While this issue is not a special issue on any particular area of applied linguistics or English as a foreign language, there seem to be two main areas of interest: one focusing on teachers (their attitudes, development, perceptions about their learners and the curriculum), and another one focusing on learners. Of all the papers, six have an interest in the former, ten on the latter. Of the papers the focus on learners, nine (the vast majority, in other words) are situated in the primary level (which is always an area which particular interest for all teachers, especially in the Greek context) and three involve classes with adolescents. Finally, of all the papers in the volume, five have a particular interest in the implementation of technology.
Let us have a more analytical look at individual papers in the volume. Tsoulou’s paper kicks off the volume with the implementation of a peer observation framework for EFL teachers employed in a Greek secondary education context. The author gauged participant teachers’ attitudes towards peer observation as a means of professional development. The study showed that teachers are favourable towards peer observation and recognize it as a means of prompting systematic reflection as well as promoting their active engagement in the training process that encourages constructive feedback and collegiality. Her paper is followed by an informative review of Greek state-school and private EFL teachers’ viewpoints regarding their understanding of how their status is perceived by the broader community, including peers, learners and learners’ parents. In that paper, Lykoudi finds that state teachers’ self-perceptions about their status rank lower than their colleagues’ in private institutes and links these self-perceptions with their motivation levels. Lykoudi suggests that one way of boosting state-school teachers’ self-confidence would be to raise the acceptance level of EFL teaching in state schools by introducing formal EFL certification structures in the state school system. Following a different direction, but still remaining in the domain of teachers’ attitudes, Karkoulia’s paper focuses on the perceptions of 135 Greek EFL teachers regarding the integration of Web 2.0 tools in their practice. Her study shows that, while teachers approach the level of normalisation in their implementation of such tools as YouTube, Google Sites, blogs, and wikis, ‘the frequency with which teachers use them, the lack of training/technological equipment in many cases, and the fact that Web 2.0 technologies are not part of the syllabus indicate that Web 2.0 tools have not taken their rightful place in education yet’.
Two papers focus on teachers’ attitudes. Vrettou, Psaltou-Joycey and Gavriilidou report on the pilot implementation of a carefully developed questionnaire that they used with 58 Greek primary and secondary state-school EFL teachers in order to investigate the strategies they employ to enhance their learners’ strategic learning. The authors comment extensively on participant teachers’ reaction to the questionnaire and suggest ways in which the teaching strategy inventory (embedded in the questionnaire) can be fruitfully integrated in in-service teacher education. Then, Kavvadia presents the most favoured vocabulary learning strategies according to Greek primary school teachers and learners. She also briefly highlights vocabulary learning strategies showcased in the textbooks used in the same context and underlines the importance of the adoption of appropriate strategies in teaching and learning. Kidonia’s paper concludes this section focusing on teachers and their perceptions by gauging the extent to which the cross-thematic curriculum of Greek all-day primary schools, which emphasises the need for experiential learning, is acknowledged and practised in these contexts. The author asks the opinions of school advisors and teaches and concludes that it is not, and goes on to suggest ways to promote the integration of experiential learning in all-day primary school settings.
We are fortunate to include in this volume two papers addressing the same issue, namely, the integration of phonics and whole language approach in the development of young learners’ early literacy skills. Damianou’s paper documents an action research project that includes teacher journals, class recordings, a battery of reading tests and learner questionnaires. Her data show the interesting ways in which young learners interact with texts and highlight their preferences and early reading strategies. Then, Konstantopoulou proposes a story-based syllabus integrating the phonics and whole language approaches to early reading literacy. Her study uses 8 teaching sessions at a Greek third-grade state-school class and finds that this balanced approach enhanced learners’ motivation and comprehension.
The remainder of the papers document very interesting and informative research that focuses on the primary level and highlights the development of the reading and writing skills. Al-Bulushi and Al-Humaidi shed light on the spelling strategies of a large sample of EFL students of grades four and ten in Oman. Their data show that grade-four learners prioritized rule use whereas grade-ten learners prioritized the visual checking strategy. Interestingly, both groups showed less preference for the kinesthetic strategy, which is attributed to the unwillingness of teachers to engage learners with activities involving movement. Stratigou’s paper shows how young learners’ close collaboration in process writing activities can improve both their engagement and their performance. Her study used a control and an experimental group, the latter using pair-work process-writing activities, the former using individualized writing tasks, and showcases the superiority of the experimental group (despite the challenges that this experiment posed to its participants) in terms of fluency, complexity, accuracy, content and organization. In Manoli’s study, 20 Greek-speaking 11-12 year-olds were involved in a three-month-long period where they received explicit multiple-reading strategy instruction under the Direct Explanation framework (which aims at enhancing learners’ declarative knowledge about each strategy). Among the other extremely interesting results, delayed post-test measurements showed the maintenance of learners’ comprehension gains after the end of the lessons, which has important implications for ESOL teaching.
Four papers have a marked focus on the integration of innovative technologies. Of those, three concentrate on the primary level, and one on adults. Avgerou and Vlachos present the advantages of using blogs in foreign language learning. They see blogs as a means of improving learners’ writing and research skills, as well as their intercultural awareness. Their data come from a state junior high school context, includes learner questionnaires and a teacher’s journal and highlight the ways in which blogs can be fruitfully integrated in the foreign language classroom. Deligianni-Georgaka and Pouroutidi propose a way of boosting young learners’ (6th graders’) motivation and participation in writing tasks by involving them in developing digital comics. They used observation, interviews and questionnaires to show these learners’ active engagement in these tasks. Their research further shows that learners gain through their engagement with technology because they are prompted to be more collaborative and creative. In Makrogiorgou and Antoniou’s study, forty 6-graders participated in a WebQuest-oriented lesson that involved them in engaging with a variety of web-based texts, in an attempt to supplement the compulsory textbook with new ICT skills and strategies. The authors found that these young learners were particularly keen in implementing key reading comprehension strategies, such as goal-setting, monitoring, rereading, scanning-skimming, and inference-making, which render WebQuests an invaluable tool for the state primary ESOL classroom. Last but not least, Katsanis’ study focuses on adolescent learners’ perceptions regarding the impact of Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) in foreign language learning. Her context is a Greek vocational school and the research instrument she uses is a WebQuest, interviews, and observations. She concludes that CALL raises learners’ motivation and facilitates cooperative learning.
Nicos C. Sifakis