The analysis of the methodological approaches of Polish EFL secondary school teachers

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1 The analysis of the methodological approaches of Polish EFL secondary school teachers Dr. Monika Badecka-Kozikowska University of Gdansk Despite a variety of methods and techniques accepted under a common label of eclecticism in TEFL, Communicative Language Teaching (Widdowson 1978; Littlewood 1981) together with elements of the cognitive method and the humanistic approach (Stevick 1994), being at the same time the components of the learner-centered approach (Nunan 1990), are recommended in the teaching of English in Polish secondary schools. The urge for the communicative-cognitive-humanistic methodology not only results from today s views on teaching foreign languages but is also reinforced by the guidelines for the Polish national curriculum (MEN 2005) and Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (WCODN 2003) which laid foundations for the reform of the schooling system in Poland. The reform brought about the introduction of external examinations, among them matura, a final secondary school examination, whose English part tests candidates communicative language abilities. In view of the author s extensive critical analysis of methodological assumptions as presented in her doctoral dissertation and supported in the bibliography below, and also in accordance with the guidelines of the Polish Ministry of Education - a study examining how EFL secondary school teachers teach and what factors affect their teaching was carried out in the schools of Gdań sk, Gdynia and Sopot. The study was based on quantitative research in which 498 secondary school students filled in a questionnaire of 22 questions referring to 16 elements, also called tools, of their teachers methodological workshop. The most important elements which stand for the term are as follows: contextualized and inductive presentation of new language (new vocabulary and structures); meaningful structured communicative practice of the newly presented language, free communicative language practice, use of pair and group work for genuine language use; teaching techniques and activities such as information gap, problem solving, debate and discussion, role-play, mini-drama, project work, simulation (Jones 1992) for inspiring genuine communication (Hedge 2000); creating opportunities for students individual and social growth; adequate procedures for improving students receptive skills; organizing and teaching genre writing in accordance with the final examination requirements; and designing and administering doable achievement tests (McNamara 2000). It was assumed that in order for a teacher to employ fully the tools of the purely methodological nature s/he needs to fulfill conditions such as: having communicative competence of English (1971) which has currency in real life outside the classroom (Wajnryb 1993); using the English language in class most of the time; creating opportunities for students growth (La Forge 1983); establishing good rapport with them and inspiring them to ask questions and notify the teacher of their learning difficulties; planning interesting lessons which ensure variety and arouse students interest; and guaranteeing a balance of the four skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing. The research which was implemented for a period of 15 months, from September 2004 to November 2006, resulted in an analysis from which somewhat pessimistic conclusions were drawn. 1

2 Method Quantitative research based on a questionnaire administered at Polish secondary schools. 489 students answered 22 questions about 16 elements of their teachers' approach to teaching EFL. By means of crossing the students answers to the questionnaire s selected questions 12 hypotheses about the correlation of some methodological elements of the teachers EFL approaches were tested. The hypotheses were verified for three criteria: teachers education/qualifications; type of school they work for; teaching experience. The aim of the research was to answer the following main research questions: 1. How do Polish EFL teachers teach English? What teaching techniques do they use? What is/are their methodological approach/es? 2. How do factors such as their education/qualifications; type of school they work for; their teaching experience affect their teaching approach? 12 hypotheses verified by means of Pearson s test: 1. Inductive contextualized presentation of new language performed in English (called the ICE principle) correlates with intensive oral controlled practice of the newly introduced language. 2. Inductive contextualized presentation of new language conducted in English (the ICE principle) correlates with the use of free communicative practice in pairs and groups (without the teacher s intervention). 3. Teachers who employ the ICE principle also use the technique of project work in their classes. 4. Teachers who employ the ICE principle use drama in their classes as well. 5. Teachers who employ the ICE principle create opportunities for their students to take part in class debates 6. Teachers who employ the ICE principle also use role play for practising useful structures in a situational context. 7. The use of the ICE principle correlates with the use of the technique of simulation. 8. The use of pair and group work correlates with carrying out problem-solving tasks and gaining non-linguistic (apart from linguistic) knowledge by the students in class. 9. The teacher s mobility in the classroom correlates with: the students sense of the teacher getting along with the students, the teacher knowing how the learning proceeds in class, and the students conviction that lessons are modified when necessary. 10. The correctness of the procedure for developing receptive skills such as listening and reading correlates with the students positive opinion as to the clarity of the teacher s instructions. 2

3 11. Creating opportunities for students to express what their problems and difficulties in learning are, correlates with their feeling that the teacher gets along with them, knows the situation in class, and modifies lessons when necessary. 12. The students courage to express themselves in English in class correlates with the way their mistakes/errors are corrected, which means the students are not interrupted while speaking and are allowed to correct themselves. Here is a sample table showing the results of hypotheses testing for hypotheses 1-3 for 3 categories of teachers: English philology graduates, teacher training college graduates, and teachers briefly retrained for the profession (other). Table 9 Hypotheses testing (13.) education/qualifications Hypothesis Crossed questions /answers Degree of correlation according to Pearson s test English philology Teacher training college Other All Hypothesis 1 (zasada ISAP a intensywna praktyka kontrolowana. Struktur) (inductive pr. of new lang. in context & intensive controlled practice B2/B istotnasignificant istotnasignificant istotnasignificant istotna-significant Confirmation (% ) B2b/B3a 78.9% 86.4% 44% 79% Hypothesis 2 (zasada ISAP a praca w parach/grupach) (inductive presentation of new lang. in context & pair/group work B2/B istotnasignificant istotna-significant Confirmation (% ) B2b/B4a 72.3% 67% Hypothesis 3 (zasada ISAP a project work) (inductive presentation of new lang. in context & project work B2/B14 Nieistotna-insignificant Confirmation (% ) B2b/B14a Expected Outcomes 1. In view of today s methodology of TEFL as recognized in the bibliography provided below, the Polish EFL teachers of secondary schools : insufficiently employ the communicative techniques; tend to overuse traditional techniques such as: deductive language presentations deprived of context and carried out in Polish (68.5%); translation (60.6%); reading aloud (56.2%), and manipulative grammar exercises in teacher-fronted classes; do not encourage students to tell them about difficulties they have in learning; are well liked 3

4 by their students, and their teaching techniques are regarded as interesting despite their traditional character. 2. Factors such as: the teachers education/qualifications; the type of school the teachers work in; the length of teaching experience; only to some extent contribute to the quality of teaching. The differences in the teachers use of the elements of the established model of the methodological workshop are greatest between those teachers who graduated from a university English philology department or a teacher training college, and those who after graduating from a different university department were only briefly retrained to be able to teach English in a secondary school. Generally, English philology graduates, teachers with the longest teaching experience and those working in secondary comprehensive schools (called liceum ogólnokształcą ce) methodologically slightly exceed graduates of teacher training colleges, teachers who have shorter teaching experience and those who work in vocational schools (called technikum). This means that the latter group s methodological approach is less integrated in the use of the communicative teaching techniques. However, less experienced teachers more often employ particular communicative techniques but their methodological approach lacks consistency and integration. The category of teachers who became EFL teachers after being briefly retrained for the profession, as compared with the other categories of teachers, is characterized by much lower teaching standards and the use of more traditional teaching techniques. The details of the study providing the data of testing 12 hypotheses about the correlation of particular elements of the methodological approach of Polish EFL teachers for three criteria depending on the teachers education/qualifications, type of school, and teaching experience - are due to be published in a Polish book by the author of the study. It is called Siedem grzechow głównych nauczycieli ję zykow obcych (The Seven Deadly Sins of Foreign Language Teachers. ) Wydawnictwo Fraszka Edukacyjna. Warszawa References Acklam, R The role of the coursebook. Practical English Teaching 14/3. Allwright, R.L Observation in the Language Classroom. London and New York: Longman. Anderson, A. and T. Lynch Listening. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Bachman, L.F Fundamental Considerations in Language Testing. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Bowen, T. and J. Marks Inside Teaching. Oxford: Heinemann. Brown, G. and G. Yule Teaching the Spoken Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Brown, H.D Principles of Language Learning and Teaching. Englewood Cliffs N.J.: Prentice Hall. Brown, H.D Teaching by Principles: An Interactive Approach to Language Pedagogy. Englewood Cliffs N.J.: Prentice Hall. Brown, H.D Principles of Language Learning and Language Teaching. New York: Pearson Education. Brumfit, C.J Communicative Methodology in Language Teaching. The Roles of Fluency and Accuracy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Brumfit C.J., Johnson K. (ed.) The Communicative Approach to Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Carrell, P.L, J. Devine and E.D. Eskey Interactive Approaches to Second Language Reading. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Chaudron, C Second Language Clasrooms. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Coe, N., R. Rycroft and P. Ernest Writing Skills. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Cunningham, A Evaluating and Selecting EFL Materials. Oxford: Heinemann Educational. Curran, C. A Counselling Learning: A Whole-Person Model for Education. New York: Grune and Stratton. Davies P. and E. Pearse Success in English Teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Dean, M English Grammar Lessons. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Dł utek, A Program nauczania języka angielskiego dla liceum ogólnokształcą -cego, liceum profilowanego i 4

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