Reviewing the research related to teacher perception of CLT provides insight into teachers’ decisions and instructional practices, while also helping to develop a deeper understanding of the underlying thoughts that influence the level of CLT implementation in classrooms across the globe. This study seeks to discern trends in teacher perceptions and detect gaps in CLT implementation. Studying teachers’ perceptions will help reveal, at least in part, the complexity of teachers’ cognition, intuition, conceptions, and beliefs due to the role of “teachers’ mental lives” in their practice (Yunus, Salehi, & Amini, 2016, p. 21).
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According to Solis (2015), a belief is a theoretical part of knowledge that is “not founded on rationality but on feelings and experiences,” and is a basis for people to interpret facts and guide their further learning (p. 247-248). This study views teacher beliefs as crucial elements for determining teachers’ positive or negative perceptions towards CLT, which has implications for CLT implementation in their classrooms.
Several studies have shown that many teachers have a favorable perception of CLT (Mondal, 2012, Lashgari, Jamali, & Yousofi, 2014). For instance, the study by Mondal (2012) aimed at examining EFL teachers attitudes and perception toward CLT. The researcher observed that Bangladeshi college instructors held favorable opinions of CLT principles as the educators believed CLT made teaching English more meaningful, particularly in comparison to ensuring that students memorized a plethora of grammatical rules and concepts.
The instructors thought CLT gave students opportunities to practice using the rules in actual conversations rather than passively attempting to absorb and regurgitate the information outside of a meaningful context. So, they regularly utilized CLT principles in their EFL classroom instruction (Mondal, 2012).
In Iran, Lashgari, Jamali, and Yousofi (2014) found similar results in that EFL teachers, in general, had positive attitudes toward CLT while also embodying the fundamental aspects of CLT in their beliefs and their actual instructional practices. In fact, the study participants reported that not only were students able to develop a higher level of communicative competence, but students also managed to improve their understanding of grammar concepts through meaningful participation in language-rich activities (Lashgari et al., 2014).
Furthermore, several studies demonstrated that some teachers have a positive perception of the CLT approach while highlighting the benefits of collaborative learning, a specific CLT principle. The teachers reported that group work was important in EFL classes because of the multiple opportunities students had to use the target language in an authentic manner with their peers as they developed more cooperative relationships (Siddiqui & Asif, 2018; Ounis & Ounis, 2017; Jafari, Shokrpour, & Guetterman, 2015).
For example, Jafari et al. (2015) conducted a mixed method study that explored Iranian English teachers’ perceptions of the CLT approach. In this study, many of teachers who made specific mention of how they found partner and small-group activities to be particularly useful. The sheer number of instances in which students could practice the target language with each other and also with the teacher provided an advantage that was not possible with the more traditional EFL teaching approaches. As teachers were encouraged by the productivity of the student-centered CLT approach, the researchers noted the likelihood that teachers would implement CLT principles in their classrooms (Jafari et al., 2015).
Similarly, Siddiqui and Asif (2018) found that many English professors at a Saudi university considered group/pair work and communicative activities more favorable to them. They believe that it encourages learners to use the target language and helps to promote real communication. (Siddiqui & Asif, 2018).
Other studies have shown that many teachers believe that CLT is essential for improving both the communication skills and the motivation levels of students in their classrooms (Chang, 2011, Sarab, Monfared, & Safarzadeh, 2016).
Chang’s (2011) mixed method study conducted among fifty-five teachers from Taiwanese colleges aimed at investigating EFL teachers’ attitudes toward CLT. The researcher found that the majority of participants indicated their satisfaction with how CLT helps to eliminate the need for students to memorize information and helps mitigate concerns about how students can easily get lost in the multiple grammar rules associated with more traditional instructional approaches. In many ways, the teachers reported that CLT methods are more interesting, which makes learning language more effective and enjoyable, which motivates students to improve their communication skills (Chang, 2011).
Likewise, Sarab, Monfared, and Safarzadeh (2016) reported that the majority of the 75 Iranian secondary school teachers they surveyed understood the importance of the goals for students in CLT classrooms to establish productive and enjoyable communication for cooperation using the target language. The teachers expressed the belief that CLT improves students’ communication skills and increases their enjoyment, which is a motivating factor for learning (Sarab et al., 2016).
The aforementioned research findings indicate that many EFL teachers display favorable perceptions toward CLT principles, which seem to indicate the teachers’ willingness to shift their practices to a more communicative paradigm. However, a number of studies have also identified teachers’ concerns about CLT, persistent misconceptions about CLT, and misalignment of teaching practices with the principles of CLT.
For instance, some studies show that some teachers believe in using direct instructional methods and repetitive practice through drills for teaching grammatical rules, which conflicts with the CLT principle of refraining from direct grammar explanations in the CLT classroom (Wong & Marly, 2012; Jabeen, 2014). The purpose of the qualitative case study conducted by Wong & Marly (2012) was to investigate teachers’ perception of CLT and its implementation in the classroom.
According to (Wong & Marly, 2012) a group of American professors are steadfast in their belief that grammar instruction is necessary for students to be able to speak and write properly in the target language. While the participants were generally supportive of engaging students in communicative methods, their insistence on explaining grammatical and linguistic concepts to students affected their implementation of CLT principles (Wong & Marly, 2012). Along the same lines, Jabeen (2014) study of secondary teachers in Delhi showed how a significant proportion of the participants emphasized the importance of teaching grammar rules directly.
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The teachers noticed that group work was effective in fostering learners’ autonomy; however, they believed that such activities were highly time-consuming and imposed difficulty to control and monitor all students. Therefore, many teachers reported they preferred individual work, which was quieter and more orderly. Their beliefs also affected their implementation of CLT (Jabeen, 2014).
Other studies have revealed concerns related to the CLT principle of error correction. Raissi, Nor, Aziz, Saleh, and Zainal (2013) found that some Malaysian teachers consider CLT principles to be effective in encouraging students to speak in a tourist-oriented environment. Nevertheless, the findings of the study diverged from the principles of CLT concerning error correction because more than half of the participants recognized error correction as an essential stage of language learning. Moreover, over half of the teachers expressed the desire to continue teaching mechanical grammar drills (Raissi et al., 2013). In total, these beliefs affected the teachers’ application of CLT principles in their classrooms.
Researchers have also found that teachers can misunderstand CLT principles, which affects their perceptions and their implementation of the instructional approach (Wong, 2012; Farooq, 2015). According to Wong (2012), the main reason some teachers avoided using CLT practices in their classrooms is that they misunderstood CLT methods. The author concluded teachers’ attitudes about CLT activities vary regarding grammar lectures and practices, communicative activities, and picture descriptions. This investigation makes a clear connection between teachers’ attitudes and their understanding of CLT.
Thus, according to Wong (2012), due to the general inexperience and uncertainty of teachers, the implementation of CLT still remains a concern in some colleges (Wong, 2012). Similarly, a recent study by Farooq (2015) explored how teachers in Saudi Arabia perceived CLT. The researcher applied a questionnaire to examine the teachers’ perceptions of ten CLT characteristics. The participants presented different definitions of the concept and emphasized different aspects of CLT, which shows that a lack of consensus, in addition to misunderstandings, can affect classroom implementation (Farooq, 2015).
Solis, C. (2015). Beliefs about teaching and learning in university teachers: Revision of some studies. Propósitos y Representaciones, 3(2), 227-260.
Yunus, M. M., Salehi, H., & Amini, M. (2016). EFL teachers’ cognition of teaching English pronunciation techniques: A mixed-method approach. English Language Teaching, 9(2), 20-42.