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Beliefs, Assumptions, Knowledge (BAK) Research in Teaching

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2.1 Belief Research

In the mid-1970s a new body of research began to emerge that worked to describe teachers' thoughts, judgments and decisions as the cognitive processes that shaped their behaviors (Calderhead, 1996, Clark and Peterson, 1986; Dann, 1990). As a consequence of this, a surge of interest in the area of teacher belief systems has appeared (Pajares, 1992). This research “has helped to identify the nature and complexity of the teacher's work , and helped to provide ways of thinking about the processes of change and support” (Calderhead, 1996, p.721). Researchers found that teaching could not be characterized simply as behaviors that were linked to thinking done before and during the activity but rather that the thought process of teaching included a much wider and richer mental context. As Shavelson and Stern (1981, p.479) explained, research on teacher cognition made “the basic assumption that teachers' thoughts, judgments, and decisions guide their teaching behavior”.

Kagan (1990, p. 420) noted that teacher cognition is somewhat ambiguous, because researchers invoke the term to refer to different products, including “teachers' interactive thoughts during instruction; thought during lesson planning, implicit beliefs about students, classrooms and learning; reflections about their own teaching performance; automized routines and activities that form their instructional repertoire; and self-awareness of procedures they use to solve classrooms problems”.

Currently, there is increasing recognition that the beliefs individuals hold are the best indicators of the decisions they make during the course of everyday life (Bandura, 1986). Pajares (1992, p. 307) argues that the investigation of teachers' beliefs "should be a focus of educational research and can inform educational practice in ways that prevailing research agendas have not and cannot". Educational researchers trying to understand the nature of teaching and learning in classrooms have usefully exploited this focus on belief systems. The research of Jakubowski and Tobin (1991) suggests that teachers' metaphors and beliefs not only influence what teachers do in the classroom, but that changes in these same metaphors and beliefs can result in changes in their practices.

A belief can be defined as a representation of the information someone holds about an object, or a “person's understanding of himself and his environment” (Fishbein and Ajzen, 1975, p.131). This object can “be a person, a group of people, an institution, a behavior, a policy, an event, etc., and the associated attribute may be any object, trait, property, quality, characteristic, outcome, or event” (Fishbein and Ajzen, 1975, p.12). While Rokeach (1972) defined a belief as “any simple proposition, conscious or unconscious, inferred from what a person says or does, capable of being preceded by the phrase ‘I believe that...'” (p.113), Fishbein and Ajzen (1975) defined a belief system as a hierarchy of beliefs according to the strength about a particular object.

Researchers exploring teachers' beliefs at the primary and secondary levels have used a number of definitions: “the highly personal ways in which a teacher understands classrooms, students, the nature of learning, the teacher's role in the classroom, and the goals of education” (Kagan, 1990, p. 423); “psychologically held understandings, premises or propositions about the world that are felt to be true” (Richardson, 1996, p.103); and “generally refer to suppositions, commitments and ideologies” (Calderhead, 1996, p.715).

Beliefs play an important role in many aspects of teaching as well as in life. They are involved in helping individuals make sense of the world, influencing how new information is perceived, and whether it is accepted or rejected. Teachers' beliefs are a term usually used to refer to pedagogic beliefs or those beliefs of relevance to an individual's teaching (Borg 2001b). Teacher beliefs have been identified by Kagan (1992a) as tacit, often unconsciously held assumptions about students, about classrooms, and the academic material to be taught.

The literature on teacher knowledge and beliefs from the primary and secondary levels has developed a number of terminological differences. Kagan (1990, p.456) highlighted this problem by noting: “Terms such as teacher cognition, self-reflection, knowledge and belief can be used to refer to different phenomena. Variation in the definition of a term can range from the superficial and idiosyncratic to the profound and theoretical”. The use of these varying terms makes it difficult to investigate in this area of teacher cognition. Pajares (1992) addressed this difficulty:

Defining beliefs is at best a game of player's choice. They travel in disguise and often under alias-attitudes, values judgments, axioms, opinions, ideology, perceptions, conceptual systems, preconceptions, dispositions, implicit theories, explicit theories, personal theories, internal mental processes, action strategies, rules of practice, practical principals, perspectives, repertories of understanding, and social strategy, to name but a few that can be found in the literature. (p.309)

Defining beliefs is not a very easy task. There is a “bewildering array of terms” as Clandinin and Connelly (1987, p. 487) put forward including teachers' teaching criteria, principles of practice, personal construct/theories/epistemologies, beliefs, perspectives, teachers' conceptions, personal knowledge, and practical knowledge.

2.1.1 Belief Research in English Language Teaching

The concept of belief, which has been a common feature of research papers in education for the past decade, has recently come into favor in ELT. In the field, various terms have been used to refer to the term ‘belief': pedagogical thoughts (Shavelson and Stern 1981), perspective (Zeichner, Tabachnick, & Densmore, 1987), theoretical orientation (Kinzer, 1988), image (Calderhead, 1996), theoretical belief (Kinzer, 1988; Johnson, 1992; Smith 1996).

Terms used in language teacher cognition research include theories for practice (Burns, 1996) which refer to the thinking and beliefs which are brought to bear on classroom processes; philosophical orientation and personal pedagogical system (Borg, 1998) which corresponds with stores of beliefs, knowledge, theories, assumptions and attitudes which shape teachers' instructional decisions; maxims (Richards, 1996) to comprise personal working principles which reflect teachers' individual philosophies of teaching; images (Johnson, 1994) which means general metaphors for thinking about teaching that represent beliefs about teaching and also act as models of action; conceptions of practice (Freeman, 1993) to cover ideas and actions teachers use to organize what they know and to map out what is possible; BAK (Woods, 1996) which includes the concepts beliefs, assumptions, and knowledge, In all those studies the core term on which there is focus is “belief”.

Despite the popularity of the term, there is no consensus on meaning yet. The definition set forth by Rokeach (1968) claims that a belief is any simple proposition, conscious or unconscious, inferred from what a person says or does and knowledge is a component of belief. Rokeach uses the term ‘attitude' to refer to the beliefs teachers have about constructs.

Richards and Lockhart (1996, p.30) state that “teachers' beliefs systems are founded on the goals and values that teachers hold in relation to the content and process of teaching, and their understanding of the systems in which they work and their roles within it”. These beliefs and values serve as the background to much of teachers' decision making action and hence constitute what has been termed the “culture of teaching”. Richards and Lockhart (1996) summarize those teachers' beliefs systems, which are derived from a number of different sources. They are,

a) their own experience as language learners,

b) their experience of what works best for their learners,

c) established practice,

d) personality factors,

e) educational based or research-based principles,

f) principles derived from an approach or method (pp.30-31).

Borg (2001b) discusses three aspects of the term belief:

  1. The truth element-drawing on research in the philosophy of knowledge, a belief is a mental state which has as its content a proposition that is accepted as true by the individual holding it, although the individual may recognize that alternative beliefs may be held by others. This is one of the key differences between belief and knowledge must actually be true in some external sense.
  2. The relationship between belief and behavior - most definitions of belief propose that beliefs dispose or guide people's thinking and action.
  3. Conscious versus unconscious beliefs - on this point there is disagreement, with some maintaining that consciousness is inherent in the definition of belief, and others allowing for an individual to be conscious of some beliefs and unconscious of others.

The field of language teaching has been one of tradition and transition since its beginning hundreds, indeed, by some accounts, thousands of years ago (Kelly, 1969; Howatt, 1984; Richards and Rodgers, 1986). Even though a much newer pursuit than the teaching of languages such as Greek and Latin or Chinese, the teaching of the English language has already been through many transitions in methodology. What are now considered traditional methods were once the innovations of their time, characterized by the attitudes and values of their creators, who recommended that other educators abandon one method and choose another, with unquestioning optimism, as though this latter method were the solution to their classroom concerns (Clarke, 1982).

In the past 50 years alone, English language teaching has gone through a whirlwind of transitions in its methodology, from grammar translation to direct method, to audiolingualism, to cognitive code, and a host of variations in each. In recent years, the most substantive transition in English language teaching has taken place through a collection of practices, materials, and beliefs about teaching and learning that are known by many different names, e.g. communicative methodology, communicative language teaching, and the communicative approach (Richards and Rodgers, 1986). Contemporarily, English teaching methodology is going through yet another transition. This transition, frequently referred to as the `post method' condition (Kumaravadivelu, 2001),

Research in the area of teacher thinking has grown rapidly particularly since the 1980s, with the consequence that the literature is vast and is often focused on very specific aspects of teaching. Nevertheless, the research concerned with teachers' implicit theories of teaching and learning, particularly concerned with epistemological and pedagogical beliefs is of considerable relevance to research in language teaching (Kagan, 1992a; Pajares 1992). The reasons are: first, educational beliefs have shown to influence teaching practice (Kagan 1992a) and learning outcomes. Second, methods used to investigate relationship between beliefs and/or conceptions and teaching practice and the ways of analyzing data, are of interest.

By the mid 1980s, a rising view of teaching began to highlight the complex ways in which teachers think about their work as being shaped by their prior experiences as students, their ‘personal practical knowledge' (Golombek, 1998). More recently the notion of work context has been recognized as central in shaping teachers' “conceptions of their practices” (Freeman, 1993).

Language teaching is defined as a dynamic process, which arises out of the meeting and interaction of different sets of principles: different rationalities. In this sense, a rationality is the inner logic which shapes the way in which participants perceive a situation and the goals which they will pursue in this situation (Tudor, 1998). Tudor proposes that to understand language teaching, a first step is to explore the different rationalities which are present in each situation in order to discover the reality the participants involved in. There are four different types of rationalities: those of the students and teachers, socio-cultural rationalities and then the rationality of methodology.

While describing teacher rationalities, Tudor (1998) argues that research into subjective needs has led us to appreciate the uniqueness of each learner's interaction with their language study. More recently something similar about the teachers has been realized. They, too will perceive and interact with methodology they are implementing in the light of their personality, attitudes, and life experience and the set of perceptions and goals which these give rise to. For this reason there is a need to listen to the teachers' voices in understanding classroom practice. There is a need to understand teachers' perceptions and the way in which these perceptions influence teachers' classroom behaviors.
The maxims (Richards, 1996) or the pedagogic principles (Breen et al.2001) teachers use are important in understanding their pedagogical actions. The reality of classroom teaching is how the teachers interpret official curricula or the recommended materials. Teachers are not skilled technicians who dutifully realize a given set of teaching procedures in accordance with the directives of a more or less distant authority. They are active participants in the creation of classroom realities and they do this on the basis of their own attitudes and beliefs, and their personal perceptions of interaction with their teaching situation.

All teachers hold beliefs about their work, their students, their subject matter, and their roles and responsibilities. They are individuals with their personal perceptions and goals, which go to shape the rationality which will guide their actions in the classroom and their interaction with the context in which they are operating (Tudor, 1998, p. 324).

A major goal of research on teachers' thought processes is to increase our understanding of how teachers think and behave in the classroom. The drive for this area of research comes from the assumption that what teachers do is a reflection of what they know and believe, and that teacher knowledge and teacher thinking provide the underlying framework or schema which guides teacher's classroom practices (Sutcliffe and Whitfield 1976, Westerman 1991, Flowerdew, Brock & Hsia 1992, Kagan 1992a, Richards and Lockhart 1994, Bailey 1996, Woods 1998, Borg 1998, Richards 1998). Therefore, in order to understand teaching, we must understand how thoughts get carried into actions (Clark and Yinger 1977, Shavelson and Stern 1981, Clark and Peterson 1986, Johnson 1992, Nunan 1992).

Pajares (1992) reviewed research on teacher beliefs and argued that ‘‘teachers' beliefs can and should become an important focus of educational inquiry'' (p. 307). He then sketched numerous facets of beliefs and acknowledged that a variety of conceptions of educational beliefs appear in the literature. Citing Nespor's (1987) influential work, he suggested that ‘‘beliefs are far more influential than knowledge in determining how individuals organize and define tasks and problems and are stronger predictors of behavior'' (p. 311). Studies on teacher beliefs have slowly gained prominence, especially with regard to teacher change issues.

Guskey (1986), for example, examined 52 teachers who participated in teacher development programs and concluded that change in teachers' beliefs ‘‘is likely to take place only after changes in student learning outcomes are evidenced'' (p. 7). In contrast, Richardson, Anders, Tidwell, and Lloyd (1991) found that change in beliefs preceded change in practices. The current view is that relationships between beliefs and practices are interactive and ongoing (Fullan, 1991; Richardson, 1996). Richardson (1996) even states that ‘‘In most current conceptions, the perceived relationship between beliefs and actions is interactive. Beliefs are thought to drive actions; however, experiences and reflection on action may lead to changes in and/or additions to beliefs'' (p. 104).

Pajares (1992) promoted 16 ‘‘fundamental assumptions that may reasonably be made when initiating a study of teacher's education beliefs'' (1992, p. 324). These assumptions include among others, the notions that (a) beliefs are formed early and tend to self perpetuate, persevering even against contradictions caused by reason, time, schooling, or experience; (b) individuals develop a belief system that houses all the beliefs acquired through the process of cultural transmission; (c) beliefs are instrumental in defining tasks and selecting the cognitive tools with which to interpret, plan, and make decisions regarding such tasks; (d) individuals' beliefs strongly affect their behavior; and (e) knowledge and beliefs are inextricably intertwined (for complete discussion of all 16 assumptions, see Pajares, 1992, pp. 324-326).

2.2 Teacher Knowledge Research

Meanwhile doubts arose also from the scientific community about a conception of professionalism that asked professionals (such as teachers) to just apply the theories and insights provided by others. Schön (1983, 1987) analyzed the work of various groups of professionals and concluded that they applied a certain amount of theoretical knowledge in their work, but that their behavior was not at all ‘‘rule governed' and that they had no straightforward way to determine which behavior was adequate in specific circumstances. Schön contrasted this principle of ‘‘technical rationality'' to the principle of ‘‘reflection-in-action'', which pertained to the thinking of the professional during professional activity and implied a continuing dialogue with the permanently changing situation. This situation does not present itself as a well-defined problem situation. On the contrary, defining the problem is itself one of the most difficult tasks of the professional.

This recognition of the centrality of the teacher and the teacher's knowledge and beliefs regarding each educational process, including educational innovations, is relatively recent (Calderhead, 1996). Birman, Desimone, Porter, & Garet (2000), for example, searched for key features of effective professional development and, based on their research, reported that professional development should focus on deepening teacher knowledge in order to foster teacher learning and changes in practice. Similarly, Hawley and Valli (1999) considered the expansion and elaboration of teachers' professional knowledge base as essential for their professional development.

In the literature about teacher knowledge, various labels have been used, each indicating a relevant aspect of teacher knowledge. The labels illustrate mainly which aspect is considered the most important by the respective authors. Together, these labels give an overview of the way in which teacher knowledge has been studied to date. The most commonly used labels are ‘‘personal knowledge'' (Conelly and Clandinin, 1985; Elbaz, 1991), indicating that this knowledge is unique; ‘‘the wisdom of practice'' (Schwab, 1971), and in more recent publications, ‘‘professional craft knowledge'' (e.g., Brown and McIntyre, 1993; Shimahara, 1998), referring to a specific component of knowledge that is mainly the product of the teacher's practical experience; ‘‘action oriented knowledge'', indicating that this knowledge is for immediate use in teaching practice (Carter, 1990); ‘‘content and context related knowledge'' (Cochran, DeRuiter, & King, 1993; Van Driel, Verloop, & De Vos, 1998); knowledge that is to a great extent ‘tacit' (Calderhead and Robson, 1991); and knowledge that is based on reflection on experiences (Grimmet and MacKinnon, 1992).

It is important to realize that in the label ‘teacher knowledge', the concept ‘knowledge' is used as an overarching, inclusive concept, summarizing a large variety of cognitions, from conscious and well-balanced opinions to unconscious and unreflected intuitions. This is related to the fact that, in the mind of the teacher, components of knowledge, beliefs, conceptions, and intuitions are inextricably intertwined. As Alexander, Schallert, and Hare (1991) noted, the term ‘knowledge' is mostly used to encompass ‘‘all that a person knows or believes to be true, whether or not it is verified as true in some sort of objective or external way'' (p. 317). This is particularly relevant with respect to research on teacher knowledge. In investigating teacher knowledge, the main focus of attention is on the complex totality of cognitions, the ways this develops, and the way this interacts with teacher behavior in the classroom.

Following Pajares (1992), knowledge and beliefs are seen as inseparable, although beliefs are seen roughly as referring to personal values, attitudes, and ideologies, and knowledge to a teacher's more factual propositions (Meijer, Verloop, & Beijaard, 2001).

2.2.1 Teachers' Knowledge and Beliefs About Teaching

In his extensive review of the literature, Calderhead (1996) found that many different kinds of knowledge have been described as underpinning effective teaching. The main forms are those related to the subject being taught, to teaching methods, and to the ways in which students develop and learn. The extent to which teachers have conscious access to this knowledge is, however, far from clear. Some researchers argue that much of this knowledge is implicit or tacit, derived from experience rather than from any conceptual framework.

The research concerned with teachers' implicit theories of teaching and learning, particularly work concerned with epistemological and pedagogical beliefs, which reflect their experiences, is of considerable relevance to research in language teaching (Kagan, 1992a; Pajares 1992). First, educational beliefs have shown to influence teaching practice (Kagan 1992a) and learning outcomes. Second, methods used to investigate relationship between beliefs and/or conceptions and teaching practice and the ways of analyzing data, are of interest.

Pajares (1992) attempts to clarify the confusion with the distinction between knowledge and belief. However, as many researchers have found, it is not so much that knowledge differs from beliefs, but that beliefs themselves constitute a form of knowledge. In his attempts to characterize beliefs, Nespor (1987) provides some distinctions between beliefs and knowledge. He singles out four features of the construct previously identified by Abelson (1979) and considers them in relation to teachers:

Existential presumptions or personal truths are generally unaffected by persuasion and are perceived by the teacher as being beyond his/her control or influence.
Alternativity is a feature of beliefs that would include situations such as when teachers attempt to establish an instructional format of which they have no direct experience but which they might consider ideal.
Belief systems can be said to rely much more heavily on affective and evaluative components than knowledge systems. Teachers' values and feelings often affect what and how they teach and may conflict with their knowledge.
Belief systems are composed mainly of episodically stored material which is derived from personal experience, episodes or events which continue to influence the comprehension of events at a later time. Whereas beliefs reside in episodic memory, knowledge is semantically stored.

A further distinction between beliefs and knowledge, notes Nespor (1987, p.313), is that, while knowledge often changes, beliefs are "static". As well, whereas knowledge can be evaluated or judged, such is not the case with beliefs as there is usually a lack of consensus about how they are to be evaluated. Furthermore, there do not appear to be any clear rules for determining the relevance of beliefs to real world events. While there is no doubt other distinctions can be made between the two constructs, a better understanding may be gained by exploring the relationship between the two and by considering beliefs as a form of knowledge. This form of knowledge could be referred to as personal knowledge.

Kagan (1992a) refers to beliefs as a "particularly provocative form of personal knowledge" and argues that most of a teacher's professional knowledge can be regarded more accurately as belief. According to Kagan, this knowledge grows richer and more coherent as a teacher's experience in classrooms grows and thus forms a highly personalized pedagogy or belief system that actually constrains the teacher's perception, judgment, and behavior. In terms of beliefs being personal knowledge, Kagan explains: "A teacher's knowledge of his or her profession is situated in three important ways: in context (it is related to specific groups of students), in content (it is related to particular academic material to be taught), and in person (it is embedded within the teacher's unique belief system)" (p.74). Like Clark (1988) who equates ‘implicit theories' with beliefs, Nespor (1987) explains how beliefs become personal pedagogies or theories to guide teachers' practices:

Teachers' beliefs play a major role in defining teaching tasks and organizing the knowledge and information relevant to those tasks. But why should this be so? Why wouldn't research-based knowledge or academic theory serve this purpose just as well? The answer suggested here is that the contexts and environments within which teachers work, and many of the problems they encounter, are ill-defined and deeply entangled, and that beliefs are peculiarly suited for making sense of such contexts. (p.324)

Munby (1982) also equates implicit theories with teachers' beliefs. Clark and Peterson (1986) in their review of the literature on teachers' thought processes, argue that teachers' theories and beliefs represent a rich store of knowledge. Teachers make sense of their complex world and respond to it by forming a complex system of personal and professional knowledge and theories which, as Kagan (1992a) describes, are often tacit and unconsciously held assumptions about students, classrooms and the material to be taught.

2.2.1.1 Beliefs, Assumptions, Knowledge

Throughout this study the term BAK is used as an inclusive term to refer to beliefs, assumptions, and knowledge. Therefore, the following section describes the rationale behind using this term. In the discussion so far, approaches which divide aspects of teacher cognition were examined in separate categories. A more recent strand of research, however, challenges the categorical distinctions outlined above.

Woods (1996) suggests that these dichotomies do not accurately reflect the relationship between Teachers' beliefs, assumptions and knowledge and their practices in the classroom. In order to take appropriate action, people need to understand; and to understand they need knowledge about the world and specifically about the situation they are in (Woods, 1996, p. 59). Woods (1996) develops a multidimensional cycle of planning and decision making within teaching. He describes three phases of assessment, planning and implementation which operate recursively to inform different hierarchical levels of the teaching process going from the most local level of discrete events in the lesson plan to the most global level of whole course planning (p. 139).

Woods's analysis of interview data suggests that knowledge structures and belief systems ‘‘are not composed of independent elements, but [are] rather structured, with certain aspects implying or presupposing others'' (p. 200). Woods proposes a model to signify the evolving system of beliefs, assumptions and knowledge (BAK) that recursively informs or is informed by the context of teaching: the BAK was part of the perceiving and organizing of the decisions. Woods has demonstrated that language teachers create and maintain background networks of beliefs, assumptions and knowledge which constitute a valid theory of teaching and learning. These background theoretical networks are grounded in every level of routine classroom practice in much the same way that educational theory is grounded in the systematic collection of empirical data. This construct (BAK) is supported by MacDonaldo, Badger and White (2001). They also suggest that while there is some support for a categorical distinction between theory and practice in language education, it is suggested that the beliefs, assumptions and knowledge of teachers are in fact inextricably bound up with what goes on in the classroom.

2.3 Research on the Relationship between Teachers' Beliefs, Instructional decisions, and Practices

Beliefs are manifested in teaching practices because teachers' instruction tends to reflect their beliefs. Pajares (1992) and Richardson (1996) investigated the relationship between teachers' beliefs and their teaching practices, concluding that teachers' beliefs were reflected in their actions, decisions and classroom practices. Kagan (1992a) also supported Pajares and Richardson's claim that teachers' beliefs served as a vital role in influencing the nature of the instruction.

In her study, Johnson (1992) examined the relationship between ESL teachers' defined, theoretical beliefs about second language learning as well as teaching and instructional practices during literacy instruction for non-native speakers of English. Three tasks, such as an ideal instructional protocol, a lesson plan analysis, and a beliefs inventory were used to determine how much ESL teachers' beliefs were reflected in skill-based, rule-based, and function-based orientations. The findings in Johnson's study showed that ESL teachers' defined beliefs were congruent with their theoretical orientations, and teachers with different theoretical orientations gave quite different instruction for ESL students. Therefore, her study concluded that overall, teachers had different teaching approaches, selections of teaching materials, and images of teachers and students according to their beliefs about learning and teaching. For example, a teacher whose dominant theoretical orientation was function-based focused generally on comprehending the main idea, following a pattern of pre-reading as well as post-reading questions, and discussion as usual reading activities in her instruction.

In addition, Smith's (1996) study explored the relationship between nine experienced ESL teachers' beliefs and their decision-making in classroom practices. The result of her study showed that teachers' articulated theoretical beliefs were consistent with their instructional planning and decisions. For example, those teachers who believed in communication of meaning as a primary goal in learning a language designed and implemented tasks which promoted student-interaction and meaningful communication, such as small-group or pair activities.

Golombek (1998) examined how two in-service ESL teachers' personal practical knowledge informed their practice through a description of a tension each teacher faced in the classroom. The teachers' personal practical knowledge informed their practice by serving as a kind of interpretive framework through which they made sense of their classrooms as they recounted their experiences and made this knowledge explicit. The results of this study suggested that L2 teacher educators should recognize that L2 teachers' personal practical knowledge is embodied in individuals. For this reason, personal practical knowledge is important to acknowledge in L2 teacher education practice and research.

Similarly, in his article Borg (2001a) presents two cases which illustrate the extent to which teachers' perceptions of their knowledge about grammar emerged as one of the factors which influences teachers' instructional decisions in teaching grammar. The two case studies suggested clearly that teachers' self-perceptions of their knowledge about grammar had an impact on their work. Two conclusions emerging from this study are the necessity of further research into perceptions of teachers about their knowledge about grammar and the effects of these perceptions on their work, and the need to develop strategies, which enable teachers to become aware of their knowledge about grammar.

Another study by Borg (1998) was conducted on a single teacher known for his reputation as a professionally committed L2 teacher in an English language institute in Malta. A major finding of this study is the implication that ‘initial training of the particular teacher in the study had a powerful effect on his personal beliefs which in turn had an immediate and lasting impact on his practice'. The teacher's experience introduced him to communicative methodology and fostered his beliefs in student-centeredness.

Two studies carried out by Woods (1990, 1991) have similar results. In 1990, Woods conducted two case studies on teachers' beliefs and interactive decisions. The first finding of the study was that a complex process of decision-making was involved in the instructional practices observed. In other words, the decisions were based on a variety of factors depending on the dynamic interactions between individuals. Woods also examined the nature of these decisions and found that there were two different kinds of decisions, which were related to each other sequentially and hierarchically. The second finding of the study was about how teachers approached decision making. When their decisions were analyzed in context taking into consideration the beliefs underlying these decisions, it was seen that the two teachers differed dramatically in terms of their beliefs about learning and teaching the language. One of them had a very global perspective, always starting with the situational factors and moving on to language in broader terms. The other teacher on the other hand, had a much more linear perspective, isolating the language from its context in order to master its formal aspects. This meant that the two very different views teachers had about teaching and learning resulted in different instructional practices. Moreover, the teachers' instructional practices were consistent with their beliefs.

Another study by Woods (1991) focused on two teachers who were observed through an entire course. The aim of the study was to depict whether the teachers' decisions in carrying out their classroom instructions were consistent with their underlying assumptions and beliefs about language and teaching. It was seen that the difference between the two teachers in terms of their attitudes and beliefs towards the curriculum resulted in different instructional decisions. Hence, a major finding of the study was that for each teacher, the decisions made in carrying out the classroom instructions were consistent with their underlying assumptions and beliefs about language and teaching.

Like studies done by Woods (1990 and 1991), the findings of a study conducted by Johnson (1992) indicate that teachers' classroom instruction is consistent with their beliefs about teaching and learning. After an analysis of the sample of teachers she studied, she identified three methodological perspectives following the classification in Johnson's study (1992): a skill-based approach, which separates language into four language skills, a rule-based approach, which views language learning as a mastery of grammar-rules and a function based approach, which sees language as the means of communication in authentic contexts. The majority of the teachers held dominant beliefs that reflected one of the three approaches. In the second part of the study, Johnson observed three teachers who had different approaches to teaching and learning in order to identify the relationship between their beliefs and their classroom instruction. The results of the study showed that ESL teachers taught in accordance with their theoretical beliefs.

Similar results were reported by Burns (1996) who, in her study, focused on the nature of thinking and beliefs of six experienced teachers. The findings of the study indicated “the teachers' thinking cohered around interconnecting, and interacting “contextual' levels” (p.157). In other words teachers' beliefs emerged from factors that affected each other and shaped one another and these beliefs were reflected in and influenced their instructional practices.

The findings of these studies indicate that teachers' classroom instructional practices are affected by their beliefs. It is crucial to examine teachers' beliefs and the relationship of these beliefs with their instructional decisions and practices in different contexts. Insights gained in this way can yield valuable suggestions for the establishment of pre-service and in-service EFL teacher education programs.

2.4 Professional Development

According to the thesaurus of the Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC) database, professional development refers to "activities to enhance professional career growth." Such activities may include individual development, continuing education, and in-service education, as well as curriculum writing, peer collaboration, study groups, and peer coaching or mentoring.

Fullan (1991) expands the definition to include "the sum total of formal and informal learning experiences throughout one's career from pre-service teacher education to retirement" (p. 326).

Teacher development is a defined as “a process of continual intellectual, experiential, and attitude growth of teachers” (Lange, 1990, p.250). Pennington (1990) asserts that growth necessarily entails change. Changes in beliefs are more difficult than any other type of change because they challenge the core values held by individuals regarding the purposes of education. Therefore, significant educational changes can mainly occur if changes in beliefs, teaching styles and materials take place as a result of personal development in a social context.

Several studies have investigated differences between expert and novice teachers. In general, novice teachers define good teaching in terms of personal characteristics of teacher, children's involvement, and affective features of classroom interaction. Expert teachers define good teaching more in terms of lesson structure and teaching strategies (Calderhead, 1996; Kagan and Tippins, 1992). The expert teachers are better able to take account of context and purpose. The expert teacher is able to make a deeper interpretation of events, interpreting significant contextual cues and generating hypotheses about the situation in question (Calderhead, 1996; Schempp, Tan, Manross, & Fincher, 1998). As a result of experience, some teachers seem to have developed rich, well organized knowledge bases that enable them to draw readily on their past experiences (Carter, Sabers, Cushing, Pinnegar, & Berliner, 1987). As in studies of human expertise in other fields, it has been found that teachers have a highly developed but domain-specific knowledge base (Ericsson and Lehmann, 1996).

The novice has a more discrete and disorganized knowledge base. In the expert teacher, facts and rules become integrated into more holistic patterns of thought and action, situations are perceived in context and can be related to other events, there is a high level of personal commitment, and actions appear comprehensive, fluid and evidently effortless (Berliner, 1987; Calderhead, 1996; Carter et al., 1987).

Common to all the major change initiatives reshaping the face of public education today is an emphasis on continued professional development. Today, one of the recent reforms focuses on professional development as a way of getting reforms into the classroom. MONE aims at improving in-service training programs. The Ministry is aware of the important role of staff development at the forefront of its reform efforts. One of the objectives is stated as “all teachers must regularly participate in professional development linked to the innovations” (www.meb.gov.tr/Stats/apk2002ing/apage29-48.htm). Among the special objectives of MONE, it is clearly seen that MONE aims to improve qualitatively and quantitatively the in-service training given to teachers,

In order to meet the teacher requirements at all levels of education, teacher-training projects executed in collaboration with higher education institutions are asserted to continue along side the existing teacher training system ( http://www.meb.gov.tr/indexeng.htm).

Although improving instructional techniques remains important in teacher development, what makes the current discussion of the role of professional development distinct from the past is the emphasis being placed on models that move beyond the merely technical. Teachers are increasingly being asked to reconceptualize teaching, learning and their own education (Feiman-Nemser, 1990), to reflect on themselves as professionals, on their roles in the classrooms, and on their students (Richards and Lockhart, 1994). Quality professional development addresses teachers' needs as the teachers themselves see them (Little, 1993) and tries to influence teachers' actions by starting from and making conscious teachers' attitudes and beliefs (Richards and Lockhart, 1994). They must bring their ‘mental models' to consciousness, those deeply ingrained assumptions, generalizations, and images they have about education (Senge, 1990). Little (1993) takes teacher involvement in their own professional development even further. In order to address the diversity within their own classrooms, teachers can no longer be viewed solely as “implementers” of school reform. Teachers and school officials must take into account the underlying assumptions of the reforms, as well as their social and historical contexts, and the degree to which they are congruent with teachers' beliefs, commitment, and practices (Little, 1993)

The literature on school reform, change and professional development are clear: teachers are fundamental stakeholders in the change process. Their needs and concerns must be taken into consideration in professional development programs and reform initiatives if these reforms are to achieve any lasting effect on student performance. The literature findings on learner-centeredness, learner autonomy and ELP are equally clear: the requirements of these approaches must be addressed in classroom practices, nation-wide reform initiatives, and teachers' professional development if the initiatives are to resonate with the student in our schools.

2.5 Innovations

During the last 20 years or so, language education has been characterized by a constant process of innovation in the form of, e.g., curriculum revision, materials design, teacher training and development, and testing. As a result, language teaching professionals have increasingly had to deal with innovations, either in the role of directly implementing them or in terms of being responsible for their initiation, and co-ordination. Unfortunately, however, it is clear that many language education innovation projects have failed to fulfill their promise, and managing them has often turned out to be a frustrating and unrewarding experience.

The incorporation of innovations in teachers' daily work is one of the main components of their professional development. Concerning curricular innovations, the professional development of teachers refers to two main domains of knowledge: the content (declarative knowledge, what to teach) and the process (procedural knowledge, how to do it). The combination of both types of knowledge, concerning any subject matter to be taught, has been labeled by Shulman (1986) ‘pedagogial content knowledge'. Its development depends both on theoretical and conceptual knowledge and on personal experience. The introduction of an educational innovation (teaching new subjects or using a new teaching strategy) will therefore require the development of both the theoretical knowledge and the relevant experience of the teachers. An innovation may thus be regarded to have been successfully introduced once the teachers have adopted it, i.e., are able and willing to implement it in their classes and are confident in their ability to adapt the innovation to the needs and abilities of their own students (Hall, George, and Rutherford, 1977).

The main method for the introduction of educational innovations is usually in-service training. However, it has been shown that in many cases, in-service training does not actually achieve its main objectives, namely the implementation of new teaching strategies and a significant change in students' achievements (Guskey, 1986; Fullan, 1991). In fact, even when provided with the necessary knowledge and well prepared learning materials, teachers often find the implementation of an innovation to be a very demanding task. In their attempt to implement such innovations, i.e., in their efforts to translate theory into practice, teachers encounter obstacles of various types and from different sources. Many different factors have been found to bear on the process of introduction of educational innovations (Guskey, 1986; Fullan, 1991). It is generally accepted that success or failure depends on the attitudes, knowledge, and skills of the teachers, on the support of the relevant administrations, and on the teachers' perception of such a support (Fullan, 1991).

From the point of view of the teachers, the adoption of an innovation implies changes in attitudes, beliefs and concepts, and the development of new personal pedagogical content knowledge (van Dreil, Verloop, and de Vos, 1998). Measures of teachers' self-efficacy concerning the implementation of an innovation have been found to be related to their perception of its ‘‘congruence, difficulty of use and importance'' (Guskey, 1986; Guskey and Passaro, 1994). The innovating teachers must be deeply involved, highly motivated and strongly willing to struggle with their personal difficulties and with external constraints, while attempting to implement an innovation (Dreyfus et al., 1998). It is therefore a lengthy, awkward, and to some extent painful process (Tobin, Briscoe, & Holman, 1990).

Alexander et al. (1996) look more at teachers in an attempt to understand the efficacy of innovations in schools. They propose that teachers tend to implement in their classrooms what they know and understand, in spite of whatever innovation may be adopted by the school, or what evidence may be offered about their current methods or innovative methods. Alexander et al. (1996) suggest changes in teacher preparation to develop teachers' understanding of learning philosophies, theories and principles. The preparation should instruct teachers in how to apply those principles to increasing student learning, and teaches teachers ‘‘more about less'' by focusing less on a survey of what exists and more on developing deeper understanding of what is taught. Further, they believe that a deeper understanding of these theories will better prepare teachers to evaluate and understand innovations that they will confront in the future.

As Cuban (1984) has suggested, teaching practices have changed little and teachers tend to teach as they were taught. Specifically teacher-trainers, teachers, administrators, educational researchers, and developers all play a role in the swinging of the educational innovation pendulum, and as such there is a need to change the domain of each to have a lasting impact on the problem.

Teaching and learning traditionally take place in the classrooms. Those outside the classroom who make policy or try to shape it, such as designers of textbooks, state syllabi, and state tests attempt to pry openings into classrooms to influence what goes on in them. Hoping something new will improve results; these outsiders want to affect this world that they will rarely, if ever, see. And this world is also a world rarely shared among the practitioners inside the classrooms themselves, for they each live their own separate situations (Jackson, 1990; Lortie, 1975). One method that has been used very frequently to get a sense of the effects of a policy on classrooms is to listen to the voices of the teachers (Carter, 1993). Teachers are the only people who have inside experience of the same classroom year in and year out.

Teachers are a critical factor in the classroom. Change arouses emotions. It involves as disruption to teachers' beliefs and existing patterns of expectations. New meanings, new behaviors, and new skills are required for learning to do something new (Fullan, 1991). One of the most consistent findings and understanding about the change process in education is that all successful schools experience an “implementation dip” as they move forward. The implementation dip is literally a dip in performance and confidence as professionals encounter an innovation that requires new skills and new understandings (Fullan, 1991). Thus when a new innovation in instruction is implemented professional development efforts need to be monitored and supported to ensure teachers practices are consistent with the elements of the innovation.

According to a study carried out by Yıldırım (1997) research studies on teaching in Turkey indicate that classrooms are dominated by teacher-centered activity, mostly through lecturing and recitation. Teachers are often transmitters of knowledge and students are expected to produce more or less the same knowledge in the exams. Students rarely ask questions and student-to student interactions through small group activities or group projects are atypical.

The purpose of this case study is to provide an explanation of how teachers conceptualize the challenges as they implement the innovative program of elementary English. Some of the existing research on educational change (Fullan, 1991; Hall and Loucks, 1978; Huberman and Miles, 1984; Sarason, 1990) indicated that one of the factors which was identified as significant to successful implementation of any program includes a clearly demonstrated commitment to the innovation on the part of the teachers involved.

2.6 Teacher Change and Professional Development

In order to bring about a change in educational practice in the classroom, innovators need to be cognizant of the dynamic interrelationship of the dimensions of implementation. Fullan and Stiegelbauer (1991) define these dimensions as the following: a. use of new or revised materials, b. use of new teaching methodologies and c. a change in beliefs about “best practice.” In order for change to occur in the classroom Fullan (2001) believes that teachers need to develop meaning at each of these three dimensions. He states that when innovators are asking for teachers to change they are striking at the identity of teachers, which threatens their sense of competence and self-concept.

In contexts in which educational innovations are being implemented, teachers' attitudes take on tremendous importance because teachers' attitudes and beliefs are the single strongest guiding influence on teachers' instruction and practices (Thompson, 1984; Doyle, 1992; Cuban, 1984; Fang, 1996; Freeman, 1989, 1998).

There is a new era of effort to define effective teaching in our education system and to take some steps toward training more qualified teachers for schools. Today, views are often against memory-based education and examination-based instruction. The teachers' roles in the classrooms have been changing. Instead of being viewed as mere transmitters of knowledge, they are seen as decision-makers in the classrooms. Nonetheless, there is still lack of enough information about how they really perceive themselves and their teaching practices. Transforming teaching practices from one paradigm to another is not an easy task

There is a growing consensus in the literature regarding the elements of effective professional development for teachers. Effective professional development is embedded in the reality of teachers' work. It is designed with teacher input. It fosters critical reflection and meaningful collaboration. Promising professional development is aligned with effective teaching and learning.

Staff development and school-based training programs are often criticized as notoriously unsuccessful in bringing about attitudinal changes in teachers. It may be that these efforts approach the problem in a reverse fashion. There is some evidence that it is more profitable to expend effort in changing behavior before attempting to change beliefs or attitudes. Guskey (1986) found that when teachers were encouraged to engage in innovative practices and when they found them successful in boosting achievement, significant attitudinal change was noted. This same change is not seen, however, when teachers do not use the innovations in the first place, or if they use them but detect no improvement in their students.

Teachers' willingness to implement new instructional practices is a key factor influencing improvement efforts involving implementation of new practices. These practices may require minor changes in certain classroom activities or may mandate an entirely new curriculum or a very different instructional approach. Furthermore, several variables have been identified in the literature as determinants of teachers' willingness to implement instructional innovations. These variables include the degree to which the innovations are aligned with teachers' present practices (congruence) and teachers' estimates of the needed extra time and effort to implement the innovations (cost) (Doyle and Ponder, 1977).

The identified variables also include teachers' perceptions of the importance and difficulty of implementing innovations (Sparks, 1983), and teachers' experience and sense of efficacy (Guskey, 1988). Thus, it is important to understand what factors influence teachers' attitudes toward the implementation of recommended practices. Research has shown that the aforementioned variables i.e., congruence, cost; difficulty, and importance did indeed influence teachers' degree of implementing a new program or instructional innovation. For example, based on an analysis of results from five studies, Mohlman, Coladarci, and Gage (1982) maintained that congruence and cost influenced teachers' degree of implementation. That is, teachers were willing to implement instructional practices that are similar to their current practices and less costly.

Likewise, Sparks (1983) reported that teachers' perceptions of the importance of the new practices were positively correlated with implementation; meanwhile, teachers' ratings of the difficulty of implementation were found to be highly individualistic and unrelated to willingness to implement new practices.

Along similar lines, Guskey (1988) explored the relationship among teachers' sense of efficacy and their attitudes toward the implementation of mastery learning as a form of instructional innovation. The concept of teacher efficacy has its roots in the construct of self-efficacy proposed by Bandura in 1977. Bandura hypothesized that peoples' belief about the action-outcome relationship is not a sufficient determinant of behavior. Rather, behaivor is likely to be determined by peoples' self-efficacy in order to produce certain outcomes. Furthermore, Bandura (1997) maintained that peoples' interpretations of past experience lead them to foresee how well they will be able to perform specific tasks. These anticipations then influence their willingness to engage in new tasks, make extra effort, and persist in the face of adversity (Ross, 1989).

An important obstacle to adopting innovations is that teachers are frequently given very little support and reward for changing what they do in classrooms (Datnow et al., 2002). When changes are instituted, teachers may be left on their own to figure out how to do the innovation, how to develop appropriate curriculum materials, how to mesh curriculum and processes to district or state goals, and how to solve problems specific to the context in which they are implementing. Yet when they accomplish successful implementation there is little recognition or reward for doing so. On the other hand, teachers are likely to risk rebuke when innovations fail or struggle. In this context, it is not any surprise that most teachers prefer to ‘stand pat' with what is comfortable rather than to attempt an innovation, no matter how convincing. An innovation cannot become institutionalized when only a minority of the teachers embrace the reform and fully implement the innovation. It remains ‘‘experimental'' or novel and without being widely accepted and used, the innovation is bound for eventual rejection (Datnow et al., 2002). Inertia favors a lack of large-scale change.

2.6.1 Teacher Beliefs and Educational Innovations

There is another area where research on teacher beliefs can potentially be relevant, that is, the field of educational innovations. In many past educational innovations, the teacher was seen as the executor and implementer of innovations that were devised by others. Teachers were supposed to implement these innovations in accordance with the intentions of the developers as much as possible, and, if there was additional time and money available, it was spent on training the teachers to acquire the skills needed in order to demonstrate the required behavior. The vast majority of the educational innovations did not materialize at all or failed after some time because the teachers, after a period of change, abandoned the new behavior and returned to the old routines with which they were comfortable.

There is a growing consensus that educational innovations are doomed to fail if the emphasis remains on developing specific skills, without taking into account the teachers' cognitions, including their beliefs, intentions, and attitudes (Trigwell, Prosser, & Taylor, 1994). Many innovations are considered impractical by the teachers concerned because, for instance, they are unrelated to familiar routines (leading to strong feelings of uncertainty and insecurity), do not fit in with their own perceptions of the domain, or conflict with the existing school culture (Brown and McIntyre, 1993; Carlgren and Lindblad, 1991). This does not mean that the knowledge and beliefs of teachers should be the standard, but it certainly means that they must be the starting point for any successful intervention or innovation. To identify their authentic beliefs with respect to the basic ideas behind the innovation, a thorough investigation into the knowledge of the teachers themselves is required.

The complex and multidimensional character of the current innovations has major implications for the functioning of teachers (Elmore, 1996). Research into the implementation of large-scale educational innovations shows the concerns of teachers to play an important role in the successful development of the innovations (Hall, George, & Rutherford, 1977).

Teachers' beliefs obviously affect their behavior in the classroom. Their beliefs tend to be derived from their own experiences as learners, their training, their teaching experience, their interaction with colleagues and the values and norms of the society in which they work. When teachers' beliefs are congruent with the innovation, they are likely to be positively disposed towards its implementation. However, teachers who are initially enthusiastic about an innovation may easily become illusion if there is lack of support for the innovation such as inadequate resourcing or negative sentiments from the principal or the colleagues. If the innovation is incompatible with teachers' existing attitudes, resistance to change is likely to occur (Waugh and Punch, 1987). There are a number of recent reviews of largely unsuccessful attempts to implement learner-centered curricula amongst teachers whose background and experience tends towards more traditional teacher-centered methods. In some form of this occurence has been documented in South Korea (Li, 1998) and Greece (Karavas-Doukas, 1995).

2.7 Ministry of National Education

Turkey has been pursuing a project of modernization for almost 200 years and for the last 40 years the project systematically and exclusively leads the country toward West. It is a decision not only made by the Turkish elite but also by the member of the Western world that the country sees no other way but to be part of the West. It is this longing that drives the country in its desire to be an official member of the European Union. In order to get to be admitted to the European Union, Turkey has to meet the standards of the Union on economy, education and politics. For that purpose, Turkey took the decision to restructure the society through the reforms that will create the better and modern country to side with European Nations.

One way of doing this is to implement educational reforms. The first stage of the new eight-year uninterrupted compulsory elementary education program began to be implemented nationwide in the 1997-1998 school year. Turkey realized one of the most significant reforms in the field of education witnessed in many years. In addition, as a part of this reform program, Turkey started to improve programs taught at primary level. Through this process the Ministry carries out the requirements to meet the standards of the European Union and the global world.

2.7.1 National Provision of Primary Education

Educational administration is centralized under the Ministry of Education. The Ministry is responsible for drawing up curricula, coordinating the work of official, private and voluntary organizations, designing and building schools, and developing educational materials. The Supreme Council of National Education discusses and decides on curricula, regulations prepared by the Ministry. Educational affairs in the provinces are organized by the Directors of National Education appointed by the Minister. However, they work under the direction of the provincial governor (www.ttkb.meb.gov.tr).

Private primary and secondary schools are financially independent. The principles regulating private schools are defined in legislation that reflects the educational standards and regulations applicable to public-sector schools. Educational administration is firmly centralized under the Ministry of National Education. For example, the Ministry is responsible for drawing up curricula, coordinating the work of official, private and voluntary organizations, designing and building schools, and developing educational materials. The Talim ve Terbiye Kurulu Başkanlığı (Board of Training and Education) discusses and determines curricula and regulations prepared by the Ministry. Educational activity in the Turkish provinces is organized by the Directors of Education appointed by the Minister. However, they work under the direction of the provincial governor. Thus administrative control over and management of public-sector schools at local level lies under the provincial directorates of the Ministry.

Supervision of educational institutions is carried out at both central and regional level. While the supervision of basic education institutions is performed at regional level by primary education inspectors, inspectors delegated by the Ministry of National Education supervise secondary education institutions. Public higher education institutions are autonomous for purposes of teaching and research. However, they have to submit annual reports to the Higher Education Council which is responsible for the planning and coordination of higher education. Institutions are monitored at least once a year by the Higher Education Supervisory Board (YükseköÄŸretim Denetleme Kurulu) acting on behalf of the YÖK.[1]

The school year comprises 180 days and is divided into t


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