Exploring pre-service and in-service EFL teachers' beliefs : a Macau case study

  • Presentacion Maano Fong

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This is an exploratory case study guided by the qualitative, interpretive approach to inquiry, which explored Macau pre-service (PRS) and in-service (INS) EFL teachers‟ beliefs regarding areas or aspects of their work as teachers and the factors that have contributed to the formation of their beliefs. The overarching aim of the investigation was to gain information about the beliefs by which these EFL teachers define their work. To date, there is still little information available on Macau English language teachers generally and none that specifically addresses the beliefs of pre-service and in-service teachers about aspects of their work as teachers, even though these are key factors that underpin what they do in self-reported practices. Fifty-seven Macau secondary school EFL teachers,30 PRS student teachers and 27 INS practising teachers were interviewed over a six-month period. The site of the investigation was Macau, a territory in South China under Portuguese sovereignty for over 400 years that reintegrated with Chinese rule in 1999. The study was conducted between 2003 and 2004 and is particularly significant in Macau because it is a timely contribution to the process of educational policy re-alignment as required in the New Era, a policy which aims towards an internal strengthening of education. The recommendations which came from this study could be useful to educational reformers, because the study showed the important role of teachers‟ personal knowledge, a factor that deserves to be taken into account when reform is contemplated or proposed. The study may be appreciated for the information it provided about actual, present-day realities and teacher education practices in Macau classrooms, information that came directly from the descriptions provided by the participants. The study provided teachers with a platform on which to present their personal views of teaching by employing a research approach that used semi-structured joint interviews to access the teachers‟ „story‟ of learning and teaching. Such a method allowed the knowledge and beliefs which teachers held to be viewed in a holistic way, and acknowledged that a teacher's knowledge derived from many life experiences. The findings showed that pre-service teachers and in-service teachers had beliefs in four aspects of their work as teachers. They included the views they have about what makes a good teacher; their perceptions and feelings about teaching; their assumptions about students, motivation, attitudes and preferences in activities for learning English; and their beliefs about the medium of instruction that they believe helps teaching. Moreover, the study identified the diverse influences or factors that contributed to shaping the beliefs that underpin their self-reported practices. It revealed that experience as learners and practical experience of teaching, context (teaching realities) and teachers‟ local knowledge, contributed to the beliefs that PRS and INS teachers have about the four aspects of their work. Trends in the beliefs of the participants were also uncovered that showed interesting similarities in the beliefs of the two groups, for example their beliefs about a „good‟ (effective) English teacher and the feelings they have about teaching. Likewise, the study showed that they share similar beliefs relating to students, the motivations students have for learning English as well as their attitudes towards the language itself. Significantly, it was in the beliefs the participants had about students and medium of instruction that the beliefs of PRS and INS teachers displayed the highest congruence, an indication of these teachers‟ most important concerns. The study also pointed out that the two groups also have very different beliefs, for example about what makes a „good‟ teacher in the profession. The overall contribution of this study to English foreign language teaching and learning is twofold. On the one hand, the examination of the beliefs of these two groups of teachers presented an opportunity to appreciate and understand the diverse content of Macau student teachers‟ and practising teachers‟ beliefs. On the other hand, and perhaps more importantly, the examination revealed both the complexity of the nature of these beliefs and the influences that contribute to their formation. What teachers do in the classroom is perhaps far more complex than one might think. The findings remind us that we still have much to learn about EFL teachers. The concerns that both PRS and INS teachers expressed tell much about the extent to which teachers could accommodate change in beliefs or practice.
Date of Award2009
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Canberra
SupervisorJeremy Jones (Supervisor) & Yili Li (Supervisor)

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