Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Language, Innovation, Culture & Education 2017

Gaining Insights from English Conversation Classes using Thematic Analysis: A Pilot Study

Zilu Liang, Satoshi Nishimura, Takuichi Nishimura, Nami Iino, Kumiko Morimura

University of Tokyo, Japan


The purpose of this study is to gain insights on English conversation classes provided in the Special English Lesson program in the University of Tokyo. In this program several English language schools were invited to give conversation classes on campus. Every semester five teaching assistants were hired to observe all the classes, and they wrote down their observations and comments in a notebook. More than 10 years notes has been collected but not yet analysed. In this pilot study, we apply qualitative thematic analysis to the teaching assistant notes collected in the winter semester of 2014, with a focus on intermediate conversation classes. We imported all the notes into a web-based qualitative data analysis tool called SATURATE. In total 316 paragraphs of text data were created in SATURATE and we coded the data following the standard process of thematic analysis. Eventually 6 themes emerged from the analysis: teaching methods, the personality of the teachers, the reaction of students, the progress of students, the problems of students, and suggested improvement for the classes. The findings suggested that a variety of teaching methods were used in the classes. Each method has its own characteristics and no method worked for all students. Teacher’s personality and the discussion topics could affect the outcomes of the classes. Most of the students made significant progress in several aspects throughout the semester. In the meanwhile, three obstacles were identified: having difficulty in articulating their thoughts, having difficulty in understanding native speakers, and not being able to think in English. The students need to make continuous efforts to overcome these obstacles. We conclude that applying thematic analysis on teaching assistants’ notes helped us gain insights from the English conversation classes, which offers rich implications for future research on effective teaching and learning in English education.


English Education, Thematic Analysis, English Conversation Classes, Teaching Methods

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