Difficulties in Learning English Grammar

International Journal of Instruction e-ISSN: 1308-1470 ? www. e-iji. net July 2011 ? Vol. 4, No. 2 p-ISSN: 1694-609X DIFFICULTIES IN TEACHING AND LEARNING GRAMMAR IN AN EFL CONTEXT1 Abdu Mohammed Al-Mekhlafi PhD. , College of Education, Sultan Qaboos University, Oman [email protected] com Ramani Perur Nagaratnam PhD. , Ministry of Manpower, Oman The role of grammar instruction in an ESL/EFL context has been for decades a major issue for students and teachers alike.

Researchers have debated whether grammar should be taught in the classroom and students, for their part, have generally looked upon grammar instruction as a necessary evil at best, and an avoidable burden at worst. The paper reports a study undertaken to investigate the difficulties teachers face in teaching grammar to EFL students as well as those faced by students in learning it, in the teachers’ perception.

The study aimed to find out whether there are significant differences in teachers’ perceptions of difficulties in relation to their gender, qualification, teaching experience, and the level they teach in school, thus providing insights into their own and their students’ difficulties. Mean scores and t-test were used to interpret the data. The main findings are reported with implications. Key Words: English language teaching, instruction, EFL grammar instruction, teaching, difficulties in grammar instruction

INTRODUCTION The English teacher is often portrayed as an “unattractive grammar monger whose only pleasure in life is to point out the faults of others” (Baron, 1982, p. 226). For the most part, within the classroom, any mention of grammar causes the student moments of discomfort and sometimes even terror. Many teachers have tried to make grammar teaching a non-threatening, imaginative and useful activity within the English curriculum. A summary of this paper was presented at the 54th World Assembly of the International Council on Education for Teaching (ICET) on ‘Maintaining Strategic Agility: Managing change and assuring quality in education for teaching’, 14-17 December 2009, Muscat, Oman. 70 Difficulties in Teaching and Learning Grammar… Previous studies on students’ and teachers’ attitudes and perceptions of grammar instruction in the context of language teaching and learning suggest a disparity between students and teachers.

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While students favour formal and explicit grammar instruction and error correction, teachers favour communicative activities with less conscious focus on grammar (e. g. , Brindley 1984; Kumaravadivelu 1991; Leki 1995; Schultz 1996, 2001; Spratt 1999). Rationale for the present study The foregoing review of literature shows that practicing teachers are faced with a range of options for grammar instruction in their classrooms. There are, however, many types of difficulties faced by students and teachers with regard to grammar instruction in an ESL/EFL context.

Identifying such difficulties and being consciously aware of them would help teachers find ways of overcoming them and provide effective grammar instruction. There has, however, been little investigation of the difficulties faced by EFL teachers and Aran learners in the Gulf region with regard to grammar instruction. The teachers employ theoretically recommended methods without necessarily taking into account their own and their learners’ potential difficulties.

They may not be conscious of difficulties which are serious and may thus hinder students’ learning of English grammar, and do not choose the method of instruction that would pose fewer difficulties and problems to their learners. It is in this context that the present study was undertaken to capture valuable insights into how EFL school teachers in Oman perceive students’ as well as their own difficulties with grammar instruction. The study reported here aims to address this need by presenting the difficulties of a cross section of school EFL teachers in Oman as well as their perceptions of their students’ difficulties in this regard.

It also aims to add to the knowledge base in this area. REVIEW OF LITERATURE Attitudes towards grammar instruction In teaching grammar, three areas have to be considered: grammar as rules, grammar as form, and grammar as resource. For many L2 learners, learning grammar often means learning the rules of grammar and having an intellectual knowledge of grammar. Teachers often believe that this will provide the generative basis on which learners can build their knowledge and will be able to use the language eventually. For them, prescribed rules give a kind of security.

International Journal of Instruction, July 2011 ? Vol. 4, No. 2 Al-Mekhlafi & Nagaratnam 71 A better approach is perhaps to see grammar as one of many resources that we have in language which helps us to communicate. We should see how grammar relates to what we want to say or write, and how we expect others to interpret what our language use and its focus. According to Widdowson (1990: 86), ” . . . grammar is not a constraining imposition but a liberating force: it frees us from a dependency on context and a purely lexical categorization of reality. Given that many learners – and teachers – tend to view grammar as a set of restrictions on what is allowed and disallowed in language use – ‘a linguistic straitjacket’ in Larsen-Freeman’s words (2002: 103) – the conception of grammar as something that liberates rather than represses is one that is worth investigating. According to Morelli (2003), students perceived themselves as having a better attitude towards grammar instruction in context, while performing slightly better after having experienced the traditional grammar instruction.

Elkilic and Akca (2008) reported generally positive attitudes of students studying English grammar at a private primary EFL classroom towards studying grammar. In particular, however, a little over 50% of their subjects claimed to enjoy grammar very much and only about 10% reported finding some difficulty in learning and remembering grammar. Student expectations Student expectations of traditional, explicit grammar teaching have been confirmed by many teachers (cf. Borg, 1999a, b).

Burgess and Etherington (2002:440-441) also conclude that teachers believe that explicit teaching of grammar is favoured by their students because of expectations and feelings of insecurity. Since the 1970s, attention has shifted from ways of teaching grammar to ways of getting learners to communicate, but grammar has been seen to be a powerful undermining and demotivating force among L2 learners. In terms of motivation and learner success with languages, grammar has been seen to be a problem and to stand in the way of helping learners to communicate fluently.

The hard fact that most teachers face is that learners often find it difficult to make flexible use of the rules of grammar taught in the classroom. They may know the rules perfectly, but are incapable of applying them in their own use of the language. Teachers’ recognition of this process (i. e. , of transferring declarative knowledge about grammar into procedural knowledge) as a problem for many of their students has been reported by Burgess and Etherington (2002:442). Haudeck International Journal of Instruction, July 2011 ? Vol. 4, No. 2 72 Difficulties in Teaching and Learning Grammar… as reported that many learners have difficulty in internalising grammar rules, although these have been taught intensively (1996, cited in European Commission, 2006). The use of grammatical terminology Metalinguistic discussion (i. e. , the use of grammatical terminology to talk about language) is seen by Stern (1992:327) as one of the characteristics of explicit grammar teaching. According to Burgess and Etherington (2002: 444), teachers believe that their students see grammatical terminology as useful and that its use does not present a particular difficulty for students.

Descriptive grammars acknowledge the fact that language is dynamic and its use is constantly changing, although not in major ways. The problem for ESL/EFL learners, however, is that there is a time-lag between the awareness of such changes and their acceptance as the proper use of the language. As Morelli (2003:33-34) has observed, “Grammar can be taught traditionally or contextually, but student perception should be considered by teachers in the decision-making process. Students need to feel confident that educators have met their needs . . . nd educators should be willing to consider the attitudes and perceptions of students when making decisions about how to teach grammar. ” METHOD Purpose The study reported here aims to investigate the difficulties of a cross section of school EFL teachers in Oman as well as their perceptions of their students’ difficulties with regard to grammar instruction. Research questions The study aimed to answer the following questions: 1. What are EFL teachers’ perceptions of the difficulties of students and teachers with regard to grammar instruction in an EFL context? 2.

Are there any differences in teachers’ perceptions between the difficulties faced by teachers and those faced by students? 3. Do these perceptions of difficulties vary according to the teachers’: • Gender, • Level taught, • Qualifications, and • Experience? International Journal of Instruction, July 2011 ? Vol. 4, No. 2 Al-Mekhlafi & Nagaratnam 73 4. Are there any significant differences in teachers’ perceptions due to the type of difficulty? Limitation of the study The present study is limited to: • EFL teachers teaching English in Omani Basic Education schools, and • The use of questionnaire as the research instrument.

Nevertheless, the responses are valuable in themselves, indicating the general difficulties that students and teachers face with regard to grammar instruction in an EFL context. Research design The study was mainly quantitative in design, using a questionnaire and the subjects responded to each statement on a five-point Likert-type attitude scale (from 5 for ‘strongly agree’ to 1 for ‘strongly disagree’). The respondents also provided background information on gender, qualification, teaching experience and the level they teach, for creating their profile in terms of variables. The data was analyzed (t-test and ANOVA) using the SPSS.

The research instrument The questionnaire used in the present study, which comprises 20 statements, was the one employed by Burgess and Etherington in their study (2002: 451452) (See ANNEXURE – I for the questionnaire used in the present study). Subjects Only one broad geographical context was chosen for the study, namely Oman, in order to be context-specific and be able to make a close connection between teachers, their assumptions and their practical experience. It is believed that the subjects fairly represented the context of EFL teaching at different levels in Omani schools.

Besides, the sample size was 90, more than the minimum number required for making useful statistical analyses according to Cohen and Manion (1994:77). The profile of the subjects in terms of the four variables is given below in Table 1: International Journal of Instruction, July 2011 ? Vol. 4, No. 2 74 Difficulties in Teaching and Learning Grammar… Table 1. Profile of Respondents to the Study Instrument Variable Gender Level they teach Categories within the variable Male Female Grades 1-4 Grades 5-10 Grades 11-12 Master’s Degree Bachelor’s Degree Diploma ? years > 5 ? 10 years > 10 years No. of respondents in each category 39 51 17 31 42 8 76 6 27 41 22 Total (N) 90 90 Qualification 90 Experience 90 RESULTS AND DISCUSSION With regard to the first research question whether there are difficulties faced by students and teachers with grammar instruction, Table 2 (ANNEXURE – II) shows an overall mean of 3. 51 on a five-point scale, the means for individual statements ranging from 2. 97 to 4. 10, thus indicating teachers’ general agreement with most of the statements in the survey questionnaire (See Fig. below). This suggests that, in the perceptions of teachers, there are difficulties faced by teachers as well as students with regard to grammar instruction in an EFL context. Fig. 1. Teachers’ Perceptions of Difficulties with EFL Grammar International Journal of Instruction, July 2011 ? Vol. 4, No. 2 Al-Mekhlafi & Nagaratnam 75 With regard to the second research question about the differences between students and teachers in the difficulties faced, Table 3 shows that there is a statistically significant difference at the level of p ; 0. 01 in the perceptions of teachers and students, with students experiencing difficulties to a greater extent than teachers, which is understandable. The overall mean for students’ difficulties as perceived by the teachers was 3. 58, while the overall mean for teachers’ difficulties was 3. 23 (Table 3 below). Table 3. Teachers’ Perceptions of Teachers’ and Students’ Difficulties with EFL Grammar (N = 90) Statement Teachers’ Difficulties Students’ Difficulties as perceived by the Teachers Mean 3. 331 3. 5779 SD . 58484 . 42214 t Sig. (2-tailed) 5. 225 . 000 The third research question is about the differences in perception of difficulties in terms of the four teacher variables: gender, level taught, qualification, and teaching experience. With regard to gender, a comparison of the overall mean response for male (3. 508) and female teachers (3. 510) (See Fig. 2 below) shows that they are quite nearly the same and that there is no statistically significant difference at the level of 0. 5 in their perceptions about the difficulties (Sig. : . 978) (Table 4 in ANNEXURE – II)). This suggests that gender does not play a significant role in the teachers’ perceptions when it comes to articulating their own difficulties as well as those of their students with English grammar instruction. Fig. 2. Teachers’ Perceptions of Difficulties with EFL Grammar according to Gender With regard to the level taught, Table 5 (ANNEXURE – II) shows that teachers teaching at different levels have similar perceptions about their wn and their International Journal of Instruction, July 2011 ? Vol. 4, No. 2 76 Difficulties in Teaching and Learning Grammar… students’ difficulties with English grammar instruction, with a slightly higher mean for teachers of Grades 1-4 (3. 58) than the means for teachers of the other two levels, which are nearly the same (3. 49 and 3. 5) (See Fig. 3 below). Table 5 also shows that there is no statistically significant difference at the level of 0. 05 in terms of this variable (Sig. : . 686). Fig. 3.

Teachers’ Perceptions of Difficulties with EFL Grammar according to Level Taught With regard to teachers’ qualifications, Table 6 (ANNEXURE – II) shows a slightly higher overall mean for teachers with a diploma qualification (3. 78) than the overall means for teachers with higher qualifications, viz. bachelor’s (3. 46) or master’s degree (3. 49) (See Fig. 4 below). The results also show that there is no statistically significant difference at the level of 0. 05 in terms of this variable (Sig. : . 211 – Table 6). Fig. 4.

Teachers’ Perceptions of Difficulties with EFL Grammar according to Qualifications With regard to teachers’ experience, it does not seem to be a significant variable with regard to their perceptions of their own and their students’ difficulties with English grammar instruction, as Table 7 (ANNEXURE – II) shows (See Fig. 5 below). The results also show that there is no statistically significant difference at the level of 0. 05 in terms of this variable (Sig. : . 869 – Table 7). International Journal of Instruction, July 2011 ? Vol. 4, No. 2 Al-Mekhlafi & Nagaratnam 7 Fig. 5. Teachers’ Perceptions of Difficulties with EFL Grammar according to Experience The foregoing discussion is based on the overall mean score obtained for the difficulties in general and for each of the four teacher variables considered in the present study. With regard to the fourth research question, a detailed analysis of the results provides interesting and valuable insights into teachers’ perceptions of different types of difficulties for students and teachers themselves and their concerns about classroom application of grammar teaching principles.

The results are discussed with respect to difficulties categorized in terms of the themes listed in Table 8 below: Table 8. Statements in the Questionnaire Categorised according to Themes Theme Explicit grammar teaching The transfer of declarative knowledge into procedural knowledge The use of grammatical terminology Error correction Problem-solving activities The use of authentic texts for grammar instruction The use of spoken and written communicative activities Statement(s) 3, 4, 5, 13 1, 17, 18 14, 19 15, 16 2, 20 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 17, 18

Explicit grammar teaching The dichotomies of unconscious/conscious learning and inductive/deductive teaching methods are both sometimes equated with the dichotomy between implicit and explicit instruction. Attitudes to inductive and deductive methods were investigated through statements concerning explicit presentation of grammar by teachers, students finding form-function matches for themselves, and the constraints in using either of the two methods. International Journal of Instruction, July 2011 ? Vol. 4, No. 2 78 Difficulties in Teaching and Learning Grammar…

Statement 3 (My students expect teachers to present grammar explicitly) and Statement 13 (A lack of explicit grammar teaching leaves my students feeling insecure) produced a mean score of 3. 61 and 3. 38 respectively (Table 2 ANNEXURE – II), supporting the view that students, in teachers’ perception, prefer explicit grammar teaching. This is not surprising, as students are known to expect traditional, explicit grammar instruction (e. g. , Borg, 1999a, b). The responses in the present study indicate that this expectation of students still remains, especially at the school level.

Responses to Statement 5 (My students prefer to find matches between meaning and structure for themselves), however, produced a mean score of 3. 59 (Table 2 – ANNEXURE – II), which is very close to the mean score for students’ expectation about explicit teaching of grammar. This perception of students’ preference for an inductive method of learning grammar on the part of the same responding teachers is surprising. With regard to the same statement, the difference in mean between males and females seems to be higher than for the other statements (Table 4 – ANNEXURE – II).

A follow-up interview with teachers might have provided more specific information and thrown light on their understanding of explicit and implicit methods of teaching grammar. With regard to Statement 4 (My students prefer to learn grammar from onesentence examples), which links to explicit grammar teaching, responding teachers produced the lowest mean score (2. 97) of all statements in the questionnaire (Table 2 – ANNEXURE – II). In terms of experience, however, there seems to be some significant difference at the level of 0. 5 in favour of teachers with more than 10 years of experience (Table 7 – ANNEXURE – II). Declarative vs procedural knowledge Statement 1 (My students find it difficult to transfer their grammatical knowledge into communicative language use), designed to identify teachers’ beliefs about the possible transfer of declarative knowledge (i. e. , knowledge about grammar) into procedural knowledge (i. e. , ability to use that knowledge in actual communication), produced a mean score of 3. 81 (Table 2 ANNEXURE – II).

This indicates that responding teachers recognise this process of transfer of one kind of knowledge into another as a problem for a large number of their students. This gap between students’ grammatical knowledge and communicative ability is not surprising to teachers, who often find that most of their students can recall grammatical rules accurately and perform very well on discrete-point grammar International Journal of Instruction, July 2011 ? Vol. 4, No. 2 Al-Mekhlafi & Nagaratnam 79 exercises, but fail to achieve such grammatical accuracy in actual communication.

This fact is corroborated by the responses to Statements 17 and 18 (My students find it difficult to improve the accuracy of their grammatical knowledge within a totally communicative writing/speaking activity), which produced a mean score of 4. 10 and 3. 73 respectively (Table 2 – ANNEXURE – II). In terms of teacher qualifications, teachers with a diploma agree strongly (mean of 4. 33) that their students find it difficult to transfer their grammatical knowledge into communicative language use. The mean for this statement for teachers with higher qualifications is lower (Table 6 – ANNEXURE – II).

The use of grammatical terminology The use of grammatical terminology in the EFL classroom is seen as a necessary part of the explicit method of teaching grammar. When students and teachers talk about grammar (i. e. , in meta-linguistic discussion), which is one of the characteristics of explicit language teaching (Stern 1992: 327), they need to use grammatical terms. Two statements (14 & 19) sought to explore teachers’ perceptions of how their students feel about the use of grammatical terminology.

Statement 14 (My students find grammatical terminology useful) and Statement 19 (My students find it difficult to use grammatical terminology) produced a mean score of 3. 82 and 4. 07 respectively (Table 2 – ANNEXURE – II). This indicates that, in the responding teachers’ perception, their students see grammatical terminology as useful, but find difficulty in using the terms to be of a greater magnitude. Interestingly, the usefulness of grammatical terminology seems to be linked to the students’ preference for explicit grammar instruction. The difference in mean between teachers of Grades 1-4 and 11-12 on the one hand (mean of ? ) and those of Grades 5-10 (mean of 3. 4), however, seems to be higher with regard to their perceptions of the usefulness of grammatical terminology to their students. That is, teachers of the lowest and highest levels think that their students find grammatical terminology more useful than those of the middle grades. There is a significant difference at the level of 0. 05 in terms of the level taught with regard to the usefulness of grammatical terminology (statement 14) (Table 5 – ANNEXURE – II). In terms of teacher qualifications, teachers with a diploma agree very strongly (mean of 4. 0) that their students find it difficult to use grammatical terminology and the majority of teachers surveyed, who have a bachelor’s International Journal of Instruction, July 2011 ? Vol. 4, No. 2 80 Difficulties in Teaching and Learning Grammar… degree, also seem to show a high level of agreement with regard to the same statement (mean of 4. 04). The mean for this statement for teachers with higher qualifications is lower (Table 6 – ANNEXURE – II). Error Correction Teachers generally tend to believe that errors of form committed by EFL learners should be corrected even when communicative goals are intended.

This need for correction of form even within a communicative context, either spoken or written, may arise from a concern for grammatical accuracy in students’ communicative output or for avoiding fossilization of errors in their interlanguage. Statements 15 and 16 aim to capture teachers’ perceptions in this regard. Statement 15 (Teachers find it difficult to correct student errors of grammar within a written communicative context) and Statement 16 (Teachers find it difficult to correct student errors of grammar within a spoken communicative context) produced a mean score of 3. 26 and 3. 7 respectively (Table 2 ANNEXURE – II). It may be inferred from the results that the responding teachers experience more difficulty in correcting their learners’ spoken communication than written. Problem-solving techniques Problem-solving techniques in relation to grammar teaching are inductive techniques that require learners to find form-function matches by themselves. (e. g. , Hall and Shepheard, 1991). Responses of teachers surveyed in the present study produced a mean score of 3. 58 for Statement 2 (My students are motivated by problem-solving techniques for learning grammar), showing a link to responses to Statement 5 bout students’ preference for finding matches between meaning and structure for themselves. Surprisingly, however, the same responding teachers produced a mean score of 3. 60 for Statement 20 (My students are frustrated by problem-solving techniques for learning grammar) (Table 2 – ANNEXURE – II). A possible interpretation could be that teachers, while recognising the motivational potential of problem-solving techniques, also observe their students’ frustrating experience with such techniques, possibly because they are too ‘challenging’ for the learners to cope with.

Another interpretation could be that teachers’ responses to Statement 2 are based on their theoretical assumption about what these techniques could do to the learners, while those to Statement 20 could be based on teachers’ assessment of the ground reality. International Journal of Instruction, July 2011 ? Vol. 4, No. 2 Al-Mekhlafi & Nagaratnam 81 With regard to the statement about students being motivated by problemsolving techniques for learning grammar (Statement 2), there is also a significant difference at the level of 0. 5 between males and females in their perceptions (Table 4 – ANNEXURE – II). The use of authentic texts for grammar instruction Authentic texts are texts that are not produced artificially for the purpose of language teaching, but are used for genuine purposes in the real world, like newspaper articles and recipes. By implication, these texts are contextualised and communicatively complete in themselves. They focus is on conveying real meaning rather than on form.

Decontextualised examples of language, on the other hand, are one-sentence examples usually found in EFL textbooks and grammar practice books. They illustrate grammatical forms and structures in context-free sentences and are generally associated with the explicit method of teaching grammar. The use of texts illustrating authentic communication for presenting grammar is generally seen as posing problems to teachers and students alike. Students’ problems with their use arise from difficulties of variety of structures Statement 7), culture (Statement 8), vocabulary (Statement 9), and implicit form-function matches (Statement 10), besides an overall difficulty in handling grammar presented within authentic texts (Statement 6). Teachers’ difficulties with authentic texts include those arising from the amount of time needed for using them (Statement 11) and producing suitable tasks from such texts (Statement 12). According to the responding teachers’ perceptions, students experience greater difficulties from vocabulary (Mean=3. 52), variety of structures (Mean=3. 49) and finding form-function matches (Mean=3. 3) than from handling from presented within authentic texts (Mean=3. 33) and culture (Mean=3. 26). Statements 11 and 12 relating to teachers’ difficulties in using authentic texts produced a mean score of 3. 03 and 3. 09 respectively (Table 2 – ANNEXURE – II), which indicates a lower perception of teachers of their own difficulties than those of students. The use of spoken and written communicative activities Statements 17 and 18 refer to the possible difficulties students might have in improving the accuracy of their grammatical language within totally communicative activities.

Responding teachers produced a mean score of 4. 10 and 3. 73 for the two statements respectively. In fact, the highest mean score of International Journal of Instruction, July 2011 ? Vol. 4, No. 2 82 Difficulties in Teaching and Learning Grammar… all scores for the survey questionnaire (4. 10) was obtained for Statement 17 (My students find it difficult to improve the accuracy of their grammatical knowledge within a totally communicative writing activity) (Table 2 ANNEXURE – II).

The results indicate that, in teachers’ perceptions, totally communicative activities, whether written or spoken, pose great difficulties to students for learning grammar and improving grammatical accuracy, writing activities proving more challenging than spoken ones. It might be inferred that the teachers surveyed might have a serious concern about the lack of sufficient focus on form in purely communicative activities or tasks for developing students’ grammatical knowledge. Practising language as communication in real-life tasks might not give sufficient opportunities for students to improve their grammatical knowledge.

In terms of teacher qualifications, teachers with a diploma agree very strongly (mean of 4. 67) that their students find it difficult to improve the accuracy of their grammatical language within a totally communicative writing activity and the majority of teachers surveyed, who have a bachelor’s degree, also seem to show a high level of agreement with regard to the same statement (mean of 4. 01). The mean for this statement for teachers with higher qualifications is lower (Table 6 – ANNEXURE – II).

CONCLUSION Generally speaking, in teachers’ perceptions, both teachers and students invariably face serious difficulties with regard to EFL grammar instruction, students facing them to a greater extent than teachers. It is obvious that EFL teachers consider these difficulties quite serious, which suggests that serious attention needs to be paid to them. There may be generally recommended ways of teaching EFL grammar (for example, the implicit method), but it would not be proper to adopt them universally without looking at the possible difficulties that might go with those methods suggested.

While a less favoured method might pose fewer problems and hence be more effective, a more favoured method might be less effective owing to greater difficulties or problems in implementing it. The difficulties may also be influenced by the context in which a particular method is used. It is, therefore, necessary to make a detailed study of such difficulties faced by teachers and students in specific contexts, take appropriate steps to overcome them, and adapt the method to suit the actual teaching and learning International Journal of Instruction, July 2011 ? Vol. 4, No. 2

Al-Mekhlafi & Nagaratnam 83 environment. This is not to suggest ‘diluting’ a sound approach or method, but only to plan mediating or supplementary tasks to help learners tide over the difficulties. IMPLICATIONS The findings of the present study point to the following implications: 1. EFL Curriculum and material developers should show an understanding of learners’ and teachers’ difficulties, and provide sufficient guidance and help in the curriculum document and the teachers’ book showing how the potential difficulties could be addressed in planning their classroom activities.

Teachers may be given examples of mediating tasks, which would mitigate the difficulties. 2. As Morelli (2003: 33-34) has pointed out, students need to be taught grammar through various methodologies and approaches to cater to their individual styles of learning, and educators should consider students’ attitudes and perceptions when making decisions about how to teach grammar. 3. EFL teachers would do well to understand and address their learners’ concerns in planning their lessons and classroom activities, and use supplementary materials, if necessary, to help learners cope with the difficulties. 4.

Both in-service and pre-service training programmes should be planned in such a way that student-teachers and practising teachers articulate the potential and actual difficulties and discuss ways of overcoming or at least coping with them. The database relating to teaching English as a foreign language, including the difficulties of learners and teachers with regard to grammar instruction, should be enriched by more detailed research and analysis, which would enable generalizations across the gulf countries. International Journal of Instruction, July 2011 ? Vol. 4, No. 2 84 Difficulties in Teaching and Learning Grammar…

REFERENCES Baron, D. (1982). Grammar and good taste: Reforming the American language. New Haven, NJ: Yale University Press. Borg, S. (1999a). The use of grammatical terminology in the second language classroom: a qualitative study of teachers’ practices and cognitions. Applied Linguistics, 20 (1): 95-126. (cited in Burgess and Etherington, 2002) Borg, S. (1999b). Teachers’ theories in grammar teaching. ELT Journal, 53 (3): 157-167. (cited in Burgess and Etherington, 2002). Brindley, G. (1984). Needs Analysis and Objective Setting in the Adult Migrant Education Program. NSW Adult Migrant Education Service, Sydney.

Burgess, J. and Etherington, S. (2002). Focus on grammatical form: explicit or implicit? System, 30: 433-458. Cohen, L. and Manion, L. C. (1994). Research Methods in Education. London: Routledge. Elkilic, G. and Akca, C. (2008). Attitudes of the Students Studying at Kafkas University Private Primary EFL Classroom towards Storytelling and Motivation. Journal of Language and Linguistic Studies, 4(1): 1-22. European Commission (2006). The Main Pedagogical Principles Underlying the Teaching of Languages to Very Young Learners. Final Report of the EAC 89/04, Lot 1 Study: Edelenbos, P. , Johnstone, R. and Kubanek, A. Hall, N. nd Shepheard, J. (1991). The Anti-Grammar Grammar Book. London: Longman. Kumaravadivelu, B. (1991). Language learning tasks: teacher intention and learner interpretation. ELT Journal, 45 (2): 98-107. Larsen-Freeman, D. (2002). The Grammar of Choice. In E. Hinkel and S. Fotos (Eds. ). New Perspectives on Grammar Teaching in Second Language Classrooms. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Leki, I. (1995). Good writing: I know it when I see it. In In D. Belcher and G. Braine (eds. ) Academic Writing in a Second Language. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing. International Journal of Instruction, July 2011 ? Vol. , No. 2 Al-Mekhlafi & Nagaratnam 85 Morelli, J. A. (2003). Ninth Graders’ Attitudes toward Different Approaches to Grammar Instruction. Unpublished Dissertation. The Graduate School of Education, Fordham University, New York. Schultz, R. (1996). Focus on form in the foreign language classroom: students’ and teachers’ views on error correction and the role of grammar. Foreign Language Annals, 29(3): 343-364. Schultz, R. (2001). Cultural differences in student and teacher perceptions concerning the role of grammar instruction and corrective feedback. USAColombia. The Modern Language Journal, 85(ii): 244-258. Spratt, M. 1999). How good are we at knowing what learners like? System, 27:141-155. Stern, H. H. (1992). Issues and Options in English Language Teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Widdowson, H. G. (1990). Grammar and nonsense and learning. In H. G. Widdowson, Aspects of language teaching, pp. 79-98. Oxford: Oxford University Press. International Journal of Instruction, July 2011 ? Vol. 4, No. 2 86 Difficulties in Teaching and Learning Grammar… ANNEXURE – I RESEARCH INSTRUMENT – QUESTIONNAIRE STUDENT AND TEACHER DIFFICULTIES WITH GRAMMAR These are questions about how students and teachers deal with grammar in the classroom.

Please indicate how far you agree or disagree with these statements. If you agree strongly, mark a 5 on the scale; if you strongly disagree, mark a 1 on the scale. No. Statement SA 1 My students find it difficult to transfer their grammatical knowledge into communicative language use. 2 My students are motivated by problem-solving techniques for learning grammar. 3 My students expect teachers to present grammar points explicitly. 4 My students prefer to learn grammar from one-sentence examples. 5 My students prefer to find matches between meaning and structure for themselves. My students find it difficult to handle grammar presented within authentic texts. 7 My students find authentic texts difficult because of the wide variety of structures which appear. 8 My students find authentic texts difficult because they are too culture bound. 9 My students find authentic texts difficult because of the vocabulary used. 10 My students cannot find form-function matches in authentic texts without explicit direction from teachers. 11 Teachers find the use of authentic material too time-consuming. 12 Teachers find it difficult to produce tasks of a suitable level from authentic texts. 3 A lack of explicit grammar teaching leaves my students feeling insecure. 14 My students find grammatical terminology useful. 15 Teachers find it difficult to correct student errors of grammar within a written communicative context. 16 Teachers find it difficult to correct student errors of grammar within a spoken communicative context. 17 My students find it difficult to improve the accuracy of their grammatical language within a totally communicative writing activity. 18 My students find it difficult to improve the accuracy of their grammatical language within a totally communicative speaking activity. 9 My students find it difficult to use grammatical terminology. 20 My students are frustrated by problem-solving techniques for learning grammar. A N D SD International Journal of Instruction, July 2011 ? Vol. 4, No. 2 Al-Mekhlafi & Nagaratnam 87 ANNEXURE – II Table 2. Teachers’ Perceptions of Difficulties with EFL Grammar (N = 90) Statement 1. My students find it difficult to transfer their grammatical knowledge into communicative language use. 2. My students are motivated by problem-solving techniques for learning grammar. 3. My students expect teachers to present grammar points explicitly. 4.

My students prefer to learn grammar from one-sentence examples. 5. My students prefer to find matches between meaning and structure for themselves. 6. My students find it difficult to handle grammar presented within authentic texts. 7. My students find authentic texts difficult because of the wide variety of structures which appear. 8. My students find authentic texts difficult because they are too culture bound. 9. My students find authentic texts difficult because of the vocabulary used. 10. My students cannot find form-function matches in authentic texts without explicit direction from teachers. 11.

Teachers find the use of authentic material too time-consuming. 12. Teachers find it difficult to produce tasks of a suitable level from authentic texts. 13. A lack of explicit grammar teaching leaves my students feeling insecure. 14. My students find grammatical terminology useful. 15. Teachers find it difficult to correct student errors of grammar within a written communicative context. 16. Teachers find it difficult to correct student errors of grammar within a spoken communicative context. 17. My students find it difficult to improve the accuracy of their grammatical language within a totally communicative writing activity. 8. My students find it difficult to improve the accuracy of their grammatical language within a totally communicative speaking activity. 19. My students find it difficult to use grammatical terminology. 20. My students are frustrated by problem-solving techniques for learning grammar. Overall Mean 3. 8111 3. 5778 3. 6111 2. 9667 3. 5889 3. 3333 3. 4889 3. 2556 3. 5222 3. 4333 3. 0333 3. 0889 3. 3778 3. 8222 3. 2556 3. 5730 4. 1000 3. 7333 4. 0667 3. 6000 3. 5090 SD . 93490 . 97125 1. 04607 1. 49494 . 94684 1. 03858 1. 01941 1. 03382 1. 07293 1. 02825 1. 05415 1. 16739 . 97816 1. 5937 1. 25027 . 83785 . 90006 . 99210 . 87152 1. 08927 7. 71887 Table 4. Teachers’ Perceptions of Difficulties with EFL Grammar according to their Gender (Males: N=39; Females: N=51) Statement 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Gender Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female Mean 3. 8718 3. 7647 3. 2308 3. 8431 3. 7436 3. 5098 3. 1282 2. 8431 3. 7949 3. 4314 3. 2821 3. 3725 3. 5128 3. 4706 3. 2051 3. 2941 3. 5128 3. 5294 3. 3846 3. 4706 3. 0769 3. 0000 3. 1282 3. 0588 SD . 86388 . 99173 1. 6281 . 80926 . 96567 1. 10223 1. 47219 1. 51489 . 95089 . 92206 1. 02466 1. 05756 . 79046 1. 17223 1. 10452 . 98578 . 99662 1. 13759 1. 09100 . 98697 1. 10940 1. 01980 1. 19603 1. 15606 F 1. 357 4. 942 1. 447 . 032 . 068 . 095 9. 319 . 295 1. 240 . 600 . 062 . 107 t . 536 3. 105 1. 051 . 895 1. 828 . 408 . 194 . 403 . 072 . 391 . 341 . 278 Sig. (2-tailed) . 593 . 003 . 296 . 373 . 071 . 684 . 847 . 688 . 943 . 697 . 734 . 782 International Journal of Instruction, July 2011 ? Vol. 4, No. 2 88 Difficulties in Teaching and Learning Grammar… Statement 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 Overall

Gender Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female Mean 3. 3333 3. 4118 3. 9231 3. 7451 3. 3590 3. 1765 3. 5385 3. 6000 4. 0769 4. 1176 3. 7179 3. 7451 3. 8974 4. 1961 3. 4359 3. 7255 3. 5077 3. 5100 SD . 98230 . 98339 1. 28523 1. 24649 1. 34726 1. 17823 . 82226 . 85714 . 98367 . 84017 .88700 1. 07412 . 94018 . 80049 1. 16517 1. 02134 6. 67887 8. 50930 F . 018 . 105 1. 363 . 174 . 023 1. 454 . 201 2. 494 1. 604 t . 375 . 662 . 684 . 342 . 212 . 128 1. 626 1. 254 . 028 Sig. (2-tailed) . 708 . 510 . 496 . 733 . 833 . 898 . 108 . 213 . 978 Table 5.

Teachers’ Perceptions of Difficulties with EFL Grammar according to the Level taught Statement 1 Level 1-4 5-10 11-12 Total 1-4 5-10 11-12 Total 1-4 5-10 11-12 Total 1-4 5-10 11-12 Total 1-4 5-10 11-12 Total 1-4 5-10 11-12 Total 1-4 5-10 11-12 Total 1-4 5-10 11-12 Total 1-4 5-10 11-12 Total 1-4 N 17 31 42 90 17 31 42 90 17 31 42 90 17 31 42 90 17 31 42 90 17 31 42 90 17 31 42 90 17 31 42 90 17 31 42 90 17 Mean 3. 8824 3. 5484 3. 9762 3. 8111 3. 5882 3. 2903 3. 7857 3. 5778 3. 7059 3. 5161 3. 6429 3. 6111 2. 7647 3. 4516 2. 6905 2. 9667 3. 7059 3. 6774 3. 4762 3. 5889 3. 1765 3. 3871 3. 3571 3. 3333 3. 6471 3. 4839 3. 4286 3. 889 3. 6471 3. 2903 3. 0714 3. 2556 3. 7059 3. 5484 3. 4286 3. 5222 3. 7647 SD 1. 05370 1. 09053 . 71527 . 93490 1. 00367 . 97275 . 92488 . 97125 1. 04670 . 99569 1. 10036 1. 04607 1. 52190 1. 43385 1. 47314 1. 49494 . 77174 . 79108 1. 10956 . 94684 1. 01460 1. 02233 1. 07797 1. 03858 1. 16946 1. 06053 . 94075 1. 01941 . 99632 . 93785 1. 09082 1. 03382 1. 26317 1. 09053 . 99125 1. 07293 1. 20049 F 1. 970 Sig. .146 2 2. 394 .097 3 .213 .809 4 2. 593 .081 5 .557 .575 6 .242 .785 7 .274 .761 8 1. 943 .149 9 .413 1. 116 .663 . 332 10 International Journal of Instruction, July 2011 ? Vol. 4, No. 2 Al-Mekhlafi & Nagaratnam 9 Statement 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 Overall Level 5-10 11-12 Total 1-4 5-10 11-12 Total 1-4 5-10 11-12 Total 1-4 5-10 11-12 Total 1-4 5-10 11-12 Total 1-4 5-10 11-12 Total 1-4 5-10 11-12 Total 1-4 5-10 11-12 Total 1-4 5-10 11-12 Total 1-4 5-10 11-12 Total 1-4 5-10 11-12 Total 1-4 5-10 11-12 Total N 31 42 90 17 31 42 90 17 31 42 90 17 31 42 90 17 31 42 90 17 31 42 90 17 31 41 89 17 31 42 90 17 31 42 90 17 31 42 90 17 31 42 90 17 31 42 90 Mean 3. 3871 3. 3333 3. 4333 2. 8824 3. 0968 3. 0476 3. 0333 3. 1176 3. 1290 3. 0476 3. 0889 3. 5294 3. 0645 3. 5476 3. 3778 4. 0000 3. 3871 4. 0714 3. 8222 3. 0588 3. 5161 3. 429 3. 2556 3. 6471 3. 7419 3. 4146 3. 5730 4. 2941 4. 0323 4. 0714 4. 1000 3. 6471 3. 6774 3. 8095 3. 7333 4. 3529 3. 9355 4. 0476 4. 0667 3. 5294 3. 5806 3. 6429 3. 6000 3. 5824 3. 4871 3. 4951 3. 5090 SD . 91933 1. 02806 1. 02825 1. 05370 1. 10619 1. 03482 1. 05415 1. 21873 1. 14723 1. 18841 1. 16739 1. 17886 . 99785 . 83235 . 97816 1. 22474 1. 22956 1. 23748 1. 25937 1. 39062 1. 17958 1. 24100 1. 25027 . 93148 . 68155 . 89375 . 83785 . 77174 . 87498 . 97262 . 90006 1. 27187 . 90874 . 94322 . 99210 . 70189 . 81386 . 96151 . 87152 1. 12459 1. 14816 1. 05510 1. 08927 7. 94466 8. 51652 7. 09156 7. 71887 F Sig. .230 .795 049 .953 2. 509 .087 2. 968 .057 1. 056 .352 1. 443 .242 .499 .609 .233 .792 1. 287 .281 .072 .931 .378 .686 Table 6. Teachers’ Perceptions of Difficulties with EFL Grammar according to their Qualifications Statement 1 Qualification MA BA Diploma Total MA BA Diploma Total N 8 76 6 90 8 76 6 90 Mean 3. 5000 3. 8026 4. 3333 3. 8111 3. 6250 3. 5395 4. 0000 3. 5778 SD 1. 30931 . 89472 . 81650 . 93490 . 91613 . 99921 . 63246 . 97125 F 1. 394 Sig. .253 2 .630 .535 International Journal of Instruction, July 2011 ? Vol. 4, No. 2 90 Difficulties in Teaching and Learning Grammar… Statement 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

Qualification MA BA Diploma Total MA BA Diploma Total MA BA Diploma Total MA BA Diploma Total MA BA Diploma Total MA BA Diploma Total MA BA Diploma Total MA BA Diploma Total MA BA Diploma Total MA BA Diploma Total MA BA Diploma Total MA BA Diploma Total MA BA Diploma Total MA BA Diploma Total MA BA Diploma N 8 76 6 90 8 76 6 90 8 76 6 90 8 76 6 90 8 76 6 90 8 76 6 90 8 76 6 90 8 76 6 90 8 76 6 90 8 76 6 90 8 76 6 90 8 76 6 90 8 76 6 90 8 75 6 89 8 76 6 Mean 3. 5000 3. 5921 4. 0000 3. 6111 3. 3750 2. 9605 2. 5000 2. 9667 3. 7500 3. 5526 3. 8333 3. 5889 2. 6250 3. 4079 3. 3333 3. 3333 3. 2500 3. 4605 4. 1667 3. 4889 3. 5000 3. 2237 3. 333 3. 2556 3. 1250 3. 5000 4. 3333 3. 5222 3. 3750 3. 4079 3. 8333 3. 4333 2. 7500 3. 0526 3. 1667 3. 0333 3. 5000 3. 0132 3. 5000 3. 0889 3. 2500 3. 4079 3. 1667 3. 3778 3. 1250 3. 8947 3. 8333 3. 8222 3. 3750 3. 2237 3. 5000 3. 2556 3. 5000 3. 5200 4. 3333 3. 5730 4. 5000 4. 0132 4. 6667 SD 1. 06904 1. 03509 1. 26491 1. 04607 1. 40789 1. 50058 1. 64317 1. 49494 1. 38873 . 91498 . 75277 . 94684 1. 30247 . 96854 1. 36626 1. 03858 1. 16496 1. 01247 . 75277 1. 01941 1. 06904 1. 02760 1. 21106 1. 03382 1. 24642 1. 05198 . 81650 1. 07293 1. 18773 1. 03509 . 75277 1. 02825 1. 58114 1. 00525 . 98319 1. 05415 1. 30931 1. 13717 1. 37840 1. 6739 1. 58114 . 86684 1. 47196 . 97816 1. 80772 1. 16137 1. 60208 1. 25937 1. 68502 1. 18433 1. 64317 1. 25027 1. 19523 . 77738 . 81650 . 83785 . 75593 . 91642 . 51640 F . 467 Sig. .629 .586 .559 .366 .694 2. 108 .128 1. 596 .209 .272 .762 2. 348 .102 .484 .618 .345 .710 1. 029 .362 .240 .787 1. 363 .261 .173 .842 2. 757 2. 407 .069 . 096 International Journal of Instruction, July 2011 ? Vol. 4, No. 2 Al-Mekhlafi & Nagaratnam 91 Statement 18 19 20 Overall Qualification Total MA BA Diploma Total MA BA Diploma Total MA BA Diploma Total MA BA Diploma Total N 90 8 76 6 90 8 76 6 90 8 76 6 90 8 76 6 90 Mean 4. 1000 3. 6250 3. 7632 3. 5000 3. 333 4. 0000 4. 0395 4. 5000 4. 0667 3. 8750 3. 5658 3. 6667 3. 6000 3. 4563 3. 4933 3. 7750 3. 5090 SD . 90006 1. 40789 . 92186 1. 37840 . 99210 . 75593 . 90097 . 54772 . 87152 1. 35620 1. 08733 . 81650 1. 08927 10. 98619 7. 29186 7. 44983 7. 71887 F Sig. .244 .784 .798 .453 .299 .742 1. 582 .211 Table 7. Teachers’ Perceptions of Difficulties with EFL Grammar according to their Experience Statement 1 Exp. (yrs) ? 5 ; 5 ? 10 ; 10 Total ? 5 ; 5 ? 10 ; 10 Total ? 5 ; 5 ? 10 ; 10 Total ? 5 ; 5 ? 10 ; 10 Total ? 5 ; 5 ? 10 ; 10 Total ? 5 ; 5 ? 10 ; 10 Total ? 5 ; 5 ? 10 ; 10 Total ? 5 ; 5 ? 0 ; 10 Total ? 5 ; 5 ? 10 ; 10 Total ? 5 ; 5 ? 10 N 27 41 22 90 27 41 22 90 27 41 22 90 27 41 22 90 27 41 22 90 27 41 22 90 27 41 22 90 27 41 22 90 27 41 22 90 27 41 Mean 3. 5556 3. 9250 3. 9130 3. 8111 3. 4444 3. 5500 3. 7826 3. 5778 3. 4444 3. 8000 3. 4783 3. 6111 3. 2222 3. 1500 2. 3478 2. 9667 3. 7407 3. 5000 3. 5652 3. 5889 3. 2963 3. 4000 3. 2609 3. 3333 3. 4074 3. 5250 3. 5217 3. 4889 3. 1481 3. 2000 3. 4783 3. 2556 3. 8519 3. 3000 3. 5217 3. 5222 3. 3333 3. 4500 SD 1. 12090 . 91672 . 66831 . 93490 . 84732 . 95943 1. 12640 . 97125 . 97402 1. 01779 1. 16266 1. 04607 1. 52753 1. 45972 1. 40158 1. 49494 . 81300 1. 13228 . 2777 . 94684 1. 17063 . 98189 1. 00983 1. 03858 1. 24836 . 93336 . 89796 1. 01941 . 81824 1. 11401 1. 12288 1. 03382 1. 06351 1. 11401 . 94722 1. 07293 1. 03775 1. 06096 F 1. 457 Sig. .239 2 .778 .462 3 1. 185 .311 4 2. 772 .068 5 .525 .593 6 .153 .859 7 .121 .886 8 .733 .484 9 2. 189 . 214 .118 . 808 10 International Journal of Instruction, July 2011 ? Vol. 4, No. 2 92 Difficulties in Teaching and Learning Grammar… Statement 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 Overall Exp. (yrs) ; 10 Total ? 5 ; 5 ? 10 ; 10 Total ? 5 ; 5 ? 10 ; 10 Total ? 5 ; 5 ? 10 ; 10 Total ? 5 ; 5 ? 10 ; 10 Total ? 5 ; 5 ? 10 ; 10 Total ? ; 5 ? 10 ; 10 Total ? 5 ; 5 ? 10 ; 10 Total ? 5 ; 5 ? 10 ; 10 Total ? 5 ; 5 ? 10 ; 10 Total ? 5 ; 5 ? 10 ; 10 Total ? 5 ; 5 ? 10 ; 10 Total N 22 90 27 41 22 90 27 41 22 90 27 41 22 90 27 41 22 90 27 41 22 90 27 41 22 89 27 41 22 90 27 41 22 90 27 41 22 90 27 41 22 90 27 41 22 90 Mean 3. 5217 3. 4333 2. 8889 3. 0750 3. 1304 3. 0333 3. 3333 3. 0750 2. 8261 3. 0889 3. 3704 3. 2750 3. 5652 3. 3778 3. 4815 3. 8500 4. 1739 3. 8222 3. 1481 3. 2500 3. 3913 3. 2556 3. 6667 3. 5000 3. 5909 3. 5730 4. 0741 4. 1000 4. 1304 4. 1000 3. 6667 3. 8250 3. 6522 3. 7333 4. 0370 4. 0500 4. 1304 4. 0667 3. 4074 3. 000 3. 6522 3. 6000 3. 4759 3. 5250 3. 5201 3. 5090 SD . 99405 1. 02825 1. 25064 . 99711 . 91970 1. 05415 1. 14354 1. 11832 1. 26678 1. 16739 . 92604 1. 01242 . 99206 . 97816 1. 36918 1. 23101 1. 11405 1. 25937 1. 43322 1. 14914 1. 23359 1. 25027 . 87706 . 87706 . 73414 . 83785 1. 03500 . 74421 1. 01374 .90006 1. 03775 . 84391 1. 19121 . 99210 . 70610 . 90441 1. 01374 . 87152 1. 18514 1. 06699 1. 02730 1. 08927 9. 44364 7. 20399 6. 48558 7. 71887 F Sig. .377 .687 1. 182 .311 .639 .530 1. 935 .151 .232 .794 .321 .727 .024 .976 .304 .739 .083 .921 .612 .545 .140 .869 International Journal of Instruction, July 2011 ? Vol. 4, No. 2

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