Language Teaching Policies and Practices in the Turkish EFL Context and the Effects on English Teachers' Motivation
This qualitative study explores Turkish English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teachers' perspectives regarding current English Language Teaching (ELT) policies, ELT curriculum, assessment practices, and teacher motivation in the Turkish EFL setting. The data were collected with semi-structured, 30-minute-long FaceTime interviews. The study's participants were three native Turkish EFL teachers, teaching at elementary, middle school and high school levels. The focus of the study was to explore if teachers observed a gap between the language teaching policies and actual classroom implementation of these policies in the Turkish EFL context, and if there was a perceived gap, how did this gap affect EFL teachers' motivation at different grade levels. The interview data were coded with a priori codes, and the data were analyzed with thematic analysis.
The results show that teachers perceived a gap between the language teaching policies and their actual teaching practices in the classroom. This perceived gap stemmed from four tensions that are explored in this study: (1) tensions between policy and practice, (2) tensions between the curriculum and assessment practices, (3) tensions between autonomy and centralized policy decisions, and (4) tensions between motivation and external pressure.
Teachers feel that it is not realistic to implement Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) in Turkish classrooms, as the assessment practices put too much emphasis on students' reading comprehension and grammar knowledge in the centralized language examinations. As these exam results play an important role in determining students' high school and college enrollment, teachers feel obliged to teach in line with the grammar-based language tests. One of the goals of this study was to explore if the imposed language curriculum, emphasizing communicative competence by implementing CLT rather than traditional-grammar based instruction, was more applicable to the elementary level students compared to middle school and high school level teachers, considering that the elementary level students and teachers did not have to face the pressure of centralized exams. The results show that elementary level EFL teachers feel more free to implement the communicative curriculum by implementing the principles of CLT; however, middle school and high school teachers feel that they cannot implement CLT in their classrooms, as they feel pressure to teach to the test. The pressure that teachers faced due to their students' test scores and external pressure from the administration decreased teachers' motivation in the Turkish EFL setting.