Academic journal article Asian Social Science

The Influence of Teaching Experience, School Location and Academic Background on Teachers' Beliefs in Teaching Grammar

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

The Influence of Teaching Experience, School Location and Academic Background on Teachers' Beliefs in Teaching Grammar

Article excerpt

Abstract

The beliefs that teachers hold regarding teaching will have a strong impact on the kinds of decisions that they make in their classrooms. The type of materials, activities and instruction they will use in their lessons will be guided by these beliefs. At the same time, without having conviction in their beliefs about how students learn, it is difficult to imagine teachers being enthusiastic and effective in their teaching regardless of the approach they take. In teaching English grammar to second language learners, teachers often subscribe to their own set of personal beliefs that have been formed, most likely through their experience as well training. This applies as well to the teaching of grammar which has had various competing points of view in terms of how it should be taught. This paper examines teachers' beliefs using data collected from a survey administered to 345 English language teachers in secondary schools in two states in Malaysia. A self-developed instrument was used to investigate four different emphases in the teaching of grammar in the classroom - input, explicit L2 knowledge, student output and error correction - as proposed by Ellis (1998). The data was analysed according to how teaching experience, school location, and academic background can influence teachers' views towards the importance of each of these emphasis in teaching grammar. The results indicate a number of interesting points which can be of help especially in teacher training and professional development.

Keywords: teacher education, beliefs, grammar instruction

1. Introduction

There are many factors that can influence the decision making process of teachers who are teaching grammar in their English as a Second Language (ESL) classrooms. One key factor is the ESL teachers' beliefs which have developed throughout the years' of their teaching the English language in the classroom. Although ESL teachers are often scrutinized for their teaching approaches, more recently, researchers like Borg (1998) have noted that less attention was given to "second language (L2) teachers' perceptions of the role of grammar teaching in their work and to the manner in which instructional decisions regarding grammar teaching are informed by teachers' personal pedagogical systems" (p. 10). A cursory examination of past studies in Malaysia has also shown the lack of studies conducted regarding the beliefs that ESL teachers hold pertaining to the teaching of grammar. Burgess & Etherington (2002) note the apparent influence the teachers' individual context as one of the major determiners in their decision making and for the kind of teaching that will take place. At the same time, other factors such as teaching experience and pedagogical knowledge may also play a role in how the teachers teach in a classroom.

Researchers in ESL such as Ellis (1998, p. 57) and Pajares (1992, p. 307) have addressed the lack of research that explores the teachers' beliefs involving the process of decision-making in teaching grammar. Similarly, Mackenzie, Hemmings and Kay (2011) describe various studies that indicate that teaching experience can have varied effects on teacher effectiveness. In one of these studies, Chingos and Peterson (2011) actually indicate that after an initial peak in the effectiveness-experience relationship, there is actually the "possibility of negative returns to experience over the course of teachers' careers" (p. 460). This paper is therefore interested in the confluence of both teacher beliefs and variables such as teaching experience, school location and academic background as it assumes that they are intertwined and may affect teacher effectiveness. The goal of this study is to take a closer look into the relationship between beliefs and these three variables in the teaching of English grammar in the ESL classroom in Malaysia and discuss the implications of this relationship especially in terms of teacher professional development. …

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