Editorial

Dear colleagues,

We welcome you to the April-May issue of NELTA ELT Forum 2021 and take pleasure to present this issue consisting of a diverse collection of articles on ELT and pedagogy-related topics along with a question-answer column. The current issue focuses on the perspectives of different authors where their ideas include classroom practices, reflections, and teaching-learning experiences.

Dr. Ani Hawkinson, in her article A 21st Century Approach to English Language Teaching through Media Literacy, discusses media literacy which can be the foundation and strategy of all learning that includes teaching plans for classroom purposes. Causes of Heterogeneity in Language Classroom: A Glimpse by Dr. Nabaraj Neupane emphasizes the skills that teachers need to maintain the heterogeneity and individual differences in language classrooms. Mr. Pitambar Paudel reiterates the values of lesson planning to address learning needs in the article Solemnity of Lesson Plan in Language Teaching. Mr. Rajan Kumar Kandel has critically reflected on the dominant ideology and social discrimination which are prevalent in his community during his school days in the article Dominant Ideologies and Marginalization: An EFL Teacher’s Critical Reflection.  We have also included practical responses related to the various, emerging issues of language learning pedagogies.      

We hope the present issue will create a space with useful insights into the global ELT community; we extend our sincere gratitude to the contributors for their hard work in bringing this issue to this stage. We are hopeful to continue this trend of bringing productive and practical ideas to the upcoming issues. We, as well, would like to appreciate the reviewers for their invaluable input on the present issue of the NELTA ELT Forum and expect similar support from them in the future.

Editor in Chief

  • Dr. Kashi Raj Pandey

Issue Editors

  • Mr. Kamal Raj Lamsal (Issue coordinator)
  • Mr. Gopal Prasad Bashyal  
  • Mr. Batuk Lal Tamang         
  • Ms. Shyama Khanal Poudel

We have hyperlinked the articles for readers’ convenience as below.

A 21st Century Approach to English Language Teaching through Media Literacy

Dr. Ani Hawkinson

Abstract

This article presents the thesis that media literacy should be the foundation of all language education in the 21th century.  It discusses why this is the case and defines media literacy with details of simple classroom strategies for how to organize and teach English language lessons.

Media Literacy and English language teaching in Nepal

In the modern world, people are exposed to hundreds –- even thousands –- of images and ideas every day.   Media no longer shape our culture… they have become our culture.[1]   Modern society today expects people to correctly interpret a wide variety of messages, some of which are conflicting, in order to skillfully and successfully navigate through life’s daily challenges.  

Historically, the term media literacy was defined as the critical interpretation and production of media – television, radio, print media of all types, movies, advertisements, blogs, websites, video games, billboards and other signage, announcements, etc.

Many modern educators believe that the pervasive influence of media in modern society demands a more comprehensive approach to media literacy.  For these pioneers, media literacy is the foundation of a 21st century approach to education.   In this model, media literacy provides a framework for accessing, analyzing, evaluating, creating and participating with media messages in a variety of forms — from print to video to the Internet.  Furthermore, it builds an understanding of the role of media in society and promotes the skills of inquiry and self-expression essential for citizens of modern democracies.[2]  

At its core, media literacy teaches people how to think for themselves and to interact responsibly with media.  It also empowers them to actively and effectively participate in creating and sustaining their own societies.  

English teachers in Nepal sometimes feel that they are at a disadvantage due to a lack of modern English textbooks and digital educational resources.  But the reality is that teaching-learning materials do not teach students how to create and understand language.   It is what students do with the materials that helps them develop those skills.  

This means that any sample of English can be used as a tool to empower students to critically analyze what they hear and read, and to learn how to respond responsibly and coherently to those messages.  English teachers don’t need new or special materials to teach media literacy, they can use whatever they have on hand — textbooks, newspapers, videos and print texts from the internet, TV, movies, product labels, advertisements, cartoons, radio broadcasts, social media, etc.   Better still, they don’t even have to find these materials themselves.   Instead, they can ask their students out to bring in materials that interest them and use those as the basis for teaching media literacy skills. 

What English media literacy teachers doneed is a different understanding of what it is they are teaching, and a way to approach their materials that optimize their use as tools for teaching literacy.

Media and Teaching-Learning Methodology

Before discussing media literacy as an approach to English education, it is important to understand what is meant by the word media.  The word media in English is used in different ways in different contexts. 

  1. First, it is used to refer to the people who produce communications for mass consumption.  For example, in the utterance “the media have arrived”, the word “media” refers to journalists and reporters.
  2. Second, it is also used to refer to the communications themselves. For example, “journalists produce media for their readers to interpret.” Here the word “media” refers to the articles and stories that journalists write for people to read (or listen to).
  3. Third, it is used to refer to mass communication outlets.  For example, “media are radio, TV, newspapers, and the internet.”
  4. Fourth, it is used to refer to mass communication in general.  For example, “media influences the way people look at the world.”

For the purposes of teaching media literacy in English, media refers to any communication product, be it a sentence, a story, a poem, an advertisement, a movie, a paragraph, etc. written to for public consumption.  In this context, a journal written for personal use would not be considered media, but a journal written to be published would be.   As an English language teacher, you are teaching students how to interpret and create media, i.e., how to interpret and create communication products — language products to share with other people.  In the beginning, the audience is small – their peers, their teachers, and perhaps their students.  But as they mature, the ability to use English to get your message across to a wider audience, and the ability to interpret messages created by a variety of authors, is what will ensure their success in the 21st century, both personally and professionally.

Organizing educational experiences to promote media literacy is not complicated.   All one needs is a sample of language from any source where the teacher can be reasonably certain that the English itself is grammatical and coherent.    This then can then be used as a basis for the following types of learning activities. 

Teaching-learning activities are based on the assumption that students learn best when they personally engage with what they are learning in various ways. Although they can be done in any order, students develop critical thinking skills more successfully when the four different types of activities are done in the sequence presented here. 

  1. Experience Media

These activities allow students to simply experience samples of language — media — by reading, listening and/or witnessing them.  

  1. Reflect on Media

These activities ensure that students understand and remember what they have experienced by interacting with it as a cohesive piece of language.   This can involve looking up new words, answering comprehension questions, summarizing it in their own words, explaining what different parts of it means to one another, etc.

  1. Analyze Media

These activities involve students in two types of inquiries:

  1. STRUCTURE:  The first concerns the language sample itself, how it is written, how it is organized into coherent text, how sentences are formed, how vocabulary is selected, etc.  These activities may focus on grammar, and/or discourse structure, and/or vocabulary learning, etc.
  • CONTENT:  The second type of inquiry encourages students to explore the ideas expressed in the sample, how they connect to their lives, what do they think they mean, do they agree and why or why not, what motivates the media producer to say what they said, what are they trying to get someone to understand, what are the implications of the message(s), what are the different possible interpretations, how context influences meaning, etc.
  1.  Create Media

These activities invite students to experiment with what they have learned in all the preceding activities by creating a similar type of media based upon their personal interests. 

English Media Literacy in Practice

The theory of how and why to do something, although interesting to read, does not always reveal how that thing is actually done in practice.  The remainder of this essay illustrates the theoretical points discussed in the preceding sections of this article by discussing how one text, a simple poem, found on the internet, can be used to promote media literacy in primary education. 

Yes, you can teach young children to think critically.  In fact, if you begin this process when children are young, they will carry these skills with them for their lifetime.     This discussion focuses on media literacy in English in primary education and describes how to use the text with both very young learners (ages 5-7 years of age) as well as slightly older ones (8-10 years old).

Please not, however, the activities included in the following tables can be used for all ages of students, including adults, as long as the media used is age-appropriate. For example, what makes the following lesson good for primary education is the topic, quality, and simplicity of the media sample.

The media sample to be used for illustrative purposes in this article is a poem:

A Little Brown Bear

A little brown bear

Went in search for some honey

Isn’t it funny

A bear wanting honey?

He sniffed at the breeze

And he listened for bees.

And, would you believe it,

He even climbed trees!

There is also a YouTube video of people reciting this poem available for viewing, either by a teacher who wants to practice reciting it with gestures or, if internet is available, by the students themselves, either in the classroom or on students’ (or their parents’) cell phones.  

VIDEO LINK:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-bd0GIZR4Y

  1.  Experience Media

The goal of this part of the lesson is to allow students to personally experience media in some manner.  Multiple presentations accommodate students with different learning styles better than a single presentation. 

Table I lists several activities that can be done with each of two age groups of students.   Any or all of the activities listed in the table can be part of a single lesson.   For younger children for whom much of the vocabulary and grammar may be unfamiliar, then the more activities done, the better.

For either group, instructions can be given in the students’ mother tongue or in English, depending upon the proficiency level of the students.  Except when students are involved in the presenting, instructions are very simple:  LISTEN and WATCH.  

When students are presenting, the presenters are pulled aside to be given instructions on how to present.  The students watching the presentation are given the same instructions as for a teacher presentation:  LISTEN and WATCH.

Table I             Experiential Activities           

Ages 5-7Ages 8-10
Teacher reads the poem aloudAny of the experiential activities for ages 5-7 can also be used with this age group.
Teacher reads the poem aloud while showing related realia:  teddy bear, honey for the students to taste.For good readers, two or three students can read different lines of the poem to the class.
Teacher reads the poem aloud and acts out different verbs while reading:  sniff, listen, climb, acting silly (funny)Students can read the poem aloud together as a class.
Teacher reads the poem aloud and draws new vocabulary on the board while reading:  bear, honey, tree, beeStudents can draw pictures while the teacher or another student reads.
Teacher reads the poem aloud with accompany gestures, see video link aboveStudents can act out verbs while the teacher or another student reads.
Teacher shows the video to students 
Teacher send a slip of paper home with students with the link so the children’s parents can show the video to the child on their cell phones or personal computers. 
  1. Reflect on Media

Here is where the teaching of critical thinking begins.  The key to teaching critical thinking is inquiry.   During reflective phase of a lesson, questions are designed to help students remember the language used in the new media they have just experienced.  

Table II lists several activities that can be done with each of two age groups of students.   Any or all of the activities listed in the table can be part of a single lesson.   For younger children and/or novice English learners, for whom much of the vocabulary and grammar may be new, then the more activities done, the better.

During this phase, consensus and accuracy are important.  That is, students need to have a common and correct understanding of the language and content in the media sample.

One of the main differences between the two age groups during both this phase of the lesson and the following analytical phase is that more of the questions will need to be asked in Nepali, or in the students’ mother tongue for younger students.  

It is best to mix the mother tongue and English as needed so that children understand what you are saying but also get to hear you speaking in English and become comfortable with it being used.  So, for example, you could point to the word “he” and say in English, “what does this mean” and then immediately repeat the question in Nepali and/or the mother tongue.  Over time, the ratio of English/mother tongue/Nepali will increase until eventually you will be able to use only English.   This will even occur over the course of one lesson.

Table II:          Reflective Activities

Ages 5-7Ages 8-10
Ask vocabulary questions: What’s a bear?  A breeze? A tree?  A bee?   Draw pictures. What is climbing?  Searching?  Climbing?   Act it out for the class. Ask vocabulary questions: What’s a bear?  A breeze? A tree?  A bee?   Draw pictures. What is climbing?  Searching?  Climbing?   Act it out for the class. 
Ask comprehension questions: What was the poem about?    Who was it about? What did s/he do?   Where did s/he do it?   What was s/he searching for?   Why was s/he searching?  Etc.Ask comprehension questions: What was the poem about?    Who was it about? What did s/he do?   Where did s/he do it?   What was s/he searching for?   Why was s/he searching?  Etc.
Draw a picture and discuss: Of a bear, of a bear climbing a tree, of a bear looking for honey, of a bear sniffing the breeze.   Share it with the class.  Draw a picture with a friend.  Share it. Draw a picture and discuss: Of a bear, of a bear climbing a tree, of a bear looking for honey, of a bear sniffing the breeze.   Share it with the class.  Draw a picture with a friend.  Share it. 
Reconstruct the media sample: What were the specific lines of the poem?Reconstruct the media sample: What were the specific lines of the poem?
Teacher writes the poem on the board.Any reflective activities for ages 5-7.
Students practice pronouncing lines of the poem.Students write the poem on the board as they reconstruct it.
Students copy the poem in their notebooks.  Teacher corrects them.Peers correct one another if they make mistakes.
Teacher draws pics to represent each line of the poem and deletes the writingStudents write the poem in their notebooks from memory, then work in pairs to put in any missing information.
  1. Analyze Media

As with reflective activities, inquiry is the primary mode of teaching during the analytical phase of a lesson.  However, the type of inquiry shifts from one of helping students to remember and understand the specific media sample itself to considering it in two wider contexts:  (1) as a piece of connected linguistic discourse and (2) as an exposé of ideas that relate to their lives.

In many ways, this phase of the lesson is the richest with respect to teaching critical thinking. But it will not work well if students don’t remember the media sample, which is why it is best to do reflective activities before analytical ones.

Table III provides activities for accomplishing the first goal, Table IV suggests activities for achieving the second.

One of the main differences between the two age groups during this phase of the lesson is that more of the questions will need to be asked in Nepali, or the students’ mother tongue, for the 5-7 year olds.   As mentioned before, mixing mother tongue and English as needed so that kids understand what you are saying but also get to hear you speaking in English.  So, for example, you could point to the word “he” and say in English, “what does this mean” and then immediately repeat the question in Nepali and/or the mother tongue.  Over time, the ratio of English/mother tongue/Nepali will increase until eventually you will be able to use only English.  This will even occur over the course of one lesson.

Table III          Linguistic Analytical Activities

Ages 5-7Ages 8-10
Pronouns: What does “he” mean? What are some other words like it for other people?   She, you, they, I.    What if it is not a person?   itAny linguistic activities done with ages 5-7.
Adjectives: What do the words “brown” and “little” do?   Describes the bear.  What other things do you know that are little?    Are you little?   Do you have a little brother or sister? WH Questions and answers: Who wants honey? A bear wants honey?  (Get complete sentence answers.) What do you want?   Honey?  Why? Who/what is funny?  The bear is funny. Who is listening?  Why is he listening What does he hear? Listen to me now.  Teacher hums a tune.  What do you hear?  Music Where can you hear music?  TV, radio.
Colors:  What other things do you know that are brown?  What other colors do you know?  What color is this (point to a color on a child’s clothing?)  If the words are new, write them on the board as you go.  Ask the kids point to colors on one another and describe them.Yes-No questions: Do bears like honey? Do you like honey? Can bears climb trees? Can you climb trees? Can you listen to the breeze?    
Comparison: Draw two bears on the board, one big, one small.  Which bear is little? What is the other one?  big Ask the kids to draw a big bee and a little bee, a big tree and a little tree.          Rhyming: What is special about the words honey and funny?   They rhyme. What other words rhyme in the poem:   Breeze, bees, trees? What other words do you know that rhyme with honey?  Bunny, money, sunny, What other words rhyme with trees and bees?   Fleas, peas, wheeze, knees. Think of some other pairs of words that rhyme.   See what students come up with. What other words rhyme with these? Again, let students come up with more words. Make up several sets of rhyming words. Write them on the board.
Adjectives:  What other words do you know for describing things?  Write any new words on the board.
Noun Phrases: Point to an object.  How would you describe this?    A blue pen.  A yellow dress.  A red shirt   A green tree. Big or little?   A little blue pen (not a blue little pen).   A funny red bear (not a red funny bear).Poetry What is a poem? Is “A little brown bear” a poem? How do you know? Short sentences, some of them rhyme.  
Imperatives: Sniff the breeze (blow air out of your mouth to make a breeze and then sniff out loud and have kids copy you) Listen to the bees (make a buzzing sound and then put your hand to your ear and have students do this) Climb a tree (pretend you are climbing Give the commands and have the students act them out.   
Past tense Write up “sneeze” and “sneezed”. Ask:  What’s the difference?  Activities happened before NOW. Have them make up other verb pairs with and without “ed” 

Table IV          Conceptual analytical activities

Ages 5-7Ages 8-10
Who likes bears? Why do you like bears? Who doesn’t like bears?  Why not? Where do bears live? Have you ever seen a bear? Where? Would you like to see a real bear? Where could you see one? What is a teddy bear?Any conceptual activities for ages 5-7.
Do you like to climb trees?  Why or why not?  Where do you climb them?Was this a good poem? Why do you think this? How do you know it was a good poem?
Do you like honey?   Do you eat honey at home?  What do you eat honey with?  Why do you think the author wrote this poem? What did s/he want you to learn from it? Who do you think s/he wrote it for?
Who makes honey?   Do you like bees?   What happens if you get close?  They sting. Do you know any other poems? Tell them to the class. Have the class practice repeating any other poems that the students already know with the one who knows the poem leading the repetition. You can also use poems in Nepali and/or the student’s mother tongue
Did you like the poem?  Why or why not?What do funny things make you feel and do?  Feel happy, laugh Why do you think that the author thought it was funny that a bear wanted honey? Do you think it was funny? What some other things that you think are funny?   Have the students generate a list of things that they think are funny, i.e., things that make them smile or laugh
  1.  Create Media

If the preceding phases of the lesson have been done well, the creative phase of the lesson is easy for students to successfully accomplish.  This is the phase of the lesson where you will be able to see what they learned and what they still need to work on.   This is also the phase that prepares students to produce and interpret media.  All products produced should be shared with the class.

Table V           Creative Activities

Ages 5-7Ages 8-10
Have kids draw pics of different things and write phrases to describe them.  Tell them just to draw pictures of single objects. Examples:  A brown bear. The blue shirt. Have them take their pictures home and color them for homework and then bring them back to share in class the next day. Do not worry about which articles they use, just make sure they use either “a” or “the” for each single item.  Or, if they know possessive pronouns, they can use thoseAny creative activities done with ages 5-7.
Write a list of regular verbs that students already know.  Have kids do drawings of people/animals doing different activities and label them for past time. Examples:  A bear sneezed.   The bear climbed a tree.Ask the kids to list animals that they know.  Write them on the board. Invite them to write 4–6-line poems about the animals.  Encourage them to use adjectives when they describe the animals. Do not worry whether their poems rhyme or not.
Have the kids make a list of animals they know.  Write these on the board.  Then have them draw pictures and write things about them.  Do not worry about whether they rhyme or not.   Examples:  The red cat sniffed the fish. The blue bear sneezed.Help the kids to write sets of rhyming words on the board. Invite them to write 4–6-line poems using different pairs of rhyming words. Have them read their poems to their classmates.  In this case, if they don’t rhyme, see if you can help them find words that do rhyme.
For homework, have the students color their pictures and bring them to class the next day.  Then have each student share his or her pictures with the class and say the words that they wrote about them.  This is an example of media production appropriate for young children.  This will, for example, prepare them to read and understand simple advertisements later. Collect all the poems, type them up to make a small book of poetry.  Write each student’s name under the poem that they wrote.  As a class, read their book of poetry together.  Ask students to go home and read their poems to their parents.  This activity will help students develop an interest in reading and writing poetry to share with other people. 

Closing Comment

Teaching English with media literacy helps students learn language both as a tool for self-expression and for communication with others in a wide variety.  It gives them a purpose for learning English, whether it is to write a simple class newspaper, or a book of poetry.[3]   If children produce picture descriptions, poems, story books, newspapers from a very young age, they will become active consumers and creators of media as adults.   Teaching students how to interact with media products in different ways instills a love of language as a tool for self-expression and communication in public.  It also cultivates an awareness of the power that language has to influence and connect people to one another. 

About the author

Dr. Ani Hawkinson is a retired linguist and foreign language teacher educator.  She came to Nepal in 2018 as an English Language Fellow for the U.S. Department of State.   While in Nepal, she offered in-person teacher trainings in five different regions for NELTA.


[1]  http://www.medialiteracy.com/media-values/media-values-articles-52-63

[2] This is the definition of media literacy most often cited in the US.   It is a succinct sentence hammered out by participants at the 1992 Aspen Media Literacy Leadership Institute.  Definitions, however, evolve over time.  A more robust definition has been developed to situate media literacy in the context of its importance for the education of students in a 21st century media culture. The Center for Media Literacy now recommends use of the expanded definition.

Accessed December 1, 2019.    https://www.medialit.org/media-literacy-definition-and-more.  

[3] As a personal note, as an American primary school student, I still remember the first book I wrote. It was in the second grade.  I was 7 years old.  The book was about ants.  I wrote a story, with each sentence on the story on a different piece of paper.  Then I drew illustrations for all the sentences in the story and colored them.  To bind the book, I cut up a box to make a cardboard book cover.  I punched holes in the left-hand side of the pages and cardboard and then tied piece of yarn through them to make the book.  At 70 years of age, I still remember how proud I was of that book.  It is one of my few childhood memories.  

In the fifth grade, when I was 10 years old, I was chosen to be the editor of our classroom newspaper.  Students in the class wrote different stories, I edited them and put them in columns to produce our class newspaper.  It was published by the teacher and circulated to all the students.  Media literacy has been a part of my education since childhood.  If the logic of the theoretical discussions in the article itself, did not convince you to try this approach to teaching English, perhaps my personal anecdotes will.   Good luck!   Ani Hawkinson, NELTA trainer 2019-2020.

Causes of Heterogeneity in Language Classroom: A Glimpse

Dr. Nabaraj Neupane

Abstract

Learners, who are not only individual beings but also members of a community, are the active recipients and/or generators of knowledge and information in the classroom as well as social settings. They belong to different biological age groups, educational and cultural backgrounds, and have individual abilities, preferences, and levels. Such physiological, psychological, and social factors tend to create variability in learners. Based on this presumption, the present article explicates these factors which cause learner differences: level, age, educational and cultural background, aptitude and intelligence, style, and strategy. These factors create heterogeneity in learners and learning contexts, to which teachers should be sensitive enough to cope with the situation.

Keywords: age, intelligence, level, style, strategy

Introduction

Learners are not the same in all the contexts and their abilities. They cannot be viewed only as alone individuals. They are also members of the communities and learning groups. Recently, language classes are not featured by homogeneity but heterogeneity (Wahedi, 2020). Based on the learner differences, the teachers’ role needs to be facilitator, prompter, counselor, role model, administrator, or agent for change, among others (Neupane, 2020). Therefore, not only the learners but also the academic institutions, stakeholders, the teachers, guardians, and others should be responsive to such variations in learners.

In a classroom setting, one cannot generally get homogeneous learners. Heterogeneity is a feature of the vast majority of the classes where learner differences exist in terms of variables like age, learning styles, levels, educational and cultural backgrounds, aptitudes and intelligence, sex, motivation, learners’ personalities and strategies, among others (Richards & Rodgers, 2003, Gass & Selinker, 2009, Gass et al., 2013, Harmer, 2008a & 2008b). Of them, this article observes variations in learners through the lenses of five facets that are delineated in the succeeding sections.

Language Levels

Teachers have to face variations of learner levels in a class of heterogeneous learners. Based on their linguistic knowledge, learners can be categorized into three groups such as beginner, intermediate and advanced (Harmer, 2008a). Beginners are those who know nothing at all and advanced learners are those who are competent and are capable of reading complicated factual and fictional texts. The latter group can even communicate fluently and efficiently. Between these two, some intermediate learners can communicate at the basic level of listening, speaking, reading, and writing. They can understand only the factual writings but not the fictional ones.

Harmer (2008a & 2008b) presents the Association of Language Testers of Europe’s (ALTE) model, which is a common European framework of calibrating learners. Beginners are not supposed to have any knowledge of the language they learn. On the other hand, false beginners are those who know something but cannot use any language in context. Elementary learners can be engaged in basic communication. They can participate in simple interactions and construct simple sentences. Pre-intermediate learners know more than elementary learners. They are familiar with the basic structures and lexis of the language. Intermediate learners can have greater fluency and a general understanding of some authentic use of language. The learners at the upper-intermediate level can know intermediate level plus extended knowledge of grammatical constructions and abilities to use what they know. Finally, advanced learners have accuracy, appropriacy, fluency, and depth of knowledge. ALTE has produced ‘can do’ statements to clarify what each level can do in the language (Harmer, 2008a, p.18). It is noteworthy that these levels are only one-way categorizing learners into various levels. To measure ESL standards, TESOL in the U.S.A. has developed its way of leveling the learners (Harmer, 2008a & 2008b) as beginners, intermediate and advanced.

The learners who know nothing are real beginners. They are easy learners to handle and to teach. Their success can easily be observed since they react immediately to any stimuli. Thus, teaching them is stimulating. For such learners, drilling, simple role-playing, and dramatization are some effective techniques of teaching. They should be exposed to very simple grammar and vocabulary. They are very much pleased if they are asked about themselves and their surroundings. They need comprehensible input (Krashen, 1982 &1985), which is modified to their level. They enjoy learning by doing and are field-dependent learners who are personally orientated, holistic, dependent, and socially sensitive (Hawkey, 1982, as cited in Ellis, 1992). They are, therefore, like raw mud which can be moulded in the desired shape.

Intermediate learners have fluency and general comprehension of some authentic use of language. Their success is more difficult to perceive. They cannot recognize daily progress. The learners of this level sometimes either do not progress or progress at a very slow rate. It is termed the “plateau effect” (Harmer, 2008a, p. 18). In this context, teacher’s constant efforts are essential to encourage them towards learning. One of the ways is to set certain goals to achieve and make them know it. Since they are no more children, neither are they advanced, to handle them properly demands teachers’ special attention.

Advanced level learners can have good fluency and depth of knowledge. They are highly disciplined. They have a good repertoire for their language use and have a long experience of learning at their back. There is still the danger of the plateau effect (Harmer, 2008a). Hence, the teachers should create academic classroom culture to accelerate their learning and progress. The teachers can also encourage such learners to take high responsibility for their learning. They can also be assigned to do exercises that need appropriacy, connotation, inference, reference, and the like. For them, the methodology, learning task, and topic should be different from those of the intermediate learners. They can be given tasks of writing discursive essays, expository essays, reports, summaries and précis, and so on.

Age Groups

Learners’ age is a major biological factor to make decisions about how and what to teach. Based on their age, learners are classified into children, young learners, adolescents, young adults, and adults. In Harmer’s (2008 a) words, the learners between the ages of about 2 to about 14 are called children. Young learners are between 5 to 9 but very young learners between 2 and 5. Adolescents are learners between 12 to 17 and young adults between 16 and 20. The three basic age groups and their traits are illustrated in the succeeding paragraphs.

Children (2-14 years) cannot focus on the content (i.e., what is being taught) but can easily be moulded. They can learn about sensory perceptions such as seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and tasting but find it hard to learn abstract notions such as grammatical rules. They need immediate feedback and want to have the teacher’s approval every time they perform tasks. They can be competent speakers provided that they have high exposure to language and learning contexts. Harmer (2008 b) has mentioned that the children share some common traits: (a) They respond to meaning even if they do not understand individual words; (b) They often learn indirectly rather than directly; (c) Their understanding comes from the explanation of the teacher, hearing, seeing, touching, etc.; (d) Grammar rules are difficult to grasp; (e) They have enthusiasm and curiosity to the surrounding world; (f) They need individual attention and approval from the teacher; (g) They are interested in talking to themselves, and (h) They have limited attention span  (p. 93). Thus, children need support from the teachers. In this connection, Neupane (2010) has conceded that the role of scaffolding in the zone of proximal development is crucial to enhance their learning. Hence, children are required to give special attention and scaffold frequently.

Adolescents (12-17 years) are often categorized as difficult learners to handle. They pass on the transitional phase and the time of storm and stress. It is the stage of rapid physical changes. However, they can develop abstract thought and understand more intellectual types of learning. They can develop creative thoughts and a passionate commitment to their interest. Harmer (2008 a) concedes that they always look for identity and self-esteem, therefore they need the approval of their peer group rather than of their teacher’s.

Adults (17 years onwards) are characterized by having life experiences as learners at educational institutions and individual members of society. They are highly mannered and disciplined. They also know the reasons for learning. They have high motivation and long-range learning goals. Because of their prior learning experiences, new learning may have positive or negative influences. Further, they can engage themselves in abstract thoughts and opinions.

Observation of the aforementioned elucidation confirms that learners share distinctive traits. Accordingly, the teaching techniques should be selected. For example, younger learners prefer games, puzzles, songs, pictures whereas adults require more explanations.

Educational and Cultural Background

Modern societies have been multicultural, multiracial, multi-ethnic, multireligious, and so on. The learners in the classes are not only individual learners but also members of society. This is why, classroom consists of heterogeneity, who are from different cultural and educational backgrounds.

 Some societies value education whereas some others value money. In the former type, the learners can get very good support from the guardians whereas, in the latter, the learners may not be encouraged to study more. Similarly, the village areas of agricultural countries like Nepal may not provide good learning culture. Learners are not generally sent to schools during planting and harvesting seasons. Instead, they are involved in farming. This situation results in learner variations. In addition, primary education has been possible in learners’ mother tongues. While coming to secondary classes, the learners are varied and multilingualism can be the issue.

The learners may have different educational cultures. Some may prefer rote learning while others prefer learning by doing. Therefore, teachers should be very sensitive to select materials and methods which can best suit the learners’ needs and interests.

Aptitude and Intellectual Ability

As learners have different aptitudes, some are better at learning languages while others are not. Based on scores obtained by learners in aptitude tests, one can predict their potential for their future progress.  However, Skehan (1998) concedes, “What distinguishes exceptional learners from the rest is that they have unusual memories, particularly for the retention of things that they hear (p. 234)”. Further, the more intelligent learners can learn better. In support of this view, Lightbown and Spada (2006) have assessed, “Learning with a wide variety of intellectual abilities can be successful language learners (p. 185).” As learners have varying aptitudes, teachers should devise appropriate strategies in teaching in such a way that all the types of learners can be involved in the motivating learning contexts.

Learning Styles and Strategies

Styles, as Gass and Selinker (2009) define, are “the preferences that an individual has to obtaining, processing, and retaining information (p. 432)”. It also signifies how the individuals approach the task of learning. Similarly, Oxford (1999) has viewed learning strategies as “specific actions, behaviours, steps or techniques that learners use to improve their progress in developing skills in a second or foreign language” (as cited in Gass & Selinker, 2009, p. 439). Thus, styles are qualities whereas strategies are actions undertaken by the learners.

Because of differences in learning styles and strategies, individual variations are caused in the ways an individual’s brain works. These issues can be studied in terms of Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) and Multiple Intelligence Theory (MIT), which are elucidated in the subsequent paragraphs.

Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP)

 In the theory ofNLP, sensory perceptions of the world are observed. The sensory systems consist of five sense organs and accordingly, five systems of perceptions are represented by VAKOG (Visual, Auditory, Kinaesthetic, Olfactory and Gustatory). Their representational systems indicate that some learners respond quickly to one type of stimuli while others to the other types. For example, some learners are enthusiasts at visual stimuli (i.e., pictures) while others are at kinaesthetic or auditory stimuli. Specifically, some learners such as beginners can learn through visual representations while some others, such as advanced learners, can better learn through auditory representations (i.e., lectures to listen).

NLP facilitates the teachers to deal with the learners who have different preferred primary systems. Millrod distinguishes C-Zone and R-Zone. C-Zone is the place where teachers and learners interact and R-Zone is the place where the learners do not like teachers’ interruption/participation (as cited in Harmer, 2008b). The teachers should operate in C-Zone rather than in R-Zone. Baker and Rinvolucri (2005) use “three-position thinking” (as cited in Harmer, 2008b, p. 90), the technique in which teachers and learners are observed from other people’s perspectives.

Multiple Intelligence Theory (MIT)

Traditionally, IQ (Intelligence Quotient) is supposed to be a “measure of a person’s innate intelligence, with a score of 100 defined as normal or average” (Sadker & Sadker, 2009, p. 77). In reaction to IQ theory, multiple intelligences and emotional intelligences have been proposed. MI is a learner-based view, in which learners are supposed to have multiple dimensions of abilities that are to be taken into consideration in education. The MI was introduced by Howard Gardner in 1995 and was categorized into these eight types (after Richards & Rodgers 2003; Sadker & Sadker 2009 & Harmer 2008b): linguistic, logical/mathematical, spatial, musical, bodily/kinaesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, naturalist. Further, Goleman (1995) has added the ninth type “emotional intelligence” which is social intelligence (Sadker & Sadker 2009, pp. 80-81). Thus, the MIT is linked to the nine types of intelligence.

The MIT facilitates tracing out learner differences. Some learners may have good intelligence at linguistic skills while others are skilful at mathematical skills. It enables one to predict what prospect an individual has for selecting a career. For example, learners having strong musical intelligence can be a good musician and ones who have strong bodily/kinaesthetic intelligence can be a fighter or boxer, or good players. Having known such dimensions of intelligence, the teachers should attempt to accelerate all the types of learners by devising task variations for them.

Conclusion

Learners reside at the focal point of the teaching-learning process. They are not only lonely individuals who attend the classroom but also the members of societies; this creates heterogeneity in the language classroom as a common phenomenon where learner difference is one of the major traits. Hence, the parameters for distinguishing learners are (a) age (e.g., children, adolescents and adults), (b) language levels (e.g., beginner, intermediate and advanced), (c) educational and cultural background, (d) aptitude and intelligence, and (e) learning styles and strategies. Delineations on them justify that the study of second language learners and learning contexts call for envisaging multiple perspectives. This article solicits further discussions and research works to deal with learner variations exhaustively.

About the author

A teacher trainer, a translator, the President of NELTA Gandaki Province, Dr. Nabaraj Neupane, is an Associate Professor of Tribhuvan University. Recipient of Nepal Vidhyabhusan Ka [a coveted award of Nepal] by Nepal Government, Dr. Neupane has presented papers (both on online and face-to-face platforms) in national and international conferences, translated literary works, and published books on language and literature. His literary works such as Aksharanjali (a collection of Nepali poems), Selected Essays (translated book) are in the publication process. Currently, his translated book, Discourse on Nepalese Translation, has been published from Nepal Academy. To his credit, he has more than five dozen of articles published from home and abroad. His professional interests include Translation Studies, Literature, Language Teaching, SLA, and Pragmatics.

References

Ellis, R. (1992). Understanding second language acquisition. Oxford University Press.

Gass, S. & Selinker, L. (2009). Second language acquisition: An introductory course (3rd ed.). Routledge.

Gass, S. M., Behney, J., & Plonsky, L. (2013). Second language acquisition: An introductory course (4th ed.). Routledge.

Harmer, J. (2008a). How to teach English. Pearson Longman.

Harmer, J. (2008b). The practice of English language teaching (4th ed.). Longman.

Krashen, S. (1982). Principles and practice in second language acquisition. Pergamon.

Krashen, S. (1985). The input hypothesis: Issues and implications. Longman.

Lightbown, P. & Spada, N. (2006). How languages are learned (3rd d.). Oxford University Press.

Neupane, N. (2010). Socio-cultural theory of second language acquisition. Pragya Pravat, 1(1), 235-243.

Neupane, N. (2020). Trajectories of teacher traits: professional, administrative, and social roles. Journal of Practical Studies in Education, 1(10, 1-5. https://doi.org/10.46809/jpse.v1i1.7

Richards, J. C., & Rodgers, T. S. (2003). Approaches and methods in language teaching (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press.

Sadker, D. M. & Sadker, M. P. (2009). Multiple intelligences and emotional intelligence. In Gardner, P. S. (Ed.), New Directions: Reading, Writing and Critical Thinking. Cambridge University Press.

Skehan, P. (1998). A cognitive approach to language learning. Oxford University Press.

Wahedi, N. (2020). Teaching English language in heterogeneous classrooms. Bulletin of Science and Practice, 6(2), 293-296. https://doi.org/10.33619/2414-2948/51/34

Solemnity of Lesson Plan in Language Teaching

Mr. Pitambar Paudel

Abstract

Lesson planning, which involves decisions about the pedagogical dimensions, is often viewed as a key aspect of teaching a successful lesson. During the planning phase, the teacher makes decisions about goals, activities, resources, timing, grouping, and other aspects of the lesson. Even though a lesson may have already been planned, a teacher will still need to make decisions that relate to the needs of his/her specific class, adopting the lesson from the book in different ways to make it better suit the class. In this context, this article sheds light on the high importance of lesson plans in language teaching.

Keywords: lesson plan, objectives, implementation, components

A lesson plan is a written description of how students will move towards attaining specific objectives of teaching. This usually means that teachers plan term, unit, weekly, and daily lesson planning. Yearly and term planning usually involves listing the objectives for a particular program. A unit plan is a series of related lessons around a specific theme such as “[t]he family” (Richards, 2013). Planning a daily lesson is the end result of a complete planning process that includes the yearly, term, and unit plans.

A lesson plan is an art of combining several different elements into a cohesive and coherent whole so that a lesson has an identity that students can recognize, work within, and react to. Ur (1996) states that a lesson plan is a type of organized events which are concerned with learning as their main objective, involve the participation of learners and teachers, and are limited and pre-scheduled as regards time, place, content, and membership. Harmer (2008) mentions that the proper lesson planning helps to empower teachers’ identity anticipating potential problems rather than depending upon hastily scribbled notes.  Similarly, Duff (2008) acknowledges a lesson plan as an individual technique that fits into the lesson. A lesson plan is a step-by-step guide that helps teachers in maintaining a standard teaching pattern and does not let the class deviate from the topic. It also provides teachers with learning objectives, quality questions, supplies, and activities (Pachina, 2019). These accounts reveal that a lesson plan is a teacher’s daily guide for how will be taught in the classroom, what students need to learn, and how learning will be measured.

            Lesson planning is an orderly presentation of the lesson deciding all the materials, techniques, activities before a teacher enters the classroom. Tickoo (2007) mentions the following three points in the connection of defining lesson plan:

  • An experienced teacher once defined a good lesson in four phrases; ‘something old’, ‘something new’, ‘something for fun’, and ‘something to do’.
  • My training-college supervisor wrote in my lesson book, a lesson where teacher talk takes more time than learners talk would normally be called an unsuccessful lesson.
  • A trainee teacher’s diary included the following observation; there is always a big difference between what I write in my lesson book and what I do in my class. I invariably end up changing the plan in responding to learners’ reactions as the lesson proceeds. (p. 213)

A good lesson plan should be prepared according to the level, need, interest, and age of the learners to achieve the desired goal of the lesson. So, the lesson plan can be different according to different contexts and cultures. A teacher should design a lesson in such a way that all the learners are given equal opportunities to practice and produce it themselves. In a lesson, teacher talk time should be lesser than learners talk time to make them more responsible towards learning.

Why Plan?

Language teachers ask themselves why they should bother writing plans for every lesson. Some teachers write down their elaborated daily lesson plan while others may go without any written plan. After getting graduations, many teachers give up writing lesson plans. However, each teacher enters a classroom with some sort of planning. Lesson plan helps language teachers think about the lesson in advance to resolve problems and difficulties, to provide a structure for a lesson, to provide a ‘map’ for the teachers to follow, and to provide a record of what has been taught, to ensure the teacher has anticipated potential problems and how to ever come them, to ensure the teacher has all the materials and equipment they need.

In connection with the importance of the lesson plan, Richards and Renandya (2004) concede that the success with which a teacher conducts a lesson is often thought to depend on the effectiveness with which the lesson was planned. A lesson plan is a sign of the professionalism of a teacher. It makes us consider our teaching situation and students. In the same connection, Farrell (1964) concedes the importance of a lesson plan with this example; “Would you fall me, please which way I ought to go from here?” Asked Alice”, “[t]hat depends a good deal on which you want to get to,” said the Cheshire cat (as quoted in Richards & Renandya, 2004, p. 30). From all the things mentioned above, it can be derived that lesson plan helps the teacher to prepare the lesson and helps to decide exactly what they will do and how they will do it.  Alice (2019) states that if a teacher fails to prepare, s/he is preparing to fail. This implies that an organized teacher can always be able to deliver the lesson within the given time frame. A lesson plan is for promoting teacher’s creativity, confidence, organize thoughts, foster high-quality teaching, and helps to gather authentic resources (Pachia, 2019;Tankersley, 2019). A lesson plan is valued not only in physical presence classes but equally important in online classes for providing resources and tools, bring possible changes in the subject matter, enhance technological skills for classroom presentation and preparation (Pereira, 2019). Here are the insights from these reviews of a lesson plan in English language teaching:

  • A plan can help the teacher think about content, materials, sequencing, timing, and activities.
  • A plan provides security in the form of a map in the sometimes unpredictable atmosphere of a classroom.
  • A plan is a log of what has been taught.
  • A plan can help a substitute to smoothly take over a class when the teacher cannot teach.
  • The lesson plan also benefits students because it takes into account the different backgrounds, interests, learning styles, and abilities of the students in one class.
  • A plan gives the teacher such different ideas as what to teach, whom to teach, where to teach, when to teach, why to teach, and how to teach.
  • A teacher can feel relaxed and comfortable if he/she has entered the classroom with the lesson plan.
  • The teacher can satisfy the headteacher and can guide the newcomer teacher with the help of a lesson plan.
  • It can substitute to smoothly take over a class when the teacher cannot teach.
  • It gives the teacher ideas about his limitations on teaching
  • It makes the teacher capable of evaluating the course, students, and himself

From all these discourses, it is derived that a teacher has to plan lessons for both, internal and external reasons. Teachers plan for internal reasons to feel more confident, to learn the subject matter better, to run the lesson smoothly, to assimilate the problem before they happen as well as to present the lesson systematically. And the teachers plan the lesson for external reasons to satisfy the expectation of the headteacher or to guide the newly entered teacher if needed.

What do we need to know in lesson planning?

  • The age/ level/ needs of the students and what students already know
  • The time available
  • The aim of the whole lesson
  • What teachers and students do at each stage?
  • About the languages, we need to teach (use, meaning, form, pronunciation, etc.)
  • What materials/ aids and equipment teacher will need?
  • What’s the aim of the lesson?

How to set objectives?

An effective lesson plan starts with appropriate and written objectives. The formation of clear objectives is the first step in lesson planning. These objectives help to state precisely what we want our students to learn, a guide for the selection of appropriate activities, and help to provide overall lesson focus and direction for English language lessons. A teacher should be prepared not only to teach the students but also to make sure that s/he takes some fruitful thoughts regarding the lesson at the end of the class (Alice, 2018). Schrum and Ghisan (1994) also pointed out that effective objectives describe what students will be able to do in terms of observable behavior and when using the foreign language. Hence, the language teacher uses for stating objectives is important (as cited in Farrell, in Richards & Renandya, 2004). Effective lesson planning requires the teacher to determine three essential components: the objective, the body, and a reflection (Ullman, 2011). Similarly, Richards (2013) suggests forward, central, and backward as the basic approaches in designing the objectives in a lesson and focuses on the use of action verbs like; identity, present, describe, explain, demonstrate, list, contrast, debate, make, talk, etc. that make it easier for the students to get what will be expected from them in each lesson such as:

  • Structures- to talk about daily routines using the present simple
  • Functions- to make polite requests using could borrow/ lend
  • Vocabulary- to describe personality using appropriate adjectives
  • Pronunciation- to use appropriate nitration in questions
  • Development of skills
  • Listening- practice in listening for gist and specific information
  • Reading- Practice in reading for gist and specific information
  • Speaking- controlled and freer practice in interesting opinions
  • Writing- practice in writing a formal letter of complaint

What should a teacher think before planning the lesson?

  • What does s/he want the students to learn and why?
  • Are all the tasks necessary- worth doing and at the right level?
  • What materials, aids, and so on, will you like and why?
  • What type of interaction will you encourage, pair work, group work, -and why?
  • What instructions will you have to give and how will you give them (written, oral, etc.)? What questions will you ask?
  • How will you monitor student understanding during the different stages of the lesson?

What should a teacher consider while implementing the plan?

When implementing their lesson plan, teachers might try to monitor two important issues, namely, lesson variety and lesson pacing. Variety in lesson delivery and choice of activity will keep the class lively and interested. To vary a lesson, teachers should frequently change the tempo of activities from fast-moving to slow. They can also change the class organization by giving individual tasks, pair work, group work, or full class interaction. However, cautions that varied activities should not be flogged together in random order. The result of this would be restlessness and disorder. The harder activities and tasks could be placed earlier in the lesson and the quieter activities before lively ones.

The pace is linked to the speed at which lesson progress, as well as to lesson timing. For teachers to develop a sense of pace, the following guidelines will be beneficial.

  • Activities should not be too long or too short
  • Various techniques for delivering the activities should “flow” together
  • There should be clear transitions between each activity

How to evaluate the lesson plan?

This is the final part of daily lesson planning that happens after the teaching has ended, and the teacher then evaluates the success or failure of the lesson. A teacher who wishes to improve the curriculum, organization, and instruction should daily evaluate the lesson. Evaluating lesson plans helps the teachers improve their practice, develop strong reflection habits and meet the needs of the learners in front of them (Streans, 2021).  In this context, Ur (1996) concedes that it is important to think after teaching a lesson and ask whether it was a good one or not and why. She has presented the following criteria for evaluating the effectiveness of the lesson plan:

  • the class seemed to be learning the materials well
  • the learners were engaging with the foreign language throughout
  • the learners were attentive all the time
  •  the learners enjoyed the lesson and were motivated
  • the learners were active all the time
  • the lesson went according to plan
  • the language was used communicatively throughout

Similarly, Streans (2021) presents the three questions that the teachers ask themselves to evaluate the effectiveness of a good lesson plan: What went well in this lesson, and why? What went badly in this lesson, and why? Did I meet my objectives in this lesson? Why or why not? Apart from these criteria, the teacher may ask the following questions to his ss to evaluate his lesson:

  • What do you think today’s lesson was about?
  • What part was easy? What part was difficult? What changes would you suggest the teacher make?

Models and stages of lesson planning

Lesson planning is a systematic process. It is guided by the principle of establishing a clear aim. There are several approaches to lesson planning. Tyler (1949) presents a rational linear framework of a lesson plan with four steps that run sequentially; a) specify objectives b) select learning activities c) organize learning activities d) specify methods of evaluation (as cited in Farrel, in Richards & Renandya, 2004, p. 31). Similarly, Yinger (1980) develops an alternative model in which planning takes place in the stages (Richards & Renandya, 2004, p. 31). The first stage consists of problem conception in which planning starts with a discovery cycle of the integration of the teacher’s goals, knowledge, and experience. The second stage sees the problem formulated and a solution achieved. The third stage involves implementing the plan along with its evaluation.

In a similar connection, Tickoo (2007) has schematized the following ways as the stages of lesson planning:

a     adequate preparation

b     good review and formation of objectives

c     aids and equipment

d    smooth preparation

e   rich opportunities for pupil participation

f   good summary and closure (pp.219-227)

Moreover, Shrum and Glisan (1994, as cited in Farrel, in Richard & Renandya, 2004, p.33) also pointed out the five stages model of lesson plan including teacher’s role and students’ role:

                                                    Lesson plan structure

Lesson phaseRole of teacherRole of students
1) Perspective (Opening)Asks what ss have learned in the previous lesson. Previews new lessonTell what they’ve learned previously. Respond to preview
ii) SimulationPrepares   ss for new activity Presents attention grabberRelate the activity to their lives Respond to attention grabber
iii) Instruction/ ParticipationPresent activity checks for understanding Encourages involvementDo activity show understanding interact with others
iv) ClosureAsks what students have learned Previews future lessonsTell what they have learned give input on future lessons
v) Follow upPresents other activities to reinforce the same concepts presents an opportunity for interactionDo new activities interact with others?

Conclusion

A lesson plan, which is a roadmap in taking the students along the desired path, is an integral part of the teaching-learning process. Therefore, the suggestions in this article are not meant to be prescriptive, and teachers can be flexible to plan lessons in their way, always keeping in mind the yearly, term, and unit plans. A clear plan will maximize the output with minimum confusion of what is expected of the students, thus making classroom management easier. Moreover, a lesson plan does not necessarily have to be a detailed script that contains the plan of every interaction with students in the classroom. It should preferably have a general overview of the aims and objectives of the course, the plan of teaching and learning activities of the course, and the activities planned to check the students’ understanding. The driving force behind lesson planning is the motivation for teachers while creating creativity and excitement among students; this is what keeps a teacher moving ahead.

About the author

Pitambar Paudel, is a Lecturer of English Education at Tribhuvan University, Nepal. To his credit, about three dozen of articles have been published in different national and international journals. He has also published books, edited journals and presented papers in various conferences and facilitated different training sessions in English Language teaching. His areas of interests include applied linguistics, reAt the behest of our Chief Editorsearch on SLA and English Language curricula, translation studies, Teacher professional development, and ICTs in language education.

References

Alice, A. (2019). 3 reasons why it is important to plan lessons. https://www.eln.co.uk/blog/3-reasons-lesson-planning

Doff, A. (2008). Teach English. Cambridge University Press.

Harmer, J. C. (2008).  How to teach English. Longman.

Pachina, E. (2019). 9 crucial reasons why teachers need a lesson plan.

https://www.teflcourse.net/blog/9-crucial-reasons-why-teachers-need-a-lesson-plan-ittt-tefl-blog/

Pereira, M.  (2019). What is a lesson plan and what is its importance in an online course?

            https://blog.hotmart.com/en/create-a-lesson-plan/ ..

Richards, J. C. (2013). Curriculum approaches in language teaching: Forward, central and backward design. RELC Journal, 4(1), 5-33.

Richards, J. C., & Renandya, W. A. (Eds.) (2004). Methodology in language teaching.  Cambridge University Press. 

Streans, C. (2021). Why evaluate your lessons?

https://study.com/academy/lesson/evaluation-tools-for-lesson-planning.html

Tankersley, A. (2019). Why is it important to write lesson plans? https://www.continued.com/early-childhood-education/ask-the-experts/why-it-important-to-write-23314

Tickoo, M. L. (2007). Teaching and learning English. Orient Longman.

Ullman, E. (2011). How to plan effective lessons.  Education Update, 53(10).

Ur, P. (1996).  A course in language teaching. Cambridge University Press.

Dominant Ideologies and Marginalization: An EFL Teacher’s Critical Reflection

Mr. Rajan Kumar Kandel

Abstract

This article on ‘Dominant Ideologies and Marginalization in EFL Context’ is my reflective understanding and interpretation of dominant ideologies and marginalization. It is an auto-ethnographic reflection based on my experiences as a student, as a teacher, and as a teacher educator. Through this article, the teachers have been suggested for thinking of alternative ways of encouraging the less privileged, marginalized, and disadvantaged students in the classroom practices. Further, it reveals these hidden issues in education and encourages the Nepalese EFL instructors and stakeholders to utilize basic tenants for managing the issues of equality, equity, and inclusion in the EFL classroom.

Introduction

Dominant ideologies are shared by the majority of people in a particular society. Such ideologies reflect not only the way of living, governing, and being governed but the teaching and learning procedures also. They are the beliefs, values, norms, traditions, and practices of human beings. Privileging to certain groups and marginalizing others are explicitly or implicitly practiced when the dominant ideologies are being followed in the classroom. This article mainly deals with how such dominant ideologies of the society contribute to further marginalizing the learners from marginalized and disadvantaged sections of the community in the educational contexts.

English Language Teacher Education

In the present world portrayed by the complexity of ideologies, the teaching of English as a foreign language cannot stay aloof from the prevailing ideologies of the society. At any rate, these overwhelming social belief systems reflect standard culture against the culture of the underprivileged and exclude them from exercising privilege and power. In this regard, language teachers should appear as the role model of social change and transformation bringing up the students’ critical consciousness during language teaching to pull them inside the mainstream of social practice through classroom participation (Freire, 2005).

Teaching practices, at present, have been transformed as per the shifting epistemologies in teacher education. It has at least been transformed to the interpretive sociocultural epistemological perspective from the long-practiced positivist epistemological perspective which “…argues that higher-level human cognition in the individual has its origins in social life”(Johnson, 2009a, p. 1).  In other words, human cognition is reflected by their context and their societies rather than the content alone. So, a language teacher should be aware of the disciplinary content knowledge, pedagogic content knowledge, and the institutional form of delivery, i.e., how to learn to teach.  Language is taken both as a psychological tool and cultural tool in the sociocultural perspective of language education. In L2 teacher education it “is not only a process of enculturation into the existing social practices associated with teaching and learning but also a dynamic process of reconstructing and transforming those practices to be responsive to both individual and local needs” (Johnson, 2009a, p. 13). It advocates that the needs and the contexts of the learners should also be addressed in L2 education.

The scope of English language teacher education has been expanded “in a broader sense to include not only what happened in instructed teacher-training environments, but also the wider influences of socialization evident in individual development” (Freeman, 2009, p. 15). The teachers should be wide open to enhance the learners’ all-round development through different actions and activities to promote their social and intellectual intelligence. The scope has been widened to how to teach, what to teach, when to teach,  what should be the principle of selection and gradation of the teaching contents from the conventional what to teach and how to teach of teacher education.

Trends in English language teacher education have also been changed. By now, second language teacher educators have acknowledged that the uncompromising guidelines of “…acting and interacting and the values, assumptions, and attitudes that are embedded in the classrooms where teachers were once students …shape the complex ways in which teachers think about themselves, their students, …and the teaching-learning process.” (Johnson, 2009b, p. 20). The traditional concept of using the methodologies developed by others in practice by the teachers has been changed advocating the methodologies developed from and for the teachers in their particular contexts.

The current trends of teacher education also include critical language teacher education because migration has been a global phenomenon these days. This  “global migration makes classrooms increasingly diverse, … lack of school success for students of colour, those who live in poverty, immigrants and refugees, and minority-language speakers” (Hawkins & Norton, 2009, p. 30). Such marginalized students are denied equal access that would support their learning. Their problems are taken as their deficiencies. Critical pedagogy builds critical awareness on the part of the learners encouraging them to challenge the oppressive conditions and advocates for social and political change. Critical language teacher education, in a nutshell, enhances opportunities for language learners “to contribute to the shaping of a social world in which all people, regardless of language, ethnicity, colour, or class, have equal voices, access, and possibilities” (Hawkins & Norton, 2009, p. 37). It helps us to obtain the pedagogical goals through the means of transformative learning pedagogy (Pandey, 2019) inducing inclusion in classroom dynamics.  

Social-cultural perspectives of teacher education reject the chauvinistic stereotypes of a certain class, religion, society, or country. It trusts that “language, ethnicity, and identity are integral to learning” (Franson & Holliday, 2009, p. 42). It emphasizes that the researches carried out in the inner circle of English alone cannot be generalized elsewhere. Rather, language teacher education should be enforced by decentralized researches in periphery countries encouraging the field practitioners to bring life-changing instances of motivation and participation of the students “in ways that are unpredictable”(Watts, 2015, p. 371) in the active socialization process.

My Auto-ethnographic Reflection

On this background, I would like to mention the context, which I came across, during my learning and teaching career. I came from a culture that was established on social partiality and isolation in terms of gender, socio-economic, ethnic, and other social divisions. I was born and raised in a low middle-class and half-literate family among a half-dozen siblings. I earned my basic education in my village school with classmates from Thakuri, Chhetri, Tamang, Magar, Gurung, and Dalit families. Many of my classmates were male with only a few female friends. Even from my household I and my brother only were sent to school but none among my three elder sisters. Only a few daughters were sent to school at that time. The reason, among many others, might be the low socio-economic and educational status of the family, including the practice of the then traditional Nepalese societies following Hindu religion that categorized women “one rung lower than men; thus excluding and marginalizing … in society in general” (Laksamba, 2005, p. 29). To educate daughter at that time was taken as watering others’ tree and facing the trouble and expense of nurturing the plant whose fruits are to be taken by somebody else (aarkaka gharama jane jaat). Such primitive reasoning prevailed even with the literate families as well. This interpretation is still in practice in many of the societies throughout the country.  Patriarchal interpretations like that had led the women to speak less, be silent and assertive, and follow the tradition imposed upon them. In this regard, Pakzadian and Tootkaboni (2018, p. 1), revealed that “women show greater acceptance in conversation and due to this feature they try to have a more facilitative role in the conversation, and men try to maintain dominance over the topic by showing more assertive mode during stages of topic development and maintenance”. Pakzadian and Tootkaboni further discovered that “the male speakers interrupted women to take control of the conversation and impose their power on female speakers. The male speakers tried to shift the topic to a more comfortable and less risky one at some very important seconds of conversation when the woman tried to talk about women’s capabilities and potentials” (Pakzadian & Tootkaboni, 2018, p. 14). In many cases, girls cannot take part in instruction and scholarly exercises as much as their male counterparts because of the diverse household duties they have to perform. Largely, we see relatively less participation on the part of female students in EFL classes. This can be justified from a study among the undergraduate students of a university in Nepal where “male students reported using LLS [language learning strategies] more frequently than female students” (Dawadi, 2017, p. 42) and the pass rate of Secondary Education Examination or School Level Certificate examination “being much lower for girls than boys, particularly in core subjects like English” (Upadhaya & Sah, 2019, p. 108).

After the completion of my primary education, I had to choose another school that was far away from my home. It took me around two-hour to the school where I faced the torture and bullying of the classmates of the nearby communities. Especially, the Thakuri friends beat, scolded, and tortured a lot; even forced me to bump the classes on the days the elder mates from my community remained absent in the school. I remained one of the backbenchers for two years because of these reasons as one of the marginalized students. I was excluded from the class based on my social class and race to maintain their dominant hegemonic power structure (Chhety, 2012).

I also faced the caste hierarchy system imposed and indoctrinated along with a list of Dos and Don’ts. We had to respect the Purohits and Pundits. The lower caste people were not allowed to enter the houses of upper-caste families because they were considered as untouchable. Tailors to sew our new clothes and repair our ragged garments and the blacksmith to mend and sharpen our farming tools used to remain our balighare (people who work for the whole year and receive a little grain during harvesting). Even if they were senior in age, they used to respect everyone, including the children like me. I could not comprehend why they talked that politely even when we (so-called Bistas) used to seem rude to them. I was prescribed not to eat anything in their home and even not to get touched by them. When they came to our home, they were offered something to eat outside the kitchen room. The plates to offer food and the mug to offer water to them were made up of aluminum and reserved separately while we used steel utensils including the brass. They cleaned the pots themselves and kept them upside down exposed to the sun to be taken back when they were dried after being purified by the drops of gold immersed in purified water (Sunpani). When I asked about the purpose behind such practice, I would find the reply that they were Dalits, the untouchable. I was not happy with their answer but I could not do anything. Many teachers may have gone through parallel “real difficulties and internal conflicts” (Hanauer, 2015, p. 105) like those I faced in my life.

The schools did not teach us these discrepancies of society. Such poor schools “are not simply reproducing race and class inequities. Far worse, they educate poor and working-class youth away from academic mastery and democracy, toward academic ignorance and civic alienation” (Chhety, 2012, p. 5). Against this, I still ask questions like: Why this? Who made the position? Aren’t we human beings? Aren’t we as a whole made similarly? For what reason was the general public separated into the high and low caste? For what reason are individuals treated unexpectedly? Surely, I turned into somewhat basic to our social circumstances and raised voices against such separation as I grew up.  This experience of mine displays how miserable the condition of the students coming from such marginalized communities could be. The prevailing society was dominated by the culture of the favored and advantaged group like Thakuris, Brahmins, and Chhetris who isolated the underprivileged and underestimated minorities and interpellated them as untouchables, women, and ethnic minorities which prompted their seclusion from the mainstream of the society.

The instances mentioned above show how the dominant ideologies suppress the disadvantaged and the marginalized groups. The suppression does not end here, even the teachers reflect the ideological biases despite their claim of being even-handed in the classroom. We can observe it  “by analyzing teachers’ stated beliefs and their interactions while teaching, it is possible to gain a fuller understanding of the complex inter-relationship between what teachers say they do and believe and how they interact with students” (Li & Walsh, 2011, p. 2). I, as a student, experienced it and as a teacher, may have displayed such ideologically influenced behavior although I claim I do not let such partiality occur in my teaching while working with the students as a teacher educator. However, I agree that “the conventional ‘gap’ between theory and practice could be narrowed down, if not totally eradicated, by making use of reflective practice” (Naci Kayaoğlu, Erbay, & Sağlamel, 2016, p. 178) leading to the positive and inclusive learning of the students along with continuous professional development of the teachers.

Concluding Remarks

Ideological oppression, unfairness, and isolation are verifiably built practices that have been reflected in Nepalese education for ages. Teachers have to dismantle such traditional and partial ideological practices to ensures equal rights and equal participation among the members of diverse groups. It also encourages the marginalized and disadvantaged in the classroom leading teachers “to challenge some deeply embedded assumptions about teaching and learning to revitalize our own professional judgments and practices” (Pandey, 2018, p. ix). In such a changed setting, studies in the field of ideologies and their implication in the exclusion of the minorities in the classroom have stood essential. In this regard, this article disentangles the ideologies of our society and classroom practice based on a partial (dominant) belief system.

Our induced ideological frameworks in classroom practices are greatly discussed issues. They are yet to explore through the critical, sociocultural, and post-method perspectives. Against dominant ideologies, othering self, and marginalization, this exploration establishes a foundation in setting another discourse of classroom interaction and understanding of classroom participation and student motivation. This article also adds for intensifying shared approval, teamwork, apprehension, and faith for generating a socially unbiassed world (Pandey, 2018) by reflecting the transformed worldviews of Nepalese societies in classroom interaction.

About the author

Rajan Kumar Kandel is Lecturer of English Education at Tribhuvan University, Surkhet Campus (Education) where he lectures Research Methodology for Language Education, English Language Teaching Methods, and Linguistics to graduate and post-graduate students. More than a dozen of articles have been published to his credit in different journals. He has also edited journals and reviewed journal articles, and facilitated different training sessions in English language teaching, academic writing, and research writings. He is interested in ICT and e-research, teacher professional development, and research-specific practices. He is a life member of NELTA and chairperson of NELTA, Surkkhet at present.

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