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Experienced EFL teachers' personal theories of good teaching : a PCT-based investigation

By Sultan Erdoǧan


The importance of understanding teachers' cognition has been frequently stressed in connection with an ongoing debate regarding the need for a new knowledge base in English language teacher education. However, as is indicated in Chapter One of the present thesis, there has so far been relatively little actual research into teachers' cognition in the field of ELT, and the majority of studies have focused on pre-service and novice, rather than experienced teachers. Research into experienced teachers has tended to rest on the questionable assumption that characteristics of `experts' can be identified and their knowledge prescribed to novices. Additionally, most studies have been carried out in ESL contexts, not the secondary school EFL contexts in which most teachers of English in the world work.\ud This justifies the focus in the present study on identifying experienced (but not necessarily `expert') teachers' personal theories of good teaching in an EFL secondary school context in Turkey. Both the contents and the overall nature (structure and sources) of such teachers' theories are investigated, as is the extent to which their classroom practices are congruent with their theories. The study adopts a Personal Construct Theory (PCT) perspective which is justified and explained in Chapter Two, and employs repertory-grid and follow-up interviews, and stimulated recall interviews based on video-recordings of lessons (as explained in Chapter Three). Four teachers, whose years of experience range from eleven to twenty-five years, are particularly focused upon.\ud Findings are presented and discussed in four chapters, which focus, respectively, on: participants' core constructs relating to `Significant others' in their past and present experience (Chapter Four); shared views (as revealed by content analysis) relating to professional development, and roles and relationships (Chapter Five); both shared views and individual constructs relating specifically to classroom practice and pedagogy (Chapter Six); and, finally, how the participants' personal theories are put into practice and situational constraints are perceived (Chapter Seven).\ud In Chapter Eight I discuss how the personal theories of the participants in this study appear relatively unaffected by formal theories of teaching and learning but are particularly informed by core constructs which have moral and affective significance.\ud These core constructs have deep roots in participants' personal biographies, and they have, to varying extents, developed ways of mediating them into their practice. This process is explained with reference to PCT, and original findings are also offered regarding the overall structure of teacher cognition and the way teachers respond differently to common constraints. The thesis ends (Chapter Nine) with a summary of implications and limitations of the study, suggestions for future research, and final reflections on theory-practice dissonance

Topics: LB, PE
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