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Teachers’ and students’ attitudes and practices regarding code switching in writing: A study in selected primary schools in St. Lucia.

This study was conducted in three primary schools in St. Lucia, a multilingual country situated in the Caribbean. The goal of this research was to investigate teachers’ and students’ attitudes and practices regarding the use of code switching in the academic writing of Grade 5 primary school students. For the purpose of this study code switching is defined as a phenomenon in which speakers [writers] switch back and forth between two separate languages and/or dialects (Schecter & Bayley, 1997). Code switching for bilinguals is “a way of saying that they belong to both worlds, and should not be forced to give up one for the other” (Zentella, 1997, p. 114). There are four major aims in this study. First the study aims to document the nature of code switching in students’ written texts. Second, the study focuses on examining both teacher and student views of Kwéyòl influenced code switching in students’ writing. The third aim is to identify whether acceptance of code switching in students’ written texts can be used positively to support their writing. The final aim is to evaluate the impact of teachers’ feedback on students’ written texts. A mixed-method approach was used to gather data for this research. The teachers’ interview was conducted with three Grade 5 teachers from three different primary schools. Questionnaires were also distributed to the other teachers on staff of each of the three Primary schools involved in this study. Selected students of the Grade 5 classes were part of the focus group interview. The students’ written scripts were also analysed and used during the focus group discussion, where students were able to provide reasons for certain statements in their text which reflected code switching. A thematic approach was used for the data analysis and this provided in depth knowledge of how teachers and students felt about code switching in their writing. A major finding was the teachers’ contradictory responses in terms of their attitudes and practice related to code switching. Some teachers commented that the use of the L1 would have a negative impact on the acquisition of Standard English. The importance of students learning the ‘proper’ structures of Standard English was highlighted as a major factor in assisting students in becoming communicatively competent. Although some teachers held a negative view of code switching practices in students’ writing, others were indeed pleased that some students were able to use their L1 to express their intended meaning. Moreover, the study found important differences in the attitudes between the individual teachers in the three different schools The responses from the teachers also indicated that code switching would be more effective in some genres of writing. This suggests that there is some kind of acceptance of code switching in students’ writing. The majority of the teachers agreed that code switching could be used positively to teach Standard English. However, teachers felt that they needed further information on the phenomenon in order to make informed decisions and assist students more effectively in their writing. There were other responses suggesting that there are positive attitudes towards code switching. What was of great interest was that some of the students’ attitudes mirrored those of their teachers, suggesting that teacher attitudes, beliefs and perhaps school ethos play a major role in changing the attitudes of the most important stakeholders, the children. The research highlighted the effective role that teachers’ attitudes and metalinguistic awareness, or lack of it, play in the language learning classroom, particularly in a multilingual society. Teachers need to be aware of the importance of metalinguistic awareness and should aim at exploring ways to promote language learning among students. This study also makes an important contribution to understanding how attitudes and practices in bilingual contexts and the use of language varieties in second language development are related. In conclusion, the study highlights the urgent need for all stakeholders to work collaboratively to finalise a draft literacy policy and plan document that might support bilingual and/or multilingual development of all students in the linguistically and culturally diverse classrooms.
Type of thesis
Auguste-Walter, B. (2011). Teachers’ and students’ attitudes and practices regarding code switching in writing: A study in selected primary schools in St. Lucia. (Thesis, Master of Education (MEd)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/5372
University of Waikato
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