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ESL teaching in selected Brisbane schools

By Hemani De Silva


This thesis reports the results of a one-year fulltime investigation into the use of communicative teaching methods in ESL classrooms in a selection of schools in Brisbane. The motivation for this research program comes from the fifteen years of experience of the researcher in ESL teaching in Sri Lanka where, despite well resourced and publicised efforts, the Sri Lankan Ministry of Education has not been successful in implementing communicative teaching methods in Sri Lankan schools. Traditional methods emphasise matters of form such as grammar and correct usage in quick reading and accurate writing whereas modern communicative methods emphasises speaking, listening and the content of what is to be communicated. Stephen Krashen's Monitor Model provides the theoretical foundation for communicative approaches utilised for data analysis in this study. An extensive list of activities and carrier topics published by a celebrated second language teacher and scholar, Mary Finocchiaro, has been adopted as the practical framework for data analysis. A Teacher-Student Bond hypothesis has been postulated by the researcher as being potentially useful in improving the effectiveness and efficiency of ESL pedagogy. ESL lessons are conducted in order to help migrant students from non-English-speaking backgrounds fit into the academic mainstream. As a study with some international significance, this mainstream of the educational system in Queensland has been described from the pre-school level to the tertiary level. Political factors which influence the allocation of funding and teacher-training in support of ESL teaching have been described in relation to relevant demographic characteristics of Brisbane, which have influenced the sample construction of schools visited by the researcher. Non-participatory classroom observation has been adopted as the main research method for data collection from a selection of schools in Brisbane, following a study of relevant demographic issues. Interviews with, and handouts prepared by, ESL teachers have also provided supplementary data. Visits to twenty classrooms in ten schools in Brisbane have provided the data which has been analysed initially using the theoretical framework of Krashen. The data has been extended using the practical framework of Finocchiaro's list of activities and topics. A student-age or experience-level dependent analysis has been used to unify the theoretical and practical frameworks using all available data. Data indicates that the Teacher-Student Bonds hypothesis is significant only for students linguistically weaker in English and their more supportive ESL teachers in relatively smaller classes. Problems of implementing communicative teaching methods by ESL teachers arises from the continued use of non-communicative, traditional, formal methods by even the more eminently qualified and otherwise experienced teachers who may have firmly committed themselves in interviews to the use of communicative teaching methods. Such implementation problems are in fact surmountable with the aid of communicatively experienced teacher-trainers who monitor, identify and discuss with relevant teachers any significant amounts of formal content observed in their lessons. A minor interesting finding of this investigation indicates that the range of activities and topics available for use in ESL classrooms is much larger than is likely to be used by any one ESL teacher. A major finding of this investigation is that the level of ESL experience of students should determine the communicative content satisfying Krashen Input requirements early years more and later years less. Krashen's Affective Filter requirements could well be satisfied to advantage at all levels. A range of topics has been identified for future research: * in relation to the theoretical framework, problems of: - determining input content level complexity and improving student receptivity to input - use of first language links between ESL teachers and their students * in relation to the practical framework, problems of: - selecting what in fact are more effective topics and activities - damage that may result from using communicative methods over too long periods. Some concluding statements have also been formulated in a way that might influence relevant policy determinations by the Sri Lankan Government and its Ministry of Education as they seek to implement communicative methods of teaching ESL in Sri Lankan schools

Topics: English language Study and teaching Foreign speakers, thesis, masters
Publisher: Queensland University of Technology
Year: 1993
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