Reading notes: EFL teachers’ language use for classroom discipline

Kang, D.-M (to appear). EFL teachers’ language use for classroom discipline: A look at complex interplay of variables. System. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.system.2013.01.002

This study reports on the implementation of Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) in the Korean context, focussing on the question of classroom discipline. Kang notices that communicative activities have the potential to subvert classroom discipline because they ‘encourage students to move more freely in the classroom than traditional form-focused approaches [and] this increase in students’ spatial movement could represent a grave threat to teachers stationed in large-size classes’.

Kang looks specifically into the questions of whether teachers use English (TL) or Korean (L1) for classroom management, and what factors shape their choice of language. This is achieved by comparing the practices of two teachers, one of whom was highly proficient in English and one of whom was challenged by a weak command of the language. Classroom observations were conducted and instances of classroom management discourse were coded according to language, and compared through t-tests (a procedure that assesses whether differences are statistically significant or not). Interview data were used to supplement this quantitative information.

Unsurprisingly, the study revealed that the teacher with high proficiency tended to use the TL more frequently than the one who was less confident in using the language. In addition to the teacher’s linguistic competence, other factors that contributed to her proclivity to use the TL included parental pressure for maximum exposure to English, and a teacher training background that prioritised CLT. More interestingly, it seemed that this teacher seemed to be using the TL in order to underscore her role as an authority figure, and to create a power differential in the classroom: academically stronger students tended to align with her, whereas the psychological distance between the teacher and the weaker students was increased, thus subverting the basic tenets of CLT. It also appears that the teacher whose English language competence was weaker compensated for their perceived lack of authority by using the L1 in ways that were described as “harsher than that used by teachers of other subjects“.

Kang concludes by arguing that current policies to exclusively use English in EFL classes seem to be impractical, inefficient and insensitive to “the realities in large-size, mixed-ability EFL classes”.

[Note: This summary was based on a corrected proof that was made available pre-publication. There was no pagination available at the time of writing these notes.]

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