students working in their groups and tried to ensure that the students were learning from their friends.

I conducted different short orientation sessions for all the students in different groups and for the learning leaders separately. These orientation sessions guided my students participate in group discussions and encouraged the learning leaders to closely monitor their group without making their classmates feel inferior. I maintained daily journal where I jotted the findings of my observation and my feelings that I had during the daily activities. My own daily journal was a good source of information for my research work. When the students were busy in their group activities, I observed them, monitored them and provided them the instant feedback.

After they worked in groups for six days, I launched a student satisfaction survey questionnaire which would inform me how satisfied the students were in their group and how far they were learning from their classmates. My observation report and daily journal indicated that the students were gradually contributing in group work.

Week 2

On the last day of week 1, student satisfaction survey was administered. The report was extremely satisfactory. Almost all the students responded they were hundred percent satisfied in their group responding the question: ‘Are you happy being in the group you are in?’ Out of fifty-five respondents, only two students responded that they would like to change their group although they were not completely dissatisfied. In the same way, almost all the students were satisfied with their learning leaders. More than ninety-five percent students agreed that they easily got desired support from their group members. Regarding the teacher’s support in the group, all fifty-five respondents agreed that the teacher’s support to the group was completely satisfactory.

Despite all these satisfactory results, more than fifty percent students thought that the teacher was not supporting them individually.  Though the group activities, sharing and support system seemed fine and effective, I experienced a threat, i.e. the students who had difficulty in learning were simply copying ‘the right answers’ from their groupmates. Then my focus, as my plan, was directed towards how to make the students learn from their friends rather than merely copying ‘the right answers’. When I asked the logic after the ‘right answers,’ most of the students were dumbfounded. I thought something must be done. So, I decided to lunch series of orientation session for every group separately so it would function like a close counseling session. In the counseling session, I tried to make my students understand the true meaning of ‘learning’. Throughout the week I was checking, observing and finding whether they were truly learning. For this, I checked the understanding of two students from each group every day for four days and filled my observation checklist. By the end of second week, the tendency of merely copying the right answers had been gradually changing into seeking for true learning.

Week 3

            This week I was more directed towards reducing the learning responsibility load of the learning leaders. I tried to make the learning leader’s role more indirect and hidden. At first, I collected the opinions from three learning leaders about the learning tendencies and improvements of their classmates. They reported that their friends were trying to learn and there was big change in their attitude in comparison to the previous week. The major change according to them was that the students began to ask questions and clarify doubts rather than just copying the right answers. Responding to the question how they feel about the responsibilities they have to take as leaders during group work, they said they were satisfied and happy helping their classmates. However, I wanted to reduce the direct responsibilities of learning leaders; therefore, with their consent, I dismissed the title learning leader and launched the slogan ‘learn from the friend next to you’. If the students wanted to be clearer, they would approach the friend next to them or whoever could support them. Doing this, I thought, the individual support from each other would be strengthened.

Every day, I encouraged all the groups to learn from each other. I reminded them there was no leader in their group. When the students were busy in their group, I monitored them and provided them with instant feedback. If some students consulted me regarding some problems, I encouraged them to find the solution in group with their friends. I watched the learning process of each group very carefully and recorded their improvement with the help of my observation sheet.

Week 4

I wanted to find out how the entire campaign had been from the prospective of the slow learners for whom this study had been launched. For this, I randomly selected twelve of them, two students from each group and administered questionnaires. Twelve students out of twelve responded that they would like to continue the practice and this practice brought some positive changes in their learning pattern. Almost all of them, ten out of twelve, believed that individual support system was really built in English class. In summary, students were satisfied with the practice and they said that the campaign was very useful.

 

Further, I received written responses from six slow learners and analyzed them. Most of the students responded that the practice of group work had really been fruitful, they began to learn instead of copying right answers. One of my students wrote- “At first, I used to be scared of asking questions and my confusions were never gone. But now discussing the confusion in group has been a very easy technique to solve any confusion” (Shuruma ma prashnaharu sodhna daraauthe ra sadhai confused rahanthe. Tara ahile samuhama chhalphal garda confusion haru samadhan garna nikai sajilo bhaeko chha). Another student wrote “The group leaders supported us immensely and they have been our true learning partner” (Toli netako support nikai thulo thiyo. Uni bata hamile sachchikai sikne awasar paayau). Similarly, another response was “We expect the same technique will be used for other subjects also” (Haami aasha garchhau ki anya wishayaharu maa pani yahi techniqueharu laagu garine chha.)

Conclusion

The exploratory phase of my classroom-based research gave me some useful insights into my actual problem and guided me through an action plan that I developed for changing the existing situation. From the intervention phase of my research, I learned that the student assisted individual support through effective group work is more useful, effective and possible in large class where individualized teacher support was not possible. Regular practice of working in groups helped students overcome hesitation and they began to clarify their doubts/confusion among themselves and got support from each other. Thus, making students work in mixed ability groups is the better way to scaffold students’ learning and it helps a great deal particularly in large classes. The practice of exploratory research carried out in my ESL class was extended to mathematics class and the report was very positive.

To conclude, this kind of regular practice of exploring classroom issues and solving problems within the classroom scenario made me more confident. I share my ideas with my colleagues and encourage them to carry out exploratory research during their teaching hours, without taking it as extra burden, for learning about their issues and solving problems.

References

Burns, A. (2010). Doing Action Research in English Language Teaching: A Guide for Practitioners. New York: Routledge.

Vygotsky, L. (1978). Interaction between learning and development. Readings on the development of children23(3), 34-41.

Kuchah, K., & Smith, R. (2011, June). Pedagogy of autonomy for difficult circumstances: from practice to principles. Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching, 5(2), 119-140.

Smith, R, Bullock, D & Rebolledo,P (2016). Champion Teachers: Stories of Exploratory Action Research. London: British Council.

Author’s bio:

Ram Prasad Aryal is an English teacher and a head teacher in Adarsha Secondary School, Gajuri, Dhading. He completed M Ed in English Language Teaching from Kathmandu University. He is a life member of Nepal English Language Teachers Association (NELTA). The core classroom practice is the area of his interest in ELT.

Reflective practice – Rants and revelations

Reflection in ELT

Reflection is one of those words that everyone knows, and everyone thinks they do quite effectively until someone comes along and really defines the word, and maybe asks some pertinent questions about the quality of those reflections. That is when everyone stops and has to reassess the whole concept. I am guilty of this, especially in the early part of my teaching career, and occasionally even now! Meaningful and effective self-reflection is one of the most challenging but more rewarding practices for an individual in any profession, but more so in teaching. One might ask why teaching is special in this regard. Teaching is actually quite a lonely profession in that while you may have excellent colleagues, at the end of the day, it is just you with your learners. No one else is in the classroom with you to support, challenge, question, or guide you. Being responsible for someone’s language progress requires you to constantly assess your approach and skills as a teacher.

What is reflection?

In some cultures, reflecting on your actions, behaviour, and development is taught from a young age but in others, the onus is on people around you to tell you how you are doing. In some professions, self-reflection is a part of the training, while in others, it is not given much attention. This can also vary between training programmes within a profession. In the world of ELT, this can result in novice teachers following their training blindly, experienced teachers stagnating in their approach, and managers being seemingly harsh during post-observation feedback conversations. It is true that most teacher training courses have some reflective practice built in. Trainees are informed about the benefits of reflecting on one’s teaching, but enough emphasis is perhaps not placed on how vital reflection is for both professional progress, and the planning and delivery of lessons on a daily basis. As Mann (2005, p. 105) describes, reflection is articulating “an inner world of choices made about the outer world of teaching”. Being able to describe, analyse, and evaluate teaching practice, and develop based on those thoughts is what effective reflection is. It involves both intellectual and affective aspects, both of which need to be explored. (Boud, Keogh & Walker, 1985 p. 3).

How do teachers reflect? – Types of ‘reflectors’ and issues

The most basic form of post-lesson reflection is to think about what went well in the lesson, what did not go well, and what the teacher would do differently next time. While this is a great starting point because at least it highlights that one must look at both positives and action areas, it can be limiting, and not very meaningful. Some will take these three aspects and reflect quite deeply but most teachers do not have the time or inclination for that. What often happens, and again something I am guilty of, is, the teacher finishes a class, has a quick little think about the overall lesson, can maybe identify one or two strengths and action areas, then gets on with the day. These thoughts are very rarely recorded anywhere, explored, or even revisited but the teacher can confidently say that they reflected.

Being a teacher, and having worked with other teachers as their mentor or manager, has exposed me to a range of reflection types. There is the ‘ranter’, who is extremely self-critical and feels nothing in the lesson went well. They can only see the faults and end up feeling quite dejected after a reflection leading them to avoid doing a reflective activity unless absolutely required. They also tend to try to change even good practice without realising it because they believe it was all bad. Then you have the ‘romantic’ who believes the lesson went very well indeed and there is nothing they would change. Finally, the ‘revelations’ type of teacher, who has several great ideas that come up from the lesson, that may or may not have to do with how the lesson actually went. However, more often than not, these ideas are not recorded, and end up being forgotten. It is rare to find a teacher whose reflections are balanced, objective, constructive, and truly meaningful, at least among novice teachers.

Moreover, thinking about what went well can be deceptive because many times, new teachers focus on lessons being fun but forget to look at how effective it is in terms of real-life application. So, while an activity or the lesson was fun and engaging, which could be defined as “having gone well”, students may not have left the class with new knowledge or skills. Similarly, the question about what the teacher could have done differently can be a little pointless. In a language institute, it is highly unlikely that you will teach the same lesson to the same group of students and so, doing the lesson again with changes seems irrelevant. You may teach a new class the same lesson, but the students would be different which would mean you need to adapt it to suit the new group anyway. It might seem obvious that the reflection needs to extend beyond the literal meaning of the question but as we have seen, teachers do not always have the time and/or interest, nor the training, to think about it in that much depth.

The final issue is that as teachers embark on the journey of meaningful self-reflection, they tend to focus on stating what happened in the lesson, rather than exploring why it did, what caused it, what reactions the learners had, etc. Reflections are often superficial like “students didn’t participate well”, “it was an engaging lesson”. It would help teachers to say at what stage did students not participate and why they feel that happened, or what about the students’ responses demonstrated that the lesson was engaging.

Tips for meaningful reflection

The question, then, is how does one reflect meaningfully? There are a few tips I follow and have shared with colleagues that we have found useful.

  1. Be regular with your reflective practice and document it. You can choose what works for you. You need not do a detailed reflection after every lesson. You may choose to do it once a week or once a fortnight. Whatever you decide, it helps to stick to it. It is also a good idea to find a way to document your reflections so that you can revisit them, either for ideas or to check progress. There are many ways to do this.
  • Write in a journal. This is the classic method and works well. You can use different colours to highlight different types of reflections.
  • Use a digital tool. You can type up your reflections so they are all in one easily accessible folder, send an email to yourself, or do an infographic for your reference (if you are the more creative type).
  • Make a voice recording. Most phones have a recording app. It does not have to be a long recording, maybe just a few minutes to capture all your thoughts right after a lesson.
  1. Have a focus area for each week/month. The tendency is to try and reflect on everything all the time. It can be more effective to identify some action or exploratory areas and just focus on one or two of those for a period of time. You can create a reflection document based on these focus areas to avoid being tempted to start thinking about all aspects of the lesson.
  2. Avoid using passive voice. This one sounds almost ridiculous but it does make a difference. Many teachers write “This was done well.” There is no clarity on who did what, why, or how! While these may seem obvious, especially to the one writing, it can change your perspective when you write in the first person. Not only do you take responsibility for the good and the not-so-good practice, but you also think more deeply about it. So, try saying something like, “I clarified the language point in a meaningful way, using relevant examples”.
  3. Have a reflection buddy (if possible). It is nice to have someone to discuss lessons and ideas with. Having someone who can observe your lessons every so often, give you feedback and ideas, and be a sounding board is wonderful.
  4. Watch your own lessons. Depending on accessibility and consent from learners, it can be beneficial once in a while, to take a video of your lesson and watch it back. This can show us aspects of our teaching that we are not aware of. It highlights our tone of voice, choice of vocabulary, mannerisms, responses to students, etc. These are areas that often we think we do in one way but may actually be quite different in practice.

It is important to remember that reflection is a lot more than just ‘having a think’ about a lesson. (Harrison, 2012 p. 7) It involves asking questions, exploring aspects of teaching, and considering ways to develop one’s skills further. While it may seem tedious to incorporate reflective activities into a busy teaching week, having a routine and being prepared with documents or tools beforehand can result in reflection being thought-provoking, rewarding, enjoyable, and an essential aspect of your teaching practice.

 References

Boud, D., Keogh, R., & Walker, D. (1985). What is reflection in learning? In Boud, D., Keogh, R., & Walker, D. (Eds.) Reflection: Turning Experience into Learning. London: Kogan Page Ltd.

Harrison, J. (2012). Professional learning and the reflective practitioner. In Dymoke, S. and Harrison, J. Reflective Teaching and Learning: A Guide to Professional Issues for Beginning Secondary Tecahers. London: SAGE Publications.

Mann, S. (2005). The language teacher’s development. Language Teaching 38, pp.103-118.

Venunathan, S. (2015). Impact of guided collaborative reflective practice on in-service English language teachers. (M.A. Dissertation). University of Warwick, Coventry, United Kingdom.

Author’s bio:

Seetha has been in the field of ELT for over 17 years. She has taught across contexts, age groups, language levels, and course types. She is now a freelance teacher, trainer, and CELTA tutor. Besides training and designing customised courses/workshops, she enjoys cooking, travelling, and meeting new people.

 

A Teacher’s journey from classroom teacher to the researcher

Abstract

Many teachers do not easily believe that a classroom teacher can become a researcher, a writer, and a research mentor. However, they can contribute to the knowledge industry by exploring their own classroom contexts, analyzing local narratives, and sharing them throughout the world by writing papers, presenting the findings at the conference, and creating a community of practitioners. In this write-up, I have reflected on my experience of how I learned action research and became a research mentor. Furthermore, I have discussed how action research can be the best tool for the teachers’ professional development, students’ empowerment, and the change in the existing classroom situations.

Keywords: action research, empowerment, professional development, transformation

Introduction

The heated discourse in academia nowadays is about research and innovation. People talk about research-based education in schools and universities. In Nepal’s context too, scholars often complain that education is not scientific, innovative, and practical.  As a result, universities have also established research centers to encourage their teachers towards the research besides teaching in the classroom. In high school education as well, teachers are encouraged to do classroom-based researches or action researches by making the provision of awarding marks on action research for their promotion. However, the research culture is yet to develop in Nepal’s education. Therefore, the research needs to be redefined from the teachers’ perspective. In this reflective writing, I have argued for carrying out action research as the best tool to improve the existing classroom situation and groom oneself as a professional teacher and researcher.

My reflection as an action researcher

To begin with my practice of action research, I remember my first intervention to improve grade nine students’ speaking skills as an English language teacher in 2015. When I went to the class that contained 55 students (34 girls and 21 boys) and started teaching, I found pin-drop silence there. I thought I became successful in teaching the students and controlling them. I continued teaching for around fifteen days and asked them to reflect on what they learned during my teaching. Nobody answered me. I asked again if anything was wrong. One of the students hesitantly asked me for permission if she could speak in Nepali. After my permission, she shared, “Sir, you taught us very well because you spoke in English but we didn’t understand all”. Then, I further asked, “Why didn’t you ask me at the beginning?  Another boy stood up and spoke in Nepali “Sir, hamilai ta Englishma kasari prasna sodhne nai aaudaina” (Sir, we don’t know how to ask the question in English.)  These responses of the students made me upset for a while and I began to think seriously later. That evening, I posed some questions to myself such as: Was there any problem in my teaching? Why were the students not able to understand my English?  How do my students want me to teach them? Should I tell them everything in Nepali? Soon, I decided to collect students’ views and plan accordingly for further teaching.

The next day, I asked some questions to the students (interviewed them) and found that only five out of fifty-five students understood my teaching in English but they could not ask questions easily. Many of them were reluctant to speak with me even in Nepali. They reported that they lacked basic language functions and speaking practice. Then, I planned to teach them speaking skills for about a month through role-plays. Providing sample dialogues (roles) based on various situations, I asked them to practice role-playing. Slowly, they developed their confidence and performed better. Later, they started writing skits for role-plays themselves. As a facilitator, I divided them into 10 different groups and let them discuss the social issues/problems they had observed or experienced in their homes or communities and prepare the skits to be performed in the class. They soon discussed in the group, selected the issue, developed the skits, and assigned the roles for each other. Their issues were also diverse such as child abuse, alcoholism, drug addiction, family conflict, girls trafficking, early marriage, domestic violence, and so on. I encouraged them to prepare the best drama afterwards and perform in the school hall in front of all the students, teachers, and guardians. Probably, my statement might have created more pressure on them and thus, they took extra time for rehearsal. Most of them worked hard and finally performed well. They received compliments from the audience too. They expressed that they were more confident after a month-long practice although they were pressurized to do the best performance initially. Moreover, I realized that their participation in speaking and other classroom tasks also increased. Later, they started asking questions confidently when they were confused during the instruction.

After completion of that project, I prepared a presentation focusing on my classroom context, the problem I faced, intervention that I adopted for change, and the success I achieved. Firstly, I presented the findings among my colleagues in school. I found my colleagues excited to see the changes in my students caused by the project. That presentation also inspired other colleagues in the school because they adopted such interventions for solving their classroom problems. Secondly, I presented the findings at the international conference as well.  I got inspiration, from my friends who had already attended international conferences, to apply for the presentation. So, I developed a presentation abstract with the findings of the same project and applied it to IATEFL international conference 2016. They happily accepted my presentation proposal and awarded me a scholarship to travel and present my paper at the conference in the UK. It was a great opportunity for a classroom teacher like myself to attend and share my experience with the international community. It was only possible through my new intervention in the classroom. Finally, I wrote the reflection and sent it to the IATEFL voice newsletter and got it published in 2016.

I was excited to do such classroom interventions in the following years as well. In 2017, I developed another project to enhance the writing skills of grade eight students and succeeded to some extent. I again prepared the presentation proposal and submitted it to JALT international conference, Japan. It was accepted and supported by the organizer to travel to Japan and present my paper there. Being inspired by such a small but notable success in my career, I designed another project to address the classroom diversity of my students. I then developed the conference presentation proposal on how I addressed the classroom diversity and sent it to TESOL International Convention in the USA in 2017. They also accepted my presentation abstract with the scholarship to attend the TESOL Convention in Seattle, the USA, and present my paper. It was yet another opportunity of international exposure for me created through my tiny classroom intervention.

Later, I realized what I did in my classroom was none other than action research. My perception of action research completely changed after the realization that all the attempts of improving existing classroom situations through various teachers’ interventions were action researches. I used to think that research was beyond the access of teachers which would require specialized knowledge, skills, and practices. I was wrong because my experience mentioned above revealed that every teacher who approaches the real classroom problem with a new intervention strategy becomes a researcher. When I understood that action research means understanding a problem and solving it by oneself, I began to see every classroom problem from a researcher’s perspective, intervene and report to others for implication.

Understanding action research

Action research is understood and applied diversely according to the context since it is a research paradigm as well as a methodology (Goodnough, 2011).  For example, Smith and Rebolledo (2018), termed it as teacher research since it is the ‘research initiated and carried out by teachers into issues of importance to them in their own work’  / ’research done by teachers into issues which concern them’ (p.18). It means the research carried out by the teachers for addressing the problems that arise in the practice systematically collecting data, analyzing it, and sharing what is found. Action research can be understood by various terminologies based on practices as well, such as teacher research, classroom-based research, exploratory action research/ practice, participatory action research, and critical action research. However, its basic essence seems to be the same. For example, in action research what intervention is taken to improve the situation is highlighted whereas, in the exploratory action research, the focus is given to the exploration of the causes of the problem before taking action.

Action research can have various dimensions and purposes. For example, Rearick and Feldman’s (1999) framework of three dimensions such as theoretical orientation, purposes of action research, and the types of reflection helped me to understand action research as an emerging research trend. Its nature, again based on theoretical dimensions, is technical, practical, and emancipatory. As indicated by Noffke (1997), action research broadly serves three purposes: personal growth, professional growth, and political empowerment. In my career, firstly, it served as a tool to understand my students, the nature of the problem, and classroom context as well. Secondly, it worked as a tool for my professional development. For example, due to my practice of action research in the classroom, I traveled to foreign countries, attended conferences, learned, shared, and developed professional networking. Thirdly, action research informed me about the economic, social, gender, lingual, racial, and ethnic inequalities inside and outside of the classroom. I realize that action research empowers not only the researchers but also the students involved in the project.

Teacher research which is carried out by the teachers for teachers is practiced elsewhere in the forms of action research or exploratory practice (Hanks, 2019). As stated by Smith (2020b) practice of teacher research has provided me the platform to empower other teachers and enhance personal and professorial growth. Although the concept and the purpose of action research vary, the action research involves practitioners in the self-contained cycle like plan, action, observe and reflect. In any action research, this cycle repeats until the improvement occurs in the situation. That is the main reason why action research is regarded as participatory, cyclical, or recursive research. Keeping these four stages in a spiral at the center, we can find the solution for any problem in the classroom.

Teachers as the researcher in the classroom (Mertler, 2009) can learn the value of action research as empowerment of the participants, collaboration, knowledge acquisition, and change. First of all, as I have narrated above, the student participants are empowered through action research. For example, in my case mentioned above, the students were not able to speak with the teachers at the beginning but after the intervention, they expressed that they had a high level of confidence. It reveals that action research can empower the students. The researchers themselves get empowered after gaining insights from the course of action research. Secondly, it fostered a collaborative culture among the students and stakeholders. Collaboration, as one of the fundamental 21st-century skills every student requires to develop, can be developed through action research. Thirdly, action research served me as a reliable means to acquire knowledge about the learners, context and contents in the classroom. It proves that the researcher can acquire knowledge by being involved in the action research. Finally, action research brought about changes in my students. Students became successful to interact with their friends and teachers in the classroom after the completion of the action. It reveals that action research is change-oriented research.

Carrying out action research in Nepalese classroom contexts is not free from challenges. I have also observed and experienced various challenges as a teacher and researcher. The first challenge for a teacher is the motivation towards research. I found some younger teachers who were in their early careers comparatively more motivated. However, the teachers who were in their late careers less motivated in the process of action research. Another challenge is the understanding of action research and systematizing it. Many teachers might perceive action research as s tough job although they have been doing it unnoticeably in their practice. For example, I used to tackle my classroom problems with new interventions and improve my teaching. However, I had not understood it as research and documented it systematically for a long time. Later, I realized the essence of it. Similarly, managing time for doing action research can be the next challenge because teachers can be overloaded with teaching duties. As a result, they may not have enough time for preparation and exploration. Besides, collaboration with colleagues and administration, creating a research-oriented environment in the workplace, and updating oneself according to the changed academic scenario can also be a challenge for carrying out action research.

Conclusion 

Action research for teachers can be the best tool to groom personally and professionally. By exploring own classroom context, improving the existing situations, and empowering self and others through actions, a classroom teacher can contribute to the academia besides delivering course contents prescribed by the curricula. Moreover, action research provides the basis for a teacher to become a researcher, conference presenter, writer, and research mentor too. Although conducting action research requires teachers’ understanding, motivation, time, preparation, and dedication, it eventually supports them to transform themselves from a teacher to the researcher.

References

Goodnough, K. (2011). Examining the long‐term impact of collaborative action research on teacher identity and practice: the perceptions of K–12 teachers. Educational Action Research, 19(1), 73-86.

Hanks, J. (2019). From research-as-practice to exploratory practice-as-research in language teaching and beyond. Language Teaching, 52(2), 143-187.

Mertler, C. A. (2009). Action research: Teachers as researchers in the classroom. Sage.

Noffke, S. E. (1997). Professional, personal, and political dimensions of action research. Review of research in education, 22(1), 305-343. Retrieved from  https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.3102/0091732X022001305

Rearick, M. L., & Feldman, A. (1999). Orientations, purposes and reflection: A framework for understanding action research. Teaching and Teacher Education, 15(4), 333-349.

Smith, R., & Rebolledo, P. (2018). A handbook for exploratory action research. London: British Council.

Author’s Bio:

Gobinda Puri is a lecturer of English at Janta Multiple Campus, Itahari. He is also the vice-chair in the NELTA Sunsari branch and the executive member in the Provincial committee, Province No. 1. Currently, he is pursuing his M.Phil. in English Education, at Nepal Open University. Besides teaching, he has interested in teacher research.

Students’ use of mobile phones during Covid -19 Pandemic

As the country was on lockdown due to the spread of Covid-19 for the second time, I, as a teacher was compelled to switch myself in the virtual mode of delivery. Both variants separated teachers and students; therefore, we started practicing online mode of delivery. I could not deliver the lessons in the very beginning. During the lockdown, the government instructed all the schools to facilitate the students in an alternative mode of teaching instead of physical facilitation. Rationalizing the fact of the transmission of Covid-19 in the community, we were compelled to operate schools and teaching in online mode which has been the bliss for all of us, teachers and students.

I teach English at the secondary level in one of the government schools of Ramechhap. Since it is a hilly region and we have to work with low resources. I feel regret to share but it was a very tough and tedious job to run the classes virtually in our territory. We had poor internet access and got a low bandwidth of internet connectivity. However, we had to try our best to replace physical classes. Firstly, I created a messenger group for tenth graders and started sharing notes and self-learning materials among them. After a few days, I saw the possibility of online teaching for the grade ten students. I proposed it to the school administration. Then, I, as the vice-principal, published a notice regarding online classes to explore the students’ perspectives. As a result, I noticed most of the students were ready to take online classes and their parents were likely to manage the internet connectivity along with android gadgets and smartphones.

It was the month of Ashadh 2078, we facilitated students in the online class. Before we launched the online classes, we had prepared all the pre-requisites for the online classes for the grade ten students. Fortunately, the majority of the students joined the class as they promised before. But, some students did not join the online classes for a week.

Thus, I gave a call to their parents and convinced them to create an environment for the online classes. Though they signaled positively, they did not manage the learning platform for their children for almost a week. During the online classes, we learned materials management, ppt slides preparation, lesson planning, etc. We were having a serious concern for the students’ learning and coping with challenges. The parents were hardly able to manage the smartphones and they were about to proceed with online classes.

To our surprise, the government broke out the lockdown and we switched into the face-to-face mode of delivery from the virtual one. The students who were unable to join online classes before were able to attend physical classes. More specifically, the government brought the policy of distributing SIM cards to students from grades four to twelve to facilitate the students with an alternative mode of learning.

As per the instruction, we collected all the documents needed to withdraw new SIM cards from the parents at school. Within a couple of weeks, we distributed the SIM cards to all the students from grade four to twelve withdrawing from the district headquarters. After the distribution of the SIM cards, we instructed all the teachers to facilitate the learning process through mobile phones. Some parents managed mobile phones but the rest of the others did not manage as they could not afford them. Hence, we were able to teach only those students who had internet access and a mobile phone.

It was interesting as well as painful to run the online classes smoothly. However, we continued the online classes through phone follow-up. By then, the majority of the students managed the mobile phones and started showing their active participation in learning. We had usual online classes every day but it was like a ritual.

I found that our students were not paying proper attention in their study rather they were habituated to playing the online game especially Free Fire and PUBG. Then, I started preparing different strategies. Preparing a prior mindset, I designed different language-related activities. Firstly, I asked them to find ten different words used in English while playing PUBG. They brought different words into the discussion. I often demonstrated those words which were new for the other students. I asked PUBG players to explain the meaning of those words which was going to be useful for them. I instructed all of them to find the antonym and synonym for those words. They explored based on their understanding. In the next lesson, I designed some other exercises and asked them to explore further.

During the virtual mode of delivery, I engaged them very interestingly. Sometimes, I would organize online debate competitions and sometimes I would organize quiz competitions based on the content from their lesson. The main purpose of preparing these materials was to help students explore their potential via online games. Finally, my students enjoyed the online platform because it was not time-consuming and boring for them. However, some lazy and below-average students hesitated to practice in online modes. In turn, they were equally happy to use mobile phones even if it was not fruitful for them. In my regular schedule, I never erased PUBG and Free Fire rather I encouraged. But the assignment would be related to the PUBG and Free Fire. Suppose, for example, if they would play the PUBG and Free Fire, they had to narrate all the events in about 250 words. At least, my technique of teaching free-writing was making sense for them. If they were not the PUBG players, they had to write something they were interested in.

Moreover, I taught grammar and freewriting together with the help of mobile phones. The students had already been familiar with the internet issues and I would offer them to find some interesting stories on google. They brought different stories copying from different sources. Then, they had to share all about the story they copied virtually. They had to check back and forth on their mobile phones to confirm if they had not understood the story completely. As a result, my students developed confidence in spoken English.

Fortunately, we were picking up on virtual learning. We almost replaced the face-to-face mode of delivery with the virtual one. The problems with the students in terms of regularity, punctuality, doing home assignments, etc. were likely to solve by ourselves. We took it seriously and started consulting the respective subject teachers whether they were performing well in their subjects.

Most interestingly, I encouraged my students to be critical and open up in online classes. Therefore, they could reflect on what they actually learned. It was difficult for them to speak up in the very beginning in the online class but later they slowly started questioning and critiquing. Sometimes, we would not be audible due to internet issues. Otherwise, I would prioritize the students’ needs and interests and ask them to accomplish their work timely. They learned about different apps such as Zoom, Skype, Proquest, Microsoft Team, Google Meet, etc. At least, they developed the concept about different terminologies such as email, Gmail, link, connection, internet, in the last few months.

Every weekend, we teachers sat and shared different techniques and strategies we employed. It was somehow difficult for math teachers to tackle students in the online classes. But the rest of the other theoretical classes would be easily handled and it was much effective as well. The PUBG and Free Fire players started playing those games because they had to write almost 300 words on what they played. Frankly speaking, some of the students were counseled very positively about the reason for not being able to attend the class. Later, it was diagnosed that the PUBG players would sleep late at night. Then, I successfully solved those all problems and the ratio of the regular classes remained constant in my online class.

The platform provided to the students in online classes was praiseworthy. The students got several opportunities to enhance their language skills. The students developed the habit of listening to the text and became able to solve the majority of the problems. I also focused much on spoken skills. Every week, they had to give their talk on some of the specified areas such as ‘Glory of Nepal’, The Most Interesting Place I ever visited in my Life’, ‘Pen is mightier than swords’, Mobile Phones in Students’ Life, ‘Role of youths’ in Nation’s Development’, etc. My students practiced speaking in English in different themes. To support them, I would often pinpoint their mistakes and would give immediate feedback. Then, they developed spoken fluency and accuracy by the use of mobile phones. More specifically, I would supply related reference materials in their respective groups.

The writing was also much focused in the online classes. The students were instructed to examine the pattern of writing. Sometimes, I would be giving them samples for letter writing and sometimes for application writing. They had to practice observing my samples minutely. I often designed varieties of materials for the classroom. They got an ample opportunity to explore the world around them. In every subject, they had to work and submit their assignments timely to their teachers. Online delivery remained one of the prior and successful techniques for secondary level students; however, it didn’t remain a milestone for basic education.

The students’ facilitation during the pandemic has been one of the pleasurable moments because we were not familiar with the effectiveness of the online classes. After a long investigation in different educational institutions in and around the world, we happened to practice alternative modes of delivery and it has been useful means of communication for all the learners around the world. Initially, we had a challenge but later we accepted it and developed at our own pace. Thus, the novice practitioners and the innocent students all learned several dynamics of online classes. The parental consciousness remained paramount for enriching students’ learning. The rigorous practice in every content from language to grammar and literature to writing have been taught succinctly via online medium.

In conclusion, learning without burden for students and teaching without burnout for teachers is essential for -the wellness of students and teachers. The students after being usual in using mobile phones geared up their learning. However, I realized that there are some individual factors including age, gender, ethnicity, educational background, and teaching experience, and so on. bring the variation on their understanding. Due to having a distinct socio-economical status in our society, we were straggling with the hardships of online classes but it was resolved in the latter stage of our lives. As a result, my students doubled their interest in learning than playing online games. Giving a lesson to every student should be viable and organized either we follow physical mode or we dictate virtual one. Achieving pedagogical goals require technological enhancement, students’ enthusiasm, and the well-being of the teachers. Therefore, I brought effectiveness in my teaching by examining the need and necessities of the students.

Students’ well-being is primarily judged by the cognitive abilities that they perform in their professional platform. Thus, online class and the use of mobile phones in the classroom has brought additional challenges to teachers’ wellbeing and pedagogical success. Effective and natural connections between the teachers and learners have been broken out. However, our dynamic students sharped their creative minds and learned to handle several awful situations. As a teacher, I often tried my best to make them feel not panicked by revising the previous lesson. The use of mobile phones was much helpful to gain self-confidence, self-esteem, and content knowledge.

At the end, my students learned to prepare some ppt slides, collected useful authentic materials, and developed presentation skills. From this experience, I came to know that offering opportunities and challenges to every individual are to make them able to reflect, rethink, and renew their existing knowledge and skills. Due to the massive use of the virtual mode of delivery, I myself became able to move a step ahead. It was extensively useful for both me and my students. The normal class was replaced virtually by the help of different videos, pictures, materials, and engaging tools. Thus, the use of mobile phones has been a prior tool in engaging students either in webinars or on other virtual platforms. So to say, this global pandemic created by COVID-19 has been a boon for many teachers like me because it demanded updated and upgraded professional expertise and gave a vivid glimpse of the students through innovative ideas and professional practices.

Author’s bio:

Hira Lal Moktan is an MPhil graduate in English Language Education from Kathmandu University School of Education. He has been currently serving as a vice-principal cum English teacher at Shree Dahoo Secondary School, Ramechhap. He is a life member of NELTA. His interests include research on Teachers’ Identity, Linguistics, and Discourse Analysis.

 

Zoom technology as a tool in teaching during COVID-19 Pandemic: A reflection of an English teacher

Purnima Thapa

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has been considered a serious concern to people all around the world. On 30 January 2020 World Health Organization (WHO) declared the current outbreak that originated in Wuhan, China. In the context of Nepal, it was introduced on 20 February 2020. It is a kind of disease caused by the SARS CoV-2 virus. Due to the spread of COVID-19, we experienced a nationwide lockdown. It affected the nation socially, economically, and educationally. Almost all schools and universities were closed. Students and teachers were locked at home instead of going to school. We had no options in the beginning and later we started searching the different alternatives of teaching. As a result, we started communicating through Facebook Messenger. To achieve educational goals, we tried our best to find the best alternatives. Facebook Messenger was not handy in a large class and for visual interpretation. Therefore, we practiced Zoom technology. We learned to operate the Zoom application which provided a platform for both teachers and students to exercise teaching-learning activities appropriately. It has been widely used as a teaching tool that facilitated students alike the face-to-face classroom context.

Thus, this study intended to describe zoom technology as a teaching tool during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a reflection of an English teacher who experienced the COVID-19 pandemic massively. This study indicated that COVID-19 didn’t bring challenges only rather it brought equal opportunities as well. Therefore, this study has extensively concluded that operating the Zoom application was tough and challenging in the beginning but later it was a common and appropriate tool among all. It concluded that most teachers lacked the adequate skills to run the zoom app and those who were aware of the application had no access to the internet and digital devices. The technological enrichment and ICT paved the way for e-learning which could be affordable to families under poverty, and it would increase the competency of the learners in learning. The students learned time management skills, technological skills, and pedagogical knowledge during the COVID-19 pandemic in Nepal.                          

Keywords: COVID-19, Pandemic, zoom technology, lockdown, challenges, and opportunities

Introduction

Teaching and learning are continuous processes to obtain new knowledge. There could be different techniques and strategies while teaching in the classroom. The physical appearance of teachers and students could make better sense for meaningful learning. Due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic all over the world, the education sector was mostly victimized. The rapidly growing pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges to Nepal’s education sector

Moreover, the government of Nepal issued a nationwide lockdown from 24 March to 21 July 2020 (as cited in Sharma, Banstola & Parajuli, 2021). Education was mostly affected. As a consequence of the lockdowns, schools and universities in Nepal were temporarily closed. Students and teachers became jobless due to COVID-19. It greatly affected all students, teachers, and parents, and all the concerned stakeholders. It provided challenges as well as opportunities for the teachers and students to explore the educational world around them. In the very beginning, COVID-19 created a chaotic situation and developed a great dilemma among all teachers, students, and parents because there were no ways in front of us. Pausing physical classrooms and staying at home was not the solution to such great problems for us. As a teacher, I felt a vacuum within myself and started thinking about its alternatives almost after a month.  Facebook Messenger was only the online medium for the students to be connected. Slowly and gradually, we moved towards the other applications and we reached into Zoom Apps. Then, we started using zoom technology which was used as a tool to provide education to the students.

We are living in a modern world where technology is ubiquitous. Due to the ubiquitous presence of technology, the pedagogy of teaching and appropriate methodology has been essential for replacing the face-to-face mode of teaching with the virtual one. Inculcating technological awareness, pedagogical wellbeing, and technological content knowledge, we happened to exercise the contemporary practice of online delivery. The physical classroom environment was completely switched to the virtual one due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Traditional ways of teaching were replaced by an innovative way of teaching. To accomplish the educational goals, we have come across significant changes in our classroom practices. Thus, this paper aimed at exploring the effectiveness of zoom technology as a tool to teach during the COVID-19 pandemic in Aanbookhaireni Rural Municipality, Tanahun.  

Both private and public schools employed online teaching via zoom technology. Zoom technology was not appropriate in the remote area of Aanbookhaireni Rural Municipality. However, it was widely used in urban areas of the same municipality. It was difficult for me to use zoom technology in the beginning but later I learned about it and started using it appropriately. It was challenging for the beginner teachers to use in the classroom due to a lack of knowledge and skills to operate it. Thus, it has been considered as a helpful tool to provide education to the student during such situations. Considering the zoom apps as a cloud-based asset Guzachevqn (2020) stated,

Zoom is a cloud-based service that offers meetings and webinars and provides content sharing and video conferencing capability. Furthermore, he argues zoom is the leader in modern enterprise video communications, with an easy, reliable cloud platform for radio and audio conferencing collaboration, chat, and webinars across mobile devices, desktops, telephones, and room systems.

            To cope with the above statement through video conferencing students could share and receive information among other participants which were possible only through the use of zoom during the COVID-19 pandemic. And it helped to achieve the educational goals of any teacher. The most important thing is students are learning new technology by using zoom and obtaining their aims as well. Before lockdown we have only heard about such technology, now practically we have faced a new opportunity in the educational sector. Students and teachers as well become able to use mobile phones, computers, able to use the internet and social media which is essential in the present world. With the help of such technology, they get an education like in the general classroom. It helps to run a course of study which was disturbed by pandemic smoothly to meet the goals of the academic year. That is why it is said that zoom technology helped to reach the educational goals and provide extra knowledge to the students.

Situating the context

Teaching aims to convey information and help students develop content knowledge. In course of teaching, a teacher should use different techniques and strategies convenient and easier for the teacher. On the other hand, the teaching tool is also one of the essential foundations of the teaching and learning process that is why the teaching tool should be effective. Television, radio, computer, new technology, etc. were used as a teaching tool during the pandemic. Among them, most of the schools used zoom technology as a teaching tool during the pandemic to provide education with the help of the internet and the presence of mobile phones, computers, and laptops.

Implementing zoom technology as a tool became a challenging job for the teachers. Due to lack of idea about new technology, operating system and poor internet access we almost failed to implement in the initial phase. But later, we searched for the best alternatives and practiced the zoom application. Generally, people thought zoom was one of the applications which could be used easily but in reality, it was too complicated for all of us to use it appropriately. We had to explore out whether it works as a tool or not in the education system during the pandemic. Was zoom technology as a teaching tool significant to teachers? Thus, this study was intended to fetch the answer to those questions. Examining the various reasons, I explored the ideas and experiences of scholars in the field of language teaching in Nepal inculcating my own experience of using Zoom as a tool for teaching during a pandemic.

Impact of COVID-19 on education in Nepal

The spread COVID-19 pandemic or Coronavirus significantly disrupted every aspect of our life, including education. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on education in Nepal was tremendous even in its early stage. Dawadi, Giri and Simkhada (2020) argued that the alarming spread of the virus caused havoc in the educational system forcing educational institutions to shut down. The education system in Nepal had been affected mostly due to it and educational institutions had been made to shut down. It means the physical education system such as teaching in presence of students and teachers in the classroom was stopped. According to a UNESCO report, 1.6 billion children across 191 countries were severely impacted by the temporary closure of educational institutions (as cited in Dawadi, Giri & Simkhada, 2020). Similarly, UNESCO presented, more than 8 million students in Nepal (4.5 million females and 4.3 million males) of which primary and secondary school children represent 45% and 39% respectively were affected by school closures due to lockdown. The above data showed how the COVID pandemic was affecting the teaching and learning process in the Nepali educational system. It is the data on how the COVID, schools, and universities have affected during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 According to Sharma, Banstola and Parajuli (2021), during the lockdown, children from poor, marginalized, and disadvantaged families who already have limited education opportunities outside school were most affected. Furthermore, child marriage has increased during the lockdown, students’ dropout rates were rising. The above data showed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the educational sector was severe. The government brought an alternative way of teaching such as online classes but the students in the remote village were out of reach due to the low economic status and low internet access. However, it impacted different assets of classroom teaching from sport or physical activity to curricular and extracurricular activities.  

Digital learning access in education

The present scenarios indicated that students in Nepal are affected by various perspectives. Methodological switch from face-to-face classroom teaching to virtual one made teaching and learning effective and innovative. The closure of the physical classes brought a notable rise of online learning whereby teaching and learning were undertaken remotely and on a digital platform (Acharya, et. al, n.d.). Schools and universities were accessing digital learning in education as a teaching tool. During the COVID-19, almost all schools and universities ran their classes online. It paved a better way for the concerned stakeholders in academia in Nepal. For the fulfillment of the educational goals, the government of Nepal provided a Closer Uses Group (CUG) sim by adding an internet facility for rural schools to promote education during the pandemic. Digital learning was a trending tool to provide education during the pandemic.

Digital learning was a form of distance learning and its fundamental requisite was access to the internet, digital devices like laptops, mobile phones, smartphones, and computers. During COVID-19 pandemic digital devices were much practiced and become a mandatory asset in addressing the pandemic gap of the institutions. According to Thapa (2020), the contemporary situation made us more sensational and sensitive in the utilization of online, blended, and approaches of distance learning in Nepal. It was mostly growing due to the availability of electronic devices and internet access. The pandemic brought a change in digital learning in the context of the Nepalese education sector. The government of Nepal also provided online-based training to the teachers for the development of their professional knowledge. Digital learning gained an unprecedented acceleration due to the impact of the present pandemic. It seemed that Nepalese education culture was also on the way to making a grand shift towards accommodating innovative technology due to the globally increasing digital learning.

Zoom technology as a tool for teaching

Promoting the educational system which was destroyed by the COVID-19 pandemic was a challenge to the teachers. Due to the pandemic, the traditional teaching process changed and new ways of teaching were explored in our academia. By the time being every pedagogy also gets changed. Traditional teaching was replaced by online distance learning in this period. Zoom technology had been only the prior tool in our education sector that helped to provide quality education during the pandemic. Zoom is a cloud-based service that offered video conferencing capability with a content sharing facility. It was one of the new original software-based conferences that allowed both students and teachers to have an effective teaching-learning activity. It was very useful to the teachers and students who were taking classes virtually.

 Zoom promoted English teachers to present the content of their lessons in various ways (Guzacheva, 2020). Furthermore, it was useful in screen sharing as well. It motivated English teachers to annotate their shared screen, making lessons more interactive and preparing for student-centered teaching. More specifically, video communications, cloud conferencing, video and audio conferencing, collaborative workshops, and webinars, etc. were common for all of us to use in our classroom during the pandemic. We used mobile devices, desktops, computers, and smartphones in our virtual delivery regularly. Emphasizing the usage of Zoom technology, we learned several skills such as video conferencing, designing an online lesson, preparing effective teaching-learning materials during the pandemic. Zoom had become an indispensable technology for the way I work, teach, and learn together by the screen sharing feature. Therefore, I successfully engaged my students in my online class showing them the materials like videos, pictures, stories, and lesson-related materials, etc.    

As a result, the use of zoom technology became one of the prominent tools of learning and teaching during the COVID pandemic in the education sector. I felt it was one of the useful tools for online teaching in our context. With the presence of teachers and students through the different devices such as mobile, laptop, computer, etc. teaching-learning process became effective and lively through a cloud-based service that offers meetings and provides content sharing with video conferencing facilities.

Challenges and opportunities of zoom technology

Almost all schools and universities were not opened and it was not clear how long this situation would continue. The virtual class which was run by the direction of the government of Nepal had partly fulfilled the educational goals. On other hand, shifting to an online class was extremely difficult in the Nepalese context mostly due to poor internet access and lack of digital devices at their hand. There were no relevant guidelines, strategies, and courses about the legitimacy of the student’s learning on an online platform. We all were lacking in it because we had no such experience in conducting online classes. Indeed, most of the teachers did not have adequate skills to run online apps like zoom and others because they had neither been trained to do the job nor been involved in online teaching before. And another reason was that there was no access to the internet and digital devices in rural areas.

For the effective implementation of online classes, different facilities such as good internet connection and electronic devices like mobile phones, computers, and laptops were the basic requirements. Dawadi, Giri, and Simkhada (2020) presented that for most schools, in addition to infrastructure, unfamiliarity on the part of teachers and schools managers are barriers to providing distance learning. It was incomplete due to the many reasons while implementing zoom technology as a tool for teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, the absence of an appropriate exercise and prior lesson planning were the main reasons behind the ineffectiveness of the online class. Lack of technological devices, inadequate technological knowledge, lack of self-motivation, lack of lesson design skills, insufficient funds, reluctance to amend the policy, electricity integrated problems, etc. were the challenges of e-learning in Nepal (Acharya, et. al, n.d.). Alongside poor network connection, low internet access, and data privacy from the internet were other challenges that have affected the online zoom learning system in Nepal.

During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, online physical classes had been run almost everywhere which was a new experience for both students and teachers (Laara, et. al, 2021). Zoom technology had the potential to transform the education system by boosting educational opportunities, encouraging the development of new pedagogical methods, making the learning process more reliable, more efficient, despite many challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. Zoom technology as a tool to bring transformation in education mechanisms had presented various opportunities in the modern world. It provided the learners’ various skills about new technology and helped to achieve destined goals. The overall opportunities of e-learning were affordable to families under poverty, increase competency among facilities, development in ICT, increase time management skills, increase adaptation skills to international digital communities, and skills up technological literacy (Acharya, et. al, n. d.). So, it has been realized the teacher training center, Tanahun, made the online class more energetic, effective, and familiar for many of the teachers in our locality.  Indeed, I implemented zoom technology which was significantly useful for enhancing the conceptual understanding of both teachers and students regarding their course content.

Conclusion

It is believed that COVID-19 didn’t come along with challenges only rather it came up with several opportunities. The impact of COVID-19 has been severely realized in different fields such as tourism, business, industries, and health in general and education in particular. The closure of physical classes and the initiation of the online class taught several lessons to use new technology and innovative ideas in our classroom context. Online mode of delivery especially zoom application created a space in our education sector fundamentally. Zoom application remained as one of the interesting technologies which provided the facilities for audio-video conferencing, video communications, cloud conferencing, collaborative workshop, webinars, and chat, etc. Pertaining to the need and necessity of the educational institution during the pandemic, most of the schools and universities used zoom technology as a teaching tool in Aanbookhaireni Rural Municipality, Tanahun.  The use of zoom technology has been viable, effective and one of the best alternatives in our academia during the pandemic.  Zoom application supported those schools, students, and teachers in obtaining content-related pedagogical knowledge and skills. It made every practitioner easier to grab the learning opportunity via the zoom application because it saved time, energy and became learner-friendly tools to solve the problems minutely. Thus, it was useful in breaching the gap in teaching in the Nepalese education context because it facilitated learners’ potentials and helped them explore their potentials.   

References

Acharya, A., et.al (n. d.). Digital learning initiatives, challenges and achievement in higher education in Nepal Amidist COVID-19. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED609894

Dawadi, S., Giri, R.S., & Simkhada, P. (2020). Impact of COVID-19 on the education sector in Nepal. Challenge and coping strategies. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED609894

Guzachevaq, N. (2020). Zoom technology is an effective tool for distance learning in teaching English to medical students. Bulletin of Science and Practice, 6(5), 457-460. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.33619/2414-2948/53/61

Laara, R.A., Ashraf, M.A., Ning, J., Ji, P., Fang, P., Yu, T., & Khan, M.N. (2021). Performance, health, and psychological challenges faced by students of physical education in online learning during COVID-19 Epidemic: a qualitative study in China.

 

Sharma, K., Banstola, A., & Parajuli, R.R. (2021). Assessment of covid-19 pandemic in Nepal: A  lockdown scenario analysis. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33898371/#affiliation-3

 

Shrestha, R., Shrestha, S., Khanal, P. & KC, B. (2020). Nepal’s first case of COVID-19 and

public health response. Retrieved from http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/

 

Thapa, V. (2020). Possibilities of e-learning in higher education of Nepal. Retrieved from

https://doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.24345.77923

 

UNESCO (2020). COVID-19 impact on education. UNESCO. Retrieved from

https://en.unescoorg/covid-19/education response.

 

Author’s Bio:

Purnima Thapa completed her M.Ed. from Aadikavi Bhanubhakta Campus, TU. She is a school teacher at Aanbookhaireni, Tanahun. She is interested in teaching, reading, and carrying out research in ELT.

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

Dear Valued Readers,

ELT Choutari is pleased to present you the third quarterly issue (July-September) of 2021. This issue has covered a wide range of areas of classroom pedagogy, online practices during Covid-19, ELT practices, and reflections of English teachers and practitioners.

English teachers in difficult times and circumstances have their own unique experiences of teaching English. During this global pandemic, we have seen many English teachers receiving opportunities of participating online conferences, seminars and courses right from their home. They have been receiving opportunities to interact and present in both local and global seminars. They are updating themselves with new skillsets of operating technology and using several online resources to facilitate English language learning. For instance, English teachers are increasingly using PowerPoint presentation, audio-video materials rather than depending on chalk and talk and translation method. They are also found using creative ways to assess students’ learning virtually.  In a nutshell, English teachers are encouragingly updating and upgrading their skills to teach virtually via professional development opportunities.

On the other hand, many teachers are also facing challenges to reach out to their students as the electricity and internet connectivity is still a big challenge to majority of people in remote parts of the country. Schools have been closed for a long time and students from such remote geography are isolated from teaching learning. Sufferers are those students who are already struggling or underperforming in class and this pandemic is going to widen this learning gap hugely, which will take quite a good time and effort to maintain. Thus, time has come for stakeholders to invest and expand technology far and wide, and to capacitate teachers to make the best use of technology to deliver education during the emergency and ever (as a supplementary teaching-learning).

In this issue, the authors have brought different experiences of teaching and learning of English in different contexts. Moreover, as an editors’ choice, we have picked a blog piece of Dr. Prem Phyak titled “Engaged research in applied linguistics: Reflections from practice”. The piece was first published in the AAAL GSC blog (https://www.aaal-gsc.org/blog). Dr. Phyak opines that researchers should adopt engaged research framework to include the marginalized community in the research process not only as a research subject but also as a co-researcher to deconstruct the top down approach of researching based on his experiences and research practices. We hope these variety of contributions will be useful resources and sources of motivation for teachers and students to moving forward. Here is the list of seven blog posts of this issue:

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

We are really grateful to all the authors for their contributions to this issue.  We are really thankful to the reviewers for their efforts to bring out this issue.  We would like to thank the entire team of ELT Choutari: Ganesh Kumar Bastola, Mohan Singh Saud, Jnanu Raj Paudel, Babita Chapagain, Sagar Poudel, Karuna Nepal, Ekraj Koirala, Nani Babu Ghimire and Rajendra Joshi to materialise this issue. For this issue, we must thank Narendra Airi for his support in reviewing and proofreading the articles.

Finally, if you enjoy reading the blog pieces, please feel free to share in and around your academic circle, and of course, drop your comments in the boxes below. Likewise, please write about your experiences, reflections, experiments, reviews, or any other scholarly articles for our future publications. You can reach us at 2elt.choutari@gmail.com.

Thanking you.

Happy reading!

Ashok Raj Khati        Lead editor of the issue
 Jeevan Karki               Co-editor of the issue

Teachers’ wellbeing and pedagogical success

Rejina K C
            Rejina KC

Background

Teachers need to be in good health to teach in an innovative, inspiring, and meaningful way. During their pedagogical journey, they may experience a variety of emotions. These experiences and emotions have a major impact on their as well as students’ successful schooling. The happiness of teachers is linked to their work satisfaction, professional relationships, and personal lives. The main purpose of this article is to review past and current literature related to the issues of teachers’ wellbeing and its adverse effect on their pedagogical success.

My perception of wellbeing

As an English language teacher in a private school and college in Kathmandu, I spend a lot of time and energy not only in the classroom, but also outside of it, because the job requires a lot of preparation time for assignments, lectures, and lesson plans. So far my experience is concerned, teaching in a private school is one of the lowest-paying jobs available, with no retirement plans or job security. Almost all teachers work on a contract basis and a part-time basis. Further, the COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated the teachers’ predicament. On one hand, teachers’ paychecks have been cut in half, and have to devote even more time preparing for online lectures and implementing new technology for teaching. On the other hand, working from home has made teachers’ work-life balance even more difficult. As a result, I am experiencing a negative impact from this change in both my personal and professional life.

I feel deprived of one of the basic needs of day-to-day normal life due to a lack of personal and emotional contact with students, colleagues, and close ones for an extended period. Staying at home twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week for months and months has been exhausting, stressful, boring, mentally unhealthy, and frustrating. As an ELT teacher, the unfolding situation has prompted an important question in my professional and emotional thinking. I am constantly wondering if I will be able to fulfill my professional obligations while also living my personal life to the fullest.

Based on a review of the literature on how pedagogical success and learning outcomes are affected, this research article is the result of my quest to understand teachers’ wellbeing and their negative and positive emotions. This question nags at the back of my mind whenever I reflect on my career as an ELT professional. I was curious about how teachers’ wellbeing affects their professional and personal goals. I was curious as to what teachers’ wellbeing entails, what factors contribute to it, and if there is anything that can be done to improve teachers’ wellbeing. What role can schools play in this endeavor? In line with these questions, this article vividly presents concepts of wellbeing and its components.

Teachers’ wellbeing

According to Mercer (2021), wellbeing, as a social construct, is considered not only for the individual but also for the entire ELT ecology. Although happiness, in general, is based on people’s perceptions, it is a deeply psychological construct that is difficult to define. According to one CESE (2014) report, teacher wellbeing is linked to the quality of their work and its impact on student outcomes. Mercer (2021) further argues that wellbeing is not void nonsense. It is deeply rooted in human existence within social communities and global ecology. Here, the term wellbeing does not denote an individual but the collective. So Mercer further states that ELT has got into this very intensely for understanding what wellbeing does mean for all the members of ELT community.

Wellbeing is synonymous with happiness and as Cann (2019) states ‘ life satisfaction’. There are two main theoretical perspectives on happiness: hedonic and eudemonic. The hedonic approach focuses on personal experience of happiness and an individual’s perception of balance between positive/negative emotions and their overall sense of life satisfaction (Diener et al., 1999; Mercer, 2020). The eudemonic perspective, on the other hand, is centered on self-actualization and the ability to derive a sense of purpose or meaning in life.  Wellbeing brings pride and happiness, and happiness is more closely linked to effective teaching and learning in any educational institution (Cann, 2019). As a result, wellbeing appears to be one of the most important factors in pedagogical performance. Many studies have concluded that it is critical to promote teacher wellbeing to achieve better learning outcomes for students. Toraby and Modaresi (2018) suggest that when teachers are happy, they teach more creatively and their students achieve more (e.g. Caprara et al., 2006). Similarly, when students experience positive wellbeing in school and see positive behavior from teachers, they are more motivated and successful in their studies (e.g. Seligman et al., 2009). A positive relationship with coworkers to improve wellbeing is important for professional achievement and happy life.

Positive and negative emotions

The COVID- 19 pandemics have greatly disrupted the teaching and learning process (Sanusi, Olaleye & Dada, 2021), and it has created a lot of negative emotions among teachers and learners as infection numbers rise and is reported in news outlets and social media. Frenzel (2014) discussed negative emotions such as anxiety, anger, boredom, as well as positive emotions such as feelings of enjoyment and pride.

Dibbon (2004) has already brought the idea from his study that anxiety, anger, and boredom lead to the negativity of teachers’ wellbeing. Sanusi, Olaleye, and Dada (2021) describe the factors that create negative emotions such as “internet issues, including its cost, student’s participation rate, insufficient media instruction, lack of student’s preparation, and preference for face-to-face class”. The positive impact that COVID- 19 has brought is, among others, the learning of technology by the teachers to accomplish their tasks (Sanusiet et al., 2020). Positive emotions among teachers are likely to grow when they can adequately rely on their profession for sustenance and security.

Learning new skills and remaining consistent at work during the pandemic can provide an abundance of positive emotions.  Teachers perceive their workplace as being stressful and anxiety-inducing and it exerts great pressure and stress on them (Salashour & Esmillie, 2021). One of the issues that must be addressed at the institutional level is the negative impact of negative teacher emotion (Toraby, 2018). Students’ performance may suffer as a result of negative emotions. Yoon (2002) researched student-teacher relationships in the classroom and concluded that students had a negative view towards their teachers as a result of the teacher’s stress and negative emotions. Such negative emotions are directly related to teacher burnout, which may reduce self-efficacy.

Burnout and self-efficacy

Learning without burden for students and teaching without burnout for teachers is essential for -the wellness of students and teachers. According to Maslach (2015, as cited in Safari, 2021), burnout is a psychological syndrome aroused from mental and emotional exhaustion that later develops as long-term emotional or interpersonal stressors. Also, long-term anxiety and stress may cause burnout. Some studies have also discussed the sources of burnout and have discussed briefly creating the issues (Safari, 2021; Maslach, 2015; Chang, 2009). It is pointed out that individual, organizational and transactional factors are the three main sources of burnout (Chang, 2009).

Individual factors include age, gender, ethnicity, educational background, and teaching experience.  Traditionally, studies on education production function have focused on how teachers and their background characteristics influence student performance (Hanushek & Rivkin, 2010 et. al., Todd & Wolphin, 2003). Similarly, organizational factor denotes job satisfaction and workplace environment, which are linked to income, division of labor, classroom management, incentives, and the organization’s socioeconomic status.

Since self-efficacy is an important variable and can affect the rate and time of burnout, the relationship between self-efficacy and burnout is studied (Safari, 2021). The theory of social cognitive defines the term ‘self- efficacy’ as an individual’s faith in their capacity to be successful in certain conditions (Bandura, 2006).The theory defines that teachers’ self-efficacy is the belief in the ability to plan, organize, and implement different educational activities that are critical to achieving pedagogical goals. Implementation of the measures to control the level of burnout help to improving teachers’ mental, physical, and social wellbeing that supports to enhance their teaching effectiveness, interpersonal relationship and their job satisfaction (Safari, 2021). Hence, an effective teaching process plays a vital role in the performance and success of any institution.

Relation between wellbeing and pedagogical success

Teachers’ pedagogical success is primarily determined by their cognitive abilities as well as their academic and professional knowledge in the field (Toraby, 2018). Students prefer teachers who have both emotional literacy and professional literacy. Many studies have been conducted to investigate the cause and effect on the teachers’ wellbeing (Blazar& Kraft, 2017). The unpleasant emotions, which are experienced by the teachers such as tension, anxiety, frustration, anger, depression may result in dissatisfaction in their work (Kyriacou, 2009). Negative emotions in teachers have an impact on their wellbeing, which can lead to poor performance of the students. Therefore teachers need to focus on happiness since it can bring positivity and positive emotions that assist teachers in being content with their lives. In this way, many studies have concluded a moderate, positive correlation between teachers’ emotions and students’ views on teachers’ pedagogical success.

Teachers’ wellbeing is not only the matter of being satisfied but also has some dimensions for developing positive emotions that influence the success in teaching. Teachers’ psychological and sociological factors can influence their success and failure (Safari, 2021).Emotional exhaustion relates to the psychological problem whereas sociological factors here refer to the interpersonal relationships between teachers and their self-efficacy. So, control over the stressors helps to improve mental health issues, teaching techniques and skills, interpersonal relation that results to job satisfaction.

According to Cotton (2008), various dimensions such as quality education, classroom quality, classroom management, job satisfaction, language, teacher turnover, and self-efficacy affect teacher’s wellbeing. The success of teaching is, directly and indirectly, related to the beliefs that arise out of different theories in pedagogy. Positive emotions in teachers, according to studies, cause them to teach more creatively, and the learner(s) to achieve more. Toraby (2018) revealed that when students believe their teachers are enjoying their jobs, they learn more. Similarly, when students feel good in the classroom and during the learning process, they are more motivated and successful in their studies (Seligman et al, 2009). As a result, teachers’ wellbeing and positive emotions are critical factors in successful teaching and pedagogical success.

Teachers’ wellbeing amidst the pandemic

Mental health issues, stress, and anxiety are sweeping the world as a result of social isolation caused by COVID-19 led lockdown across the world for the last year. Due to massively increased coronavirus, schools and universities are some of the most severely affected areas in this regard. Teachers in remote and hybrid environments reported more challenges than those in solely face- to face instruction (Schwartz, 2020). While anxiety and stress among students due to online classes or even no classes are well reported, teacher’s wellbeing is not spared from the mental health pandemic.

The coronavirus pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges to educators including disruption in the management of day-to-day teaching stuff and a rapid transition from in-person to remote learning (Porter, 2020). Seeing the current situation, teachers’ wellbeing is affected adversely from the following three sides.

Teachers are forced to teach online, if any, without direct human interaction. As human interaction is the most important social ingredient for social health, the deprived teachers are unable to manage their emotional needs by merely teaching from home and not being able to go to physical classes. Teachers are forced to reply on computer screens for professional work, information, communication, entertainment, and so on. This helps to deteriorate not just the mental health of teachers, but also their physical health.

On the second side, millions of teachers across the world are losing or on the verge of losing their job.  As private schools are struggling to survive amidst almost zero revenue and constant costs, teachers have to face with ever-increasing job insecurity and financial catastrophe.

Finally, the pandemic can hit a teacher’s family anytime. With little access to the vaccine among teachers, they are already one of the most vulnerable groups in society after medical professionals. This threat of disease has also put a lot of stress on teachers.

All these three factors have made teachers’ jobs even more challenging. They are neither being able to fully deliver what they have been doing for years and intend to do for the rest of their lives nor are they being able to receive extra support and incentive for all the extra effort they have to invest to switch from physical to online mode.

Conclusion

Many studies have claimed that teacher’s wellbeing, emotions, and students learning outcomes are an integral part of pedagogical success. Positive feelings coincide with teachers’ professional success and that success determines the teachers’ wellbeing. So, the display of emotion is considered vital in teaching success. Literature suggests emphasizing both the teachers’ wellbeing and students’ achievements for pedagogical success. Teachers’ positive emotion leads to better students’ achievement and success in teaching.

The pandemic has brought additional challenges to teachers’ wellbeing and pedagogical success. Effective and natural connections between the teachers and learners have been broken. Thus, the virtual world is nowhere near enough to meet the emotional need of the teachers and students.

References

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Author’s bio:

Rejina KC is a Nepalese ELT teacher-researcher. She is currently pursuing her PhD at Kathmandu University, School of Education, Kathmandu. She has a master’s degree in English from Tribhuvan University and an MPhil degree in Interdisciplinary Education from Pokhara University. Her research interests include literature in language classroom, creative writing in EFL and teachers’ wellbeing and motivation. She has more than a decade-long experience as an ELT teacher from ECD to the University level. She is passionate about learning different methodology in ELT teaching for fostering language competence and skills in both teaching and learning English.

 

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

 

                 Dasharatha Rai

Flashback

Teaching became one of my ideal professions when I was a high school student. It was not because of I understood the susceptibility and nobility of teaching profession, but because of my personal impressions to the teaching profession. When I feel nostalgic for my high school, my memory shares only blurred images of the lessons taught in the cold and unsophisticated classroom of the village school. Rather, I vividly remember hanging on the branches of Kafal tree, being caught in the hooks of Aiselu, throwing stones at orange trees heavily laden with juicy oranges, and surreptitiously stealing plums, pears on the way to School. I grew up with nature and learnt more from the nature rather than from the school courses.

One of the things that attracted me to teaching is that I was enticed with a word associated with teachers. The word that vehemently pulled me in teaching profession is the holly term ‘Guru’. I was introduced this word by Purna B.K a Nepali teacher who spoke exquisite Nepali with correct pronunciation in a rhythmic tone. Since then, the term ‘Guru’ always became the dearest to me. It became an immutable aspect of my life. Though I was introduced the term by the Nepali teacher, I chose to be an English teacher. In my case, there are three things that motivated me to become an English teacher. Firstly, speaking English in my society is taken as social prestige and having tag of intelligent person. Secondly, I could not communicate in English even after completion of the SLC. Thirdly, my English teacher Mr. Nabaraj Tamang became a friend of mine more than a teacher. Among three, the feeling of inferiority for not being able to communicate in English always rumbled inside me. It proliferated my dream of learning English day and night. Therefore, in a dawn I strode to Kathmandu from village for pursuing dream to learn and become an English teacher.

After the completion of B.Ed. from Mahendra Ratna Campus Kathmandu, specializing in English education, I grew mature enough for teaching. My academic accomplishments placed me on the threshold of teaching. I started hunting for job in English medium schools in Kathmandu. Finally, one of my gurus in campus ascertained my interest in teaching and recommended me a school for teaching the students of grade nine and ten. I felt a little awkward to go for high school children particularly because of two reasons. Firstly, I had no experience at all. Secondly, to be honest, I did not have fluency in speaking. I was in a great dilemma what to do and what not to. At the same time, my guru made me a call and said, “Mr. Rai if you want to learn swimming, the level of water should reach up to your chin. Then, either you will swim or die. But, if I let you in the water that only submerge your knees, you will never sink and never learn swimming.” My guru indicated me that the more challenges I face the more competent I become. Eventually, I agreed to go for the students of grade nine and ten.

From the Obstacles

The first year of my teaching experience remained insomniac, frustrated and tiresome. As a novice teacher I did not have skills that are required to handle teaching and learning activities in the classroom except apprenticeship of observation and scanty theoretical knowledge. As I entered the classroom with coming led feeling of both excitement and awkwardness in the first day, around 40 bright, sparkling and curious eyes swallowed me at a glance with the warm greetings. Their sparkling and curious eyes were indicating that they wanted something new, something interesting from me.

The days were going well but slowly and gradually, I realized that something was falling apart. I came across some critical incidents while teaching in the classroom, particularly dealing with an effective lesson plan, teaching materials, fluency and delivery in speech, identifying the nature of students, controlling classroom so and so. As days went by the students ‘gestures and facial expressions in the classroom reflected that they were not satisfied with my teaching. I was winced by the students’ reactions. One day, I was dealing with one of the grammatical items the ‘Reported Speech’ in the class. I approximately delivered ten-minutes speech on the topic, presented two-three examples and offered some practice questions to the students on the board and asked them to practice. The first thing, students had to transform direct speech into indirect in copy. Secondly, each individual had to stand up and read out their answers to the friends. Thirdly, other students had to find the errors made by their friends and tell a correct answer. Finally, my job was to facilitate them. As I finished writing practice questions on the board, I went around the class and checked if students had written or not. One of the students in the last bench was sitting baffled. I asked him if he had written the practice questions. His answer was, Sir? “You haven’t done anything?” I inquired. He absently responded “No sir”. I was flabbergasted by the response. Alas! What can be more suicidal to a teacher if the students do not perceive what you are doing.

Similarly, in other days I prepared some charts and flashcards as the teaching materials to deal with vocabularies and some writing skills. However, the students showed no interest in it. Later on, I realized that my teaching materials were so clumsy and not attractive to draw the attention of the students. Interestingly, a few days later, I found some of the students were perfect artists in both painting and writing in the class. In the soliloquy I was stroke with some questions. Why the students of B.Ed. level are not trained to prepare suitable and attractive teaching materials by university lectures along with theoretical anecdotes? Why the B.Ed. level students are not engaged in classroom workshops to deal with preparing a comprehensive teaching materials?

The high school students expect flawless speech. But, in my case it was not. I do think that most of the university students still have the same problem as I had in speaking. As a novice teacher, surviving in the classroom was a great job. I delivered a sentence in a minute, means 45 sentences in 45 minutes. One of the reasons that interrupted my speech was grammar. When I delivered speech in the class, I focused less on speech and more on grammatical items like preposition, articles, tense and blah, blah, blah. Later on, I realized that over thinking on grammatical items created blockade in my brain, as a result, it could not activate my UG (the universal grammar). The next thing is that I focused more on transactional speech and less on interactional one. The transactional speech created more controlled situation in which learners became passive. In due course of time, I realized that much of our communication remains interactional. These were other reasons that the students were not motivated in the class. Meanwhile, I came across another question. Why do most of the students even in university level cannot master in speaking competencies?

Teaching became an arduous work for me at the beginning. I felt that I lost myself in a labyrinth of teaching. I bid farewell several sleeplessness nights. I could not zip my eyes properly by thinking about the students, my responsibilities towards them, expectation of administration so and so. Here, I realized a month of teaching practice conducted by campus did not adequately impart me the skills that is needed in the real classroom. No doubt, it introduces me the terms and conditions of practice teaching. But my profession demanded more than I could do. I critically view that practices teaching conducted by campuses across the country has not been as effective as it is supposed to be from both the practitioner teachers and the supervisors in most of the campuses in Nepal. Why our practice teaching cannot prepare a complete teacher?

Meanwhile, the theories that I studied in campus and real world practice fell apart. I should have straddled one foot in theories and another in practice but I fell into deep gorge of theories and practices. I have no idea at all whether theories and practices went along side in practice teaching or not. I do even have no idea whether the supervisors should guide the practitioner teachers to tie up their teaching learning activities with theories or not. Now, while sharing my experience I assume that the practitioner teachers should be taught to link the theories with practice in practice teaching as well. At the beginning of my teaching in the school I just entered the class told the students to turn out the page numbers and find the topic. Then I narrated what was given in the textbook. It made the students just a passive listener as a result they were bored. They were treated as a blank sheet of paper. This kind of teaching kept the curiosity, ideas, feelings, experiences and imagination of the students at bay. I followed the center to periphery approach. I remained in the center and the students in the periphery. I became like a strange creature among the students who does not know anything except what has been given in the textbook. It created social, psychological and linguistic gap between us. A teacher is motivated when he/she sees the pleasant countenance of his/her students but it did not happen so.

To the Exploration

After a year of my teaching I realized that I have ever had the worst teaching techniques. Then, I felt that I need to shift my teaching from deductive to inductive, inductive to deductive, transactional to interactional, interactional to transactional according to the situations. Concomitantly, I started bridging approach—methods and techniques. Understanding approach, methods and techniques demanded a rigorous and meticulous study. I had to wonder and ponder over every details while reading. I crawled over the books, research articles and journals to glean information on teaching. This is how, I became an autonomous learner.

I started presenting questions related to topics and asked the students to present their ideas and experiences rather than ordering them to turn the page numbers and listen. It helped me to create a floor for discussion. I used pictures related to topics and ask them to interpret it in their own words. I created space for sharing their experiences and stories. I ameliorated my teaching materials with critical consideration of the nature of the units. I took English as a language not a subject. It activated the students’ mind, body and soul at a time. They had to think and imagine, write down their thoughts and imagination from their heart, share their experiences and stories with their friends. I found that the students are extraordinary creative creatures. I ascertained that this is how my teaching was supported by rationalism. This is how I could generate linguistic, interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence of the learners’. Understanding and bridging different theories helped me select methodologies—methodologies further –techniques.

Having been explored different pedagogical implications. I worked further for my professional growth and the students’ academic excellence. Firstly, I critically and meticulously reviewed the curriculum to identify level wise competencies. Secondly, I specified the unit-wise four language skills such as Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing activities. Thirdly, I identified the grammatical items to be taught. Fourthly, I dealt with language forms and functions to be enhanced in the students. It provided me the ways to handle the subject matters and understand the nature of the course I was dealing with. It was just like turning my head to the outer world in the Plato’s allegory of cave.

The above mentioned activities helped me to prepare for my journey. However, my destination had not been cleared yet. I hadn’t been able to accomplish the defined objectives. The objectives were my destination. Therefore, I started preparing lesson plans in a copy not in head. Before it, I used to feel that the task of preparing lesson plans is extra-load of teaching or I used to believe that I am from education background and I know about it very well.  Nevertheless, I prove myself wrong that I knew only the introduction and some elements of a lesson plan. But, implementing lesson plan and knowing about lesson plan are different things. I realized that no textbook or lecturer in university classes can anticipate what problem might occur during lesson or teaching except teacher himself or herself. The preparation of lesson plan helped me to ameliorate my teaching in multiple ways. Firstly, it helped me to manage and organize time and contents. Secondly, it helped me to set the step-wise activities to obtain the objectives. Thirdly, it helped me to substitute one activity with another. Fourthly, it helped me to ascertain different issues that arises while teaching in the class.

Slowly and gradually, I managed to handle the class smoothly. I lost myself in the unfettered pleasure of teaching. I was self-motivated by my own self-exploration of teaching and started preparing varieties of teaching materials. I rejoiced preparing lesson plans, making lecture notes to deliver speech coherently. I googled to find suitable and effective materials. I believe that effective lesson plan and teaching materials work as a panacea in teaching and learning activities. I did it all myself. During that time, I did not get any professional development support from the institution which I was engaged in, rather, judgmental and evaluative perspectives of my teaching. It also motivated me to work harder.

In addition, I read English books voraciously that miraculously developed my confidence and fluency in speaking. I read the books like ‘The First and the Last Freedom’, ‘Thus Spoke Jarathustra’ ‘The Sophie’s world’, ‘Shidhartha’, ‘Pride and Prejudiced,’ ‘The Old Man & Sea’, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, ’Things Fall Apart’ ‘The psyco-cybernetics’, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’, ‘Into Thin Air’, ‘The prophet’ ‘Kafka on the Shore’, ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’, ‘Three mistakes of My life’ ‘Animal Farm’, ‘The winner Stands Alone’, ‘The Zahir’, ‘The Alchemist’ etc. I cannot express how I am benefited by these books both mentally and linguistically. Reading became the most powerful Bhramma Astra to destroy all my glossophobia. I thank my Guru Balaram Adhikari for recommendation of the books and drawing me in reading. If he had not mentioned the names of the books while teaching the course ‘Interdisciplinary Reading’ in the class, I could have missed this contemplative and meditative field.

In my opinion, teaching is an ongoing process of self-exploration. It means a novice teacher should be taught and trained why and how to reflect their teaching learning activities. On the surface such experience may appear irrelevant. However, deep down they have the potential to generate theories of teaching. At the movement, I am reminded of well-known English educationist Kumaravadivelu. He assets that the genuine theory of teaching can emerge only from the practice.

Suggestions to the Novice Teachers

Based on my experience, I would like to share some of the tips that may help the novice teachers to deal with possible challenges in their professional life.

Dealing with contents

  • Study the curriculum meticulously to identify level wise competencies.
  • Study the syllabus thoroughly and identify language skills such as Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking.
  • Identify the unit-wise grammatical items to be taught.
  • Identify language forms and functions to be taught.
  • Make your lesson plan every day in copy not in head.
  • Make your objectives more precise and attainable.
  • Clearly mention your role and the students’ role with estimated time in each activity in the lesson plan.
  • Divide the activities into different steps with appropriate teaching materials.
  • Speak in a natural way with correct pronunciation, tone, pitch and intonation.
  • Create a floor for discussion to connect with students’ past experience.
  • Connect the taught lesson with students’ real life situation through examples and clarification.

Dealing with Besides Contents

Besides our expertise, we need to be aware about different things that contribute us to face the challenges and become a good teacher. I would like to share some of those things related with our profession.

  • Do Extensive Reading. In my experience, extensive reading plays a crucial role to develop our language. It develops our vocabulary, sentence structures and critical thinking in indirectly. Furthermore, if you take references of the books while teaching in the class with some quotes from them, the students will be motivated for reading.
  • Build an appropriate rapport with the students. We need to be both democratic and autocratic according to the situations with students in class. If we become more democratic, then students may take advantages from us such as gossiping in class, not doing assignments sincerely, becoming reluctant to engage in classroom activities etc. And, if we become more autocratic, then they cannot express their thoughts, become indifferent to us and learning becomes painful. Therefore, we need to maintain an appropriate rapport with the students.
  • Present yourself as a role model. We need to present ourselves as a role model. Our personality determines who we are. The way we think, speak and dress directly influence our students. For example, I have found some teachers especially male teachers untidy and careless in many places. I don’t think their uncombed hair, the shirts half tucked inside the trousers and half untucked, addressing the students with ‘Tah’ ‘Tero’ motivates students to become like them. Therefore, present yourself as a role model.
  • Renew yourself. We all know that learning is an endless journey. Therefore, we need to keep updating ourselves every time. Most of time teachers fail to arouse interest in learners while teaching. They complain that students are not motivated in learning nowadays. It happens when teachers cannot meet their demands. Today’s students are more informed than teachers. when learners are more informed than us it definitely adds challenges in teaching. For instance, our students can understand better English songs than us, they can understand more slang language and they may have acquired better pronunciation than us. Therefore, we need to keep sharping ourselves time and again.
  • Respect your profession. Living with dignity makes you realize your existential value. At least, we should spend 25 years of our age to become a teacher. This phase of life is called ‘Brahmachary Aashram’ the time of learning and exploring knowledge. By this time, we might have earned bachelor or master’s education. Thereafter, we enter to our professional life. However, our society does not understand the susceptibility and nobility of this profession. The teachers do still lack respect in our society. But, keep in mind, 25 years of rigorous study is not everyone’s cup of tea. The certificate we got from university is the outcome of our ‘Sadhana’. Therefore, always be positive and respect our profession.
  • Look at yourself in the mirror. Learning is something that most of people records in mind but not in copy. The thing that is recorded in the mind is formless, abstract and may be substituted with another learning in due course of time. Therefore, keep records of your feelings, experiences, ideas and thoughts regularly that helps you to evaluate your professional activities.

Author’ bio: Dasharatha Rai is a teacher, translator and spiritual practitioner. Mr. Rai has been working as an English language teacher and serves as a content coordinator at Merocreation, a web-magazine for youths and children.

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

 

Yadu Prasad Gyawali

Abstract

The paper aims to explore the perceptions of learners towards Google classroom as an alternative learning management system and the experience of the instructor on the use of google classroom in the pandemic of Coronavirus. More specifically, it explores an essence of alternative modes of teaching-learning practices during pandemic in higher education institutions. It focuses on some possible virtual means of teaching-learning activities from home applying no-cost application. However, digital gap was observed in terms of knowledge, skills and locality of the learners. Additionally, the paper reported that the use of google classroom has been comfortable, feasible and meaningful to manage learning resources and assignments as the learners can save materials for future uses, submit assignments on time and develop collaborative learning situation among learners.

Context

Language teaching and teacher education are interrelated, and they get changed in course of time, context and situation. Teachers’ education provides pedagogical knowledge and expertise for teachers. Teacher’ pedagogical wellbeing help teachers explore and implement appropriate strategy in the classroom. For the successful accomplishment of content knowledge, teachers must be able to adapt of new technology in the classroom pertaining to the level and interest of the learners. Moreover, teachers must bring tacit, embodied and integrated course skills to empower learners. However, it is not easier to educate and empower diverse learners and develop their capabilities without incorporating recent technological development for instructional purposes. Bates et al. (2017) report that technology innovation is directly related to societal transformation as we find the change or modification of social framework. It is the change in attitude, behaviors, and activities connected with cultural and economic values. In doing so, every teacher must contribute to his/her professional practice bringing diverse content connecting to pupil’s attitude, behaviors, and activities. Similarly, Geiller (2014)reports that the in-service teachers need to be involved in refresher courses as they need to bring technological emersion in the classroom through the use of applications of online community such as Google classroom . However, Bashir (2019) argues that teachers capacity, context  and availability of the resources support to the adaptation to new learning style with the use of technological tools and application in distance and virtual mode.

While analyzing the situation about technological assets, teachers must pay proper attention on the mode of delivery (Baykal et al., 2019; Kokoç, 2019) and sometimes teachers must appropriately use of technologies in the classroom for the prior management  of content, technological awareness and pedagogical knowledge(Mishra & Koehler, 2006; Shulman, 1987)for the successful delivery of contents knowledge. However, teachers should discharge the prior duties and responsibilities of the self and the students in the classroom. At the present context, teacher education is in the form of redesigning concepts. Velez-Rendon (2002) states that the evolvement of new perspectives in teacher education results in the paradigm shift towards the quality gradation and research-oriented activities.  In my observation, we need to develop a strategy based on the learning context and learnability. We need to focus on the text, technology, techniques and team spirit for reforming teacher education in Nepal. Furthermore, Ozer (2020) explains that teachers must acknowledge student differences of timing, interest, style, knowledge and attitude through effective instruction and instructional techniques. Teachers must identify the desired outcome of instruction and determine ways to document and validate the achievement of those outcomes.

On the other hand,  Chowdhury et al. (2018) exemplify that there are some other groups of teachers who are very keen and cling to the use of ICT. They feel they can give their best performance with the help of ICT. In one way, ICT has made their profession easy as well as challenging. The use of technology has made teachers comfortable in which they prepare short notes in the form of the slides and present in the class as per their convenience. In contrary, it is challenging in the sense that, they need to be upgraded and updated with the new innovation of technology. The current need of classroom engagement is substituted by the technological immersion through online mode and it has been one of the viable approaches during and after pandemic. The use of online mode eradicates any sorts of pandemic either that is coronavirus or any other emergencies. Teachers need to be involved in the alternative mode of teaching learning practices as discussed in (MOEST, 2020; Nepal Education Cluster, 2020). Therefore, the teacher’s technological capacity needs to be resourced through teacher education. As a result, they practice the appropriate teaching learning modality as per the context or locality and they attain what they wanted to achieve. Therefore, this study aims to explore learner’s perception in the use of Google Classroom and the experience of the instructor while implementing Google Classroom to the University (undergraduate) students. The guided research questions of the study were:

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

Methods

The qualitative approach following by focus group discussion and participant observation (Lambert & Lambert, 2012) were used to find out the perception of the learners in the use of Google classroom in the pandemic. The study was carried out in Mid-West University in undergraduate program under the English Education instruction Committee. The students studying in B.Ed Semester second and Semester fourth were  the population of the study and six students were selected for the focus group discussion of the study applying a purposive sampling method as suggested by (Cohen et al., 2007).Similarly participant observation was held to reflect the situation of the use of Google Classroom by the researcher. The obtained information from focus group discussion and participant observation was analyzed by using a descriptive summary of the information.

Results

Google Classroom an application that is easily and freely accessible became the choice of the University students for learning content and technological skills. For example Bashir (2019) reports the interactive use of online application for the development of cooperative context of learning through collaboration. Similarly, Geiller (2014) suggests the need of in-class training of online applications like Google Classroom to the learners as a result they can achieve the better performance in language skills. The discussions of the several studies in different contexts such as (Karaaslan & Çelebi, 2017; Kobayashi, 2015; Kokoç, 2019) report that Google classroom as an adoptable application in the developing countries has  introduced new experiences of gaining knowledge and sharing skills through collaboration both in online and offline modes.

This section is divided into two subsections. The first section discusses on the learner’s perception towards Google classroom and the following subsections deals on the personal experience and the observation of the researcher.

Learners’ perception to the use of Google classroom

The students involved in this study found motivated to the use of Google Classroom. They were found growing their interest towards technology as they could explore resources, submit assignments, and interact with peers and teachers. They argued that they could access Google Classroom from mobile and laptop at home connecting broadband internet or mobile data.  One of the students explained:

The use of Google Classroom was new for me, I involved actively in activities suggested by the instructor. I could access from mobile phone using mobile data. The Google classroom was useful for learning content, sharing ideas with peers and instructor. Its easy to use and we can access without paying any cost. (S1)

S1 reflected Google Classroom as a useful application which enables learners to participate in classroom activities and keep busy them in exploring resources. Some of the participants in the focus group discussion revealed that the use of Google classroom motivated them to the exploration of resources, develop collaboration among peers , however they faced some technological challenges such as power cut, instability of internet connectivity and lack of technological skills. For example, some of the participants expressed:

Google Classroom is the good application for us. For me I can explore reading resources and suggest friends to explore more with the link provided. Another thing is we can get other relevant resources with the help of the link provided by instructor. (S2)

I got excited with the use of Google Classroom, it’s like Facebook. I used to spend about Four hours in Facebook everyday but nowadays I spend only one hour in Facebook and other time I marked gor the Google classroom. I read the reading materials, submit assignment, comment on the issues provided by teachers and friends. Google Classroom made me different, and I became able to motivate myself in study. (S3)

In the pandemic, I was in the remote village where there was lack of internet. Only mobile data can work. I could only attend a class by teacher. Teacher instructed for the use of Google classroom for finding reading resources, submitting assignments and interacting with friends. Although, I had problem of internet in the village, I explored the resources in google Classroom and downloaded them through mobile data. I could read and develop assignment reading in offline mode. So, Google Classroom keeps me busy in pandemic and I realized it as a good and handy application. (S4)

These responses suggested that Google Classroom helped students to connect and communicate with the resources, peers, and teachers. Furthermore, students showed the positive influence of using Google Classroom for the purpose of study and submitting assignments and it is useful for sharing learning in the platform. However, there was digital gap in the implementation accordingly the level of knowledge, skills, locations and resource availability in the context of learners.

Personal experience: Reflection and observation

The world’s educational system has been extensively transformed. Teachers adopt and adapt several strategies in online learning management systems. They incorporate ICT, social media and web tools in English language teaching. Teachers practice different online tools and learning systems extensively in the classrooms for planning and sharing lesson contents, recording attendance, providing assignments, feedbacks and grading for the students’ work primarily in many developing countries of the world. In my personal experience, I have been using google classroom, Moodle, google docs, google sheets and google forms, etc. to empower students and to integrate students in google classroom pertaining to university classes in Nepal because teachers and students connect freely with Gmail accounts to experience varied skills and ideas about google classroom.

While observing the use of Google classrooms in higher ELT classes in Nepal, online platform has been an innovative practice for a concerned community of practice but it has been diverse due to less integration in educational settings particularly in English language classrooms. Brick and Cervi-Wilson (2015) opine that the ICT and educational policies have emphasized to transform traditional ways of teaching into technology-mediated ones by using ICT tools. So, there has been a huge gap between government documentation in policy and its practical implementation in educational sectors.

In my observation, there are several challenges to incorporate in the online platform in the ELT classes of Nepal. The problems and challenges vary in different institutions, teachers and students. They experience different practice and gain access to teaching students in the technology-mediated classroom effectively. They lack in internet access, and ICT tools. Moreover, they lack in teachers’ technological knowledge and skills and they are also poor at digital learning environment. In educational institutions, teachers adopt various potential applications into English language classrooms. Despite the world’s widespread practice of ICT technologies, social media, and online learning platform, it has been realized that teachers required to have the several tools and applications for online delivery such as Google classroom, google meet, Edmodo, zoom, and other dynamics of google features such google sheets, google docs, google drives to tackle students in different classes of Bachelor and Masters’ level. At the present situation of COVID-19 pandemic, what I have observed that participating students into the virtual platform of Google classroom has become more advantageous to address the current alternative demand of e-learning classes in higher education as it is handy and accessible to learners in the remote areas.

Conclusion

The use of alternative pedagogy has been the dire need of time. There are several choices for teachers and students to explore the world around them. Teachers teaching in the 21st century equip with content knowledge, technological awareness and a sense of responsibility in enabling students to achieve success in their personal and professional journey. We concluded that teachers are not the content provider alone rather they the researcher and practitioner and facilitators for the students. The knowledge and skills about the content must be intertwined with their personal, social and educational background. English language teacher education is expected to serve better learning exposure in virtual mode. However, it has a close association with the second as well as foreign language teaching-learning context. Teaching excellence requires technological knowledge and expertise more than a teaching degree or pre-service training. It can only be achieved when teachers are involved in ongoing processes of experimentation, reflection, collaboration, and research/publication on effective teaching. The use of learning management system such as Google classroom has been one of the vibrating assets to foster teaching learning situation and technological awareness for the learners in the language classroom (Rodriguez Moreno et al., 2019) which is helpful in enhancing technological knowledge in diverse classroom. Thus, it is believed that  present situation demands practical knowledge, skills, training and insights(Mishra et al., 2011) in order to explore the good ELT practices and enhance cooperation and collaboration through the technological incorporation in the pedagogy and content development.

References

Bashir, K. (2019). Modeling E-Learning Interactivity, Learner Satisfaction and Continuance Learning Intention in Ugandan Higher Learning Institutions. 15(1).

Bates, J. E., Almekdash, H., & Gilchrest-Dunnam, M. J. (2017). The flipped classroom: A brief, brief history. In The flipped college classroom (pp. 3-10). Springer.

Baykal, N., Sayin, I., & Zeybek, G. (2019). The Views of ELT Pre-Service Teachers on Using Drama in Teaching English and on Their Practices Involved in Drama Course. 6(2), 366-380.

Brick, B., & Cervi-Wilson, T. (2015). Technological diversity: A case study into language learners’ mobile technology use inside and outside the classroom. 10 years of the LLAS elearning symposium: case studies in good practice,

Chowdhury, S. A., Arefin, A., & Rahaman, M. M. (2018). Impacts of ICT integration in the higher education classroom: Bangladesh perspective. J Educ Pract, 9(32), 82-86.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MOEST. (2020). Vidhyarthi Sikai Sahajikaran Nirdeshika.

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

Özer, M. (2020). The contribution of the strengthened capacity of vocational education and training system in Turkey to the fight against Covid-19. Journal of Higher Education, 10(2), 134-140.

Rodríguez Moreno, J., Agreda Montoro, M., & Ortiz Colón, A. M. (2019). Changes in teacher training within the TPACK model framework: A systematic review. Sustainability, 11(7), 1870.

Shulman, L. (1987). Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the new reform. Harvard educational review, 57(1), 1-23.

Vélez‐Rendón, G. (2002). Second language teacher education: A review of the literature. Foreign language annals, 35(4), 457-467.

Author’s bio:

Yadu Prasad Gyawali is the Assistant Professor under the Faculty of Education at Mid-West University (MU), Surkhet Nepal. Mr. Gyawali is also a teacher trainer, consultant, and the editor for different journals. He currently serves as a member of the research committee under the faculty of education at MWU. He is also associated with Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA), Society of Transnational Academic Researchers (STAR) and also serves as a visiting faculty at Chandigarh University, India. Moreover, he has participated and presented different papers nationally and internationally. Mr. Gyawali is also an M.Phil. scholar at Nepal Open University, Kathmandu, Nepal. His areas of interests include teachers’ professional development, and ICT in education.

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

           Shankar Khanal

Introduction

English has become an indispensable part of the educational curriculum in Nepal and it is one of the most used languages in the world.  Teaching English as a foreign language in Nepal has been a challenging job in community schools in general and the context of rural areas in particular. Students in rural areas lack the competency and performance in English compared to their urban counterparts. Based on my ten years of teaching experience in a village in the far western part of Nepal, I have faced several challenges in teaching English. I reckon they are worth mentioning.

English as a subject not as a language

From the very beginning when I started my career as an English teacher, I found that most of the students, as well as teachers, have been taking it as a very tough subject like mathematics.  The only target of the teachers was to prepare students for the final examination. Teachers are evaluated based on the result of the students at the final exams because teachers’ internal promotion depends on the learning achievement of the students. Permanent teachers are promoted depending on their performance appraisal. The skill and efficiency of students are ignored. Students were provided with the typical tasks to do like writing letters, essays, applications and other writings just for memorization and never learning of the meaning, forms and structures. It is done to preserve the reputation of the teacher as a good teacher. Another challenging factor is students’ belief about the nature of learning English as a subject consisting of a list of words and a set of grammatical rules which are to be memorized and separable skills to be acquired rather than a set of integrated skills and sub-skills.

There is a kind of fear deeply rooted among the students with this subject. I would like to add a reference of a student here: he said, “If I were the education minister, I would exclude English from the school level curriculum.”  It clearly shows how students perceive English as a very ‘difficult subject’. They are always fearful about this subject. To lessen their fear, I tried to convince them by giving the example of Mumbai (at least one of every family member lives in Mumbai in connection with work) who can speak Hindi fluently within a short period- then why can’t we learn English?  We only need to learn the structural language and do continuous practice. Without practice, we cannot even write the Nepali language correctly. I encouraged my students to practise English simple sentences along structures. As I and the students spent a few months eventually, they understood and responded in English. So that the teacher, as well as the students, should change the concept that they are teaching and learning a language, though it is taught and learnt as a compulsory course or subject at the school level in Nepal.

Role of teacher as a translator

Teaching English in the classroom means translations in the mother tongue which is another challenge in a rural context. I have a bitter experience with translation. When I started teaching English as a career in private English medium schools, I did not translate all the English texts into Nepali, I only spoke in English. But the strategy was not so effective. Students remained passive, making noise and teasing each other. I asked some of them at the end of the class for evaluation, but no one responded. I guessed it might be their hesitation towards a new teacher. But the next day, I was called by the headmaster, and I got embarrassed by what I heard from him. Students had complained that they did not understand what I taught to them as I did not translate the text into Nepali. Students were habituated only to listen to the voice in their mother tongue from the teacher. One of the students said, “We were waiting for your Nepali translation by the end of the class.” After that, I observed some English classes of other teachers and found that it had been a trend to translate words in their mother tongue. Most of them are neither emphasizing pronunciation nor language structures. It means students are not learning the language with correct structure but the only translation of the written words or text in Nepali.

Later on, we (English teachers) concluded that translation can never be taken as the only tool of teaching English. It can be helpful for classroom management, setting up activities or explaining vocabulary, for example. The translation was a significant part of English language teaching for a long time in our context; it is still in use in many contexts. In my experience, it helps students to understand the language but not how to use the language in real-life situations. It does not help learners develop their communicative skills, but encourages learners to use their first language. It may only be useful to those learners who are more analytical or have performance for verbal linguistics learning strategies. In rural contexts, translation only makes students passive, completely dependent on the teachers and does not encourage students to speak in English during class time.

Less focus on teaching and testing of oral language skills

Language testing is entirely different from testing of other subjects. It covers language skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing) and aspects (vocabularies, grammar and language functions).  The national curriculum framework emphasizes the teaching of all four language skills in a balanced and integrated way. But in the community schools of rural areas, the teaching and testing the listening and speaking skills is less emphasized. I still remember that a few years ago, we used to have cassette players and other materials for listening and speaking tests and there used to be systematic testing.  But nowadays we just provide marks without testing these two important skills. As a result, students have a misconception that they do not need to learn listening and speaking skills because they know that they will get more than 20 marks out of 25 as their practical marks. The SEE (Secondary Education Examination) board has developed criteria for testing students’ English language skills, the system requires students to face both written and oral examinations and students are expected to be able to perform a certain level of English language competence in both written and verbal forms. I talked about it with some English teachers in my neighbourhood and they responded that they have completely ignored two skills; listening and speaking. After consulting with some headteachers and pass out students, I found two reasons: 1) lack of supporting materials to teach and test listening and speaking skills. 2) Less focus on administering listening and speaking tests regularly in schools. Therefore, the teachers need to emphasize these four language skills to be tested.

Lack of ‘trained’ language teachers at lower grades

The school education structure of our country has been realigned from the basic level (ECD/PPE to 8) to the secondary level (9 to 12) after the eighth amendment of the education act. The primary level is the foundation of education. Primary level teachers are responsible for the delivery of all subjects because they do not have specialization in a particular subject while entering the service. They are supposed to teach all subjects.  They might be qualified in other subjects but regarding the English language, most of them do not have the required level of competence and confidence in dealing with it. Most of the primary level teachers are indeed permanent with SLC (school leaving certificate) qualification and they do not receive training on content, pedagogy and modern technology to cope with the current demands of English language teaching methods and techniques.

In a training, I observed that primary level teachers hesitated to speak in English. Earlier when we collected the need, many of them wrote their training need in the Nepali language. It shows that teachers in early grades need a lot of language support, good practice, sharing culture and refresher training modules.

One of the teachers from the Achham district explained that teachers are not highly motivated to teach English effectively because of the lack of enough resources in schools, motivation from school management and the headteacher.

Therefore, English teachers need to change their mindset to get updated with new ideas, teaching techniques, and innovations. We can better use the resources available online and offline. School administration should not pressurize the teachers to complete courses. Learning can be fostered through managing classrooms and resources essential for students. Teacher training on the content, pedagogy and technology should be an integral part of teaching English as a foreign language. Small class sizes are better for enhancing target language skills than large classes. Recruiting qualified and trained teachers are a dire need in our context.

Conclusion

To conclude, teachers in our context face so many challenges while teaching English. We are emphasising upgrading students from one grade to another as exam-oriented teaching and learning has been a major focus. Learning a foreign language like English has not been given much emphasis in our pedagogical practices. Maximum use of mother tongue is in practice. School management and community support mechanism seem to be too weak to encourage teachers to better facilitate the English language courses. Most importantly, motivation and specialized training on the part of English teachers in a rural context is the need of the hour.

Author’s bio:

Shankar Khanal is an M.A. in English from Tribhuvan University. Mr Khanal teaches English at the upper secondary level (11 & 12) at Baijanath model secondary school in Achham district.

A reflection on my Masters’ thesis writing

 

             Deepak Bhatt

Writing on my personal experience of thesis writing, I experienced a way of learning during the selection of the topic for research, planning for data collection and overall writing process which taught me to strive for academic excellence. No two researchers are the same and no two research journeys are the same, even though academic aspirations could be similar among researchers. What you go through and what you experience on this academic journey is always unique. Any initial difficulty we have with academic writing will pay off when we discover new ways of looking at the world and of making sense of it.

The phrase ‘thesis writing’ had become a catchy phrase for me ever since I filled the form of the fourth semester of Masters Level at Far Western University. I had heard the inspirational stories of thesis writing from senior students and my professors about how they did and succeeded. I found their stories interesting, inspirational, and fearful too. As the time passed, our teachers suggested us to select the area for our research to be carried out and to get approval from the department as soon as possible. I had to accomplish the writing in time and to get awarded earlier.

I was the 34th researcher to carry out thesis in the department where many seniors were also struggling to complete thesis writing.  Being the newly founded University, I could see the lack of sufficient literature available in our library. This made me disappointed for the area to be selected for a while. I collected some research works from senior batch students and friends from Tribhuvan University. I dwelt among many research areas and disciplines for more than a month in course of finding the area that interests me. After the vehement effort, I made up  my mind to carry out research on teaching literature which interested me at the end. With the fear in mind, I went to campus to consult my supervisor and discuss the area that I had selected. The supervisor gave silent agreement to that but waited to see the particular genre to further go through. He also suggested me to read the literature so that I could have an idea to decide the genre and narrow down the area of investigation. This meeting encouraged me to go through the literature. I returned home and made a call to my brother in Kathmandu to visit the central library of TU and get some unpublished theses in pen drive. This was the time; the government had recently imposed lockdown in the nation. The librarian, despite the lockdown, provided seven or eight research works to my brother. The theses supported me with sound knowledge of literature for my research.

Then I visited the central library and Department of English Education and got some research works. All those documents assisted me to sort out a genre of literature for my research work. It had been the most suffering and stressful time for me to sort out the particular topic.  Finally, I narrowed down the area as teaching drama in secondary level and teachers’ perception towards it. Till the time I came to finalise the topic, English Department had divided the students into different groups under the supervision of professors from the department. I found my name in the list under the supervision of one of the assistant professors from the department.  Shortly I met my supervisor to finalize my topic  and with some suggestions he approved my topic. My supervisor advised me to make my research a comparative study. We discussed and pondered on the challenges and issues of comparative study. After having a meaningful discussion, he urged me to write the proposal for the research work. I got success in finalizing my topic as it seemed ‘teachers’ perception in teaching English drama’. It was the moment that brought extreme happiness and provided me with rays of hope.

Now I had to start writing the proposal for the research which was just as to crack the hard nut for me. I consulted my teachers and some of the senior batch students to write proposal. They provided me some valuable ideas about what to include in the proposal. After this, I started working on my proposal. I spent many sleepless nights on the completion of the research proposal. I worked on the first, second, third, and fourth draft getting it to the approved form. During this process of writing a proposal, I got incredible assistance from my supervisor, teachers, senior students and my classmates. I stepped back many times during proposal writing; it took me many weeks to go ahead.

Collecting the required data for the research work is another challenging task to be performed during the research work. When I found myself in trouble, I used to talk to myself. I often had long conversations all by myself, but I did not understand a single word of what I was saying. As I was thinking about preparing the data collection tools, I received a call from one of my classmates, and he shared his confusions regarding the preparation of tools for data collection. He suggested that we had to meet the supervisor and we together went to the college and met him. We shared our problems with him. He, very clearly, explained about the tools, their administration, and reliability and so on. The meeting made me clear on what data collection instruments are, their reliability, preparation, administration, and many more. I came to know that the tools we choose to collect data depend on the type of data (quantitative and qualitative). I was told that the data is the backbone of any research. This moment triggred me to move ahead in course of developing tool(s).I decided to collect data using a questionnaire. I prepared the questionnaire including open and close-ended questions that were divided into six different categories: -problems of teaching drama, way of using literature, the significance of drama, relevance of content presented in drama, techniques used in teaching drama, and language used in drama. After working on the first draft of the questionnaire, I met my supervisor to discuss the questionnaire. He advised me to limit the number of questions up to 25 and make some other necessary changes. It took a couple of days for me to finalize the questionnaire. I selected the private and government schools purposively under non-random sampling. Getting responses using non-random sampling is faster, more cost-effective because the sample is known to the researcher. The respondents responded quickly as compared to people randomly selected as they had a high level of motivation to participate. This method made data collection easier to some extent. It was the time when the nation was in lockdown due to the Covid 19 pandemic. It became difficult for me to visit the schools to meet the English teachers as my respondents. I explained to them about my research work, and provided them with the questionnaires. Using different ways, I collected the phone numbers of the selected schools and built rapport with them. Then, I visited the teachers at their convenient places and time.

My first day of data collection journey was very memorable that I want to share it. As I entered into the premises of one of the schools in Kanchanpur, I found it was made quarantine for COVID-19 suspected people. It was full of Covid infected people. I found myself to be reluctant for a while to move ahead that the school had turned into the quarantine. But I had to collect the data at any cost and I moved towards the office room. I met the secondary level English teachers, described my research work to them and provided them with the questionnaires. I found all the respondents very cooperative and supportive, and they returned the filled-up questionnaires physically in time.

After the collection of data, I was completely lost for two or three weeks in searching for ideas to analyze and interpret the data collected. I read some unpublished master’s theses submitted to Tribhuvan University on my area of investigation. I took a highlighter and circled each paragraph on analysis of the data. These researches helped me with some valuable ideas about how to analyze and interpret the data though it was not enough for me to go ahead. With some ideas in mind, I met my supervisor and discussed the analysis of the data. He told me that it was the most important part of research work where researcher analyzes the data and give meaning to the data in terms of existing literature and looking the meaning from a theoretical lens. And finally he or she came to the certain generalizations. After spending a couple of days, I came up with the ideas to analyze and interpret the data. Then I struggled to write the very first draft, a rough draft by entering important data and interpretation. It was  incomplete and rough. With the regular collaboration and guidance of my supervisor, I worked with the first, second, third and many drafts to bring it into the accepted format.

To sum up, it is really challenging work to research in a way to succeed and make it a model. I learned how to abide by the common principles of research and ask the right kind of questions, deal with seemingly insurmountable problems that had no obvious solutions. The experience gave me the confidence later on to propose and develop my knowledge base about research. The research experiences come in many forms in the lives of students.  At this point, the key is to focus on exploring what interests the researcher, and what he/she does not enjoy doing which sometimes can be even more important. We do not need to be disappointed while researching though it can not be accomplished overnight. It requires rigorous effort, certain processes to be followed, and dedication on the part of the researcher. There is a saying “some people dream of success, while OTHERS wake up and work hard at it.” I kept myself under the quoted OTHERS, as I woke up and worked hard to make my dream come true. The journey of writing master’s thesis as a beginner in research sometimes becomes a very inspirational story for me to explore further.  At the end, I am truly indebted to the pious souls whose contribution made my journey of wring thesis the most enjoyable and encouraging. Most importantly, I extend my sincere gratitude to my respected gurus and the supervisor for their incredible guidance, suggestions and love throughout the writing process.

Author’ bio: Deepak Bhatt is an M.Ed. in English (TESOL) from Far Western University. He has a decade experience of teaching English from primary to 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.

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

Dear Valued Readers,

Namaste!

ELT Choutari is pleased to present the second quarterly issue (April-June) of 2021. This issue has covered a wide range of areas of applied linguistics, classroom pedagogy, ELT practices, and writing tips for teachers. This issue consists of six blog posts having diverse issues from mini research to reflective notes.

Due to the spread of the new variant of COVID-19, our country is back to lockdown. With this teaching-learning is going to suffer again, which will result a ‘learning crisis’ for a majority of students around the country who have limited Internet access and lack of digital facilities. The virtual mode of delivery may not be productive and long-lasting to mitigate the possible learning crisis unless we access digital devices (gadgets and smartphones) and broadband internet access with teachers, students, and their parents. And the role of teachers is equally important to be technocratic and pedagogically creative to enhancing students’ potentials in the virtual mode. Besides, the parents are to be capacitated to facilitate the learning of their children.

We know it’s not easy but we need to do something to keep the learning going. Therefore, teachers and parents are expected to play a pivotal role in engaging students in alternative ways to create learning opportunities for students. The parents must identify the available alternatives of learning like TV, radio, social media, virtual classes, etc. Likewise, schools and teachers should support them to explore the right alternatives in their context. Then they can encourage, support, observe and monitor the engagement of their children and manage necessary stuff to the extent possible. The teachers, on the other hand, can engage students in different activities in two ways; synchronously and asynchronously. They can also facilitate their students via different learning platforms such as Schoology, Edmodo, Easy Class, Google Classroom, and they can also use digital apps and tools such as online quiz using quizizz, Kahoot, ProProfs, Mentimeter, etc. to engage them in their learning wherever possible. Meanwhile, they also should support to develop contents to be delivered via radio or TVs.

During this emergency, teachers need to be more resourceful and innovative to keep the learning going. One way to be so is to keep themselves abreast of the ideas, alternatives, and ways out to deliver education during the emergency. A  couple of months back, we had published particularly the pandemic issue and post-pandemic issues, which could be resourceful for you in many different ways. So, we recommend you go through them. Most importantly, we encourage you to reflect and write the challenges, alternatives, good practices, and striking moments during teaching-learning in the emergency and send to us for future submission.

In the first post, Arjun Basnet analyzes the processes of identity construction among students in the EFL classroom. He further discloses the various forms of identity construction such as discourse identity, social identity, affinity identity, L1 identity, and institution identity through positioning, becoming, and being. He argues students create their identity through the process of opportunity and achieve native-like English competence via YouTube and English songs.

Mr. Puskar Chaudhary, in the second post, investigates the assessment techniques and tools used by the English language teachers for assessing learning in the remote teaching-learning context. He states that assessment is an integral part of teaching-learning to examine the understanding of the subject matter and to evaluate whether the learning goals have been achieved.

Similarly, in the third blog post, Prakash Bhattarai shares his ideas about factors affecting effective English teaching-learning. He further highlights that the materials and methods teachers use in the language classroom should be contextual and culture-sensitive because the prescribed methods and materials developed by other experts may not work in all contexts. He further notes teachers should use the tasks that make learners active and creative to create an environment for learner autonomy and collaborative learning.

Likewise, in the fourth article Dipak Prasad Mishra and Surendra Bhatt explore the perceptions of parents on the implementation of English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI) in public schools through Bourdieu’s lens of the symbolic power of language theory. They further highlight the relevancy and appropriateness of EMI in the Nepali context. They argue that EMI has been taken as a symbol of power and linguistic capital to develop English skills in unpacking critical analysis and its practices.

Similarly, in the fifth blog post, Bhan Singh Dhami explores how the local contents and texts in English materials can be utilized to enhance patriotism among English language learners of Nepal. He further claims the use of local content, culture, and discourse in materials can strengthen patriotism and strongly urges the stakeholders to maximise them in the materials and courses.

Finally, in the sixth blog post, Jeevan Karki, one of the editors of Choutari reflects on his nearly decade-long experiences of writing, reviewing, and editing journey and encourages teachers that they can write and publish. With some practical tips, he offers the first-time and new teachers practical ideas on choosing the appropriate contents/issues to write, and the writing style and processes to follow.

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

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

We hope the current issue will be another resourceful package for classroom pedagogy, practices, and developing writing habits. We are grateful to all the contributors for their enthusiasm to bring innovative ideas, reflective practices, and pedagogy-enhanced teaching-learning activities and collaboration to continue the voyage of reading, writing, and supporting each other. Moreover, We highly appreciate the efforts of the reviewers during the process of a rigorous review of the manuscripts. More specifically, We would like to thank the entire team of ELT Choutari in general and Mohan Singh Saud (the co-editor of the issue), Jeevan Karki, Babita Chapagain, Sagar Poudel, Karuna Nepal, Ekraj Koirala, Nani Babu Ghimire, Dr. Karna Rana, Ashok Raj Khati, Jnanu Raj Paudel, and Rajendra Joshi in particular to materialise this issue.

Finally, if you enjoy reading the blog pieces, please feel free to share in and around your academic circle, and of course, drop your comments in the boxes below. Likewise, please write about your experiences, reflections, experiments, reviews, or any other scholarly articles for our future publications. You can reach us at 2elt.choutari@gmail.com .

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

Wishing you a Happy Nepali New Year 2078!

Stay safe, stay healthy and happy reading!

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

Identity construction of the Nepali EFL students

Arjun Basnet*

Context

As an English professional teaching in English medium private secondary schools in  Kathmandu valley, I found many students having different abilities, skills, attitudes, and behaviours. Among many students, I marked Aaravi as the School Prefect (the School Head Girl) who is good at speech.  She was amiable among her friends. Prayush, the next student, is a nimble person always good at writing. He often bagged one or the other title including prizes in essay/poetry writing competition. Likewise, Chetan, the other student, seems to be confident in an oratory competition. The title ‘the Best Speaker’ would be of his own. At the same time, I remembered Anurodh and Aradhana, the other students who would neither do assigned work nor would speak English in the class in spite of having strict rules of speaking English in English Medium School.  Actually, they were not dull, rather were slow learners. They constructed distinct identities like Aaravi ‘the School Prefect’, Prayush ‘a good writer’, Chetan ‘the best speaker’, and Anurodh and Aradhana ‘the slow learners’ despite the same teaching approaches adopted in the EFL class. Looking at all the students having different identities, I thought that students’ identity is ‘an issue’ (MacLure, 1993) found in English as a Foreign Language (EFL) class while participating in different EFL activities (Pavlenko & Lantolf, 2000). Student identity is shaped with a reference to the classroom environment where they are situated through various classroom interactions, conversations, behaviours, and actions. In this context, I situated Aaravi, Praysh, and Chetan as subconsciously legitimate members (Wenger, 1998) and Anurodh and Aradhana as incompetent members in the class (Toohey, 2000) because the first three situated their learning and later two failed to ‘situate’ according to the context.

This write-up discusses the identity construction of students in English medium secondary schools arguing the ideas of Block (2007) who says that the students have second language identities. My arguments in this article are largely informed to acknowledge how the student identities are constructed in second language learning in English Medium Secondary schools in Nepal.

Understanding student identity

Student identity is a fundamental issue that originated from the interest in the student’s subjective experience of being a self. Student identity is how the students understand their relationship to the world, how that relationship is constructed across time and space, and how they understand possibilities for the future (Norton, 2013). The identity of a student is constructed both in the formal and informal experience of becoming a student as a part of a worldwide community of professionals with shared goals, values, discourses, and practices. The students construct their identities understanding themselves, their actions, and their minds based on time and space by negotiating experience, community membership, nexus of multi-membership, and the relationship between local and global. They generate identity based on their works, social discourses, their grades, communicative power, narratives, etc., and form their existence in the class. Their mutual engagement in the classroom offers the possibilities for more personalized interaction which constructs student identity.

In the process of identity construction, language learners negotiate their sense of self in the learning process and contribute to their meaning-making process in second language learning. It is understood as a purely social construct of ‘being’ co-constructed by ‘self’ and ‘others’ to explore how they see their life based on interactional practices. According to Block (2007), student identity is an encompassing process of being active participants in their community of practice and showing their relationship among the members constitutive of and constituted by the learning environment. Shields (2015) says that the students in EFL class interlace between local culture and society and find their new existence into ‘being’. He argues that new experiences of learning English as a second/foreign language shapes individual learners and other students to construct learner identity. The students construct their identity perceiving themselves as an agency, classroom as their learning community, and learning as their mastering tool. The students do not autonomously construct their identities in a social, cultural, and political vacuum; rather socio-cultural and socio-political discourses. While participating in the class, the English learners construct multiple identities either by being a member of groups or having certain roles or being the unique biological entities that they are, and so on.

The study

The identities of students that I have discussed in this paper are based on the analysis of narratives from seven students from English medium secondary school, anonymized as Andeela, Bishal, Deepak, Sulav, Sanjeev, Supriya, and Utsukta. The participants were the students studying in class IX and X in English medium schools. Only four English medium schools having more than 1000 students were chosen from Kathmandu and Lalitpur districts.  To generate the data, I had in-depth interviews with each participant. I also had informal conversations with the participants. All the interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed in the meaning-making process. In addition, I also took field notes of events and activities that the participants took part in.

Students’ identity construction

The participants in this study reported that the students constructed their identity through the process of positioning, opportunity, and transformation. Within these three themes, the students were found constructing discourse identity, affinity identity, social identity, L1 identity, authored identity, being and becoming, student identity, and inner circle identity in the Nepalese EFL context. The students constructed their identities from their subjective experience as the learners and their extrinsic forces are the source of raw materials (Falsafi, 2010).

Positioning in students’ identity

On the basis of attitudes they possessed, behaviours they performed, actions they did, and conversations held among the friends and the teachers, the students ascribed different positions in the classroom. Sulav’s narratives gave me insight that the students construct discourse identity in the EFL classroom. This identity is constructed through the pattern of thinking, speaking, behaving, and interacting (Miller & Marsh, 2003, as cited in Clarke, 2008) with him as Sulav says:

I improved my English from sixth grade when one of my friends suggested me that I should listen to English songs, native speakers’ voice and watch English movies from YouTube. I did so and started reading novels, prose, and fiction which gradually improved my English.

I situated meaning from his discourse as a tool of inquiry (Gee, 2005) to understand his discourse positioning as a native-like fellow. Such a discourse identity was developed through English songs, listening to native speaker’s voices, and reading books. Social identity was constructed through the social position established by the students based on classroom norms, cultures, interactions, and conversations. Supriya’s expression ‘I actively take part in classroom interaction with the teacher and students’ reflected her classroom participation in the classroom context because the class was her social community of practice from where they learned trajectories of learning among the teachers and students actively participating in the classroom conversation. They constructed identity by participating in interaction actively in the social identification process involved the use of classroom resources to construct her identity. Utsukta’s claim of speaking compulsory English in the class was a claimed processor (Wenger, 1998) which gave a certain experience of participation, interaction, and communication in the classroom. Her social stance ‘the way of being in the world’ revealed her classroom world.

Sulav’s appointment as the School Head Boy, Spriya’s the School Prefect, Utskta’s the Vice-Prefect were their institution identity (Gee, 2001) proposed by their Principal considering their command over the English language. The institution empowered them to construct institution identity looking at his language propensity as Sulav recalls that ‘Principal sir chose me as the ‘School Head Boy’ thinking that my English is good.’ Andeela showed her smooth relationship with her dialogical process at both moments of expression, listening, and speaking and revealed her authored identity. Some of the students were found constructing affinity identity based on affinity group that varies on the basis of their interests, demands, age factors, and nature. This type of identity is revealed when the students perform certain types of actions in the classroom or school premises. The expression of Bishal ‘ …I always sit with Rashik and Ayush’ showed that Rashik and Ayush were his affinity members whose allegiance set him primarily a common endeavour or practice and secondarily to other students of the class in terms of shared culture or traits they possess. The affinity relation was not limited only to close circle within limited friends; it was limited to a large space with students having common cultures and norms. For instance, Sulav had a good relation with other students. Therefore, affinity identity is a focus on distinctive social practices that create and sustain group affiliation, rather than on institutions or discourse or dialogue directly. Some other students in the classroom were found constructing L1 identity; might always talking in Nepali as a crude identity marker (Block, 2007) despite strict school rules. The main reason for speaking their mother tongue was to be open up among the friends. This happened not because of lack of English proficiency but because of his L1 identity as a deep abiding pride.

Opportunity in students’ identity

Students’ equal participation in learning is an opportunity to the students of English medium secondary schools and their joint engagement in having interaction is supplementary. The statement of Supriya, Sulav, and Bishal ‘…the slow learner is given more priority in class’ revealed how the students in the class got an optimum chance of participation and how EFL teachers managed time for their students. Such opportunities provided to the students in the classroom helped them construct ‘Becoming’ and ‘Being’. The identity of the students was not found “static and one dimensional, but multiple and changing” (Norton & Toohey, 2002, p.116) when I saw hierarchical learning from their junior classes, Utsukta revealed:

I’m from Gulmi. My parents took me to Kathmandu from there and enrolled in Himalaya Higher Secondary school where I studied up to class five. In class six, I was enrolled in this school. My English is now good, yeah… good, better than others. I can speak English fluently and express my feeling better… My English teacher is supportive and he encourages me to do better in English. When I was in sixth grade, one of my friends suggested that I should listen to English songs and watch English films and so did I. I found English films and movies really original, and they helped my English in pronunciation, grammar structures, and vocabularies.

In the above excerpt, Utsukta constructed her identity as ‘becoming’. Her present condition as ‘a better learner’ is her ‘being’ or existence. Enrolling in that school and practicing English through English films and songs were her ‘becoming’.

Transformation in students’ identity

The students’ narratives clearly showed that they crossed a long gap to recognize the sense of who they were in course of time. I found the change in all my participants; especially Sulav, Supriya, Utsukta, and Deepak whose identity was changed in secondary education. Sulav’s identity as a native-like fellow, Supriya’s nimble social worker, and Utsukata’s obsessive orator was not transformed overnight, rather took a process of transformation in language capability and thinking power. Even after coming from a rural area, Deepak got mastery in the English language as a symbol of transformation to accomplish his dream of gaining an inner circle identity (Kachru, 1983). Deepak’s interpretation I am trying to make my English better to develop British-like competence was very powerful to me to construct students’ inner circle identity constructing in English medium schools in Nepal. I found that they were constructing such an identity from their complex participative experience and their overall behaviours (Wenger, 1998) to get a native-like orientation in their linguistic performance. All my participants narrated that they were trying to make native-like English. This clearly showed distinction between ‘us and them’ division with ‘inner, outer’ and expanding circle’ (Kachru, 1983) and central and periphery (Philipson, 1992). Deepak wanted to be in ‘inner circle’ (powerful Western countries where English language as a native language) from the peripheral dichotomy (Underdeveloped country where English is a second or foreign language) looking at the possibility that ‘centre’ has high stakes in maintaining his operation as he interpreted:

I want to do my higher study from Britain as Andrew suggested because of the excessive use of technology used in language learning. I need very good English, therefore, I am now practicing day and night to make my English native-like.

The excerpt above clearly illustrates Deepak’s interest in constructing inner circle identity by going to the UK, the powerful western country where English is their native language.

Conclusion

In this brief article, I have discussed the different processes of identity construction of students who were studying in English medium schools in Nepal. Through their lived stories, I found that the students were constructing their discourse identity, social identity,  affinity identity, L1 identity, and institution identity through positioning, becoming and being and student as identified through the process of opportunity and inner circle identity by making their native-like English learning from native speaker’s voice from YouTube and English songs through transformation. The students’ perspectives as discussed in this paper show that student identity is constructed in English as a foreign/second language classroom through their active engagement. The identities were not found going parallel because the identities constructed in one field infused their identities in other fields. I found that the students are holistic social agents who have the power to construct different identities in the classroom. They actively take part in certain practices, construct identities, negotiate the meaning of their actions and take control over their learning in pursuit of their goals of learning English for which they require an extended amount of time, effort, and commitment.

About the author

Mr. Arjun Basnet is an M.Ed., M.A., and MPhil in ELE from Kathmandu University. Mr. Basnet is a teacher, teacher-educator, and freelance researcher. Mr. Basnet works as a full-time faculty at Bijeshwori Gyan Mandir Sainik Mahavidyalaya, Bijeshwori, Kathmandu. Currently, Mr. Basnet serves as a Visiting Faculty at Kathmandu University, School of Education. He is also a Life member of Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA). Mr. Basnet is interested in reading, writing, and research works.

References

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can be cited as:

Basnet, A. (2021, May). Identity construction of the Nepalese EFL students. [Blog article]. ELT CHOUTARI. Available at: https://eltchoutari.com/2021/04/identity-construction-of-the-nepali-efl-students/

Assessing English language learners in remote teaching-learning

 

Puskar Chaudhary

This paper aims to explore the techniques and tools used for assessing the English language learners in remote teaching-learning and to discuss the challenges and obstacles faced by the teachers while assessing the learners. Based on a collective study design, this paper presents a study on the assessment practices in remote teaching-learning. Data were collected from three English language teachers of basic education level using online interviews. The results showed that many English language teachers transitioned to remote teaching learning because of the  COVID -19 pandemic and whether it is a face to face class or remote teaching-learning, assessment is an integral part of the teaching-learning to check the understanding of the subject matter and to evaluate whether the educational goals and standards of the lessons are being met. The assessments were taken more or less similar to the face-to-face mode via written or oral practices with the help of technologies and while assessing the learners, the teachers faced the Internet connection issues, investment of ample time for designing and organizing the assessment with the help of technologies. The teachers gained less support from the parents and students for conducting the effective assessment.

Keywords: Assessment, remote teaching-learning, techniques and tools, educational goals, integral

 Introduction

This study assessed the English language learners based on their mode of acquiring learning that is either through face-to-face or remote teaching-learning.  Remote Teaching -Learning (RTL) offers teaching learning beyond the physical classrooms. It is the learning process where the teachers are separated from the learners in time and distance. According to Graham (2019), RTL is the practice of teaching a language interactively via videoconferencing. He further describes that it differs from telecollaboration which mainly focuses on enabling language teaching and learning to take place rather than on intercultural collaboration. In remote language teaching, both students and teachers interact through two-way communication technologies. Similarly, in Belz and Thorne’s (2006) view, RLT supports learners’ interaction with the teachers and peers, encourages them to have more dialogue, debate, and intercultural exchange. Remote teaching is also referred to as live online language teaching to refer to synchronous (i.e. in real-time) computer-mediated communication for language teaching (Swertz et al., 2007). In RLT, teachers focus on both pedagogy and technology to provide huge opportunities for effective learning and collaboration beyond the physical classroom. They involve approaches and techniques that are more connected with the technologies. Whereas, Whyte and Gijsen (2016) argue that there is an ample burden for the teachers to conduct the classes remotely than for regular face-to-face classes. Teachers are committed to helping the learners with these different ways of working and teaching them in the most effective way possible. Teachers require and prepare designed and written materials to take advantage of the teaching and learning context and delivery method (i.e. video conferencing). Therefore, remote teaching is an innovative way of bridging cultural and geographical distances and enables the teaching and learning of languages to students who would otherwise not have the opportunity.

At present, most English language teachers had to opt for remote learning because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many teachers had transition to remote learning with no advance notice or preparation earlier this year. Some are planning for remote learning in the fall when they return to school. It is important to remember that remote learning refers to a class that intends to meet face-to-face. The teachers have been practising to replicate remote learning as far as possible into the real face-to-face classes. It is not just enough with the engagement of teaching-learning activities. The learners should be assessed to check the understanding of the subject matter and to evaluate whether the educational goals and standards of the lessons are being met. The learners must be able to think critically, analyze, and make inferences. Hence, assessing them is the most challenging factor in RTL. Nitko and Broookhart (2013) opine that organizing assessment helps the teachers to collect the information about teaching-learning and well as the students’ performance to make the certain decision teaching. Assessment in English language teaching has been defined as “involving professional judgment based upon an image formed by the collection of information about student performance” (Stanley, 2019, p. 8). Similarly, Wolf (2020) states that assessments are a critical means of identifying learners and monitoring their achievements. Assessments also play a fundamental role in teaching and learning, since it helps to gather the important information about students’ needs, which helps teachers provide appropriate support and interpret their academic performance accurately. Assessment is one of the important aspects which is being treated as a teaching-learning process as well (Stiggins, 1991). Assessing learners is a very important and essential part of a teacher’s teaching (Nitko, 1996). It is an integrated process for determining the nature and extent of student’s learning and achievement (Linn & Gronland, 2005).

According to Stanley (2019), there are two types of assessment: formative and summative. Assessment can be formative when it is to improve learning and assessment is summative when it is for monitoring and certificating performance or achievement. During the year, formal and informal instances of the formative assessment provide information to Remote Teachers (RTs) and Classroom Teachers (CTs) about student learning so adjustments can be made to teaching.

Assessment is an important aspect of teaching-learning. It offers the teachers to go up to the next class and to figure out whether the students are included. It also helps to get the results of the teaching-learning activities. On the other hand, it makes the teachers ready to take a proficiency test and provide the students the grades.

Research Questions

This study sought to answer the following research questions:

  • How do English Language teachers assess students in remote teaching-learning?
  • What challenges do English language teachers face while assessing students in remote teaching-learning?
Methodology

This is a qualitative study that used a collective case study design to explore the questions. According to Stake (1995), a case study is the study of the particularity and complexity of a single case, coming to understand its activity within important circumstances. It helps to collect the information in detail and understand the problem in-depth with its real-life context. The case study design is an important tool for exploring and describing a phenomenon in context while refining theory and identifying areas for more exploration (Yin, 2018). Data were collected from three English Language Teachers of Basic Education Level who were assessing students by using different techniques and tools and while assessing them in remote teaching-learning in one of the schools of Kathmandu Valley. The teachers were a diverse group in terms of their ethnicity, gender, and grade level experiences. I collected data, which included notes of observation and interaction during online classes and interview with synchronous tools like Zoom Cloud Meeting (5 times in total); written reflections for each teacher related to assigned articles, email and Facebook messages correspondence with pupils, and transcriptions of semi-formal small group interviews. I conducted two rounds of interviews individually with teachers and three rounds of interviews in a group. Each interview lasted approximately 40 minutes. I followed them twice a week. The data occurred in two phases. First, I divided the data sets for coding purposes. In this initial phase, I examined individual cases, techniques, and the tools used for assessing the students in remote teaching-learning. Comparing the responses, I coded and analyzed them into the four themes: Observations, Discussion, Feedback, and Self-assessment.

Next, I collectively asked the participants what challenges they were facing while assessing the students in the remote teaching-learning. The responses were kept under different themes in which the individual cases were combined and compared to create a collective case study. After collecting data by qualitative technique, the data were analyzed and interpreted qualitatively. The following sections represent the results obtained from data analysis.

Results and discussion

This study aimed to explore the techniques and tools adopted by English Language teachers for assessing students in remote teaching-learning and to find out the challenges English language teachers face while assessing students in remote teaching-learning. Therefore, the results gained via the interview data were put into two sub-sections: Assessment for learning techniques and Challenges.

Techniques and tools for assessing in remote teaching-learning

This section presents the data derived by observing the English Language Teaching (ELT) class to answer the first research question, exploring the techniques and tools adopted by English Language teachers for assessing students in remote teaching-learning.

Observations

Informal teacher observations: In remote teaching-learning, the teachers were found observing different things in their classes. They observed how well the students managed to focus when doing the tasks. Furthermore, how much time do the students need to do certain tasks? And whether the students were willing to volunteer or respond when called on. The teachers in the interview also added that they observed the students if they were prepared for the task or provide help.

Student-led observations: Teachers assessing English language learners using remote methods checked the students’ autonomy and responsibility in their learning. They were asked to follow the netiquettes as it was remote teaching. They were given responsibilities where they took attendance and gave their opinions on what was happening in the class. Furthermore, they were asked to provide the class report either to the class teacher or the subject teacher.

Discussions

Teacher participants in the interview shared that they assessed the students in remote teaching-learning by giving different learning situations. They assessed through the discussions in the live classes. Discussions were done on the usages of techniques and digital tools by the teachers, about the language usage L1 or L2. In addition to this, the discussion where the students did share in a peer, small group, or the whole class was also assessed. Lastly, the assessment was made when the students were provided with options during controlled practice.

Feedback

Students in remote teaching-learning were assessed based on the feedback given by them. Following things were taken into considerations when assessing the feedback given by them. Students were asked to give feedback when their peers participated or did any work. They would give feedback on their friends’ thinking process, presentation, content, gestures, etc. They were asked to provide positive and critical feedback which could motivate their friends to perform better and which would help to create a healthy atmosphere.

Self-assessment

Self-assessment is another technique used by the teachers to assess English language students in remote teaching. They explained that they used active recall questions to check the students’ progress. The students were asked to do the self-assessments by preparing PowerPoint presentations, using digital tools to do their project works, encouraging them to write journals, blogs, etc. They were also asked to take objective tests with the help of google forms and other online platforms. Furthermore, they were asked to appear for the written subjective tests. Recording the voice or video on any academic topic was promoted which they had to send to the teachers. Finally, some teachers asked them to attend the class on time.

Challenges in assessing students in remote teaching-learning

This section presents the data derived by observing the ELT class to answer the second research question, exploring the challenges and the obstacles faced by the teachers assessing the learners in remote teaching-learning.

Students with the internet issues

The teachers have found that most of the learners had the Internet with low bandwidth. There were also the chances of power cuts and disconnection while taking the synchronous class. The teachers responded that because of low connectivity they had to turn off their camera and be connected with mobile data.

Students with not enough support

The teachers revealed that the students were getting less support from their parents and seniors regarding the use of laptops and digital tools while taking the classes. The children were also less supervised by the parents while taking the classes. There were more chances of getting distracted and being engaged in playing online games.

Widening gaps between students’ proficiency

The teachers explained that there was an individual difference in remote teaching-learning. All the students did not have the same digital literacy and level of competency. The children faced problems while submitting the assignments, communicating with the teachers, and handling the tools.

Difficulty in supporting individuals

It was very time-consuming for the teachers to prepare the lessons and spending more on screen. The teachers had to spend more time preparing PowerPoint presentations and giving feedback to the students because of the technical issues the teachers were unable to give the class and communicate with the learners properly.

Conclusion

The present study investigated the assessment techniques and tools used by the English language teachers for assessing the learning in the remote teaching-learning and the challenges and obstacles faced by the teachers while assessing them in the remote teaching-learning. Results of the study showed that assessment was an integral part of teaching-learning to check the understanding of the subject matter and to evaluate whether the learning goals were achieved or not. The teachers did the planning, implementing, and organizing of the lesson by using digital and printed materials to assess the learners. The teachers engaged the learners in the discussion in the remote learning, observation of the lesson, engaging them in the feedback and self-assessment. While following those techniques, the teachers also encountered challenges related to the technologies and with the students’ well-being.

About the author

Mr. Puskar Chaudhary is an MPhil practitioner at Kathmandu University. He works as a full-time faculty and coordinates with the Digital Literacies Programme at Triyog High School, Tokha, Kathmandu. He is also a life member of Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA) and International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL). His current interests include digital pedagogy, digital literacies programme, and teachers’ networking, and professional development.

References

Nitko, A. J. & Brookhart, S. (2013). Educational assessment of students. Pearson.

Belz, J. A. & Thorne, S. L. (2006). Internet-mediated intercultural foreign language education. Thomson Heinle.

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

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Can be cited as:

Chaudhary, P. (2021, May). Assessing English language learners in remote teaching-learning [Blog article].  ELT CHOUTARI. Available at: https://eltchoutari.com/2021/04/assessing-english-language-learners-in-remote-teaching-learning/