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Malaysian teachers belief

  1. 1. INFORMATION TO USERS This manuscript has been reproduced from the microfilm master. UMI films the text directly from the original or copy submitted. Thus, some thesis and dissertation copies are in typewriter face, while others may be from any type of computer printer. The quality of this reproduction is dependent upon the quality of the copy submitted. Broken or indistinct print, colored or poor quality illustrations and photographs, print bleedthrough, substandard margins, and improper alignment can adversely affect reproduction. In the unlikely event that the author did not send UMI a complete manuscript and there are missing pages, these will be noted. Also, if unauthorized copyright material had to be removed, a note will indicate the deletion. Oversize materials (e.g., maps, drawings, charts) are reproduced by sectioning the original, beginning at the upper left-hand comer and continuing from left to right in equal sections with small overlaps. Each original is also photographed in one exposure and is included in reduced form at the back of the book. Photographs included in the original manuscript have been reproduced xerographically in this copy. Higher quality 6" x 9" black and white photographic prints are available for any photographs or illustrations appearing in this copy for an additional charge. Contact UMI directly to order. University Microfilms International A Bell & Howell Information Company 300 North Zeeb Road. Ann Arbor. Ml 48106-1346 USA 313/761-4700 800/521-0600 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
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  3. 3. Order Number 9500383 A n investigation of the beliefs and practices of Malaysian teachers of English as a Second Language (ESL) Ashari, Habibah, Ph.D. Indiana University, 1994 Copyright © 1994 by Ashari, Habibah. All rights reserved. U M I300 N. ZeebRd. Ann Arbor, MI 48106 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
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  5. 5. AN INVESTIGATION OF THE BELIEFS AND PRACTICES OF MALAYSIAN TEACHERS OF ENGLISH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE (ESL) Habibah Ashari Submitted to the faculty of the University Graduate School in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Doctor of Philosophy in the School of Education Indiana University March 1994 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  6. 6. Accepted by the Graduate Faculty, Indiana University, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Doctoral Committee Date of Oral Examination L. Gradman, Ph.D.Har: Thomas B. Gregory, Ph.D. /<//.// rCcrt IMartha Nyikos, Ph.D. March 24, 1994 ii Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  7. 7. C 1994 Habibah Ashari ALL RIGHTS RESERVED iii Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  8. 8. Dedicated to my mother, the greatest woman in my life. iv Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  9. 9. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Tne doctoral journey I made from beginning to end would not have been possible without the support of my husband, Kieran. He believed in me and constantly reminded me that it was a journey I could make. To him I owe my heartfelt thanks. Thanks also to my children, Adam and Chi Chi, who understood "Mommy" was writing her dissertation and who managed to keep out of the way when I was busy at the computer. I also owe special thanks to my family in Malaysia whose "over the wire" encouragement and prayers kept me going. I would also like to thank my committee members for their helpful suggestions and their willingness and patience to work with me. Special thanks go to Dr. Overly, the first person I met when I embarked on this journey; throughout this study, he offered useful advice and encouragement when I most needed them. My heartfelt thanks to my dinner group whose support, encouragement, and laughter I could not have done without. Thanks also to Bobbie and Sara for their help. My special gratitude goes to the four teachers who graciously welcomed me into their classes and shared with me their stories. With their support, this work was made possible. v Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  10. 10. Finally, my utmost gratitude goes to Institut Teknologi Mara, Shah Alam, Malaysia and the Indiana University Overseas Fellowship Program whose financial support made this journey possible. Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  11. 11. TABLE OF CONTENTS Chapter One: Introduction to the Study..................1 Chapter Two: Review of Related Literature............. 24 Chapter Three: Methodology...............................41 Chapter Four: The Soldier................................ 62 Chapter Five: The Fun Lover..............................93 Chapter Six: The Actor.................................130 Chapter Seven: The Doer..................................172 Chapter Eight: Analysis and Interpretations............ 208 Chapter Nine: Summary, Conclusions and Implications....248 References: 268 Appendices: 275 vii Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  12. 12. CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY Overview Teachers and their teaching have been probed from many- different angles. Researchers have looked at teachers' thought processes (Shavelson & Stern, 1981; Clark & Peterson, 1986), teachers' personal knowledge (Clandinin & Connelly, 1987), and teachers' practical knowledge (Elbaz, 1981) in an attempt to illuminate the relation between teachers' lives and the pedagogical events of their classrooms. A significant aspect of teachers' lives that has received much attention in recent years is teachers' beliefs. Teachers' beliefs have been probed through the lens of specific subject areas such as mathematics (Becker & Pence, 199 0; Ernest, 1989; Kloosterman & Stage, 1989) and reading (Hollingsworth, 1989), or at specific level, such as the preservice level (Lasley, 1980; Hollingsworth, 1989). However, not much has been written about teachers' beliefs in the field of ESL (English as a Second Language). Although attempts to look at students' beliefs about language learning have been carried out (see Horwitz, 1985, 1988), the critical area of ESL teachers' beliefs about language learning and teaching has been strangely neglected. l Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  13. 13. As I reflected on the void in this area, it seemed that a study of ESL teachers' beliefs about language learning and teaching might provide insightful answers to how teachers effectively teach a language and help their students acquire a second language. Hence I thought it important to add the voices of ESL teachers to the current research on teachers' beliefs. It promised to be a particularly rich area of study because language learning is such an intensely personal activity. The purposes of this study were three-fold. The first purpose was to elicit and examine the beliefs about language learning and teaching of a selected group of ESL teachers in a teacher education program in Malaysia. The second purpose was to determine the relationship between teachers' beliefs and their classroom practices. The final purpose was to determine the factors that encourage or hinder the translation of beliefs into practices. This chapter will first portray my personal perspective and interest in this study. Following this perspective is a description of the setting which situates this study in a specific context. The statement of the problem and the research questions that guided this study come next. To enhance clarity, a section defining frequently used terms has been included. The chapter closes with a discussion of the potential significance of this study to ESL teaching in general, and to ESL teacher education in particular. 2 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  14. 14. Personal Perspective The source of my interest in examining the beliefs and practices of English as a second language (ESL) teachers has been my own involvement in the field as an ESL student, an ESL teacher, and a teacher educator in Malaysia. I entered Standard (Grade) 1 in 1964 in a school in which the language of instruction was English, and this continued throughout my school years, 1964-1975. The experience I had was akin to what Dulay, Burt, and Krashen (1982) refer to as being in an "immersion" program. They give the example of the St. Lambert program in Canada where English-speaking children are enrolled in a program in which French is the medium of instruction. In my case, I am Malaysian and I come from a Bahasa Malaysia language environment but my instructional environment was English. I entered the professional field in 1979, having learned English as a second language. Bahasa Malaysia, the national language of Malaysia since independence from Britain in 1957, is the language I learned from birth. However, the learning of English in my generation was advanced by the fact that English was then the medium of instruction in Malaysian public schools. In this system, memorization of rules and sentence patterns and drills were the premier methods of teaching English. I remember, among other things, memorizing vocabulary lists; learning grammar through drills; memorizing and reciting poetry; reading 3 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  15. 15. aloud in class, either individually or in unison with my classmates, and having pronunciation corrected immediately; doing translations; writing daily news; and taking spelling tests. My acquisition of English was further advanced by the fact that I was taught other subjects such as geography, science, history, civics, literature, and mathematics in English. Other influences were family members, books, and the media, both print and broadcast. Although my parents did not speak English, they sent their children to state- supported English schools on the assumption that an English education would provide us with a necessary ingredient for academic success. There were also state-supported Malay schools where they could have sent their children, but because my eldest sister was already in an English school, my parents thought that it would be fair if everyone went to English schools. My elder sisters, who were already in school when I was born, always spoke English to one another. Thus I was always surrounded by spoken English. As I grew up, it became necessary for me to learn English in order to be included in their conversations. We were also encouraged to read books in English, and I remember setting aside some weekly pocket money to buy Enid Blyton's books and comic books in English. Malaysia had, and still has, national English newspapers, and radio and television programs in English. My sisters, who were avid fans of English pop 4 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  16. 16. music, listened to it all the time on the radio. Listening to and copying down the lyrics of our favorite songs gave us further opportunity to acquire and improve our English. Since English had always been my favorite subject in school, when I went to the university I elected to major in English literature. For three years I read and studied novels, poetry, and plays by both European and American writers. After I graduated, I applied for a teaching position at a college, and was accepted to teach English language. When I first began teaching, I taught English the way I had been taught in schools. Just as I had, my students filled in blanks, memorized vocabulary lists, read aloud in class, took dictation, and learned and memorized grammar rules; in a sense, during my first years of teaching, I followed faithfully the language exercises in the textbooks provided and acted according to what I perceived, at that time, to be the right way to teach English. Since my first degree was in English literature, I had never been trained formally to teach the structure and mechanics of the English language nor had I been trained in the philosophy and theories of education; thus my only recourse for teaching English was to teach it the way I had learned it. During my ESL methods class in the master's program in the United States, I learned about the prominent methods of teaching ESL such as the grammar-translation method and the 5 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  17. 17. audio-lingual method. Besides these two, I was also introduced to other innovative approaches to teaching English, for example, the Total Physical Response (TPR) approach, the Silent Way, Counseling-Learning, the Communicative approach, the Notional-Functional approach, and Suggestopedia (Blair, 1991). I learned, then, that there were possible ways of teaching English other than the strict use of grammar sentence patterns, drills, and memorization of rules. However, when I went back to Malaysia to teach, the classroom atmosphere was hardly conducive to using those innovative approaches. I found time limitations, physical limitations such as heat and noise, class size, the requirement to cover the syllabus, and testing requirements to be some of the constraints that worked against using the new approaches in class. Many features of the various methods seemed not to lend themselves to being used in a large class, or in an educational setting that requires teachers to complete the syllabus within a specified time in order for students to have an equal opportunity in examinations at the end of the semester. For example, the use of commands to teach language, which is prominent in the Total Physical Response (TPR) approach, was regarded with incredulity by many teachers who were more used to teaching English by asking students to fill in the blanks or to make use of substitution tables. Some teachers also expressed 6 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  18. 18. the opinion that TPR, while great with absolute beginners, is hardly appropriate for college-level ESL learners who have had, presumably, eleven years of learning English in schools. In the midst of a flurry of academic as well as administrative duties, I have often wondered what it would be like to teach without constraints. What would it be like to teach a smaller class? To have the luxury of time? To have access to an unlimited amount of resources? To be able to create for students a language environment that is most conducive to language acquisition? And to be able to act upon one's own beliefs about language learning and teaching? My ruminations about what ESL teachers actually believe about the nature of language learning and teaching, and about what they actually do in the classrooms directed me to the current study. Hence my interest in this study is both personally, as well as pedagogically, driven. The Setting The context of this study is a teacher education program in one of the large institutions of higher learning in Malaysia--a small rapidly-industrializing nation in Southeast Asia. Unlike many teacher education programs in the United States, and even in Malaysia, where the teacher education programs typically prepare student teachers for the various grade levels, and in various subject areas such 7 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  19. 19. as mathematics, science, language arts, and social studies by conducting them through a series of general methodological, instructional, and philosophical or theoretical courses and experiences, this program is unique in its exclusive focus on the preparation of students to become teachers of English as a second language (ESL) for Malaysian secondary schools. This six-year program is divided into two parts. The first two years encompass the Intensive English Program (or the matriculation program as it is generally referred to) in which students are taught basic, intermediate, and advanced skills in the areas of reading, writing, listening and speaking, oracy (a course dealing with speaking skills), news update, critical thinking, grammar, and literature. This component of the preparation is required as the students' English language proficiency, at that point, is inadequate to allow them to undergo a full-fledged undergraduate program. When the students have successfully completed the matriculation program, they proceed to the second level of the program. Students who do not meet the requirements for admission into the degree program have their scholarship, and hence their association with the teacher education program, terminated at that juncture; however in some cases, they are given a chance to re-take courses they have failed before they are allowed to proceed to the next level. The second part is the four-year degree 8 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  20. 20. program in which students are educated in ESL methods, theories and principles of education, theories and principles of linguistics, language learning and teaching, testing and measurement, literature, classroom management and organization, and student teaching. Students entering the matriculation program have all graduated from Malaysian high schools, have obtained a distinction or strong credit in their English papers, and have obtained a Grade One (the highest grade) in the national high school examinations, Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) or the Malaysian Certificate of Examination as it is known in English. Their education is fully sponsored by the Ministry of Education and they have undergone a rigorous selection process to gain admission into the program. This includes obtaining a Grade One in the SPM, performing well on a written language examination, and passing a personal interview. Since establishing the program in 1988, the ministry has received over five hundred applications each year from students wishing to join the program. Out of these, only 100-150 students have been selected for each academic year. The ESL instructors in this program are all college- trained teachers who have received their professional education either in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, or a teacher education program at a Malaysian university. All the teachers in the program 9 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  21. 21. except three are non-native speakers of English. By non­ native English speakers, I mean that the main language of these teachers is a language other than English. The first language could be Bahasa Malaysia (the national language), Tamil, or any dialect of the Chinese language. The teachers have also experienced the process of learning a second language, have undergone professional teacher education, and have received certification to teach ESL and ESL methods to their students. The other three teachers, who are hired on a special contract, are British nationals and are native speakers of English. . It was anticipated that the various experiences that these teachers encountered in initially learning English as a second language at home and in schools, in professional education courses and ESL methods classes, and in their professional careers as teachers, has led to the set of beliefs they hold regarding the nature of language learning and teaching. Further, it was anticipated that these experiences lead to decisions either to adhere or not to adhere to their beliefs in classroom practices. It was this concern about the nature of teachers' beliefs and the role of beliefs in classroom practices that gave rise to this study. 10 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  22. 22. Statement of the Problem The purpose of this study was to discover the beliefs about language learning and teaching of a select group of teachers in an ESL teacher education program in Malaysia, and to investigate whether their beliefs are consistent with theoretical developments in the field of ESL, their professional education, and their own classroom practices. It has been widely acknowledged in the field of teacher education that teachers' practices in the classroom are an expression of their beliefs and educational philosophies, and that beliefs play an important role in their conceptualization of instructional tasks and activities (Pajares, 1992; Nespor, 1987; Clark & Peterson, 1986; Dobson & Dobson, 1983; Fensterxnacher, 1979). Dobson and Dobson (1983) argue that we create and invent our own belief system and that the belief system acts as a beacon in guiding our daily lives. It is reasonable to expect that we will choose to act in accordance with our beliefs; but there are also times when our actions do not conform to our beliefs. Dobson and Dobson further suggest that "classroom teachers seldom {my emphasis) adopt a teaching model that is in accordance with their professed beliefs" (p. 21). Thus gaps between beliefs and classroom instructional practices are thought to develop. Teaching without recourse to a set of beliefs may become an activity 11 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  23. 23. where the motivation and controlling guide is simply to get things done. According to Pajares (1992), the study of teachers' beliefs has typically been avoided by educational researchers who have considered beliefs to be a "messy" construct (p. 307). They have also concluded that the constructs, "beliefs," and "belief systems" are difficult to define (Abelson, 1979; Eisenhart, Shrum, Harding, & Cuthbert, 1988; Pajares, 1992). They see the study of beliefs to be so steeped in mystery that it has often been left to the confines of philosophy or theology. Pajares (1992) suggests that the difficulty also lies in the various definitions researchers assign to the construct "beliefs," and to methodological and design flaws. Munby (1984) further suggests that the traditional ways of measuring beliefs, i.e., by using instruments such as questionnaires and rating scales, have two inherent drawbacks. The first is that the test score of an individual has meaning only within the test, and the second is that test items are thought up by researchers and not the teachers. He has suggested that a qualitative study of teachers' beliefs would provide a better picture of teachers' beliefs "within a context determined by [the] teacher" (p. 38). Pajares (1992) acknowledges that "beliefs are a subject of legitimate inquiry in fields as diverse as medicine, law, 12 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  24. 24. anthropology, sociology, political science, and business, as well as psychology, where attitudes and values have long been a focus of social and personality research, 11 (p. 308). However, in the educational field, although beliefs are an important component of a teachers' thought processes (Clark & Peterson, 198 6) and play an important role in teachers' planning of instructional activities (Nespor, 1987), the study of teachers' beliefs remain "lightly traveled" (Pajares, 1992, p. 326). But the assumptions remain that beliefs are important indicators of how teachers will conduct their classroom instructional activities. It is held as an item of faith that teachers pursue methods they believe to be effective ways of teaching. Nespor (1987) gives an example of a teacher, Ms. Skylark, who had a particularly bad time as a pupil. As a teacher, Ms. Skylark believed that classes should be fun and friendly. She strived hard to achieve a relaxed atmosphere in her classes; as a result of this, she was not able to control her class nor complete any instructional tasks with her students. This suggests that teachers have experiences that guide and inform their beliefs about certain teaching behaviors, and as they experience various interactions with other individuals, they make generalizations and value judgments that form their belief structures. The relationship between experience and beliefs and the subsequent relationship between beliefs and classroom 13 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  25. 25. practices are crucial to understanding the teachers' pedagogy. When research studies and theorizing about teacher beliefs and practices are overlaid on the Malaysian experience and particularly ESL teaching by persons whose native language is not English what may we find? First, the teachers have had a Malay experience; they also have had a language learning experience and a pedagogy learning experience; they have had social and family experiences. The list could go on and on, depending on how creative one wished to be in formulating different categories and perspectives. Initial language learning experiences may have an influence on teachers' early conceptions of the nature of language learning. Subsequently, during formal professional ESL methods classes at the undergraduate and graduate level, the teachers are exposed to another set of theories, methodologies, and approaches to learning English. These various exposures to the learning of English, and to the subsequent ESL methods classes, contribute to the formulation of a host of beliefs regarding the teaching of English. Over and above the exposure to different methods of learning English, exposure to different instructors at various levels may also influence teachers' beliefs about language learning. At the elementary and secondary school levels in Malaysia, it is highly likely ESL teachers would 14 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  26. 26. have had non-native speakers of English as their English instructors; if they had been educated in English-speaking countries for their professional education courses, the teachers would certainly have encountered instructors who were native speakers of English. The experiences with different sets of English teachers, be they native or non­ native speakers of English, are presumed to have a strong influence on the way beliefs about language learning are acquired and formed. It is likely, therefore, that ESL teachers have competing belief structures that may make it impossible for them to act upon their beliefs while teaching. The competing belief structures may have arisen from a variety of other experiences as well: curricular or organizational constraints, an inability or unwillingness to question or explore one's own beliefs and assumptions about language teaching and learning, and participation in a field that is constantly evolving and changing (Sinclair, 1984; Pennycook, 1989) . Because of the inherent complexity of the theoretical points of influence and decision-making, I elected in this study to examine the beliefs about language learning and teaching of a select group of Malaysian ESL teachers who were teaching in an ESL teacher education program. I also proposed to examine the relationship of their beliefs to their instructional practices and to explore the factors 15 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  27. 27. that encouraged or hindered the translation of their beliefs into practices. The study was carried out through the exploration of the backgrounds, both personal and professional, and language learning experiences of these teachers. Objectives and research questions In order to explore these teachers' beliefs about language learning and teaching, and to examine the extent of the relationships between their beliefs and their classroom instructional practices, this study pursued the following research questions. 1. What are the beliefs about language learning and teaching of a selected group of ESL teachers in Malaysia? 2. To what extent are teachers' beliefs about language learning and teaching related to their classroom instructional practices? 3. What do teachers believe to be factors that encourage and/or hinder the translation of beliefs into practices? By probing these questions with teachers, I have attempted to identify the beliefs and assumptions that a selected group of teacher educators in an ESL program have about teaching English, the relationship of their beliefs to their practices, the implications of their beliefs for the 16 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  28. 28. interpretation and presentation of the curriculum, and on how they educate future teachers of English to enter the workforce. Definition of terms In order to enhance clarity, some of the terms frequently used in this study have been defined. I have sought to define them within the framework that prevails in current research. These are terms such as beliefs and belief systems; English as a Second Language, commonly referred to as ESL; language learning and teaching; also terms such as standard and form as used in the Malaysian school system; and finally the terms Bahasa Malaysia and Malay. Beliefs and belief system--Beliefs are not easy to define, nor do they lend themselves to easy conceptualization. It is not uncommon to hear people prefacing their statements with the phrase, "I believe...," in normal everyday conversations. Because of the intangible nature of beliefs, in this study beliefs are defined based on an amalgam of interpretations that have been used by various researchers. Beliefs are viewed as evaluative, resistant to change and non-consensual (Abelson, 1979); beliefs are a way of describing relationships between tasks, events, actions, or people, and people's attitudes toward them, (Eisenhart, Shrum, Harding, & Cuthbert, 1988a); and 17 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  29. 29. beliefs are personally-held perceptions about the way one learns and does certain things (Lester, 1990). It is the premise of this study that beliefs are formed through our experiences and interpretations of events that happen to and around us, as well as through our interactions with others. The way we experience schooling and teachers in our youth may have an influence on the way we perceive and conduct ourselves as teachers. If our experiences with a strict disciplinarian have been particularly traumatic for us, we might come to believe that being a strict teacher might not make for a good or an effective teacher. In summary then, the present study views beliefs as evaluative and based on personal experiences; beliefs are non- consensual, i.e., we know that some beliefs we hold dear may not be held by others; and beliefs are personally held convictions about the way certain actions, in this study language learning and teaching, are carried out. A belief system would then constitute the interconnected set of beliefs or convictions one has regarding a certain feature of teaching language; for instance, convictions about the nature of the reading process and the nature of teaching reading would form one's belief system about the broad topic of reading. ESL and EFL--Prator (1991) acknowledges the confusion and disagreement often assigned to the terms English as a second language (ESL) and English as a foreign language 18 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  30. 30. (EFL). In the United States and United Kingdom, ESL has often been defined as teaching English to students whose home language is not English. The main objective in such a program would be to assimilate these students into the mainstream English-speaking culture by teaching them the language that is used in academic, business, and social circles. For many people in nations such as the Philippines, Nigeria, Singapore, and Malaysia--nations formerly colonized by the United States or Britain-- English language is not considered "foreign" or "alien" to their culture (Prator, 1991, p. 19), and hence cannot be considered a foreign language. Therefore in these countries, English is considered a second language which is still used quite widely for social and official purposes. Thus by using this definition, one can say that teaching English in non-English speaking countries would constitute teaching English as a foreign language. In countries such as Germany and Japan--countries which were never colonized by English-speaking peoples--English is considered a foreign language; the teaching of English in these countries is, hence, teaching it as a foreign language. Indeed this situation is similar to the teaching of French, Italian, or Japanese in American schools. Language learning--Language learning is defined as the formal or informal acquisition of linguistic competence. In 19 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  31. 31. this study language learning refers to the learning of English experienced by non-native speakers of English in a non-English speaking environment. Formal acquisition of English refers to learning from language instruction that occurs in an institutionalized setting such as in a school; informal acquisition of English may occur initially at home or through the direct and vicarious experience of being exposed to the language via the media and the social environment. Language teaching--Language teaching is defined as the formal instruction of language in an institutionalized setting such as a school. In the program under investigation in this study, English language teaching is carried out, specifically at the matriculation level, through the division of the language into specific components through courses concentrating on reading, writing, listening and speaking, grammar, and literature. Standard and form--In the Malaysian school system, students go through six years of elementary or primary school and five years of secondary school. The six years of primary school are referred to as standard one through standard six; the equivalent American term is "grade." The five years of secondary school are referred to as Form I through Form V; again the equivalent American term is grade but Form I is equivalent to grade seven. 20 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  32. 32. Bahasa Malaysia and Malay--Vlhen Malaysia changed its language policies soon after independence from Britain in 1957, Bahasa Malaysia, the native language of the Malay people which was formerly referred to as the Malay language, became the official language of Malaysia. In this study the terms Malay and Bahasa Malaysia are often used interchangeably with little change in meaning. The term Malay is also used to refer to the Malay people, one of the three major ethnic groups in Malaysia; the other two being the Chinese and Indian people. Potential significance A significant aspect of this study is that it provides evidence of personal reflections of a selected group of Malaysian ESL teachers and evidence of classroom behavior that informs and illuminates our understanding of the ways they function in the classroom. Certainly the personal experiences they have undergone in the process of learning English as a second language and in their professional training to become ESL teachers differ from the experiences ESL teachers in America might experience; the major difference being the fact that for the Malaysian teachers English is not their primary home language. But more importantly, it provides a beginning for developing a clearer picture of teacher beliefs, practices, and the way they intersect. 21 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  33. 33. Teacher beliefs are considered a powerful conceptual tool by which to interpret teacher behaviors and the forces that guide these behaviors. The deepening awareness and explication of their own beliefs about teaching and their practice of teaching may help individual ESL teachers and other ESL teacher educators model for their ESL preservice teachers pedagogical practices that are congruent with teachers' beliefs about effective ways of teaching and acquiring English. Indeed, the teaching models that the preservice teachers are exposed to while learning English might have an important effect on how they themselves might teach English in the future. Furthermore, these students are experiencing an apprenticeship in teaching, and the ESL instructors they observe or read about are the models who, it is hoped, will have a strong influence on them. Indeed, as Clark (1988) said, Students begin teacher education programs with their own ideas and beliefs about what it takes to be a successful teacher. These preconceptions are formed from thousands of hours of observations of teachers, good and bad, over the previous fifteen or so years. Undoubtedly, students' conceptions of teaching are incomplete, for they typically see and hear only the performance side of classroom teaching (p. 7). Collecting evidence of the areas in which beliefs and practices intersect offers a basis for developing a deeper understanding of the relationship between beliefs and practices. Congruence or inconsistences between these two constructs need to be better understood in order to inform 22 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  34. 34. language teachers and language teacher educators of the conditions and variables that exist in the education of student teachers. Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  35. 35. CHAPTER TWO REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE Introduction The purpose of this chapter is to provide a review of literature relevant to this study. It begins with a brief review of the historical development of English Language Teaching (ELT), both in Britain and the United States, and in non-English speaking countries, especially Malaysia. It is followed by a discussion of the development of the various theoretical underpinnings of ELT, and the methods that grew out of them. Subsequently, a review of research on teachers' beliefs and their relationship to instructional practices is presented. A Brief Overview of English Language Teaching (ELT) English Language Teaching (ELT) in Britain and the United States has evolved tremendously since the turn of the 20th century. Over time, it has generated further distinction, notably the teaching of English as a second language, at first in the British empire, later in the Commonwealth, and then in Britain itself. According to Howatt (1984), the teaching of English as a foreign language emerged as an autonomous profession in the first half of this century. 24 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  36. 36. The next development evolved through the reinterpretation of the role of English in the Empire. Howatt (1984) suggests that the teaching of English in colonial schools in the 19th century followed largely the patterns of English taught to native speakers. There was hardly any attempt to design language activities that addressed the needs of the non-native speakers. Subsequently, in the early 1920s there emerged a utilitarian function for the communication of knowledge in the teaching of English to non-native speakers. In many formerly colonized nations such as Kenya, Nigeria, India, Singapore, and Malaysia, English was introduced during the colonial era and was at first spoken mainly by the native speakers of the language. However, when there arose a need for locally-recruited clerks and other employees for the government offices and other businesses, schools were established in which English was taught (Platt, Weber, & Ho, 1984). Subsequently, English was used as the language of instruction for other subjects. In a sense, English was taught to enable the local people to serve the colonial masters. It was only in the fifties that the distinction between English as a "second" and as a "foreign" language (ESL and EFL) emerged. In defining the terms English as a Second Language (ESL) and English as a Foreign Language (EFL), I have used the definitions formulated by Hammerly (1985) who 25 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  37. 37. said, "tS]econd language means any language other than the native language of the learner, whether spoken right in the community or only in a distant and exotic land" (p. xii). For the sake of clarity, in this study, English as a second language refers to the teaching of English in former British colonies like West Africa, Singapore, Malaysia, Ceylon, and India (Platt et al., 1984). In these countries, English was the official language and the language of instruction before these countries gained independence, and even now English is still the lingua franca, and considered a language of importance, not only for commerce, science, and technology, but also as an international language of communication. Before Malaysia gained independence in 1957, English was regarded as the official language for government, business, and education. In the early years after independence, the new Federation implemented a new language policy, and adopted Malay or Bahasa Malaysia (as it is now known), as the official language of the nation (Edwards, 1985). The rationale for doing this was to unite its diverse peoples under a common language (Noor, 1986). In the primary and secondary schools in the U.S., ESL and in some cases bilingual education, refers to the teaching of English to immigrant children and Limited English Proficient (LEP) students whose home language is a language other than English; this entails providing special instruction in the English language (Grant & Secada, 1990). 26 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  38. 38. In most cases, the special instruction requires that an ESL student be "pulled out" of mainstream classes to receive English lessons, or to have an ESL teacher work closely with the regular classroom teacher. While ESL teachers in the United States are usually native speakers of English, ESL teachers in Malaysia are customarily second language speakers of English. An example of English as a foreign language (EFL) teaching, defined as teaching English in a host country situation, is English teaching in countries such as Japan, Saudi Arabia, and Germany. In these countries, English is taught as one of the subjects in the curriculum. Indeed, it may not even be required in order to obtain a high school diploma. English is taught in these countries in much the same way as French or German is taught in the U.S.--as another foreign language. In Malaysia, some people have argued that English is becoming more akin to a foreign language rather than a second language as more and more of its citizens become less proficient in English. I maintain, however, that the second language status will continue to be preserved as the government becomes more aware of the need to have the citizens proficient in English in the interest of international trade and industry, science and technology, and international communication. Indeed, as the country moves into the 21st century and achieves the status of an 27 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  39. 39. industrialized nation, similar to that already achieved by Taiwan, Korea, and Singapore, it is likely that English learning will gain momentum and regain some, if not all, of its former importance. Theoretical Development of ELT Various approaches or methods to the teaching of English as a second/foreign language have evolved since the beginning of this century. Hammerly (1985) argues that comprehensive theories of language teaching have only developed in recent years. He further says that the history of language teaching has been largely one of methods based on implicit partial theories. According to Hammerly (1985), the theories that have been in use are the Logico-Literary Theory, the Structural-Behaviorist Theory, the Naturalistic Theory, the Sociopsychological Theory, and the Sociolinguistic Theory. A discussion of the theoretical developments of English language teaching follows in order to provide a clearer illustration of the developments. The Logico-Literary Theory spawned the Grammar- Translation Method in which translation is used to practice grammar. A fundamental purpose of learning a foreign language using this method is to be able to read its literature. Little emphasis is accorded to the development of the student's ability to communicate in the target language, and the student's native language is used 28 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  40. 40. liberally during instruction (Larsen-Freeman, 1986). One consequence of this is that graduates of grammar-translation programs are able to describe language linguistically and read the literature, but can hardly speak with any measure of fluency. The Structural-Behaviorist Theory accounted for the development of the Audio-Lingual Method--a method which had significant impact during the Second World War (Krashen & Terrell, 1983). At that time, the public became aware that the available methods of teaching foreign languages were deficient especially if speaking profiency were the goal. Language educators had to find a quick and effective way for soldiers to communicate in the native language of the country in which they were stationed. Hence, the Audio- Lingual Method was born--a method that emphasized the learning of dialogues through drills and memorization. Language learning, according to this method, is a process of habit formation, and the teacher serves as a model speaker of the target language (Larsen-Freeman, 1986). In contrast to the Grammar-Translation method, the use of the student's native language is religiously avoided under the assumption that its use would interfere with the acquisiton of the target language. However, a contrastive analysis of the two languages is used by the teachers in order to predict possible grammatical or pronunciation difficulties. In the teaching of English to Bahasa Malaysia speakers, for 29 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  41. 41. example, an ESL teacher might predict difficulty for the learners acquiring or learning the verb "to be" as verb conjugations do not exist in Bahasa Malaysia. Another theory in use is the Naturalistic Theory in which language learning is thought to be more successful if it imitates as closely as possible the process of natural language acquisition, i.e., the learning of the first language/mother tongue. Methods that share some features of this theory are the Direct Method, the Total Physical Response method(Asher, 1977), and the Natural Approach (Krashen & Terrell, 1983). A feature of the Total Physical Response (TPR) approach is that language teaching should closely imitate that which an infant hears, that is, commands and instructions from a caregiver. A principle of the Natural Approach is that comprehension precedes production. Thus there is a period of silence before a speaker can produce speech. An important feature of the Natural Approach is the requirement that a learner's "affective filter" to learning a language must be lowered in order to maximize acquisition. "Affective filter" is defined as the positive or negative feelings a learner has toward the target language people and culture. The higher the affective filter, the higher is the resistance to learning, and hence, the more difficult it will be to acquire the target language (Krashen & Terrell, 1983). 30 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  42. 42. Other theories that have been popular in the field of second language teaching are the Sociopsychological Theory and the Sociolinguistic Theory. The former generated various methods such as the Silent Way (Gattegno, 1972), Community Language Learning (Curran, 1976), and Suggestopedia (Lozanov, 1978) . These methods stress the importance of the learners' feelings. According to Hammerly (1985) these methods went well with the mood of the sixties and seventies which emphasized that young people wanted to "do their own thing" (p. 18). The latter theory produced the Communicative Approach in which communication is valued over grammatical accuracy. All of these theories, and the methods that grew out of them, have led to a diversity in the ways English is taught and learned. This diversity is reflected in the ways teachers make sense of the curriculum and, subsequently, make decisions about instructional practices, for example, one teacher may regard a reading text and its accompanying exercises as strictly the transmission of information and that the interpretation of the text is strictly the author's own; another teacher, however, may judge reading as involving the students' prior knowledge or schema and that the students' own interpretations of the text are equally valid. The plethora of methods available to the language teachers has significant implications for English teaching 31 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  43. 43. and learning, especially for second language learners. For one thing, it means that students have been exposed to a particular method depending on the time they learned English and the convictions of their teachers. For another, non­ native English language instructors who were trained in a methods course when a certain method was prominent are likely to have been taught that particular method. Consequently, the way these teachers may have initially learned English may be different from the way they were taught pedagogical skills in the ESL methods class. This may lead to the development of conflicting beliefs or uncertainties about the best way to teach English. Thus it is important to discover whether exposure to different methods while initially learning the language, and then while taking professional ESL methods classes, have influenced teachers to teach in differing styles. Teachers' Beliefs and Practices Many attempts to define beliefs have generally considered beliefs in relation to knowledge (Pajares, 1992; Nespor, 1987; Abelson, 1979). Abelson (1979) noted that with the advent of cognitive science, it became possible to examine belief systems in relation to other aspects of human cognition and human affect. Although the study of belief systems is closely related to the study of knowledge systems, Abelson asserted that the former have sufficient 32 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  44. 44. unique features to warrant their study as a separate topic. Abelson, and subsequently, Nespor (1987), identified seven distinguishing features between beliefs/belief systems and knowledge. As opposed to knowledge, beliefs are 1) non- consensual, 2) based on existence or non-existence of certain conceptual entities, 3) representations of alternative worlds, 4) dependent on evaluative and affective components, 5) dependent on critical episodes in life, 6) unbounded, and 7) held with varying degrees of certitude. These features, according to the authors, differentiate beliefs from knowledge. For example, the non-consensual nature of beliefs may be seen in the following situation. In English language teaching, although two teachers may possess the same knowledge about grammar, the way they teach it may differ. One teacher may believe that teaching grammar is a matter of memorizing rules, while another may believe that teaching grammar must involve meaningful use of the language. Thus beliefs can be considered as the lens through which teachers interpret knowledge that guide their behaviors. In a comprehensive study of the research literature on teachers' beliefs, Pajares (1992) noted that the difficulty in defining the term "belief" has compounded the examination of teachers' beliefs. He suggested that defining beliefs is at best a game of player's choice. According to him, beliefs have travelled under the guise of "attitudes, 33 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  45. 45. values, judgments, axioms, opinions, ideology, perceptions, conceptions... implicit theories, explicit theories, personal theories, internal mental processes, repertoires of understanding..." (p. 309). Other researchers have offered other definitions. Eisenhart, Shrum, Harding, and Cuthbert (1988a) offer axioms, culture, perspective, social strategy, rules of practice, practical principles, and cognitive style, as some of the terms or synonyms used to describe teachers' beliefs prevalent in educational research literature. They also noted, " [A] belief is a way to describe a relationship between a task, an action, an event, or another person and an attitude of a person toward it." (p. 53). Kagan (1992a) says that teachers' beliefs are a provocative form of personal knowledge; and although somewhat misleading, teacher beliefs have generally been defined as preservice or inservice teachers' implicit assumptions about students, learning, classrooms, and the subject matter to be taught. Clark and Peterson (1986) regard teachers' theories and beliefs as an important component of teachers' thought processes. Although not a focus of this study, other components of teachers' thought processes are teacher planning (preactive and postactive thoughts) and teachers' interactive thoughts and decisions. They suggest that teaching innovations that take teachers' beliefs into consideration are more likely to be regarded with 34 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  46. 46. enthusiasm, persistence, and thoroughness. They also say that teachers' beliefs are one basis for teachers' classroom decisions. However the other components of teachers' thought processes are also reflective of and contributory to beliefs and practices. Eisenhart, Cuthbert, Shrum, and Harding (1988b) echo this sentiment. In a study of the effects of policy changes on teachers' work, they discovered that educational policies that are implemented without attention to teachers' beliefs are seldom implemented the way researchers suggested. For example, the inclusion of resume-writing in an English curriculum was not accepted by a group of teachers in their study who believed that it was not their job to teach students to write job resumes. For another group of teachers, however, teaching resume writing was a welcomed relief from the tedium of teaching English grammar rules. These researchers identified three domains of teachers' beliefs toward their work activities. These were positive, mixed or ambivalent, and negative attitudes toward activities. Teachers in their study felt most positively toward activities that pertained directly to classroom instruction, for example, fostering student achievement. In contrast, teachers felt least positively toward activities outside their immediate classroom milieu, for example, developing new curricula. Hollingsworth (1989) studied the beliefs of preservice teachers prior to, during, and after a 35 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  47. 47. 9-month graduate teacher education program. In that study, she discovered that "preprogram beliefs served as filters for processing program content and making sense of classroom contexts" (p. 168). Horwitz (1988) makes no distinction between beliefs about language learning and beliefs about language teaching. She says that there is a degree of overlap between the two. In her study assessing the beliefs of students regarding the learning of a foreign or second language (1985), she discovered that it is essential for students to assess their beliefs and assumptions about language learning in order to either reject or support long-held beliefs about language acquisition. For example, students who believe that learning a foreign language is easy will be disappointed if their experiences do not mirror their expectations. In the same manner, teachers who perceive language learning to be easy will place unnecessary expectations on their students, and will be disappointed if the students are not making the expected progress within a certain period. Consequently, teachers must also assess or question their own beliefs about language learning. Their expectations of students' achievement should be realistic in order to facilitate both their own teaching and the students' learning. Horwitz (1985) further says that the assessment of the linguistic backgrounds of both teachers and students will insure the most effective language teaching. An 36 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  48. 48. awareness of the differences and/or similarities between the linguistic backgrounds and experiences of teachers and students might alert teachers to possible problems and difficulties that their students are likely to encounter in learning a new language. In a study on developing a measure for assessing ethnic beliefs, Murphy (1985) suggests that it is essential for teachers to assess the beliefs that students might have toward the speakers of the language they are learning. The example he provided related to American students' beliefs regarding the German people. An evaluation of the students' beliefs about the Germans revealed both positive and negative attitudes toward the Germans. For example, a student whose steel town was facing economic difficulties, blamed the German steel industry. According to Krashen and Terrell (1983), a negative attitude might lead to high anxiety which in turn prohibits effective learning of the target language. In a similar manner, teachers' beliefs and positive or negative attitudes toward the target language group may facilitate or hinder their own teaching. Fenstermacher (1979) argues convincingly that if policymakers want teachers to change their practice, it is necessary that teachers' existing beliefs be examined. Only when knowledge about their beliefs is available will teachers scrutinize their classroom actions, and think about whether they need to make changes or modifications to their 37 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  49. 49. existing practices. It is thus important that ESL instructors' beliefs about English be examined in order for them to be as effective as possible in their practice, as well as in helping their students to acquire the language. However, the study of ESL instructors' beliefs must also include reflection about them on the part of the believers, not just by researchers. In Malaysia, most ESL instructors, either at the college or public school level, have experienced the process of learning English as a second language. The initial learning took place in schools or at home, and subsequent learning has taken place at the tertiary (college) level. Other experiences of learning English may have come from the television, radio, and newspapers, and from members of their family and friends who are proficient in English. It is likely that these teachers were exposed to different styles of teaching and different methods of learning English, depending on the method prevailing at that time. Subsequently, in their own training as ESL teachers and in their ESL methods classes, they may have been introduced to yet another different approach to teaching English. The exposure to different styles and methods of learning English, whether formally or informally, and then to the ESL methods classes may lead to the development of competing belief systems regarding the teaching of English. Furthermore, this exposure may also lead to different styles 3 8 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  50. 50. of teaching that may or may not be congruent with the teachers' own beliefs about language learning and teaching. Conclusion The review outlined above demonstrates to us the evolving field of English Language Teaching (ELT), and presents recent research on teachers' beliefs. The evolving nature of English language teaching has the potential to affect not only students, but also their teachers who have to keep pace with developments in teaching methods and theories. Certainly, the constant development in the field will- contribute significant influences on the way teachers design instructional activities, on the way they present these activities to their students, on whether teachers keep up with the theoretical and pedagogical developments in the field, and on whether they remain comfortable with what they perceive to be the tried and tested ways of teaching the language. Discussions about method remain hotly debated in the field. Many researchers inevitably include discussions of the orthodoxy or dominance of certain methods in their writings (see Prabhu, 1990; Pennycook, 1989; Howatt, 1984; Richards, 19 84; Richards & Rodgers, 1982). Celce-Murcia (1991) made an interesting observation that often language teachers are unaware of the history of the field and of the developments in language teaching. Teachers, certainly, 39 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  51. 51. must be informed of the history of language teaching and of past and current theories about the nature of language learning and teaching; this is essential in order for them to formulate a coherent set of beliefs about teaching methods that can better inform them of their practices, the subject matter they teach and the clients they serve. By examining the beliefs of the ESL instructors, and by exploring with them their own instructional practices, I hope to discover what teachers' beliefs are about language learning and teaching, whether teachers' beliefs are consistent with their classroom practices, and find out the conditions and variables that encourage or inhibit teachers' practice of what they believe to be best practices in language learning in their classrooms. 40 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  52. 52. CHAPTER THREE METHODOLOGY Overview This study examined the beliefs about language learning and teaching of a selected group of Malaysian ESL teachers. It also examined the nature of the relationship between teachers' beliefs about language learning and teaching and their classroom practices. A descriptive case study methodology was used. In case studies, descriptions are likely to be complex, holistic, and involve a myriad of related variables (Stake, 1983). The case study method was used because description and explanation were sought rather than prediction based on cause and effect (Merriam, 1988). Selection of Participants A large group interview was planned between a group of ESL teachers and me to permit me to introduce my research and seek their assistance. But because I was in the United States without the possibility of a short trip to Malaysia, another option was considered in order to facilitate the decision-making process. Before I returned to Malaysia from the U.S. to arrange for my study, I sent a packet of documents to a teacher in the program whom I had asked in an earlier visit to act as my assistant. The packet contained 41 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  53. 53. copies of 1) a form letter addressed to the teachers explaining the nature and purpose of my research, (see Appendix A), 2) an abstract of the dissertation proposal, and 3) the Informed Consent Statement (see Appendix B). The purpose of sending these documents ahead of my visit was to inform the teachers of my research intention, and to allow them time to think through the possibility of becoming involved in the study before I arrived at the site. As soon as I arrived at the site, I immediately conferred with my assistant and discussed possible participants for the research study. Several times during the first week of my visit there, I met and spoke informally with the teachers in the program from which the subjects were to be selected to find out who might be interested in participating in the study. I explained the nature and purposes of the research inquiry, and what would be expected of the teachers should they decide to participate. I also replied to their questions and concerns regarding the intention and direction of the study. As it was well into the third week of their semester, I thought teachers would have smoothed out any snags in their timetables and would be in a better position to say whether or not they could participate in the study. From these informal meetings, four instructors were invited to participate in the in-depth study. Selection was based on clarity of educational and theoretical beliefs 42 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  54. 54. espoused in our initial discussions, and also on what I projected to be possible differences of theoretical orientations among the individuals. Another criterion for selection was the respondents' sincere interest and willingness to participate in an intensive. A further factor that was considered was that these four participants were representative of the two spectrums of Malaysian ESL teachers. Two of them were educated when the language of instruction in schools was English, and the other two were educated in the early years when the medium of instruction changed to Bahasa Malaysia. I conjectured that looking at two sets of teachers educated in two different mediums of instruction might offer two contrasting descriptions of teachers' experiences. The four participants were college-level ESL instructors who have bachelor's degrees in either education or ESL, and master's degrees in applied linguistics or education. One has also obtained a doctoral degree in sociolinguistics. All of them have learned English as a second language either beginning at home or in the Malaysian public schools. The language of instruction in these schools could have been all-English or all-Bahasa Malaysia, or it could have been in transition from all-English to all- Bahasa Malaysia (the language of instruction in schools changed from English to Bahasa Malaysia in the early seventies). Three of the participants have obtained some 43 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  55. 55. part of their professional training in universities in the United Kingdom, and the fourth received both her bachelor's and master's degrees in the United States. Two of them also received their first degrees in Malaysia. Three of the participants have taught at the public school level prior to teaching at the college level. At the time of this study, the participants had teaching experiences ranging from three to 37 years. These instructors have taught the various components of English such as grammar, reading comprehension, writing, and listening and speaking, and critical thinking at the matriculation level. This is the way the ESL curriculum is divided in this program. Of the four participants, only one has taught in the degree program. Data sources Multiple data sources were used in order to obtain a holistic picture of the teachers. These were semi­ structured interviews with the participants in the study (Merriam, 1990); observations of their classrooms; semi­ structured interviews with teacher-selected students in order to elicit their views about language learning; examination of documents such as teachers' lesson plans, handouts, homework assignments, student journals, and others that were identified as the study progressed; informal conversations with non-participant teachers in the faculty 44 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  56. 56. lounge; and informal conversation with the supervisor of the TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) teacher preparation program. Students who participated in the study were selected by the teachers involved in the study. The students represented a spectrum of abilities, from weak, to average, to good based on the teachers' evaluations. The students were not the focus of this study, but their input was considered important as a form of triangulation of teacher reported and researcher observed teaching by the participants. The key participants were interviewed three times outside of their class times. These interviews which were usually between one to two hours were conducted in the privacy of the Faculty Resource Room, the Conference Room, or in the teachers' own offices. Other secondary sources were interviewed in an informal manner, either in the faculty lounge or along the corridor. The interviews with the non-participant teachers and teacher-selected students were a way of triangulating data. For example, the interview with some students of the participants enabled me to find out whether teachers articulated their language beliefs to their students, and whether, if they did so, their students were able to identify these beliefs in their daily interactions with their teachers. Another data source was observations of the classroom teaching of the selected participants. Initially two 45 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  57. 57. observation sessions of their classroom teaching were planned for each instructor; however, illness and an unscheduled week-long mandatory inservice workshop for the teachers prevented the observation of two of the subjects for the second time. I was able to observe two teachers twice in their classrooms, each observation period was one hour. The other two teachers were observed once each, one for a two-hour period and the other for a one-hour period. Following Merriam (1988), my role was as "observer as participant" in which my involvement as participant in the class activities was regarded as definitely secondary to my role as information gatherer. All the teachers introduced me to the class the first time I observed them; invariably, I was greeted very politely by the students. The observations focussed on instructional features that teachers professed they carry out in class, for example, the use of lectures, group work, grammar drills, communicative activities, handouts; the general behavior of the teachers and students; and student and teacher interactions. As it was impossible to concentrate on all aspects of classroom action at the same time, I only concentrated on features that I anticipated would illuminate my research questions. These were teachers' beliefs about language learning and teaching; the relationship of beliefs to instructional practices; and the 46 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  58. 58. factors that encourage and/or inhibit the translation of beliefs into practices. The interviews with and observations of selected teachers constituted primary data sources for the study; data from the students and the supervisor, the informal conversations with faculty, and the documents constituted secondary data sources. Data collection techniques The interviews were tape-recorded in order to allow me to concentrate on such things as "non-verbal behaviour and physical environment of activities" (Hammersley & Atkinson, 1983, p. 159). The use of the tape-recorder allowed for accuracy, and also provided accurate documentation for quotations, or illustrations in support of my interpretation of the data. As mentioned earlier, the primary participants were interviewed three times. The first interview was rather exploratory; we discussed the personal and professional developments of the teachers. Their language learning experiences were also discussed at this interview. In addition I asked preliminary questions about their theoretical orientations and beliefs of the participants, and the sources of their beliefs if they could identify them in their personal history as students and teachers. 47 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  59. 59. The second interview was an in-depth session which followed a classroom observation. To follow Elbaz (1981), after the first, and before subsequent interviews, I played the tape-recording of the interview several times in order to make preliminary notes and to write down questions to be asked at the next interview session. The second interview served to clarify questions that I had regarding the classroom observation; teachers were also invited to explain and elaborate on some of their classroom actions. It was also an opportunity for them to ask me questions regarding the progress and direction of the study. At this interview, too, I shared my preliminary interpretations about their conversations with me, and sought clarification about these interpretations. In the interviews we talked about students, the syllabus, the theories and nature of language learning, and their professional experiences. We also continued our discussion about their beliefs and classroom practices. The last interview followed the last classroom observation. Besides clarifying certain observation features with them, it also served as a debriefing session, at which time I confirmed with my respondents individually my exploratory interpretations of their words and classroom behaviors. This reconfirmation was carried out by asking them again certain questions that I had posed at the previous meeting. When there was a need, for example when 48 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  60. 60. participants wanted to confirm what they had said previously, portions of the recording were played back to them, or excerpts from the fieldnotes read to them. I also apprised them of the subsequent steps in my research study, and informed them of the possibility that I might need to contact them further for clarification should the occasion arise. This interview also served another purpose, i.e., the respondents were encouraged to affirm, modify, or repudiate my interpretations of what they had said in the preceding interviews. Classroom observations were initially tape-recorded in order to provide accurate documentation of events. The purpose was also to enable me to concentrate on other features or activities in the classroom that could not be captured on tape. However, the use of the tape-recorder was subsequently discarded as the background noise that came from the outside was constant, and prevented a clear tape- recording from being obtained. Perhaps, it is important to note here that none of the classrooms was air-conditioned; in order to facilitate the flow of air and, hopefully, a cooling breeze into the classroom, each classroom was equipped with windows on the left and right side of the room. The classrooms were also separated from one another by thin walls that did little to filter out the noise coming from one classroom to the other. Although many times during the observations, I had to strain my ears in order to hear 49 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  61. 61. what the teachers and students were saying, the students and teachers generally seemed to be oblivious to this irritating distraction. Noise came from vehicles coming in and out of the compound, from the blowing of the horns of mobile vendors, from other classrooms, from the shrieks and laughter of children playing outside their houses close to the building, and even from the raucous chirping of the birds which could be heard very clearly. Another source of noise came from the hum and whirr of the four ceiling fans in the classrooms that valiantly attempted to provide some cooling breeze. As mentioned earlier, observations focussed on practices that teachers said they followed in their teaching. I had also hoped to observe atypical happenings, things that might not illustrate teachers' beliefs but might highlight occurrences peculiar to that situation. There might be incongruence between beliefs and practices. Merriam (1988) says, "As an outsider an observer will notice things that have become routine to the participants themselves, things which may lead to understanding the context" (p. 88). In the subsequent interviews, teachers were asked to clarify or explain any perceived incongruence. Another data source was the fieldnotes which I consistently wrote during both the interviews and observations. The observation fieldnotes were kept in a 50 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  62. 62. separate folder that I had created for each participant. Any class handouts or lesson plans that I received from them were identified and included in the folder. I also kept a research journal in which I jotted down pertinent ideas about each participant and questions that I considered important to ask at the subsequent meetings. As soon as each interview was over, and as soon as time allowed, I reviewed the fieldnotes, and wrote narratives based on the interviews. I followed Erickson's (1986) suggestion that a fundamental principle of this subsequent reflection and write-up was that it should be completed before returning to the .field to do further observation. When time did not allow, I narrated my observations into a tape recorder. In order to avoid fatigue and memory lapses, I interviewed only one participant a day. The fieldnotes were used to record the participants' non-verbal language like facial expressions or hand gestures, and descriptions of settings-- features that would certainly be missed on the recording. When all the interviews had been conducted and the data gathered, I transcribed verbatim each tape-recording of the interviews; important information such as the time, date, and place where the interviews occurred were recorded. During the transcription process, I continued to make notes of ideas that arose or to jot down on the wide margins of the pages themes or questions that frequently emerged. The pages of each interview transcript were numbered to 51 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  63. 63. facilitate reference and retrieval of information in the writing up process of the study. During analysis, and subsequent writing, fieldnotes were juxtaposed against the transcripts as a means of verifying and amplifying data. The data sets--verbatim transcriptions of each interview, fieldnotes, and personal analytic memos--were combined to produce individual case studies of the participants. Data analysis techniques Preliminary and exploratory analysis was ongoing, beginning with the first interview and observation. This aided in the formulation and clarification of research questions that continued into the process of writing up the study (Hammersley & Atkinson, 1983). In other words, "theory building and data collection are dialectically linked," (p. 175). The process of data collection and analysis was recursive and dynamic--the initial interview was followed up by subsequent interviews to allow for clarification and modification; analysis became more intensive once all the data had been collected although it had been a continuous activity (Merriam, 1988). Following Merriam, the data that had been gathered were organized in sets in order to build the case report for each respondent, for example, interview transcripts, observation fieldnotes, lesson plans, syllabus, and class handouts, were gathered together into a single folder for each participant. 52 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  64. 64. Before I embarked on the actual writing of the study, I perused each data set in its entirety several times to allow themes or topics to emerge. According to Merriam (1988), "[a]t this stage the researcher is virtually holding a conversation with the data, asking questions of it, making comments, and so on" (p. 131). During these readings, I continued to take notes, make comments, and note queries, and these were recorded in the margins of the field notes, or in my journal. I also made a list of general themes for each participant which aided in the subsequent coding activity. After these readings, I began coding the data into the themes that emerged, for example, personal history, family influences, formal and informal language learning experiences, main influences in learning, professional education, teaching experiences, instructional practices, and language beliefs. These data were then transferred onto index cards, for the first case study, and computer files for the subsequent case studies; these data were identified by a code I had assigned for each respondent. The manual transfer of units of information onto index cards was subsequently replaced in favor of the faster transfer of information on computer files, this latter technique mirrored closely what was done manually with the index cards. The interview number and page number of the interview transcript were also recorded at the top of each 53 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  65. 65. index card and computer file. Information that was recorded on each index card and computer file pertained to the themes that were dominant for each respondent. These data were subsequently categorized into the broader themes that guided the write up of each case study. The categories that were developed related to l) the respondents' personal history, 2) their language learning experiences, and 3) their language beliefs and teaching practices. Data from documents such as lesson plans and class handouts were scrutinized and summarized according to the features of methods that they embodied, or that the teachers identified as embodying certain methods of teaching English. This information was interwoven into the themes that emerged in order to illustrate further the relationship between a teacher's instructional practices and beliefs. The fieldnotes from the observations and other documents were juxtaposed against the interview transcripts in order to provide a narrative rendering of each respondent. In the writing phase, I used the words of the respondents in order to capture the essence of their speech and to minimize misinterpretation on my part. Although the data were from formal interviews, it must be noted that these speeches occurred in a conversational manner. Although I had a set of interview protocol to guide me (see Appendix C), occasionally we also discussed other issues that did not pertain directly to the research questions but 54 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  66. 66. which contributed a natural ambience to the atmosphere. This was encouraged in order to make the tone of the interviews less threatening to the respondents and to help them open up to me more spontaneously. As is to be expected, the interview sessions reflected normal speech in that they were often characterized by fillers, false starts, pauses and hesitations, repetitions, and simultaneous speech by both respondent and researcher. Another characteristic of conversational speech is that there is less monitoring of speech and less attention paid to grammatical accuracy, a fact of normal speech. Although by any standards these respondents are considered to be very fluent speakers of English, the reader may find some grammatical idiosyncracies of Malaysian speech such as the deletion of verb endings, the misuse of certain modality, the use of the historical present, and some occasional turns of phrases or word choices that might sound unfamiliar to the native-speaker readers but which are extremely common in the Malaysian variety of English, a fact acknowledged by Platt, Weber, and Ho (1984). Initially I used "sic" to indicate when the respondents used non-standard English. However, that seemed to be more distracting than helpful. Therefore in the final presentation, I have not used "sic." These quotations, which have been footnoted according to the interview number and page number of the interview transcript, have been reproduced verbatim in the case 55 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  67. 67. studies. The use of ellipses indicates a pause in the conversation. The first number in the parenthesis indicates the number in the series of interviews for each respondent; the number after the colon indicates the page number of the interview transcript. Whenever data from the observation fieldnotes are directly quoted, they are footnoted according to the number of the observation; this information is then followed by the date and month when the observation occurred. Data from student interviews are footnoted according to the date when they occurred. Establishing trustworthiness In qualitative studies it is essential that the researcher outlines his or her method for establishing that the studies have been conducted in the most trustworthy manner possible. In experimental studies the issues of internal and external validity are already built into the process of research design. But since this was a qualitative study it was necessary to follow Merriam's (1988) broad concepts of internal validity, reliability, and external validity in order to establish the study's trustworthiness. Internal validity deals with the issue of how the findings matched reality. In this study, the issue of internal validity was dealt with first by triangulation, in which multiple sources of data and multiple methods were 56 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  68. 68. used to confirm findings to assure that the information from various sources were consistent. Multiple sources referred to the various groups of people who were interviewed in the study--the primary participants, the students, and the non­ participant instructors--the syllabi, the texts and other supporting documents. The multiple methods criterion was met by a series of interviews and observations that I engaged in. A second method used to establish internal validity was member checking in which data and interpretations that initially were made by me were taken back to the participants at subsequent interviews for confirmation or modification. During the second and last interviews I reminded subjects about what they had said in previous interviews and asked them to confirm, modify, or change what they had said earlier. This was considered to be neccessary as during the analysis and writing process, the subjects were not easily-reached by me. The last method was persistent observation, the purpose of which was to permit me to identify those characteristics and elements in the situation that were most relevant to the problem or issue being pursued (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). Persistent observation also allowed me to identify and assess salient factors and crucial atypical happenings. Persistent observation is distinct from prolonged engagement whose purpose is to allow a researcher to learn the culture of the setting. If a researcher is totally new to a 57 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  69. 69. setting, he or she would have to spend a considerable amount of time learning the norms, procedures, and culture of the environment. Erickson (1986) says that oftentimes researchers must conduct a comprehensive survey of the setting and its surrounding environments prior to beginning the research activity. This entails that the researchers be at particular places at particular times. This "sequential sampling" (p. 143) allows the researchers to obtain the full range of events that occurred in the day. Because of my previous experience as teacher and coordinator of the program, and my familiarity with many of the teachers, the length of time needed to reacquaint myself with the culture was indeed shortened. However, that previous experience did not negate the necessity to reorientate myself to the recent changes and developments in the program both in terms of policies and curriculum, and change in staff and faculty. According to Merriam (1988), "[R]eliability is problematic in the social sciences as a whole simply because human behavior is never static" (p. 170). Merriam further says, "Because what is being studied in education is assumed to be in flux, multifaceted, and highly contextual, because information gathered is a function of who gives it and how skilled the researcher is at getting it, and because the emergent design of qualitative studies precludes a priori controls, achieving reliability in the traditional sense is not only fanciful but impossible" (p. 171). However, there 58 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  70. 70. are ways to ensure reliability in qualitative studies. Merriam suggests making clear the researcher's positions vis-a-vis his or her biases, assumptions, and theories. In order to be clear, I kept a reflexive journal which was "a kind of diary in which the investigator on a daily basis, or as needed, records a variety of information about 'self’ .and method" (Lincoln & Guba, 1985, p. 327). Another was triangulation in that multiple sources of data and multiple methods of collecting data were used. A summary report of my reflection is presented in Appendix D to permit the reader to assess the validity of my report. External validity deals with whether findings of one study can be applied to another. In the traditional sense, this refers to the generalizability of the study. Lincoln and Guba (1985) suggest providing a rich, thick description of the phenomenon under study. They say this is necessary in order to "enable someone interested in making a transfer to reach a conclusion about whether transfer can be contemplated as a possibility" (p. 316). This study employed such a method to ensure external validity. I have described the program, the setting, the student body, and the individual faculty members, and most importantly, the way in which the faculty members make sense of their own beliefs and practices. The last issue to be dealt with in this section is the question of ethics. Ethical standards outlined in the Human 59 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  71. 71. Subjects Form were met. Each participant filled out and signed the Informed Consent Statement (see Appendix B) to indicate agreement to participate in the study. As has been mentioned in another section, participants were invited to participate in the study. The purposes of the study were outlined to them, as were the methods to be used. Steps have been taken in order to ensure the anonymity of the participants and the setting. Pseudonyms have been used for all proper names, program, and place names. Details regarding special places and people were altered to protect the anonymity of both the setting and the participants. Presentation of the study The study is presented in four case studies of the four subject teachers. Under each case, the experiences and interpretations of the participants are organized and presented according to themes that emerged. According to Merriam (1988), "[A] theme is an over-arching concept or theoretical formulation that has emerged from data analysis," (p. 190). Further, a theme is large enough to encompass much of the data collected and analyzed. Discussion of overall findings involved a cross-case analysis of the various cases studied; this is presented in Chapter Eight. Cross-case analysis increases the potential for generalizing beyond a single case, and would provide evidence of similarities and points of divergence in beliefs 60 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  72. 72. and practices of the subjects. As Merriam (1988) notes, the cross-case analysis makes the conclusions more compelling for a wider population and helps confirm or disconfirm data in the individual cases. Data that had been gathered were summarized by themes in which findings from other sources and literature were interwoven and integrated into the narrative. The conclusion and implications of the findings from this study and implications for future research are discussed in the concluding chapter. Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  73. 73. CHAPTER FOUR THE SOLDIER This is the story of Mr. Sarjit, a 37 year veteran of teaching. Although the central focus of this study was an examination of teacher beliefs about language learning and teaching, it was considered important to include a portrait of the respondent's early years because it is during this time that the foundation for language learning is set. For Mr. Sarjit, it was when he learned to speak English and his initial experiences as a student of language played a large role in influencing his beliefs about learning a language. The data for this story were collected from a series of formal and informal encounters. I interviewed him three times, each time between one and one and a half hours. To ensure privacy and maximum tape-recording quality, the interviews with Mr. Sarjit were conducted either in the conference room at his school or in an unoccupied office. Verbal permission to record the interviews had already been sought prior to the interviews. Formal permission was included in the Informed Consent Statement which he read and signed before the study began. Mr. Sarjit did not seem perturbed by the presence of the tape-recorder, although at first, he was leaning forward toward the recorder which was placed on the table separating the two of us and speaking 62 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  74. 74. more to the machine than to me. We also met informally on several different occasions in the faculty lounge and along the corridor, and sometimes we carried on a conversation during those times. I observed him two times while he was teaching, once in a writing class and the other time in a grammar class which was, admittedly, his favorite subject. At the time of this study, Mr. Sarjit was teaching five hours of writing and ten hours of grammar per week. His story presents a portrait of a man who witnessed WWII, who lived in Malaya when it was still colonized by the British, and who came into teaching during a time of national development. Mr. Sarjit also represents a group of teachers whom one might call, sadly, a "dying breed". In present-day Malaysia, it is uncommon to find a teacher whose formative years were spent when Malaya was under British rule and whose education singularly followed the British system of education. Most of these teachers have retired from the profession. The Making of a Teacher Mr. Sarjit was born into a Punjabi-speaking family in 1930 in a small town in the largest state in Peninsular Malaysia. This was twenty-seven years before Malaya (now Malaysia) gained independence from Britain, and twelve years before the onset of World War II. He began primary school in his hometown in 1938 and it was here that he started to 63 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
  75. 75. learn English, a language then used for public communication as well as for instruction. His schooling continued until 1942 when WWII erupted in his part of the world with the arrival of Japanese troops in Malaya. The Japanese were successful in driving the British army from Malaya and they stayed on until their surrender to the Allies in 1945. Mr. Sarjit's early years in school did not follow what one could consider to be a conventional pattern of schooling. As mentioned earlier, his first years of primary schooling were interrupted by the arrival of the Japanese army. During the first year of the Japanese occupation, Mr. Sarjit went to a Japanese school where he was required to learn the Japanese language. He did not remain long at the Japanese school, however. He fell ill and his parents sent him to a temple to recuperate and to learn the Punjabi language (his first language) more extensively. But even so, he learned Japanese. I was quite fluent up until five or six years after the war. And then it all rotted. (1:11) He attributed his loss of Japanese speaking ability to a lack of usage, which to him is an important factor in learning a language, and because it was no longer necessary to speak Japanese in then British Malaya. After the war ended he went to school for another year. The old British school system was immediately re- instituted at war's end. But this once more was interrupted because his parents decided to go back to India where they 64 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.