AsiaTEFL V7 N1 Spring 2010 an Analysis of Teachers and Students Perceptions of Codeswitching in Teaching Science and Mathematics in a Philippine Private High School


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    239   THE JOURAL OF ASIA TEFL  Vol. 7, No. 1, pp. 239-264, Spring 2010  An Analysis of Teachers’ and Students’  Perceptions of Codeswitching in Teaching  Science and Mathematics in a Philippine Private  High School Lourdes S. Abad  Miriam College, Philippines This descriptive analysis of two teachers’ and 32 3 rd  Year high school students’ perceptions of codeswitching during classroom instruction reports that codeswitching in Chemistry and Geometry is a resource in making knowledge more comprehensible to the students than when only English is used. Through survey questionnaires, interviews, focus group discussion and 220 minutes of class observations, the results show  beneficial effects in teaching and learning of highly technical s subjects. However, this study also argues that frequent codeswitching in highly technical subjects can be detrimental to the learners because it can cause confusion in the students’ understanding of difficult concepts. Moreover, this study highlights implications for the “English Only” policy for instruction that seems impractical and ineffective in countries where English is the second or foreign language. The findings present strong indications that codeswitching by teachers should not be construed as incompetence in English proficiency because codeswitching is a bilingual speaker’s skill, not a disadvantage. Key words: perceptions, codeswitching, teaching flexibility, alternative resource, bilingual skill  An Analysis of Teachers’ and Students’ Perceptions of Codeswitching in Teaching Science … 240 ITRODUCTIO The Philippines, like any other post-colonial country, is an environment where a diversity of languages exists. In a linguistically-rich environment, Filipinos acquire a number of languages, English being one of them, in addition to the vernacular and the national language. As the diversity of languages causes the acquisition of more than one language and the mixing of codes in usage, second language acquisition must involve the active, integrated role of the local languages (Canagarajah, 1999). Codeswitching is defined as “the mixing by bilinguals or multilinguals of two or more languages in discourse, often with no change of interlocutor or topic” (Poplack, 2001, p. 2062). Being a linguistic phenomenon, its use has become widespread in post-colonial countries such as the Philippines for the functions it serves the speakers in various domains such as personal interaction, media, business, politics, science, and scholarship. Despite earlier studies showing codeswitching to be a tool to achieve  personal motivations and communicative efficiency which is defined as “the fastest, easiest, most effective way of saying something” (Bautista, 1999), and a struggle against hegemonizing forces, this mode of communication is  perceived quite negatively in the Philippine educational context. It is seen as a “less than ideal language behavior” indicative of deteriorating language skills and low levels of bilingual language proficiencies (Bernardo, 2005). In an attempt to remedy the declining proficiency of both teachers and students in the English language, private schools have sought measures to revive the “English Only” campaign. Most parents prefer the education of their children to be in English to enable the latter to gain the competitive edge in business, commerce and industry (Sibayan, 1996). The campaign has also  been the perceived remedy against codeswitching and an attempt to improve the quality of English in the Philippines. However, with the persistence of codeswitching and the predilection of schools to the “English Only” policy, the question arises: Is a policy that places heavy emphasis on English the answer to the perceived decline in English language proficiency?  The Journal of Asia TEFL   241 Citing the Monroe Survey Commission in 1925 which investigated the factors affecting the deterioration of Philippine Education, Patricia B. Licuanan, Ph.D. (personal communication, January 24, 2007), a prominent school administrator and social psychologist said that “the most consistent empirical evidence shows the damaging effects of English on Filipino student learning. When English is used, students do not learn well, and at times do not learn at all.” Brigham and Castillo (1999) reported that 20 percent of Metro Manila high school students have low proficiency in English; thus they are likely to perform poorly in Science and Mathematics subjects which are mandated to be taught in English. Despite this reality, private school administrators do not support the use of codeswitching in the classroom as it is deemed unacceptable and inappropriate to the educational setting. But how can teachers adhere to a language policy and at the same time address their students’ difficulties in their subjects if the mandated language of instruction is incomprehensible to the learners? Moreover, why do the teachers resort to codeswitching in the classroom despite its unacceptability to the administrators as well as to other stakeholders of the school such as the parents? Hence, the objective of this research is to explore the perceptions of teachers and students in a private high school regarding codeswitching during classroom instruction in Chemistry and Geometry at the 3 rd  Year level. This case study shall focus on the following questions: Under what circumstances do the Chemistry and Geometry teachers code-switch in the classroom? What are the teachers’ views towards codeswitching in the teaching of Chemistry and Geometry and how do these manifest in their teaching practice? What are the students’ views towards their teachers’ codeswitching in the teaching of Chemistry and Geometry? Also, the findings will show how codeswitching can be used as a resource for expressing difficult concepts in high school Science and Mathematics in more precise ways. This undertaking is in line with the notion forwarded by Bernardo (2005) that codeswitching can provide teachers the flexibility to express concepts and ideas with more precision than they would in only one  An Analysis of Teachers’ and Students’ Perceptions of Codeswitching in Teaching Science … 242 language. Rather than conform strictly to a one-language of instruction policy, Bernardo (2007) suggests that code mixing can be “a resource for improved student learning of content and language skills.” The speech mode can aid teachers in simplifying concepts for the students to make knowledge more accessible and promote better understanding in the classroom. Moreover, for schools to be adaptive to the times, the New London Group (cited in Bernardo, 2007, p. 14) asserts: Every classroom will inevitably reconfigure the relationships of local and global differences that are now so critical. To be relevant, learning  processes need to recruit, rather than attempt to ignore and erase, the different subjectivities, interests, intentions, commitments, and purposes that students bring to learning. Curriculum now needs to mesh with the different subjectivities, and with their attendant languages, discourses, and registers, and use these resources for learning. This is the necessary basis for a pedagogy that opens possibilities for greater access (2000, p. 18). REVIEW OF LITERATURE In the Philippines, studies on Filipino-English codeswitching show its functions in facilitating student learning of content subjects. Limoso’s (2002) study on codeswitching in a college literature classroom revealed that the teachers codeswitched mainly to perform the effective transfer of knowledge during classroom instruction. The study also showed that using the speech mode engages the students in the learning process through active  participation in the lesson and collaborative class activities. It was assumed that the students were most likely to understand the lesson when teachers communicate in a familiar language. Abad’s (2005) study on classroom discourse in a high school Christian Life Education class concluded that codeswitching is not a clash, but a complement of two languages. Codeswitching helped the teacher to bridge the gap between the Bible and the learners to explain the concepts in
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