Contextual factors, methodological principles and teacher cognition

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Rupert Walsh
Mark Wyatt


Teachers in various contexts worldwide are sometimes unfairly criticized for not putting teaching methods developed for the well-resourced classrooms of Western countries into practice. Factors such as the teachers’ “misconceptualizations” of “imported” methods, including Communicative Language Teaching (CLT), are often blamed, though the challenges imposed by “contextual demands,” such as large class sizes, are sometimes recognised. Meanwhile, there is sometimes an assumption that in the West there is a happy congruence between policy supportive of CLT or Task-Based Language Teaching, teacher education and supervision, and curriculum design with teachers’ cognitions and their practices. Our case study of three EFL teachers at a UK adult education college is motivated by a wish to question this assumption. Findings from observational and interview data suggest the practices of two teachers were largely consistent with their methodological principles, relating to stronger and weaker forms of CLT respectively, as well as to more general educational principles, such as a concern for learners; the supportive environment seemed to help. The third teacher appeared to put “difficult” contextual factors, for example, tests, ahead of methodological principles without, however, obviously benefiting. Implications highlight the important role of teacher cognition research in challenging cultural assumptions.


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How to Cite
Walsh, R., & Wyatt, M. (2014). Contextual factors, methodological principles and teacher cognition. Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching, 4(4), 693-718.
Author Biographies

Rupert Walsh, University Tutor in EFL, School of Languages and Area Studies, University of Portsmouth, Park Building 4.06
Rupert Walsh has been teaching EFL and EAP in the UK and Portugal since 2000. Currently based at the University of Portsmouth, he tutors on English language elements of degree courses for large cohorts of international students. He has also championed individual EAP tutorial support within the university and writes academic English reference materials. Rupert’s research interests include teacher cognition and the role of contextual factors in shaping teachers’ instructional practices. He received his MA (distinction) in applied linguistics and TESOL from the University of Portsmouth in 2012.

Mark Wyatt, Contact data: Senior Lecturer in ELL, School of Languages and Area Studies, University of Portsmouth, Park Building 2.04
Mark Wyatt has worked in Thailand, Nepal, Oman and the UK, teaching, teacher training and managing teachers. Projects he has worked on include a BEd TESL for Malaysian pre-service teachers; he recently visited Malaysia to moderate the practicum. Currently a senior lecturer in English language and linguistics at the University of Portsmouth, Mark teaches research skills, linguistics and communication, supervises MA and PhD students, and co-convenes a language education research group. His research interests include investigating teachers’ self-efficacy beliefs from a qualitative perspective, and exploratory action research. He has a PhD in education from the University of Leeds.


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