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Too often, teachers do not seem to distinguish between teaching and testing listening skills. Teachers very often resort to testing rather than teaching. Consequently they become inactive in the classroom. Instead, they need to teach listening comprehension deploying proper strategies to make them strategically smart listeners. Therefore, the following steps need immediate attention:
Identifying the needs and purposes of the listeners using appropriate tools.
The teaching of listening skills should integrate three important processes (bottom-up, top-down and interactive) and provide the learners enough strategies and make them effective listeners.
Teaching listening skills is not just playing the tape and asking questions to the learners. The learners need to be prepared for listening, trained in processing input, and made them go beyond the text. Each session should be divided into a pre-listening session, a while listening session and a post-listening session and the following needs to be addressed in these sessions-
Fostering language and strategy awareness
Previewing the tasks and keywords
Using visual clues
Negotiating the learning objectives among learners and the teacher
Moderating mismatching background knowledge
Utilizing linguistic and non-linguistic inputs
Promoting independent listener efforts
Accommodating social aspects
Integrating other skills
Maximizing learning opportunity
Appropriate training for the teachers
Listening skill is a complex one which needs to be developed consciously. Listening is the foundation for learning the other skills of language. Negligence of listening skills will affect the progress of other language skills ultimately. Hence, the following remedies will be useful to enhance the listening skills.
Teachers need to guide the students in the process of teaching listening which provides knowledge that helps not only in completing the listening task but also motivates them to put their learning under control (Vandergrift, 2002).
Teachers have to take care in teaching listening comprehension. They have to teach the learners to understand the context, comprehend the meaning of unknown words in a context and understand the meanings of the words in a context/situation.
Teachers have to create the opportunities for the learners to listen to different sounds, identifying minimal pairs (but, put), identifying syllables in words, identifying silent letters in words, recognition of parts of speech, etc. that will help them to develop their ability to listen to different sounds such as L2 phonemes, morphemes and variation of phonetic sounds.
Teachers have to create situations to the students to listen to new vocabularies in reading material and make them write down the synonyms and antonyms for those words. Further, they can also find out the equal words in L1 and translate the sentences from L2 to L1. So that they will be able to use new vocabularies in different situations.
Watching different programmes and documentary films on T.V. and listening to the news on radio will help the learners to identify the differences in the use of English language by native and non-native speakers.
Listening to the various public announcements also help the students to develop their socio-linguistic knowledge.
Listening is an active process since the mind actively engages in making meaning. It is therefore, the duty of the teachers to ensure that the materials they use are comprehensible to the learners.
B. Speaking Skills
In the light of the findings of the study, the following suggestions are made.
Teaching English is teaching and developing the four language skills. These skills should be properly attended to and should be taught in an integrated manner.
A teacher should have a keen questing mind in order to judiciously process information to learners.
Contextualization of learning items needed for learner to transfer to life's situations thereby 'skill getting' becomes 'skill using'. In this respect, opportunities should be provided and situations should be created for facilitating the use of skills.
Enough space should be provided for learners to interact with the teacher. Brainstorming the tasks/activities in the exercise book should take place in the classroom. The teacher should skillfully organize it to see that all the learners are involved in speaking at regular intervals.
The use of audio-visuals and other materials outside course books should be used in the language class whenever an opportunity arises.
The teacher should properly plan right from the beginning how s/he should utilize the time so that enough time is given for other activities like role plays, class joint compositions, elocution and other light and short activities to take place in the classroom at regular intervals.
Co-curricular activities like debates, extempore speech, elocution, quiz competition, competitive essay writing and so on, should be organized by the school concerned, at regular intervals.
In designing materials, the designers should keep in mind the communicative value of the learning items, so that they will be meaningful to the learners. Moreover, they should encompass positive values, growth of physical and mental health in learners, besides enhancing their knowledge. On the other hand, the communicative approach to be followed for the better result.
Students should be encouraged to organize extra- curricular activities using English such as dramas or short plays performed in English so that they can be helped to become aware that a better communicative command of English will not only allow them to communicate with a wider range of people but also provide them with greater opportunities for work and study and pleasure and enjoyment in their personal life (Education Bureau, 2011).
C. Reading Skills
Reading is a process by which a reader gives meaning to text. Reading is crucial because it is only by becoming a fluent reader that the English language learner can develop their creative writing skills.
Without understanding of text structure, students often have difficulty getting meaning from their reading materials. There is a strong relationship between students' understanding of text structure and reading comprehension. Hence, the teachers need to use the simple texts in the beginning to inculcate the reading habits in students.
Teachers need to teach explicitly to determine the meanings of key words, such as vocabulary, grammatical aspects, usage of words in a given reading passage. Further, to help students link the new words to words they know and to their background knowledge, teachers need to give a number of activities in reading class to help the learners understand the content of the text.
Students perceive that speaking correct English is very important since they will get better jobs but are not enthusiastic about reading. Teachers need to bring about a positive attitude towards reading by showing them how they can improve their speaking skills by reading new vocabulary, usage of words, phrases, idiomatic expressions, usage of correct grammar, etc.
The teacher should allocate some of the teaching time everyday for horning the reading skills of the students. Sensitizing them on this will enable the students to monitor their own reading abilities.
Expose the students to different types of reading material like newspapers, magazines, instructions, directions, railway timetables, etc. When such texts are used students will know what is available or what is needed to be read and demonstrates to them that even though they cannot yet read the material in its entirety, they can comprehend the text on some level by using their reading skills.
Teachers need to help the learners to construct mental images of the content they are reading.
Teachers should help the learners to participate in self-questioning activities that require them to clarify and monitor their comprehension as they proceed through the text. For e.g. students might be taught to ask themselves questions such as, 'Do I understand what I just read?'
Teachers have to help the learners to participate in summarization activities that enable students to identify information pertinent to sections of the text. Students can be prompted to ask themselves questions such as, 'What is the most important idea about the paragraph I just read?'
Teachers need to help the learners to use contextual analysis activities that require students to use semantic and syntactic features of sentences to determine the meaning of new words. Such activities include a cloze procedure, rereading sentences without using sentences the new word, and rereading sentences that appear before and after the sentence with the new word.
Teaching of reading comprehension will help the learners to understand a text and a contextual meaning as well as literal meaning of the words which will increase the reading ability of the students.
Teachers should select different texts according to the needs of the students and help them become successful readers.
Besides, the text should be accessible; the language should be comprehensible and the students should be familiar with the content in order to apply their own background knowledge. Hence, teachers should plan the activities for reading skills accordingly.
D. Writing Skills
The findings revealed that the teachers do prepare learners for writing tasks and do a number of activities in the classroom. However, the major problem is that most of these activities are not done consciously with an aims to help students improve their writing skills. The fact that some of the preparatory activities and the writing activities could help students improve their writing skills necessitates a discussion of the pedagogical implications of the study.
It is necessary to motivate students before starting a lesson, as motivation prepares the students not only to concentrate in class but also makes them think and actively participate in various activities taught in the classroom. The students also develop a strong desire to interact, as they are generally interested in the lesson, as a result of which they are likely to listen and respond.
While teaching difficult words given indifferent kinds of texts such as prose, poetry, supplementary reader and work book, it is important to teach the words and meanings through the context. Because words taught through contextualization can be understood in a better way helping the students recall and apply the knowledge of vocabulary while attempting various activities related to writing in L2. This can also be meaningfully done with the help of pictures, charts, role plays, etc. to help students associate and understand words.
Translation seemed to be a very useful strategy to help students understand texts and various activities in the classroom. However, translation should also be used meaningfully in the classroom for maximum results. Teachers need to plan this strategy carefully with regard to different activities, otherwise translation is likely to become a mechanical exercise and there is a danger of students relying heavily on translation without making an attempt to use the L2.
The purpose of communication is served when the other person understands the message conveyed. But it was noticed that the teacher did not provide opportunities for the students to participate in classroom interaction. Though the findings revealed that second language classes are teacher centred, it is important for the teacher to provide the learners opportunities to speak and interact with the teacher in the classroom. Therefore, it becomes necessary for the teacher to understand the problems faced by the students and encourage them to speak confidently in the class by following various techniques such as involving students in role plays, guessing games, opinion gap activities, etc. In addition to the teacher should also pay attention to the language requirements of the students and help them with suitable writing activities.
In the context teaching/learning of writing in L2, it becomes essential for the teacher to ensure proper understanding of the texts while teaching various activities prior to writing. In addition to that, it becomes important for the teacher to correct the written scripts frequently. Feed back on the written scripts helps the students realise their mistakes and helps them not only to organize the text properly but also, frame grammatically correct sentences using appropriate vocabulary, by following the comments given by the teacher on the written scripts.
The teacher should organize and plan the lessons while teaching various kinds of texts prior to writing. While teaching writing activities the teacher should teach certain rules that should be followed in relation to organization of the text. For e.g. they should be taught how to begin an essay or a paragraph and develop ideas, use cohesive devices, punctuation marks, write conclusion, etc.
As far as the actual writing tasks were concerned, it was found that most of these activities lost their significance because the teacher did not prepare students for these activities. A systematic preparation in terms of the language requirements for these activities would have improved the performance of learners in many instances.
While doing writing activities such as true or false statements, match the following exercises and comprehension questions, the teacher should first make the students guess, think and then, should help them write correctly. In addition to that the teacher can also give other exercises like fill in the blanks, outlining the plot of a story to be completed by the students, jumbled texts, etc., so that the students gradually learn to frame sentences, and differentiate what is correct from what is incorrect.
While teaching activities like dialogue writing the teacher should make the classroom lively by encouraging the students to participate actively in asking questions, making statements, guessing functions of different words and dialogues, etc. for instance the teacher can ask the students to use the words for requesting, asking for permission, ordering, etc. this can lead to role plays later. The teacher can ask the students to play the role of announcer in the railway station, commentator for any occasion, a political leader, teacher, etc.
The teacher should allow the students choice in selecting topics they are comfortable with. Students should be allowed to think, reflect and discuss while attempting to write. The teacher should also help the students write freely without making them feel insecure all the time.
The procedures/activities suggested above can be very useful provided the teacher understands how they contribute to the overall development of writing activities.
In view of the several advantages, the teachers should take keen interest of their learners and teach them the language skills which will enable the learners to go for higher studies and get better career, and be motivated to become confident to use English fluently in their life.
If Andhra Pradesh has to be competent in a dynamic global situation, it has to take proper measures to improve the quality of its teaching force. In this regard, an attempt has been made to discuss some recommendations and suggestions based on the findings of the study. The recommendations given are relevant to the necessary actions to be taken at various levels.
Recommendations for Policy Makers
Professional development courses need to reconstruct to meet the actual needs of teachers of English. Rather than have a monolithic model of professional development course, it is necessary to develop multilevel courses which cater to the needs of teachers teaching English at different levels. The programmes should consider the participants' background, learning styles and motivation. The programmes should have continuity and sustainability. Whatever activity the participants engage in should promote English teachers' professional competence.
Policy for professional development should be revised, giving room for flexibility.
In introducing professional development programmes, there is a need to create a shared vision. All the stakeholders should have a clear awareness of all the procedures to make the programmes effective. This shared vision could focus on the very objectives of the programmes, the standards to be met, the responsibility of each stakeholder, how to go about it, and other necessary issues. This should be accompanied by a properly developed set of guidelines.
The Ministry of Education should take the necessary steps to develop standards, systems of assessment, and follow up strategies to make the professional development programmes effective. It is indicated that the lack of standard, which is agreed upon by their stakeholders affects the practice (Karagiogi and Symeou, 2006)
Professional development courses should be based on participatory decision making for effective implementation rather than a sole focus on the top-down and systematic approach. Stakeholders of different levels should get an opportunity to participate in all types of decision- making, starting from the planning and designing of the courses. The engagement of teachers during the key stages of professional development programmes plays a significant role. The issue of teacher ownership is very important to design professional development activities and programmes (Clarke, 1994). Obviously, teachers know what they lack and what they need to learn to improve their areas of weakness. Therefore, the current professional development programmes need to be redesigned considering all these issues. The other equally important issue is the involvement of teachers in the development of the curriculum they implement.
The Ministry of Education should take the necessary actions to revise the national examinations according to the new curricular materials. Teachers also need to be trained well on preparing classroom English tests- how to set items, what kind of items to set and what kind of knowledge, skills and attitudes to address.
Karagiorgi, Y. and Symeou, L. 2006. Teacher Professional Development in Cyprus: reflections on current trends and challenges in policy and practices. Journal In-service Education, 32 (I), 47-61.
Recommendations for Teachers
It has been stated that teachers are the linchpins in materializing changes in education. Therefore, only the top-down and external policy to change them could not affect what they do and how they do it. To this end, teachers should be aware of their own professional growth and actively engage in collaborations at school levels, planning for their own development. They should recognise that real/genuine teaching is demanding as it leads to creative change. In other words, it is to mean that the responsibility and obligation of producing creative and innovative citizens is upon teachers through the work is demanding. Therefore, actively participating in formal and informal professional development activities such as planning together, observing each others' classrooms, teacher support groups, teaching diaries of their own teaching and reflecting on them and examining their actions on student learning is of paramount importance to teachers.
Teachers need to motivate learners and make classroom lessons as interesting as possible in order to make students come to school regularly and participate in the communicative activities enthusiastically.
Teachers should advice the learners about the opportunities and benefits of learning L2 to help them to plan and pursue their higher studies.
Teachers have to avail the opportunities of taking part in the training programmes and try to refresh their knowledge both theoretically and practically.
The English prose, poetry, grammar and composition should be taught in an integrated manner. Teaching grammar in isolation is not helpful to the learners. Therefore, while teaching prose and poetry, the teacher should keep in mind the grammar and composition that is how grammar works in context.
Change in the role on the part of the teacher is not an easy process. Teachers' mindset needs to be changes. The process is long and time taking. Therefore, teachers should be encouraged to attend and participate in training programmes, seminars, workshops, orientation courses and refresher courses.
During the training programmes, teachers should explore beliefs, pose questions and gain new knowledge and skills which will have great impact on teaching and learning. Consequently, the teachers will be able to persuade, diagnose, analyze, interpret and implement the communicative activities in the language classroom.
Training programmes motivate the teachers to try new techniques or find solutions to recurring problems in the classroom. They provide teachers with the information and strategies of latest techniques and help them create new policies or make changes in curriculum.
Participation in the training programme enables teachers to develop long lasting professional and personal contacts in the English teaching community.
Teachers should use various communicative activities while teaching.
Teachers should prepare teaching aids on their own.
Teachers should avoid using mother-tongue every now and then use maximum English for teaching.
Teachers should be innovative and self-motivated to communicative activities in the classrooms and make the students efficient in using English language.
Teachers should tolerate students' mistakes and should encourage them to speak English without hurting them.
Teachers should present information both verbally and visually. Visual clues may include facial expressions, gestures, realia, pictures, charts, graphs, maps, etc.
Teachers should use organisational activities such as semantic mapping, word puzzle, language games and other strategies to determine where the students stand in relation to the content of the upcoming lesson.
Teachers should emphasise the use of dictionary in the class to enhance their word power.
Teachers should create interest among the learners to use English and also motivate them to improve their language skills.
Teachers may bear in mind the fact that L2 proficiency is required not only for examinations but also to be able to perform well in real life situations.
Meaningful tasks related to learners' real life situations, may be used in the classroom which will help them to analyse and process language deeply, help them retain information in long-term memory.
Teachers may constantly communicate with the learners in English in the classroom as it is the only opportunity for the learners to listen to the L2.
Teachers and their experiences have a crucial role to play in material production as well as in their critical classroom use, and the writers are probably practicing teachers.
Obviously, a teacher must always keep in mind that textbooks are not self-sufficient. A teacher has to think of various teaching/learning activities to achieve the objectivities of language education. A teacher can also enlighten on the utility or otherwise of the exercises on different lessons and give suggestions for inclusion or modification or even deletion.
Implications for Teacher Education programmes
Teacher education institutes have a huge impact on the quality of teacher education, be it during pre-service or in-service training programmes. This era is not only the era of improving qualification but also an era that requires a continuous updating of professional skills through short and long-term courses to effectively respond to the dynamic changes. Thus, teacher educational institutions need to be conscious of the ever changing situation and should design programmes that would help teachers learn and grow professionally.
There should be periodic training, where every teacher after two/three years should have a change to undergo the training, aiming at improving the quality of teachers based on some standards. It should be made in a way that to stay in the profession, English teachers need to meet the standard set. The focuses should be on language proficiency, language testing, and ELT methodology. The other important suggestion is that a well-planned and developed course on teacher development is needed for pre-service teachers other than the practicum. This could help the trainees become conscious of issues in teacher development and the effective strategies for teachers' personal and professional growth.
The results of this study have pedagogical implications primarily for education programmes organised for teachers of English. Since teachers' attitudes about successful language teaching learning form the core of their teaching behaviour, changes in their methodology and teaching practice.
Teacher development courses give participants the opportunity to reflect on their classroom teaching and professional development. This type of reflection is possible through many means including narratives, discussions, review of student feedback, viewing videotapes of their teaching as well as other modes of reflection.
A teacher education programme is required to enhance teachers' intrinsic motivation to teaching because many teachers follow the profession not out of their choice. Therefore, most of the time, teachers have a negative attitude towards teaching. In order to reverse the situation, in a certain extent, in-service teacher education programmes are necessary as proved by the present study that the INSET course was effective in influencing the participants' attitudes towards change in their methodology and teaching practices.
Opportunities to share experiences of positive change can provide a valuable source of input for in-service courses and teacher education activities.
5.3.3 Suggestions for Headmasters
Headmasters should observe English classes from time to time and see if the teachers are using communicative language teaching and making the class more interesting.
They should arrange the guest lecturers, show educational videos on TV and send the teachers for in-service programmes to up to date themselves and use English consciously while teaching in the class.
Teachers should be motivated to arrange to quiz in English, debate, essay writing, storytelling, and drama competitions in the schools.
Schools should provide enough teaching aids.
Headmasters should arrange special English training programmes for their English teachers.
Schools should develop a language laboratory to improve English pronunciation.
Workshops, seminars for English subject should be arranged periodically by the schools and more teachers should be encouraged for participation.
Inter-school competitions can be conducted gathering students from different schools and give them the opportunities to exhibit their language skills.
Headmaster should take interest in the learners and motivate them to speak in English while they are on the school campus.
5.3.4 Recommendations for the Education Department of Andhra Pradesh
The English text books should be more attractive, illustrative, colourful and appealing at high school level.
Periodical in-service training for English subject teachers of municipal and government schools should be arranged exclusively at local level.
There should be an emphasis on new trends and techniques of English language teaching in the in-service training programmes.
Textbooks should stimulate the students for communicative activities, communication and discussion.
The board should prepare handbooks with proper guide lines and extra care should be taken to make them easily available for the teachers working in municipal schools.
Text books should have contents based on Indian surroundings.
Text books should be actively oriented, interesting, self - learning device for the learners.
Education department should revise the syllabus for B. Ed course in English Methodology from time to time incorporating the latest techniques based on communicative approach and help the learners to explore the language enthusiastically.
5.3.5. Suggestions for further Research
There is no study which is complete in itself s it is limited by several factors, such as time, space and financial issues among others. In this study, because of time and financial constraints, the programme was conducted only for ten days (60 hours), for the teachers of Municipal Corporation Schools. Therefore, first, future studies can involve teachers from both government and private schools can be involved and the course can be conducted for a longer period to get the better outcome.
Second, further studies can be conducted on the current professional development programmes and examine the actual needs of English language teachers in the schools of Andhra Pradesh.
Third, further studies can address developing curriculum for English teacher professional development programmes at various levels.
Fourth, in order to establish more reliability, the data can be collected from multiple sources such as other teacher education programmes from across the country. Also, in order to gain more insights the beliefs of curriculum framers and teacher educators can be included.
Fourth, change is a natural phenomenon and resisting change leads to a vegetative life. Therefore, investigating how the beliefs of a novice teacher will get modified in the course of his/her teaching can also be taken up as a longitudinal study for further insights.
Further research can be done in 'classroom instructional practices to develop communicative competence of the learners at school level.
In addition to these, an exclusive exploration of the belief systems of teacher educators themselves could be an interesting area. The results of such study would be of more value to those concerned with second language research as the subjects function as liaisons between the teachers at the grass-root level and the new findings of the latest research study.
English has really changed the wide world into a global village. The advancement in the field of science and technology, the coming up of all call centered, the liberalization of economy, inter-relation of the nations through business and other related issues have really created a necessity for a world language, and English suits best in this because of its flexibility and that world language is enshrined in English. The rising status of English has a great influence in ELT. The progress and liberalization of the Indian economy which demand communication skills as basic criteria raises the status of ELT in the state of Andhra Pradesh and the country as a whole. This is evidenced in the cropping up of various ELT centres in the country and in the state which promise communicative skills to the learners within two to three months. This is obvious that English language teaching in schools especially in Municipal Corporation Schools is not satisfactory. It is not exaggeration to state that the situation in these schools is far below the expected level where people inclusive of teachers and students are still apprehensive, apathetic and indifferent at times to English.
The present study serves as an eye opener to see and visualize the state of affairs concerning English language teaching and learning. Teaching/learning is still dominated by the behaviourist perspective, i.e. lecture and giving notes method. Learners who need to attain some proficiency in communication skills, for the job they are seeking, have to take lessons in these sub-institutions. Therefore, a good background of the modern teaching methods in ELT is the pre-requisite of the English teacher, for the development of communicative skills in learners. The saying goes, 'as you sow, so you reap'. In the same way the teacher's competence/incompetence is reflected in learners' achievement.
Besides, growing popularity of the World Wide Web with cyber cafeÙ´s in every nook and corner, the computerization of the work places, make ELT more demanding. Communicative skills in various work places are essential. This does not mean to wipe out literature altogether. (It is to be noted that English teaching in the whole country is literature-oriented. Texts are always literature-based). Ethical and aesthetic sense along with communicative competence is equally important to develop learners' communicative aspects (Sinha, in Ghotra, 2005). Therefore ELT and literature need to be incorporated in English textbooks. Both should help in developing the other, but so far the two seem to be worlds apart. Literature seems to be dealing with something philosophical or spiritual, while language is more scientific (Gupta, 2006).
In Andhra Pradesh as well as the rest of the country teaching and learning has no focus on the other three skills, namely, listening, speaking and reading. Only writing is emphasized, and that also only the answering of the given exercises. Even then, only comprehension part is stressed. Comprehension here means to get the gist of the story or to know how the story goes, so as to be able to answer comprehension questions in examination. To aggravate the situation the English Reader gets the lion's share in marks allotment. The teacher feels that completion of the lessons in the Reader is like covering the whole syllabus (Baruah, 1992). Marks allotted to grammar and composition is very less. Surprisingly, these parts of the whole English syllabus are sometimes taught in water tight compartments, the grammar and composition seem to be mutually exclusive to the Reader. This is why language skills are not taught in an integrated manner for learners to develop communicative skills.
In today's world, development of communication skills is very important for human interaction in any sphere of life. An individual ability is marked by the way s/he speaks. If one can speak well one can certainly make a good impression on others, and can convey thoughts and ideas fluently. Therefore, a comprehensive curriculum and syllabus is a necessity in teaching. Clear-cut objectives for teaching English are of paramount importance to impart language skills to learners. Teaching methodology should be reoriented, that is making it more learner-centred. Competent teachers should be selected to teach English especially in government and Municipal Corporation schools. Teacher training is a must; it must be continuous, i.e. at regular interval. Whenever a new syllabus is introduced, in-service training and orientation of the teachers is necessity.
The investigation into the teaching methods at the school level in Municipal Corporation Schools has brought to light interesting issues.
Any learner is a potential learner if s/he has opportunity to learn. The major reasons for their ineptness in communicative skills are faulty teaching methods, and ill proficient English teachers. The competent teacher with motivating spirit, along with motivating materials can help the learners develop communicative skills, by including interest in learners to learn English. Giving adequate encouragement, opportunities and guidance they can emerge as winners in the academic field as well as enhance their communicative skills, as they are no less competent than the learners from the English medium background. Therefore, it is the duty of the teacher to foster autonomy and motivation in them to learn and confidently use the language in real life. Hence, innovation in teaching is the need of the hour.