So, what you’re saying is …? : A study of year 9 students’ attitudes towards and perceived knowledge of communicative competence

University essay from Högskolan i Jönköping/Högskolan för lärande och kommunikation

Abstract: Swedes’ proficiency in English is often high up in the world rankings among the countries in which English is an L2[1]. Learners of English are routinely tested in the Swedish school system, using standardized national tests to measure how well students are doing nationwide, whilst also providing teachers with sometimes essential assistance in grading students’ language skills. At the end of year 9, students should have developed “all-round communicative skills”. But how do we determine what having “all-round communicative skills” constitutes? What are learners’ attitudes towards and perception of what they learn, how they learn it and their own present ability? What are some areas in which they believe they can improve the most, and is there a preferred way to learn a specific skill? Is communicative competence even focused on in the classroom, and if it is – how and how often? The purpose of this study is threefold: to identify how communicatively competent students in year 9 consider themselves in comparison to their peers; how much they believe that they work with communicative competence in school; and what they perceive to be their weakness and area of communicative competence that could be improved most. Secondarily, are there any differences in what is believed to be focused on in class between students and teachers? To answer these questions, an overview of the aspects that together constitutes being communicatively competent based on relevant previous research will be provided. The aims of English as a school subject in Swedish schools are studied in order to see what the goals are, according to the curriculum. After collecting data using interviews and a questionnaire, results indicate that students are not always aware of when and how classroom activities are designed to improve communicative competence. Students in general also seemingly have a varying opinion on what areas they have the most potential for improvement in. There is thus a disparity between learners’ expectations and perception of their own needs, and teachers’ opinions of what requires improvement and how learning of communicative skills is best done. [1] In the writing process, a decision was made to call English an L2 and not a FL throughout the study, since they are still trying to learn another language than their L1 in either case (Yule, 2014, p. 187).

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