Inspectors' Attitudes Towards Teacher Training.

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Abstract

Starting a teaching career is always problematic because of the discrepancies that novice teachers encounter when trying to put into use their savoir-faire and the real challenges that the present classroom demands. The aim of this research paper is to confirm the discrepancy hypothesis and explore ways of bridging the gap between teachers’ training and classroom practices in the Algerian Middle school so as to provide schooling with more equipped teachers. To reach our aim, we interviewed two inspectors in charge of East region. The findings revealed the mismatch between theory and practice, besides the crucial importance of the integration of practical courses and in service-training and collaboration between university and schools in making the gap bridgeable.

Keywords: teachers’ training, classroom practices, EFL, curricula

Introduction

Scholars, educationalist, teachers and inspectors have always shown their concern regarding the preparation EFL teachers go through at the university level. They have also unveiled the notable difficulties that newly recruited teachers encounter when making their first steps in teaching profession. They believe that the training they receive during a year period does not suffice to equip them with necessary tools and classroom practices that make them fully understand and eventually face the classroom practices.

Pre-service programs

Pre-service programs are made to build future teachers, they give them the premise of showing practice and they prepare them to connect theory to practice. Widdowson (2012) stated that the goal of pre-service training is to make student-teachers mindful and aware of classroom management. Similarly, Bransford (2005) asserted that
“Pre-service teacher education programmes aim to prepare graduates to become quality teachers equipped with pedagogical practices that will serve to meet the increasing demands associated with the teaching profession.”(Bransford as cited in Mergler, A. and Spooner-Lane, R (2012), page 66).

Thus, Pre-service training is considered as a key process that any future educator ought to experience to get prepared for teaching. In fact, during this period in which teacher-learner getting knowledge about theory, pre-service education is carried out for preparing different types of teachers with a collection of interrelated courses and field experience. To put it otherwise, pre-service programs are intended to support and instil in teachers a greater degree of self-confidence. In this context, Kasanda (1999) affirmed that “During teaching practice, a student teacher is given the opportunity to try the art of teaching before actually getting into the real world of the teaching profession.” (Kasanda 02). Pre-service training programmes guides the trainees and provide them with basics of teaching practices and they train them to link theory to practice.

In-service training

Pre-service training is an essential process for an effective teacher, but this latter cannot stand in isolation, it needs to be accompanied with another process called In-service teacher training which play; also a vital role in the educational system in general and the improvement of future teachers in particular.

In-service training is a continuing education of teachers and other educational workers leading to the improvement of their professional competence. In other words, one of the ways for teachers who were already employed to gain access to new developments in education and educational technologies is to receive in-service training. Sapp claimed that in-service training program is a program intended to improve the performance of all personnel already holding assigned positions in a school setting or to implement a specified innovation or program (Sapp,1996). Similar remark made by Omar (2014) who stressed the importance of in-service training for novice teachers to face classroom challenges. In-service training are thus programs that are prepared for teachers in order to fill the gap between developments in education and preparing teachers for professionalism.

Bridging the gap

Pre-service and in-service programs mainly aim to prepare future professional EFL teachers. However, the pre-service training of EFL teachers in Algerian universities rarely take into consideration what is really happening in the classrooms. Consequently, the inadequate pre-training program for future EFL teachers and the lack of in-training programs resulted in a noticeable gap between what those teachers receive as knowledge and skills during university and the reality of teaching at schools and their ability to reflect proficiently on their own classroom practices. Therefore, we opt for this study to try to bridge this gap in order to improve ELT in Algeria.

A possible explanation for this empirical gap may be because there seems to be a discrepancy between what the student-teachers receive at the university and what they face in the classroom (Berger (2009), Gielber (2009)).This means subject matter knowledge must not be independent from practice (Dewey in Wren & Wren, 2009).Correspondingly, Berger (2009) claims that since the studies are not relevant in the classroom context, in the long run, this leads to theory-practice gap.

The key to effective teaching is definitively a bridge between theory and practice, the absence of one element makes the other one meaningless. Williams (1999) believes that linking theory and practice through classroom situation brings flexibility in teaching and helps practitioners to make real sense between their personal theories and what really is happening in different context. Roehaig et al (1996) stressed the importance of implementing what actually happens inside the classroom practices in teacher training programs. The need to take context into consideration has also been stressed by Johnson (2006)who claimed:

“Teachers educator could no longer ignore the fact that teachers‟ prior experiences, their interpretation of activities they engage in and most important the context within which they work are extremely influential in shaping who and why teachers do what they do.”(Johnson 235-257).

Context evaluation provides the rationale for justifying the training program. Therefore, this study is carried out to confirm and explore ways of bridging this gap by analyzing the relationship between student-teacher training and classroom practices. The study findings provide an understanding of the attitudes of EFL inspectors of middle schools in khenchela towards the pre-training program and its contribution in improving classroom practices. It may also help decision makers to review the pre-service training programs.

The following questions were formulated in order to address the purpose of this study:

  1. What are the inspectors' attitudes towards pre-service programs in EFL department?
  2. Do inspectors believe that the pre-training contribute to their classroom practices?
  3. What are the necessary elements that can help ensure successful and competent EFL teachers?

Research Methodology and Design

Choice of the method

In order to confirm the discrepancy hypothesis and explore ways of bridging the gap between teachers’ training and classroom practices in Khenchela city Middle schools, a qualitative research design was employed. According to Peter Woods (1999) qualitative research is concerned with life as it is lived, things as they happen, situations as they are constructed in the day-to-day, moment-to-moment course of events. In other words, the goal of qualitative research is to explore the opinion, views and attitudes of individuals under natural conditions.Thus, the use of qualitative research is an attempt to gain indepth information and ensure that the data reflect what is happening.
Subjects of the Study

Two inspectors of English language in charge of 85 middle schools in khenchela city and supervising 180 teachers of English who graduated from university. The total number of English teachers is 190. 10 teachers who graduated from ENS are not concerned with in-service training. This may look a small sample in practical terms; it however covers all the inspectors in charge of Khenchela city’s middle schools.

Data gathering tools

To answer the research questions, qualitative data from inspectors' structured interview were collected. A structured interview was used for two main reasons. First, it is administered individually to members and the information is completed by the researcher himself, thus ensuring that all questions be answered by all informants. Second, the interview allows for personal explanations of questions, in case any point(s) need(s) to be clarified. For all the above reasons, the structured interview may be regarded as more reliable instrument, especially when dealing with a small sample. For all the above reasons, as Anderson (1990) pointed out, the structured interview may be regarded as more reliable instrument, especially when dealing with a small sample. Gall, Borg, & Gall, (1996) also hold that “an interview permits open-ended explorations of topics and elicits responses that are couched in the unique words of the respondents”

Results

Q1. According to you what are the criteria that teachers should have to teach in Middle school?

Inspector 1& 2

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In the Algeria middle schools, teachers are accepted to enter the teaching profession on basis of their degrees (B.A). They might also be asked to sit for exams and interviews as well.

Q2. Do the same criteria apply for those who graduated from ENS?

Inspector 1& 2

No, they do not because ENS graduates usually receive pre-service training program that makes them suitable for the teaching profession.

Q3. According to you, who is more fit for the teaching profession ENS graduates or university graduates?
Inspector 1

ENS graduates are more suitable for the teaching profession compared to university graduates because these latter received theoretical training and not a practical one.
Inspector 2

Of course those who graduated from ENS. As for those who graduated from universities they lack the necessary competence in teaching; the lack of subject matters; knowledge and mastery.

Q4. Do you think that the program the student-teachers receive at the university is enough to embark on the teaching career?
Inspector 1& 2

The interviewees think that program the student-teachers receive at the university does not show that they are acknowledgeable about language teaching as it does not offer any useful insights into the field of teaching.

Q5. Is there any kind of in-service training/support available for these teachers?

Inspector 01&02

Student-teachers benefit from in-service training provided by inspectors during given period of time either in spring, winter and sometimes in summer. They added that the in-service training lasts sometimes for 30 days.

Q6. What is the content of the in-service training?

Inspector 1& 2

The interviewees said despite the theoretical nature of the in-service training, student-teachers’ experiences, beliefs and ideas in addition to difficulties they have encountered in their respective schools constitute the practical part they all need to overcome classroom problems.

At the end of the interview we have invited inspectors to suggest solutions to bridge this gap, both agreed on the following:

  • Being exposed to more practical ideas and less to theoretical concepts.
  • Being familiar with current pedagogical curriculum.
  • Attending conference, seminars
  • Adaption new teaching methods.
  • Emphasis on language skills.
  • Dealing with Algerian textbooks.

Discussion

This study was conducted with the aim of discovering the true nature of Khenchela EFL inspectors’ beliefs and attitudes towards student-teacher training at the university level and classroom practices and if there is a gap. To this end, we have interviewed two inspectors in charge of middle school EFL teachers. It was found that the training program student teachers receive at the university does not take into consideration the context in which teachers work. Inspectors were of the view that there is a ‘gap between what universities offer to students and the real practice of what is happening in schools’. Acknowledging that the current pre-service training is mainly based on theory rather than practice. It is clear from the findings that there is an obvious gap that prevails between theory and practice. Given the likely effects from theory-practice gap, a number of scholars have come up with a several practical solutions to hold the situation in control. For example Darling-Hammond (2008) suggests:

  • The delivery of teacher education programs is the function of both university lecturers and senior teachers in these schools.
  • The focus is on producing professional teachers who ‘learn from teaching rather than who has finished learning how to teach.

In other words bridging the gap through student-teachers experiencing the ‘real practice of what is happening in schools’ Crooke, G and Richards, J (1988) believe that there is a strong positive correlation between the teacher training curriculum and classroom practices. Therefore the pre-service training should be reviewed and improved to provide student-teachers with authentic hands on experience in teaching. They added, It is not enough to read about teaching or to observe others teach, something students have done for years. Theoretically, we should all be able to teach classes upon graduating from high school because we watched so many teachers teach.(Crooke, G and Richards, J (1988))

This is achieved by aligning teaching practice sessions in training schools with theoretical studies that directly relate to the focus of that practice period (Kansanen, 2014). Hugh B, (2014) suggests collaboration between university and schools. She believes that universities and schools should play a complimentary roles in helping student teachers to develop educational theory and practice. Thus collaboration between these two institutions is important in bridging this gap.

Limitations and Recommendation

This study was conducted with a small sample of inspectors (02) in charge of all middle schools of Khenchela city, therefore, provides only a partial picture of inspectors’ attitudes towards teachers’ training and classroom practices. This limits the generalizability of the results to other cities. We recommend other methods and more indepth research to be undertaken in the future to shade more light in this specific area. This study does not fully explore the complex issue of inspectors’ attitudes, nor does it provide a definitive solutions. It does however provide additional background for further research.

Conclusion

The aim of this research paper was to confirm the discrepancy hypothesis and explore ways of bridging the gap between teachers’ training and classroom practices in the Algerian Middle school through interviewing two middle school inspectors in charge of East region. The findings revealed the mismatch between theory and practice. Therefore the pre-service training should be reviewed and improved to provide student-teachers with authentic hands on experience in teaching. Besides the importance of collaboration between university and schools since both play complimentary roles in helping student teachers to develop educational theory and practice and hence bridging this gap.

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