This paper reports on an exploratory study that explores the instructional patterns within English as Foreign Language (EFL) secondary school classrooms in Syria. Recently, the Syrian Ministry of Education (MoE) has introduced a new national curriculum which recommends a shift in EFL teachers’ instructional practices. Despite this costly innovation, there has been no attempt to check whether it was working. Adopting a socio-cultural perspective on learning, the study looks at teacher-student interaction and the discourse taking place during teacher-fronted whole class talk. To help in the identification of teachers’ training needs, teacher beliefs and classroom practices are investigated using a mixed-methods approach comprising classroom observations and interviews. Detailed discourse analysis revealed a traditional teacher-controlled mode of teaching focusing on mechanical practice rather than meaningful interaction. Students were afforded few opportunities to participate meaningfully in classroom interactions, as teachers controlled the topics of academic learning. The study highlights the need to invest in teachers’ professional development, particularly during the critical phase of curriculum innovation, to promote interactive and dialogic teaching in the Syrian educational system.