Person-oriented and process-oriented teachers : an investigation of the links between ESOL teachers' personal belief systems and approaches to teaching

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis looks to two traditions in research into language teaching, teacher beliefs and classroom interaction, in order to investigate the question: Do teachers of ESOL have an identifiable and coherent system of beliefs about teaching and learning that may account for different approaches to teaching? A qualitative approach to research is taken, following a case study tradition, in order to carry out an in-depth study into the beliefs of six ESOL teachers. Five teachers participated in an initial pilot study and two subsequently became the main case studies for the research. The beliefs of a sixth teacher were then investigated to verify the findings. Semi-structured interviews and classroom observations were carried out with all the teachers. The teachers in the study were found to have personal belief systems that cohere around two orientations to teaching and learning - a person orientation and a process orientation. Moreover, the findings suggest that underlying the orientations is the perception that teachers have of their teacher identity, in terms of whether this is seen as a separate identity or as part of their personality. It is suggested that the two orientations may offer a powerful tool for teacher education as it is increasingly recognised that, in order to be effective, teacher educators must take into account the beliefs that teachers bring with them to training and development programmes. An initial investigations into the teachers’ classroom behaviour suggests that while their methodologies approach may be very similar there are fundamental differences in their interactions patterns and these differences may be a result of their own orientation. However, while teachers’ personal belief systems undoubtedly underlie their approach to teaching, further research is needed to establish the extent and the nature of the relationship between orientation and classroom interaction.
Date of Award2004
Original languageEnglish


  • teacher beliefs
  • classroom interaction
  • teacher education
  • qusalitative research
  • case study

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