English language teachers in the Greek secondary school : a study of their classroom practices and their attitudes towards methodological and materials innovation
The study set out to investigate the degree of implementation of a communicative learner-centred curriculum and textbooks in the Greek secondaiy school English language classroom. The aims of the research were: a) to investigate the Greek English language teachers' actual teaching practices and the degree to which they are in accordance with the philosophy and principles of the curriculum, and b) to examine the extent to which certain factors (i.e. teachers' understanding of, and attitudes towards, the communicative learner centred approach, teachers' non- involvement in the innovation process, teachers' opinions of the textbooks, lack of systematic teacher training) may be associated with the teachers' classroom behaviour. For the first part of the research, classroom observations of 14 Greek English language teachers, working in schools within and around the Athens area, were carried out. An observation scheme was developed focusing on the teachers' implementation of activities. The aim of the scheme is to describe the roles the teachers adopt in the classroom. 'reacher roles were also investigated through an analysis of the teachers' linguistic behaviour. Transcripts of the 14 observed lessons were analysed in terms of teachers' error correcting practices (amount and types of learner errors corrected by teachers and the error treatments used) and their questioning practices (amount and types of questions asked by the teachers). For this latter focus a question typology derived from the data was developed. Teachers' attitudes towards, and understanding of, the communicative learner-centred approach were investigated via a Likert type attitude scale developed for the purposes of this study and a questionnaire. The questionnaire consisted of 28 closed-type items eliciting teachers' opinions of the textbooks and the teachers' guides, and reports of their teaching practices. The questionnaire and attitude scale was completed by an additional 87 teachers working in public secondary schools within and around the Athens area. Finally, as a means of achieving methodological triangulation, interviews with the observed teachers were carried out. The interviews focused on the teachers' knowledge of, and attitudes towards, the approach they have been asked to use. The thesis is divided into 10 chapters. Chapter 1 sets the context of the study, its main objectives and research questions. Chapters 2 and 3 contain reviews of the literature relevant to the communicative approach and the implementation of curriculum innovations. The research questions, model of the study and a detailed account of the development of the research instruments employed in the study are provided in chapter 4. Chapters 5 to 9 deal with the implementation of the research instruments and the results of the data analysis. More specifically, chapter 5 deals with the analysis and findings of the teachers' error correcting practices, and chapter 6 with the findings of teachers' questioning practices . The results of the observation scheme analysis are dealt with in chapter 7. Chapter 8 focuses on the results of the attitude scale and questionnaire completed by the 14 teachers and chapter 9 on the results of the interviews. A summary of the study's main results, a critique of the various research methods employed in the study, as well as implications of the study's findings for practice are presented in chapter 10. The findings of the classroom observations revealed a disparity between the principles of the curnculum and textbooks and their implementation in the classroom. The teachers tended to front the classroom and perform a restricted range of roles, overwhelmingly favouring the roles of transmitter, controller of students' language and evaluator. The analysis of teachers' linguistic behaviour corroborated these findings. The results of the attitude scale, questionnaire and interviews revealed that teachers, due to their lack of training, had a very limited understanding of the main principles of the approach they had been asked to implement. The teachers tended to translate innovatoiy concepts to conform to their existing theories of language and language teaching/learning. The study has aimed to contribute to two areas where language teaching research is largely lacking: a) classroom implementation of a communicative approach in a foreign language teaching context and b) the investigation of language teachers' attitudes and their importance in understanding language teachers' classroom behaviour. Based on the findings of the study, recommendations for would-be curriculum developers working in contexts similar to the Greek one are provided in the concluding chapter of the thesis.