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This dissertation study is aimed at gaining a deeper understanding of adult English teaching by examining English as second language (ESL) teachers’ experiences and perceptions of learning, selecting, and implementing language instructional methods. ESL programs and courses in the United States have proliferated in order to meet the language demands of the rapidly expanding population of non-native English speaking immigrants and/or of international students who have some grasp of English who seek to improve their English language skills. As a result, it is imperative to draw attention to teachers’ instruction since instruction is the medium for cultivating knowledge and skills in learners, and is thus closely related to classroom effectiveness as well as to student learning. For this reason, understanding how ESL teachers perceive and practice language instructional methods was conducive for the teacher participants of this study to engage in deliberate reconsideration and reflection of the teaching principles they have long believed in and practiced. In addition, the issues that have occurred in their pedagogy surfaced and can serve as a mirror for ESL preservice teachers, language method instructors, program directors, curriculum planners, and language experts who devote themselves to the invention and improvement of language teaching methods.
In an attempt to obtain a better understanding of the teaching methods prior to data collection, literature of the 20 contemporary language instructional methods (Grammar-Translation Method, Direct Method, Direct Method, Situational Language Teaching, Total Physical Response, Silent Way, Community Language Learning, Suggestopedia, Whole Language Multiple Intelligences, Neurolingistic Programming, Lexical Approach Education, Natural Approach, Cooperative Language Learning, and Task-Based Teaching) are presented. Their characteristics as well as strengths and weaknesses are charted. These are reviewed according to the changing trends of language methodology in the 20th century. Several studies on language educators’ perceptions of language instructional methods are also reviewed. This research was conducted with mixed methods at two stages. In the first stage, an electronic questionnaire which was focused on the familiarity level of and the use of the instructional methods served as an instrument to select participants for extensive interviews in this study. The questionnaire was distributed to all ESL teachers at an anonymous adult language center. Twenty-seven teachers participated in the survey and twenty completed the entire questionnaire. The selection of the teacher participants for the interviews was based on several criteria: The teachers' agreement with the classroom observations; the completion of their responses to every closed-ended question in the survey; their demonstrations of a higher familiarity level with the instructional methods; their teaching experience of more than 10 years; and the richness of the teachers' responses to the open-ended questions in the questionnaire. Three teachers were selected to participate in the interviews. At the second stage, data were collected from the three teachers' interviews, classroom observation notes, e-mail correspondences, course materials, and course syllabi. In this second phase, narrative inquiry was used to conduct the research. This dissertation research is a study of experience and narrative inquiry is mainly focused on the study of “the ways humans experience the world” (Connelly & Clandinin, 1990, p. 2). Such a focus lends itself to capturing ESL teachers’ relationships, interactions, and situations. It provides an in-depth understanding of and more profound insights into what and how ESL teachers actually think and do in their practice of the language instructional methods through excavating their personal life experiences and professional knowledge. Each of the three teacher participants' narratives were illustrated with a story constellation (Craig, 2007) that helped represent their three-dimensional experiences (time, place, interactions) of the language instructional methodologies from the classrooms where they were language learners to classrooms where they became the teachers of ESL/EFL learners.
The major findings derived from the research was that all three participants' past experiences of learning foreign languages and the instructional methods used to teach them served to shape their subsequent teaching experiences with the language instructional methodologies over time. Accordingly, their current teaching practices will, in turn, influence their future teaching practices. Although the stories told by each of the teachers are unique, all three teachers demonstrated some similar changes as well as some different ones in the process of experiencing the language instructional methodologies in different contexts and time. The following themes capture these similarities and differences: (a) continuous experiences with language instructional methodologies; (b) images of ESL teachers; (c) learners' characteristics; (d) everyday teaching management; (e) learning strategies; (f) students' difficulties in learning; (g) teachers' difficulties and challenges; (h) applications and perspectives of instructional methodologies; (i) teachers' changes and suggestions for novices. Finally, an issue relating to teaching methods courses is discussed and the researcher's conclusions are offered.



English as a second language, Narrative inquiry, Teaching methods, Teaching experience, Teacher perspectives