Academic journal article International Journal of English Studies

Implementing the Teaching/learning of Oral Skills in Secondary Education in Aragón: Gauging Teachers' Attitudes, Beliefs and Expectations

Academic journal article International Journal of English Studies

Implementing the Teaching/learning of Oral Skills in Secondary Education in Aragón: Gauging Teachers' Attitudes, Beliefs and Expectations

Article excerpt

1. INTRODUCTION

In the last few years, there has been a growing interest in the teaching of oral skills in Secondary Education in Spain. This general trend, particularly noticeable in the field of Foreign Language teaching, may well be the result of a number of factors such as the widespread adoption of the communicative method of teaching languages, a greater exposure of students to the foreign language -both in and out of the classroom (language academies, summer courses, study stays in other countries, availability of radio and TV in a foreign language, etc.)- as well as considerably better preparation and specialization on the part of the teachers which has led to more participative classes (Plo & Pérez-Llantada, 2010: 309). This enhanced interest is in line not only with the European Commission's target of fostering "multilingualism" (or practical skills in at least two languages in addition to one's mother tongue) but also with the increasing -and more specific- academic demands made on students such as the assessment of oral skills in a foreign language as part of the new School- leaving / University entrance exams or the shift from B1 to B2 (CEFRL) as the minimum required level of competence in some Spanish universities.

Studies on the learning and acquisition of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) in general and of oral skills in particular have been mostly carried out in bilingual regions in Spain: Galicia (i.e. Palacios 1995; 2002), the Basque Country (i.e. Cenoz 2009; García Mayo et al. 2005) and Catalonia (i.e. Tragant and Muñoz, 2000; Muñoz 2003). These studies focus on multilingualism and the acquisition of English as a third language in their contexts of education.

The overall purpose of our work was to undertake a parallel analysis related to the specific needs of Aragón1. This is a predominantly monolingual region where the promotion of "oral communication" in the context of a "bilingual education" has been singled out by the academic authorities as one of the major strands for the official teacher-training programmes run by the Department of Education (2011-12). This growing institutional interest2, however, does not seem to be accompanied by a deeper knowledge of the specific needs or actual level of communicative competence in the teaching and academic context. Therefore, we thought it necessary to carry out a global analysis of the current linguistic needs of students of English as a Foreign Language in Secondary Education (1st year and 4th year of ESO, and 2nd year of Bachillerato) as well as the pedagogical and training needs of the teachers of English responsible for imparting these courses in our context.

Before focusing specifically on the information obtained from the teachers' questionnaire, we briefly describe the design and participants who took part in our global study.

2. METHODS

2.1. Research design

In order to perform our needs analysis, we carried out first a pilot study with the collaboration of 173 students and 7 teachers of English from a local secondary school. A total of 25 questions were included in each of the four individual questionnaires to be answered by 1st year ESO, 4th year ESO, 2nd year Bachillerato students and their teachers. Some of these questions were common to all four groups so as to compare their answers, whereas others addressed issues specific to each individual group. All the questions fell into one of the following categories:

1. Methodological approaches to the teaching/learning of oral skills

2. The learning process and assessment of oral skills

3. Motivation and attitude towards EFL

4. Teaching policies and training needs in EFL

Our aim in the second stage of the project was to validate the initial results from the pilot study and to obtain a clearer picture of the situation in our local context. This goal implied the need to redesign and distribute the questionnaires to a larger representative sample. …

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