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EFFECT OF TEACHING EXPERIENCE ON
FOREIGN LANGUAGE ACHIEVEMENT
JASSER ABDUL RAHMAN ALJASSER (Ph.D.).
COLLEGE OF LANGUAGES & TRANSLATION
KING SAUD UNIVERSITY
INTRODUCTION
Despite the fact that teaching experience has been viewed by applied linguists and FL specialists as a significant factor in foreign language teaching, only limited, nonexperimental studies have been conducted in this area. This is probably attributed to the anticipated intervening variables that make conducting experimental study on this specific variable and its impact on EFL achievement level difficult to control.
This study tries to explore the correlation between the length of teaching experience and the Saudi EFL level of achievement among Saudi learners.
Although effective teaching demands lengthy training and practice, Bailey and CelceMurcia (1979) believe that many ESL teachers in public schools have gained experience without much formal training. On the other hand, young teachers just entering the profession may leave their university training with limited practical experience, in spite of strong theoretical preparation.(1)
In his analysis and observations on EFL teachers, Dixson (1975) claimed that the greater number of Englishspeaking teachers working in foreign countries are amateur. Their only qualification for the work is the fact that they speak English(2) Some of these teachers, according to Dixson, are completely unpreparedafter four or five years of teaching experience, this type of teacher generally quiets down somewhat, but meanwhile she can be a real menace to the profession.(3)
According to Derwing (1991), Pica and Long (1986) found some quantifiable differences between experienced and inexperienced teachers. Experienced teachers used relatively more WH questions than did inexperienced ones, and the experienced teachers were more fluent. There were also more otherrepetitions (that is, repetitions of the learners output) in the experienced teachers speech.(4)
When Derwing (1991) herself studied the influence of ESL teaching experience on communicative success and its relation to the use of conversational adjustments, she found that experienced teachers used a significantly higher percentage of adjustments than did the inexperienced NSs (native speakers). (5)
Yet, Derwings study (1987) showed .. a significant difference in the type of adjustments used by experienced and inexperienced subjects in a two way interaction task (spot the difference).(6)
In regard to the relation between teaching experience and classroom linguistic behavior, Pica and Long (1986) concluded The influence of classroom context is strong enough to outweigh the effects of teaching experience.(7)
Strevens work (1977) on ESP language learning indicated that experience in the teaching of English suggests that the extent of difficulty experienced depends on the teachers professional competence and morale. Teachers with inadequate training and little experience can be genuinely terrified at the prospect of having to teach ESP courses. Teachers with highlevel professional qualifications and with long and wide experience, on the other hand, are often cheerfully willing to regard ESP as a welcome challenge.(8)
Most teachers who acquire practical teaching experience, according to Rivers (1972) are enabled ..To gain the confidence and the respect of students more quickly than others, to recognise the students real problems and to approach these with clarity and patience. (9)
For the new teacher, on the other hand, she emphasized his need for two dual aims to keep abreast of the developments in his profession and to keep growing professionally through systematic evaluation of his own experience.(10)
Gage (1978) indicated that teaching experience alone, or practice (as she calls it), is insufficient. If it were, teachers would automatically improve in performance as they gained more years on the job. (11)
He attributed his judgement to the fact that at least nine studies have shown only a few low correlation, if any, between years of teaching experience and the average achievement of the teachers students. (12)
METHOD
This study is intended to test the level of impact of previous teaching experience of the EFL instructor on the Saudi EFL learners performance at the university level; that is, to discover whether the learners level of achievement varies according to the length of experience that teachers have.
HYPOTHESES
In order to explore the relationship between the teaching experience of the EFL instructors and the students scores and the extent of variations in students means, the author formulated and tested the following two hypotheses.
HO1: There is a positive statistical significant correlation between the instructors number of years of teaching experience and the students EFL level of achievement.
HO2: There is significant difference in the students EFL achievement level due to the number of years of teaching experience that their instructors have.
SUBJECTS:
The sample subjects selected for this study were drawn from the PreScience Intensive English program at King Saud University, which has a total population of 17 teachers and 450 students. Nine male teachers were carefully selected for this research.
They were classified into three groups (each group comprises 3 teachers):
Group one  Teachers whose teaching experience in EFL ranges between 5 to 13 years.
Group two Teachers whose teaching experience in EFL ranges between 17 to 20 years.
Group three Teachers whose teaching experience in EFL is over 25 years.
All of these instructors were involved in teaching the same language skill, writing, which is a major course requirement of the EFL intensive English program designed for all prescience students. Eighty two students were registered under each group of teachers and thus received instructions from these three teachers only.
To control possible intervening variables, the selection of subjects was purposely based on the fact that all teachers were nonnative speakers of English, had similar academic qualifications, and their entire teaching experience was in an EFL, rather than, ESL environment.
On the other hand, the students were all freshmen native speakers of Arabic with similar EFL background. They were all enrolled in the same EFL course offered in the second term of 1998. The students sample was carefully selected on the basis of their midterm matched scores. Students whose scores did not match with their counterparts were not included in this study.
The instrument by which the students English performance level was measured was the marks achieved on their final examination on the writing part of the course. The maximum mark is 40 out of 40. The examination consisted of 33 items. It covered verbtenses, modal auxiliaries, agreement, verbparticle, vocabulary, and composition. It is a criterionreferenced, summative test which reflects the content of the course syllabus of the writing skill.
PROCEDURE
To test the hypotheses of this study, the author employed two statistical techniques.
First, a computation of Pearson productmoment correlation(r), and an analysis of variance.(ANOVA)
Second, a Sheffe procedure of the students means score.
The first part of the data analysis was intended to explore any existing statistical correlation between the number of years of instructional experience and the students level of achievement.
A one way analysis of variance (ANOVA) was later conducted to find out any significant statistical differences in the students mean scores caused by teachers previous years of teaching experience.
The Sheffe procedure was later conducted in order to reveal the entire picture of the data, that is, to convey meaningful statistical information on the mean scores differences of students under each group of instructors.
In running the SPSS ANOVA program, the author tested the following variables:
Teaching experience (as an independent variable) against students scores (as a dependent variable).
The ANOVA was intended to reveal any possible variations between and within these variables.
RESULTS
Based on the observed (raw) scores of our statistics the analysis entails the following preliminary information:
First, there was some noticeable variability within the group performance caused by the varying length of teaching experience.
Second, students who received instructions from the first group of teachers, who have the lowest teaching experience, had unexpectedly the highest performance level (Mean = 29.47). while the students who received instructions from the third group of teachers, who have the highest teaching experience, had the lowest, performance level (Mean = 25.63).
Third, only student performance under the second group of teachers, with medium teaching experience, was consistent with what was predicted (Mean = 27.68).
On the other hand, when the correlation coefficient test was conducted on the students scores under the three types of different teaching experiences, the rvalue statistically produced as (r=.24), as shown in Table 1, indicated that there was a statistically significant correlation between teaching experience and student level of achievement. Although this correlation was significant at the .05 level, its is considered a weak correlation. It was, an unexpectedly, negative, rather than a positive, association. Thus, data analysis for this research, suggested that higher teaching experience does not cause or predict a higher level of learning achievement, but rather that lower teaching experience is associated with a higher level of learning achievement.
At this stage of the analysis, and because the rvalue (r=.24) is less than .05 level, the first hypothesis of this study is rejected. Therefore, it can be restated and modified more accurately as follows:
There is a negative (rather than positive) statistical significant correlation between the instructors number of years of teaching experience and the students EFL level of achievement. (HO1)
The analysis of variance (ANOVA) test result, indicated in Table 2, revealed the following finding:
Because the F. probability of the ANOVA test is less than.05 level (F.prob=.0007), it is statistically significant. Therefore our second hypothesis which indicated that
there is a significant difference in the students EFL achievement level due to the number of years of teaching experience that their instructors have (HO2)
was accepted.
The variability in the mean differences indicated in Sheffe procedure in Table 3 supports our ANOVA results. It indicated that pairs of groups were significantly different at the .05 level. The mean differences showed some inconsistency between the mean scores and the length of teaching experience. That is, longer teaching experience caused lower (rather than higher) mean scores (Gr1) while lower teaching experience caused higher (rather than lower) mean scores (Gr3). Therefore, the mean difference is in favour of Gr.3 which has the highest score (Mean=29.47).
The only congruent result was the medium teaching experience (Gr2) which produced medium mean score. Therefore it was, as mentioned above, the only consistent result in our statistical analysis.
TABLE 1
CORRELATION COEFFICIENT( r ) OF STUDENT SCORES FOR THE TOTAL OBSERVATIONS (UNDER THREE TEACHING GROUPS)
VARIBALEMEANSTDRNScore27.596.54.24246
P.<.05
TABLE 2
ANALYSIS OF VARIANCE ON THE INDEPENDENT VARIABLE TEACHING EXPERIENCE AND THE DEPENDENT VARIABLE STUDENT SCORE. (N=246)
SOURCE OF VARIATIOND.F.SSMSFRATIOF.PROB.BETWEEN GROUPS2605.6302.87.45.0007WITHIN GROUPS2439874.640.6TOTAL24510480.4
P.<.05
TABLE 3
SHEFFE PROCEDURE ANALYSIS OF STUDENTS SCORES UNDER THE THREE TEACHING GROUPS (N=246).
MeanGroupN
29.40
27.68
25.63 1 2 3
*
82
82
82
P.<.05
DISCUSSION
Despite the fact that some FL researchers have not underestimated the significance of teaching experience variable in FL learning context, the limited studies on its impact on learning outcomes indicated that such a factor alone is insufficient (Gage 1979).
The findings of this research confirm such generalisation. Otherwise, a higher positive correlation would exist between the instructors longer teaching experience and the students achievement.
The fact that our statistical analysis produced a negative correlation and that mean score differences were incongruent with the number of years of teaching experience suggests that the teaching experience variable is probably an auxiliary factor. It probably can positively influence the level of learning outcomes only if other cumulative factors are involved.
Based on the limited data of this study, it is fair to suggest that at least in the case of the Saudi University EFL learning situation, teachers who have limited teaching experience have a more positive impact on the students achievement level than senior teachers.
Such a conclusion could be attributed to the possibility that teachers who have recently become involved in the teaching career continue to acquire fresher pedagogic and professional knowledge in their educational field. Their competence can also be attributed to their higher enthusiasm for teaching. Some senior teachers are undoubtedly more experienced, but their long, excessive years of teaching the same discipline could have negatively influenced their teaching motivation.
Other accountable factors for the controversial findings of this study could be attributed to:
the nature of the instructors quality of training prior to their involvement in their teaching career, since the teachers selected for this study were trained in heterogeneous academic institutions, and
ii) that teaching methods and approaches were not employed similarly by all groups of teachers.
The student sample subjects also constitute a fundamental attribute to the teaching experience outcome. The variability in the students scores can not be entirely attributed to the length of teaching experience. Other uncontrollable variables could be responsible such as students motivation for learning, attitude towards the teacher, class size, and class timing.
Lastly, a considerable number of teaching staff do not tend to conduct selfassessment on their teaching performance on a regular basis. I believe it is pedagogically significant to obtain feedback from the students at the end of each course session. Such a mechanism will reinforce the instructors awareness of their own teaching quality, and the type of learning difficulties that learners encounter. Such systematic evaluation is essential for ensuring a better teaching performance and a higher learning outcome.
Such teaching assessment would encourage instructors to be more ..creative, have a flair for good practices and a sensitivity to students needs that is a matter more of art than science(13)
CONCLUSION
The research findings and preceding discussion suggest the following conclusion:
One, the Saudi EFL learner seems to acquire better learning outcomes from teachers of lower teaching experience than their more experienced counterparts. The students mean score (Mean = 29.47) is valid evidence for such a generalisation.
Two, unlike teachers with the longest teaching experience whose students mean score is the lowest (Mean = 25.63), teachers with an average length of teaching experience seems to be consistent with their rank among the other group of teachers. This is indicated by their students scores (Mean = 27.68).
Three, the teaching experience variable is susceptible to other uncontrollable intervening variables which could likely influence the accuracy of the research results. Therefore, it is recommended that the findings of this research should be taken with some caution.
Finally, in order to obtain profoundly accurate results, it is also recommended that a more extensitive experimental study needs to be conducted. A study that can explore more productive language skills, such as speaking and reading, with larger and more carefully collected data, so that .. threats to reliability and validity of the research are minimised.(14)
REFERENCES
CelceMaurice, M. and McIntosh, L.(Ed) (1979, Teaching English As A Second Or Foreign Language, Newbury House Publishers Inc., P.315.
Dixson, R. (1975), Practical Guide To the Teaching of English As A Foreign Language, Regents Publishing Company, Inc., P.16.
Ibid, P.16.
Derwing, T.M., (1991), The Role of NS Personality and Experience in NSNNS Interaction, TESL Canada Journal, Vol.9, No.1 Winter 1991, P.11.
Ibid., P.17.
Ibid., P.20
Pica, T. & Long, M.H. (1986), The Classroom and linguistic performance of experience and inexperienced ESL teacher. In R.R. Day (Ed.) Talking To Learn (PP.8598), P.96. Rowley, MA: Newbury House.
Strevens, P., SpecialPurpose Language Learning: A Perspective, in Kinsella, V. (ed) Language Teaching And Linguistics: Surveys, Cambridge University Press, 1978, P.199.
Rivers, W. (1972) Teaching ForeignLanguage Skills, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, P.380.
Ibid., P.381.
Gage, N.L., (1978), The Scientific Basis of the Art of Teaching, Teachers College Press, Columbia Univ., P.45.
Ibid., P.45.
Cook, G. and Seidlhofer, B.(ed.) (1995) Principles and Practice in Applied Linguistics, Oxford University Press, P.3.
Nunan, D., (1992), Research Methods in Language Learning, Cambridge University Press, P.47.
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