4. Results and Discussion
The results are presented in the following order input from the students in the course, feedback from supervisors, and comments from classmates in the Master's program. After each section, key issues are discussed and later compared to gain an understanding of how expected roles were met.
4.1 Students' perceptions of Instructors' performance
This aspect was triangulated with information from three different sources: the students, the supervisors, and fellow colleagues. The students' input was obtained through the mid and end-of- the-course-evaluation survey. These results are illustrated in Table 1. The teachers' expected behaviors are listed on the left column. The other columns indicate the frequency with which those behaviors were present. Each frequency column is divided into "M," which stands for "Mid Evaluation Survey," and "F," which stands for "Final Evaluation Survey." Six students in the midterm evaluation indicated that the instructors always gave clear instructions, whereas in the final evaluation seven students chose that option. In addition, eight students in the midterm pointed out that the instructors always provided clear feedback, while seven students said so in the final evaluation. Concerning helping students improve their language performance and be willing to receive feedback from students, eight students chose "always" in both evaluations. For the other three behaviors, the students pointed out in the two surveys that the instructors were always interested in their students' learning process, were always willing to answer students' questions, and always selected appropriate topics to improve students' second language learning.
The results are rather consistent even though the number of students is different in the mid and end of the course evaluations. The students agreed that the instructors fulfilled the subsequent criteria completely: showed interest in students' learning process, showed willingness to answer students' questions, and selected appropriate topics for the class.
Although the overall results indicated that the students' perceptions of the accomplishment of teacher roles were positive, the results also revealed the instructors' areas of improvement for the instructors. In the mid-of-the-course survey, the instructors found that the students felt they needed additional support to develop their language skills. This suggestion was approached immediately by adapting the activities to the different proficiency levels in the group. Moreover, the instructors improved at giving instructions. By the end of the course, most of the students agreed that the instructions were clear and appropriate for the learning tasks.
One aspect that remained equal in both evaluations was providing feedback. When asked, the students and supervisors had similar opinions about this topic. They both claimed that some of the explanations were more complex than was necessary. In this case, additional pedagogical mediation was needed.
Table 1: Instructors' performance midterm and end-of-the-course-evaluation survey
NOTE: M stands for Midterm Course Evaluation and F stands for Final Course Evaluation. Source: Midterm & Final Course Evaluation. September & November, 2012
Figure 1 contains the information provided by the supervisors. The results showed that instructors met the expectations of the course. The input the supervisors provided regarding these aspects is described below. The supervisors used a scale from 0 to 100 to grade the student-teachers' performance. In addition to the numerical evaluation, the supervisors included comments on aspects that needed improvement. The grades obtained for each criterion throughout the course were averaged to obtain the medium grade per each behavior observed. On this scale, a grade below 70 is considered "unsatisfactory", and a grade between 70 and 79 is considered "satisfactory". A grade between 80 and 89 corresponds to the evaluation "good", and a grade above 90 corresponds to "very good".
The average grades showed that the supervisors' perception of the student-teachers' performance was between "good" and "very good" on average throughout the semester. As stated above, the additional feedback focused on areas for improvement. The comments below correspond to the additional feedback given by the supervisors.
Figure1: Supervisor's Perception of the Instructors' Performance
Appropriate feedback: On many occasions, the student teachers waited until the language focus to provide feedback about language use. The supervisors suggested addressing students' errors throughout the lesson with more frequency. They also pointed out that the student teachers needed to be better prepared for the classes in order to answer all the students' questions satisfactorily. These two aspects improved gradually throughout the course.
Comprehensible input: The information provided by the teachers resembled real-life use of language and the examples were clear and well contextualized. The feedback obtained in this section related to the amount of vocabulary introduced in the class. The supervisors suggested that the number of words introduced in one lesson was overwhelming at times.
Student autonomy: This aspect is related to the previous one in the sense that tasks were too difficult for the students. The supervisors expressed that the student teachers were expecting too much from the students by filling the activities with large numbers of new words. This input motivated the reduction of the number of vocabulary items and simplification of the materials so that the students could cope with the demands of the task. Their idea was to make the students less dependent on the handouts and notes when reporting the task. This was one of the greatest challenges for the student teachers.
Strategies development: Communication strategies were present in almost all the lessons, but the student teachers failed at activating them, which is reflected in the results in Figure 1. The supervisors suggested drilling and modeling and encouraging the use of such strategies until the students got them right. The student teachers did not reinforce learning of communication strategies enough during the course.
Sequence of activities: The supervisors pointed out that the activities were conducive to task performance and that the level of difficulty increased progressively during the cycle of activities. They highlighted that the student teachers were able to integrate different language skills in the lessons.
This information is complemented with the feedback obtained from the classmates. They observed the instructors with a focus on the fulfillment of roles and characteristics described in the review of the literature. Their input is illustrated in the Figure 2.
Figure2: Accomplishment of the Roles of the Instructors as seen by the Classmates
The numbers showed that two thirds of the total number of answers for each criterion (66,66%) described the accomplishment of the roles by the instructors as distinguished, that is, thorough and nearly always or always conducive to task performance. For the criterion "preparing the learner for tasks", one third of the total number of answers (33,33%) described the accomplishment of this role as basic, meaning that few teacher interventions anticipated task requirements. For the other three criteria, one third of the total number of answers respectively (33,33%) described the accomplishment of the roles as proficient. This means the performance of the student-teachers was often conducive to success in tasks.
The classmates pointed out several aspects to be improved in each of the roles. In regard to selecting and sequencing tasks, they suggested including fewer activities in the preparation stages and creating simpler task cycles. Similarly, for preparing the learners, they suggested reducing the amount of input in order to facilitate task performance. In the case of consciousness raising, their comments were oriented towards eliciting the answers from the students instead of giving away the answers.
The student teachers largely fulfilled the expected roles in TBLT according to classmate-generated feedback. Particularly, they succeeded at sequencing tasks and motivating the learners. The results show that some work is still needed on the roles of preparing the learners for tasks and raising consciousness. Regarding sequencing of tasks, the input obtained from the different sources revealed that the preparation stages clearly led to achievement in the performance of the task and that the activities were purposeful and real-life oriented. This was accomplished by decomposing real-life activities in order to replicate the steps needed for their completion from a linguistic point of view. This, in turn, helped the students discover the language embedded in the task and helped constructing learning in a student-centered fashion.
The role of motivating the learners was achieved by providing learning tasks that were clearly contextualized according to the students' areas of expertise, which was noted by the supervisors. In this sense, the choice of topics for classes played a key role. Another strategy that was used to motivate the students was to personalize learning activities by including the names of the students in the exercises. This made the students feel identified with the situation presented in the materials and helped them anticipate the language they would need to participate in different events. In addition, individualized attention was provided to the students given that the group was small. This allowed the student-teachers to provide positive feedback to the students and also to challenge them in a non-threatening way.
The role of preparing the learners was not completely accomplished due to the amount of input introduced in the preparation stages. The number of new words often made learning tasks more difficult. Although the selection of language aspects was pertinent to the task, the instructors could have worked more on simplifying the activities. The increased difficulty also had an impact on learner autonomy given that they needed to rely on previous handouts and notes to perform the task successfully. This created a gap in performance when the level of difficulty was too high.
Lastly, the role of consciousness raising was mainly affected by the following two practices: providing the answers directly to the students after a task and not correcting errors immediately. The first practice changes the classroom dynamics from student centered to teacher centered. In this sense, the student teachers needed to develop more skills to obtain the answers from learners, for example, by giving hints about the answers or by asking more questions. Regarding error correction, the student teachers corrected errors mostly at the end of the class. This may have led some students to believe that their production was fully appropriate and needed no improvement. The repetition of errors throughout entire lessons could be seen as evidence of this. However, the rationale for this approach was that some students may feel threatened by direct correction and that the focus of TBLT is typically on meaning and the construction of a task rather than only on language accuracy.