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Bangladeshi ELT Teachers: Classroom Teaching Problems

By: Fatina Sarwar

The current approach of English Language Teaching (ELT) all over the world is communicative (The Communicative Language Teaching or CLT). Very recently, the academicians of Bangladeshi ELT context with the backing of the Government has founded CLT in the general education .CLT requires interactive classroom activities with the integration of the four language skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking. Nevertheless, for the construction of sufficient interaction and quadruple- skilled integration in classrooms there await some barriers for the Bangladeshi teachers. My present essay is the ponder of Bangladeshi English teachers' probable barriers in making the classrooms interactive and integrative with the tasks and activities engaging the four language skills along with their compatible pragmatic solutions.

"Interaction is the collaborative exchange of thoughts, feeling or ideas between two or more people, resulting in a reciprocal effect on each other. Theories of communicative competence emphasize the importance of interaction as human beings use language in various contexts to 'negotiate' meaning, or simply stated, to get an idea out of one person's head and into the head of another person and vice versa."
(Brown 165)

Such interaction can be actualized in a CLT classroom basically through pair-works and group-works focusing "at the suprasentential or discourse level"(Larsen-Freeman 134) with "cohesion and coherence" (Larsen-Freeman 134) of the target language (TL) integrating or merging both the receptive language skills (listening and speaking) and the productive language skills (speaking and writing) emphasizing on the semantic negotiation all the time. Hindrances of so, however, could be the followings:

A. The entrusted administrator of an educational institution might prefer "a traditional whole-class methodology"(Brown 179) of ELT in the name of maintenance of discipline in which language teaching is teacher-oriented and lecture-based and the students are the quiet receivers of the teacher's deliverance. On such a contextual administrative ground partnership dialogue practicing, reading and listening context-based instantaneous question and answer tasks, peer checking, semantically relevant substitution drills and other activities exclusive for performing in pairs and also games, role-play, simulations, drama, projects, interview, brainstorming, information-gap, jigsaw, problem-solving and decision making, opinion exchange and so on exclusive to be conducted in groups would be impossible to be held.

B. The conventional cultural notion of ideal teaching might hamper the Bangladeshi teachers to gear an interactive and integrative class which expects students' silent passivity during the class while receiving the teacher's lecture-based instructions in "orderly fashion speaking only when spoken to by the teacher"(Brown 179). Intra-group unbarred interaction might be considered a violation of the cultural convention of managing an ideal class against which the teacher would have to fight prudently to settle interaction and integration of the four skills of the TL.

C. Very few ELT classes of Bangladesh are not large.The usual class-sizes exceed "seventy-five"(Brown 179) or even hundred.Therefore,when a teacher attempts to divide such a large class into groups it ultimately gives rises to managerial difficulties.Eventually,the teacher would face complications in monitoring the pair or group activities ensuring the "importance of meaningful ,purposeful language and communication ,which in turn must allow the student to give vent to creative possibilities"(Brown 181).To "circulate among the groups, listen to students ,and offer suggestions and criticisms"(Brown 181) would demand more time and effort than a teacher can usually afford.

D. Along with the monitoring problem of large classes inaccurate dealing of the student-errors should be added. In a large class "students will simply reinforce each others' errors (Brown 181) where the teacher gets bare chances of correcting them being the victims of the other adverse administrative and managerial circumstances.

E. Mother- tongue (first language or L1) interference could be limitlessly frequent in a linguistically homogeneous ELT class unless the teacher authoritatively monitors and controls the situation. Students "in small groups will covertly use their native language"(Brown 180). Consequently, the purpose of adopting the CLT technique of learning "to interact ...through interaction itself"(Brown 165) would be under the threat of failure.

F. Sometimes students' behaviors also object the interactive and integrative management of an ELT classroom. Teenaged students could be "unruly"(Brown 179) being in the freedom of pair and group activities "where discipline is the major issue"(Brown 179).

G. Students' idiosyncratic styles of learning would be another obstacle of making a classroom interactive and integrative. The consequences of such varied styles in group

works are as followed:

&bullA highly left-brain oriented student is put off by the otherwise more right-brain members of the group.
&bullQuicker(impulsive) thinkers tend to blurt out their ideas ,overwhelming the slower(reflective)thinkers, or,
&bullImpulsive learners get easily frustrated with the group process, which they perceive as circuitous.
&bullCompetitive members of a group are reluctant to share information with the others.
&bull'Talkative'students dominate the process."
(Brown 182)
Moreover, in the cases of adult learners the teacher might encounter some students' preference of isolated involvement in the TL oriented tasks and activities rather to the collaborative involvement of so being in pairs or groups.

The following solutions can be taken against the just highlighted barriers of the Bangladeshi teachers in increasing the comprising of interaction and integration of the four skills in the ELT classrooms:

A.Convincing the administrative authority of the respective institution of the ELT teacher to make the classroom suitable for processing various group and pair activities;

B.Modification of traditional cultural concept of an ideal classroom for language learning of the bearing administration, students and also guardians through tangible demonstration and explanation;

C.Dividing a large class into considerable sections for the convenience of successful monitoring and adequate treatment of errors;

D.The teacher's zealous, inviting and encouraging presentation of personality in facilitating pair and group activities maintaining a covert strong authority not to allow the students to trespass the threshold of language learning purpose while engaging in interactive and integrative tasks in pairs and groups;

E.In dealing with the L1 interference in the classroom the teacher should be culturally and emotionally tolerant and sensitive. Rather than strictly prohibiting the usage of L1 in the class for the clarification of the generally incomprehensible instructions of the teacher to the students and in the cases of sheer indecipherability of the students' own peers' spoken productions or of their helpless collapse in phrasing the intended expressions in the TL, L1 can be provisionally allowed for the students of lower proficiency level and then gradually the situation could be reduced to the nil interference of L1.

F.The teacher should be affectingly and thoughtfully discreet and delicate in handling the students' individual styles of learning the TL. Sometimes the contrastive combination of the introverts and extroverts or spirited and apathetic personalities within pairs and groups would produce maximum success. Sometimes the association of homologous personalities in pairs and groups would produce best results. The teachers' keen observation and profound practical reflection based on the existing ELT context would assist the teacher to endorse the precise decision of appropriate strategic investment.

The present sketchy essay is in fact a contemplation over some presumed barriers and their corresponding solutions that the Bangladeshi ELT teachers might face and ultimately need in commencing intensified interaction with the integration of the four skills to make their classes successful issues of CLT. Scenarios might vary with the diversions of contexts. Therefore, the CLT teachers should be dynamically equipped with professional sensibility and in depth teaching knowledge to take swift realistic and novel steps to win over the freshly sprung hurdles.

1.Brown, Doglus H.Teaching by Principles:An Interactive Approach to Language Pedagogy.3rd ed. New York: Longman, 2001.

2. Larsen-Freeman, Diane.Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching.New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.

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About The Author, Fatina Sarwar

Fatina Sarwar-Lecturer,Bangladesh University of Business & Technology,Dhaka,Bangladesh.
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