The theoretical orientations of English as a Second Language teachers: The relationship between beliefs and practices
This study explores the relationship between teachers' beliefs and practices within English as a Second Language (ESL) instructional contexts. A Multidimensional TESOL Theoretical Orientation Profile was designed to determine the extent to which ESL teachers possess theoretical beliefs about second language learning and teaching which are consistent with the major theoretical explanations in the field of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). The classroom instruction of three ESL teachers with different theoretical orientations was observed and analyzed to determine the extent to which ESL teachers' theoretical orientations are associated with their instructional practices. Data were also collected to identify contextual variables within the classroom which ESL teachers perceive as influencing their instructional practices.
The findings of this study suggest that the major theoretical explanations which have historically influenced the TESOL field over time have also influenced the theoretical orientations of the ESL teachers in this study. In addition, one source of ESL teachers' theoretical beliefs appears to be associated to some extent with the number of years they have taught ESL and the type of educational training they received.
In ESL instructional contexts, dominant theoretical orientations appear to be an important aspect of the cognitive knowledge through which ESL teachers make instructional decisions. The dominant theoretical orientations of the ESL teachers in this study were strongly associated with all aspects of their instructional practices. Inconsistencies between the beliefs and practices of the ESL teachers in this study appear to be associated to some extent with institutional, student, and material concerns which these ESL teachers perceived as influencing their instructional practices.
The relationship between teachers' theoretical beliefs and instructional practices in ESL contexts can begin to provide a broader understanding of how ESL teachers perceive, process, and act upon information during second language instruction. Such an understanding offers professional TESOL preparation programs insights into one aspect of the cognitive dimensions of teaching ESL. Knowledge about institutional, student, and material concerns which ESL teachers perceive as influencing their instructional practices can begin to inform ESL teachers of the complexities of classroom life which influence the way they think and act as they teach second language learners.