GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
Al Riyami
First Name:
Title of Paper:
Introducing Critical pedagogy in ELT as a way to expand learning outside the classroom: Potentialities and challenges
Paper Proposal Text :
The rapid societal, economic and political changes in the past two decades in the Gulf, where Oman is, have left education in general and English Language Teaching (ELT) in a state of crisis (Syed, 2003). In addition, ELT educators are currently experiencing an increasing emphasis on standards, testing and classroom pedagogies that “teach to the test” (Gruenewald, 2003). This might prevent students and teachers having opportunities to experience the goal of education as a social transformation that results in lifelong learning. To overcome such issues, it is necessary to develop socio-culturally appropriate materials and implement pedagogy that takes students’ needs, cultures and experiences as a first departure point in any English classroom (al-Faruqi, 1986; Asraf, 1996 as cited in Syed, 2003). Thus, the aim of this study is to raise ELT teachers’ awareness of aspects of Critical Pedagogy (CP) since applying CP may give us a hope to widen students' learning through engaging them in reflection and action (praxis) in order to understand, and, where necessary, to change the world (Freire, 1973). It also explores the potential and challenge of integrating CP into Territory ELT classes in Oman from teachers’ perception.
This study is based on Freirean Critical Pedagogy (CP) (1973). CP is primarily concerned with challenging individuals to investigate, understand, and intervene in order to ameliorate their life to be better (Leistyna & Woodrum, 1999). CP is not a method, rather it is “an attitude to language teaching which relates the classroom context to the wider social context and aims at social transformation through education”(Akbari, 2008, p. 276). It is a moving from a "banking model" which has many characteristics that are summarized in Figure 1 as Ferier stated in his book (1973, p. 73) towards a transformative aspect of education where students are not only passive recipients of knowledge. Rather, they are perceived as “critical co-investigators in dialogue with the teacher” (Freire, 2000, p. 81).
CP is also a moving to address “the marginalization and exclusion of schooling by encouraging students to develop their own voice” (Pennycook, 2001, p.130). Voice refers to “a boarder understanding of developing possibilities to articulate alternative realities” (ibid, p.130). This can be done through promoting and practicing dialogue, problem posing, shared decision-making, valuing students’ previous experiences and their ways of knowing (Ferier, 1973;Breunigm, 2005; Wink, 2005). Within CP, any educational institution should be “ a place where teaching is not reduced to learning how either to master tests or to acquire low level jobs skills, but a safe space where reason, understanding, dialogue, and critical engagement are available to all faculty and students” (Giroux & Giroux, 2006, p.30).
3.1 Research Questions
This study aims to answer the following research questions:
1. Are English language teachers at ELC aware of CP?
2. What is teachers' attitude towards implementing CP?
3. What are the potentialities of applying CP at ELT classroom?
4. What are the challenges of implementing CP at ELT classroom?
5.2 Research Methodology and methods
This study is an action research which can be defined as “a small scale intervention in the functioning of the real world and a close examination of the effects of such an intervention” (Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2011, p.186). The aim of an action research is to “bring about practical improvement, innovation, change or development of social practice and the practioners’ better understanding of their practices.” (Zuber-Skerritt, 1998, p.83). The study utilizes multiple methods which “produce different kinds of data for a same topic, which could improve the quality of the research” (Denscombe , 2004, p.133). Firstly, I utilize open ended questionnaire to trace teachers’ perceptions of CP before intervention. Then, I use semi-structured interview to evaluate the effect of the intervention in their perceptions and tackle the potentialities and constraints in applying CP in Oman.
5.4 Research Procedure
The procedure of the study is as follows:
• Sending an open-ended questionnaire to all ELT teachers at English language centre in one college in Oman to examine their awareness of CP before the interventions.
• Sending an article entitled: Transforming lives: introducing critical pedagogy into ELT classrooms by Akbari (2008) (intervention 1) via email to all ELT teachers two weeks before the workshop.
• Conducting a workshop for the teachers about CP (intervention 2).
• Interviewing teachers to ask them about their understanding, possibilities and challenges of implementing CP.
4. Research Findings
The results show that the majority of ELT teachers are not aware of CP and they continue to use "banking model" where they transmit knowledge to their students. The results also show that the teachers follow traditional methods, where they rely on testing, that encourage students to memorize grammatical rules, and the spellings and meanings of words (Al Issa & Al Blushi, 2011). However, as a result of the interventions, the EFL teachers are willing to incorporate principles of CP since it encourages students to go beyond the classroom and through discussing issues that are current and relevant to students’ life and culture. Similarly, the teachers express that implementing CP will help them to bring the outside world into the classroom which will help in preparing the students to cope with the outside world. Thus, ELT classroom “is not just a context for the learning of isolated and discrete language skills but a community where ideologies and meanings are co-constructed and personalities are developed” (Troudi, 2005, p. 127). Nonetheless, looking at the data from the interviews, there are various challenges that teachers might face if they want to implement CP which can be classified under three main categories: challenges concerning learners, challenges concerning teachers and challenging concerning administration.
5. Research Recommendations
Based on the findings, the study recommends that CP should be put in practice since its implementation is considered to be a necessity by the participants. There is a pressing need for a pedagogy that takes students’ needs, cultures and experiences as a first departure point in any English classroom. In addition, continuing using “banking model” would result in generating citizens who are not capable to handle the rapid growth in life in general and job market in particular.
The rigidity of the ELT syllabuses at the Omani educational system is considered to be one challenge of CP implementation. Thus, teachers should be given more freedom in implementing the syllabus so they can incorporate some if not all principles of CP. For instance, they should be given the opportunity to choose the topics through negotiation with their students. In this case, teachers can feel autonomy which can affect their motivation for improving their practice and help students to understand their world in a better way. Rather than viewing themselves as consumers of policies and regulations.