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Challenges in the teaching and testing of speaking


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Challenges in the teaching and testing of speaking for English as a Second or Foreign Language.

Published in: Education

Challenges in the teaching and testing of speaking

  1. 1. Challenges in the teaching and testing of speaking John Campbell-Larsen Cameron Romney
  2. 2. This Presentation • Part one: What is speaking? • Part two: How do you teach conversation? • Part three: How is speaking (often) evaluated? • Part four: Ideas to take away.
  3. 3. Part one What is speaking?
  4. 4. Four Skills A Balanced Syllabus Speaking 25% Listening 25% writing 25% Reading 25%
  5. 5. Language in use Daily language use Conversation 85% Other 15%
  6. 6. “It [speaking] is the skill by which they [learners] are most frequently judged … It is the vehicle par excellence of social solidarity, of social ranking, of professional advancement and of business.” Martin Bygate (1987), p. vii
  7. 7. Genres of speaking • Monologue (Lectures, Presentations, speeches etc.) • Power/rights differential dialogue (Interviews, Formal Debates/ Discussions, etc. ) • Transactional (Service encounters, etc.) • Conversation
  8. 8. Participant Question How much time do you spend in each of these genres?
  9. 9. Characteristics of Conversation “Genuine conversation is characterized by the uneven distribution of information, the negotiation of meaning, … topic nomination and negotiation by more than one speaker, and the right of interlocutors to decide whether to contribute to an interaction or not. In other words, in genuine communication, decisions about who says what to whom and when are up for grabs.” David Nunan (1987), p.137
  10. 10. Characteristics of conversation • It is not primarily necessitated by a practical task. • Any unequal power of participants is partially suspended. • The number of participants is quite small • Turns are quite short • Talk is primarily for the participants and not for an outside audience. Cook (1989), p. 56
  11. 11. Characteristics of interviews • Pre-planned, highly structured with time limits • Often rehearsed • Uneven distribution of speakership rights • Topic controlled by task and/or examiner • Roles are (mostly) adhered to • Language is formal/neutral • Structure is Q/A adjacency pair
  12. 12. Example Video
  13. 13. Part two How do you teach conversation?
  14. 14. Creating a venue for conversation • The classroom must be reconfigured as a social rather than institutional psychological space • The learners must orient to a social rather than institutional English language identity • The learners must be made aware of the purposes of the above • The leaners must be afforded TIME to do so
  15. 15. Example Video
  16. 16. Part three How is speaking (often) evaluated?
  17. 17. Common forms of Evaluation • Written tests • Presentations • Task observations, e.g. role plays • Interviews tests
  18. 18. Written Tests Positives • Easy to evaluate large groups of students • Student know what to do Negatives • Not speaking • Often receptive skills not productive and/or linguistic knowledge
  19. 19. Written test example • Before (1)________ down for a nap, the boy (2) _________ down the book. A: Lie B: Lay C: Laid D: Lay E: Laying F: Lying
  20. 20. Presentations Positives • Individual activity • Clear outcomes Negatives • Minor speaking genre • Rehearsed, often memorized • Vocalization of written English
  21. 21. Example Video
  22. 22. Task Observations Positives • Concrete outcomes, i.e. did they accomplish the task? Negatives • Usually transactional in nature • Dependent on partner’s ability • Dependent on knowledge of the context
  23. 23. Issue with role-plays “Role-playing ability can be compared with acting ability, and of course not everyone is a good actor. Nor is being a good actor equivalent to being a good communicator. Furthermore, role playing is a specialized kind of acting, requiring ad-libbing ability. Not every good actor is a good ad-libber.” van Lier (1989), p. 502
  24. 24. Interviews tests Positives: • Students produce lots of language (ideally) Negatives: • Minor speaking genre • Highly structured with time limits • Controlled by interviewer • One-sided interaction
  25. 25. How do you evaluate speaking?
  26. 26. Example Video
  27. 27. Example Video
  28. 28. Example Video
  29. 29. Part Four Ideas to take away
  30. 30. #1: Speaking has DIFFERENT genres
  31. 31. Speaking Genres • Just as teaching poetry doesn’t prepare a student to write a business letter, teaching a student how to give a presentation doesn’t prepare him/her to have a conversation. • The same for reading, writing, listening, grammar, vocabulary, etc.
  32. 32. #2: Conversation is THE skill
  33. 33. Suggestions for teaching • Make conversation (real conversation) a priority • Raise student awareness of aspects of a good conversationalist • Correct bad conversation behaviors • Teach conversation/communication skills • Teach interactive skills
  34. 34. #3: Test what you teach and teach what you test
  35. 35. Suggestions for evaluation • Make sure your evaluation matches classroom realities. • If you have a fixed evaluation method, include classroom activities to match the evaluation.
  36. 36. Challenges in the teaching and testing of speaking John Campbell-Larsen Cameron Romney
  37. 37. Example Video