Developing Contemporary Teaching Perspectives for EFL Teachers

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| Volume 2 Index February 2009 |

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Title

Developing Contemporary Teaching Perspectives for EFL Teachers

 Author

Carlo Magno

De La Salle University, Manila

 

Bio Data:

Carlo Magno is presently an Assistant Professor at the Counseling and Educational Psychology Department at De La Salle University-Manila. He finished his PhD in Educational Psychology major in Measurement and Evaluation. His current research interests are psycholinguistics, self-regulation, learner-centeredness, and teacher performance. He has published in local and international refereed journals and has presented his studies at different international conferences

Abstract

The article focuses on contemporary perspectives in psycholinguistics that EFL teachers need to develop in order to teach effectively. A perspective explains much on how EFL teachers implement their teaching. These perspectives include: (1) Knowing how language is acquired to teach the language effectively; (2) being aware that what is known about learning in general may be different for learning EFL; (3) holding specific beliefs about learning EFL influence the teaching of EFL; and  (4) teaching is assessed by EFL by looking at teachers attitudes about teaching and learning. Given the perspectives, recommendations are provided for EFL teachers.

Introduction

Much research has been developed in line with what is effective in teaching in general. There is also a growing body of literature suggesting a variety of classroom strategies, techniques, and methods that promote better learning for students specifically in learning English as a Foreign Language. An important area in identifying what will and will not work in teaching EFL is how the teacher implements these methodologies. The available techniques, strategies, and methods in teaching would much depend on the teacher’s dispositions, beliefs, and ability to execute tasks related to teaching. This article provides contemporary perspectives in education, psychology, and psycholinguistics that teachers need to develop in order to make teaching EFL effective.

An EFL teacher needs to undergo a reflection not only on the resources and changes that will be made in the curriculum for effective EFL teaching, but also on their capabilities, beliefs, and dispositions to implement the changes. After rigorous training and education in strategies to teach EFL, the EFL teacher needs to assess to what extent they can implement what is learned in teaching EFL. This implies that the effectiveness in EFL teaching would depend on the perspective of the teachers themselves about what is learning and teaching. In order to make such strategies and methods in teaching EFL effective, the teacher needs to develop first a perspective on the nature of teaching and language learning. A perspective is a frame or a set of frames brought to bear on a situation that helps people make sense of it and take action (Anderson et al., 1992). EFL teachers need to develop a perspective in order to make EFL teaching more convincing and internally rewarding for them. These perspectives are based on contemporary empirical studies and reviews where the ideas are supported by evidence and accounted for by data. The perspectives for teaching EFL are discussed in the paper. 

1.  EFL teachers need to know how language is acquired to teach the language effectively.

Certain classroom methodologies are not just selected because they are recent or new, but because they match how students process language. There are new methodologies for teaching a language because it was found that there are different ways of learning a language. In ancient literature it was claimed that learners are born “tabula rasa” or “blank slate” where everything is filled as the individual develops. But we have discovered in the contemporary period that learners have schemas and are self-regulated that enable them to learn and process a foreign language. Knowing how learning EFL takes place enables the EFL teacher to match how the student processes information. The learner best processes information if their way of learning is matched by the way the teacher trains them. 

The role of theory in explaining how language is acquired continues to grow rapidly and EFL teachers need to keep abreast with these findings. An EFL teacher who gains access to studies explaining language development gains a better perspective in the selection, implementation, and outcome of their teaching. In order for an EFL teacher to gain access to these findings, they need to posses the ability to understand a large body of research. This means that teachers need to have a thorough understanding of research methodologies, designs, approaches, and analysis in order to access what is needed in order to teach EFL effectively. In one end, there is a need for language researchers all over Asia to continue and form research agenda in line with EFL and language acquisition. There are numerous research publications on line that provides free access to a corpus of knowledge about EFL and language acquisition such as the Asian EFL Journal and other sister journals.

2.  What is known about learning in general may be different for learning EFL.

The classroom strategies developed are mostly applied in a general context and it is important to look at the domain-specific subject areas such as teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL). Research findings on effective teaching are general in nature without considering that the body of research that learning takes place differently across different domain-specific subject areas. For example, literature indicates that metacognitive knowledge awareness does matter in learning and performance, but the study of Magno, de Carvalho, Lajom, Bunagan, and Regodon (2006) found that metacognitive knowledge awareness does not predict English oral proficiency. This result was also consistent in the study of Magno (2008) that knowledge of cognition does not predict English writing proficiency. What is known for teaching in general would change when applied and made specific for a subject area such as learning a foreign language. Teachers in language should be aware that if learning in general varies for learning a foreign language, then teaching foreign language such as English should be treated differently. 

3.  Teachers hold specific beliefs about learning EFL that influence their teaching of EFL.

Teachers’ beliefs’ on the nature of learning a language explain majority of their attitude and behavior in teaching EFL. Teachers’ beliefs about the nature of knowledge and learning are collectively termed as epistemological beliefs (Schommer, 1993). Epistemological beliefs play an important role in the learning process of EFL teachers and directly affect their teaching outcomes. It has been shown to influence individuals in terms of the learning that takes place in their problem-solving approaches and their persistence in facing difficult tasks (Schommer, 1993). Because of mounting evidence that these beliefs play an important role in learning (Hofer & Pintrich, 1997), researchers in the recent decades have examined the relation between individuals’ beliefs about knowledge and their learning and performance. This suggests that epistemological beliefs are related to teachers’ strategy use, conceptual change, and academic performance (Qian & Alvermann, 1995). Beliefs about knowledge and learning are classified under described five dimensions of beliefs (Schommer, 1990) as (1) ability to learn which refers to whether an individual believes that the control of knowledge acquisition is fixed at birth or is malleable; (2) structure of knowledge which refers to whether an individual believes that knowledge consists of isolated bits and pieces or of interconnected concepts; (3) speed of learning which refers to whether an individual believes that knowledge is acquired quickly or not at all or that knowledge is acquired gradually; (4) stability of knowledge which refers to whether an individual believes that knowledge is absolute or tentative; and (5) source of knowledge which refers to whether an individual believes that knowledge is handed down by authority or derived from reason.

More specifically, research findings showed that teachers who view that knowledge is actively constructed and constantly evolving value education more (Magno, 2009), and are more self-determined (Magno & Mendoza, 2009) than those who see knowledge as fixed and coming from an omniscient authority.

4.  EFL students’ assessments of the teacher’s performance is largely influenced by the teachers attitudes about teaching and learning. 

The feedback coming from the learners themselves is an important factor that shapes the teachers perspective on how to teach EFL. Assessing teacher performance is an important part of the teaching and learning process for the EFL teacher. The assessment and feedback coming from the students are used as basis for the EFL teacher to continuously search for better ways of teaching and learning EFL. There are many ways of assessing teacher performance but research findings showed that Asian students do not only look at the teacher’s overall performance but at the teachers’ desirable characteristics such as personality, and efficacy beliefs about teaching as well. More effective teachers are those that have personalities like bold, aggressive, extrovert, active, energetic, strong, good communicator, relaxed, practical, predictable, sensitive, open-minded, accepting, reasonable, gracious, expert, knowledgeable, wise, decisive, stable, rational, and sensible behaviors (Magno & Sembrano, 2007). Given these personalities, teachers tend to be rated highly on their teaching performance. It was also found that specific teaching variables such as learner-centeredness do not increase Asian students rating for teaching performance but more as a function of their personality. 

The direction that EFL teachers need to take now is to formulate beliefs that would help them become more effective such as those presented. It was emphasized that changing one’s perspective is the first step to improve EFL teaching practices. According to Anderson et al. (1992), when we have gained the perspectives, we learn to respond to situations by noticing phenomena that can be described, explored, and acted upon using psychological and educational concepts, principles, and theories. It is recommended for EFL teachers to (1) develop contemporary perspectives about teaching and learning EFL; (2) consider how learners’ knowledge, motivation, and development contribute to the meanings they make, the actions they take, and what and how they learn in classrooms; (3) Emphasize analysis of and action in teaching situations by selecting the best principles to guide practice and applying them carefully; and, (4) Gather information as EFL teachers teach about how students are responding.   

References

Anderson, L. M., Blumfeld, P., Pintrich, P. R., Clark, C. M., Marx, R. W., & Peterson, P. (1995). Educational psychology for teachers: Reforming our courses, rethinking our roles. Educational Psychologist, 30, 143-157.

Hofer, B. K., & Pintrich, P. R. (1997). The development of epistemological theories: Beliefs about knowledge and knowing and their relation to learning. Review of Educational Research, 67, 88-140.

Magno, C. (2008). Reading strategy, amount of writing, metacognition, metamemory, and apprehension as predictors of English written proficiency. Asian EFL Journal: Teaching Articles, 29, 15-48.

Magno, C. (2009, in press). Looking at Filipino preservice teachers value for education through epistemological beliefs about learning and Asian values. The Asia-Pacific Education Researcher.

Magno, C., de Carvalho, M., Lajom, J., Bunagan, K., & Regodon, J. (2006). Factors involved in the use of language learning strategies and oral proficiency among Taiwanese students in Taiwan and in the Philippines. Paper presented at the Langscape:  Exploring ways of Teaching Language and Literature, Singapore.

Magno, C. & Mendoza, A. (2009, in press). Epistemological beliefs as predictors of self-determination. The International Journal of Research and Review.

Magno, C. & Sembrano, J. (2007). The Role of teacher efficacy and characteristics on teaching effectiveness, performance, and use of learner-centered practices. The Asia-Pacific Education Researcher, 16, 73-91.

Schommer, M. (1990). Effects of beliefs about the nature of knowledge on comprehension. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82, 498-504.

Schommer, M. (1993). Epistemological development and academic performance among secondary students. Journal of Educational Psychology, 85, 406-411.

Qian, G., & Alvermann, D. (1995). Role of epistemological beliefs and learned helplessness in secondary school students’ learning science concepts from text. Journal of Educational Psychology, 87, 282-292.

Category: 2009