Teacher knowledge, identity, and practice: a mixed methods study of ESL teaching

2017-01-31T04:19:01Z (GMT) by Yazdanpanah, Khatereh Lilly
The purpose of this mixed methods study is to provide an understanding of the interrelationships between experienced ESL teachers’ knowledge, practice, and the social context of the classroom. Such a study is important to gain a more in-depth understanding of ESL teaching and to assist in the development of appropriate teacher education programs. The purpose of stage one of the study, the quantitative inquiry, was to understand the structure of ESL teacher knowledge. Given that ESL teacher training programs at the post-secondary level are the major formal sources of teacher content and pedagogical knowledge, they were thought to be the best reference points for devising a likert-scale questionnaire on the phenomenon. Exploratory factor analysis of the data on 108 ESL teachers from the six states of Australia provided evidence that knowledge of teaching and knowledge of language, the main categories of teacher knowledge in the questionnaire, consisted of a total of seven subcategories of knowledge types. Teachers also regarded knowledge of teaching as being significantly more important than knowledge of language. The findings of the quantitative study were used as a backdrop to investigate the interrelationships between the different types of teacher knowledge in a qualitative investigation with four experienced ESL teachers. The qualitative data—consisting of pre-observation and stimulated recall interviews and videos of the teachers’ practice—revealed that the classroom context was understood through the identities that the teachers constructed for themselves and their students. The teachers in the second phase qualitatively verified the knowledge types that teachers had given the highest degree of importance in the quantitative phase indicating those knowledge types that were thought to be most practical and important in the language classroom. Although patterns of teacher thinking seemed to be similar for all participant teachers, what went into each stage of their thinking, the content, differed from one teacher to another. Once teachers started teaching, their different knowledge types reciprocally interacted with one another in the background of their knowledge of Self and of their students. ESL teacher knowledge was found to be of three types: identity related, cognition related, and practice related. The findings suggest that, since teacher identity is present in every aspect of what teachers think and do but not present in teacher education programs, the greatest challenge in learning to teach is located in this area. The main tenet of communicative language teaching is the need to help students connect the lesson to their own selves. This cannot be possible unless teachers have already experienced making such connections themselves. Hence, there is a need to assist student teachers to become both Self-aware and student-aware. Finally, the study argues that teacher education programs need to take into consideration the nature of different ESL teacher knowledge types—i.e., identity related, cognition related, and practice related—when developing programs.