03 SES 03 B JS, Multilingual, Multicultural and Multimodal Curriculum Innovation
Joint Paper Session NW 03 and NW 07
English has been offered as a compulsory part of primary and/ or secondary education programmes in Turkey since early 1990s. The Ministry of National Education (MoNE) introduced an educational reform (Primary Education Law, Act N. 6287), in March 2012 in accordance with the general objectives of Turkish National Education as defined in Basic Law of the National Education (Act N. 1739). Based on the changes in English as a Foreign Language (EFL) education programme, the starting age to foreign language instruction was lowered from 8/ 9 to 6/7, and weekly class hours were increased from 2 hours to 3/ 4 hours in primary education. Accordingly, EFL education programme for young learners was redesigned with the core focus on communicative skills (e.g. listening, spoken interaction and spoken production), and the latest draft of the programme was released on the official website of the Ministry of National Education (MoNE) in 2017. The revised document is roughly comprised of a general rationale, key competences and learning outcomes to be attained at the end of each academic year, suggested practices for testing and assessment of language skills, suggested contexts, tasks and assignments, and sample communicative functions and useful language items. As stated in the document, the new programme has been designed based on the principles and descriptors of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, and Assessment (CEFR), and it emphasizes language use in an authentic communicative environment. Therefore, as cited in major philosophy of the programme, use of English is emphasized in classroom interactions of all types, supporting learners in becoming language users, rather than students of the language, as they work toward communicative competence (CoE, 2001). In a similar vein, general objectives of the programme were grounded on the Communicative Approach that entails use of the target language not only as an object of study, but as a means of interacting with others; the focus is not necessarily on grammatical structures and linguistic functions, but on authentic use of the language in an interactive context in order to generate real meaning (Larsen-Freeman & Anderson, 2011; Richards, 2006). Furthermore, based on the requirements of CEFR-based foreign language programmes, the new EFL teaching programme is framed in terms of language skills which stand for objectives for each unit, linguistic realizations of those language skills by referring to grade and language proficiency and pedagogic dimensions, such as suggested contexts and tasks as well as sample assignments shaped by specific language strategy (O’Malley & Chamot, 1990; Oxford, 1990, 1996). Pursuant to these changes and general programme requirements, students attending state primary schools in Turkey are introduced EFL in their second year, and expected to attain A2 proficiency level in English upon their graduation. Keeping the aforementioned revisions in mind, the current research aimed to explore the newly introduced EFL teaching programme with regard to language skills and assignments offered in curricula for 2nd to 8th grades. It mainly focused on distribution of the intended learning outcomes (ILOs) across language skills to be attained for each grade in order to see whether communication skills are emphasized over other skills such as reading, grammar and writing. Subsequently, it investigated to what extent assignments serve the communicative purposes of the programme. In line with the research objectives, two questions were raised.
1. Are communicative skills emphasized over other language skills in EFL teaching programme for primary education in Turkey?
2. Are assignments well-designed to realise communicative objectives of EFL teaching programme for primary education in Turkey?
The following section is intended to cover processes of data collection and data analysis.
Data were compiled from EFL Teaching Programme redesigned by MoNE in Turkey, and announced on the official website of the ministry. More specifically, two sets of data were created to include a total of 377 intended learning outcomes (ILOs), and 124 suggested assignments identified in the programme. Data were analysed through document analysis method, a form of qualitative research in which documents are interpreted by the researcher to give voice and meaning around an assessment topic (Bowen, 2009), and which is particularly applicable to qualitative case studies –intensive studies producing rich descriptions of a single phenomenon, event, organisation, or program (Stake, 1995; Yin, 1994). In the current research, ILOs were initially tabulated for each grade, and classified into core language skills they are designed to improve: (i) listening, (ii) speaking, (iii) reading, and (iv) writing. Subsequently, the suggested assignments were analysed to reveal whether they are constructed to foster students’ communicative competence in EFL. Each assignment was coded by the researchers as “+communicative” and “-communicative”, and the expert opinion was obtained from a faculty member specialised in educational programmes and curriculum during the process. The results obtained from data analysis are outlined in the following section.
Results of the data analysis have indicated that communicative skills (listening and speaking) are highlighted in EFL teaching programme implemented in state primary schools in Turkey. Namely, they constitute approximately 80% of all ILOs identified in the curricula for 2nd to 8th grades. It is noteworthy that they are limited to speaking and listening skills during the first three grades of primary education (Grades 2, 3 & 4), and that ILOs related to reading skill begin to appear on EFL curriculum for the 5th grade. Besides, those related to writing skill are not found in EFL curriculum till the second half of the 6th grade. That is, the research has confirmed that communicative skills received significantly more attention in primary EFL teaching programme than other language skills (e.g. reading and writing). However, it has been demonstrated that less than 25% of the suggested assignments are designed to improve students’ communicative skills in EFL. In other words, three quarters of them do not serve communicative objectives of the programme. Likewise, 86% of the assignments involve the students’ individual effort while 11% and 3% require collaboration between and among students, respectively. Consequently, ILOs and suggested assignments on the revised programme do not equally fulfil the communicative objectives of the primary EFL education in Turkey. In the light of the research findings, EFL curriculum designers could be recommended to (re)design assignments that aim to improve students’ communicative skills in the target language and that encourages collaborative work between and among themselves establishing and developing communication inside and outside the classroom. The study will conclude with a few more practical implications for curriculum designers and EFL practitioners and a couple of suggestions for further directions.
Council of Europe. (2001). Common European framework of reference for languages: Learning, teaching, assessment. Cambridge, U.K., Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge. Larsen-Freeman, D., & Anderson, M. (2011). Techniques and principles in language teaching (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. O´Malley, J. M., & Chamot, A. U. (1990). Learning Strategies in Second Language Acquisition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Oxford, R. L. (1990). Language Learning Strategies: What Every Teacher Should Know. Boston: Heinle & Heinle. Oxford, R. (1996). Language learning strategies around the world: Cross-cultural perspectives. University of Hawaii, Honolulu. Richards, J. C. (2006). Communicative Language Teaching Today. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Stake, R. E. 1995. The art of case study research. London: Sage. Y in, R. K. (1994). Case study research: Design and methods (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
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