31 SES 06 B, The Role of Teachers in Multilingual Settings
Language learners’ learning and development, being two of the most important outcomes of foreign language education, are also influenced primarily by teachers’ teaching styles. This is attributed to be the behavioral reflections of teachers’ cognitive conceptions of learning and teaching. Research on teaching suggests that it is crucial to uncover teachers’ cognitions for the reason that teachers’ mental processes are considered to be the underlying sources behind their instructional approaches, attitudes, decisions, policies, behaviors, strategies, and so on. All of these are linked in some way to their learners’ learning and development. In this respect, focusing on pure classroom practices without considering teachers’ cognitive accumulations could lead to shallow information about whichever educational issue is being investigated. Therefore, by examining the patterns of the relationships between the two, this paper draws attention to both language teachers’ cognitions on language learning processes and the actions they follow during their language teaching practices.
Teachers interpret a teaching situation in the light of their cognitions on learning and teaching, and this interpretation guides their decisions and attempts to create effective teaching in the classroom. The developments in cognitive science provide us with a model with three components: (a) the classroom events and actions, (b) the planning that precedes those events and actions, and (c) the understanding and interpretation that follow those events and actions (Woods, 1996).As teaching is a kind of cognitive activity, the concept of teacher cognition is itself broad and encompassing, because there is a set of distinct concepts and multiple perspectives regarding the cognitive processes occurring in human. Cognitions are described by Borg (2006) in terms of “instructional concerns or considerations teachers have, principles or maxims they are trying to implement, their thinking about different levels of context, the pedagogical knowledge they possess, their personal practical knowledge and their beliefs” (p.87).
In view of the fact that understanding teacher cognition is of great importance to understanding teaching and teachers, it is equally critical to understand possible sources of teacher cognition and how those cognitions are constructed. Woods (1996) claims that language learning experiences, early teaching experiences and education courses potentially influence teachers’ beliefs about and approaches to teaching. Borg (2003) illustrates that professional coursework, classroom practice, schooling and contextual factors add to the formation of teacher cognition. Likewise, Gabillon (2012) lists the factors contributing to belief formation and development as life experiences in society, prior schooling, professional education, and teaching experience. Experience, as attached importance, ought to be discussed in terms of three phases: (a) early experiences in schooling, (b) experiences during teacher education, and (c) experiences obtained from actual classroom practices.
In the last four decades, educational researchers have given due consideration to the investigation of teachers’ mental lives through a variety of concepts like teacher belief, teacher knowledge, teacher thinking, teacher perception, teacher assumption, teacher value, teacher principle, teacher philosophy, teacher maxim, and so on. Although some of them have had more emphasis attached while others have been studied and reported in a limited number of papers, all of those concepts have been treated as an extension of teacher cognition. Teacher cognition is a broad concept which, “encompasses what teachers think of, know about, believe in, and understand from an educational issue as well as its relationship to classroom practices” (Öztürk & Yıldırım, 2015, p. 171). From this point forth, this study focuses on the way language teachers think of, know about, believe in, and understand from language learning and its link to language teaching practices.
The study intended to answer how one set of variables (cognitions) would relate to or predict the other set of variables (actions) and the data were collected through a single, cross-sectional inventory from 606 teachers teaching English in different higher education institutions in Turkey. In the construction of the inventory, a Likert Scale was adopted to inquire the cognitions on language learning processes in five-level scale from (1) Strongly Disagree to (5) Strongly Agree; and a Rating Scale to inquire the frequency of the reported language teaching actions in five level from (1) Never to (5) Always. Each section of the inventory required the participants to read the items and simply mark the preferred choice across each statement. Those items were mainly constructed based on conceptual literature and previously-conducted empirical studies. Some items were taken and adapted from Horwitz’s (1985) BALLI (Beliefs about Language Learning Inventory) and Sternberg and Wagner’s (1991) MSG-TSI (Mental Self Government Theory Thinking Styles Inventory) and some other items were created by referring to the books, articles, theoretical explications on language acquisition and language teaching methodology. The inventory was piloted in advance of the actual study and the results obtained from the pilot work were used to conduct a factors analysis to determine the underlying dimensions within the inventory. To assess whether the items within the inventory formed a reliable scale, Croncabh’s alpha was computed. The alphas were .89 for the cognitions set and .88 for the actions set, both of which indicated a high reliability for the inventory. The data were analyzed primarily by means of canonical correlation analysis. As canonical correlation is used when the variables in each set can be grouped together conceptually, it is defined to be an exploratory technique enabling researchers to see which variables would go together and which subset of the variables in one set would best relate to which subset of the variables in the other set (Leech, Barrett, & Morgan, 2005). The first set of variables selected for the analysis was 'cognitions set' including language learning cognitions on innatist, interactionist, competence-oriented, performance-oriented, executive learner-oriented, legislative learner-oriented, and judicial learner-oriented views. The second set of variables was 'actions set' including language teaching practices reflecting traditional (conservative) and innovative (liberal) pedagogies, communicative instructional planning and error correction, learner-centeredness, and personal and professional development. Those dimensions were determined as a result of factor analysis procedures conducted during piloting phases.
In the canonical correlation, competence-oriented approach, executive learner-oriented view, and legislative learner-oriented view were significantly correlated with the first variate at .85, .43, and -.38, respectively. On the other hand, traditional (conservative) pedagogy, communicative instructional planning, and communicative error correction were significantly correlated with the first variate at .76, -.44, and -.38, respectively. When redundancy analysis output was examined, it was seen that the canonical variate for the cognitions set extracted 32% of the variance from the cognitions (its own set) and 10% of the variance from the actions (the other set). Similarly, the canonical variate for the actions set extracted 36% of the variance from the actions and 11% of the variance from the cognitions. According to the loadings and correlations for both pairs, competence-oriented approach, executive learner-oriented view, and legislative learner-oriented view as the three predictors were related to the three outcomes, which were traditional (conservative) pedagogy, communicative curriculum planning, and communicative error correction. Considering positive and negative signs of the loadings, it was interpreted that the participants having more competence-oriented approach and executive learner preferences would probably follow more traditional (conservative) pedagogy but less communicative practices in curriculum planning and error correction. Similarly, the participants disfavoring legislative learners would probably follow less communicative practices in instructional planning and error correction; on the contrary they would probably reflect more traditional (conservative) pedagogy. In other words, teachers who see the language as a system of linguistic elements emphasizing the knowledge about the language and who prefer learners performing a task according to the given instructions rather than the learners who take responsibility for their own learning would probably follow customary patterns of thoughts and practices about teaching that have been used for a long time and also implement less communicative practices in instructional planning and error correction procedures.
Borg, S. (2003). Teacher cognition in language teaching: A review of research on what language teachers think, know, believe, and do. Language Teaching, 36(2), 81-109. Borg, S. (2006). Teacher cognition and language education: Research and practice. London: Continuum. Gabillon, Z. (2012). Discrepancies between L2 teacher and L2 learner beliefs. English Language Teaching, 5(12), 94-99. Horwitz, E.K. (1985). Using student beliefs about language learning and teaching in the foreign language methods course. Foreign Language Annals, 18(4), 333-340. Leech, N. L., Barrett, K. C., & Morgan, G. A. (2005). SPSS for intermediate statistics: Use and interpretation (2nd ed.). Mahwah, New Jersey, London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. Publishers. Öztürk, M., & Yıldırım, A. (2015). English as a Foreign Language Instructors’ cognitions on language learning processes and factors affecting those cognitions. Education and Science, 40(182), 171-192. Sternberg, R. J., & Wagner, R. K. (1991). MSG Thinking Styles Inventory manual Unpublished test manual. Woods, D. (1996). Teacher cognition in language teaching. Cambridge: CUP.
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