Teacher beliefs of a trained and untrained English Primary teacher. To what extend do they differ and influence their teaching?

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2019

21 Pages, Grade: 1,7




1. Introduction

2. Method Part
2.1 Participants and Data Sources
2.2 Instrument
2.3 Procedure

3. Results

4. Discussion

5. References


Many studies on different styles of teaching and its impact on the student’s learning success have been performed, while only a few studies have dealt with teachers as persons and in which way their beliefs influence their teaching. In addition, these studies do not specifically address English primary school teachers and their beliefs in their own professional record. As the BIG-Studie is the only German research so far that, at least approximately, investigated on behalf of this subject, it may be concluded that there is an apparent need for further study on that area of research. Thus, this study aims to investigate the relationship between teaching and factors such as teacher beliefs, professional records and educational backgrounds. The sample group for the study consisted of two teachers from one elementary school, of which one of them is an untrained English teacher whereas the other one is a trained English teacher. Data consist of two guided interviews and their transcripts. The collected data were used to provide a descriptive and comparative analysis to address the research questions and to help developing new structures and trainings for the purpose of fighting the shortage of English teachers. Findings could provide evidence that despite the public demand of hiring trained teachers, as they seem to be obligatory to ensure the lesson’s quality, an untrained English teacher is able to compensate his lack of training since his teaching is rather similar to the teaching of a trained English teacher.

1. Introduction

The employment of people entering a field of work different from their educational background is fast becoming a key instrument in fighting the lack of qualified personnel, particularly in fields of economics. According to previously reliable forecasts, the population in Germany will shrink by around eight million people or 9.5 percent by 2040 (cf. Knecht, 2016, p. 9). Due to additional retirement in the coming years, there is a clear need for replacement in many occupations (cf. Knecht, 2016, p. 11). For that reason, career changers are not only important in economic fields but also for many other fields of work such as teaching. Even in 2001, many local newspaper magazines ran headlines like “Teachers urgently wanted” (own translation, cf. Koch, 2001), continuing in 2018 with new demands. According to the latest scientific findings, the supply of teachers is expected to increase in approx. 1400 teachers over the next ten years, while the annual recruitment needs around 1600 teachers. As a consequence, only one-eighth of all newly recruited teachers have an actual degree in elementary school teaching at the beginning of the current 2018/2019 school year (cf. Dräger, 2018), a study of the Bertelsmann Stiftung, an independent foundation committed to ensure that everyone can participate in society, declared.

This particular issue has grown in importance in light of recent discussions concerning the teaching quality of career changers. On the one hand, Dräger (2018), board of the Bertelsmann Stiftung, states that career changers do have the potential to be good teachers if they have enough support to continue their didactic and methodical training. Similarly, John Hattie (2014), professor of education, argues that the professional expertise of a teacher shows almost no impact on the student’s learning success (cf. Hattie/Yates, 2014, p.17). According to him, it is the teacher-student relationship that is most influential (cf. ibid.). On the other hand, recent research results indicate the exact opposite. PISA (2018) investigated the connection between the teacher’s quality and the lesson’s quality. The study reports that in order to ensure the student’s learning success, well-trained teachers are obligatory. The political scientist Knecht (2016) supports this view by claiming that career changers do something professionally for which they do not have the competency that is needed (p. 11). However, local school principals like Gruschke-Schäfer explain that there is simply no alternative other than employing career changers or otherwise they would have to cancel lessons which “clearly is not in the student’s best interest” (Richter et al., 2018), the principal states further. Despite the ongoing discussion and consideration of advantages and disadvantages of career changers, lack of qualified personnel is an omnipresent issue which has to be dealt with.

Against a background of an increasing shortage of teachers, this lack becomes even more significant, especially when looking closely at the dramatic undersupply of English classes with trained teachers. Averagely, there are only 0,34% trained English teachers available per class of German primary schools (cf. Barucki et al., 2015, p. 72). For that reason, the BIG-Studie (2015) insists that “more trained English teachers” (ibid.) with “a high level of language competencies” (Barucki et al., 2015, p. 22) need to be hired as their research “delivers convincing evidence” (ibid., p. 72) for that demand. The study investigated students’ and teachers’ abilities regarding the subject English and discovered that teachers who show less confidence in their own English competencies, speak less often English during their lessons than teachers who are convinced of their abilities (cf. Barucki et al., 2015, p. 22). One participant of the study’s questionnaire commented that: “If my English was better, I would not speak German at all during my lessons” (ibid., p. 69), but speaking as much English as possible is the key element to ensure a great learning success for the students, the study highlights further (cf. ibid.).

While you can find many studies on the connection between the teachers’ instructions and the students’ learning success, there is only a small amount of studies that concentrate on English teachers in particular and even less that, in addition, focus on teacher beliefs and their impact on teaching. Even against the backdrop of the current shortage of teachers that affects not only the present generation but also the further generation, there are only newspaper articles which claim without any scientific proof that untrained English teachers are not suited to teach English. These assumptions are simply made on the basis of the teachers’ lack of academic education, although research findings of the Swiss pedagogue and professor Kurt Reusser (2014), for instance, could provide evidence that apart from professional knowledge and motivational features, especially subjective teacher beliefs play an important role for the quality of teaching, “indem sie die Auswahl von Zielen und Handlungsplänen, die Wahrnehmung und Deutung von Situationen sowie das didaktische und kommunikative Handeln und Problemlösen im Unterricht beeinflussen und steuern”1 (Reusser/Pauli, 2014, p. 642). In other words, teacher beliefs have an impact on many aspects of teaching such as the choice of a role model to follow while planning the lessons or which competency to focus on regarding grading the students. In addition, beliefs influence the teacher’s behaviour during the lesson when it comes to interpreting a situation or handle a conflict. Thus, one could conclude that vocational beliefs steer the way teachers instruct, intervene and handle. But what exactly are teacher beliefs? Since this term is frequently used in this paper it requires further explanation.

Beliefs are scientifically known as “Ansichten, Meinungen, Deutungen von Welt, (Dingen, Personen, Interaktionen), die subjektiv für wahr gehalten werden”1 (Wischmeier, 2012, p. 171). Therefore, the term beliefs means convictions or principles that a human being develops during his lifetime based on subjective judgement and experience rather than scientifically proven facts. When it comes to teacher beliefs in particular Reusser defines them as affektiv aufgeladene, eine Bewertungskomponente beinhaltende Vorstellung über das Wesen und die Natur von Lehr- Lernprozessen, Lerninhalten, die Identität und Rolle von Lernenden und Lehrenden (sich selbst) sowie den institutionellen und gesellschaftlichen Kontext von Bildung und Erziehung, welche für wahr oder wertvoll gehalten werden und ihrem berufsbezogenen Denken und Handeln Struktur, Halt, Sicherheit und Orientierung geben1 (2011, p. 478).

He argues that beliefs are ideas about teaching, learning and about the role teachers as well as students play in the process of learning. According to Calderhead, a pedagogical lecturer and author, there are five scientifically proven categories of convictions or ideas that can be derived from teacher beliefs (cf. Calderhead, 1996, pp. 719ff). Firstly, there are convictions about students and their learning success and secondly, convictions about teaching as a profession. Moreover, teachers have convictions regarding different subjects which are called epistemological beliefs (cf. ibid.). Teacher beliefs also include convictions about their own person regarding their self-efficacy and their professional record.

With these concerns in mind, the research at hand understands teacher beliefs as certain convictions of teachers concerning their profession and its many areas. Since this paper concentrates on the comparison between untrained English teachers and trained English teachers and how they feel about their training or rather lack of training, convictions regarding the professional record form the basis of the research design. All in all, this paper aims at investigating the findings of the BIG-Studie further in order to confirm or refute them. Either way, the research’s findings should help to construct the basis for developing new structures and trainings for the purpose of fighting the shortage of English teachers and its scientifically proven disadvantage for students. In addition, the results should help to overcome public prejudices against career changers based on their education only, especially regarding untrained English teachers. While the BIG-Studie canvassed primary teachers and their pupils, the present study consults only teachers in order to concentrate on their point of views. For this purpose, an interview was used instead of a questionnaire to highlight the teachers’ beliefs and their motives for teaching in a particular way. Hence, the paper at hand examines two research questions:

1. To what extend differ teacher beliefs of a trained and untrained English primary teacher?
2. In which way do these beliefs influence teaching?

2. Method Part

2.1 Participants and Data Sources

Originally, it was planned to interview three teachers for the research at hand. However, did not only one of them cancel her participation but also her substitute and therefore the last teacher I knew that was suitable for this particular interview and its object of research. For that reason, there were only two female participants who, for the purpose of anonymity, are called Trained English Teacher (henceforth TET) and Untrained English Teacher (henceforth UET) in the following.

The TET is 32 years old and was born in Germany. She finished her teacher-training course including the subjects German, Maths and English in 2016. Her core subject was German, and she chose it along with English as the subjects to be trained in during her preparatory service as well. All in all, the TET was trained in English for 6,5 years, 1,5 years of this period with a practical orientation. Additionally, she went on a three-month language-learning holiday that was offered by her University. Currently, she works as a full-time primary teacher, giving classes in English twelve lessons per week.

The UET is 48 years old and was born in Germany, too. She finished her teacher-training course including the subject Maths, German and Science as her core subject in 2001. During her preparatory service, these subjects were automatically the subjects she got examined in as these were the requirements at that time. Meanwhile, the UET finished her one-year extra training in order to get a teaching qualification regarding the subject English in 2003. Besides, she sat in on classes of a partner school in Belfast for three weeks. At the moment, she works as a deputy headmaster, giving lessons in English six lessons per week.

2.2 Instrument

For the purpose of obtaining as much useful information as possible as well as personal information by the participants themselves an interview was used. An interview has the advantage of controlling the type of information that could be gathered by asking specific questions in particular moments which is not possible during e.g. an observation or a questionnaire. On that account, an interview appears to be the most suitable instrument for the research at hand since it aims at teacher beliefs and motives that can only be deduced by personal comments and verbalized thoughts of the participants.

The interview was guided as its questions were predefined (Appendix 1) but individually modified depending on the interviewees’ answers. For instance, both participants broached subjects which I wanted to talk about in depth later by asking a different question, so that I changed the questions’ order and ask the question whenever it made sense. Moreover, I asked specific questions spontaneously that I had not predefined before because they suited the participants’ answer or helped to understand what the participants wanted to say. For instance, the UET mentioned that she studied five subjects which is not very common nowadays. Hence, I needed further explanation to understand her professional record, especially for her preparatory service. The questions that I did predefine are all based against the backdrop of receiving the teachers’ convictions about their profession as well as their professional records (cf. Introduction). Therefore, the guideline can be categorised (Appendix 2) roughly starting by general information about the participants like age and place of birth, their education and experience abroad as well as statements about educational changes and quotes. I chose this order to create a comfortable atmosphere in which the participants firstly get to talk about formal aspects that they could answer easily. Followed by questions about their education, the interviewees should feel transported back in their time as students. Their recollections could help to maintain the atmosphere and answer the following questions which get more personal as they are formulated to give an insight in their beliefs.

While formulating the specific questions in each category, that is to say the interview’s guideline, I followed the procedure of evaluating questions in interviews according to the professor of education research, Uwe Flick. Thus, I tried to put in questions that have a theoretical relevance (cf. Flick, 2006, p. 26) e.g. the current demand for trained English teachers as a result of the BIG-Studie and different quotes. This way, the findings of the study can not only be compared to the findings of the research at hand, but it also allows the participants to state their opinion on the public demands which in turn help to extract their teacher beliefs. I also asked for the interviewees’ self-assessment regarding their own English competencies and teaching which is directly linked to the object of research just like Flick suggests. Beyond that, I defined questions that were linked to each other. This way, it becomes possible to point out connections that could help to conclude contradictions or confirmations within the participants’ answers.

2.3 Procedure

Before an interview and therefore the gathering of information could start, participants needed to be found. For this, it was necessary to make a list of requirements the interviewees needed to fulfil in order to participate the research at hand. It was important that they are practicing teachers so that they could talk about the current and not former situation in school. In addition, they should be primary teachers as the requirements for English teachers at secondary schools are different and it would complicate the comparison of the participants. Moreover, the participants should consist of at least one trained and one untrained English teacher since these characteristics form the basis of the research questions. As soon as the list was completed, suitable teachers were contacted, and appointments were made. It might or might not be of importance that the appointments for the interviews are not too far away from each other but in order to limit the number of possible adulterations, I scheduled the interviews for the same day. For the purpose of honest opinions, the participants got only informed about the research object but not the questions that were going to be asked. In addition, it was decided to stay in German during both interviews as it is the participants’ mother tongue. Using the mother tongue allows the participants to put their feelings to word without thinking too much about the correct wording. Obviously, it was me who interviewed the participants as I was the only one that knew them well and who could intervene for the purpose of the research.

For the interview itself, the only preparations that had to be made were organising a place in which we would not get disturbed, printing the interview guideline and bringing a recording device. Then, I shortly reminded the participants on the object of investigation and that the data collected would not lead to their person.

After both interviews were finished, I transcribed them following Kuckartz’ (2007) rules of transcription so that, in the next step, it could be analysed in detail. First, I read the transcript and took notes as soon as I noticed something meaningful like Kuckartz, professor of empirical education, suggests regarding the analysis of interviews. I decided for Mayring’s (2010) qualitative analysis procedure to investigate the interview as he is the co-founder of qualitative content analysis. Following his procedure, I marked everything that was either contradictory within the answers of one participant or shows a connection to another answer or rather question. Then, I started to compare the transcripts by highlighting everything that indicates a similar or different opinion in the same colour. By doing this, I was able to design a table (Appendix 2) which helped to get a summarizing overview of the categories, the participants’ answers and their contrasts as well as similarities.

On the basis of this overview, I finally analysed the interviews in further detail. When I connected the gathered information to the theoretical background of the research, I realised that I did not ask the UTE about her extra training and how it was structured. For that reason, I contacted her, and she wrote me the answer which I included in the overview and marked as a later added information.

3. Results

Beginning with the formal results of the interviews, it is mentionable that they took 23,5 minutes and 235 transcribed lines on average. The TET needed approximately 19 minutes to answer the questions that are transcribed in 180 lines of which 116 belong to the TET whereas the UET needed approx. 28 minutes worthy 290 lines of transcription of which she says 220. Comparing the speaking time of the interviews, both teachers show a speaking share of more than 60%.

In the following it is referred to the transcripts by giving the line number. For the sake of better legibility and the limited text length, it is not mentioned in the reference whose transcript I am talking about, whenever it is obvious who of the interviewees I am referring to. Otherwise, the appendix number (TET: Appendix 3, UET: Appendix 4) is used to provide the information. However, if a line and its content is linked to one specific question of the interview guideline, it is involved in the reference by Q for Question and the number of the question. Since German was used as the language of the interview, I translated important statements that I wanted to cite word by word. Those statements that I do not cite are summarised and translated faithfully, though.

When looking closely at the UET’s transcript and its content, there is one particular statement that is linked to most questions asked and almost all her other answers as it seems to be the source of her opinions and thoughts on teaching English. So, in response to Question 7, the UET admits that her way of getting the permission to teach English is a “low-price version” (Q7, l. 117) and she regards it as a “complete disadvantage” (ibid.). For that reason, she stresses that “clearly, clearly trained English teachers are supposed to be favoured over untrained teachers when it comes to hiring” (Q7, l. 127) and that staying abroad should be a regular feature of an English teacher’s basic training (cf. Q7, l. 158f). Nonetheless, she is of the opinion that untrained English teachers in general are able to compensate for their lack of training with their experience (cf. Q7, l.126). That is why the UET does not feel insecure at all (cf. Q8, l. 145). She tries to prepare the English lessons as much as possible by taking detailed notes which give her confidence (cf. ibid.).


1 Not translated as the meaning would change significantly.

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Teacher beliefs of a trained and untrained English Primary teacher. To what extend do they differ and influence their teaching?
Bielefeld University
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teacher, english, primary
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Anonymous, 2019, Teacher beliefs of a trained and untrained English Primary teacher. To what extend do they differ and influence their teaching?, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/520413


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