«submitted in accordance with the requirements for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY WITH SPECIALISATION IN ADULT EDUCATION at the UNIVERSITY OF ...»
In the responses to the SILL questionnaires completed by thirteen learners, no significant differences could be found about various strategies employed by male of female language learners (see subsection 4.3.3).
From the responses of lecturers and learners alike, the use of visual aids, such as pictures, colour or gestures to assist learning, were underutilised.
4.5.4 Anxieties experienced by adults in the language learning classroom In terms of situational variables like course material, lecturers’ behaviour and attitude,
as well as social interaction, the responses were as follows:
At the language centre, the course material makes provision for regular assessment, to see if learning occurred and if learners are indeed progressing. The lecturers who participated in the research indicated that some learners usually prove to be nervous before writing a test and that would be at all levels of language learning, from introductory level, to the most advanced level. Other learners would be anxious before a classroom presentation. One lecturer indicated that adult male learners would be terrified to do presentations, for fear of having the whole class attention focussed on them. The adult female learners, although initially nervous, because they would not normally be exposed to speaking in front of a group of men, would deliver amazing presentations.
Lecturers, who managed to keep a calm and relaxed atmosphere in the classroom, seemed to be more successful. Learners indicated that they would normally be anxious during the beginning stages of a course, until they become more familiar with the lecturer and fellow learners. Learners also indicated that throughout the course, if a lecturer could not control a class of adult language learners, they would become uneasy.
Because of the cultural diversities in the adult language learning classroom, both male and female learners indicated that they would initially experience anxiety, because of being in an unfamiliar situation of not knowing the lecturer or fellow learners. Although it were mainly women who reported being shy, two of the adult men in the focus group interviews indicated that they were also initially shy to speak to women during group and pair-work.
In terms of learner variables, such as age, attitudes, beliefs, culture, gender and
personalities, the indications were as follows:
The learners who participated in the research, were all over the age of eighteen, and could, to a certain extent, decide for themselves to learn English. Some of the younger female learners would however, still be under the guardianship of their parents and would report unsatisfactory behaviour to the head of the family. Lecturers indicated that they were constantly mindful of the situation of teaching in a multicultural environment and tried to remain firm, but friendly in the classroom.
One lecturer indicated that in the Arabic culture, especially in respect of men, when they have to speak in the presence of others, they see themselves as ambassadors of their families, and as such, are nervous for fear that they would make of mistakes. Once the lecturer could manage to convince these learners that the advantage of being in a formal class is that their mistakes would be corrected promptly, and their performance would consequently improve.
4.5.5 Teaching practices in the culturally diverse adult language learning classroom
It could be concluded that English language teaching in Qatar has a unique element, since these learners are not only from Qatar, but also from other Arabic speaking nationalities in the Middle East and elsewhere, as well as from various other countries around the world. The adult male and female learners who studied at the centre also have different needs and requirements to acquire the language. Lecturers should always keep this in mind and adapt their teaching practices to accommodate pressing needs of these learners.
The lecturers who participated in the research were all experienced in the field of teaching English as a second or foreign language and had the necessary qualification to do so. Although some adult learners depended on the lecturer for guidance during language learning, teaching at the centre is more learner-focussed and once work was understood, the adult male and female learners managed to work independently.
A communicative approach to language learning was followed. This afforded the language learners to become more proficient in speaking English, while learning to grasp the grammatical rules at the same time. During group and pair-work, learners had ample opportunities to communicate in the target language, while all the time being under the watchful eye of a knowledgeable lecturer who could guide them and correct mistakes when necessary.
Lecturers were always mindful of their responsibility to be culturally sensitive when teaching these adult learners. That would include being sensitive when doing group and pair-work, by always obtaining prior permission from the ladies before engaging in such activities, as some ladies might feel uncomfortable to speak to men who are not part of their immediate family. Culturally insensitive subjects, such as love and relationship would also be taboo in a multicultural classroom, to avoid offending anybody’s beliefs or religion.
The lecturers indicated that they had no particular male or female preferences when teaching English. However, as one lecturer indicated, the topics covered in an all male class would differ from those offered in an all female class. To a group of some ladies, every grammar lesson could be related to any topic that would be of interest to them, it could be shopping, children or just everyday subjects. These participants also indicated that women were a lot more hardworking and dedicated to acquiring English. Therefore the task of the lecturer was expedited and accomplished with ease.
Lecturers also had to be mindful of the fact that an adult male and female language learner entered the classroom with his or her own wealth of information in a specific field of expertise and would need this knowledge to be acknowledges and respected.
4.6 Conclusion Chapter four dealt with the analysis of the data collected, as well as the interpretation and findings of the research. The data gathered for the analysis that formed part of this, were classroom observations, questionnaires on SILL and AMTB, two focus group interviews, individual interviews with three lecturers, individual interviews with three male and three female learners, as well as field notes kept throughout the process.
From the responses gathered, the general opinion was that the adult male and female language learner enter the classroom with a lot of prior knowledge in their respective field of employment, but with limited knowledge of English. The acquisition of proficiency in English by male and female learners should never been considered in isolation, without taking the gender differences, culture and beliefs into account.
The final chapter will furnish a summary and discussion of the key patterns that emerged from the findings.
OVERVIEW, CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
5.1 Introduction This research focused on exploring the gender differences in adult male and female learners when acquiring English as a second or foreign language. These differences were explored by looking at their cognitive styles, the learners’ motivation towards acquiring the language, the strategies they employed, the anxieties they experienced during language acquisition, as well as the teaching practices to accommodate these learners.
This final chapter provides an overview of the investigation. Six years of teaching various levels of English to multicultural adult learners in Qatar, contributed to the shaping of the researcher’s abilities and attitudes towards this study.
5.2 Overview of the investigation
Chapter 1 of this study dealt with the orientation and background of the research. This entailed an explanation of the necessity of teaching English to adult learners in Qatar.
The main focus of this study was on exploring gender differences when acquiring English as a second or foreign language, as exhibited with regard to the adult learners’ cognitive abilities, their motivation towards studying, the strategies they employ during language acquisition and anxieties they experience.
The statement of the research problem, the motivation for and contribution of the study, as well as its aims and objectives, were also presented in this chapter. The aims and objectives revolved around looking at the prevailing theories on different cognitive styles in men and women, as well as the influences of motivation, strategies and anxieties could exert during English language acquisition. This was done with also keeping the best teaching practices in mind to accommodate these adult language learners. A case study was conducted for this research, as the case study focuses on one (or just a few) instances of a phenomenon in a particular setting, with a view to providing an in-depth account of events, relationships, experiences or processes occurring in that particular instance or case. The methods used were also briefly mentioned and discussed. In conclusion, the chapter division and clarification were provided.
Chapter 2 provided a review of literature relevant to this study. Aspects that were discussed, included relevant cognitive styles of males and females in language acquisition, motivation of learners to acquire English as a second language, strategies used by male and female learners, anxieties experienced by these learners in L2 studies, and the best teaching practices to accommodate these learners. The study also looked at related studies on these issues in various other countries.
Each adult male or female language learner enters the English language classroom with a wealth of knowledge in a specific field, but just not proficient in English. These learners do however; need to know the relevance of what they are going to learn and the benefit of it for their respective future use. Teaching multicultural adult male and female learners should never be considered in isolation. Qatar is an Islamic state and therefore the local religion and culture and the influence of that on the rest of society, including the language learning classroom, cannot be ignored. Lecturers have to be mindful of these influences when engaging learners for group or pair-work and also be culturally sensitive towards learners, with regard to topics covered during general conversation.
Discussions in this chapter also covered the role of English second or foreign language acquisition by the adult learners and the best teaching practices. According to Krashen, acquisition is more important than learning. He suggests that learners need to be exposed to the target language and have ample time to converse in that language in order for learning to be effective. To be effective in the English language classroom, the communicative approach, a widely accepted method, seemed to be the preferred option.
The chapter concluded with discussions of the lecturers’ and learners’ cultural influence and the role there of, on English second or foreign language acquisition.
In Chapter 3 the decisions that determined the research design and choice of the research methods for the study, were discussed. The research methodology of the case study, as conducted at one particular English language learning centre in Qatar, was explained. A qualitative approach was adopted for this investigation.
Data was obtained from classroom observations, focus group interviews, questionnaires, individual interviews with lecturers and learners, as well as from field notes kept by the researcher while conducting the study.
Five classroom observations, as described in subsection 3.2.1, were conducted. The first classroom observation was with male and female learners from various nationalities.
The second observation was with a class of all Arabic speaking male and female learners.
In classroom number three was an all male Arabic speaking group and the fourth classroom observation was of an all female Arabic speaking group. The final classroom observation was with a group of Spanish speaking ladies.
Two sets of questionnaires were handed out to learners. The first, a specially designed questionnaire as described in subsection 188.8.131.52, based on the Strategic Inventory for Language Learning (SILL) as designed by Oxford (1990:1), was used (see Appendix B). Of the twenty six questionnaires handed out, only thirteen were returned. Learners could complete these questionnaires anonymously, but only indicating whether done by a male or female learner. Only learners with a more advanced knowledge of English were given questionnaires, because of the extensive nature of the questions. The second set of questionnaires as described in subsection 184.108.40.206, using an adapted version of Gardner’s attitude motivation test battery (AMTB) were purposefully handed out to five adult male and six adult female learners to serve as a point of reference regarding their motivation towards English second language learning (see Appendix E).
Focus group interviews, as described in subsection 3.2.3, were conducted. The two focus group interviews involved the same male and female Arabic speaking learners.
The first focus group interview however, was at the beginning of a learning session and the last one in the final week of the learning session.
Individual interviews were conducted with lecturers and learners. Three lecturers, two female and one male as described in subsection 220.127.116.11, participated in the individual interviews with lecturers. Three adult male language learners and three adult female language learners, as described in subsection 18.104.22.168 were involved in the individual interviews with learners.
All responses of the collected data were presented in their original format. Throughout the process, field notes, as described in subsection 3.3, were kept by the researcher regarding what was actually being observed, as well as personal feelings and perceptions.
Chapter 4 focussed on the data analysis and the interpretation of the findings. This chapter presents the results of the study in a format that is easy to read and as objectively as possible.