Foreign language teaching is a complex process that has to take into the account the perception of the studying process not only by the teachers but by the students as well. If these perceptions do not align, the chances of miscommunication are significantly increased. Ganjabi (2011) found that in the case of Iranian professors and students, such miscommunications exist. According to his study, the majority of Iranian teachers put an emphasis on practical applications of the language in real-life scenarios, whereas the students were more responsive to grammatical classes and drills.
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These results are mirrored by Brown (2009), who conducted a similar study among the teachers and students of universities in Arizona, which suggests that the disconnection between values and ideals of teachers and students may be a universal trend. According to Brown (2009), the majority of Arizonan ETL teachers valued communicative processes and emphasized grammar as part of meaningful scenarios. The students, on the other hand, preferred a more formal approach with an emphasis on grammar.
These results are consistent with Brown’s earlier research conducted in 2006, which was a robust dissertation analyzing the discrepancies between students and teachers on many aspects of foreign language teaching. One of the greatest statistical differences appeared in the grammar section, as the majority of the teachers interviewed disagreed with the notion that “effective foreign language teachers should mostly use activities that practice specific grammar points rather than activities whose goal is to merely exchange information” (Brown, 2006, p. 229). The majority of the students, on the other hand, agreed with the statement presented above.
The research conducted by Jarid, Farooq, and Gulzar (2012) had also found that the majority of Saudi-Arabian students prefer formal grammar tests and classes to open-ended practice and communication. However, the study indicates that one of the major underlying factors for such a trend is the lack of minimum required knowledge at the entry into Saudi universities. Without a basic grasp in foreign languages, communication becomes virtually impossible, and the weaker students have to rely on more structured means of evaluation and learning in order to pass the tests (Jarid et al., 2012).
Important Qualities of a Teacher as Perceived by Students
Being liked and respected by the audience has an influence on the effectiveness of learning. According to Celic, Arikan, and Caner (2013), the most important traits for Turkish students are friendliness, creativity, experience, and nationality. According to the study, Turkish students and Arabian students, in general, take better to native teachers that have a strong grasp on a foreign language. Foreign teachers are perceived less favorable.
The perceptions of teachers seem to be relatively identical in different cultures and regions of the world. Barnes and Graeme (2013), who interviewed more than 900 students and teachers of a Korean university, have found approximately similar demands towards rapport, delivery, fairness, knowledge, organization, and preparation to those among Turkish students from the previous study. The researchers speculate that the disconnection in organization styles between teachers and students occurs because the students do not feel confident enough to communicate their opinions freely.
Answering what qualities must a good teacher have is only a part of the research. Another important question to answer is what qualities do bad teachers typically have. Research performed by Raufelder et al. (2016) indicates that the qualities of a good teacher as perceived by students are not diametrically opposed to those of a bad teacher. One of the qualities found in both good and bad teachers is assertiveness. According to the results of the study, a teacher must have enough assertiveness to keep the class in line, but not overstep their authorities and make the students feel oppressed.
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The information regarding the perception of native and non-native English speakers by the students differs from one research to another. Walkinshaw and Oanh (2014) made an analysis of differences between the two types of teachers in ETL classes, highlighting the advantages and disadvantages of both. Non-native teachers were perceived to have a stronger grasp on grammar while possessing inferior (but understandable) pronunciation. Natives were perceived as superior in terms of communication and practice.
When talking about the perceptions of teachers and their qualities by the student, it must be noted that the perceptions differ according to the age of the students. According to Bland (2015), when teaching English to young children, who are unable to evaluate the teacher’s academic prowess, interpersonal contact and the abilities to entertain, appraise, and excite the children are valued much more than their other competencies.
Important Qualities of Teachers as Perceived by Other Teachers
While students may have their preferences towards teachers, their opinions alone are not enough to construct an accurate representation of the matter. Selvaraju and Toor (2016) have conducted a study that examines not only the perspectives of students but those of teachers as well. Their research involved around 900 Swedish teachers and students. While the researchers found that students and teachers agree on what are the five primary qualities of a successful teacher, they disagree on the importance of some of them. According to Selvaraju and Toor (2016), students value enthusiasm in their professors, placing it second out of five. Professors, on the other hand, while acknowledging the necessity for enthusiasm in their work, placed it last in terms of importance, when compared to other qualities.
While the majority of the studies concentrate on particular lists of qualities that make a successful teacher, Peacock (2017) claims that the most important quality for a teacher to have is the capability to learn and adapt to the surrounding environment. According to the researcher, the majority of qualities that determine success or failure are gained in the process of teaching. Peacock (2017) states that the presence of a teacher bias is an inevitable part of the formation of a teacher, and the differences between good or bad teachers stem from either the ability or inability to adapt.
According to Lamb and Wedell (2014), culture has a great influence on how teachers perceive qualities and methods of teaching. For example, many of the western countries use an inclusive and cooperative method of conducting their lessons, appreciating involvement and initiative from students and teachers alike. While many ETL teachers in Saudi Arabia and the UAE report to be doing the same, in reality, the disconnection between what teachers are ought to do and what they believe causes a disconnection between their methods and the expected results.
Teacher Beliefs and their Impact on Education
Before a discussion about the influence of teacher beliefs on education, a definition of what belief is must be provided. Gendler and Hawthorne (2015) define belief in comparison to knowledge. As a basis, they take a Kantian definition of knowledge, which states that knowledge is the holding of a thing to be true both subjectively and objectively. Therefore, belief is a holding that lacks either subjective or objective support. In the scope of this research, this could be translated into a practice that is not supported by practical experience, or academic knowledge and finds roots in personal biases of a teacher.
Teacher beliefs play an important role in shaping the practice of language education. Biesta, Priestley, and Robinson (2015) have conducted a study among UK English teachers in order to determine the influence of personal and circumstance biases in their work. The researchers have discovered that personal biases are deeply rooted into the teaching profession, as discrepancies start not only regarding particular methods of education but in the definition of the term “teacher” for every individual practitioner. In the majority of cases, biases are shaped by personal, practical experience rather than academic knowledge.
Understanding the beliefs and biases as well as factors that motivate their preferences towards various approaches in education is paramount. According to Oppell and Aldridge (2015), who evaluated the levels readiness and acceptance towards the educational reform currently in place in Abu-Dhabi, the majority of the teachers, while willing to comply with reforms, are skeptical towards the necessity of changes, instead of being supportive of the more traditional teaching models. The researchers found that conservative culture, fear of change, and lack of knowledge are the primary foundations of many existing teacher beliefs towards innovative educational approaches.
Butler and Carpenter (2015) recognize the importance of bias in language education. In their analysis, they have discovered that one of the major factors that affect teachers and makes them suspicious and biased towards the attempts at improving and revolutionizing the practice is the lack of clear performance evaluation criteria. Having no grading rubric to compare both systems on, teachers are instinctively supportive of the more familiar systems, while treating anything new with suspicion and bias.
The subject of bias and belief is further developed by Hayes (2016), who analyzed how teacher perceptions and biases helped reject the proposed educational reforms in Bahrain. According to the research, the ineffectiveness of the policy was motivated by the unsuccessful attempts to adapt to the new ideas while retaining the majority of existing preconceptions about English education. This affected not only the locally trained non-native teachers but also teachers who came to work in Bahrain, which suggests that educational biases are connected with the educational culture of any particular area.
Necessary Competencies of an English Teacher
While the personality of a teacher is important to facilitate an effective teaching process, any ETL teacher has to have a set of core competencies in order to be effective. Farrell (2015) states that the place of origin, culture, and race of the teacher are irrelevant to the teaching proves, as core competencies are universal across the globe. Some of the core competencies listed in the study include the presence of teaching philosophy, practical knowledge, academic and theoretical background, as well as a universal set of principles in teaching.
While most researchers support the existence of basic competencies for teachers of different disciplines, these competencies typically vary. Kaendler, Wiedmann, Rummel, and Spada (2014) propose a framework for core competencies of a teacher that is applicable to ETL. They separate competencies into three stages: pre-active phase, interactive phase, and post-active phase. The core pre-active competency is the ability to plan and prepare for the lesson properly. Interactive competencies include monitoring, supporting, and consolidating capabilities as well as the quality of interpersonal interactions with students. Lastly, post-active competencies include the capabilities for analysis and reflection.
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