Breaking the silence: experimenting with creative approaches to ESL classrooms in a rural Bangladesh context
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This study reports an interventive project in the ESL (English as a second language) programme of a rural junior secondary school in Bangladesh. The aim of the project was to introduce an interactive pedagogy and so make classes more relevant and enjoyable. This project explored a way to change from the existing teaching practice, which is transmissional and examination oriented (Podder, 2013; Mazumder, 2013).
As a result of global approaches to English language teaching the Government of Bangladesh has committed to encourage the use of interactive exercises in ESL teaching through various teacher training programmes. Studies, such as those by Abdullah and Shah, (2015) and Abedin (2012) show that there are many contextual challenges that hinder the initiatives, such as large classes, lack of opportunities to practice language, short class times, an extensive curriculum, an incoherent examination system and the use of traditional top down pedagogy. As a result, teachers often cite the various local and national challenges to justify continued use of traditional teaching methods in English sessions (Alam & Kabir, 2015; Ali & Walker, 2014; Ansarey, 2012).
This study began with the development of a teaching resource based on content from the Government supplied mandatory textbook but including a range of student-centred and group activities, including the use of role. As well as seeking to make classes more interactive, the resource suggested ways to implement a blended language strategy (Hamid, Jahan & Islam, 2014; Sultana, 2014), in order to reduce students’ fear of English, and consequent silence during classes, and to allow them to be creative and critical in making meaning through the target language.
The thesis reports a workshop in which the resource was trialled with teachers and then a series of classes in which the teachers applied the resource in classwork with students. The workshop and classes are reported as a series of narratives.
The methodological design is one of case study, with the case being the trialling of the interactive exercises in the project within the normal class of a rural junior secondary school. The approach is qualitative, seeking to capture aspects of the lived experience and the ways these experiences impacted on students’, teachers’ and my own learning. I drew on data from classroom observations, photographs of the lessons in progress, interviews with students and teachers and my own reflective field journal. In analysing the process and in presenting findings I selected four thematic elements: engagement, creativity, enjoyment and criticality. The chapters are organised accordingly.
Through this account of how one project navigated the challenges that challenges that exist in ESL teaching in rural schools, this thesis offers an example of how ESL sessions can become interactive in Bangladesh context. This study argues that although there is still much to do in improving education in Bangladesh, it is not always needed to look for models of effective practice from outside sources but rather that models can be developed within the Bangladesh context.
While actions in a single classroom cannot in themselves make a large impact on a country’s education as a whole, this case offers an example that change is possible and so may inspire future steps. This investigation, therefore, offers suggestions for educational policy and practice, indicating ways to break the student silence which often occurs in ESL sessions in rural Bangladesh.