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Parvaneh Parvaresh presents at the IATEFL Conference

Parvaneh Parvaresh presents at the IATEFL Conference

Parvaneh Parvaresh, Research Student for the Department of ALC, tells us about her presentation at the IATEFL Conference

8 April to 12 April 2013

IATEFL Conference

Arena and Convention Centre, Liverpool

Mind the Gap: Exploring EFL Teacher Beliefs and Classroom Practice

Over recent decades, research has shown that teachers' beliefs underlie their teaching practices, but various factors can affect the consistency between belief and practice. This study aims to investigate how teacher cognition – what language teachers think, know, and believe – contributes to the practices of eight high school teachers of English as a foreign language (EFL), with specific relation to the role of communicative approach to language teaching. It enhances our understanding of teaching foreign language from a teacher cognition perspective, particularly with regard to in-service teachers. Drawing on Borg’s (2006) conceptual framework of language teacher cognition, this study investigates the relationships among teachers' beliefs, classroom practices, and interactions in their workplace in a foreign language setting, Iran.

It first examines how teachers' beliefs are enacted in classroom practice and how the professional contexts in which they work shape their actions and decision-making. Furthermore it explores the reasons for tensions between beliefs and practices and documents the factors that influence belief and practice consistency. To gain insight into the links between teachers' stated beliefs and observed practices and to understand how those beliefs are influenced, semi-structured interviews, observations, field notes, and reflective essays were conducted. Data from these sources were triangulated for validation and verification. Based on analysis of these semi-structured interviews, lesson observations and further interviews were carried out with eight teachers who displayed differing patterns in the relationships between teachers' beliefs and practices.

This study highlights the interaction between a range of inter-related factors which collectively shape teachers' beliefs about language teaching and learning. It also highlights teaching behaviours that characterised the teacher’s approach to English teaching. Furthermore, through an analysis of teachers’ own analytic commentary on their teaching behaviours, the key features of the teacher’s belief system emerged: the experiential category that included references to educational and professional experiences in the teacher’s life that had some bearing on an understanding of their current teaching practices, the pedagogical category included the teacher’s beliefs about a range of issues in L2 learning and teaching, and the contextual category included references the teachers made to the effect of external and internal contextual factors on their practices.

Findings revealed that there were discrepancies between the participant teachers’ beliefs and actual classroom practices. These discrepancies might have been because of the contextual constraints the teachers face in their school context and culture as it was the case mentioned by the teachers in this study. In addition, the findings revealed that the participants’ teaching beliefs and practices were influenced by their previous learning and teaching experiences and that they were also contextualised in their particular teaching situations. The study also points out the significant implications of this research for teachers, researchers and teacher educators.