TESOL purposes and paradigms in an intercultural age: Practitioner perspectives from a Thai university

  • Sutraphorn Tantiniranat

Student thesis: Phd


Informed by, and seeking to contribute to, discussions about appropriate methodology (e.g. Holliday, 1994), my study as reported in this thesis was concerned with appropriacy of paradigms in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). It explored practitioner perspectives in Thai higher education (HE) in this era when English has become ‘the’ main international language for intercultural communication (IC). This linkage between English as an international language (EIL) and IC is evident in the strategy of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) – of which Thailand was a founding member in 1967 – for greater economic, cultural and socio-political integration among its members. For practitioners like me, this regional strategic move in conjunction with Thai policies and curricular documentation raises questions about the appropriacy of the established practices of Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) in Thailand. My multi-method qualitative case study addressed such questions by exploring the perspectives of three Thai-national teachers of English working in a Thai public university regarding the purposes of, and assumptions underpinning, their teaching of English. As informed by an understanding of their perspectives, I then considered the possible influences which might have shaped these perspectives. The study identified the teachers’ main purposes to be short-term, instrumental ones – i.e. for academic study and examination preparation purposes. As such, they tended not to attach much value to the teaching of the cultural dimension (i.e. the target culture of native English speakers [NESs], the students’ home cultures and other cultures) or intercultural dimension (i.e. knowledge, skills and mindset needed for engaging people from differing cultural backgrounds). These purposes were underpinned by assumptions they held about the NES linguistic norms as testable norms in TEFL and Teaching English for Academic Purposes (TEAP). The teachers seemed unfamiliar with alternative paradigms – such as Teaching English as an International Language (TEIL) – that might align top-level policy statements and actual classroom practices. This unfamiliarity suggests the inadequacy of the teachers’ educational and professional development experiences. The influences from their institution such as exams-oriented and English-medium academic agendas also had repercussions for the teachers’ perspectives. Stepping back from the teachers’ perspectives, my study suggested discourse inconsistencies across Thai HE regarding paradigms and purposes of TESOL. This situation is unhelpful vis-à-vis the ASEAN foregrounding of EIL for IC, and the consequent need, through TESOL, to prepare Thai students to engage in IC with people within and beyond ASEAN. My study has implications for a direction of change for TESOL in the Thai HE and possibly for similar contexts elsewhere. It offers some suggestions about teacher education that can be supportive of reorienting TESOL towards appropriate and purposeful paradigms.
Date of Award31 Dec 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorRichard Fay (Supervisor) & Susan Brown (Supervisor)


  • English as an International Language
  • Thailand
  • intercultural communication
  • practitioner perspectives
  • appropriate methodology
  • paradigms
  • higher education

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