Submitted: October 09, 2023
Accepted: October 20, 2023
Published: November 30, 2023
Ajay Dhakal & Daya Raj Thapa(2023). Students Perceptions about male and female ESL Teachers’ Discourses in Classrooms. Dinkum Journal of Social Innovations, 2(11):628-639.
© 2023 DJSI. All rights reserved.
Students Perceptions about male and female ESL teachers’ Discourses in ClassroomsOriginal Article
Ajay Dhakal 1*, Daya Raj Thapa 2
- Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Pokhara University Nepal; firstname.lastname@example.org
- Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Pokhara University Nepal; email@example.com
* Correspondence: firstname.lastname@example.org
Abstract: In the current exploratory study, the purpose was to investigate whether or not there are any differences in the discourses that are used in ELT classrooms by male and female ESL teachers. Difference theory, and Social Constructionist theory were utilized to construct the theoretical framework for the research project. Convenience sampling was the method that was utilized in order to collect the data for the study. One hundred individual students who were enrolled in the Master’s Programme in the English department of a public university in Nepal served as the sample for the research. The findings of the study indicate that the majority of the students, approximately sixty percent, are of the opinion that the classroom discourses of female English as a second language (ESL) teachers are distinct from those of male ESL teachers in terms of their nonverbal classroom behaviors, use of hedges, softer expressions, and modal verbs. The paralanguage, nonverbal behavior, and prosodic characteristics of the teachers were the most significant and clear indicators of differences in the classroom discourses of the teachers.
Keywords: students’ perceptions, ESL teachers’, discourses
The phrase “the beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder” is a citation that is brought up quite frequently. The beauty of sounds, in a sense, lies in the ears of the listener, just as the beauty of things is in the eyes of the person who perceives them. While this world is filled with an infinite number of colors and shades of sights that fill the human heart with admiration and pleasure, the world of nature is filled with a rich variety of sounds and pure music that make our body and soul sway with pleasure. The linguistic landscape of this world appears to be filled with a wide variety of kaleidoscopes of human sounds, which can be found in the form of languages, dialects, idiolects, and accents. There are indications that the Almighty Allah, the Creator of this vast and incomprehensible universe, is responsible for all of these languages and dialects. One of the many things that contribute to the overall beauty of nature, as well as the scheme of existence and identification, is the variety of human sounds. Dialects, accents, idiolects, prosodic features, paralanguage, and linguistic idiosyncrasies are some of the ways in which humans are able to recognize one another. The communication styles of men and women, as well as those of boys and girls, are therefore characterized by similar patterns of variation and identification. Language and gender interactions are intertwined with one another. The language of a society has a significant impact on the social and cultural norms and values of that society. There is a significant difference between the ways in which men and women use language due to gender. The social definition of men and women is referred to as gender. Different types of language are utilized by males and females when they are in the same situation. The biological make-up of boys and girls, as well as the roles that they play in society, are the reasons why they use different language when they are in the same situation. For instance, men are more likely to use language to impart information and provide directions, whereas women are more likely to use language to interact with others in society (Minasyan, 2017). There is a correlation between the social context and the behavior of males and females in the society. People’s social behavior is influenced by the sights and sounds that surround them. The interactions that teachers have with students in the classroom, also known as classroom discourses, play significant roles in the formation of the learners’ discourses both inside and outside of the classroom. Furthermore, classroom discourses serve as a representation of the pedagogical identities of English as a Second Language (ESL) instructors. Therefore, it is essential to investigate the classroom discourses of both male and female English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers from both a pedagogical and linguistic point of view. In addition, the perceptions that students have of their instructors are also an important factor. Learners’ perceptions of the classroom discourses of their instructors are important to consider. The current study was designed to investigate differences in the discourses that are used in English Language Teaching classrooms by male and female teachers of English as a second language (ESL).
- LITERATURE REVIEW
Within the realm of academia, the field of gender studies is responsible for conducting social, psychological, and political research pertaining to men and women in society. It is concerned with human perceptions, responses, and cultural approaches regarding or in relation to gender that are discussed. In their discussion of gender and sex, Eckert and McConnell-Ginet (1999) and Doray (2005) argue that sex is a biological reproductive capacity of male and female, whereas gender is the social identity of a biological sex. Both of these studies were published in 1999 and 2005, respectively. Therefore, as was previously explained, the term “gender” refers to the concepts of men and women as natural categories of human beings in society or variations in gender in the human world. As was mentioned earlier, there are differences in language usage between the sexes of humans. In the beginning, almost all of the research that was done on language and gender concentrated on the linguistic characteristics of women. As a consequence of this, we have gained an understanding of the specifics of how women speak and how they make use of hedges, whereas the manner in which men speak has remained undiscovered, according to some of the early attempts that have been reported. In spite of this, it is extremely difficult to believe that academics could concentrate solely on women’s characteristic language without also comparing women’s language to the language of men’s language. Contraries tend to set each other off. On page 205, Lakoff defines man’s language as “powerful,” “direct,” “clear,” and “succinct.” Doray (2005) cites Lakoff as the source of this definition. Not only does gender have an effect on the speech that men and women produce, but it also has an effect on how society reacts to the gender differences that exist in the human world. According to Xia (2013), language and society have a strong relationship with one another; changes in society give rise to changes in language. This is because language is a reflection of society. Furthermore, Eckert and McConnell-Ginet (1999) state that while girls and boys grow and develop in different ways, people react differently to both of them when they are growing as infants. This is because girls and boys grow and develop differently. Individuals treat female babies with gentleness, while they treat male babies with playfulness (Ali, 2016). Knowledge is what constitutes culture. Culture is comprised of beliefs, practices, routines, traditions, and customs that are held in common. “Culture is an umbrella term that takes into account the goals, traditions, capabilities, techniques, and mechanisms that grow a group of people in a given period of time; it is also the attitudes, norms, and physical objects that put us on a track in life” (Kuo & Lai, 2006, p.2) Culture is a term that encompasses all of these things. Culture is not something that emerges out of thin air. Even within a larger culture, there are subcultures that exist. The collective patterns of our thoughts and behaviors are what we mean when we talk about culture. Societies and cultures are two concepts that are inextricably linked to one another. There is a connection between gender differences and culture that is quite strong. In some cases, the ways in which men and women think, behave, and speak are influenced by their cultural backgrounds. Bernat and Lloyd (2007, page 88) carried out a study with the purpose of investigating the gender effects on the beliefs that learners have regarding language learning. They came to the conclusion that different genders exhibited different responses in response to different cultures. Xia (2013) uses the Yana language spoken in California as an illustration of the cultural influence that can be seen in gender differences. She argues that the language in question contains specific terminology that is intended to be used in conversations that are either between men or between men. According to Gee (1989), discourse is defined as language that is utilized in a particular setting, such as in a society, a classroom, or at work. A definition of discourse is provided by Cook (1990) as “language in use, for communication” (p.6). In addition, he contends that “discourse may be composed of one or more well-formed grammatical sentences—and in fact, it frequently is—but it does not have to be.” It is possible for it to contain grammatical errors, and it more often than not does (p.7). Additionally, meaningful human sounds that go beyond language can be detected in discourse. In this particular setting, discourse has a strong connection to the semiotics of real life, as well as paralanguage and nonverbal behavior. Signs and symbols help to communicate meaning. Consequently, they are a component of the discourse. A study of signs is referred to as semiotics. The argument put forth by Malmkjaer (2000) is that “semiotics or semiotic is the study of signs and linguistics can be seen as that sub-discipline of semiotics which is particularly concerned with the nature of the linguistic sign” (p.465). Discourse is often compared to an iceberg with culture being at the bottom and verbal behavior or language forming the tip of the iceberg, as shown in figure.
As a result, the three components include subcomponents such as social situations, traditions, customs, habits, cultural preferences, symbols, signs, festivals, and other similar things. When we talk about paralanguage, we are referring to nonverbal behavior that includes gestures, perfumes, space, silence, facial expressions, intonation, and any other nonverbal aspects that contain meaning. According to Gee (1989), discourse is defined as the relationship between variables such as roles, speech, norms, behaviors, and cultural identities (which can be found on page 526). Therefore, the term “discourse” in a classroom refers to both verbal and nonverbal communication that takes place between the instructor and the students. The conversation that takes place in the classroom has a significant impact on the way in which a teacher and a student interact with one another. There is a shift in the atmosphere of the classroom. In the classroom, male and female educators use language that is distinct from one another. Interactions between teachers and students initiate activities in the classroom. In the classroom, students are unable to acquire a language if they do not receive direction and instruction from their teachers. The healthy relationship that exists between a teacher and their students is the result of a good teacher’s talk. According to Fikri, Dewi, and Suarnajaya (2014), it is essential for teachers to engage in healthy conversation with their students who are learning.
2.1 Gender and Language
Theories related to gender and languages are Difference Theory and social constructionist theories. These theories explain gender differences in the discourse of men and women. Both (Difference theory and Social Constructionist) the theories explain influences on different use of language by man and woman.
2.1.1 Social Constructionist Theory
Rather than being the natural behavior of males and females in society, the Social Constructionist theory defines gender as the socially accepted behavior of males and females. A person’s identity can also change depending on the way they talk about themselves. Humans have a variety of social identities, which are reflected in their various cultures. Within a society, an individual’s gender or sex is the factor that determines how they use language, and the way in which they use language is what determines their gender identity. The community in which a person takes up residence has a significant impact on their identity. The classroom is the place where teachers’ use of language shapes their pedagogical identities, which is another point to consider in relation to teachers’ talk. Students may recognize certain teachers by the phrases and sentences that they use frequently in their classes, by the distinctive dialects or idiolects that they speak, or by certain distinctive characteristics of their accents. This is something that has been observed or may be observed frequently among students. Identities are also constructed through the use of language, according to Eckert and McConnell-Ginet (1999). A significant amount of the process of identity formation is dependent on the discourses that are utilised. There is a strong correlation between context and language and conversations, according to Bell, McCarthy, and McNamara (2006) as well as Coates and Johnson (2001). There are differences in language that are caused by context; however, male and female humans use different language in the same situation. This is because society is the factor that forces men and women to behave in a manner that is characteristic of either gender. According to Tannen (1994) and West and Zimmerman (2015), men tend to distract and extend over the speech of women during conversations.
2.1.2 Difference Theory
Maltz and Borker (1982) and Tannen (1990, 1994) are two researchers who support this approach, which is known as the Difference Theory. They state that the differences in language are a result of differences in the ways in which men and women are brought up. The differences in language use can be attributed to, among other things, differences in socialization, differences in social power, differences in culture, and differences in psychology. The factors that contribute to the varying rates of language acquisition among individuals are biological differences, which in turn cause psychological differences. The language forms that men choose to use demonstrate an assertion of control, whereas the language choices that women make demonstrate interpersonal communication that involves other people. For the purpose of determining the cultural differences that exist between male and female conversations, Maltza and Borker (1982) present a model for communication between two communities of different ethnicities. According to Maltz and Borker (1982), male and female conversations are characterised by linguistic differences due to differences in culture. Taking into consideration the assertions made by Maltz and Borker, we are able to draw the conclusion that the domain of gender is not the only one in which society exerts its influence; there are other domains as well in which society attempts to exert its control and influence. There is such a thing as society, which can be either helpful or harmful. As an illustration, the Hindu religion in India is known for its practise of ‘Sati.’ According to Hawley (1994) and Sakuntala (1992), sati is a practise in which a widow would voluntarily throw herself onto the funeral pyre of her deceased husband. According to Maltz and Broker (1982), the process of socialisation in which men and women learn different patterns of language begins in early childhood. More specifically, they learn these patterns by socialising with peers of the same gender. When boys and girls interact with people of the same gender, they are expected to use language in a different manner from the time they are very young children till they reach adulthood. According to Coates (2015), the views on men and women language explain that within society and culture, men are considered to be dominant, while women are considered to be subordinate. Throughout history and into the present day, behaviours that are biassed against women have been observed in society. According to Coates (2015), men have more opportunities to pursue careers than women do. Coates is of the opinion that the differences in linguistic abilities between men and women can be traced back to the status and structure of society themselves. Regarding the background of this literature review, the researchers attempted to find an answer to the following question in the study that is currently being conducted. The majority of the discourses that teachers engage in within the classroom are verbal, but they are accompanied by nonverbal discourses. According to Cameron (2001), “when linguists and other social scientists analyse spoken discourse, their goal is to make explicit what normally gets taken for granted” (p.7). Cameron makes this observation. Therefore, this study will take into consideration what is typically considered to be a given in terms of the discourses that teachers engage in within the classroom.
- MATERIALS AND METHODS
In his article from 1992, Nunan makes the argument that “research is a systematic process of inquiry consisting of three elements or components: (1) a question, problem, or hypothesis; (2) data; and (3) analysis and interpretation of data.” An activity that does not contain any of these components, such as data, will be categorised as something other than research, according to the description provided on page 3. Within the context of this definition, the present investigation incorporates all of the aforementioned aspects of research, namely the research question, the data, and the analysis. Kaplan contends that “the aim of methodology is to understand, in the broadest possible terms, not the product of scientific inquiry but the process itself” (According to Cohen and Manion, 1986, page 43). Kaplan’s argument is cited in Cohen and Manion’s work. Our discussion on methodology, therefore, provides an explanation of the procedure that was utilised for the present investigation. On page 191, Gravetter and Forzano (2011) make the argument that “research designs are general categories that classify research according to how the study is conducted.” As far as the design of the study is concerned, it was both an exploratory study and a descriptive study. The researchers had designed and tested a questionnaire, which served as the basis for this study. Students who are part of the M.As participants in the study, individuals who were enrolled in an English (linguistics) programme at the English department were chosen. A total of more than 125 individuals were given copies of the questionnaire to fill out. The analysis is based on one hundred questionnaires that were filled out in their entirety. Population of this study was learners of M.A English program studying at public universities of Nepal. Convenient sampling technique was used in data collection. A sample of 100 learners was selected conveniently. Questions in the questionnaire had four options for the respondents, which were ‘agree’, ‘strongly agree’, ‘disagree’ and ‘strongly disagree’. The data was analysed in terms of percentages of the choices provided for each question. The analysed data was presented in the form of graphs.
- RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
4.1 Do you agree that female ESL teachers’ discourses are different from male ESL teachers’ discourses?
This was a simple, direct and general question regarding discourse differences in male and female ESL teachers
Figure 01: Differences in Classroom Discourses of male and Female Teachers of English
Graph 1 shows that 63.7% of the respondents agreed to the statement and 24.5% of the respondents strongly agreed to the statement, while 9.8% of the respondents disagreed and 0.2 % of the sample strongly disagreed. The statistics show that the participants are of the view that there exist differences in the classroom discourses of male and female teachers of English. The differences of male and female discourses have been observed by the learners. Around 89% of the respondents agreed that there existed differences in the discourses of the ESL teachers gender-wise. This was a general question. The next question asked the learners about nonverbal aspects of male and female ESL teachers classroom discourses. As, already explained, nonverbal aspects form important components of discourse. Our identities, our psychological make-up and thoughts are reflected in our nonverbal behaviour. Nonverbal behaviour is a semiotic language of its own kind which we use consciously or unconsciously and attach meaning to it.
4.2 Facial expressions, gestures and body language that the male ESL teachers use in their lessons are different from those of the female ESL teachers of English.
Figure 02: Differences in the Nonverbal behaviour of Male & Female Teachers of English
Graph 2 shows that 59.2% of the respondents agreed that facial expressions, gestures and body language of the male teachers are different from those of female teachers in the classroom. 35% of the respondents (students) strongly agreed, while 5.8% of the respondents disagreed. Results show that male and female instructors use different expressions, body language and gestures during their lessons in the classroom. In fact, if we look closely, the main difference between the discourses of male and female human beings in general lies in the use of paralanguage such as the features of prosody (intonation and stress patterns) and gestures. On the surface level, both men and women use the same stock of words. But their choice of words, delivery of words and the nonverbal behaviour which accompanies these features define more sharply the discourse differences of male and female humans. This applies to classroom discourses as well. The next question asked the students about modal verbs.
4.3 Female teachers of English use modal verbs more frequently to make their instructions obligatory to students than do male teachers of English.
Graph 3 below indicates that (64.1% of the respondents) agreed that female teachers use modal verbs more frequently to make their instructions obligatory to students than do male teachers. 18.4% of the respondents strongly agreed, 13.6% of the respondents disagreed while 3.6% of the respondents strongly disagreed. Results show that female ESL teachers use modal verbs more frequently than do male teachers of English in the classroom to make their instructions obligatory to students.
4.4 Female teachers of English use softer expressions in giving commands than do male teachers.
Graph 4 shows that (65% of the respondents) agreed with the statement, female teachers use softer expressions in giving commands than do their male counterparts. 17.5% of the respondents strongly agreed, 11.7% of the respondents disagreed while 0% of the respondents strongly disagreed.
Figure 04: Female teachers of English use softer expressions in giving commands than do male teachers of English.
Item 5. Female teachers of English use more hedges in their conversations with students during classes than do male teachers of English. Graph 5 shows that (69.9% of the respondents) agreed that female teachers of English use more hedges in their conversations than do their male counterparts. 15.5% of the respondents disagreed, 11.7% of the respondents strongly agreed while 0% of the respondents strongly disagreed. Thus, the perception of 81% of the respondents was that female ESL teachers used hedges more frequently than male ESL teachers. A hedge is defined as a word which is used to express ambiguity, tentativeness, indecisiveness, probability, and caution instead of confidence, decisiveness, certainty and accuracy. Gender-wise discussions on hedges are given in sociolinguistics. ‘Sort of’ and ‘you know’ are the two examples of hedges. They are taken and termed as protective devices for protecting faces of the people involved in conversations.
A further contribution was made by the English language students, who shared their individual perspectives on the matter. A learner stated that the behaviour of teachers with the students was influenced by the domestic circumstances of the teachers. When the teacher answered the phone in the classroom while the lesson was in progress, the students were able to speculate about the person who was on the other end of the queue. They stated that male teachers occasionally displayed harsh expressions, but that they were kind to students who came from wealthy families more often than not. According to the assessments of the students, male teachers were more effective at maintaining eye contact than female teachers were. It was observed that male teachers made use of gestures more frequently and with greater intensity than their female counterparts. Teachers who were female preferred to involve their students in activities that involved group work and tasks more frequently than teachers who were male chose to do so. The way in which the female teachers chose to express themselves was more formal than the way in which the male teachers did. It was more common for male teachers to switch to regional language expressions in the form of code-switching than it was for their female counterparts to implement this strategy. When compared to the male teachers, the female teachers were more likely to limit their lectures to the notes that had already been prepared concerning the lessons. The students also brought up the fact that the female teachers appeared to be less effective than the male teachers in terms of making things clear in the subjects and topics that they were teaching. On the other hand, their lessons continued to be characterised by ambiguity and confusion. The male instructors frequently shared tales, jokes, anecdotes, and examples from the life of people living in rural or village settings. It was observed that the female instructors preferred to stand further behind the rostrum than their male counterparts did during the course of the lesson. However, there were some students who brought attention to the fact that paralanguage, prosody, and nonverbal behaviour were the clearest indicators of the differences in discourse between male and female English as a second language teachers. In addition, they shared their thoughts on the expressions that they believe are typical or characteristic of male and female English as a second language instructors, which are as follows:
According to the findings regarding learners’ perceptions of the discourses provided by male and female English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers, 88.2% of the respondents believe that they perceive differences in the classroom discourses provided by male and female ESL teachers. This finding of the current study is consistent with the finding of Ali (2016), which stated that “there were gender differences in using language” (p.73). Approximately sixty percent of the participants are of the opinion that female English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers exhibit nonverbal classroom behaviours that are distinct from those of male ESL teachers. In comparison to their male counterparts, female English teachers are more likely to use hedges, softer expressions, and more modal verbs in their classroom conversations, according to more than 64 percent of the respondents agreed with this statement. Because of gender differences, these differences were reflected in the pedagogical methods, vocabulary, and ways of giving instructions, as well as in the intonations and behaviours of the individuals involved. The vocabulary that was used in the classrooms of male and female English teachers was distinct from one another. In their conversations, female English teachers are more likely to use cautious language, polite language, more tag questions, softer commands, and a greater use of “we” as an inclusive term. Additionally, they are more likely to use hedge terminology. On the other hand, male English teachers tended to use language that was more authoritative, appeared to be more casual and dominant, and did not appear to be as conscious about the vocabulary they used in the classroom. Therefore, it appears that gender has an effect on the classroom discourses of both male and female English as a second language teachers. There is not much of a difference between the vocabulary that male and female ESL teachers use. The nonverbal behaviour, paralinguistic aspects, and prosodic features of male and female English as a second language (ESL) teachers were perceived to be the areas in which they really differed from one another. This final line of the conclusion then connects us to the fact that linguistic characteristics and idiosyncrasies, accents, intonation patterns, and paralinguistic aspects, regardless of whether they are innate or developed as a result of external social and cultural influences, perform certain functions in the overall scheme of existence.
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Submitted: October 09, 2023
Accepted: October 20, 2023
Published: November 30, 2023
Ajay Dhakal & Daya Raj Thapa(2023). Students Perceptions about male and female ESL Teachers’ Discourses in Classrooms. Dinkum Journal of Social Innovations, 2(11):628-639.
© 2023 DJSI. All rights reserved.