For some preliminary answers to the question, I present here the views of 75 English language teachers from China and Singapore. They were postgraduate students doing applied linguistic courses in the same university. Of the total, 37 were Chinese college and high school teachers, while the remaining 38 were mainly primary and secondary teachers from Singapore. The questions were meant to be open-ended prompts that gave teachers room to explore related issues and perspectives. The discussion was not originally intended to be a procedure for collecting research data. I had set it up as a learning task for a teaching methodology course on listening and speaking. When reading the teachers’ responses, however, I found their comments refreshing, interesting, and insightful. It was particularly exciting to see that the teachers were making their voices heard on a discussion topic that had so far been dominated by linguists. I therefore decided to analyse their written comments in a Vibram FiveFingers systematic manner and report my observations.
Before they engaged in the online discussions, I introduced the teachers to spoken grammar in class. They also read The Grammar of Talk: Spoken English, Grammar and the Classroom by Carter (2003) individually. It was selected because it was relevant for both E F L and ‘mainstream’ English language teachers. Furthermore, it contained concise explanations and useful examples of key spoken grammar forms: heads, tails, modal expressions, discourse markers, deixis, ellipsis, tags, flexible positioning of adverbs and adverbials, purposefully vague language, and coordination of clauses. The teachers were also asked to visit a website on the CANCODE project. To ensure that they had enough time to read and respond to one another’s comments, teachers were organized into small discussion groups consisting of six to seven members. They were also instructed to post their individual responses to the two questions before responding to the views of other group members. At the end of the course, I obtained the teachers’ permission to analyse and use their comments.
The analysis was done in two stages. Five Fingers Shoes First, each person’s initial individual responses to the two questions were examined and allocated to one of three categories, with the Chinese and Singaporean participants distinguished throughout. Second, these and the teachers’ subsequent responses to other group members’ views were examined for specific issues regarding the teaching and learning of spoken grammar. The analyses focused on features of saliency, frequency, and distribution and the results were checked twice, once after a three week interval and then five weeks later. Perspectives identified in the responses were subsequently selected.
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