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Korean Teachers' Beliefs about English Language Education and their Impacts upon the Ministry of Education-Initiated Reforms

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Georgia State University Georgia State University Applied Linguistics and English as a Second Language Dissertations Department of Applied Linguistics and English as a Second Language
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Georgia State University Georgia State University Applied Linguistics and English as a Second Language Dissertations Department of Applied Linguistics and English as a Second Language Korean Teachers' Beliefs about English Language Education and their Impacts upon the Ministry of Education-Initiated Reforms Cheong Min Yook Georgia State University Follow this and additional works at: Recommended Citation Yook, Cheong Min, Korean Teachers' Beliefs about English Language Education and their Impacts upon the Ministry of Education- Initiated Reforms. Dissertation, Georgia State University, This Dissertation is brought to you for free and open access by the Department of Applied Linguistics and English as a Second Language at Georgia State University. It has been accepted for inclusion in Applied Linguistics and English as a Second Language Dissertations by an authorized administrator of Georgia State University. For more information, please contact KOREAN TEACHERS BELIEFS ABOUT ENGLISH LANGUAGE EDUCATION AND THEIR IMPACTS UPON THE MINISTRY OF EDUCATION-INITIATED REFORMS by CHEONG MIN YOOK Under the Direction of Dr. John M. Murphy ABSTRACT This study aims to expand studies on ESL/EFL teachers beliefs by investigating the relationship among Korean teachers beliefs about English language education in Korea, sources of their beliefs, their perceptions of the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology (MOE)- initiated reforms in English language education, and the degree of implementation of the reforms in their classroom teaching. Toward that end, the study employed both quantitative and qualitative research instruments: a survey with a questionnaire, interviews, and observations. The study surveyed 158 in-service teachers. Among these 158 teachers, 10 were selected for interviews and observations. Each of the 10 teachers was interviewed three times and his/her classroom teaching observed twice. The findings of the study indicate: a) the beliefs held by the majority of the participants were based on the communication-oriented approaches (COA) to English language teaching, which has been recommended by the MOE in its efforts to reform English language education in Korea; b) major sources of the participants beliefs seemed to be their experiences as learners in overseas English programs and domestic in-service teacher education programs with practical curricula; c) the teacher participants perceptions of the reforms general direction were largely consistent with their COA-based beliefs, but their perceptions of specific reform policies and measures were dictated by their concerns with realities of EFL education and their positions; and d) not the participants beliefs but their negative perceptions of reform policies and measures AND the constraints they cited were the main obstacles to the implementation of the reform policies and measures in their classroom teaching. The findings reveal gaps and mismatches among the participants beliefs, perceptions, and practices. The study interprets such gaps and mismatches not as inconsistencies but as symptoms of a transitional stage through which English language education in Korea has been going. The study discusses the implications of the findings for Korean EFL teachers, EFL/ESL teacher education programs, and reform agents. The study ends with four suggestions for future research. INDEX WORDS: Teachers beliefs, Teacher education, Reforms in English language education, Korean EFL context, Teaching practices, Perceptions, Qualitative research KOREAN TEACHERS BELIEFS ABOUT ENGLISH LANGUAGE EDUCATION AND THEIR IMPACTS UPON THR MINISTRY OF EDUCATION-INITIATED REFORMS by CHEONG MIN YOOK A Dissertation Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the College of Arts and Sciences Georgia State University 2010 Copyright by Cheong Min Yook 2010 KOREAN TEACHERS BELIEFS ABOUT ENGLISH LANGUAGE EDUCATION AND THEIR IMPACTS UPON THE MINISTRY OF EDUCATION-INITIATED REFORMS by CHEONG MIN YOOK Committee Chair: Committee: John M. Murphy Diane Belcher Stephanie Lindemann Gayle L. Nelson Electronic Version Approved: Office of Graduate Studies College of Arts and Sciences Georgia State University August 2010 iv To my mother & late father for their trust and sacrifice & to my husband for his love and support v ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I am deeply grateful to my adviser, Dr. John M. Murphy, for his guidance, support, and encouragement. He inspired me to write this dissertation. He spent a great amount of time reading my drafts and providing feedback. He also showed me what it takes to be a good mentor. I learned a lot from him not only about the field of my study but also about mentorship. I appreciate everything that he has done for me. I am greatly indebted to Dr. Gayle L. Nelson. Whenever I needed a shoulder to cry on, Dr. Nelson was always there. Her friendly and thoughtful advice sustained me when I endured the most difficult time in my doctoral work. I have special thanks to Dr. Diane Belcher for her constant support and feedback. Her valuable feedback improved my dissertation. Many thanks to Dr. Stephanie Lindemann for her support, encouragement, and careful readings of and insightful comments on the drafts. She constantly provided me with feedback on my teaching and teaching-related issues throughout my time in this institution. She showed me what a teacher means. I sincerely appreciate the time and effort these outstanding professors invested in me and devoted to my dissertation. I d like to thank my colleagues in the Applied Linguistics department, especially Louise Gobron, Jack Hardy, Eliana Hirano, Joseph Lee, Man Li, Yanbin Lu, Kate Moran, Caroline Payant, Pam Pearson, Dara Suchke, WeiWei Yang, Weiming Zhang, and many others. Their friendship and professionalism made me strong and motivated. I will remember the wonderful times I had with them both in and out of the GTA room. A word of special thanks is due to Pam and Yanbin. I am very fortunate to have them in my life. Pam endowed me with unvarying love and support. She made my life in Atlanta as happy as it could be. She was always there whenever I needed her. She was even happier than me when good things happened to me. She cried for me when I had to go through some difficult times. I will always remember the Flying Biscuits we vi had together. Yanbin and I started the journey toward a Ph.D. together. We spent great amounts of time together and shared a lot of experiences. We supported and encouraged each other. I am happy that we both could successfully complete our journey. I also wish to extend hearty thanks to all the Korean EFL teachers who participated in the study and the two directors who allowed me to approach the EFL teachers in their in-service teacher education programs and recruit participants for my study. I wish to particularly thank Dr. Byong-Rae Ryu and Dr. Sook Hee Kim, who helped me in various ways. I owe a tremendous amount of gratitude to my family. My father, Dongkwan Yook, passed away when I had just started my doctoral program. He dedicated his life to my education, and that memory motivated me to work harder in the doctoral program. My mother, Okja Kim, raised me with unconditional love and has always had faith in my potential. I wish to thank my parents-in-law who have always loved me and believed in me. I also give my warm thanks to my sisters, Youngmin Yook and Sunmin Yook, and two lovely nephews, Teawon Hong and Kyungwon Kim, for their love and encouragement. Last but not least, I am grateful to my husband, Hongeal Sohn, for his love, patience, and support. Without him, I may not have been possible to get through the most trying moments of my doctoral work and dissertation writing. vii TABLE OF CONTENTS ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS. v LIST OF TABLES... x LITS OF FIGURES. xi CHAPTERS 1. INTRODUCTION Prelude Research questions A CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK AND HISTORICAL OVERVIEW A conceptual framework for teachers beliefs Definitions of teachers beliefs A definition for the study A historical overview of English language education reforms in Korea LITERATURE REVIEW Studies on teachers beliefs Teachers beliefs and teaching practices Teachers beliefs and teacher education Teachers beliefs and educational reforms Empirical studies on Korean EFL teachers beliefs Summary METHODOLGY Data collection techniques and procedures Participants. 58 viii 4.3. Data collection Survey Interview Observation Data analysis Ethical issues RESULTS AND DISCUSSION Survey Interviews and classroom observations Themes identified in the interview data Patterns revealed in the observation data Summary CONCLUSION Implications of the results and findings Implications for Korean EFL teachers Implications for reform agents Implications for EFL teacher education programs and specialists Implications for EFL countries and ESL teacher education programs Limitations and suggestions for future research directions REFERENCES. 163 APPENDICES Appendix A: A questionnaire for the survey 180 Appendix B: Informed consent form for the survey 185 ix Appendix C: Guiding questions for interviews. 187 Appendix D: Informed consent form for interviews. 189 Appendix E: A start list of codes Appendix F: Examples of manual coding of interview data. 193 x LIST OF TABLES Table 2.1. Korean MOE-initiated reforms in English language education Table 3.1. Empirical studies on the relationship between Korean EFL teachers beliefs/perceptions, teacher education, and reforms Table 4.1. Background information of the 10 participants in interviews and observations.. 62 Table 5.1. Experiences of as EFL learners in the secondary school. 81 Table 5.2. Responses to teaching-goal-related items 82 Table 5.3. Responses to items concerning teaching methods or practices 83 Table 5.4. Responses to items related to teacher-centeredness vs. student-centeredness. 84 Table 5.5. Responses to assessment-related items. 85 Table 5.6. Responses to items related to the MOE-initiated reforms 86 Table 5.7. Reasons listed most for learning English: primary Table 5.8. Reasons listed for learning English: additional. 89 Table 5.9. Teaching methods.. 90 Table What participants reported to improve their teaching: primary concerns Table What participants reported to improve their teaching: other concerns Table Themes identified in the interview data Table A summary of classroom observations xi LIST OF FIGURES Figure 4.1. Flowchart of data collection and analysis. 58 Figure 5.1. Skill areas teachers reported as most useful.. 87 1 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION 1.1. Prelude In the last three decades, the focus of research on teaching has shifted from teachers behavior to areas of cognition that prompt such behavior. As part of this shift, teachers beliefs have been recognized as an important variable in teaching (Renzaglia, Hutchins, & Lee, 1997; Stuart & Thurlow, 2000). 1 This shift in research focus has generated a substantial body of insights into teachers beliefs, which in turn has led to several research reviews (Calderhead, 1996; Pajares, 1992; Nespor, 1987; Richardson, 1996; Stuart & Thurlow, 2000; Verloop, Van Driel, & Miejer, 2001; Wenden, 1999; Woods, 1996). K. Johnson (1994) predicted that research on teachers beliefs [would] ultimately become one of the most valuable psychological constructs for teaching and teacher education (p. 439). An assumption underlying research into teachers beliefs is that teachers, along with learners, are at the center of education (Richardson, 1996). The general consensus in the literature has been that teachers beliefs have a critical impact on the way they teach in the classroom, learn how to teach, and perceive educational reforms (M. Borg, 2001). Renzaglia et al. (1997), for example, observe that beliefs (and attitudes) are not only reflected in teachers decisions and actions, there is evidence that teachers beliefs (and attitudes) drive important decisions and classroom practice (p. 361). It is within this framework, grounded in an analysis of broader educational research, that research on English as a second/foreign language (ESL/EFL) teachers beliefs has emerged. The general consensus in ESL/EFL teacher research literature has been similar to that in the more 1 Teachers beliefs in this study refer to beliefs teachers hold in five main areas identified by Calderhead (1996). For a detailed discussion, see the theoretical framework discussion in Chapter 2. 2 general educational research: ESL/EFL teachers beliefs exert significant influence on how they teach, how they learn to teach, and how they perceive educational reforms (Allen, 2002; S. Borg, 2003; Freeman, 2002). This growing consensus signals that exploring ESL/EFL teachers beliefs is important for a better understanding of the state of English language education in specific ESL/EFL contexts. It also implies that research on ESL/EFL teachers beliefs is particularly important in contexts where reforms in English language education are matters of serious concern. A successful implementation of any educational reform is closely related to how teachers perceive the reform, and their perceptions can be influenced by their beliefs about English language education. Therefore, the success of reforms in English language education is contingent upon ESL/EFL teachers beliefs. This relationship between the success of reforms and teachers beliefs points to the significance of research on ESL/EFL teachers beliefs. Since the late 1980s, globalization has been matched by the growing importance of English. The globalization of the world economy led mainly by English-speaking countries and multinational corporations has consolidated the status of the English language as a lingua franca (Held & McGrew, 2003). In addition, English has gained more importance in various fields such as science, media, and tourism. Crystal (2003) claims that, as of 1996, 85% of selected 500 international organizations used English as an official language, over 80% of all feature films released in 2002 were in English, and, as of 2003, some 80% of the world s electronically stored information on the internet was in English (pp. 87, 99, 115). In other words, the function of English as a tool for global communication has been intensifying over recent years (Thompson, 2003). This trend seems unstoppable, as Crystal (2003) observes: The momentum of growth has 3 become so great that there is nothing likely to stop its [English s] spread as a global lingua franca (p. x). As a response to global economic changes and the increasing importance of the English language as an international lingua franca, tremendous demands for English language education have increased worldwide, especially in countries belonging to what Kachru (1994) calls the expanding circle, where English is used as a foreign language. Moreover, many of these non- English-dominant countries have attempted to reform English language education policies by adopting communication-oriented approaches (COA) to English language teaching. 2 The Republic of Korea (or South Korea, hereafter just Korea ) is one of these countries. The first official English language education in Korea started when a British teacher named Thomas E. Hallifax was commissioned to run a royal school named Dongmunhak in The school s primary function was to raise a number of royal interpreters who would serve the king and highranking aristocrats as the country, which was a kingdom at that time, began to open its door to western countries (Baik, 1992; Y. Choi, 2006; Jeong, 2004; Jung & Min, 1999; C. Kim, 2002; Paik, 2005; Shim, 1999). Since this initial effort of official English language teaching, English has become the most important foreign language in Korea, and it permeates almost every aspect of Korean life. English has become a critical part of high-stakes tests, deciding major opportunities in the lives of Koreans (e.g., college entrance, employment, and job promotion). Approaches to English language education in Korea have been dominated by grammar-focused, reading-based 2 The COA label is used in this study to refer to such teaching approaches and methods as Communicative Language Teaching, Task-based Language Teaching, Cooperative Language Learning, among others. In particular, COA refers to the approaches and methods recommended by the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology in its efforts to reform English language education in Korea. The approaches/methods involve promotion of the ability to communicate in spoken English, employment of interactive and group activities, use of authentic materials, and learner-centered classroom instruction. 4 approaches (GRA) to English language teaching with emphasis on the mastery of forms and usage. 3 However, the increasing importance of English as a global lingua franca and the necessity of having a command of English in the age of globalization and information, together with the significant role of English in the lives of Koreans, have led the Korean government, or to be more specific, its Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology (hereafter MOE), to explore and implement various reforms in English language education. 4 At the heart of reform attempts has been the adoption of COA into the national English curriculum (K. Kim, 2003; for a detailed discussion of the reform efforts, see Chapter 2). As the MOE pushed forward with reforms in English language education, its reform efforts have drawn considerable research attention. A number of researchers have examined the relationship between Korean EFL teachers perceptions of MOE-initiated reforms and their implementation of the reforms in their classroom teaching. Some studies have investigated Korean EFL teachers perceptions of Communicative Language Teaching (CLT)-related curricular innovations (e.g., S. Choi, 2000; Li 1998), while others have examined their perceptions of the Early English Learning (EEL) policy, or the policy of starting English education in primary school (e.g., Paik, 2005; Park, An & Ha, 1997). Still other studies have investigated Korean teachers perceptions of cooperative teaching between native and nonnative English-speaking teachers (e.g., Choe, 2005). 3 The GRA label is used in this study to refer to the traditional approaches and methods that have been used in English classes in Korea. GRA is characterized by focus on grammar, emphasis on reading skills, translation of English passages into Korean, rote learning of words and idioms, and teacher-centeredness, among others. GRA is close to what Celce-Murcia (2001) names as the grammar-translation approach and the reading approach (p. 6). GRA has been the impetus of the reforms initiated by the Korean Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology. 4 The name of the Ministry has changed several times, starting from the Ministry of Education to the current the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology. MOE is used as an acronym for the Ministry primarily to avoid confusing those who do not know the change. 5 The underlying assumption of these studies, as Li (1998) argued, was that teachers perception of the feasibility of an innovation is a crucial factor in the ultimate success or failure of that innovation (p. 698). Understanding Korean EFL teachers perceptions of the feasibility of MOE-initiated English language education reforms is important because teachers perceptions are crucial in determining the ultimate success of those reforms. However, understanding perceptions only is not enough because teachers perceptions are contingent upon their beliefs. That is, what most of the studies mentioned above failed to consider is the fact that teachers perceptions are contingent upon their beliefs. In their examination of Korean EFL teachers perceptions of MOE-initiated reforms, few of the previous studies have examined Korean EFL teachers beliefs about English language education. The present study attempts to fill this ga
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