Abstract

This paper presents the beliefs of trainee teachers about language learning and teaching in a two year bachelor of education program. The study attempts to capture the beliefs and analyzes the impact of the theoretical course work. Data was collected from 35 trainee teachers and was analyzed through a mixed method design. The results of the study indicated changes in teacher beliefs

theoretical course work of the program brings changes in teacher’s beliefs.  

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The findings of the study might help in designing and developing effective teacher training programs.

Keywords: teacher beliefs, pre-service teacher education, beliefs about language learning and teaching.

What did the researcher do?

Why was it done?

How was it done?

Where was it done?

When was it done?

What is the relevance of this study (to imply that teacher cognition is important in the SL teaching, curriculum). Often teachers fail to implement certain methods and rely on their own intuition.

 

Introduction

Teachers’ beliefs play a major role in the teaching and learning process. Beliefs are ideas that each teacher carries. Beliefs influence the way they process the input during the course (Pajares, 1992).

They are believed to carry the previous experiences with them, accumulated as a result of apprenticeship of observation (previous educational experiences) of being a student over the years.   Most of the research indicates that the beliefs remain unchanged (Peacock, 2001; Powell, 1992; Wubbels, 1992).  This raises questions, to understand the mechanics of TTs’ beliefs to be studied in different contexts. The findings need to be utilized to make changes in the content and structure of teacher education programs.

Although it is not clear how beliefs are constructed by students during their educational lives, but the findings of some studies are promising and provide evidence. For instance, Nettle’s (1996) study indicated both stability and change in student teacher beliefs during the program. Some studies show that the beliefs change (Winitzy & Kaucak, 1997) while others do not indicate (Tillema & Knoll, 1997). But practicum seems to have a greater impact on student teachers’ beliefs.    

The change in findings can be attributed to the program structure and content. Structure and content in every program in selected to suite the context in which the course is offered. Bramald, Hardman and Leat (1995) rightfully mention that the nature and quality of teacher education program need to be considered as a variable. Most of the studies consider the course as a constant variable than a dynamic variable. This in itself can contribute to the change in findings.

This paper presents a study on student teachers beliefs about language learning, teacher, learner and teaching. The program is explained to understand how the structure of the program is designed. Thus this study enriches our understanding of STs’ beliefs by emphasizing that there is relationship between belief changes and the phases of the program at a University in India.

Student teacher beliefs

  How are beliefs formed?

What does the research suggest?

What kind of change in beliefs? Drastic cognitive change,

How do the changes impact teaching in the classroom?

The assumption is that the beliefs shape the student teachers teaching in classroom. 

SL teacher education and teacher beliefs

Refer to NCTE documents.

The content and context of the teacher education programme are the ration of theoretical courses and the practicum depend on nature, length of the program, cultural values and the expectations and needs of the society.

Theoretical framework

Simon Borg’s theoretical framework of teacher cognition

 

 

The study

Context

The study emerged from a need to explore the impact of pre-service teacher education program at a university on teachers’ cognition.  The program follows NCTE curriculum that is based on —————view of education.

Reasons for offering such a curriculum.

Students at the university have to complete one year of theoretical course work and one semester of practicum. English is taught as a second language in all the schools where the TTs are sent. The TTs may encounter challenges during the practicum. The theoretical input is provided to enrich their knowledge and help them to handle the challenges. The micro teaching prepares them for the practicum with a feedback from the .

There are challenges that the trainee teachers face. Some of the trainee teachers come from regional medium background.

Every student has to take entrance test to get admission into the program. The test includes multiple-choice test items assessing grammar, vocabulary knowledge and academic reading skills. The exam has not proven to have a washback effect on students.

The study attempted to know the beliefs of the TT’s at each phase and so the beliefs of the TTs’ are captured using a questionnaire.

Participants

Among the 40 students enrolled in the program in 2017, 35 STs were accessible for data collection. Their age ranged from 20 – 28. _______% participants were male and ——- % were female which is common in BEd program.

Attempts were not made to ensure homogeneity among the participants, except that they are all from the same batch. Some variables might influence the results, such as the educational background, socio-economic demography and their aim to attend the program were not controlled before data was collected. The trainers who taught them courses were not taken into consideration during the study.

Research Objectives

The aims of the study are

1.      Identify the beliefs of the ST’s beliefs about language learning and teaching when they entered the ELT program

2.      Explore the impact of each phase of the ELT program on TTs’ beliefs about language learning, teaching, language and learner.

3.      Examine if there were any negative beliefs held by the TTs’.

Data Collection

            The data for the study was collected using quantitative methods. The set of questions in the questionnaire were framed to capture the beliefs of TTs about teaching, learning, curriculum and learner. All the questions were given in English. The aim of the study was to gather data concerning the beliefs of the TTs. The questionnaire was administered when the TTs completed one semester. The  questions were refined to avoid confusion among students.

            35 students participated in the study. All the students in the program were not informed prior but it was administered at random. The participants are given names as TT1, TT2 to secure privacy.

            The demographical details of the participants were collected using a profile questionnaire.  It included items like age, gender, years of exposure to language, if parents were able to speak English, place of birth and place of education (if it was urban or rural area)

Data Analysis

The data was analyzed by the researcher using Microsoft word and Excel. It was classified into male and female groups. The responses were quantitatively analyzed. The data was classified into teaching, learning, learner, curriculum and syllabus. The data was refined through repeated analysis through a cyclic reading process. Trustworthiness of the data was enhanced through repeated reading. (ref).

The demographic data gathered were analyzed. Descriptive statistics such as frequency and percentage were utilized for analysis. The findings were referred to ensure homogeneity. However, certain details were not exploited to categorize or compare the findings.

Findings

The analysis of the TTs’ responses to the questionnaire showed that the participants were homogeneous in terms of their educational and socio-demographic background except 3 participants. They were from different parts of the country; most of them were from Kerala. All of them studied English as a second language.

 

__________ years of education in English as a medium of instruction. Age of the participants ranged between 20 – 27 (SD ). Thirty-five (89.8%) of the TTs were female and remainder of 5 (10.2%) were male. Most of them come from middle class background. All the TTs were either full-time graduates in English or post graduates specialized in English.  They enrolled for fulltime Bachelor of Education program at the EFL University.

Findings

The discussion of the quantitative data were categorized in terms of research objectives,

1)      Identifying the present status of TTs

2)      Exploring the impact of the theoretical coursework.

3)      Examining the curriculum

The data was quantified through coding and categorization in order to illustrate the change more clearly. Remarks of the participants were presented in quotations for providing indepth explanation.

Research question 1 identifying the current status

            The findings are indicated in the table 1 above. It showed that the TTs held a transmissive/traditional view of language teaching and learning. The TTs believed that learning English as a second language was a result of memorizing vocabulary items and practicing grammar so as to construct an infrastructure to develop communicative skills. They think learning English is a set of habit formation through rote memorization and repetition. Only 5 participants mentioned different strategies (such as use of activities and tasks) to help develop communicative competence in English.

As for the beliefs regarding teaching, —-% (F=  ) had traditional views of teaching L2. While % held mixed view (F=). However the male and female participants held different views. Some of the TTs believe that teacher was the only source of knowledge and had complete authority in managing the classroom and in selecting the appropriate materials. The findings of learners and teacher were parallel with those of learning and teaching. TTs expected a conservative role of teacher as source of , onus on the teacher.

The students role was considered as passive who rearly participates in the classroom discussion. Only few differed from the rest of the class.

Research question 2 exploring the impact of the program.

The findings helped to examine question 2. The participants believed that the most influential phase of the program was phase 2 (F= %). —— participants ( %) agreed that phase 2 had effect on their belief change. One student pointed that “healthy competition in the class was essential to keep the students motivated”.  ———- students believed that the theoretical coursework had impact, however it was little.

RQ 3 Examining the Curriculum

 This question aimed at exploring the phases and components of the program that should be modified to help TTs help develop effective beliefs. To examine the curriculum the data gathered for RQ1 and RQ 2 were exploited. Therefore the suggestions are based on the responses given by the TTs and to understand their perspectives.

They believed that the courses were grounded in ELT program

Limitations – the sample size being less in number, the results from this study cannot be generalized. 35 TTs may not represent the whole population. The differences among the participants could not be controlled. Taking these limitations the results have been carefully interpreted. 

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