You are on page 1of 19

Universidad Andrés Bello Facultad de Humanidades y Educación Magíster en la Enseñanza del Inglés como Lengua Extranjera

Methodology and Creativity I Classroom Research Project Term Paper

Professor Patricia Poblete (C) Angelica Inostroza 9 August 2010

Inostroza 1 Angelica Inostroza Professor Poblete Methodology and Creativity I 9 August 2010 INTRODUCTION “…teaching methodologies and descriptions of languages should interact to produce good teaching (i.e. that accountability should not end between linguists and academic applied linguists, but should apply between all groupings within the language teaching profession). Good descriptions and practical guidelines should influence methodology and methodological developments should influence the quest for better description and more accessible guidelines for learners”. Michael McCarthy Teaching does not begin and end within the boundaries of a classroom. It is clear that teachers do much more work than just delivering content and checking if this content has been learned by students, at least in the view of the researcher of the present project. Language teachers must look into theories, methodologies, strategies, techniques and activities adaptable to the needs and concerns of their students. To do this, which is not an easy task, the teacher must in a way become a practitioner applied linguist and a sociologist as the needs and concerns of students do not only come from the need to learn a language, but to their own social context. The present classroom research project lies under the qualitative approach that considers the exploratory-interpretive paradigm. The teacher video-taped a classroom activity, transcribed it and then made the analysis. The problem that arose in the lesson was

Inostroza 2 that of a student not understanding a lexicon item within an instruction. Therefore, this research is based on the steps the teacher took in order to make not only the student in particular, but the whole class to understand the instruction. The problem dealt with in this research paper considers the interactional view of language because it relates to the interpersonal relations and the performance of social transactions between individuals, which is the situation this project revealed. This paper is organized into sections including the introduction which is the first. Following, the reader will meet with the literature review to continue with the section related to data, which has been separated into background information about the students, and the school they belong to; the collection of data and its analysis. Finally the researcher states her findings drawing her conclusions to the importance of a teacher doing research to improve not only her teaching, but the performance of her students. Literature Review Research Method Considering that traditionally any type of research falls into a binary distinction between quantitative and qualitative research, it can be stated that the present classroom research project has a qualitative approach that considers the exploratory-interpretive paradigm. The study is cross-sectional as data were collected in one session, and it used the participant observation method as the researcher actively participates and is involved in the lesson. According to Reichardt and Cook (cited in Nunan 1992 p 3) there are elements of comparison between both research methods, where they state that a quantitative approach seeks facts or causes of social phenomena without regard to the subjective states of the individuals. On the other hand, they argue that a qualitative approach is concerned with

Inostroza 3 understanding human behaviour from the actor´s own frame of reference. Another important element to consider in Reichardt and Cook´s (1979) comparison is that quantitative research is objective, ungrounded, outcome-oriented and generalisable assuming a stable reality, whereas qualitative research is subjective, grounded, processoriented, ungeneralisable assuming a dynamic reality. Taking into account these differences, it is evident that the present research project is of the qualitative kind because the research itself focuses on the understanding of the behaviour of both teacher and students in the classroom, thus, the data collected are real and rich in the sense that it cannot be replicated nor generalised in the outcome as it considers a single case study. Grotjahn (cited in Nunan 1992 p 4) states that research cannot be divided merely into quantitative and qualitative research. Actually, he divides them into two groups, “exploratory-interpretive” and “analytical-nomological” paradigms. The first paradigm that he presents, and the one to be used in the present paper, is the exploratory-interpretive one. This paradigm, according to Grotjan (1987:59:60) and the types of research design that he proposes, utilises a non-experimental method, yields qualitative data, and provides an interpretive analysis of that data. The second paradigm takes into account that data are collected through an experiment and that data are subjected to statistical analysis, which is not the case in this study. Views of language According to McCarthy (2001), there are two ways of seeing language as an object of investigation: language as an abstract system and language as a social phenomenon. For the analysis of this paper, it must be clarified that even though the topic of the lesson is grammar, language will be seen through the social phenomenon rather than language as an

Inostroza 4 abstract system. The study of language as a social phenomenon views language only under the boundaries of social purposes, and although the activity of revising the structure of passive voice given as homework may lead to think straight forward in grammar, the analysis of this paper focuses exclusively on the steps the teacher takes to make students understand a task and not to the grammatical explanation of the passive voice. Based on the theoretical views of language of Anthony (1963), where he identifies three levels of conceptualization and organization, which he called approach, method and technique, Richards and Rogers (2001) found that Anthony´s proposal failed to give sufficient attention to the nature of a method itself as his proposal does not mention the role of teachers and learners assumed in a method or the role of instructional materials or the form they are expected to take, for example. Therefore, Richards and Rogers (2001) provide an improved model seeing approach and method treated at the level of design, where the roles of teachers, learners and instructional materials are specified. Regarding the level of technique in Anthony´s model they refer to it by the term of procedure. They conclude that “a method is theoretically related to an approach, is organizationally determined by a design, and is practically realized in procedure”. It will be this model which the present paper will consider for the analysis of this project, as follows: Richards and Rogers (2001) state that there are three main theoretical views of language: the structural view, the functional view and the interactional view. Broadly put, the structural view sees language as a system of structurally related elements for the coding of meaning and therefore, deals with terms such a phonological units, grammatical units, grammatical operations, and lexical items. The functional view emphasizes the semantic and communicative dimension and the interactional view considers language as a way to relate interpersonal relations and the performance of social transactions between

Inostroza 5 individuals. It is the latter to which the researcher will subscribe as it is exactly what she seeks for in the steps she takes to help students understand an instruction. Teaching/Learning Language, learning and teaching are not isolated concepts. It must be recognized that defining each of these three concepts is incredibly difficult and complex. Nevertheless, it is important for a teacher to take a stand and try to subscribe to some sort of definition in order to adopt a method in particular or an eclectic approach when trying to understand the principles of second language learning and teaching. According to Brown (1987) teaching cannot be defined apart from learning. Nathan Gage (1964:269) remarks that “to satisfy the practical demands of education, theories of learning must be “stood on their head” so as to yield theories of teaching.” Brown (1987) states that “teaching is guiding and facilitating learning, enabling the learner to learn, setting the conditions for learning”. Considering this definition and analyzing the data collected in the project, it can be seen a straight forward relationship between both. The teacher, in this research, carefully builds the steps to help the students understand an instruction, and in so doing she guides and facilitates learning, enabling the student to learn, and setting the conditions for learning during the class activity. Classroom research Chaudron (1988, p13-14) identifies four classroom research traditions: the psychometric tradition, which broadly speaking follows standard educational psychometric procedures, with comparison treatment groups and measurement of outcomes on proficiency tests. The interaction analysis tradition refers to the systems for the observation and analysis of classroom interaction in terms of social meanings and an inferred classroom climate. The discourse analysis tradition, which attempts to analyze fully the discourse of

Inostroza 6 classroom interaction in structural-functional linguistic terms, and the ethnographic tradition, which attempts to interpret behavior from the perspective of the participants´ different understandings. In this paper the researcher uses the discourse analysis tradition due to the fact that it is appropriate to understand what has been observed in the classroom activity. Sinclair and Coulthard (1975) state that there are instances in the classroom where the teacher and students conform to highly structured sequences. Thus, using the classroom data collected in this project, it can be clearly seen the pattern of question/answer/follow up. This pattern is also marked with discourse markers, which are indicators of the structure of discourse. The teacher gives students a clear signal of the beginning and end of the transaction. Also, considering classroom interaction it is necessary to refer to scaffolding, as the researcher uses it in her classroom interaction. Scaffolding is “the cognitive support provided by an adult or other guiding person to aid a learner, and is realized in dialogue so that the learner can come to make sense of difficult tasks” O´Keefe et al. (2007). This is exactly what the researcher does when trying to elicit from the student the right answer. Data Background Subjects: This class is composed of nine male students of 8th Grade B of The Mackay School. Their ages are between 12 and 13. These students are said to have a low grammatical competence. The School separates students into levels according to their linguistic performance. This group in particular is in the lowest level, and therefore they have been separated from the rest of their class to reinforce and apply grammar structures into different contexts. Three students suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). This

Inostroza 7 ADD is established according to the medical certificates provided by their parents. The assessment of the students is the same as other students who do not suffer from ADD, but the school has the policy of including these type of students in reduced groups where the teacher in charge has to give them more time for their test and further instruction, if necessary. The School: The school is located at 700, V.Mackenna Av., Reñaca, Viña del Mar. It was founded in 1857 with the aim of providing schooling to the children (all boys) of British and American settlers in Valparaíso. It serves 1.100 students from pre-school to secondary school. The School building is divided into six floors with a total of 60 classrooms, 3 computer laboratories, 3 science laboratories, a library, an auditorium, a gymnasium and 3 sport fields. Course: The course is composed of seven teaching hours per week. Six of these hours are devoted to the four skills of English – Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening. Additionally, all 8th grade students have an extra hour devoted solely to speaking skills, whatever level they belong to. They work fundamentally with the text book Passwords 1, which is related to text type instruction. The classroom: The classroom has been designed for 30 students. Each student has his own desk and chair. The classroom has a long white-board that covers the front wall facing the students. The classroom is equipped with a TV set and radio cassette/CD player. Data-show is provided upon previous request. Pertinent information about the video: The video was recorded in a spontaneous way. There was no rehearsing. The person who recorded it had no previous experience in doing so, therefore, her technical inexperience can be seen especially in holding the

Inostroza 8 camcorder steady in some parts. Otherwise, the video has a very good resolution and sound. Collection of data The first thing done regarding the video was to explain the activity and ask for permission from the Head of the English Department to video the lesson. She had no problem and even found the activity very interesting. The second thing done was to select the group to work with. The group chosen was 8th Grade B, because the researcher feels this group is a challenge in the sense that she has some type of problem in making them learn English. permission to record their class, and they accepted keenly. In terms of the selection of the activity, it must be said that it was at random. Students were told a week before that they would be recorded the following week in any activity related to the grammar point that was being studied, in this case the Passive Voice In terms of the video, there were no problems in recording. The researcher had the school camcorder available and charged, and a student-teacher present and willing to record the activity. Data Analysis Research Method This study has been done under the qualitative paradigm using the Participant Observation Method. It is a cross sectional approach as the data have been elicited in only one session. The study is based on a Discourse Analysis research framework. The framework is based on Question/Response/Follow up structure, according to Chaudron (1988), and She asked for the students´

Inostroza 9 Scaffolding (O´Keefe et al., 2007), where the objective is to determine what the teacher does in the classroom to help her students understand a task. Language theory The data were collected in one session video recording classroom interaction with her own students. The unit of analysis is based on the structure of Question, Answer and Follow up. What the teacher did was ask questions to her students, listen to their answer(s) and then continue with a follow up. The analysis is embedded in the social and cognitive operations which take place in the lesson. Classroom interaction The research question was: “What are the steps that a teacher follows in a grammar lesson to help students understand a task”, which arose out of the analysis of the lesson transcript. The research topic lies under the clarification of instructions given. What analysis describes is how the teacher faces the difficulty that a student has to understand a given instruction and how she (the teacher) confronts the issue and what theories support her decision(s). Teaching and Learning theories In order to show and differentiate the two different aspects of the lesson, the lesson has been divided into two parts. Part 1 shows how the students follow the teacher fluently and with least hesitation in the performance of the task using Question/Answer/Follow up analysis. Part 2, in contrast, shows how the teacher takes more time and makes pauses to help the student(s) to understand the task by means of questions and scaffolding. In this part, it is clear the contrast between the first part of the lesson, where the activity is fluent in terms of question-answer-follow up. In Part 2, it is evident that the teacher decides to change the strategy using scaffolding in order to make the student(s) understand the lexicon

Inostroza 10 that appears in the instruction. The instruction was “write a sentence in the passive voice using the following prompt”, which brought a problem to the student as he did not know the meaning of the word prompt. Part 1: Analyzing the first part of the lesson, it can be seen how the Question (Q), Answer (A), Follow up (F) structure works fluently in the development of this part of lesson. The teacher initiates the lesson eliciting in question form the tense moving afterwards to the passive voice form. Example: Teacher: What is the tense? Are we talking about teenagers now or teenagers in the past? Student 1: Student 2: Student 3: Teacher: Past Past Past What shows you that, tell me? Which is the clue that you have in this sentence [pause] that shows you that this is in the past? Student 1: Teacher: enjoy enjoy [pause] … and you think that enjoy is in the past? Student 2: Student 3: Student 4: Teacher: the present present present! Present! Enjoy is written.. Ok.. in the present, or not? (Q) (F) (Q) (A) (A) (A) (F) (Q/F) (Q) (Q) (A) (A) (A)

Inostroza 11 Student 2: Student 3: yes yes (A) (A)

The above example shows clearly the fluency in Q/A/F format, there is no hesitation on the part of the students to follow the task. In the next example the teacher continues the homework revision moving from tense to passive voice form using a hypothetical question. (HQ). It can also be noticed the use of discourse markers such as “ok” and “so” to start a question in the form of scaffolding (SC). Example: Teacher: ok. So [pause] if we want to use the passive voice, because now we don´t care about the millions of teenagers, yes? But we are interested in…? Student 2: the books (SC) (DM) (HQ)

The teacher continues her lesson and recaps from tense to the elicitation of the form of the passive voice. All this is done in a fluent interaction with students, there again using Q/A/F structure. Example: Teacher: in the books. So, first of all…, I want to put this here (on the screen). (F) First of all, the books… what happens with the books? Students: Student 4: Student 5: err..was enjoyed are… are enjoyed… (Q) (A) (A) (A)

Inostroza 12 Teacher: ok we said that this was[pause]present, or not? Enjoy we said it was present. When we transform… Student 4: Teacher: are enjoyed We need to maintain the present, or not? So how do we maintain the present? Student 5: Student 6: we use are…enjoyed the books are enjoyed…. (F) (F/Q) (A) (A) (DM) (F)

It can be appreciated that the follow up is done in three main ways, the first is confirming what students say by discourse markers, the second is by repeating the correct answer given by students and the third by making a question. In the next example, the teacher completes the form of the passive voice using again the same structure shown in the previous examples. Example: Teacher: enjoyed… their books or the books are enjoyed… ok Who enjoys the books? Student 6: Teacher: by teenagers if we want to add more information we would write, yes, by millions of teenagers. Yes or no? Students: yes

At this point of the lesson students have followed the teacher easily and fluently using always the target language mainly through the Q/A/F strategy. But, in the second part of the lesson this situation changes completely when the teacher identifies a problem

Inostroza 13 and walks the student through the understanding of lexicon that appears in the instruction given. Part 2: Identification of the problem Teacher: […] Ok, the next one. Ok. Who can read the instructions? Mr Pinto, read the instruction Student 7: Teacher: Student 7: Teacher: Student 7: Teacher: Student 7: d? yes Write a passive sentence from these prompts these prompts. ok, what did you write? Let´s see I don´t done… I don´t understand You didn´t understand. Ok. Tell me what is written there the little boy slash the wallet […]

The teacher guides the student through the prompts in the book and writes them on the whiteboard. Once this is done, the teacher decides to involve the rest of the class in order to elicit the explanation of the instruction. Example: Teacher: […] No one understood the instruction? Students:[ some students say yes] Student 5: [raises his hand] Teacher: Cristobal. Ok, before I explain, let´s see if Cristobal can explain to us [pause] the instruction, and see why you didn´t understand. Pay attention to Cristobal

Inostroza 14 In this part of the lesson, it is evident how the pace of the lesson slows down. The teacher identifies the problem and using scaffolding continues helping students understand the instruction in order to complete the task. Example: Student 5: Teacher: em..this .. mm this mean to..to em to ordinate the sentence Ok. You have to?[pause]..put? Student 5: Teacher: the sentence in order the sentence in order. Yes? (DM to confirm with the class) (DM to show that the message was understood) (begins scaffolding)

And these are called prompts. Why prompts? The teacher has already elicited the explanation of “prompts”, but nevertheless gives synonyms to make sure students understand the meaning of this word. Example: Teacher: You only have like… tips… clues… if I put this [showing the screen] in the right order… would it be right? Student: Teacher: No Why? Who could put this in the right order?

Students raise their hand in order to put the sentence in order. The teacher does not choose Student 7 (Mr Pinto), but chooses another student she clearly knows will give the right answer. Once the answer has been given and its correctness confirmed the teacher moves to the next prompts finding Student 7 eager to do the exercise himself demonstrating his understanding of the instruction. Example:

Inostroza 15 Teacher: [a student has provided the right answer] …yesterday. Excellent !Very good! The next prompt. Who can tell me the next prompt? Student 7: Teacher: Student 7: teachers (prompt) teachers slash, sorry (writing down the prompts) teachers slash students slash good manners slash teach

It can be said that what started being a fluent Answer/Question/Follow up strategy to comply with a grammar homework revision of the passive voice form, needed to be changed. The teacher had to accommodate her teaching strategies to the needs of the student(s). It is noticeable how the first part of the lesson flows, and the second part slows down focusing on the problem a student had to understand an instruction. Once this problem was solved – taking much more time than the first part of the lesson, the students were able to continue the activity with no further problems and feeling more confident in the fulfillment of the task. The teacher guides the students using scaffolding in the second part to elicit expected answers. The lesson ends with all the students understanding the instruction given, and thus, the homework was checked with no further problem. Conclusion As a conclusion of this classroom research project, where the aim was to find out the steps that the teacher took to help students understand a grammar task, it can be said that the focus lied mainly in the clarification of the given instruction to fulfill the drilling of the passive voice. The teacher had to face the difficulty a student presented in understanding a specific instruction. In this instruction the problem arose at the lexical level when the word “prompt” appeared. Before the appearance of this word the class could follow fluently the

Inostroza 16 drilling activity transforming the active sentences into passive ones. But, there was a switch from there on, because the teacher felt she had to clarify this term (prompt) in order to have her student understand the instruction and therefore fulfill the grammar task itself. What had been a mere grammar drilling activity in the first part of the lesson, turned into a more interactive and social function in the teaching and learning process. The teacher focused in this second part of the lesson in the comprehension of the term “prompt” so as to assure students understood what they were meant to do. It is noticeable how the teacher makes a real emphasis in trying to clarify a term that appears in an instruction, considering that the grammar structure of the passive voice was way more difficult to understand than mere lexicon in the development of the task. She uses the structure of question, answer and follow up mixed with discourse markers as well as scaffolding to help not only the student who had the specific problem, but to make the whole class participate and help the student in question. In this way what was a more structured lesson with a pedagogical function derived in a more participative lesson on the part of the students, where they were able to show their knowledge and help others to understand showing a more social phenomena reaction towards a problem. The steps that the teacher took seem clear, but something else arose from this classroom research. The fact that a lesson has an audio- lingual approach does not mean that it cannot have traces of a more communicative approach. The fact that the teacher makes a switch in the lesson and devotes a great time (considering the length of the lesson) to clarify lexicon and eliciting from other students the meaning and explanation of it, shows clearly that the lesson is more than focusing in a grammar function or lexicon function, but in the social phenomena as students participate in other aspects than the ones stated above.

Inostroza 17 They got really involved and interacted spontaneously, not only with the prompts of the teacher but with the answers and doubts other students provided. This paper has contributed to the knowledge of the researcher in terms of realizing how she conducted a lesson and used strategies and approaches accordingly to the necessity of her students. Also, the researcher has realized that a grammar point not necessarily has to be taught in terms of structure, but it can be made more interesting for students when they actually see a communicative approach to it. Finally, it can be concluded that there are a variety of strategies and approaches to teaching English, but these must consider the need of the students. The need of a single student contributed, in this case, to a whole class interaction. If necessary, a teacher must stop a task and devote time to clarify doubts before continuing in order to have a full understanding and performance on the part of the student. At the end what is important is the student´s time to grasp a teaching point, and not the time the teacher takes in teaching it.

Inostroza 18 References Brown, H. Douglas. Principles of Language Learning and Teaching. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1987 Chaudron, Craig. Second Language Classrooms. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988 McCarthy, Michael. Issues in Applied Linguistics. Cambridge University Press, 2001 Nunan, David. Research Methods in Language Teaching. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press, 1992 O’Keefe, Anne., and Michael McCarthy, and Ronald Carter. From Corpus to Classroom: Language Use and Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007 Richards, Jack C., and Theodore S. Rodgers. Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001 Staton, Jana. Thinking Together: Language Interaction in Children´s Reasoning. Dingle Associates, Inc., 1983