Vol 3, No 2 (2021): Foreign Language Teaching and Learning: Changes, Difficulties and New Directions

Published July 19, 2021

Issue Description

Foreign Language Teaching and Learning: Changes, Difficulties and New Directions is a topic that is especially important and challenging at the time of the pandemic. In this issue we reflect upon the transition from past to present, while incorporating the future in our current professional experiences as well. Our authors offer critical intersectional approaches about specific issues related to current foreign language pedagogy in public education as well as higher education: the relationship between family background and foreign language learning; alternative assessment in the classroom; shadow education in language teaching; digital technology and pre-service teachers' experiences with online learning; creativity and teachers' professional development.


Thematic articles

Increasing Motivation among Language Learners through Individualized Assessment

An extensive body of research has shown that motivation is integral to successful and sustained language learning (Carreira, 2005; Cheng & Dornyei, 2007; Crookes & Schmidt, 1991; Dornyei, 1994; Ehrman, Leaver, & Oxford, 2003; Gardner, 2005; Matsumoto & Obana, 2001; Yang, 2008; Yu & Watkins, 2008). Maintaining student motivat...ion in all aspects of language instruction, particularly assessment, can be challenging for multiple reasons, including learner differences, access to technology, and, most recently, reactions to pandemic learning. Instructors therefore face the challenge of creating assessments that not only evaluate students’ performance but also promote their ability and desire to learn. Based on the results of an action research project, this article highlights the benefits of two types of individualized assessment used to improve students’ motivation while evaluating their performance: work cycle projects and a course portfolio. Using qualitative data collected from student reflective statements, I argue, first, that the ability to choose assessment topics and types motivates students to focus closely on course content and work creatively; these choices ultimately improve their desire to learn course material more than traditional assessment types. Second, encouraging learners to utilize and reflect on their strengths using a portfolio as a form of assessment allows students to understand their strengths and weaknesses and empowers them as learners, thereby improving their motivation.

Show full abstract
Self-Study: Tensions and Growth in Graduate Teaching Assistant Development

Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) development is an important undertaking for many higher education institutions in the United States. During the GTA preparation process, tensions can arise when the supervisor challenges GTAs by engaging in critical reflection and pushing them to advance their pedagogical skills beyond their comfort zone. Guide...d by Berry’s (2008) framework of tensions, this self-study aimed to answer the research question: How do tensions that arise during GTA development contribute to the professional growth of teacher educators and GTAs in their teaching? Self-study was the research method, and the data were analyzed using the strategy of inductive analysis and creative synthesis (Patten, 2002). This self-study reports five types of tensions: telling and growth; confidence and uncertainty; safety and challenge; valuing and reconstructing experience; and planning and being responsive. The findings explain how these tensions pushed the supervisor and the GTA to reflect on teacher preparation, manage challenges, and improve teaching. While tensions place teacher educators and novice teachers in uncomfortable positions, this study shows that reflections on and articulation of tensions in collaborative dialogues can help both discover aspects of their teaching that provide opportunities for growth and lead both to transform tensions into teachable moments.

Show full abstract
Using Technology for Foreign Language Learning: The Teacher’s Role

The spread of information technology has changed the role of language teachers considerably. Being a good educator and an expert in their field are not enough anymore, but teachers are expected to be modern, which means, to possess the ability to design interactive classes (often by using digital tools) and use teaching methods that engage stud...ents in a creative way. Today it is a general requirement for teachers to know their way around technology and to possess the know-how of implementing it in a way that fosters language learning. To this purpose teachers need to take into account all facets of technology use, including the advantages and disadvantages of technology-mediated tasks, their usefulness for language learning (e.g. if they are related to the topic of the lesson, are challenging enough for students), helpful resources for students, etc. Technology is regarded as a supplementary instrument to traditional teaching methods that can impact students’ motivation to learn in a positive way, provided it is used for activities that are in line with their needs and expectations. Task-based activities are considered to be especially useful in this regard, allowing students to practice their language skills in an authentic context and also develop creative thinking and problem solving abilities. Web 2.0 technologies (e.g. software programs for creating quizzes and polls, language learning websites, chat programs, wikis, etc.) offer a variety of valuable resources both for activities in the classroom and for practice at home.

Show full abstract
Tablets in Hungarian Primary Schools: An Empirical Study of Institution-level Application

The increasing interest in introducing tablets into education as well as many countries’ education policies (see Digital Education Strategy) support the integration of the above-mentioned mobile devices (Mulet, van de Leemput & Amadieu, 2019). Accordingly, several governments are presently procuring or have already supplied a significant ...number of students with these devices (Tamim et al., 2015). Similar to most international large-scale initiatives, there are remarkable variances in tablet-supported education. The different school conditions (infrastructure, framework, human resources) result in the diversity of technological integration. In our research, in order to learn more about the infrastructural conditions at schools’ institutional levels, with online questionnaires we examined 145 primary schools using tablets in their education. We were looking to answer the following, questions: (1) what kind of infrastructural conditions are characteristic of the different institutions? (2) What kind of differences in infrastructural conditions are there between the schools in different settlements? To sum up the results, we can observe significant differences in the number of tablets, their hardware, accessories and software, along with differences in internet access and the regulation thereof.

Show full abstract
Assessing Language Learners’ Knowledge and Performance during Covid-19

The new reality created by the COVID-19 caused a lot of changes in the educational sphere. The transition from face-to-face to distance learning was not smooth in Ukraine because distance learning was not a common practice in the country before and teachers were unprepared for teaching online. This unusual situation prompted us to start our qua...litative research primarily to get insights into the altered daily routines of teachers and educators. In particular, we were interested in how they assessed their students’ performance online. This article focuses on secondary school language teachers (n=65) and language tutors at the tertiary level (n=18). The research findings have revealed that teachers gave feedback through different digital applications like Google Classroom. Oral performance was evaluated either synchronously or asynchronously. The most crucial implication is that teachers should improve and further develop their digital skills and distance teaching and assessing skills in order to provide quality education in the modern form.

Show full abstract
Student Perception of Learning English Online

The aim of this research was to highlight the impact of online education on teaching and learning English as a foreign language among students aged 12-19, and to research the importance of learner autonomy and motivation in the online teaching – learning process. In order to collect data from the 81 subjects, members of five different classes... and age groups, a questionnaire created in Google Forms was used. The questionnaire was designed to provide information about the students’ attitude and motivation for studying English in an online context, autonomy and effort invested in the learning process. Student progress was measured using the end of semester grades of the first semester of the 2019/2020 year compared to those of the first 2020/2021 semester. Results reveal the importance of perceived choice as a factor that supports learner autonomy and learner motivation. The limitations of the study are due to the fact that the students’ level of English and their previous knowledge of the subjects studied online had not been tested beforehand as the current pandemic situation was not foreseeable.

Show full abstract
The Two-way Model of Creativity

Creativity is a term that has proven difficult to define. The field of English language teaching (ELT) especially struggles with this concept, often treating it as an axiom that eludes clear definition or a notion that everyone has an implicit understanding of. In other pieces of research, creativity is equated with divergent thinking as eviden...ced and measured by performance on different standardized creativity tests. In contrast to these views, this paper argues that sound research begins with a clear definition of key terms; as such, there is a need to establish a suitable model of creativity specifically for the field of ELT. After a review of notable existing views and definitions, a new model for creativity in ELT is outlined. The two-way model of creativity proposes that certain conditions enable creativity through specific tasks that allow for creativity to emerge. This will produce creative results that eventually have a reactive effect on the conditions.

Show full abstract
Learning English through Shadow Education: Exploring Participants’ Motives and Experiences

Parallel to the institutionalised school system, in which no change in pedagogical attitudes has taken place (Einhorn 2015), there is a growing demand for learning languages in non-formal contexts, including out-of-school courses that not only complement students’ studies in formal education but also seem to make the process of learning langu...ages as well as giving academic support to students more effective. The present study aims to explore the international and Hungarian literature on shadow education, which is widespread in Hungary but has little literature (Varga 2015), by presenting the characteristics of the phenomenon and highlighting its shortcomings. A qualitative study is also presented in order to examine the expectations and experiences of the students (and their families) participating in private tutoring. Data gleaned from interviews with students and their parents are analysed to identify their motives, expectations, the development of students’ additional skills and competencies, their career aspirations and the families’ financial background. The results of the study shed light on some characteristics of shadow education that have not been visible yet. Some factors that can potentially enhance the effectiveness of language teaching in the state school system will also be highlighted. Although the study is based on a rather limited sample, the results help us gain important insights into the hidden aspects of shadow education.

Show full abstract
Differences in Foreign Language Choice of Students from Different Social Backgrounds

According to previous research (e.g. Bernstein, 1971; Gogolin, 2014; Hegedűs et al., 2019), family background plays a decisive role in an individual's mother tongue acquisition and in learning foreign languages. In another study, parents with a high social background (54.0%) chose German for their children, and parents with a low social backgr...ound (56.9%) chose English in primary school (Sebestyén, 2021). Based on this, in the study I examine what difference can be detected in the foreign language choice of high school students from different social backgrounds. In the study, I analyze the student data (890 people) of my database entitled “German learning and teaching in Hajdú-Bihar and Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg counties” prepared in the 2018/2019 school year, during which I perform cross-tabulation and cluster analysis with the help of SPSS program. The database contains data on 11th grade high school and vocational high school students who studied German and / or English in high school. As the results, there are differences between the learned foreign languages among secondary school students according to family background. Among the clusters related to high school choice, those belonging to the “Higher Education Oriented Local” cluster are most interested in foreign languages, most German-speaking (74.0%) and English (89,0%) students tend to be in this cluster. Overall, the majority of respondents learn English, while students from higher social backgrounds (also) learn German.

Show full abstract
The Effects of Family Background on the Processes of Foreign Language Learning in Hungary

In Hungary, the academic achievement of schoolchildren is very strongly influenced by their family background, a statement often quoted in connection with PISA surveys (Róbert, 2004). Although the effects of family background have mostly been studied in connection with key competences, it is easy to see that they are also likely to influence f...oreign language learning, possibly to an even greater extent (Csapó, 2001). The aim of our paper is to provide an overview of theoretical and empirical findings related to the family background of Hungarian schoolchildren on different aspects of language learning: language choice, individual differences and success in language learning. We hope to provide a meta-analysis of empirical studies and their results, however it needs to be noted that their number is relatively scarce. We would also like to inspire future studies exploring similar, under-researched topics. Research into the effects of family background is imperative, as it appears to play a pivotal role in ensuring equal opportunities in language education.

Show full abstract

Research papers

Scouts' and educational stakeholders' perceptions of integrating scouting methods into formal education

Scouting is a non-formal learning environment which implies a form of learning that is “less organised than formal learning, but still consists of planned activities and educational objectives. It is also seen as being more concerned with action, and learning by doing from experience; and more holistic, with a particular focus on developing s...ocial and emotional skills” (Bridwell et.al., 2015: 27). The Scouting Method used relies on the concept of experiential learning or learning by doing and combines it with other educational elements such as the symbolic framework, team or patrol system, gamification elements such as the badge system (Christians 2018) and active learning or personal progression so that each young person is “consciously and actively involved in his or her own development” (WOSM 1998: 47). The present paper aims to explore scouts' and educational stakeholders' (teachers and scout teachers) beliefs and opinions regarding scouting methods and the way these methods could be integrated into the formal learning environment. Qualitative and quantitative methods of analyses were used to examine and interpret the results gathered through an online questionnaire. Results show that all respondents have a positive attitude towards scouting and the methods used within their activities and they would encourage others to join the association. Even school subjects have been identified which could serve as bridging points between non-formal and formal educational situations.

Show full abstract
An International Comparison of Educational Systems: the Columbian, Iraqi and Kurdish cases

As developing countries aim to improve their education to address the challenges of globalisation's economic and social demands, comparative education can provide references for reforms and changes. Through studying the educational systems of other countries, we can discover which reforms are possible and desirable. This article attempts to dem...onstrate some specific aspects of the educational systems of Columbia, Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan and to compare them. It shows the decentralisation process and challenges of the systems. It also reveals the structure of education of the three systems and their differences related to duration and organisation of primary and secondary schools. Following that, the curriculum provision and their orientations are explained. Finally, the article also tries to find the differences in teacher training in terms of duration and training types, occurring before / during service. The obtained results show that the decentralisation process and its challenges are very similar in these educational systems while there are differences in the duration, structure, and curriculum subjects.

Show full abstract

Book reviews

Hidden Curriculum in Teacher Education Programs

Bibliography of the reviewed book: Mazawi, A. E., & Stack, M. (Eds.) (2020). Course Syllabi in Faculties of Education. Bodies of Knowledge and their Discontents, International and Comparative Perspectives. Sydney: Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 9781350094253

View All Issues