We are pleased to release the second quarterly issue (April-June), 2022 of ELT Choutari believing that the varied resources will benefit you.
We are moving ahead rejoicing the Nepali New Year with new thoughts, aspirations and with enthusiasm. We wish you a happy, productive and historic new year, 2079 B.S. to you and take this moment to thank our readers and contributors for inspiring us in the continuous journey of 14 years.
The world is constantly changing and the classroom pedagogies, teaching-learning principles and practices, research and resources should also change with the rhythm of time. Rationalizing this belief, Choutari explores resourceful ideas and pedagogical innovations and presents you in the form of articles, blogs, reviews, interviews, reflections, scholarly ideas, glocal practices, and indigenous knowledge to broaden our academic horizon.
Every classroom is diverse, so the educators in this millennium expect/are expected to be abreast with recent and relevant materials/resources for effective teaching-learning. We believe that the resources and materials shared on our forum can support you to be abreast in your field and contribute in your continuous professional development. Besides, writing your experiences/reflection and sharing your perspectives and scholarly ideas is another great tool for professional development. So, we encourage and welcome your writing/composition on the contemporary educational/linguistic issues, pedagogical practices and most importantly your teaching stories.
In this non-thematic issue, we present you the scholarly ideas, educators’ experiences and reflection and pedagogical practices useful for teaching, writing, researching, critiquing and professional development. We are hopeful that the ideas are replicable in our English language teaching-learning context. So, there are six articles and an exclusive interview in this issue.
In a conversation with Jeevan Karki, Dr Bal Krishna Sharma unfolds the global discourse in ELT, (Second) language acquisition, English language teaching in multilingual contexts, critical language teaching, English language policy and practices in Nepal.
Dr Padam Chauhan in his article ‘Ethnography of Writing: A Basic Framework to Introduce Academic Writing to ESL University Students’ recounts the challenges faced by English as a second language (ESL) first-year academic writing students in university. He highlights the linguistic, cultural, and instructional differences between the US education system and students’ home countries to highlight the educational, social, and cultural contexts in international higher education.
In the same way, Ganga Laxmi Bhandari in her article ‘Mother Tongue as a Resource in the EFL Classroom’ argues for the use of L1 in L2 classroom and believes that L1 not only creates the foundation for a better understanding in L2 learning but also develops a positive attitude among children towards their schools and L2 (Savage, 2019). She further argues that the English-only approach has been a failure; therefore, educators should adopt bi/multilingual approaches for effective language teaching-learning.
Likewise, Shaty Kumar Mahato, in his article ‘Teachers’ Collaboration for Teachers’ Professional Development’ reflects his experiences of professional development (PD) through personal and professional initiatives in the context of Nepal. He argues that teachers’ collaboration is paramount for professional development and engagement with different organizations like NELTA, BELTA and so on can also enhance teachers’ PD.
Similarly, Nanibabu Ghimire, in his blog piece, ‘Reading Among Under-graduate Students: Problems and Ways Forward’, brings on spotlight the reading struggles of under-graduate students and offers some practical ways for advancing reading skills.
Similarly, Bishnu Karki in his article ‘Exploring Creative Response in ELT: A Vignette of an English Teacher’ reflects on the writing strategies he adopted while teaching students in Nepal. He emphasizes on the innovative roles of teachers to explore creative responses in EFL classrooms. Karki, further argues that the teachers in the 21st-century classroom to be creative, cooperative and responsive to cope with the ongoing trends and shifts their profession.
Finally, Satya Raj Joshi in his article ‘Using a Story in Language Teaching: Some Practical Tips’ presents the fundamentals of literature in language classrooms and connects his experiences of language teaching through literature. He argues that the literature is a resource offering multiple ideas and activities for students which help them to develop skills and strategies applicable within and beyond classrooms.
For your ease of access, below is the list of hyperlinked articles:
Finally, we would like to thank all our editors, Mohan Singh Saud, Jeevan Karki, Karuna Nepal, Nani Babu Ghimire, Ekraj Koirala, Jnanu Raj Paudel and reviewers Dr Karna Rana, Ashok Raj Khati, Rajendra Joshi and Babita Chapagain for their tireless effort in reviewing these papers. Most importantly, we are indebted to all the contributors to this issue.
If you enjoy reading these blog posts, please feel free to share in and around 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 platform at Choutari. Our email is email@example.com
Bal Krishna Sharma (PhD) is an associate professor of applied linguistics at English Department, College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences, University of Idaho, US. He is interested in the role of English in multilingual contexts. He studies the dynamics of teaching, learning and use of English in order to examine the topics of language ideology, intercultural communication, identity and pedagogy. He has been studying the issues of culture, representation, and the economy of language from the perspectives of tourism workers in the Nepal’s tourism industry. Likewise, he investigates what English, other international and minority languages mean for a workplace where the commodification and representation of languages and cultures is a major driving force. He is also investigating language-related ideologies and identities of non-native English speaking faculty as U.S. universities in STEM fields.
So, in this post, Jeevan Karki has facilitated a conversation with him, which unfolds the global discourse in ELT, (second) language acquisition, English language teaching in multilingual contexts, critical language teaching, English language policy and practices in Nepal.
Feel free to comment, ask questions and share the conversation to continue the discourse. Here is the YouTube video for you:
Here is the list of questions covered in the conversation:
Q1: What are you busy at currently?
Q2: The global conversation in ELT is very critical towards ‘standard English’, while the goal of English language education in non-English speaking countries is to develop proficiency in standard English (either British English, American English or so on). So, have the critiques been too idealistic about it or the practitioners not aware of this conversation?
Q3: Ofelia Garcia (2017) says that “there is no second language acquisition in the traditional sense but children are acquiring languages together/in totality.” What does this mean to the field of SLA? What are the future directions of SLA?
Q4: In the short history of English language teaching, 50 years or less, what has Nepal gained from it and what has Nepal forgotten in this race?
Q5: And what should be the role of English in multilingual contexts like Nepal?
Q6: Parents and stakeholders don’t seem much concerned about preserving and promoting their own languages as much as they are concerned about immersing their children in the English language right from pre-school. Why does this happen? What can be done about it?
Garcia, O. (2017, June 7). Ofelia García – Translanguaging [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5l1CcrRrck0
English as a second language (ESL) first-year university students often face challenges with academic writing because of the linguistic, cultural, and instructional differences between the education system in the U.S. and their home countries (academic writing conventions in English and their first languages). This paper aims to present an ethnography of writing as a framework to familiarize the ESL first-year university students with the basics of academic writing, which directly speaks to the educational, social, and cultural contexts of U.S. higher education. The paper concludes that ESL students benefit immensely from using Grabe and Kaplan’s (1996) ethnography of writing as a framework to introduce academic writing in English to cope with their academic writing challenges.
Keywords: academic writing challenges; freshman ESL learners; ethnography of writing; U.S. higher education; linguistic, cultural, and instructional differences
My Tutoring and Teaching Academic Writing Experiences
I have gotten an opportunity to become an ESL educator for different aged students in different educational contexts. First, I have been an ESL teacher in Nepal. I have taught reading and writing to high school and undergraduate students. Second, I worked as a writing tutor at a regional level teaching university in the Midwestern region of the U.S. I tutored both domestic and ESL international undergraduate and graduate students. Third, I have been teaching reading, vocabulary, and writing courses in the Intensive English Language Program (IEP) at the Midwestern U.S. university for four years. Primarily, I follow a process-based approach (Zamel, 1983; White & Arndt, 1991) and the genre-based approach (Hyland, 2004; Swales, 1990; Tardy, 2008) to teach academic writing to my ESL students who come from diverse educational, linguistic, and cultural backgrounds. I guide my students by helping them explore resources, services, and contacts in and outside of the university. These learning resources are essential to alleviate their academic writing difficulties in the U.S. higher education context (Chauhan, 2021). Sharing experiences of ESL instructors’ academic journey, including coping strategies, is critical to improving their academic writing skills (Odena & Burgess, 2017). However, existing literature shows that academic writing in English is challenging for ESL students at both undergraduate and graduate levels (Chauhan, 2021) because they come from diverse social, linguistic, and cultural backgrounds (Duff & Anderson, 2015). The diversity of their backgrounds can also be an asset to acknowledge and utilize for enhancing their academic writing skills in English.
Nature and Scope of Academic Writing in Higher Education Context
Academic writing (AW) refers to the writing used in the college and university-level writing courses (Johnson, 2016). Additionally, AW has become the primary communication medium between scholars in academic subjects and disciplines in a higher education context (Greene & Lidinsky, 2015). AW is simple, clear, focused, and formal. It is also technical, objective, impersonal, concise, logical, and well-organized. An academic writer must meet genre-specific expectations and stylistic conventions (Ferris, 2018; Giltrow et al., 2014; Osmond, 2016; Starkey, 2015). AW is specific to context, task, purpose, and audience (Ferris, 2018; Grabe & Kaplan, 1996; Starkey, 2015). In parallel with these ideas, Gottlieb and Ernst-Slavit (2013) stated that“[t]he distinct purpose, audience, and context of communication result in clear differences in terms of language use in the selection of words, formality, sentence construction, and discourse patterns” (p. 2). AW is seen differently by scholars based on the features mentioned above. Osmond (2016) argued that AW projects writers’ in-depth knowledge, critical thinking skills, and analytical skills while studying different academic subjects within their disciplines and majors. It is also seen as an inquiry because writers can discover their values, beliefs, strengths, and areas to improve when they engage in the writing process (Starkey, 2015). Grabe and Kaplan (1996) recommended that each writer understands AW from the lens of an ethnographic approach. Echoing similar ideas, Ferris (2018) has summarized the features of successful academic writers and standards of writing used in academia.
Writers must have at least an adequate grasp of the content they are writing. They must understand the rhetorical situation, including the purpose of the writing and the knowledge and expectations of their audience of readers. They need to appreciate the constraints and boundaries accompanying genres, tasks, and text types. Further, writers need advanced control of the linguistic features (vocabulary, spelling, grammar, cohesive ties) and extra-linguistic features (punctuation, capitalization, formatting) appropriate for their text’s content, genre, and target audience. (p. 75)
Ethnography of Writing as a Framework to Introduce Academic Writing
As I mainly tutor and teach academic writing to freshmen ESL first-year university students, I am well acquainted with their writing challenges based on my teaching experience and research study. Current research study has also found that ESL undergraduate students faced many challenges with academic writing in the U.S. university context.
To illustrate, Chauhan (2021) concluded that ESL “undergraduate students experienced academic writing challenges [including] content (gathering information/ideas), organization, academic vocabulary, genre awareness, grammar and mechanics, and citing and referencing sources” (p. 148) because the standards and genre-specific expectations of AW in English are different from those of in ESL students’ L1s (Ferris, 2018; Giltrow et al., 2014; Osmond, 2016; Starkey, 2015).
To address the AW challenges of my ESL first-year university students, I employ Grabe and Kaplan’s (1996) ethnography of writing, which provides a theoretical framework to understand AW regarding its social and cultural contexts in U.S. higher education. Before creating any written text, all writers must ask this fundamental question: “who writes what to whom, for what purpose, why, when, where, and how?” (Cooper, 1979, as cited in Grabe & Kaplan, 1996, p. 203). They further stated that this framework considers academic writing as a combination of writer, reader, subject matter, and text as a writing triangle in which the writer persuades the readers in terms of logos (reason/text), pathos (credibility/writer), and ethos (values, beliefs/audience). Overall, the ethnography of writing is one of the best frameworks to introduce AW to the freshmen ESL students because this framework examines the text’s audience, the writer’s purpose, the genre required by the task, and the situation in which the wiring is used (Grabe & Kaplan, 1996).
Taxonomies of Ethnography of Writing
Grabe and Kaplan (1996) introduced eight types of taxonomies of ethnography of writing to discuss further how this framework operates in a broader academic context. Their framework is further explained together with how I employed this framework to teach writing to my ESL first-year students in a Midwestern U.S. university.
Grabe and Kaplan (1996) state that the first parameter of ethnography of writing is a taxonomy of who, i.e., writers. Knowing the writer and their background is critical to understanding writing well. It is essential to understand whether the individual is a beginning writer or a mature writer and whether the writer is a student who will be evaluated by their teachers or an independent scholarly writer who writes for an academic journal. This background information of the writer influences the audience for whom the writing is produced.
Considering this parameter, I often emphasize the writer’s role in my writing class. As an L2 writing instructor, I know that my students come from different first language (L1) backgrounds. The writing system in their L1s works differently from the writing system in English. I am aware that they are beginner writers in L2 and need more explicit instruction, support, and encouragement from me. I do understand that they are at the initial phase of creating their identity in L2 writing. In the meantime, I am also aware that their authorial voice is critical. So, I orient my students to use academic language and concrete words that embody meaning in the academic context (Bailey, 2018; Brun-Mercer & Zimmerman, 2015; Johnson, 2016), which ultimately helps the writers to make their voices strong. Also, I ask my students to use active structures to strengthen their authorial voice.
The second taxonomy of ethnography of writing is writes, which focuses on the linguistic nature of writing. This taxonomy of ethnography considers the entire process of text construction, its different linguistic parts, and their organization (thesis statement, topic statements, coherence, cohesion, word choice, reference, transition words (Grabe & Kaplan, 1996), sequencing information (Atkinson, 1991), and overall rhetorical arrangement of information (Bruthiaux, 1993). Overall, in the process of text construction, the writer considers audience, purpose, context, and the genre requirement (Grabe & Kaplan, 1996), discipline-specificity, and disciplinarity (Christiene & Maton, 2011; Flowerdew & Costley, 2016). There are two approaches that I use to teach writing: a process-based approach and a genre-based approach.
First, I follow a process-based approach (White & Arndt, 1991; Zamel,1983) to teach writing in my class. For example, selecting topics (they select topics themselves which they are passionate about writing), gathering required information, creating an outline, preparing the first draft, seeking feedback from peers, writing center tutors, and teachers, addressing feedback, editing, and finally submitting the final draft to the instructor for evaluation (Johnson, 2016; White & Arndt, 1991). Each step in this writing process is equally important for them because my students need to undergo various stages of the writing process to write essays. Also, they will receive points for an outline, first draft, and final draft separately.
Another approach that I employ to teach writing to my students in my class is the genre-based approach (Hyland, 2004; Swales, 1990; Tardy, 2008) because genre-based instruction enhances L2 students’ knowledge in four main areas, which include “formal knowledge of target genres’ features and conventions, the process knowledge of the methods used to produce, distribute, and consume these genres, rhetorical knowledge of target genres’ functions, characteristics, strategies, and subject matter knowledge of disciplinary content and skills” (Tardy, 2009, p. 21). By recognising the usefulness of a genre-based approach to writing, past research studies emphasized the responsibility of L2 educators to develop L2 students’ genre knowledge (Ferris & Hedgcock, 2013; Hyland, 2004; Tardy, 2008, 2009). Highlighting the importance of genre, Hyland (2004) stated “to fail to provide learners with what we know about how language works… denies them the means of both communicating effectively in writing and analyzing text critically” (p. 42). As the L2 students are not much acquainted with different types of genres, it is imperative to teach them genre knowledge explicitly. Also, they need to know that written texts are specific to each academic discipline, program, and major (Christie & Maton, 2011; Hyland, 2017).
Therefore, I provide a sample essay to my students, and they are engaged to analyze and identify all parts of the essay. They include an introduction (hook, background information, and thesis statement), three body paragraphs beginning with topic sentences, supporting details (explanations, reasons, examples, data, experiences, observations, etc.), and a conclusion that summarizes the main points of the essay and restates the thesis statement. In doing so, my students internalize all parts of the essay, which will help them to create their essays later. Ferris and Hedgcock (2013) and Tardy (2008) also stress that it is crucial to train beginner writers with skills that enable them to participate in intertextual systems.
The third taxonomy of ethnography of writing is what, i.e., the content or message. Grabe and Kaplan (1996) emphasize that this writing parameter should be described in terms of content, genre, and register. So, this taxonomy of writing seeks to answer these questions: to what extent does the writer need to have background knowledge (content) to create a particular text, what type of texts does the writer produce, and in which fields they are used? The what aspect of writing “must take into account the phenomenological world (a theory of world knowledge), a theory of genre, and some specification of register” (Grabe & Kaplan, 1996, p. 205). In other words, the writer’s background knowledge (schema theory) is crucial in this taxonomy of writing because it provides the writer with the knowledge of the genre and the techniques to organize academic discourse for a specific purpose (Grabe & Kaplan, 1996; Swales, 1990). So, it is critical for ESL writing instructors to allow their students to choose their topics to write.
In my writing class, I do not assign any essay topics to my students. Instead, I provide them with the freedom to choose their topics themselves because I want to promote social justice in my writing class. I also encourage them to choose a topic based on their background knowledge because it is difficult for them to write on a topic that is entirely new to them. For example, the student majoring in Finance ended up choosing a topic from their field, such as Three Ways to Make Money Legally in the U.S. However, the student who is specializing in Sports Management wrote Three Strategies to Improve Cricket. Unlike these two students, the next student who is majoring in Nursing decided to write on Three Benefits of Homemade Breakfast. Besides that, I also provide them with a sample essay to follow because I follow a genre-based approach to teaching writing. This approach allows them to be acquainted with the framework of a text used in the academic context. In doing so, they can write their essays on their topics by following sample essays given to them.
Another powerful taxonomy of writing is to whom, which refers to the audience. Grabe and Kaplan (1996) call it a theory of audience or readers because the audience is always at the center of creating a text. Also, the audience plays an essential role in the meaning-making of the text. The writer needs to ponder some of these questions regarding the audience. Are the readers known or unknown to the writer? If they are known, how close or distant are they? How much-shared knowledge exists between the readers and the writer in general? How much-shared knowledge exists between them on a particular topic. Grabe and Kaplan (1996) further state that the audience’s parameter influences the writer’s writing, including the number of persons who are expected to read the text, the extent to which the readers are known or unknown to the writer, the level of status (can be either higher, equal, or lower) between them, the extent of shared background knowledge between readers, and the extent of specific topical shared knowledge between readers and writers.
Building on Grabe and Kaplan’s (1996) framework, recent research studies also highlighted the role of the audience. Before the author writes any text, they need to consider their audience because the type of audience determines their writing (Swales & Feak, 2012). Similarly, Kirszner and Mandell (2015) argued that while writing any text, the audience should be kept in mind because they determine the purpose of the paper. While writing, academic writers envision a specific audience who share knowledge regarding a topic or issue they are writing about (Grabe & Kaplan, 1996; Singh & Lukkarila, 2017). Realizing the significance of to whom parameter, I often ask my students to decide their audience because it is critical for them to know who is going to read their essays. They know that two types of audience read their essays. They include their classmates and their instructor/s.
For What Purpose
As its name suggests, this taxonomy refers to the purpose of producing a text. Grabe and Kaplan (1996) state that every written text is created purposefully. They add that when the writer thinks of purpose, they need to ask these questions: to what extent is it possible to define purpose in a writing task? Are there single or multiple purposes in the task? How does purpose interact with genre and audience? As most writings are meant for audiences, they expect the purpose of the paper when they read them. Therefore, most writers mention their goal of writing to facilitate the readers to make better meaning of the text.
Before writing anything, the writer should be clear about the purpose of writing. Kirszner and Mandell (2015) argued that it is the purpose that limits the writer what to say and how to say it. According to Bailey (2015, 2018), there are three main reasons for writing: (i) to argue on a subject of common interest and give the writer’s view, (ii) to report on a piece of research study and create some type of new knowledge, and (iii) to synthesize research conducted by others on a topic. So, AW is unique because the writer shares inquiry-based knowledge to inform a particular academic community (Singh & Lukkarila, 2017). Considering this taxonomy, all writers need to know the purpose of the academic texts they are writing.
In keeping in mind this taxonomy, I mention to my students that each piece of writing has a certain purpose. My students mostly write five types of essays, and these are five-paragraph essays. For example, when they write a cause-and-effect essay, they show cause and effect relationship of a particular topic. However, when they write a descriptive essay, the purpose is to describe a place, person, object/thing, and process. Unlike these two essays, when my students write classification essays, the objective is to describe three main categories of a particular topic in an interesting way. For example, one of my students chose to write on Three Types of Roommates, whereas another student was interested to write on Three Types of Cell Phone Users.
According to Grabe and Kaplan (1996), the notion of why people write refers to underlying intentions or motives that may or may not be revealed by functional purpose. However, if the writer’s motive is apparent, it helps the readers comprehend the text better. Therefore, genre-based texts overtly express the writer’s motive to facilitate schema instantiation. So, the why component of writing depends on the paper’s audience, topic, and purpose.
In order to make sure my students maintain the why component in their writing, I encourage them to engage in peer review. When they participate in the peer review process in different phases of their writing, they are provided with opportunities to read their course mates essays. In doing so, they not only write on only their topics but also get an opportunity to read and offer feedback on their classmates’ essays. First, they are provided with a checklist (based on a rubric) and asked to give feedback focusing on higher-order concerns such as content/ideas, organization, and vocabulary because they play an important role to convey the writers’ message to their readers. Then, they also give their feedback concentrating on lower-order concerns such as grammar, mechanics, and formatting.
When and Where
According to Grabe and Kaplan (1996), this parameter refers to text creation’s time and place. This taxonomy of writing plays a more minor role than the rest of the taxonomies. However, its relevance depends on the type of text. For example, in official emails and letters, the date and place they are sent may be more critical for both the writer and receiver (reader).
In my writing class, when the parameter is crucial for my students because every writing assignment has a fixed deadline to complete and submit to me. The deadline is clearly mentioned in my writing course which every student is provided with both printed and digital copies of the course syllabus on the first day of the class each semester. Also, the deadline for each writing assignment is also mentioned on D2L (an online learning platform used in most U.S. universities and colleges). My students strictly follow the deadline to submit each writing assignment. If students are unable to submit their writing assignments due to any unexpected circumstances, they inform me via email and request an extension of the deadline. In that case, I extend the deadline depending on each student’s situation. In that case, I also provide additional time for individual conferencing with that student to support their writing development.
Although this is the final parameter of the writing’s ethnography, this is probably the most important because it examines how the text is created. Therefore, this parameter is also called “a theory of online writing production … or a theory of writing process” (Grabe & Kaplan, 1996, p. 213). Mainly, there are two things this parameter emphasizes. First, writing is a recursive process because the writing process stages, namely planning, drafting, revising, editing, and sharing, do not come in a neat linear sequence. Instead, the writers move backwards and forward several times to create a text (Hyland, 2003; Zamel, 1983). Next, the cognitive mechanism remains at the center of this parameter because it “provides [the writers with] the means for exploring notions such as audience, content, and writer intension from a composing perspective” (Grabe & Kaplan, 1996, p. 213).
This parameter is crucial for my students. For each writing assignment, they must go through all writing stages. They also know each stage has its significance in terms of learning and assessment. For example, they are aware that they cannot create a good outline without gathering sufficient information on a topic. Similarly, no good first draft can be written without a good outline. Without seeking and addressing feedback on the first draft, the final draft does not turn out to be perfect. My students understand this process; therefore, they love to follow all phases of the writing process because they receive separate points for outlines, first drafts, and final drafts.
To sum up, I have found that Grabe and Kaplan’s (1996) ethnography of writing is a useful framework to introduce AW to my ESL first-year university students. My students have developed an understanding of the basics of AW after I employed this approach. This framework has been very effective for me for two reasons. First, this framework promotes the teaching and learning of AW by asking the ESL students to analyze the writer’s process before composing any written text. As Paltridge (2017) stated, the students are asked: “to undertake any analysis of the context in which the text they are writing occurs and consider how the situation in which they are writing impacts upon what they write and how they write it” (p. 12). Second, this approach considers the intended audience, their background knowledge, values and understanding, conventions, genre awareness, and discipline-specificity and disciplinarity (Christie & Maton, 2011; Paltridge, 2017) because of people working in the academic community share “ideas, beliefs, values, goals, practices, conventions, and ways of creating and distributing knowledge” (Flowerdew & Costley, 2016, p. 11). Therefore, the ESL writing instructor’s responsibility is to train first-year university students to familiarize themselves with these elements when writing for academic purposes.
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Zamel, V. (1983). The composing processes of advanced ESL students: Six case studies. TESOL Quarterly,17(2), 165-187. doi:10.2307/3586647
Author’s Bio: Dr Padam Chauhan works as a Retention Specialist for the International Center and an ESL Instructor for the IEP at Minnesota State University (MNSU), Mankato, Minnesota, USA. Prior to that, Padam worked as a Writing Consultant for MNSU’s Writing Center. He has earned MEd in English Education from T.U., Nepal, MA in TESOL, and EdD from MNSU, Mankato. Before joining MNSU, Mankato, he taught ESL at the high school level and served as a high school (10+2) principal in Nepal. Padam voluntarily served NELTA Central Committee as its member, treasurer, and general secretary. Padam has presented at the NELTA, IATEFL, TESOL, AAAL, and TESL conferences in Nepal, the UK, the USA, and Canada. His current research interests include academic reading and writing, Writing Center tutoring pedagogy, and equitable access to English language education.
Whether mother tongue should be allowed or not in the EFL/ESL classrooms has been a debatable issue for many years, especially after the Grammar Translation (GT) method was considered ineffective in teaching English in non-native contexts (Paker & Karaağaç, 2015). Krashen (1981) claims that the use of the mother tongue (L1) deprives the learning of the English language (L2) in a natural setting, while the monolingual approach would maximize the effectiveness of learning the target language. Turnbul (2001) and (McDonald, 1993) are among other scholars who join Krashen in arguing that the use of the mother tongue hampers the learning of English and the best way to teach English is through English only.
However, the English-only approach – or the notion of teaching English through English (Richards, 2017) – is gradually being challenged as an impediment to teaching and learning English (Butzkamm & Caldwell, 2009; Pan & Pan 2010; Savage, 2019). The use of L1 not only creates the foundation for a better understanding of the L2 curriculum but also develops a positive attitude among children towards the schools that teach L2 (Savage, 2019). The use of L1 will be particularly relevant to the students from introductory to lower-intermediate levels (Pan & Pan 2010). According to Cook (2001), L1 creates a mental link between L1 and L2 and, thus, equips learners with the language competence they need to learn the second language.
Languages are linguistically interdependent, argues Cummins (2007), who, in the 1970s, developed the Linguistic Interdependence Hypothesis. Here,, the use of the mother tongue in the classroom reinforces the interdependence and enables the students to learn the second language through language transfer. Monolingual policies or prescriptions are actually contrary to and inconsistent with current understandings of how people learn (Cummins, 2007). In the same vein, Cook (2001) demonstrates that English-only policies and assumptions are wrong and urges instead to treat L1 as a classroom resource both for teachers and students to convey meaning, explain grammar and promote collaborative learning. Urging to use English where possible and mother tongue where necessary, Weschler, R. (1997) goes on to suggest developing a hybrid method drawing on the best of both schools of thought; English only approach and judicious use of mother tongue while teaching English.
At the beginning of my teaching career, 15 years ago, I was also influenced, like many beginner teachers, by the monolingual approach. I also used to think that English-only was the right approach, even aware that I was teaching on a public campus in which most of the students were from public schools with poor English competency. My preference for the conventional style of teaching English was to be an ideal teacher who could speak English fluently in the classrooms forbidding students from using their native languages.
Later, I realized that my approach was wrong particularly after my students started shifting to another class where the teacher used students’ mother tongue (Nepali in my context) as a medium (for instruction, teaching grammar, warming up, explaining homework and also the meaning of some technical words). Realizing the students’inclination towards their mother tongue went bilingual and saw the impact of it on the retention of students and their interactive participation in teaching-learning.
In the subsequent sections, I am sharing my own latest classroom practices in which I have used LI as a resource to teach writing skills and vocabulary. It was practised among 40 students of Bachelor of English Education at a Public Campus in Kathmandu. almost all the students were from Govt schools, with limited English proficiency. Most of them were from the ethnic communities that would speak Nepali as a lingua franca.
Practice 1: Each student was assigned to write a paragraph (8 lines) describing their own culture in English within 20 minutes. Out of 40 students, only 2 students (5%) completed the assignment. Eight students (20%) wrote some four lines of a paragraph. Twelve students (30%) wrote hardly two lines and 18 students (45%) wrote nothing (sat passive biting a pen throughout the 20 minutes). The body language of almost all students would tell that the practice was dull and dispirited.
Practice 2: Students were divided along with their cultural/linguistic background and were asked to write a half-page about their culture in LI, Nepali in this case, within 20 minutes. Almost all the students completed the assignment in time. Unlike the first assignment, students were happy, engaged and motivated to complete the exercise to the best of their ability.
Practice 3: Each group was, then, asked to translate the text into English and present it to peers. In case of difficulty finding an English term, they were allowed to retain Nepali term/s. Each group tried their best to translate what they had written, and presented among their peers highlighting the words/phrases they could not translate. I jotted down the highlighted words or phrases on the whiteboard. After the presentation, each group was asked to seek help from the other groups (using LI) to help find English words/expressions in their writing. After listening to the students, I stepped in to help them, explaining that certain cultural words might be difficult to translate, such as the name of community-specific food: Yomari (Newari food), Ghongi (Tharu Food), Sargemba (a food item of pig blood), Thekuwa (sweet cookie of terai people) and so on.
It worked well. Students were cheerful and fully engaged. No one seemed hesitant to share and express. On the contrary, everyone had something to offer and help a fellow student in need. It was truly collaborative. The mix of L1 and L2 would create a new environment of learning.
The use of LI is very helpful in EFL classrooms in a multicultural setting, like ours in Nepal. Foremost of all, it firms up the bond/connection between a teacher and students and helps create an inclusive environment in which students learn from each other (e.g., culture-specific vocabulary, writing skills, interpersonal communication) on an equal footing. It enhances inter-cultural respect among students and promotes collaborative learning.
The use of LI creates an environment in which everyone becomes an active learner. No one sees English as a burden. Instead, learning English becomes fun. As Pan and Pan (2010) rightly put it, “if L1 is utilized well and presented communicatively, it can be a facilitative tool that will improve the language proficiency of students” ( p.8 ) by motivating them to engage in learning exercises. L1 helps to develop students’ intercultural competence by providing learning content that is familiar to them (Chinh 2013). It is easy to build on familiar content, which also creates a level playing field for all to engage equally in learning without any sense of superiority or inferiority.
As argued by Weschler (1997), L1 opens the door to many possibilities for L2 while creating a natural learning environment. Learning cannot be imposed. It should not be a burden. Learning should instead be fun, which is possible through the use of the mother tongue.
The L1 versus L2 debate is not limited to educationists and teachers alone. Even our parents are drawn into it. Many of them want to see their children trained in the English-only fashion, unaware of perhaps the contribution of L1 to L2. Our teachers should also bridge the gap between the parental expectation (of L2) and the need of the students (of L1) by making the parents aware of the importance of L1 in getting their children where they want them to reach.
Butzkamm, W., & Caldwell, J. A. (2009). The bilingual reform: A paradigm shift in foreign language teaching. Narr Francke Attempto Verlag.
Chinh, N. D. (2013). Cultural Diversity in English Language Teaching: Learners’ Voices. English Language Teaching, 6 (4), 1-7.
Cook, V. (2001). Using the first language in the classroom. Canadian modern language review, 57(3), 402-423.
Cummins, J. (2007). Rethinking monolingual instructional strategies in multilingual classrooms. Canadian Journal of applied linguistics, 10(2), 221-240.
Krashen, S. D. (1981). Second language acquisition and second language learning. The University of Southern California.
McDonald, C. (1993). Using the target language. Cheltenham, UK: Mary Glasgow.
Paker, T., & Karaağaç, Ö. (2015). The use and functions of mother tongue in EFL classes. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 199, 111-119.
Pan, Y. C., & Pan, Y. C. (2010). The Use of L1 in the Foreign Language Classroom. Colombian Applied Linguistics Journal, 12(2), 87-96.
Richards, J. C. (2017). Teaching English through English: Proficiency, pedagogy and performance. RELC Journal, 48(1), 7-30.
Savage, C. (2019). The importance of mother tongue in education. Independent Education Today. Available at: https://ie-today.co.uk/comment/the-importance-of-mother-tongue-in-education/ (downloaded on 30 March 2022)
Turnbull, M. (2001). There is a role for the L1 in second and foreign language teaching, but…. Canadian modern language review, 57(4), 531-540.
Weschler, R. (1997). Uses of Japanese in the English Classroom: Introducing the Functional-Translation Method. Kyoritsu Women’s University Department of International Studies Journal, 12, 87-110.
Author’s Bio: Ms Ganga Laxmi Bhandari is a lecturer of English education at Mahendra Ratna Campus Tahachal (T.U.), Kathmandu. She has over 15 years of teaching and training experience in ELT. She has also been working as a Central Committee Member of NELTA. Currently, she is pursuing a PhD degree from Tribhuvan University. Her area of research interest is teacher professional development. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
One day, in the morning class, I was teaching in B.Ed. first-year students in a community campus. I asked a student to read a text given in the coursebook. She felt odd and did not get up to read the text. I encouraged her to just read the text the way she could, but was shy and showed no willingness to read. After a brief silence, she told me that she would read the text the following day. I did not force her more as I thought that she did not want to lose her face in front of her friends. I also asked other students to read. Some of them were reluctant to read. Those who tried reading lack clear pronunciation and fluency in reading. They could not even produce the simple words correctly.
Likewise, the same day, in the afternoon, I was teaching the students of the first semester of Diploma in Civil Engineering in a community technical institute. I asked some students to read a text from their English course. A boy read the text and pronounced the words as /kəmɪment/ for ‘commitment’, /mæzestɪfɪkesən/ to ‘mystification’, /skɪberd/ to ‘discovered’, /ɔ:skərd/ for ‘obscured’, /sərvɪs/ to ‘serves’, /pɪjrs/ to ‘preyers’ etc. Moreover, I also taught the students of Diploma in Agriculture (Animal Science) on that day and I asked the students to read a text of their course because it was interesting to me that the students who were studying at the Diploma level could not read the text fluently with the correct pronunciation. A girl stood up and pronounced the word ‘fidelity’ as /fɪlɪtɪ/, ‘reminiscence’ as /rɪmkens/, ‘anything’ as /enðɪs/, ‘eye’ as /ɔɪ/, ‘anthropology’ as /entolozi/, ‘spectacle’ as /spekʊlər/, ‘glorious’ as /glɪsɪrɪjs/ etc. while she was reading the text. I am shocked to see the reading proficiency of the students of B. Ed. and Diploma in a technical institute. It is found that they are too weak in reading. Thus, in this write-up, I try to explore some problems regarding this issue in my effort to improve students’ reading.
Reading is the process of decoding a message from the given text. Going through a written text in order to understand and comprehend its message can be called reading. Eye movement and word recognition are the essential factors in the reading process. Reading is the main source of information and a means of consolidating and extending our knowledge. It is a kind of practice of using text to create meaning. If there is no meaning being created, there is no reading taking place. Teachers should engage students in reading activities to develop their reading skills.
Munby (1979, as cited in Khaniya, 2005) argues that reading skill incorporates different sub-skills such as recognition of the script of a language, deducing the meaning and use of unfamiliar lexical items, understanding explicitly stated information, understanding conceptual meaning, understanding relations within the sentences, understanding relations between parts of a text through lexical and grammatical cohesion devices, identifying the main points or important information in a piece of discourse, skimming, Scanning, and transcoding information to diagrammatic display that should be internalized and learned by the students for their proper development in reading. My experience in teaching shows that the students have not developed these sub-skills of reading even if they are studying at the Bachelor’s level. It is essential that the students have to develop all these sub-skills while reading the text appropriately.
Causes of Students’ Poor Reading Proficiency
To explore this issue, I discussed it with students in the class and observed their reading practice and found the following main causes:
Effect of COVID-19 Lockdown
The COVID-19 pandemic affected all sectors of life. Education is one of the highly affected sectors. To safeguard the people from coronavirus, the government declared the lockdown. As a result, schools remained closed. The schools could not continue the teaching and learning activities smoothly. Students could not take their regular classes and reading activities halted for several months. Teachers could not engage their students in reading practice either in the face to face or online mode because most of the community schools also could conduct their classes neither physically nor on online mode. The students missed the opportunity of the practice of reading in their class. Students who I have been teaching said that they did not take part in reading activities because of the lockdown, and their teachers completed their courses in a rush without giving attention to developing their reading skills.
No exam: No Reading
Because of the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government could not run the School Education Examination (SEE) and the schools also did not take terminal and annual examinations. Students were promoted to the next class without attending any formal examinations. On the one hand, students did not attend regular classes; on the other hand, they passed without giving an examination. Our students do not study hard if they do not have to take part in the exam. One of the students asserted that ‘neither we give exams nor we study hard’ because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He further mentioned that pariksha dinu parne bhae po padhnu. hamile padhne abhyas garenau ni! (If we have to take an exam, we used to read. We have not practised reading). In this context, neither they read effectively in the class nor did they sit in the exam. As a result, they became weak in their reading.
Declining Reading Culture
The main cause of students being weak in reading is the poor reading culture. Students do not want to read themselves. They want to listen to their teachers reading out the text for them. They do not like to read since reading is difficult for them because it demands the enactment of several subskills at the same time. Reading is a time-consuming and challenging task. One of my students shared her experiences of reading as ‘reading takes much time because I have to search for pronunciation and meaning of the difficult words in the dictionary which is alchhilagdo (lazily) and jhanjhatilo (troublesome) task for me’. She further said that it is also boring to read alone at home. When they are poor at reading, they lack interest in it. We can also say that when they lack interest in reading, they become poor at it. If they read regularly at home, they can develop their reading skill.
Teacher-Centred Reading Practice
Generally, English teachers in community schools just read out the text and explain its meaning to students. They do not provide an opportunity for the students to read or to work out the exercises in the text on their own. Instead, the teachers encourage their students to recite the answer to the question which have been provided by them writing on the whiteboard. Consequently, many students fail to develop their reading skills. They adopt the teacher-centred method to teach reading. They themselves become active to read, interpret and convey the meaning through translation.
My Effort for Developing Reading Skill
As a reading teacher, I have used the following techniques to address the abovementioned reading problems faced by my students at the advanced level.:
Daily Reading Practice in the Class
Normally, advanced-level students are not asked to read in the class. They are expected to comprehend and take part in reasoning and thinking after self-reading practice. However, I ask them to read the text line by line in my class. In the beginning, they felt hesitant, shy and had the fear of losing face before their friends. When they realized that they can improve their reading if they involve in daily reading practice in the class from my counselling, they began taking part in reading activities actively. Although it is time-consuming and burdensome for me, I engage them in reading practice. Regular and continuous practice of daily reading even in B. Ed. class brought a noticeable change in the students that some of them can read the text with correct pronunciation at a slow pace. A few days ago, a new student came to my class. I asked her to read but she hesitated. Seeing her hesitation, another student encouraged her “Sir le hamrailagi padhna bhannubhaeko ho, padhana, yasari yaha ra gharama padhda mero peni padhaima sudhar bhayo [The teacher has told her to read for us. Read the text. I have also improved by reading here and at home]. It was quite satisfying for me to hear such positive feedback on my effort.
Reading at Home with Dictionary
I also motivate my students to read the text at home by using dictionaries. I tell them to underline difficult words and write their pronunciations and meanings with a pencil just above the words and read continuously to develop their reading. Some of them have followed this strategy and found it quite helpful. Those who read at home using dictionaries can read the text easily in the class, and those who come to class without reading at home find it difficult to understand.
Short Oral Question-based Reading
I ask students some short oral questions which are based on the reading text. I tell them that I will ask some short questions from the reading text so that they should read the text at home. The uses of short oral questions encourage students to read the text with a clear purpose. Such questions also give them direction, which ultimately contributes to their reading skill.
Reading in Pair
In my observation, there are two types of readers in the class. Some can read the text wholesome and can not even utter the words clearly. Keeping these two types in mind, I form reading pairs of ‘able’ and ‘ weak’ students. In a pair, they read together, talk and discuss. They read the text collectively. The able student helps his/her pair to read the text. If pairs are formed carefully, they do not hesitate to share their ideas with each other. This reading practice has become beneficial for the students in my classroom
Reading is a pivotal skill to develop students’ vocabulary and content knowledge. Students cannot develop their reading skills if they do not involve in reading activities themselves actively. Continuous, and active involvement of the students in reading texts supports them to develop their reading skills. They should read the text themselves without any hesitation no matter which level they are in. Daily practice of reading in the class with the support of the teachers, reading at home using dictionaries, reading to respond to short oral questions, and reading in pairs are some of the techniques for developing the reading skill of our students. At present, even advanced students are found grappling with reading texts in Nepal as stakeholders of ELT, we need to be aware of this problem and take some concerted effort to address it. For it, I think a long-term action research-based study is needed to explore in-depth the problems of reading students and to find out practical ways of overcoming them.
Khaniya, T.R. (2005). Examination for enhanced learning. Kathmandu: Author.
Author’s Bio: Nani Babu Ghimire is a Lecturer at Siddha Jyoti Education Campus Sindhuli, Nepal. He is currently a Ph. D. scholar in English Education at Tribhuvan University.
English is taught and learnt as a foreign language in Nepal. I teach students from varying levels ranging from school to university. Teaching English at school and university is a tough and tedious job for every practitioner. It has been more challenging for all many of us. Normally, we believe that students in our context lack competency and proficiency in English language learning contexts. Motivating such learners to learn the English language is a very aspiring as well as a rigorous task for teachers like me. I often try to bring innovative ideas and activities to my classroom context. Unfortunately, my students do not pay proper attention to their studies and at some point, I feel as if they are studying English just to score passing grades. I realized that the students having ‘Nepali’ as the specialized subject focus only to score required grades or pass marks in comparison to students having ‘English’ as the specialized subject. . As an EFL teacher, I have to fully depend on prescribed course books’ task and activities to complete on time. This nature of the course has given no freedom for teachers to apply tasks and activities based on classroom explorations and context. The administration timely does an inquiry about the course progress whether the teacher has met the target of the course for terminal examination or not. Students also have developed their mindset to read any topic or lesson from an exam viewpoint. One of my students asked me during the teaching phase, “ sir, is this exercise important for the exam?” I replied yes to know the response of the student and how important he/she gives to that particular exercise. I found the students who asked me whether this exercise is important for exams or not prepared notes on that topic. From this classroom scenario, I realized to motivate my students to engage in the creative and critical tasks and activities beyond course books.
Fostering the creativity of learners plays a vital role in developing their analytical, critical, and problem-solving skills to enhance effective communication with peers and teachers naturally. In this regard, Tomlinson (2020) pointed out the significance of being creative for EFL teachers in-order to encourage their learners to be creative. Maley (2016) has suggested the following principles for developing various forms of creativity:
Use heuristics at all levels- do the opposite, reverse the order, expand or (reduce ) something,
Use the constraints principle
Use the random principle
Use the association principle
Use the withholding-information principle
Use the divergent thinking principle
Use feeder fields
Regarding the notion of being creative teachers, we have to come out of the comfort zone to discover and explore newness for teaching creatively having a strong belief that creative teachers are not born and have to abandon the fear of being wrong. The ongoing trends and shifts in teaching expect teachers’ willingness to be creative and demonstrate innovative concepts, beliefs, methods, and skills in teaching. How can a teacher teaching with low resources and less professional opportunity familiarize him with creative and critical aspects of teaching? To address the issue of the above question, I believe, there should be passion among teachers for self- continuous professional growth and learning. Teachers have to be motivated themselves and always devoted and committed to bringing significant changes in their classroom practices forming their own agency.
The rationale for my reflection
Rationalizing the status and ability of students in English, I happened to inquire how I could inspire my learners to be responsible for their own learning. Many questions are stuck in my mind:- Are there any ways I could apply in my teaching to achieve transformative learning? Are there any explicit and creative activities that I could employ in my classroom context for better learning outcomes? Are there any specific ways I could apply to engaging students interactively and collaboratively?
These are some of the leading questions that made me reflect critically on transforming my teaching from content provider/ knowledge transmitter to knowledge explorer and reformer through dialogic interactions with interlocutors. In this write-up, I share my classroom practices on how creative response in ELT can foster students’ creativity, critical thinking, analyzing skills, and problem-solving skills, as well as develop communication skills to integrate various language aspects. The objective of this reflective writing is to rethink and critically reflect and analyze our classroom practices whether or not we are creating a favourable learning environment for our learners to develop their creativity. Moreover, this paper also encourages teachers teaching with less access to professional opportunities and fewer resources to be responsible for self-learning and grow professionally to connect with a wider ELT association of professional networking.
I began my teaching career without job induction training and mentoring. I struggled for my survival in the teaching profession during my initial days. There was no staff development programme and professional development opportunity for teachers. Teachers were seniors/experienced based on their years of teaching rather than updated skills and knowledge. I realized proficiency and competency-based training, seminars, workshops, webinars, and short-term practical courses empower teachers to advance their teaching careers. I also became a member of ELT associations like NELTA and TESOL for my continuous professional development and networking with the wider community. The following anecdotes illustrated my professional development activities.
I attended a six-day intensive course on “Fundamentals of Teaching” organized by the British Council on March 25-30, 2018. It was my first experience participating in a 6 days long training for individual professional growth. The takeaways from the training helped me shape my teaching to keeping learners at the centre of the learning process by applying recent approaches to language teaching, group division techniques, designing tasks and activities for lesson planning, managing heterogeneous classes, fostering creative and critical aspects of learners, Think, pair share technique and ways of maximizing interaction and collaboration.
Based on the skills and knowledge from this training, I presented a workshop on Designing Activities for Teaching Reading at the National Conference of NELTA held at Solidarity International Academy, Hetauda, Nepal on March 2-3,2019. TESOL-NELTA Regional Conference and Symposium held at DAV Sushil Kedia Vishwa Bharati Higher Secondary School, Jawalakhel, Lalitpur on November 20-23 was another professional development opportunity to participate and interact with scholars from home and abroad for professional networking. At this conference, I presented a workshop on Using Short Stories for Enhancing Reading Comprehension of EFL Learners. I got an opportunity to participate in a Creative Writing Workshop facilitated by an ELT expert Alan Maley on November 24, 2019. That creative writing workshop engaged me in various ways of writing creative poems and also inspired me to apply the technique in my classrooms to foster creative writing for my students. It is my belief that the best part of learning is sharing in a wider community. I presented a workshop entitled Enhancing Creative Writing in the EFL classroom at the Third Annual ELT and Applied Linguistics Conference on February 21-22, 2020 organized by the Department of English Education, Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, Nepal.
Recently, I also successfully completed a nine months-long online course entitled “TESOL Certificate: Advance Practitioner (TCAP) getting a scholarship from Regional English Language Office (RELO) US Embassy, Nepal. This course provided theoretical knowledge and practical skills needed for teaching the English language effectively and innovatively by applying modern approaches, methods, and skills. I got an opportunity to participate TESOL convention and English language expo virtually in 2021 and 2022. Attending the TESOL convention virtually made me familiar with recent practices of teacher education, teacher research, innovative classroom practices, and more importantly ELT in the present world. Scholars across the globe shared their beliefs, knowledge, practical ideas based on their classroom exploration, and research findings to empower teachers like me to rethink English language teaching. I was the award recipient of ‘Rosa Aronson Professional Learning Scholarship’ of TESOL 2020.
My classroom practices
My classroom practices focus on the development of the creative and critical skills of the students. In order to enhance creativity and critical thinking, I create a conducive learning environment to foster engagement from the students. I use Icebreaker to initiate the discussions, sometimes during the while phase of teaching and at the end of the class. Using icebreakers in English language class incorporates different language skills. Icebreaker is one of the effective strategies for generating new ideas. I spend around 5-10 minutes on the icebreaker with a clear purpose. The selection of the icebreaker is based on the nature of the text. I use prompts, quotations, riddles, and questions for engaging students in productive learning.
Social media are also the best platform for learning new ideas and concepts for self-professional development through professional networking. I have added many ELT scholars from home and abroad as my Facebook friends. They post innovative concepts of ELT, call for proposals and abstracts for international conferences, seminars, and workshops, and share resources, practical teaching ideas, and links for joining webinars. I found the following activity in the Facebook post of Marjorie Rosenberg, past president of IATEFL. I found this activity engaging so I used it in my classroom.
Activity 1: Icebreaker
I asked the students to complete the following information using the first letter of the last name. They were a bit confused about how to be engaged in this activity. To make them understand how to explore information for completing it, I asked for the last name of any students in the class and wrote the last name on the board. For example, if the last name of the student was Gurung, he/she had to complete the given items using the first letter of their last name (G).
Something in your home…………………….
Your last names………………………………….
Students actively participated in this activity. I found that students were very curious to share their responses. After the sharing session, I ask the students to write the names of the animals (donkey, elephant), a place to visit (Dharan, Illam), Favourite food (momo, biryani), clothes (sweater, T-shirt) on a piece of paper. I provided them with the structure (If I were a (insert the word generated above), I would……) to write sentences based on the words they generated above. For example: If I were a donkey, I would carry your goods.
If I were a sweater, I would keep you warm from the cold.
Students constructed creative and surprising sentences and compared and evaluated their generated sentences with their peers. This activity energized them to create new sentences based on the structures.
Activity 2: Using Acrostic poems for introduction to new students
An acrostic poem is based on a word written vertically. I used acrostic poems to introduce newcomer students. This activity of writing poems encourages students to write poems about themselves. Acrostics poems can be used to write poems on objects, things, places, and so on. To make my students familiar with writing acrostics poems, I present some samples to make them clear on how to write them. During the sample presentation, I address the query raised by the students.
For Example: Dog
After presenting the above example, I ask the students to write an acrostic poem based on their own name or about someone’s name they know well.
For example: Ganesh
An Active achiever
N Nurturing naturally
E Excellent endeavour
S Sincere Sociable
H Honest humane
After students wrote poems about their names, I asked every student to share how they wrote them.
Activity 3: What Makes Me Happy?
I use this activity to promote positive thinking and also want to know the sources of my students’ happiness. I write “What Makes Me Happy?” on the board and asks the student to write their happiness based on the stem I wrote on the board. To make them clear, I write ‘Eating momo at a restaurant with my friends makes me happy.’ Based on this information, students explore their happiness and write creative and surprising sentences and chunks individually. I divide them into groups with five students in each. Now, students select one writer and the remaining students do the work of editing to shape their poems. Each group shares their final product of ‘What Makes Me Happy?’
Activity 4 : Bio poems
Bio poem enhances students’ creativity to write poems about a place, concept, event or individual they learnt through reading texts. Students write poems about the characters of the story or novel based on the sample. Students have read biography or autobiography of famous people, historically and naturally popular places or any events or concepts introduced in the text. In the form of poems, students organize and synthesize a large number of ideas creatively. The following template can be used to write a poem:
Line 1: First name
Line 2: Four traits that describe the character
Line 3: son/daughter relative of
Line 4: who feels/ verbs………….( 3 items)
Line 5: who needs/verbs……….( 3 items )
Line 6: who gives/verbs………..( 3 items)
Line 7: Who would like…………..
Line 8: Resident of………………….
Ending: Last name
Activity 5: Story Wheel
I attended a workshop on ‘Creative Response to ELT’ last year. In that workshop, the facilitator introduced the concept and practical ways of assessing the ‘story wheel’ in our classrooms. The story wheel required paper and pencil and can easily be used without overnight preparation and planning. Baker (2021) emphasizes that the story wheel can be used to expand learners’ retelling capacities, as well as to hone critical-thinking skills, and provide oral language practice. I use this activity in my class to retell the story students read or heard. Before I use this tool, I ask the students to read the story. I draw a circle on the board and divide the circle into segments. In the segment, I write the name of the story and its writer, the characters of the story, the setting, the plot, the picture that describe the best scene of the story, and key vocabulary. The segments in the story wheel depend on the nature of the story and the level of learners. I distribute pencils and A4 size paper to the students. I form a group with five students in each. They discuss in a group and make the story wheel based on my instructions. I offer my help to them if needed. The story wheel is easily transferable to a post-reading strategy with adaptations.
Enhancing the reading comprehension of my learners is another challenging part of teaching due to the complex nature of reading texts. Students develop their critical and interpretive skills through maximum exposure to readings texts. In our context, we have given very less amount of reading practice to our learners to improve their comprehension. Students seem bored and passive in reading lessons. This classroom scenario made me re-evaluate my teaching on how to design engaging, creative, and critical activities and tasks to assess reading interactively and collaboratively to motivate demotivated learners. Reading texts enhances the interpretive abilities of the students. In my reading lesson, I begin my class by creating a learner-friendlier atmosphere motivating them to participate in the discussion to share their prior knowledge they have about the topic. I initiate the interaction and elicit information shared by the students by making a connection with their previous knowledge about the reading text. I use the K-W-L chart (What I know-K, What I want to know- W and What I learned-L) to engage students individually in organizing ideas of the text at pre, while, and post phases of the reading topic. Agreeing and disagreeing is another effective reading activity I prefer in my class to express the opinions of my students. For example, I write ‘ Arranged marriages are usually stronger than those based on love’ On the board. I ask the students: To what extent do you agree with the statement- strongly agree, agree, undecided, disagree, and strongly disagree. Students think individually and share their responses with their classmates.
Questioning the author helps students develop inquiry about the text to understand it. Students explore the meaning that the author wants to convey through the text. It also develops the students’ interactive, explorative and interpretive ability to construct meaning based on their reading of the text (Beck, McKeown, Sandora, & Worthy, 1996, 387).
Visualization, summarizing, predicting, making connections, and inferring are frequently used reading strategies in my classroom. While designing tasks and activities for reading texts, I follow the stages of reading illustrated by Lazar ( 2009) to achieve learning goals through interactive tasks and activities. I also use a plot diagram to map the events of the story. Students organize their ideas based on the elements of the plot diagram- exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.
Exploring the creativity of the learners in the EFL classroom is the cry of a day. To address the issue of creativity in the EFL classroom, I have applied learnt skills and knowledge to bring positive learning outcomes to my learners giving them maximum exposure through engaging tasks and activities. Creating a democratic classroom scenario will motivate the students to be responsible for their own learning believing they are an integral part of teaching which builds a good rapport between teachers and students.
Maley, A. (2016). Creativity: the what, the why and the how. ELT Council: Malta
Baker, A. ( 2021 ). Using story retelling wheels with young learners. English Teaching Forum, 59(3), 14-24.
Gabay, L. ( 2017). I raise my voice: Promoting self-Authoring through a curriculum-based project. English Teaching Forum, 55(4),14-21.
Beck, I.L., McKeown, M.G., Sandora, C., & Worthy, J. (1996). Questioning the author:
A yearlong classroom implementation to engage students with text. The Elementary
School Journal, 96, 385–414.
Lazar, G.( 2009). Literature and Language teaching. Cambridge University Press.
Tomlinson, B.(2015). Challenging teachers to use their coursebooks creatively. www.teachingenglish.org.uk
Author’s Bio: Bishnu Karki has an M.Ed. in English Education from Tribhuvan University. He is an Assistant Lecturer of English Education at Janta Multiple Campus, Itahari, Sunsari and Secondary level English teacher at Chandra Sanskrit Secondary School, Dharan. Mr Karki is joint secretary of the NELTA Sunsari branch and a global member of TESOL. His special interest lies in fostering creativity in ELT, teaching literature in the EFL classroom, and teacher education.
Collaborative teacher development is the process of sharing together for enhancing and cooperating the quality of teaching and learning practices. It occurs when the teachers and learners work together in the process of teaching and learning. This paper is based on my presentation at the 22nd international conference of NELTA 2017. The teachers and learners have the common goal to overcome the problems occurred in the practices of teaching and learning. The teachers’ association like NELTA in Nepal is helping in energizing language teachers and researchers to be professional as well as professional growth. Personally, by joining NELTA, I am benefitted from growing professionally and academically. The teachers can play a pertinent role to collaborate with the people involved in teaching and learning practices. Collaborating together, the teachers explore more opportunities for the learners so that the learners can envision several steps of learning.
Likewise, teachers can also enhance expertise and build good confidence with their learners. The teachers exchange their ideas and knowledge with other participants in teaching and learning and that led them to be professionally sound. Therefore, collaboration is one of the ways for teachers’ professional development. Regarding collaboration, Vygotsky (1978) as cited in Barfield, (2016, p. 222) states, “Collaborative learning can be seen to occur through dialogue, social interaction, and joint-decision making with others and these shared processes contribute greatly to individual and collective growth as well as to co-constructed understanding and knowledge”. As a language teacher and researcher, I have had a similar experience in my classroom and outside of the classroom.
Similarly, Hargreaves, (1994, p.186) says, “To a point where teachers can learn from each other, sharing and developing their expertise together”. The learning becomes effective while sharing because they can generate meaningful ideas and information. Furthermore, Medgyes and Malderez, (1996), as cited in Barfield (2016, p.222), state, “collaborative teacher development is founded on dialogue, questioning, and discussion in working together towards educational change and improvement” and it is supported by Datnow (2011, p.155) that “it is at its most effective when it emerges voluntarily and spontaneously from teachers’ own beliefs that working together is productive and enjoyable”. It means teachers can feel comfortable if they apply the collaborative work to practice. Similarly, my experience in teaching is teachers can professionally forward in sustained and meaningful ways if we are able to do so together. Here, I transformed myself into a professional teacher and researcher.
This article explores the needs and importance of collaboration for teachers’ professional development. It is my own experience of encountering collaborative and non-collaborative teaching and learning. The theoretical studies of the collaboration in the field of language teaching and learning enhanced my pedagogical skills and also helped to explore more innovative ideas and skills. Likewise, this paper sets to explore collaborative teaching and learning to envision how it is one of the sources for teachers’ professional development.
Collaborative Teaching and Learning for Teachers’ Professional Development
As a teacher and a member of NELTA, I participated in seminars and conferences and understand that teacher is not only empowering her/his students but also growing professionally. I also understand that professional teachers always try and stand in search of learning knowledge. Maggioli (2004, p. 5) defines, “professional development as a career-long process in which educators fine-tune their teaching to meet student needs”. As Maggioli suggests it is clear to say that professional development is not a day or night development for one’s career, it is an ongoing process where one should professionally develop and grow through joining different minds together. It gives the vivid concept that if the teacher understands themselves as a learner and expert to fulfil the demands of the students.
Collaborative teaching and learning make a sense of learning by sharing and engaging together. It also builds harmony in our Nepalese context. The teachers’ collaboration and an active engagement with their students and different agencies could explore more innovative ways and skills of learning. The literature also focuses on collaboration which means working together especially in a joint intellectual effort so that one could stay sound and confident in language teaching-learning practices. According to Richards and Burns (2009, p. 239), “it is a social process that is contingent upon dialogue and interactions with others, processes through which teachers can come to better understand their own beliefs and knowledge as well as reshape these understandings through listening to the voice of others”. It is clearer in our Nepali context that our country is diverse which helps to understand the social phenomenon. Similarly, teaching and learning practices enhance when there is equal dialogue and interactions. Through collaborative teaching, teachers can come and interact with other people. Regarding their understanding, experience, and subject matter build confidence and broaden their skills. Likewise, it helps to exchange ideas, skills, and understanding with other fellow teachers, researchers and policymakers in the language field.
Similarly, Johnston (2003) considers collaboration as a wellspring of teacher professional development. Collaborative teaching and learning are fundamentally social processes. It creates collegiality and quality in the teaching profession. Edge (1992) states, “self-development needs other people…by cooperating with others, we can come to understand better our own experiences and opinions”. I also understand that self-determination in learning with other people enhances both confidentiality and collegiality. Likewise, we need collaborative teaching and learning for teachers’ professional development because Johnston views state collaborative teacher development as any sustained and systematic investigation into teaching and learning in which a teacher voluntarily collaborates with others involved in the teaching process, and in which professional development is a prime purpose.
Collaboration is crucial and influential in teaching and learning, which is concerned with the teacher’s professional development that gives the update and current affairs of knowledge. Cook (1981) states, “concern for the ultimate clients, the students, and for intermediaries, the teachers are apparent in all programmes, and this concern is directed toward sound educational and professional development rather than the gratification of immediate needs and desires.” Collaboration in teaching is not only meant for programme development, it is meant for individual development too. It creates an ample opportunity for the teacher to integrate and come up with the vision, increased understanding among teachers at all grade levels and in varied subject areas.
In my experience, I understand collaboration while engaging and interacting through different agencies such as NELTA, LSN, and so on. In doing so, I developed my skills and confidence not only in classroom teaching but also beyond classroom teaching. Likewise, it helps me to explore my techniques, strategies and methods to apply in and outside of the classroom. Doing collaborative works and finding its relevance in academia is described by Darling Hammond and Richardson (2009).
To make it more explicit, Cook (1981) states, “collaboration is to provide a means for improving the professional education, it is important to consider not only the meaning and implication of “collaboration” but also the nature of “improvement”. Collaboration creates an environment where the teacher can work together and learn together to improve their professionalism. The dialogue and interaction which led through collaboration also build trust, confidence and collegiality. Teaching/learning in such a way could give sound satisfaction with satisfactory achievement, which would orient them to professionalism. This could become like cooperation but not exactly cooperation. Collaboration is somehow different from cooperation. Let’s see the differences.
Collaboration and Cooperation
Killion (2012) states, as cited in the essential guide to professional learning Aitsl (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership) “the more one educator’s learning is shared and supported by others, the more quickly the culture of continuous improvement, collective responsibility, and high expectations for students and educator’s grows.” Collaboration is a community where learners and teachers are involved together to share their knowledge, skills or ideas to recover the issues and challenges seen in teaching and learning. According to Aitsl, collaboration creates a community of working to achieve a common goal through the sharing of practice, knowledge and problems. And, effective collaboration encourages ongoing observation and feedback among colleagues where a culture of professional sharing, dialogue, experimentation and critique becomes commonplace. What I also observed through experiencing collaborative teaching, it makes sense of collegiality and mostly to get to know how things are going on worldwide.
Brook et al. (2007) state, “collaboration creates a base of pedagogical knowledge that is disturbed among teachers within a school as opposed to being held by individual teachers” as cited in Aitsl. It clears that if the teacher is suffering from the pedagogical problems they would get the chance to solve them through collaborative work that may not be solved by an individual. AITSL clearly defines both collaboration and cooperation where collaboration is concerned with working with another or others in a joint project. Collaborative works, it has a common goal and a high level of trust. It is a job-embedded long term program and works with joint planning, decision making, and problem-solving methods.
Cooperation has individual ownership of goals with others providing assistance for mutual benefit. Generally, cooperation is spontaneous and passive engagement by others. Therefore, cooperation and collaboration have not much comparison. Collaboration is far better than cooperation in academia. We can say that doing collaborative work makes professional growth. Therefore, to grow professionally collaboration with the teachers’ association, colleagues, researchers and teachers enhance the skills needed for professional development.
Why do we need collaborative teacher development?
Collaboration is viewed as a process that facilitates teacher development, serves to generate knowledge and understanding, and helps to develop collegiality and one of which teachers should have or share control. It is an organizational and inter-organizational structure where resources, power, and authority are shared, and where people are brought together to share common goals that could not be accomplished by a single individual or an organization independently, Kagan (1991, p. 3) as cited in Rainforth and England (1997, p. 86). The work accomplished by the group may not be solved by an individual and mostly they become unfamiliar with the phenomenon or process used to accomplish the task. When they come together they would have common goals which can be shared together and can be easily accomplished. In other words, the most common things in collaboration are it facilitates every individual to share and learn the issues one is facing.
Similarly, teacher development is a social process that is contingent upon dialogue and interaction with others, processes through which teachers can come to better understand their own beliefs and knowledge as well as reshape these understanding through listening to the voices of others. It can be viewed as teachers learning, rather than as others getting teachers to change. In learning, the teachers were developing their beliefs and ideas, developing their classroom practices, and attending to their feelings associated with changing, Bell and Gilbert (1994), as cited in Evans (2002, p.126). It seems clearer that joining hands and working together means helping an association as well as helping an association means building a nation together.
Likewise, Goddard and Goddard (2007) states, “when teachers have opportunities to collaborate professionally, they build upon their distinctive experiences, pedagogies, and content” as cited in Burton, (2015, p.6). If we collaborate, our work and ideas together in a group could bring the lived experience in the field of professionalism. I’m not sure the satisfaction that I got during a teaching in a particular situation is equal to others in their own field. However, in my experience of teaching and learning in a group, I explore more ideas and opportunities to overcome problems with solutions. We need collaboration not only for individual improvement but also for our program development.
Yarger (1979) suggests, as cited in Cook (1981, p. 99) “collaboration in teacher education is not related to quality and improvement in program development”, it should provide a breadth of perception and vision, an enrichment in terms of resources and an opportunity for increased understanding among the teachers at all grade levels and in varied subject areas. It could then lead to effective programs of professional development.
Different Forms of Collaboration for Teacher Development
Collaborative Teacher Development (CTD) can take the initiation of effective teaching/learning along with professional growth. Nowadays it is one of the major concerns to be professional in one of the fields and teaching/learning is integrated into all the other development of the people. It helps learners and teachers to explore more innovative skills to find and accomplish the task according to their interests. To decide who, where and how the teacher gets collaborates for further development is necessary to know. We could say that five fingers are stronger than one finger, in the same way, working together by involving collaboratively could bring a concrete result which is most beneficial for all.
There are different forms of collaboration where teachers are the centre point to achieving the goal. According to Johnston, (2003), as cited in Richards and Burns (2009, p. 242), there are four different forms of collaboration that teachers can involve in their professional development.
Teachers can collaborate with their fellow teachers
In this group, the teacher and their fellow (peer) teachers worked and discuss together. This is the most balanced relationship in terms of power. Collaboration among language teachers may well focus on instructional issues such as materials exploitation, classroom management, classroom language use, and other related issues. The language teachers are likely to point them toward certain common concerns and interests. Their professional understanding and depth of knowledge can help everyone involved in the group. It creates a lot of interaction related to the subject area and enhances the other further skills and knowledge. Here, we could say that meeting with different expertise minds certainly helps other minorities who have difficulties with resources and facilities in teaching/learning.
Collaboration between Teachers and University-based Researchers
As a teacher and researcher, I am much benefited from these forms of collaboration. I explore more innovative ideas and skills needed for the teachers and learners. For doing educational research such kind of collaborations are commonly initiated by the researcher to find out lived experiences of the teachers. Teachers and university-based researchers collaborate together and talk about the general and specific issues, and challenges that occur in the language field. Sometimes they do the classroom research to find the solutions; creating such an environment teacher could easily enhance their skills and knowledge whereas researcher also gets the credit for research and that could develop their professionalism as well as collegiality. Teacher and university-based collaboration may have a great inspiration for the teachers because the researcher could provide access and authentic resources to overcome the problems.
Teachers with their Students Collaboration
This type of collaboration makes an arrangement and offers fascinating possibilities for learning in-depth about one’s own classroom and who is in it. This kind of collaboration encourages the teacher and students to accomplish the goal together. Here, the learners are empowered by the teacher and the teacher also comes to know the current affairs of knowledge related understanding in teaching and learning. This form of collaboration is action and problem solving oriented which is livelier in the field of language teaching. It is problem and action-oriented therefore it could fix the problems raised by the students or teachers so that they could get the prompt feedback from their students to achieve the goal.
Collaboration with Others Involved in Teaching/ Learning
In this form of collaboration, teachers can collaborate with the administrators, supervisors, parents, materials developers and so on. Teachers and administrators collaborate together to find the issues and challenges that cause the improvement of the teachers, institutions, and programs, for the development. Similarly, the teacher and the supervisors collaborate together to recover the problems in the teaching and learning field. Supervisors can give constructive feedback to the teacher for their professional development. The teacher can also collaborate with the materials developers and share the implications of the material in the language classrooms. Teachers can also collaborate with the parents who play a vital role to achieve the students’ goals. They could share the students’ attitudes toward learning and the teachers’ teaching. In doing so, many of these collaborations, in turn, have had a significant component of the professional development of the teachers.
Sharing one’s learning is the everyday experience of human behaviour. The knowledge is hidden; it would enhance and grow when human beings take part in the discourse. Even unknown and unfamiliar things become known knowledge and familiar when people come together to share and present. Collaborative practices lead teachers to re-conceptualize the innovative process, boosting learners to continue varieties of challenges, generate cross forms, and participate in constructionist and supportive practices, including an-alternative dialogues. Collaborative teaching and learning practices help both teachers and learners to explore creativity and construct new frameworks for learning. Likewise, it creates innovative ideas and skills to know together and learn together.
Burton, T. (2015). Exploring the Impact of Teacher Collaboration on Teacher Learning and Development. University of South Carolina Scholar Commons (Doctoral Dissertations). Retrieved from http://scholarcommons.sc.edu/etd/3107
Cook, G. E. (1981, May). Collaboration, Change and Concern: Professional Development through teacher centers. English education, 13 (2), pp. 97-104.
Evans, L. (2002, Mar.). What Is Teacher Development? Oxford review of education, 28 (1), pp. 123-137.
Rainforth, B. & England, J. (1997, Feb.). Collaborations for Inclusion: Education and treatment for children, 20 (1). Pp. 85-104.
Richards, J.C. & Burns, A. (Eds.). (2009). Second Language Teacher Education: Collaborative Teacher Development. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Maggioli, G. D. (2004). Teacher- Centered Professional Development. Association for supervision and curriculum development (ASCD). Alexandria, Virginia, USA.
Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (aitsl). The Essential Guide to Professional Learning: Collaboration.
http://www.aitsl.edu.au/professional growth/australian teacher performance/and development framework.
Author’s Bio: Mr. Shaty Kumar Mahato is an MPhil graduate in English Language Education from Kathmandu University and working as an ELT teacher, researcher and trainer in the field of education. Since his Bachelor’s degree in 2005, he has been involved in teaching and research. He has presented his research paper in NELTA, LSN, TERSD and Asia TEFL. At present, he is working as a Project Coordinator-Education in Aasaman Nepal a national NGO. His area of interest is teaching methodologies, Collaborative Approach, Teacher Education, Language Policy, Discourse Analysis and Narrative Research Inquiry.
Courses designed for English language teaching have been facing problems of practical implication as per the requirement of students in their local space. In this respect, students are facing problems in Non-English speaking countries like low motivation, lack of confidence, and inadequate teaching methods. In the light of the above statement of the problem, the study seeks to provide answers to the following questions: What is the most serious problem of English literature teaching? Are school students learning the English language proficiently as required according to the curriculum? What are the techniques that would be helpful to students to learn the English language? How does the use of literature boost their language learning?
Literature has multiple functions and carries power. Regarding power, Kelly (1996) states that some of the great values of (children’s) literature are enjoyment, beauty, thinking, knowledge, understanding and language. Briefly, this idea can be explained through a good book that offers students fun and pleasure while learning. Aesthetics is about the beauty that students experience in writing. Texts are oral art that led readers to enjoy the beauty of language. It adds a lot of beauty to students’ lives, leading them to look at their own experiences in different ways. Fables, non-fiction and poetry are artistic interpretations of experiences, events and people. Texts also have value to improve your understanding of others. By reading, readers will see for themselves by showing what happens to others through this book. Also, discerning cultures guide students to learn about the bonds that unite people everywhere. People who come to understand and appreciate different cultures are more likely to see that people all over the world share similar feelings, experiences, and problems.
Literary work also works to develop imagination. Imagination is a creative, constructive, power. “Every aspect of daily life involves imagination. People imagine as they talk and interact with others, make choices and decisions, analyze news reports, or assess advertising and entertainment”(Kelly, 1996, p. 19). Creative thought and imagination are intimately related to higher-order thinking skills. Literature is essential to educating the imagination as it illustrates the unlimited range of the human imagination and extends readers’ visions of possibilities. In the same way, literature nourishes the reader’s creative process by stirring and stretching the imagination, providing new information ideas, so that readers can imagine the possibilities and elaborate original ideas. In this way, it expands readers’ ability to express their imagination in words and images.
Literature also increases knowledge and information. Learning enables them to participate in experiences that go beyond the facts. Good fiction writers not only increase their readers’ information store, but also encourage students to think about the magnitude of the ideas explored in their books, which encourages questioning and critical thinking. In this way, the texts also refresh comprehension. “Books are a way of thinking that serves as a source of information and a soundboard for intelligent children. All enlightenment promotes thinking by giving students the ability to meditate, this contributes to mental development” (Kelly, 1996, p. 10). In language teaching, the books provide a language model. “Language and thinking are so closely intertwined that the power of reason depends on one’s ability to use language.”(Kelly, 1996, p. 11). Books, however, often offer a richer language model than dialogue as a writer tends to use broad sentences and beautiful words, while the speakers often use a few of the same words over and over in conversation. Teachers, parents, and librarians often hear children use language found in their favourite stories. The literary work that will be analyzed should be interesting and has valuable things or values to be understood. Further, to explore contextual literature teaching the useful text of Richard Matheson’s Button, a short story is used here to apply in English language teaching by exploring its linguistics inputs and its application for practising language skills. This story tells about the problem of a couple in New York City. They are offered a “package” with some instruction and if it is successfully followed, it will give some amount of money to the doer. The female character is interested in doing this business. Is she successful in getting the amount of money? Unfortunately, it ends in tragedy. This is the intriguing problem that leads the readers of this story interested in analyzing and getting a valuable lesson.
Method of the Study
The study applied the ‘Text and Activities’ (Mumb & Mkandaware, 2019) method to interpret literature in language teaching. This method is the most common approach to using fiction and poetry in the classroom. In this project, the literary text is used for explaining and understanding, as well as stimulating readers for practicing their language skills. In this case, the literary text as the object of analysis is the short story Button Richard Matheson, one of the short stories compiled in American Short Stories for the EFL Classroom (1985, p.53). This text was analyzed with its use in the ELT classroom. The analysis emphasized the linguistic inputs that Readers/students can get, such as the grammar structure and vocabulary and the use of the literary work for practising four language skills.
Analysis and Interpretation
In using the literary text in the EFL classroom, the most important thing is to prepare the students to read the text. The preparation is important in giving the students the background for the reading to take place. The preparation also should help to motivate the students to read, so that there will be no student complaints on the task. This activity should cover the ideas of literary functions or power that is mentioned above. The pre-reading activities should cover the Functions of literary works such as enjoyment, aesthetics, understanding, imagination, Information and knowledge, cognition, and language.
The pre-reading activities that can be given by the teacher to lead the enjoyment, understanding, and imagination, among other are the explanation of the cultural setting of the short story, and some questions related to the cultural setting. The setting of this short story (Button, Button) is New York, a metropolitan city. This setting is easily found at the beginning of the story, “The package was lying by the front door – a cube-shaped carton sealed with tape, their name and address printed by hand: “Mr and Mrs Arthur Lewis, 217 E. Thirty-seventh Street, New York, New York 10016” (Matheson, 1985, p. 21). By explaining the cultural setting of the big city, the reader will get ideas about the context, especially the cultural context of the story. For example, the culture of sales marketing does his job in a big city, will give vivid ideas on what and how they are doing and for what purpose. This explanation to the students as the pre-reading activities will lead them to understand the problem faced by the people in such a big city life cultural context. The problem of the human being expressed by people through literary works is always interesting because it reflects human problems and their response to the problem. Moreover, the problem, often, is universal, meaning that it can happen anywhere and to any person. This understanding will help readers/students perceive the importance of reading and studying literary works to enrich their perspective of life.
The post-reading activities that can be delivered to the students are some questions they have to answer at the end of the reading. The questions are: What does the title Button mean? Does the story have a tragic end? Do you agree with the female character, Norma’s assertion that the death of someone you have never seen is not important to you? What is the message the author wants to deliver in this story? Does the author have a specific idea of the nature of the human being expressed in this story? The given questions help the reader to identify the comprehension of the story. The comprehension can be seen from the answers to the questions and the discussion further on the answers to the questions. This is also important to identify the student’s response and expression to the problems presented in the story. The students’ ideas on such problems need to be explored further in group discussions in the classroom.
The linguistic inputs that can be drawn from the stories can be described in two parts, the Vocabularies and grammatical structure. The vocabularies that can be learned from this story, for example, are as follow: vocabularies related to the ‟sales” and behaviour of the characters as well as the condition of people in such cultural context: sales pitch, monetarily, gadget, genuine offer, shudder, dismay, scope, stack, abruptly, slipper, authentic, incredulous, numb, repress, eccentric, authentic, contemptuous, ridiculous. Teachers need to know exactly the meaning of the words and ask students to find out the meaning and idea of the words. This activity can be followed up with the making of sentences using this word. The students can create their sentences, by inserting this word in each sentence. This encourages the understanding of the meaning and language-producing skills. The other grammatical structure and vocabularies that are valuable to be learned are some phrases. Some phrases are important as the linguistic inputs are valuable to observe, such as “It is a sick one” (Matheson, 1985, p. 591). “Now you are loading things”(Matheson, 1985, p. 592). Not that I believe a word. His voice was guarded. She cut him off. “…Turned over the supper steaks “(Matheson, 1985, p. 594). The teacher can ask students to find out the meaning of the phrases in the context and get a whole understanding of the story. This will enrich the student’s vocabulary and grammatical structure, as well as the understanding of the plot of the story.
The next function of literary works in English language teaching is its use for practising the four language skills, though it is not necessary to apply all of the four language skills at once. Here are some examples of instruction. In writing skills, for example, students are asked to write down one of the mentioned or discussed expressions as the prompt to write down a short paragraph. For example, the expression “It is a sick one”, in this sentence, refers to a joke. The meaning of the sentence is if it is a joke, it is a sick joke, a joke that is not amusing but sickening. Students can continue with their ideas from this prompt, to express “the sick one”. Such expression can be applied to practising speaking skills as well. The other examples can be drawn from the other phrases found in the story. By identifying the phrases, understanding the meaning, and producing it in the students’ expression, the creative reading can be reproduced into other activities covered in other language skills, such as speaking and writing.
The story as a literary text is used for explaining and understanding, as well as stimulating readers for practicing their language skills. Using literature as a resource offers teachers possibilities for language learning activities on materials that energise greater interest. The multiple levels of meaning of literary texts provide opportunities for developing inferential and interpretational skills that students need for understanding all kinds of representable materials. Using literary texts in language teaching can make the students more aware of the language they are learning, help them develop skills and strategies they can apply in many different situations and contexts, increase their interest and motivation, and make the learning of language more interesting and worthwhile experiences.
Author’s bio: Satya Raj Joshi is an MPhil in English Literature. Mr. Joshi is a lecturer, critic and translator. He began his literary career during his school days and continuously wrote poems, did translations and published critical opinions on language and literature in different newspapers and journals. Currently, he works for CG education, Nepal.
Kelly, A. Colette (ed). (1996). Children’s Literature: Discovery for a lifetime. Gorsuch Scarisbrick Publisher.
Matheson, Richard, Button, Button, in David Queen (eds). (1985). Configurations: American Short Stories for the EFL Classroom. English Language Program Division, United States Information Agency.
Queen, D. (ed). (1985). Configurations: American Short Stories for the EFL Classroom.
Stanford, A. Stanford (ed). (2006). Responding to Literature. 5th ed. McGraw hill International Edition.
Mumba, C., & Mkandawire, S. B. (2019). The Text-based Integrated Approach to Language Teaching: Its Meaning and Classroom Application. Multidisciplinary Journal of Language and Social Sciences Education (2664-083X, Online ISSN: Print ISSN: 2616-4736), 2(1), 123-142.
We are pleased to release the first quarterly issue (January-March) of ELT Choutari 2022 as the 13th anniversary issue of the blog magazine. We believe that our valued readers get benefitted through these reflective blog pieces. ELT Choutari tries to bring resourceful articles/blogs and generate discourse on education, English teaching learning, research reading and writing practices useful for novice writers, English language teachers, students, teacher educators and academicians. Choutari has been offering the articles, blogs, reviews and interviews based on the experiences, reflections, scholarly ideas, teaching-learning practices and critical outlook to our readers and will continue doing it.
This time we have released the general issue of the magazine thinking that we could cover a wide range of reflective articles from diverse fields of ELT practices in Nepal. There are five articles in this issue:
Dr. Hari Chandra Kamali in his article ‘Postmethod Pedagogy, Deconstruction and ELT Practices: Some Reflections from the Pedagogy of the Gita’ connects the pedagogy of the Gita to ELT practices as deconstruction of postmethod pedagogy. He argues that ELT practices should be like deconstructive pedagogy and ELT practitioners play the roles of a deconstructionist teacher like Lord Krishna in the pedagogy of the Gita.
Likewise, Ashok Raj Khati in his article ‘Author Identity in Academic Writing’ reflects on his academic writing experiences in higher education stressing on author identity as a social construct. He discusses Ivanic’s (1998) Framework of Author Identity in order to support his arguments.
Similarly, Jeevan Karki in his article ‘Strategic Reading to Overcome Reading Struggles in Higher Level: A Memoir’ reflects on his reading strategies that he adopted while studying at university in Nepal comparing those strategies with his recent strategies he has been adopting at a new university in US. His reading practices can be useful for university level students, researchers, teachers and other professionals.
In the same way, Binod Raj Bhatta in his article ‘Is the Process Approach to Teaching Writing Applicable at All Levels?’ argues that the process-based approach to teaching writing can be quite applicable at all levels in the context of Nepal. He concludes his arguments about the applicability of this approach by quoting the Chinese proverb ”I hear I forget, I see I remember, I do I understand/know” and emphasizes the possibility and practicality and the guiding principles of teaching writing skills in Nepal.
Finally, Dipak Tamang in his article ‘An Anecdote of an English Language Teacher’ reflects on his own experiences of teaching English to Tamang students. He argues that his students understood better when he taught using the students’ mother tongue, here Tamang language. As he argues, the teachers need to support their teaching using teaching learning materials along with the technology for the effective use of the mother tongue as the medium of instruction.
For ease of access, below is the list of hyperlinked articles:
Finally, I would like to thank our co-editor Ganesh Bastola for his support throughout the process. We both are thankful to all our reviewers including our editorial and review team members Ashok Raj Khati, Jeevan Karki, Sagar Poudel, Karuna Nepal, Babita Chapagain, Nani Babu Ghimire, Ekraj Koirala, Jnanu Raj Paudel and Rajendra Joshi. Most importantly, we are indebted to all the contributors of this issue.
If you enjoy reading these articles, please feel free to share in your circle, and of course, drop your comments in the boxes below. Likewise, please write and send us your teaching-learning experiences for which we will be happy to provide a space at Choutari. Our email is email@example.com
Pedagogy concerns the process of teaching and learning which differs from the way it was practiced under a method which primarily focused on the delivery of information from the teacher to the students (Richards & Renandya, 2002, p. 5). So pedagogy is the conception of the post-methods practices which focus on “the dynamic interplay between teachers, learners, and institutional materials during the process of teaching and learning” (Brown quoted in Richards & Renandya, 2002, p. 6). That means, teaching, in pedagogy, is “a courageous occupation’’ and “a journey of hope based upon a set of ideals” (Day, 2004, pp. 8-20). It is an integral part of learning as Lieberman and Miller(as cited in Day, 2004, p. 105) state, “Teaching and learning are interdependent, not separate functions.” So in the process of teaching and learning as an integrated process, teachers are “problem posers and problem solver; they are researchers; and they are intellectuals engaged in unraveling the learning process both for themselves and for the young people in their charge.” That is to say, teachers are learning themselves through the process of teaching because in pedagogy learning is “not consumption’’; it is “knowledge production,” and similarly, teaching is “not performance”; it is “facilitative leadership” (Lieberman & Miller as cited in Day, 2004, p. 105). Similarly, Kumaravadivelu (2001) has conceptualized pedagogy in a much broader sense which includes not only the educational aspects of teaching and learning but also the sociocultural aspect. In this regard, he posits: “I use the term pedagogy in a broad sense to include not only issues pertaining to classroom strategies, instructional materials, curricular objectives, and evaluation measures, but also a wide range of historical, political, and sociocultural experiences that directly or indirectly influence L2 education” (p. 538). This conception of pedagogy is so comprehensive that it gives ELT practice a broad outlook which needs consideration from both educational and socio-cultural perspectives. That is, pedagogy should not be restricted to classroom boundary; it should go beyond the classroom and consider every factor pertinent to teaching and learning process. In this regard, the dialogue between Lord Krishna and Arjuna in the Gita captures the essence of pedagogy as the process of teaching and learning is situated in the wider socio-cultural, historical and political context.
Pedagogical Context in the Gita
When it comes to the pedagogy in the Gita, it is not that easier to understand as it has unique and multifaceted context. Being guided by the above theoretical discussion on pedagogy, the dialogue between Lord Krishna and Arjuna in the Gita, can be claimed to be a pedagogical discourse. So Lord Krishna, as a teacher, has both roles as a problem poser and a problem solver (verses 18:63; 18:72, Prabhupada’s Version) and Arjuna, as a learner, has been involved in knowledge production (verse18.73) rather than in consumption of knowledge. Similarly, Lord Krishna is not simply performing his role as a teacher; he is rather taking the role of a facilitative leadership (verse 18:72). As the dialogue between Lord Krishna and Arjuna took place in the battlefield before the commencement of the war, he took the leadership in guiding Arjuna in the war. All these constitute the institutional materials for pedagogy in the Gita. Thus, as pedagogy constitutes the dynamic interplay between teachers, learners, and institutional materials, we can observe the dynamic interplay between these dimensions of pedagogy in the pedagogy of the Gita.
More important, there are some studies and commentaries which identify Lord Krishna as a teacher and Arjuna as a learner. Regarding Lord Krishna’s role in the war, Radhakrishnan (2014, p. 33) identifies him as a teacher or guru as he guided Arjuna to the right path against “the forces of darkness, falsehood, limitation, and immortality which bar the way to the higher world.” As Arjuna was unwilling to take his responsibility in the battle (verse1:46), he takes refuge to higher self, Lord Krishna who is able to make him realize his duty (18:72). In this context, as teaching by Lord Krishna contains universal knowledge, Radhakrishnan (2014, p. 33) calls him ”the world teacher” or jagadguru. Similarly, Sargeant (2016, p. 2), in reviewing the role of Lord Krishna in the Gita, came to a conclusion that he is the Universal Guru who is teaching the lessons of universal significance. In the similar fashion, Dayananda (2014, p. 21) in his book, The Teaching of the Bhagavadgita, identifies Lord Krishna as a guru because, accepting Arjuna as his disciple, he has been able to teach him the practical lessons which have become most effective in solving his problems. With this background Prabhupada (1986, p. 21) also defines guru as ”the one who dispels the darkness of ignorance by the light of knowledge.” Thus, the broad conceptualization of pedagogy can be observed in the dynamic role of Lord Krishna as a teacher and Arjuna as a learner in the pedagogy of the Gita. Besides, the contents of the Gita further justifies how pedagogy should be able to incorporate historical, socio-cultural, political and academic aspects of educational project as deconstructive pedagogy (Kamali, 2021b).
Pedagogy of the Gita, Postmethod Pedagogy and Deconstruction: A Grand Confluence of Pedagogy
The pedagogy of the Gita can be compared with the postmethod pedagogy as advocated by Kumaravadivelu (2001) in his article entitled “Toward a Postmethod Pedagogy” because the methodology employed by Lord Krishna in teaching Arjuna contains many of his concepts. Accordingly, Lord Krishna’s pedagogy in the Gita can be compared with Derrida’s deconstruction as Lord Krishna deconstructed Arjuna’s psychology—he was not ready to lead the war in the beginning (verses 1:47) but in the end, after the instruction by Lord Krishna, he became ready to do his duty (18:73).Thus, as Derrida (1986, as cited in Higgs, 2002, p. 170) deconstructed the metaphysics of presence grounded on structuralism and gave way to deconstruction and poststructuralism/postmodernism, Kumaravadivelu (2001, p. 537), in the same vein, deconstructed the centralized practice of ‘method’ and opened up multiple possibilities in pedagogy. In this regard, he commends: “As a consequence of repeatedly articulated dissatisfaction with the limitations of the concept of method and the transmission model of teacher education, the L2 profession is faced with an imperative need to construct a postmethod pedagogy” (p. 537). In this way, deconstruction of methods gave birth to postmethod pedagogy as deconstruction of structuralism to poststructuralism and postmodernism in philosophy. As a result, deconstruction and postmethod pedagogy have become inseparable. Thus, both recommend practices as “an open-ended inquiry,” and “a work in progress” (Kumaravadivelu, 2001, p. 537). These features are equally pertinent in the pedagogy of the Gita as Lord Krishna has practiced the pedagogy as an open-ended inquiry and a work in progress because Arjuna is free to learn and make decision on his own and learning has been regarded as a process (verse 18:63).
Thus, method of teaching has been transformed into pedagogy as a post-method practice which is defined as a movement away from a preoccupation with generic teaching methods towards a more complex view of teaching which encompasses a multifaceted understanding of the teaching and learning process (Richards & Renandya, 2002). In this regard, Richard and Renandya (2002, p. 5) further argue that in the post-methods era attention has been shifted to teaching and learning process and the contribution of the individual teacher to pedagogy rather than the output of the process. In the same vein, Brown (as cited in Richard and Renandya, 2002, p. 6) defines pedagogy as a ”dynamic interplay between teachers, learners, and institutional materials during the process of teaching and learning. By this he has deconstructed the dominant role of teachers in pedagogy and considered the roles of multiple factors contributing to effective pedagogy; it is the same case with deconstruction as it never ends with fixity; the outcome of the deconstructive analysis is always the possibility of multiplicity— difference (Derrida as cited in Culler, 1982, p. 97)! Thus, deconstruction makes pedagogy is more process-oriented and inclusive of all factors conducive to post-method pedagogy which has been further developed into “deconstructive pedagogy” (Kamali, 2021b, p.73).
ELT Practices as Deconstructive Pedagogy: A Conclusive Remark
As a global phenomenon, ELT has divergent practices due to its variations and myriad contexts. No single approach, method and strategy seems to be overarching in present ELT practices. Thus, it is required that ELT practices be like deconstructive pedagogy and ELT practitioners play the roles of a deconstructionist teacher like Lord Krishna in the pedagogy of the Gita as follows (Kamali, 2021a, pp. 73-74): 1. A deconstructionist teacher practices pedagogy as deconstructive pedagogy founded on deconstruction; 2. A deconstructionist teacher can fully act as an autonomous practitioner; 3. A deconstructionist teacher can develop a reasonable degree of competence and confidence in performing pedagogy; 4.A deconstructionist teacher not only critically implements theories into practice but he/she also builds theories out of practices; 5. A deconstructionist teacher focuses on the interplay between theoretical and practical dimensions of pedagogy and lets it open to any possibilities to make the pedagogy more effective in context.
The author:Dr. Hari Chandra Kamali is an Associate Professor of English education at Far Western University, Nepal. He pursued his PhD from Nepal Sanskrit University. Dr. Kamali has published several articles and presented papers in different conferences at home and abroad.
Culler, Z. (1982). On deconstruction: Theory and criticism after structuralism. Cornell University Press.www.z.lib.org
Day, C. (2004).A passion for teaching. RoutledgeFalmer.
Dayananda, S. (2014).The teaching of the Bhagavadgita.Vision Books.
Higgs, P. (2002). Deconstruction and re-thinking education. South African Journal of Education,22 (3), 2002, 170 – 176. www.academia.edu.
Kamali, H. C.(2021a). ‘Deconstructionist’ as the role of a teacher in postmethod pedagogy.Technium Social Sciences Journal,19 (1), 67-75. https://doi.org/10.47577/tssj.v19i1.3324
Kamali, H. C. (2021b). Lord Krishna as a deconstructionist teacher in the Bhagavadgita [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. Nepal Sanskrit University.
Kumaravadivelu, B. Toward a postmethod pedagogy.TESOL Quarterly, 35(4), 537-560. https//doi.org/10.2307/3588427
Prabhupada, A. C. B. S. (1986). Bhagavad-gita As It Is(2nd ed.).The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.
Radhakrishnan, S. (2014).The Bhagavadgita.Harper Collings Publishers.
Richards, J. C., &Renandya. W. A. (2002). Approaches to teaching. In J. C. Richards & W. A. Renandya (Eds.), Methodology in Language Teaching: An Anthology of Current Practice(pp. 5-8). Cambridge University Press.
Sargeant, W. (2016).The Bhagavad Gita. Aleph Books Company.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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, Mohammadiet 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.
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.
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.
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.
It gives us immense pleasure to release the fourth quarterly issue (October-December) of ELT Choutari, 2021 under the theme of ‘Teacher Research or Classroom-based research for teachers’ continuous professional development.’ As we talk about learner autonomy in the 21st century and the bottom-up approach of teaching and learning, it seems essential for teachers to wear a hat of a researcher and begin to explore the natural teaching context and be certain about their teaching approach and skills. We, therefore, felt that this discourse should be addressed on an academic forum like ELT Choutari. Unlike becoming fully dependent on imported ELT methodologies, one requires to explore classroom issues, involve their students in the research process, meaningfully reflect on their teaching, assess and refine their teaching method, always keeping students learning progress, that they are responsible for, at the centre.
Teachers are likely to hesitate when they are asked to carry out research because the term ‘research’ sounds, in general, like a heavy academic task that requires a great deal of time and energy. However, teachers can simply explore within their teaching time, in order to acquire deeper insights and understanding about their own successful teaching practices as well as challenges. This kind of exploratory research refers to stepping back from the present situation and beginning to take a careful look at one problem at a time and spend some time trying to understand the problem itself rather than acting quickly to solve it (Smith & Rebolledo, 2018).
Teachers see, hear or feel and know whether something is working or not working in their classroom but that knowledge is not sufficient to explain the reason behind the situation. The present issue of ELT Choutari aims to encourage English teachers to carefully examine the issue, gather information, reflect on our experiences, make interpretations based on the evidence gathered, develop the teaching method suitable to their context, plan to work differently, and help other teachers to learn from it. The writings in this issue reflect the firsthand experiences in the area of teacher research and reflective practice of the authors/teachers and thus the ideas can be directly replicated to our English language teaching-learning context.
There are five articles in this issue:
Ram Aryal,in his article ‘Supporting students’ learning through the use of group work in ESL classroom: An exploratory action research’ reports the finding of his four-week study on supporting students’ learning through the use of group work in a large ESL classroom where teacher’s individual support was almost impossible. He explains how the slogan ‘the friend next to you helped him to encourage his students to actively participate in group work and how he succeeded to establish a system where students in groups could learn from each other. He further asserts that classroom-based research directed him to understand his problem and find solutions within his own teaching context.
Likewise, Seetha Venunathan in her article entitled ‘Reflective practice – Rants and revelations’ asserts that a person who is responsible for someone’s language progress, should constantly access to their approach and skills as a teacher. She explains the importance of teachers’ meaningful self-reflection and beautifully expresses how reflection is a lot more than just ‘having a think’ about a lesson. Finally, she offers some valuable tips for how a teacher does reflect meaningfully.
Similarly, Gobinda Puri in his reflective piece ‘A teacher’s journey from classroom researcher to the mentor’ claims that a teacher can be a researcher, a writer and a teacher research mentor. He highlights the importance of Action Research as the best tool to improve the existing classroom situation and groom oneself as a professional teacher and researcher.
In the same way, Hiral Lal Moktan in his writing ‘Students’ use of mobile phones during Covid -19 Pandemic’ reflects his experience that he obtained during his online classes with students. He shares the pros and cons of using mobile during online classes. He further shares how the use of mobile phones can be made more effective for students’ learning in pandemics like Covid-19 from his own experience as a teacher.
Finally, Purnima Thapa in her article ‘Zoom technology as a tool in teaching during COVID-19 Pandemic: A Reflection of an English teacher’ reflects her personal experience of using zoom technology as a tool for teaching during online classes. She talks about its use and challenges in the rural context.
For ease of access, below is the list of hyperlinked articles:
Finally, I would like to thank our lead coeditor Sagar Poudel for his endless support throughout the process. We both are thankful to our coeditors and reviewers Ganesh Bastola, Ashok Raj Khati, Karuna Nepal,Mohan Singh Saud, Jeevan Karki, and Nani Babu Ghimire, Ekraj Koirala, Jnanu Raj Paudel and Rajendra Joshi, and the entire ELT Choutari team for their support and encouragement. Likewise, most importantly, we are indebted to all contributors of this issue.
If you enjoy reading these articles, please feel free to share in your circle, and of course, drop your comments in the boxes below. Likewise, please write and send us your teaching-learning experiences for which we will be happy to provide a space at Choutari. Our email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Wish you a happy Deepawali and Chhat Festival!
Smith, R & Rebolledo, P (2018). A Handbook for Exploratory Action Research. London: British Council.
For Burns (2010), Action research (AR) can be a very valuable medium to extend our teaching skills and gain more understanding of ourselves as teachers, our classrooms, and students. Some time ago, as a teacher, I was facing several classroom issues and I wanted to solve one of the issues immediately. Getting inspired from the study about Action Research, I carried out Exploratory Action Research (Rebolledo, Smith and Bullock, 2016) that helped me to explore my classroom issues regarding individual support to my students who were struggling to learn English. This article reports the finding of the four-week-long research on supporting students’ learning through the use of group work in a large ESL classroom where the teacher’s individual support was almost impossible.
There is a clear statement of the problem that I faced followed by the objective of this study. Moreover, the way I explored the causes of problems and the way out might interest the readers. There is a collection and analysis of enough data in the exploratory phase. The review of the concerned literature is another part of the paper. My real intervention actions with different evaluation tools have been presented under ‘Interventions and evaluation’. The findings of my research have been mentioned in the conclusion. I have tried to see the relevance of my research findings in different classroom situations. Finally, the annexure part includes different evaluation tools, participants’ responses and etc.
The story begins when I was posted as a community high school English teacher to the comparatively remote zone of my district which was mostly attended by two ethnic community students: Magar and Tamang. The students from these two communities made above ninety percent of the total students. English was their third language after their mother tongue and Nepali language. Students were often found to be speaking in their mother tongue even in English lessons being in their ethnic cluster.
There were sixty-four students in grade 10 and I had a forty-minute English lesson every day except Saturday. Because of the large classroom size, group work was difficult. I generally made mass presentation in front of class and asked the students whether they understood but most of the students expressed that they were not able to get the points. I tried to approach some students individually to make them clear but individual guidance was not always possible because of time constraint. So, I had to leave the class without satisfying my students and due to the time constraint, I could not give them constructive feedback. As a result, the poor students never improved, the frequency and type of mistakes increased and learning became ineffective. The level of English of most of the students was below average. Most of them could not communicate with the level of the course designed for them. Neither the teacher had time to talk to them nor the parents in their home could solve their learning problems. I was disappointed that if I had been able to maintain some degree of individual support to my students, their learning standard would have improved. It drew my interest towards scaffolding students’ learning through group work. Therefore, I decided to carry out small classroom-based research to find out why the problem occurred and how I could support each individual in my ESL classroom.
My Exploratory Research
I started to explore the reasons behind why I was unable to support my students individually. I prepared the tools of data collection and began to explore with a detail plan.
The exploratory phase provided me with some interesting findings that answered my question why my students lacked individualized teacher support. The first finding that touched me was the way students formed groups. The students were actually sitting in their ethnic cluster and using their mother tongue to understand English. Secondly, most students themselves formed their own ability groups. As a result, most of the benches lacked the students who could offer learning support to their classmates. The concept of group work and individual support had not been developed among the students. Thirdly, students expressed that they never noticed their teacher making effort to make them work in mixed ability groups so that they could learn from each other. Finally, both teachers as well as students agreed that the teacher’s individualized support was impossible because of the large number of students. Therefore, I decided to lunch my intervention influencing these three reasons with an aim to bring some change regarding individual support to all kind of learners.
Review of the related literature
To find out the opinion of experts about the possibility of individual support to all kind of learners in large classes, I began to look for various studies done in this area. Our major problem was to enhance students’ current level of ability. Lev Vigotsky (1978) proposed the concept of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), a metaphorical space between the child’s level of current ability to solve a particular problem and the potential ability. According to him, enhancement can be achieved with the careful assistance of someone else, usually a more knowledgeable expert, i.e. a parent or a teacher or more capable learners during collaborative tasks. One implication of the Vygotskian approach for language teachers is that it is important to pay attention to individual differences and consider alternative ways and levels of assisting learners (Burner, 1985).
Moreover, a teacher’s story from Cameroon seemed very useful in my context. Theorizing the story of Kuchah Kuchah from Cameroon, Kuchah and Smith (2011) have presented the instances of managing very large under-resourced classroom. Focusing on collaborative effort on bottom-up language teaching strategy, they extracted some principles for ‘autonomy of learners’.
Getting to know/building rapport with pupils/students
Negotiating with pupils/students
Viewing pupils/students as resource providers/as resources themselves
Building up credit with the administration and with other teachers
(Kuchah and Smith 2011, p. 137)
The theory seemed effective while administrating group works. The study of the literature offered me some insights that collaborative tasks help a great deal in the classroom where teacher’s individualized support is lacking. The concept of Vigotsky’s MKO (more knowledgeable one) encouraged me to mix diverse ability students in a group so that the support consolidates. The ideas of Kuchah and Richard, extracted from large class practice, offered strategic and procedural steps for intervention that guided me to implement various group work strategies where I could make my students work in small groups with careful guidance from my side. In the groups students could learn from each other and slow learners got support from their peers.
Interventions and evaluation
During my intervention and evaluation phase, students were given an opportunity to work in groups. The well monitored scaffolding initially started by ‘learning leaders’ and afterwards guided by the slogan ‘learn from the friend next to you’ established a system where students in groups could learn from each other. Details of intervention steps are given below:
For the detail intervention steps, I followed the detail action plan. Different groups were formed and during the process of forming groups, I found that most of the students were working in their won ethnic groups and the fast learners preferred to work with same ability classmates. Especially the girls from Magar and Tamang family were enjoying their ethnic groups while boys were mixed together disregarding their ethnic origin. Thinking that manipulating the existing group dynamics I would be violating the students’ right to choose their friends; I consolidated the existing groups with very less manipulation. I convinced some more capable students to be in different groups and fixed the learning leaders in each group so that one would be more responsible for the group work. Every day I observed the students working in their groups and tried to ensure that the students were learning from their friends.
I conducted different short orientation sessions for all the students in different groups and for the learning leaders separately. These orientation sessions guided my students participate in group discussions and encouraged the learning leaders to closely monitor their group without making their classmates feel inferior. I maintained daily journal where I jotted the findings of my observation and my feelings that I had during the daily activities. My own daily journal was a good source of information for my research work. When the students were busy in their group activities, I observed them, monitored them and provided them the instant feedback.
After they worked in groups for six days, I launched a student satisfaction survey questionnaire which would inform me how satisfied the students were in their group and how far they were learning from their classmates. My observation report and daily journal indicated that the students were gradually contributing in group work.
On the last day of week 1, student satisfaction survey was administered. The report was extremely satisfactory. Almost all the students responded they were hundred percent satisfied in their group responding the question: ‘Are you happy being in the group you are in?’ Out of fifty-five respondents, only two students responded that they would like to change their group although they were not completely dissatisfied. In the same way, almost all the students were satisfied with their learning leaders. More than ninety-five percent students agreed that they easily got desired support from their group members. Regarding the teacher’s support in the group, all fifty-five respondents agreed that the teacher’s support to the group was completely satisfactory.
Despite all these satisfactory results, more than fifty percent students thought that the teacher was not supporting them individually. Though the group activities, sharing and support system seemed fine and effective, I experienced a threat, i.e. the students who had difficulty in learning were simply copying ‘the right answers’ from their groupmates. Then my focus, as my plan, was directed towards how to make the students learn from their friends rather than merely copying ‘the right answers’. When I asked the logic after the ‘right answers,’ most of the students were dumbfounded. I thought something must be done. So, I decided to lunch series of orientation session for every group separately so it would function like a close counseling session. In the counseling session, I tried to make my students understand the true meaning of ‘learning’. Throughout the week I was checking, observing and finding whether they were truly learning. For this, I checked the understanding of two students from each group every day for four days and filled my observation checklist. By the end of second week, the tendency of merely copying the right answers had been gradually changing into seeking for true learning.
This week I was more directed towards reducing the learning responsibility load of the learning leaders. I tried to make the learning leader’s role more indirect and hidden. At first, I collected the opinions from three learning leaders about the learning tendencies and improvements of their classmates. They reported that their friends were trying to learn and there was big change in their attitude in comparison to the previous week. The major change according to them was that the students began to ask questions and clarify doubts rather than just copying the right answers. Responding to the question how they feel about the responsibilities they have to take as leaders during group work, they said they were satisfied and happy helping their classmates. However, I wanted to reduce the direct responsibilities of learning leaders; therefore, with their consent, I dismissed the title learning leader and launched the slogan ‘learn from the friend next to you’. If the students wanted to be clearer, they would approach the friend next to them or whoever could support them. Doing this, I thought, the individual support from each other would be strengthened.
Every day, I encouraged all the groups to learn from each other. I reminded them there was no leader in their group. When the students were busy in their group, I monitored them and provided them with instant feedback. If some students consulted me regarding some problems, I encouraged them to find the solution in group with their friends. I watched the learning process of each group very carefully and recorded their improvement with the help of my observation sheet.
I wanted to find out how the entire campaign had been from the prospective of the slow learners for whom this study had been launched. For this, I randomly selected twelve of them, two students from each group and administered questionnaires. Twelve students out of twelve responded that they would like to continue the practice and this practice brought some positive changes in their learning pattern. Almost all of them, ten out of twelve, believed that individual support system was really built in English class. In summary, students were satisfied with the practice and they said that the campaign was very useful.
Further, I received written responses from six slow learners and analyzed them. Most of the students responded that the practice of group work had really been fruitful, they began to learn instead of copying right answers. One of my students wrote- “At first, I used to be scared of asking questions and my confusions were never gone. But now discussing the confusion in group has been a very easy technique to solve any confusion” (Shuruma ma prashnaharu sodhna daraauthe ra sadhai confused rahanthe. Tara ahile samuhama chhalphal garda confusion haru samadhan garna nikai sajilo bhaeko chha). Another student wrote “The group leaders supported us immensely and they have been our true learning partner” (Toli netako support nikai thulo thiyo. Uni bata hamile sachchikai sikne awasar paayau). Similarly, another response was “We expect the same technique will be used for other subjects also” (Haami aasha garchhau ki anya wishayaharu maa pani yahi techniqueharu laagu garine chha.)
The exploratory phase of my classroom-based research gave me some useful insights into my actual problem and guided me through an action plan that I developed for changing the existing situation. From the intervention phase of my research, I learned that the student assisted individual support through effective group work is more useful, effective and possible in large class where individualized teacher support was not possible. Regular practice of working in groups helped students overcome hesitation and they began to clarify their doubts/confusion among themselves and got support from each other. Thus, making students work in mixed ability groups is the better way to scaffold students’ learning and it helps a great deal particularly in large classes. The practice of exploratory research carried out in my ESL class was extended to mathematics class and the report was very positive.
To conclude, this kind of regular practice of exploring classroom issues and solving problems within the classroom scenario made me more confident. I share my ideas with my colleagues and encourage them to carry out exploratory research during their teaching hours, without taking it as extra burden, for learning about their issues and solving problems.
Burns, A. (2010). Doing Action Research in English Language Teaching: A Guide for Practitioners. New York: Routledge.
Vygotsky, L. (1978). Interaction between learning and development. Readings on the development of children, 23(3), 34-41.
Kuchah, K., & Smith, R. (2011, June). Pedagogy of autonomy for difficult circumstances: from practice to principles. Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching, 5(2), 119-140.
Smith, R, Bullock, D & Rebolledo,P (2016). Champion Teachers: Stories of Exploratory Action Research. London: British Council.
Ram Prasad Aryal is an English teacher and a head teacher in Adarsha Secondary School, Gajuri, Dhading. He completed M Ed in English Language Teaching from Kathmandu University. He is a life member of Nepal English Language Teachers Association (NELTA). The core classroom practice is the area of his interest in ELT.
Reflection is one of those words that everyone knows, and everyone thinks they do quite effectively until someone comes along and really defines the word, and maybe asks some pertinent questions about the quality of those reflections. That is when everyone stops and has to reassess the whole concept. I am guilty of this, especially in the early part of my teaching career, and occasionally even now! Meaningful and effective self-reflection is one of the most challenging but more rewarding practices for an individual in any profession, but more so in teaching. One might ask why teaching is special in this regard. Teaching is actually quite a lonely profession in that while you may have excellent colleagues, at the end of the day, it is just you with your learners. No one else is in the classroom with you to support, challenge, question, or guide you. Being responsible for someone’s language progress requires you to constantly assess your approach and skills as a teacher.
What is reflection?
In some cultures, reflecting on your actions, behaviour, and development is taught from a young age but in others, the onus is on people around you to tell you how you are doing. In some professions, self-reflection is a part of the training, while in others, it is not given much attention. This can also vary between training programmes within a profession. In the world of ELT, this can result in novice teachers following their training blindly, experienced teachers stagnating in their approach, and managers being seemingly harsh during post-observation feedback conversations. It is true that most teacher training courses have some reflective practice built in. Trainees are informed about the benefits of reflecting on one’s teaching, but enough emphasis is perhaps not placed on how vital reflection is for both professional progress, and the planning and delivery of lessons on a daily basis. As Mann (2005, p. 105) describes, reflection is articulating “an inner world of choices made about the outer world of teaching”. Being able to describe, analyse, and evaluate teaching practice, and develop based on those thoughts is what effective reflection is. It involves both intellectual and affective aspects, both of which need to be explored. (Boud, Keogh & Walker, 1985 p. 3).
How do teachers reflect? – Types of ‘reflectors’ and issues
The most basic form of post-lesson reflection is to think about what went well in the lesson, what did not go well, and what the teacher would do differently next time. While this is a great starting point because at least it highlights that one must look at both positives and action areas, it can be limiting, and not very meaningful. Some will take these three aspects and reflect quite deeply but most teachers do not have the time or inclination for that. What often happens, and again something I am guilty of, is, the teacher finishes a class, has a quick little think about the overall lesson, can maybe identify one or two strengths and action areas, then gets on with the day. These thoughts are very rarely recorded anywhere, explored, or even revisited but the teacher can confidently say that they reflected.
Being a teacher, and having worked with other teachers as their mentor or manager, has exposed me to a range of reflection types. There is the ‘ranter’, who is extremely self-critical and feels nothing in the lesson went well. They can only see the faults and end up feeling quite dejected after a reflection leading them to avoid doing a reflective activity unless absolutely required. They also tend to try to change even good practice without realising it because they believe it was all bad. Then you have the ‘romantic’ who believes the lesson went very well indeed and there is nothing they would change. Finally, the ‘revelations’ type of teacher, who has several great ideas that come up from the lesson, that may or may not have to do with how the lesson actually went. However, more often than not, these ideas are not recorded, and end up being forgotten. It is rare to find a teacher whose reflections are balanced, objective, constructive, and truly meaningful, at least among novice teachers.
Moreover, thinking about what went well can be deceptive because many times, new teachers focus on lessons being fun but forget to look at how effective it is in terms of real-life application. So, while an activity or the lesson was fun and engaging, which could be defined as “having gone well”, students may not have left the class with new knowledge or skills. Similarly, the question about what the teacher could have done differently can be a little pointless. In a language institute, it is highly unlikely that you will teach the same lesson to the same group of students and so, doing the lesson again with changes seems irrelevant. You may teach a new class the same lesson, but the students would be different which would mean you need to adapt it to suit the new group anyway. It might seem obvious that the reflection needs to extend beyond the literal meaning of the question but as we have seen, teachers do not always have the time and/or interest, nor the training, to think about it in that much depth.
The final issue is that as teachers embark on the journey of meaningful self-reflection, they tend to focus on stating what happened in the lesson, rather than exploring why it did, what caused it, what reactions the learners had, etc. Reflections are often superficial like “students didn’t participate well”, “it was an engaging lesson”. It would help teachers to say at what stage did students not participate and why they feel that happened, or what about the students’ responses demonstrated that the lesson was engaging.
Tips for meaningful reflection
The question, then, is how does one reflect meaningfully? There are a few tips I follow and have shared with colleagues that we have found useful.
Be regular with your reflective practice and document it. You can choose what works for you. You need not do a detailed reflection after every lesson. You may choose to do it once a week or once a fortnight. Whatever you decide, it helps to stick to it. It is also a good idea to find a way to document your reflections so that you can revisit them, either for ideas or to check progress. There are many ways to do this.
Write in a journal. This is the classic method and works well. You can use different colours to highlight different types of reflections.
Use a digital tool. You can type up your reflections so they are all in one easily accessible folder, send an email to yourself, or do an infographic for your reference (if you are the more creative type).
Make a voice recording. Most phones have a recording app. It does not have to be a long recording, maybe just a few minutes to capture all your thoughts right after a lesson.
Have a focus area for each week/month. The tendency is to try and reflect on everything all the time. It can be more effective to identify some action or exploratory areas and just focus on one or two of those for a period of time. You can create a reflection document based on these focus areas to avoid being tempted to start thinking about all aspects of the lesson.
Avoid using passive voice. This one sounds almost ridiculous but it does make a difference. Many teachers write “This was done well.” There is no clarity on who did what, why, or how! While these may seem obvious, especially to the one writing, it can change your perspective when you write in the first person. Not only do you take responsibility for the good and the not-so-good practice, but you also think more deeply about it. So, try saying something like, “I clarified the language point in a meaningful way, using relevant examples”.
Have a reflection buddy (if possible). It is nice to have someone to discuss lessons and ideas with. Having someone who can observe your lessons every so often, give you feedback and ideas, and be a sounding board is wonderful.
Watch your own lessons. Depending on accessibility and consent from learners, it can be beneficial once in a while, to take a video of your lesson and watch it back. This can show us aspects of our teaching that we are not aware of. It highlights our tone of voice, choice of vocabulary, mannerisms, responses to students, etc. These are areas that often we think we do in one way but may actually be quite different in practice.
It is important to remember that reflection is a lot more than just ‘having a think’ about a lesson. (Harrison, 2012 p. 7) It involves asking questions, exploring aspects of teaching, and considering ways to develop one’s skills further. While it may seem tedious to incorporate reflective activities into a busy teaching week, having a routine and being prepared with documents or tools beforehand can result in reflection being thought-provoking, rewarding, enjoyable, and an essential aspect of your teaching practice.
Boud, D., Keogh, R., & Walker, D. (1985). What is reflection in learning? In Boud, D., Keogh, R., & Walker, D. (Eds.) Reflection: Turning Experience into Learning. London: Kogan Page Ltd.
Harrison, J. (2012). Professional learning and the reflective practitioner. In Dymoke, S. and Harrison, J. Reflective Teaching and Learning: A Guide to Professional Issues for Beginning Secondary Tecahers. London: SAGE Publications.
Mann, S. (2005). The language teacher’s development. Language Teaching 38, pp.103-118.
Venunathan, S. (2015). Impact of guided collaborative reflective practice on in-service English language teachers. (M.A. Dissertation). University of Warwick, Coventry, United Kingdom.
Seetha has been in the field of ELT for over 17 years. She has taught across contexts, age groups, language levels, and course types. She is now a freelance teacher, trainer, and CELTA tutor. Besides training and designing customised courses/workshops, she enjoys cooking, travelling, and meeting new people.
Many teachers do not easily believe that a classroom teacher can become a researcher, a writer, and a research mentor. However, they can contribute to the knowledge industry by exploring their own classroom contexts, analyzing local narratives, and sharing them throughout the world by writing papers, presenting the findings at the conference, and creating a community of practitioners. In this write-up, I have reflected on my experience of how I learned action research and became a research mentor. Furthermore, I have discussed how action research can be the best tool for the teachers’ professional development, students’ empowerment, and the change in the existing classroom situations.
Keywords: action research, empowerment, professional development, transformation
The heated discourse in academia nowadays is about research and innovation. People talk about research-based education in schools and universities. In Nepal’s context too, scholars often complain that education is not scientific, innovative, and practical. As a result, universities have also established research centers to encourage their teachers towards the research besides teaching in the classroom. In high school education as well, teachers are encouraged to do classroom-based researches or action researches by making the provision of awarding marks on action research for their promotion. However, the research culture is yet to develop in Nepal’s education. Therefore, the research needs to be redefined from the teachers’ perspective. In this reflective writing, I have argued for carrying out action research as the best tool to improve the existing classroom situation and groom oneself as a professional teacher and researcher.
My reflection as an action researcher
To begin with my practice of action research, I remember my first intervention to improve grade nine students’ speaking skills as an English language teacher in 2015. When I went to the class that contained 55 students (34 girls and 21 boys) and started teaching, I found pin-drop silence there. I thought I became successful in teaching the students and controlling them. I continued teaching for around fifteen days and asked them to reflect on what they learned during my teaching. Nobody answered me. I asked again if anything was wrong. One of the students hesitantly asked me for permission if she could speak in Nepali. After my permission, she shared, “Sir, you taught us very well because you spoke in English but we didn’t understand all”. Then, I further asked, “Why didn’t you ask me at the beginning? Another boy stood up and spoke in Nepali “Sir, hamilai ta Englishma kasari prasna sodhne nai aaudaina” (Sir, we don’t know how to ask the question in English.) These responses of the students made me upset for a while and I began to think seriously later. That evening, I posed some questions to myself such as: Was there any problem in my teaching? Why were the students not able to understand my English? How do my students want me to teach them? Should I tell them everything in Nepali? Soon, I decided to collect students’ views and plan accordingly for further teaching.
The next day, I asked some questions to the students (interviewed them) and found that only five out of fifty-five students understood my teaching in English but they could not ask questions easily. Many of them were reluctant to speak with me even in Nepali. They reported that they lacked basic language functions and speaking practice. Then, I planned to teach them speaking skills for about a month through role-plays. Providing sample dialogues (roles) based on various situations, I asked them to practice role-playing. Slowly, they developed their confidence and performed better. Later, they started writing skits for role-plays themselves. As a facilitator, I divided them into 10 different groups and let them discuss the social issues/problems they had observed or experienced in their homes or communities and prepare the skits to be performed in the class. They soon discussed in the group, selected the issue, developed the skits, and assigned the roles for each other. Their issues were also diverse such as child abuse, alcoholism, drug addiction, family conflict, girls trafficking, early marriage, domestic violence, and so on. I encouraged them to prepare the best drama afterwards and perform in the school hall in front of all the students, teachers, and guardians. Probably, my statement might have created more pressure on them and thus, they took extra time for rehearsal. Most of them worked hard and finally performed well. They received compliments from the audience too. They expressed that they were more confident after a month-long practice although they were pressurized to do the best performance initially. Moreover, I realized that their participation in speaking and other classroom tasks also increased. Later, they started asking questions confidently when they were confused during the instruction.
After completion of that project, I prepared a presentation focusing on my classroom context, the problem I faced, intervention that I adopted for change, and the success I achieved. Firstly, I presented the findings among my colleagues in school. I found my colleagues excited to see the changes in my students caused by the project. That presentation also inspired other colleagues in the school because they adopted such interventions for solving their classroom problems. Secondly, I presented the findings at the international conference as well. I got inspiration, from my friends who had already attended international conferences, to apply for the presentation. So, I developed a presentation abstract with the findings of the same project and applied it to IATEFL international conference 2016. They happily accepted my presentation proposal and awarded me a scholarship to travel and present my paper at the conference in the UK. It was a great opportunity for a classroom teacher like myself to attend and share my experience with the international community. It was only possible through my new intervention in the classroom. Finally, I wrote the reflection and sent it to the IATEFL voice newsletter and got it published in 2016.
I was excited to do such classroom interventions in the following years as well. In 2017, I developed another project to enhance the writing skills of grade eight students and succeeded to some extent. I again prepared the presentation proposal and submitted it to JALT international conference, Japan. It was accepted and supported by the organizer to travel to Japan and present my paper there. Being inspired by such a small but notable success in my career, I designed another project to address the classroom diversity of my students. I then developed the conference presentation proposal on how I addressed the classroom diversity and sent it to TESOL International Convention in the USA in 2017. They also accepted my presentation abstract with the scholarship to attend the TESOL Convention in Seattle, the USA, and present my paper. It was yet another opportunity of international exposure for me created through my tiny classroom intervention.
Later, I realized what I did in my classroom was none other than action research. My perception of action research completely changed after the realization that all the attempts of improving existing classroom situations through various teachers’ interventions were action researches. I used to think that research was beyond the access of teachers which would require specialized knowledge, skills, and practices. I was wrong because my experience mentioned above revealed that every teacher who approaches the real classroom problem with a new intervention strategy becomes a researcher. When I understood that action research means understanding a problem and solving it by oneself, I began to see every classroom problem from a researcher’s perspective, intervene and report to others for implication.
Understanding action research
Action research is understood and applied diversely according to the context since it is a research paradigm as well as a methodology (Goodnough, 2011). For example, Smith and Rebolledo (2018), termed it as teacher research since it is the ‘research initiated and carried out by teachers into issues of importance to them in their own work’ / ’research done by teachers into issues which concern them’ (p.18). It means the research carried out by the teachers for addressing the problems that arise in the practice systematically collecting data, analyzing it, and sharing what is found. Action research can be understood by various terminologies based on practices as well, such as teacher research, classroom-based research, exploratory action research/ practice, participatory action research, and critical action research. However, its basic essence seems to be the same. For example, in action research what intervention is taken to improve the situation is highlighted whereas, in the exploratory action research, the focus is given to the exploration of the causes of the problem before taking action.
Action research can have various dimensions and purposes. For example, Rearick and Feldman’s (1999) framework of three dimensions such as theoretical orientation, purposes of action research, and the types of reflection helped me to understand action research as an emerging research trend. Its nature, again based on theoretical dimensions, is technical, practical, and emancipatory. As indicated by Noffke (1997), action research broadly serves three purposes: personal growth, professional growth, and political empowerment. In my career, firstly, it served as a tool to understand my students, the nature of the problem, and classroom context as well. Secondly, it worked as a tool for my professional development. For example, due to my practice of action research in the classroom, I traveled to foreign countries, attended conferences, learned, shared, and developed professional networking. Thirdly, action research informed me about the economic, social, gender, lingual, racial, and ethnic inequalities inside and outside of the classroom. I realize that action research empowers not only the researchers but also the students involved in the project.
Teacher research which is carried out by the teachers for teachers is practiced elsewhere in the forms of action research or exploratory practice (Hanks, 2019). As stated by Smith (2020b) practice of teacher research has provided me the platform to empower other teachers and enhance personal and professorial growth. Although the concept and the purpose of action research vary, the action research involves practitioners in the self-contained cycle like plan, action, observe and reflect. In any action research, this cycle repeats until the improvement occurs in the situation. That is the main reason why action research is regarded as participatory, cyclical, or recursive research. Keeping these four stages in a spiral at the center, we can find the solution for any problem in the classroom.
Teachers as the researcher in the classroom (Mertler, 2009) can learn the value of action research as empowerment of the participants, collaboration, knowledge acquisition, and change. First of all, as I have narrated above, the student participants are empowered through action research. For example, in my case mentioned above, the students were not able to speak with the teachers at the beginning but after the intervention, they expressed that they had a high level of confidence. It reveals that action research can empower the students. The researchers themselves get empowered after gaining insights from the course of action research. Secondly, it fostered a collaborative culture among the students and stakeholders. Collaboration, as one of the fundamental 21st-century skills every student requires to develop, can be developed through action research. Thirdly, action research served me as a reliable means to acquire knowledge about the learners, context and contents in the classroom. It proves that the researcher can acquire knowledge by being involved in the action research. Finally, action research brought about changes in my students. Students became successful to interact with their friends and teachers in the classroom after the completion of the action. It reveals that action research is change-oriented research.
Carrying out action research in Nepalese classroom contexts is not free from challenges. I have also observed and experienced various challenges as a teacher and researcher. The first challenge for a teacher is the motivation towards research. I found some younger teachers who were in their early careers comparatively more motivated. However, the teachers who were in their late careers less motivated in the process of action research. Another challenge is the understanding of action research and systematizing it. Many teachers might perceive action research as s tough job although they have been doing it unnoticeably in their practice. For example, I used to tackle my classroom problems with new interventions and improve my teaching. However, I had not understood it as research and documented it systematically for a long time. Later, I realized the essence of it. Similarly, managing time for doing action research can be the next challenge because teachers can be overloaded with teaching duties. As a result, they may not have enough time for preparation and exploration. Besides, collaboration with colleagues and administration, creating a research-oriented environment in the workplace, and updating oneself according to the changed academic scenario can also be a challenge for carrying out action research.
Action research for teachers can be the best tool to groom personally and professionally. By exploring own classroom context, improving the existing situations, and empowering self and others through actions, a classroom teacher can contribute to the academia besides delivering course contents prescribed by the curricula. Moreover, action research provides the basis for a teacher to become a researcher, conference presenter, writer, and research mentor too. Although conducting action research requires teachers’ understanding, motivation, time, preparation, and dedication, it eventually supports them to transform themselves from a teacher to the researcher.
Goodnough, K. (2011). Examining the long‐term impact of collaborative action research on teacher identity and practice: the perceptions of K–12 teachers. Educational Action Research, 19(1), 73-86.
Hanks, J. (2019). From research-as-practice to exploratory practice-as-research in language teaching and beyond. Language Teaching, 52(2), 143-187.
Mertler, C. A. (2009). Action research: Teachers as researchers in the classroom. Sage.
Noffke, S. E. (1997). Professional, personal, and political dimensions of action research. Review of research in education, 22(1), 305-343. Retrieved from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.3102/0091732X022001305
Rearick, M. L., & Feldman, A. (1999). Orientations, purposes and reflection: A framework for understanding action research. Teaching and Teacher Education, 15(4), 333-349.
Smith, R., & Rebolledo, P. (2018). A handbook for exploratory action research. London: British Council.
Gobinda Puri is a lecturer of English at Janta Multiple Campus, Itahari. He is also the vice-chair in the NELTA Sunsari branch and the executive member in the Provincial committee, Province No. 1. Currently, he is pursuing his M.Phil. in English Education, at Nepal Open University. Besides teaching, he has interested in teacher research.
As the country was on lockdown due to the spread of Covid-19 for the second time, I, as a teacher was compelled to switch myself in the virtual mode of delivery. Both variants separated teachers and students; therefore, we started practicing online mode of delivery. I could not deliver the lessons in the very beginning. During the lockdown, the government instructed all the schools to facilitate the students in an alternative mode of teaching instead of physical facilitation. Rationalizing the fact of the transmission of Covid-19 in the community, we were compelled to operate schools and teaching in online mode which has been the bliss for all of us, teachers and students.
I teach English at the secondary level in one of the government schools of Ramechhap. Since it is a hilly region and we have to work with low resources. I feel regret to share but it was a very tough and tedious job to run the classes virtually in our territory. We had poor internet access and got a low bandwidth of internet connectivity. However, we had to try our best to replace physical classes. Firstly, I created a messenger group for tenth graders and started sharing notes and self-learning materials among them. After a few days, I saw the possibility of online teaching for the grade ten students. I proposed it to the school administration. Then, I, as the vice-principal, published a notice regarding online classes to explore the students’ perspectives. As a result, I noticed most of the students were ready to take online classes and their parents were likely to manage the internet connectivity along with android gadgets and smartphones.
It was the month of Ashadh 2078, we facilitated students in the online class. Before we launched the online classes, we had prepared all the pre-requisites for the online classes for the grade ten students. Fortunately, the majority of the students joined the class as they promised before. But, some students did not join the online classes for a week.
Thus, I gave a call to their parents and convinced them to create an environment for the online classes. Though they signaled positively, they did not manage the learning platform for their children for almost a week. During the online classes, we learned materials management, ppt slides preparation, lesson planning, etc. We were having a serious concern for the students’ learning and coping with challenges. The parents were hardly able to manage the smartphones and they were about to proceed with online classes.
To our surprise, the government broke out the lockdown and we switched into the face-to-face mode of delivery from the virtual one. The students who were unable to join online classes before were able to attend physical classes. More specifically, the government brought the policy of distributing SIM cards to students from grades four to twelve to facilitate the students with an alternative mode of learning.
As per the instruction, we collected all the documents needed to withdraw new SIM cards from the parents at school. Within a couple of weeks, we distributed the SIM cards to all the students from grade four to twelve withdrawing from the district headquarters. After the distribution of the SIM cards, we instructed all the teachers to facilitate the learning process through mobile phones. Some parents managed mobile phones but the rest of the others did not manage as they could not afford them. Hence, we were able to teach only those students who had internet access and a mobile phone.
It was interesting as well as painful to run the online classes smoothly. However, we continued the online classes through phone follow-up. By then, the majority of the students managed the mobile phones and started showing their active participation in learning. We had usual online classes every day but it was like a ritual.
I found that our students were not paying proper attention in their study rather they were habituated to playing the online game especially Free Fire and PUBG. Then, I started preparing different strategies. Preparing a prior mindset, I designed different language-related activities. Firstly, I asked them to find ten different words used in English while playing PUBG. They brought different words into the discussion. I often demonstrated those words which were new for the other students. I asked PUBG players to explain the meaning of those words which was going to be useful for them. I instructed all of them to find the antonym and synonym for those words. They explored based on their understanding. In the next lesson, I designed some other exercises and asked them to explore further.
During the virtual mode of delivery, I engaged them very interestingly. Sometimes, I would organize online debate competitions and sometimes I would organize quiz competitions based on the content from their lesson. The main purpose of preparing these materials was to help students explore their potential via online games. Finally, my students enjoyed the online platform because it was not time-consuming and boring for them. However, some lazy and below-average students hesitated to practice in online modes. In turn, they were equally happy to use mobile phones even if it was not fruitful for them. In my regular schedule, I never erased PUBG and Free Fire rather I encouraged. But the assignment would be related to the PUBG and Free Fire. Suppose, for example, if they would play the PUBG and Free Fire, they had to narrate all the events in about 250 words. At least, my technique of teaching free-writing was making sense for them. If they were not the PUBG players, they had to write something they were interested in.
Moreover, I taught grammar and freewriting together with the help of mobile phones. The students had already been familiar with the internet issues and I would offer them to find some interesting stories on google. They brought different stories copying from different sources. Then, they had to share all about the story they copied virtually. They had to check back and forth on their mobile phones to confirm if they had not understood the story completely. As a result, my students developed confidence in spoken English.
Fortunately, we were picking up on virtual learning. We almost replaced the face-to-face mode of delivery with the virtual one. The problems with the students in terms of regularity, punctuality, doing home assignments, etc. were likely to solve by ourselves. We took it seriously and started consulting the respective subject teachers whether they were performing well in their subjects.
Most interestingly, I encouraged my students to be critical and open up in online classes. Therefore, they could reflect on what they actually learned. It was difficult for them to speak up in the very beginning in the online class but later they slowly started questioning and critiquing. Sometimes, we would not be audible due to internet issues. Otherwise, I would prioritize the students’ needs and interests and ask them to accomplish their work timely. They learned about different apps such as Zoom, Skype, Proquest, Microsoft Team, Google Meet, etc. At least, they developed the concept about different terminologies such as email, Gmail, link, connection, internet, in the last few months.
Every weekend, we teachers sat and shared different techniques and strategies we employed. It was somehow difficult for math teachers to tackle students in the online classes. But the rest of the other theoretical classes would be easily handled and it was much effective as well. The PUBG and Free Fire players started playing those games because they had to write almost 300 words on what they played. Frankly speaking, some of the students were counseled very positively about the reason for not being able to attend the class. Later, it was diagnosed that the PUBG players would sleep late at night. Then, I successfully solved those all problems and the ratio of the regular classes remained constant in my online class.
The platform provided to the students in online classes was praiseworthy. The students got several opportunities to enhance their language skills. The students developed the habit of listening to the text and became able to solve the majority of the problems. I also focused much on spoken skills. Every week, they had to give their talk on some of the specified areas such as ‘Glory of Nepal’, The Most Interesting Place I ever visited in my Life’, ‘Pen is mightier than swords’, Mobile Phones in Students’ Life, ‘Role of youths’ in Nation’s Development’, etc. My students practiced speaking in English in different themes. To support them, I would often pinpoint their mistakes and would give immediate feedback. Then, they developed spoken fluency and accuracy by the use of mobile phones. More specifically, I would supply related reference materials in their respective groups.
The writing was also much focused in the online classes. The students were instructed to examine the pattern of writing. Sometimes, I would be giving them samples for letter writing and sometimes for application writing. They had to practice observing my samples minutely. I often designed varieties of materials for the classroom. They got an ample opportunity to explore the world around them. In every subject, they had to work and submit their assignments timely to their teachers. Online delivery remained one of the prior and successful techniques for secondary level students; however, it didn’t remain a milestone for basic education.
The students’ facilitation during the pandemic has been one of the pleasurable moments because we were not familiar with the effectiveness of the online classes. After a long investigation in different educational institutions in and around the world, we happened to practice alternative modes of delivery and it has been useful means of communication for all the learners around the world. Initially, we had a challenge but later we accepted it and developed at our own pace. Thus, the novice practitioners and the innocent students all learned several dynamics of online classes. The parental consciousness remained paramount for enriching students’ learning. The rigorous practice in every content from language to grammar and literature to writing have been taught succinctly via online medium.
In conclusion, learning without burden for students and teaching without burnout for teachers is essential for -the wellness of students and teachers. The students after being usual in using mobile phones geared up their learning. However, I realized that there are some individual factors including age, gender, ethnicity, educational background, and teaching experience, and so on. bring the variation on their understanding. Due to having a distinct socio-economical status in our society, we were straggling with the hardships of online classes but it was resolved in the latter stage of our lives. As a result, my students doubled their interest in learning than playing online games. Giving a lesson to every student should be viable and organized either we follow physical mode or we dictate virtual one. Achieving pedagogical goals require technological enhancement, students’ enthusiasm, and the well-being of the teachers. Therefore, I brought effectiveness in my teaching by examining the need and necessities of the students.
Students’ well-being is primarily judged by the cognitive abilities that they perform in their professional platform. Thus, online class and the use of mobile phones in the classroom has brought additional challenges to teachers’ wellbeing and pedagogical success. Effective and natural connections between the teachers and learners have been broken out. However, our dynamic students sharped their creative minds and learned to handle several awful situations. As a teacher, I often tried my best to make them feel not panicked by revising the previous lesson. The use of mobile phones was much helpful to gain self-confidence, self-esteem, and content knowledge.
At the end, my students learned to prepare some ppt slides, collected useful authentic materials, and developed presentation skills. From this experience, I came to know that offering opportunities and challenges to every individual are to make them able to reflect, rethink, and renew their existing knowledge and skills. Due to the massive use of the virtual mode of delivery, I myself became able to move a step ahead. It was extensively useful for both me and my students. The normal class was replaced virtually by the help of different videos, pictures, materials, and engaging tools. Thus, the use of mobile phones has been a prior tool in engaging students either in webinars or on other virtual platforms. So to say, this global pandemic created by COVID-19 has been a boon for many teachers like me because it demanded updated and upgraded professional expertise and gave a vivid glimpse of the students through innovative ideas and professional practices.
Hira Lal Moktan is an MPhil graduate in English Language Education from Kathmandu University School of Education. He has been currently serving as a vice-principal cum English teacher at Shree Dahoo Secondary School, Ramechhap. He is a life member of NELTA. His interests include research on Teachers’ Identity, Linguistics, and Discourse Analysis.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been considered a serious concern to people all around the world. On 30 January 2020 World Health Organization (WHO) declared the current outbreak that originated in Wuhan, China. In the context of Nepal, it was introduced on 20 February 2020. It is a kind of disease caused by the SARS CoV-2 virus. Due to the spread of COVID-19, we experienced a nationwide lockdown. It affected the nation socially, economically, and educationally. Almost all schools and universities were closed. Students and teachers were locked at home instead of going to school. We had no options in the beginning and later we started searching the different alternatives of teaching. As a result, we started communicating through Facebook Messenger. To achieve educational goals, we tried our best to find the best alternatives. Facebook Messenger was not handy in a large class and for visual interpretation. Therefore, we practiced Zoom technology. We learned to operate the Zoom application which provided a platform for both teachers and students to exercise teaching-learning activities appropriately. It has been widely used as a teaching tool that facilitated students alike the face-to-face classroom context.
Thus, this study intended to describe zoom technology as a teaching tool during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a reflection of an English teacher who experienced the COVID-19 pandemic massively. This study indicated that COVID-19 didn’t bring challenges only rather it brought equal opportunities as well. Therefore, this study has extensively concluded that operating the Zoom application was tough and challenging in the beginning but later it was a common and appropriate tool among all. It concluded that most teachers lacked the adequate skills to run the zoom app and those who were aware of the application had no access to the internet and digital devices. The technological enrichment and ICT paved the way for e-learning which could be affordable to families under poverty, and it would increase the competency of the learners in learning. The students learned time management skills, technological skills, and pedagogical knowledge during the COVID-19 pandemic in Nepal.
Keywords: COVID-19, Pandemic, zoom technology, lockdown, challenges, and opportunities
Teaching and learning are continuous processes to obtain new knowledge. There could be different techniques and strategies while teaching in the classroom. The physical appearance of teachers and students could make better sense for meaningful learning. Due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic all over the world, the education sector was mostly victimized. The rapidly growing pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges to Nepal’s education sector
Moreover, the government of Nepal issued a nationwide lockdown from 24 March to 21 July 2020 (as cited in Sharma, Banstola & Parajuli, 2021). Education was mostly affected. As a consequence of the lockdowns, schools and universities in Nepal were temporarily closed. Students and teachers became jobless due to COVID-19. It greatly affected all students, teachers, and parents, and all the concerned stakeholders. It provided challenges as well as opportunities for the teachers and students to explore the educational world around them. In the very beginning, COVID-19 created a chaotic situation and developed a great dilemma among all teachers, students, and parents because there were no ways in front of us. Pausing physical classrooms and staying at home was not the solution to such great problems for us. As a teacher, I felt a vacuum within myself and started thinking about its alternatives almost after a month. Facebook Messenger was only the online medium for the students to be connected. Slowly and gradually, we moved towards the other applications and we reached into Zoom Apps. Then, we started using zoom technology which was used as a tool to provide education to the students.
We are living in a modern world where technology is ubiquitous. Due to the ubiquitous presence of technology, the pedagogy of teaching and appropriate methodology has been essential for replacing the face-to-face mode of teaching with the virtual one. Inculcating technological awareness, pedagogical wellbeing, and technological content knowledge, we happened to exercise the contemporary practice of online delivery. The physical classroom environment was completely switched to the virtual one due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Traditional ways of teaching were replaced by an innovative way of teaching. To accomplish the educational goals, we have come across significant changes in our classroom practices. Thus, this paper aimed at exploring the effectiveness of zoom technology as a tool to teach during the COVID-19 pandemic in Aanbookhaireni Rural Municipality, Tanahun.
Both private and public schools employed online teaching via zoom technology. Zoom technology was not appropriate in the remote area of Aanbookhaireni Rural Municipality. However, it was widely used in urban areas of the same municipality. It was difficult for me to use zoom technology in the beginning but later I learned about it and started using it appropriately. It was challenging for the beginner teachers to use in the classroom due to a lack of knowledge and skills to operate it. Thus, it has been considered as a helpful tool to provide education to the student during such situations. Considering the zoom apps as a cloud-based asset Guzachevqn (2020) stated,
Zoom is a cloud-based service that offers meetings and webinars and provides content sharing and video conferencing capability. Furthermore, he argues zoom is the leader in modern enterprise video communications, with an easy, reliable cloud platform for radio and audio conferencing collaboration, chat, and webinars across mobile devices, desktops, telephones, and room systems.
To cope with the above statement through video conferencing students could share and receive information among other participants which were possible only through the use of zoom during the COVID-19 pandemic. And it helped to achieve the educational goals of any teacher. The most important thing is students are learning new technology by using zoom and obtaining their aims as well. Before lockdown we have only heard about such technology, now practically we have faced a new opportunity in the educational sector. Students and teachers as well become able to use mobile phones, computers, able to use the internet and social media which is essential in the present world. With the help of such technology, they get an education like in the general classroom. It helps to run a course of study which was disturbed by pandemic smoothly to meet the goals of the academic year. That is why it is said that zoom technology helped to reach the educational goals and provide extra knowledge to the students.
Situating the context
Teaching aims to convey information and help students develop content knowledge. In course of teaching, a teacher should use different techniques and strategies convenient and easier for the teacher. On the other hand, the teaching tool is also one of the essential foundations of the teaching and learning process that is why the teaching tool should be effective. Television, radio, computer, new technology, etc. were used as a teaching tool during the pandemic. Among them, most of the schools used zoom technology as a teaching tool during the pandemic to provide education with the help of the internet and the presence of mobile phones, computers, and laptops.
Implementing zoom technology as a tool became a challenging job for the teachers. Due to lack of idea about new technology, operating system and poor internet access we almost failed to implement in the initial phase. But later, we searched for the best alternatives and practiced the zoom application. Generally, people thought zoom was one of the applications which could be used easily but in reality, it was too complicated for all of us to use it appropriately. We had to explore out whether it works as a tool or not in the education system during the pandemic. Was zoom technology as a teaching tool significant to teachers? Thus, this study was intended to fetch the answer to those questions. Examining the various reasons, I explored the ideas and experiences of scholars in the field of language teaching in Nepal inculcating my own experience of using Zoom as a tool for teaching during a pandemic.
Impact of COVID-19 on education in Nepal
The spread COVID-19 pandemic or Coronavirus significantly disrupted every aspect of our life, including education. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on education in Nepal was tremendous even in its early stage. Dawadi, Giri and Simkhada (2020) argued that the alarming spread of the virus caused havoc in the educational system forcing educational institutions to shut down. The education system in Nepal had been affected mostly due to it and educational institutions had been made to shut down. It means the physical education system such as teaching in presence of students and teachers in the classroom was stopped. According to a UNESCO report, 1.6 billion children across 191 countries were severely impacted by the temporary closure of educational institutions (as cited in Dawadi, Giri & Simkhada, 2020). Similarly, UNESCO presented, more than 8 million students in Nepal (4.5 million females and 4.3 million males) of which primary and secondary school children represent 45% and 39% respectively were affected by school closures due to lockdown. The above data showed how the COVID pandemic was affecting the teaching and learning process in the Nepali educational system. It is the data on how the COVID, schools, and universities have affected during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Sharma, Banstola and Parajuli (2021), during the lockdown, children from poor, marginalized, and disadvantaged families who already have limited education opportunities outside school were most affected. Furthermore, child marriage has increased during the lockdown, students’ dropout rates were rising. The above data showed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the educational sector was severe. The government brought an alternative way of teaching such as online classes but the students in the remote village were out of reach due to the low economic status and low internet access. However, it impacted different assets of classroom teaching from sport or physical activity to curricular and extracurricular activities.
Digital learning access in education
The present scenarios indicated that students in Nepal are affected by various perspectives. Methodological switch from face-to-face classroom teaching to virtual one made teaching and learning effective and innovative. The closure of the physical classes brought a notable rise of online learning whereby teaching and learning were undertaken remotely and on a digital platform (Acharya, et. al, n.d.). Schools and universities were accessing digital learning in education as a teaching tool. During the COVID-19, almost all schools and universities ran their classes online. It paved a better way for the concerned stakeholders in academia in Nepal. For the fulfillment of the educational goals, the government of Nepal provided a Closer Uses Group (CUG) sim by adding an internet facility for rural schools to promote education during the pandemic. Digital learning was a trending tool to provide education during the pandemic.
Digital learning was a form of distance learning and its fundamental requisite was access to the internet, digital devices like laptops, mobile phones, smartphones, and computers. During COVID-19 pandemic digital devices were much practiced and become a mandatory asset in addressing the pandemic gap of the institutions. According to Thapa (2020), the contemporary situation made us more sensational and sensitive in the utilization of online, blended, and approaches of distance learning in Nepal. It was mostly growing due to the availability of electronic devices and internet access. The pandemic brought a change in digital learning in the context of the Nepalese education sector. The government of Nepal also provided online-based training to the teachers for the development of their professional knowledge. Digital learning gained an unprecedented acceleration due to the impact of the present pandemic. It seemed that Nepalese education culture was also on the way to making a grand shift towards accommodating innovative technology due to the globally increasing digital learning.
Zoom technology as a tool for teaching
Promoting the educational system which was destroyed by the COVID-19 pandemic was a challenge to the teachers. Due to the pandemic, the traditional teaching process changed and new ways of teaching were explored in our academia. By the time being every pedagogy also gets changed. Traditional teaching was replaced by online distance learning in this period. Zoom technology had been only the prior tool in our education sector that helped to provide quality education during the pandemic. Zoom is a cloud-based service that offered video conferencing capability with a content sharing facility. It was one of the new original software-based conferences that allowed both students and teachers to have an effective teaching-learning activity. It was very useful to the teachers and students who were taking classes virtually.
Zoom promoted English teachers to present the content of their lessons in various ways (Guzacheva, 2020). Furthermore, it was useful in screen sharing as well. It motivated English teachers to annotate their shared screen, making lessons more interactive and preparing for student-centered teaching. More specifically, video communications, cloud conferencing, video and audio conferencing, collaborative workshops, and webinars, etc. were common for all of us to use in our classroom during the pandemic. We used mobile devices, desktops, computers, and smartphones in our virtual delivery regularly. Emphasizing the usage of Zoom technology, we learned several skills such as video conferencing, designing an online lesson, preparing effective teaching-learning materials during the pandemic. Zoom had become an indispensable technology for the way I work, teach, and learn together by the screen sharing feature. Therefore, I successfully engaged my students in my online class showing them the materials like videos, pictures, stories, and lesson-related materials, etc.
As a result, the use of zoom technology became one of the prominent tools of learning and teaching during the COVID pandemic in the education sector. I felt it was one of the useful tools for online teaching in our context. With the presence of teachers and students through the different devices such as mobile, laptop, computer, etc. teaching-learning process became effective and lively through a cloud-based service that offers meetings and provides content sharing with video conferencing facilities.
Challenges and opportunities of zoom technology
Almost all schools and universities were not opened and it was not clear how long this situation would continue. The virtual class which was run by the direction of the government of Nepal had partly fulfilled the educational goals. On other hand, shifting to an online class was extremely difficult in the Nepalese context mostly due to poor internet access and lack of digital devices at their hand. There were no relevant guidelines, strategies, and courses about the legitimacy of the student’s learning on an online platform. We all were lacking in it because we had no such experience in conducting online classes. Indeed, most of the teachers did not have adequate skills to run online apps like zoom and others because they had neither been trained to do the job nor been involved in online teaching before. And another reason was that there was no access to the internet and digital devices in rural areas.
For the effective implementation of online classes, different facilities such as good internet connection and electronic devices like mobile phones, computers, and laptops were the basic requirements. Dawadi, Giri, and Simkhada (2020) presented that for most schools, in addition to infrastructure, unfamiliarity on the part of teachers and schools managers are barriers to providing distance learning. It was incomplete due to the many reasons while implementing zoom technology as a tool for teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, the absence of an appropriate exercise and prior lesson planning were the main reasons behind the ineffectiveness of the online class. Lack of technological devices, inadequate technological knowledge, lack of self-motivation, lack of lesson design skills, insufficient funds, reluctance to amend the policy, electricity integrated problems, etc. were the challenges of e-learning in Nepal (Acharya, et. al, n.d.). Alongside poor network connection, low internet access, and data privacy from the internet were other challenges that have affected the online zoom learning system in Nepal.
During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, online physical classes had been run almost everywhere which was a new experience for both students and teachers (Laara, et. al, 2021). Zoom technology had the potential to transform the education system by boosting educational opportunities, encouraging the development of new pedagogical methods, making the learning process more reliable, more efficient, despite many challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. Zoom technology as a tool to bring transformation in education mechanisms had presented various opportunities in the modern world. It provided the learners’ various skills about new technology and helped to achieve destined goals. The overall opportunities of e-learning were affordable to families under poverty, increase competency among facilities, development in ICT, increase time management skills, increase adaptation skills to international digital communities, and skills up technological literacy (Acharya, et. al, n. d.). So, it has been realized the teacher training center, Tanahun, made the online class more energetic, effective, and familiar for many of the teachers in our locality. Indeed, I implemented zoom technology which was significantly useful for enhancing the conceptual understanding of both teachers and students regarding their course content.
It is believed that COVID-19 didn’t come along with challenges only rather it came up with several opportunities. The impact of COVID-19 has been severely realized in different fields such as tourism, business, industries, and health in general and education in particular. The closure of physical classes and the initiation of the online class taught several lessons to use new technology and innovative ideas in our classroom context. Online mode of delivery especially zoom application created a space in our education sector fundamentally. Zoom application remained as one of the interesting technologies which provided the facilities for audio-video conferencing, video communications, cloud conferencing, collaborative workshop, webinars, and chat, etc. Pertaining to the need and necessity of the educational institution during the pandemic, most of the schools and universities used zoom technology as a teaching tool in Aanbookhaireni Rural Municipality, Tanahun. The use of zoom technology has been viable, effective and one of the best alternatives in our academia during the pandemic. Zoom application supported those schools, students, and teachers in obtaining content-related pedagogical knowledge and skills. It made every practitioner easier to grab the learning opportunity via the zoom application because it saved time, energy and became learner-friendly tools to solve the problems minutely. Thus, it was useful in breaching the gap in teaching in the Nepalese education context because it facilitated learners’ potentials and helped them explore their potentials.
Acharya, A., et.al (n. d.). Digital learning initiatives, challenges and achievement in higher education in Nepal Amidist COVID-19. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED609894
Dawadi, S., Giri, R.S., & Simkhada, P. (2020). Impact of COVID-19 on the education sector in Nepal. Challenge and coping strategies. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED609894
Guzachevaq, N. (2020). Zoom technology is an effective tool for distance learning in teaching English to medical students. Bulletin of Science and Practice, 6(5), 457-460. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.33619/2414-2948/53/61
Laara, R.A., Ashraf, M.A., Ning, J., Ji, P., Fang, P., Yu, T., & Khan, M.N. (2021). Performance, health, and psychological challenges faced by students of physical education in online learning during COVID-19 Epidemic: a qualitative study in China.