Saturday, December 10, 2011

Teachers' Beliefs about Language Teaching and Learning

Reyes & Reyes (2010) carried out a research about students' learning beliefs at the University of Quintana Roo. Based on this research, a group of teachers of English as a foreign language and students at the Education Masters degree in the same university shared their beliefs about language learning. 

Teacher Abby's beliefs

This works contributes mainly to the field of beliefs in second language learning in what it is the changing nature of beliefs which has been found in other studies. This research helps in closing a little bit more the circle of second language learning contextual approaches to students’ and teachers’ beliefs by presenting findings of a study done with Mexican participants. As the results corroborate the dynamism of students’ beliefs in a very different context, such as ours, it can help other investigators support their results as well as motivate Mexican researchers to do their own contributions to the matter.

As language teachers, this study can help us in various aspects. First, the category ‘El buen maestro de inglés’ is a highlight for us, it helps us realize the conceptions and expectations students have about their language teachers, which can either help us improve our teaching methods or motivate us trace our way towards becoming a ‘good teacher’. This study, being local, results even more helpful given that what the study is showing reflects students’ needs of our immediate environment.

Moreover, students’ beliefs, conceptions and expectations about what it means to learn English for students, can guide our teaching, not to mention our own perceptions of learning a second language. Additionally, as it points out in the implications of the study, it is important to take into account findings in terms of students’ functional and disfunctional beliefs about language learning in order to direct our teaching towards changing or avoiding the creation of the disfunctional ones.

Moreover, as researchers, this is a study that can work as an example of how we can carry out a study of a similar nature. Personally, it contains some features of my own particular study that can help as a guide. On the other side, carrying out similar studies demands to take into account this research due to its shared context and characteristics.

Teacher Astrid's beliefs

I think this reading made ​​me think a lot about my own experience as a language student and teacher, about the  beliefs  that we can have about how and why to learn a language, and how knowing a language can bring us more and better opportunities.

I find it very interesting that now students are more aware of what they want, of what they need to do to be successful, and how assembling all this we can get better and more prepared students, ready to face the real world. I believe that one of the great contributions of this work is to see how now students are more aware of all the learning strategies that exist and that they can apply according to their needs.

Students are more aware of what it takes to be a better language learner. I found remarkable how the translation of the L2 into the mother tongue has slowly stopped being necessary for the understanding of the L2 and that now students are conscious that this is one of the strategies they need when they start learning a language.

One of the most difficult tasks we have as teachers is to teach our students that they do not have to translate everything into Spanish to understand the meaning or sense of a sentence. I believe that these findings can be very helpful for language students and teachers but not for regular students who only study English as a requirement and who do not give their best during the learning process.

 Teacher Irma's beliefs

Students have different beliefs about learning a second language, those beliefs influence their behavior in the classroom and their attitude towards learning the language. According to Abraham y Vann, 1987) students´ beliefs are factors that might influence their own motivation positively or negatively, the learning strategies they use and affect their performance.  These beliefs are based on students’ observation, or previous experiences and they seem to be an important factor in students’ success or failure to learn the target language.

It is important for us as teachers to be aware of our students’ expectations, preconceptions and beliefs about our role as teachers, their own role as students, the materials to be used, the activities, the culture of English spoken countries and the language itself. If teachers were more conscious about the importance of these beliefs, they would be able to modify them or to encourage them. For instance, teachers might discuss these beliefs and expectations with students at the beginning of the course; this might give them an idea of the students´ future behavior and performance. Sometimes students have different ideas about learning the language because they had a bad previous experience and they come to class biased against learning the language, they have then a bad attitude towards the class and are demotivated. In order to change this, students beliefs have to be analyzed and modified  with the teacher help through activities that can refute them or at least to demonstrate students that beliefs change depending on experience and context.

Teacher Lucia's Beliefs

This research about beliefs and expectations of students at the English Language Major allows teachers to know the meaning of English Language learning for them. Therefore, teachers can have a picture about students’ motivation and expectations, the strategies students use.

It is important for teachers to know what students think about English, the way they feel about the language. Students at the English language major like English either it is easy or difficult for them. Students at other majors have to study English because it is  mandatory,  as a result many students who don’t like the language feel intimidated, they find it difficult and fail.

If teachers are aware of the beliefs and expectations of students towards the language, it would be easier for them to find a way to approach students and persuade them to study English, not just because it is a requisite, but because it is a tool that will help them with other subjects and even in their future jobs. In addition, teachers can come up with the techniques that best suit students’ needs, beliefs and above all, techniques that meet their expectations.

This paper has settled bases for researchers who are interested in studying students’ beliefs and it would be very interesting to know how students feel about English language not only at the English language major, but in all majors. 

Certainly all students feel and think differently; however, it is possible that students who are in the same major have similar beliefs and expectations. Hence, findings about those differences and similarities are important because teachers could take them into account to develop ESP programs that are adequate to every major. As a result, students will feel more comfortable and motivated to learn the language.

Beliefs are determined by experience and culture. The more a teacher know her students, the better she would be able to approach them and help them have a successful language learning process.

Teacher Mary's beliefs

Research in second language learning always finds out important information that brings important benefits for education in general. The qualitative research carried out by Reyes & Reyes (2010) shows specifically students beliefs towards learning English as a foreign language.

There are many contributions that this research brings to the foreign language leaning field. First of all, the questions students were asked pointed out their real interests for studying English. Although those interests are merely instrumental and some of them functional, these results can help teachers to improve or change their strategies according to students’ expectations.

Awareness can be another contribution of this research. Undoubtedly, this research results make both teachers and students to have a better idea of their teaching and learning situations respectively.  As the results are based on students’ beliefs that are just entering to the major, it is easier that their functional beliefs can be promoted through the entire major with strategies that teachers can come up with since the beginning.

This research also comes up with the possibility of making changes on the curricula. Students are aware of strategies that are outdate such as translation and prefer to be taught with strategies that make them to be more in contact with the language. For that teachers have to be well prepared for the demands that new students require.

Culture is important to be highlighted. Most of the time textbooks and teachers base their activities on American culture without taking into account other cultures where English is spoken. If students found American culture unattractive, it makes teachers aware and forces them to make an effort to teach them other cultures that are of great importance in this globalized world. 

All in all, this research gives us many benefits such as being persistent in improving our way of teaching and do more research that take into account students beliefs, expectations and feelings.


Reyes Cruz, M.R & Reyes Cruz. E. (2010).  Aprender inglés, creencias y expectativas. 

1 comment:

  1. I want to thank you for this informative read; I really appreciate sharing this great post.