Instructors’ and learners’ perceptions of English grammar instruction for developing language proficiency: A mixed methods study within Saudi Arabia and Australia

Author: Hana Alhumaid

Alhumaid, Hana, 2019 Instructors’ and learners’ perceptions of English grammar instruction for developing language proficiency: A mixed methods study within Saudi Arabia and Australia, Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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From a global perspective, English grammar teaching and learning has been a heated topic extensively discussed among Second Language Acquisition (SLA) researchers and scholars. This perennial debate has questioned the role of grammar in learning English, how effective available grammar teaching approaches are, in addition to when and how to introduce grammar for developing language proficiency. Little attention has been paid to perceptions of grammar and grammar instruction from the perspective of English as a Second Language (ESL) and English as a Foreign Language (EFL) instructors and learners.

Due to the lack of such research in the Saudi educational context, this study has aimed to highlight two important aspects of the English for Academic Purposes (EAP) process, instructors’ and learners’ perspectives, which despite their integral role have rarely been addressed. Indeed, the researcher was keen to explore current perceptions, including beliefs and preferences, in relation to grammar teaching and learning. The focus of this investigation is on the most current held beliefs and preferences of the role of grammar in learning English, as well as a specific focus on the explicit isolated, explicit integrated, and implicit grammar instruction approaches.

The importance of this study is that it has provided the opportunity for instructors and learners from two different contexts, EFL in Saudi Arabia and ESL in Australia, to share their perceptions and discuss their beliefs about the effectiveness of grammar and grammar instruction, as grammar is still an integral component of any English language curriculum in Saudi Arabia across all levels. A convergent parallel mixed-methods design was employed via online questionnaires, one-to-one interviews, and classroom observations addressing three main groups: Saudi University Instructors including non-Saudis (SUIs=267), Saudi University Learners in Saudi Arabia (SULSAs=1,768), and Saudi University learners in Australia (SULAs=420).

In this study, the quantitative data provided a demonstration of the most commonly held current beliefs about grammar instruction. The qualitative data added a valuable rationale in relation to the issues raised in the questionnaire. Such a combination contributed to an understanding of the contextual complexities which played a part in shaping the participants’ beliefs and preferences as well as their classroom practice. The results of the research showed that Saudi universities’ English language instructors had very similar beliefs and preferences in relation to grammar and grammar instruction as the Saudi learners who were studying in Saudi universities as well as Saudi learners who were studying in Australian universities. It also revealed that their beliefs and preferences regarding grammar teaching were not necessarily translated into practice, due to a number of constraints which were mainly shaped by learning needs and expectations as well as educational contextual factors.

The findings of this project contribute to an understanding of some of the current commonly-shared beliefs and preferences among instructors and learners about grammar learning and teaching which affected classroom practice. This thesis will assist educators, stakeholders, and policy-makers to participate in enhancing the process of English language teaching in a broader context in which a focus on instructors’ and learners’ perceptions is needed.

Keywords: grammar instruction, explicit grammar instruction, integrated grammar instruction, implicit grammar instruction, instructors’ beliefs, learners’ beliefs, learning and teaching perceptions, ESL context and EFL context

Subject: Education thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2019
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Dr Jeffrey Gil