Multiple intelligence theory and FL teaching/learning

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CHAPTER 3 METHODOLOGY AND PROCEDURES

Introduction

In Chapter 3, I set the foundation for the study by providing a brief overview of language learning theories and principles, along with syllabus design and materials development. I discussed the theoretical framework for the study, with particular reference to the role MIT could play in designing effective lessons for foreign language teaching/learning. This chapter describes the conceptual framework of the study, the research design, procedures and methods used to collect and analyse the data for the study.

Type of study

This study is a type of evaluation research which is used extensively in education, where researchers compare the effectiveness of various teaching models and programmes (Vanderstoep and Johnston, 2009: 217). Evaluation research is “a systematic assessment of the operation and/or the outcomes of a program or policy, compared to a set of explicit or implicit standards, as a means of contributing to the improvement of the program or policy” (Weiss, 1998: 4). What makes evaluation research different from basic research? Weiss (1998) notes the distinction as follows: basic research is usually interested in gathering general information so as to test hypotheses in some systematic way or add new knowledge in a field. On the contrary, the focus of evaluation research is on assessing an event or a programme so as to make judgement about its merits or its usefulness. The major goal of most evaluations is to provide “useful feedback” to a variety of audiences or stakeholders which could contribute a vital role in decision-making or policy formulation through the provision of empirically-driven feedback (Trochim, 2006).
Evaluation research employs broad evaluation strategies which are borrowed eclectically  from  various  perspectives.  In  brief,  the  four  major  groups  of evaluation strategies are:
scientific-experimental models which focus on experimental and quasi-experimental designs; objective-based research that comes from education; econometrically-oriented perspectives, including cost-effectiveness and cost-benefit analysis in the field of economics, and the recent articulation of theory-driven evaluation.
management-oriented systems/models, which are widely used in business and government sectors placing evaluation within a larger framework of organisational activities.
qualitative/anthropological models, which make use of observation and the value of subjective human interpretation in the evaluation process. Included in this category are the various qualitative schools; critical theory and art criticism approaches.
Finally, a fourth class of strategies is termed participant-oriented models that make use of client-centred and stakeholder approaches in consumer-oriented evaluation systems (Trochim, 2006).
With all of these strategies to choose from, as Trochim (2006) puts it, there is no inherent incompatibility between these broad strategies; each of them brings something valuable to the evaluation platform. However, this study will be more of  theory-driven  evaluation  since  it  predominantly  makes  use  of  MIT  and principles of task design as a yardstick to evaluate the course design of the Grade 9 English textbook in addressing learner differences

Conceptual framework

As discussed in Chapter 1, this research aims to explore the extent to which considerations of syllabus design and materials development are employed in the grade 9 English textbook of Ethiopia in line with the perspectives of Multiple Intelligence Theory (MIT).This goal is founded on the recognition that “we can only pursue a better understanding of second language learning in an organised and productive way if our efforts are guided by some form of theory” (Mitchell and Myles, 2004:7).
Therefore, the conceptual framework used in this study to outline possible courses of action or to present a preferred approach to material development in second language learning is MIT. In other words, I use MIT in my attempt to connect to all aspects of inquiry such as problem definition, purpose, literature review, methodology, data collection and analysis. In line with this, therefore, there are six key elements incorporated into the conceptual framework of the study presented in this chapter: (1) MIT, (2) content selection, grading and sequencing, (3) organising principles, (4) formatting and presentation, (5) integrating various skills, and (6) the teaching/learning material. MIT is believed to glue all these elements throughout the study. The conceptual framework is based on understandings deduced from the literature reviewed in Chapter 3.

1 MIT – the central framework of the study

From the literature reviewed in Chapter 3, it became evident that “human intellectual competences can be mobilised in a variety of ways and the media available to the child could certainly be broadened” (Gardner, 2011: 391). This knowledge could help language educators in designing syllabuses and textbooks in that “understanding the numerous ways that children acquire knowledge enables teachers to use a variety of strategies to reach children with different types of intelligence” (Campbell 2008: 187). This, in turn, would help them identify the activities frequently used in their classes and categorise them to each particular type of intelligence; make plans by selecting appropriate classroom activities/tasks, taking into consideration factors such as students’ needs, strengths, and levels; learning styles, strategies, and potentials.

Content selection, grading and sequencing

Designing course material involves a wide range of issues, such as learner factors, teachers’ beliefs and environmental/contextual factors. Besides, it involves combining the principles of language learning with the elements that learners bring to the classroom: their knowledge, needs, interests, personal experiences, and different intelligence profiles. Likewise, selection, grading and sequencing language lessons will also need to consider how lesson units will be effectively structured and the methodology to be used to carry out the syllabus to the learner. Of various issues that contribute to content selection, grading and sequencing, this study limited itself to investigating how much considerations of syllabus design and materials development are taken note of when developing the syllabus/textbook. These issues were explored with the help of interview held with Curriculum Experts of MoE (English Panel), as well as by analysing the contents of the textbook (content analysis).

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Organising principles

All effective curricula are based on organising principles, either agreed upon by its users or determined by its designers (Christison, 2001:4). “Language-learning materials should ideally be driven by learning and teaching principles rather than be developed ad hoc or in imitation of best-selling course books in that the materials should not be random recreations from repertoire nor crafty clones of previously successful materials” (Tomlinson, 2010:82). With thi in mind, I tried to address the first research sub-question: What has been known previously about the role of theory and organising principles in designing EFL textbooks? These issues were explored using content analysis, a survey questionnaire and interview.

Formatting and presentation

In Chapter 2 it is discussed that the way language lessons are formatted and presented should comply with various learners’ learning preferences, and the activities should be suitable for a range of students in a class with multiple intelligences. Therefore, issues of formatting and presentation were explored through the interview held with curriculum experts at the MoE as well as the Grade 9 English language teachers’ questionnaire.

Integrating various skills

Designing language lessons that integrate various skills provides more purposeful and meaningful learning opportunities at all levels. When various language skills are integrated in language teaching, language learning becomes more life-like (Deneme, 2010). Therefore, the study examined how effectively the language lessons were designed in an integrated manner using method of content analysis.
In sum, this study tries to examine the extent to which considerations of syllabus design and materials development are employed in the grade 9 English textbook of Ethiopia in line with the perspectives of Multiple Intelligence Theory (MIT).With this aim in mind, the study investigated the following central and sub questions:
The central research question: What language learning and teaching theories inform the design and development of the Grade 9 English textbook?
Sub questions: What has been known previously about the role of theory in developing English textbooks for EFL students?
To what extent does the Grade 9 English textbook address learners’ differences in line with multiple intelligences?
How much is the textbook compatible with principles of task design and materials development?
To what extent are the Grade 9 English language tasks effective in integrating different macro-skills?
As implementers of the textbook, how do the teachers perceive the grade 9 English textbook?
To what extent are the grade 9 English teachers (implementers of the textbook) well versed in principles of task design and teaching/learning materials development?

English language teaching/learning materials

In Chapter 2, it is discussed in detail how teaching/learning materials help students: they present language items in a systematic manner to be learnt; they provide frequent and most common language items for practise and use in rich contexts, and they help students become better learners by teaching different techniques and strategies they can use to continue learning outside the classroom (McCarten, 2007). Due to this pedagogical advantages, among others, language teaching/learning tasks need to be designed taking appropriate language learning theories and principles into account. In almost all Ethiopian high schools, teachers work from a prescribed textbook even though they may have some autonomy to develop their own lessons as supplementary exercises. In other words, most teachers are required to work from a given English textbook provided by the MoE. It is the MoE which takes the responsibility of publishing textbooks for high school courses in the country (Grade 9 through 12

Paradigm, approach and design of the study

The research paradigm

The study is based on pragmatist paradigm as it gives me the freedom to link the choice of the research approach directly to the purpose of and the nature of the research questions posed (Creswell 2003).
Pragmatism provides us with a different way to conceive of the relationship between knowledge and action, and from a pragmatist point of view knowledge provides us with possibilities for refining and supporting our day-to-day problem solving; it also provides us with a different way to think of the relationship between theory and practice (Biesta and Burbules, 2003: 107).
Therefore,   the   study    explored   how   knowledge   (theories,    principles    and approaches in this case) was effectively implemented in designing the textbook (practice); how theory and practice are interwoven properly in the process.

Approaches to the research design and methodology

As discussed above, working with a particular paradigm entails taking a particular approach to research. Hence, the research approach employed in this study is the mixed method approach. The pragmatic paradigm implies that the overall approach to research is that of mixing data collection methods and data analysis procedures within the research process (Creswell, 2003). Therefore, the mixed method  approach  associated  with  the  pragmatic  paradigm  and  strategies enables collecting data in a simultaneous or sequential manner using both quantitative and qualitative methods in a way that best addresses the research question/s (Creswell 2003). Similarly, Tashakkori and Teddlie (2003) note that a mixed method is superior to a mono-methods approach (only quantitative or qualitative approach) in three ways: it enables the researcher to answer research questions that other approaches cannot; that is, mixed methods can answer simultaneously confirmatory and exploratory questions. Secondly, the mixed method  helps obtain stronger  inferences through  in-depth  investigations  of complex social phenomena. Thirdly, the method provides the opportunity for unearthing differing viewpoints through divergent findings.
In terms of methodology, a consensus exists with respect to the fact that both quantitative and qualitative methods have an important place in evaluation research (Clarke and Dawson, 1999; Weiss, 1998). Hence, evaluation research draws on the same pool of methods as do other forms of social research (Trochim, 2006). The study, therefore, employed mixed methods of inquiry so as to get the benefit of using multiple approaches to data collection and integrating or connecting the quantitative and qualitative data. “Mixed methods research involves the mixing of quantitative and qualitative research methods or paradigm characteristics” (Dornyei 2007: 148).In line with this, I collected quantitative data using content analysis and questionnaire as well as other form of qualitative data using interview. This type of mixed methods strategy is what Creswell (2009) calls Concurrent Embedded Strategy (emphasis mine). “The concurrent embedded strategy of mixed methods can be identified by its use of one data collection phase, during which both quantitative and qualitative data are collected simultaneously” (Creswell, 2009:214). In this method neither integrating the data nor connecting across phases is being utilized. Instead, the researcher is embedding a secondary form of data within a larger study having a different form of data as the primary database. This method was meant to serve “complementarity function and yield an enriched understanding by illustrating, clarifying or elaborating or certain aspects thereby the supplementary findings can produce a fuller portrait of the social world” (Dornyei, 2007: 149). Hence, the mixing of data was not be based either on time order (concurrent versus sequential) in which the results of the first method inform the development of the second (Dornyei, 2007: 149; Creswell, 2009:211) nor paradigm emphasis (equal status versus dominant status) where one method is given more weight or dominant over the other (Dornyei, 2007: 154; Creswell, 2009:211). In other words, the data from qualitative and quantitative sources were not meant to be compared but were used side by side as two different pictures therein providing an overall assessment of the problem. “Often, this model is used so that a researcher can gain broader perspectives as a result of using the different methods as opposed to using the predominant method alone” (Creswell, 2009:214).
Thus, I interviewed the grade 9 English syllabus writers at MoE regarding the language learning theory and organizing principles they adhered to in developing the English language syllabus and collected qualitative data. I also analysed the contents of the Grade 9 English Text Book in line with eight categories of MI as well as 6 principles of task design quantitatively. Furthermore, I used a survey questionnaire to determine the theoretical stance of the Grade 9 English language teachers pertaining to principles of language learning and materials development.
Accordingly, the qualitative data obtained from the interviews were used to describe an aspect of the quantitative study and provide a more comprehensive picture about the textbook. By using the two different methods, a researcher can gain perspectives from the different types of data or from different levels within the study (Creswell, 2009:215).

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Data sources

ELT syllabus writers

The study involved 5 ELT syllabus writers at the MoE, and availability sampling method was used in that all of them were included in the study. All of the informants were Ethiopians with a BA degree.

The Grade 9 English textbook

The Grade 9 English Textbook which has got 12 units in total was used for content analysis. 50% of the lessons were sampled and analysed in line with categories of MI as well as principles of language learning and materials development so as to see how match they address learner differences. Half of the contents of the textbook, that is, 6 of the 12 units that have 309 language tasks were assumed to be a sufficient sample size for the study. The textbook was written by Pearson Education Limited in 2003 (E.C.) and it is still being used in Ethiopian high schools.

Grade 9 English language teachers

A total of 218 English language teachers from 50 different high schools were involved in the study using convenience sampling. This method was convenient for me to collect data from 10 different areas (cities/towns) that are found far away in 6 Regional States of the country as I had old friends as well as summer students who are working in these places. My collaborators went to each school in person, distributed the questionnaires to teachers of Grade 9, got them completed and sent back to me by post. For various reasons the study could not involve more teachers from other areas of the country, of which the major one was financial constraint. Here follows their profile.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
CONTENT PAGE
DECLARATION
ABSTRACT 
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS 
TABLE OF CONTENTS
LIST OF TABLES 
LIST OF FIGURES
LIST OF APPENDICES 
CHAPTER 1: Introduction
1.1 Introduction
1.2. Context and background of the study
1.3 Statement of the problem
1.4 The research questions
1.5 Objective of the study
1.6 Significance of the study
1.7 Scope of the study
1.8 Originality of the study
1.9 Structure of the study
1.10 Acronyms
CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW
2.1 Introduction
2.2 Curriculum and syllabus: clarification of terms
2.3 Considerations in ELT syllabus design and underlying theories
2.4 The theory of second language learning
2.5 The syllabus design process
2.6 What is MIT all about?
2.7 Multiple intelligence theory and FL teaching/learning
2.8 Brief description of the MIT
2.9 The implications of MIT in a teaching/learning process .
2.10 MIT promotes integrated language teaching approach
2.11 Applying MI theory in designing teaching/learning materials
CHAPTER 3: METHODOLOGY AND PROCEDURES 
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Type of study
3.3. Conceptual framework
3.4 Paradigm, approach and design of the study
3.5. Data sources .
3.6. Data collection instruments
3.7 Validity and reliability of the Instruments
3.8 Data analysis
3.9 Ethical issues
CHAPTER 4: FINDINGS OF THE STUDY 
4.1 Introduction
4.2 The findings of the interview .
4.3 The findings of the content analysis
4.4 The findings of the teachers’ questionnaire
CHAPTER 5: INTERPRETATION AND DISCUSSION OF THE FINDINGS
5.1 Introduction
5.2 Interpretation and discussion of the results
CHAPTER 6: CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
6.1 Introduction
6.2 Synthesis of the study
6.3 Conclusions
6.4 Recommendations
6.5 Contribution of the study: A theory driven framework for developing ELT materials/tasks
6.6 Recommendations for further research
REFERENCES
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