5.2 Changing Learners’ Beliefs About English

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Learners’ beliefs can change through collaborative and locally relevant development of awareness

Collaborating image
Figure 5.2: Collaborative development of awareness

[Source: SVG SILH]

White (2008 p. 125), writing about the beliefs of ‘good language learners’, cites a four-stage process for understanding (and changing?) learner beliefs (based on Wenden, 1999):

    1. elicitation of learners’ beliefs
    2. articulation of what has come to awareness
    3. confrontation with alternative views
    4. reflection on the appropriateness of revising and expanding one’s knowledge

This is essentially the process we have followed in this course.


Raising learners’ awareness

Can you think of ways in which you might follow this four-stage process with your own students?


In Depth

Making English relevant to local contexts

Read the following extract from our online discussions with early-career English teachers trained at the Islamic University of Gaza, Palestine.

    Chris: One applied linguist (Henry Widdowson) has said tat you only become profcient in a language when you "make it your own". I like that idea. // Instead of it being always a "foreign" language
    Khawla: Interesting. So when English i[s] mine, I am proficient
    Chris: For example, your students using it in their own way to talk to the world about Palestine, instead of talking to teachers about topics in UK or US culture...
    Khawla: [...] We can use English to serve our purposes
    Rana: Yes, this is what we try to do here // we can talk about ourselves in English rather than talking about foreign countries.

    Key: [...] = irrelevant words/turns omitted; // = two successive turns combined

Reflection 5.1

What do you think about the ideas expressed by Chris, Khawla, and Rana in this exchange? Are they potentially relevant or appropriate for your own situation? What kinds of international forums might be appropriate and/or effective places for your students to share their local experiences? Are there forums where it might be less appropriate and/or effective? Reflect on the extent to which such activities might help change your students’ beliefs about English, and share the results of your reflections here.