Title page for ETD etd-06122006-144104

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Mmela, Edith
Author's Email Address emmela@vt.edu
URN etd-06122006-144104
Title Implementing Integrated Literacy Approaches in an English Classroom in Malawi
Degree PhD
Department Teaching and Learning
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Barksdale, Mary Alice Committee Chair
Kelly, Patricia Proudfoot Committee Member
Niles, Jerome A. Committee Member
Tlou, Josiah S. Committee Member
  • reflection
  • collaborative inquiry
  • teacher learning
  • second language learning
  • professional development
Date of Defense 2006-04-04
Availability unrestricted

The purpose of the study was to discover how teachers learn to teach. This was done through the process of answering the question “How does a teacher acting as a co-researcher come to understand the learner-centered integrated literacy approaches in an English classroom in Malawi?” The learner-centered integrated literacy approaches is a concept derived from a constructivist philosophy of teaching. English is an important language in Malawi because it is the official language (Kayambazinthu, 1998). For that reason children are motivated to learn it as a second language. However, their achievement in English is critically low (Banda, Mchikoma, Chimombo, & Milner, 2001;Kishindo, Susuwere, Ndalama & Mwale, 2005; Williams, 1993). According to Ministry of Education and UNICEF (1998) and Williams (1993) teachers’ complete reliance on traditional teacher-centered approaches was believed to be one of the major causes of school children’s failure to acquire English as a second language for their literacy development in Malawi. The assumption was that improving teacher practice by introducing constructivists-based, learner-centered, integrated literacy approaches, which are believed to be more effective for second language learning, than the former, would illuminate how teachers learn and ultimately improve teacher education practices and consequently teacher English teaching in the classroom.

Data were collected from pre- and post-study interviews, a series of audio taped lesson planning and lesson reflections, lesson observation summaries, and a researcher’s journal. Data analysis and interpretation suggested that teacher learning is a gradual developmental process that depended very much on other interlaced processes of collaboration, inquiry, and reflective practice. It also demonstrated that the learner-centered integrated literacy approaches of the constructivism-based philosophy, which are also included in the Malawi curriculum but implementation is still a challenge in the primary classes, are possible. The results and process of the study could be used to improve teacher learning in Malawi. Finally, the study experience has illuminated the need for more exploration in the new areas of growth in English literacy.

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