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Implementing Curriculum Changes in the Classroom

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Published: Mon, 12 Feb 2018

Introduction

Much research on curriculum development has been done in different fields of education. It has uncovered both successes and failures. Research on educational innovations reveals many problems which result in non-implementation of planned innovations. These include the problems of inadequate knowledge of implementation, and lack of awareness of the limitations of teachers and school administration, etc. (Pink 1989; Fullan 1992; Fullan and Hargreaves 1991). Recently, the literature in the field of ELT has reported innovations in the implementation of new teacher roles, new practices, new materials, etc. Most principles for innovation are derived from English-speaking countries and transferred throughout the world. For instance, the learner-centred, communicative approach which originated in British ELT has been recommended almost everywhere. Although some reports mention the success of such innovations, others have concluded that many problematic implementation issues emerge from a direct transfer, after it has been put into use worldwide, such as in China (Burnaby and Son 1989; Anderson 1993; Hui 1997), Indonesia (Tomlinson 1990), Greece (Karavas-Doukas 1995), Hong-Kong (Carless 1998), and Libya (Orafi 2008), etc.

However, the knowledge and understanding of what is involved in effecting innovation in many projects has been investigated mostly by their change agents. Many ELT innovation projects reported in the professional literature are designed and examined by their authors as leading change agents, not by end users, i.e. teachers (e.g. Gray 1990; Jarvis 1992; Tomlinson 1990; Barmada 1994; Guariento 1997; Markee 1997, etc.). In those projects, the authors/reporters design, introduce, and monitor the process of implementation.

To finding out how best to teach the four skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing as well as grammar and vocabulary. The development of so many methods has been a response, according to Richards and Rodgers (2001:7-9), to the changes in the kind of proficiency (e.g. oral vs. written) that learners are thought to need. In the 1970’s, in particular, there was a major shift to learners’ need for communicating in a second language away from a focus on grammar and translation. This shift was crucial, especially for foreign language learners who leave school unable to use their foreign language in actual communication. So, FL countries adopted this shift to communication to satisfy their students’ needs for fluency. As English became a lingua franca by the 1990s it was seen as necessary to teach it for communication as it became the mostly taught foreign language worldwide (Gebhard, 2006; Carrick, 2007).

The teaching of English as a second (ESL) or as a foreign language (EFL) started to become important after World War II. A great demand for English courses by immigrants, refugees, and foreign students took place in the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, and Australia (Richards, 2001:23). When English was introduced in schools, it was first introduced at the secondary level in 1950s. But, since the application of the Communicative Approach/Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) in national curricula after the publication of Wilkins’s book Notional Syllabuses (1976) educationalists/researchers in many countries have observed that students can not communicate as well as expected after leaving secondary school, with eight years of English, as they start their university study (e.g. Al-Mutawa, 1994; Tang, 2002). According to Al-Mutawa and Kailani (1998:I) English language has enjoyed a considerable role in the fields of business, industry, technology, politics, education, medicine and many other professional fields. According to Saleh, more attention is required from EFL teachers to students EFL teachers on teaching them how to communicate in the target language effectively. This requires that the traditional methods, the classroom learning activities and the learning environment have to be changed to correspond with the latest developments and changes in views on ELT represented by the communicative approach (2002:1). Because of the above reasons, English language syllabus of Libyan secondary schools has been changed lately as a response to these developments.

The new English programme in Libyan secondary education aims to enable students to: i) achieve a reasonable proficiency in listening and speaking English at a sensible speed, reading simple texts with comprehension and writing about a simple subject or incident; ii) develop their interest in learning English so that they can learn effectively by themselves; and iii) improve their knowledge and have access to foreign culture (UNESCO 2002 reported in Al-Buseifi 2003:4).

It has been investigated that some classroom teachers who teach EFL at secondary schools in Libya are traditional and not in harmony with the principles and objectives of the communicative approach upon which the new curriculum has been based. Teachers are faced with some difficulties in implementing the new curriculum. Therefore, some problems have been appeared, for example; teachers use their native language extensively and use only very little English during the lesson. Teachers talk a lot whereas students talk very little. Teachers need to be well trained. Class-time and size are not suitable. Appropriate materials and group-work activities are needed.

This study aims to investigate some EFL teachers in Libyan secondary schools to determine the extent of their effectiveness in achieving the desirable objectives of the new curriculum. It specifically investigates and describes the following:

  1. How far does the new curriculum filter down into EFL classrooms in Libyan secondary schools?
  2. What are the methods that Libyan secondary school teachers use in teaching English as a foreign language?
  3. How do Libyan teachers implement the new curriculum (CLT) in teaching EFL?
  4. What difficulties may face Libyan teachers in implementing the CLT approach?
  5. To what extent are Libyan teachers qualified in communicative language teaching?

Since the language curriculum of Libyan secondary schools has been changed lately and has been based on the communicative approach. The EFL teachers who teach this new curriculum should be based on the principles and objectives of the communicative approach. In fact, most Libyan EFL teachers got used to apply the Grammar Translation Method (GTM) with its traditional views and objectives, so they may encounter some difficulties when changing their method especially if they have not been previously trained. This topic is important to investigate because I have noted that it is still a controversial issue between researchers and teachers. The main emphasis is to know whether teachers are using the new curriculum in order to enhance the students’ basic knowledge of English and competence to use English for communication. In other words, it is to investigate EFL teachers at Libyan secondary schools to find out whether they have changed their method in parallel with the change in the curriculum and how it is implemented. In order to achieve more understanding about these issues, this study attempts to discuss the curriculum innovation in Libya with reference to communicative language teaching which is implemented in the new curriculum. More attention is given to teachers, they are regarded as having the main role in any innovation.

This study is divided into five chapters. In the first chapter, there will be the introduction, the research hypothesis, the research question, the purpose and the significance of the research. Chapter two will be focused on the literature review which include; definition of innovation, its theory and its aim. Background of the context, EFL in Libya, CLT, its development, and its principles. Some factors related to the adoption of the new curriculum (CLT), e g; teacher’s role, teacher student interaction, student-student interaction, teacher training, methods of teaching, materials and testing criteria. Third chapter will be the methodology. The methods of collecting data will be discussed, there will be a review of how data will be collected, who are the participants, how many, where, how, when, all these questions will be answered in this chapter. Chapter four will be about the results. The results will be discussed in chapter five. Conclusion and recommendations will be discussed in chapter six.

This study will provide an opportunity to enrich theory and practice of CLT in a non-native English speaking setting. It deals with an important issue in the field of teaching as a foreign language which is related to the teaching methods that is used by teachers. To achieve this purpose this research has been carried out.

Literature Review

Curriculum Innovation

It has been widely noted over many years that the low degree of success of educational innovations is mainly caused by the failure of the innovators who were unable to make use of the extensive theoretical literature on innovation (Havelock and Huberman 1977; Barmada 1994). They also did not adopt the appropriate innovation strategies (ibid.). Both White (1987) and Barmada (1994) identify two areas of expertise in which all innovators should be equipped: an understanding of innovation issues and expertise in the management of innovation.

The Meaning Of Curricular Innovation

It has been defined by Markee as following:

“Curricular innovation is a managed process of development whose principal products are teaching and/or testing materials, methodological skills, and pedagogical values that are perceived as new by potential adopters” (1997: 46). According to Hall and Hewings, teachers’ roles are seen as implementers, and sometimes regarded as adopters, students are clients, and materials designers are suppliers (2001: 119).

Curriculum Innovation Versus Theory:

Vroom’s expectancy theory (1964 in Morrison 1998) from business explains the instant effectiveness of the use of rewards and sanctions. Expectancy theory is based on the assumption that people will involve themselves in change if they expect it to bring about personal benefits (Morrison 1998:132). It is argued that the more benefits people perceive, the greater willingness they will have to be involved in the projects of change (ibid.). These perceived benefits, such as financial benefits, job security, and promotion opportunities, etc. are assumed to be an effective motivator to improve job performance. However, any change often requires additional time, energy, and finance, etc. If the adopters do not think the advantages of an innovation will outweigh its costs, it may not be easy to persuade them to accept it. From management theory point of view, and according to (Everard and Morris 1990), by addressing the “interrelated sensing systems”, we can understand how educational managers effect change. They are; policy making, development, controlling, liaising and doing (Markee 1997:49-51). Teachers do not see themselves having part in curriculum innovation, although the definition given above indicates that teachers have a primary role in innovation. This phenomena has been indicated by many researchers that “curricular innovation entails a mix of professional, academic, and administrative change” (e. g; Bowers 1983, 1987; Crocker 1984; Lee and VanPatten 1990; Straker-Cooke 1987; White 1988). “Managers must therefore enhance an organization’s capacity to innovate through organization development” (Markee 1997: 51). It seems that teachers have many tasks particularly that related to their classrooms. Thus, all participants in language teaching should given part in innovation to be managed (ibid.).

The New Curriculum (Clt) In Efl Countries:

Attempts to introduce communicative language teaching (CLT) into EFL contexts on EFL countries’ own initiatives and through international aid projects have encouraged many innovations in L2 education. In general, such innovations have had a low degree of success (Brindley & Hood, 1990), and implementing CLT worldwide has often faced difficulty (Anderson, 1993; Chick, 1996; Ellis, 1994, 1996; Gonzalez, 1985; Kirkpatrick, 1984; Sano, Takahashi, & Yoneyama, 1984; Shamin, 1996; Ting, 1987; Valdes & Jhones, 1991). Difficult as many EFL countries are still striving to introduce CLT hoping that it will improve their English teaching. Some researchers have strongly advocated the adoption of CLT in EFL countries and recognized the difficulties these countries face in adopting CLT (Li, 1984; Prabhu, 1987).

Burnaby and Sun (1989) report that teachers in China found it difficult to use CLT. These difficulties include the context of the wider curriculum, traditional methods, class sizes and schedules, resources and equipment, the low status of teachers who teach communicative rather than analytical skills, and English teachers’ deficiencies in oral English and sociolinguistic and strategic competence. Anderson’s (1993) study of CLT in China reported such hurdles as a lack of properly trained teachers, a lack of appropriate texts and materials, students’ not being acclimatized to CLT, and difficulties in evaluating students taught by way of CLT.

Sano et al. (1994) point out that the Japanese students they studied generally did not feel a pushing need to use English, so that the goal of communicative competence seemed too distant for them. All these difficulties seem to apply to Libyan context too.

Karavas-Doukas (1995) gives a report in which the curriculum developers in Greece tried to implement the communicative approach to English teaching/learning using textbooks containing communicative components. However, Karavas-Doukas indicated that teachers’ lack of understanding of the methodological principles underlying the new materials was one of the impeding factors that finally let to the non-implementation of this innovation. The Greek teachers had changed to new materials, but they tended to implement the intended communicative activities as controlled grammar practice exercises and did not create the opportunities of real communication in their classroom. They did not realize the new role of teachers and students associated with the CLT approach, so they still acted as knowledge-transmitters, rather than facilitators (ibid.).

Much research has been conducted discussing the communication problems encountered by Arab learners in most of the Arab countries; particularly in Libya. This fact has been clearly explained by many researchers, e. g. Abdul Haq (1982), Harrison, Prator and Tucker (1975), Abbad (1988), Wahba (1998), Saleh (2002) and Orafi (2008). The students in Jordan, for example, learn English in their home country where the native language is Arabic. The only way to learn English in Jordan is through formal instruction, i.e. in the classroom where language teachers are native speakers of Arabic. There are general screams about the extended degeneration of the standards of English proficiency of students among school teachers, university instructors and all who are involved with English language teaching.

The results of the studies conducted in Jordan lead to the conclusion that the goals set by the Ministry of Education are desirous and have not yet been reached (Rababah, 2005:181).

In Yamen, the situation is almost the same as in the other Arab countries. Abbad (1988) acknowledges the weakness of Yameni learners of English, and adds that “in spite of the low proficiency level in English of most applicants, they are accepted into the department.” This is what happens in most of the Arab university. English language departments accept high school graduates without understanding their proficiency level and whether or not they will be able to administrate a program of English studies.

Therefore, Arab learners of English find it difficult to communicate freely in the target language. This may be due to the learning environment which some umpire to be inappropriate for learning a foreign language. This is obvious in Jordan where the formal language of communication is Arabic (Rababah, 2005:182). What happen with other countries can be applied on Libyan context, because the situation is almost the same. According to Saleh (2002) and Orafi (2008), although the new curriculum is introduced in Libya since 2000, the students in Libya still cannot communicate in English or express themselves. They cannot speak English freely inside and outside schools as well. Therefore, they cannot use English in real life situation.

ELT In Libya:

In the 1980s the focus of English language teaching in Libya was on grammar and reading comprehension. Lessons were characterized by oral drills, memorization of vocabulary, and reading aloud. Arabic was widely used in English lessons by teachers and students. During the late 1980s, as a result of political tensions between Libya and the West, the teaching of English was banned from schools and universities across the country. In the 1990s, this status changed to the positive and new curriculum was introduced in 2000 (Orafi, 2008: 244). The new curriculum recommends that ″English be used as much as possible by the teacher and students in the classroom, as the aim is for the students to communicate effectively and fluently with each other and to make talking in English a regular activity″ (ibid:245). It was argued that learners learn a language through the process of communicating in it, and that communication that is meaningful to the learner provides a better opportunity for learning. New classroom techniques and activities were needed, new roles for teachers and learners in the classroom. Instead of making use of activities that demanded accurate repetition and memorization of sentences and grammatical patterns, activities that required learners to negotiate meaning and to interact meaningfully were required.

The purpose of education is seen as based on careers, examination passing and recall. Understanding, applying ideas, creativity, questioning is all devalued. The idea of school education as a way to unlock potential seems missing and the students appear to appreciate that (Orafi 2008). The teachers’ role is largely that of transmitting information in an efficient and effective manner to their students. The teachers have little insight in the role of their subjects in the development of students. They are ruled by the demands of society, with its dependence on examination success for gaining access to over crowed and want more time for students to be able to think. However, they have little clear idea of the nature and role of understanding and the idea of seeing their subject in terms of wider life is largely absent (Al-Buseifi, 2003). Although improving the educational system is a priority for the education authorities in Libya, the educational programmes still suffer from shortages in facilities such as computers, laboratories, and information networks, a lack of qualified teachers, and the use of traditional methods of teaching (Khalifa, 2002). This could be due to the fact that the central focus is on increasing the quantity of schools and institutes rather than improving the quality of teaching and learning outcomes.

The Situation In Libyan Secondary Schools

According to Orafi (2008), ‘the main problem at present of education in Libya is the quality of education. The need to build so much in order to educate so many in a short time creates the classical dilemma of quality of education versus quantity education’. In fact, this problem is not the problem of Libyan education only but is a problem common to many developing countries. Classrooms in Libyan secondary schools are regarded crowed. Most of classes are consisted of at least thirty students. Every student has his own seat from the beginning of the year to the end of it. It is difficult for teachers to go freely through the class. Also it is not easy to work in groups, and to deal with all the students. This problem has been discussed by Richards (1996:146) who states that;

…the majority of large class teachers created, within their large class, a smaller class of students in the front only. They seemed happy to teach this ‘smaller’ class of students in the front and ignored the students at the back…

There is frequently not enough equipment and facilities at some schools (e.g. computers and laboratories). Classes are often large with an inadequate supply of teachers. ‘The examination system emphasises the rote recall of information and holds great power over the learners at key times of the year’ (Orafi 2008:243).

English Textbooks In Libyan Secondary Schools (3rd Year)

The textbook comprises of; subject book, skills book and work book. The materials are organized into two semesters; 12 units per semester, with 22 lessons in each unit. The lessons are divided between the three student books as follows: subject book; 10 lessons per unit, skills book; 9 lessons per unit, and work book; 3 lessons per unit.

  1. Subject Book; the main purpose of this book is presenting information and related vocabulary. The main purpose of the reading and listening texts in the Subject Book is to impart knowledge about the subject concerned and present associated vocabulary. The final two lessons in the Subject Book present one or more pieces of writing.
  2. Skills Book; the main purpose of the Skills Book is presentation and practice in the four skills.
  3. Workbook; its purpose is written consolidation of grammar points from the Skills Book. Students are often referred back to the Skills Book to find examples or to check their answers. Occasionally, vocabulary items are also practiced in the Workbook, and there are sometimes pair work and role-play activities (Phillips & et al 2002).
  4. Implementing innovation as organizational development:

The concept of innovation as organizational development is well described in Markee’s two-in-one innovation: primary innovation and secondary innovation (1997). Markee relates the dimension of organizational development to ‘secondary innovations’ in contrast to ‘primary innovations’, i.e. changes in teaching (and/or testing materials), methodological skills, and pedagogical vales (ibid: 53). In the dimension of primary innovations, innovation intending to introduce new materials, new teaching procedure, new teaching roles or technology, etc. will also involve changes in skills and values. Markee argues that primary innovations cannot be achieved without the implementation of secondary innovations. Markee exemplifies the notion of two-in-one innovations in a project conducted in an American university. This project not only introduced the task-based syllabus into classroom, but also implemented administrative and academic innovations for organizational development. For instance, by means of the development of communication channels (e.g. staff meetings, seminars, and orientations, etc.), participants at all levels obtained a complete understanding of the innovation. By means of the development of the teaching programs, teachers were well trained and became better informed. The outcomes showed that the administrative and academic development not only facilitated the implementation of the new syllabus, but also brought about organizational development. Development of the institutional change capacity is largely neglected due to ‘lack of awareness of the limitations of teacher and school administration or knowledge about how to implement the project’ (Pink 1989 in Fullan 1992). Through the process of organizational development, the implementers, including the management and teachers, focus on the processes and contents of change, learning to develop the capacity to implement change as organizational development. Only when the management and teachers are assisted to build up their change capacity, is there an opportunity for ‘change as organizational development’ (Morrison 1998).

5. The curriculum innovation and the role of the teacher

Rodgers in Richards (2001:104-105) discussing implementation of a communicative syllabus in Malaysia points out that:

While the curriculum innovation has been failed in some places, it has been succeeded in others (i.e. Malaysia). In Malaysia the situation is different and the new curriculum has been managed to achieve its goal, because in Malaysia all the concern parts are shared in innovation (Richards 2001: 104-105). It is clear that these parts should be included in any decision for innovation. In Libya no one of these has taken part in the innovation, except the decision makers (Orafi 2008 :245). In England according to Woods and Jeffrey (2002:25) teachers have seen their role reduced to a list of “competencies and performativities”. This has produced teacher uncertainly as their role as professional has been reduced to that of a technician. In Libya, the teacher is often seen in similar terms, teachers in Libya do not usually influence curriculum change; it is the responsibility of the government to do so. Teachers must merely understand the requirement of students, know the syllabus, and be able to use appropriate teaching methods. Another important responsibility of the teacher is to help students to process new material in meaningful ways in order to encourage its storage in long-term memory in such a way that it is understood and is related to previous knowledge. However, the aim is that the learner makes sense of life and can use and apply knowledge in meaningful ways (Hussein, 2006).

Orafi (2008) investigated teachers’ practices and beliefs in relation to curriculum innovations in English language teaching in Libya. The study was conducted with five Libyan secondary school teachers using classroom observation and interviews. He concluded that there was a mismatch between the teachers’ practice in the classroom and the principles of the curriculum because of the influence of their beliefs.

6. Methods of teaching EFL in Libyan secondary schools

English is taught with the sole aim of passing exams and moving to the next stage. The learning process is largely viewed as mechanical habit formation. That is, the teaching process is dominated by teacher questions, the selection of students to respond, and the demonstration of examples on the board for students to imitate and repeat chorally. Some Libyan teachers still doubt the value of communicative activities because they believe that vocabulary and grammar rules must be the starting point in learning any foreign language, unlike when acquiring a first language. They think that students should be provided with large amounts of vocabulary and grammar rules to be memorized, and then they can start thinking of introducing various activities to practice the language (Al-Buseifi, 2003). These beliefs reflect their practice in class, where traditional methods of teaching such as the grammar translation method and the audio-lingual method are dominant (Orafi, 2008). Because the new curriculum is based on the CLT, I should turn to give sight on the CLT approach:

7. Communicative Language Teaching

Communicative Language Teaching has had a major influence on language curriculum development. First, curriculum development has become much more complex. Whereas twenty or thirty years ago, the point of departure for curriculum development tended to be restricted to the identification of the learner’s current level of proficiency, with the development of communicative language teaching and the insight that curricula should reflect learner’s communicative needs and learning preferences. (Nunan 1996:20) Communication between student and student influences many ways. It can enhance or hinder learning. Students learn from communication through discussion or by talking about tasks. Communication can take place between a teacher and students. Therefore, appropriate communication skills are required, by keeping in mind the sensitivity to students, their level of understanding and judgement (Dillon and Maguire in Sussan 2005:105).

What Is Communicative Language Teaching?

CLT has been defined by Canale and Swain (1980:33) who point that:

With respect to teaching methodology, it is crucial that classroom activities reflect, in the most optimally direct manner, those communication activities that the learner is most likely to engage in… Furthermore, communication activities must be as meaningful as possible and be characterized (at increasing levels of difficulty) by aspects of genuine communication such as its basis in social interaction, the relative creativity and unpredictability of utterances, its purposefulness and goal-orientation, and its authenticity.

Communicative language teaching (CLT) is typically seen as an approach to language teaching (Richards and Rodgers2001). It is based on the theory that the main purpose of language use is communication. With the aim of developing learners’ communicative competence (Hymes 1971). In other words, its goal is to make use of real-life situations that requires communication.

What Is Communicative Competence?

Communicative competence is defined as the capability to discuss and command apposite social behaviours, and it needs the active commitment of the learner in the construction of the target language (Canale and Swain 1980; Celce-Murcia et al 1995; Hymes 1972). Four dimensions of communicative competence are recognized; the knowledge of grammar and vocabulary (Linguistic competence); the capability to say the apposite thing in a confident social situation (sociolinguistic competence); the capability to begin, insert, add to, and extent a conversation, and the capability to do this in a regular and logical manner (discourse competence); the capability to communicate effectively and recover difficulties caused by communication collapse (strategic competence) (Richards and Rodgers 2001:160). Terms usually used to point to aspects of CLT contain ‘process oriented,’ ‘task-based,’ ‘group work and discussion’ and ‘learner-centred’ teaching. Communicative Language Teaching points to both processes and goals in classroom learning (Savignon, 2002:162). Berns (1990:104) states that in CLT;

Language teaching is based on a view of language as communication, that is, language is seen as a social tool which speakers use to make meaning; speakers communicate about something to someone for some purpose, either orally or in writing.

Obviously we can notice that CLT can be seen as a way of teaching in which the application of communicative activities and the foreign language attempts to advance students’ competence of knowing and sharing different knowledge. It centres on the aspect that learning is assisted in a purposeful, real situation where activities are achieved with the teacher’s directions. The definitions also hint that in order to carry out CLT successfully particularly in the EFL context; we are as EFL teachers need to improve our communicative competence, and need to have knowledge about the culture of the foreign language in order to teach the students. Our English proficiency, beliefs, attitudes will affect the implementation of CLT.

Background Of CLT

Communicative language teaching came into existence in the 1970’s as a result of Hymes (1972), the work of the Council of Europe (Halliday 1975, the writings of Wilkins 1972, 1976, and Van EK & Alexander (1980). Wilkins’s document (1975) where he defined notions i.e. concepts such as time and place, and communicative functions such as requesting or apologizing, which was developed into the book National Syllabuses (Wilkins, 1976), influenced the development of CLT (see Mitchell, 1994; Richards and Rodgers, 2001; Howatt and Widdowson, 2004). CLT’s roots can ultimately be traced back to Chomsky’s criticism of structural linguistic theory (1966). Chomsky’s ideas about linguistic competence, the innate knowledge of the linguistic system of the language, called Audio Lingual Method (ALM) into question based on the idea that lea


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