Teaching English As A Foreign Language English Language Essay

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The aim of this study is to assess the performance of the teachers of English for the first year of the secondary schools in Missalata in: the new textbook. It also investigates other factors that influence teachers' presentation, such as: the time allocated to the teaching of English and the lack of important materials such as tape recorders, dictionaries and other teaching aids.

The main tool through which the researcher collected data is checklists adopted from a well known figure in teaching English as a foreign language named Jack Richards. The study consists of five chapters. Chapter one looks at defining some of the concepts involved in the TEFL teaching process as well as emphasizing the role of the teacher. Chapter two examines the background to TEFL teaching in Libya. It also includes a literature review. Chapter three outlines the background to the study and introduces the learning environment of it. It also discusses the methodology of the study and looks at the applied checklist as well as the parameters used as part of the research. Chapter four analyses the collected data. The last chapter comprises the conclusion and recommendations which are thought to be helpful to improve the English language teaching in Libyan schools.

Chapter one

1.1- Introduction

Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) is a complicated process because it comprises a number of elements where the absence or the weakness of any one would affect the whole process. Al-Akhdar (2001: 1) says in this context

" The success of a course of English as a FL depends on several factors..."

He discusses the issue of methodology in detail as one of the factors influencing the successful outcomes of the teaching operation. Another factor is to be discussed here: it is the teacher. This study examines the important role of the teacher in relation to the methodology employed.

The reasons behind the important role played by the teacher in the teaching process is illustrated by the following points:

1. The teacher can compensate for any shortage of material or poor material, either by using other sources, or by tailoring the material to suit his particular class.

2. The teacher can balance the variations of the students' levels. It is natural for the teacher to notice this heterogeneity in any class. It is the teacher who knows how to deal with such a situation.

3. He is also the one who deals with oversize classes (i.e. classes with more than 16 students) when it is quite difficult to carry out certain tasks and activities. Harmer (2002: 128) maintains that:

"In big classes, it is difficult for the teacher to make contact with the students at the back and it is difficult for the students to ask for and receive individual attention. "

He goes on to give reasons for the difficulty in teaching big classes by saying:

"... big classes mean that it is not easy to have students walking around and changing pairs etc. Most importantly, big classes can be quite intimidating for inexperienced teachers."

Ur (1997: 303) also lists some problems in teaching large classes such

as:

• Discipline

• Correcting written assignments.

• Effective learning for all.

• Materials.

• Individual awareness.

• Participation.

4. It is the teachers' responsibility as well to overcome the problem of the shortage of classroom timetabling. Some syllabus timing is longer than that allocated by the Education Authority.

All of the above points encompass the teacher's responsibilities and distinguish him as a crucial factor in the educational process. Dubin and Olshtain (1986:31) however, put it well when they said:

"The teacher population is the most significant factor determining success of a new thinking and what it involves in practical terms are crucial''.

Alien and Valette (1977: 3) also stress the important role of the teacher. They say that:

"The teacher is the key figure in the language course. It is the teacher who sets the tone for the learning activities."

They add that:

" The teacher plays a prime role in effecting student progress or lack thereof."

The teacher's role, therefore, in creating a successful learning environment for EFL secondary school students studying in Libya is of paramount importance to the successful completion of their course. This dissertation examines the teacher's role and undertakes an analysis of the complications involved and the possible solutions to these difficulties. This analysis takes the form of an evaluation of teachers' lessons at secondary schools in Missalata, Libya.

1.2-Elements Involved in English Language Teaching:

Before this analysis is undertaken, however, the process behind EFL teaching in general needs to be examined in some detail. This will place the teacher's role in context and illustrate the overall complexity inherent In the EFL process

This process according to Al-Mutawa and Kailani (1998: 6) consists of 'central determinants' which include the pupil, the EFL teacher, the method of teaching, the teaching materials and the classroom environment. These EFL learning and teaching elements are briefly discussed from a Libyan perspective in the following section:

1. 2.1-The Pupil:

There are two types of English language learners in the Libyan environment; a full time student in an academic institution (school, college or university) and those who are enrolled on private courses which are run by private language centres. The objective behind learning English at these types of language centres is either to fulfil the need of the learner himself or that of his employer for work requirements, or to develop further the learner's capability in a specific field such as, English for medicine, English for engineering, etc. The difference between the two can be summarised as follows:

A. The syllabus for the learner at the academic institutions is a standard one which is taught all over the country, while the syllabus for the private institutions varies from one organisation to another.

B. The learners' age at the academic institutions are fairly similar Whereas it can vary at the private centres.

C. Private language centres care a lot about the number of learners in

one class, but public classes are always oversized which in turn can affect their learning process.

1.2.2- The EFL Teacher:

Each job has its own specification or what is called a job description. Accordingly it is necessary, when recruiting a teacher to fill a position in any school to match him against the requirements for the job. But what are the criteria that we can apply in this process?

It is quite difficult to base the answer on a checklist of a number of criteria such as a university degree. However, Richards (2001: 209-210) points out that two main factors should be considered carefully in employing EFL teachers:

1.2.2.1- The Teacher's Knowledge.

In this respect he outlines the following:

• practical knowledge: the teacher's repertoire of classroom techniques and strategies

• content of language knowledge: the teacher's understanding of the subject of TESOL, e.g., pedagogical grammar, pronunciation, teaching theories, second language acquisition, as well as the specialized discourse and terminology of language teaching contextual knowledge: familiarity with the school or institutional context, school norms, and knowledge of the learners, including cultural and other relevant information

• pedagogical knowledge: ability to restructure content knowledge for leaching purposes, and to plan, adapt and improvise

• personal knowledge: the teacher's personal beliefs and principles and his or her individual approach to teaching

• reflective knowledge: the teacher's capacity to reflect on and assess his or her own practice. "

1.2.2.2- Teaching Skills:

Teaching skills refer to knowledge or the ability to perform certain skills. A similar taxonomy is provided by McDonough and Shaw ( 1993: 297) who lists the following:

"Knowledge of the language system

Good pronunciation

Experience of living in an English-speaking country

Qualifications (perhaps further training taken, or in-service

development)

Classroom performance

Evidence of being a good colleague

Length of time as a teacher

Ability to write teaching materials

Careful planning of lesson

Same LI as students, or a sound knowledge of it

Experience of a variety of teaching situations

Personal qualities (outgoing, interested in learners and so on)

Publications

Knowledge of learning theories

Wide vocabulary

Ability to manage a team of teachers. "

In addition to the above points education authorities at all levels (planners, inspectors and headmasters) are asked to follow up and assist

English language teachers in order to improve further their ability and make cope with any development that might arise. Richards (2001: 218). Lists a number of conditions to achieve and maintain good teaching standards:

• Monitoring: in this respect he states that to upgrade the level of teaching, monitoring can play a major role through:

"group meetings, written reports, classroom visits, and student evaluations."

• Observation: This can also play a part in upgrading teaching and he

proposed different ways to implement this task. He suggests: "self-observation, peer observation or supervisor observation."

• Identification and Resolution of Problems: problems that may face the teacher should be identified well in advance and should be tackled immediately in order to be avoided in future.

• Shared Planning: This task can be done through the collective work among teachers on planning a course of study.

EFL teachers in Libyan secondary schools are prepared to teach a certain syllabus not teaching English. Moreover, they are not taught how to teach the new textbooks.

1.2.3-The Method of Teaching:

Before discussing the different methods it is worth distinguishing between the two terms method and approach. Richards et. Al. (1985: 228) give very simple definition. They say method is:

" (in language teaching) a way of teaching a language which is based on systematic principles and procedures, i.e., which is an application of views on how a language is best taught and learned. "

They go on to say that these views include:

a. The nature of language

b. The nature of language learning

c. goals and objectives in teaching

d. the of syllabus to use

e. the role of teachers

f. the techniques and procedures to use

As with regard to the definition of approach, Al-Mutawa and Kailani (1988: 12) say in this respect:

" The term 'approach 'refers to principles or assumptions underlying the process of language teaching and learning. "

They give the following clear example to illustrate their definition:

"one of the assumptions underlying descriptive linguistics is that language is a set of habits, i.e. habit formation which is acquired by the process of stimulus, response and reinforcement. "

Below is a discussion of the major teaching methods.

1.2.3.1- Grammar Translation Method:

The history of Grammar Translation method dates back to the decades of teaching Latin in the nineteenth century. The objective behind

The application of this method includes as Rivers says ( 1983: 29)

"an understanding of the grammar of the language and training the student to write the new language accurately by regular practice in translating from the native language. It aims at providing the student with a wide literary vocabulary ...... It aims training the student to extract the meaning from texts in the new language by into the native language. "

Students are taught, according to this method, deductively by having sufficient explanations of the rules as well as long lists of vocabulary and asked to memorise them by heart in order to translate texts. The teacher's role however, is exemplified in the use of the learner's first language to explain the rules and the vocabulary of the targeted text and then assists the learner to translate it. (Baker and Westrup: 2000). Less emphases is made on accurate pronunciation thus listening and speaking are ignored in this method.

The Grammar Translation method is known to be very useful as Baker and Westrup( 2000: 4)) point out:

"in teaching academic work and for passing written exams ".

1.2.3.2- The Direct Method:

The Direct Method was brought to existence by the end of the nineteenth centaury in rejection for the ignorance made by the Grammar Translation method to listening and speaking skills. Voices started to be heard at that time for reform and that is why the direct method was known as the Reform method. The method is also known as the Natural or the Psychological Method for the fact that it makes an analogy between the child who learns his mother tongue and the way the learner learns L2. In contrary to the Grammar Translation Method, the Direct Method stresses the need to use the target language right from the regaining and to avoid the use of the mother tongue. In this respect Rivers (1983: 32) says:

"This renewed emphasis on the target language as the medium of instruction in the classroom meant that correct pronunciation became an important consideration. "

The classroom teaching concentrates on practising the target language through the use of listening and speaking while reading and writing are considered less important. Students are encouraged to memorise phrases and dialogues. Baker and Westrup( 2000: 4) list the following limitation in learning L2 through the use of the Direct Method:

• "Students may not always understand what they are repeating;

• Students cannot make their own responses in new and different situations;

• Teachers may not be confident enough to use English throughout the lesson;

• They are not so useful for advanced learners. "

1.2.3.3- The Audio-lingual Method:

One of the main reasons for the emergence of The Audio-lingual Method came as a result of the need of the American forces to use and understand the language of the invaded countries in the 40s and 50s. Kara

(1992: 82) says in respect of the application of the Audio-lingual the

Following:

"...then being used by the American Army to train their men to understand a native speaker and speak a Language with a near-native accent."

She goes on to describe the mechanical application of the method by saying:

"Classes were small and staffed by linguistic by linguistic experts who taught using graded materials based on structural analysis and demanded long hours of drill and active practice with native speakers as models for imitation. "

This method has based its grounds on the Behaviourist Psychology where the following assumptions are embedded:

a) Language learning is primarily mechanical habit formation.

b) Language is a form of verbal behaviour.

c) Priority goes for mastering spoken first in order for the other skills to be effectively gained.

d) Analogy is a better foundation for language learning than analysis, therefore pattern practice in context precedes the presentation of rules.

e) Teaching language involves teaching the cultural norms of native speakers of the target language.

The major criticism addressed to the Audio-lingual method is represented in Rivers (1981: 47) words as follows:

"If Audio-lingual training is given in a mechanical way, students may progess like well trained parrots-able to repeat whole perfectly when given a certain stimulus, but uncertain ,;t meaning of what they are saying and unable to use ::^.zed materials in contexts other than those in which they earned them. Student must be trained from the first lesson to apply what they have memorized or practiced in drills in communication situations contrived within classroom group. "

1.2.3.4-The Communicative Approach:

The Communicative approach first emerged in the UK in the mid to ".ate 1970s. It was brought up as a result of the dissatisfaction with the structural and behaviourist methods of language teaching. This is the methodology which is currently widely used in text books not only in the West but even in our schools and training centres in Libya. Besides the preparatory and secondary schools text books, most of the oil sector and banks training centres are applying this approach in their teaching of English. The focus, in this approach, is on using language for communication while accuracy is seen as secondary. The function of language, or the way it is used, is considered more important than the form.

As with regard to classroom teaching, the communicative approach gives a large proportion of class time to student-centred activities. Students are given the chance to use the language in realistic situations where they must use the language for real communication. The use of authentic materials and realia is encouraged wherever possible. The role of the teacher however, is seen as a group manager and activity leader or facilitator. In this case, he is advised to allow considerable time for the learners to work at their pace and ensures that the learners should proceed from

guided to freer practice of language items. The teacher has also to encourage group and pair work.

1.2.3.5- The Eclectic Approach:

Some teachers however, prefer to adopt an eclectic approach. The teacher in this case adopts some of the above mentioned methods during one single lesson. The teacher in this situation carries out a certain task in the class using grammar translation methodology and the other task performed through the audio-lingual method. In this regard Al-Mutawa and Kailani (1988: 27) say:

"Teachers often incorporate features of different approaches in their particular methodology".

Most of the English language teachers nowadays think that teaching grammar is the objective of teaching the language. Functions and notions for them are considered as secondary targets or they are used mainly to illustrate or highlight grammar rules.

1.2.4- The Teaching Materials:

Teaching materials include; textbooks, workbooks, newspapers and magazines, posters, blackboards, whiteboards, language laboratories, overhead projectors, tape recorders, videos and realia (such as real fruits, Vegetable, Kitchen objects) etc . Teachers can always try to create in the use of these materials. Some schools may lack some of above if not most. The teachers, therefore, can manage this shortage of materials. They can for example use his personal items from home or bf can seek the help of his students.

1.2.5- The Classroom Environment:

Most of the classrooms in Libya are built compatible with educational specifications. That is all of the classrooms are large enough to accommodate (between 25 to 30) students in each class.

They have enough windows to provide light and fresh air. The physical building itself is not enough, however. There are of course, other things complementing the physical structure such as ventilation, particularly in winter when these classes need to be warm enough, and electricity supply that is just as important. Students and teachers desks as well should be convenient. All of these compose an environment that might help create an appropriate educational atmosphere.

Further to the above discussion, it is necessary for purposes of clarification to discuss other terminology that can appear confusing. Terms such as curriculum, syllabus, methodology and teaching materials are interrelated and are sometimes mistaken for one another.

Since this study uses these terms very frequently, it becomes essential to define what each one of them means.

1.2.6.Curriculum:

Nunan(1988:6) defines curriculum as follows:

curriculum is a very general concept, which involves consideration of the whole complex of philosophical, social and administrative factors, which contribute to the planning of an educational programme."

On the same line, Lim (cited in Richards 2001: 41) also includes the following parameters as part of the curriculum process:

"needs analysis, goal setting, syllabus design, material design, language programme design, teacher preparation, implementation of programmes in schools, monitoring, feedback and evaluation".

Curriculum can be divided into three different groups:

• Planned Curriculum

• Implemented Curriculum

• Realized Curriculum Nunan (2000) describes these stages as follows:

"I like to draw a distinction between the planned curriculum, the implemented curriculum, and the realized curriculum. The planned curriculum includes everything that is done prior to the delivery of instruction. The implemented curriculum refers to what happens in the moment-by-moment realities of the classroom. The realized curriculum refers to the skills and knowledge that learners actually acquire as a result of instruction".

This study will be mainly dealing with the implemented curriculum.

Chapter Two Literature Review

2.1.- Secondary School Syllabus (Past and Present): 2.1.1- Introduction.

The teaching of English as a foreign Language has attracted great interest in Libya since the mid 40's. Imssalem( 2001: 8) said in this context:

"Since the start of British administration in 1943, English was introduced into the school system and has become the first foreign language". English is also currently a core subject from the first year of preparatory school to the university stage. It is also a core subject in all university colleges. The preparatory and secondary school English textbooks in Libya, however, have seen remarkable developments. These developments fall into two main stages:

2.1.2-Secondary School Syllabus Before 1996.

Libya was one of the Italian colonies and it was very much affected by the Italian imperialistic policy, particularly in the field of education. In this regard, Mahaishi (1999: 9) maintained that:

"education was affected by the policies made by the colonisers, 'where they had abolished the schooling system created by the Ottoman rule during the last years of their empire. Consequently the colonisers imposed an Italian curriculum from the early education stages in order to Italianise the life of the Libyan Arab citizen through imposing the Italian language".

This stage lasted nearly half a century.

Afterwards, and by the start of the British administration in Libya in 1943, English language started to take its place in the Libyan school curriculum in a different way to that employed by the Italian invaders. Whereas the Italian curriculum aimed at Italianising the Libyan education system, English language during the British administration was introduced as a school subject. Other subjects such Maths, Chemistry etc, were introduced in Arabic.

Moreover, education in Libya, generally, was very limited for many reasons, for example, poverty and the fact that the country was the scene of ferocious imperialistic wars between foreign forces, to the extent that John Wright (1972: 206 ) in his book "The History of Libya" put the rate of illiteracy at 90%. until 1964 the English Language syllabus was exemplified in English textbooks imported from Egypt. Imssalem (2001: 8) says that:

"The curriculum for English language teaching in Egypt was introduced into Libya by British-trained Egyptian teachers. "

In the late 60s, M. Gusbi in collaboration with R John produced a new syllabus, which lasted around three decades as reliable, local Material used in Libyan secondary schools. Mr. Gusbi's material (Further English for Libya, Revised edition 1974) was based on the audio-lingual method, which was characterised by concentration on structure and form rather than on meaning as an objective of teaching. This approach has relied on introducing a topic, familiar to the learner's culture, followed by some drills and exercises.

The lessons were gradually graded in linguistic complexity, aimed at consolidating the rules in order to develop the learner's linguistic competence. For instance, if you look at the exercises used in Lesson One (Gusbi and John, Seventh Impression, 1983: 4-5) only section C is different with the introduction of some comprehension questions. One finds them concentrating on grammar, for example, Section D (Make sentences from this table), Section E (Put these sentences into negative etc.

With regard to the skills, the focus was only on listening and speaking in the first stages. Reading and writing, however, were postponed to the advanced stages until the first two skills were mastered. This method implies a teacher centred approach, where he/she finds himself/herself taking the big share of talking and directing as well as correcting any type of error that might arise to ensure the development of the learner's accuracy.

The case of the Libyan English textbook, (Further English for Libya) which was built on structural bases, was almost the same as that in some other Arab countries. Kharma and Hajjaj, (1986 : 60) describe the syllabus in the Arab Gulf States before the mid 70's by saying:

"With the introduction of the structural approach the syllabus continued to be thought of as materials content in terms of lexical and grammatical items, and particularly sentence patterns."

At that time the Communicative approach was introduced into the curriculum in Europe and the USA.

2.1.3-Secondary School Syllabus After 1996:

In order to discuss the secondary school syllabus in Libya after 1996 this section highlights the development of the communicative approach since the Libyan secondary school textbooks are now based on a communicative approach of teaching.

The communicative approach came into existence by the end of 1960s and early 70s as a result of the dissatisfaction with the then current approaches and methods, such as the Grammar-Translation method, Direct method, Audio lingual method etc, that concentrated on language structure instead of the real use of the language itself as means of communication. Richards (1995: 66) in this context quoted Littlewood when he describes the communicative language teaching by saying:

"One of the most characteristic features of communicative language teaching is that it pays systematic attention to functional as well as structural aspects of language. "

This approach has incorporated the teaching of the four language skills besides grammar and vocabulary which according acknowledges the interdependence of language and communication. Thus it supersedes the previous methods in unifying these two concepts i.e. language and communication.

This shift however, from merely teaching language structurally to teaching it communicatively met with different views, some in favour and others against. In China for instance, Xiao Qing Liao (10/10/2001) says:

"In spite of the resistance [to the introduction of the communicative approach in China], there were still many teachers in favor of CLT".

Although communicative language teaching was introduced to the Libyan secondary school textbooks in 1997, which is considered relatively late, it can be said that these textbooks are improved for the following reasons:

• They can be described as comprehensive multi-strand textbooks i.e. they introduce in each unit of the books; vocabulary, grammar and the four language skills listening, speaking, reading and writing.

• The textbooks' content of vocabulary, grammar and the four language skills serve the theme of each unit in a communicative way.

The authors (Tankard and Tankard 2001:1) give an example of this point in their introduction to the First year Secondary School Textbook by saying:

" Unit 5 has the theme Countries and Regions. In this unit the vocabulary relates directly to the theme: the students learn new words and expressions to describe geographical regions. The grammar point covered is comparative adjectives, and the communicative functions are comparing people and things and talking about countries and regions."

• The variation in the topics included in the course book supports the learner's command of the language and can help him to use English in real life situations.

• Contrary to the previous textbook (Further English for Libya by Gusbi and John 1970 Longman publications), which dominated the process of teaching English as a foreign language in Libyan schools for nearly three decades, the new textbook can also be considered as a dynamic one and not static. For instance, in terms of student participation, most of the tasks were set in order for the students to interact among themselves, to play certain roles or to solve a problem, whereas the old textbook concentrates mainly on grammar issues where there is no chance for group work. The possibility of performing the exercises in the old text book can only be done between the teacher and a student or one student and another. Accordingly, the chance for involving the whole class group work or pair work is not available.

• The other advantage of the new textbook is represented in the use of Visual aids. The pictures are very helpful and very motivating for the learner to learn, to understand the task and accordingly participate actively in the class. For instance, in Unit Two (p. 6,7and 8) the topic is about Towns and cities in which the authors introduced the city of Bath in England as an example. At first they present an introduction about the city on page 7, supported by a map of the city using colours (red, blue and green) to show the most famous places like the museum, Post office, car park and recreational park. The objective behind the passage, in page 7, is to provide the learner with necessary vocabulary. In page 8, the picture is used for further drills of the vocabulary in listening and speaking e.g. giving and following directions. These drills are of course, supported by drawings. Besides dealing with vocabulary, listening speaking and reading, it also deals with grammar inclusively (using WH questions and demonstrative pronoun there). Pictures in the old syllabus, however, were very limited and did not serve the theme or any learning activity.

In spite of this improvement of the new English Language textbook in Libya, it did not take into account the other elements of the learning and teaching process i.e. the pupil, the EFL teacher, the method of teaching applied in the Libyan schools, teaching material, and the classroom environment. So the questions that should have been posed by the authors of English for Libya (Alan and Fiona Tankard) and the Libyan educational authorities before writing the textbook could have been:

• Is the teacher capable enough of teaching? Are the teaching aids sufficient to teach with?

• Are the teaching aids sufficient to teach with?

• Is the learner well motivated?

• Is the environment appropriate for learning and teaching?

• What is the general goal of teaching English in Libya?

The need to pay more attention to the teacher is essential for the following reasons:

• The Libyan teacher of English in Libyan secondary schools is the main source of provision of English to the learner. The other sources of exposure to the English language outside the class is only limited to the availability of TV satellite channels for the learner at home.

• The teacher in Richards'words (2001:99):

"can often compensate for the poor-quality resources and materials they have to work from ".

Unfortunately, the majority of teachers in Libyan schools are suffering from this problem. There is a definite shortage of facilities, such as language laboratories, visual aids and other authentic sources like (newspapers). The lack of these facilities affects the process of learning and teaching alike.

• Teachers may not be able to cope with the change easily for many reasons. For instance, due to their limited experience they may follow the same methodology used by their teachers during their previous education stages. Richards (2001: 91) says:

"Teachers found the new materials difficult to teach because they required a high level of oral fluency in English and an English-only methodology that was difficult to implement in large classes ".

In addition to this there are problems in skills teaching, such as teaching reading, writing, speaking and vocabulary etc, where the teacher is not very well prepared. Xiao Qing Liao (10/10/2001) says in this regard, when discussing the implementation of the communicative approach in China, that:

"One reason to reject reform was the inability of the teachers. Chinese teachers are none-native speakers of English. Most of them, especially those in rural schools, lacked the average ability to listen to and speak English. "

Another example that focuses on this issue is that stated by Magdalena Lehwark from Poland (1993: 60) when she said:

"...,the situation of EFL teaching is extremely complicated. Problems ranging from objective, originating from the lack of financial resources, to subjective, internal preconceptions about teaching are deeply rooted in teachers' minds. It is these believes and cliché's which are now, and will remain, the key obstacle in EFL teaching in Poland"

The Chinese and Polish examples can be an analogy to the Libyan case where the teacher is facing a lot of difficulties.

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