Grammar Teaching in Singapore: a Qualitative Study of Four Beginning Teachers' Beliefs and their Classroom Practices

Ng Eng Khim, Josephine

English Language Honours AE, NIE, 2002


The complexity that surrounds the issue of grammar teaching in an English as a second language (ESL) classroom is not new. In trying to understand how ESL teachers deal with these complexities in their classroom, it is necessary to examine the beliefs which underlie their classroom actions. Despite a recent increased interest in the area of teacher belief systems in mainstream education studies, the beliefs of ESL teachers and the influence of such beliefs on their instructional practices in their classroom remain relatively unexplored. The present study seeks to fill the knowledge gap left by a dearth of research in the area of ESL teachers' beliefs about grammar teaching methodologies and their actual practices. In particular, this study examines the teaching of English grammar in the classroom practices of four beginning English Language teachers in Singapore and discusses the nature of the belief systems that influenced their practices.

Multiple methods were used in the investigation, including teacher interviews, classroom observations, and an analysis of documents, materials and sampled composition scripts.

The findings revealed that the four teachers have beliefs about grammar teaching and second language (L2) teaching and learning in general, and that these beliefs influence their actual instructional practices. However, the teachers' decisions and behaviours are often also influenced by factors beyond their control, like the requirements of examinations.

Comparisons between the teachers' beliefs and their actual classroom practices revealed much variance in many instances, especially between what they believed to be the best way to teach grammar and their actual teaching practices.

The results point to a need for ESL teacher-trainers to recognise how resilient pre-service ESL teachers' beliefs can be to training, and for teacher preparation programmes to make explicit the types of constraints which influence classroom instructional practices. This would help pre-service teachers better cope and deal with the complexities that arise in their classrooms.