Local perspectives through distant eyes: an exploration of English language teaching in Kerala in Southern India

Balchin, K. (2017) Local perspectives through distant eyes: an exploration of English language teaching in Kerala in Southern India. Ph.D. thesis, Canterbury Christ Church University.

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Abstract

This thesis examines professionalism of English language teaching (ELT) in one particular setting, the state of Kerala in southern India.

It reveals that there is an independent and unrecognised professionalism amongst ELT professionals in the setting. This includes a lack of recognition of the efficacy of methods and approaches traditionally used in the setting and a lack of recognition of the informal professional development that is happening in the setting. This professionalism is unrecognised by local ELT professionals because of their belief in ‘Western TESOL’. I am only able recognise it when I learn, through an autoethnography of my own professionalism, to put aside my own preoccupations with ‘Western TESOL’.

The initial objective of this study was to attempt to gain insights into local perspectives surrounding ELT methodology and teacher education, set against a background of a perceived need for methodological change in the setting. However, once the study had begun, it became clear that my own professional background and experiences, my ‘Western TESOL’ ‘professional baggage’, combined with the fact that I was coming into the setting as an outsider, seeing it through distant eyes, was affecting the ways in which I was viewing the setting and interpreting the events happening within it. As I began to offload some of this ‘professional baggage’, realising that my ‘Western TESOL’ understanding of the setting did not necessarily match local participants’ understandings of it, I began to question and re-evaluate the data I had collected. For example, I realised that I was focusing on what I saw as the negative aspects of what I was observing and being told about ELT in the setting, and comparing these to approaches to ELT in ‘Western TESOL’ settings that I was more familiar with. Over time, I began to look at these same aspects in a more positive light, seeing different perspectives and valuing what I was seeing or being told in different ways. My re-evaluations of the data from the setting over time also thus became a focus of the study.

The study as a whole is therefore ethnographic in terms of attempting to understand local perspectives, using open-ended questionnaire, classroom observation, interview and field note data, with an autoethnographic dimension to acknowledge the influence of my own distant eyes perspective in understanding these local perspectives. It brings into focus how I, as a researcher, through re-evaluating my own data and as a result gaining greater insight into my own positioning, was able to give credit to different perspectives on the data collected, particularly the data from classroom observations and teacher accounts of practice, and in the light of this to offer possible ways forward for ELT in the setting.

It has implications for local ELT professionals in terms of understanding and appreciating their own professionalism. It also has implications for TESOL professionals in unfamiliar settings in terms of the need to understand the complexity of these settings, rather than make hasty judgments about local practices, particularly in the case of ‘Western TESOL’ professionals working in ‘non-Western TESOL’ settings.

It may therefore be of interest both to ‘Western’ teachers, teacher trainers and academics working or researching, or intending to work or carry out research, in settings with which they are not familiar, particularly ‘non-Western TESOL’ settings, and to local TESOL professionals and academics in the setting for the study.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: English; Language; Teaching; Kerala
Subjects: P Language and Literature
P Language and Literature > PE English
Divisions: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Language Studies and Applied Linguistics
Depositing User: Miss Rosemary Cox
Date Deposited: 06 Sep 2017 08:51
Last Modified: 09 Nov 2017 13:54
URI: https://create.canterbury.ac.uk/id/eprint/16296

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Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:23:00