Pakastani university english Language teachers' cognitions and practices

  • Said Imran

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Due to the highly prestigious role of English language and it being a compulsory subject in education, the language teachers at Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) in Pakistan are likely to be a key contributing factor to development of the professionals graduating from universities in different fields of study. The impact of these teachers’ cognitions (both idealized and situated) about the processes of teaching and learning, therefore, could be of high importance to Pakistan’s attitude to English language, productivity and quality of graduates. By mainly focusing on these cognitions, this qualitative case study not only aims to provide a detailed analysis of their idealized and situated cognitions but also to seek explanations for any gaps in these cognitions if present.
Data were collected from seven English language teachers of a public sector university through interviews followed by classroom observations and then stimulated recall discussions. With the help of interpretive content analysis techniques, the professional development of language teachers, curriculum materials, and the role of first language (L1) in teaching a target language (TL), emerged as the three major themes of this study. The theoretical frameworks for analyzing these themes were the intellectual, attitudinal and behavioural components of professional development (Evans, 2014, p. 8), the concepts of curriculum transmission, development, and making (Shawer, 2010) and the virtual, the maximal, and the optimal positions of the use of TL in a language classroom (Macaro, 2001).
Results of this study are based not only on detailed and thick description from semi-structured interviews but also classroom observations to identify gaps, if any, between teachers’ idealized and situated cognitions. Further, with a view to triangulate the data, stimulated recalls were employed to seek explanations for the gaps identified.
The data suggest that teachers have made significant intellectual and attitudinal development. However, the classroom observations appeared to indicate a lack of substantial behavioural development with regard to different aspects of their teaching. In the stimulated recall sessions the respondents indicated that this may have been caused by lack of resources and institutional support, and excessive workloads. With regard to curriculum materials, the teachers’ idealized cognitions appeared to support curriculum ‘development’ and ‘making’ approaches. Their classroom behaviours revealed that they also followed ‘another’ approach i.e. curriculum ‘transmission’. Some of the explanations offered by the teachers for these discrepancies between their idealized and situated cognitions included, students textbook orientations, time shortage, and lack of student English proficiency. Concerning the use of the TL, the teachers’ idealized cognitions appeared to support the exclusive use of the target language i.e. the virtual position, however, there were minor as well as major gaps. Explanations which the teachers offered for these included: the expression of their identity, their lack of self-awareness, and the fact that their idealized cognitions about some aspects of their teaching appeared to dominate others.
The study’s recommendations include a clear need for awareness-raising among the teachers about the significance and effectiveness of informal professional development. Also, the need for providing more training opportunities specifically designed for behavioural development cannot be underestimated. Further, different training sessions could be offered to enhance the teachers’ knowledge and skills regarding the appropriate use of curriculum ‘transmission’, ‘development’, and ‘making’. Moreover, awareness-raising training sessions need to be offered to teachers to enhance their judicious use of the L1 in language classrooms.
Findings from this study will enable stakeholders, including policy makers, curriculum designers, professional development planners, university management, and teachers at large, to understand issues enabling and constraining effective language teaching and learning in order to enhance this. Although one cannot claim general for findings, insights from this study may inform researchers conducting studies focused on teacher cognition in similar contexts.
Date of AwardJan 2020
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorSherria Hoskins (Supervisor) & Mark Wyatt (Supervisor)

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