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Exploring “Learning Spaces” in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)


Project Description

This study will explore the ways in which the physical learning environment (i.e. the classroom) impacts learning and/or teaching in a Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) context and will aim to provide new insights and suggestions on the theoretical and practical implications of “learning spaces” in second language education.

Recent research has indicated that “learning spaces” considerably impact student learning, silently communicate the learning culture and ethos of an institution, and often dictate how teachers teach. With the growing recognition of the classroom environment as a central ingredient in determining pedagogical choices and student engagement, universities increasingly promote experiential and interactive learning; yet the classrooms of today have seemingly changed little from the traditional rows of desks with a podium and whiteboard at the front. Despite any widespread transformation in classroom layout and design, there has been an unmistakable movement in higher education, and arguably all levels of schooling, toward more student-centred learning —a trend particularly popular in second language education. Curiously, however, there are few empirical studies on the impact of the physical learning environment in TESOL, particularly in the context of higher education. This doctoral project is to focus on how the pedagogical, interactional, social, psychological, and/or affective elements in the TESOL classroom are influenced by the design and arrangement of the physical learning environment. There is some flexibility in the focus of the research project. Some possible areas of exploration include:

a) an observation and analysis of different EFL/ESL classroom settings and their impact on the learning culture
b) an investigation of teachers' and/or students' perspectives of classroom environments in a specific context (with the context to be chosen by the student)
c) an exploration of how blended learning, the flipped classroom, and/or technology-enhanced learning in language teaching necessitate a reconsideration of the physical learning environment
d) How the physical learning environment affects individual differences in the EFL/ESL classroom (e.g., anxiety, self-efficacy, motivation, creativity, etc.)

Funding Notes

Selection will be made on the basis of academic merit.

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