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Classroom Practices of Primary and Secondary Teachers Participating in English in Action: Second Cohort (2013)

Woodward, Clare; Burton, Sonia; Power, Tom; McCormick, Robert and Siddique, Md. Ashraf (2014). Classroom Practices of Primary and Secondary Teachers Participating in English in Action: Second Cohort (2013). English in Action, Dhaka, Bangladesh.

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Abstract

Executive summary

a) Background

The purpose of this study was to ascertain whether there had been changes in the classroom practice of teachers and students participating in English in Action (EIA) over the period of the 2012–13 intervention (Cohort 2). Previous research in language teaching has established that when teachers take up most of the lesson time talking, this can severely limit students’ opportunities to develop proficiency in the target language (Cook 2008), while a general goal of English language (EL) teachers is to motivate their students to speak and to practise using the target language (Nunan 1991). This study therefore focused upon the extent of teacher and student talk, the use of the target language by both, and the forms of classroom organisation (individual, pair, group or choral work) in which student talk is situated. Of course, the amount of teacher talk is not the only indicator of quality language teaching; the nature of that talk is also important – for example, whether teachers engage the attention of the class, present them with new information in an understandable way and allow them time to ask questions and comment.

Classroom Practice 2013 is a repeat of the studies on the pilot EIA programme (Cohort 1) (EIA 2011a & 2012a).

The students and teachers of Cohort 2 are sixfold greater in number (4,368 teachers, compared to 751 teachers, in schools). To enable this increase in scale, the programme has been delivered through a more decentralised model, with much less direct contact with English language teaching (ELT) experts, a greater embedding of expertise within teacher development materials (especially video), and a greater
dependence upon localised peer support.

This study addresses two main questions:
1. To what extent do the teachers of Cohort 2 show improved classroom practice, particularly in relation to the amount and language of student talk, compared with the pre-intervention baseline?
2. To what extent has the programme been successful in repeating the post-intervention improvements in teachers’ classroom practice seen in Cohort 1, at the much larger scale of Cohort 2?

b) Research methodology

The EIA classroom practice baseline (EIA 2009a & b) was originally adapted from a general classroom observation study, and was geographically limited, due to an uncertain social and political context at the time of the fieldwork. Subsequently the methodology was revised to give more fine-grained data
about student and teacher talk, use of the target language, and forms of classroom organisation, and was implemented on a representative sample of EIA teachers, four months after the launch of the pilot programme (EIA 2011a) and again 12–16 months after the programme start (EIA 2012a).

The research instrument is a timed observation schedule (see Appendix 1), directly comparable to that used in the earlier studies on the EIA pilot intervention (2010 and 2011).

The sample comprised 401 lesson observations – 230 of primary teachers, 145 of secondary teachers, and 26 of primary head teachers.

For this study, the practices observed were compared directly (statistically) with the earlier pilot studies (EIA 2011a and 2012a), and indirectly with the earlier baseline (EIA 2009a & b).

c) Key findings: Primary classrooms

i) Teachers’ talk and activity

In the observation of Cohort 2 lessons, average primary teacher talk had dropped to less than half of the lesson time (45%). This represents a very significant reduction in teacher talk from 2009 baseline practices, where teacher talk was the predominant classroom activity. Although this is a higher figure
than was found in the 2010 early-intervention observations (34%), it had not caused any reciprocal drop in student talk-time (compared to that found in 2010). Teachers’ use of the target language was very much greater than that observed in the 2009 baseline, and slightly higher (76%) than that found in 2010 (71%) or 2011 (72%).

In the observation of Cohort 2 lessons, there was a notable increase in time teachers spent organising and a decrease in time spent presenting when compared with the baseline and with the 2011 study. Primary teachers were using a wide range of activities in the classroom and involving students in these activities. Primary teachers were found to be organising for 32% of the time, presenting 25% of the time, asking questions 23% of the time, and giving feedback 20% of the time. This is a change from the baseline studies (EIA 2009a & b), where teachers were observed to be primarily reading from the textbook and rarely involving students in activities. Compared to 2011, primary teachers spent less talktime
‘asking questions’ (falling from 27% to 23%) and more time ‘organising’ classroom activity (rising to 32% from 22%), and much less time presenting (falling from 40% in 2011, to 25% in 2013).

These observations suggest EIA Cohort 2 primary teachers were making great and sustained efforts to increase the use of the target language, and involve students more actively in their English lessons.

ii) Students’ talk and activity

In the observation of Cohort 2 lessons, average student talk-time accounted for 27% of the lesson. This figure represents a very different situation to the 2009 baseline, where in two-thirds of lessons observed ‘none or hardly any’ of the students spoke. The figure is identical to that found in the 2010 observations. Students’ use of the target language had also increased substantially over the baseline, to 91% of student talk in English. The proportion of primary students’ talk in English was higher than that observed in 2010 (88%) and 2011 (81%), with the difference between 2011 being statistically significant (p<0.05).

Almost half (46%) of student talk was observed in the context of choral activities, while approximately a third (36%) was individual student talk. 18% of student talk was pair (10%) or group (8%) work, a figure midway between that observed in 2010 (30%) and 2011 (9%). In all forms of talk organisation, English was the main language used by students (86–91%). The fact that students were often engaged in activities in which they interacted with their classmates marks a notable change from the baseline studies (EIA 2009a
& b), which identified few occasions when individual students or groups were encouraged to speak in English (2–4% of the lesson time) and which showed that in most classes students were not interactive at all.

d) Key findings: Secondary classrooms

i) Teachers’ talk and activity

In the observation of Cohort 2 lessons, average secondary teacher talk had dropped to less than half of the lesson time (48%). This represents a very significant reduction in teacher talk from 2009 baseline practices, where teacher talk was the predominant classroom activity. Although this is a higher figure
than was found in the 2010 early-intervention observations (33%), it is lower than 2011 (50%), and is not related to any reciprocal drop in student talk-time (compared to that found in 2010 or 2011). Teachers’ use of target language was much greater than that observed in the 2009 baseline, and slightly higher (87%) than that in 2010 (86%) or 2011 (79%).

In the observation of Cohort 2 lessons, there was a notable increase in the time teachers spent organising and a decrease in the time spent presenting when compared with the baseline and the 2011 study. Secondary teachers were using a wide range of activities in the classroom and involving students in
these activities. They were found to be organising 29% of the time, presenting 32% of the time, asking questions 22% of the time, and giving feedback 17% of the time. This is a change from the baseline studies (EIA 2009a & b), where teachers were observed to be primarily reading from the textbook and rarely involving students in activities. Compared to 2011, secondary teachers spent similar talk-time ‘asking questions’ (22% compared to 23%), more time organising classroom activity (rising from 22% to 29%), and much less time presenting (falling from 45% to 32%).

These observations suggest EIA Cohort 2 secondary teachers were making great and sustained efforts to increase the use of the target language, and involve students more actively in their English lessons.

ii) Students’ talk and activity

In the observation of Cohort 2 lessons, average secondary student talk-time accounted for 24% of the lesson. This figure represents a very different situation to the 2009 baseline, where in two-thirds of lessons observed ‘none or hardly any’ of the students spoke. The figure is about the same as that found in the 2010 (23%) and 2011 (24%) observations. Students’ use of the target language had also increased substantially over the baseline, rising to 87% of student talk in English. The proportion of secondary students’ talk in English was similar to that observed in 2010 (88%) and 2011 (85%).

Over half (53%) of student talk observed was individual talk, while 28% was pair (13%) or group (15%) work, a figure similar to that observed in 2011 (27%), but below that observed in 2010 (57%). In all forms of talk organisation, English was the main language used by students in all forms of classroom organisation (85–92% for individual, pair and choral work); though as might be expected, in group work
English still predominated (64%), but students used Bangla more (36%) than they did in other forms of organisation. The fact that students were often engaged in activities in which they interacted with their classmates marks a notable change from the baseline studies (EIA 2009a & b), which identified few
occasions when individual students or groups were encouraged to speak in English (2–4% of the lesson time) and showed that in most classes students were not interactive at all.

e) Conclusions

Despite a sixfold increase in scale for Cohort 2, and a more decentralised, peer-supported approach to teacher development, observations of Cohort 2 classroom practices show substantial and important changes compared with the baseline studies, which show teachers making great efforts to promote and model the target language, and to organise increased student participation in lessons. The observations
show substantial increases in students’ active participation, with more opportunities to speak and practise the target language.

These latest findings mark a notable increase in the time teachers spent organising and a decrease in the time spent presenting when compared with the baseline and with the 2011 study. The results show that both primary and secondary teachers were using a wide range of activities in the classroom and involving students in these activities.

In summary, the 2013 cohort of teachers observed in the EIA programme were using more English in their classes, involving students in more activities and encouraging them to spend more of their class time speaking in English.

Item Type: Other
Copyright Holders: 2014 English in Action
Project Funding Details:
Funded Project NameProject IDFunding Body
English in ActionE-13-025-TPDepartment for International Development
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS) > Education, Childhood, Youth and Sport > Education
Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS) > Education, Childhood, Youth and Sport
Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS)
Other Departments > Development Office
Other Departments
Research Group: Centre for Research in Education and Educational Technology (CREET)
Education Futures
International Development & Inclusive Innovation
Related URLs:
Item ID: 42304
Depositing User: Sonia Burton
Date Deposited: 11 Mar 2015 11:57
Last Modified: 07 Dec 2018 10:29
URI: http://oro.open.ac.uk/id/eprint/42304
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