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Volume 14 Number 3, Autumn 2017, Pages 380-586 PDF Download

But…What Will the Students Think? Factors Shaping University English Language Teachers' Decisions to Teach Grammar

    Claudia Keh

There is a growing body of research on English language teachers' form-focused decision- making. However, less is known about such form-focused decisions at the tertiary level in English for Academic Purposes (EAP) courses (Burgess & Etherington, 2002). This study sought to discover the factors impacting on the grammar-related decisions of four EAP teachers at a large university in an Asian context—a context less investigated at the onset of this study. A qualitative case study methodology was adopted with data collected via videotaped, direct, non-participant classroom observations (including fieldnote taking) and semi-structured stimulated recall interviews (Gass & Mackey, 2000). The observed classroom lessons were videotaped and the interviews were audiotaped, and all were transcribed for analysis. The results of this study suggest that the teacher-participants' anticipation of their students' reaction to a focus on language form (grammar) factored heavily into the decisions the teachers made. These anticipations were found to be rooted in several factors: the teachers' language learning histories (especially when the teacher has a shared background with the students); previous teaching experiences with the course at hand; and most notably, the teachers' anticipation of their students' evaluation of their teaching. The possible influence of student evaluations is an area less explored in research in teacher-decision making, but one that was found to be significant in this study, and is an area for further investigation.

Keywords: grammar teaching, form-focused instruction, teacher decisions, SET scores, student role