Influence of teacher cognition in the teaching and testing of english grammar in selected secondary schools of Luanshya district, Zambia
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Developments in cognitive psychology have stressed the complex relationship between what people do, what they believe and what they know. Teachers’ cognitive processes are important in the teaching process. The actual realization of the curriculum is dependent on teachers’ understandings, beliefs and experiences about language teaching even in the teaching and testing of grammar. Therefore, this study sought to examine how teacher cognition influenced how English language teachers understood, taught and tested English grammar in selected secondary schools of Luanshya District. The objectives were to; establish teachers’ understanding of grammar, analyse teachers’ beliefs on how grammar should be taught, analyse the beliefs of teachers on how grammar should be tested and examine how the experiences of teachers affected the teachers’ teaching and testing of grammar. The study was undergirded by the complex dynamic systems theory which posits that teacher cognition is a complex dynamic system where understanding, beliefs and experiences are internally connected and mutually dependent as proposed in the works of (De Bot, et al, 2005). It was also supported by Bernstein’s (1973) code and pedagogical discourses theory that states that classroom learning does not take place in a vacuum but it is affected by other factors such as the syllabus, learners and the whole education system. The study sample consisted of six schools and from those schools 12 participants were drawn. The 12 participants included 2 teachers of English from each school. The research method used in this study was a qualitative descriptive research design. Data was gathered through class observations, semi-structured interviews and document analysis. Data was analyzed by the use of common themes based on the objectives that guided the study. The findings from the first objective showed that the teachers understood grammar to be the rules of the language. The findings from the second objective showed that the teachers believed that grammar should be taught systematically and explicitly using deductive techniques such as teacher exposition and question and answer. The teachers believed in rule explanation, the use of metalanguage and frequent correction of errors. The findings from the third objective showed that the teachers believed that grammar should be tested explicitly using written assessments in form of transformations, fill in the blanks and complete the sentence exercises. Also, it was discovered that what the teachers considered most important when marking were the application of the rules and the conventions of standard writing such as punctuations, spellings and general work layout. The findings from the fourth objective showed that the majority of the respondents learnt grammar explicitly from their past teachers. Their teachers used traditional methods to teach grammar and these are the methods the teachers used most of the time. Another influential aspect in shaping their grammar teaching cognitions was found to be tertiary education. The respondents stated that methodology courses widened their view of grammar and taught them the methods to use when teaching grammar. The findings also show that the teachers have maintained the grammar assessment practices of their past teachers. Contextual factors also such as learner abilities and availability of materials affected how they taught and tested grammar. Finally, the findings showed that teachers faced several challenges in the teaching of grammar to do with lesson delivery, the nature of teaching resources and the nature of the learners they had. In view of the findings, the study recommended that teacher trainers should teach various forms of grammar and how they should be taught. Moreover, secondary schools should organize Continuous Professional Development programs for teachers to improve their cognitions for successful implementation of the curriculum. Keywords: Teacher cognition, grammar, understanding, beliefs and experiences
The University of Zambia
SubjectEnglish language--Study and teaching
English language--Study and teaching (Secondary)--Zambia.