03 SES 07 A, Curriculum Change and Teachers' Perceptions
It is apparent that the design and elaboration of curriculum rely on the teachers’ perceptions and their planning of lessons (Kelly, 2009). It is hard to believe that teachers will implement changes exactly as the developers of reforms have planned (Fullan, 2007). Teachers usually create their own interpretation from the introduced reform. The success or the failure of the innovation will be played out in the classroom activities which have been planned by the teachers. Therefore, it is essential to understand how teachers perceive the aims of educational reforms in order to successfully implement them. As a consequence, this paper will attempt to explore the utilisation of a recently embedded English language course plan by sixteen teachers in one department in a Kazakh specialist school for talented and gifted students in Southern Kazakhstan.
The primary purpose and intention of this project paper is to investigate the teachers’ perceptions and practice in using materials of the course plan for the English language.
The research questions of this report are:
1. To what extent do teachers follow the objectives in the course plan when planning lessons?
2. What are the teachers’ perceptions concerning the use of materials in the Course Plan?
The centre of the educational institutions has always been the educational programme. If the curriculum has a broader conception and might include the total strategies applied to the whole school, then a course plan consists of the content that has to be covered during the particular course (Rodgers, 1990). The Course plans or syllabuses of schools play a vital role in structuring and implementing educational reforms. Additionally, the learning objectives of the course plan serve as an essential component of the curriculum content (Oliva, 2009). These objectives are the focus for teachers to organise teaching materials and develop lesson plans which will be implemented in the classroom.
Rodgers (1990) claims that language teaching does not have any particular educational aims and that language course plans provide an option of choices and framework of linguistic content which has to be taught in the classroom. However, the English course plan of the integrated curriculum challenges the Rodgers’ position and offers language learning through different subject contexts. By defining an Integrated curriculum, it is relevant to note that its primary aim is to prepare students for life-long learning.
The main purpose of the considered course plan in the specialist state school is content-based learning, focused on providing knowledge through the English language. Content-based instruction of the course plan is focussed on learning language by involving students in different subject content through English-medium. The Course plan provides the key learning objectives as well as the explanation of the supporting strategies such as scaffolding and differentiation. These strategies help to achieve the learning objectives considering that students’ level of English might vary considerably across one classroom.
Stenhouse (1975, p.142) affirms that ‘curriculum research and development ought to belong to teachers’. Therefore, the main intention and content of the course plan might challenge many teachers who believe in the old ways and methods of English teaching practice.
The study has shown the commitment of teachers in implementing the core elements of the plan, however it has highlighted concerns regarding the number of learning objectives as well as discrepancies and the unreliability of some of the supporting teaching materials. The research revealed that the opinions of students and teachers were considered in the development of the curriculum although it is evident that some amendments are required. Teachers wish to have more specific learning objectives and teaching materials which correspond to the intentions of the learning objectives.
This case study research project adopted an interpretivist mixed method approach (Johnson et al., 2007). The participants were 16 teachers of an English department who were selected according to the general strategy of intensity case type of purposive sampling (Cohen et al., 2011). Most of teachers of the department have worked with the Course Plan since the first day of operation of the case school in 2013. To respond to the research questions of this project, three data collection tools have been used: document analyses, questionnaire and semi-structured interviews. The documents are English course plans for each year group and five lesson plans obtained with the official agreement and permission of the teachers and administrative department from the resource bank of the school. The lesson plan has three or four learning objectives chosen by teachers from an enumeration of 19 objectives offered by the Course Plan. A questionnaire was developed according to the results of the lesson plan scrutiny and distributed among all sixteen teachers of the English department via their corporate email accounts. All the teachers responded to the questionnaire. The anonymity of the teachers’ identity and safety of the collected data were provided while analysing and reporting on the collected information. The questionnaire consists of five general questions to collect the information about the teacher’s professional background. Furthermore, the questionnaire included fifteen Likert questions and two positive and negative connotation questions. Five teachers were chosen for semi-structured interviews. Principles for the participant selection for the interview were the experience and willingness of the teachers. The questions involved six general questions for all the teachers and two specific questions about the lesson plan’s content that have been provided earlier by teachers. Each interview conducted approximately 30-40 minutes. The analysis of the lessons plan was focussed on the level of compliance with the Course Plan. The focus was on the selection of learning objectives for the particular lesson as well as the teaching materials used. The questionnaire was developed according to the inferences of the lesson plan analysis to understand the insight of the teachers’ general opinion about the learning objectives and teaching materials depicted in the English Course Plan. Questionnaire results have been analysed on the frequency of teachers’ responses to their degree of disagreement or agreement with the expositions. The data obtained from the interviews was processed on the basis of qualitative content analysis.
The role of the teacher in implementing the strategies of the new reform is substantial. This research has shown that teachers are ready for the new innovations, but require their opinions to be included in the process of curriculum development. It is obvious that most of them make every effort to realise the main aims of the curriculum, however, teachers do not deny that traditional context and mentality is not often considered. The amount of the learning objectives in the Course Plan is excessive and most of the time it is impossible to achieve all of them during the total number of lessons within an academic year. The provided teaching materials are not reliable, therefore, they are optional which gives freedom to teachers in the selection of materials. However, teachers wish to have a common textbook designed on the content of the Course and that might reduce the time they spent to search other recourses to accomplish the learning objectives. Teachers complain that they do not have time for the self-development due to the mandatory paper work. Additionally, the Course Plan does not always serve as an appropriate teacher guidance and consumes their time in choosing the appropriate learning objectives according to their students’ English level and the teaching materials for the lesson. I share the idea of one of the experienced teachers, who claimed that in order to achieve student-centred education, curriculum designers need to consider students’ ideas also. Students have to make their contribution to the development of the curriculum which is basically for them. During the data collection process, we saw the genuine concerns of the teachers, the efforts they make and the challenges they face. They do write reports expressing their opinions and they do hope that policymakers and curriculum developers will hear their voices soon.
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