Assessing the Communication Proficiency of Social Studies Teachers in Selected Secondary Schools in South Central Nigeria

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Stones (2005) sees language or communicative competence thus: "what a speaker needs to know to communicate effectively in culturally significant setting". Language use, for example is what is said on a particular occasion, how it is phrased, and how it is coordinated with nonverbal sign. It cannot simply be a matter of individuals' free choice. It must be affected by subconsciously internalized constraints.

Languages play social roles; they are involved in social intercourse, and explain things to one and another. What is very obvious here is that language is used to conduct day-to-day activities, by individuals who use the language. To be competent in a particular language, one has to master the language in all its ramifications that is, listening, speaking, reading, and writing. This is the crux of language proficiency.

According to Martins (2000), every time we express ourselves we have to coordinate not merely muscular movements in the speech organs or in the hand grasping the pen. We have to relate the simultaneously apprehended topic of discourse to its necessary linear linguistic signals which must communicate it: Moreover, we must do so in such a way that we can be sure our companion or reader is able to comprehend the topic in the way we ourselves do, which means selecting linguistic expressions which will not merely suit the topic but will suit our audience (p. 232).

This study was agitated by the views of Nwogu (2000) that one of the major obstacles to effective teaching in Nigerian schools is the inability of teachers to communicate effectively. The linguistic weakness of most Nigerian teachers can be attributed to their poor foundations, poor training, influence of local dialects, the pervasiveness of pidgin English ( adulterated English language) and declining reading culture among Nigerians, especially the youth. This according to Nwogu (2000) is further compounded by the linguistic problems of Nigerian teachers who are required to instruct through the medium of a foreign language (English language) in which they themselves lack the needed competence and fluency. Unless the teachers possess acceptable level of proficiency in the use of English language, they are bound to add to the problems of comprehension (learning), which the pupils currently face. It is not enough for teachers to be good in their subject areas. Such mastery is worthless in the instructional process if the knowledge cannot be well communicated by means of sound linguistic facility (Arendi, 1991).

It is usually the case that an ability to pass on information very well, means an ability to manipulate the language in use very well. However, this does not seem to be the case with an average teacher trained in Nigerian universities. He is not well equipped in the language arts. The nationwide evaluation of the quality of school graduates in Nigeria in 2004 revealed that majority of products of Nigerian universities score poorly on measures of expression in English language (NERDC, 2004). Where school teachers suffer this predicament, their pupils face double dilemma--difficulty in reading and understanding materials written in English language and learning the wrong thing from teachers. It is therefore necessary to have teachers who are competent and proficient in their communications. This is rooted in the thesis that educational failure is in some instances can to a large degree be explained as linguistic failure (Halidary, 1997). If we must help the Nigerian teachers to be proficient in communication as an impetus for effective teaching, there is need to have empirical data on their present level of communication proficiency. At present, there is no such empirical evidence, hence the need for this study.

The Problem

Competence in communication is four facetted viz, grammatical competence, discourse competence, socio-linguistic competence, and strategic competence. …