MA Education TEFL dissertation prize winner 2014
Investigating students’ and teachers’ perceptions of the use of L1 in EFL classrooms in a public high school in Saudi Arabia
'This is an unforgettable time, the moment where my dreams have become real and two of my greatest goals have been achieved — achieving the MA TEFL from such a highly ranked and prestigious university as the University of Birmingham and, in addition to that, receiving the honoured TEFL dissertation prize. There are no meaningful words to express my real emotions or reaction to receiving this prize. I am proud and honoured to officially become a postgraduate student from the University of Birmingham in the School of Education, where scholarly lectures, immense knowledge and a consistently high quality of academic research are the most prominent characteristics. The rich resources and high qualifications at the University of Birmingham have expanded my knowledge horizon in the TEFL and boosted my critical engagement, theory and practice. Thus, I am deeply indebted to my tutors for their knowledge, stimulating discussions, continuous support and encouragement through the learning process of this academic year.
I am also thrilled to dedicate this award to my parents — the greatest in the world — who upheld me with their endless love, care and steadfast support during my entire year of study. Without them, I would not have improved enough to receive this award. And this award has now inspired me with an additional push to move forward, believe more in my abilities, and continue to exert intensive effort to develop my educational, didactical and professional skills. It also encourages me to improve my research skills and knowledge in the field of educational linguistics by progressing to PhD studies at the University of Birmingham, where the formation of great minds and qualified generations is its hallmark.'
A debate has been intensely discussed in the literature regarding whether or not the mother tongue (L1) should be used in teaching foreign languages in classrooms. Few empirical studies have been conducted to evaluate the teachers’ and students’ linguistic practices and performances regarding L1 use in the English as a foreign language (EFL) context. The aim of the present research is to examine the credibility of the existing theoretical debate empirically concerning L1 use in the EFL context so that efficient pedagogies can be acknowledged practically and better understood. Qualitative data were implemented in two EFL classrooms in a public high school in Saudi Arabia by employing research instruments involving interviews, observations and field notes. Along with observing two EFL classrooms, semi-structured interviews were conducted with two teachers, six students and an English supervisor. The significance of the study is that different classroom patterns, including Arabic overuse, English only and limited use of Arabic with rich English, were observed. This gives the study potential credibility in validating which of the theoretical debates is pedagogically successful in the EFL setting, and it provides analytical and critical conclusions. The pedagogic data empirically invalidate the English axiom policy and attest to the efficiency of using limited Arabic in the EFL classrooms. This worked particularly well with lower level students, which served the students’, pedagogical, psychological, social and cognitive needs and ensured the students’ accuracy and comprehension of the target language (TL). Further studies of the present topic is highly recommended to enlighten the policy makers, educators and practitioners’ understanding of the potential of L1 pedagogical use in particular circumstances. Further studies can also raise the EFL students’ and teachers’ awareness about why, when and how L1 use can be beneficial in establishing a productive EFL classroom environment with successful language learning and teaching experiences.