An ethnographic study of classroom instruction in an IELTS preparation program


Dr Peter Mickan

Johanna Motteram

Date Published:

27th April 2008

This study documents practices in an IELTS preparation class to investigate which features characterise instruction and to explore the implications for IELTS preparation programs.

This is a report of an observational study of classroom instruction in an IELTS preparation program. The study documented the pedagogy of an IELTS preparation class managed in an ELICOS adult education centre. (ELICOS – English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students.) The main purpose of the study was to provide a description of the pedagogy, and a discussion of implications based on an analysis of the classroom discourse. The qualitative study recorded the classroom practices in an eight-week program designed for students who planned to take an IELTS Test.

Documentation for the study included observational notes of classes, video-recordings and audio- recordings of selected lessons, interviews and discussions with students and the teacher, and materials used for instruction.

The analysis of classroom instruction showed an eclectic teaching approach that covered information about the Test format, practising the Test tasks, awareness-raising of the constituent parts of the tasks, practical hints and strategies for doing the Test tasks, and recommendations for independent learning. Language skills were treated separately in line with the design of the IELTS Test. Much of the class work involved rehearsal for the Test with the teacher modelling and scaffolding exemplars of texts.

The study showed the complexity of preparation for the Test which engaged students in multidimensional social practices. Instruction constituted a process of socialisation into test-taking behaviours and into the priorities embodied in the Test.