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In line with the rapid socio-economic development in recent years, education in Cambodia has undergone major changes in terms of curriculum and learning materials as well as way of teaching and learning. A new method of teaching and learning in EFL was first introduced in Cambodia in 1992 by Quaker Service Australia (QSA) (Vira, 2010). The Cambodian government has promoted a student-centered approach to teaching since then and a national curriculum was revised through the cooperation between the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport (MoEYS) and non-governmental organizations. Based on curriculum policy with the aim of improving quality of education, a new curriculum policy has been endorsed that pursues a student-centered approach. The Ministry's Curriculum Policy 2005-2009(MoEYS, 2004, p.7) states:
"The teaching program for the delivery of the national curriculum in each school must be structured, systematic and student-centered, include in-classroom and out-of-classroom activities, involve students in both theoretical and practical learning and provide opportunities for the encouragement and development of creativity."
The English language is important vehicle for information and communication in the current age of globalization because English is the language most frequently used across national boundaries and is thus the global language (Crystal, 1997). However, Naisbitt and Aburdence(1990) stress the role of English in relation to local languages: English is not replacing other languages. Parallel to t Naisbitt and Aburdence;s claim, Hasman(2005, p.5) states:
"Instead, it may supplement or co-exist with languages by allowing strangers to communicated across linguistic boundaries and open window to the world, unlocks door to opportunity and expand our mind to new idea."
In addition, English is used as the only official working language of the Association of Southeast Asia (ASEAN), unlike most other international organizations which take a multi-lingual approach. This has given a strong motivation for Cambodia to develop English-speaking personnel. Clayton (2007) observes: "ASEAN's language policy has introduced what one Ministry official in 2000 termed 'tremendous pressure' in Cambodia. Simply put, Cambodian representatives, delegates, and conferees must know English." English was introduced into the school curriculum in Cambodia in 1989 (Vira, 2002). Prior to that, French was the dominant foreign language. In today's Cambodia, English is the most preferred foreign language. It is the language used in international business and education.
In recognition of this fact, MoEYS has introduced a variety of teaching methods for English teaching. Among these varied methods, "communicative language teaching" (CLT) has been most strongly encouraged. The CLT approach advocates the development of communicative competence as a primary goal through the extensive use of the second language as a means of communication during classroom lessons (Mangubhai, Marland, Dashwood, & Son, 2004). Similar to Mangubhai et al., Brown (1994) stressed the importance of real-life communication, focusing on fluency and unrehearsed language performance.
1.2 Problem Statement
Although learner-centeredness has been widely applied in English as a Foreign Language classes through the promotion of communicative language teaching method, still a more traditional method of teaching in which students are exposed to one-way communication (teacher-centered approach) has strongly influenced teaching of English throughout Cambodia (Vira, 2002). As Vira (2002) points out, there is a discrepancy between CLT theory and classroom practices due to Cambodian traditional concepts of teaching, high student-teacher ratios, translation from English to Khmer language, chorus repetition, memorization, and Cambodians' different way of thinking from Western people and teacher's little time to prepare lesson plans. Cheang Sokha, head of the Youth Resource Development Program, claims student-centered approaches exist on paper only (Samnang, 2010)
1.3 Research Objective/s
While various studies have explored the type of student-centered approaches being applied, few studies have identified constraints to implementing CLT in Cambodia. That is, most studies identify theories of CLT that are in circulation, but seem to ignore how communicative language teaching methods are actually being applied by teachers, and what challenges for implementation might exist. Therefore this study seeks to investigate how the CLT approach is understood by those teachers of English, as well as the challenges they experience in implementing CLT.
1.4 Research question/s
This research will focus on the following questions:
How do teachers perceive CLT?
How do they define it, what do they think that it means?
What obstacles do teachers identify to the successful implementation of CLT?
1.5 Significance of the study
This study will expand understanding of teacher perceptions of communicative language teaching and the challenges for implementing CLT. It is hoped that it will also provide insights to teachers and administrators on difficulties encountered in implementing CLT in EFL and identify area where improvement is needed.
1.6 Defining key terms:
CLT: Communicative language teaching here refers to a student-centered approach in EFL, which focuses on communicative proficiency (Quing-xue & Jin-fang, 2007). In this context, perception refers to the understanding and the attitudes of one secondary school English-as-a-Foreign-Language (EFL) teachers about various aspects of communicative language teaching, noting difficulties they encounter when teaching English communicatively in EFL context.
1.7 Proposed Chapter
This study is comprised of different sections. The first part contains an introduction which includes background, problem statement, and research objective, significance of the study, research question and definition of key terms. The second part is a literature review conducted in both national and international studies pertaining to the topic of this study. After that, the research methodology details about the participants, method, instruments, tools, data collection and data analysis, ethical considerations, strengths and limitations. The last section focuses on the references and appendices which describes the research tools, the permission letter, consent form, time frame, and other necessary documents.
Vira's (2003) study on English Language Teaching (ELT) in secondary education (SE) in Cambodia identified many difficulties with applying communicative language teaching methods. These difficulties included the Cambodian alphabet which is different to the Roman alphabet, Cambodian different ways of thinking about teaching and learning style from the Westerners, a preference for traditional methods, class size, teacher-student ratio and translation. According to Vira's classroom observation of English lessons, teachers read English texts aloud to students and students repeated it in chorus. After reading, teachers translated the whole text to students. Most of the students could not fully understand what they had heard. This type of rote learning is widespread through the country and moving from old methods of teaching to student-centered approaches is proving to be a slow process.
A survey of Cambodian secondary school teachers of English to find out their preference concerning teaching condition identified some challenges for Cambodia teachers of English (Vira, 2002). According to the findings, generated from a relatively small sample  , major challenges included unpleasant classroom atmosphere, limited availability of teaching equipment and materials, poor rapport among colleagues, unprepared lesson plans, and lack of confidence in using communicative pedagogical methods.
Igawa (2008) investigated the present situation of the English language education in Cambodia through a survey conducted with 36 Cambodian teachers of English who attended the CamTESOL conference in 2008. Igawa found that Cambodian teachers preferred teaching skills and methods from a communicative approach.
Miller and Aldred (2008) conducted a study on student teachers' perception about communicative language teaching methods in Hong Kong, and described the movement or shift from traditional teaching practice toward communicative teaching methods as shown in Figure 1 below:
Figure 1: Teaching Methodology
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Teaching Practices focus on
Miller & Aldred found that many teacher education courses supported a learner-centered approach; however, there were clearly mismatches between the theory and practice of communicative approaches in Hong Kong where traditional rote learning still dominates practice. Across the studies, common contributing factor hindering application of CLT were: students need a lot of guidance to complete the tasks, teachers do not have enough time to prepare for using CLT in class, CLT need a lot of training, class sizes are too big and classroom sizes are too small, which slows down the pace of lesson and students make a lot of mistakes when using CLT. The situation in Hong Kong seems to mirror the situation in Cambodia.
Lewis and McCook (2002) examined the views of 14 Vietnamese high school teachers of English. Their results demonstrated that while teachers do implement new ideas (such as CLT), at the same time as they also value and use more traditional methods of teaching such as memorization and rote learning. Also, the findings of this study appear to mirror that of the study in the Cambodian context.
Herd's (1995) study on communicative language teaching in China discovered a mismatch between what teachers believe about CLT, and the way that teachers actually practice CLT. He summarized the mismatches in the following contrasts:
Fluency, appropriateness, spontaneity
Coskun(2011) conducted a study on the investigation of the application of Communicative Language Teaching in the English Language Classroom, a case study on teachers' attitudes in Turkey. As the studies introduced above demonstrates the mismatch between the attitudes they expressed and actual classroom teaching due to large class room size, traditional grammar-based examinations and the tittle time to prepare LCT. Also he listed some certain feature of CLT including: (1) pair and group work in which students can learn from each other and they can produce a large amount of language without any pressure from teachers, (2) fluency in which student can get involved in natural language use in order to produce meaningful interaction, (3) less error correction in order to encourage students to speak the language without any interruption, and the role of teachers as a facilitator, organizer of resources, researcher and learner. Coskun gathered data through an observation checklist, open-ended questionnaire and questionnaire statement with just two male English teachers who graduated from ELT department. The four features of CLT as described above were formulated as statements in the observation checklist and questionnaires.
Bal (2006) conducted a study to investigate teacher's perception of Communicative language teaching (CLT) in Turkish EFL setting theory versus practices. The result revealed that there is discrepancy between theory and real classroom practice because of time-consuming grammar teaching and reading activities, the unfamiliarity of teachers with CLT, inadequate materials for applying CLT activities and traditionalism. The study was conducted with twenty English teachers from five different public primary schools. This study is based on data gathered through the combination of triangulation methods: questionnaire, observation checklist and interview form.
3.1 Research design overview
According to Richards and Rodgers (1986), qualitative research in EFL field most often explores teacher's thoughts and perceptions and how they influence the nature of language instruction. In this context, this study mainly focuses on teachers' perceptions about CLT in high school classrooms, exploring major challenges they encounter when applying CLT, a qualitative research design will be used. Since the study concentrates solely on one high school, case study research design will be employed. To ensure validity of the research and to reduce bias, triangulation methods will be used. Thus, this study will be based on data gathered through classroom observation, interviews and questionnaire.
3.2 Sampling and participants
This study will be conducted with English teachers in a high school in Battambang province. To acquire information and in-depth understanding of participants' perceptions of CLT and difficulties they encounter, a purposive sampling method will be employed in this study. The sample of this study will be comprised of 4 English teachers from a high school in Battambang province. Moreover, participants will be selected regardless of age and sex.
3.3 Data collection
The data will be gathered through classroom observation, interviews and questionnaire. The interview and questionnaires will be structured around, and observation will be made in the connection to four features of CLT- pair and group work, fluency and accuracy, error correction and the role of the teacher, adapting from Coskun (2011).
Bal(2006) used a questionnaire to gain information about participants , their general understanding of CLT and reasons influencing their perceptions of CLT. Also the questionnaire will be included in the present research with specific questions about participants' age, academic backgrounds, and teaching practices and especially include some challenges which occur in the implementation of CLT. Open format questions will be utilized in the questionnaire which aim to define the participants'' perception of CLT as well to identify major challenges when applying CLT. A total of 4 teachers from high schools in Batambang province will be given the questionnaire.
In addition, in-class observation is an appropriate and effective tool to gather data for dealing with discipline in classroom because researchers obtain data by simply directly watching the natural environment as lived by participants (Gay, Mills and Airasia(2009). Creswell (1998) suggest that researcher could gather field notes by conducting an observation. In the study, a total of about 3 weeks of observation will be done in English lesson sessions, observing the lessons of each teacher for about a 45 minute lesson period. More importantly, the observation can be a tool to check responses in the questionnaires with the actual teaching environment. During all observation session, observation checklist will be used. This observation checklist includes a specific item about CLT characteristics and activities in classroom. Moreover, note-taking will be used along with the checklist.
Apart from observation, interviewing is necessary for gathering data about the feelings, beliefs, perceptions and opinions, which cannot be observed (Merriam, 1998). In this study semi-standardized (semi-structured) interviews which are located between the extreme of the completely standardized and completely unstandardized interviewing structures (Berg, 2009) will be utilized to gain in-depth understanding of teachers' perception of CLT. A total of 4 English teachers will be interviewed and the interviews will last up to 1 hour and a half for each participant. Conditional to participants' permission, the interviews will be tape recorded.
3.4 Data Analysis
According to Gay,Mills and Airasian(2009), data analysis starts from the initial interaction with participants and pursue the interaction and analysis throughout the whole study. It is time-consuming to go through a multi-stage process of organizing, categorizing, synthesizing, analyzing and interpreting. Berg (2009) introduces many types of qualitative analyses including discourse analysis, content analysis and others. Of these, content analysis will be applied in this study to identify themes and develop categories based a careful coding of data. According to Berg (2009), content analysis is applied to examine and look at the patterns of the language used in the communication exchange. Thus the data collected through questionnaires, observation and interviews will be categorized into four themes which are pair and group, fluency and accuracy, error correction and the role of teacher. Immediately after data are collected from the participants, it will be carefully examined and reexamined in search of themes and grouping them in four themes above. Also, prior data and newer data will be continually compared to reduce less useful data. The researcher will listen to the tape recordings and take notes key themes as well as transcribe the interviews. To ensure the accuracy of the data Interview tape recordings will be transcribed into Khmer first and translated into English into English language which involves the process of coding and categorizing the data. To avoid misunderstanding of the data, the responses will be read carefully again and again to identify the main themes and concepts and to code them subsequently.
3.5 Ethical consideration
To guarantee that the research is ethical, first researcher will submit the proposal to the Royal University of Phnom Penh for approval to proceed with the study and then ask Royal University of Phnom Penh to issue request letters (consent form and permission letter) for our research. More importantly, our responsibility is to explain clearly what the research is about and how it will be disseminated. The observation, interview and questionnaire will be administered only to consenting participants. The name of participants or institutions will be kept anonymous and confidential and participants will be given pseudonyms. Prior to conducting questionnaire or interview participants will be asked to sign a consent form to indicate their willingness to participate in the study. At all stages of the research, participants have the right to refuse or cease participating.
As a qualitative study, the proposal has some limitations. First, the researcher will focus this study in one high school in Batambang province, interviewing and observing the classroom of 4 English teachers. Moreover, as a novice researcher, some problems with data collection may occur. Finally, some activities which occur at specific period of the school calendar may not be captured during the short observation period of the researcher.