the implementation of the new ENGLISH textbook for grade 10 in innovation: a case study
(®iÓn cøu vÒ viÖc thùc hiÖn cuèn s¸ch gi¸o khoa tiÕng anh 10 míi trong ®æi míi ph¬ng ph¸p)
Combined Programme Thesis
Supervisor: L£ V¡N CANH
HA NOI – 2009
I certificate that this combined thesis entitled “the implementation of the new English textbook for grade 10 in innovation. A case study” is submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts is the result of my own work, except where otherwise acknowledge and that this combined thesis or any part of the same has not been submitted for a higher degree to any other universities or institutions.
Hanoi, February 2009.
The completion of this study would not have been possible without the assistance of special and wonderful people.
First of all, I would like to acknowledge my indebtedness and gratitude to Mr. Le Van Canh, for his unfailing encouragement, constant support and supervision during all stages of the study. His enthusiastic assistance, guidance, support, and his wisdom greatly contributed to the fulfillment of my thesis. I would also like to thank my supervisor for his patience in reading and editing my draft. It must be an excruciating experience.
I am also indebted to Dr. Nguyen Hoa, Dr. Le Hung Tien, Dr. Hoang Van Van, Dr. Vo Dai Quang, Dr. Nguyen Quang, Dr. Nguyen Thi Thuy Minh, Dr. Roger Barnard and all the professors for their encouragement and wonderful lectures while I was taking the M.A course in language methodology at College of Foreign Languages Vietnam National University (VNU). Their constructive ideas, assistance and advice helped me much during various stages of learning and my M.A study.
Many thanks to Dr. Roger Barnard who gave me significant materials and valuable suggestions during the process of my writing literature reviews.
My heartfelt gratitude is also to the four English teachers and students of Hadong upper secondary school for their tremendous supports in the collection of data and information for my study.
My appreciation also goes to my loving parents, my uncle Dr. Nguyen Huu Tho, my husband and my two little sons whose unconditional love, understanding, encouragement, and support are invaluable during my whole study.
Special thanks to my friends, Luong Quynh Trang and Nguyen Ngoc Quynh for their critical reading and comments on my dissertation. They helped me in more ways than they can ever imagine how huge help they made the fulfillment of my thesis.
Last but not least, I wish to express my acknowledgment to other individuals who have indirectly contributed to the completion of this thesis.
To all these people I only hope that the achievement of my thesis will be favorable enough to satisfy their expectation.
Nguyễn Thị Bích Hằng.
Innovation in ELT tends to be materialized through the introduction of new materials, textbooks, teaching methods, and teacher education programs. There is a taken-for-granted view that the introduction of the new textbook which claims to be based on the findings of current theory and research results in the improvement of teaching. Despite the fact that textbooks can influence the quality of classroom teaching and learning, there has been relatively little research in ELT on how teachers use the textbook inside the classroom.
Through interviews, classroom observation, and informal chats with classroom teachers this study demonstrates the gap between the intended innovation embedded in the textbook and the actual delivery in the classroom. Also, the study seeks to identify factors that affect the way teachers use the textbook. Some conclusions deriving from the study will be drawn to inform teacher educators of how to help teachers approach the innovative textbook more effectively.
TABLE CONTENTS Page
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION
Aims of the study
Scope of the study
Significance of the study
Organization of the study
CHAPTER II: LITERATURE REVIEW
The role of textbooks in English language teaching
The role of textbooks in ELT innovation
Previous Study on the Use of textbooks in ELT Innovation
Conditions Necessary for the Success of Curricular Innovations
I.1.4. Teaching is more product-based than process-based
I.1.5. Extensive use of L1
I.2. Factors affecting teachers’ implementation of the new textbook
I.2.1. Teachers’ understanding of communicative teaching approach
I.2.2. Teachers’ perceptions of their students’ level of English proficiency
I.2.2. Teachers’ perceptions of their students’ motivation and attitudes towards learning English
CHAPTER V: CONCLUSION
V.1. Summary of the findings
V.1.1. How is the new textbook implemented in the classroom?
V.1.2. To what extent does such implementation match the underlying methodology of the new textbook?
V.1.3. What are teachers’ rationales for their innovation implementation?
V.2. Recommendation for more effective use of the new textbook
V.2.1. Physical dimension
V.2.2. Professional dimension
V.2.3. Administrative dimension
V.2.4. Providing teachers with more professional support
V.3. Limitation of the study
V.4. Suggestions for further study
Appendix 1: Confirmation Letter
Appendix 2: Classroom Observations Schedule
Appendix 3: Post-Observation interview schedule
Appendix 4: Observations and Post-Observation interviews 1-6
CHAPTER I. INTRODUCTION
For some decades Vietnam has seen an explosion in the demand for English and the knowledge of English has become the passport to a better job in all aspects of modern life. English is taught as a compulsory subject in almost all secondary schools in 61 provinces and cities throughout Vietnam where students learn English for three 45-minute periods a week, which means that before entering upper secondary schools students had four years experience studying English “communicatively” in lower secondary schools. However, the fact is that after those years of learning English, not many pupils have a clear cut purpose of learning English in their mind and they are likely passively motivated to learn English basing on the textbooks and teachers’ method of delivery. Consequently, most pupils find themselves unable to use English for day-to-day communication after having passed the English national examination as a requirement for the General Education Diploma.
To remedy such a problem and to satisfy the demand of its economic open door policy as well as its integration into the world economy, the Vietnamese has required the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) to reform English language teaching at upper secondary schools toward a greater emphasis on communication and student centeredness. In implementing this reform, a new textbook series for upper secondary school students have recently been institutionalized in schools nation-wide. It has been claimed that the new textbook will help teachers to change their teaching toward a greater emphasis on communication and student-centeredness. However, the practical information about how the prescribed change affects teachers, students, and the school as well as how teachers respond to such prescribed change has not been researched yet. This study is an attempt to look into the issue more empirically.
It is my hope that the findings of this study will inform concerned people of how innovation is being implemented and what further actions are needed to achieve the targeted success.
II. AIMS OF THE STUDY
With the above presented rationale, the purpose of this study is to examine the implementation of the new textbook inside high school classrooms. Specifically, it aims to (1) find out how the described innovation is being implemented through the use of the new textbook in the classroom; (2) understand teachers’ attitudes towards and beliefs about the innovation embedded in the new textbook; and (3) find out the factors affected teachers’ use of the new textbook.
III. RESEARCH QUESTIONS
The study intends to find out the answers to the following questions:
How is the new textbook implemented in the classrooms?
To what extent does such implementation match the underlying methodology of the textbook?
What are teachers' rationales for their innovation implementation?
IV. RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
Since this study sets out to explore the implementation of the new textbook in the context of the recent curriculum renewal, it is a natural inquiry in nature. The purpose of the study is not to evaluate, but to understand how the innovation is being implemented by looking at the way the new textbook is being used. Therefore, it is designed as a single qualitative case study. The case here is an upper secondary school on the outskirts of Hanoi. The school has both the characteristics of an urban school and a rural school. Qualitative data were collected through semi-structured interviews and classroom observations.
V. SCOPE OF THE STUDY
As the study was designed as a single qualitative case study, it is limited to the exploration of the implementation of the new textbook for Grade 10 in one particular secondary school. Generalization is therefore not intended. The reasons for the scope of the study was that the new textbooks for 10th grade have been in use for three year meanwhile the textbooks for grade 11 is being used at the first time, 12th grade textbook is not in use yet.
VI. SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
This project can be significant in a number of ways. First, as discussed earlier, the textbook is a key component in most language programs. In an EFL context like Vietnam, it may even constitute the main source of language input that learners receive and the basis for language practice that occurs both inside and outside the classroom. For many Vietnamese senior high school learners, textbooks may even help to supplement teachers’ instruction, which is constrained by less than three class hours a week. In order to serve their purposes most effectively, textbooks need to be professionally designed, fit the curriculum and closely correspond with the aims of the teaching program and the needs of the students. However, a close look at the MOET funded new textbooks has indicated that there might be several problems with them. Thus, teachers and learners working with the new textbooks might experience considerable difficulty in achieving the ultimate goal of their teaching and learning program, which is developing students’ communicative competence.
The current project helps to identify the problems and suggests ways of improving them. This contribution would be of practical value to textbook authors, teachers and teacher trainers in Vietnam. Besides, the project focuses on a teaching context that is largely unheard of and under-represented in the world’s TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) scholarship. Therefore, for the scholars outside Vietnam, the project report would be a rich source of information for their use and reference.
Findings of this study may also provide useful information for textbook writers, teacher educators and educational authorities so that they can make appropriate decisions on how to achieve the goal of innovating the teaching of English in the upper secondary schools. It may also contribute to the common knowledge about the role of textbooks in educational innovation.
VII. ORGANIZATION OF THE THESIS
There are 5 chapters in my thesis:
Chapter 1 is the Introduction presenting the rationale, aims, scope, significance, research questions and methods of the study.
Chapter 2 is the Literature Review, which reviews theoretical issues related to the role of textbooks in English language education in general and in innovation in particular as well as previous studies on the implementation of innovation and the role of textbook in English language teaching (ELT) innovation.
Chapter 3 is the Research Methodology, which is composed of 3 parts: research design, research procedures, the settings (the case) and the participants of the study.
Chapter 4 is the discussion of the findings through an analysis of the data collected by means of classroom observations and semi-structured interviews.
Chapter 5 is the Conclusion. In this Chapter, major findings of the study will be briefly summarized as well as the acknowledgement of the limitations of the study will be made.
Besides, the classroom transcripts and interview transcripts are included in the Appendices.
CHAPTER II. LITERATURE REVIEW
Chapter one presents the rationale, the aim, scope and significance of the present study. This Chapter reviews the literature on teachers’ implementation of innovation and the role of textbooks in ELT innovation. It begins with a discussion of the role of textbooks in ELT in general. This will lead to the discussion of the role of textbooks in ELT innovation, which is followed by a review of previous studies of the issue under investigation. The last section discusses necessary conditions for successful implementation of curricular innovation.
2.1. The role of textbooks in English language teaching
ELT textbooks play a very important role in many language classrooms but in recent years there have been a lot of debates throughout the ELT profession on the actual role of textbooks in teaching English as a second/ foreign language. Arguments have encompassed both the potential and limitations of textbooks for ‘guiding’ students through the learning process and curriculum as well as the need and preferences of teachers who are using textbooks. Other issues that have arisen very recently include textbook design and practicality, methodological validity, and the role of textbooks in innovation. Nonetheless, there has been very little research on the role of textbooks in ELT innovation.
Materials are among the five important components in language instruction. Allright (1990) argues that materials should teach students to learn, that they should be resource books for ideas and activities for instructions/ learning, and that they should give teachers rationale for what they do. Textbooks are one type of teaching and learning materials, and they as a matter of fact share the role materials. Textbooks are considered to be a key component in most language programs. Among many important components of English language instruction, textbooks used by language instructors are considered as the most essential constituent to any language program. Hutchinson and Torres (1994) have claimed that
The textbook is an almost universal element of [English language] teaching…No teaching-learning situation, it seems, is complete until it has its relevant textbook. (p. 315)
Thus, textbooks, in Hutchinson and Torres’ view, are the nuts and bolts of a language program or a language course. Textbooks play such a crucial role simply because they offer a variety of different benefits to both students and teachers (Sheldon, 1998; Croft 1988). For example, Sheldon (1998) argues that
[Textbooks] represent not merely the visible heart of any ELT program but also offer considerable advantages for both the students and the teachers when they are being used in the ESL/EFL classroom (p.237).
Those advantages include their greater credibility in comparison with teacher-generated materials or in-house materials (Sheldon, op.cit), their sensitivity to students’ needs as well as their efficiency in terms of time and money (O’Neill, 1982). These advantages have been elaborated by Sheldon (1988) that textbooks yield a respectable return on investment and relatively inexpensive and involve low lesson preparation time, whereas teacher-generated materials can be time, cost, and quality defective. In this way, textbooks can reduce potential occupational over-load and allow teachers the opportunity to spend their time undertaking more worthwhile pursuits.
A textbook, as described by Cunningsworth (1995), is “a syllabus” which not only defines the learning objectives but also helps less experienced teachers who have yet to gain in confidence to feel more confident in teaching.
From learners’ perspectives, textbooks are useful in the sense that they function as a guide-map which helps learners know exactly what they have learned, what they are going to learn, what they will have learned by the end of the course, and what they should revise for achievement exams (Wendy, submited by Admin, 2008). In addition, Anon (submited by Admin, 2008) has maintained that textbooks add a definite structure which allows students to work on their own at their own pace.
Thus, textbooks are useful because they are considered as not only a starting point but also as a finishing point; students know exactly what they are supposed to be learning during the lesson of the day and what they need to revise before the next one. To those students who are working for the exams, the use of a course book is even more essential in odder to be sure that they have already covered all the grammar, structures and vocabulary they need.
It is these advantages that give such credibility to textbooks that it is hard to imagine a language program or a language course without a textbook. Of course, there are people who advocate a zero option or teach English without using a particular textbook, but teachers will be overburdened if they are supposed to develop the teaching materials themselves. This is not to say that a textbook can be a source of available activities or learning tasks for both the teacher and the learners (Cunningsworth, 1995). Richards’ (online manuscript) words may best summarize the role of textbooks, according to which textbooks have been and will be, no doubt, a useful resource for both teachers and learners. He observes that textbooks not merely provide learners with major source of contact they have in language practice that occurs in the classroom but also give primary supplement to teachers to plan their lessons appropriately and perfectively. He concludes that it seems not to be able to carry out any language teaching throughout the world without the extensive use of textbooks.
Despite the above-mentioned undeniable advantages of textbooks in language teaching, the limitations of textbooks are also well documented in the literature. According to Allright (1981), these limitations include the inflexibility, the writers’ biases in terms of the underlying methodology, the selection of linguistic content, and the ignorance of learners’ needs. Therefore, textbooks may ‘de-skill’ the teachers who use them (Richards, 1998). Another drawback of textbooks has been pointed out by Sheldon (1988) that many ELT textbooks are often regarded as the “…tainted end-product of an author’s or a publisher’s desire for quick profit” (p.239). This drawback is understandable. Too many textbooks are often marketed with grand artificial claims by their authors and publishers, yet these same books tend to contain serious theoretical problems, design flaws and practical shortcomings. They also present disjointed material that is either too limited or too generalized in a superficial and flashy manner and the vast array of “…single edition, now defunct [text]books produced during the past ten years testifies to the market consequences of the teachers’ verdicts on such practices” (Sheldon, 1988 p.239).
In dealing with these limitations of textbooks, Cunningsworth (1995) has advised that textbooks should be adapted rather than adopted. The advice is sound enough, but whether all teachers in the role of textbook users have the required skills to adapt the textbook or not is a question.
N Reynaud (submitted by Admin, 2008), who has been teaching English for over 30 years also concludes that textbooks are all right because they offer a "progression" in grammar which is to be studied so textbooks are perfect when the schedule of your classes include “British literature.”
Researchers of language teaching have much in common in the role of textbooks as a controller factor of the procedure of teaching and learning. It is really difficult for inexperienced teachers to teach languages without textbooks and the important thing to do is that teachers need to be awarded for selecting a good book for their perfect lectures.
Textbooks play a pivotal role in language classrooms in all types of educational institutions - public schools, colleges, and language schools - all over the world. In some contexts, teachers are free to choose their own textbooks. The vast majority of teachers, however, have textbooks suggested, prescribed, or assigned to them (Garinger,2001).
According to Riazi (2003, p. 52), "textbooks play a very crucial role in the realm of language teaching and learning and are considered the next important factor (element) [italics added] in the second/foreign language classroom after the teacher." The textbook is a tool in the hands of the teacher, and the teacher must know not only how to use it, but also how useful it can be. The wealth of published materials for English language teaching (ELT) available in the market makes selecting the right course book a challenging task. Moreover, the selection of a particular core textbook signals an executive educational decision in which there is considerable professional, financial, and even political investment (Sheldon,1988).
In some situations, textbooks serve as the basis for much of the language input learners receive and the language practice that occurs in the classroom. They may provide the basis for the content of the lessons, the balance of skills taught, and the kinds of language tasks students actively use. In other situations, textbooks may serve primarily to supplement the teacher's instruction. For learners, textbooks may provide a major source of contact they have with the target language, excluding the input provided by the teacher. In the case of novice teachers, textbooks may also be utilized as a form of teacher training; that is, they provide ideas on how to plan and teach lessons as well as formats that teachers can use. Much of the language teaching that occurs throughout the world today could not take place without the extensive use of commercial textbooks. Learning how to use and adapt textbooks is hence an important part of a teacher’s professional knowledge (Richards, 2001).
2. 2. The role of textbooks in ELT innovation
The role of textbooks in ELT program is identified much clearer and it is much more important in innovation. Dealing with the help of textbooks in times of educational change Hutchinson and Torres (1994, p. 232) identify that textbook is considered as:
a vehicle for teacher and learner training.
a “support and relief” from the burden of looking for materials.
a completed picture what the change will look like.
the psychological support they give to teachers.
However, the fulfillment of these goals, especially the first and the third, depends on the approach and quality of the textbook. The materials may not be in tune with the new kind of teaching being encouraged, following instead the methodology already commonly being practiced; alternatively, the materials may be so difficult to use that teachers are unable to follow them as intended, making them revert to their previous practice. In either case, rather than agents of change, books will be “agents of conservatism,” reducing the likelihood of teachers trying out new, alternative approaches and methods (Garinger, 2001).
No doubt, a course book is looked upon as an indispensable vehicle for foreign language acquisition whose validity and significance are seldom impugned. Many students working with a course book feel secure and have a sense of progress and achievement. They always have a book to relate to; they are not groping in the dark. Consequently, they become more confident and satisfied as they tackle the target language within a certain framework. Furthermore, a textbook provides students with the opportunity to go back and revise. They can also use the textbook for self-study and as a reference tool. Besides, a well-illustrated book, equipped with eye-catching phrases and sensational pictures or titles, is preferable to tons of photocopied material, which teachers and students often take a dim viewof.
Hutchinson and Torres (1994) also see the textbook as a possible agent of change. This can be achieved if a number of conditions are met. First, the textbook needs to become a vehicle for teachers and learners training. In other words, as well as an explicit and detailed teacher’s guide, the student book should also include appropriate learning-how-to-learn suggestions. Second, the textbook must provide support and help with classroom management, thus freeing the teacher from coping with new content and procedures. Third, the textbook will become an agent of change if it provides the teachers with a clear picture of what the change looks like and clear practical guidance on how to implement it in the classroom. Finally, if adopted by a school, a textbook can result in the collegial support and shared responsibilities for, and commitment to, the change. Again, more research is needed to see whether preplanned materials actually do change practice or are simply adapted to maintain the status quo. Stodolsky’s study of the use of textbooks by social-studies teachers (1989) suggests that innovative curriculum packages may produce stricter adherence to content and procedures than standard textbooks, but that teachers frequently make instruction more teacher-centered by eliminating group projects and the use of exploratory, hands-on activities, or those focused on higher-order mental processes. In other words the textbook writer’s aims may be overridden vitiated by the teacher’s implementation skills (Jarvis, 1987) or reading of the text (Apple, 1992).
Another function of textbooks that is often overlooked is their role as a structuring tool. Communicative language classes are social events, and so, inherently unpredictable and potentially threatening to all participants (e.g., Reid, 1994). This is particularly so in periods of change (Luxon, 1994) such as those experienced by teachers implementing new programs or working with unfamiliar learners types. Learners are, of course, by definition always facing enormous and possibly threatening change as their language skills develop. One strategy both teachers and students use in dealing with this uncertainty is ‘social routilization’, the process by which classroom interaction becomes increasingly stereotyped to reduce the unpredictability and, thereby, the stress. Materials can play a key role in this process: ‘Textbooks survive … and prosper primarily because they are the most convenient means of providing the structure that the teaching and learning system -particularly the system in change – requires’ (Hutchinson and Torres, 1994, p. 317). A textbook, from this perspective, does not necessarily drive the teaching process, but it does provide the structure and predictability that are necessary to make the event socially tolerable to the participants. It also serves as a useful map or plan of what is intended and expected, thus allowing participants to see where a lesson fits into the wider context of the language program. Hutchinson and Torres (1994) suggest that this is important because it allows for:
Negotiation: The textbook can actually contribute by providing something negotiate about. This can include teacher and learner roles as well as content and learning strategies.
Accountability: The textbook show all stakeholders ‘what is being done … in the closed and ephemeral world of the classroom’
Orientation: Teachers and learners need to know what is happening elsewhere, what standards are expected, how much work should be covered, and so on.
Again, it is a question of balance. Using a textbook does reduce some options for learners, but it can also allow for greater autonomy. They can, for example, know what to expect and better take charge of their own learning. It may well be this sense of control which explains the popularity of textbooks with many students. Consequently, a teacher’s decision not to use a textbook may actually be a ‘touch of imperialism’ – in the words of a TESLMW-L colleague – because it retains control in the hands of the teacher rather than in the learners.
Therefore, despite the frequently expressed reservations about published materials, these do not need to be a debilitating crutch used only by those unable to do without. Indeed, the preceding discussion suggests that the use of appropriate teaching materials can advantage both teachers and learners. The issue, then, is not whether teachers should or should not use such materials – most do so at some point in their career (Cunningsworth, 1984) – but what form these materials should take if they are to contribute positively to teaching and learning.
Finally, Hutchinson and Torres (1994) have drawn attention to the pivotal role of textbooks in innovation. They prove that textbooks can support teachers through potentially disturbing and threatening change processes, demonstrate new and/or untried methodologies, introduce change gradually, and create scaffolding upon which teachers can build a more creative methodology of their own.
Above we have looked at the roles that textbooks can play and researchers have shown that the contribution of textbooks in any language program needs not debilitating to teachers and learners; textbooks can not only scaffold the work of teachers and learners but also serve as agents of change, provided act as guides and negotiating points, rather than strait-jackets. However, practitioners need to look carefully at the principles underpinning such textbooks to ensure that they contribute positively to the language environment.Teachers obviously need much information about how to use the textbooks to facilitate their teaching and learning process.
As can be seen from the fact that the most common activity that educators whenever conduct research on textbooks is looking at the quality of the books, the content as well as the format and the appropriateness they supply for students in terms of vocabulary and ethnic and gender biases. Educator researchers have found out that it does matter if students do not know what the books say and the way in which teachers use the textbooks aids students learning.
In short, the textbook can play a significant role in curriculum renewal. However, how the textbook can function as an agent of change is conditioned. In the following section, the conditions for the textbook to play its role in the curriculum renewal will be discussed.
2.3. Previous studies on the use of textbooks in ELT Innovation
As a number of writers have noted, effecting curriculum renewal or curriculum innovation is a complex process. Putting a new curriculum, which is represented by the new textbook, in place does not necessarily mean that a change in classroom behaviors will occur. Nunan (1988, pp.138-141) for example, discusses the frequent mismatch between what was planned (the planned curriculum) and what actually occurs in the language classroom (the implemented curriculum). The planned curriculum here is understood as the new textbook and the implemented curriculum as how the new textbook is used in the classroom. Nunan also emphasizes the importance of establishing the degree of mismatch (the evaluated or assessed curriculum). White (1988), citing Sockett (1976, p. 22), continues the latter’s metaphor of comparing a curriculum with the plan of a house, but takes the metaphor further, saying that the curriculum is three things. First, it is the plan which is “directed towards an objective yet to be realized.” Second, it is the plan of how to build the house – “the systems that are needed in order successfully to build the house.” Third, he says that curriculum also has to include the view of the house after it has been completed – and how it matches up to the requirements and expectations. This important evaluative aspect provides a feedback loop so that “planned and actual outcomes can be compared and appropriate remedial action taken to repair failures or deficits” (White, 1988, p. 4).
Although the role of textbooks as tools of innovation implementation has recently acknowledged, not much research has ever been conducted in this regard. Despite the researcher’s strenuous efforts in identifying studies on how teachers use the textbook in the context of innovation, just a couple of studies on this topic were found in the literature.
Harrison (1996) examines changes in learner and teacher behaviors as a way of evaluating a large-scale curriculum renewal project in the Middle East. The focus of the investigation is whether learners’ classroom language behavior changed as a result of the introduction of a new EFL curriculum with new textbooks and a new examination system. The data for the study include lesson transcripts, inspectors’ reports, interviews with inspectors, and reports from teachers’ meetings. Harrison concludes from his investigation that simply changing the raw materials of the curriculum – that is, the materials that teachers and learners use – will not necessarily effect a change in language behavior. Bathmaker (2007) conducted a study to investigate teachers’ beliefs in the use of English textbooks for teaching English in the upper secondary Normal Technical stream in Singapore. Through the analysis of the semi-structured questionnaire data, the researcher found that there was a relationship between teachers’ use of textbooks and their attitudes towards the less academically-inclined Normal Technical students. Also teachers’ use of the textbook was greatly influenced by their beliefs about factors related to the institution and the classroom such as the demands of meeting the stipulated pass rate in English examinations and the students’ cognitive weakness and behavioral problems.
Kurgoz (2008) conducted a two-year case study on teachers’ instructional practices, and the impact of teachers’ understandings and training on teachers’ implementation of the Communicative Oriented Curriculum initiative in the context of a major curriculum innovation in teaching English to young learners in Turkish state schools. Using multidimensional qualitative research procedures, comprising classroom observations, teacher interviews and lesson transcripts, a picture is developed of how two teachers implemented the Communicative Oriented Curriculum. Results showed that teachers’ instructional practices ranged along the transmission and interpretation teaching continuum, and teachers’ understandings and their prior training had an impact on the extent of their implementation of the curriculum initiative.
In Vietnam, Mr. Canh (2008) used questionnaires and semi-structured interviews to explore upper secondary teachers’ beliefs about, and their self-reports of the implementation of, the new English curriculum with the new textbook which is theme-based, task-based and learner-centered. Findings showed that although teachers’ beliefs about the new textbook were positive, their self-report of actual classroom practice did not seem to be consistent with their stated beliefs. According to their self-report through semi-structured interviews teachers found that the teaching methodology underlying the new textbook did not match up with their students’ level of proficiency and expectations as well as with the physical conditions of their school. Teachers taught the new textbook, which is communicative and task-based, in a conventional manner. The study supports the idea that innovation is unlikely to be fully implemented if it is just transmitted through the introduction of a new curriculum. Also, the study reinforces the truism that there can be no curriculum development without teacher development.
2. 1. Conditions necessary for the success of curricular innovations
Curriculum development, according to Nunan and Lamb (2001, p.36) is “a delicate juggling act” for change agents as they consider the various issues and stakeholders within their educational environments. The literature is replete with impressive lists that describe the attributes needed for innovations to thrive. Based upon his research of over 1,500 studies on innovations in various educational fields, Rogers (1962/1995) concludes that innovations succeed when they are:
Advantageous to the end users.
Compatible with earlier educational practices in the institution.
Simple to understand and utilize.
Easy to try out and easy to back away from.
Visible to all the stakeholders
In addition to our earlier discussion of stakeholders’ salient beliefs, Kennedy et al (1999, pp 53-54) identify further issues to consider:
There must be a collaborative environment that is conducive for innovations to occur
Support from management is crucial for successful implementation
Teachers need to be trained in the innovation
Change agents must maximize benefits and minimize costs to stakeholders
Change agents must be skilled in the subject content, and need expertise in management and interpersonal relations
Change agents must remember that innovation is as much a political as a rational activity.
These and related studies can be summarized by identifying three important factors that should be considered when planning innovations: the change agent, the educational environment, and the real needs of stakeholders.