Teaching speaking in the English classroom : Teacher practices in Swedish upper secondary schools
Abstract: This qualitative study aims to investigate how teachers of English as a foreign language (EFL) work to develop their students’ oral proficiency. The study analyses interviews and pedagogical materials to elucidate how the interviewed teachers regard their students’ oral proficiency, what kind of activities they use for teaching speaking and how they assess oral proficiency. The participants were two licensed English teachers of higher upper secondary education, and different materials that the teachers used were analysed, including a textbook. The teachers regarded their students’ oral proficiency as generally good or very good but noted that significant differences existed in most groups regarding proficiency and that certain students who were less proficient showed an unwillingness to use the target language, which indicates a need of better strategies to involve these students in the learning process. The findings of this study suggest that the interviewed EFL teachers teach speaking according to the communicative approach and that the activities they use more frequently for teaching speaking were discussions, followed by presentations, speeches, role-playing and debates. However, the interviews and the pedagogical materials reflected a lack of focus on the features of spoken language, the importance of which has been proven by findings in corpus linguistics and conversation analysis. These findings indicate a need to raise awareness among teachers about the benefits of focusing on the features of spoken language. Regarding assessment, informal formative assessment in the form of direct observation was the most common form, while formal assessment was used in presentations and examinations in the form of group discussions. The teachers acknowledged some confusion regarding assessment due to the lack of clear guidelines from Skolverket. Moreover, they regarded speaking as being more important than other skills, which indicates the possibility of redefining the value of speaking in the course evaluation.
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