Describing Language And Language Skills Education Essay

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Teaching is a multidimensional activity that involves social, educational,pedagogical, linguistics, personal, and cognitive dimensions. In the last twenty fiveyears, in general education the cognitive dimension of teaching has been recognizedas central to successful teaching. The last decade has witnessed steady growth in thestudy of teachers' cognition. Researchers have paid more attention to the study of

teachers' belief about teaching, learning, learners, and the impact it has on teaching practices, activities, and learning outcomes (Tillman, 2000; Shavelson, and Stern,1981; Burns, 1992; Eisenhart et. al., 1998; Fang, 1996; Richardson, 1996; Kagan,1992; Reynold, 1992). Research into teachers' cognition has not been restricted toone or few specific disciplines or content areas. The impact of teachers beliefs on

their teaching is being studied across disciplines and educational setting as diverse as general education, mathematics (Ernest 1989; Shuck 1997; Karaagac and Threlfall; Raymond, 1997), second/ foreign language learning, (Farrell, and Patricia,2005), reading (Beach, 1994), and chemistry (Brisco, 1991).

It has been studied in pre-service and in-service contexts, different educational levels: kindergarten,

elementary schools, high schools and adult education.

During 1980s and the years after, researchers investigated a number of different aspects and dimensions of teachers' cognition. The main focus was on studying the way teachers think about their own work, their mental processes in planning and carrying out their teachings, the kind of decisions made in the course of teaching,and how these beliefs may change over time. Some of the research areas in teachers'cognition include studying teachers' cognition in general and how they construct their conceptions and theories of teaching (Clandinin & Connelly, 1988; Leinhardt,1990), teachers' understanding of the teaching process (Peterson & Comeaux,1987), teachers' belief about teaching, students, teachers, and the learning process as well as their own efficacy in inducing change in their students (Hollingsworth, 1989;Kagan & Tippins, 1991; Tamir, 1991). Another area of research in teachers' belief is examining the instructional thoughts, actions, and decision making in the classroom

(Fogarty, Wang, & Creek, 1983; Magliaro & Borko, 1986). Changes in teachers'beliefs that occur as a result of professional growth and teaching experiences have also been examined (Bullough, 1991; Calderhead, 1991).

Teachers' beliefs are not easy to define. Nor are they easy to operationalize and study. Kagan (1992) views them as tacitly held assumptions and perceptions about teaching and learning. Pajares (1992) and Richardson (1996) view them as personal constructs of teachers that can help understand their decisions and teaching practices. The belief system consists of the information, attitudes, values, theories,

and assumptions about teaching, learning, learners, and other aspects of teaching. Some of these beliefs are quite general while some are very specific. According to Johnson (1994) teachers' beliefs influence their judgment and perception, the classroom activities they use, and it can contribute to the improvement of teaching practices and teacher education programs. The belief system is argued to serve as a base for the activities and practices teachers use in the classroom. It guides teachers in the course of the practices they have in the classroom. Hampton (1994) contends that teachers' beliefs can determine the way they approach their teaching. In brief,research findings show that teachers have complex thinking and interpretation of teaching and the context upon which they reflect, decide, and act was a wide and

rich mental context (Elbaz, 1983; Clandinin, 1986).

There are different ways teachers may develop their beliefs. It can be socially constructed as

a result of their own personal experiences and influences of the settings in which they work. Teachers' beliefs are built up over time. They are derived from teachers' training programs, pre-service programs, and prior learning and teaching experiences. Brog (2003) and Richards, Gallo and Renandya (2001)

argue that teachers' beliefs are derived from their prior experiences, school practices,educational theory, reading, their individual personalities, and a number of other sources. Eisentein-Ebsworth and Schweers (1997) see teachers' views shaped by students' wants, syllabus expectations, and prior experiences. This knowledge may change over time as teachers interact with students and get feedback from them.

Following the interest in general education and teacher education in teachers'cognition, researchers in second language acquisition took the idea and started to examine language teachers' pedagogical beliefs in second language learning (Breen,1991; Cumming, 1993; Freeman & Richards; 1996; Johnson, 1994; Richards, 1998;Richards & Nunan, 1990; Woods, 1996).Teachers' belief is now viewed as a complex cognitive activity (Farrell and Patricia, 2005; Brog, 2003a, 2003b.; Mitchel

and Hooper, 1992; Johnston, and Goettsch, 2000). Research into teachers' cognition has both provided good insights into teachers' cognition at the same time raised more questions about several issues of teachers' beliefs. A more specific aspect of teachers' cognition in language teaching is teachers'

beliefs about grammar and different aspects of grammar teaching. Some of the questions that have not been yet answered include how much time should be devoted to grammar? What grammatical points should be taught? How should grammatical points be sequenced? What activities are more appropriate for different contexts? Grammar has a contested nature and its teaching and learning has seendifferent days. Grammar teaching has always created uncertainties and raised complex and intriguing pedagogical, linguistic and curricular issues. With the emergence of a new method or theory grammar becomes the center of attention and with the demise of the theory or practice it would be totally abandoned. For times

grammar was central to class activities and at times it was overlooked. With such fluctuation it is not difficult to imagine language teachers develop different views on grammar in the processes of becoming a teacher. In the late 1980s abandonment of focus on form was advocated by communicative movement. In the last decade the issue of focus on form has been a hot topic and raised many questions and challenges to applied linguists and language teachers.

There have been a number of studies on teachers' beliefs about grammar and grammar teaching. Ng & Farrell (2003) and Yim (1993) investigated the extent to which teachers' theoretical beliefs influenced their classroom grammatical practices, and found evidence to suggest that what teachers say and do in the classroom are governed by their beliefs. Farrell (1999) examined the belief system of pre-service teachers of English grammar in terms of its influence on teaching practice, and found evidence to suggest that these beliefs may be resistant to change. Similarly,Richards, Gallo, and Renandya (2001) examined the beliefs of a group of in-service course teachers about grammar. The results showed that many teachers followed a communicative approach to teaching, while some of the respondents stated that they had firm belief in the importance of direct grammar teaching in language learning.They also stated that their EFL/ESL students asked for grammar teaching. Research into the impact of formal grammar teaching has covered several aspects of grammar teaching. These include inductive versus deductive approached to the teaching of grammar (Shaffer, 1989; Dekeyser, 1995), feedback and correction of errors (Chaudron, 1977; Dekeyser, 1993), use of grammar terminology in grammar teaching (Berman, 1979; Garrett, 1986), and impact of grammar practice on L2 learning (Ellis, 1991; Johnson, 1994). In spite of large volume of research in this area results are inconclusive and as Borg (1999) discusses our understanding of the processes of grammar teaching as perceived by language teachers has still a long

way to go.