Factors that affect the English language teaching – learning process in Ecuadorian public high schools

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Factors that affect the English language teaching-learning process in Ecuadorian public high schools

Trabajo de fin de titulación

Mención: Inglés

Autores: Montero Pardo, Silvia Judith

Correa Castro, Hilton Hermel


Arias Córdova, María Olivia, Dra.




María Arias Córdova


C E R T I F I C A:

Que el presente trabajo, denominado: “Factors that affect the English

language teaching-learning process in Ecuadorian public high schools” realizado por los profesionales en formación: Montero Pardo Silvia Judith y Correa Castro Hilton Hermel; cumple con los requisitos establecidos en las normas generales para la Graduación en la Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja, tanto en el aspecto de forma como de contenido, por lo cual me permito autorizar su presentación para los fines pertinentes.

Loja, junio de 2013




Nosotros, Montero Pardo Silvia Judith y Correa Castro Hilton Hermel declaramos ser autores del presente trabajo y eximimos expresamente a la

Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja y a sus representantes legales de posibles reclamos o acciones legales.

Adicionalmente declaramos conocer y aceptamos la disposición del Art. 67 del Estatuto Orgánico de la Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja que en su parte pertinente textualmente dice: “Forman 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 que el apoyo financiero, académico o institucional (operativo) de la Universidad”

____________________________ Montero Pardo Silvia Judith


CI: 1102919816

_________________________ Correa Castro Hilton Hermel Autor




This research is dedicated to my husband Fabian, who has always been there through this time, for his kindness, advice, devotion, and for his endless support during my studies. To my sons Luis Fabian, Axel David, and Juan Andrés: for their comprehension and support in all this process. They made it possible to continue studying and succeed.

Silvia Judith Montero Pardo

I want to dedicate this work to all those people who unconditionally supported me, especially to my wife Nidia who is close to me, tolerating me and giving me support to go forward; to my daughter Keyly who has always been the inspiration of my dreams and the reason for achieving my goals.




The authors are grateful for the guidance and support to all institutions, teachers and students who permitted us to develop this research; to all English teachers of Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja, who kindly and patiently guided us during the program; to our teacher advisor, Mgs. María Arias Córdova who patiently and professionally checked our drafts and explained to us in a nice way all the aspects that needed to be corrected to finish this research. We recognize her work and academic assistance given which made this research study possible.












Literature Review

Description, Analysis, and Interpretation of Results

7 22

Conclusions 55

Recommendations 56




The topic of this research work involves discovering: “The Factors that affect the English language teaching-learning process in Ecuadorian public high schools.”

A sample of 15 teachers in seven high schools was taken into account in order to gather the information. The locations for the application of this research work were Macará, Cariamanga, and Sosoranga, cantons of the Loja Province. The quantitative method was carried out in terms of analyzing data from individuals and events in their natural setting.

Teachers and students were asked to complete a questionnaire. Furthermore, interviews were conducted drawing upon teacher’s English proficiency.

The results show that the main factors affecting the English language teaching-learning process in these public high schools are basically related to

teachers –in terms of linguistic competence and methodological application; teachers have the difficulty of working without any–or at least poor– supporting teaching materials. On the other hand, students’ English skills confirm the fact that an urgent improvement must be accomplished in order to enhance their capacity for




English is the lingua franca around the world. The advanced knowledge of English is a real fact nowadays and that is why students in Ecuador need to have a better grasp on dealing with the globalized world and one of the essential demands is English competence.

English is one of the most important languages that people use for different purposes. At present, English is probably the third largest language by number of native speakers, after Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. However, when combining native and non-native speakers it is probably the most commonly spoken language in the world. Its use is constantly growing since it has become the most important path towards international communication. Moreover, people use it to travel abroad, to study, to work, to make business decisions, and to communicate among different communities. English allows people to accomplish economic, social, cultural, and political goals.

In Ecuador, a real pedagogical dilemma exists due to: a) a noticeable lack of knowledge of English in students who face college instruction; and b) the poor interest that the linguistic community has had in terms of language research. Consequently, the Factors that affect the English language teaching-learning process in Ecuadorian public high schools are a topic that deserves to be undertaken.



place; to identify the characteristics of in-service English teachers; and, to determine teachers´ instructional competence.

This research work has identified the factors that distress the English teaching-learning process. Recognizing them was a real necessity for us as researchers. We found that teachers and students lack the necessary linguistic background and, they will have the opportunity to know how dealing with inappropriate classroom behavior and most importantly, how to improve their English language skills. In fact, teachers need to be prepared to teach in a better way, students need to be willing to study effectively, and educational institutions and government should provide the facilities for doing so.

It is necessary to mention that some studies about this specific topic had been conducted in many different countries: to mention a few of them, Saricoban & Sakizli (2006) discovered that Iranian Seminary students face some factors that constitute enormous barriers in the teaching-learning English language process. For example, they point out that teachers who approach classroom management as a process of establishing and maintaining effective learning environments tend to be more successful than teachers who place more emphasis on their roles as authority figures and disciplinarians. Tabatabei (2012) recognized three different aspects: The frequency of classes is high, there are more important subjects for students to study, some students do not have enough self-confidence, and there are difficulties in understanding when they listen to in English. Finally, Dubin & Olshtain (2000) agree on the fact that creating materials is a highly specialized craft, one that seems to be perfected through immersion in the activity itself.



conduction of this research work and its intended conclusions. Besides, people in general would certainly have a different perspective of what is really happening in Ecuadorian high schools, and this could be the starting point for further research.

Based on the results confirmed by the sample that has been analyzed, an urgent pedagogical shift needs to be applied in Ecuador. This shift is looking for better techniques and methodologies to improve the teaching process of English as a foreign language.

A limitation to finding the factors that affect the English language teaching-learning process in Ecuadorian public high schools was the time for the application. Many public educational institutions in our province work five hours per week teaching English; as a result of this lack of time, teachers have a low tolerance for criticism about the fact that students are not learning because the teachers are not good teachers. The fact is simply that, according to the curriculum given to the teachers, there is an insufficient amount of time to acquire the language, and the acquisition of a lingua franca is impossible.



Setting and Participants

The research work was conducted in the urban cantons of the Loja province named Macará, Cariamanga, and Sosoranga. A sample of 15 teachers of seven high schools was taken into account in order to conduct the survey and interview



Survey research is one of the most important areas of measurement in applied social research. Under the direction of the UTPL thesis project staff, this research work came to scene. The guideline to follow was –at the very beginning– looking for information related to the topic; in other words, factors that influence the teaching-learning processes in general. The main resources were books, magazines, on-line journals, and internet-based links. Then, after drawing outlines and drafts, all the information was organized devoting a lot of time for reading, selecting theories, definitions, concepts, and taking notes. One of the main sources for getting

information related to this topic was the Internet.

On-line journals and magazines provided plenty of articles, and published papers which elucidate and clarify the topic under study, factors that affect the English language teaching-learning process. Gathering these bibliographical facts were a basic step in order to understand this topic in a better way. It is important to note that different studies revealed that this topic has been the focus of attention for much research in different parts of the world.



with participants of the sample in real time (to conduct the survey and interview). This is a quantitative research which relies mainly on statistical charts and

percentage figures.

This research work includes class observations and teachers´ interviews as well. The interviews constitute an essential source of information since they reveal what is a teacher competent for and how she/he is currently using English in their classrooms. In order to attain as much as information as possible, the interview include questions related to teaching methodology, natural approaches of teaching a foreign language, and language proficiency.

Fifteen teachers of English were randomly selected with the purpose of completing a 20-itemed paper-and-pencil questionnaire. Respondents were asked to complete the questions which essentially measured different aspects of English content, teaching processes, classroom decision making, teaching materials,

planning, class size, and students’ assessments. In another words, items 1, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11 dealt with teaching methodologies; items 2, 3 and 4 were related to students’ achievements and behaviors; items 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18 inquired about classroom facilities and teaching materials in the classroom; and finally, items 19 and 20 obtained information related to the educational institution.

All these items and their corresponding answers are represented in pie charts which help the reader to visualize and understand the obtained data in a better way. A short planned description is provided in terms of analysis of the numerical and statistical records in which, we, as authors, intended to capture every single detail according to the field research that we accomplished.



The sheets included authentic aspects about the teacher, the students, and the classroom. Every single aspect was written down. Similarly, at the end of each class, a student was randomly selected in order to complete a different paper-and-pencil questionnaire designed to get their own perceptions about the class itself, the teacher, their peers, and the classroom. Unfortunately, this questionnaire had to be written in Spanish because the level of English was uncertain.


7 DISCUSSION Literature Review

This section intends to provide a scientific overview of some of the most outstanding factors that affect the English language teaching-learning process in general. Similarly, a straightforward glance of the teaching English as a foreign language process in Ecuador is provided.

The importance of English in Ecuador has been deservedly recognized by all the academic institutions and the government. In 1992, the Ecuadorian government and the British Council signed a bilateral agreement: Curriculum Reform and Development for the Learning of English; the so called CRADLE project Ecuador. In the last 20 years, its main purpose have been improving the learning of English schools in Ecuador through teacher training, text book production, and examining writing.

The project has managed public English education all alone for all of these years. The results had shown a successful application and flourishing achievement which benefitted more than 8,000 teachers of English all over Ecuador.

Nevertheless, the Secretaría Nacional de Educación Superior, Ciencia y Tecnología, SENESCYT on behalf of the Ministry of Education and Culture of Ecuador has proposed a structured plan focused on in depth professional training in the field of formal teaching methodology.

This continuity aims primarily to enhance professional teaching skills and English proficiency. Consequently, students’ abilities to speak and write fluently will be will be greatly improved by the full implementation of these objectives.



Afterward, it is quite important to discover the clues that will help us –as college researchers–solve this linguistic analysis. Scholars’ contributions are to be analyzed and explained lately. The Literature review represents the core of the following research work.

Teaching Approaches and Methods

Anthony (1963) states: approach is the level at which assumptions and beliefs about language and language learning are specified; method is the level at which theory is put into practice and at which choices are made about the particular skills to be taught, the content to be taught, and the order in which the content will be presented (p. 63-67).

According to Richards & Rodgers, (2001), the most important approaches and methods are the following:

Whole language approach emphasizes learning to read and write naturally with a focus on real communication using their characteristics like authentic, personalized, self-directed, collaborative, and pluralistic methods to gain the

student’s attention. In this approach, the teacher is seen as a facilitator and as active participant creating a climate that will support collaborative learning with activities that are used frequently such as, individual and small group reading and writing, upgrades, dialogue journals, writing portfolios, writing conferences and story writing.



Task-based language teaching, Flowerdew & Miller (2005) state that: lessons are planned having as the basic point tasks; “students are asked to listen to what are described as authentic situations and to do something with the information” (p. 14). For this method, the most relevant aspect is the process instead of the final product. Additionally, activities are chosen according to students’ needs of

exposure to different situations and language is presented from the simplest to the more complex.

Krashen & Terrel (1983) Natural approach is used with beginner students, they have the expectation that students will be able to function adequately in the target situation: “It is based on the use of language in communicative situations without recourse to the native language” (p. 9). The authors also state that this method does not focus on grammar analysis or any particular grammar structure.

Another important approach and one of the most important nowadays is Communicative language teaching. Cook (2003) states that in this approach, “Communicative pedagogy shifted its attention from the teaching and practice of grammar and pronunciation rules and the learning of vocabulary lists, to

communicative activities” (p. 36).

Teaching Techniques

Teaching techniques are the individual teacher's teaching styles. Through the use of techniques, teachers try the best ways in order to help students to learn the new language. Regarding teaching techniques, Brown (2001) suggests a great variety of useful techniques that are presented below:



students are required to respond to a given cue. The second teaching technique is Role-Play Demonstration; it is a different technique that includes brief illustration of language or other contents to be incorporated. Brown’s third teaching technique is Brainstorming It is an important technique that can be applied in classroom. Here, students say as much as they can about a topic. The fourth technique is Storytelling. It may be used to maintain attention, motivate, or as to do a lengthy practice. The fifth technique is Problem Solving. It is an activity that requires cooperation on part of participants in small or large groups. Finally, Drama and Simulation are activities in which complex interaction between groups and individuals are based on

simulation or real-life actions and experiences.

Managing Learning

For good classroom management, instructions are key components that attract students’ attention, especially when teachers give clear instructions using simple language and short expressions, showing what to do, using signal and no words. For these reasons, teachers have to make sure that they provide to students good, clear, precise, and effective instructions that they need for a successful

learning and do not waste time using complex and polite language (Gower, Phillips, & Walters, 1983).



Feedback is another important responsibility of a teacher, focusing on learners’ language or skills, the ideas in their work, their behavior, their attitude to learning on their progress. The purpose is to motivate learners and to help them understand what their problems are and how they can improve. Therefore, feedback also helps to evaluate their success and progress (Spratt & Pulverness & Williams 2005).

Lessons’ Design.

In relation to lesson design, Pathak (2012) says:

Planning is important in every walk of life. The success of a piece of work is ensured if it is properly planned. Without planning we shall be loitering about aimlessly, applying means without aiming at the achievement of ends. Just as planning is important in our daily lives, it has a unique importance in the teaching-learning process (p.196). The same author considers that a “lesson plan provides a definite objective for each day´s work, it helps the teachers to organize, systematize the learning process and to overcome the feeling of nervousness and insecurity, it helps to avoid needless repetition” (p. 197).

Osborne (2005) suggests that the lesson plan should include the following: The objectives of the lesson, timing in minutes, an appropriate balance of input and output and materials.


12 Class Size

Optimal number of students in a class is a topic that has been discussed by many specialists. Some theories have been stated, for instance: “smaller classes are widely believed to have beneficial effects.” (Ehrenberg, Brewer, Gamoran, & Willms, (2001 p. 68) because with this class size: “teachers expect less classroom disruption and more time for flexible teaching strategies” (Finn & Achilles, 1990). Smaller classes are likely to be important in terms of expected effects and can lead to better and easier working conditions for teachers.

According to the NEA (National Education Association´s) cited by Sykes, Schneider, & Plank (2009, p. 427). “small classes help teachers to provide individual attention to students, enhance safety and minimize disruptive behavior, and ultimately lead to students learning more.”

On the other hand, Harmer (2007) states, “in big classes, it is difficult for the teacher to make contact with the students at the back and it is difficult for the students to ask for and receive individual attention.” (p. 177). There are also many benefits to teaching large classes, as Natalie Hess (2001: 2-4). (p. 125). points out “In large classes there are always enough students to get interaction going, and there is a rich variety of human resources.”

Classroom Space

Classroom space may not be perceived as being as important as it really is. Students need to feel comfortable in the place where they learn and it is important for teachers to ensure proper conditions.



and most will become restless or uncomfortable if seated for more than 20 minutes at a time. Even a 60 seconds movement break at regular intervals can help them refocus (Manitoba 2011, p.18-19).

Clayton & Forto (2001) say that classrooms that are too crowded make students feel uncomfortable and it becomes difficult for student to concentrate. On the other hand, having students spread all over a classroom, can avoid optimal interaction in the class.

Seating Arrangement

Teachers have to create a comfortable learning space between students, depending on their needs, the class size, groups, type of activity and in the style of the furniture, with the purpose of determining the best attitude among participants in the classroom.

Harmer (2007) states that there are many ways of arranging the desks in a classroom; the more common seating arrangements are: pair work and group work; they both foster cooperative activity in that the students involved work together to complete a task. Orderly rows allow students to work at their own speed and it implies teachers working with the whole class. Circle and horses are other types of seating arrangement. In separate tables students sit in small group at individual tables; and, solowork allows students to work at their own speed.


14 Classroom and / or Teaching Resources

According to Harmer (2001) teaching resources are very important in a lesson, material brought into the class has to be pertinent and appropriate, if so, it will empower the lesson and fulfill the objective, a teacher is driven to create on his or her own. Modern inventions provide us with an ample variety of opportunities to make the best use of today’s gadgets and discoveries of science and technology.

There are various kinds of materials. For instance, Realia is the best way to teach students to expose them with real objects like fruits, cardboard clock faces, telephones to help simulate phone conversations. Another way to teach vocabulary is through posters and pictures these are extremely useful for a variety of

communication activities taken from books, newspapers and magazines or photographs to facilitate learning (Harmer 2001).

Harmer (2001) & Ur (2009) agree that computers open an immeasurable amount of opportunities to make learning more interesting. The Internet, for example, provides teachers with a huge amount of information and can be considered the link to native cultures through which students can make a lot of practice with people from abroad without having to travel to English speaking countries. Projectors are useful for presenting visual or written material to classes. Video cameras are excellent source of authentic spoken language material, it is attractive and motivating and flexible because we can start and stop it.



Dubin & Olshtain (2000) agree on the fact that creating materials is “a highly specialized craft, one that seems to be perfected through immersion in the activity itself.”

Classroom Observation (Institution Monitoring)

Due to the changing situation in English language teaching, it is important for teachers to continue with teachers’ preparation. In this process, it is important to work in collaboration with coworkers who can observe and suggest ideas to improve the practice.

Estacion, McMahon, & Quint (2004) state that “direct observation of

classrooms is the best methodology available for studying how teachers teach — the central focus of this inquiry” (p. 9). Another form of observation is peer observation in which trained teachers observe teachers’ lessons in order to assist each other and provide feedback for their improvement (Brown 2001). Additionally, the author recalls that “peer coaching is a systematic process of collaboration in which one teacher observes and gives feedback, and in team teaching teachers are encouraged to collaborate, to consider respective strengths, and to engage in reflective practice.”

Students Motivation



provokes a decision to act as a result of which there is sustained intellectual and/or physical effort, so that the person can achieve some previously set goal.”

Motivation may be intrinsic or extrinsic. Extrinsic which comes from outside the classroom and may be influenced by a number of external factors such as the attitude of society, family and peers to the subject in question is often referred to as extrinsic motivation; that is, the motivation that students bring into the classroom from outside. Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is the kind of motivation that is generated by what happens inside the classroom; this could be the teacher´s methods the activities that students take part in, or their perception of their success or failure (Woolfolk, 2010).

Learning Styles

Keefe (1982, p. 43) argues that “Learning styles have been defined as the cognitive, affective, and physiological traits that serve as relatively stable indicators of how learners perceive, interact with, and respond to learning environments.” Within teaching-learning interactions, an effort to assess learning style reflects a receiver orientation and recognizes that students differ in their preference for and ability to process various kinds of instructional messages. Harmer (2001 p. 89) points out the most important learning styles below:



extensively when speaking; while Keith willing, working with adult students in Australia, suggested four learners categories.

Convergers are students who are by nature solidarity; prefer to avoid groups, and who are independent and confident in their own abilities. Conformists tend to be dependent on those to authority and are perfectly happy to work in

non-communicative classrooms, doing what they are told. A classroom of conformists is one which prefers to see well organized teachers. Concrete Learners are conformists; they also enjoy the social aspects of learning and like to learn from direct

experience. They are interested in language use and language communication rather than a language system. Communicative Learners are much more interested in social interaction with other speakers of the language than they are with analysis of how the language works. They are perfectly happy to operate without the guidance of a teacher.

Students’ intelligence or aptitude to learn English

Regarding students’ intelligence, Harmer (2001 p. 86) states: People have different aptitudes for different kinds of study, according to experienced teachers; learners with a wide variety of intellectual abilities can be successful considering their aptitude and intelligence. In this way, knowing that the aptitude profile of their students will help them in selecting appropriate classroom activities for particular groups of students. Or, if they do not have such information, they may wish to ensure that their teaching activities are sufficiently varied to accommodate learners with different aptitude profiles.



methods of assessing language learning for predicting how successful learners would be. It is important to keep in mind that “intelligence” is complex and that individuals have many kinds of abilities and strengths, not all of which are measured by traditional IQ test.

In the following section, some previous research studies related to the factors that may influence the teaching-learning process will be analyzed. These studies contributed with ideas and experiences gathered by other researchers in order to carry out the present study in the best way possible.

The first study was conducted by Saricoban & Sakizli (2006) whose purpose was to research classroom management and the different factors that affect

successful classroom management. This study recognizes three different aspects that can affect the learning of English; there are teachers, students, and physical

environment. This study conveys the bibliographic information of different studies made on the three aspects, students, teacher and physical environment.

Regarding factors concerning students, the same authors mention the

importance of considering students’ needs and characteristics when planning a class because these considerations will make successful instruction possible.

Additionally, the authors state that it is very important to incorporate different aspects of students’ culture and family background. In this way, classroom



The authors concluded that the three factors are very important in order to assure English learning and the lack of the ability to manage a classroom must be tackled with teachers training.

A second study conducted by Gilakgani & Ahmadi (2011) was done in Malaysia where they tried to find the factors influencing English listening

comprehension and the strategies to be taken that might improve students’ listening comprehension.

The process of this study consisted in the discussion and definition of listening, significance. Second, it reviewed the process of listening comprehension. Third, analysis of listening comprehension problems was reviewed. Fourth, teaching methods for listening comprehension were discussed. Fifth, researchers reviewed teaching listening activities, and sixth, general principles in teaching listening comprehension were discussed.

When the study was analyzed, researchers concluded that students do not have an innate understanding of what effective listeners do; therefore, it is the responsibility of teachers to share that knowledge with them.

Another study was made by Khamkhien (2010) in Thailand pointed two principal objectives. The first one was to determine three factors: how gender, motivation and experience in studying English affect the choices of language learning strategies. The second one was to compare the roles of these factors and the pattern of language learning strategy used by Thai and Vietnamese students.



in terms of motivation, all questionnaires from both groups were analyzed according to the answers to the question “Why do you want to learn English?” With the results obtained, the author concluded the study saying that the study highlights the

significance of language learning strategies in learning process. Identifying learning strategies use and understanding factors that might affect their learning strategy pattern is one of the many possible ways classroom teachers employ to help students become successful learners. This study’s findings would be beneficial to Thai and Vietnamese educational planners and methodologists in general, and classroom teachers in particular, facilitating the better understanding of the roles of crucial variation in learning English exiting between male and female, motivation and experience in studying English.

The fourth study was conducted by Narayanan, Nair & Iyyappan (2008) in India, trying to find the aims of factors that affect learning English as a second language at the tertiary level. Besides, the project analyses the most important socio-psychological factors such as motivation, attitude, and language anxiety.

The pilot survey was planned during the month of April 2006 in order to get the necessary feedback for the final survey and sharpen the tools to be used. And five institutions were selected on the basis of the following conditions: degree of co-operation extended by the engineering institutions, class observation, data collection through test materials, personal interaction with the students and teachers, standard of institutions (colleges) on behalf of the parents’ and publics’ observation (High, Medium and Low), accessibility of institutions and availability of required number of students.



study have important and relevant implications in the theory, and to a certain extent, the classroom practices in regard to socio-psychological factors. The results show that the factors such as motivation, attitude, language anxiety and gender have a great impact or affecting students’ English learning. In short, if the learner wants to foster linguistics skills effectively he/she needs to be highly motivated, positive attitude towards the language, low language anxiety is supposed to have a good amount of TL exposures.

Finally, a fifth study realized by Tabatabei (2012) aimed to determine the impact lack of motivation on EFL Learning of Iranian Seminary Students, moreover this study intended to investigate the factors that serve as common barriers in

learning English as foreign language process. To reach the proposed goals; in this study was utilized Attitude/Motivation test battery as instruments (AMTB)

questionnaire (Gardner 2004); on the other hand to identify demotivating factors there was utilized the new version of Warrington’s questionnaire, was used to identify the English knowledge of the participants a general English proficiency was utilized.

According the results we can find there are the follows barriers: Because the frequency of classes is high, because there are more important subjects for students to study, because some students don’t have enough self-confidence, and between others: because of the difficulties in understanding what they listen to in English.

The findings in this study demonstrate that there are an enormous



Description, Analysis, and Interpretation of Results

English is the international language of education, science, business, politics and culture. All around the world institutions and policy-makers make the teaching and learning of English a priority, even our country applying the so called CRADLE project with the support of British authorities. Nevertheless, to improve the quality of English instruction –at least in Ecuador– it is mandatory to make progress in the factors that affect the quality of English language teaching and learning.

We have carried out an amazing research study with the intention of gathering as much information as possible in the three target schools. The authors intend to provide the discoveries found in those places so as to describe and analyze –in a quantitative perspective– which are the factors that affect the English language teaching-learning process.

The following section describes factors that affect the English language teaching-learning process based on the results in a question-by-question format. Factor number one: teachers; factor number two: students; factor number three: the classroom. All factors concerning teachers, students, and the classroom follow a sequential structure in which, a question is included with its corresponding pie-chart (percentages). In addition, pencil-and-paper questionnaires supplied relevant

information related to factors concerning the educational institutions which are a pertinent concern in our investigation and were included as well. Then, critical interpretations will be added in terms of analyzing the information gathered along the conduction of this research work (teacher and student biased).



interviews. Pie charts display how the total data are distributed between different categories.

Quantitative Analysis Factors Concerning Teachers Which level of education do teachers have?

Source: Teacher’s interview

Author(s): Montero Silvia and Correa Hilton

Graph 1 displays the teachers´ level of education. The 73% of them have English Bachelor’s Degree; a 20% of them have other degrees (nothing to deal with English as an instructional subject); a 7% represents the teachers who have a high school diploma; and finally, a 0% had an English Master’s degree.

Basically, these facts reveal a preoccupying teaching reality. According to the percentages, a 27% of the sample, there are individuals related to the

teaching-learning process but not qualified for being an active element or guideline for an English class: a teacher. Besides, nobody among them has eventually thought of registering a master´s degree program, which reveals that



0% 20%

Graph 1

High school diploma

English Bachelor’s Degree

English Master’s degree



public high schools lack of up-to date professionals to teach English as a foreign language.

As already mentioned, the weakest link here is that this 27% of people

represents a huge amount of “teachers” which are not specialized in being considered as teachers of English at all; they teach English for completing work hours in their teaching schedule. This situation directly damages the teaching environment since these professionals were asked to do something they are not capable to deal with. Let us turn our attention to the 73% of English teachers. According to the teacher´s interviews, we would place them into an A2 level since most of them did not understand some questions. Their fluency in speaking and their listening abilities are very poor. They need to improve their fluency since it will help them to

communicate in a better way. Most importantly, it will give them a lot of confidence which is a real must in a career as a teacher of English. Students –when learning a foreign language– need to trust somebody in terms of linguistic competence, and this, unfortunately, is one of the poorest points in our research work.

If this 73% of teachers do not improve fluency, they can hardly motivate students who show low interest in learning English already. Without adequate knowledge of English, students are not able to communicate well in English. Students cannot send and/or receive messages effectively. Additionally, English classes are not enjoyable for all students.



Which one of the following methods was used in the observed classes?

Source: Teacher’s interview

Author (s): Montero Silvia and Correa Hilton

Graph 2 displays the methodology used in the classrooms. This is an

important avowal due to the fact that methods play the essential role in our research work. This pie chart puts on view the following results: there are different methods that teachers use in the classroom. Communicative Language Teaching was mostly used with a 40%; the so called Natural Approach with a 20%; the Cooperative Language Learning with a 13%; the Grammar Translation Method with a respectable 20%; and finally, the Cognitive Academic Language Learning with a 7%.

We realized that most of the teachers used mainly one or two specific methods for their classes (Communicative Language Teaching and Natural

Approach). Some of them know what the method they are using is but the majority ignores it. The targeted teachers used only task based instruction and communicative language teaching which precluded the personal writing and reading production; and unfortunately, damaged the acquisition of personal meaning within the context which

40% 20% 13% 0% 0% 7% 0%

0% 20%


Graph 2 Communicative Language Teaching The Natural Approach

Cooperative Language Learning

Content-Based Instruction

Task-Based Language Teaching

Cognitive Academic Language Learning

Total Physical Response

Whole Language Approach

Grammar Translation Method



plays an essential task in the basic long- and short-term memory processes and their interaction. We personally believe that teachers should choose the best methods according to their lessons.

Let us remember that there is a certain amount of teachers who do not belong to the branch of English language teaching. That is what is evident in the

questionnaires responses and interviews since there is not a parallel relation between the interviews and surveys. In other words, teachers completed the paper-and-pencil survey with information that was completely different when we asked the same question in the oral interview.

The use of different methods is very important for a teacher to create an important cognitive class. The most effective teaching activities engage the students in different ways because of the challenge that represents the mixed-ability learners nowadays. Teachers could choose a specific method according to the topic of the lesson.



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

Source: Teacher’s interview

Author (s): Montero Silvia and Correa Hilton

Graph 3 shows the use of whole-group activities to teach an English lesson. There are 83% of teachers who use whole-group activities to teach their lessons. According to this group of teachers, it is quite important for students to share their knowledge with their peers because they find that is easy to learn in groups and so, the learning is more productive. On the other hand, a 13% of the teachers interviewed do not use this type of activity because they believe that these kind of activities work only on students with a high level of proficiency.

According to our observations, we can state that several teachers applied whole group activities in which students participate and interact promoting an active

learning process. Besides, working with these types of activities, students experienced something different in the classroom and felt relaxed since they participated and shared their ideas with the whole group. This also gave them the opportunity to learn from their own classmates because of the speaking pair-to-pair

87% 13%

Graph 3




interaction among them. Unfortunately, not all groups work at the same case, which can be a barrier for teachers to defeat. According to Brown (p. 178) whole class activity often gives students a screen to hide behind. This is the perfect opportunity for the instructor to make all students to participate in the different activities of the class.

Do teachers use individual activities to teach their lessons?

Source: Teacher’s interview.

Author(S): Montero Silvia, Correa Hilton.

Graph 4 represents the use of individual activities in the classroom. On account of the previous chart stated that the 13% of teachers did not use whole-group activities, which seem to indicate that this reduced group of teachers is the one that uses individual activities. Paradoxically, individual activities were more commonly used in specific teaching tasks because the lessons were not purely based on whole-group activities. Namely, 73% of the teachers used individual activities in oral or written tests for developing student´s skills individually. Teachers, in general know

73% 27%

Graph 4




that students make a good effort when they work alone; consequently, they can assess the level of students’ knowledge.

On the other hand, the 27% of teachers did not use individual activities to teach their lessons according to the survey. Contradictory, we confirmed the fact that teachers actually asked individual questions during the sessions in spite of the low level of students’ fluency. We can state, as a previous result, that teachers do not know the English level of their students; that is, they do not diagnose and place their students according to their English linguistic competence level. We entirely believe that using these kinds of individual activities students might be encouraged to work independently if teachers take for granted students’ learning styles and preferences. Finally, the lack of a planning pre-session appears to be another unproductive assertion.

Do teachers use group work activities to teach their lessons?

Source: Teacher’s interview.

Author(S): Montero Silvia, Correa Hilton.

80% 20%

Graph 5




Graph 5 illustrates the use of group work activities to teach English. The reader of this research work needs to consider that the above mentioned group work (Graph. 3) refers to the group as a whole. Even so, this pie chart puts on view the use of pair work and group work (7 students maximum). Both foster cooperative

classroom interaction in that students work together in order to fulfill a specific task. Returning to our illustration, an outstanding 80% of the teachers use group work as part of their methodological framework to teach their lessons; conversely, the remaining 20% of them do not use it at all. We regrettably observed that only a few teachers used these activities. The great majority of them said they used this activity but the reality was a different one. At this point, our impression is that teachers misunderstood the idea of group activities in the survey and in the oral interview.

All professionals who are immersed in the teaching ground have to use these strategies for maintaining a motivating linguistic interaction in the classroom. They also need to put into practice individual activities in terms of encouraging pupils, making suggestions, giving clear instructions, and creating challenging and enthusiastic opportunities as much as possible in the English classroom.



Besides, group questions and student participation in front of their peers make students feel self-confident and then, they will be able to express in front of the whole class or in front of their teachers about the topics related to the lesson,

conversations, discussions, debates, dialogues and role plays simulations. We found that group work activities have an astounding potential in the public high schools we monitored.

Otherwise, there are disadvantages of group work, because sometimes students are passive agents whereas others may dominate: Harmer, J. (p.166).

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

Source: Teacher’s interview.

Author(S): Montero Silvia, Correa Hilton.

As we can see in graph 6, our intention is focused on the use of the English language in the classroom. The intention here is to discover if the teacher hands over as much speaking responsibility to the learner as possible and to encourage as many students as possible to engage in the highest degree of speaking.

73% 27%





The interesting results show that the 73% of teachers handed their classes in English; and a 27% of the sample used their mother tongue (Spanish). This

assumption keeps a close relationship with all the statements above, but most importantly, with question number one. If the teachers do not have had an English Bachelor’s Degree, and if they have had basically a high school diploma, it would be very difficult for students to speak in English all the class along.

In addition, another restriction for using English was established: students from very different high school backgrounds have a very basic English level. Whether the teachers speak only in English, they will not be capable to understand the explanations and/or instructions from the teacher. In those cases, Spanish was absolutely necessary.

Do teachers plan their lessons?

Source: Teacher’s interview.

Author(S): Montero Silvia, Correa Hilton.

A lesson plan is the instructor’s road map of what pupils need to learn and how it will be done effectively in the classroom. Graph 7 displays the results to the

100% 0%





question: Do you plan your lessons? The complete sample provided us a positive answer. As a result, a noticeable 100% is portrayed.

It has been largely demonstrated by the scientific community that an opportune planning in the teaching-learning process is imperative. An appropriate lesson planning provides a teacher a significant path towards his/her classroom objectives. Besides, it helps the teacher to organize and systematize the students’ acquisition process and to overcome nervousness and insecurity situations. “Without planning we shall be loitering about aimlessly, applying means without aiming at the achievement of ends” Pathak (2012). Before teachers plan their lessons, they will first need to identify the learning objectives for the class meeting.

What we could observe during the conduction was that in spite of the correct classroom planning that teachers made allusion; most of them had not prepared the lesson. Probably, they have a different reference with regards to methodology because preparing a lesson before coming to class is an essential element in the planning stage; the result: a contradiction.



teaching/learning activities, and finally, the strategies to check student

understanding. Following these basic concepts, teachers will be ready to specify concrete objectives for student learning.

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

Source: Teacher’s interview.

Author(S): Montero Silvia, Correa Hilton.

Teaching aspects such as discipline, timing, feedback, and instructions are depicted in graph 8. A noticeable 100% was obtained for this question. Let’s

remember that “feedback helps to evaluate the student’s success and progress (Spratt, Pulverness & Williams, 2005).” “For a successful learning teachers have to provide their students with clear, good and precise instructions to attract their attention” (Gower, Phillips, & Walters, 1983).

First, let us refer to the discipline in the classroom. We have seen very respectful students who already knew the rules for behaving. The majority of them were quiet and when they wanted to interrupt for participating (taking turns), they

100% 0%

Graph. 8



put their hands up as sign of respect to their instructors. In our observation we could realize that only one teacher was not able to run on the class correctly due to

mischievous students.

This was probably a consequence to pay attributable to the instructor: an inexperienced English teacher. What's more, students’ ages played the worst role in this scenario putting the teacher at the limit.

Another fearfulness factor that affects students' attention was the fact that students are involved whether in a morning or afternoon part-time job. And, of course, they have shown a complete rejection to learn English and that is why they misbehave the class.

So as to, it is important for teachers to plan their classes considering how they can engage students with the new topic and the beforehand-planned activity.

With regards to timing, we can say –as already mentioned above, that teachers should consider more seriously the time they assign to every lesson activity. On average, in Ecuador public high schools work hours last only 45 minutes; that is why all instructors do not have enough time for completing a task, and even worse, provide the necessary feedback. In a rush hour like this, it is totally comprehensible assuming that students finish their English lessons entirely without a clear




Factors Concerning Students

Do teachers consider Students´ needs to teach English successfully?

Source: Student’s questionnaire.

Author(S): Montero Silvia, Correa Hilton.

As we can notice in graph 9, another staggering100% reveals an affirmative statement to the question Do you consider students’ needs to teach

them?. That is to say, all teachers from the sample responded positively when they were asked if they take into account the needs of the pupils or not.

We found that, in spite of the short periods of time, teachers applied a few diagnostic techniques with the purpose of discovering how did they feel; also, they matched this personality response to the student book, instructions, and activities (Our word through English book).

According to our experience as elementary teachers, we can demonstrate that not all students have the same socio-linguistic background; nonetheless, they seemed to be absolutely sure about this question.

100% 0%

Graph. 9




But what are the needs of our students? How can we recognize them? How can we manage the class to get a successful result? We can point out a clear example: Let us consider a group 25 students with different personalities.

The first thing to do is to value the whole group, abilities, experiences, and potentials. Then, the mother tongue must be permitted in terms of

consolidating pride and avoid anxiety. The teacher next should address them as natural as without the use of complex structures and euphemisms. If necessary, the teacher needs to modify the contents of the lesson according to students’ interests. The final thing to do is the use of cooperative language techniques for enhancing multidisciplinary activities in the classroom.

At that point, the teacher should probably recognize if the student shows signs of anxiousness, loneliness, hesitation, hopefulness, happiness, and so on. After that, teachers ought to modify the methodology framework established with the purpose of promoting students’ comprehension and self-esteem. The more teachers know students’ needs, the more efficient and productive the class will be.

Furthermore, a critical component of students’ needs represents the mix ability factor. As we mentioned above, students come from various backgrounds and the religious orientation, beliefs, social status, ages, and sexes play most often a troublesome set-up for recognizing these basic needs.



Do teachers consider students´ level to teach English successfully?

Source: Student’s questionnaire.

Author(S): Montero Silvia, Correa Hilton.

Likewise the chart before, graph 10 depicts another unreachable 100% of teachers who consider the students´ level to teach them English. It was clear that teachers were assigned diverse levels in relation to different groups (called “cursos” in Spanish) and their corresponding books.

Concerning this textbook, we can say that the Our Word Through English series fits specific didactic criteria of the socioeconomic, political, and cultural aspects of Ecuador. Besides, students engage easily with the contents of the book; and we can say they had familiarized with the five basic language learning skills (listening, speaking, reading, writing, and pragmatics) the book entails.

According to our on-site observations, we can place students into a B1 level (Threshold to intermediate: Common European Framework Scale). From time to time, students did not get the point to the basic teacher's commands; that was why

100% 0%

Graph. 10




teachers –in many occasions–, were in the necessity of using Spanish to clarify specific utterances and directions.

Which is the level of students?

Source: Student’s questionnaire.

Author(s): Montero Silvia, Correa Hilton

Graph 11 illustrates the level of English of our sample. As we can see, an 80% of students were placed in a threshold level of English. According to our observation, students were not familiarized with most elementary vocabulary, grammar points and even worst, they did not understand the commands given by teachers. Basically, a hardly 20% of intermediate pupils understood commands, the basic vocabulary, and followed correct grammatical structures. High Intermediate and advanced students were not identified.

Therefore, as researchers we can argue saying that this anomaly is a regrettable result due to the fact that most of the teachers' level of English

proficiency is very poor. There is currently a perception that language teachers are not as proficient as is desirable in Ecuador.

80% 20%

0% 0%

Graph. 11




Gower, R. & Walters, S. (2005) suggests that, the term proficiency seems to fall into that category of words that are commonly used without conscious attention to exact meaning. The result, the author continues to argue, is fuzzy thinking that characterizes our discussions and carries over into our teaching. The academic literature in Ecuador and many different countries of Latin America reveals that terms such as ‘quality’, ‘proficiency’ and ‘competency’ are used almost

interchangeably and with imprecise definition.



Factors concerning Classroom How many students are there in the observed class?

Source: Class observed.

Author(S): Montero Silvia, Correa Hilton

Graph 12 shows the number of students in the observed classes. The statistical values of the sample are based on the following number of students per class (SS): a) 10 to 15 SS; b) 16 to 25 SS; c) 26 to 30 SS; and d) 31 or more SS.

Our observation reveals that substantially public high schools register more than 25 learners per class –as an average. That is, teachers have to manage large-classes of 25, 30 and even more students.

As this graph shows, urban institutions register a superior affluence of students. Schools located in rural areas do not register the same quantity of students; we can even say that the registrations in rural areas are minimal. We assume that urban schools gain a certain reputation and a high level of popularity due to a more complex and structured organization. On the other hand, the absence of a great

20% 0%

40% 40%

Graph. 12



responsibility and a neglected-unproductive organization in rural schools has completely damaged the registration of students, which hardly enrolls 4 or 5.

The fact is that teaching large classes can be a counterproductive challenge in terms of timing, resources, and planning, but not necessarily focus on the results. The scientific community has recently established that academic results of exhaustive class size research have sadly overwhelmed the educational society. According to Tyre, P. (2011) there is a substantial body of research to suggest that kids in small classes don’t necessarily learn more. In the range of things that schools can do to improve outcomes for your child, reducing class size may rank a distant fourth behind solid teacher training, a clear and well-sequenced curriculum, and a staff that is well supported and regularly evaluated.

Alternatively, and according to our experience, working with an appropriate number of students can result on a dynamic and increasing self-esteem atmosphere since you are directly linked to your pupils. There is a big chance for you as a teacher to get really in contact with them. Small class students show themselves eager to participate in classroom activities, they can take place in more learning activities, students foster a greater interaction among classmates, helping between them, understanding each other and increasing the desire to assist another peer.



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

Source: Class observed.

Author(S): Montero Silvia, Correa Hilton

Up to here, we have been arguing about teachers’ roles and students’ viewpoints in terms of methodological application but very little about teachers’ concerns. Graph 13 illustrates –based on our observation– a 67% which means one third of the sample who work with less than 30 students and –according to them– feel comfortable with. In contrast, a representative 33% of teachers who work with large classes (more than 30) are more likely to feel uncomfortable or have some kind of difficulty to do their jobs.

Of course, managing large classes is a complex task since mixed-ability classrooms can discourage even the most enthusiastic instructor. For instance, and according to our experience, we can certainly point out that seating arrangement in large classes is kind of difficult in terms of reassuring a good attention. As teachers, we need to create adequate conditions to help students to accomplish what we had planned beforehand and to achieve our teaching process in the best conditions.

67% 33%

Graph. 13




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

Source: Class observed.

Author(S): Montero Silvia, Correa Hilton.

As we can see in Figure 14, most of the teachers have enough space working with their students. Indeed, this data does match the peak presented above. For sure, teachers handling small classes have more room to function and develop greater teaching activities. Unfortunately, the ones who carry on large classes will certainly face many boundaries to defeat.

The conduction of the survey reveals an 87% of positive responses versus a negative one representing the 17%. In fact, we found that teachers who worked with large classes did not have enough space to work in good conditions. Crowded classrooms caused several problems like discipline straggling; the teachers had serious problems to monitor their pupils; peers were not able to interact with each other, mainly. In Brief, our observation guided us to state that classroom space is another vital factor when teachers want to achieve good teaching results.

87% 13%

Graph. 14



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


Source: Class observed.

Author(S): Montero Silvia, Correa Hilton

Graph 15 encompasses a methodological explanation, and of course a

teaching planning tendency. So as to clarify the assumption, let us remind graph 7 in which the conclusion was that teachers did not plan the class. So, how can we obtain a shocking average like this? The answer is simple: there exists a remarkable gap between what they actually fulfilled on the paper and what we in reality observed.

First of all, we stress the results of the survey: a powerful 93% reflects a massive positive value. What we basically realized was that, teachers normally arranged seats according to the topic of the lesson. Second of all, they used the seating arrangement technique to catch students' attention along the class period as much as possible in accordance with students' levels and personal skills. Otherwise, a low value as 7% confirms the assumption that teachers did not plan the lesson.

93% 7%

Graph. 15




Moreover, we observed teachers generally using row seating arrangement to give students commands. Peer group or group seating to share ideas or complete writing assignments (especially during the pre-writing stage); this enables students to check classmates writing exercises and to promote language production.

A few teachers did not use any kind of seating arrangement techniques; this could be explained saying that the arrangement was not necessary at all. These instructors worked with a clearly reduced number of students and the space of the classrooms was reduced as well.

In summary, the basic element using different seating arrangements is that we –as teachers– are able to create a very positive and influential classroom setting which is the student-centered environment.

How many students do teachers think is the appropriate number to teach English?

Source: Class observed.

Authors: Montero Silvia, Correa Hilton

The school size issue focuses on smaller schools to discover if they encourage optimal student learning and development. Nowadays, class size concern has

54% 33%

13% 0%

Graph. 16

10 - 15

16 - 25

26 - 30



resurfaced because of the increasing agreement among educators and the community that all students can learn.

How many students do teachers think is the appropriate number to teach English? We have got 3 values for Graph 16: a 54% of the sample agreed that 10 to 15 students is a considerable amount; an outstanding 33% of the sample for the ones who consider that 16 to 25 students in a classroom would be manageable; and finally, a minor 13% representing those brave teachers who can work with a large class of 30 students exceptionally.

We can point out that teachers agreed with small classes of 10-15 students because the great majority works mainly with this amount of students (an optimal number for a public high school). A 33% said 16-25 students (little experience with this amount); and a 13% believed that 26-30 is a considerable amount (nobody had experienced this quantity before).



Do teachers use teaching resources (TV, Tape/Recorder, computer (s), Projector (s) smart board, and supplementary material?)

Source: teacher’s interview.

Authors: Montero Silvia, Correa Hilton

Graph 17 shows the preferences when using supporting materials in the classroom. One positive thing that caught our attention was the fact that most of the teachers affirmed they use various types of supplementary materials (80% of positive responses). We confirmed the fact that they actually used very few supporting

material such as flashcards, posters, audio songs, and maps (20%).

From what we observed, we can corroborate the use of extra material and the exiting predisposition from students to get involved. Students stated that they like to work with this type of material since they have different learning preferences: some of them are mostly auditory learners, a few visual learners, and almost every one kinesthetic learners. Students´ perceptions and preferences were basically task-based centered in accordance with what we observed in their classrooms.

80% 20%





While the majority of the teachers of the sample mentioned that they were currently using supporting material, we felt a dissatisfaction ambiance when asking the same question to their students. Pupils are actually waiting for the teachers

awakening to start using something more than the whiteboard and a few flash cards. Regrettably, we found that teachers never use a TV, a Tape recorder, a laptop, a projector, or even worse, a smart board. As mentioned above, the types of

supplementary material they use are flash cards and whiteboard. Teachers allege this by saying that the authorities of the institutions never provide them supplementary materials.

Do teachers consider appropriate the resources they have in classes?

Source: Class observed.

Authors: Montero Silvia, Correa Hilton

Harmer (2001) considers that the use of resources as supplementary material is very important to successful a class. Teachers who improve their classes with supplementary material surely will achieve successfully their lesson. Unfortunately, we can barely state in our research work that the 99% of the institutions we visited,

47% 53%

Graph. 18




have the elementary materials to support teachers in the process of teaching. Just one government school was provided with efficient English material and an excellent computer center.

Under these circumstances, we had obtained the following results: a 47% of the sample considered that the limited material they have is appropriate. Nonetheless, the 53% of the sample pointed out that the material they have is incorrect.

Does the institution review teachers’ lesson plans?

Source: teacher’s interview.

Authors: Montero Silvia, Correa Hilton.

Lesson plans are effective tools designed by teachers to draw the time they will spend during the class. Plans are essentially used to structure the lesson and help students to know what the teacher expects from them. Hence, Graph 19 discloses a percentage that is revealed only once in this research work; that is, a percentage that matches all the parameters of this research: a 100% of corroborated information from all study variables.

100% 0%

Graph. 19




All public high schools where this research work took place periodically review every language lesson plan. According to the new educative laws in Ecuador, the teacher has the responsibility to provide for his/her immediate boss a copy of the lesson plan. Under this investigation, we found out that the 40% of the institutions complete this requirement once a week, and the remaining 60% at the end of a month.

Does the institution monitor teachers’ teaching?

Source: Teacher’s interview.

Authors: Montero Silvia, Correa Hilton

Graph 20 reveals an accountable outcome for institution authorities.

According to the results obtained from the sample, a valuable 60% of teachers stated that principals and deans of language departments monitor them. A notorious 40% (which is a warning value) of the sample manifested not have any control from the authorities and/or colleagues. The question here is: How can we know (as

institutional representatives) whether our teachers are doing their jobs correctly or not?

60% 40%

Graph. 20