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Teachers' perceptions of students' attitudes in mixed ability EFL public primary school classes Xanthou Maria and Pavlou Pavlos University of Cyprus Greek.

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Presentation on theme: "Teachers' perceptions of students' attitudes in mixed ability EFL public primary school classes Xanthou Maria and Pavlou Pavlos University of Cyprus Greek."— Presentation transcript:

1 Teachers' perceptions of students' attitudes in mixed ability EFL public primary school classes Xanthou Maria and Pavlou Pavlos University of Cyprus Greek Applied Linguistics Association 14th International Conference Advances in Research on Language Acquisition and Teaching 14-16 December 2007 Capsis Hotel, Thessaloniki Greece

2 Introduction  We teach Mixed Ability Classes (Richards, 1998)  EFL in public schools: false beginners (already been exposed to English, English speaking parents etc) and true beginners (no structural and lexical knowledge of the L2).  The paper explores the current mixed ability situation in EFL classrooms

3 EFL class culture  Şalli-Çopur (2005): ‘EFL language classes are mixed ability classes'. Learners do not share the same language background, (Prodromou, 1995, p.7).  True beginners begin classes without early preparation  False beginners are exposed to English language for at least one year of private institutional instruction before joining level 1 of the EFL course in State schools.

4 EFL class culture  Differences in language experiences and learning ability cause problems in heterogeneous classes (Ur, 1996)  Some learners always participate while others may not speak for the entire lesson. The first group of children may even ‘lose interest in the class’ while the latter quit (Prodromou, 1995, p.3)  Textbooks may not accommodate the needs of a diverse class population.

5  Significant effect (p=.00) of private EFL classes on grammar score (Xanthou and Pavlou, 2006).  A textbook (‘Freddy and friends’, 2003 by Mead & Atkins) used by many private institutions includes all grammar of level 1 public primary school EFL course as well as structures which are taught at level 2 e.g. ‘There is/are’, ‘How many…?’, ‘some/any’, ‘Present Continuous’ and ‘Present Simple tense’.  Analysis of the sixty four vocabulary tests which were administered in three EFL level 1 classes of an urban school showed a significant effect of private institutional instruction on vocabulary scores (Sig=.00). A close examination of the private tuition textbook (stage: 1) showed that it involved all word categories that are included in the book ‘English for Communication 1’ (Tziortzis et al, 1996). Previous research

6 Purpose  Explore the mixed ability EFL classes issue: providing empirical data revealing the teachers’ views and experiences of students’ attitudes in MAC

7 Methodology  Quantitative and qualitative methodology (questionnaire, in- class observation data, textbook was examined)  A Likert type questionnaire was administered to 114 EFL teachers  In-class observation data

8 Hypothesis  Teachers’ views were expected to confirm that PKE creates problems in the EFL class such as increasing the self confidence and participation of students with PKE while simultaneously decreasing the self confidence of students without language experiences.

9 Apparatus  A questionnaire was administered to 114 EFL State primary school teachers. The items of the questionnaire were based on the findings of a pilot study in the form of semi-structured interviews (Bell, 1999, p.132).  In-class observation data were held twice a week for six 40 minute lessons lasting one month (October 2005). Level 1 class of an urban school: 25 children of mixed abilities. This type of data aims to explore the MAC issue in a natural environment (Bailey, 1975, p.75).

10 Results Teachers’ experiences of Mixed Ability EFL classes Figure 1: Teachers’ assessment of learners’ linguistic level in relation to negative influence on the lesson.

11 Figure 2: Teachers’ views on whether students without PKE feel disadvantaged

12 3: Teachers’ evaluation of how low level students express their feelings

13 Figure 4:Teachers’ evaluation of low level students’ comments

14 Figure 5: Teachers’ responses to students’ comments

15 Figure 6: Attitudes of advanced students

16 Figure 7: Teachers’ perceptions on how students with PKE could disturb the lesson

17 Discussion- Implications  True beginners are not so easily involved in the lesson - feeling disadvantaged exhibiting reluctance to talk (92.11%), avoiding class participation.  They usually comment that they do not take private lessons complaining often that they have problems in the four language skills.  False beginners with prior knowledge of English may often (40.35%) or very often (18.42%) have a negative influence on the lesson as they may not find interest in the lesson.  Prior knowledge seems to affect students’ self-esteem. Advanced students are usually self-confidenced and 82.44% of the teachers believe that these students do not let others think. When low- proficiency level students are given opportunities to talk, their self- esteem could be raised but this may rarely be done when the teacher is in a hurry to teach 25 structures a year in the limited time of two forty minute periods a week.  Future planning.  The EFL course in public schools may need to start from an earlier age  Education authorities need to increase the number of seminars  The number of EFL counselors needs to increase

18 Limitations- Directions in future research  Small sample  Space triangulation  More research is required in coping with MAC. The appropriacy of certain strategies needs to be examined.  Case studies in this context are desirable.  Assessing pupils in mixed ability classes  A reliable instrument needs to be developed measuring performance in MAC.

19 References  Bailey, K. (1978). Methods of social research. London: Collier- Macmillan.  Bell, J. (1999). Doing your research project. Buckingham Open University Press.  Cohen, L. and Manion, L. (2000). Research methods in education. London: Routledge.  Mead, A. & Atkins, B. (2003). Freddy and friends. Limassol: Burlington Books.  Prodromou, L. (1995). Mixed ability classes. Hertfordshire: Phoenix ELT.  Richards, S. (1998). ELT Spectrum. Oxford: Oxford University Press.  Salli-Copur, D. (2005). Coping with the problems of mixed ability classes. The Internet TESL Journal Vol.XI (8).  Tziortzis, A., Englezaki, A. and Ioannou, S. (1996) English for Communication 1, Ministry of Education and Culture of Cyprus: Nicosia.  Ur, P. (1996). A course in language teaching: Theory and Practice. Great Britain: Cambridge University Press.  Xanthou, M & Pavlou, P. (2007) Mixed ability classes in the EFL setting of primary schools in Cyprus. The impact of private tuition, school location and gender. Vol.1. Department of English Studies: University of Cyprus.

20 TEACHERS’QUESTIONNAIRE 1. At what level of competence do students start to affect negatively the flow of the lesson? a) True beginners e.g. having difficulties in understanding instructions in the target language never seldom often very often always b) False beginners when they do not find interest in what the teacher says c) Other…………………………

21 2. Do students without prior knowledge of English feel disadvantaged? a) Yes b) No c) It depends on the teaching approach d) It depends on the student e) Other………………………… 3. If students without prior knowledge of English feel disadvantaged, how do they express this? never seldom often very often always a) They do not pay attention b) They do other things c) They are afraid to speak d) Other…………………………

22 4. What comments do children without prior knowledge of English make? never seldom often very often always a) ‘I do not take private lessons’ b) ‘I don’t understand English’ c) ‘I can’t speak English’ d) ‘I can’t read’ e) ‘I don’t know how to write this’ f) Other………………………… 5. How do you respond to such comments? never seldom often very often always a) Assure the learners that they are going to be taught what is required from them b) Inform learners that the material being taught is part of what is demanded from them c) Ask children to work in pairs or groups to offer and get help d) Provide differentiated work e) Other……………………..

23 6. How do the children with prior knowledge of English (PKE) feel? never seldom often very often always a) Self-confident b) Laughing at and looking down on students who make mistakes c) They feel bored d) They look down on the lesson 7. Can you think of some ways that pupils with PKE could disturb the lesson? totally disagree no opinion agree totally disagree agree a) They answer without being asked b) They don’t let others think c) They deal with exercises of the following lessons d) They insist on wrong answers e) They do not pay attention f) Other…………………………

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