In the mid-1970s a new body of research began to emerge that worked to describe teachers’ thoughts, judgments and decisions as the cognitive processes that shaped their behaviors (Calderhead, 1996, Clark and Peterson, 1986; Dann, 1990). As a consequence of this, a surge of interest in the area of teacher belief systems has appeared (Pajares, 1992). This research “has helped to identify the nature and complexity of the teacher’s work , and helped to provide ways of thinking about the processes of change and support” (Calderhead, 1996, p.721).
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Researchers found that teaching could not be characterized simply as behaviors that were linked to thinking done before and during the activity but rather that the thought process of teaching included a much wider and richer mental context. As Shavelson and Stern (1981, p.479) explained, research on teacher cognition made “the basic assumption that teachers’ thoughts, judgments, and decisions guide their teaching behavior”.
Kagan (1990, p. 420) noted that teacher cognition is somewhat ambiguous, because researchers invoke the term to refer to different products, including “teachers’ interactive thoughts during instruction; thought during lesson planning, implicit beliefs about students, classrooms and learning; reflections about their own teaching performance; automized routines and activities that form their instructional repertoire; and self-awareness of procedures they use to solve classrooms problems”.
Currently, there is increasing recognition that the beliefs individuals hold are the best indicators of the decisions they make during the course of everyday life (Bandura, 1986). Pajares (1992, p. 307) argues that the investigation of teachers’ beliefs "should be a focus of educational research and can inform educational practice in ways that prevailing research agendas have not and cannot". Educational researchers trying to understand the nature of teaching and learning in classrooms have usefully exploited this focus on belief systems. The research of Jakubowski and Tobin (1991) suggests that teachers’ metaphors and beliefs not only influence what teachers do in the classroom, but that changes in these same metaphors and beliefs can result in changes in their practices.
A belief can be defined as a representation of the information someone holds about an object, or a “person’s understanding of himself and his environment” (Fishbein and Ajzen, 1975, p.131). This object can “be a person, a group of people, an institution, a behavior, a policy, an event, etc., and the associated attribute may be any object, trait, property, quality, characteristic, outcome, or event” (Fishbein and Ajzen, 1975, p.12). While Rokeach (1972) defined a belief as “any simple proposition, conscious or unconscious, inferred from what a person says or does, capable of being preceded by the phrase ‘I believe that…’” (p.113), Fishbein and Ajzen (1975) defined a belief system as a hierarchy of beliefs according to the strength about a particular object.
Researchers exploring teachers’ beliefs at the primary and secondary levels have used a number of definitions: “the highly personal ways in which a teacher understands classrooms, students, the nature of learning, the teacher’s role in the classroom, and the goals of education” (Kagan, 1990, p. 423); “psychologically held understandings, premises or propositions about the world that are felt to be true” (Richardson, 1996, p.103); and “generally refer to suppositions, commitments and ideologies” (Calderhead, 1996, p.715).
Beliefs play an important role in many aspects of teaching as well as in life. They are involved in helping individuals make sense of the world, influencing how new information is perceived, and whether it is accepted or rejected. Teachers’ beliefs are a term usually used to refer to pedagogic beliefs or those beliefs of relevance to an individual’s teaching (Borg 2001b). Teacher beliefs have been identified by Kagan (1992a) as tacit, often unconsciously held assumptions about students, about classrooms, and the academic material to be taught.
The literature on teacher knowledge and beliefs from the primary and secondary levels has developed a number of terminological differences. Kagan (1990, p.456) highlighted this problem by noting: “Terms such as teacher cognition, self-reflection, knowledge and belief can be used to refer to different phenomena. Variation in the definition of a term can range from the superficial and idiosyncratic to the profound and theoretical”. The use of these varying terms makes it difficult to investigate in this area of teacher cognition. Pajares (1992) addressed this difficulty:
Defining beliefs is at best a game of player’s choice. They travel in disguise and often under alias-attitudes, values judgments, axioms, opinions, ideology, perceptions, conceptual systems, preconceptions, dispositions, implicit theories, explicit theories, personal theories, internal mental processes, action strategies, rules of practice, practical principals, perspectives, repertories of understanding, and social strategy, to name but a few that can be found in the literature. (p.309)
Defining beliefs is not a very easy task. There is a “bewildering array of terms” as Clandinin and Connelly (1987, p. 487) put forward including teachers’ teaching criteria, principles of practice, personal construct/theories/epistemologies, beliefs, perspectives, teachers’ conceptions, personal knowledge, and practical knowledge.
The concept of belief, which has been a common feature of research papers in education for the past decade, has recently come into favor in ELT. In the field, various terms have been used to refer to the term ‘belief’: pedagogical thoughts (Shavelson and Stern 1981), perspective (Zeichner, Tabachnick, & Densmore, 1987), theoretical orientation (Kinzer, 1988), image (Calderhead, 1996), theoretical belief (Kinzer, 1988; Johnson, 1992; Smith 1996).
Terms used in language teacher cognition research include theories for practice (Burns, 1996) which refer to the thinking and beliefs which are brought to bear on classroom processes; philosophical orientation and personal pedagogical system (Borg, 1998) which corresponds with stores of beliefs, knowledge, theories, assumptions and attitudes which shape teachers’ instructional decisions; maxims (Richards, 1996) to comprise personal working principles which reflect teachers’ individual philosophies of teaching; images (Johnson, 1994) which means general metaphors for thinking about teaching that represent beliefs about teaching and also act as models of action; conceptions of practice (Freeman, 1993) to cover ideas and actions teachers use to organize what they know and to map out what is possible; BAK (Woods, 1996) which includes the concepts beliefs, assumptions, and knowledge, In all those studies the core term on which there is focus is “belief”.
Despite the popularity of the term, there is no consensus on meaning yet. The definition set forth by Rokeach (1968) claims that a belief is any simple proposition, conscious or unconscious, inferred from what a person says or does and knowledge is a component of belief. Rokeach uses the term ‘attitude’ to refer to the beliefs teachers have about constructs.
Richards and Lockhart (1996, p.30) state that “teachers’ beliefs systems are founded on the goals and values that teachers hold in relation to the content and process of teaching, and their understanding of the systems in which they work and their roles within it”. These beliefs and values serve as the background to much of teachers’ decision making action and hence constitute what has been termed the “culture of teaching”. Richards and Lockhart (1996) summarize those teachers’ beliefs systems, which are derived from a number of different sources. They are,
a) their own experience as language learners,
b) their experience of what works best for their learners,
c) established practice,
d) personality factors,
e) educational based or research-based principles,
f) principles derived from an approach or method (pp.30-31).
1. The truth element-drawing on research in the philosophy of knowledge, a belief is a mental state which has as its content a proposition that is accepted as true by the individual holding it, although the individual may recognize that alternative beliefs may be held by others. This is one of the key differences between belief and knowledge must actually be true in some external sense.
2. The relationship between belief and behavior – most definitions of belief propose that beliefs dispose or guide people’s thinking and action.
3. Conscious versus unconscious beliefs – on this point there is disagreement, with some maintaining that consciousness is inherent in the definition of belief, and others allowing for an individual to be conscious of some beliefs and unconscious of others.
The field of language teaching has been one of tradition and transition since its beginning hundreds, indeed, by some accounts, thousands of years ago (Kelly, 1969; Howatt, 1984; Richards and Rodgers, 1986). Even though a much newer pursuit than the teaching of languages such as Greek and Latin or Chinese, the teaching of the English language has already been through many transitions in methodology. What are now considered traditional methods were once the innovations of their time, characterized by the attitudes and values of their creators, who recommended that other educators abandon one method and choose another, with unquestioning optimism, as though this latter method were the solution to their classroom concerns (Clarke, 1982).
In the past 50 years alone, English language teaching has gone through a whirlwind of transitions in its methodology, from grammar translation to direct method, to audiolingualism, to cognitive code, and a host of variations in each. In recent years, the most substantive transition in English language teaching has taken place through a collection of practices, materials, and beliefs about teaching and learning that are known by many different names, e.g. communicative methodology, communicative language teaching, and the communicative approach (Richards and Rodgers, 1986). Contemporarily, English teaching methodology is going through yet another transition. This transition, frequently referred to as the `post method’ condition (Kumaravadivelu, 2001),
Research in the area of teacher thinking has grown rapidly particularly since the 1980s, with the consequence that the literature is vast and is often focused on very specific aspects of teaching. Nevertheless, the research concerned with teachers’ implicit theories of teaching and learning, particularly concerned with epistemological and pedagogical beliefs is of considerable relevance to research in language teaching (Kagan, 1992a; Pajares 1992). The reasons are: first, educational beliefs have shown to influence teaching practice (Kagan 1992a) and learning outcomes. Second, methods used to investigate relationship between beliefs and/or conceptions and teaching practice and the ways of analyzing data, are of interest.
By the mid 1980s, a rising view of teaching began to highlight the complex ways in which teachers think about their work as being shaped by their prior experiences as students, their ‘personal practical knowledge’ (Golombek, 1998). More recently the notion of work context has been recognized as central in shaping teachers’ “conceptions of their practices” (Freeman, 1993).
Language teaching is defined as a dynamic process, which arises out of the meeting and interaction of different sets of principles: different rationalities. In this sense, a rationality is the inner logic which shapes the way in which participants perceive a situation and the goals which they will pursue in this situation (Tudor, 1998). Tudor proposes that to understand language teaching, a first step is to explore the different rationalities which are present in each situation in order to discover the reality the participants involved in. There are four different types of rationalities: those of the students and teachers, socio-cultural rationalities and then the rationality of methodology.
While describing teacher rationalities, Tudor (1998) argues that research into subjective needs has led us to appreciate the uniqueness of each learner’s interaction with their language study. More recently something similar about the teachers has been realized. They, too will perceive and interact with methodology they are implementing in the light of their personality, attitudes, and life experience and the set of perceptions and goals which these give rise to. For this reason there is a need to listen to the teachers’ voices in understanding classroom practice. There is a need to understand teachers’ perceptions and the way in which these perceptions influence teachers’ classroom behaviors.
The maxims (Richards, 1996) or the pedagogic principles (Breen et al.2001) teachers use are important in understanding their pedagogical actions. The reality of classroom teaching is how the teachers interpret official curricula or the recommended materials. Teachers are not skilled technicians who dutifully realize a given set of teaching procedures in accordance with the directives of a more or less distant authority. They are active participants in the creation of classroom realities and they do this on the basis of their own attitudes and beliefs, and their personal perceptions of interaction with their teaching situation.
All teachers hold beliefs about their work, their students, their subject matter, and their roles and responsibilities. They are individuals with their personal perceptions and goals, which go to shape the rationality which will guide their actions in the classroom and their interaction with the context in which they are operating (Tudor, 1998, p. 324).
A major goal of research on teachers’ thought processes is to increase our understanding of how teachers think and behave in the classroom. The drive for this area of research comes from the assumption that what teachers do is a reflection of what they know and believe, and that teacher knowledge and teacher thinking provide the underlying framework or schema which guides teacher’s classroom practices (Sutcliffe and Whitfield 1976, Westerman 1991, Flowerdew, Brock & Hsia 1992, Kagan 1992a, Richards and Lockhart 1994, Bailey 1996, Woods 1998, Borg 1998, Richards 1998). Therefore, in order to understand teaching, we must understand how thoughts get carried into actions (Clark and Yinger 1977, Shavelson and Stern 1981, Clark and Peterson 1986, Johnson 1992, Nunan 1992).
Pajares (1992) reviewed research on teacher beliefs and argued that ‘‘teachers’ beliefs can and should become an important focus of educational inquiry” (p. 307). He then sketched numerous facets of beliefs and acknowledged that a variety of conceptions of educational beliefs appear in the literature. Citing Nespor’s (1987) influential work, he suggested that ‘‘beliefs are far more influential than knowledge in determining how individuals organize and define tasks and problems and are stronger predictors of behavior” (p. 311). Studies on teacher beliefs have slowly gained prominence, especially with regard to teacher change issues.
Guskey (1986), for example, examined 52 teachers who participated in teacher development programs and concluded that change in teachers’ beliefs ‘‘is likely to take place only after changes in student learning outcomes are evidenced” (p. 7). In contrast, Richardson, Anders, Tidwell, and Lloyd (1991) found that change in beliefs preceded change in practices. The current view is that relationships between beliefs and practices are interactive and ongoing (Fullan, 1991; Richardson, 1996). Richardson (1996) even states that ‘‘In most current conceptions, the perceived relationship between beliefs and actions is interactive. Beliefs are thought to drive actions; however, experiences and reflection on action may lead to changes in and/or additions to beliefs” (p. 104).
Pajares (1992) promoted 16 ‘‘fundamental assumptions that may reasonably be made when initiating a study of teacher’s education beliefs” (1992, p. 324). These assumptions include among others, the notions that (a) beliefs are formed early and tend to self perpetuate, persevering even against contradictions caused by reason, time, schooling, or experience; (b) individuals develop a belief system that houses all the beliefs acquired through the process of cultural transmission; (c) beliefs are instrumental in defining tasks and selecting the cognitive tools with which to interpret, plan, and make decisions regarding such tasks; (d) individuals’ beliefs strongly affect their behavior; and (e) knowledge and beliefs are inextricably intertwined (for complete discussion of all 16 assumptions, see Pajares, 1992, pp. 324-326).
Meanwhile doubts arose also from the scientific community about a conception of professionalism that asked professionals (such as teachers) to just apply the theories and insights provided by others. Schön (1983, 1987) analyzed the work of various groups of professionals and concluded that they applied a certain amount of theoretical knowledge in their work, but that their behavior was not at all ‘‘rule governed’ and that they had no straightforward way to determine which behavior was adequate in specific circumstances. Schön contrasted this principle of ‘‘technical rationality” to the principle of ‘‘reflection-in-action”, which pertained to the thinking of the professional during professional activity and implied a continuing dialogue with the permanently changing situation. This situation does not present itself as a well-defined problem situation. On the contrary, defining the problem is itself one of the most difficult tasks of the professional.
This recognition of the centrality of the teacher and the teacher’s knowledge and beliefs regarding each educational process, including educational innovations, is relatively recent (Calderhead, 1996). Birman, Desimone, Porter, & Garet (2000), for example, searched for key features of effective professional development and, based on their research, reported that professional development should focus on deepening teacher knowledge in order to foster teacher learning and changes in practice. Similarly, Hawley and Valli (1999) considered the expansion and elaboration of teachers’ professional knowledge base as essential for their professional development.
In the literature about teacher knowledge, various labels have been used, each indicating a relevant aspect of teacher knowledge. The labels illustrate mainly which aspect is considered the most important by the respective authors. Together, these labels give an overview of the way in which teacher knowledge has been studied to date. The most commonly used labels are ‘‘personal knowledge” (Conelly and Clandinin, 1985; Elbaz, 1991), indicating that this knowledge is unique; ‘‘the wisdom of practice” (Schwab, 1971), and in more recent publications, ‘‘professional craft knowledge” (e.g., Brown and McIntyre, 1993; Shimahara, 1998), referring to a specific component of knowledge that is mainly the product of the teacher’s practical experience; ‘‘action oriented knowledge”, indicating that this knowledge is for immediate use in teaching practice (Carter, 1990); ‘‘content and context related knowledge” (Cochran, DeRuiter, & King, 1993; Van Driel, Verloop, & De Vos, 1998); knowledge that is to a great extent ‘tacit’ (Calderhead and Robson, 1991); and knowledge that is based on reflection on experiences (Grimmet and MacKinnon, 1992).
It is important to realize that in the label ‘teacher knowledge’, the concept ‘knowledge’ is used as an overarching, inclusive concept, summarizing a large variety of cognitions, from conscious and well-balanced opinions to unconscious and unreflected intuitions. This is related to the fact that, in the mind of the teacher, components of knowledge, beliefs, conceptions, and intuitions are inextricably intertwined. As Alexander, Schallert, and Hare (1991) noted, the term ‘knowledge’ is mostly used to encompass ‘‘all that a person knows or believes to be true, whether or not it is verified as true in some sort of objective or external way” (p. 317). This is particularly relevant with respect to research on teacher knowledge. In investigating teacher knowledge, the main focus of attention is on the complex totality of cognitions, the ways this develops, and the way this interacts with teacher behavior in the classroom.
Following Pajares (1992), knowledge and beliefs are seen as inseparable, although beliefs are seen roughly as referring to personal values, attitudes, and ideologies, and knowledge to a teacher’s more factual propositions (Meijer, Verloop, & Beijaard, 2001).
In his extensive review of the literature, Calderhead (1996) found that many different kinds of knowledge have been described as underpinning effective teaching. The main forms are those related to the subject being taught, to teaching methods, and to the ways in which students develop and learn. The extent to which teachers have conscious access to this knowledge is, however, far from clear. Some researchers argue that much of this knowledge is implicit or tacit, derived from experience rather than from any conceptual framework.
The research concerned with teachers’ implicit theories of teaching and learning, particularly work concerned with epistemological and pedagogical beliefs, which reflect their experiences, is of considerable relevance to research in language teaching (Kagan, 1992a; Pajares 1992). First, educational beliefs have shown to influence teaching practice (Kagan 1992a) and learning outcomes. Second, methods used to investigate relationship between beliefs and/or conceptions and teaching practice and the ways of analyzing data, are of interest.
Pajares (1992) attempts to clarify the confusion with the distinction between knowledge and belief. However, as many researchers have found, it is not so much that knowledge differs from beliefs, but that beliefs themselves constitute a form of knowledge. In his attempts to characterize beliefs, Nespor (1987) provides some distinctions between beliefs and knowledge. He singles out four features of the construct previously identified by Abelson (1979) and considers them in relation to teachers:
Existential presumptions or personal truths are generally unaffected by persuasion and are perceived by the teacher as being beyond his/her control or influence.
Alternativity is a feature of beliefs that would include situations such as when teachers attempt to establish an instructional format of which they have no direct experience but which they might consider ideal.
Belief systems can be said to rely much more heavily on affective and evaluative components than knowledge systems. Teachers’ values and feelings often affect what and how they teach and may conflict with their knowledge.
Belief systems are composed mainly of episodically stored material which is derived from personal experience, episodes or events which continue to influence the comprehension of events at a later time. Whereas beliefs reside in episodic memory, knowledge is semantically stored.
A further distinction between beliefs and knowledge, notes Nespor (1987, p.313), is that, while knowledge often changes, beliefs are "static". As well, whereas knowledge can be evaluated or judged, such is not the case with beliefs as there is usually a lack of consensus about how they are to be evaluated. Furthermore, there do not appear to be any clear rules for determining the relevance of beliefs to real world events. While there is no doubt other distinctions can be made between the two constructs, a better understanding may be gained by exploring the relationship between the two and by considering beliefs as a form of knowledge. This form of knowledge could be referred to as personal knowledge.
Kagan (1992a) refers to beliefs as a "particularly provocative form of personal knowledge" and argues that most of a teacher’s professional knowledge can be regarded more accurately as belief. According to Kagan, this knowledge grows richer and more coherent as a teacher’s experience in classrooms grows and thus forms a highly personalized pedagogy or belief system that actually constrains the teacher’s perception, judgment, and behavior. In terms of beliefs being personal knowledge, Kagan explains: "A teacher’s knowledge of his or her profession is situated in three important ways: in context (it is related to specific groups of students), in content (it is related to particular academic material to be taught), and in person (it is embedded within the teacher’s unique belief system)" (p.74). Like Clark (1988) who equates ‘implicit theories’ with beliefs, Nespor (1987) explains how beliefs become personal pedagogies or theories to guide teachers’ practices:
Teachers’ beliefs play a major role in defining teaching tasks and organizing the knowledge and information relevant to those tasks. But why should this be so? Why wouldn’t research-based knowledge or academic theory serve this purpose just as well? The answer suggested here is that the contexts and environments within which teachers work, and many of the problems they encounter, are ill-defined and deeply entangled, and that beliefs are peculiarly suited for making sense of such contexts. (p.324)
Munby (1982) also equates implicit theories with teachers’ beliefs. Clark and Peterson (1986) in their review of the literature on teachers’ thought processes, argue that teachers’ theories and beliefs represent a rich store of knowledge. Teachers make sense of their complex world and respond to it by forming a complex system of personal and professional knowledge and theories which, as Kagan (1992a) describes, are often tacit and unconsciously held assumptions about students, classrooms and the material to be taught.
Throughout this study the term BAK is used as an inclusive term to refer to beliefs, assumptions, and knowledge. Therefore, the following section describes the rationale behind using this term. In the discussion so far, approaches which divide aspects of teacher cognition were examined in separate categories. A more recent strand of research, however, challenges the categorical distinctions outlined above.
Woods (1996) suggests that these dichotomies do not accurately reflect the relationship between Teachers’ beliefs, assumptions and knowledge and their practices in the classroom. In order to take appropriate action, people need to understand; and to understand they need knowledge about the world and specifically about the situation they are in (Woods, 1996, p. 59). Woods (1996) develops a multidimensional cycle of planning and decision making within teaching. He describes three phases of assessment, planning and implementation which operate recursively to inform different hierarchical levels of the teaching process going from the most local level of discrete events in the lesson plan to the most global level of whole course planning (p. 139).
Woods’s analysis of interview data suggests that knowledge structures and belief systems ‘‘are not composed of independent elements, but [are] rather structured, with certain aspects implying or presupposing others” (p. 200). Woods proposes a model to signify the evolving system of beliefs, assumptions and knowledge (BAK) that recursively informs or is informed by the context of teaching: the BAK was part of the perceiving and organizing of the decisions. Woods has demonstrated that language teachers create and maintain background networks of beliefs, assumptions and knowledge which constitute a valid theory of teaching and learning. These background theoretical networks are grounded in every level of routine classroom practice in much the same way that educational theory is grounded in the systematic collection of empirical data. This construct (BAK) is supported by MacDonaldo, Badger and White (2001). They also suggest that while there is some support for a categorical distinction between theory and practice in language education, it is suggested that the beliefs, assumptions and knowledge of teachers are in fact inextricably bound up with what goes on in the classroom.
Beliefs are manifested in teaching practices because teachers’ instruction tends to reflect their beliefs. Pajares (1992) and Richardson (1996) investigated the relationship between teachers’ beliefs and their teaching practices, concluding that teachers’ beliefs were reflected in their actions, decisions and classroom practices. Kagan (1992a) also supported Pajares and Richardson’s claim that teachers’ beliefs served as a vital role in influencing the nature of the instruction.
In her study, Johnson (1992) examined the relationship between ESL teachers’ defined, theoretical beliefs about second language learning as well as teaching and instructional practices during literacy instruction for non-native speakers of English. Three tasks, such as an ideal instructional protocol, a lesson plan analysis, and a beliefs inventory were used to determine how much ESL teachers’ beliefs were reflected in skill-based, rule-based, and function-based orientations. The findings in Johnson’s study showed that ESL teachers’ defined beliefs were congruent with their theoretical orientations, and teachers with different theoretical orientations gave quite different instruction for ESL students. Therefore, her study concluded that overall, teachers had different teaching approaches, selections of teaching materials, and images of teachers and students according to their beliefs about learning and teaching. For example, a teacher whose dominant theoretical orientation was function-based focused generally on comprehending the main idea, following a pattern of pre-reading as well as post-reading questions, and discussion as usual reading activities in her instruction.
In addition, Smith’s (1996) study explored the relationship between nine experienced ESL teachers’ beliefs and their decision-making in classroom practices. The result of her study showed that teachers’ articulated theoretical beliefs were consistent with their instructional planning and decisions. For example, those teachers who believed in communication of meaning as a primary goal in learning a language designed and implemented tasks which promoted student-interaction and meaningful communication, such as small-group or pair activities.
Golombek (1998) examined how two in-service ESL teachers’ personal practical knowledge informed their practice through a description of a tension each teacher faced in the classroom. The teachers’ personal practical knowledge informed their practice by serving as a kind of interpretive framework through which they made sense of their classrooms as they recounted their experiences and made this knowledge explicit. The results of this study suggested that L2 teacher educators should recognize that L2 teachers’ personal practical knowledge is embodied in individuals. For this reason, personal practical knowledge is important to acknowledge in L2 teacher education practice and research.
Similarly, in his article Borg (2001a) presents two cases which illustrate the extent to which teachers’ perceptions of their knowledge about grammar emerged as one of the factors which influences teachers’ instructional decisions in teaching grammar. The two case studies suggested clearly that teachers’ self-perceptions of their knowledge about grammar had an impact on their work. Two conclusions emerging from this study are the necessity of further research into perceptions of teachers about their knowledge about grammar and the effects of these perceptions on their work, and the need to develop strategies, which enable teachers to become aware of their knowledge about grammar.
Another study by Borg (1998) was conducted on a single teacher known for his reputation as a professionally committed L2 teacher in an English language institute in Malta. A major finding of this study is the implication that ‘initial training of the particular teacher in the study had a powerful effect on his personal beliefs which in turn had an immediate and lasting impact on his practice’. The teacher’s experience introduced him to communicative methodology and fostered his beliefs in student-centeredness.
Two studies carried out by Woods (1990, 1991) have similar results. In 1990, Woods conducted two case studies on teachers’ beliefs and interactive decisions. The first finding of the study was that a complex process of decision-making was involved in the instructional practices observed. In other words, the decisions were based on a variety of factors depending on the dynamic interactions between individuals. Woods also examined the nature of these decisions and found that there were two different kinds of decisions, which were related to each other sequentially and hierarchically. The second finding of the study was about how teachers approached decision making. When their decisions were analyzed in context taking into consideration the beliefs underlying these decisions, it was seen that the two teachers differed dramatically in terms of their beliefs about learning and teaching the language. One of them had a very global perspective, always starting with the situational factors and moving on to language in broader terms. The other teacher on the other hand, had a much more linear perspective, isolating the language from its context in order to master its formal aspects. This meant that the two very different views teachers had about teaching and learning resulted in different instructional practices. Moreover, the teachers’ instructional practices were consistent with their beliefs.
Another study by Woods (1991) focused on two teachers who were observed through an entire course. The aim of the study was to depict whether the teachers’ decisions in carrying out their classroom instructions were consistent with their underlying assumptions and beliefs about language and teaching. It was seen that the difference between the two teachers in terms of their attitudes and beliefs towards the curriculum resulted in different instructional decisions. Hence, a major finding of the study was that for each teacher, the decisions made in carrying out the classroom instructions were consistent with their underlying assumptions and beliefs about language and teaching.
Like studies done by Woods (1990 and 1991), the findings of a study conducted by Johnson (1992) indicate that teachers’ classroom instruction is consistent with their beliefs about teaching and learning. After an analysis of the sample of teachers she studied, she identified three methodological perspectives following the classification in Johnson’s study (1992): a skill-based approach, which separates language into four language skills, a rule-based approach, which views language learning as a mastery of grammar-rules and a function based approach, which sees language as the means of communication in authentic contexts. The majority of the teachers held dominant beliefs that reflected one of the three approaches. In the second part of the study, Johnson observed three teachers who had different approaches to teaching and learning in order to identify the relationship between their beliefs and their classroom instruction. The results of the study showed that ESL teachers taught in accordance with their theoretical beliefs.
Similar results were reported by Burns (1996) who, in her study, focused on the nature of thinking and beliefs of six experienced teachers. The findings of the study indicated “the teachers’ thinking cohered around interconnecting, and interacting “contextual’ levels” (p.157). In other words teachers’ beliefs emerged from factors that affected each other and shaped one another and these beliefs were reflected in and influenced their instructional practices.
The findings of these studies indicate that teachers’ classroom instructional practices are affected by their beliefs. It is crucial to examine teachers’ beliefs and the relationship of these beliefs with their instructional decisions and practices in different contexts. Insights gained in this way can yield valuable suggestions for the establishment of pre-service and in-service EFL teacher education programs.
According to the thesaurus of the Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC) database, professional development refers to "activities to enhance professional career growth." Such activities may include individual development, continuing education, and in-service education, as well as curriculum writing, peer collaboration, study groups, and peer coaching or mentoring.
Fullan (1991) expands the definition to include "the sum total of formal and informal learning experiences throughout one’s career from pre-service teacher education to retirement" (p. 326).
Teacher development is a defined as “a process of continual intellectual, experiential, and attitude growth of teachers” (Lange, 1990, p.250). Pennington (1990) asserts that growth necessarily entails change. Changes in beliefs are more difficult than any other type of change because they challenge the core values held by individuals regarding the purposes of education. Therefore, significant educational changes can mainly occur if changes in beliefs, teaching styles and materials take place as a result of personal development in a social context.
Several studies have investigated differences between expert and novice teachers. In general, novice teachers define good teaching in terms of personal characteristics of teacher, children’s involvement, and affective features of classroom interaction. Expert teachers define good teaching more in terms of lesson structure and teaching strategies (Calderhead, 1996; Kagan and Tippins, 1992). The expert teachers are better able to take account of context and purpose. The expert teacher is able to make a deeper interpretation of events, interpreting significant contextual cues and generating hypotheses about the situation in question (Calderhead, 1996; Schempp, Tan, Manross, & Fincher, 1998). As a result of experience, some teachers seem to have developed rich, well organized knowledge bases that enable them to draw readily on their past experiences (Carter, Sabers, Cushing, Pinnegar, & Berliner, 1987). As in studies of human expertise in other fields, it has been found that teachers have a highly developed but domain-specific knowledge base (Ericsson and Lehmann, 1996).
The novice has a more discrete and disorganized knowledge base. In the expert teacher, facts and rules become integrated into more holistic patterns of thought and action, situations are perceived in context and can be related to other events, there is a high level of personal commitment, and actions appear comprehensive, fluid and evidently effortless (Berliner, 1987; Calderhead, 1996; Carter et al., 1987).
Common to all the major change initiatives reshaping the face of public education today is an emphasis on continued professional development. Today, one of the recent reforms focuses on professional development as a way of getting reforms into the classroom. MONE aims at improving in-service training programs. The Ministry is aware of the important role of staff development at the forefront of its reform efforts. One of the objectives is stated as “all teachers must regularly participate in professional development linked to the innovations” (www.meb.gov.tr/Stats/apk2002ing/apage29-48.htm). Among the special objectives of MONE, it is clearly seen that MONE aims to improve qualitatively and quantitatively the in-service training given to teachers,
In order to meet the teacher requirements at all levels of education, teacher-training projects executed in collaboration with higher education institutions are asserted to continue along side the existing teacher training system ( https://www.meb.gov.tr/indexeng.htm).
Although improving instructional techniques remains important in teacher development, what makes the current discussion of the role of professional development distinct from the past is the emphasis being placed on models that move beyond the merely technical. Teachers are increasingly being asked to reconceptualize teaching, learning and their own education (Feiman-Nemser, 1990), to reflect on themselves as professionals, on their roles in the classrooms, and on their students (Richards and Lockhart, 1994). Quality professional development addresses teachers’ needs as the teachers themselves see them (Little, 1993) and tries to influence teachers’ actions by starting from and making conscious teachers’ attitudes and beliefs (Richards and Lockhart, 1994). They must bring their ‘mental models’ to consciousness, those deeply ingrained assumptions, generalizations, and images they have about education (Senge, 1990). Little (1993) takes teacher involvement in their own professional development even further. In order to address the diversity within their own classrooms, teachers can no longer be viewed solely as “implementers” of school reform. Teachers and school officials must take into account the underlying assumptions of the reforms, as well as their social and historical contexts, and the degree to which they are congruent with teachers’ beliefs, commitment, and practices (Little, 1993)
The literature on school reform, change and professional development are clear: teachers are fundamental stakeholders in the change process. Their needs and concerns must be taken into consideration in professional development programs and reform initiatives if these reforms are to achieve any lasting effect on student performance. The literature findings on learner-centeredness, learner autonomy and ELP are equally clear: the requirements of these approaches must be addressed in classroom practices, nation-wide reform initiatives, and teachers’ professional development if the initiatives are to resonate with the student in our schools.
During the last 20 years or so, language education has been characterized by a constant process of innovation in the form of, e.g., curriculum revision, materials design, teacher training and development, and testing. As a result, language teaching professionals have increasingly had to deal with innovations, either in the role of directly implementing them or in terms of being responsible for their initiation, and co-ordination. Unfortunately, however, it is clear that many language education innovation projects have failed to fulfill their promise, and managing them has often turned out to be a frustrating and unrewarding experience.
The incorporation of innovations in teachers’ daily work is one of the main components of their professional development. Concerning curricular innovations, the professional development of teachers refers to two main domains of knowledge: the content (declarative knowledge, what to teach) and the process (procedural knowledge, how to do it). The combination of both types of knowledge, concerning any subject matter to be taught, has been labeled by Shulman (1986) ‘pedagogial content knowledge’. Its development depends both on theoretical and conceptual knowledge and on personal experience. The introduction of an educational innovation (teaching new subjects or using a new teaching strategy) will therefore require the development of both the theoretical knowledge and the relevant experience of the teachers. An innovation may thus be regarded to have been successfully introduced once the teachers have adopted it, i.e., are able and willing to implement it in their classes and are confident in their ability to adapt the innovation to the needs and abilities of their own students (Hall, George, and Rutherford, 1977).
The main method for the introduction of educational innovations is usually in-service training. However, it has been shown that in many cases, in-service training does not actually achieve its main objectives, namely the implementation of new teaching strategies and a significant change in students’ achievements (Guskey, 1986; Fullan, 1991). In fact, even when provided with the necessary knowledge and well prepared learning materials, teachers often find the implementation of an innovation to be a very demanding task. In their attempt to implement such innovations, i.e., in their efforts to translate theory into practice, teachers encounter obstacles of various types and from different sources. Many different factors have been found to bear on the process of introduction of educational innovations (Guskey, 1986; Fullan, 1991). It is generally accepted that success or failure depends on the attitudes, knowledge, and skills of the teachers, on the support of the relevant administrations, and on the teachers’ perception of such a support (Fullan, 1991).
From the point of view of the teachers, the adoption of an innovation implies changes in attitudes, beliefs and concepts, and the development of new personal pedagogical content knowledge (van Dreil, Verloop, and de Vos, 1998). Measures of teachers’ self-efficacy concerning the implementation of an innovation have been found to be related to their perception of its ‘‘congruence, difficulty of use and importance” (Guskey, 1986; Guskey and Passaro, 1994). The innovating teachers must be deeply involved, highly motivated and strongly willing to struggle with their personal difficulties and with external constraints, while attempting to implement an innovation (Dreyfus et al., 1998). It is therefore a lengthy, awkward, and to some extent painful process (Tobin, Briscoe, & Holman, 1990).
Alexander et al. (1996) look more at teachers in an attempt to understand the efficacy of innovations in schools. They propose that teachers tend to implement in their classrooms what they know and understand, in spite of whatever innovation may be adopted by the school, or what evidence may be offered about their current methods or innovative methods. Alexander et al. (1996) suggest changes in teacher preparation to develop teachers’ understanding of learning philosophies, theories and principles. The preparation should instruct teachers in how to apply those principles to increasing student learning, and teaches teachers ‘‘more about less” by focusing less on a survey of what exists and more on developing deeper understanding of what is taught. Further, they believe that a deeper understanding of these theories will better prepare teachers to evaluate and understand innovations that they will confront in the future.
As Cuban (1984) has suggested, teaching practices have changed little and teachers tend to teach as they were taught. Specifically teacher-trainers, teachers, administrators, educational researchers, and developers all play a role in the swinging of the educational innovation pendulum, and as such there is a need to change the domain of each to have a lasting impact on the problem.
Teaching and learning traditionally take place in the classrooms. Those outside the classroom who make policy or try to shape it, such as designers of textbooks, state syllabi, and state tests attempt to pry openings into classrooms to influence what goes on in them. Hoping something new will improve results; these outsiders want to affect this world that they will rarely, if ever, see. And this world is also a world rarely shared among the practitioners inside the classrooms themselves, for they each live their own separate situations (Jackson, 1990; Lortie, 1975). One method that has been used very frequently to get a sense of the effects of a policy on classrooms is to listen to the voices of the teachers (Carter, 1993). Teachers are the only people who have inside experience of the same classroom year in and year out.
Teachers are a critical factor in the classroom. Change arouses emotions. It involves as disruption to teachers’ beliefs and existing patterns of expectations. New meanings, new behaviors, and new skills are required for learning to do something new (Fullan, 1991). One of the most consistent findings and understanding about the change process in education is that all successful schools experience an “implementation dip” as they move forward. The implementation dip is literally a dip in performance and confidence as professionals encounter an innovation that requires new skills and new understandings (Fullan, 1991). Thus when a new innovation in instruction is implemented professional development efforts need to be monitored and supported to ensure teachers practices are consistent with the elements of the innovation.
According to a study carried out by Yıldırım (1997) research studies on teaching in Turkey indicate that classrooms are dominated by teacher-centered activity, mostly through lecturing and recitation. Teachers are often transmitters of knowledge and students are expected to produce more or less the same knowledge in the exams. Students rarely ask questions and student-to student interactions through small group activities or group projects are atypical.
The purpose of this case study is to provide an explanation of how teachers conceptualize the challenges as they implement the innovative program of elementary English. Some of the existing research on educational change (Fullan, 1991; Hall and Loucks, 1978; Huberman and Miles, 1984; Sarason, 1990) indicated that one of the factors which was identified as significant to successful implementation of any program includes a clearly demonstrated commitment to the innovation on the part of the teachers involved.
In order to bring about a change in educational practice in the classroom, innovators need to be cognizant of the dynamic interrelationship of the dimensions of implementation. Fullan and Stiegelbauer (1991) define these dimensions as the following: a. use of new or revised materials, b. use of new teaching methodologies
and c. a change in beliefs about “best practice.” In order for change to occur in the classroom Fullan (2001) believes that teachers need to develop meaning at each of these three dimensions. He states that when innovators are asking for teachers to change they are striking at the identity of teachers, which threatens their sense of competence and self-concept.
In contexts in which educational innovations are being implemented, teachers’ attitudes take on tremendous importance because teachers’ attitudes and beliefs are the single strongest guiding influence on teachers’ instruction and practices (Thompson, 1984; Doyle, 1992; Cuban, 1984; Fang, 1996; Freeman, 1989, 1998).
There is a new era of effort to define effective teaching in our education system and to take some steps toward training more qualified teachers for schools. Today, views are often against memory-based education and examination-based instruction. The teachers’ roles in the classrooms have been changing. Instead of being viewed as mere transmitters of knowledge, they are seen as decision-makers in the classrooms. Nonetheless, there is still lack of enough information about how they really perceive themselves and their teaching practices. Transforming teaching practices from one paradigm to another is not an easy task
There is a growing consensus in the literature regarding the elements of effective professional development for teachers. Effective professional development is embedded in the reality of teachers’ work. It is designed with teacher input. It fosters critical reflection and meaningful collaboration. Promising professional development is aligned with effective teaching and learning.
Staff development and school-based training programs are often criticized as notoriously unsuccessful in bringing about attitudinal changes in teachers. It may be that these efforts approach the problem in a reverse fashion. There is some evidence that it is more profitable to expend effort in changing behavior before attempting to change beliefs or attitudes. Guskey (1986) found that when teachers were encouraged to engage in innovative practices and when they found them successful in boosting achievement, significant attitudinal change was noted. This same change is not seen, however, when teachers do not use the innovations in the first place, or if they use them but detect no improvement in their students.
Teachers’ willingness to implement new instructional practices is a key factor influencing improvement efforts involving implementation of new practices. These practices may require minor changes in certain classroom activities or may mandate an entirely new curriculum or a very different instructional approach. Furthermore, several variables have been identified in the literature as determinants of teachers’ willingness to implement instructional innovations. These variables include the degree to which the innovations are aligned with teachers’ present practices (congruence) and teachers’ estimates of the needed extra time and effort to implement the innovations (cost) (Doyle and Ponder, 1977).
The identified variables also include teachers’ perceptions of the importance and difficulty of implementing innovations (Sparks, 1983), and teachers’ experience and sense of efficacy (Guskey, 1988). Thus, it is important to understand what factors influence teachers’ attitudes toward the implementation of recommended practices. Research has shown that the aforementioned variables i.e., congruence, cost; difficulty, and importance did indeed influence teachers’ degree of implementing a new program or instructional innovation. For example, based on an analysis of results from five studies, Mohlman, Coladarci, and Gage (1982) maintained that congruence and cost influenced teachers’ degree of implementation. That is, teachers were willing to implement instructional practices that are similar to their current practices and less costly.
Likewise, Sparks (1983) reported that teachers’ perceptions of the importance of the new practices were positively correlated with implementation; meanwhile, teachers’ ratings of the difficulty of implementation were found to be highly individualistic and unrelated to willingness to implement new practices.
Along similar lines, Guskey (1988) explored the relationship among teachers’ sense of efficacy and their attitudes toward the implementation of mastery learning as a form of instructional innovation. The concept of teacher efficacy has its roots in the construct of self-efficacy proposed by Bandura in 1977. Bandura hypothesized that peoples’ belief about the action-outcome relationship is not a sufficient determinant of behavior. Rather, behaivor is likely to be determined by peoples’ self-efficacy in order to produce certain outcomes. Furthermore, Bandura (1997) maintained that peoples’ interpretations of past experience lead them to foresee how well they will be able to perform specific tasks. These anticipations then influence their willingness to engage in new tasks, make extra effort, and persist in the face of adversity (Ross, 1989).
An important obstacle to adopting innovations is that teachers are frequently given very little support and reward for changing what they do in classrooms (Datnow et al., 2002). When changes are instituted, teachers may be left on their own to figure out how to do the innovation, how to develop appropriate curriculum materials, how to mesh curriculum and processes to district or state goals, and how to solve problems specific to the context in which they are implementing. Yet when they accomplish successful implementation there is little recognition or reward for doing so. On the other hand, teachers are likely to risk rebuke when innovations fail or struggle. In this context, it is not any surprise that most teachers prefer to ‘stand pat’ with what is comfortable rather than to attempt an innovation, no matter how convincing. An innovation cannot become institutionalized when only a minority of the teachers embrace the reform and fully implement the innovation. It remains ‘‘experimental” or novel and without being widely accepted and used, the innovation is bound for eventual rejection (Datnow et al., 2002). Inertia favors a lack of large-scale change.
There is another area where research on teacher beliefs can potentially be relevant, that is, the field of educational innovations. In many past educational innovations, the teacher was seen as the executor and implementer of innovations that were devised by others. Teachers were supposed to implement these innovations in accordance with the intentions of the developers as much as possible, and, if there was additional time and money available, it was spent on training the teachers to acquire the skills needed in order to demonstrate the required behavior. The vast majority of the educational innovations did not materialize at all or failed after some time because the teachers, after a period of change, abandoned the new behavior and returned to the old routines with which they were comfortable.
There is a growing consensus that educational innovations are doomed to fail if the emphasis remains on developing specific skills, without taking into account the teachers’ cognitions, including their beliefs, intentions, and attitudes (Trigwell, Prosser, & Taylor, 1994). Many innovations are considered impractical by the teachers concerned because, for instance, they are unrelated to familiar routines (leading to strong feelings of uncertainty and insecurity), do not fit in with their own perceptions of the domain, or conflict with the existing school culture (Brown and McIntyre, 1993; Carlgren and Lindblad, 1991). This does not mean that the knowledge and beliefs of teachers should be the standard, but it certainly means that they must be the starting point for any successful intervention or innovation. To identify their authentic beliefs with respect to the basic ideas behind the innovation, a thorough investigation into the knowledge of the teachers themselves is required.
The complex and multidimensional character of the current innovations has major implications for the functioning of teachers (Elmore, 1996). Research into the implementation of large-scale educational innovations shows the concerns of teachers to play an important role in the successful development of the innovations (Hall, George, & Rutherford, 1977).
Teachers’ beliefs obviously affect their behavior in the classroom. Their beliefs tend to be derived from their own experiences as learners, their training, their teaching experience, their interaction with colleagues and the values and norms of the society in which they work. When teachers’ beliefs are congruent with the innovation, they are likely to be positively disposed towards its implementation. However, teachers who are initially enthusiastic about an innovation may easily become illusion if there is lack of support for the innovation such as inadequate resourcing or negative sentiments from the principal or the colleagues. If the innovation is incompatible with teachers’ existing attitudes, resistance to change is likely to occur (Waugh and Punch, 1987). There are a number of recent reviews of largely unsuccessful attempts to implement learner-centered curricula amongst teachers whose background and experience tends towards more traditional teacher-centered methods. In some form of this occurence has been documented in South Korea (Li, 1998) and Greece (Karavas-Doukas, 1995).
Turkey has been pursuing a project of modernization for almost 200 years and for the last 40 years the project systematically and exclusively leads the country toward West. It is a decision not only made by the Turkish elite but also by the member of the Western world that the country sees no other way but to be part of the West. It is this longing that drives the country in its desire to be an official member of the European Union. In order to get to be admitted to the European Union, Turkey has to meet the standards of the Union on economy, education and politics. For that purpose, Turkey took the decision to restructure the society through the reforms that will create the better and modern country to side with European Nations.
One way of doing this is to implement educational reforms. The first stage of the new eight-year uninterrupted compulsory elementary education program began to be implemented nationwide in the 1997-1998 school year. Turkey realized one of the most significant reforms in the field of education witnessed in many years. In addition, as a part of this reform program, Turkey started to improve programs taught at primary level. Through this process the Ministry carries out the requirements to meet the standards of the European Union and the global world.
Educational administration is centralized under the Ministry of Education. The Ministry is responsible for drawing up curricula, coordinating the work of official, private and voluntary organizations, designing and building schools, and developing educational materials. The Supreme Council of National Education discusses and decides on curricula, regulations prepared by the Ministry. Educational affairs in the provinces are organized by the Directors of National Education appointed by the Minister. However, they work under the direction of the provincial governor (www.ttkb.meb.gov.tr).
Private primary and secondary schools are financially independent. The principles regulating private schools are defined in legislation that reflects the educational standards and regulations applicable to public-sector schools. Educational administration is firmly centralized under the Ministry of National Education. For example, the Ministry is responsible for drawing up curricula, coordinating the work of official, private and voluntary organizations, designing and building schools, and developing educational materials. The Talim ve Terbiye Kurulu Başkanlığı (Board of Training and Education) discusses and determines curricula and regulations prepared by the Ministry. Educational activity in the Turkish provinces is organized by the Directors of Education appointed by the Minister. However, they work under the direction of the provincial governor. Thus administrative control over and management of public-sector schools at local level lies under the provincial directorates of the Ministry.
Supervision of educational institutions is carried out at both central and regional level. While the supervision of basic education institutions is performed at regional level by primary education inspectors, inspectors delegated by the Ministry of National Education supervise secondary education institutions. Public higher education institutions are autonomous for purposes of teaching and research. However, they have to submit annual reports to the Higher Education Council which is responsible for the planning and coordination of higher education. Institutions are monitored at least once a year by the Higher Education Supervisory Board (Yükseköğretim Denetleme Kurulu) acting on behalf of the YÖK.
The school year comprises 180 days and is divided into two semesters. It begins in the second week of September and ends in mid-June of the following year. At the end of the first semester, there is a two-week holiday called ‘mid-school-year’ holiday. The Ministry of National Education takes decisions on the exact timing of each semester. Schools are open five days a week from Monday to Friday. The number of school lessons a week in basic education is 30, so that the average number of lessons a day is 6. One lesson lasts 40 minutes and the break between lessons, which is determined by the school, at least 10 minutes. In general, the full school day runs from 9 a.m. to 3 or 4 p.m. However, 12,342 of the 56,321 public-sector schools (22 %) organize their provision in two separate shifts (morning and afternoon) to in-crease their capacity in areas of crowded settlement. In such cases, the number and duration of school lessons remain the same as in full-day provision.
The maximum number of pupils per class as officially specified is 30. However, there are no criteria for grouping pupils within a class – they are allocated to classes as each school wishes. This means that one can find classes with 70 students. For grades 1 to 5, classroom teachers are individually responsible for their classes. However, in grades 6 to 8 and some subjects in grades 4 and 5, certain lessons are given by specialist teachers. The curriculum is determined at national level by the Supreme Council of National Education, which is a department of the Ministry of National Education.
It is intended that pupils in basic education should be provided with basic knowledge and skills. Through active learning and pupil-oriented teaching, children are meant to become more creative, learn to think critically and solve the kind of problems they will face in later life. In the first three grades, there are no examinations. Instead, pupils are continuously assessed on the basis of their marks and work during the year. In grades 4 to 8, at least two examinations per semester have to be organized for each course, although teachers determine the precise number at the beginning of each school year. When preparing written or oral examination questions, they have to take account of the learning objectives for each subject as laid down in the annual course plans, as well as basic rules for assessing the performance of pupils. In general, pupils are assessed by means of written or oral examinations, or on the basis of assignments, marks for specific projects or practical examinations (in the case of lessons on use of the computer, drama or local handicrafts). The mid-term mark for a course is the average of all marks obtained by the pupil during the semester. However, teachers may award a higher mark to pupils who have taken part in scientific, artistic, social, cultural or sports activities. In order for a pupil to move on to the next grade or complete compulsory education successfully, the average of the marks obtained in all courses should be no less than 2 in either semester of the school year. At the end of the year or the end of an extra training course, a teacher council discusses the situation of pupils who have been unsuccessful during the year. If the council decides that a pupil may nevertheless progress to the next grade, this is explicitly mentioned in the school record of the pupil concerned.
General secondary education is provided in general high schools, Anatolian high schools, multi-program high schools, science high schools, foreign language based high schools, Anatolian teacher high schools, Anatolian fine art high schools and a social science high school. The key characteristic of Anatolian high schools is that some subjects are taught in a foreign language (mainly English, German or French) and that they include a preparatory year to achieve proficiency in it.
In Turkey, admission requirements depend on the particular type of school concerned. No examination has to be taken for admission to general high schools or multi-program high schools. However, in the case of Anatolian high schools, science schools, Anatolian teacher high schools and Anatolian vocational and technical high schools, pupils have to sit centrally administered entrance examinations Lycee Entrance Exam (LGS) is required. This exam puts tremendous pressure on adolescents attending the last year of primary school to prepare for the national lycee admission examination of LGS. These examinations are very competitive and are the sole criteria for acceptance into Anatolian high schools. So great is the pressure to perform well that students attend private courses to strengthen their knowledge in subjects such as Mathematics, Turkish, and Science. This results in taking these courses more seriously than English.
All teachers who work for the Ministry of National Education are appointed by the ministry and are civil servants whose salaries are paid by the State. Those employed in private schools are not civil servants and are paid by the owner of the school concerned.
Primary education is compulsory and free at public schools. Primary education institutions consist of eight-year schools where continuous education is provided and primary education diplomas are awarded to the graduating students.
Teaching materials are asserted to be based on Atatürk’s ideology in terms of quality and quantity, so as to provide contemporary, scientific knowledge and experience, away from memorizing and promoting active learning for the students (www.meb.gov.tr/indexeng.htm). The Ministry of National Education approves and distributes all textbooks for grades one to eight. Private schools use commercially published books which are also approved by MONE. They are free to choose the English text books they use to teach through kindergarten, primary and secondary levels.
The fifty-ninth Turkish government has declared that it will engage in wide-ranging activities to improve educational programs. In the Eighth Five-Year Development Plan as well as in the Governmental Plan for Immediate Action, the restructuring of curricula is among the issues which have
been emphasized (https://www.byegm.gov.tr/REFERENCES/EDUCATION-system.htm) Student-centered learning, and consideration of students’ prior experiences and their intellectual, emotional, social, physical, aesthetic, moral and spiritual development are the cornerstones of Turkish transformed education system. The redesigned school curriculum is structured upon a constructivist view of knowledge, learning competencies in content areas, developing a reflective attitude, and promoting creative, analytical and critical thinking.
Considering the teacher requirements in relation to the eight-year of primary education implemented by the Law no 4306, teacher-training programs have been reorganized with the cooperation of the Ministry of Education and the Higher Education Council in order to meet the short- and long-term teacher requirements of the primary and secondary education institutions. The new system has been implemented since 1998-1999 academic year (www.meb.gov.tr/indexeng.htm). Another important factor which required the restructuring of the teacher education programs was the recognition of the inadequacies of Faculties of Education in training qualified and sufficient number of teachers.
The new visions of learning and teaching that underlie current educational reform efforts in Turkey are making profound demands on schools, teachers, and students. Teachers are expected to help students develop rich understandings of important content, think critically, construct and solve problems, synthesize information, express themselves proficiently, and demonstrate these understandings and skills on new types of assessments. Classrooms are to be places where teachers and students engage in rich discourse about important ideas and participate in problem solving activities grounded in meaningful contexts. These visions depart significantly from much of the educational practice that is found in today’s typical Turkish schools.
If educational reform efforts are to succeed, it is imperative that teachers meet these challenges. Although policy makers certainly are crucial to reform, ‘‘teachers are the key agents when it comes to changing classroom practice. They are the final policy brokers” (Spillane, 1999, p. 144). As Little (1999) explained, long-term observers of educational innovation and school reform have argued that reform might more productively be seen as a problem of learning than as a problem of implementation. That is, the progress of reform appears to rest in crucial ways on the capacity of teachers, both individually and collectively. (p. 2). Little’s view is echoed by Fullan and Hargreaves (1992), who concluded, based on the empirical investigations of educational change in Canada, England, and the US reported in their edited book, that teacher development is central to successful change.
The success of current reform efforts is dependent upon creating opportunities for teachers’ continual learning and providing sufficient professional development resources to support these opportunities (Cohen and Ball, 1990; Darling-Hammond, 1990, 1996; Richardson, 1994). Because many new forms of assessment require that teachers play a key role in their design, administration, scoring, and use, these assessments will not work as intended unless adequate training is provided. The need for major new investments in professional development is even greater for those assessment policies that are expected to change curriculum and instructional policies.
At the same time, educational scholars have noted the inadequacy of existing support for teacher learning. Darling-Hammond (1990) suggested a possible reason for this situation—that policy makers appear not to realize the central role that teachers play in compounding the problem, the resources that have been spent on professional development over the years often have not yielded positive results. Most in-service activities for teachers are one-time events rather than on-going learning experiences.
These activities tend to be ‘‘intellectually superficial, disconnected from deep issues of curriculum and learning, fragmented, and non-cumulative” (Cohen and Ball, 1999, p. 15). The programs are not designed to take into account what we know about how teachers learn (Putnam and Borko, 1997). Thus, it is not surprising that, as Fullan (1991) observed, ‘‘Nothing has promised so much and has been so frustratingly wasteful as the thousands of workshops and conferences that led to no significant change in practice when teachers returned to their classrooms” (p. 315).
At the beginning of 2002, Improvement in Primary Education programs were drawn up under the guidance of Ministry of National Education in Turkey. These aim to promote new developments in primary education, deepen teaching reform, improve teaching quality, and meet the needs of the country and society for qualified citizens. The distinctive difference between the new curriculum and the former one consists in the new curriculum being based on constructivism, and stressing the introduction of new teaching model which requires changing the existing teacher-centered pattern of language teaching to a learner-centered pattern. The new curriculum focuses on learner-centered teaching modes and the development of the individual as a whole person, the promotion of learner responsibility and capacity for learning how to learn and how to learn a language. These new requirements are leading to many changes, which are not merely restricted to the teaching practices or approaches, but, more importantly, to changes in teaching philosophy, which deals with teacher’s “knowledge, beliefs, attitudes and thinking that inform such practice” (Richards, 1998, xviii).
In the past few decades, there have been increasing criticisms of the direct teaching method that expects teachers to teach as many skills as required by the curriculum and learners to learn exactly what teachers present in their classrooms. This teacher-centered approach results in a failure to develop students’ abilities to apply or transfer what they learn in the classroom into real life. The criticisms of this teaching approach are that it ignores pedagogical considerations such as individualized learning tasks, and it does not focus on students’ interests and needs. Instead of focusing on students’ development in cognitive learning processes, most teaching objectives involved drill-and-practice or memory skills. In addition, a directed teaching method creates an environment of learning skills in isolation from real-life problems and does not help students apply this requisite information or skills when they are required (Robyler and Edwards, 2000). This failure of educational goals, such as a failure to support learners’ meaningful learning, calls for a change from the traditional teaching and learning paradigm geared to the need for educational reform. Awareness of the importance of teaching in authentic and meaningful contexts and student-centered teaching approaches leads the educators and teachers to adopt a constructivist teaching approach.
Unlike a direct-instructional model, a constructivist learning approach tends to focus on learning through posing problems, exploring possible answers, and students’ developing products and presentations individually or through peer interaction (Robyler and Edwards, 2000).
Since constructivists stress learners actively participating in the learning process more than seeking correct answers, their teaching practices involve the process of meaning-making, contextualizing, integrating, collaborating, facilitating, and problem-solving activities (Willis, Stephens, & Matthew, 1996). Thus constructivist learning models tend to entail more inclusive tasks, such as exploring open-ended questions and scenarios, doing research and developing products rather than giving lectures or filling in practice worksheets or activities designed for specific responses (Roblyer and Edwards, 2000).
In this vein constructivism tends to be a students centered approach placing more emphasis on the role of learners than that of teachers in classrooms. Constructivism views the learner as the essential and active part of the instructional activities, which represent its support of student-centered learning pedagogy.
Breen and Littlejohn (2000) assert that the theoretical basis for learner-centered teaching is provided by constructivism, a view of learning that suggests that learners create their own knowledge based on their previous experience and their social interactions, which is based on three principles of constructivism. The first one is that the learners acquire knowledge by constructing new meanings through social interaction, not by receiving knowledge from outside source; the second one is that the learners transform new experiences through what they already know; the third one is that learning is self-regulated and self-preserving. The ultimate goal of constructivism is that learners become empowered to be autonomous and independent from their teachers while performing their activities.
Instead of emphasizing the role of teachers, constructivists value collaborative learning activities. The source of knowledge comes not from the teacher but from students’ learning environments, including peer learners. Constructivists believe that learners need to collaborate with their peers to share their background knowledge and learning experience. Thus, constructivists stress teaching students how to work together to solve problems through group-based and cooperative learning activities. If a teacher follows a constructivist learning model, she tends to favor more group work than individualized work (Robyler and Edwards, 2000).
The main point of constructivism is that knowledge is not delivered to learners, but constructed by the learners through the learning process. Compared to a directed teaching method which places more stress on getting the correct answers, a constructivist learning approach sheds light on learners’ learning process, that is, how the teacher can help learners to discover and explore content knowledge by knowing what questions to ask and how to ask them. Therefore, in a constructivist approach, learners are expected to participate in their learning process actively for meaningful learning to occur. Obviously, the constructivist view of how students obtain their knowledge is different form that of a traditional classroom where a teacher plays the role of either a resource or a deliverer of content knowledge (Duffy and Cunnigham, 1996; Prawat, 1992).
Unlike a direct-instructional model, a constructivist learning approach tends to focus on learning through posing problems, exploring possible answers, and students’ developing products and presentations individually or through peer cooperation (Roblyer and Edwards, 2000). Since constructivists stress learners actively participating in the learning process more than seeking correct answers, their teaching practices involve the process of meaning-making, contextualizing, integrating, collaborating, facilitating, and problem-solving activities (Willis, Stephens, & Matthew, 1996). Thus, constructivist learning models tend to entail more inclusive tasks, such as exploring open-ended questions and scenarios, doing research and developing products rather than giving lectures or fill-in in practice worksheets or activities designed for specific responses (Roblyer and Edwards, 2000).
In this vein, constructivism tends to be a student-centered approach, placing more emphasis on the role of the learners than on that of teachers in the classrooms. Constructivism views the learner as essential and active part of the instructional activities, which represent its support of student-centered learning pedagogy. The ultimate goal of constructivism is that learners become empowered to be autonomous and independent form their teachers while performing activities. By doing so, learners are able to construct their knowledge in a more meaningful and authentic way. Instead of emphasizing the role of teachers, constructivists value collaborative learning activities.
Recently, in the field of second/foreign language education there has been a shift in focus from the teacher to the learner, from exclusive focus on how to improve teaching to an inclusive concern for how individual learners go through their learning. Very briefly, there are two reasons of this shift: the goals of language learning as well as insights into language and into the process of language learning have changed (Gremmo and Riley, 1995). Learner-centeredness is not a theory about teaching, but rather a theory about learning. Each individual decides what is important and what is relevant to construct a meaningful concept.
Although learner-centered instruction has to be implemented for a long time in Turkey, the majority of parties concerned have understood only the theoretical concepts. When it comes to actual practice, importance is not attached to learners but to subject matter (Yıldırım, 2000). The teaching-learning process is still a routine, repetitious method of transferring knowledge. More time is devoted to rote learning than to practice, training how to think, and character building. Learners are still used to following direct instructions, being obedient, and sitting quietly in their seats. As a result, the quality of teaching and learning has been far from satisfactory. With an urgent need of teaching-learning reform in Turkish school system, real implementation of a learner-centered approach becomes imperative.
To a certain degree, a communicative language learning approach overlaps with the idea of a constructivist learning approach since both learning approaches value learners’ interaction in learning process and learning in authentic and meaningful situation. Teachers of these foreign language subjects have been encouraged to use an approach commonly referred to as communicative language teaching (CLT), and as the Communication and Language or Communication approach. CLT approaches have also been widely endorsed for use by teachers through the Anatolian High School guidelines prepared in 2002, The inclusion of CLT in the curriculum of this level is considered very significant because of the contribution it can make to the realization of national priorities: extending opportunities for cultural and economic exchanges with other countries and enhancing relationships with other countries and cultural groups on both regional and international levels.
Student-centered education has been used historically to describe approaches and materials that focus on meeting individual student needs in a nurturing learning environment. According to Henson (1996), the teachings and work of John Dewey foreshadowed this development. Dewey’s work published in early 1900s, changed the way educators looked at teaching. Researchers have pointed out that Dewey moved the focus from outside the learner to inside (Rallis, 1995). Although recent inquiry into learner-centered philosophy and practices has affected the constructivist view of teaching and learning, the importance of Dewey’s influence on learner-centered education cannot be understated.
Educational approaches considered student centered throughout the past two decades have included the open classroom, programmed learning, individually guided instruction, and computer-based instruction. The emergence of the constructivist movement, however, led to a shift in the conceptualization of learner centeredness. Learner centeredness came to describe the application of constructivist principles in practice rather than a description of a particular set of practices.
The current construct of learner centeredness was defined by McCombs and Whisler (1997) as the perspective that couples a focus on individual learners (their heredity, experiences, perspectives, backgrounds, talents, interests, capacities, and needs) with a focus on learning (the best available knowledge about learning and how it occurs and about teaching practices that are most effective in promoting the highest levels of motivation, learning, and achievement for all learners). McCombs and Whisler (1997) maintained that underlying everything learner-centered teachers do is the assumption that all students want to learn. To understand the current use of the term learner-centeredness, one must understand the context of constructivism in education.
The constructivist movement in education, pioneered by Withall (1975), and Vygotsky (1986), underlies the current shift from a non learner-centered to a more learner-centered perspective in educational practice. This movement followed a number of years during which “teaching was seen as the implementation of set routines an formulas for behavior that were standardized and disconnected from the diverse needs and responses of students” (Darling-Hammond and Sclan, 1996, p.68). According to constructivism, (a) new understandings are actively constructed by learners, (b) new learning depends on a learner’s current background of understanding, (c) authentic learning tasks are essential to meaningful learning, and (d) social interaction facilitates learning (Good and Brophy, 1986; Wittrock, 1998).
One important implication of constructivism for instruction is that teachers, rather than delivering already organized and interpreted subject material to students, need to guide students to create their own understandings. They accomplish this by utilizing students’ backgrounds of understanding, cooperative learning, authentic learning problems, and active student engagement in the learning process. Withhall (1975) conceptualized the role of teacher as one of facilitator: “The primary role and purpose of any teacher in any classroom is to help learners learn, inquire, problem-solve, and cope with their own emotional needs and tensions, as well as with the needs of those around them” (p.261). The constructivist focus is not on what the teacher want to teach, but on what and how students need to learn (Bruning, Schraw, & Ronning, 1995; Kauchak and Eggen, 1998).
The current constructivist movement in education supports a shift toward teacher beliefs and research-based classroom practices that facilitate effective learning. The central concept in constructivism is suggested by its name: Learners use their existing knowledge and backgrounds of experience to construct meanings from new information and experiences. Students who take active roles in learning activities learn better than passive students. Finally learners construct meaning within the context of social relationships (Kauchak and Eggen, 1998).
Constructivism offers at least three implications for the role of teaching. First it stresses the importance of teachers’ relationships to their students and to the process of learning. Second, it suggests that the beliefs and assumptions that drive teachers’ decisions should place students at the center of the learning process as active meaning-makers of classroom experiences. Third, constructivism suggests that teachers’ classroom practices should allow students an active and social role in learning activities.
Learner-centered teaching has also been called meaning-making, progressive, constructivist, students-centered, andragogy, holistic, and focused on process as opposed to content (Grubb et al., 1999; Karabell, 1998). It has also been referred to as active learning since students must participate in creating knowledge rather than being passive recipients of content. In addition, the teacher serves as a guide to students rather than the source of all authority and knowledge. In the learner-centered teaching environment, learning becomes primary with the actual content of the course becoming secondary (Cranton, 1998). The teacher is more concerned with the development of higher order intellectual and cognitive skill among students. They focus more on empowering learners and making them more autonomous and self-directed learners (Cranton, 1998).
The term “learner centered” can be further clarified by noting that it is sometimes used synonymously with “student centered.” Those who would distinguish between the two terms describe “learner” as a broader term than “student,” implying that the principles associated with how people learn apply to all learners, not just elementary and secondary students in formal educational settings (McCombs and Whisler, 1997).Since the researcher aimed at mentioning the learning dimensions of people the term “learner” is used instead of “student” throughout this study. The term “student” was used only when the teachers mentioned the learners as students.
Goodlad (1984) painted a rather dark picture of school settings emerging from observations of over 1000 classrooms. The dominant teaching procedure which he revealed was lecturing, with an emphasis on recall and a lack of student-student interactions, group work or any other alternative approaches: a teacher-centered form of instruction. Freire (1970) maintains that such “banking education” equates with teachers filling empty vessels with knowledge, and that it should be replaced by more equalized roles between teachers and learners. A teacher-centered approach in which the teacher imposes her/his ideas rather than allowing learners to develop their own is believed to curtail the development of critical thinking skills and cognitive development. In contrast to a learner-centered classroom in which learners have a say in their learning, and often work with others in group activities, a teacher-centered classroom is defined as one in which many activities are primarily organized as whole-class activities directed by the teacher.
In the foreign/second language classroom, the teacher has traditionally been seen as the director of classroom exchanges, the authority and transmitter of knowledge doing most of the talking, with learners’ speech being limited both in terms of quantity and quality (Long and Porter, 1985). The traditional teacher-centered classroom environment found in many foreign/second language classrooms allows only limited opportunities for students to use the target language and to engage in meaningful communication.
Teacher-centered forms of instruction have been found too authoritarian by various educational theorists who claim that more power should be given to students in their learning process (Freire, 1970; 1983). They call for teachers to relinquish some of their authority as sole dispenser of information, and move towards more cooperative, equalized roles between teacher and learner.
Within the context of learner-centered instruction, humanistic education takes a prominent role. The goal of humanistic education is to increase learner participation in the learning process, establishing a “participatory mode of decision-making in classroom process to promote life-long learning” (Rogers, 1969, p. 3). Carl Rogers (1969) proposed a shift in education, from teaching to learning, from the teacher directing and controlling the teaching to facilitating students’ learning. The learner is to take charge of her/his own learning and to become more independent from the teacher.
Going one step further, Freire (1970) argues in favor of a form of education, where the learner is the focus and teachers and learners are partners. In such a learner-centered context, learners are not passive or “disengaged brains”, “depositories of teacher knowledge” (Freire, 1970, p. 72), but active participants in the negotiation of meaning, not simply repeating or memorizing material but expressing ideas of their own, thus using the language in a more qualitative way. In such a context, meaning is inherent in the communication between teacher and learner through a dialectical process. The prescriptive aspect of the educational process which Freire denounces is also denounced by a number of critical theorists such as Giroux (1987), and Greene (1988) who argue in favor of more balanced control over educational processes between teachers and learners.
These learner-centered approaches to teaching/learning seem to allow teachers to go beyond the teacher/learner dichotomy in which the teacher controls the classroom instructional process, and student are passive recipients (Lee and VanPatten, 1995), towards as two-way, reciprocal relationship in which both teachers and learners learn from one another. This two-way communication process is exactly what proponents of L2 communicative language teaching advocate, the teacher becoming a facilitator, intervening without taking control, encouraging learners to communicate, acting as a co-participant in the teaching learning-process. Stevick (1980) stresses that the language teacher needs to be able to provide students with room for “initiative” while maintaining control: structuring classroom activities and providing constructive feedback on student performance. The teacher in such a communication model has two main roles. Breen and Candlin (1980, p. 99) assert that “the first role is to facilitate the communicative process between all participants in the classroom […]. The second role is to act as an interdependent participant with the learning-teaching group”.
Responsibility for social relations which stresses the responsibility of the teacher in shaping social relations and managing pupil-teacher relationships. There is a shift towards more student-centered teaching. A new vision on learning implies redefining the roles of teachers and students (Candy, 1990; Hargreaves, 1994). A more central role is assigned to the students. They are considered active constructors of their own understanding.
The communicative approach has been widely adapted and used by language teachers, program developers, school curricula, teaching materials and second and foreign language teaching during the last decades (Berns, 1984; Savignon, 1991; Karavas-Doukas, 1996; Li, 1998). Through this widespread use, it became an approach to meet language learners’ communicative needs not only in Europe and the United States but all over the world. A great deal has been written and discussed about its theoretical foundations and practical concerns since its introduction into language teaching in the early 1970s (Savignon 1991).
CLT is not a rigidly circumscribed method of foreign language teaching but rather an approach, based on an amalgam of affiliated strategies, that seeks to develop communicative competence in students and requires a commitment to using the foreign language as a medium for classroom communication as much as possible. CLT classrooms are also usually characterized by a number of features that are commonly listed in the literature on CLT (Mangubhai, Howard, and Dashwood, 1999;Williams, 1995). These features include: an emphasis on language use rather than language knowledge; greater emphasis on fluency and appropriateness in the use of the target language than structural correctness; minimal focus on form with corresponding low emphasis on error correction and explicit instruction on language rules or grammar; classroom tasks and exercises that depend on spontaneity and student trial-and-error and that encourage negotiation of meaning between students and students and teachers; use of authentic materials; an environment that is interactive, not excessively formal, encourages risk-taking and promotes student autonomy; teachers serving more as facilitators and participants than in the traditional didactic role; and students being actively involved in interpretation, expression and negotiation of meaning. In short, the approach puts the focus on the learner (Savignon, 1991, p. 4).
A number of reports in literature deal with Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) innovations in EFL contexts. Although there are studies which highlight many of the principal problems in instituting curricular innovations promoted by CLT, many of the studies take the researcher perspective. Teachers’ perceptions of innovations related to CLT remain largely unexplored (Li, 1998).
Some studies aim at investigating teachers’ attitudes towards the implementation of Communicative Language Teaching within the ESL and EFL contexts. In an EFL context. Burnaby and Sun (1989) conducted a study with 24 Chinese university English teachers to investigate teachers’ views on the appropriateness and effectiveness of Western language teaching methods (i.e. the communicative approaches). Although Chinese teachers revealed favorable attitudes towards CLT in general, they mentioned some difficulties in its implementation caused by their inefficient sociolinguistic and strategic competence in English. They also cited lower status of teachers teaching communicative skills than those teaching analytical skills or literature, large classes, lack of authentic materials and teaching aids, traditional teaching methods, Chinese educational system and schedules as the crucial factors that constrain the implementation of CLT successfully in China.
Similarly, Karavas-Doukas, in her study (1996), focused on the degree of implementation of communicative approaches in Greek public secondary schools. In order to investigate Greek EFL teachers’ attitudes towards CLT, she developed a 24-item attitude scale. The scores obtained by the participant teachers revealed that a considerable majority of them had mildly favorable attitudes towards CLT. Yet, when their classroom practices were observed, their attitudes were found to be different from their actual language teaching behaviors. Unlike the results of the scale, the observed classes were found to be teacher-dominated. The focus was on language forms and no group work activities were used. Teachers were found to follow an eclectic approach rather than communicative or traditional methods. The researcher concluded that this discrepancy may be the result of teachers’ misinterpretation of the new approaches.
Another study carried out in an EFL context is a case study with 18 South Korean secondary school EFL teachers. Li (1998) investigated how Korean teachers perceive the use of CLT in South Korea where it was introduced into language education in 1992 by the Ministry of Education. Li elicited that all of the teachers who participated in the study were using grammar-translation, audio-lingual method or a combination of both. In relation to the first source of difficulty, the teachers reported their abilities in English speaking and listening were not adequate to conduct the communicative classes necessarily involved in CLT. Their low strategic and sociolinguistic competence in English was another factor, which made it difficult for the teachers to conduct communicative classes. They also reported that their students had low proficiency in English and lacked motivation to participate in class activities. The difficulties stemming from the educational system were large classes, insufficient equipment, and grammar-based examinations in which the students were evaluated through grammar, reading comprehension, and translation questions. Teachers mentioned lack of administrative support and CLT experts who could offer professional help in managing communicative classes. Teachers also believed that CLT gave no account to the purpose of English learning and learning settings in South Korean EFL context and that it could not provide an effective instrument to evaluate the students. The researcher concluded that these difficulties the Korean teachers encountered in the use of CLT arose from differences between educational theories in South Korea and the Western countries. For a successful implementation of Western methods in EFL contexts like South Korea, fundamental changes are required in the underlying educational theories of that context and teachers’ perceptions on the implementation of an innovation should be investigated before it is introduced.
Similar results were obtained in the studies described above although they were conducted in different settings i.e. China, Greece, and China. All of them make the same announcement in the end. If an innovation is going to be implemented, teachers’ beliefs about this innovation should be gathered first. In addition, if necessary, they should be trained in such a way to adopt themselves to this particular innovation and they should be informed about its effectiveness.
Another study that shows the relationship between teachers’ beliefs and communicative language teaching was described in Gorsuch’s (2000) article which focused on teachers as they were asked to implement educational innovations suggested in a nationally instituted educational policy. With teachers and their world view as the starting point of the study, the study applied empirical methods to a model of Japanese EFL teachers’ perceptions of various national, school, and classroom-level influences and related those perceptions to teachers’ approval of classroom activities associated with communicative language teaching. The findings of the study suggested ways educational change might be encouraged, should this be will of the government, local school boards, the students, their families, the teachers, business and industry, and others with a stake in education outcomes. Another finding of the study was that university entrance exam preparation had an influence on Japanese high school EFL education and that teachers felt influenced by the exam at both the institutional and the classroom levels. Finally, although teachers were somewhat sensitive to potential shifts in attitude toward the exams at the institutional level, they were less so when it came to those shifts as expressed in the classroom. The above studies reveal a lot of constraints of applying CLT in EFL context. Problems come from teachers’ lack of confidence of applying CLT, inappropriateness of CLT in EFL contexts, large size of class, student factors, and teachers’ fear of innovations.
Innovations in various EFL contexts developed in consonance with the underpinnings of CLT have faced major challenges (Anderson, 1993; Cheng, 2002, Dam and Gabrielsen, 1988; Li, 1998; LoCastro, 1996; Savignon, 1991). The origins of these challenges are multiple and include the teacher, the students, the educational system, and communicative language itself (Li, 1998). Dam and Gabrielsen (1988) found that the need to redefine teachers’ roles contributed more to difficulty in the implementation of task-based approaches than did resistance from learners. The studies point to the inconsistency between teachers’ perceptions of communicative language teaching and their actual in-class behavior. Anderson (1993) also reports that in addition to both teacher and learner resistance, the difficulties of implementing a meaning-based program include teachers’ lack of communicative competence in English, the lack of teacher preparation generally, and the multiple and excessive demands placed upon teachers.
One of the most important outcomes of the shift towards more communicative language teaching has been the enhancement of the role of the learner in the language learning process (Wenden, 1991). Foreign language education is no longer one in which teachers teach and learners learn. Instead, teachers have to learn to let go and learners have to learn to take hold of their learning (Wenden, 1991). Learners need to be willing and able to think independently and act responsibly for their own learning. For students to maximize their chances for success in this rapidly changing world, learner autonomy has become a desirable goal in language learning and teaching (Kumaravadivelu, 2003). As very few studies have been done to investigate teachers’ beliefs on these issues, the findings of this research are important to English teachers and students who emphasize self-direction for lifelong learning as the goal of learner-centered instruction.
Holec (1980) was the first to discuss the concept of learner empowerment and autonomy in a foreign language learning context. He defines learner autonomy as the ability to take control of one’s own learning. Seen from this perspective, teachers are no longer transmitters of knowledge, but help learners choose learning strategies and evaluate their own learning. Over the last two decades or so, the nature and the implications of the concept of learner autonomy have evolved and become clearer in time (Tudor, 1996). Little (1991) has described autonomy as a “buzz-word” (p.2) of the 1990s and “learner autonomy” has been discussed in numerous books (Benson and Voller, 1997; Dam, 1995; Dickinson and Wenden, 1995; van Lier, 1995).In language education, however, the concept of autonomy is not clearly defined, so its application for language teaching is still open to discussion, despite the fact that “few teachers will disagree with the importance of helping language learners become more autonomous as learners (Wenden, 1991, p.11). Various definitions of autonomy in language learning will be reviewed as to generate the working definition of the concept learner autonomy.
As put forward by Little (1991, p.4) "autonomy is a capacity – for detachment, critical reflection, decision-making, and independent action. It presupposes, but also entails, that the learner will develop a particular kind of psychological relation to the process and content of his learning. The capacity for autonomy will be displayed both in the way the learner learns and in the way he or she transfers what has been learned to wider contexts".
Kumaravadivelu (2003) points out that the misconception about the meaning of autonomy is created by the diversity of the terms. This diversity includes widely used terms such as self-instruction , self-direction, self-access learning , and individualized instruction. For Holec (1980), autonomy describes an attitude and self-direction, a mode of learning. Holec (1981) later defines learner autonomy as ‘the ability to take charge of one’s learning’ (p. 3). He further explains that taking charge actually means to have and to hold the responsibility for determining learning objectives, defining content and progress, selecting methods and techniques to be used, monitoring the procedure of acquisition, and finally, evaluating what has been acquired.
Although Holec (1981) stressed that the term autonomy should be used to describe a capacity of the learner, other researchers, such as Riley and Zoppis (1985) and Dickinson (1992), began to use it to refer to situations in which learners worked under their own direction outside the traditional classroom. In Riley and Zoppis’s view (1985), access to a rich collection of second language materials would offer learners the best opportunity for experimentation with self-directed learning. Thus, they greatly support self-access language learning centers for self-directed or autonomous learning because, they presume, self-access work will lead to autonomy.
Kumaravadivelu (2003) remarks that these descriptions and definitions of terms indicate varying degrees of learner involvement and teacher engagement, ranging from total learner control over the aims and activities of learning, to partial learner control, to indirect teacher control in terms of methods and materials, and place and pace of study. In spite of the conceptual and terminological variations found in the L2 literature, he suggests that one can discern two complementary views on learner autonomy, particularly with regard to its aims and objectives: learning to learn and learning to liberate. The first view, learning to learn, is a narrow view that summarizes the chief goal of learner autonomy—enabling learners to learn how to learn. To develop learners’ academic autonomy in language learning, teachers need to equip learners with the tools necessary to learn on their own and train them to use appropriate strategies for realizing their learning objectives.
The second view, learning to liberate, is a broad view that urges learners to become critical thinkers in order to realize their human potential. Within this view, learning a language is not an end but a means to an end for liberational autonomy (Benson and Voller, 1997). This view coincides with Pennycook’s (1997) version of autonomy that relates to the social, cultural, and political contexts of education. To address this purpose, teachers need to take into account the sociopolitical factors that shape the culture of the L2 classroom (Tudor, 1996).
Drawing on insights from the research on this approach during the 1980s and 1990s, Kumaravadivelu (2003) states that promoting learner autonomy is a matter of helping learners: (1) develop a capacity for independent learning; (2) take responsibility and use appropriate strategies to achieve their objectives; (3) discover their learning potential ; (4) learn to face and solve their weaknesses and failures in the learning process; (5) develop self-control and self-discipline for self-esteem and self-confidence; (6) move beyond a mere response to instruction from the teachers and the educational system; and (7) understand the complex process when interacting with one’s self, the teachers, the task, and the educational environment.
The procedures and techniques for accomplishing learner autonomy have become known as learner training. A crucial task for the teacher, for example, is to help learners take responsibility for their learning, and to bring about necessary attitudinal changes in them (Tudor, 1996). Learners’ ability to take charge of their own learning can be made possible only if they are trained to identify and use appropriate strategies.
Regarding the role of the teacher and the learner, autonomy can be effected in the presence of a supportive institutional environment. Since autonomy is a complicated construct, teachers and learners need to achieve it through effort. Teachers need to learn to let go and learners to take hold (Little, 1991).
Learner autonomy does not leave out the role of the teacher in the classroom; rather it emphasizes the role of the teacher to foster autonomy in the learner. The teacher needs to be an instructor, supervisor, and coach, who guides his or her students to take responsibility for their own learning process. This can be done by helping learners organize and plan their learning and develop new and better modes of acquiring language.
According to Little (1999), the basis of learner autonomy in formal educational contexts is acceptance of responsibility for one’s own learning, and the development of learner autonomy relies on the exercise of that responsibility for learners to understand what they are learning, why they are learning, how they are learning, and with what degree of success. Teachers should create environments in which responsibility is shared with the learners. That is, teachers select and structure an environment that can allow learners to exercise increasing responsibility though decision making that is either done independently of others or in a situation where they choose to be part of a group and work interdependently for their learning.
Fernandes, Ellis, and Sinclair (1990) observe, “language learners in the classroom often tend to revert to the traditional role of pupil, who expects to be told what to do…. As a result, some learners have become teacher-dependent and often feel that it is the teacher alone who is responsible for any learning and progress that takes place” (p.101). However, the responsibility for such a definition should not be assigned to learner only. The teacher has an important role in helping learners realize that both the learner and teacher must take responsibility for effective language learning.
An important factor for developing autonomy is the support provided by the teacher. Brookfield (1994) sees the role of the teacher as facilitator in contrast to the role of teacher as authority. While the former is a process analyst, the latter is a content expert. The teacher plays an important role in facilitating the process of re-orientation and personal discovery, which is a natural outcome of self-directed learning (Kelly, 1996). It is crucial for the teacher to establish a good relationship with students, supporting and guiding them in their learning, e.g., by helping them formulate their goals more clearly, and providing feedback, encouragement, and reinforcement.
Opting to promote learner autonomy represents a challenge to a new role of the teacher. In the view of Little (1991), since learning arises form interaction and interaction is characterized by interdependence, the development of autonomy in learners presupposes the development of autonomy in teachers.
In the last decade, with the increased attention to learner-centered curricula, needs analysis, and learner autonomy, the topic of self-assessment has become of particular interest in testing and evaluation (Blanche 1988; Oscarsson, 1998). According to Blue (1994), interest in self-assessment developed out of a more general interest in the area of autonomous learning or learner independence. Self-assessment is an essential component of learner-centered approach to teaching.
It is now being recognized that learners have the ability to provide meaningful input into the assessment of their performance, and that this assessment can be valid. In fact, with regard to second and foreign language, research reveals an emerging pattern of consistent, overall high correlations between self-assessment results and ratings based on a variety of external criteria (Blanche 1988; Oscarsson 1984, 1997, 1998; Coombe 1992).
According to Oscarsson (1998) there are six different reasons why self-assessment can be beneficial to language learning. First, he stresses that self-assessment promotes learning, plain and simple. It gives learners training in evaluation which results in benefits to the learning process. Secondly, it gives both students and teachers a raised level of awareness of perceived levels of abilities. Training in self-assessment, even in its simplest form, like asking "What have I been learning?" encourages learners to look at course content in a more discerning way. Thirdly, it is highly motivating in terms of goal-orientation. Fourth, through the use of self-assessment methodologies, the range of assessment techniques is expanded in the classroom. As a result of using self-assessment, the learner broadens’ his/her range of experience within the realm of assessment. Fifth, by practicing self-assessment, the students participate in their own evaluation (Dickinson, 1992). The students share the assessment burden with the teacher. The sixth and the last reason is that by successfully involving students in their own assessment, beneficial post-course effects will ensue.
The European Language Portfolio (ELP) has been developed under the authority of the Council of Europe. The Council of Europe’s Framework is a natural development from earlier work of the Council. It is based on a number of projects which were highly influential world-wide and gained general acceptance in the language professions. These included the Threshold Level (van Ek, 1975), a manifestation of the communicative approach which has had a widespread and lasting effect on classroom practice and test design.
The Preface to the 1980 edition of Threshold Level English recommends a functional approach to language teaching; the main focus of this approach is on language in practical use, as it serves the daily personal needs of an adult living in a foreign country It is designed to encourage the lifelong learning of languages, to any level of proficiency; to make the learning process more transparent and to develop the learner’s ability to assess his/her own competence; to facilitate mobility within Europe by providing a clear profile of the owner’s language skills; to contribute to mutual understanding within Europe by promoting plurilingualism (the ability to communicate in two or more languages) and intercultural learning (Little, 2002).
1. The Language Passport: designed to provide an overview of the individual’s proficiency in different languages at a given point in time
2. The Language Biography: facilitating the learner’s involvement in planning, reflecting upon and assessing his or her learning process and progress
3. The Dossier: to document and illustrate achievements or experiences recorded in the Language Biography or Passport
According to Little and Perclová (2001, introduction to Appendix 2), the ‘Self-assessment checklists’ for the Language Passport ‘can be used to plan a course of learning’ and are thus the part of the ELP which is able to serve as a syllabus for teaching foreign languages.
The skills referred to in the language passport are UNDERSTANDING (LISTENING and READING), SPEAKING (SPOKEN INTERACTION and SPOKEN PRODUCTION), and WRITING; while the levels, derived from the Council of Europe’s Common European Framework, are BASIC USER (A1: BREAKTHROUGH and A2: WAYSTAGE), INDEPENDENT USER (B1: THRESHOLD and B2: VANTAGE), and PROFICIENT USER (C1: EFFECTIVE OPERATIONAL PROFICIENCY and C2: MASTERY). The individual skills mentioned are (LISTENING, READING, SPOKEN INTERACTION, SPOKEN PRODUCTION and WRITING) at different levels.
a. Reporting. The ELP displays the owner’s capabilities, but in relation to foreign languages. Its purpose is not to replace the certificates and diplomas that are awarded on the basis of formal examinations, but to supplement them by presenting additional information about the owner’s experience and concrete evidence of his or her foreign language achievements.
b. Pedagogical. The ELP is also intended to be used as a means of making the language learning process more transparent to learners, helping them to develop their capacity for reflection and self-assessment, and thus enabling them gradually to assume more and more responsibility for their own learning (Little, 2002).
In its reporting and pedagogical functions, the ELP is designed to support four of the Council of Europe’s key political aims: the preservation of linguistic and cultural diversity, the promotion of linguistic and cultural tolerance, the promotion of plurilingualism, and education for democratic citizenship.
The Council also explains that the authorities and education institutions using an ELP should help learners to develop autonomy, a critical awareness of their learning and to assess their language and intercultural competence. The ELP makes it possible for children to be able to assess their own language competence in different languages (including the languages which have not been learnt at school or other formal courses). On their own or with the help of the teacher, children can do this periodically by referring to the self-assessment grids or checklists, provided in the Language Passport and Language Biography sections of the ELP. Through asking children to assess themselves, children will be encouraged to develop a capacity for self-assessment and will be able to reflect on their own personal objectives. As a result, the child will be able to gain an overall picture of his/her language learning, define future goals and suitable learning strategies; this will also enhance the child’s motivation and assist in laying the basis for autonomous language learning (Little, 2002).
The ELP was trialed by over 30,000 students and 1,800 teachers in 15 member states of the Council of Europe: Austria, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom; also in private language schools under the auspices of EAQUALS (European Association for Quality Language Services) and in universities in various countries. These experiences are described in a Council of Europe report (https:// culture2.coe.int/portfolio//documents/ELP%20in%20use.pdf).
Pilot projects have been undertaken at all educational levels – primary, lower secondary, upper secondary, vocational, university, adult – on the basis of a variety of pedagogical assumptions.
Feedback from individual teachers confirms that the ELP can exert a strong positive influence on language learning (Czech Republic). Others noted that it helped not only learners, but also teachers, to reflect on language and language learning and made learners more aware of what they knew (Moscow). Taken together, reports from teachers suggest that the ELP can serve as an instrument of renewal, not just in individual foreign language classrooms but within national systems. It can improve learners’ motivation, develop their reflective capacities, and encourage them to take their own learning initiatives; but in doing this, it can also help them to carry their foreign language learning (and foreign language use) beyond the confines of the classroom.
Study of the reports on the teachers’ comments about ELP shows the value of four elements: program integration, committed support of teachers and administrators, teacher and student training and clarity of status and purpose of the ELP.
It seems that the European Language Portfolio can help developing various aspects of the paradigm shift in ELT as described by Jacobs and Farrell (2001), including the following:
1. Learner autonomy is supported by the fact that learners can set their own objectives with the aid of self-assessment checklists
2. Curricular integration can be fostered through production of the Dossier
3. A focus on meaning is adopted throughout checklists
Jacobs and Farrell mention ‘portfolio assessment’ under the title of ‘Alternative Assessment’ (2001, p. 11), and their actual description is similar to the ELP’s Dossier. The Council for Cultural Co-operation Education Committee, in the Principles and Guidelines, points out that the ELP reflects the CoE’s concern with “the development of the language learner [and] the development of the capacity for independent language learning (p. 2).”
Turkey, as a member state of the Council of Europe, has decided to develop and implement the ELP model in piloting schools at the secondary education level. As a first step the Ministry of Turkish National Education, Board of Education, accepted to pilot the ELP project in selected schools in Turkey, and an action plan was put into practice. For this purpose, 24 piloting schools at secondary education level in Ankara and Antalya provinces were identified. Secondly, the ELP project documents supplied by the Council of Europe, Foreign Language Division were examined and evaluated. As a result an in-service teaching program for piloting teachers was designed. In addition, long term and short term objectives were determined to attain the aims of the ELP project in Turkey.
Finally, in a seminar held in 2001 seminar, the ELP project was introduced in detail, existing sample ELP models of other European countries were examined, language descriptors in the portfolio were analyzed and the implementation process of the ELP in Turkey was discussed. As a result a sample ELP model was developed for upper secondary high school students by the ELP steering committee in the Board of National Education. A non-validated ELP model has been published by the Ministry of National Education with the name “Avrupa Dil Gelişim Dosyası – European Language Portfolio” and distributed to piloting schools (Demirel, 2004).
The findings of the pilot implementation of ELP indicated that teachers all agreed that the ELP implementation made a positive contribution to the language teaching-learning process and motivated students more than expected. Most of the students achieved some learner autonomy, self-assessment and responsibility in the learning process. However, the teachers reflected a need for in-service training seminars on the following topics
a. Learner autonomy.
b. Self-directed learning.
c. Project-based learning.
d. Web-based learning.
e. Cooperative learning.
f. Experiential learning.
g. Portfolio assessment.
h. Learning Styles.
i. Theory of Multiple Intelligences.
j. Brain-based learning.
A study carried by Egel (2004) deals with the benefits of integrating the ELP in Turkish public primary schools. She asserts that contrary to the classical teaching methods observed in the Turkish primary schools, the piloting phase of the ELP has shown in some settings that “an ELP functioned as a catalyst in so far as it accelerated impending changes in the fields of teaching practice, curriculum design and assessment” (Schneider and Lenz, 2001, p. 6). She asserts that implementing the ELP in Turkish primary schools can open significant avenues for enhancing learner-centred teaching. An ELP oriented teaching practice focuses on supporting the children in setting their own language goals and periodically self-assessing their language achievements. As the responsibility of language learning shifts from the teacher to the learner, the child will become more independent from the teacher and this will enhance the child’s level of autonomy, which is the key to successful life-long learning.
Even though the results of the pilot project both in the European countries and in Turkey yielded positive results, Erözden (2004) focuses on an important point regarding the use of the Common European Framework. In his study he invites all the implementers of CEF to reconsider the points, which are mentioned in the framework (given in the Appendix A). Erözden (2004) asserts that introducing English Language Portfolio without considering the points mentioned in the CEF (Bailly et al., 2002) might turn into a disaster rather than a benefit.
In an effort to lay the foundation for the present research endeavor, this chapter reviewed the related literature as a theoretical framework for this study. The review first surveyed the literature relating to the terminology and meaning of beliefs, assumptions and knowledge. The strands of research summarized at the beginning of the chapter converged to highlight the critical role that teachers’ BAK played in determining teachers’ classroom practices. A second focus of the chapter was to describe and discuss the foundations of constructivism and learner-centeredness. Understanding constructivism and learner-centeredness completely allows for a better start with which to explore the education reforms in Turkey.
The review of relevant literature about teachers’ BAK and practices, and constructivism and learner-centeredness was accompanied with the description of English Language Portfolio. Additional information was provided about the education system in Turkey and the current educational reform movement which has focused upon new ideas about learning and instructional improvement, with a primary emphasis upon learner-centeredness and a call for students who can use critical thinking skills and know how to learn, rather than memorize unrelated bits of knowledge.
 All the information about MONE was taken from the web-site https://ttkb.meb.gov.tr/
 Before the actual focus group discussion, a pilot focus group study was carried out with EFL teachers working in a primary school. The number of students in each class in this school was more than 70.
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