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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Teacher decision-making in the ESL classroom : the influence of theory, beliefs, perceptions and context Smith, Deborah Binnie


This study is concerned with teacher decision-making in the English as a Second Language classroom. Specifically, the study examines the impact of teacher beliefs and perceptions, context factors and second language theory on planning and implementation decisions for the ESL instructional context. Nine ESL teachers in three post-secondary institutions participated in this qualitative study. Data were gathered through classroom observations, postlesson conferences and interviews. These data were examined in terms of what instructional decisions teachers made and the factors that influenced these decisions from the individual teacher's perspective. Second, the data were analysed for internal consistency between stated beliefs and instructional decisions and external consistency between decisions and second language theory. In examining the role of the teacher in the ESL instructional context, this thesis contributes to both research and teaching theory in English as a Second Language. First, while regular classroom research has indicated that the role of the teacher and the ecology of the classroom are central to understanding the instructional context, ESL classroom studies have primarily focused on the learner, the learning process and language learning outcomes in this context. This thesis addresses this gap in the research by investigating the teacher's role in the ESL instructional setting and the factors that impact on teacher decisionmaking. Second, ESL classroom researchers have observed that theoretical ideas are implemented in various ways in the formal setting. While researchers have speculated on the reasons for teachers' eclectic use of theory in practice, there has been little exploratory research conducted to investigate this phenomenon. The findings from this present study indicate that teachers' instructional decisions are centrally influenced by both individually held beliefs about second language learning and teaching as well as experiential knowledge of the ESL classroom. These findings not only contribute to our understanding of the ESL instructional context from the teacher's perspective, but are also significant for the development of instructional theory.

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