Academic journal article Studies in Literature and Language

Jordanian University Communicative Language Teaching Dangling between Theory and Practice

Academic journal article Studies in Literature and Language

Jordanian University Communicative Language Teaching Dangling between Theory and Practice

Article excerpt


This study investigates whether Jordanian university instructors' practices match their attitudes in regards to selected communicative language teaching (viz. pair/ group work, the teacher's role, error correction, and use of native language). The research design is essentially qualitative in which observation is the basic instrument. The researcher traced the aforementioned CLT principles in the practices and attitudes of two university instructors teaching English. After the researcher observed the two participants' classroom practices and took notes of their classroom behaviors for three 60-minute lectures, she conducted a semi-structured interview to reveal their attitudes towards CLT as well as challenges hindering its adoption in their context. The findings indicated a relative disparity between the instructors' attitudes and their classroom practices despite some instinctive embracement of certain CLT features. The major challenges were embodied in lack of CLT training, huge class sizes, limited exposure vents to English, structure-oriented syllabuses and shortage of time.

Key words: Communicative language teaching; Communicative competence; Attitude; Classroom practices


In a single word broadly defined, CLT is a disequilibration. It marked a new epoch where a number of ingredients were reshuffled. Omaggio (2000, p. 118) states that "CLT represents a repertoire of teaching ideas rather than a fixed set of methodological procedures, and as such is not easily defined or evaluated."

McDonough and Shaw (2003) perceive the birth of CLT as a reflex of dissatisfaction with the previously prevailing methods of teaching. They point out that such methods produced students who were only structurally but not communicatively competent. Brown (1994) holds that myriad functions of language were investigated in both spoken and written discourse including nature of styles, registers, gender factors, and nonverbal communication as pressed landmarks of CLT. Based on previous literature, Omaggio (2000, pp. 116-117) unfolds the following major distinctive features:

* Meaning is of primary importance in CLT, and contextualization is a basic principle.

* Attempts by learners to communicate with the language are encouraged from the beginning of instruction. The new language system will be learned best by struggling to communicate one's own meaning and by negotiation of meaning through interaction with others.

* Sequencing of materials is determined by the content, function, and/or meaning that will maintain students' interest.

* Judicious use of the native language is acceptable where feasible, and translation may be used when students find it beneficial or necessary.

* Activities and strategies for learning are varied according to learner preferences and needs.

* Communicative competence, with an emphasis on fluency and acceptable language use, is the goal of instruction.

It can be evident from these aforementioned characteristics that CLT is a radical departure from its predecessors, precisely those that dwelt on the grammatical competence. Revising the historical literature of CLT brings its readers to one conclusion that there has been an array of definitions, models, and components of the communicative competence, yet there was never a consensus on any. One of the models hued as practical and easy going was that proposed by Canale and Swain (1980) who proposed a set of three competences, namely, grammatical, sociolinguistic, and strategic. It was later updated by Canale (1983) by introducing the fourth competence, that of discourse. According to Pendidikan (2008), if we were to compare Canale and Swain's construct of communicative competence with that of Chomsky's in a rather general sense, Chomsky's "competence" would be equivalent to the "grammatical competence" introduced by Canale and Swain (1980) leaving all the other competences out of the question (Pendidikan, 2008). …

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