Editorial

Dear readers,

Welcome to the portal of NELTA ELT Forum!

As editors, it is a great honor for us to continue the legacy of NELTA publications and we are very much excited to reconnect this journey with our readers. At this moment, we wish to acknowledge the relation between teachers and the wider ELT community established and strengthened by previous contributors and editors. Chances are, if you’re reading this editorial, you already have some memories about the NELTA ELT Forum and you are also excited to read more. This issue attempts to build on those memories.

Regardless of which stage of our academic career we might be at, writing about what goes on between students and teachers, may it be in the form of distance learning, or any virtual as well as actual classrooms of schools and colleges, is a crucial part of teaching learning contexts. If teachers feel that what they wish to write comes from their own work and that their feelings, thoughts, opinions, knowledge and research are valued, then they will be fully engaged in academic writing and more likely to be motivated to teach the target language. Therefore, as editors, we are encouraged to take the teachers as the starting point for change in core issues of curriculum design, teaching, learning, assessment, and policy. The reason behind this is obvious:  the change emerges from what teachers think and do at the ground level. In this regard, we believe that all of the articles in this issue provide, in some way or the other, productive experiences and insights that readers may decide to situate in their own settings for further explorations.

Accordingly, this first issue, under our coordination in the editorial board, comprises articles from five different areas of English language teaching: teacher memoirs, reflective practice, ICT literacy, exploratory action research, and ELT in pandemic. To begin with, Musings on the Silent Tape Recorder and Technological Transformation in ELT by Professor Laxman Gnawali is a beautiful piece of nostalgic writing. For the author, the tape recorder serves as a metaphor for inspiration and change in ELT. By allowing readers to see this silent-yet-loud tape recorder travel with him, the author weaves a powerful thread of technological transformation into his memoir and imagines the influence that the present and changing paradigms will have on the future. This is truly a fascinating read indeed; if you are not drawn in as soon as you start reading it, we want to know why! Moving on, Dr. Shiv Ram Pandey in his article, Reflective Practice: Rumination, Revelation, Reality, and Realization, considers many perspectives on reflective practice in the classroom teaching while trying to reveal his own professional and personal perceptions as a mulling, ruminating and questioning process. Dr. Pandey has very beautifully presented how reflective practice, with its focus on student-centered teaching, can change abstract ideas into practical action, and how it can transform human weaknesses into human potential and performance. Similarly, Alex Lowry’s article, A Survey of ICT literacy in Nepal, describes two surveys administered in 2016 and 2020 regarding the status of ICT literacy in Nepal. He presents the results to provide us the level of “savviness” and the “level of comfort” using technology (the 2016 and the 2020 versions of the survey, respectively) but avoids drawing inferences made from statistical analysis of the data as the n of both surveys is too small for him to generalize the result with ICT . Instead, he offers a handful of reasons why it is important to monitor NELTA members’ relationship with technology and encourages more rigorous and extensive future studies in this area by NELTA members. Likewise, the article Peer Pressure: Changing bane into boon in ESL/EFL speaking class by Parshu Ram Shrestha discusses how the writer used Exploratory Action Research for the identification of undesirable peer pressure, and how he planned to intervene to bring the positive outcome while engaging the students in speaking activities. His study shows that as negative peer pressure is always present in the classroom, it affects students’ learning process adversely which teachers need to recognize and deal tactfully. Finally, Rajendra Baral addresses the most pertinent realities of the time–the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on ELT. His article entitled ELT in Covid Pandemic: Crisis,Opportunities, and Responses in the Nepalese Context attempts to analyze the abrupt shift in the modes of teaching and learning caused by this global pandemic recently. He covers both crisis and opportunities in order to suggest some practical ways to repair the loss, blending both traditional classroom mode and online education with the applicable digital tools and strategies to the access of all students and teachers.

In putting together this issue, we have envisaged it as a companion to the Journal of NELTA, which similarly offers research based articles every year. As the saying goes, ‘small is beautiful.’ we hope that this issue will be seen as a small but valuable contribution to different dynamics of English language teaching and professional development.

Happy reading!

Editor in Chief:

Dr. Kashi Raj Pandey

Issue Editors:

Mr. Guru Prasad Poudel

Mr. Guna Raj Nepal

Mr. Kunjarmani Gautam

Mrs. Bibha Jha

For the ease of the readers, we have hyperlinked the articles below:

  1. Musings on the Silent Tape Recorder and Technological Transformation in ELT by Dr. Laxman Gnawali
  2. Reflective Practice: Rumination, Revelation, Reality, and Realization by Dr. Shiv Ram Pandey
  3. A Survey of ICT Literacy in Nepal by Mr. Alex Lowry
  4. Peer Pressure: Changing Bane into Boon in ESL/EFL Speaking Class by Mr. Parshu Ram Shrestha
  5. ELT in Covid Pandemic: Crisis,Opportunities, and Responses in the Nepalese Context by Mr. Rajendra Prasad Baral

Musings on the Silent Tape Recorder and Technological Transformation in ELT

Laxman Gnawali
Tape recorder

A tape recorder sits on the book rack right in front of me. I sit on my chair and I look at it every day. Yes, every single day I come to University, for the last seventeen years, we have shared the same office room. In all these years, my office has moved to at least seven different rooms in three different locations, from Manbhawan all those years ago, to Bal Kumari, and finally Hattiban, all within the district of Lalitpur. Whether I had a single room for myself or I was in a cubicle or in a shared room, I always made sure that the tape recorder was with me.

In the beginning I had it with me because I used it regularly. My students in the Postgraduate Diploma program and initial batches of Master’s Program in ELT learned how to teach listening with the very same tape recorder. I would proudly say “it’s a great thingy. See it has two cassette sockets. You can even copy recordings from one cassette to the next. You can even connect it to a CD player.” But I just used it to play the recordings during the lessons and in the listening tests, only sometimes to copy a recording for some students, that too, only if they brought their own empty cassettes. Even when the laptops with portable speakers were available, I preferred my tape recorder. I stopped using it only when the recordings stopped coming in the cassette tapes.

I have an emotional attachment to this tape recorder. This came as a prized addition to the facilities of the newly set up English language teacher training programs in my University. I had to undergo a long process to get the purchase order from the University’s procurement section. I also loved it because I would use it to demonstrate what I “knew” about teaching listening every chance I dealt with the language pedagogy. Oh, how I loved to hit play, re-play and play the whole thing again. As I was teaching my students on how to teach listening, I was trying to give a subtle message to my students as well. That, teaching listening was doable, it wasn’t just a random exercise that they skipped in every class. I must add that it looked really prominent in the class as well, sitting in all its glory in the front of the class, making us feel that we had the right device that we needed.

Only after I started working with ELT trainees at the School of Education from 2002, I slowly became aware of the issues related to English language teaching in the country. I would hear that teachers did not use technology particularly for listening activities. They would even skip them saying that “it is not asked in the examination; you don’t need to learn it.” The teachers were the first to be blamed whenever students felt like they were missing out on all the interesting listening exercises they saw in the books but never touched. Teachers, bless them, would defend themselves; they would succinctly point out that they did not even have access to such devices, how they were supposed to use them in class. Other reasons included that they themselves were never given exposure to listening exercises and teaching listening; that they only heard about the listening devices in the lectures of the tutors. Being unequipped personally, professionally as well as physically were the three obstacles that faced them. So, making do with what they had, as the best talented teachers all over the world have, they organised reading, writing and grammar activities for which their sole physical presence in the classroom was more than enough. Keeping all these bittersweet discoveries in mind, with the enthusiasm I had in running the newly set up Postgraduate Diploma and Master’s programs at my University, I decided to do something different. I bought this tape recorder.

And the days passed by in a blur, the massive tape recorder sitting on its kingly throne in the front of the class, being used by my students, a big box of cassettes on its side, all systematically labelled and stored at the beginning of each new semester. However, unbeknownst to me the progress of technology was rapidly making large strides across the world, in manufacturing, travel and you guessed it, education as well. And its ripple effects made their presence felt even within my English language teacher training classrooms.

Fast forward to the day when my prized tape recorder was no longer of use. I felt sad but there was nothing I could do about it. It would never be used again. However, I refused to let it go away from me. I kept it within my office and asked the support staff not to dispose it. I sometimes consoled myself by tuning into the radio news if there was something important to be aired. For its day hadn’t come, only that the world had moved on.

I started reflecting on the phenomenon. I had the same need of teaching listening, I had same skills in using the tape recorder, and the same English language teacher training program was running and the machine could play the recording as it did on the Day 1. But I did not need to press those buttons anymore; a YouTube link would suffice, or a shared folder on Google Drive with multiple GBs of listening exercises to keep my students busy. In short, the world had moved on whereas my tape recorder stayed where it was, moving where I moved, sitting where I kept it, unchanging. Whenever I got pensive and looked at the machine, random moments during all those hours spent inside my office, I felt like the machine was beckoning me. But I could not and would not answer its call, the only answer I gave to it in return came from deep within me. The answer was “things change; it’s how things work.”

A particularly pertinent example of my reflection took place in the tech manufacturing world too. When Samsung and all others were betting on cell-phone technology and everybody was jumping on the same Android bandwagon, Nokia took a different route. As a result, it lost a huge share in the mobile business war and the CEO of Nokia ended one of his speeches in 2016 saying “we didn’t do anything wrong, but somehow, we lost”. Yes, one could be doing right things in right ways but when the external factors act in an unanticipated way, one can be out of play like my old tape recorder.

Now, let’s come to the point. Let’s put ourselves in the place of the tape recorder. And let’s imagine that one day we are out of play, though functioning perfectly as before.

Please do not be disheartened. We teachers are not placed in such a vulnerable position. We are neither the tape recorder nor Nokia.

The tape recorder depends upon humans to function; it does not decide what it does. It does not even know it has been out of use. It’s the case of an object.

And, the case of Nokia is different. Nokia itself cannot decide but the humans who work for it can. The humans who decided for Nokia made a wrong decision; they chose Windows operating system when the world was already crazy for the Android. Their calculation for betting on a market niche did not arrive the way they predicted. First the object lost, then the humans felt the loss as expressed by the CEO.  It was the case of humans and the object.

Do you see the good news? We teachers are humans. We can decide for ourselves and we depend upon our own decisions. Our decisions are the sole things that mark a difference in our lives. Professional lives.

Today, the globe battles a pandemic. Paradigms are again shifting, left, right and centre. The old things and traditions will no longer work in the same way they used to, whether it be in the workplace, or in the ways we now travel and communicate. The same holds true for the classroom, my playground for over three decades altogether, where I learned, taught and grew. The pandemic taught me that you don’t really need a teacher per se to stand in front of the class and deliver lectures. I only felt it was necessary out of habit. Look at me and yes, I have been managing everything from high power meetings to small presentations to hour long classes, everything online, everything depending on technology that was years in the making.

How was I, who grew up with the slates and writing books, and taught using chalk and duster in face-to-face sessions most of my life, suddenly prepared to go with the tide of technology? How did I gather the courage to put myself not just in the user position but also in place of a “skilled” facilitator to train the youths for online pedagogy? How did I manage to show to my tape recorder that I was moving on while it sat quietly in my office?

I may have followed, though not very consciously, a planned learning path. I may also have responded to the serendipitous opportunities, or rather challenges, as I moved along. Or I may have just moved with the flow. Confucius’s idea about learning perhaps sums it all:

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” (Confucius)

Mine is not wisdom but knowledge. Whatever the case, I have found myself well-prepared for the pandemic pedagogy, not just to keep my job but also to show the ropes to others.

I am still looking at the tape recorder as I conclude this write up. I have a feeling that it will be a take home gift for me from my University when I retire. Though it sits out of use, it inspires me to learn and change with the changing times. From slate and blackboard to whiteboard and overhead projectors, from bulky tape recorders to a sleek smartphone and now from a physical classroom to a virtual one. I feel thankful to have observed and made use of these rapid and radical changes in the levels of technology from low-end to high-end in my classroom. Have I seen enough? No, of course not. Who knows what the future may bring? I will just have to wait and see, with my silent tape recorder right beside me.

About the author:

 Dr. Laxman Gnawali is Professor of English Education at Kathmandu University School of Education, and Senior Vice President of NELTA.  He can be reached at lgnawali@kusoed.edu.np, lgnawali@gmail.com

Reflective Practice: Rumination, Revelation, Reality, and Realization

Shiv Ram Pandey

Abstract

The reflective practice recalls our past experiences, reveals the reality, and realizes strengths and weaknesses of the practitioner while changing its abstract idea into practical action. In a similar line, this article has reviewed many perspectives on reflective practice in the classroom teaching while trying to reveal my own professional and personal perceptions as a mulling, ruminating and questioning process. This heutagogical process focuses much on learner centred teaching and becomes critical to one’s or other’s preparations, performance, and progress.

Key Words: Recalling, Ruminating, Reflection, Creative Writing, Critical Thinking, and Professionalism

Prelude

I am very curious to find out how teachers of English reflect for their professional development. Questions like, what problems do they have to reflect in their classrooms and why do these teachers reflect have been a matter of concern in this paper. Very interestingly, we see our face on the mirror once or twice a day. When we see the dirt and scar on the face, we try to erase them. With this analogy, I also start to question to myself whether I too had any problems with the lessons, and was I able to accomplish the goals of teaching. Accordingly, what parts of the lesson were successful and failure, how might I teach differently, did my students contribute vivaciously to the lesson, how do I take comments and feedbacks from the students, and how often did I share those comments among my friends and colleagues are some of the pertinent issues that I keep ruminating whenever I think of reflective practices in teaching and learning. Issues like what makes teachers professional, what professional qualities do we have, as teachers, how do teachers of English perceive reflection, do we reflect learning, teaching, learners, methods of teaching, materials, teaching techniques and technologies before others (Pandey, 2012) are further blossoming curiosities reside in my mind in order to venture on reflective writing.

Let me begin this journey of my reflection with a poem pertaining to my dream of writing the collegial and collaborative manuscript on my reflective teaching. One night in my dream, I was teaching English to the eighth graders with profound lectures and discussions using my utmost smartest voice, gesture in my pride and zeal. My dream took me to the classroom, and now I am going to evocate it through a textual representation.

Smart boys and girls in the classes

Bright, attentive and smiling faces

All seemed in the happiest mood

At a perfection and everything good

Laborious, polite and bold students

Seemed everybody serious and curious

Before the dawn, it was all in a dream

Destined to reach and receive a sweet cream.

I did not dream the same but I dreamt a similar destination of being a good teacher or teacher educator. I dreamt a dream that is taking me together with my students. Pertaining to what reflective practice is, I would like to present my own perceptions and practices, as contextualized in the form of the following text.

Thinking of me as teacher/educator in classes

 Planning my ways in a meditative processes

Ideas generating and linking them, a chorus

Questioning oneself and others

Who I am, by action and thought

Assessing critically how I taught

I believe in sharing, caring, and daring

Funneling my critical but creative caring

A sense of positive attitude and professionalism

Realizing the weaknesses and strengths

Accepting comments as compliments

Contemplating on the success

A force of inspiration as twilight

That appears to me brighter

A sense of curiosity and humor

Agreeing to disagree, not a misdeemed

A wonderful warm-up

Perfect presentation and practice

Eager to excite and activate

In a path to liberate

With a belief in question and answer

With an active attention

Perfect participation

Interactive classroom

With a dream to be talented and tactful teacher

For the studious students

Gracious groups

Mindful and attractive activities

Timeless searched and researched

And I found jewels

While wrestling with mind, hand, and heart

An illuminating praxis

It is none other than reflective and reflexive practice.

This poem apparently highlights reflective and reflexive practice as an indispensable vehicle on the part of teachers and students who give their body and soul to make teaching and learning process meaningful, successful, reflective, reflexive and effective. It stresses on the need and importance of reflection. It says that teaching and learning without reflection and motivation is worthless. It is the driving and inspiring force to venture the delight of learning. It is through reflection along with motivation, students and teachers get excited, as they immensely enjoy learning and teaching process (Pandey, 2007). Now, I would like to present theories, my beliefs, ideas and practices in the structure of following themes pertaining to reflective practice.

Perspectives on reflective practice

Pertaining to perspectives on reflective practice, Ur (2015) defines reflective practice as recalling the past experiences. Reflective practice is the process of self-observation, self-monitoring and self-evaluation of the activity, progress and achievement. It has been valued in teacher education and development as a vehicle for professional and personal development (Biggs& Tang, 2007). A teacher has to think, plan, meditate, act, assess and evaluate himself or herself in the teaching learning process. Dewey, (1933) on the other hand, mentions open-mindedness, responsibility and wholeheartedness play an important role in reflective practice. This further indicates that both teacher and learner have an open mind to reflect their perspectives in learning. For this, they have to be responsible to perform an activity. They need to give their body and soul to substantiate their teaching and learning. Reflective teacher becomes critical and creative to accomplish the objectives.

Schon (1983) asserts reflective practice is done in three phases. They are reflection for action, reflection in action and reflection on action. This idea can be linked with pre-action, while action and post-action reflection. In the similar line, I have experienced reflective practice as the process of planning, preparing, asking questions, critical thinking and evaluation of one’s and other’s preparation, performance and progress (Pandey, 2012). Therefore, being reflective means having all these qualities. Truly speaking, teachers and students do not have the habit of reflecting their ides to a greater extent. As a teacher, in my case, I could not dare to share and reflect my feelings in the class, and at the time of the meeting with colleagues and seniors.

My own perceptions and practices

Teachers, to my observation, do not reflect much regarding their strengths and weaknesses. In the journey of accomplishing this writing what I found was that reflective teaching was a new concept to many of them. Later, in my professional life the reflective habit brought a significant change in the level of thinking and on the horizon of knowledge. It has helped me to reflect on the content and pedagogy while interacting with friends and colleagues. It is truly a great matter of joy to reflect one’s own opinions and experiences. This is possible through reflective practice. For a teacher, it is an indispensable vehicle to make successful and meaningful teaching. These days, I am very much happy making reflective practice a habit of learning and teaching. 

It is not an easy thing to become a successful teacher. I can argue on what does it mean to be a successful teacher? There can be different views about a successful teacher or teacher educator. Nevertheless, we should try for that. As I know that everything is difficult before it is easy. To become a successful teacher or teacher educator, reflective practice is very crucial. The joy of learning and teaching that comes out of reflectivity is incomparable with any other things. Particularly, it enables teachers to ponder on teaching and learning situations (Pandey, 2012) and learn from them.

A good thinking about a lesson plan certainly brings effectiveness in the teaching and learning process since it produces creativity and promotes critical thinking. Creation of a new perspective is a vital to the professional teachers. One’s success in life depends on both reflectivity and creativity. In the initial stage of my teaching career in the schools, colleges, and universities, I thought myself as successful teacher or teacher educator simply because I could deliver lessons fluently. My perception was that students did not produce any noise; they maintained a silence, they did not ask any questions to me and they even did the homework properly and timely. Then, I thought that my classes were going well.

Sometime if I were lucky, I had colleagues to say that some of the students did not understand my classes. As reflective teacher or educator I received such comments as compliments. In order to teach better I began reading a lot at home, in the library and sometimes in the garden as well. I strived to be a better professional teacher. I focused on content, command, conduct and pedagogy. I realized my weaknesses. Later, I did not get any complaints in teaching. I now feel that success is not a matter of chance but a matter of choice. I now encourage my friends and colleagues to take risks to gain success in a teaching career. One has to undergo pain to get pleasure and gain in learning.

For me, the main purpose of teaching is to reflect on the reality of what I do, how I do, and why I do the way I do. In the case of a language teacher, it is a must. The crux of reflection is to reveal such hidden weaknesses before others. Self-revelation did not weaken me but it made me stronger. A shy learner in the past transformed into a reflective teacher at present. Every weakness was a turning point for the next step. This is the reason why I say that the joy that comes from reflectivity is crucial in teaching and learning activity. In this way, others can learn the lessons of the truthfulness to my practice and thought. Even in my case, this has given me enough space to pinpoint not only my weaknesses but also of others and learn from each other.

As language teacher and educator, my duty and responsibility is to prepare my students to become honest and truthful to what they do, how they do, and why they do something in relation to learning. This is possible through a reflective practice. What we see and feel these days is that most English language teachers have been living in suffocation. They hide their problems within themselves. They do not release them and share among colleagues. As a result, they suffer a lot. If they really reveal their pain and share among each other, they can certainly gain a lot of information and learn from each other. A teacher has to be crystal clear in the matter of expressing the reality of what they experience in their professional life.

I feel that being critical is being creative. The creative English language teacher is truly effective and efficient to teach the contents and use effective pedagogy. In my journey of teaching as teacher or teacher educator, I have developed the habit of questioning in the process of reflective practice. This has helped me to observe the phenomenon closely and critically. I feel that a good writing comes only after good reading. In that sense, a good reader can become a good writer in language learning. A creative thinking leads to good problem solving skill in English language teaching. Therefore, reflective practice helps a language teacher to become reflective and creative.

When I was a student at the school level I was very shy. I could not speak before seniors as well as with my teachers in the class. Even the power point presentation was difficult for me in the beginning of my master of philosophy classes in a University in Nepal. I was given assignments that I had to present in the Power Point presentations. I did not feel efficient in playing with the computers. However, I prepared it and presented in the class despite the uncomfortable feeling while seeing and using the giant technology before me. It terrified and horrified my head, heart and hand. Anyway, I tried to comfort myself. With shyness, confusion, and nervousness I made my gesture and posture. Sometimes I used to get help even to insert pen-drives into the computer and prepare for power point presentation. I had to face experienced and qualified colleagues and teachers. With an extreme nervousness my appearance sometimes turned red. Hands were shaking. Despite this, I used to do my presentations as good as possible. Finally, I was able to collect good comments with encouragements from friends and faculty members. I learned ‘do what you are afraid to do’. It became my philosophical ideal to drive my academic and professional life.

The power of reflection lies here. What I understand from this case is that every incident has an insight to learn from it. Reflection reveals human weaknesses and strengths. This case can be linked with the teaching and learning situations. In my case, I could not express much in the presence of colleagues and seniors. I received comments from seniors and colleagues positively. I very happily and heartily wished to welcome such comments and I accepted those comments as compliments. The comments were commendable to me.  I started working hard on each lesson I used to teach and each idea I presented in the classes. What I realized is that the result of struggle and realization is always sweet. These days, I am in a position to communicate and present my desires, documents, and materials tenaciously and powerfully than before.

Conclusion

Reflective practice, with my own perceptions and practices as well as from my exposure to available literature, is ruminative, recalling and meditative process. It contributes a lot on revealing the truth, honesty and responsiveness in teaching and learning process. It theorizes the philosophy of learning from realization. It encourages learners to learn from their mistakes with constructive comments. It is the process of being critical to one’s or other’s preparation, performance and progress. Reflective practice is changing abstract ideas into practical action. It transforms human weaknesses into human potential and performance, and focuses much on learner centred teaching. It is self-regulated, self-directed, self-initiated, self-monitored, self-evaluative and self-assessment process in teaching. It promotes classroom autonomy, shared cultures and values, communication skill, interpersonal skill, decision making skill, collegiality, collaboration, capacity development and professionalism. For reflective practice to happen, all the relevant stakeholders including teachers and students should have the qualities of open-mindedness, responsibility and wholeheartedness.

References

Biggs, J., & Tang, C. (2007). Teaching for quality learning. Berkshire: SRHE & Open University Press.

Dewey, J. (1933). How we think. Boston, MA: D. C. Heath and Company.

Gibbs, G. (1988) Learning by doing: A guide to teaching and learning methods, Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development, Oxford Polytechnic. London: Further Education Unit.

Pandey, S.R. (2007). Teachers’ perceptions and practices on motivational practices. Unpublished MPhil Thesis: Kathmandu University, Dhulikhel, Nepal.

Pandey, S.R. (2012). Professional development of teachers through reflective practice.      Unpublished    PhD Thesis: Kathmandu University, Dhulikhel, Nepal.

Schön, D. A. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. New York: Basic Books.

Ur, P. (2015). A course in English language teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

About the Author:

Dr. Shiv Ram Pandey is an Associate Professor of English Education at Gramin Adarsha Multiple Campus, Nepaltar. Dr. Pandey teaches research methods, teacher development, applied linguistics and SLA at the campus besides having an experience of teaching the MPhil scholars in Education at Tribhuvan University. Dr Pandey has been a life member of NELTA since 1998. Now, he has been contributing NELTA in the capacity of Central Committee Member. In 2016, Dr. Pandey won an IATEFL scholarship to present a paper on leadership and management at Birmingham, England. Dr. Pandey can be reached at shivram.pandey73@gmail.com

A Survey of ICT Literacy in Nepal

Alex Lowry

Abstract

In this short report, I will briefly describe two surveys administered in 2016 and 2020, respectively, summarize the findings, and then conclude with some recommendations for revising this survey project and conducting something similar in the future. 

Background and methodology

In 2016, while working in Nepal as an English Language Fellow, I had the opportunity to collaborate with Kunjarmani Gautam, who is a coordinator for NELTA’s ACCESS programme, on a survey regarding the status of ICT literacies in Nepal.  We created a survey on Google Forms, and Kunjar reached out to the various NELTA branches to get them to complete the survey.  It was distributed in both paper and online form, but mostly the paper versions were used.  All data was eventually input using the Google Form, and the results of the survey were presented at the 2017 TESOL conference as a poster presentation entitled “The Status of ICT and Digital Literacies in Nepal”. The first survey was entitled “NELTA Professional Development Workshops on Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and MOOCS” and consisted of 8 questions, mostly multiple choice.

There are some shortcomings of the original survey.  First, it is unfocused.  For a survey that claims to be about ICT, it has a few questions regarding the seemingly-unrelated topic of growth mindset.  Second, some of the wording displeases me.  Now that I have had more experience and an opportunity to study statistics, advanced measurement theory and survey writing, I would certainly find a lot to edit here.  However, there is a problem with doing so, described by the following axiom of measurement: if you want to measure change over time, do not change the measure. 

Changing the measure will preclude comparisons of the data

Thus, only small edits were made to the 2020 version of the survey administered on June of 2020.  (This time, the survey was given to participants of an online workshop on Zoom on the subject of “Using ICT resources for Blended Learning”.) For example, one of the questions asks the subjects to describe their level of “savviness” with information and communication technologies (ICT), but does not deign to define what “savviness” means.  In the follow-up survey, “savviness” was changed to “level of comfort”.  Two other small changes were made with respect to the valence of the Likert ordinal categories.  The use of Likert categories allows for qualitative responses to be converted into ordinal numbers, usually one through four or five, depending on the number of options.  Doing so allows for more rigorous statistical analysis, but it remains controversial.  Unfortunately, the n of both surveys is too small to have much faith in any inferences made from statistical analysis of the data.  Nevertheless, I include the results here to encourage more rigorous and extensive future studies in this area by NELTA members. Here you can see an example of how two questions varied:

Fig. 1.1.  Survey question from 2016.

Fig. 1.2.  Survey question from 2020.

Results and discussion

On the surface there appears to be significant differences between the results of the 2016 survey, and the one from 2020.  Specifically, there were no negative responses in the 2020 survey, whereas the 2016 survey had a few.  However, I would caution against making any inferences from these results because of some key differences between the two groups involved.  In 2016, the participants were volunteers from different NELTA branches.  The surveys were completed on paper or online.  In 2020, the participants were from a convenience sample of people taking an online workshop with me.  The format was completely online.  Someone taking the survey online is almost certainly going to have a higher baseline of comfort with ICT, almost ruling out negative responses to the question based on the medium itself.

The results of an ANOVA (analysis of variance) test conducted using the open-source statistical program R produced a low F statistic of .235, and a high P-value of 0.63, indicating that any perceived differences between the scores of the two groups is likely due to chance and not some other factor.

Conclusion and recommendations

As an outsider who is currently living in the USA, this is not really a sustainable project for me.  I would encourage NELTA to take up this project, with the purpose of monitoring NELTA members’ relationship with technology.  Why is doing this important?  I can think of a handful of reasons off the top of my head.  One, for needs assessment of its members.  This might be an important determinant for future programming and setting the themes of NELTA initiatives.  Two, for the purpose of knowledge sharing.  Groups might find they have similar interests, and might form stronger bonds through these connections.  Three, for the valuable experience of conducting research as a shared enterprise.  Four, for the purpose of resource allocation.  Lastly, with a rich, valid and reliable data source, one could write many papers to inform the world about ICT literacy in the context of one’s locality.

Going forward, it might make sense to do a similar survey as part of a full-scale NELTA census, using one format.  If a full-scale census isn’t feasible, then using 10 randomly selected participants from each branch would work well, too.  Although using paper is wasteful and less efficient, it makes sense to use the paper format in this context in order to preserve the integrity of the data.

  • Keep the survey short and to-the-point.  Follow best practices in survey writing.  (c.f. https://www.pewresearch.org/methods/u-s-survey-research/questionnaire-design/ )  Avoid difficult words, but if they must be included, be sure to include proper definitions of the terms.  Consider using a survey that has Nepalese translations for every question.
  • Use Google Forms & Sheets for creating the survey and storing the data.  These tools are somewhat intuitive and easy to use, and there are also videos available to teach people how to use them.
  • The construct of interest should be well defined.  Most surveys of this sort focus on access and use, not attitudes towards ICT.  For example, the International Telecommunication Union publishes a “Manual for Measuring ICT access and use by households and individuals” (ITU, 2014) which may be used for guidance in developing metrics and survey questions.
  • Build a sense of investment among the respective branches of NELTA by allowing each one to contribute one question to the survey.  This is a good idea in principle, but in practice it may be difficult to coordinate the questions in such a way that redundancies might be avoided.  The point is to ensure that each NELTA branch makes a unique, valued, and meaningful contribution to the survey.

I am including links to both surveys at the bottom of this paper, so that you might use them for guidance if so desired.  However, I believe that the regional branches of NELTA will be the most qualified to write a meaningful and comprehensive survey regarding ICT and NELTA members’ complicated relationships with ICT tools.

Acknowledgement and links

I would like to thank all the NELTA members who contributed to this research, either by disseminating the survey to members, or by participating in the survey itself.  Lastly, I’d like to thank Kunjarmani Gautam, without whom this project would not have been possible.

2016 survey link: https://forms.gle/HZgPPDbTpsNTWp6o9

2020 survey link: https://forms.gle/dH5Uorc1TXph6uLy6

References

ITU. (2014). Manual for measuring ICT access and use by households and individuals. Retrieved from https://www.itu.int/dms_pub/itu-d/opb/ind/D-IND-ITCMEAS-2014-PDF-E.pdf

About the Author:

Mr. Alex Lowry is a Doctoral student in Curriculum & Instruction at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He worked as an English Language Fellow in Nepal (2015-2016). Mr. Lowry can be reached at alowry@email.unc.edu

Peer Pressure: Changing Bane into Boon in an ESL/EFL Speaking Class

Parshu Ram Shrestha

Abstract

            Peer pressure is both boon and bane for a teacher of English as the Second Language or English as a Foreign Language. It is a compulsive feeling of pressure to be like others in the same age or the same social status. An ESL/EFL teacher’s success depends on how effectively s/he deals with the peer pressure in the classroom. This paper discusses how the writer used Exploratory Action Research for the identification of negative peer pressure, planning of intervention and successful implementation of the plan for positive outcome while engaging the students in speaking activities.

Key-words: peer pressure, ESL/EFL classroom, speaking activities

Background

I have been teaching English to ESL/EFL students of age 8 to 21, both in secondary and tertiary levels, for more than a decade. They are of different socio-cultural, economic and linguistic backgrounds.  Therefore, I, as a teacher, feel great challenge every day to have these students mixed up in one class.

The school where I teach has long been reputed as an English medium school since its establishment. All subject textbooks, except Nepali, used in all classes are in English. Hence, English, naturally, has been the medium of reading and writing for both the teachers and the students. However, I observed that most students preferred Nepali to English while speaking with their teachers and classmates, even in classroom and during the English lessons. This preference had been growing among the students for some years. I was shocked especially when even the bright students who were very good at English were reluctant to speak English. It is then, I started to realize that there must be ‘something’ that had been discouraging my students from speaking English, hindering their overall learning process and the development of speaking as a language skill, but I was unable to identify the real cause behind it. Meanwhile, I won an opportunity to be a mentee for the academic session 2019 in Exploratory Action Research programme conducted by Action Research Nepal.

Exploratory Action Research, explored first by Richard Smith in 2013 during a joint British Council-Ministry of Education project in Chile, is observed through two stages: a. Exploratory research, and b. Action research. Exploratory research includes planning (thinking of preparing questions and collecting data), exploring (gathering data), and analysing and reflecting upon the data. Action research stage includes planning for intervention, implementing the plan, observing the effects of intervention, and reflecting upon the changes occurred due to intervention (Smith & Robelledo, 2018, p. 20). For Negi (2019), it is a very useful tool for addressing “classroom problems/issues/challenges” (p.5).

Identifying peer pressure

With scholarly guidance of my mentors, I first conducted a mini research, via questionnaire and interview, with some research questions focused on exploring problems related to my students’ reluctance in speaking English. After talking with some selected students and teachers (English and other subjects), I found out that there was the presence of ‘peer pressure’ as the most shocking and dominant reason, besides some others like: lack of proper knowledge and confidence in grammar and vocabulary and habit of using Nepali, behind the growing reluctance in students for speaking English. The interviewed students mainly raised their concern about the possibility of being outcast by their friends if they tried to speak English. The teachers’ remarks, as well, contained a tacit hint towards it.   

My plan of intervention and the outcome

The learners need “intervention and guidance on the part of teacher,” (Burns, 2016) for the development of their speaking skills. Therefore, I decided to find a way immediately for their help.  

With prior consent of my Principal, I prepared a stepwise plan of intervention to boost English speaking efforts of my students, not only in my class but in the whole school atmosphere. I designed a powerful English Speaking Monitoring Committee with the Vice-Principal as the coordinator and the English teachers, Pastoral Head and Primary Coordinator as the members. I expected that the committee would be effective in reducing the negative influence of the peer pressure and increasing the students’ willingness in speaking English more. But as the committee could not function, as I had expected, the situation became more depressing than before. The students seemed rebellious as they were often heard saying ‘Speak English!’ to each other in front of teachers, including myself, and laughing or running away in the school premises.

After all, I realized my mistakes: One, any kind of forcefulness is not effective to deal with peer pressure. It aggravates the situation. Two, a subject teacher without any administrative power cannot take the harness of the whole school affairs. Therefore, I planned to delimit myself in one of my classes for rechanneling ‘peer pressure’, a hindrance to students’ effective learning to speak, into an opportunity. I prepared a questionnaire and re-collected data from the students of Class 9B. The data showed that 81 percent students spoke English less than 50 percent of their time in school. At home, most of them did not have a good environment for speaking English. 58 percent said they did not feel comfortable to speak English with their classmates as they had to bear teasing and humiliation or other forms of ‘peer pressure’ afterwards. 

The next attempt

I was determined to make a new strategy to utilize the existing ‘peer pressure’ among the students for their benefit. First, I decided to speak as little as possible in the classroom. Instead, I would encourage my students to speak as much as they wanted. I did not tell them to speak English only and no Nepali, but deliberately responded the English speakers more promptly than the Nepali speakers. Second, I planned my lessons with more activities that would demand the students’ active roles. As Kayi (2006) has indicated, the student centered activities such as pair/group discussions, role play, brainstorming, storytelling, interviews, story completion, reporting, picture narrating, and picture describing helped me to achieve my goal. Now, the table was turned on my students as ‘peer pressure’ was no more worked for avoiding English but for speaking the language more.

Harmer (2007, p. 166) has rightly said that group work “dramatically increases” the amount of students’ talking time. I saw that working very well many often in my classroom where I was in the new role as a facilitator and my students were busy doing some task and chatting in groups. Surprisingly, I was happier and more satisfied in the new role than as a lecturing teacher.

Thus, I found that the ‘peer pressure’, which always haunted my students, who tried to speak English, now put the most silent students under pressure to speak promptly and loudly to get as much better assimilated to their group as possible. The students seemed happier and more excited each day, waiting eagerly for participation and voicing their opinion on lesson issues.

Reassessment of the situation

After one month, I collected the students’ opinion through a questionnaire. The data revealed that more than 70 percent students had started speaking English more than half their time in school. Most students thought that they were getting good opportunity to speak English in the classroom and had started enjoying it. They were happier and more confident than before.

Conclusion

Identifying and dealing with negative ‘peer pressure’ that exists among students is not easy for a teacher, but if acted tactfully it is not impossible. For this, exploratory action research can be a helpful tool. If a teacher is patient, passionate and considerate, ‘peer pressure’ can be a very effective weapon for the positive outcomes. Peer pressure forces one to do what others are doing. It may be direct and verbal, or indirect through treatment. Even if a teacher does not feel the presence of peer pressure, it is always in the classroom. It is, in fact, one of the most important factors that has direct link with the success or failure of teaching-learning activities. Many a time, it affects students’ learning process adversely if a teacher is unable to recognize and deal with it tactfully. Ultimately, it may even lead a teacher towards failure by paralyzing the whole teaching-learning process. On the other hand, the same peer pressure can be utilized for the positive reinforcement to students through student-centred activities. Therefore, a teacher must be able to identify the role of peer pressure in teaching-learning activities and utilize it for the maximum benefit of the students.

References

Burns, A. (2016). Teaching speaking: Towards a holistic approach, 25th ETA-ROC Anniversary conference: Epoch making in English language teaching and learning, Taipei (Taiwan). https://www.researchgate.net/publication/314545785_Teaching_speaking_Towards_a_holistic_approach

Harmer, J. (2007). The practice of English language teaching. England: Pearson Education Limited.

Kayi, H. (2006). Teaching speaking: Activities to promote speaking in a second language. The Internet TESL Journal, XII (11). http://iteslj.org/Techniques/Kayi-TeachingSpeaking.html

Negi, J. S. (Ed.). (2019). Exploring for action, acting for change: Stories of exploratory action research in Nepal. Retrieved from https://www.supportsocietynepal.org.np/publication/

Smith, R., & Robelledo, P. (Eds.). (2018). A handbook for exploratory action research. Retrieved from https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/a-handbook-exploratory-action-research

(About the Author:

Mr. Parshu Ram Shrestha has a Master’s Degree in English literature from Tribhuvan University. He has also completed one-year B. Ed. From TU and has attended various other professional development programmes in teaching English as the Second Language or English as a Foreign Language conducted by national and international organizations like NELTA, British Council, American Embassy, etc. Mr. Shrestha can be reached at parshushrestha31@gmail.com