Fez - Moroccan English language teachers undergo a lengthy process of training before actually becoming teachers. Nearly a majority of these trainings take place in governmental institutions like Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS) and regional learning centers.
Fez – Moroccan English language teachers undergo a lengthy process of training before actually becoming teachers. Nearly a majority of these trainings take place in governmental institutions like Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS) and regional learning centers.
While the majority of teachers will receive formal training before work, some Moroccan teachers receive in-service training while they are already teaching in Moroccan schools.
In general, the training content revolves around fundamental teaching methodology, educational psychology and school legislation. Prospective English language teachers will undergo a variety of training methods that utilize direct, audio-lingual and communicative approaches, among others.
The training’s main objective is to acclimate teachers to the reality of a classroom work environment. However, given the inherently theoretical nature of these trainings, English teachers find themselves in a sharp paradox between what teachers know in theory and their performance in practice. This raises a concerning question: How closely do English language teachers adhere to teaching methods taught during their formalized training?
It is assumed throughout the research application process that emphasis of teaching methods during training is not significant. It is thus necessary to conduct a test to prove the validity of this assumption by following a particular set of methodologies.
The following methodology draws on diverse research methods, questionnaires, interviews and observational analysis. The diversification in research method aims to primarily generate reliable explanatory data. Mixed-method research is widely accepted to result in a high degree of reliability, with subsequent findings able to be crosschecked for agreement across research methods. This basic principle constitutes the methodological spirit of our research. The data gathering process and research tools are summarized as follows:
Before the actual administration of the questionnaire, guidelines inspired from Saïdi (2001, p. 59) and based on Churchill (1989) were strictly followed to design its content. The questionnaire’s content attempted, “avoidance of complicated structures and terminology; diversification of question formats (i.e. direct-indirect questions and close-open questions); precise specification of the content of the question and the appropriate choice of the questionnaire’s language.”
Based on the last criterion, the questionnaire was translated into Standard Arabic, easily the most comprehensible language for Moroccan students fluent in Darija Arabic as compared to English or French. The questionnaire was then tested on four students who subsequently provided insightful remarks about its structure and content. The questionnaire’s sample size was one hundred prospective Baccalaureate students in their last year of Moroccan high school.
However, it is beyond the scope of this paper to include the actual questions themselves. Moreover, the findings of this study are case specific and should not be generalized past the line of demarcation. Only questions that are of direct relevance to this topic are therefore included.
The pre-structured oral questionnaire is based on interviews with five English teachers for crucial data collection. Because some English teachers were conducting quizzes or altogether absent, we utilized high school administration, particularly the schoolmaster, to provide us with teachers’ schedules for the investigation days.
The schoolmaster also provided us with a list of Baccalaureate level English teachers, greatly facilitating the early data gathering process. Later, the five English teachers were interviewed about their professional training as well as their utilized teaching methods.
For the in-class observations, we informed the five English teachers when we would attend their sessions with Baccalaureate students. They were very cooperative and conducive to our overall objective, reserving the last seats in the classrooms for us on our request so that classroom facilitation would not be hindered and we would simply observe.
Some of the English teachers provided our researchers with their English textbook entitled Gateway to English and Insights into English in addition to grammar exercise handouts. The teachers explained that the incorporation of supplementary materials was necessary because many of the textbooks had their exercises already completed by past students, making the assigned exercises useless for new students who have the answers already completed for them. All five sessions were digitally recorded and transcribed verbatim in order to precisely evaluate the amount of time allotted to each aspect of the teaching method under inquiry.
The type of participants in the study varies considerably depending on the type of research method employed. For the questionnaires, the sample size covers one hundred students whose background information is listed below:
Table 1. Student Background Information:
For the interviews, five English Baccalaureate level teachers were interviewed. All instructors teach English at Hassan II High School in Beni-Mellal city in the central part of Morocco. The teachers’ background information is displayed below:
Table 2. Teacher Background Information
The researchers observed typical daily classroom procedures and interactions between teachers and students.
Research findings: Questionnaire results
The statistical data derived from the questionnaires definitively confirmed the inapplicability of certain teaching methods that high school English teachers were trained to use at their designated training schools.
The questionnaire’s specified questions can be categorized by the teaching method they were attempting to target: the Grammar Translation Method (GTM), the Direct Method (DM), The Audio-Lingual Method (ALM), the Silent Way, Suggestopedia, the Community Language Learning (CLL), the total Physical Response (TPR) and Communicative Language Teaching (CLT).
Each section contains distinctive features of the specified teaching method under inquiry. In spite of the great deal of overlap that naturally occurs between teaching methods, some features are mutually exclusive; thus, the confirmation of one feature will automatically exclude other methods.
For example, when students were asked how frequently their teacher translated texts and dialogue into English, an aspect related to GTM, the following results were obtained:
How often does your English teacher translate?
As shown above, 44% of students reported that their English teachers translate often, exhibiting good evidence of the GTM’s application. However, in the subsequent question when the same students were asked to rate the frequency of using the target language exclusively, the results were contradictory:
How often does your English teacher use the target language exclusively?
Accordingly, the majority of students stated that their English teachers commonly use the target language exclusively. It then becomes problematic that answers provided to question two that exhibit one of the basic features of the GTM do not correlate with those provided to question four that exhibit a very distinctive feature of the Direct Method.
Translation pertains specifically to the GTM, where the target language is not used exclusively, while the exclusive use of the target language is the inherent feature of the Direct Method, where translation is prohibited; the discordance between data sets leads us to believe that neither the GTM nor the DM are typically applied in the surveyed English classes.
One should also observe the extensive reliance on textbooks, a common teaching fault highlighted through the questionnaire’s data:
What does your English teacher use to teach you English?
Clearly, textbooks distributed by the Ministry of Education are the prominent instructional material. The questionnaire results show that 67% of the surveyed students said textbooks are the most used English language instruction material.
In order to obtain qualitative data about teachers’ training, semi-structured interviews were conducted with five English teachers whose students answered the questionnaires. Three of these teachers received training in ENS, CPR or the Faculty of Sciences of Education from 1991 to 1992, spending one year in the training schools.
Conversely, two of teachers did not receive any training at all; in the past, teachers and professional employees were generally enrolled directly into given professions and did not need to receive training. The only training these older teachers received was in-service in the classroom.
When asked which teaching methods they knew of, all five English teachers reported their familiarity with the aforementioned teaching methods. Yet when they were asked to rate the applicability of those teaching methods, they provided the following results:
The justifications for these ratings slightly vary between teachers. Those that said teaching methods are 20% to 40% applicable justified this rating because the newly administered curriculum and fulfilling the Official Ministry Specifications make it difficult to follow the methods to the tee.
The most striking justification was provided by respondent 3, who highlighted that, “The theoretical assumptions on which the teaching methods or approaches are based do not take into account variables of daily classroom practice.” Those that rated the applicability from 60% to 80% argue that, “Knowledge of most teaching methods is valuable for their facilitation of classroom practices,” (respondent 5).
In practice, the interviewed English teachers use five teaching methods and approaches: Competency Based Approach, Standards-Based Approach, Communicative Approach, Eclectic Approach, and Project Based Approach. Their usage is distributed as follows:
CBA: Competency Based Approach; SBA: Standards Based Approach; CA: the Communicative Approach; EA: the Eclectic Approach; PBA: Project Based Approach.
The reasoning for preferring one method or the other varies dependent on teacher:
Every English class was observed once throughout the survey. Each observation session lasted 40 minutes, with 200 minutes of total observation time across every class. All observational sessions were recorded and transcribed verbatim from their recording for a precise account of categorical allocation for each subject:
NOTE: Two or more features can overlap; they may be accorded more or less the same time. If teaching methods received no time, they were automatically excluded.
It is promising that the features of three teaching methods received considerable time in the surveyed English classes. However, this cannot sufficiently prove their proper application, with researchers observing the absence of the following complementary features of each teaching method:
1. GTM: Although they focused on grammar, teachers based their teaching on textbooks and supporting materials, like handouts containing grammar exercises, rather than extracting grammatical rules from literary passages as this method calls for.
2. DM: The exclusive use of the target language was dominant in the five English classes, which automatically contradicts GTM’s features. Inductive grammar teaching was also clearly the alternate to deductive grammar teaching. Making direct associations between words and their meanings instead of translation received relatively little time, but this alone is not sufficient to claim that the DM is implemented properly.
3. ALM: Behaviorism, the principle that underlies the foundation of ALM, received 6% of instructional time. ALM champions reinforcement of language through repetition and motivating reactions toward students. Again, claiming that ALM is applied in English classes cannot be proven given the lack of oral drills and memorized dialogues.
The garnered data reveals that although English teachers reported they utilize different methods, in actuality they practice the same techniques derived from three teaching methods: GTM, DM, and ALM.
Discussion of results
From the research findings, it is clear that there is a large gap between what teachers know in theory and how they actually perform in practice. Teachers reported that the teaching methods taught in training schools are 20% to 40% applicable in high school English. This relatively small percentage leads us to question the usefulness of training programs. Why do English teachers need to learn teaching methods when they aren’t completely applicable in actual classroom settings?
The research findings reveal a startling paradox between teachers’ training and classroom reality. Thus, we briefly recommend teachers’ educators:
1. To be fully aware of Moroccan classroom realities.
2. To emphasize teaching methods that can be applied to Moroccan realities.
3. To base teachers’ training on concrete evidence over theory.
This article’s main objective is to shed light on gaps in teachers’ training that are subject to a considerable amount of political discussion and planning. Questionnaires, interviews and classroom observations were incorporated into our research to give insights into Morocco’s education reality and to discover the extent that English language teachers adhere to their trained teaching methods.
The findings of the research revealed that English language teachers generally adhere very loosely to these teaching methods. The usefulness of training teachers in Morocco thus becomes questionable. In this respect, it is strongly recommended that the variables of daily classroom life for English teachers in Morocco be taken into consideration when training future teachers.
Edited by Jack Stanovsek. Photo credit: Ayoub Nachit
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