This study aims at evaluating the restructured curriculum of English Language Teaching (ELT) departments in the faculties of education, one of the major reforms of institutionalization. A survey was conducted on the student teachers attending ELT department in Turkey. A questionnaire with four sections prepared by the researcher was administered to 53 participants. Findings specify that the student teachers think the current curriculum applied in ELT departments is consistent with student teachers’ expectations within the framework of teaching profession, social objectives and benefits; moreover, the courses are integrated with practice oriented issues rather than pure theoretical ones. Thus, engagement in teaching proficiency autonomously has been realized by fostering awareness for teaching profession. Although, the overall idea obtained from the findings is that the current curriculum has been evaluated as adequate in relation to teaching profession by a great majority of the student teachers who participated in the survey, the proclaimed lack point of the current curriculum is the nonexistence of culture specific courses.
Keywords: faculties of education, curriculum, teaching profession, English Language Teaching (ELT), institutionalization
Training language specialists is the responsibility of higher education institutions where language specialists such as language teachers, philologists, translators and interpreters are tutored. Due to this responsibility, higher education institutions are supposed to take the guide for designing language learning circumstances. In this sense, the curriculum of those institutions needs to be revised regularly in order to meet the social requirements (Diamond, 2000). Among those institutions, language teacher training departments aim at revising their objectives to be consistent with the social requirements and education policy (Grossman et al, 2007). It is well known that trainees attending those departments are exposed to various teaching modes and procedures. Therefore, those modes and procedures are considered on the base of their curriculum, comprising courses designed for implementing teaching issues such as microteaching activities, group works, debates, preparing research papers, presentations, task-based activities, and so on.
Since English is mostly taught by non-native speakers to other non-native speakers (Kachru and Nelson, 2001), teacher training curriculum needs to be designed as consistent with the prerequisites of the global purposes with an effort to put students in the centre of teaching and learning activities (Cullen, 1994; Murdoch, 1994). Such reforms have been developed to foster teaching and learning engagements in education systems by restructuring programmes of education institutions and revising the content of courses (Fanghanel, 2004; Şimşek, 1999, Canagarajah, 2005). This restructuring process in teacher training institutions aims at responding to social changes within the concept of institutionalization in which social processes, obligations or movements accomplish a rule-like status in social thoughts and actions (Meyer and Rowan, 1991; Gorgos, 2001).
In Turkey, the Council of Higher Education has begun to re-structure the faculties of education since 1998. The first effort in 1998, a reform of the World Bank and the Council of Higher Education was implemented in all faculties of education in Turkey. The recent curriculum, which has been employed since 2006-2007 academic year, offers new courses in addition to the previous ones. The overall aim is to define learning outcomes expected from teachers of different fields as well as English. The aims include the issues such as determining, assessing and evaluating the processes of teaching proficiency. Therefore, the faculties of education are anticipated to have common standards as the requirement of the process and the courses have been adjusted to these purposes.
The English language teacher training bachelor's degree programme takes four years and consists of basic courses and electives. The courses namely are ELT Methodology I, ELT Methodology II, Drama, Classroom management, Teaching English to Young Learners, Teaching English to Young Learners I, Teaching Language Skills I, Turkish-English Translation, Literature and Language Teaching I (short story and novel), Teaching Language Skills II, Literature and Language Teaching II (poetry and drama), Language Teaching Materials Adaptation and Development, School Experience, Guidance, Special Education, Teaching Technologies and Material Evaluation, English Language Testing and Evaluation, Teaching Practice, Special Education Methods I, Special Education Methods II.
The curriculum is based on Common European Framework of Reference for languages (CEF) which provides a common basis for language programmes and a comprehensive way to describe language teaching and learning processes (Council of Europe, 2002). Within the framework of CEF, the trainees are expected autonomous learners and teachers who widen the scopes of both personal and professional development. The reorientation of the curriculum has been planned within the framework of European Portfolio for Student Teachers of Languages (EPOSTL) and designed by taking the prerequisites of teacher training programmes and faculties of education (YOK, 2008). EPOSTL which is a means of fostering professional growth is a document by which educational knowledge and skills for teaching languages are assessed, monitored, recorded and reflected. In these processes, feedback is provided for students’ performances. Since EPOSTL is a means of promoting professional growth through reflection and dialogue, it enhances autonomous learning.
Although theoretically all efforts may seem constructive for teacher training institutions, the failure or accomplishment of the curriculum needs to be tested and determined. In this sense, evaluation of the curriculum may be carried out through some research conducted on faculty members and students. Therefore, this study aims at evaluating the recent curriculum offered by the Council of Higher Education for English teacher training programmes. The focus of the study is on the assessment of student teachers attending those departments.
Objective of the Study
The objective of the study is to evaluate how the recent curriculum works regarding the student teachers’ perspectives and, thus, to provide data on this topic by determining the emerging problems and advantages.
Survey method was used in the study to evaluate student teachers’ perspectives about the new curriculum. The participants of the study are 53 third year students attending English Language Teaching (ELT) department. The aim of conducting the research on the third year students is that the new curriculum has been implemented only for three years at the faculties of education in Turkey. So the third year students have studied the three-year courses in the current curriculum. The fourth-year students are still taking the courses of the previous curriculum.
For fulfilling the aim of the study, a questionnaire developed by the researcher was administered on the students. As the initial phase, the questionnaire was piloted on 20 students. Then, the poor and ambiguous items were revised. The improved form of the questionnaire was used as data collection instrument. The collected data was statistically computed through SPSS 11.0. The questionnaire with four sections includes 28 items. The items were rated on three-point responses. First three sections were rated as disagree, undecided, agree; the choices of the last section are sufficient, partially sufficient, insufficient. Cronbach alpha coefficient of the instrument was found out to be .89.
The findings of the study are grouped under four headings: general evaluation of the content of the curriculum, evaluation of course contents, evaluation of course characteristics, and evaluation of sufficiency of courses considering teaching profession. The findings are displayed in separate tables.
Table 1 indicates the overall ideas of the participants about the content of the curriculum. Nearly all students (44) declared that the curriculum is consistent with students’ requirements. Moreover, more than half of the students agreed that the curriculum aims at covering the prerequisites of teaching profession (37), social benefits (34), social objectives (36) and students’ autonomy (39).
In Table 2, the responses for the evaluation the course content are presented. More than half of the students stated that the focal points of the courses are on practical knowledge (39) rather than theoretical knowledge (19), research oriented (36) and integrated with learning-teaching activities (36), abstract information (30), though 22 could not come to a decision about evaluation of this point. Nearly half of the students (26) agreed that the courses foster cognitive proficiency but 23 students could not evaluate the courses regarding cognitive aspect.
When the distinguishing points of the courses are questioned, it was agreed by all students (53) that the courses raise awareness for teaching profession; the similar assessments were reported about language skills (52) and teaching proficiency (44). However, more than half of students (36) declared that the courses are not designed for developing cultural competency and seventeen students were hesitant about this topic. In addition, only twenty four students proclaimed the learner-centeredness tendency of the courses, while sixteen students were not assured about the issue. On the other hand, half of the students (26) agreed on the potential of the courses for fostering learning strategies, but nineteen students were undecided about the availability of the courses for using learning strategies. More than half of the students (39) were of the same opinion that the courses are engaged in language related fields.
The students were also questioned on the individual courses for obtaining data with reference to the sufficiency of the courses. As presented in Table 4, the majority of the students declared that all courses are mostly or partially satisfactory for teaching profession. But more than half of the students (69.8) thought translation courses as partially satisfactory in relation to teaching profession.
Discussion and Suggestions
The overall results are the evidence for the productive aspect of the current curriculum of ELT. The majority of the students thought that the content of the curriculum is consistent with students’ prerequisites as pre-service teachers, teaching profession, social benefits and objectives, and learner autonomy. In this sense, it is possible to deduce that the curriculum provides opportunities for the student teachers to recognize the assignments of teachers within the framework of social status autonomously. Such an outcome provides evidence about the prominence of the curriculum.
By taking the students’ thoughts about the course contents, it is possible to state that the courses are designed mostly as practice oriented. Such an orientation of the curriculum gives opportunities for student teachers to be involved in teaching practice and gain teaching proficiency in their fields. Thus, they can gain self-confidence in teaching profession.
The views about the course characteristics of the student teachers display that the courses are generally available for language skills and teaching profession but not available for cultural competency. This lack point stated by the student teachers can also be seen when the courses of the curriculum are examined. Another point which was declared by nearly half of the student teachers is that the courses are lack in some aspects for developing learning strategies and learner centeredness. Such an outcome may be due to teaching staff who lecture in the courses. If teaching staff do not create teaching environments for fostering learning strategies in learner centred orientation, learners may not be enhanced to develop learning strategies consciously and acquaint themselves with learner centeredness.
The findings of efficiency of the individual courses reveal that the student teachers, in general sense, find the courses sufficient considering teaching proficiency. However, they mostly thought translation courses are partially efficient on teaching profession. Such a tendency may be due to the fact that translation courses are mainly used to develop language proficiency not teaching proficiency. On the other hand, all courses were agreed to be efficient on teaching proficiency.
In consequence of the student teachers’ responses, the main objectives of the curriculum can be outlined as constructive for social objectives and benefits. Since the student teachers think the current curriculum comprises courses designed for teaching profession, it is appropriate to raise consciousness for teaching profession. Moreover, the curriculum was thought to be augmenting language skills and teaching practices. In addition, the curriculum was assumed to be practice oriented, thus, the student teachers can easily involve in teaching practices during their bachelor education. Further, they stated the courses are available for fostering autonomous learning. But translation courses were not favoured as efficient as the other courses for teaching proficiency.
Depending on the responses it can be suggested that cooperation of the courses offered need to be in inauguration of faculties of education. The general evaluations can be carried out by taking both teaching staff and student teachers’ ideas about the implementation of the curriculum. Moreover, studies can be carried out for the quality of courses included into the curriculum for making required changes. Certain precautions should be taken for the solution of the problems determined in consequence of the results obtained from the studies. The problems determined in this study are the courses offered in the curriculum do not focus on cultural competency and translation courses are not so efficient on teaching proficiency. In this context, the solutions can be offered in elective courses which will be integrated with cultural points of the language taught and translation courses can be offered as elective courses for the ones who want to deal with translation activities. Moreover, student teachers can be directed towards to use learning strategies in learner centred classes in their education process so as to they can apply the same strategy as a teacher in their teaching processes.
In foreign language teacher training departments, the course contents are designed with teaching modes and procedures by regarding social requirements and education policies. The main objective of such designs is to implement teaching issues such as microteaching activities, group works, debates, preparing research papers, presentations, task-based activities, and so on. In this context, the effort is to put students in the centre of teaching and learning activities. The achievement of the effort can be evaluated in various ways. In this study, evaluation is employed by the student teachers’ perceptions. The student teachers, who participated in the study, in general sense, thought the current curriculum is encouraging and productive for teaching profession.
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