Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 82

UNIVERSIDAD DE CONCEPCIN

FACULTAD DE EDUCACIN

ENGLISH TEACHING UNCLASSIFIED: AN OBSERVATIONAL APPROACH TO


THE EFL CLASSROOM PRACTICES IN THE BO-BO REGION

SEMINARIO PARA OPTAR AL GRADO DE LICENCIADO EN EDUCACIN

Tesistas:

Alejandra Martnez Mora


Manuel Uribe Pea

Profesor gua:

Concepcin, 2014

Ph.D. Claudio Daz Larenas

UNIVERSIDAD DE CONCEPCIN
FACULTAD DE EDUCACIN

ENGLISH TEACHING UNCLASSIFIED: AN OBSERVATIONAL APPROACH TO


THE EFL CLASSROOM PRACTICES IN THE BO-BO REGION

SEMINARIO PARA OPTAR AL GRADO DE LICENCIADO EN EDUCACIN

Tesistas:

Alejandra Martnez Mora


Manuel Uribe Pea

Profesor gua:

Concepcin, 2014

Ph.D. Claudio Daz Larenas

To be a teacher in the right


sense is to be a learner.
Sren Kierkegaard
(18131855)

Acknowledgments

iii

Abstract

Since access to schools is not always granted for researchers to see in


practice what unfolds inside classrooms during English lessons, this study intends
to shed some light into the issue, disclosing what happens during English lessons of
fifty-five schools of the Bio-Bio region. The aim is to describe classroom practices,
analyze its implications, and evaluate its coherence with the guidelines of the
Ministry of Education of Chile, as well as to identify the seating arrangement pattern
that is most commonly used during these English lessons. For this purpose,
observation is the preferred research methodcarried out by student-teachers
aided by a comprehensive checklist that focuses on multiple aspects of teaching
occurring during the beginning, development, and end of each lesson. The results
reveal that teachers tend to adhere to traditional practices with regard to
methodology, classroom management, and teaching styles.
Key

words:

Classroom

practices,

seating

arrangement,

classroom

observation, methodology, classroom management, teaching styles.

iv

Resumen
Dado que no siempre se concede acceso a investigadores para ingresar a
las escuelas y ver en la prctica que ocurre durante las clases de ingls, este estudio
tiene la intencin de indagar en este problema, revelando lo que ocurre durante
clases de ingls de cincuenta escuelas de la regin del Bo-Bo. El objetivo es
describir prcticas en el aula, analizar sus implicancias y evaluar su coherencia con
las guas del Ministerio de Educacin, as como tambin identificar el patrn de
disposicin de asientos ms usado durante las clases de ingls observadas. Para
este propsito, se utiliz como mtodo de investigacin la observacin en el aula
ejecutada por estudiantes de pedagoga realizando sus pasantasayudada por
una pauta cuyos criterios se enfocan en diversos aspectos de la enseanza que son
observables durante el inicio, desarrollo, y final de la clase. Los resultados revelan
que los profesores tienden a adherirse a prcticas tradicionales en cuanto a su
metodologa, gestin de aula, y estilos de enseanza.
Palabras clave: Prcticas en el aula, disposicin de asientos, observacin en
el aula, metodologa, manejo de aula, estilos de enseanza.

Table of Contents
Acknowledgments ................................................................................................... iii
Abstract ................................................................................................................... iv
Resumen ..................................................................................................................v
Table of Contents ................................................................................................... vi

Chapter I: Theoretical Background..........................................1


I.1 Introduction......................................................................................................... 1
I.2 Theory and practice in language teaching .......................................................... 2
I.2.1 Methods: the theoretical foundations ........................................................... 3
I.2.2 Methodology: from theory to practice ........................................................... 5
I.3 Classroom observation ....................................................................................... 8
I.3.1 Definition and scope .................................................................................... 8
I.3.2 The broad possibilities of classroom observation ........................................ 8
I.3.3 Forms of data collection in classroom observation .................................... 10
I.3.4 Types of observation.................................................................................. 12
I.3.5 Difficulties of using the observational approach ......................................... 12
I.3.6 Issues on validity and reliability .................................................................. 14
I.4 Classroom management .................................................................................. 15
I.5 Summary of key concepts ................................................................................ 18

Chapter II: Design..................................................................20


II.1 Objectives........................................................................................................ 20
II.1.1 Main objective ........................................................................................... 20
II.1.2 Specific Objectives.................................................................................... 20
II.2 Research Approach ......................................................................................... 20
vi

II.3 Subjects........................................................................................................... 20
II.4 Context ............................................................................................................ 20
II.5 Instrument ....................................................................................................... 21
II.6 Data analysis ................................................................................................... 21

Chapter III: Results................................................................23


III.1 Beginning of the lesson .................................................................................. 23
III.1.1 Routine for starting the lesson ................................................................. 23
III.1.2 The lesson objective ................................................................................ 23
III.1.3 Previous content/knowledge connections ................................................ 24
III.1.4 Strategies used to motivate students ....................................................... 24
III.2 Development of the lesson ............................................................................. 25
III.2.1 Organization of activities around a context .............................................. 25
III.2.2 Organization of the physical space .......................................................... 25
III.2.3 Catching and holding students attention ................................................. 26
III.2.4 Conducted Activities ................................................................................ 27
III.2.5 Instructions .............................................................................................. 27
III.2.6 Materials and didactic resources ............................................................. 28
III.2.7. Use of technology ................................................................................... 28
III.2.8 Teacher roles ........................................................................................... 29
III.2.9 Variety of methodological strategies ........................................................ 30
III.2.10 Learning strategies ................................................................................ 30
III.2.11 Questions and answers ......................................................................... 31
III.2.12 Monitoring .............................................................................................. 31
III.2.13 Error correction ...................................................................................... 32
III.2.14 Praising .................................................................................................. 32

vii

III.2.15 Discipline ............................................................................................... 33


III.2.16 Coherence between activities and lesson objectives ............................. 33
III.2.17 Interaction .............................................................................................. 34
III.2.18 Teacher talking time............................................................................... 34
III.2.19 Student talking time ............................................................................... 35
III.2.20 Students role ......................................................................................... 35
III.2.21 Contents ................................................................................................ 36
III.3 End of the lesson ............................................................................................ 37
III.3.1 Closure .................................................................................................... 37
III.3.2 Assessment Techniques .......................................................................... 37
III.3.3 Use of English .......................................................................................... 38
III.3.4 English spoken by the teacher ................................................................. 38

Chapter IV: Analysis..............................................................40


IV.1 Classroom practices ...................................................................................... 40
IV.1.1 Beginning of the lesson ........................................................................... 40
IV.1.2 Development of the lesson ...................................................................... 42
IV.1.3 End of the lesson ..................................................................................... 48
IV.2 Seating arrangement: a neglected asset in ELT ............................................ 50
IV.2.1. The teacher-related factor ...................................................................... 51
IV.2.2. The student-related factor ...................................................................... 55
IV.2.3. The school-related factor ........................................................................ 56

Chapter V: Conclusions.........................................................57
References..............................................................................................................60
Appendix: Observation Checklist........................................................................... 66

viii

Chapter I: Theoretical Background


I.1 Introduction
The increasingly ubiquitous use of English language across the world has
turned it into a common feature in most countries curricula. Chile is not an
exception. In 1998, English became a mandatory subject (Ministry of Education,
1998). Before that, English was not subjected to any curriculum and English
lessons were based on the expectations of the school where it was taught. French
was also taught in a similar way; however, it gradually lost its importance within the
national framework. This was not the case of the English language. As a matter of
fact, EFL1 instruction and the use of ICTs2 have attracted increased attention since
Chile started signing multiple free-trade agreements to meet the requirements of a
globalized world (UNESCO, 2004). The program English Opens Doors, in 2004,
was the first milestone of the new century. Naturally, increased attention in
teaching English means increased attention in what Chilean EFL teachers are
doing.
In the current decade, SIMCE3 examinations have produced the following
results: In 2010, 11% of students who took the test certified their level of
proficiency in English (A2 or superior, according to the Common European
Framework), while in 2012, the percentage increased up to 18% (Agencia de
Calidad de Educacin, 2013). Although these results reflect an improvement, they
are far from what is really expected, which prompts us to ask What is the
problem? The answer may await in a number of factors, from the qualifications of
Chilean EFL teachers to the availability of resources in schools; from the
involvement of parents to the fact that English is not spoken in our daily life; and so
forth. Let us focus on the first factor: Chilean EFL teachers qualifications and
assets.
1

English as a foreign language.


Information and communication technologies.
3 Sistema de Medicin de la Calidad de la Enseanza.
2

Through the years, EFL teachers have changed their methodology


according to the pedagogical trends of their time. The different approaches towards
EFL instruction have emphasized certain types of input while overlooking others.
Every approach has its pros and cons, which must be outweighed according to the
context (Kumaravadivelu, 2003b). What do Chilean teachers think about EFL
instruction? This question can be answered through multiple studies about
teachers perceptions and beliefs. In an article by Daz et al. (2010) on in-service
teachers conceptions about English teaching and learning in the Chilean public
system, the interviewees claimed to adopt a methodology that favors exchange
and negotiation of information in English. This befits the latest approaches with
regard to EFL instruction such as the Communicative and Task-Based approaches
(Richards & Renandya 2002). This reflects that teachers are up-to-date with the
most recent trends; however, according to Daz et al. (2010) it is necessary to see
if there is coherence between what teachers say they do and what is actually done
within the classroom walls. Another study, which explored the beliefs of EFL
learners in different Chilean institutions, found that learners valued activities that
put communication in the first place, rather than form-focused ones. Grammar was
essential, but it was not the ultimate goal (McBride, 2009). Again, this confirms that
communicative approaches seem to be in high-esteem among teachers and EFL
learners. However, the question remains, does theory meet practice in Chilean
schools classrooms?

I.2 Theory and practice in language teaching


It is undeniable that in order to explore the dichotomy between theory and
practice it is necessary to understand what these concepts entail. Firstly, anyone
who is expert in some field would probably be acquainted with the word theory.
Naturally, not only is it significant to look at the newest definitions of the concept,
but also to consider language experts views on the matter. In this respect, the
Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics defines theory
as a statement of a general principle or set of propositions, based upon reasoned
argument and supported by evidence, that is intended to explain a particular fact,
event, or phenomenon (Richards & Schmidt, 2010, p. 597). However, this does
2

not necessarily highlight the contrast that this study intends to explore. Therefore,
we will consider the second definition that Richards & Schmidt propose, which
does not only address explicitly this dichotomy but also includes aspects of the first
definition: the part of a science or art that deals with general principles and
methods as opposed to practice (2010, p. 597). With regard to ELT, what are
these general principles or methods?

I.2.1 Methods: the theoretical foundations


The definition of theory by the Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching
and Applied Linguistics regards theory and practices as opposites. Therefore, it is
natural to ask ourselves, how does this opposition becomes more evident in the
field of language teaching? This question leads us to speak about two concepts
that are often used interchangeably: Methodology and method. Traditionally, there
has been a tendency to regard methodology and method as synonyms, even
though they are not (Richards, 1990; Nunan, 1991; Kumaravadivelu, 2006). Ur
(2013) defines method as a set of principles and procedures based on a theory of
language and language acquisition (p. 468). Another view indicates that methods
in language teaching are conceptualized and constructed by experts in the field,
whereas methodology deals with what practicing teachers actually do in the
classroom in order to achieve their stated or unstated teaching objectives
(Kumaravadivelu, 2006, p. 84). Going back to the first question of this paragraph, it
can be said that the opposition between theory and practice might become more
evident by comparing what experts in the field say and what teachers actually do.
While theories could be based upon reasoned arguments and supported by
evidence (Richards & Schmidt, 2010, p. 597), this does not necessarily mean that
in-service teachers will adhere to the newest theory and its realization as methods.
Before addressing this issue, it is necessary to briefly describe what experts
have stated over the years in relation to language teaching. After all, as Richards &
Rodgers state, the study of past and present teaching methods continues to be a
significant component of teacher preparation programs (2001, p. 16). This will lay
the foundations to explore the discrepancies between experts and in-service
3

teachers. In this respect, some of the most known methods in language teaching
include (Nunan, 1991; Brown, 2001; Richards & Rodgers, 2001; Scrivener, 2005;
Chaves & Hernndez, 2013): the Grammar-Translation Methodwhich focuses on
analyzing the grammar rules of the language to ultimately put this knowledge in
practice through the translation of sentences from L1 (mother tongue) to L2
(second/foreign language) and vice versa; the Audio-Lingual Methodwhich aims
at the learning of the second/foreign language by means of listening activities, with
practice taking the form of drilling and repetition; Communicative Language
Teachingwhich

highlights

the

use

of

activities

that

involve

authentic

communication; Total Physical Responsewhich centers around meaning,


associating speech to physical action; Community Language Learningwhich
conceives the role of the teacher as a guide, and students, in turn, provide the
topics to be dealt with; and The Silent Waywhich emphasizes student talking
time over teacher talking time.
Whichever the method teachers might borrow elements from; there are
issues with regard to teachers perception of the method they favor. As a matter of
fact, the methods teachers claim to adopt could not be consistent with their
teaching

practices

(Cohen,

1990;

Schoenfeld,

2012).

On

this

issue,

Kumaravadivelu (2006) states that what the teachers actually do in the classroom
is different from what is advocated by the theorists (p. 48). In fact, classroom
oriented research conducted by Kumaravadivelu (1993a), Nunan (1987),
Thornbury (1996), and others clearly shows that even teachers who claim to follow
a particular method do not actually adhere to the basic principles associated with it.
This issue could be derived from the different learning contexts in which these
methods are applied, as some teachers might be compelled to adapt the principles
of a method to suit their students needs (in some cases deviating entirely from the
method itself). On this matter, Brown identified an important problem of what he
calls the methods syndrome (referring to the search for an ideal method):
Methods are typically top-down impositions of experts views of
teaching. The role of the individual teacher is minimized. His or her

role is to apply the method and adapt his or her teaching style to
make it conform to the method."
(Brown as cited by Richards & Renandya, 2002)
The former might explain why authors like Kumaradivelu and Richards have
referred to the concept of Post Methods era in recent years. Today, teaching has
focused on understanding the varying contexts where learning takes place and
using that knowledge to select the best approach, rather than on searching for a
method that suits all contexts. (Richards & Renandya, 2002)

I.2.2 Methodology: from theory to practice


Up to this point, it is necessary to bridge theory and practice; therefore, the
concept of methodology re-emerges once again. As we have discussed earlier, the
term refers to teachers practices in the classroom (Kumaravadivelu, 2006).
Furthermore, the concept of methodology in language teaching is strongly attached
to the concept of syllabus. Explained simply, syllabus design is in charge of
deciding what, why and when, and methodology is concerned with how (Nunan
1991; Brown 2000). In that sense, methodology could be described as the
realization of the syllabus, through the act of selecting and sequencing learning
activities. Similarly, Rodgers (2001) gives a simpler definition: methodology is that
which links theory and practice (Language Teaching Methodology Defined
section). Furthermore, Richards gives methodology an even more practical and
observable nature, stating that it can be characterized as the activities, tasks,
learning experiences selected by the teacher in order to achieve learning, and how
these are used within the teaching/learning process (1990, p. 11). For the
purposes of this research, we will conceive methodology as the practical execution
of teachers pedagogical knowledge which has been gained from different sources
such as experience or teacher formation courses.
We have foreshadowed that while the concept of method is closely related
to experts, methodology is to teachers. After having reviewed some of the most
known methods, it is necessary to discuss the reasons why teachers might not
submit to apply the principles of certain methods, even if some of them are the
5

most up-to-date trends in ELT. After all, teachers are the ones who ultimately are in
classrooms everyday; therefore, it is undeniable that their knowledge gained from
classroom experiences should not be relegated to a secondary role. On this
matter, Kumaradivelu (2002) indicates that teachers classroom practice is directly
or indirectly based on some theory whether or not it is explicitly articulated (p. 17)
That is to say that a theory is not the only source of teacher knowledge; as a
matter of fact, the author says that teachers can gain theoretical knowledge either
through professional education, personal experience, robust commonsense, or a
combination (p. 17). This sheds some light on why teachers have a leading role in
the so-called Post Methods era, taking responsibility for diagnosing students,
treating them with successful pedagogical techniques, and assessing the outcome
of those treatments (Richards & Renandya, 2002). Naturally, some teachers might
not be aware that theoretical knowledge could come from sources other than
teacher formation courses (Macas, 2012). Even if these sources of theoretical
knowledge are not considered formal research, they cannot be overlooked and
disregarded. As a matter of fact, Schn (1983) considers that teachers can also
provide valuable perspectives in order to address and tackle the difficulties that
teaching entails because their perspectives cannot be matched by experts who
are far removed from classroom realities (Schn as cited by Kumaravadivelu,
2003b, p.10).
Whether teachers choose to apply or adapt a particular method, or combine
elements based on their own experiences highlight how important teacher beliefs
are for language teaching. As Scrivener (2005) states, teachers beliefs regarding
the nature of language, the nature of learning, and the influence of teaching
practices in learning will determine their methodological decisions about the aims,
content, teaching techniques, activities, relation with students, and assessment. In
this respect, the distinction between theory and practice re-emerges; as a matter of
fact, no matter the current language teaching trends in or the government
expectations, teachers can still diverge from these in practice. For Richards &
Schmidt (2010), teacher belief system is comprised of ideas and theories that
teachers and learners hold about themselves, teaching, language, learning and
6

their students (p. 586). With regard to their origin, the same authors state that
beliefs come from experience, observation, training, and other sources.
Undoubtedly, it results interesting that the authors also say that beliefs are source
of teachers classroom practices. Borg has devoted a great deal of his research to
explore teacher cognitions; thus, he has addressed the importance of beliefs for
teaching and how these have been understudied (e.g. Borg, 2006; Phipps & Borg,
2009). In an interview (Birello, 2012), Borg states that in the past, teacher
education sought to find behaviors that led to effective teaching. The aim was to
program teachers to behave in those effective ways so that learning was
achievedsimilarly to the methods syndrome we briefly discussed earlier.
However, it was soon discovered that teachers own ideas, preferences, and ways
of doing things got in the way. As Borg states, teaching is much more than
behavior.
All the above leads us to one inescapable conclusion: There is no method or
teacher behavior that can ensure learning in all contexts. The efforts to look for a
universally successful formula for teaching have proven fruitless because of this
diversity of realities. For the same reason, researching classroom practices might
reveal multiple approaches to ELT. Moreover, considering that not only does
context affect classroom practices, but also teacher-related factors such as teacher
formation courses, experiences, and beliefs, it is encouraging to uncover what
happens inside EFL classrooms. Naturally, it is not a matter of asking teachers
about what they do, since as we have explored, even teachers themselves
sometimes are not aware that the methods they claim to follow and what they
actually do in class might not be consistent (Cohen, 1990; Kumaravadivelu, 1993a,
Nunan 1987, Thornbury, 1996; Schoenfeld, 2012). For us, the former might be a
reason why the gap between theory and practice has not been thoroughly
addressed within the Chilean context. In addition, a truthful comparison between
the guidelines of the Ministry of Education with regard to EFL instruction and
teachers actual classroom practices is required. In this respect, this study intends
to shed light into this issue, from the natural point of view that observation offers.

I.3 Classroom observation


I.3.1 Definition and scope
Observation is enlisted as one of the various approaches to classroom
research in teaching, as categorized by Richards & Lockhart (1996), along with
teaching journals, lesson reports, surveys and questionnaires, audio and video
recordings, and action research. In teaching, according to Wajnryb (1992), an
observation task is a focused activity to work on while observing a lesson in
progress. It focuses on one or a small number of aspects of teaching or learning
and requires the observer to collect data or information from the actual lesson. (p.
7). A similar view is shared by Richards & Lockhart (1996) with regard to the aim of
this practice, observation involves visiting a class to observe different aspects of
teaching (p. 12). Another definition, by Bailey, also highlights the essence of
classroom observations saying that it is the purposeful examination of teaching
and/or learning events through systematic processes of data collection and
analysis (Bailey as cited by OLeary, 2014, p. 114). It is safe to say then that
observing is a more complex ability than seeing, since it has a focusin this case,
in-class teaching. In addition, it also requires collection of data by the observer.
For the purpose of this study, we will conceive observation as a task performed by
a competent third partythat is, someone whose professional field is teaching
aimed at collecting data from the different aspects that unfold during a lesson.

I.3.2 The broad possibilities of classroom observation


The perspective that classroom observation offers is unique in the sense
that the dynamics of a lesson can be seen objectively and from a perspective other
than the teacherscontrary to what happens with teachers self-reports, such as
surveys or interviews (Estacion et al, 2004); therefore, the data collected has an
added value (Wragg, 1999). Furthermore, the OECD4 recognizes the importance of
classroom observation and, in that respect, states that teaching practices and
evidence of learning are probably the most relevant sources of information about
4

Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development

professional performance (p. 73), which is why classroom observations play a


crucial role in teacher evaluation (Santiago et al, 2013). In fact, observation can be
useful for different contexts: initial teacher training, in-service training and
professional development, studying pupils, curriculum development and evaluation,
job analysis, teacher appraisal, and observation by lay people (Wragg, 1999).
On a similar matter, probably one of the main reasons why observation
seems to be the preferred approach when researching or evaluating classroom
practices is that teachers are unaware of certain actions they do, or the
instructional methodologies they adopt during the lesson (Estacion et al, 2004).
Additionally, when describing the focuses that peer-observation can have,
Richards & Farrell (2011) list the following areas as possible sources of data, which
exemplifies the comprehensiveness of the information that observations can
produce:

Lesson structure: How the lesson opens, develops, and closes. The

number of activities that a lesson comprises and how the teacher sets
and sequences these activities.

Classroom management strategies: How teachers form groups,

handle discipline, time the activities, or arrange seating.

Types of activities performed during the lesson: Whole-class, pair

and group, or individual activities.

Teaching strategies: How teachers present tasks, how they organize

practice, and how they teach techniques.

Teachers use of materials: The type of aids teachers use, such as

textbooks or other resources.

Teachers use of language: How teachers use the language when

giving instructions, questioning, giving feedback or explaining content.

Students use of language: How students use language, their

problems with grammar or pronunciation, including the use of their first


language.

Student interaction: How much time students spend on task, how

often they make questions, and how or why they interact with their peers.
As it can be seen, the possible purposes for observing a lesson can be
many. Depending on the aims of researchers, these can vary and include others
not listed, such as the use of assessment techniques or the use of praising.
Researchers can focus on a broad range of observable actions or even just one; it
will all depend on the scope of the investigation. It must be noted that, just because
of the broad range of data that can be collected, we are not saying that theoretical
research is less valuable than empirical research for investigating classroom
practices; in fact, both are necessary to form a more accurate view of what occurs
within the classroom walls (Schoenfeld, 2013).

I.3.3 Forms of data collection in classroom observation


Carrying out observations does not merely involve entering a classroom,
sitting at one of the corners, and just observing whatever happens; in fact,
observers have options as to how to record the observation. Wragg (1999) lists
four possible ways of doing so: Written accounts, video, sound, and transcripts.
Special attention has been paid to describe the advantages and disadvantages of
written accounts, since they are the form of record that fits most the nature of the
instrument used in the present study:

Written accounts: From observations carried out based on written

accountsthat is, live note-taking while the lesson is taking placeit is


possible to immediately record actions and use time well, which allows
the observer to form a thorough view of the events that are occurring. As
expected, Wragg (1999) also notes that there are disadvantages when
performing this type of observation, such as effects on natural
development of the lesson due to the observers presencewhich is also
noted by Richards & Farrell (2011), or no option of revisiting certain
eventswhich could be possible if the lesson was video recorded. In
addition, the same authors add a second set of difficulties that observers

10

might face, such as the complexity of paying attention to particular


behaviors while other significant actions are occurring at the same time.

Video: It offers both visual and audio data which can be revisited as

many times as necessary and can be discussed with other participants.


Observers are not overwhelmed by having to make quick decisions;
therefore, they can change focus from students to teacher at ease. The
main drawbacks are related to events that can be left off camera and the
pressure that a camera puts on both the teacher and students, which
might affect the natural development of the lesson.

Sound: This form shares many similarities with video recording, such

as the option of replaying. Since recorders keep a low profile, this


method is less intimidating for the observed. The main disadvantage is
that visual data like body language or movement patterns are lost.

Transcripts: Although they require time to be transcribed, transcripts

are easily distributable and allow in-depth analysis of many aspects, such
as classroom language. Notwithstanding, the time-consuming nature of
this method and the important loss of visual and aural cues (for example,
volume and tone of voice) are cons that need to be considered.
Naturally, there are disadvantages that all of these methods share, such as
the possibility of collecting false data due to the observed subjects overpreparation in order to give a good impression (Richards & Farrell, 2011; Wragg et
al., 1996). As one would expect, although observations can be significant tools for
collecting extensive data, these are not always as objective as they seem to be,
even if the observant is in a neutral position with respect to the teacher.
Sometimes, teaching involves aspects that cannot be observable and measurably
objective (Richards, 1998; Wragg, 1999) and this will require observers to make
judgments, which might be shaped by their personal views in relation to what
teaching practices are effective (OLeary, 2006, 2011, 2014). For example, if one of
the focuses of observation is to measure how clear the instructions that teachers
deliver are, what one observer could think is clear, another might consider obscure.

11

I.3.4 Types of observation


As we have discussed, depending on the scope and purposes of classroom
research, observations can take different forms (Wragg, 1999). However, it is
noteworthy that the methods for observational data collection listed by Wragg are
general. For example, written accounts can also be further divided into categories,
and because these were the preferred method in the present study, it is necessary
to refer to some procedures of data collection. Richards & Farrell (2011) state that
depending on the focus of observation, these are the most used:

Checklists: This instrument contains a list of observable aspects, or

features, of a lesson. They serve as guidelines for the observer to


conduct a focused research.

Seating charts: This type of instrument is aimed at describing the

arrangement of desks in the classroom and identifying patterns of


interaction, such as where interactions occur or where the teacher
stands.

Field notes: The purpose of this type of note-taking is to briefly record

the main events that happen during the lesson as a whole in short
sentences, or to keep a chronological record of significant events that
occur during a certain time spanfor example, every five minutes.

Narrative summary: Similar to note-taking, this instrument describes

the main events that happened during the lesson in a written summary. It
differs from field notes in the sense that this text is a cohesive, highly
descriptive, unit, rather than separate, short sentences.

I.3.5 Difficulties of using the observational approach


Probably one of the main reasons why observational research is scarcely
found within the Chilean context is the fact that in-class teaching practices remain
to be a private matter. On this issue, Wragg (1999) states, some teachers spend
40 years in the classroom, teaching maybe 50,000 lessons or more, of which only
a tiny number are witnessed by other adults (p. 2). Opportunities for classroom
observation are limited mainly due to distrust or unwillingness from schools. In this
12

respect, in a study about the lessons that can be learned from programs of teacher
development in Finland, Taylor (2011) suggests, in many schools the main
purpose for observation is quality assurance rather than sharing of effective
practice. This can lead to distrust, closing of classroom doors and lack of
constructive collaboration (p. 10). This is also supported by OLeary (2006, 2011,
2014), in relation to the way observation is conceived, he says that the purpose of
assessment approaches to classroom observation is not to inform or improve
current practice but simply to make a judgment of the quality of teaching and
learning being observed (2014, p. 34). On the same matter, Santiago et al (2013)
states that, compared to Chile, teacher evaluation frameworks in other countries
involve approaches which facilitate the professional dialogue around teaching
practices (p. 78), which leads to an eventual discussion between the teacher and
evaluator with relation to what was observed. In contrast, Richards & Lockhart
(1996) prefers to restrain himself from giving the role of evaluator to observers,
stating that in order for observation to be viewed as a positive rather than a
negative experience, the observer's function should be limited to that of gathering
information (p. 12). The former restates two different views of classroom
observation: either as a chance to simply judge what teachers do or as an
opportunity for professional development and research.
In spite of any hardships or misconceptions that classroom observations
might entail, they give data that could not be collected otherwise (Wragg, 1999;
Richards & Farrell, 2011). In addition, they create opportunities to compare and
contrast what teachers say they do and what they actually do in class (Cohen,
1990; Schoenfeld, 2012). As Wragg (1999) says, good classroom observation can
lie at the heart of both understanding professional practice and improving its
quality (p. 17).
Fortunately, classroom observation has gained increased acceptance
(Wragg, 1999), not only as part of assessment but also as a medium to conduct

13

just research. Opportunities like the MET project5 in New Jerseyin which 3,000
teachers volunteered to have their classes observed (Gates Foundation, 2010),
or the study carried out in Medelln on Colombian elementary EFL teachers
practices (Cadavid et al, 2004) are notable examples of how observation can help
research and, as an ultimate goal, become an opportunity to reflect on effective
teaching practices. Although these studies are from other countries, which might
compromise how relatable they are to the Chilean reality, they do serve to
construct background knowledge as to form a view of what might be found.

I.3.6 Issues on validity and reliability


Having discussed the possibilities of data collection and usefulness of
classroom observation for research, professional development, and teacher
evaluation, it is imperative to address what aspects might jeopardize the validity
and reliability of this approach to classroom research.
Up to this point, at least three issues that hamper reliability have been
foreshadowed or discussed in previous paragraphs:

How the presence of the observer can affect the natural development

of the lesson, influencing the behavior of the students or the teacher


(Richards & Lockhart, 1996; Wragg, 1996, 1999).

How the observers personal views can affect the collection of

objective data (Richards, 1998; Wragg, 1999; OLeary, 2006, 2011,


2014).

How over-preparation of observed teacherswhen knowing that they

are going to be observedcan create false data (Wragg, 1996, 1999;


Richards & Farrell, 2011).
As it can be perceived, these issues are related somehow to the pressure
and invasiveness that being observed involves. All in all, since no approach to
classroom research is flawless, the main task of researchers is to minimize the
effects of this pressure and to decrease the chances of collecting invalid and
5

Measures for Effective Teaching Project of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

14

unreliable data. In the case of classroom observations, a remarkable example of


how this can be done is the MET project mentioned earlier. In view of the fact that
3,000 teachers were observed and approximately 23,000 lessons were videotaped and scored, to take full advantage of this opportunity, researchers had to
create a well-developed instrument for observation and train the observers to
accurately and justifiably judge what they observed (Joe et al, 2013; McClellan et
al., 2012). In this respect, other measures can also contribute to diminish the
pressure that being observed carries, such as deviating from the evaluative role of
observation (Richards & Lockhart, 1996)so that teachers can perform naturally
without having to worry about being judged.

I.4 Classroom management


Classroom management skills are considered to be a high concern for
teachers (Sokal et al., 2003), as they help create the conditions in which learning
takes place (Scrivener, 2005, p. 79). Nonetheless, for a long period of time the
concept of classroom management was strongly associated to discipline, and
authors such as Doyle (1986) and Miller & Hall (2005) claim that the importance of
classroom management lies on the fact that it aids in keeping classrooms in order.
Moreover, order is significant because it prompts engagement (Doyle 1986),
and in fact, the OECD (2013) states that a positive disciplinary climate helps
enhance students performance, and that disciplinary climate is one of few schoollevel characteristics that show a significant positive relationship with performance
consistently across countries, even after accounting for other school features and
students background (p. 4). On the contrary, classrooms and schools with more
disciplinary problems are less conducive to learning, since teachers have to spend
more time creating an orderly environment before instruction can begin (OECD,
2013, p. 3).
Although order and discipline are necessary to carry out a lesson smoothly,
classroom management involves much more. As a matter of fact, Sugai & Horner
(2002) propose a much more comprehensive definition, saying that classroom
management consists of three major elements: effective time management,
15

conduction of activities that improve students academic engagement and


achievement, and efficient behavior management.
A similar view is shared by Richards & Renandya (2002), who state that
classroom management involves all actions teachers do in order to make a lesson
productive for language learning. They explain that planning covers the
pedagogical dimension of the lesson, while classroom management deals with
aspects of the implementation of such planning. These aspects include but are not
limited to eliciting students attention, keeping them engaged, and grouping them
according to the requirements of certain activities. Therefore, the concept of
classroom management goes beyond merely planning and following each step of
the lesson plan precisely; in fact, it must be understood as the interactive and
evaluative decisions teachers make in direct relation to the dynamics of the lesson
they are conducting. Scrivener (2005) goes beyond, affirming that classroom
management involves both decisions and actions. The actions are what is done in
the classroom. The decisions are about whether to do these actions, when to do
them, how to do them, who will do them, etc. (p. 80).
Scrivener (2005) continues to support his idea of classroom management as
involving decisions and actions by listing and grouping a set of at least twenty-eight
actions of classroom management into six skills (see TABLE 1).
For the purpose of this research, classroom management will be taken as a
comprehensive term, involving teachers decisions in regard to what is best to
promote students learning, which become observable through their actions in the
classroom. Up to this point, it becomes noteworthy that teacher quality matters
substantially to pupil achievement (Aslam & Kingdon, 2007, p. 2), and effective
classroom management skills are one of the best examples of what effective
teachers do (Wang et al., 1993; Corbett & Wilson, 2002).
In that sense, it becomes important to analyze what the guidelines
concerning classroom management for Chilean teachers are, based on the Good

16

Teaching Framework6 of 2008 (Ministry of Education, 2008), there are four major
areas that describe teaching practices of effective teachers. First of all, effective
teachers demonstrate their preparation, for example through the mastery of the
subject they impart, the acknowledgement of their students characteristics, and
how they adapt content to their students needs.
Grouping and seating
Forming groupings (singles, pairs, groups, mingle, plenary)
Arranging and rearranging seating
Deciding where teacher will stand or sit
Reforming class as a whole group after activities
Activities
Sequencing activities
Setting up activities
Giving & checking instructions
Monitoring activities
Timing activities (and the lesson as a whole)
Bringing activities to an end
Authority
Gathering and holding attention
Deciding who does what (i.e. answer a question, make a decision, etc.)
Establishing or relinquishing authority as appropriate
Getting someone to do something
Critical moments
Starting the lesson
Dealing with unexpected problems
Maintaining appropriate discipline
Finishing the lesson
Tools and techniques
Using the board and other classroom equipment or aids
Using gestures to help clarity of instructions and explanations
Speaking clearly at an appropriate volume and speed
Use of silence
Grading complexity of language
Grading quantity of language
Working with people
Spreading your attention evenly and appropriately.
Using intuition to gauge what students are feeling.
Eliciting honest feedback from students
Really listening to students
TABLE 1. Classroom management skills

Marco para la Buena Enseanza

17

Secondly, they promote a positive climate for teaching, and they


demonstrate it through having high expectations on their students, establishing
rules that promote respect, and other actions that foster a climate in which all
students are comfortable and feel secure.
Moreover, effective teachers foster the learning of all students, which
involves actions such as clearly communicating the learning objectives, optimizing
the time available for teaching, and treating the content of the subject meticulously
in order to make it comprehensible for all students. Finally, they have to fulfil
professional duties that include, but are not limited to: reflecting on their teaching
practices, keeping informed of the current educational policies, and collaborating
with their colleagues.
Although the Good Teaching Framework is considered by the OECD report
Teacher Evaluation in Chile, as a solid reference for teacher evaluation (Santiago
et al., 2013, p. 85), it becomes important to analyze whether Chilean teachers
follow this guideline or not, because there might be serious incongruences
between the expectations in regard to teaching practices that the Ministry of
Education holds and the actual teaching practices that take place in Chilean
classrooms, especially considering that the understanding of the Good Teaching
Framework is not well disseminated throughout the system (Santiago et al., 2013,
p. 97).

I.5 Summary of key concepts


(see FIGURE A)

18

FIGURE A. Concept map on key concepts of Chapter I illustrating how observation can be
ultimately used for collecting information on classroom practices of different nature.

19

Chapter II: Design


II.1 Objectives
II.1.1 Main objective
This study is aimed at uncovering from an observational point of view what
occurs in Chilean EFL classrooms across the Bio-Bio Region.

II.1.2 Specific Objectives


1.

To describe routines of English teachers in the EFL classroom during the


beginning, middle and end of the lesson.

2.

To evaluate the coherence between teachers' classroom practices and the


guidelines provided by the Ministry of Education on this matter.

3.

To identify the physical organization of the ESL classroom and evaluate its
correspondence to the learning objectives proposed.

II.2 Research Approach


This study is framed into a non-experimental research design since there is
no manipulation of any of the aspects involved in. It is a cross-sectional descriptive
study because the observations were conducted at one point (Hernndez et al.
2006).

II.3 Subjects
Fifty-five teachers from the Province of Concepcin in Chile. They were
mentor teachers of student teachers from the University of Concepcin. They work
on public, semi-private and private schools. All of them have at least two years of
professional experience.

II.4 Context
This study was conducted in line with the internships performed by fourthyear student teachers from the English Teaching Program, who took the course
Diseo del Sistema Instruccional para la Enseanza del Ingls como Lengua
Extranjera. Student teachers went to their selected teaching center weekly in order
20

to observe EFL lessons during the first semester of the year. They had to comply
with an overall of 24 chronological hours in their schools to meet the requirements
of the course.
The aim was to approach students to real English Teaching experiences, as
a form of mentoring. It must be noted that students did not intervene during the
lessons, unless asked by their mentor teacher. At the end of the observations,
student teachers, in pairs, wrote a report in which they compared and contrasted
the strategies and routines used by the teachers they observed. Later, these
experiences were put into practice through micro-teaching workshops, in which
student teachers planned and executed short lessons in front of their peers.

II.5 Instrument
The instrument given to student teachers was a checklist (see Appendix).
This checklist had already been used, perfected, and updated in keeping with the
projects FONDECYT 1060622related to University Teachers beliefs and
practicesand FONIDE 91, 2008related to Teachers Cognitions and Practices.
The checklist was divided into three parts, which correspond to the typical
three stages of a lesson: Beginning, development, and closing. Each part had
different criteria that described classroom routines, classroom management skills,
use of teaching aids, methodological strategies, among other aspects involved in
the execution of a lesson. Under each criterion, observers had diverse options and
could just tick what fitted most what they observed.
Even though observers attended their respective teaching centers during a
period of 24 chronological hoursin which they witnessed multiple EFL lessons,
they were given only two checklists. Observers had free will to choose any of these
lessons for applying the instrument.

II.6 Data analysis


Since all of the observational experiences from student teachers were never
gathered and analyzed as a whole, and given that this was a unique opportunity to
gain an insight into what is occurring in terms of EFL instruction in the Bo-Bo
21

Region, this study collected all the checklists in order to form a general view of the
current situation. The data was depicted in graphs and described briefly, which
help to note which methodological, managerial, or routine practices are executed
moreor lessfrequently. The amount of information collected was large;
therefore, only the most relevant and striking findings were analyzed. Because
observational data can be hard to interpret due to the different contexts where the
observations took place, there is plenty of room for speculation in an attempt to
explain why the subjects behaved in the ways they did. It is hoped that this study is
a start for further, more focused, research to address the reasons why certain
classroom practices are more common than others.

22

Chapter III: Results


III.1 Beginning of the lesson
III.1.1 Routine for starting the lesson
One of the aspects that is part of the routine of all of the observed teachers
is greeting the students. This typically is accompanied by the teacher asking how
they are feeling (64% of the observations). In addition, checking attendance is also
done during the early stage (57%).

100%

Greet the students

64%

57%

Ask students how they feel

Check attendance

FIGURE 1. Routine for starting the lesson

III.1.2 The lesson objective


It is noteworthy that not always is the main aim of the lesson told to
students. The form in which the objective is communicated varies: some teachers
prefer to express it orally (57% of the observations); others prefer to write it on the
board (33% of the lessons); and just a small part use media to express it (only on
4% of the lessons).

57%
33%

4%

The lesson objective is expressed The lesson objective is written on Media is used to show the lesson
orally
the board
objective

FIGURE 2. Lesson objective

23

III.1.3 Previous content/knowledge connections


As a routine, asking the students about previous contents is relatively
common practice74% of the observed lessons.
During the observations, a good portion of teachers prefer to ask students
for examples on previous contents (55% of the lessons), while others prefer
providing these examples themselves (54% the lessons).
In a significantly high percentage of the lessons, the teacher provides
grammar exercises about previous contents (31%). Other tools to recall previous
knowledge are left behind with relatively low percentages of preference: In 10% of
the lessons, examples are shown using media; in 8% of the lessons, a concept
map is done; and in only 6% of the lessons, a text about previous contents is
provided for students to translate.
74%
55%

54%
31%
10%

Ask students Ask students


about previous for examples
contents
on previous
contents

8%

6%

Provide
Provide
Show an
Make a
Provide a text
examples of
grammar
example of concept map about previous
previous
exercises
previous
on previous contents for
contents
about previous contents using
contents
students to
contents
media
translate

FIGURE 3. Previous content/knowledge connections

III.1.4 Strategies used to motivate students


When introducing the topic of the lesson, it is the teachers responsibility to
make sure that students are engaged with the contents to be taught. During the
observations, modeling is the most used strategy to motivate students (43% of the
observed lessons). Other common strategies include asking open questions (41%)
and showing a grammatical rule (40%). Similar percentages are shared by the
following strategies: asking for opinions (35%), doing grammar exercises (34%)
and asking closed questions (33%). Showing pictures is not as commonly used to

24

motivate students (25%). The least preferred strategies are providing material for
translation (11%) and presenting dialogues using media (9%).
43%

41%

40%

35%

34%

33%
25%
11%

Model

Ask open
Show a
Ask for
questions grammatical opinions
rule

Do
Ask closed
grammar questions
exercises

Show
pictures

9%

Provide
Present a
material for dialogue
students to using media
translate

FIGURE 4. Strategies used to motivate students

III.2 Development of the lesson


III.2.1 Organization of activities around a context
Most teachers still prefer to organize activities by grammatical contents as
evidenced by the 49% of lessons in which this is the tendency. Likewise, 48% of
the lessons are organized by topic. Interestingly enough, only 18% of the lessons
are organized by communicative function and seemingly, 15% are organized by
language skills.

49%

48%

By grammatical contents

By topic

18%

15%

By communicative
function

By language skills

FIGURE 5. Organization of activities around a context

III.2.2 Organization of the physical space


Seating arrangement is one tool that can be used to encourage interaction.
In 21% of the observed lessons, the teacher asks the students to form lines or
rows. In 11% of the observed lessons, the teacher asks students to form groups.
Only in 3% of the observed lessons, the teacher asks students to form a circle or
semi-circle.
25

21%
3%

11%
Ask students to form lines

Ask students to form groups

Ask students to form circles

FIGURE 6. Organization of the physical space

III.2.3 Catching and holding students attention


FIGURE 7 indicates that the most used strategy to catch students attention is

to address students by their names (83% of the observed lessons). Asking


questions to the whole group is another commonly used strategy (63%), which
makes students stay alert. Another strategy is to adapt and present topics that are
interesting for students (45%), which prompt the teacher to do some research on
students current interests according to their age. The provision of grammar
exercises is also commonly used (43%) typically gap-filling activities, which keep
the students on task. The use of humor is also present and it is seen that teachers
play jokes related to the topic that they are dealing with (39%), which eases the
classroom atmosphere. Asking opinions about the topic is also a frequently used
strategy to catch and hold attention (34%). Multimedia continues to be used
sparingly (26%) and has not yet become an integral part of ESL lessons, in spite of
modern school amenities. Finally, the least preferred strategy is the provision of
texts for translation (11%); however, it is still a significantly repeated occurrence.
83%

63%
45%

43%

39%

34%

26%
11%

Address
Ask
Present a
Provide a Play jokes Ask opinions Present a
students questions to topic that is grammatical related to the about the topic using
calling them the whole interesting
exercise
topic
topic
multimedia
by their
group
for students
names

Provide a
text for
students to
translate

FIGURE 7. Catching and holding students attention

26

III.2.4 Conducted Activities


In regard to the activities conducted during the lessons observed, 53% of
observed teachers provide an exercise from the book for students to solve. Second
in preference, providing a grammar exercise for students to solve is done by 50%
of observed teachers. Providing resources using multimedia is less frequently
observed, specifically in 24% of lessons. Similarly, 23% of observed teachers
provide a text for students to translate. Following in occurrence, opinions about the
topics are asked for 21% of observed lessons. Finally, the least frequent activity is
asking students to analyze the topic of the lessons, which is observed within 11%
of observed lessons.

53%

50%
11%
24%

Provide an
exercise from the
book for students
to solve

Provide a
grammar
exercise

23%

21%

Provide
Provide a text for Ask opinions
Ask students to
resources using
students to
about the topic analyze the topic
multimedia
translate

FIGURE 8. Conducted activities

III.2.5 Instructions
Based on the observers appreciation, during 70% of the observations,
teachers are able to give clear and simple instructions in English. In 30% of the
lessons the instructions are somewhat obscure or complex for students. This may
indicate that the main problems in Chilean ESL lessons are not related to teachers
competences but to the methodology used to develop language competence.

No; 30%

Yes;
70%

FIGURE 9. Instructions

27

III.2.6 Materials and didactic resources


The available resources and materials for ESL teachers are many; even
though, there four categories that are the most recurrent: resources that promote
free interaction (for example, a task or a project), dialogues (and other forms of
role-play), grammar exercises (for example, gap-filling activities) and texts for
translation.
The most widely used type of resources are grammar exercises (48% of the
lessons). Surprisingly, resources that promote free interaction are in second place
(26%). A significant part of teachers provide text for students to translate (19%).
The least used resources are dialogues (18% of the lessons).

48%
26%
19%
Provide grammar
exercises

Provide resources that Provide texts for students


promote student-student
to translate
interaction or teacherstudent interaction

18%
Provide dialogues for
students to practice

FIGURE 10. Use of different materials and didactic resources

III.2.7. Use of technology


The new technologies have opened a wide range of possibilities to
complement ESL instruction and make lessons more appealing. In this regard, the
most used multimedia resource during the observations is audio (used in 35% of
the observed lessons). Multimedia projectors are more readily available than
before with most schools having at least one; however their use may be still limited
due to high demand, lack of expertise in their use, or the time it takes to set them
up (in 24% of the observations, the projector is used). Finally, computer labs are
the least preferred resource (only used in 6% of the lessons), which may be due to
unavailability, high demand, off-topic use by students, or lack of access.

28

35%
24%
6%

Use audio

Use multimedia projector

Use computer lab

FIGURE 11. Use of technology for the development of the lesson

III.2.8 Teacher roles


Regarding the teacher roles performed during lessons, and based on
Grashas work (1996), results show that the majority of teachers prefer to play the
role of Formal Authorityby ensuring students follow the correct, acceptable, and
standard ways to do things(as observed in 61% of the lessons). Next in
frequency is the preference for acting as a Personal Modelby being an example
of how to think and behave, which is played in 51% of the lessons.

61%
51%
40%

Formal Authority

Personal Model

Facilitator

26%

26%

Delegator

Expert

FIGURE 12. Roles performed during the lesson

Less frequent but still considerable, is the occurrence of teachers playing


the role of Facilitatorby guiding and directing students as well as fostering their
independency, which is observable within 40% percent of lessons. Lastly, 26%
of observed teachers prefer to play the role of Expertby displaying detailed
knowledge and ensuring that students are well prepared, and an equal
percentage of teachers play the role of Delegator during the lessonby acting as a
resource person in order to encourage students autonomy.

29

III.2.9 Variety of methodological strategies


To increase students competences in the target language, teachers use a
variety of methodological strategies. Some teachers prefer to let the students
communicate freely, creating situations in which exchanging and negotiating
information are the focus. Others go for partially patterned ways of instruction,
using dialogues or other type of role-play.
Also, there are some teachers who prefer entirely guided and patterned
practice, using translation and gap-filling exercises.
The tendency to make students work on grammar-oriented exercises
continues in this aspect (In 69% of the lessons, students are exposed to grammar
and translation exercises, typically gap-fill). The use of dialogues and other
patterned resources is also a widely used strategy (43% of the lessons). The least
used methodological strategy is the exposure to communicative situation in which
students have to interact freely (24% of the lessons)

69%
43%
24%
Exposure to grammar exercises,
translation exercises or gap-fill
exercises

Use of dialogues, repetition and


memorization, drilling

Exposure to communicative
situations. Teacher creates
situations of information exchange,
negotiation and interaction

FIGURE 13. Use of different methodological strategies to improve students learning

III.2.10 Learning strategies


The ELT classroom should not only be a place to purely learn content. It is
the teachers responsibility to guide students into the development of learning
strategies. On this regard, and based on Oxfords classification of learning
strategies (1990), memorization and repetition strategies are the most taught by
the observed teachers (on 38% of the lessons). Cognitive and compensation
strategiesare also taught, but not as frequently (24%). Finally, metacognitive,
affective, and social strategies are the least addressed (21%).
30

38%
24%

21%

Teach memorization and repetition Teach cognitive and compensation Teach metacognitive strategies,
strategies
strategies
affective strategies and social
strategies

FIGURE 14. Teaching learning strategies

III.2.11 Questions and answers


Not only by looking at the selection of activities can a teachers language
approach be revealed, but also by looking at the type of questions he/she asks to
the students. What might be important for one teacher may not be to another.
During the observations, most questions asked by the teacher are related to
grammar exercises and their translation to Spanish (66% of the lessons). Other
commonly asked questions are related to pronunciation (48%). Lastly, questions
related to expressions used in communicative contexts are also asked (30%).

66%
48%
30%

Ask about grammar exercises and Ask questions to his/her students


their translation to Spanish
and answers students questions
on pronunciation

Ask about expressions used in


communicative contexts

FIGURE 15. Questions and answers

III.2.12 Monitoring
Monitoring is one of the most valuable skills that a teacher must develop. It
is important to spread our attention evenly among all the students as to personalize
instruction or make the lesson more dynamic. The most common form of
monitoring is checking students individual work (70% of the lessons). Other forms
of monitoring include walking among students to make sure that they are

31

communicating in the target language (35%) and making sure that students repeat
and practice conversations (35%).

70%
35%

35%

Check individual work by checking Monitor to make sure that students Monitor work centrally and actively,
exercises
are communicating in the target making sure students repeat and
language. Walk among them,
practice conversations
supporting their work

FIGURE 16. Monitoring students work

III.2.13 Error correction


Another way to make teachers beliefs and approaches observable is to look
at what mistakes they tend to correct more often and what mistakes they tend to
overlook. During the observations, lexical and grammatical mistakes are given the
most importance (54% of the observed lessons). Mistakes that interfere with
communication of an idea are also given considerable importance (43%). Finally,
pronunciation mistakes are the most disregarded with the less teachers
emphasizing them (29% of the observations).

54%
43%
29%
Correct lexical or grammatical Correct mistakes that interfere with
mistakes, do not pay attention to communication of what they want
pronunciation mistakes
to express

Emphasize pronunciation
mistakes, correct immediately
when a word is incorrectly
pronounced

FIGURE 17. Correcting students mistakes

III.2.14 Praising
Most of the time, praising takes the form of an approving comment such as
Good job or Very good when a student has done well, rather than a gesture or
any other cue that reflects approval. In this respect, most teachers use expressions
such as Very Good or Good job when students solve grammar exercises (80%
32

of the observed lessons). A decreased number of teachers use these expressions


when students express an idea or can communicate (54%). Pronunciation is the
area which receives least expressions of praise (43%).

80%
54%

43%

Use expressions such as Very


Use expressions such as Very
Use expressions such as Very
good, Good job, Excellent, and good, Good job, Excellent, and good, Good job, Excellent, and
Well done when students solve a Well done when students are
Well done when students
grammar exercise or gap-fill
able to express an idea or
pronounce correctly
exercise
communicate

FIGURE 18. Praising

III.2.15 Discipline
Teachers may deal with disruption and repeated misbehavior in a number of
ways. Some teachers are reactive, coping with these problems in the heat of the
moment. Others have established routines to deal with different scenarios. On this
point, during most of the observations, teachers use consistent routines to handle
bad behavior (81% of the observed lessons).
No
19%

Yes
81%

FIGURE 19. Does the teacher show a routine to control discipline and correct bad
behavior?

III.2.16 Coherence between activities and lesson objectives


It is important to choose activities that are coherent to the learning outcomes
we expect from students. Otherwise, it will be difficult for them to establish
connections between the goals and the resources used to achieve those goals. On
33

this aspect, in most of the observed lessons there is coherence between lesson
activities and the proposed objectives (86% of the observations).
Not
coherent
14%

Coherent
86%

FIGURE20. Coherence between lesson activities and the lesson objectives proposed

III.2.17 Interaction
Interaction, either teacher-student or student-student, is a fundamental part
of an ESL lesson. It is only by interacting that English can be learned. In 61% of
observed lessons, communication is related to grammar or translation exercises. In
contrast, in only 25% of the lessons, dialogues and radio conversations are the
focus of communication.

61%

25%
Teacher-student interaction and/or student-student Teacher-student interaction and/or student-student
interaction in relation to grammar exercises or
interaction in relation to dialogues or radio
translation exercises
conversations

FIGURE 21. Teacher-student interaction and student-student interaction

III.2.18 Teacher talking time


An interactive lesson requires relatively shorter teacher talking time in order
to allow students to practice the new language. The general trend during the
observations is apparently positive since teachers do not spend long times talking.
In most of the observed lessons, teacher talking time is 10 minutes long (44% of
the lessons). Teachers talking for 20 minutes overall is also fairly common
occurrence (29%). The numbers drop significantly with longer periods of teacher
34

talk. Observations in which teachers talk for around 30 minutes are infrequent
(10%) and so are those in which the teacher talks for 40 minutes (only 5% of the
observed lessons).

44%
29%

10 minutes long

20 minutes long

10%

5%

0%

30 minutes long

40 minutes long

50 minutes long

FIGURE 22. Teacher talking time

III.2.19 Student talking time


As we have seen, the prevailing trend of teacher talk is between 10 to 20
minutes long. Now it is time to take a look at students interactions: in most of the
observations, student talking time is less than 20 minutes long (41% of the
observations). The lessons in which students talk for 20 to 30 minutes are fairly
frequent as well (23%). Finally, the lessons in which students talk for 30 or more
minutes are least common, but still significant (18%)

41%
23%

Less than 20 minutes

20 to 30 minutes long

18%
30 or more minutes long

FIGURE 23. Student talking time

III.2.20 Students role


In order to measure students engagement in relation to the lesson, it is
necessary to observe their interactions with the teacher and their classmates. In
this respect, during the observations, students assume an active role (66% of the
lessons) by asking or answering questions; interacting in the target language when
necessary; or focusing on the tasks at hand without disrupting the lesson. In a

35

small but still significant part of the observations, students do not assume an active
role (34%).

No
34%

Yes
66%

FIGURE 24. Do students assume an active role during the lesson?

III.2.21 Contents
Every teacher usually emphasizes certain contents or skills, based on his or
her beliefs of what is important or necessary. The observed teachers tend to focus
on grammar (75% of the observations) and vocabulary (68%). In contrast, a
considerably smaller number of teachers emphasize pronunciation (23% of the
lessons), compared to the aforementioned contents. These figures show that
grammar-oriented teaching is still the favored approach.

75%

68%

23%

Grammar

Vocabulary

Pronunciation

31%

26%

26%

24%

Writing

Listening

Speaking

Reading

FIGURE 25. Contents taught and emphasized

In contrast, the percentages belonging to skills are more evenly distributed.


Writing is the most emphasized skill (Emphasized in 31% of the observed lessons),
speaking and listening share an equal number of preferences (26%) and,
surprisingly, reading is the least emphasized skill (23%).

36

III.3 End of the lesson


III.3.1 Closure
One of the most difficult skills that teachers have to master regarding
classroom management is timing. This will condition whether the lesson has a
closure or not. While in 54% of the observed lessons there is a closing stage, in
44% of them there is not. This may create loose ends between lessons, which may
prevent students from consolidating the learning outcomes.
NA
3%

No
44%

Yes
54%

FIGURE 26. Does the lesson have a closure?

III.3.2 Assessment Techniques


Assessment is an integral part of every lesson because it is an opportunity
to see whether students have met the learning goals. Not only is it helpful during
the final stage of the lesson, but also during the development because it helps to
check students understanding and detect any problem they might face when
dealing with new contents.
NA
3%
No
39%
Yes
59%

FIGURE 27. Does the teacher use different assessment techniques?

In 59% of the lessons, teachers use different assessment techniques. Unlike


39% of the lessons in which only one or no techniques are used.
37

III.3.3 Use of English


The use of the target language in the classroom has long been considered
as a critical issue in language teaching (Cook, 2001), as increasing teachers use
of English in the classroom might have a positive impact on students exposure to
the language. On this matter, English is spoken by teachers during most of the
observed lessons (69% of the observations). A small but still meaningful portion of
teachers does not do so (21%).
NA
10%
No
21%

Yes
69%

FIGURE 28. Does the teacher speak English the whole lesson?

III.3.4 English spoken by the teacher


As we have seen, the observed teachers are able to give simple instructions
in English and they speak English during most of the observations. However, it is
worth mentioning that the use of the language is somewhat restricted (44% of
observed lessons) and sometimes it does not sound natural (11%). In contrast, the
language used during some lessons is described as natural (24% of the
observations) and fluent (21%).

44%

24%

21%
11%

Restricted

Natural

Fluent

Not natural

FIGURE 29. English spoken by the teacher

38

Chapter IV: Analysis


After having briefly reviewed the results that this study produced, it is time to
establish possible links between the different practices and occurrences during a
typical EFL lesson and analyze the data in depth. The comprehensiveness of the
checklists used for this study allowed us to collect information on the eight possible
sources of data that Richards & Farrell (2011) identified when using classroom
observation:

Lesson structure

Classroom management strategies

Types of activities

Teaching strategies

Teachers use of materials

Teachers use of language

Students use of language

Student interaction
From the large amount of information, two major analyses have been

produced, dealing with the three research questions that derive from the objectives
of this study. Therefore, not all data (e.g. graphs) have been referred to during the
analyses.

What does a typical EFL lesson look like?

Is there coherence between classroom practices and the guidelines

proposed by the Ministry of Education?

What is the organization of the physical space in the EFL classroom?


The analyses focus on the most frequent occurrences, contrasting them with

the least frequent when necessary. It must be stressed that while we attempt to
identify the reasons that could explain these occurrences, neither causality nor
correlation should be assumed from these possible explanations.

39

IV.1 Classroom practices


Classically, and probably intuitively, lessons are divided into three major
stages: Beginning, development, and closing. Certain pedagogical trends have
further divided these stages into more than just three, or have changed their
names. It is the case of task-based instruction, where the sequence of a lesson is
typically broken into pre-task, task, planning, report, analysis, and practice
(Harmer, 2001). On the same matter, the PPP paradigm divided the stages into
presentation, practice, and production (Harmer, 2001). The examples could go on
and on, but in spite of any changes, the essence and purpose of these divisions
remains the same: to give teachers guidelines to plan their lessons to meet the
aims as best as possible.
As in any other lesson, in EFL classes, some classroom events such as
doing a warm-up activity, giving feedback, or delivering certain handout, happen
during specific stages. When these events happen could be determined by the
teacher or the dynamics of the lesson itself. The PPP model, for instance, is
preferred in lessons where grammar is being stressed; the task-based model, on
the contrary, is more suitable for lessons emphasizing interaction (Richards, 2006).
For the purpose of this study, the threefold paradigm of beginning, development,
and end of the lesson has been used.

IV.1.1 Beginning of the lesson


The beginning of a lesson is a critical stage of ESL instruction. At one point,
all teachers see at least one of their carefully crafted lesson plans fall to pieces just
because they started off on the wrong foot. There could be many reasons why this
happens; it may be because they did not awake students interest in the topic,
because students were never clear on what they were expected to learn, or even
because their mood affected the attitude of the student. The way teachers start a
lesson can vary; however, among the many routines that can take place during this
stage, these might be the most ubiquitous:

Greeting

Teacher-student small talk (e.g. asking students how they feel)


40

Taking attendance

Stating the lesson aim


Greeting is a basic social convention in most cultures, which promotes

respect, care, and acknowledgement of another individual. The value of greeting


when analyzing classroom routines might appear to be insignificant due to it being
such simple and common action. However, greeting was the only classroom
routine that was present in all of the observed lessons, as illustrated by FIGURE 1;
therefore, it is worthy of analysis. Greeting might be the first action that sets the
mood of the lesson; it conveys the attitude of both teachers and students towards
each other and the lesson itself. If the teacher greets his/her students
enthusiastically or if the teacher does it coldly and quickly (e.g. to get them on task
as soon as possible) will possibly make a huge difference on how the students
perceive the lesson and how receptive they will be towards what the teachers says.
Another aspect that is worth looking at is the relation between greeting and
establishing routines. Since greeting is commonly the first thing that almost all
teachers (if not all) do upon entering a classroom, it has become a deep-rooted
part of classroom etiquette. Rules such as raise your hand if you want to say
something or keep your phone on your backpack bear little difference from
stand up to greet the teacher since the three of them can be considered part of
classroom etiquette. However, not all teachers devote the same amount of time to
instill other classroom routines in their students as they do with greeting. If more
teachers did so, a lot of time spent in telling students to do something would be
saved. For example, most students know that when the teacher enters the
classroom, they have to stand up and be quiet in order to say hello (even if they do
not act upon knowing it). What if they also were taught that they have to pick up
any garbage under their desk or turn off their phones? In such case, it would
probably improve the climate of the lesson and save time that can be dedicated to
meet the lesson objectives. The ubiquity of greeting is one of the most readily
observable evidences that classroom routines are not that hard to implement.

41

During the beginning of the lesson, a considerable number of teachers ask


how their students feelas represented on FIGURE 1. As with greeting, this also
promotes respect and caring because it makes students feel valued. Moreover, it
gives learners an opportunity to share part of their day and, ideally, use English.
After all, small talk can also be considered a form of classroom participation and a
learning opportunity (Ayala et al, 2011), which can encourage weaker students to
take part in the lesson in a more casual fashion. This also may help set the mood
of the lesson and create a better climate (Hattie, 2012). Imagine a lesson at 2 pm,
just after the students came back from having lunch, would they be willing to learn
if the teacher himself/herself did not show any sign of enthusiasm?
The first indication of what the lesson is going to deal with is given by the
lesson aim. Lesson aims are the backbones of every lesson plan; nonetheless,
they are not necessarily communicated to students. Based on FIGURE 2, it is still
possible to say that telling students the lesson objective is a relatively common
action. However, this practice is not a widespread routine as greeting is. Again,
teachers can decide whether or not to spend time in informing their students about
the skills they will hopefully master by the end of the lesson and their reasons for
doing or not doing so may differ. Just as it happens with taking attendance,
teachers may want to save time or make students be on task as quickly as
possible to avoid disruption. Naturally, some teachers might be unaware that if
students know the purpose of the lesson, student achievement will be enhanced
(Hattie, 2009).

IV.1.2 Development of the lesson


The development of the lesson accounts for most of the time spent in
teaching. During this stage, not only the main activities take place, but also multiple
dynamics can unfold. In this respect, observers had to pay attention to factors that
range from the resources used during the lesson to the opportunities where
teachers used praising. The numerous factors that can be observed during this
stage explain why one of the most striking findings of this study is evidenced by
practices or actions that unfold during the development of the lesson: The
42

importance that teachers give to grammar and the consequential effects of the
leading role of grammar in the ELT lessons are not only limited to the selection of
activities and the use of materials. In fact, it was found that it affects a diverse
range of lesson components7:

Motivational strategies

Conducted activities

Interaction

Ways of recalling prior knowledge

Praising

Error correction

Materials and resources

Questions and answers


To begin with, our findings suggest that the most common way to organize

activities is based on grammatical contents, as evidenced by FIGURE 5. In as high


as 49% of the observations, organization by grammatical content is the preferred
option. This organization can be observable in different ways: when teachers
communicate the purpose of the lesson to the students (e.g. Today, well talk
about the present simple), the type of activities they use (e.g. gap-filling, tense
shift), the type of errors they correct when students communicate (e.g. Its he is,
not he are), etc.
With regard to the reasons why teachers could choose this criterion to
organize activities, there are diverse possibilities: Some teachers might favor this
tendency because it is straightforward and complies with the annual syllabus that
the Ministry of Education proposes. Interestingly enough, the way grammar is
regarded by the Ministry of Education conflicts with what teachers do during their
lessons. According to the Curriculum Framework, grammar is not content by itself;
in fact, it is considered as one of the elements that aid the purpose of
7

Even though some of these components might be present in more than one stage, they are more
likely to be present during the development stage because it accounts for most of the time of
lessons.

43

communication (Ministry of Education 2012). In spite of the former, some teachers


might privilege this organization because it allows them to hierarchically arrange
grammatical contents in order of complexity; because they consider grammar
exercises easier to conduct and check; because some teachers find difficulties
when putting grammar in context; or because there is a rigid policy with regard to
lesson planning in schools.
Another interesting finding is the high percentage of observations in which
grammar exercises are provided to catch and hold attention, as FIGURE 7 with 43%
of preference. One of the possible reasons is that by keeping students on task,
they are less likely to get distracted or disrupt the lesson. However, how does this
affect lesson structure? The answer might be that providing accuracy exercises at
the beginning of the lesson to catch attentionor during the lesson development to
hold attentionallows the teacher greater control of the lesson flow. It can be said
that these exercises are easier to conduct when compared to tasks that involve
freer practice where monitoring is imperatively necessary.
On a similar matter, as evidenced by FIGURE 4, the use of grammar as a
motivational strategy is also surprising; more specifically, showing grammatical
rules 40% of the observationsand providing grammar exercises34% of the
observations. Even though the mere fact of saying that a teacher is using
grammatical rules or grammar exercises as a way of motivating students might
sound appalling to many EFL teachers, this would not be a surprise if the teacher
was following a form-focused approach, as s/he would only be consistent with
his/her approach. For example, some teachers might want their students to figure
out a rule from context as a way of presenting new content during the beginning or
development; thus, motivating them to participate in the lesson. In addition,
exercises like gap-fill are not as demanding as those that require higher cognitive
skills, such as producing a text or working on a project. Therefore, if teachers have
low expectations of their students, they might consider that providing grammar
exercises is more motivating due to them being less complex. However, it is also
true that the perception of teachers might not be consistent with what students feel

44

with regard to these exercises. This could affect the lesson structure, because if
students are not really motivated, it could mean that they will not do the exercises.
The former might translate into spending more time during the development of the
lesson, which in turn could determine whether the lesson has a closure or not. In
fact, this could be an explanation to the important percentage of observations (up
to 44%) in which no form of closure was perceived, evidenced by FIGURE 26.
The presence of grammar exercises during the beginning and development
of the lesson, evidenced by FIGURE 3, FIGURE 8 and FIGURE 10, illustrates how easy
is to incorporate this type of exercises into practically any lesson stage. This does
nothing but confirming that teachers use grammar as an organizational criterion of
the lesson structure. It is possible that this happens because they are
straightforward and do not require more contextualization or preparation like
projects or tasks.
On FIGURE 3 it is observable that providing grammar exercises is a significant
occurrence when recalling prior knowledgeon 31% of the lessons, this practice
was observed. In terms of lesson structure, prior knowledge can be recalled at the
beginning, if the aim is to create a logical sequence between lessons. In addition,
recalling can also be used at any stage of the lesson if an activity requires prior
knowledge to be executed or understood, or if teachers want to clarify their
explanation by looking at what is already mastered by students. The preference for
grammar exercises to recall prior knowledge might be linked to the fact that by
solving this type of exercises students are expected to demonstrate that they have
mastered a content by applying what they should know. In turn, checking these
exercises is not time-consuming because the answers they require are usually
shortsometimes, completing with one word or selecting an option is enough to
solve them. As a result, teachers can quickly assess whether to continue with the
program or spend more lessons practicing the structure depending on the
performance of students.
From FIGURE 8 it becomes noticeable that the tendency of using grammar
exercises grows. In this case, these exercises were used on 50% of observed
45

lessons, being the second highest preference. Furthermore, it must be considered


that the first preference was to work on exercises from the course book 52% of
the lessons. Although it is not possible to ascertain that these workbook exercises
were grammar-oriented, it could also be the case, which would add up to this trend.
These findings suggest that there is a major grammatical component not only
during the beginning to recall prior knowledge, but also during the development of
lessons, where most of the activities take place. This probably means that teachers
value accuracy over fluency, moving away from communicative or functional
approaches to language teaching. Apart from the reasons that have been already
given to partially explain this tendency, it can also be said that many teachers
might prefer grammar exercises because they are easily designed or adopted from
what can be found on the Internet. In contrast, projects or communicative tasks
imply careful consideration of various aspects such as time, materials and
resources, difficulty, or relevance of the topic. The former is supported by FIGURE
10, where it is evidenced that the resources and materials used by teachers are of

grammatical naturea trend

48% of the lessons, rising above interactive

resources (26%), translation (19%), or dialogues (17%). The former establishes


them as the main type of didactic aid.
Up to this point, it is important to determine whether the observed teachers
provide grammar exercises as a way of consolidating a structure that has been
previously contextualized or simply conceive grammatical accuracy as an end
itself. As we mentioned, the position of the Ministry of Education on the teaching of
grammar (MINEDUC, 2012) is that grammar should not be content on its own, but
an aid towards facilitating communication. On this matter, the methodological
strategies that teachers adopt to improve students learning, as seen in FIGURE 13,
indicate that the percentage of observations in which students are exposed to
communicative situationswhere exchange, negotiation and interaction take
placeis the lowest (24%). In contrast, the exposure to grammar, translation, and
gap-fill exercises is the most preferred option (69%).

46

Moreover, the evidence represented on FIGURE 21 suggests that the type of


teacher-student and student-student interaction is related to grammar and
translation exercises (61%) rather than more communicative resources like
dialogues or radio conversations (25%). The aforementioned might imply that
grammar is not simply an aid to consolidate communicative learning outcomes,
contradicting what the Ministry of Education expects. Depending on the way in
which students solve these exercises, there is little or no interaction compared to
other types of teaching resources seen in FIGURE 10 (with the exception of providing
text for students to translate).
Other indications of the central role that accuracy plays can be inferred from
three teacher practices: questioning, error correction, and praising. From a
structural point of view, these procedures can be present during the course of any
lesson stage. Questions can be used to engage students at the beginning, to
maintain attention and participation throughout the development, or to check
understanding at the closing stage (e.g. concept check questions), among other
purposes. A similar case is error correction: teachers can correct students when
recalling prior knowledge at the beginning, to address errors that hinder the
performance of activities during the development, or by the end of the lesson, to
focus on any language problems detected during earlier stages. Likewise, praising
can also be present during any stage: teachers can encourage students through
praising when they participate in brainstorming ideas at the beginning, when they
answer questions correctly throughout the development, or when the overall
performance of students has been satisfactory by the end of the lesson.
In numbers, FIGURE 15, FIGURE 17 and FIGURE 18 demonstrate what has been
foreshadowed during this analysis: teachers hold language accuracy in high
regard. In fact, FIGURE 15 evidences that during the observations, questions related
to grammar or translation were the most askedup to 66%, rising above
questions dealing with pronunciation and language used in communicative
contextsthe latter would probably be the preferred option if teachers focused on
fluency rather than accuracy. Similarly, FIGURE 17 illustrates that when correcting

47

mistakes, teachers choose to highlight lexical or grammatical mistakesas 54%


of the observed lessonsdisregarding pronunciation mistakes. Finally, FIGURE 18
shows that praising also denotes a marked preference to congratulate students
when they successfully answer grammar-related exercisesobserved on up to
80% of the lessons.
Considering the analysis made up to this point, there is no doubt that the
majority of teachers observed applied a hybrid method of teaching which borrows
elements from the Grammar-Translation and Audiolingual methods. Therefore, it is
evident that they are focusing on form rather than function, even though in the last
years this approach has been disregarded as focusing only on teaching the rules of
the language, and not teaching how to use them in real communication (Richards
& Renandya, 2002).
Explicit grammar teaching instruction continues to be a controversial issue,
and to say that it is completely wrong to teach grammar would be extreme. In fact,
grammar teaching can be beneficial (or detrimental) depending on age, proficiency
level, educational background, language skills, style (register) and the needs and
goals of learners (Brown, 2001; Cruz, 2013).

IV.1.3 End of the lesson


Given the fact that the lesson development is the longest of all stages, it is
no surprise that the closing part might be neglected because of mistiming. The
dynamics of a lesson could easily interfere with teachers lesson plans, creating
circumstances were room for closure is not an option. On this matter, activities
conducted during the development might take longer than expected, disruption
might delay the execution of certain activities, or lack of interest from the part of
students can translate into teachers running out of time that would otherwise be
devoted to give the lesson an appropriate closure. Up to this point, it is necessary
to state what closure means and why it is important. In the context of teaching, the
closing phase should leave students with a sense of achievement, which means
that the lesson was purposeful and meaningful (Richards & Bohlke, 2011, p. 10).
Although this stage is short, many actions can unfold here:
48

Clarification (e.g. students can address any problem they had and

ask the teacher questions to resolve any issue)

Summary (e.g. teachers can review the lesson objectives and do a

quick review of new language items)

Assessment (e.g. teachers can assess students performance or they

can ask students to assess each others performances)

Feedback (e.g. teachers can encourage students through praising.

They can also tell them how they can improve; in turn, students can
make suggestions to make future lessons better)
In this respect, it is important to highlight that our findings suggest that by
the end of the majority of the observed lessons, some form of closure was
perceived (as the ones listed above)on 54% of the lessons, as represented by
FIGURE 26. In spite of this, an equally important number of teachers do not perform

any of the actions listed above, implying that the closing stage is not presenton
up to 44% of the lessons, this was the case.
Additionally, among the focuses of observation, an item related to assessment is
present. As FIGURE 27 illustrates, on 59% of the lessons teachers use different
assessment techniques. There is no data related to the nature of these techniques;
therefore, it is not possible to ascertain whether rubrics, checklists, or even tests
are used to assess students performance. Nonetheless, there is still a high
percentage of observed teachers that do not use different types of assessment.
The former could be explained by various reasons: It is possible that lack of time
might determine the absence of this process; similarly, some teachers might not be
fully acquainted with different assessment techniques; in addition, designing or
adapting assessment instruments might be regarded as time-consuming and
complex, and therefore discarded as an option. Naturally, some teachers might not
use assessment for purposes other than grading; that is, summative assessment.
Therefore, formative assessment might be relegated to a secondary role, if
considered at all.

49

IV.2 Seating arrangement: a neglected asset in ELT


The second objective of this study is to identify the physical organization of
the EFL classroom. First of all, Scrivener (2005) considers that grouping and
seating is one of many classroom management skills. More specifically, he divides
this skill into four actions that teachers can do to modify the organization of the EFL
classroom.

Forming groupings (singles, pairs, groups, mingle, plenary)

Arranging and rearranging seating

Deciding where teacher will stand or sit

Reforming class as a whole group after activities


Depending on the nature of some activities, students might be asked to

work individually, in pairs or larger groups. Sometimes, the former involves the
teacher changing the seating arrangement of the classroom to benefit the smooth
performance of the activities. In contrast, seating arrangement could also be the
effect of teachers own beliefs related to their role in the classroom (Lotfy, 2012).
Whatever the reason, this practice enables teachers to change the focus of lesson,
add variety to the interaction among students, favor teachers monitoring, improve
traffic patterns and break the predictability of sitting in the same spot every class
(Denton, 1992; Scrivener, 2005). Given the aforementioned possibilities that
changing the seating arrangement offers, this skill is undoubtedly a valuable tool
for any EFL teacher.
Among the possible ways of gathering information on this matter, Richards
proposes the use of seating charts, which help collect information not only related
to the arrangement of desks but also on interaction patterns. For the purposes of
this study, observers were asked to gather information on seating arrangement by
drawing the classroom layout, as well as report on changes made by the teacher
with regard to grouping during the course of the lesson. FIGURE 30 depicts that the
preferred arrangement of desks is rows, pointing out that teachers favor what is
considered as a traditional seating arrangement. One of the causes behind this
decision could be the form-focused approach teachers preferas the analysis of
50

classroom practices. Since grammar exercises could not necessarily prompt


students to interact and move around the classroom, seating arrangement might
remain unchanged by teachers. However, there might be reasons other than the
type of activities students do that also influence how willing to introduce changes
teachers are. In fact, we have narrowed down to three factors that could determine
the decision-making in relation to the organization of the EFL classroom: teacherrelated, student-related, and school-related.

IV.2.1. The teacher-related factor


The teacher-related factor could be closely tied to aspects such as
approaches to language teaching, theoretical knowledge, and personality traits.
Teachers preferences with regard to approaches to ELT might have an
influence on the seating arrangement that they choose. For example, teachers who
tend to prefer tasks or projects might be more willing to avoid using the traditional
row organization because the essence of these activities is to exchange and
negotiate meaning. Therefore, the execution of this type of activities might be
smoother

if

teachers

arrange

students

in

groups,

where

face-to-face

communication takes place more naturally. In contrast, form-focused activities


might not necessarily require a change in seating arrangement since conversation
is less likely to be needed in order to complete them. The former might be related
to how teachers view the process of language acquisition, either as a social
process or as a personal one.
Teachers educational background could also play an important role on how
they arrange the EFL classroom. It might be possible that teachers own process of
learning the language be reflected on the learning conditions they create for their
students. For example, if a teacher has had positive experiences working in groups
or semi circles as an EFL learner, it might be reasonable for him/her to recreate
these conditions thinking that their students will learn in the same way. Similarly,
their educational background as student teachers might also have an influence on
their pedagogical practices. Teachers who did not receive instruction on the

51

potential benefits of changing seating arrangements according to the type of


activities will most certainly not resort to this asset.
Teachers personality traits are another factor that could play against using
different types of arrangement. From a practical point of view, teachers who feel
insecure about their classroom management skills could restrain themselves from
altering the organization of the classroom in order to avoid losing control of the
class while changing seats. Likewise, extroverted teachers might prefer their
students to work in groups because it might be more natural to them in spite of the
type of activity. Similarly, teachers who are inflexible might be likely to choose one
type of seating arrangement and stick to it, not considering potential benefits of
introducing some variations. Naturally, some teachers might just simply avoid
changing seating arrangement because it is out of their comfort zone of
experimentation. The aforementioned examples are just some among many others
which could also influence teachers decisions with regard to organizational
patterns, and this does nothing but highlight the importance of personality traits in
teaching.
Although it is undeniable that more teacher-related factors exist, the ones
mentioned above demonstrate that the influences on teachers seating
arrangement preferences can come from different sources. As a matter of fact, the
three possible influences that we listed might determine an important aspect that
could explain why teachers choose certain arrangement patterns: teaching styles.
In this study, observers were asked to categorize the teaching style of the
teachers they observed. That is, a teachers individual instructional methods and
approach and the characteristic manner in which the teacher carries out
instruction, as Richards and Schmidt define it. The options given are based on the
Teaching Styles Inventory (Grasha, 1996, p.154). Grasha describes five teaching
styles that he considers to be pervasive in classrooms (see TABLE 2)
On this matter, as FIGURE 12, the most common teaching styles are Formal
Authorityobserved on 61% of the lessonsand Personal Model 51%. By

52

looking at the descriptions that the author gives for teaching styles, it can be
noticed that these are more teacher-centered than the others.
For example, teachers who are categorized as Formal Authority are aware
of the power that being a teacher entails; therefore, they might tend to avoid
relinquishing control to students. This could translate into lower opportunities for
students to negotiate and decide on commonly accepted rules, to set their own
learning goals, or to provide feedback for improving the subject.
Expert
Possesses knowledge and expertise that students need. Strives to
maintain status as an expert among students by displaying detailed
knowledge and by challenging students to enhance their competence.
Concerned with transmitting information and ensuring that students are
well prepared.
Formal Authority
Possesses status among students because of knowledge and role as a
faculty member. Concerned with providing positive and negative feedback,
establishing learning goals, expectations, and rules of conduct for
students. Concerned with the correct, acceptable, and standard ways to
do things and with providing students with the structure they need to learn.
Personal Model
Believes in teaching by personal example and establishes a prototype
for how to think and behave. Oversees, guides, and directs by showing
how to do things, and encouraging students to observe and then to
emulate the instructors approach.
Facilitator
Emphasizes the personal nature of teacher-student interactions. Guides
and directs students by asking questions, exploring options, suggesting
alternatives, and encouraging them to develop in students the capacity for
independent action, initiative, and responsibility. Works with students on
projects in a consultative fashion and tries to provide as much support and
encouragement as possible.
Delegator
Concerned with developing students capacity to function in an
autonomous fashion. Students work independently on projects or as part
of autonomous teams. The teacher is available at the request of students
as a resource person.
TABLE 2. Grashas teaching styles inventory (1996)

53

Similarly, teachers who are described as Personal Model might also


relegate students to a secondary role. Given that this teaching style relies on
imitation of the instructors procedures and ways of behaving, this could not take
into consideration the diversity of students learning styles, needs, or interests.
Their status as more proficient English speakers might lead them to be more rigid
in relation to what they expect from their students.
In contrast, the other teaching styles described by Grasha show signs of
increased student involvement. To begin with, Expert teachers encourage students
to develop their competences, prompting them to take responsibility for their own
learning. This idea is even more evident if we look at the description of Facilitators,
since they develop students independence, initiative, and responsibility. Finally,
Delegators give even more room for students to work independently, aiming at
developing student autonomy. All in all, these three styles place the teacher in the
position of a resourceful guide who helps students, rather than an instructor who
imparts knowledge and expects their students to emulate his/her actions.
Undeniably, it is interesting those teaching styles associated to more
traditional ways of instruction remain being the most popular. It is equally thoughtprovoking that teachers prefer to arrange students in rows (see FIGURE 30), which
could also be related to more traditional teaching approaches. The former indicates
that there is little innovation when it comes to teaching style and seating
arrangement, even considering that there is no seating arrangement that excels
others at all levels and that it all depends on the needs of the lesson and the
students own learning styles and preferences (Wengel, 1992; Lotfy, 2012). As a
matter of fact, it could be argued that lessons are far from being communicative not
only because of the strong grammar component, but also due to the arrangement
patterns and instructor-centered teaching styles. Naturally, teachers are not
necessarily to blame for this lack of variety; it is always worth looking at
surrounding factors that could play against teachers who do want to introduce
changes.

54

FIGURE 30. Physical organization of the majority of observed classrooms (up to 70%)

IV.2.2. The student-related factor


Introducing variations into an EFL classroom may be more complex than
merely deciding which pattern is more suitable for certain activities. In fact, as Lotfy
(2012) states, students learning styles and preferences also need to be taken into
account when thinking of rearranging the classroom layout. It is common
knowledge that no lesson will completely suit the needs of all students, which is
exactly why teachers should experiment with new ideas. How could students
learning styles and preferences affect teachers decision-making in relation to the
organization of the EFL classroom?
Students learning styles could be diverse in nature; in this respect, seating
arrangement might have different effects or no effect at all depending on each
learners characteristics. For example, a study by Lotfy (2012) on seating
arrangement and student participation concluded that although circle grouping may
not affect talkative students performance in communicative activities, shy students
involvement in such activities is increased. Likewise, while some students might do
better working in groups, others might see their performance hindered because
they could delegate their responsibilities. Some students might even do their best
55

working on their own. On this matter, teachers might find difficulties when
rearranging seating because of this diversity, which could restrain them from
attempting to introduce changes.
In the same way, students preferences could also discourage some
teachers from organizing the classroom differently. Each student might have a first
choice with regard to where to sit, and this is related to how comfortable they feel.
On this matter, Lotfys study on seating arrangement and classroom participation
concluded that students care for where and how they feel comfortable (p. 66).
The former prompts teachers to digress from assumptions like disruptive students
sit at the back or the opposite, participative students sit at the front, since it could
be just a matter of predilection.
For example, some students might feel exposed when working on a semicircle fashion. Similarly, using non-traditional seating arrangements such as semicircles or group clusters
Another factor that should be considered is learners special needs. Visual
impairment or auditory problems need to be taken into account when deciding
where students will sit.

IV.2.3. The school-related factor


It is also possible that teachers and students could be willing to experiment
with rearranging seating. However, a third factor might be an obstacle: the school.
The school-related factor is not only linked to the available resources such as
chairs, tables, or space, but also to teachers colleagues and school regulations.
Firstly, it must be considered that each school is different. While in some
schools classroom are large, in others they could be quite small. Introducing
certain arrangements patterns such as groups, circles, or semi-circles requires
space; it is not only a matter of placing tables and chairs in certain fashion.
Teachers need to leave space for them and their students to move around the
classroom effortlessly. Depending on the number of students and classroom size,

56

certain arrangements might not work as expected, even if they suit the activities,
which is why some teachers might avoid using them.
Secondly, while some schools have an English classroom, others do not.
How does this concern seating arrangement? The answer lies in the fact that EFL
teachers often have to share the room with colleagues, which might restrain them
from rearranging the classroom in order to avoid causing inconveniences. In
addition, it must be considered that form teachers might have their own policies
with regard to seating arrangements due to behavioral problems affecting the class
or personal preferences.
Lastly, school regulations might also be a reason why teachers are not.
classroom managers who reorganize seating. Some schools could have quite rigid
policies with regard to the use of classrooms. In some cases, changing seating
arrangement might not be discouraged in order to avoid disturbing adjoining
classrooms. Similarly, policies related to emergencies such as fires and
earthquakes might also prevent teachers from working in environments where
there are no aisles (e.g. circles or semi-circles).
As it can be seen, reasons why teachers could avoid introducing changes to
the organization of the EFL classroom can be many. Having briefly addressed
some of them, it is valid to ask which factor is the most influential when thinking of
rearranging seating. Although further research is needed to find the answer, it is
undeniable that teachers take a great deal of responsibility for what happens inside
the classroom. As Scrivener (2005, p.87) suggests even in the most immovable of
fixed seating, it is often possible to be creative in some way.

57

Chapter V: Conclusions
The opportunity that this study offered to look at what happens once
classroom doors was indeed thought-provoking. Although multiple conclusions
could be drawn from the large amount of information collected, we will only
address the issues that deal with the main objectives of this study.
With regard to classroom practices, it was found that in most lessons
grammar plays a crucial role, influencing not only the activities teacher select and
conduct and the type of interaction they elicit, but also the ways teachers make
students recall prior knowledge, catch and hold students attention, motivate
students, ask questions, and correct and/or praise students based on their
responses or performance.
When we laid the theoretical foundations of this study, it was stated that the
appropriateness of a method depends on context and that teachers are the ones
who ultimately deal with students and know better what they need. However, for
us, it is a bit discouraging that teachers still prefer form-focused approaches, which
based on our short experiences as student-teachers, could not be very motivating
for young learners. Although focusing on grammar every once in a while during a
lesson is necessary to address communication breakdowns, in our opinion,
grammar should not be what drives an entire lesson. Teachers should make an
effort to challenge students to use the language in authentic, real-life contexts,
rather than prompting them to mechanically apply rules that they might not even
fully understand. All in all, there should be a balance between accuracy and
fluency.
The above mentioned implies that there is no coherence between teachers
classroom practices and the guidelines proposed by the Ministry of Education. It is
evident that the Communicative Language Teaching policy that the government
intends to introduce has not had an impact on actual classroom practices.

58

In relation to the organization of the physical space, it was found that


teachers are not keen supporters of rearranging seating. As a matter of fact, they
prefer to maintain or arrange seating in rows. Although it is not possible to assert
causality, we believe that the type of activities teachers carry out and their teaching
styles are the main reasons why this happens.
More specifically, the prevalence of form-focused activities might not compel
teachers to introduce less traditional seating arrangements such as groups or
semi-circles. Given that less interaction and movement is required in this type of
activities, rows might be their preferred approach.
Similarly, most of the observers characterized teachers styles as Formal
Authority or Personal Model, both being instructor-centered teaching styles. The
former leads us to believe that teachers might prefer whole-class teaching and
ultimately, be the reason why they choose the row pattern. Finally, it is noticeable
that both seating arrangement and teaching styles are rather conventional; in this
respect, we suggest that teachers should be more open to experimenting with new
arrangements and teaching styles.

59

References
Agencia de Calidad de Educacin (2013). Resultados SIMCE III Medio 2012.
Chile: Agencia de Calidad de Educacin.
Ayala, G., de Cervantes, M.A., Gonzlez, V.D., Romero, F. & Mugford, G. (2011).
"Don't Tell My Father": Important Lessons Learned Through EFL Classroom
Small Talk. PROFILE, 13(2), 73-84.
Aslam, M. and Kingdon, G. (2011). What can teachers do to raise student
achievement? Economics of Education Review, 30(3), 559-574.
Birello, M. (2012). Teacher Cognition and Language Teacher Education: beliefs
and practice. A conversation with Simon Borg. Bellatera Journal of Teaching
& Learning Language & Literature, 5(2), 88-94.
Borg, S. (2006). Teacher cognition and teacher education: research and practice.
London: Continuum.
Brown H.D. (2000). Principles of language learning and teaching. 4th ed. White
Plains, New York: Longman.
Brown H.D. (2001). Teaching by principles: An interactive approach to language
pedagogy. 2nd ed. New York: Longman.
Buitrago, R., & Ayala, R. (2008). Overcoming Fear of Speaking in English through
Meaningful Activities: A Study with Teenagers. PROFILE 9(1), 23-46.
Retrieved
from http://www.revistas.unal.edu.co/ojs/index.php/profile/article/view/10700
Cadavid, I., McNulty M., & Quincha, D. (2004). Elementary English Language
Instruction: Colombian Teachers' Classroom Practices. PROFILE 5, 37-55.
Chaves, O. & Hernndez, F. (2013). EFL Teaching Methodological Practices in
Cali. PROFILE. 15(1), 61-80

60

Cohen, A.D. (1990). Language learning: Insights for learners, instructors, and
researchers. New York: Newbury House Publishers.
Corbett, H.D. & Wilson, B.L. (2002). What urban students say about good teaching.
Educational Leadership, 60(1), 1822.
Cook, V. (2001). Using the first language in the classroom. The Canadian Modern
Language Review, 57(3), 402-423.
Cruz, C. (2013). Formal Grammar Instruction: Theoretical Aspects to Contemplate
Its Teaching. PROFILE, 15(2), 215-224.
Denton, P. (1992). Seating Arrangements for Better Classroom Management. The
Journal of Adventist Education, 54(5), 29-32.
Doyle. W. (1986). Classroom organization and management. In M. C. Wittrock
(Ed.), Handbook of research on teaching (3rd ed.). New York: Macmillan.
392-431.
Estacion, A., McMahon, T., Quint, J., Melamud, B., and Stephens, L.
(2004). Conducting Classroom Observations in First Things First Schools.
Working Paper. Kansas City: IRRE.
Gates Foundation. (2010). Learning about teaching: Initial findings from the
Measures

of

Effective

Teaching

Project. Retrieved

from

http://www.metproject.org/downloads/Preliminary_Finding-Policy_Brief.pdf
Grasha, A.F. (1996). Teaching With Style. Pittsburgh, PA: Alliance Publishers.
Harmer, J. (2001) The Practice of English Language Teaching. 3rd ed. London:
Longman.
Hattie, J.A.C. (2009). Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses
Relating to Achievement. London & New York: Routledge.
Hattie, J.A.C. (2012). Visible learning for teachers. London: Routledge.
Hernndez, R., Fernndez, C. & Baptista, P., (2006). Metodologa de la
investigacin. 4th ed. Mxico: McGraw-Hill.
61

Joe, J. N., Tocci, C. M., Holtzman, S. L., & Williams, J. C. (2013). Foundations of
observation: Considerations for developing a classroom observation system
that helps districts achieve consistent and accurate scores (Bill & Melinda
Gates Foundation, MET project Policy and Practice Brief). Retrieved from:
http://www.metproject.org/downloads/METETS_Foundations_of_Observation.pdf
Kumaravadivelu, B. (1993a). Maximizing learning potential in the communicative
classroom. ELT Journal, 47(1), 12-21
Kumaravadivelu, B. (2003b). Beyond methods: Macrostrategies for language
teaching. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Kumaravadivelu, B. (2006). Understanding language teaching: From method to
postmethod. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Lotfy, N. (2012). Seating Arrangement and Cooperative Learning Activities:
Students On-task/Off-task Participation in EFL Classrooms (Masters
Thesis). Retrieved from https://dar.aucegypt.edu/handle/10526/3157
Macas, D. (2013). An Exploration of EFL Teachers' Awareness of the Sources of
Pedagogical Knowledge in a Teacher Education Program. PROFILE, 15(2).
McBride K. (2009). Percepciones estudiantiles sobre las tcnicas utilizadas en la
enseanza del ingls como lengua extranjera. Universum. 24(2), 94-112.
McClellan, C., Atkinson, M., & Danielson, C. (2012). Teacher evaluator training &
certification: Lessons learned from the Measures of Effective Teaching
project.

San

Francisco,

CA:

Teachscape.

Retrieved

from

http://www.teachscape.com/resources/teacher-effectivenessresearch/2012/02/teacher-evaluator-training-and-certification.html
Miller, G., & Hall, T. (2005). Classroom management. Wakefield, MA: National
Center on Accessing the General Curriculum.
Ministry of Education (1998). Objetivos Fundamentales y Contenidos Mnimos
Obligatorios de la Educacin Media. Santiago, Chile: Ministry of Education.
62

Ministry of Education (2008). Marco para la Buena Enseanza (Good Teaching


Framework).

Centro

Investigaciones

de

Perfeccionamiento,

Pedaggicas

Experimentacin

(CPEIP).

Retrieved

e
from

www.docentemas.cl/docs/MBE2008.pdf.
Ministry of Education (2012). Bases Curriculares 2012 (Curriculum Framework
2012). Chile: Ministry of Education.
Nunan, D. (1987). Communicative language teaching: Making it work. ELT Journal.
41(2), 136-145.
Nunan D. (1991). Language teaching methodology: A textbook for teachers. New
York: Prentice Hall.
OECD.

(2013), Do

Students

Perform

Better

in

Schools

with

Orderly

Classrooms?, PISA in Focus, 32(1), 1-4.


OLeary, M. (2006). Can inspectors really improve the quality of teaching in the
PCE sector? Classroom observations under the microscope. Research in
Post Compulsory Education, 11(2), 191-198.
OLeary, M. (2011). The Role of Lesson Observation in Shaping Professional
Identity, Learning and Development in Further Education Colleges in the
West

Midlands

(Doctoral

Dissertation).

Retrieved

from

http://www.wlIV.ac.uk/PDF/sed-res-oleary-PhDThesis.pdf
OLeary, M. (2014). Classroom observation: a guide to the effective observation of
teaching and learning. London: Routledge.
Oxford, R.L., (1990). Language Learning Strategies: What Every Teacher Should
Know. Boston: Heinle & Heinle.
Phipps, S. & Borg, S. (2009). Exploring tensions between teachers grammar
teaching beliefs and practices. System, 37(3), 380-390.
Richards, J.C. (1990). The language teaching matrix. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.
63

Richards, J.C. (1998). Teaching in Action: Case Studies from Second Language
Classrooms. Washington: TESOL.
Richards, J.C. (2006) Communicative Language Teaching Today. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
Richards, J.C., & Bohlke, D. (2011). Creating effective language lessons. New
York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Richards, J.C. & Farrell, T. (2011). Practice Teaching: a Reflective Approach. New
York: Cambridge University Press.
Richards, J.C. & Lockhart, C. (1996). Reflective teaching in second language
classrooms. NY: Cambridge University Press.
Richards, J.C. & Renandya, W.A. (2002). Methodology in language teaching: An
anthology of current practice. United States of America: Cambridge
University Press.
Richards, J.C. & Rodgers T.S. (2001). Approaches and methods in language
teaching. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Richards, J.C. & Schmidt R. (2010). Longman dictionary of language teaching and
applied linguistics. 4th ed. Great Britain: Longman.
Rodgers, T.S. (2001). Language Teaching Methodology. [ONLINE] Available at:
http://www.cal.org/resources/digest/rodgers.html.

[Last

Accessed

24

February 2014].
Santiago, P., Benavides, F., Danielson, C., Goe, L. & Nusche, D. (2013). Teacher
Evaluation in Chile 2013. OECD Reviews of Evaluation and Assessment in
Education: OECD Publishing.
Scrivener, J. (2005). Learning teaching: A guidebook for English language
teachers. 2nd ed. Oxford: Macmillan.
Schoenfeld, A.H. (2013). Classroom observations in theory and practice. ZDM.
45(4), 607-621.
64

Sokal, L., Smith, D.G., & Mowat, H. (2003). Alternative certification teachers'
attitudes toward classroom management. The High School Journal, 86(3),
8-16.
Sugai, G., & Horner, R.H. (2002). The evolution of discipline practices: School-wide
positive behavior supports. Child and Family Behavior Therapy, 24(1), 2350.
Taylor, P. (2011). Approaches to teacher development in Finland learning from a
high performer. Paper presented at the UCET Conference, November
2011.
Thornbury, S. (1996). Teachers research teacher talk. ELT Journal, 50(4), 279289.
UNESCO. (2004). La educacin chilena en el cambio de siglo: Polticas,
resultados y desafos. Chile: Ministerio de Educacin.
Ur, P. (2013). Language-teaching method revisited. ELT Journal, 67(4), 468-474.
Wajnryb, R. (1992). Classroom observation tasks: A resource book for language
teachers and trainers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Wang, M.C., Haertel, G.D., & Walberg, H.J. (1993). Toward a knowledge base for
school learning. Review of Educational Research, 63(3), 249-294.
Wengel, M. (1992). Seating Arrangements: Changing with the Times (ED15 788
Field Project) Research/Technical (ERIC Document Reproduction Service
No.ED348 153)
Wragg, E.C. (1999). An Introduction to Classroom Observation. London:
Routledge.
Wragg, E.C., Wikeley, F.J., Wragg C.M., and Haynes G.S. (1996) Teacher
Appraisal Observed. London: Routledge.

65

Appendix: Observation Checklist

66

67

68

69

70

71

72