ERG SES H 04, Language and Education
This paper reports on the process and initial findings of a project that seeks to make the teaching of English more effective and enjoyable. The context is that of a village school in a semi-rural area in Bangladesh. Existing teaching practices have been identified as transmissional, textbook and exam dependent, and questionably effective (Podder, 2013; Rasheed, 2012; Mazumder 2013). The aim of this project has been to introduce interactive approaches.
The government issued textbook contains a sequence of lessons based on a CLT (communicative language teaching) approach. In rural and semi-urban schools it is often the only English language resource in the classroom. The lessons are carefully graduated in complexity, cover a wide and relevant range of subject materials and provide both narratives and exercises. The main problem is that most teachers limit their classwork to the exact words on the textbook page, either reading it aloud to their students or asking their students to read it (sometimes silently).
The first stage of this project, reported at ECER 2013 (Rasheed, 2013) has been to develop of a resource package with a sequence of lessons that used specific chapters of the textbook as a base for activities. These called on students to talk to each other and not just write answers on paper, to take role and practice with sentence structures and vocabulary in fictitious but momentarily real contexts, to play with and use language rather than repeat it and memorise it for written exams
This paper reports on the field work in the project. The resource was introduced in a workshop to a small group of English teachers in a semi-urban school, and they then worked through the lessons with a group of 55 Grade Six students (aged 10-11), with the researcher as supporter and occasional facilitator. The data analysis overviews the hesitations, confusions, discoveries, experiences of fun and freedom, and the language learning demonstrated by the students, the teachers, and the researcher. This report focuses on engagement by the students, creative experimentation with language and students’ perception of enjoyment.
While the project followed the same basic content, in story contexts, sentence structures and vocabulary, as the textbook, it provided opportunities for teachers and students to experiment and to practice language interactively, as is in fact the underlying tenet of the CLT approach. The visible results were student engagement in the work, increase in confident oral language usage and new processes of relating both the stories and language structures to real contexts in the students’ own lives. In addition, the process of lifting language from the page was beginning to develop students’ inquisitiveness, their creativity and even their critical awareness of language as a tool for communication rather than as merely a subject for examination.
While the focus in this project is on the language learning, the use of creative, and potentially critical approaches is directed towards broader learning goals of encroraging studnts agency, curiosity and evolving criticality.
Lindon, J. (2012). Reflective practice and early years professionalism (2nd edition). London: Hodder Education Mazumder, S. (2013). Bangladeshi Secondary Teacher Educators’ Experiences and Perceptions of the Application of Communicative Language Teaching (CLT). In J. Greenwood, J. Everatt, A. Kabir & S. Alam (Eds.) Research and educational change in Bangladesh. Dhaka: Dhaka University Press. Rasheed, M. (2012). Learning English language in Bangladesh: CLT and beyond. Critical literacy: theories and practices. 6(2). 31-49. Rasheed, M.M.H. (2013). Literacy for criticality: Changing our focus in learning English as a second language. ECER, Istanbul. Podder, R. (2013). English aural-oral skills assessment policy and practices in Bangladesh secondary schools. In J. Greenwood, J. Everatt, A. Kabir & S. Alam (Eds.) Research and educational change in Bangladesh. Dhaka: Dhaka University Press. Schön, D. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. New York, NY: Basic Books Smith, J.A., Flowers, P., & Larkin, M. (2009). Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis: Theory Method and Research. London: Sage.
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