Participatory appraisal (PA) in the classroom : the use of PA as a technique to advance self-directed learning through ongoing needs analysis
This thesis gives an account of a case study in the form of classroom-based action research on the effectiveness of implementing Participatory Appraisal (PA) methods (adapted from Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) methods), as an innovative instrument of analysis for learner-based needs analysis in enhancing a learner centred approach. The aim was to move the learners in a certain ESP course: Technical English for Pharmacy students (TEP 411 236) to greater self-directedness, so that they would be able improve their own language skills, focusing on academic reading skills for their higher years of study at Khon Kean University in Thailand. The research also aimed to improve the learners' attitudes to and motivation for learning English as well as their attitudes to self-directed learning through the promotion of the learner centred approach. These purposes were expressed through a tailor-made course design based on the results of a learner-based needs analysis, with the implementation of PA methods to enhance a learner- centred approach focusing on promoting learner empowerment. These features were reflected in terms of shared decision-making and negotiation at all three levels of course design - planning, implementation and evaluation - involving materials, methodology and assessment. The teacher's role underpinning this process was that of a facilitator or a learning counsellor with whom the learners could discuss, negotiate and consult in order to achieve their learning goal. The data from the pilot study, the main study and the follow-up studies showed that the implementation had a positive effect on the learners' actual achievements and their attitudes to and motivation for learning English. The improvement of their attitudes to and motivation for learning the language were not statistically significantly higher, as the learners were constrained by the adjustment needed to take on board a new method of teaching and learning for the first time within a very limited period. However, there was a clear indication as measured by both quantitative and qualitative research instruments such as questionnaires, participant observation and interviews that they welcomed this innovation in the highly significant improvement of their attitudes toward self-directed learning as the result of the intervention. The learners became willing to take responsibility for their own learning during the course through their active involvement in the learning process. The transfer’ of responsibility of learning from the teacher to the learners themselves took place gradually and continued after the course. The learners continued to pursue their self-directed learning after the course by transferring the learning strategies and language skills acquired during the course into their real world of communication. Despite the nonsignificant result of the pre/post test, almost all of the learners as measured by the participant observation and the interviews perceived an improvement in their reading, through a sense of achievement in reading authentic English materials ranging from general health sciences to semi-technical and technical texts, and they also felt they had gained more confidence in reading English. More importantly, they enjoyed reading English for both pleasure and academic purposes, both during and after the course. Most of them had not found reading pleasurable prior to TEP 41 1 236.Implications and recommendations of the research study arise from the findings of the pilot study and the main study and they became evident through the teacher’s awareness of the possibilities of their practical application. The implementation of PA methods to enhance learner centredness in order to achieve the ultimate educational goal (i.e. learner empowerment for greater independence), requires a high degree of effort on the part of the teacher both in terms of his/her knowledge and in terms of his/her commitment to malting the teaching far more responsive to learners' needs. However, our outcome fully justifies such an endeavour.