Creative Education
2012. Vol.3, Supplement, 158-161
Published Online December 2012 in SciRes ( DOI:10.4236/ce.2012.37B041
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
ELT Teachers’ Role Within E-Learning and Communicative
Teaching from Students’ Perceptions
Jie Xie, Genlin Zhang
School of Language, Literature and Law, Xi'an University of Architecture and Technology, Xi’an,China
Received 2012
The present thesis aims to empirically determine the effects of technology, specifically the integration of
e-learning within English language teaching, on students’ perception of teachers’ role. Participants were
divided into experimental (e-learning) E-group and controlled (traditional) T-group. SPSS was used to
analyze the data collected. The results show that, in both groups, students’ perceptions of the teachers’
role remain positive form the beginning of the term to the end. Such findings reveal that the role of ELT
teachers within e-learning is analogous to an interactive teacher of the earlier conventions, a multifaceted
one with strategy-oriented tasks ranging from Facilitation, Advising, Conducting experiments, Engineer-
ing activities, to Supporting divergent learning styles, pathways and creative productions (FACES).
However, in the aspects of giving advice, offering educational and technological support and engineering
various activities, e-learning group of students holds more positive attitude than the traditional group.
Keywords: Students’ Perception; Teachers’ Role; E-learning; Communicative Teaching
The influence of technology in education is a widespread
phenomenon. Within English Language Teaching, the rapid
development of Information and Communication Technology
(ICT) prompts changes in the ways and methods of teaching
and preparing students for continuous learning and effective use
of the language to communication with people from various
parts of the globe. Now with multimedia computers and Internet
resources available to common people, e-learning presents
foreign language teaching and learning with unprecedented
opportunities as well as challenges. E-learning applications in
academies and institutes have long held scholars’ attention
throughout the world.
With the promotion of technological development, researches
into constructivism have had an enormous influence on the
study of English teaching. Meanwhile, the schools of
constructivism-trivial constructivism, radical constructivism,
social constructivism, and so on, have the common ground that
knowledge is actively constructed by the learners and students
acquire knowledge through interaction[4]. According to the
constructivist theory, teachers should help students create
knowledge by every means instead of imparting knowledge to
them. So it is very significant for us teachers to determine the
role of college English teachers and its function so that we can
improve students’ English achievements and their learning
Compared with the college English syllabus, we must realize
college students’ English level is not optimistic. On the one
hand, many students lack t he ability of listening, or speaking, or
reading, or writing, or translating. Although they have learned
English for so many years, they can’t express their ideas
correctly in English. Lacking abilit ies of thi nking and autonomo us
learning, they wholly rely on their teachers, believing their
teachers stand for the only owner of knowledge. On the other
hand, college English teachers mainly adopt the teacher-
centered teaching approach in class, which failed to bring up
students with initiative and creative power. They care little
about students, neglect their needs and ignore the function of
emotional factors in English teaching.
Gathering data from students, the present study intends to
gather quantitative information about the teachers’ role within
e-learning, in order to fully understand how to synchronize and
synergize the power of ICT tools within language learning and
the learners’ positive perception of these tools. Specifically, the
study gathers students’ perception about the teacher’s strategies
within e-learning and investigates whether technology changes
forms of teaching and consequently, the teac hers’ role.
With the use of e-learning, a component of the e+c frame-
work of teaching English that employs digitalized materials and
ICT-based support inside and outside the classroom, in order to
enhance and practice autonomy among foreign language learn-
ers, the present study seeks to gather information to the follow-
ing query: (1) Does e-learning change students’ perception of
teachers’ role ? (2) What teaching strategies are acceptable
within e-learning?
Parti cipants
The participants in this study are 385 freshmen enrolled in
the 4-year program at the Xian University of Architecture and
Technology from whom the data were collected during the
2009-2010 school year. They are selected randomly from 14
classes in 8 colleges and are assumed to represent a group of
students in China who have had approximately ten years of
formal English learning, receiving training and education for
technically-oriented jobs.
The Assessment of Teachersrole with E-Learning (ATREL
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
=18 items) is a specially designed instrument to measure
learnersperception of the teachersrole within e-learning. It
contains items that reveal teachers actions that are highly
observable and thus, measurable. The instrument includes
questions that gather demographic information such as their age,
family background, learning experience.
The scoring is based on the 5-point scale that employs the
following degrees of frequency: always (5), often (4), average
(3), sometimes (2), never (1), where the number corresponds to
the points attached to it. The higher the number, the more
frequent the recurrence of the teacher’s actions.
The conceptual framework that guided the development of
the 18 items of the assessment is derived from the principles of
task-based learning (Breen 157-174[5]; Willis 90-95[6]) that
foments the directive role that teachers may assume to create
effective learning opportunities even within a predominantly
learner-centered classroom(Brown 115)[7]. Specifically,
drawing from the notion of facilitation that states that it is a
method of guiding and aiding through adjustment and
regulation of interaction (Zimmerman and Evans 43-45), one
understands the importance of pointing to an objective in order
for the first move from the student to be possible[8]. From this
standpoint, the instrument includes items that assess teachers
facilitative acts such as, explaining the rationale of activities,
inclusive of e-learning, and the teachersrole as a guide in
completing learning tasks ( ATREL item 3, 16,17).
Task-based learning is compatible with autonomy within
foreign language learning (Littlewood 43-427) and inherently
stipulates teacher’s facilitation from the beginning to the final
stage of a learning task[9]. In line with this, the instrument
assesses te ac he rs counseling acts such as, attending to
individual needs (ATREL item 8), relating to students in a
friendly manner (ATREL item 10), giving praises to learning
achievements (ATREL item 12), which facilitate dialoguing
and continuous flow of advice. Also, it assesses the teachers
role of and engineer of activities and conductor of assessments
who gather information about learner’s learning processes and
outcome, subsequent to constructing activities based on the
principles of fun and interesting learning (ATREL item 5),
interactive and cooperative learning (ATREL item 7,9).
Finally, in consideration of the demands of task-based learn-
ing, the instrument assesses teacher’s acts of support using
encouragement (ATREL item 6) and continuous feedback
(ATREL item 15).
Data Collect ion & Analytical Methods
The Assessment of Teachersrole withi n E-Learning (ATREL)
is completed to gather data about the participants’ personal
information and perception of teacher’s position within e-
learning, that is, the role they play in the learnerstask to
manage their own learning and consequently be supported in
various stages of active, autonomous learning.
In order to determine the st udentsperception of tea chersrole
within e-learning, analysis of means, and t-test using SPSS13
were employed. The final analysis gathered at the end of the
semester (four months after the intervention) is summarized in
the following sections.
In order to determine the reliability of the instrument, the
analysis employs Cronbachs α reliability coefficient. Instrument
Validity employs exploratory factor analysis, a statistical
technique used to identify a relatively small number of factors
that can be used to represent relationships among sets of many
interrelated variables. In this study, variables include a linear
combination of factors that represent actions of teachers, and
student ratings of these actions can be expressed as function of
factors that have impact on e-learning. Factor analysis helps
identify the underlying, not-directly-observable constructs such
as teachersfacilitation, mediation, and support. In this process,
49 students participated in the pilot test to validate the design of
the test, which ma y indicate the reliability and validity.
The result shows that all the information contained in the 18
variables is kept relatively well without losing too much, and
the 18 actions of the teacher can reflect the 5 roles supposed.
Table 2 reveals that the Cronbach’s α is 0.907>0.8, which
means that the results of the test is reliable.
To sum up, the pilot study indicates that the data collected
pass the tests of validity and reliability and can be used to do
further analysis.
This study concerns understanding the students’ perceptions
of the teachersrole within e-learning, thus, it takes into
account two distinct teaching settings such as the computer
classroom (with internet access) and the traditional classroom
(non-computer classroom). According to the site of instruction,
participants received two forms of teaching which is namely, (1)
e-classroom teaching (e-learning), and (2) classroom instruction
(communicative instruction).
During the period of 18 weeks, e-learning participants are
encouraged to have the outside-the-classroom self-study and
the other group is encouraged to make active communication
and interaction in the classroom using the target language.
Results & Discussion
Aiming to explore the English teachersrole within e-learn-
ing, the present study examines the perception of both the con-
trolled traditional group (T-group) and the experimental
e-learning group (E-group) during a period of 5 months. At the
start of the study, all the students surveyed are freshmen. It’s
presumed that their perceptions about teachersroles were the
same or both positive when they began their study at the uni-
versity, and their initial perceptions were not affected by their
entrance grade.
Students’ Perceptions of Teachers’ Role
At the end of study, data reveal that means of all actions for
both e-learning group and traditional group are above 3, namely
all the students still perceive teachersperformance positively.
However, for some of the actions, e-learning students
perceptions are significantly different from traditional students’.
Table 1.
Case processing summary.
N %
Cases Valid 59 100.0
Excluded(a) 0 .0
Total 59 100.0
aListwise de le ti on ba s e d on all va r ia bles in the procedure
Table 2.
Reliability statistics.
Cronbach's Alpha
N of Items
0.907 18
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
According to the data, students believe that the presence of
teachers can give them advice, offer educational and
technological support and engineer various activities at all time
and all places through the use of e-learning in which computer
mediation is utilized. However, students consider that teachers
perform equally well to provide facilitation and conduct
experiments both under traditional and e-learning environ-
Obviously, the results are fairly different from the original
anticipation and previous researches of many scholars, if not
Possible Causes of the Results
Different factors may contribute to the results above,
including phys ica l aspect of the facilities and subjective aspect
of teachers and students.
To start with, computers and LAN provided by the school are
not always in good conditions. Some computers in the language
lab or e-reading rooms are extremely old and often break down.
The campus LAN is not always stable and sometimes one is cut
off from an important connection to the internet. Another
important thing is that most multimedia classrooms are not
available after class.
Software for English teaching and learning is limited in
quantity. The content of EFL courseware is not all satisfactory.
What’s more, teachers often find it hard to use a courseware to
initiate interaction.
These physical factors may become obstacles for students to
truly performing effective e-learning, and at the same time
interfere with the implementation of teaching methods, which
undoubtedly will further take its toll on studentsperce ptions of
teachersrole under the environment of e-learning.
The negative factors stemming from teachers and students
can not be neglected. Students, especially Chinese students who
have been used to class lecture have not picked up the habit of
autonomic learning. Many students lack the knowledge of the
constructive learning, or are reluctant to change, so they rema in
passive receivers of the knowledge. They usually lack
motivation and inclination to cooperate with the teacher and to
complete the tasks assigned. This suggests that they have not
changed their conception of “learning”, to live up to their role
of information constructor required in e-learning. And for
various reasons, many of them learn rather little about the
computer and network. These may lead to half-baked
understanding about teachersrole. It seems that many students
have not been mental ly prepared to play an active part in the
integration of advanced technology in their own English
In addition, from students’ responses to the questionnaire, it
is found that most teachers involved are prepared mentally for
the implementation of technology. However, some can not
clarify their teaching methods and intention, which implies that
many teachers have not reflected on their ways of English
teaching though it is the basis for development in English
teaching skills.
One more important point is that many teachers do not have
enough knowledge and skills to use computers on an efficient
basis. Some of them are lacking in the ability to use the internet
platform and multimedia devices flexibly and some are weak in
CALL theories. Such failure in technological application affects
teachers to play their r ol es well.
Though agreeing with the teacher’s new role within
e-learning, many teachers still tend to teach English in a tradi-
tional w ay. That is t o say, the re is a divergence in their practice
from their mental conception of their role within e-learning.
Pedagogic Implications
Various eloquent articles describe the features and interactive
capabilities of multimedia that lend itself to integrating tech-
nology within language pedagogy (Singhal, 3.6; Sperling 25;
Warschuer 125-130; Warschauer, Schetzer & Meloni 143-140),
to enhancing positive perceptions of EFL websites (Kung &
Chuo 6.1). The present study, however, shows that the students’
perceptions of some of the teachers’ roles remains the same
within e-learning, and these roles of English teachers within
e-learning is analogous to interactive foreign language teachers
in the non e-learning classrooms of the earlier period (Flander
12; Yuvienco 190-219), who assumes a complex set of strate-
gies such as, Facilitation, Advising, Conducting experiment,
Engineering activities, and supporting divergent learners’ pro-
ductions. Evoking a multifaceted role of an interactive English
teacher, these may be easily referred to as the FACES teaching
strategies within e-learning. As strategies complementing each
other to effectively achieve autonomy as an educational goal,
they are completed freely and accordingly, not singly, nor in-
dependently of each other. These functions and competencies
that constitute the complex role of an ELT within e-learning are
parallel with the five roles that Simon (4) identified within dis-
tance education, which include the roles of technologist,
process facilitator, content expert, instructional design, and
manager. They also corroborate the teaching strategies that are
helpful and necessary in guiding students in the use of Internet
resources (Kung & Chuo 6.1; Fox, 1991; Paulsen 7.3).
Nowadays, teachers’ role in college English teaching has
become more and more important. Teachers are the center of
instruction while students are the main part of learning. Teach-
ers must realize that they themselves are both lifelong instruc-
tors and lifelong learners. The constructivist theory has set a
higher standard for college English teachers, including the de-
mands for their knowledge, their teaching ability and classroom
management. Teachers have to spend more time and energy in
preparing lessons. To be good facilitators, experiment conduc-
tor, advisers, supporter, and activity engineer, teachers have
also to lengthen their working hours and broaden their respon-
Through the study of college English teachers’ role, we can
find that college English teachers play an important role of
facilitators to students’ leaning, organizers of activities, advis-
ers of students, supporters of students’ learning styles, and ex-
periment conductors. When teachers carry out activities in Eng-
lish classrooms, they should serve students and consider every
detail for students. Teachers also should grasp some teaching
skills of creating situation, organizing interaction, using multi-
media, and so on. Meanwhile, it is necessary for teachers to be
reflective practitioners. During the process of learning, teachers
act as guides while students are the center. College English
teachers must be aware of the orientation of teachers’ role
clearly, continue learning and try their best to arouse students’
autonomy and improve their English level.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Limitations & Suggestions
The results and findings of the study clearly suggest the need
for materials designed to facilitate, maintain and enhance
multi-faceted teaching strategies within e-learning. They also
warrant the accessibility of courses related to the fields of
Psychology, Research, and Educational Technology for pre-
service and in-service teachers to ensure constant development
among teachers. These may include, for instance, Psychology-
related courses that offer a general understanding of the design,
use and interpretation of results of Tests of Attitude and
Personality allows teachers to be aware of the way the mind
works, how it influences behaviour, or the influence of foreign
language learners’ character on their behaviour. Similarly, they
may also consist of Research-related courses that provide
training in the use of methods and instruments for sociological
researches assists teachers to design and perform investigations
in their own classrooms; also, courses on Technological
Education that present teachers the opportunity to examine
Information and Communication Technology-based tools for
enhancing foreign language learning. These types of courses,
which need to be continuously accessible and regularly
improved, offer present and future teachers a know-how of
applying knowledge and resources in the aforementioned fields,
allowing them to effectively perform the complex roles of a
facilitator, advisor, researcher, and technological and
educational supporter. They function as a support for foreign
language teachers who intend to provide training in the
language as well as in learner autonomy and responsibility for
one’s own learning (Boud 17-39).
It is noteworthy that the FACES teaching strategies that
enable teachers to manage the complex process of teaching a
foreign language within e-learning are analogous to the
teaching strategies employed within Distance Education (White
207-221). This piece of information may prove useful for
investigations that intend to explore or confirm the set of
teaching strategies that are appropriate and effective within
Distance Education.
Candidly speaking, the present study of students’ perceptions
of teachers’ role based on constructivism has not reached the
point of satisfaction in various ways owing to the inadequacy of
the author’s personal understanding as well as the limitedness
of relevant literature and the pressure of research time. In this
study, the influence of teacherspersonalities on practical
teaching is overlooked for convenience thinking, which may
otherwise have changed the result somehow. Moreover, stu-
dents’ performance in their learning could have been good
proof to test the result of this study. If there will be more op-
portunities, further study is hoped to be conducted.
I am grateful to my academic advisor, and also my leader
Yang Yanlong for his assistance and encouragement throughout
the process of writing the thesis. Dr. Zhang Changzheng of
School of Business Administration, Xi'an University of Tech-
nology gave me measurable help to analyze my data. In addi-
tion, I am also really appreciated Xiao Biao and Yang Pinju for
munificently offering me much constructive advice, which
inspired me greatly.
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