English Teacher Article The other side of the mirror

Summary: ESL students offer their opinions of good language teaching.

By: |Audience: Teachers|Category: Teaching English

ESL STUDENTS OFFER THEIR OPINIONS OF GOOD LANGUAGE TEACHING

 

Introduction

The idea for this study grew out of my own experiences as an ESL /EFL teacher. Many of the topics that I cover in my classes urged me to pause and wonder where my teaching philosophy fits in the greater scheme of ESL/EFL education. I have begun to see that I, like many teachers pay too little attention to the students I teach. Instead of seeing them as thinking human beings with very definite ideas of their own, I tend to assume they are tabular data. In discussing how to bring about ownership of the learning experiences for our students, I think it is important for teachers to stop and consider what their students believe they need to learn a language for in addition to what we perceive their needs are. One of the greatest benefits from teaching ESL/EFL courses has been the chance I’ve had for structured reflection about my own behavior in my classrooms, and this is what led to the topic for my study: what do ESL/EFL students think good language teaching is?

Review of literature

All too often we teachers dismiss the ideas our ESL/EFL students hold about language learning because we assume that they know nothing about theory or methodology. How could they, with no teacher training, know what needs to be done for learning to occur? Yet our students come to us with years of learning from many different teachers in many different situations (Richards & Lockhart, 1994). They are bound to have developed some very specific ideas of their own as to what should happen in class. I have seen this in their casual comments in and out of the classroom, and in evaluations I kept asking for more grammar instruction or stricter attention to correction. The idea of assessing the students’ beliefs about language teachers led me to develop a survey instrument to discover what some of the students at the institute where I teach think about good language teaching. By just asking the students what they think I am giving them more ownership in the class; and from looking at their answers to my survey I hope to be able to better structure my classes to meet my students’ needs. I see this kind of research as vital to many teachers and administrators, because as a pool of knowledge is built around what the students think, a curriculum can then be oriented towards what the students feel necessary in combination with the methodology and teaching techniques of well- trained instructors. This will help avoid conflict and feeling of confusion on the part of the students.


Difficulties in the language classroom that arise between teachers and students regarding teaching methods may be due to the differences in expectations between the teacher and the students. The way we teach is often rooted in our own personal experiences with learning, and we often teach as we were taught (Horwitz, 1985; Powell & Anderson, 1994). However, since ESL teachers usually come from different cultural backgrounds than their students, this may lead to different expectations. “Many students who come to our classes will carry with the specific assumptions about language learning that may or may not agree with our beliefs” (Bassano, 1986, p. 16). These opinions, often deeply held, are frequently based on previous and current language learning experiences, which all affect how the students see learning and teaching (Yorio, 1989, p.33). In the data in Yorios’ article, a revealing result was that 60% of the teachers he surveyed ranked memorizing vocabulary as unimportant, while 60% of the students responded that it was important to learning.


In another study (Mc Cargar, 1993), the data showed a further difference between the beliefs that students and teachers hold. The data from this study indicated that there was a significant preference on the part of the students for a teacher-oriented environment in the classroom, which was not echoed in the responses of the teachers. The idea of differing beliefs about good language teaching becomes important when you apply it to the classroom, because as Reid (1987) says, students may be spending great energy trying to adjust to their new learning situation and thus may be left with little time and enthusiasm to apply themselves to learning.


While it is all well and good to consider students’ beliefs about language learning, the issue is not as simple as finding what the students, in general, are thinking. Students from different language and cultural backgrounds may differ significantly in their beliefs (Reid, 1987). They have all had their own experiences, and “native language, culture, social behavior, and previous experiences both in educational and non-educational settings have shaped them as people and learners” (Yorio, 1989, p. 33). Richards & Lockhart (1994) offer a comparison of students’ expectations between an Australian and Chinese student in each other’s country. The Chinese student in Australia complains of the lack of structure in the class and feels that the teacher is poorly trained however, the Australian student in China feels stifled by the “poor” teaching of the instructors because they only follow the book. What compounds the situation is that even among the students from the same cultural and language background there could be discrepancy among the beliefs of the students. Reid proposed, from the results of his research, that such differences could be due to the differences between students who grow up in rural versus urban areas.


Well, it all seems rather hopeless at this point, doesn’t it? Students and their language teachers may very likely have significantly different ideas about language learning, and this could cause a myriad of problems in the classroom. And even if the teacher tries to find out the beliefs of the students, they may have very conflicting ideas about language learning, even among those students from the same country! In most of the literature I read, though, there was a unified cry for teachers to pay attention to the ideas of the students. Omaggio and Cohen (in Reid, 1987) found from their research that students were able to identify and describe second language learning strategies. If this is the case, and there is a reason to believe it is so (especially with adult students), then students may be able to offer insights into their personal beliefs about language learning and by which methods they have had the most success in language learning. One way to discover the beliefs that students hold is to either give them a formal survey-type instrument, or engage them in conversation during the class to discuss how they’ve learned language in the past and what they’ve found productive for themselves. By doing this, you are not only finding out what the students think, but you are also validating them as participants in the classroom. By outing them in the role of the teacher, you encourage them to realize that what they’re sharing is important (Bassino, 1986) and that their opinions are an important part of the learning process. In all I read, there was no suggestion that the teachers should adopt wholeheartedly what the students want, but by finding more out about what they want to do in the class you are creating a class applicable to their own worlds and thus the class will be a motivating environment for learning (Bassino; Yorio,1989). The idea of acknowledging and working with the student beliefs fits in well with a recent trend in second language acquisition. Yorio (1989) says that we should see our students more as consumers and thus adopt a marketing approach to ESL/EFL teaching, giving attention to what students need and what they want to learn. This view would put teaching as the service and the student as the client. This has been pointed out to us as well in our own classes that students need to be viewed as consumers of the service, not as the non-participants. In IEP (Intensive English Program) situations this seems especially practical since the status of IEPs fall somewhere between an educational institute and a business. When I first heard the idea of ESL/EFL students as consumers, I thought it was offensive. I saw teaching as something pure and totally separate from the “ugly” world of business. From the research I’ve read it seems that students and their opinions and beliefs must become part of the class, or the student will lose interest and withdraw from the learning experience. We can engage our students by listening to what they say, and then by adjusting the methods we use to make them accessible to the students, we need to explain explicitly how and why we are using that particular technique. By gradually shifting from the more traditional methods that the students know to the more communicative activities most of us prefer, the students may very well have a more beneficial language learning experience. I was pleasantly surprised by my own research findings when I decided to try these ideas out for myself as a consequence of my research project.

The Study

I decided to conduct a study with the students at my own institute because I was intrigued with giving my students the chance to tell me their own opinions of what a “good” language teacher was. Up to this point my attitude was that the students didn’t know much about language learning, and so asking them would only produce comments that I’ve heard for years about wanting me to correct their error and teach more like a lecture. Of course, I knew that wasn’t productive. In my arrogance I never thought to validate their beliefs, no matter how much I disagreed with them. Therefore I set off on this project to see what would develop.

Participants

The participants I chose are all students at the intensive English Program where I am presently teaching. Although there are three levels of proficiency which the students study, I decide to use only the three higher levels because I felt language of the survey instrument would be too difficult for the students in the lowest level. This proved true when level TWO students took the longest time to complete the form and had most questions about the language of the survey instrument. The students fell into 3 major school background categories: native speakers of English, private local schools, and government schools.

Survey Instrument

The survey instrument was designed using questions adapted from instruments included in studies by Horwitz, 1985; Mcargar, 1993; Reid, 1987; and Yorio, 1989. I also used informal observations of my own as to what the students might be thinking to decide on which questions and topics to choose.
The survey consisted of 15 question requiring answers on a modified Lickert scale, from strongly agree to strongly disagree with no option for an indecisive answer (1=strongly agree, 2=agree, 3=disagree, 4= strongly disagree). I did this to force the students to give me an answer and not to be non-committal. The questions were chosen at random and did not fall into any specific categories. In retrospect, it would have been productive to try and use questions from specific categories (such as opinions of error correction, relationship with the teacher, etc.) to better analyze the data. Two additional open-ended questions were included at the end of the survey to elicit answers in the students’ own words about good language teaching, I expect the answers to the two open- ended questions to provide categories for questions on further surveys. See appendix A for an example of the survey instrument.

Procedures

Prior to administering the survey to the participants I spent fifteen minutes with the student participants during which I explained my research objectives and asked them to feel free as far as the participation in the study was concerned. Two of the three classes who completed the survey were my own classes. The participants, at all three levels, have several classes in different language skill areas. I chose to administer the survey during conversation class since that was the class I taught for two of the three levels. It is difficult to determine how much my presence as teacher and as researcher affected the results of the survey. However, there is not a doubt that the participants who were members of my class were aware of my “teacher” role throughout the process. The two higher levels were both my own classes, and the students were aware that as their teacher, I would be reading their responses. Although I assured them hat their responses would not affect their anonymity, I was worried that they might have felt uncomfortable in offering their true opinions about good teaching for fear that I might take it as a personal attack.

Research questions

I saw this project as an extension of what I had read in the literature concerning students’ opinions about language learning. I wanted to take what I had read and try to apply it to my own situation, thus personalizing the research. The research questions driving this study were:
1. What do students at the university where I teach think a good language teaching is?
2. Do students from the same language and cultural background share similar beliefs?
3. Do the students from different language and cultural backgrounds have significantly different opinions?
4. How do my own perceptions of good language teaching compared to those of the students at the institute where I teach differ?

Results

The nature of this study seemed to require that I look not only at general trends among the students as a whole group, but also at specific divisions of the student by first language and placement level. First, let us look at the results of all the students as a group. Appendix B shows the results of the students as a group. What was surprising to me was that only two of the questions, 3 and 13, resulted in answers without any definite learning of the group towards one answer or the other, all other question resulted in at least two- thirds of the participants responding within either the strongly agree/ agree or strongly disagree/disagree range. This indicated to me that although the literature stated that beliefs are different across cultures, the participants in my study had surprisingly similar answers. This must be viewed in the light that all of the students have had almost a full semester of instruction already, and some even more. The results might have proven more interesting if I had administered the survey at the beginning of the courses.


The most surprising result of all the questions was the total agreement on the part of the participants regarding question 15: a good teacher is interested in the students’ opinions. For this question all participants answered, either strongly agree (18) or agree (12). This was the only question in which all the respondents fell into the same answer category. The closest questions to 15 are questions 1 (28 agree) which addresses correction of the pronunciation and 7 (28 agree) which asks if a good teacher has a positive outlook in the class room. Again, these results might have been more diverse if the study had begun before the students became acclimated in the classroom.


If we look at the participants according to their placement levels, the results are a little more interesting. If we look at how many questions resulted in no significant answers (significant =70% or greater agreement). Level two comes out as a group with the greatest diversity of answers. There were no significant results for 6 of the questions; numbers 3, 4, 5, 8, 10, and 11. As the proficiency level of the class increases, the number of questions for which there was no significant agreement decreases. Level three had only four questions (3, 5, 6, and 13) on which there was no significant agreement. This was surprising because the question asks if a good teacher controls the classroom strictly. It was my assumption prior to conducting this survey that the students would lean towards agreement with this question. However, the trends in the answers become more illuminating as we look across the levels at the specific language groups instead. For the purpose of brevity I will look at only those groups composed of the largest number of students: native speakers of Japanese, Thai and Spanish. For the results of all the language groups please see Appendix D.

In most ESL/EFL situations teachers can expect to have a heterogeneous group of students, so attempts to incorporate students’ needs into a lesson prove difficult, especially when individual differences are combined with cultural differences. Although from such a small number of participants it would be difficult to draw any real conclusions, some insights came from my study. The three largest groups of first-language speakers are those from Thai and Japanese groups. However, my results did not support my assumption. When viewed in comparison, there is no definite trend applicable to the two groups. For question 4, regarding how much a teacher talks in the classroom, the Japanese students felt the teacher should talk less than the students, the Thai students felt a teacher should talk more, and the results of the Spanish-speakers were inconclusive. For question 6, about error correction, the Spanish-speakers and Thai students agree that good teachers correct all mistakes, while the Japanese students fell that a good teacher does not correct all mistakes. Finally, question 13, which is about whether the teacher knows all the answers, showed that the Japanese and Spanish students were comfortable with ambiguity, but the Thai students felt very strongly that a teacher should know all the answers.

Conclusion

In some ways this study has been a sobering experience. Many of my assumptions about what students want in the classroom were proven wrong, and my predictions about what the students would answer were often disapproved. In addition, I have gotten a much clearer view of how diverse student opinions can be. The data I collected supports the claims of the literature, that students have definite ideas about what should happen in the classroom, and that those ideas do not always coincide with the beliefs of the ESL teacher. However, my small survey resulted in some positive action in my own classes where I distributed this survey. Both my classes got into a lively discussion about language learning after completing this task, and I not only learned more about what they thought should explain why I give them activities. I learned that I cannot assume that the students will accept what I do as being beneficial for them. In some ways I think I should treat them as teachers-in-training and go into the specifics about why certain activities are worthwhile and productive, as much as my own professors have done in methodology courses. The discussion helped the students and me both to see more clearly what we believe about language learning. In the other course, which I do not teach, the survey resulted in class-long discussion of the students' experience in the past with good teachers and how they've influenced their lives.
As a result of what I've read and the small research study I've conducted, I can see that it's important for me to validate and respond to the opinions and beliefs my ESL/EFL students have regarding language learning. In the future I would like to give a similar survey at the beginning of my courses so I can try and address the concerns of the students within the content of the class, and then again, at the end, for comparison. By doing this I hope the class will be a better experience for both me and my students.

REFERENCES



BASSANO, S. (1986). Helping learners adapt to unfamiliar methods. ELT Journal, 40(1), 13-19.

Bail, R.T. & Mina, S.S. (1981). Filipino and American student perceptions of teacher effectiveness. Research in Higher Education, 14(2), 135-145.

Horwitz, E.K. (1985). Using student beliefs about language learning and teaching in the foreign language methods course. Foreign Language Annals, 18(4), 333-340

Mcarger, D.F (1993). Teacher and student role expectations: cross-cultural differences and implications. The Modern Language journal, 77(2), 192-207.

Powell, R.G & Anderson, J. (1994). Culture and classroom communication. In L.A samovar & R.E porter (Eds.), Intercultural Communication (pp.332-330). Belmont, CA: International Thomson Publishing.

Prodromou, L. (1992). What culture? Which culture? Cross-cultural factors in language learning. ELT Journal, 46(1), 39-50.

Quereshi, M.Y. (1980). Perceptions of traits that identify the best and worst teachers in two cultures. Journal of Experimental Education, 49(1), 4-8.

Reid, J.M. (1987). The learning style preferences of ESL students. TESOL Quarterly. 21, 87-111.

Richards, J.C. & Lockhart, C. (1994). Reflective Teaching in Second Language Classrooms. NY: Cambridge University Press.

Yorio, C. (1989). The other side of the looking glass. Journal of Basic Writing, 8(1), 32-45.







Appendix A



SURVEY: WHAT IS A “GOOD” LANGUAGE TEACHER?

Today’s date: _____________________ Gender: male____ female____
Native country: ____________________________ Age:_____
What is your first language? _______________________
How long did you study English in your country? ____________________
How long have you studied English in the United States? ______________
How long have you been in the United States? _______________________
Are you: ____ ALI student ____IUP undergrad student ____ IUP grad student.
Level: ____ IUP Department ____________________

Answer the following questions by circling your
answer.

Strongly Strongly
Agree Agree Disagree Disagree
1. A good teacher should always correct my 1 2 3 4
Pronunciation
2. A good teacher is patient with students. 1 2 3 4
3. A good teacher controls the classroom 1 2 3 4
strictly.
4. A good teacher talks more than the students. 1 2 3 4
5. A good teacher is organized and follows the 1 2 3 4
Schedule of the class closely.
6. A good teacher corrects all errors students 1 2 3 4
make.
7. A good teacher smiles and is always happy 1 2 3 4
in class.
8. A good teacher gives a lot of homework. 1 2 3 4
9. A good teacher doesn’t talk a lot with 1 2 3 4
students During class.
10. A good teacher socializes with students 1 2 3 4
Outside of The classroom.
11. A good teacher gives many tests. 1 2 3 4
12. A good teacher is fluent in the target 1 2 3 4
language.
13. A good teacher knows all the answers. 1 2 3 4
14. A good teacher includes culture in the 1 2 3 4
lessons.
15. A good teacher is interested in the students’ 1 2 3 4
Opinions.
Think about your own experiences with language teachers and describe what you think are the qualities of a good language teacher.

This time describe what you think are the qualities of a poor language teacher.
(Use the back paper if you need more space)


QUESTIONS (results of all participants, N=30) Strongly
agree agree disagree Strongly disagree
1. A good teacher should always correct my pronunciation. 19 9 2 0
2. A good teacher is patient with students. 17 10 2 1
3. A good teacher controls the classroom strictly. 2 11 14 3
4. A good teacher talks more than the students. 1 8 17 4
5. A good teacher is organized and follows the schedule of the class closely. 2 19 9 0
6. A good teacher corrects all errors students make. 9 12 9 0
7. A good teacher smile and is happy in class. 18 10 1 1
8. A good teacher gives a lot of homework. 0 6 22 2
9. A good teacher doesn’t talk a lot during class. 0 4 16 10
10. A good teacher socializes with students outside of the classroom. 11 13 6 0
11. A good teacher gives many tests. 2 8 17 3
12. A good teacher is fluent in the target language. 13 14 3 0
13. A good teacher knows all the answers. 4 12 13 1
14. A good teacher includes culture in the lessons. 8 18 4 0
15. A good teacher is interested in the students’ opinions. 18 12 0 0

Questions ( Level 2—advanced beginners) N=0 Strongly agree Agree Disagree Strongly disagree

1. A good teacher should always correct my pronunciation. 7 1 2 0
2. A good teacher is patient with students. 6 3 0 1
3. A good teacher controls the classroom strictly. 0 6 4 0
4. A good teacher talks more than the students. 1 4 5 0
5.A good teacher is organized and follows the schedule closely. 0 7 3 0
6. A good teacher corrects all errors the students make. 5 3 2 0
7. A good teacher smiles and is happy in class. 6 4 0 0
8. A good teacher gives a lot of homework. 0 3 7 0
9. A good teacher doesn’t talk a lot with students during class. 0 1 6 3
10. A good teacher socializes with students outside the classroom. 3 4 3 0
11. A good teacher gives many tests. 0 5 5 0
12. A good teacher is fluent in the target language. 5 5 0 1
13. A good teacher knows all the answers. 1 6 2 0
14. A good teacher includes culture in the lessons. 6 3 1 0
15. A good teacher is interested in the student’s opinions. 5 5 0 0
Questions ( Level 3—low intermediate) N=9 Strongly agree Agree Disagree Strongly disagree

1. A good teacher should always correct my pronunciation. 5 4 0 0
2. A good teacher is patient with students. 4 3 2 0
3. A good teacher controls the classroom strictly. 1 2 6 0
4. A good teacher talks more than the students. 0 1 6 2
5. A good teacher is organized and follows the schedule closely. 1 5 3 0
6. A good teacher corrects all errors the students make. 0 6 3 0
7. A good teacher smiles and is happy in class. 4 4 0 1
8. A good teacher gives a lot of homework. 0 0 8 1
9. A good teacher doesn’t talk a lot with students during class. 0 0 6 3
10. A good teacher socializes with students outside the classroom. 4 5 0 0
11. A good teacher gives many tests. 2 0 6 1
12. A good teacher is fluent in the target language. 3 4 2 0
13. A good teacher knows all the answers. 1 2 6 0
14. A good teacher includes culture in the lessons. 1 7 1 0
15. A good teacher is interested in the student’s opinions. 4 5 0 0


Questions ( Level 4—high intermediate) N=11 Strongly agree Agree Disagree Strongly disagree

1. A good teacher should always correct my pronunciation. 7 4 0 0
2. A good teacher is patient with students. 7 4 0 0
3. A good teacher controls the classroom strictly. 0 3 6 2
4. A good teacher talks more than the students. 1 7 3 0
5. A good teacher is organized and follows the schedule closely. 4 3 4 0
6. A good teacher corrects all errors the students make. 8 2 1 0
7. A good teacher smiles and is happy in class. 4 4 0 1
8. A good teacher gives a lot of homework. 0 3 7 1
9. A good teacher doesn’t talk a lot with students during class. 0 2 5 4
10. A good teacher socializes with students outside the classroom. 4 6 1 0
11. A good teacher gives many tests. 0 2 8 1
12. A good teacher is fluent in the target language. 5 6 0 0
13. A good teacher knows all the answers. 2 4 5 0
14. A good teacher includes culture in the lessons. 1 8 2 0
15. A good teacher is interested in the student’s opinions. 9 2 0 0

Questions ( Japanese) N=11 Strongly agree Agree Disagree Strongly disagree

1. A good teacher should always correct my pronunciation. 4 6 1 0
2. A good teacher is patient with students. 4 4 2 1
3. A good teacher controls the classroom strictly. 0 2 7 2
4. A good teacher talks more than the students. 0 2 7 2
5. A good teacher is organized and follows the schedule closely. 0 6 5 0
6. A good teacher corrects all errors the students make. 2 2 7 0
7. A good teacher smiles and is happy in class. 6 5 0 0
8. A good teacher gives a lot of homework. 0 1 10 0
9. A good teacher doesn’t talk a lot with students during class. 0 2 3 6
10. A good teacher socializes with students outside the classroom. 4 5 2 0
11. A good teacher gives many tests. 0 3 7 1
12. A good teacher is fluent in the target language. 4 5 2 0
13. A good teacher knows all the answers. 0 3 8 0
14. A good teacher includes culture in the lessons. 4 5 2 0
15. A good teacher is interested in the student’s opinions. 8 3 0 0

Questions (Thai) N=6 Strongly
Agree Agree Disagree Strongly
Disagree
1. A good teacher should always correct my pronunciation. 6 0 0 0
2. A good teacher is patient with students. 3 3 0 1
3. A good teacher controls the classroom strictly. 0 2 3 1
4. A good teacher talks more than the students. 0 4 2 0
5. A good teacher is organized and follows the schedule closely. 1 4 1 0
6. A good teacher corrects all errors the students make. 3 2 1 0
7. A good teacher smiles and is happy in class. 6 0 0 0
8. A good teacher gives a lot of homework. 0 2 3 1
9. A good teacher doesn’t talk a lot with students during class. 0 1 3 2
10. A good teacher socializes with students outside the classroom. 3 2 1 0
11. A good teacher gives many tests. 0 1 4 1
12. A good teacher is fluent in the target language. 3 2 0 0
13. A good teacher knows all the answers. 2 4 0 0
14. A good teacher includes culture in the lessons. 1 4 1 0
15. A good teacher is interested in the student’s opinions. 5 1 0 0


Questions ( Spanish ) N=4 Strongly agree Agree Disagree Strongly disagree

1. A good teacher should always correct my pronunciation. 4 0 0 0
2. A good teacher is patient with students. 4 0 0 0
3. A good teacher controls the classroom strictly. 0 2 2 0
4. A good teacher talks more than the students. 1 1 1 1
5. A good teacher is organized and follows the schedule closely. 0 3 1 0
6. A good teacher corrects all errors the students make. 1 3 0 0
7. A good teacher smiles and is happy in class. 1 2 0 1
8. A good teacher gives a lot of homework. 0 0 3 1
9. A good teacher doesn’t talk a lot with students during class. 0 0 3 1
10. A good teacher socializes with students outside the classroom. 1 1 2 0
11. A good teacher gives many tests. 1 1 2 0
12. A good teacher is fluent in the target language. 2 2 0 0
13. A good teacher knows all the answers. 0 1 2 1
14. A good teacher includes culture in the lessons. 0 3 1 0
15. A good teacher is interested in the student’s opinions. 0 4 0 0


Questions ( Chinese ) N=3 Strongly agree Agree Disagree Strongly disagree

1. A good teacher should always correct my pronunciation. 2 1 0 0
2. A good teacher is patient with students. 1 2 0 0
3. A good teacher controls the classroom strictly. 1 1 1 0
4. A good teacher talks more than the students. 0 0 3 0
5. A good teacher is organized and follows the schedule closely. 0 3 0 0
6. A good teacher corrects all errors the students make. 1 2 0 0
7. A good teacher smiles and is happy in class. 1 1 1 0
8. A good teacher gives a lot of homework. 0 1 2 0
9. A good teacher doesn’t talk a lot with students during class. 0 1 2 0
10. A good teacher socializes with students outside the classroom. 0 3 0 0
11. A good teacher gives many tests. 0 1 2 0
12. A good teacher is fluent in the target language. 1 2 0 0
13. A good teacher knows all the answers. 1 0 2 0
14. A good teacher includes culture in the lessons. 1 2 0 0
15. A good teacher is interested in the student’s opinions. 1 2 0 0

Questions (Korean ) N=2 Strongly agree Agree Disagree Strongly disagree

1. A good teacher should always correct my pronunciation. 1 1 0 0
2. A good teacher is patient with students. 1 1 0 0
3. A good teacher controls the classroom strictly. 0 2 0 0
4. A good teacher talks more than the students. 0 0 2 0
5. A good teacher is organized and follows the schedule closely. 0 1 1 0
6. A good teacher corrects all errors the students make. 1 1 0 0
7. A good teacher smiles and is happy in class. 1 1 0 0
8. A good teacher gives a lot of homework. 0 0 2 2
9. A good teacher doesn’t talk a lot with students during class. 0 0 0 2
10. A good teacher socializes with students outside the classroom. 1 1 0 0
11. A good teacher gives many tests. 1 1 0 0
12. A good teacher is fluent in the target language. 2 0 0 0
13. A good teacher knows all the answers. 0 1 1 0
14. A good teacher includes culture in the lessons. 0 2 0 0
15. A good teacher is interested in the student’s opinions. 2 0 0 0


Questions (Arabic) N=2 Strongly agree Agree Disagree Strongly disagree

1. A good teacher should always correct my pronunciation. 1 1 0 0
2. A good teacher is patient with students. 2 0 0 0
3. A good teacher controls the classroom strictly. 0 1 1 0
4. A good teacher talks more than the students. 0 1 0 1
5. A good teacher is organized and follows the schedule closely. 0 1 1 0
6. A good teacher corrects all errors the students make. 1 1 0 0
7. A good teacher smiles and is happy in class. 2 0 0 0
8. A good teacher gives a lot of homework. 0 1 1 0
9. A good teacher doesn’t talk a lot with students during class. 0 0 2 0
10. A good teacher socializes with students outside the classroom. 2 0 0 0
11. A good teacher gives many tests. 0 1 0 1
12. A good teacher is fluent in the target language. 1 0 1 0
13. A good teacher knows all the answers. 1 1 0 0
14. A good teacher includes culture in the lessons. 1 1 0 0
15. A good teacher is interested in the student’s opinions. 1 1 0 0







Notable quotes:

“Many students who come to our classes will carry with them specific assumptions about language learning that may or may not agree with our beliefs” (Bassano, 1986, p. 16).

“The experiences that students bring with them are important in their learning and should, in consequence, also be important in our teaching, this is particularly true in second- language classes where we deal with students of varied social and cultural backgrounds and where what we do as teachers might be socially and/or culturally alien to the students” (Yorio, 1989, p.34).

A sampling of student responses to “Describe what you think are the qualities of a good language teacher”
A good language teacher is formal English without strange accent.

A good language teacher is how helping his students to know their errors and how they can correct it, and how they can be a good speaker.

First a good teacher should correct my pronunciation. Second she/he should correct my writing. Third she/he should be friendly with the students. Fourth she/he should give a little homework so that I will have time to prepare fro next class and time to relax.
The teacher has to encourage and stir the students’ intensity in English not to impose their idea to students.

A good teacher would try to know what part of speech each student wants to improve.

I don’t expect all my teachers be patient, but I hope they try; a good teacher let his students participate in class, and correct them in their pronunciation, vocabulary, etc.

A good teacher gives place to speak English for us. Is friendly. Interested in our each culture. Have a lot of information about anthropology which is my interest. Often have a class outside. Gives place to discuss for student.

In the classes the teachers should talk about various things. It’s not only text. I think the teachers should try to attract students to watch video, play games, and so on. I’d like the teacher to correct my wrong sentences or something.

I think teacher has to be fluent (or almost fluent) in the language. Pronunciation, not to mention grammar and if possible about culture too.
Especially pronunciation is very important because the student who speaks another language learn to correct pronunciation from the speaking of the teacher in the classroom day by day.

Copyright © 2006

Permission to print on-line has been granted to UsingEnglish.com.

About the author:

Dr. Samir M. Rammal is an Assistant Professor of English Department of Languages & Translation Birzeit University in Palestine.