Factors that influence the English language teaching-learning process in Ecuadorian private high schools

Texto completo

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UNIVERSIDAD TÉCNICA PARTICULAR DE LOJA

La Universidad Católica de Loja

ÁREA SOCIO HUMANÍSTICA

TITULACIÓN DE LICENCIADO EN CIENCIAS DE LA EDUCACIÓN

MENCIÓN INGLÉS

Factors that influence the English language teaching-learning process in

Ecuadorian private high schools

TRABAJO DE FIN DE TITULACIÓN

AUTORA: Chávez Paz, Enedina Aurora

DIRECTORA: P

inza Tapia, Eliana Ivanova, Mgs.

CENTRO UNIVERSITARIO CUENCA

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APROBACIÓN DEL DIRECTOR DEL TRABAJO DE FIN DE TITULACIÓN

Magister.

Eliana Ivanova Pinza Tapia

DOCENTE DE LA TITULACIÓN

De mis consideraciones:

Que el presente trabajo de fin de titulación: “Factors that influence the English language

teaching- learning process in Ecuadorian private high schools” realizado por: Chávez

Paz Enedina Aurora; ha sido orientado y revisado durante su ejecución, por cuanto se

aprueba la presentación del mismo.

Loja, Febrero del 2014

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DECLARACIÓN DE AUTORÍA Y CESIÓN DE DERECHOS

“Yo, Enedina Aurora Chávez Paz declaro ser autora del presente trabajo de fin de

titulación: Factors that influence the English language teaching-learning process in

Ecuadorian private high schools, de la Titulación de Ciencias de la Educación mención

Inglés, siendo Pinza Tapia Eliana Ivanova, Mgs. Directora del presente trabajo; y eximo

expresamente a la Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja y a sus representantes legales

de posibles reclamos o acciones legales. Además certifico que las ideas, conceptos,

procedimientos y resultados vertidos en el presente trabajo investigativo, son de mi

exclusiva responsabilidad.

Adicionalmente declaro conocer y aceptar la disposición del Art. 67 del Estatuto

Orgánico de la Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja que en su parte pertinente

textualmente dice: “formar parte del patrimonio de la Universidad la propiedad

intelectual de investigaciones, trabajos científicos o técnicos y tesis de grado que se

realicen a través, o con el apoyo financiero, académico o institucional (operativo) de la

Universidad”.

Enedina Aurora Chávez Paz

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DEDICATION

I dedicate this work to my beloved daughter for being my inspiration to continue

studying my university major. I wanted to help her with her school work, so it motivated

me to study. She has really been a great help.

I also want to dedicate this work to my mother who passed away many years ago.

I know she will always look after me wherever she is now, and she will always guide me

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ACKNOWLEDGMENT

First of all, I would like to thank God for giving me the strength and health to

continue studying.

I also want to express my gratitude to the University for giving me the

opportunity to study through this method.

Many thanks to my director of this thesis Mgs. Eliana Pinza for her guide and

support. Special thanks to all the teachers who guided me and shared their knowledge

with me.

I want to express my gratitude to all the principals and teachers who helped in the

schools where I conducted my observations; without their support, this goal would not

have been accomplished.

Finally, I thank my husband for his unconditionally support, without him and my

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Contents

COVER………....i

CERTIFICACION………..ii

DECLARACION DE AUTORIA Y CESIÓN DE DERECHOS ... iii

DEDICATION ... iv

ACKNOWLEDGMENT ... v

ABSTRACT………. . vii

RESUMEN………. viii

INTRODUCTION ... 1

METHOD ... 4

DISCUSSION... 7

Literature Review ... 7

Description, Analysis, and Interpretation of Results ... 22

Conclusions………...50

Recommendations ... 51

REFERENCES ... 52

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ABSTRACT

The topic of this research study is related to the factors that influence the English

language teaching-learning process in Ecuadorian private high schools, and its purpose

was to identify, determine, and analyze such factors.

This research study was conducted in the city of Cuenca where five private high

schools were chosen in order to carry out classroom observations. Besides, the teachers

of the observed classes were interviewed and surveyed, and one student of each class

was also surveyed about the topic of this research. The aim of the classroom

observations, surveys, and interviews was to identify the different aspects such as

classroom settings, methods, activities, and materials used by the teacher and the

opinions of the students about these factors.

The factors considered on this study were divided in four variables analyzed

qualitatively and quantitatively: factors concerning teachers, students, classroom, and

educational institution.

As a main conclusion, it is possible to say that the factors that mostly influence

the English language teaching-learning process are the level of education of the foreign

language teachers, number of students in each class, physical space, and the use of

supplementary materials.

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RESUMEN

El tema de este estudio está relacionado con los factores que influyen el proceso

de enseñanza- aprendizaje de la lengua Inglés en los colegios privados de educación

secundaria en Ecuador, y su propósito fue identificar , determinar y analizar dichos

factores.

Esta investigación se llevó a cabo en la ciudad de Cuenca, donde se escogieron

cinco colegios secundarios privados con el fin de llevar a cabo las observaciones de aula.

Además, los profesores de las clases observadas fueron entrevistados y encuestados, y

un estudiante de cada clase también fue una encuestado sobre el tema de esta

investigación. El objetivo de las observaciones en el aula, las encuestas y las entrevistas

fue identificar los diferentes aspectos tales como los salones de clase, los métodos ,

actividades y materiales utilizados por el docente y las opiniones de los estudiantes sobre

estos factores.

Los factores considerados en este estudio fueron divididos en cuatro variables

analizadas cualitativa y cuantitativamente: factores relacionados con los docentes,

estudiantes, aula, y la institución educativa.

Como principal conclusión, es posible decir que los factores que influyen

mayormente el proceso de enseñanza - aprendizaje del idioma Inglés son el nivel de

educación de los profesores de la lengua extranjera, el número de estudiantes en cada

clase, el espacio físico y el uso de materiales complementarios.

Palabras claves: Enseñanza de Inglés, Factores, Colegios Privados, Educación,

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INTRODUCTION

English as a foreign language is a subject that all public and private high schools

include in their curriculum. However, it has been noticed that when students enter the

university, their lack of knowledge of this language limits their academic performance

especially because students may not have the opportunity to obtain a scholarship to study

in countries where English is used. Besides, English is now required in certain jobs in

Ecuador; therefore, these students will miss the opportunity to find a job that is

interesting to them only because they do not know this language.

Little research has been developed to find out the possible factors that affect the

lack of knowledge of high school students. In fact in 2012, the students of the

Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja conducted research focused on the factors that

affect the teaching and learning process in public Ecuadorian high schools, but no

research has been developed about private high schools in this country.

This is the reason why it is important to establish the cause of why learners who

study in private schools do not learn English as a foreign language in an appropriate

way, considering that most of them have at least 5 hours of this class a week.

Taking this background into account, the objectives of this research were first of

all, to identify students’ English level and their needs in the classroom. Also, to

determine the classroom conditions in which English lessons take place. The third

specific objective was to identify the characteristics of in-service English teachers, and

finally, to determine institutional facilities and norms regarding quality education.

Some authors have developed research worldwide about factors that influence

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(2006), who carried out a research study, and one of its main purposes was to find out if

secondary school teachers use instructional materials with frequency in EFL classes in

Nigeria. The main conclusions drawn by the researchers were that teachers do not tend

to use resources in their classes. Thus, it was suggested that secondary schools should

be provided with a variety of instructional materials and avoid the exclusive use of the

textbooks, chalkboards and lecture methods.

The second study was developed by Muslaic (2009). The main objective of this

research was to review grammatical structures and writing skills and introduce related

topics such as report writing, memorandums, letters, proposals, and oral reports in order

to recognize the different learning styles of students. The main conclusion reached by

the researcher was that it is important to determine students’ learning styles and make

students be aware about the different approaches to learning.

Besides, Al-mansri (2005) developed a study in order to describe and explore

students’ interests in using WebCT (Course Tools) as supportive material. The purposes

of this study were, first of all, to describe and explore students’ interest in using WebCT

as a supportive tool, and the second objective was to identify difficulties related to the

use of WebCT in TEFL. The main conclusions the researcher found were that the

participants’ responses to the level of interest toward WebCT were positive and

motivating. Also, it was pointed out that some key technical challenges need to be

overcome. All in all, the researcher agrees that WebCT is a tool that can influence

positively in the EFL teaching-learning process.

The following study was done by Muller and Nel (2010). The focus of their

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language learners in South African education system. The main conclusion drawn by

the researchers was that there was limited ESL resources and support from teachers,

principals and other sources, and a limited time frame. Also, it was found that teachers

had language barriers which also influenced negatively on the learning of students.

From these studies it is possible to observe that there are several factors they

have analyzed and considered that they influence the teaching and learning process of a

foreign language.

The beneficiaries of this research are the institutions, teachers and students of

high schools. It is beneficial for institutions and teachers because this research study

shows the different factors that influence students’ learning. Therefore, they will be

aware of this and try to overcome any obstacles to improve foreign language education.

Students will also benefit from this research study because, once teachers are aware of

the factors that influence their learning, they will improve their performance in class,

taking into account their needs and their learning styles, managing their classes in a

better way.

The only limitation found during the field research was the number of

observations because it is difficult to evaluate the performance of a teacher in only one

class. That is why it would have been better to observe at least five classes to each

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METHOD

Setting and Participants

This study was conducted in the city of Cuenca. The participants were fifteen

teachers and fifteen students from five private high schools in Cuenca. The students in

three out of the five classes observed were male and female, and the courses in these

high schools ranged from 16 to 32 students. In the other two courses observed, there

were only female students. The courses ranged from 15 to 25 students.

Besides, the total number of hours of class varied. In three high schools students

had 5 hours of English per week, and in the other two, they had 8 hours of English as a

foreign language per week. Considering the number of classes per week, it is possible to

say that the classes in general had a low intermediate level of English knowledge.

The teachers and the students were from basic education (eighth, ninth, and tenth

years) and bachillerato level (first, second, and third years), as well.

Procedures

Before starting with the field research it was important to elaborate a literature

review related to topics considering foreign language teaching and learning in order to

have a scientific basis for this research. To do this, books and online material such as

journals and articles were useful. The topics included in the literature review were the

importance of teaching English in Ecuador, teaching methods, managing learning, lesson

design, class size, classroom space, seating arrangement, teaching resources, classroom

observation, learning styles and language aptitude. Also, information about previous

studies which had been carried out at different educational institutions referred to the

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The general approach used to develop the field research, tabulation, and analysis

and description of the results was qualitative and quantitative. The techniques used to

gather information were surveys, note-taking, visual observations, and personal

interviews. The instruments, on the other hand, were observation formats and

questionnaires, and the resources used were books, Internet and the Didactic Guide.

To conduct the field research, first of all, it was necessary to find five private

high schools in the city of Cuenca. Once the principals of these institutions authorized

the development of this research, the next step was to contact the teachers in which the

observations were going to take place in order to establish the day and hour to carry out

such observations.

Then during the observation, the researcher’s task was to complete an

observation sheets considering aspects such as the level of students, methods, number of

students, discipline, supplementary materials, and class, time, seating, and activity

management.

After each class, the teacher was interviewed. These questions were related to

their education as well as some details about their teaching. Besides this interview, a

survey was applied to the teacher and one of the students chosen randomly. The

teacher’s questionnaire included some questions like their level of education, the

methods used, the activities applied, their use of English in the class, the most important

aspects considered in the class, such as number of students, and the supplementary

materials they use. On the other hand, the student’s questionnaire included questions in

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whether or not they like the way the teacher performs in the class, the activities he/she

used, how the teacher arrange the classroom, among others.

After all this information was gathered, the answers obtained from the teachers’

questionnaires were tabulated. To do this, pie charts were used in order to show the

classification and percentage of the answers obtained.

After the tabulation, the information was qualitatively and quantitatively

analyzed, explaining the possible reasons for the results obtained from the observation

sheets and the interviews. The factors described and analyzed were factors concerning

teachers, factors concerning students, factors concerning classrooms, and factors

concerning educational institutions.

Among the factors regarding teachers, the variables considered were the level of

education, language proficiency, teaching methods and techniques, how much English is

used in class, lesson design, and managing learning.

On the other hand, students’ needs and students’ level of the foreign language

were the aspects considered in the factors regarding students

Concerning classrooms, the variables analyzed were classroom size, classroom

space, seating arrangement, and classroom resources.

Among the factors within educational institutions, the aspects taken into account

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DISCUSSION

Literature Review

English is one of the most spoken languages in the world. It is used in different

environments such as businesses, education, organizations and traveling. That is why

many people are learning English as a foreign or second language. However, when

teachers do not use appropriate methods, techniques and materials, students may not

learn it effectively. Thus, the main topic of this research has to do with the different

factors that influence the teaching-learning of English as a foreign language. In order to

develop this study, it is necessary to obtain theoretical support about themes related to

this topic like the importance of teaching English in Ecuador, teaching methods,

managing learning, lesson design, class size, classroom space, seating arrangement,

teaching resources, classroom observation, learning styles and language aptitude. Also,

there is information of previous studies which were carried out at different educational

institutions referred to the factors affecting foreign language teaching and learning

around the world.

The importance of teaching English as a foreign language in Ecuador will be

analyzed in the following paragraphs, which provide a clear view of how the

government and institutions involved are concerned about the importance of learning

this Anglo Saxon language in this country.

In Ecuador, the current government has opened the doors for people, especially

English teachers, who want to improve their knowledge of the language. According to

Purnell (2012), there are some benefits for Ecuadorian people who are eager to study

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“Go Teacher!”, for instance, is an intensive English Program. In the summer of

2012, 500 Ecuadorians were placed at five participating U.S universities, 100 at each

location. Some of the universities included the first phase of the program were California

State University, Kansas State University, San Diego State University and University of

Kentucky. The phase two will involve 1,000 students, and phase three will include

1,500 students. Consequently, it is projected that the English teaching-learning process

in Ecuador will experience a great deal of positive change in the near future.

Teaching approaches and methods

Now, expanding the process of teaching and learning worldwide, there have been

several approaches and methods in order to teach a second or foreign language. Some of

them are used by different institutions nowadays. Consequently, it is important to

analyze the ones that have been the most important.

One of these methods is Grammar-Translation, which is described by Richards

and Rodgers (2001) who state that the purpose of this method is that students learn the

target language by translating it into the students’ native language. One of the main

objectives of this method is that the students can master both the vocabulary and

grammar structure in the foreign language. Likewise, Omaggio (1986) claims that when

following this method, the students first learn rules of grammar and use a bilingual list of

vocabulary in both the target and native language which is practiced every day.

Omaggio (1986) describes a second method called the Direct Method. It had its

origins in the 19th century, and one of the main differences between this and the

Grammar Translation method is that translation is not used at all. Another difference is

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(2001) provide some other characteristics of this method; for instance, by using the

direct method, the target language was directly taught through demonstrations, pictures,

or actions. Besides, correct pronunciation and grammar were emphasized. Finally, the

oral communication was developed by questions and answers between the teacher and

students.

The Whole Language Approach, according to Richards and Rodgers (2001), was

created in 1980 in the US. The focus of this approach was on reading and writing

naturally by using real information so that students read and write for pleasure rather

than for obligation. The teacher is considered only as a facilitator instead of an

instructor, since is a person that participates actively in the learning community.

The Communicative Language Teaching is also another approach described by

Richards and Rogers (2001). The CLT pays systematic attention to both the function

and structure of a language by means of using pair or group work in order for them to

solve tasks. Some of these tasks are dialogues, role-plays and debates. The main focus

is set on fluency rather than accuracy. Brown (2000, p. 4) agrees with Richards and

Rodgers when he states, “We are trying to get our learners to develop linguistic fluency,

not just the accuracy. We are equipping our students with tools for generating

unrehearsed language performance […]. We are looking at learners as partners in a

cooperative venture”. In sum, Brown describes CLT as a means to develop

communicative competence in learners.

Another method explained by Richards and Rodgers is the Natural Approach

which was developed by Terrell. The authors explain that this approach is for beginners

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Natural Approach and explains that the goal of this method is to achieve proficiency in

the second or foreign language in oral/aural skills through classroom practice. One thing

to notice, Omaggio says, is that such classroom activities should evoke to

communication.

Omaggio (1986) describes an approach developed by James J. Asher called Total

Physical Response, best known as TPR. The main focus of this approach is on listening

comprehension. The author explains that if a learner wants to be successful in

communication, he/she should first fully develop listening skills. Omaggio (1986, p.72)

states, “The target language is the exclusive language of instruction. Students are

exposed to language that is based in the here-and-now and is easily understood through

mime and example”. On the other hand, Brown (2000) considers that this method

combines information and skills by means of using the kinesthetic sensory system.

Through this, learners can assimilate information easily and fast. Consequently, Brown

states that TPR provides auditory input as well as physical activity.

Content-Based Instruction (CBI) and Task-Based language teaching (TBLT) are

two approaches explained by Richards and Rodgers (2001). The authors explain that

CBI is an approach that is “organized around the content or information that students

will acquire, rather than around a linguistic or other type of syllabus” (p. 204). That is

why that one goals of CBI is that students can become autonomous learners from the

very start. On the other hand, TBLT is an approach based on the use of tasks.

Generally, these tasks are developed in pairs or small groups. The goal of this approach

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this objective the activities must focus on real communication and be meaningfully

developed with tasks that promote learning.

Managing learning

There are several factors a teacher must consider in the teaching learning process.

For example, the age of students, the number of students, their background and the

motivation they have. Accordingly, the topic managing learning provides some

advisable guidelines teachers can follow in their EFL classes.

Archer and Hughes (2011), for instance, explain that in order to achieve

successful learning, the teacher must become a facilitator rather than an instructor. Also,

the authors express that the steps to follow in the teaching-learning process are

description and demonstration, followed by practice and finally feedback. For this, it is

necessary the involvement of the teacher from the very beginning. However, it is

essential that eventually students can be able to work on their own pace to accomplish

independent performance.

Jones (2007) agrees with Archer and Hughes (2011) on their ideas when stating

that classrooms should be student centered, and the role of the teacher must be to

“encourage students to develop their skills, but without relinquishing our modal role as a

source of information, advice and knowledge” (p. 25). In other words, Jones says that

the role of the teacher is to work together with the students as a team; however, the role

of the teacher can change depending on the needs of the students. For instance,

sometimes the teacher’s role can go from teacher-led to student-centered and back again.

For Jones, monitoring is important, and although this author believes that students

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authority of the teacher as their manager when the teacher is developing a whole-class

activity.

Lesson design

Teaching a group of students demands a plan developed in advance. That is, a

teacher must be prepared to know what the topic of the class is, its objectives, and the

activities and materials he/she should use. All this information is included in a lesson

plan, which is a guide for teachers to follow in their classes. That is why it is important

to know the exact meaning and the elements that a lesson plan must have.

Thus, Fink (2005) defines a lesson plan as a map of an instructor including what

students have to learn and how the teaching-learning process can be developed

effectively. This author describes the main parts that a lesson plan can include; they are

objectives for the class, the activities to be developed, and the strategies to check

students’ understanding. Fink also proposes a set of steps to prepare a lesson plan. The

first stage is to determine what the teacher wants their students to learn and what they

should be able to do at the end of the class. The second step is to develop an

introduction. The introduction should include the students’ background knowledge and

some characteristics of the group. In third place, Fink explains that the lesson plan

should contain the activities of the lesson, including a plan for checking understanding

and providing feedback to students. Finally, the author proposes the creation of a

realistic timeline, in which the teacher can be aware of the time each activity takes.

Likewise, Bohlke and Richards (2011) state that a lesson plan helps teachers to

develop “abilities to select structureand organize lesson content”. These authors also

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a lesson plan should be motivating to students, so students can learn confidence when

using English. In the authors’ opinion, the lesson plan is an aid; thus, it does not mean

this is the only factor that influences students learning. For instance, two teachers can

have the same lesson plan, but their classes can be quite different because every teacher

has his/her own teaching style.

Class size

One important factor to take into account when teaching a foreign language is to

be aware of the numbers of students that will be part of a class. Strategies as well as

activities differ depending on the number of students and the time spent on them as well.

However, some authors think that class size is not a relevant issue in teaching. For

example, Dudley-Evans and John (1998) on one hand, and Blatchford (2003), on the

other hand, explain how teachers can manage class size.

Dudley-Evans and John (1998) explain that there are several types of classes

depending on their size. For instance, there are classes with one student, in the case of a

tutorial, or large classes like the ones in high school with sometimes several hundreds of

students. However, for these authors, size is not a factor that solely affects learning.

There are other aspects such as the situation, the purpose and the experience. The

authors also say that the term ‘large class’ has a bad connotation since it generally refers

to a class with a lot of problems; however, strategies such as small group conferences

and offices hours can be offered to solve such problems.

Blatchford (2003) agrees with Dudley-Evans and John when he states that there

is an open debate about the fact that some people think that smaller classes can result in

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quality of teaching is what really matters and not the class size. In spite of this, the

author recognizes that in some countries, like in the United States, The US Department

of Education started a project to reduce the class size in early school grades to reach no

more than 18 students per class.

Classroom space and Seating arrangement

It is common to see students sitting at their desks in the same way all the time.

The traditional way has been making students sit in rows. However, there are other

options that teachers can consider depending on the space they can use and the activities

they can apply with their students.

Woolfolk (2010), for example, states that every student should have his/her

space, which has to be respected. Gower, Phillips &Walters (2005) explain that the

teachers’ and the students’ position is of great importance. However, these authors agree

that space can vary from culture to culture. Then it is important to consider this in the

classroom.

When Woolfolk (2010) refers to seating arrangements, the author considers that

there are two ways in which a classroom can be organized; they are personal territories

and interest areas. When referring to personal territories, this author states that the way

students sit influences their learning. For instance, students sitting in the front area

participate more than the ones who are sitting in back of the class. That is why it is better

to change the traditional row and column arrangement into horizontal rows. In that way,

the teacher can interact with all the students and also it is easier for students to work in

pairs. Another way is arranging the class in form of clusters or circles. In this way,

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areas, Woolfolk considers that taking into account the different interests of students can

work when they have to make projects in which several areas have to be developed.

Gower, Phillips & Walters (2005) explain that seating arrangement will depend

on several factors. For example, the age of students, if students are monolingual or

multilingual and the character of the students. Other ways to organize them is by sitting

a quiet student with one that speaks a lot or a weak student with a strong one. However,

the authors agree that the decision depends on the teacher and how he/she thinks

students can work better.

Classroom and teacher resources

The textbook, in most of the cases, is the material that teachers mostly use in

their classes. However, a class can become monotonous if a teacher does not use any

other materials to motivate the students. Thus, it is important that teachers could count

on a wide range of resources or materials that can be used as an aid in the EFL classes.

Cunningsworth (1984) provides a classification of supporting materials. The first

group is visual materials. Some examples are pictures, flashcards, film strips, wall

charts and maps. The second group is audio materials. These materials are useful for

students to reinforce their listening skills. The third resource the author mentions is the

textbook which is consider as a standard material in most courses now.

Gower, Phillips & Walters (2005) provide also a classification of classroom

materials, and the first one is the board, which is considered by these authors as an

essential resource in the classroom. A second material is the overhead projector known

as OHP, whose advantage is that a person can write on it without turning his/her back to

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mention pictures, realia, or photographs. Other materials are worksheets or word cards

that can be photocopied and used in pairs or groups of students. Finally, videos are

mentioned, which are considered as an entertaining tool for students because they,

besides listening, can be aware of movements or facial expressions.

Classroom observations

Some educational institutions practice classroom observations as a means of

evaluation teachers’ performance in classrooms. The National Union Teachers and

Wajnryb provide their opinion about this matter.

First of all, The National Union Teachers (2010) state that observations are

important to evaluate the standards of teachers; that is why, this union suggest that the

observations of teachers must be performed by qualified teachers who must be prepared

to use appropriate skills to provide supportive feedback. However, The National Union

Teachers add, “[…] the total number of observations has increased, and the context in

which they are carried out can be felt to be hostile and bullying, rather than supportive

and developmental.”

On the other hand, Wajnryub (2005) describes observations as a ‘multi-faceted

tool for learning’. In Wajnryub’s opinion, observations can help in several contexts to

achieve different results. For example, observations can help teachers’ professional

growth; moreover, observations are useful for new teachers to be engaged in an

instructional period. Finally, observations can be used as a part of a school-based support

system. All in all, this author explains that observation is a skill that can be improved with

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An observer must be careful when observing because the information collected through

this will be valuable at the moment of the analysis and interpretation of results.

Learning Styles

When referring to learning, it is known that every person has a different way of

acquiring knowledge, and it is very important that educators can take into consideration

the different learning styles of the students by preparing activities for taking into account

their individual needs. Gerbhad and Silberman describe such styles.

Gerbhad (2006) considers that individuals’ thinking is different. These different

ways of thinking are defined as learning styles or cognitive styles, and the author

classifies individuals in field dependent and field independent. Field dependent persons

are the ones who can work better in groups and enjoy fields like literature and history.

Conversely, field independent persons prefer to work alone and the fields that are

interesting for them are math and science. Finally, Gerbhad points out that this

classification is only a tendency. It means that there might be some people who can

contradict such this trend.

Silberman (2006) identifies four learning styles. They are accommodation,

diverging, assimilating and converging. Accommodation refers to problem-solving

activities carried out by experimentation. On the other hand, diverging concerns

problem-solving activities as well, but taking risks. In other words, students develop an

activity and then see what happens. Assimilation refers to solving problems by

inductive reasoning. In other words, students prefer to explore by themselves instead of

receiving guide from the instructor. Finally, converge concerns solving problems

(26)

18

instance, students with this learning style prefer to see pictures or look at others

performing a game.

Language Aptitude

Since learning a foreign language in Ecuador is mandatory, it is known that some

students have to take this subject obliged although some students do not like it or do not

have the aptitude to learn it. It is important then to take this into consideration because

not all the people is apt for all the subjects in school, and that is why a teacher must be

aware of this situation and try to help these learners.

Lightbown & Spada (2006) consider that there is the hypothesis that an

individual can learn easily if he/she has an aptitude for a certain subject. However, the

authors state that other researchers, after taking tests on aptitudes, determined that

aptitude is not relevant to the process of language acquisition. Thus, aptitude is a

complex topic, whose influence in second or foreign language learning has not been

completely determined.

Woolfolk (2010, p. 412) presents two points of views concerning aptitude. The

author states, “Humanistic view stress the intrinsic motivation created by the needs for

personal growth, fulfillment and self-determination. Cognitive views stress a person’s

active search for meaning, understand and competence, and the power of the individual’s

attributions and interpretation.” Thus, Woolfolk believes that aptitude may be

influenced by different factors, like the ones mentioned above, and these factors will

determine how successful a foreign language student will be.

Now this literature review includes five studies that present researches carried

(27)

19

Firstly, Ogiegbaen & Iyamu (2006) carried out a research, and one of its main

purposes was to find out if secondary school teachers use instructional materials with

frequency in EFL classes in Nigeria. To develop this study, the researchers used

questionnaires and observation sections in secondary schools. The questionnaires were

applied to EFL teachers and the observations were carried out in their classes, as well.

The questions included in the questionnaires concerned the resources and methods

teachers frequently used in their classes. The observations, on the other hand, helped the

researchers to identify the classrooms proceedings and environment. The main

conclusions drawn by the researchers were that teachers do not tend to use resources in

their classes. Thus, it is suggested that secondary schools should be provided with a

variety of instructional materials and avoid the exclusive use of the textbooks,

chalkboards and lecture methods.

The second study was developed by Muslaic (2009). The main objective of this

research was to review grammatical structures and writing skills and introduce related

topics such as report writing, memorandums, letters, proposals, and oral reports in order

to recognize the different learning styles of students. The methods used included a

questionnaire for students to collect information about their preferred learning styles

based on two criteria. First, how they use the perceptions: visual, auditory, kinesthetic

and tactile, and second, based on social aspects: individual and group preferences. The

main conclusion reached by the researcher was that it is important to determine students’

learning styles and make students be aware about the different approaches to learning.

Al-mansri (2005) developed a study in order to describe and explore students’

(28)

20

study were, first of all, to describe and explore students’ interest in using WebCT as a

supportive tool, and the second objective was to identify difficulties related to the use of

WebCT in TEFL. In the methodology, a three-part questionnaire was used for data

collection. All of them related to technical, affective and pedagogical factors that affect

learning. Students were given multiple-choice as well as open-ended questions, so that

they could state their opinion freely. The information was analyzed by using descriptive

statistics. The main conclusions the researcher found were that the participants’

responses to the level of interest toward WebCT were positive and motivating. Also, it

was pointed out that some key technical challenges need to be overcome. All in all, the

researcher agrees that WebCT is a tool that can influence positively in the EFL

teaching-learning process.

The following study was done by Muller & Nel (2010). The focus of their study

was on the impact of teacher’s limited English proficiency on English second language

learners in South African education system. The method used on this research was

qualitative and quantitative. To accomplish this research, student and teacher portfolios

were analyzed qualitatively, and on the other hand, surveys to students and teachers were

analyzed quantitatively. Besides, a questionnaire was sent to students and teachers via

email including questions pertaining relevant information on students’ language

proficiency. The main conclusion drawn by the researchers was that there was limited

ESL resources and support from teachers, principals and other sources, and a limited

time frame. Also, it was found that teachers had language barriers which also influenced

(29)

21

The last study was created by Tong (2010). The objective of the study was to

identify when junior secondary students are reticent and the why? Also, it searched the

situations when students are participatory and the reasons, as well. The researcher

adopted a longitudinal qualitative research. The participants were Hong Kong junior

secondary English students whose attitudes were observed and recorder at different

points of time. Also, they were interviewed and were part in conversations in order to

infer their attitudes and thinking. The conclusions were that students at the beginning

seemed to be passive and quiet due to the factors such as lack of confidence. However,

they started being interested in improving their listening and speaking skills. Thus, the

researcher found out that the student behavior is influenced by different factors.

Consequently, he points out that teachers have to stress students’ use of non-verbal

communication. Moreover, the author suggests that students can be given a brief

wait-time so that they can be prepared for their oral responses. Also, it is advisable that

(30)

22

Description, Analysis, and Interpretation of Results

This section includes the analysis of quantitative data obtained from the

observations, surveys and interviews about the different factors that influence the

English language teaching-learning process in five private high schools in the city of

Cuenca. These results were gathered from observations to 8th,9th, and 10th grades of basic

education and 1st , 2nd, and 3rd of bachillerato.

Quantitative Analysis

Factors Concerning Teachers

Which levels of education do Teachers have? Graph 1

Author: Enedina Aurora Chavez Source: Teacher’s Questionnaire

According to the results in graph 1, out of 100 % of teachers observed, 65% of

them have an English Bachelor’s degree, 17% have a high school diploma, 12%(two

teachers) have other degrees, which are Clinical psychology and Social Studies). These

two teachers stated that they had a good level of English since they had studied high High

School Diploma

17%

English Bachelor's

Degree 65% English

Master's Degree

6% Others

(31)

23

school in US. Indeed, they demonstrated this in the observed classes and the interview.

Besides, the teachers answered that they are currently studying English to get a degree in

this subject. Only 6% of teachers (1 teacher) has a master’s degree in English.

It was evident that most of the teachers have degrees related to teaching English

as a foreign language. It was observed because most of them were well-prepared for

teaching English to their students. Moreover the majority of teachers showed their

proficiency of English when they were interviewed; they responded the different

questions accurately and fluently. All of them, clearly reached the C1 and C2 levels,

according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

In addition, and according to the teachers’ answers, some of them have had the

opportunity to improve their teaching English as a foreign language all the time because

they have always been attending workshops and conferences. Moreover, they consider

that a better preparation is important because it will help them to learn appropriate

techniques and strategies to teach their students in a successful way, and it will also

help them become better educators.

Finally, some of these teachers have also taken advantage of the opportunity that

the Ecuadorian government has offered them, which is traveling to the United States to

(32)

24

Which of the following methods were used in the observed classes? Graph 2

Author: Enedina Aurora Chavez Source: Teachers’ Questionnaire

In the process of teaching and learning a foreign language, several approaches

and methods have been used. In this research, the teachers from the 5 private high

schools in the 15 observed classes used some of the methods according to the grades and

students’ needs and the environment in which they are immersed. As it can be seen in

graph 2, the highest percentage of teachers from the 5 private high schools used the

Communicative Language Teaching; that is, 47% out of 15 teachers surveyed. They

answered that they use this method because it allows them to have a good

communication with students, encouraging them to use the target language. This method

(33)

25

was mainly used with the higher levels where the teachers used activities taken from the

CLT (Communicative Language Teaching) that Richards & Rodgers (2001) mention; for

instance, pair or group work in order for students to solve tasks such as dialogues.

On the other hand, 20% of the teachers stated that they apply the Grammar

Translation Method in their classes. Three out of 15 teachers said that they use this

method because some grammar rules are better learnt by using the students’ mother

tongue. The use of this method was shown in three observed classes where the teachers

worked with grammar and vocabulary.

The 13% of the teachers who answered the questionnaire said that they use the

Total Physical Response method; this as well was seen in the observed classes because

the teachers, especially from the lower levels gave commands to their students so they

could work. This approach was pertinent because it allowed the teachers to engage the

students in movements and practical ways to acquire the target language. Furthermore,

this approach allowed the teachers to keep the students motivated and they could

complete the actions asked by the teachers.

Similar to the percentage of teachers that use TPR, 13% of teachers stated that

they used the Task-Based Language Teaching Approach. It could be demonstrated in the

observed classes when two teachers worked with activities concerning this method using

real communication and pedagogical learning. For example, two teachers worked on a

dictation about proper and common nouns. They gave the pre task which was the

introduction of theme, objectives and procedure; the task involved the teachers doing the

(34)

26

Finally, 7% of teachers answered that they work with the Cooperative Language

Learning approach. In one of the observed classes, the teacher made the students listen

to a CD and then asked them to work in pairs to complete an activity in the assigned

workbook helping each other.

Do teachers use whole-group activities to teach their lessons? Graph 3

Author: Enedina Aurora Chavez Source: Teacher’s Questionnaire

Graph 3 shows that from 100% of the 15 teachers surveyed, 87% use whole –

group activities for teaching their activities and only 13% of teachers did not prefer to

use whole-group activities to teach their classes.

According to these results, most of the teachers answered that they like to work

with a whole-group activity. During the observation it was demonstrated because most

of the teachers worked applying whole group activities such as games, brainstorming,

and guessing to engage the students to the topic of the different lessons. Another whole Yes

87% No

(35)

27

group activity was reading, reinforcing in this way students’ pronunciation; finally, the

teachers gave grammar explanations on the board to the whole class.

According to the teachers’ answers, they provided some reasons why they prefer

to work in groups. One of them is that working with a whole group usually creates a

friendly competitive environment. Besides, applying these activities makes it easy to

control discipline. Another reason is that these kinds of activities give students the

opportunity to interact with each other.

On the other hand, a smaller percentage of teachers said that for them, it is more

comfortable working with separate groups because it helps to control student’s tasks in

the classrooms.

The students surveyed answered that they feel more comfortable when teachers

use whole-class activities because they can understand and do the activities better

separately, and the teachers apply different means for explaining the tasks.

Do teachers use individual activities to teach their lessons? Graph 4

Author: Enedina Aurora Chavez Source: Teacher’s Questionnaire

(36)

28

In Graph 4 it can be observed that from 100% of teachers surveyed about this

question, 93% answered that they work with individual activities. They said that they

work with individual activities because they can control and supervise the knowledge,

weaknesses, strengths and performance of each student. They also considered that it is

very important to evaluate successes and progress individually. On the other hand, 7% of

the surveyed teachers do not work with individual activities because they have too many

students in their classrooms, and it is difficult for them to review tasks.

According to the observed classes, it could be seen that in most classes the

teachers worked with individual activities, according to the planned activity. The

teachers gave the instructions to whole class and then they asked the students to work

individually in their workbook and to complete the activity that was indicated.

Do teachers use group work activities to teach their lessons? Graph 5

Author: Enedina Aurora Chavez Source: Teacher’s Questionnaire

Yes 100%

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29

According to graph 5, the 15 teachers surveyed, 100% of the total number of

teachers interviewed responded that they work with groups for most activities. The

teachers gave many reasons for working with their students in groups, such as, the

students need to exchange ideas; or the students can help each other. In the same way,

the teachers can vary the activities of each group and observe the cooperation of the

students within the group.

In spite of the teachers’ answers, in most of the observed classes it was

demonstrated that the teachers mostly worked with whole group, applying individual

activities from the textbook and according to the requirements of contents and not with

groups as they said.

Only in three out of the fifteen classes, the teachers worked with different groups.

In such classes, it was possible to see that students enjoyed the tasks that involved group

work because they seemed to be more relaxed and comfortable to practice English with

their classmates. Some examples of these activities done during the observed classes

were working in group of 5 or 6 to talk about modern technology; in other class, the

students worked in groups to write about travel projects. The teachers acted as

(38)

30

Do teachers use English most of the time in their classes? Graph 6

Author: Enedina Aurora Chavez Source: Teacher’s Questionnaire

According to Graph 6, the findings show that93% of the teachers surveyed

answered yes when asked if they mostly speak English in the classroom in the different

levels. And 7% answered that they did not use English. One of the reasons these

teachers provided for not speaking English most of the time was because a great number

of students do not understand English. Also, they stated that they speak Spanish to give

explanations of grammar points in order for students to have a better understanding.

During the observations it was possible to see that in fact, 14 out of the 15

teachers observed used English most of the time.

The students stated in their surveys that the teachers used mostly English in class,

which was corroborated in the observed classes. Yes 93% No

(39)

31 Do teachers plan their lessons?

Graph 7

Author: Enedina Aurora Chavez Source: Teacher’s Questionnaire

Fink (2005) defines a lesson plan as “the instructor’s road map of what students

need to learn and how it will be done effectively during the class time” (p.1). This author

describes the main parts that a lesson plan can include; they are objectives for the class,

the activities to be developed, and the strategies to check the students’ understanding.

According to the results shown in Graph 7, all the teachers plan their activities in

advance, which is100% of the 15 teachers surveyed. The teachers also expressed that a

lesson plan is very important in the educational development because it helps them to

know what, where, when, why, who and how they are going to teach in order to be

successful accomplishing the objectives of the class.

According to the observed classes, it was clearly shown that most of the teachers

had planned their classes very well because they fulfilled their objectives, and their

classes showed sequence and organization. In other cases however, it was seen that the Yes

100%

(40)

32

teacher’s lack of planning for their classes because the time was short, so the teacher

could not complete the activities assigned for that particular lesson.

Do teachers consider aspects such as discipline; timing, feedback, and instruction to teach their lessons?

Graph 8

Author: Enedina Aurora Chavez Paz Source: Teacher’s Questionnaire

According to the results in Graph 8, from 100% teachers surveyed,93% take into

account aspects such as discipline; timing, feedback, and instruction when they teach

English. From the teachers’ point of view, these aspects are important because they can

fulfill their objectives with a good development of the class. The teachers also answered

that if they control all these aspects, the teaching-learning process is easier to carry out.

On the other hand, 7%, which is only one teacher, stated that she does not consider

aspects such as discipline, timing, and instructions. Instead, in her opinion, motivation

was important for students to learn a foreign language.

Concerning this topic, most of the 15 students surveyed from the 15 observed

classes reported that their English teacher takes into account all these aspects for a Yes

93% No

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33

proper development of the classes. Students also said that the teacher also provides

feedback and helps them constantly.

According to the observed classes, it was seen that most of the teachers had

designed their activities according the established time, and also considered all the

aspects mentioned above. Nevertheless, in other cases, the teachers did not take into

account feedback or timing, for example.

Factors Concerning Students

Do teachers consider students’ needs to teach English successfully? Graph 9

Author: Enedina Aurora Chavez Source: Teacher’s Questionnaire

According to the results obtained from the questionnaires, it is shown in Graph 9

that 100% of teachers surveyed responded that they consider all the needs of the students

such as age, motivation, aptitude, and learning styles when they teach English because

they consider that if all these aspects are taken into account in each grade, the

teaching-learning process will be successful. Archer & Hughes (2011) explain that in order to

achieve successful learning, the teacher must be a facilitator rather than an instructor. Yes

100%

(42)

34

Furthermore, the students surveyed responded that considering their needs is very

beneficial for them because it helps them to have more fun and dynamic classes, and

they can understand better and enjoy the activities.

In the observed classes it could be demonstrated that most of the teachers took

into consideration students’ needs such as motivation, age and learning styles during the

development of activities, especially in groups with a short number of students. On the

other hand, few teachers did not consider the students’ needs because it was difficult to

focus on individuals in a class with 26 or even more students. In classes with a high

number of students, it was noticed that there was lack of motivation in some students.

Consequently, these students did not enjoy learning, so they got distracted because the

activities seemed to be boring to them.

Do teachers consider students’ level to teach English successfully?

Graph 10

Author: Enedina Aurora Chavez Source: Teacher’s Questionnaire

Yes 93% No

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35

According to the results obtained from the data collected in five private high

schools and teachers’ questionnaire, graph 10 reveals that the 93% of the teachers

surveyed answered that they took into account the students’ language level to plan their

classes and teach English successfully; while, for 7% (1 teacher) this aspect is not

important when teaching.

In the observed classes, a group of teachers considered students’ language level

because they taught their lessons according to the knowledge’s level of the students.

They gave support to the students that did not understand the activity. However, and in

spite that most of the teacher answered affirmatively on the question about taking into

consideration the level of the students, it was not demonstrated during the observation

process. It was observed because some students had a better level than most of their

classmates, and the teachers could not support their needs, as teachers preferred to pay

attention to the average students. Meanwhile the students with a higher level distracted

(44)

36 Which is the level of your students?

Graph 11

Author: Enedina Aurora Chavez Source: Teacher’s Questionnaire

As it can be seen in Graph 11 with respect to the level of the students, according

to the surveyed teachers of the five private high schools, 44 % of students have a basic

level, 39 % have intermediate level, and 17 % have high intermediate level.

This information agrees with the data obtained from the observed classes and

teachers’ questionnaire in which it was demonstrated that the 15 different classes had 3

levels of English such as basic, intermediate and high intermediate as can be observed in

the graph above. The basic level was observed in the 8th,9th and 10thgrades because it

was shown that the teachers used basic activities and basic vocabulary even though the

classes were explained in English every time and the students showed good

understanding of the instructions in the most of the activities. In the same way, it was

observed that in bachillerato, students’ level of English was between intermediate and

high intermediate. In these classes, the teachers used activities according to the students’

specialization.

Basic 44%

Intermediate 39% High

Intermediate 17%

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37

The students’ level was determined during class observation, taking into

consideration the interaction between students and teacher and students’ performance in

different tasks and activities in the class.

Factors Concerning Classrooms How many students are there in the observed classes?

Graph 12

Author: Enedina Aurora Chavez Source: Teacher’s Questionnaire

Graph 12 shows the number of students in the classrooms observed. Thus, 7% of

teachers, which was only one teacher, said that there were 10 to 15 students in this class.

The teacher with this number of students answered that it is an excellent group for

controlling feedback, homework and discipline and working with different activities

individually. 33% of teachers had 16 to 25 students in their class, and the teachers with

this number of students stated that it is appropriate to work with this number of students

because they can control the different lessons individually. On the other hand, 27% of 10 15

7%

16 - 25 33%

26 -30 27% 31 -more

(46)

38

teachers have 26 to 30 students, and 33% of the surveyed teachers have 31 or more

students in their classrooms.

In the observed classes, it was seen that in the classrooms where there were 10 to

15 students, the teachers worked with different activities, and the teacher could give

individual attention to the students .On the other hand, in classrooms with 26 to 31 or

even more students, it was more difficult to control the activities, because in a big group,

the participation of all students is not frequent within 45 minutes that they have in their

classes. In the same way, for teachers that work with this number of students, it was

difficult to manage the class.

According to the students’ survey they answered that big groups of students have

a disadvantage, which is the difficulty of controlling discipline, homework, and tasks in

the class. Besides, the interaction with the teacher is lower than in smaller classes.

Do teachers feel comfortable working with this number of students they are working with?

Graph 13

Author: Enedina Aurora Chavez Source: Teacher’s Questionnaire

Yes 73% No

(47)

39

According to the results in Graph 13, it is seen that 73% of teachers feel

comfortable when working with the number of students that they already have.

However, they recognized that working with a small group of students is better because

they can help students to improve their skills and they can meet all their educational

individual needs. Furthermore, the teachers explained that they are more comfortable

working with a small group of students than with a bigger group.

On the other hand, 27% of teachers did not feel comfortable working with large

groups of students because, according to their answers, they said that with large groups it

is difficult to control discipline, check class work and homework, and interact with all

the students. Also, they answered that they need more time for providing individual

feedback, answering questions and helping each one of the students.

Regarding class size Dudley-Evans and John (1998) explain that there are several

types of classes depending on their size. For instance, there are classes with one student,

in the case of a tutorial, or large classes like the ones in high school with sometimes

several hundreds of students. However, for these authors, size is not a factor that solely

affects learning. There are other aspects such as the situation, the purpose and the

experience. The authors also say that the term ‘large class’ has a bad connotation since

it generally refers to a class with a lot of problems; however, strategies such as small

(48)

40

Do teachers have enough space to work with the number of students they have been assigned?

Graph 14

Author: Enedina Aurora Chavez Source: Teacher’s Questionnaire

Graph 14 shows that from all of the teachers surveyed, 67% answered that they

do not have enough space in their classrooms. The rooms are not big enough for the

number of students that have been assigned to work in different activities. On the other

hand, 33% of the surveyed teachers responded that they have enough space in their

classrooms to work with any kinds of activities.

In the observed classes, it was seen that in some of the private high schools, there

is not enough space for the number of students they have. Thus, it made difficult for

teachers to work with groups, walk around, control discipline and tasks. Therefore, the

physical space in the classrooms did not allow the teachers to practice dynamic activities

as games, where students needed to move freely to participate. Consequently, the lack of

space in small classrooms forced the teachers to use other activities for working with

whole class or in pairs.

Yes 67% No

(49)

41

According to the students’ surveys, a group answered that they do not have

enough space to work with dynamic activities and with activities in groups because the

classroom space is very small and there are too many students. While another group

stated that they feel comfortable with the physical size of the classrooms.

Do teachers arrange students’ seats in relation to the activities planned for their classes?

Graph 15

Author: Enedina Aurora Chavez Paz Source: Teacher’s Questionnaire

Graph 15 shows that 87% out of 15 teachers surveyed responded that they

work with the seats being arranged according to the planned activities because they can

have a better control of the students’ learning since it is more comfortable for both the

teacher and students to interact. On the other hand, 13% of teachers surveyed answered

that they do not change the seats for the space and also that the students form their own

groups.

Yes 87% No

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42

According to the observation of some classes, it could be seen that a group of

teachers taught their classes with the seats in rows; none of them made a special or

different seating arrangement due to the lack of space; on the contrary, in other observed

classes the teachers changed the seats according to the activities that they had prepared

for the lessons and the learners worked with their partners adequately.

In addition and according to the students surveyed, most of them responded

that they feel comfortable in the way that teachers organize the seats. On the other hand,

a small group of students answered that in their classes the seats were always in the same

position, and the teachers never changed the seats; consequently, classes became boring

and monotonous, so they would like the teacher to change the arrangement of seats from

time to time, like in a circle to have better interaction as Wolfolk (2010) proposes. This

author considers that the way students sit influence their learning. For instance, students

sitting in the front area participate more than the ones who are sitting in back of the

class. That is why this author considers that it is better to change the traditional row and

Figure

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