She was always interested in learning English and in visiting an English-speaking country. After finishing high school, she entered the EFL teaching program, but she was mainly more interested in learning English than in becoming a teacher. Case studies are characterized by using multiple data collection tools, such as discussions, conversations, interviews, autobiographies, journals, and letters, among others Creswell, Semi-structured interviews, personal narratives, and a focus group interview were used to collect data in the present study.
A chronology of events was followed throughout the course of data collection. Participants were asked about their past and present experiences in the study program. This procedure is typical of case study research designs in which the main purpose is to study "a single person, gathering data through the collection of stories, reporting individual experiences, and discussing the meaning of those experiences for the individual" Creswell, , p. The semi-structured interview sessions comprised the first instances in which the participants provided information. Before each interview, they were given the option of speaking either English or Spanish.
Both opted to answer in English. In the first interview, the participants were informed about the general research guidelines and procedures.
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The three interview sessions, which lasted approximately forty-five minutes each, were audio recorded, and the researcher wrote some notes as the interviews progressed. Open-ended discussions were encouraged, and by the end of the participants' responses, they were usually asked if there was something else they would add. The guiding topic of the first interview was their experiences learning the language in the study program; the second interview was focused on their experiences learning to teach in the study program and practicums, and the last one on their reflections about the factors involved in their process of becoming language teachers.
Student-teachers were also asked to write personal narratives about their experiences in the study program and practicums through a Google-Docs account online. The requirement was to write the stories in English. A total of three narratives were written by each participant during the semester based on their experiences in their undergraduate program. The focus group interview session was the last instance in which the two participants together provided information.
The same guidelines from previous interviews were discussed, but this time the student-teachers decided to discuss the questions in their mother tongue Spanish , which allowed them to express their emotions more accurately and freely. The focus group interview consisted of a small set of six questions regarding the main findings that emerged from the two participants' previous semi-structured interviews and narratives and clarified some information given by them.
This final session lasted one hour.
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Firstly, all data from the semi-structured interview sessions were transcribed. Then, the researcher coded the data and, as categories emerged, some questions arose that were clarified in the focus group session. To analyze such data, the researcher used a grounded theory approach. Grounded theory methods refer to a procedure in which researchers interpret and analyze data by first assigning codes and building more abstract categories Charmaz, Corbin and Strauss explain that grounded theory procedures consist of three stages: open coding, axial coding, and selective coding.
The open coding stage is the first attempt to analyze data, where it is segmented. Phrases, lines, and sentences are assigned codes which are more abstract and conceptual than descriptive. The next step, axial coding, consists of a more abstract coding process in which the researcher makes connections between categories to integrate them into more general concepts.
The same procedures presented above were followed when analyzing the data from the interviews and narratives and, in the end, three main inter-related categories emerged: learning experience, practicum experience, and self-image. The repeated patterns that have shaped the two student teachers' identity through interactions during their teaching formation process are framed in three main categories: self-image, learning environment, and practicum experiences; these last two categories have two dimensions and they are gratifications and obstacles, and both have consequences on Carol's and Molly's self-image.
Learning environment. Regarding her experiences during her permanence in the study program, Carol went through gratifications, obstacles, and consequences. Her first gratifications are related to her feelings and beliefs in relation to pedagogy and becoming a teacher of English. During her first year in the teaching program, she developed a feeling of belonging to the career she had chosen and came to believe in the idea of becoming a teacher.
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Regarding the development of her linguistic skills in the foreign language, the favorable interactions with her teachers in her teaching formation program had an impact on Carol's language development. However, she also went through some obstacles, such as time management difficulty, sitting for standardized tests, and working with less capable peers. By the end of her undergraduate program, she started having more responsibilities, along with her regular tasks as a student; she also started with her practicums which demanded extra time to prepare material, classes, and going to schools.
The second difficult experience in the study program for Carol was sitting for standardized tests. She did not feel confident enough when she was assessed. I get nervous easily, so I was already frustrated. I got a terrible mark, and I felt like that, terrible. The third obstacle for Carol was the fact that she had some peers who had some disabilities or a lower language competence level.
Working with less capable peers was a situation which made her feel uncomfortable because she felt she would have advanced even further in her language development if those students had not been in the class. The gratifications and obstacles Carol went through in the interactions with her teachers and peers in the study program brought consequences. The improvement in her language competence and teaching skills made her change one of her personality traits, e.
On the other hand, having "irresponsible" peers who did poor academic work is a drawback that also contributed to the shaping of Carol's identity by reaffirming the benefits of "working hard". Practicum experiences. In the practicums, Carol had three types of experiences: gratifications, obstacles, and consequences.
Her gratifications were related to the effects of the interactions she had with her supervisory teacher university teacher who guides students in their practicums , her students in the practicum, and her peer student-teacher, Molly. When Carol's supervisory teacher visited her, she would always give her positive feedback and suggestions for improving.
As she reported in one of her interviews: "The first time she visited me, I remember I cried a lot because I received good comments from her. I was so happy because I couldn't believe my job was good". This situation made her feel emotional due to the reason that she would experience constant self-doubt when teaching. However, being validated by her supervisor helped her reinforce her self-image as a teacher. Also, throughout her practicums, Carol experienced gratifications with some of her students who responded well to her classes, a fact that helped her develop and reinforce her teaching style.
These experiences, as she reports, made her feel like she was part of the school community: "everyone was so welcoming with me, specially my students, [they] were extremely clever and sweet with me as well as my mentor teacher. I was so involved in the community that I enjoyed every single minute during my stay". Obstacles were also part of her experiences in the practicums. Carol's worst obstacle was dealing with the teaching style of her mentor teachers in the schools where she was doing her practicum and not receiving feedback after teaching.
This made her feel insecure since she was "kind of scared to ask her if I'm doing OK or not Am I doing the right thing? Am I doing horrible?
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I don't know". Overall, having to adapt to her mentor teacher's styles and lack of feedback made Carol feel frustrated and insecure throughout this process. Another major obstacle reported by Carol was managing large classes. In her words: "My classroom management skills were in the garbage, everything I knew about it was not useful when I was actually there, in the classroom".
This experience was particularly difficult because she realized all she had learned was not useful for that class; she had the sensation that there was big difference between "theory and real practice". She recognized that managing the classroom was a big challenge during her practicums.
The consequences these obstacles and gratifications brought to Carol in her practicums are mainly related to the development of problem-solving strategies and her teacher roles. Managing large classes was a challenge for her. However, one of the strategies she used was adapting her teaching style to the needs and likes of her students. It is assumed that adopting this strategy helped her improve her relationship with her students, who, as she mentions, started enjoying her lessons.
Carol recalled: "Students have different personalities and learning styles. I started asking about my students' likes before teaching them. I also tried to switch my methodology. What I did was to make them work on a project for the whole semester in groups". Through the project, she implemented group work and communicative activities based on students' interests as strategies to manage such a big group of students.