The significance of context in qualitative research


As I have rewritten the contribution of my thesis to knowledge, one thing that came up as significant was the context of the study: Chile.

I agree with Kumaravadivelu that “All pedagogy, like all politics, is local. To ignore local exigencies is to ignore lived experiences.” This relates not only to the group of participants studied, but also to the institution and society and culture they are part of.  This is the key reason I used qualitative research methodology. Qualitative research analyses the phenomenon considering its historical, socio-economic, political, cultural and temporal conditions. Therefore, what people do or think cannot be understood as independent of context. It is necessary to examine the lived experiences within a framework of culture and connectedness.

In my study I examined how a group of last stage pre-service teachers learn to teach EFL in Chile. The findings of the study resonate with the existing literature pointing out that teachers learn to teach as they participate in the professional community. This includes the university community and the school community. Each setting has its challenges and they have overriding motives and were misaligned to one another. In this scenario, pre-service teachers appropriated different pedagogical and theoretical tools, such as communicative approach of language teaching or classroom management strategies, at different levels. From the data analysis I can see that the different levels of appropriation cannot be explained as personal differences only. On the contrary, in most cases I could see that the different levels of appropriation had to do with the immediate context. In some cases, power relationships with teacher mentors or teacher educators had a direct impact on what and how they learnt. Other factors were the school curriculum, the textbooks, the type of students that shaped how pre-service teachers appropriated a pedagogic tool such as a specific language teaching method.

As trying to make my contribution explicit, I confirm that the illumination of the Chilean context is crucial  to understand how the studied participants learnt to teach EFL. Their learning experiences are shaped by who they are, where they live, who they interact to and the macrostructure in which pre-service teachers are participants within.   Therefore, apart from underlying the significance of the Chilean context in my study, I also support  that “language teaching and teacher education must be sensitive to a particular group of teachers teaching a particular group of learners pursuing a particular set of goals within a particular institutional context   embedded in a particular socio-cultural   milieu” (Kumaravadivelu, 2001, p. 538). This implies that teacher education programs should reflect and examine their best ways to educate the teachers needed for that specific context, for those specific students.

About Malba Barahona

Educational researcher, language educator. PhD from Australian National University. Passionate bushwalker and mountain lover. I procrastinate reading fiction, hiking, doing yoga, riding, having a beer and more recently decolonizing my existence. I write in English and Spanish in different blogs especially with the purpose of encouraging my students to write.

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