Role of a Teacher in English Language Learning
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The Problem and Importance
This investigation is fundamentally based on the situation that the students live every day in Public High School's students live everyday, such a case is Liceo Diurno de Esparza within the process of learning English for Oral Communication.
As part of Academic Education, learning English has become of primary importance in a globalized world. The creation and the advance of the massive mass media as well as the means of transportation have contributed for people to be able to communicate more quickly. However, despite the fast advancement of communications, an idiomatic barrier exists, and it is imposed among all the communities in the world and that impedes to communicate more efficiently.
The study of a foreign language was set in order to improve communication among different countries; those countries establish a universal language as an international way of communication. English is that language; it has become a worldwide language due to the great number of countries that use it as a native or foreign language. English has become mandatory in all public educational institutions in our nation.
In the same way, the introduction of transnational companies during the first years of XXI, has brought to the country not only the aperture of more and bigger companies, hence opportunities to Costa Ricans, but also the demand on English speakers in terms of quality and quantity.
In our country is very important that at least the basis of English are known in order to communicate in simple phrases, in our daily life routines, also because Costa Rica is a paradise for tourists and it demands a fullness in the way we manage this universal language as part of cultural and social diversity.
The intervention of the state in the design of English programs for the public sector was given a little late. According to Cordova, (1994), cited by Miranda (1997):
It was not unitl 1925, when the Costa Rican Government through the Department of Public Education decreed an internal regulation that permitted the teaching of foreign languages such as Latin, French, and English in "Casa de Estudio Santo Tomás". English programs were not a success because of the lack of materials and English Teachers; for that reason, the programs were given by people who spoke that language and they had materials brought from other countries (p.3).
That is to say, the Department of Education did not have as a priority the learning of foreign languages for the students. Despite the effort made by the Department, the quality of teaching was worse. English teaching continued being developed without qualified professionals, methodology, and material.
English teaching and learning changed significantly in 1991, when the National Advisor decided to give a new course to the programs. It was in that year when a specific curriculum for English learning was created in High Schools and it covered "Tercer Ciclo" and "Educación Diversificada" (Senior High). Those programs were based on students needs. As a result advisors established in 1994 a program called "Children of Costa Rica, in a modern and integrated world" and decided English should be a subject inside the curriculum of schools. (Cabrera, 2005 p.3)
Despite all the efforts, English had be taken as common subject inside the national test and covered only the written skill and it did not take into account the oral skills. Cabrera (2005) said that "...English had become a written test that included only reading comprehension, and the professors were limited only to teach how to read, but they excluded the other linguistic abilities." (p.1) After almost 70 years of English teaching in Costa Rica and multiple attempts to improve the English programs, it was only during the Government of José Maria Figueres Olsen in 1996, when they really began to evaluate the quality of the programs, and it was determined that students from public schools needed to be orally proficient in English.
Some years later, the Department of Public Education presented the first program of Conversational English for public schools which is part of the technological Education. The program of Conversational English covered listening and conversational skills to give students the capacity to use any given situation.
Since the year 2001, the Conversational English Program has been implemented in the Public High Schools of Costa Rica that want to enter Conversational English as an optional subject in Technical Education. The Advisors of Technical Education are conscious of the responsibility that the High Schools represent in terms of English learning and the quality of the graduated students for they will face the dynamics of the business sector. Thus our current students should respond to the demands of the world in a near future.
Yet, and during the last six years, the Department of Education has tried to change English Curriculum to give more emphasis on the oral and listening skills in the quality of English teaching and learning. Despite all the efforts, it is pitiful to know that after five or six years of English lessons, with three weekly lessons in the "Tercer Ciclo" (seventh, eighth and ninth grades), five weekly lessons in the "Ciclo Diversificado" (10th and 11th grades) and the development of a Conversational English Program with six weekly lessons, our graduates are still incapable of speaking English fluently. (Al Día, 2005).
Badilla (2003), in his study "A proposal of improvement of the applicability of the conversational English program of Public Education" expresses that:
'The Costa Rican curriculum has suffered changes to be adapted to globalization and the programs should be analyzed to guarantee their quality"(p.lO).
Today, there are few existent studies related to the Conversational English Program and its applicability in different contexts. In the same way, it is important to mention that human beings suffer changes through life, and these changes possess some specific characteristics in the social and cultural aspects. In addition, all societies or communities present different characteristics from others. Those differences produce on any program the necessity of a contextualization because it is impossible to develop a program in the same way. All those aspects are very important to take into account in a program evaluation or study.
Due to the little existence of research about the social factors and a good teacher as a facilitator and the way the curriculum of the MEP is applied, the research is considered of importance to contribute with the needs of the students' learning.
The main focus in this investigation is placed in determination of the topic in theoretical and social frames, according to the Costa Rican context. The investigation is build, as a main source, which analyzes the main factors that have their influence on the learning process of English for oral communication, with a hypothetical supposing that there are many factors which are motivators and barriers for the process of learning English for oral communication. The research considers the individual social characteristics as factors for participation in the process as well. A special emphasis in the investigation is directed about the students' achievements toward the skills and capabilities which are required for successfully coping with the everyday job tasks and rapid changes in the students' environment and society. Research is also giving the answers about the Teachers' role and investment in the process of learning of the students.
All of the factors if treating in positive manner will give an impetus to the learning process of individuals while have a negative impact on learning process if acting in a negative manner. But for this investigation we are taking into account three specific elements only, social factors, role of the teacher and curriculum designed by the MEP.
The preceding situation justifies the importance of the present study.
Today's society demands more active and dynamic communication by the used of efficient ways focused on the learning of foreign languages in order to improved the universal the development not only in terms of economics but also culture and society. Therefore, in the last decade many countries have entered different programs for learning a second language.
English learning as a second language requires the developing of a very complex learning process. It has become a need above all in the Costa Rican context because English becomes a language that offers opportunities to find employment. This is one of the greater demands that require the Costa Rican young population.
It is important to emphasize that English is currently very important as an international language, and it is the main-reason to justify its teaching and learning to contribute to the student integral education. The student's deficiencies to speak English are the result of some aspects such as teaching methodologies, teacher's proficiency, short time for the development of the program, the program design, and the student's social factors.
There are many reasons and needs to learn a second language such as English; some of them are the bilingual personnel that the Job market, business and productive sectors demand. To cover those needs. Costa Rican government has established English teaching in private and public institutions.
The authorities of the Department of Education, different businesses and the press have expressed concern because of the poor English fluency that students of secondary schools have after graduating. Umaña (2005), a journalist of "Al Día" newspaper, States: "English is increasingly necessary to opt for a position of work and it is a great worry in the country because people have very limited preparation to meet the demands of this language." (p.13)
Besides the imposed needs by the companies and Jobs, other factors exist which contribute to different personal development of individuals periods; above all, in the social, intellectual, emotional, and psychological aspects. It is important to emphasize that the purpose of the different English programs is not to teach a foreign tongue, it is to teach people to be able to communicate with it. (Cabrera, 2006).
In our country, Educational System has advanced by the introduction of the Conversational English Courses in High Schools, yet, there is a need for improving.
Learning a second language, in our case English, requires of a process followed by steps that influence drastically the development of the students academically. In the last years, and in an overall way, it is clearly perceived the evidence that the graduating students have suffered the consequences of a poor efficiency level of oral communication in English received during their years in High School.
Due to these effects, it is imperative to determine and analyze the relationship among the different factors that influence and provoke whether a positive or negative result in the students oral performance.
This case of study focuses on the investigation of the relationship among the main internal elements that influence the process the learning English for Oral communication according to the current profile proposed by the M.E.P. in the 11th graders.
Communication is many ways "transferring information" (Wikipedia.org). Our educational system places more emphasis in other areas of writing and reading. These two skills are important and part of a whole spectrum, however, there must by a greater emphasis and reinforcement on the listening as the input and oral communication as the output.
The students that represent the case of study, are teenagers who have being exposed through out all the years to the Educational System. These students carry 10 years of studying English, and still unable to communicate orally in an efficient way.
In addition to this, the profile proposed by the M.E.P. within the Communicative Framework attempts that all graduating students reach a certain level of oral communication which sufficient enough will give the future labour sector, the tools to find well remunerated jobs in a competitive world in which the use of a foreign language is mandatory as in the case of English. Yet, the intention of fulfilling the expectations need to be analyzed in order to find better methods and techniques in the process of learning English for oral communication.
There is not doubt that the accurate development of the process of learning English through the Conversational English arises as way of given students a new opportunity to develop oral skills that will result into a successful tool for the future. It becomes of primary importance that students fulfill a series of standards imposed by a continuous changing and demanding society in which having a backup of a second language represents a key for progress in all aspects.
While many discussions about learning a second language focus on teaching methodologies, little emphasis is given to the internal factors that influence the process such as the role of the teacher, students social factors, and the appropriate use of the curricula of the system.
Therefore, this research considers that the study of the internal elements that affect the learning process comes to contribute with the improvement of the pedagogical practice.
State the Problem
Based on the premonition that the process of learning oral communication is influenced by a series of factors, it is imperative to identify and determine the main questioning as follow:
Which Basic Internal Elements Influence the Process of Learning English in a Conversational Course for Oral Communication based on the Profile Proposed by the MEP in the 11th graders of the Liceo Diurno de Esparza in Puntarenas?
The basic internal elements in the process for learning English in a conversational course for oral communication to be considered the main influence for the 11th graders are:
- The role of the teacher as a facilitator
- The students as the social center of the class
- The appropriate use of the communicative approach proposed by the MEP.
- The effect of the internal factors in the English Conversational Class at the Liceo Diurno de Esparza.
Investigate how the role of the teacher as a facilitator, the students as the social center of the class and the appropriate use the communicative approach proposed by the MEP, influence the performance of the students during the process of learning English for oral communication.
- Analyze the students as the social center of the class through the process of learning English for oral communication.
- Demonstrate the role of the teacher as facilitator in the process of teaching specifically listening and speaking.
- Relate the appropriate use of the communicate approach as part of students´ achievement of the profile proposed by the MEP.
- Determine the internal factors effect on the 11th graders' oral performance in the English Conversational Class at the Liceo Diurno de Esparza.
Scope and Limitations
As the major scope of this study, there is the attempt of making a relationship between the internal elements that affect the process for oral communication in the 11th graders. The achievements of this research are:
- This is centered on the Liceo Diurno de Esparza; therefore, its results to other high schools or institutions of the country cannot be generalized.
- The expectation for this case of study is to find and prove the effect whether negatively or positively that the role of the teacher as facilitator, the student as a center of the class and the communicative approach working together will launch.
- The main objective is to compile data that launches important facts about the main elements influencing the process of learning oral communication in the last year of Public High School.
The study may be of interest for all English teachers around the country as a diagnose about the importance of teaching a second language using the Curricula (CLT) imposed by the MEP and under the stipulations of the Public Ministry of Education as well as any
individual interested in having a view on the basic elements that influence the process of leaning oral communication.
In the same way, the study may be a starting point for investigation that in the attempt to look for further information may use this case as the based for their investigation.
Finally, in regards of the limitations that may be presented in the investigation are:
- It is imperative to mention that the Communicative Language Teaching used by Public Education in Costa Rica involves all four skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) as a whole spectrum in an integrated way; however, this study focuses only in Oral communication, in other words, in the speaking including the listening skill as the input.
- The little existence of investigations and studies that can serve of guide for the present investigation.
- The little existence of theoretical sources about the social factors and its influence on learning English for oral communication.
- The lack of confidence that the teacher and students can offer about the development of the program in its institutions.
- The validity or truth of the answers that the students offer in the different instruments.
Role of the Teacher as a Facilitator within a humanist and constructivist point of view
Today, teachers have to face the incorporation of new principles taken from educational psychology, such as humanism and constructivism. New beliefs, values and assumptions of the teacher about teaching encouraged the emergence of the view of the teacher as a facilitator rather than a transmitter of knowledge (Brown, 2001, 1991; Cook, 2003, 1991; Grasha 1996; Richards & Lockhart 1994). According to Grasha (1996), a facilitator is a supporter, a guide, and feedback provider; a facilitator is a monitor and observer of students' progress and an aide while learners are building and appropriating their knowledge.
Grasha's (1996) description of a facilitator certainly reflects the influence of the humanistic view of education in which the learner is seen as a whole person, not just as a cognitive being whose thoughts, feelings and emotions should be considered by the teacher who makes learning meaningful and engaging (William & Burden, 1997). In fact, according to these authors, making learning meaningful and engaging requires a facilitator who can:
..create a sense of belonging, make the subject relevant to the learner, involve the whole person, encourage knowledge of self, minimize criticism, encourage creativity, develop knowledge of the process of learning, encourage self-initiation, allow for choice , and encourage self-evaluation. (p.38)
Furthermore, the description of Grasha (1996) of the facilitator also reflects the principles of constructivism which integrates two branches, the cognitive and social (Brown, 2007, p.12) on learners. Several authors (Mitchell &Myles, 1998; Williams & Burden, 1997) describe a constructivist teacher as a mediator who encourages students to discover principles by themselves, engages in collaborative dialog with their students to help them connect their prior knowledge with the new knowledge being acquired and presents information in a format appropriate to the learner's level of understanding.
The humanistic and constructivist influence on the teaching-learning process of second languages is clear. In fact, in order for Communicative Language Teaching to reach its objectives, it requires of a teacher who perform a wide range of roles. According to Gebhard (1996, p.55), "teaching is multifaceted, and much of the complexity involves how to assume roles that capitalize on our abilities in English while we at the same time take on roles that contribute to creating interaction in the classroom that is meaningful for both teachers and students," as promoted by constructivism. This explains why several authors agree that teachers perform different roles in the teaching-learning process according to the lesson stage (Harmer, 1991; Nunan &Lamb, 1996, Richards & Rodgers, 2001).
Consequently, the teacher will be a controller when the group must be attentive to the topic being discussed at the moment; an adviser (when the teacher corrects or gives feedback to the students); organizer (when the teacher gives instructions or keeps the students working so the lesson goes on smoothly); encourager (when the teacher needs to encourage students to participate); participant (when the teacher participates in the class activities and respects the ideas, thoughts, and opinions given by students); resource (when the teacher provides information and assists students); tutor (when he/she helps to clarify ideas); researcher (when he/she observes and does some research on the teaching-learning procedures in the classroom), and facilitator (when the teacher creates a pleasant atmosphere for language learning). At first, it might seem that these roles are not consistent with the description of the facilitator, it should be remembered that the facilitator would adapt its teaching to suit the learner's needs (Gebhard, 1996; Mitcherll& Myles, 1997).
On the other hand, the humanistic influence on today's teachers is further noticed in what Underhill (as cited in Arnorld, 1999) calls the holistic nature of facilitation. According to this author, every personal feature "feelings, attitudes, thoughts, physical, presence, movements, quality of attention, degree of openness and so on" (p132) of the instructor can influence the learning environment in which the learners are involved in every lesson. This holistic nature of facilitation also enhances the sensitiveness of teachers toward student's reactions to class activities.
In this sense, (O'Hara, 2003, as cite in Brown, 2007), focuses on the process of learning- teaching as a "transformative pedagogy". He states that the goal of education is the facilitation of change and learning, where the teacher lowers to the level of student.
Moreover, Rodgers (as cited in Brown, 2007) supports this idea by stating that the chance is established by the interpersonal relationships among facilitator and learners. According to this author, for the teacher to be facilitators, fist they must be real and genuine, discarding masks of superiority and omniscience; second have genuine trust, acceptance, and a prizing of the other person as a worthy, valuable individual and third need to communicate openly and empathetically with their students and vice versa.
Teachers are challenged in fulfilling the wide range of roles somehow to be balanced in order to create harmony, positive atmosphere and guidance for the students. Yet, in order to be facilitative teachers, Krishnamurty (2001) points out they have to be
enthusiastic participants in the classroom
..who facilitate personal growth in students, are unique, extraordinary, worthy of the dedication...It [Facilitation] requires a self assurance, a willingness to share self, to care, to begin a journey, then launch the student on a personal quest... when we find the teacher who is facilitator, we find a classroom where personal growth is flourishing. (p.1)
Satir (2001) says that the facilitator promotes effective listening, genuine understanding, respect, and teacher-students-students effective communication in the classroom.
Moreover, an effective facilitator makes as many inquiries as possible in order to detect the strengths and weaknesses of students. Grasha (1996) points out that a facilitator is an instructor who guides the students by asking questions, seeking alternatives, and pushing them to have independent criteria. For him, one of the main goals of a facilitator is to encourage the students' autonomy.
Authors such as (Harmer, 1991; Richards & Rodgers, 2001; Underhill, 1999) discuss different traits that an effective facilitator shares. They state that the facilitator keep a low profile so that students can come up with their own ideas about the learning situation. Teachers must not intervene when the students are having communicative activity but must always be ready to help students as necessary.
The facilitator does not only understand the subject matter and has the ability to use methods and techniques; the effective facilitator also studies and pays attention to the psychological environment and the learning processes in order to let students take responsibility for their own learning.
Importance of Students as the Center of the Social Factor
As part of a society, community, school community and consequently of a classroom, the student has an active performance. It is at the core of every day class, thus, of the teaching-learning process.
For many years, traditional education has viewed teacher as authority figures Oxford (1990.p10), thus, the center of the class. In these classrooms, the students are objects rather than the subjects. In our country, it is very likely to occur that students have magisterial class even thought our educational system is based on the Communicative Language Approach since many years ago already and consequently, on student-centered classroom.
The interaction and exchange of information in language learning of the students is affected by variant social factors. Indeed, students are part of this "social community" in which students are social beings that communicate in many different ways, are as well a social factor that influence the process of teaching-learning at the internal.
The responsibility for learning and progressing is characteristic of the students:
"Learners must individually discover and transform complex information if they are to make their own, [suggesting] a more active role for students in their own learning than is typical in many classroom" (Slavin, 2003, pp.257-258, as cited in Brow, 2007, p.12)
Students must control the way they manage themselves within the teaching-learning process, the teacher is just a guide and facilitator (Brown, 2007) who gives them the tools, but it is up to them what the results would be. The whole process focuses on the communicative competence of the students who are at the center of the classroom and the real protagonists.
Understanding Fundamental Principles on Learners
For understanding the role of students and their development within the process of language learning, Brown (2001.p.54), reflects three fundamental principles for understanding practices for the student to develop a communicative language process.
Brown demonstrates by three main principles, the conceptions to be considered:
- Cognitive Principles
- Affective Principles
- Linguistic Principles
According to Brown (2001.p.55) "cognitive" is related to mental and intellectual functions. In other words, it refers to what is inner the students' mind that influences their development within the teaching-learning process.
This principle relates to the learning of the language subconsciously, in other words, students exposed to language input that later have the opportunity to experience output, will learn the language "without" thinking about it, as in an automatic way.
In order for students to accomplish this principle it is important that they experience (Brown2001):
- Subconscious absorption of language through meaningful use
- Efficient and rapid movement away from a focus on the forms of language to a focus on the purposes, to which language is put,
- Efficient and rapid movement away from a capacity-limited control a few bits and pieces to a relatively unlimited automatic mode of processing language forms, and
- Resistance to the temptation to analyze language forms
Yet, the principle of automaticity is stated as follow:
"Efficient second language learning involves a timely movement of the control of a few language forms into the automatic processing of a relatively unlimited number of language forms. Overanalyzing language, thinking too much about its forms, and consciously lingering on rules of language all tent to impede this graduation to automaticity." (Brown, 2001 p.56)
In order for students to built automaticity more efficiently, students should use language in authentic contexts for meaningful purposes. Moreover, students must be aimed at employing functional purposes (Brown, 2001) for gaining more language competence.
This principle is closely related to the principle of automaticity. Brown enhances the strength of meaningful learning opposed to rote learning- taking isolated bits and pieces of information that are not connected with one's existing cognitive structures(Ausubel 1963, as cited in Brown,2001). On the other hand, meaningful learning (Brown, 2001) incorporates new information into existing structures and memory systems.
The fact that students associate sounds, words, structures and discourse elements with what is relevant and important in their every day life use for knowledge or survival is more likely to (Brown, 2001) lead toward better long-term retention.
Then, this principle emphasis on students to:
- Capitalize on the power of meaningful leaning by appealing to students' interests, academic goals and career goals.
- When a new topic or concept is introduced, attempt to anchor it in students' existing knowledge and background to associate with something already known, also referred as schemata activation
On the other hand, students should avoid rote learning:
- Too much grammar explanation, abstract principles and theories, drilling and memorization.
- Activities whose purposes are not clear
- Activities that do not contribute to the accomplish of the goals of the lesson, unit or course
- Mechanical techniques, instead, the use of language and meanings.
The Anticipation Reward
Skinner (as cited in Brown, 2001p 58) states that:
Human beings are universally driven to act, or "behave" by the anticipation of some sort of reward -tangible or intangible, short term or long term-that will ensue as result of behaviour.
It is understood that people are somehow inspired and moved by a goal or purpose and according to this author; the anticipation of reward is the most powerful factor in directing one's behaviour.
Within the classroom application and more specifically with the students, it is important that they receive for example rewards for having a good performance that indicate their success. At the same, Brown (2001) agrees that it helps students to see... that what students are doing has relevance to their long- term goals in learning English.
Yet, it has to be clear stated that this practices must be regulated in order not to create (Brown,2001) dependence over the rewards...to look only over rewards and the development of own internal...system of rewards by the students' side.
Instead, students have to be aimed to receive according to Brown's constructive classroom implications:
- An optimal degree of immediate verbal praise and encouragement.
- Reward each other [students] with compliments and supportive action
- Short-tem reminders of progress
- [Obtain] enthusiasm and excitement... in the classroom.
- Get [students] to see the long-tem rewards in learning English.
Brown once wrote:
"If all learners were intrinsically motivated to perform all classroom tasks, we might not even need teachers."
This statement certainly summarizes one of the most important features that students must carry, the internal motives that drive them to succeeding in learning English. However, and very essential, is the combination of this necessity to classroom tasks that (Brown, 2001) feed into those intrinsic drives. When the learners perform a task that is fun, interesting, appealing, challenging, there is (Brown, 2001) much greater chance for success if they are self-rewarding in the perception of the learner.
Once again, Brown summarizes intrinsic motivation as:
The most powerful reward...those that are intrinsically motivated within the learner. Because the behavior stems from needs, wants, or desires within oneself, the behavior itself is self-rewarding; therefore, no externally administered reward is necessary.
This principle is in the aim at focusing on the role of the learners to finding their own success. It contemplates two major pedagogical implications:
- The importance of recognizing and dealing with the wide variety of styles and strategies that learners successfully bring to the learning process and therefore
- The need for attention to each separate individual in the classroom.
Students have to look for the "methods" to employ in order to internalize and perform the language. However, the use of techniques and strategies to be used by the students for sending and receiving language may vary significantly from another's.
Brown (2001) has stated that students need as much individual attention (as possible). Nevertheless, there may be cases when the quantity of students in large classroom may cause lack to time for them to get attention from the teacher; therefore, students need to be provided with essential techniques for accomplishing the goals and also more face-to-face communicative activities.
This principle focuses on regards of students (Brown, 2001p.61) emotional involvement which includes feelings about self, about relationships in a community of learners, and about the emotional ties between language and culture. These principles derived from the affective filter hypothesis that states that a mental block, caused by affective factors...that prevents input from reaching the language acquisition device (Krashen,1985)
Summarized in a well-recognized claim:
As human beings learn to use a second language, they also develop a new mode of thinking, feeling, and acting-a second identity. The new "language ego," intertwined with the second language, can easily create within the learner a sense of fragility, a defensiveness, and a rising of inhibitions. (Brown, 2001,p.62)
As human beings, students have many facets within the English learning classroom. When students are exposed to a second language emerges a new "personality" or as Browns' (2001) "second self" in which they have to face emotional, sometimes embarrassing situations that affect their "ego"; therefore, they need to be treated with affective care, patience, and supportive attitude by the teacher.
For Rojas (2010), language ego may represent the failure for English learning if not carry out appropriately in the classroom. Their mistakes are necessary and normal, but they need to feel accepted, understood as new learners of English.
Described (Brown, 2001) as:
[the] learners' ability that they indeed are fully capable of accomplishing a task is at least partially a factor in their eventual success in attaining the task.
In every student's belief of its ability to accomplish a goal relays the importance of self-assessment despite the degree of the language ego it may be having. What moves the students is that internal force and determination for taking over the fears and fragility. However, students need to hear Brown (2001p.63) a teacher affirm[ing] a belief in the students' ability. It is important for students to receive this type of encourage and reward in order to maximize their degree of confidence within the classroom performances.
This process, Rojas (2010) says may take more time for some students than for others. There is a great spectrum of personalities that must be known by the teacher, and yet the teacher must transmit to the students that confidentiality they need to cope with every day class.
This principle is interrelated with language ego and self-confidence. Risk-taking represents what drives students to attempt to use language productively and receptively (Brown, 2001, p63). Students have to struggle first with the introduction of a new language, thus, a "second personality". Once they recognize their vulnerability toward the new language, they recognize their capability to accomplish their tasks, then they feel ready to take the necessary risks for accomplishing language use.
Brown (2001) asserts that students do not receive the necessary encourage for risk-taking; instead, they receive encourage for correctness, right answers which may (Rojas,2010) cause fears on making mistakes and minimize students' participation. Encouraging risk- taking Brown (2001) reflects as to increase long-term retention and intrinsic motivation. Indeed, this author states that:
Successful language learners, in their realistic appraisal of themselves as vulnerable beings yet capable of accomplishing tasks, must be willing to become "gamblers" in the game of language, to attempt to produce and to interpret language that is a bit beyond their absolute certainty.
Yet, there are certain rules for understanding what students need to use risk-taking and reflected within the classroom:
- Students need an atmosphere that encourages them to try out language.
- [students] need challenges in the techniques, not to easy not too hard.
- Receive positive affirmation for praising them for trying.
This principle focuses on the complex interconnection between language and culture in which culture Brown (2001, p 64) asserts is a complex system of customs, values, and ways of thinking, feeling and acting. This conception is supported by Acuna (2009) who stated that students need to see in the classroom cultural contexts for them to be fully involved within the second language.
Indeed, there are implications of culture that students need to live and understand when learning the second language:
- There are cross-cultural differences; however, no culture is better than another.
- Experience the connection between language and culture through different techniques and materials.
There are cultural connotations especially sociolinguistic aspects that students need to be taught.
In order to accomplish the students' production, the affective filters described as emotional barriers to teach (Parrish, 2004) must be lower for students not feel affected by emotional factors by learners being engaged and relaxed, supported in different levels and given a natural setting for their optimum development.
This category of principle focuses on the use of language itself and how the learners deal with the complexity of the linguistic systems.
The native language effect
This principle reflects the importance of native language interference on the process of learning for students. There is not doubt that native language, in this case, Spanish has an effect when students attempt to communicate because students usually believe that the target language behaves like the native language.
Brown (2001, p66) stresses the importance of the native system in the linguistic attempts of the second language learner:
The native language of learners exerts a strong influence on the acquisition of the target language system. While that native system will exercise both facilitating and interfering effects on the production and comprehension of the new language, the interfering effects are likely to be most salient.
Most of the time students' errors based on their native language system are salient and evident. They need appropriate feedback to focus in the interference in order to minimize future errors.
Closely related to the native language effect, interlanguage deals with the middle point between the first language and second language in which the students struggle for making correct utterances in the process of learning English. The progress of students depend Brown (2001) asserts on the correct feedback on the linguistic output by providing positive affective feedback and at the same time cognitive feedback about whether or not the actual language is clear and ambiguous (Brown, 2001,p.166) is crucial to the developmental process. Through the process of learning English, students need to by given with in an appropriated corrective model for errors and mistakes which the teacher as a facilitator must use and negotiate with the students in the class. However, it overcorrection should be avoided (Brown, 2001) What is important to understand is that any type of feedback is constructive, for it allows the student to better understand his o her own level, and where he or she is need of improvement. Establishing effective support is crucial to the class Brown (2001) declares.
This is the most important linguistic principle of learning and teaching Brown (2001) states:
Given that communicative competence is the goal of a language classroom, instruction needs to point toward all its components: organizational, pragmatic, strategic, and psychomotor. Communicative goals are best achieved by giving due attention to language use and no just usage, to fluency and not just accuracy, to authentic language and contexts, and to students' eventual need to apply classroom learning to previously unrehearsed contexts in the real world.
Origins of Communicative Language Teaching
There are different opinions about the origin of the Communicative Approach used today to teach English in many different parts of the world. Even though experts do not agree on the specific decade (Richards and Roberts, 1991 pg 64) when the approach became more popular, they agree on the reasons why its principles were accepted by the educators in such a rapid way. Tutor (1996 p.p 1-9) states that Communicative Language Teaching was born as a necessity to help students develop the capacity to use the language they were learning for communication purposes, both at a personal and professional level. According to this author, the instances were noticed during the 60´s based on two different circumstances which were related somehow. The fist of these circumstances showed the dissatisfaction towards Audiolingualism, the method used at that time for EFL teaching, which did not emphasize the process of communication and interaction among learners. The second circumstance was the need to develop more flexible courses which were focused on the real needs of the students.
Moreover, the American sociolinguistic D. Hymes, advocated in favor of CLT in the 70´s as opposing Chomsky's (Richards and Rodgers, 1991, pg 64) structural linguistic theory in which. D. Hymes proposed that knowing a language involves more than knowing a set of grammatical, lexical, and phonological rules (Hoa, p.3). Instead, to use the language effectively, learners need to develop communicative competence- the ability to use the language they are learning appropriately in a given social encounter. (Hoa, p.3)
Furthermore, Savignon (2001) suggests that Communicative Language Teaching emerged simultaneously in Europe and United States as a result of a variety of circumstances. In Europe there was an increase in the number of immigrants and workers which led to the development of a program for this kind of students based on the functional uses of language.
These courses emphasized the use of language in real situations in accordance to the needs of the students. At the same time, Savignon says, the term "communicative" was being used in the United States to refer to the ability of the foreign language students to interact with other speakers. In other words, talking about "communicative teaching" implied encouraging students to ask information, to ask for clarification and other linguistic and non linguistic resources necessary to negotiate the meaning of the message.
The Communicative Approach
The importance of English in the world today and the demand to teach learners a working command places the Communicative Approach (also referred to as Communicative Language Teaching) as the way Hoa (2005,p.3) states, to satisfy various communicative needs in the (students) lives.
According to White (1988), at the beginning, it was necessary to understand written English in order for people to be able to work in factories. These people acted like machines they were focused on what they were doing. Actually, they did not have the skill to communicate orally in English. Little by little those who hired these employees realized that it was important for their workers to hold oral conversations in order to accomplish jobs in a satisfactory way. Thus the need for understanding and producing oral English as did different methodologies to teach this language. Today that English is the world most widely studied foreign language (Richards and Rogers, 1991 pg 1), the CLT has become the most common method used for teaching around the world. In Costa Rica it is included in our Public Educational System as in the case of the conversational courses of the MEP (Costa Rican Public Educational Ministry) in which
..the oral aspect of the language is the object of study. The other three basic linguistic abilities: listening and reading comprehension, and written production are also important but most of classroom time should be devoted to the development of the speaking skill (MEP, 2001, p. 17)
Principles of Communicative Approach
The process of teaching-learning a second language based on the Communicative Approach, takes the conception of language as communication and the objective of teaching. As Canale and Swain (1980, as cited in Brown, 2007 p.219) state, the communicative competence comprises not only grammatical competence (knowledge of lexical items and of rules of morphology, syntax, sentence grammar, semantics and phonology), but also sociolinguistic competence ( rules of language use, role relationships, communicative purpose of interaction), discourse competence( capacity to understand a message and relate it to a context), strategic competence(use of strategies for successful communication) (Hoa, p. 4).
In addition to this conception, Hymes ( as cited in Brown, 2007, p219)) referred to Communicative Competence as that aspect of our competence that enable us to convey and interpret messages and to negotiate meanings interpersonally within specific contexts as opposed to Chomsky who has the notion that competence was too limited and an intrapersonal construction( Brown, 2007). Savignon supports Hymes' conception by (1983, p9, as cited in Brown, 2007), noticing that "communicative competence is relative, not absolute, and depends on the cooperation of all the participants involved."
This Approach looks to integrate the "real life" themes, concepts, functions, situations, and intentions following a natural learning process always looking for the development of communicative competence. This previous assertion is clearly reflected in the principles of the communicative approach (Richards & Rodgers, 2001 pg 161):
- Language is a system for the expression of meaning
- The primary function of language is interaction and communication
- The language structure reflects its functional and communicative uses.
- The primary units of language are not merely grammatical and structural characteristics, but functional communicative meaning categories.
Furthermore, Finocchiaro and Brumfit (1983) declared within the main features of CLT (Richards and Rodgers, 1991 pp. 67-68) that:
- Meaning is paramount
- Contextualization is basic premise.
- Language learning is learning to communicate.
- The target linguistic system will be learned best through the process of struggling to communicate.
- Communicative competence is the desired goal
- Language is created by the individual often through trial and error.
- Fluency and acceptable language is the primary goal: accuracy is judge not in the abstract but in context.
- Intrinsic motivation will spring form an interest in what is being communicated by the language
Objectives of CLT
The following are the most important levels of objectives to be applied in any teaching situation within a Communicative Approach:
- An integrative and content level: language as a means of expression.
- A linguistic and instrumental level: language as a semiotic system and object of learning
- An effective level of interpersonal relationships and conduct: language as a means of expressing values and judgments about oneself and others.
- A level of individual learning needs: remedial learning based on error analysis.
- A general educational level of extra-linguistic goals: language learning within the school curriculum.
Learner Role within the Communicative Language Approach
The emphasis in a Communicative Language Teaching on the process of communication
lead to different roles for learners.
Breen and Candlin describe it:
"..the role of the learner as negotiator - between the self, the learning process and the object of learning- emerges from and interacts with the role of joint negotiator within
the group and within the classroom procedures and activities which the group undertakes. The implication for the learner is that he should contribute as much as he gains, and thereby learn in an interdependent way". (Richards & Rodgers, 1991 pp.77)
The student is the center of the teaching-learning process; therefore, it depends on the students´ availability for acquiring the knowledge in a meaningful way by means of interaction and communication with other classmates and teacher.
The students interact with their classmates by means of activities, strategies and techniques as well. The process of teaching-learning is not unilateral (students-professor) but among the students and between students and teacher.
Teacher Role within a Communicative Approach
The professor is a key and important part of the puzzle in any of the learning levels of a second language. Within the Communicative Language Approach, the professor is a guide for driving the process, interacting with the students and looking for students to participate and find their own independence. The teacher carries out the lesson, looks for student to deduce, analyze, interpret and ultimately internalize the information.
It is important that a teacher employ words for students to be able to understand and produce having an exchange of ideas that reflect the acquisition of knowledge. Moreover, the teacher must manage to create an environment in harmony for students not to lose their interests. The teacher follows a series of different roles within the Communicative Language Approach in order to encourage students to communicate, thus motivate them for learning.
Bree and Candlin (1980) describe teacher roles in the following terms:
"The teacher has two main roles: the first role is to facilitate the communication process between all participants in the classroom, and between these participants and the various activities and texts. The second role is to act as an independent participant within the learning-teaching group. The latter role is closely related to the objectives of the first role and arises from it. These roles imply a set of secondary roles for the teacher; an organizer of resources and as a resource himself, second as a guide within the classroom procedures and activities... A third role for the teacher is that of researcher and learner, with much to contribute in terms of appropriate knowledge and abilities, actual and observed experience of the nature of learning and organizational capacities."
As stated before, the teacher plays important tasks within the approach. The teacher must help students to develop self confident in order for them to communicate and promote activities to get involve with each other.
The teacher assumes the responsibility for determining and responding to learner language needs (Richards and Rodger, 1991, pp78). This activity can take place in an informal way and personally through conversations where the teacher can analyze perspective of the students.
In the same way, the teacher is counselor (Richards and Rodger, 1991, pp78). The teacher can give the students any type of advice regarding language needs and strengths in order for them to improve and communicate effectively.
It is also the responsibility of the teacher to look for classroom organization and activities to maximize the process of communication of the students. It must take into account different strategies, techniques, age and interests of the students as group and individually.
Student and Teacher relationship within the Communicative Approach
According to Galloway (1993), the quality of the relationship between student and teacher is fundamental in the learning of a second language. The teacher must consider and respect the opinions of the students just as much as the students should show this same respect to their teacher. To create the most ideal situation, in compliance with the communicative approach, the teacher should assume the role of the facilitator and the students of the central agent. Thus, the student generates the universal concepts and the teacher institutes the correct environment for conversation to occur, and it is then the responsibility of the students to take advantage of such an opportunity to use an elaborate upon the subject at hand. Galloway (1993) refers to the role of the teacher and the student in a communicative language teaching:
"Teachers in communicative classrooms will find themselves talking less and listening more- becoming active facilitators of their students' learning. The teacher sets up the exercise, but because the students' performance is the goal, the teacher must step back and observe, sometimes acting as referee or monitor. A classroom during a communicative activity is far from quiet, however. The students do most of the speaking, and frequently the scene of a classroom during a communicative exercise is active, with the students leaving their seats to complete a task. Because of the increased responsibility to participate, students may find they gain confidence in using the target language in general. Students are more responsible managers of their own learning." (Galloway, 1993, p.3)
To perform this role effectively, the teachers must first have a general understanding of the individual interests and purposes of the students they are working with. For example, a group of rural students probably wouldn't have much to say about the city life or vice versa. The differences among students and what most interests or bores them must always be taken into account. The teacher's role is to detect the stronger interests of the students and to help to foster their confidence in the subjects.
The teacher must make the students aware of what they are doing and why they are doing it. If they understand the basic advantages to a communicative class, their effort and willingness to respond will be greater. The benefits of a communicative class
environment are enormous, but what actually enriches the students most is the ability to get communicative competence. Savignon (1983) believes that
"Communicative competence is a dynamic rather tan a static concept. It depends on the negotiation of meaning between two or more persons who share to some degree the same symbolic system. In this sense, then, communicative competence can be said to be an interpersonal rather tan an intrapersonal trait." (Savignon, 1983, p.8)
The challenge, then, is to create the appropriate balance between the teacher with each of the students and the teacher with the whole class. In our environment thought it is commonly not find these treats despite the basis teachers must have when studying to become educator.
Importance of an Ideal Teacher Profile
Teacher must reflect and perform many roles within the process of teaching-learning. Yet, it is important that as a teacher, the role as an effective facilitator as Cantor (1992) describes:
"... an effective teacher must care about their subject, posses basic competence in their subject, want to share their knowledge, posses knowledge, knowledge of the learner, the subject and appropriate instructional techniques".
On teachers, a great responsibility lays in their backs as the guidance. When the teacher's goal is accomplished, the integrated learning process of the students is achieved as well. David Cross (2003, p41) states, that the quality of teaching has the greatest effect upon the quality of education. Yet, this goal is not easy, it seems difficult to reach, but not impossible. The preparation of language teacher demands more than instructional materials, supplies, administration, class size (Cross, 2003).
An ideal teacher profile is to be needed in order to accomplish the teaching-learning process focusing always on the learners' needs. Actually, Cross (2003) enumerates as the major areas to be considered by teacher's preparation to accomplish an effective role as facilitator as:
- The general level of education
- Subject Competence
- Professional Competence
Teachers should be intellectually prepared and well educated people (Cross, 2003) before entering to education, teacher must carry a stipulated status (degree or diploma) attained in a school, college or university to guarantee the quality of education. Yet, the level of English in a teacher must fulfill the needs of the language in order to be taught effectively.
Moreover, a teacher must have an ability to plan and execute lessons, to use resources such as textbook selectively, produce necessary supplementary materials, and be aware of cognitive psychology of students and class management skills. These should be the main ingredients for competence that a teacher must follow.
And yet, the attitudes of the teacher toward the teaching-learning process influence over the development of the lesson are essentials. The teacher beliefs about education, their relationships with students, use of sense of humour, motivation and willingness within the classroom use in a positive atmosphere will meet the target (Cross 2003).
The Lesson planning for an effective facilitator
In any classroom's development of the process of teaching-learning, it takes place a prior task which becomes an imperative tool for the teacher. The preparation of a lesson plan does not only include sequential steps, but a beyond goal, that is a main accomplishment. Molina (2008) points out the main objective of the teaching-learning process are to consider the fundamental capacities for the personal and social development of learners.
It is the learner the main source of information for the teacher to get oriented. Over the teacher falls the responsibility to create meaningful, complete, well-oriented guides for teaching effective communicative lessons.
In fact, Molina (2008, p32-33) exemplifies as the main principles for a teacher to consider when creating a lesson plan the following:
- The learner is considered the builder of knowledge.
- The teaching-learning process is organized according to the proficiency level of the learner.
- The stimulus of the teaching-learning process is meaningful (schemata activation)
- It (lesson plan) looks for the active participation of learner. (from constructivist perspective)
- It must be considered the stages the learner goes through in process of critical thinking.
Teacher must focus of the learners' needs. The teacher must view the process of learning as continuous and progressive, in other words, for planning a class the teacher has to take into consideration that learners are dynamic individuals in constant evolution. Thus, the teacher must reflect that knowledge into the development of the class.
Yet, Cross (2003) supports this idea. He believes in the use of specific areas to be enhanced within a curricula outline. This is considered the starting point for any effective facilitator to develop the process of teaching-learning and to be latter reflected within the lesson plan in the classroom. The main components are exposed as:
- Pedagogic techniques
- Material development
- Management skills
- Professional Knowledge
- Applied Theory
Teacher is aimed to think of the creation of a lesson plan starting by introducing and practicing communicative structures in order for students to have meaningful experiences. It must always be aware of the use of the body language, and the conduction of activities such as role plays for students to practice the target language.
The teacher must develop original learning and teaching materials and the design of tests related to materials to evaluate pedagogy directing them to a desired outcome. Yet, it is necessary the management of skills by establishing and monitoring pair and group work, giving classroom commands, keeping records and student profiles, involving the whole class, timing a lesson, maintaining attention and discipline for keeping a close control of the evolution of the student's progress.
Moreover, it is imperative for the teacher to have a clear knowledge of the objectives, curriculum design, shape of balanced lesson types, principles of student evaluation as well as recognize systematic errors and obtain feedback from them, correction strategies in order for students to improve.
The theoretical components are taken parallel to the practical elements. This allows the identification of different teaching styles, learning strategies. In the same way, the teacher can check language development and the level of monitoring at different lesson stages.
The PPP Approach to Communicative Language Teaching
According to Richard (2006), "PPP" (or the "3Ps") stands for Presentation, Practice and Production. This is a common approach to communicative language teaching that works through the progression of three sequential stages.
Presentation represents the introduction to a lesson, and necessarily requires the creation of a realistic (or realistic-feeling) "situation" requiring the target language to be learned, the activation of previous knowledge by the students is aimed "schemata" This can be achieved through using pictures, dialogs, imagination or actual "classroom situations". The teacher checks to see that the students understand the nature of the situation, then builds the "concept" underlying the language to be learned using small chunks of language that the stud
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