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The influences of instructional policies in intensive English programs on novice teacher cognition: Help or hindrance?

Gök, Gökçen
Defined as “what teachers know, believe and think” (Borg, 2003, p. 81), teacher cognition has been a major research area in the field of language teaching in recent years. Previous research has revealed that teachers’ beliefs play an influential role in their instructional practices, suggesting significant implications for teacher education and development. Exploring L2 novice teachers’ cognition is yet a relatively neglected domain of inquiry (Borg, 2010; Farrell, 2008). In an attempt to address this gap in teacher cognition literature, this study investigated how novice English as a foreign language (EFL) teachers make sense of their teaching at a professional school culture with standards of conduct. The purpose is to explore the influences of the instructional policies implemented at an intensive English program on novice teachers’ teaching beliefs and practices and the factors interrelating with the policies in the shaping of them. The study also investigated novice teachers’ practice-based responses to the policies in language classrooms. Two Turkish novice EFL teachers took part in this study. Data was collected during a 15-week semester by means of semi-structured interviews, classroom observations, stimulated recall interviews and think-aloud protocols. Findings revealed that the novice teachers had confusions about the instructional policies they were expected to pursue in their teaching context. In addition, they experienced tensions between their beliefs and practices, which prevented them from teaching in line with their beliefs. The study also revealed that certain contextual factors (i.e., exam pressure, student profile and syllabus) and personal factors (i.e., background education and in-service teacher training course) were influential in the shaping of the novice teachers’ teaching beliefs. Finally, the study found that the novice teachers responded to the instructional policies in class in different ways mostly compromising their own beliefs. The teachers’ practiced-based responses to the instructional policies coupled with the influences of these policies on their teaching beliefs and practices (e.g., confusion, tension) indicated that the policies, as the teachers interpreted them, were a hindrance for them rather than help.