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

Texto completo



La Universidad Católica de Loja




Factors that influence the English language teaching-learning process in

Ecuadorian private high schools


AUTOR: Burbano Intriago, Yissel Elizabeth

DIRECTORA: Ulehlova, Eva, Mgs.





Eva Ulehlova


De mi consideración:

El presente trabajo de fin de titulación: “Factors that influence the English language teaching-learning process in Ecuadorian private high schools” realizado por: Burbano Intriago Yissel Elizabeth; ha sido orientado y revisado durante su ejecución, por cuanto se aprueba la presentación del mismo.

Loja, febrero de 2014




“Yo, Burbano Intriago Yissel Elizabeth declaro ser autor(a) 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 Licenciado en Ciencias de la Educación mención Inglés, siendo Mgs Eva Ulehlova 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:

“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 con el apoyo

financiero, académico o institucional (operativo) de la Universidad”.




To my beloved family.

This work is dedicated to my dear husband Luis and my little daughter Isis. What can I do

without you both? I guess I’d do nothing. You are the center of my universe. The force that













Literature Review 8

Description, Analysis, and Interpretation of Results 19

Conclusions 56

Recommendations 58




This study's aim is to investigate the factors that influence the English language teaching-learning process in Ecuadorian high schools. To this end, fifteen teachers from five different schools in Manta city were chosen randomly to take part in this study. Then, fifteen students collaborated in this project. To develop the research, four different instrument were used to collect valid information that supports the results.

The data obtained through the teacher’s questionnaire was tabulated in the graphs shown in the quantitative analysis in order to make an analysis of the real situation of the quality of English classes in Ecuador.

Results showed that there are many different factors that influence the English language teaching-process. There is an inadequate environment for teaching and learning English. For this reason students find hard to develop their language skills and it even is difficult for makes teachers to teach in an appropriate way. This situation is very worrying; but it shows us the opportunity to improve this. In order to receive and offer a better quality of education to our students we must concentrate on providing a better educational environment.




El propósito de este estudio es investigar los factores que influyen en el proceso de enseñanza–aprendizaje del inglés en los colegios particulares ecuatorianos. Para lograrlo fueron escogidos aleatoriamente quince profesores de cinco colegios diferentes en la ciudad de Manta para tomar parte de este estudio. Luego, quince estudiantes colaboraron en el proyecto. Para desarrollar la investigación fueron usados cuatro instrumentos para recoger información valida que permita sustentar los resultados.

La información obtenida a través del cuestionario al maestro fue tabulada en gráficos y comparada con las respuestas de los estudiantes para hacer un profundo análisis de la

situación real de las clases de inglés en Ecuador.

Los resultados mostraron que hay diferentes factores que influyen en el proceso de enseñanza–aprendizaje del idioma Inglés. Existe un ambiente inadecuado para el proceso de enseñanza aprendizaje del Inglés. Por esta razón es difícil para los estudiantes desarrollar sus habilidades en el idioma e incluso es difícil para los profesores enseñar correctamente. Esta situación es muy preocupante, pero nos muestra una oportunidad para mejorar y dar una mejor educación a nuestros estudiantes logrando un mejor ambiente educativo.




The fact that students enter the university with little or no English language knowledge is a problem that has been widely observed in Ecuador. This problem limits students’ academic performance as they cannot access up-to-date English information nor are they qualified to apply for immersion programs or scholarships which are offered internationally. The factors that cause this knowledge deficit deserve to be investigated because they will guide us to find better solutions to this problem and in this way we can improve the English level/knowledge of students in Ecuador.

This paper intents to identify students’ English level and their needs in the classroom to determine the classroom conditions in which English lessons take place; to try to identify the characteristics of in-service English teachers and want to determine institutional facilities and norms regarding quality education.

Previous researches on factors that affect the English language teaching-learning process have agreed that students, teacher and environment are the major factors that need to be considered in order to obtain good results. Riasati (2007) was interested to see what the learning style preferences EFL learners are and how teachers are aware of those preferences. For examples this researcher empathized that students did not like working individually, but teachers did not know this.

Khamkhien (2010) tried to determine how gender, motivation and experience in studying English affect the choices of language learning strategies; the findings of its study remained inconclusive and called for subsequent studies analyzing a larger group of participants, because he set the study with a limited number of students.

Other author, Man-fat Wu (2010) believed that more motivated learners exhibit a larger number of different LLSY types, and also that learners with a higher level of integrative

orientation practice a larger number of different style preferences, given their interest in exploring the different aspects of the target language.



Setting and Participants

As the purpose of the study is to explore the factors that influence the English language teaching process in Ecuadorian private high schools, the target population comprises all English teachers, students and institutions in Manta City, Province of Manabí.

The sample of the study consisted of fifteen high schools classes of the level between 8th basic grade and 3th bachelor grade. There were fifteen observed English teachers and the same was the number of the interviewed students who participated. The study was further delimited to five high schools in the city of Manta, province of Manabi.


There was carried out a bibliographical investigation of all the supporting topics for the theme presented. It consisted of the investigation of ten main topics and five previous studies related to the investigation of factors that influence the English language teaching-learning process in Ecuadorian high schools. That information is presented in the Literature Review.

The design of the study is observational. In order to secure data collected the following observation procedures were adopted to:

First, five high schools were chosen randomly, there were asked for permission to observe one class of every high school teacher, then there was a little chat with teachers explaining the procedures and instruments used in the investigation. In that meeting, teachers agreed with the exact day and the chosen class where the researcher could do the survey.

There were seen fifteen classes in the interval of 45 minutes each. The observation was done on the basis of one teacher’s questionnaire, one student questionnaire, one teacher’s interview sheet, and one observation sheet (Annexes). During the class the observer asked one student to fill the student questionnaire, while the class was observed. After the class there was the teacher’s interview done, and after it the researcher asked the teacher to fill in the


Once the required information was completed, it was tabulated, analyzed and interpreted using a simple method, according the information obtained from fifteen teachers and there were made circular graphs showing percentages of occurrences of every result of the entries required.



concerning students: Students’ needs in the classroom, students’ English level.

Factors concerning teachers: Level of education, language proficiency, teaching methods and techniques, percentage of the English language used in class, lesson design and managing learning.

Factors concerning classrooms: Class size, classroom space, seating arrangement, classroom and teaching resources.

And finally Factors concerning educational institutions. The results are presented in the field part of discussion.

Those questions were tabulated and the results were shown in twenty three charts completed by a quantitative analysis of data. Later, there was shown a qualitative analysis, which consisted of a contrast of the information given by teachers, in contra to the information taken from the observation sheet and the questions students answered.


6 DISCUSSION Literature Review

In an interview with Educational Testing Service (ETS), Miss Gloria Vidal, Ecuador’s Minister of Education, there was highlighted the importance of English as the world’s lingua franca at present. She stated that in Ecuador teaching EFL is a priority because of the technological, scientific, academic and social information that currently English language represents, and for the importance of learning and speaking more than one foreign language.

Furthermore, the MinEduc (2010) has listed the guidelines for the general curriculum that teachers have to use in order to ensure good results in developing their abilities to teach this language successfully. In the same line with Richards and Rodgers (2001), the MinEduc recognizes that the main objective of the present English curriculum design is to help students develop their communicative language skills.

To achieve the mentioned above it is important to have a complete knowledge of what can be found in a classroom environment. So this paper explains some of the basic topics teachers need to know to understand students, institution’s needs and teachers themselves: Teaching Approaches and Methods

Around the world and over time, teachers have used several approaches and methods and some of them are described below.

The Communicative Language Teaching (CTL) is a model of teaching that collects a set

of principles which can be used in order to support a wide variety of classroom procedures. Brown (1994) and Richards & Rogers (2001) found that the goal of the class is to find students’

needs so that they can improve authentic and meaningful communication.

Richards & Rogers (2001) explained that to support the CLT goals it is necessary to add fluency, learning through using communication, integration of different language skills and the

trial and error process. Besides, Brown (1994, p. 77) goes on further saying that “the teacher´s

presence is not perceived as a threat, nor is it the teacher´s purpose to impose limits and boundaries, but rather, as a true counselor, to center his or her attention on the clients (the



As mentioned above it is concluded that the CLT is the most recognized and accepted norm in the field of language teaching around the world, and it is used even for the MinEduc of

Ecuador to set teachers’ syllabus.

Another method widely used is The Natural Approach. According to Richards & Rogers (2001, p. 190) “The Natural Approach belongs to a tradition of language teaching methods

based on observation and interpretation of how learners acquire both first and second

languages in nonformal settings.”

In fact, The Natural Approach was aimed at the goal of basic personal communication skills, that is, everyday language situations according to Douglas Brown (2001). Following this, the initial task of the teacher was to provide comprehension input and later to pay attention to the form and fluency of the language.

Additionally, Douglas Brown collects three stages in this process; first, the preproduction stage which is specified as the development of listening comprehension skills; second, the early production stage usually marked with errors, so teachers focus on meaning, not on form. And finally, the last stage is one of extending production into longer stretches of discourses, involving more complex games, role-plays, open-ended dialogs, discussions and extended small group work.

Talking about the Cooperative Language Learning Brown (1994) and Richards & Rogers

(2001) noted that the classes are mainly organized through group activities and they are part of a comprehensive theory and system for the use of group work in teaching. The main point is that students work as a team!

This method has some strengths and weaknesses, as Richards & Rogers (2001) stated;

for example group activities have to be carefully planned to maximize students’ interaction and to facilitate students’ contributions to each other’s learning. But it places considerable demands

on teachers, who may have difficulty in adapting these concepts to the new roles required.

Proponents of CLL stress that it enhances both learning and learners’ interactive skills.

Douglas Brown focuses on the term “cooperative”. However, it emphasizes collaborative



With a similar concept, the Content - Based Instruction is an approach widely studied by Richards and Rogers (2001, p. 219). They quoted Brinton to define CBI: “In a content - based approach, the activities of the language class are specific to the subject being taught, and are geared to stimulate students to think and learn through the target language. This leads with the fact that this approach lends itself quite naturally to the integrated teaching of the four traditional

language skills”.

Another approach is the one called Task-Based Language Teaching (TBLT). Richards

and Rogers (2001) observed that tasks promote communication and authentic language use in second language classrooms. TBLT, however, offers a different rational for the use of tasks as well as different criteria for the design and use of tasks. According to this TBLT provides a more effective basis for teaching than other language teaching approaches which remain in the domain of ideology rather than fact.

As opposed to one of the oldest approaches is The Grammar Translation Method (GTM).

Referring to this the authors Brown (1994) and Richards & Rogers (2001) stated the principal characteristics of the GTM, among which we can mention that the classes are taught in the mother tongue, the main goal is to learn language in order to read literature. In fact, little or no systematic attention is paid to speaking or listening but to develop reading and writing are the main goals in the class; the sentence is the basic unit of teaching and language practice. Much vocabulary is taught in the form of lists of isolated words. There are given long elaborate explanations of the intricacies of grammar.

Once there was studied the principal approaches and methods, it is important to see what teachers do in classes with the chosen method. So, the next topics explain the factors involving the classes.

Managing learning



effective teaching, and promotion of the growth of students. All this can be summarized in the positive learning environment stated above.

But we do not only have to know that managing learning is a dimension of effective teaching and a process through which an effective classroom environment is created; we also have to know why we need it. Woolfolk gives us three reasons to do it. Firstly, teachers can expand the sheer number of minutes available for learning. Secondly, teachers and students can access learning; to improve this everyone has to know how to participate in class activities. And finally management is important for Self-Management: The third goal of any management system is to help students become better and be able to manage themselves by creating a healthy and motivating learning environment.

Ming-Tak and Wai-Shing have a similar concept summarized in two reasons for a good classroom management. First, it is a necessary to create a supportive and respectful learning environment. Effective teaching and learning can take place only if there is good order and positive learning climate in the classroom. And second, it is a proactive and developmental way to promote the growth of students in terms of their personal, social and emotional selves.

Class size (number of students)

Sharan & Chin Tan (2008) collected information around the world about what is a large class for teachers. The definition of a large class varies according to the place in which the class is set. For example, educators in Western countries generally consider any classroom of 25 - 30 students to be large and, consequently, these classes present difficult challenges to teachers in achieving their instructional goals, but in East Far countries, such as in China a class of 50 or

more was “defined” as large by Chinese teachers. This gives an idea that there is no consensus on what means a large class according to teachers surveyed.



These authors focused on the challenges that teachers face dealing with this kind of class, including the difficulty of learning each student’s name, and facts such as small spaces to teach, discipline control, and how to impart the knowledge to all the students.

Lesson Design

Brown (1994) defined a lesson as a set of activities that are covered in the classroom time. He also stated that they have to be well designed to be meaningful and practical for both

students’ and teachers’ needs. In Harmer’s (1998) words, lesson design helps the teacher to think about what will be achieved in the present class and in the future ones according to the lesson plan. Once the teacher has explained the goals of the lesson, students feel confidence in teacher and in what they can expect every class.

Both Brown (1994) and Harmer (1994) highlighted that lessons plans have different

formats, but they always have some basic “ingredients” which help teachers and students get to

the final goals in every class. Goals, objectives, materials and equipment, procedures, evaluation and after class work are some of the basic elements a lesson plan usually has to include.

Classroom Space (physical space) and Seating Arrangement

The classroom space is the natural environment where a class takes place. It is

interesting to see that “The way students sit says a lot about the style of the teacher or the institution where the lessons take place” quoting Harmer (1998, p. 18). In fact, in many

classrooms around the world students sit in rows, but modern teachers know that students are members of a team and should be able to see each other, to talk in English to one another, and not make themselfs feel like they just walked into a military formation as Brown (1994) stated.


11 Classroom and/or Teaching Resources

Brown (1994), clarified that the techniques are all the things teachers do in the classroom, but he highlighted that almost every technique involves the use of materials to support and enhance them.

In fact, there are many materials teachers can use in the classroom to create out better and more productive classes, as Woodward (2000) and Brown (1994) stated. Teachers always use complements as dictionaries in all their varieties such as standard, picture, production,

specialized ones, etc. Teachers mostly use the board, such as flannel, black and green,

whiteboard or magnetized boards. They use many types of rods; picture packs; the music tape / the CD player; and of course they have a huge variety of textbooks. This is considered by many professionals as the most obvious and most common form of material support for language instruction. But there are also audiovisual aids, videos on DVD format with documentaries on special topics, specific ESL instructional modules; there are others such as audio-visual aids; realia, that consist of objects-food items, cosmetics, tools, and other materials that always add some significant reality to the classroom. Computer assisted language learning (CALL): Commercial textbook come with audio-visual and CD ROM plus the computer equipment existing in all institutions are valuable resources for language classrooms, among others.

To sum up there are a lot of materials teachers can use in classes. However, the most important thing about resources is that how effectively teachers are able to use them to increase

students’ abilities in EFL.

Classroom Observation (institution monitoring)



Fortunately, an era of action research the prevailing attitude toward observations is coming. Teachers have the opportunity to understand that seeing one`s actions through another`s eyes is an indispensable tool for classroom research as well as potentially enlightening for both observer teacher and the observed one.

A second form of observation, which can be very effective in different ways, is

self-observation. Actually, self-observation is nothing more than a systematic process of monitoring teachers themselves, but it`s the systematic part that is crucial. It requires discipline and perseverance, but the results are worth it.

How do teachers made it about observing themselves? Well, at first it is necessary to select an element of their teaching to “keep an eye out for” as they teach. They have to make sure it´s one finite element, for instance teachers talk, they use eye contact, they teach predominantly to one side of the classroom in front of a chalkboard. If the teacher tries to take in too many things, it could end up becoming too self-conscious to the detriment of the rest of the lesson. Secondly teachers have to monitor that particular element during the class period. Finally a good

recommendation is to set aside after class for a moment to give these elements a careful assessment.

Learning Styles

Authors around the world have always said that the learning style can be defined as the way a person approaches learning and studies. Woolfolk (2007), although many different learning styles have been described, one theme that unites most of the styles is the differences between deep and surface approaches to process information in learning situations.

Having this in mind Felder (1995) gave in his book a classification of the students according to the learning style they have. In a first place there are Visual learners: those prefer that



On the other hand, there are Active learners, who are those with more of a natural tendency

toward active experimentation than toward reflective observation and conversely for a reflective learner.

The other group of learners are Sensing and Intuitive Learners. These learners uses

observation and gathering data through the senses. They use their intuition by involving indirect perception to use the subconscious-accessing memory, these learners use speculation and imagination. Additionally Sequential or global learners absorb information from the environment

and acquire understanding of material in small connected chunks, and global learners take in information in seemingly unconnected fragments and so that they can achieve understanding in large holistic leaps.

Finally there are Inductive and Deductive Learners. They are those learners that use

reasoning progression that is proceeded from particulars (observations, measurements, data) to generalities (rules, laws, theories). Deduction proceeds in the opposite direction.

Now it is time to talk about another important issue concerning students. The question is what is Intelligence?

Students’ Intelligence or Aptitude to Learn English

The term ‘intelligence’ has traditionally been used to refer to performance on certain kinds of test, according to Lightbown & Spada (2006). Over the years, some research has shown that IQ scores were a good means of predicting success in second language learning. However, as suggested above, IQ may be more strongly related to metalinguistic knowledge than to communicative ability. This suggests that the kind of ability measured by traditional IQ test may be a strong predictor when it comes to learning that involves language analysis and rule learning.



This aptitude can be reflected in terms of the ability. A student has to (1) identify and memorize new sounds, (2) understand the function of particular words in sentences, (3) figure out grammatical rules from language samples, and (4) remember new words, Lightbown & Spada. This concept matches with the one Saville - Troike developed.

In summary, the findings indicate that aptitude is an important predictor of differential success in L2 learning holding both for naturalistic context and for formal classroom instruction. But it is not completely deterministic in getting L2 proficiency.

After that the concepts that support the present study had been reviewed, it is important to know what other researchers have found according to the factors that influences the language teaching-learning process, to have a solid base in developing the present research. This paper presents five studies with similar research questions related to the topic of this research.

Riasati (2007) investigated the language learning preferences of the Iranian EFL

students and the extent of teachers’ awareness of them. Specifically, the study sought try to answer what were the learning style preferences of the Iranian EFL learners. What extent, if any,

are teachers aware of their students’ learning preferences? And how can these students be categorized in terms of learning styles typologies?

The researcher used 13-item language learning preference questionnaire adopted from Brindley (1984). It consisted of two versions: version one was designed for students and version two was designed for teachers. The required data were collected in one session. The

questionnaire was given to students during their class session. Instruction how to complete the questionnaire was given in Persian. At the same time and during the same session, the teachers

were provided with the questionnaire (teachers’ version) to complete. The data obtained through

the questionnaire were subjected to Chi-square tests in order to define the significance of the difference between the responses.



were using words in a sentence and guessing the meaning of unknown words without looking them up in dictionary. Teachers wrongly thought that their students liked to learn the new words through translation and being corrected immediately in front of everyone did not seem to bother students. In fact, students did not like to be corrected later in private.

In terms of media, students would like to see more television programs and video films which would make language learning more exciting and meaningful. Teachers appeared to endorse their students’ opinion; students would feel satisfied with their achievement in English if only they could use the language effectively in real-life situations; and finally, students got a sense of satisfaction not just by getting high grades, but by seeing that they were more successful than before in using the English language to communicate.

Khamkhien (2010) did a research with two main objectives, the first one was to determine three factors: how gender, motivation and experience in studying English affect the choices of language learning strategies; and the second objective was to compare the roles of these factors and the pattern of language learning strategy used by Thai and Vietnamese students.

To determine these factors the data obtained from the background questionnaire was analyzed. First, the questionnaires in each group were divided into two groups according to gender—male and female. Second, 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?” to separate highly-motivated and lowly-motivated students based on the scores of each sub-question.

The paper examined the roles of three variables; namely: gender difference, motivation and experience in studying English, and how this affect the choices of language learning strategies reported by Thai and Vietnamese undergraduate students. The comparison suggested that those two students groups shared both similarities and differences due to a number of factors.



ones; and the second one stated that learners with an integrative orientation exhibit a greater variety of LLSYs than learners with an instrumental orientation.

The methodological design established that the entire questionnaire was administered in the Chinese language. The PLSPS was translated into Chinese, back-translated into English and finally it was modified. The 30-item PLSPS were divided into six groups. The first part of the questionnaire tried to determinate five items measuring each of the six dimensions of Visual,

Auditory, Kinaesthetic, Tactile, Group and Individual preferences on a Likert scale from “Strongly Agree” to “Strongly Disagree”. The style preferences were classified into Major, Minor and Negative/Negligible based on the total scores of the five items measuring each preference.

The second part of the questionnaire contained the Chinese translations of the four items of the Integrative Orientation Scale and another four items of the Instrumental Orientation Scale of

Gardner’s. The seven-point liked scale from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree” was

adapted to a five-point scale to facilitate response.

The third part of the questionnaire contained items on participants’ background information and two open-ended questions for respondents’ students perceived important of English and other comments regarding the questionnaire.

The conclusion of the research was that in terms of the descriptive findings on LLSYs and LLM, this study showed that both multiple style preferences and nil Major style preferences were prevalent among participants. Among the six types of style preferences, Auditory preference was the most popular, followed by Kinaesthetic and Group preferences. The least popular preference was Visual preference, followed by Individual preference.

The conclusions of the hypothesis were that more motivated learners (regardless of types) were found to exhibit a greater variety of LLSY types compared to less motivated ones and learners with an integrative orientation were found to exhibit a greater variety of LLSYs than learners with an instrumental orientation.

Muhammad (2008) directed a research that was designed to investigate the direct influence of the teachers in the college level classrooms, teaching English in the light of Flanders



To do the research the investigator used observation sheets used in the middle of the class on a time of 13.5 minutes per class. After obtaining and encoding the data, it was tabulated, analyzed and interpreted by using a simple method measuring the ratio between indirect

influence and direct influence of teachers, the ratio between positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement, and the student participation ratio.

It was observed that in the majority of the observed classes in each district, the role of the English teachers was directive and themselves directly influenced the class. In a few classes, the indirect mode was utilized by the teachers. The English teachers dominated the class verbally. The majority of college level English teachers were observed to be more direct in its teaching. It was also observed that in the majority of the classes, the English students were passive and the environment of the classroom was autocratic. It was observed in the classroom that most of English teachers frequently used a lecture method very frequently and asked just a few low-order questions.

Zhao (2011) hypothesized that it has been observed that some students in English classrooms experienced anxiety that resulted in stuttering and increased heart rate.

To develop the research he used two instruments: a questionnaire assessing students’

anxiety level and an achievement test. The questionnaire consisted of two parts. One was intended to collect personal information of the participants, such as their name, age, gender, etc. The other was the Chinese version of FLCAS that was designed by Horwitz (1986). He also used data collection and data analysis.

It was found that most students experienced anxiety in classrooms, especially the fear of negative evaluation. Male students were found to have higher anxiety in English classes than female students. Moreover, it was also found that anxiety debilitates language learning, especially anxiety of tests in English classes.

At the end of the research, the publisher gave some recommendations: Having in much that anxiety is prevalent in Chinese high school English classrooms; teachers must pay more

attention to this issue. Besides preparing themselves properly for teaching, teachers should take the affective factors like age, preferences, likes and dislikes of students into consideration.



feel safe in order to speak or express their views. Secondly, teachers should avoid negative evaluation of students in classrooms and comment on students’ behaviors with more

encouragement. Thirdly, teachers, together with their schools, should take some measures to relax students’ attention on exams, such as eliminating the ranking of students by their test scores.




In order to analyze the factors that influence the English language teaching-learning process, all the factors have been divided into four categories: factors concerning teachers, factors concerning students, factors concerning classrooms and factors concerning educational institutions.

To the quantitative analysis presented below this paper shows the results of the teachers’ questionnaires, and then the interpretation is the result contrasting of those graphs among the observed classes and the commentaries done by the students in their questionnaires.

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

Author: Burbano, Yissel

Source: Ecuadorian private high schools

Graph N°1 shows that most teachers, 53% has the English bachelor´s degree, 33% of them have a high school diploma, and just 7% has a master degree or has a title in a different area, in this case an engineer in systems.

This information contrasts with the data collected in the teachers’ interview that revealed



degree do not score more than B1 in the proficiency test, and some of the teachers who have the high school diploma scored B2 or C1. This happens because they have learnt English in other institutions such as academies but with the actual specifications of the government, they have been studying to get their degree. This tendency matches with the information given by Miss. Gloria Vidal, Ecuador’s Minister of Education when in 2010 pointed the importance of improving the teaching - learning process in Ecuador.



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

Author: Burbano, Yissel

Source: Ecuadorian private high schools

Graph N° 2 indicates that 22% of teachers use the Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) to develop their classes, 16% use the Cooperative Language Learning or Cognitive Academic Language Learning, 13% of them use the Total Physical Response, 9% of the

interviewed teachers prefer the Task-based or the Content-based Instruction, both the Grammar Translation Method and the Whole Language Approach present a 6%, and finally the Natural Approach got a 3% of the votes.

In this case it is interesting to see that many teachers picked up more than one approach because they usually get a mix of them according to the studied topic or the group.



because as Rogers (2001) found, the goal of the class is to find students’ needs to improve authentic and meaningful communication through CLT.

But there is a huge group that still focuses their class on the contents given by the

current books, not expanding students’ interest. Teachers of larger classes just tried to do the activities given in their books.

There are 4 teachers that still use the GTM, with some of the characteristics that Brown (1994) explained; the classes focused on the meaning of the words in the mother tongue, and make the students translate every word. Even when the information indicated in the chart shows a smaller percentage of this used method in the observed classes the reality was different.



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

Author: Burbano, Yissel

Source: Ecuadorian private high schools

According to graph N° 3 93% of teachers like to use whole group activities and just the 7% of them do not like to use them.

Seeing the results teachers had for the use of whole group activities, few teachers said that these activities are necessary for students to develop their language skills; other teachers agreed that this kind of activity was the best way to teach large classes, and others thought that whole-group activities motivates students’ confidence and make them share ideas. They use whole-group activities according to the task planned for the class.



Just one teacher picked NO in the question about whole-group activities, and he said that the reason is that in this kind of activities some students do not participate and just the best ones do.



Do teachers use individual activities to teach their lessons?

Author: Burbano, Yissel

Source: Ecuadorian private high schools

Graph N° 4 shows that 87% of teachers like to use whole group activities and just the 13% of them do not like to use them.

Some teachers said that individual activities are necessary for teachers to see which student works and which does not work; other teachers agree that this kind of activity is the best way to evaluate student per student, and others think that individual activities motivates

students’ independence. They use this kind of activities according to the task planned for the


The individual and the whole-group activities were mainly used in the observed classes. In fact many tasks are designed to challenge students by themselves. Teachers use these

activities to see students’ points of view of a new topic and to evaluate previous lessons as they



Two teachers picked NO in the question about the use of individual activities, and they said that it is because their preference on cooperative tasks which help students to develop more speaking and listening skills and also they said that there is a lot of time they have to use for preparing and performing individual activities.



Do teachers use group work activities to teach their lessons?

Author: Burbano, Yissel

Source: Ecuadorian private high schools

According to graph N° 5, 93% of teachers like to use group-work activities and just 7% of them do not like to use them.

Some of the reasons teachers presented for the use of this kind of activities were importance of cooperation in class, the opportunity that students can learn from other students and not only from the teacher or the book, group-work activities are an open invitation to share and care for each other, and many students really like them.

The group-work activities were not mostly used in the observed classes. But this fact can be explained because of the tasks assigned for in the lessons. Most students said that teachers use different activities, and they expressed that they love working with their classmates.



The result obtained from students' perception is similar to the information gotten from teachers. Most students like and have classes with many different activities, fourteen students out ofthe fifteen interviewed expressed that. The other one did not perceive that kind of activities in his English classes.



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

Author: Burbano, Yissel

Source: Ecuadorian private high schools

The chart presented above shows that 73% of teachers indicate that they use English most of the time in their classes. And 27% indicate that they do not use the foreign language very often.

In some cases the information was confirmed by both the student’s questionnaires, and

the observed class. But in other cases teaches said that they use English most of the time, when they use about 50% or less English in the observed class.

Eleven students voiced that their teachers use the foreign language mostly in classes and four of them mentioned that their teachers do not use it. Those responses are similar to those given by teachers, but the observation showed different results.



one teacher said that when she tried to teach English in English students complained to their parents and the teacher had to get back to the grammar translation method.

It is necessary to add that in smaller classes, teachers use more English, and in the larger ones, teachers mostly use Spanish. They said that is because students do not understand the commands given in English, and when the students do not understand, the lesson would end in indiscipline. Ming-Tak and Wai-Shing (2008) have a similar concept of these teachers when stated that it is a necessary to create a supportive and respectful learning environment to have a good class, and to get this goal it is important that the students could understand the teacher.

On average in the observed classes 63% of those classes were taught in English, and the rest in Spanish, and in this number there were at least 4 classes taught in English completely and in two classes teachers used less than 25% of English in class. This is definitely one factor that highly influences the teaching-learning process of the foreign language.


31 Do teachers plan their lessons?

Author: Burbano, Yissel

Source: Ecuadorian private high schools

Graph N° 7 says that every teacher plans his/her lesson. According to Brown (1994) lesson is a set of activities that covers the classroom time, and that has to be well designed to

be meaningful and practical for both students’ and teachers’ needs.

In fact, because of the law and the government regulations, every teacher has to fill a chart with the information that could guide him/her to have a successful class. In real life teachers use the plans to have a general idea of what they teach and the activities they will develop, but sometimes it does not fit the real class.



Following these ideas, when someone develops a lesson plan, he/she must

communicate with students what it is being done. And in the observed classes 10 teachers said the topic of the lesson to the students, but just three of them explained to the students the

objectives of the class. Only one teacher made a warm up activity that increased students’

attention to the rest of the class.

Most teachers focused their attention on developing oral and written tasks, but just 6 of them specified the time given for each activity. Every teacher did a review or gave feedback of the topic and corrected students’ mistakes.

Eight teachers used one or more than one supplementary material to the class, but just a few introduced a new topic in the observed class.



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


Author: Burbano, Yissel

Source: Ecuadorian private high schools

Woolfolk (2007) said that the aim of classroom management is to maintain a positive learning environment. In order to develop this it is important to set aspects such as discipline, timing, feedback and managing activities in every class.

According to graph N° 8, 100% of teachers consider the aspect mentioned above in their classes.



In the observed classes, it was clear that every teacher tried to keep the discipline of the students, and that they gave a lot of feedback each student when it was needed. Just in one class the teacher did not control the discipline of his group.

On the other hand, almost none teacher explained to students the time assessed to their tasks, and some students finished their issues faster than others, and even some of them did not finish what they had to fulfill.



Factors Concerning Students

Do teachers consider Students’ needs to teach English successfully?

Author: Burbano, Yissel

Source: Ecuadorian private high schools

The presented graph shows that 93% of teachers consider students’ needs (age, personality, attitude, aptitude, Motivation and learning styles) to teach English successfully and

7% do not consider these factors in the learning process.

But in the observed classes, five of the fifteen observed teachers did not give classes according to factors as simple as age, aptitude or learning styles. They just gave the classic grammar instructions, gave students structures to learn, and did none motivating activities. The other ten teachers paid attention to the students’ needs. They developed activities according to



The most interesting fact according to this topic is that the students' population of this research is formed by teenagers who really need motivating activities in classes according to their preferences. Supporting this statement the researcher found that fourteen students liked English, and all the fifteen interviewed students enjoyed funny activities which motivate their learning process. According to some students this kind of activities (according to their ages and hobbies) are very important to their capacity to the future.

Most teachers said that they pay attention to the facts mentioned above, and they

explained that it is very important to develop students’ motivation in order to provide students

with good classes. They also mentioned the importance of knowing the strengths and



Do teachers consider Students’ level to teach English successfully?

Author: Burbano, Yissel

Source: Ecuadorian private high schools

Chart N° 10 demonstrates that 60% of teachers consider students’ level to teach English,

and 40% of teachers do not do it.

Teachers gave their reasons of why yes or why not taking into account the level of the students. Teachers who answered yes to the question said that if they did not teach according to the level, students would get some empty spaces in the knowledge they should have; other teachers said that it is not recommended challenging students with a basic level or beginners to do more complicated tasks, and others tried to work according to students levels to push them to improve their abilities, sometimes using TBLT that Richards and Rogers (2001) observed that

tasks promote communication and authentic language use in second language classrooms

On the other hand, there were teachers who did not like to consider students’ level in



into the classes. And others do not consider it fair to do it because the institution does not separate students according to the level of proficiency different students have.

Contrasting the results obtained through teachers, the observed classes revealed that three quarters of students have a basic level of English, and sometimes teachers do not

consider this fact for teaching. But they do it for the tasks assigned to students. Twelve students think that they develop easy tasks, one thinks that the tasks are very simple, and just two

students found the tasks assigned difficult.


39 Which is the level of the students?

Author: Burbano, Yissel

Source: Ecuadorian private high schools

According to teachers, 62% of their students have a basic level of English, 25% have an intermediate level, and 13% have a high intermediate level of English, as it is shown in graph N° 11.

The observed classes support these results, which show that most students have a basic or even very elementary level. Teachers observed that many of those students come from elementary schools where English is not taught. Other teachers indicated the challenges they have to face to teach in a very large class, where most of the students do not have a good level of proficiency. In fact the classes with lower number of students are the ones where students could get an intermediate or a high intermediate level.



intermediate and high intermediate students think that the tasks are easy. Just one student with basic level and one intermediate level student see the tasks assigned to them difficult.



Factors Concerning Classroom

How many students do teachers have in their class?

Author: Burbano, Yissel

Source: Ecuadorian private high schools

Graph N° 12 shows how many students there are in the fifteen classes selected to this research. According to the chart 53% of classes have more than 31 students,34% have between 16 25 students and 13 % of the classes have between 26 30 students. Sharan & Chin Tan (2008) collected informationin Western countries and teachers generally consider any

classroom of 25 - 30 students to be large

In the observation done by the researcher was confirmed most of the information included above, but in two classrooms the data collected was different (there were found less students than there were presented by the teacher) because some students were in extra –

curricular activities, and in other two classes, teachers reported less students than those seen by the observer, because was taken the information from all the classes they managed.

The information given by students reveals that the ones belonging to smaller classes 16



offers them better learning process, cooperation (they help to each other) and the teacher can bring them personal attention and help. Another interesting fact is that the shorter classes (16 –

25) are those with the more advanced students.

But on the other hand, every student that belongs to the larger classes (31 and more) does not feel comfortable with this. These students argue that there are too many classmates in their rooms. Those many students have different levels and make the lessons difficult for

students to learn and difficult to teachers to teach causing boredom in the classroom. They said that teachers do not have enough time for personal feedback, and sometimes teachers cannot

face students’ needs. Students have trouble to focus on every class.



Do teachers feel comfortable working with their number of students?

Author: Burbano, Yissel

Source: Ecuadorian private high schools

Graph N° 13 shows interesting data about how teachers feel with their classes (number of students). According to the chart 60% of teachers feel comfortable working with their current groups and 40 % of teachers do not feel comfortable working with them.

Teachers who feel comfortable with their groups are those with the smaller classes, and those who in the past worked with larger classes than the actual ones. Teachers with those classes said that it is easy to teach 16 25 students they have, those teachers also added that it is more comfortable and better for students to learn when they are not too many in the class. Even teachers who manage 26 30 students in most cases feel good working with their current groups.



Completing the information, students revealed more agreement with the classrooms they work in. 73% of students believe that their classrooms are big enough, and they are comfortable with the space schools set for them. The other 27 % (4 students) indicated that their classrooms are too small for all the students being attended there (these students belong to the 31 – more students).

So it is easy to see that when the smallest the class is, the more comfortable the



Do teachers have enough space to work with their group of students?

Author: Burbano, Yissel

Source: Ecuadorian private high schools

The classroom space is the natural environment where a class takes place according to Harmer (1998). Chart N° 14 indicates that two quarters 67% of teachers feel comfortable with the space they have in the classrooms, and the other 33% do not feel comfortable with it.

This information contrast with the one obtained by the researcher in the observed classes. The information said that 7 classrooms have enough space for the group of students. These classrooms are well suited; students can be reseated to do different activities, they can move when they need.

But on the other hand, the research confirms that eight classrooms are quite small for the students. Teachers cannot do different seating arrangements there because of the lack of space. Seating students in pairs and the basic seating in lines is the only thing they can do.



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

Author: Burbano, Yissel

Source: Ecuadorian private high schools

Graph N° 15 shows that 73% of teachers arrange students’ seats in relation to the

activities planned for their classes, and 27 % do not do it.

Brown (1994) suggested various arrangements in order to improve English classes. For example orderly rows, circles, horseshoes and separate tables are some of the most useful seating arrangements used by teachers. In this research was found that most teachers work with orderly rows. In fact teachers with small classrooms do not have too many options. Sometimes students are seated in pairs.

The bigger classrooms have many other options. Semi circles or horseshoes, separate tables, two students seated together, and even take desks apart and have some fun seated on the floor to share ideas with the classmates.

But as teachers said it is not always possible. Some teachers prefer not to change



expressed their wishes to do it, to be able to play games and to do other didactic activities, but the space is not big enough.

Most students are comfortable with their seating arrangement. They say that when they do group-work, they like to share with their friends, that when they seat alone they feel very comfortable, and that the variety of activities and the seating arrangement needed allows them to develop their knowledge. Three of the observed classes were in audio visual rooms. In those students were seated in pairs, and paid more attention to the classes.



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

Author: Burbano, Yissel

Source: Ecuadorian private high schools

Graph N° 16 shows that most teachers (60%) think that a good group should have between 16 – 25 students. 33% of teachers want to work with a group between 10 – 15 students. Just 7% (1 teacher) prefers to work with a group of 26 – 30 students. And finally no teacher wants to work with a group of 31 or more. This interesting fact talked about the cultural preference of Western countries to work with a less number of students. Numan (1996), recognizes a class of more than 50 students as large and includes examples of very large classes, such as in Nigeria, where it is easy to find classes over 200 students

Of course this ideal is not what teachers have in a real life, as shown in graph N° 12. Most teachers have groups of 31 or more students, and make them face many challenges every day. The lack of space, the impossibility of developing different activities are the most common ones.



space to move; where teachers use more English, and where students can really develop their language skills are those that have 16 – 25 students.

Teachers who like to work with 10 15 students’ group said that the smaller the class is, the learning process is better. One teacher said that international standards agree with his perception. There was a teacher who said that the best group is the one conformed by 26 30 students; this helps to maintain a good environment in a private high school.



Do teachers use teaching resources (TV, Tape/Cd recorder, Computer(s), Projector(s), Smart

board, and supplementary materials)?

Author: Burbano, Yissel

Source: Ecuadorian private high schools

Brown (1994), clarified that the techniques are all the things teachers do in the classroom, but he highlighted that almost every technique involves the use of materials to support and enhance them. Graph N° 17 shows the most used ones. This chart explains that projector, computer and CD recorder are the most popular ones with 30 %, 28 % and 27 % respectively. A few teachers, just 5% use TV in classes, and 10% of teachers use

supplementary materials.

This information contrast with the data obtained through the observation, in which most classes do not have those materials. In fact just five classrooms have computers and projectors. Most classes have supplementary material such as boards, charts, dictionaries and books, but they do not have electronic materials.

Teachers talked about it, and said that they really use them, not in every class, but as often as they can. The problem is that they have to move students to other rooms (informatics



rooms), and they lose time in arrangement. CD recorder is another teaching resource widely used. Most teachers do not have it in the classroom either; so, they bring them to the class to develop listening activities.



Do teachers consider appropriate the resources they have in class?

Author: Burbano, Yissel

Source: Ecuadorian private high schools

Graph N° 18 represents the results about what teachers think of the resources

mentioned in Graphs 17. In fact, 80% of teachers consider appropriate the resources they have, and 20 % of teachers do not think in the same way.

This information has a very close relation to the previous question. As the researcher could see, teachers use teaching recourses according to the activities they develop. In fact most teachers said that they use teaching resources and most teachers said they are appropriate for students.

In fact, teachers who answered no to the present question revealed that the reason is that they need those articles in the classrooms, no in borrowed ones. Other teacher expressed the need of more teaching resources to develop more interesting and enjoyable activities that motivate students in their learning process.

According to thirteen of the fifteen interviewed students, their teachers do use resources in class. Just two students expressed that their teachers do not use them. It was seen in



classes, on which most of the classes used at least one resource, mainly supplementary materials and computers.



Factors Concerning Educational Institutions Do institutions review teachers’ lesson plans?

Author: Burbano, Yissel

Source: Ecuadorian private high schools

Graph N° 19 reveals that 40 % of schools plan every week, 33% of schools review the lesson plans every month and 23% of schools do it in other time (every two months, and every semester).

This information was confirmed in the observed classes; because most teachers talked about the extra time they usually work to complete their lesson plans. Teachers and institutions knew that planning appropriately is an obligation according to the government standards. As mentioned in question N° 7, every teacher plans the lessons, some teachers do it for the school obligation, and others see this obligation as the opportunity to have more interesting and guided classes.


55 Do institutions monitor teachers’ teaching?

Author: Burbano, Yissel

Source: Ecuadorian private high schools

Graph N° 20 reveals that 0 % of schools monitor teachers’’ teaching it every week, 60% of schools review the lesson plans every month and 40% of schools do it in other time.

This information was confirmed in the observed classes; although none of the classes was observed by other person, but teachers talked about it, and some of them talked about the uncomfortable feeling of being evaluated constantly. But teachers understand that this is an obligation according to the government standards.

Even some of the observed teachers did not feel comfortable with the research surveyed in their classes. Brown (1994) stated that one of the most neglected of professional areas that affects professional growth among teachers is the mutual exchange of classroom observations, especially when teachers have to get into a teaching routine.


56 Conclusions

 There are factors that influence the English language teaching-process that involve every part of the equation: teachers, students, classrooms and institutional educations. There is an inadequate environment for teaching and learning, and this concerns everyone. But it is an opportunity for everyone to improve this environment for a better education.

 This research demonstrates that most students have a basic proficiency level of English. This is the result of many aspects such as elementary schools with no English training; the lack of interest they put to the subject, because they need more motivating and funny activities, which could push them to improve their language skills.

 This research collected data that indicates that more than half Ecuadorian private high

schools’ classes are very crowded (more than 31 students); classrooms in these classes

usually are small and there is no space for movement, dynamic activities and/or different seating arrangements. These factors make teachers and students feel uncomfortable in class.

 The discussion presented demonstrates that more than half Ecuadorian teachers have

an English bachelors’ degree, and those who do not have obtained them yet are studying to get it, but instead of that, most of them are in a B1 level of proficiency that affects the amount of English they use in classes. Teachers said they speak English three –

quarters of time, but the observation showed 63% of use.



 It was observed that English classes with less number of students (16 25) are the most interactive ones, with enough space, more motivated students, more English interaction between students and teachers. These classes obtained the best scores in teachers’




To solve some of the problems presented before some recommendations are presented hereafter:

 First of all teachers can improve students’ skills and level of proficiency by interacting more with them. It should be very helpful to know students strengths and weaknesses; their likes and dislikes; and from that point, they should plan more dynamic and activities that would motivate students. Once teachers do that it will be easier to teach and there will be a huge possibility to add more English every class especially in speaking and listening activities.  Second, the educational institutions should try harder to give teachers and students the

opportunity of a meaningful learning process. Educational institutions should provide

teachers with more resources and they should reduce the amount of students in classrooms as according to the research done it is not recommended to work in overcrowded




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tables, two students seated together, and even take desks apart and have some fun seated on
tables, two students seated together, and even take desks apart and have some fun seated on p.51