Developing English as a foreign language communicative competence: a curriculum design for teacher training.

Salmerón Reyes, Mónica Ludivina
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Universidad Don Bosco
Due to the recent and great demand of English as a social communicative tool in the global context, seven universities in El Salvador have decided on offering majors related to the acquisition of English as a foreign language. Among these, Universidad Don Bosco offers two undergraduate degrees in languages, which claim the development of English language skills using the competency-based approach. However, from a practical perspective, there are some students that seem not to have developed the communicative competence. This gap was verified through data gathered on a diagnostic research done to 24 students that belong to B1 level. The data was collected through the administration of a standardized test and revealed that these students had not fully developed their communicative competences. They showed low proficiency on three dimensions of the communicative competence; these dimensions were: grammar and vocabulary, discourse management, and interactive communication and global achievement. The results of the diagnostic research encourage a deeper analysis for the possible causes of the low results obtained by the group of students under study. The first possible cause is the role that both the professor and students have in the learning process. According to an inquiry made to ten educators of the B+1 course, educators are still seen as knowledge keepers while students have a passive role as knowledge receivers in the whole process. Second, the learning experiences are still being designed based on the content and not on the B1+ competencies established for the Communicative English Course; thus, class mediators deem important to rely on developing English content, rather than encouraging a language competence. 2 The third possible cause of low results obtained by the group is that despite the fact that the curricula propose ideas of teaching strategies, professors resist to implement them. The curricula specify three English courses prior to B1+ level, in which students should have developed their communicative competencies; so that each subject suggests a set of teaching strategies to enhance students’ communicative competence. The program for English B1+ course suggests teaching strategies that can directly contribute to the development of the communicative competency; nevertheless, in day-to-day instruction, professors hardly ever use them due to diverse reasons. Among these reasons, class mediators point out that teaching strategies are time consuming (i.e., because it takes too much time to plan them) the lack of participation from low proficiency level students and the limited time to cover all the contents. The fourth possible cause of low results obtained by the group may be due to a single, repetitive course assessment strategy, as participants are systematically assessed on a monotonous role play performance, three times during the semester, throughout five English courses ranging from A1, A2, B1, B1+ and B2. Thus, the implementation of other type of evaluation strategies that require a high domain of oral ability could be beneficial for the students because they would be challenged to use the language in different contexts and scenarios similar to real-life situations, enhancing their abilities to solve real-life issues. Furthermore, it is essential to highlight that the oral assessment takes place at the end of each period. The semester has three periods that are divided into four weeks; so, evaluations take place on the fifth week. Therefore, it becomes an elaborate scenario to examine students’ levels of acquisition of language competence. It also becomes crucial to support the learning process by providing ongoing feedback that can be used by instructors to improve planning and students to improve their learning. Hence, it is necessary to provide teachers with assessment strategies focused at enhancing the learning process. 3 Among the four possible factors that may cause the low proficiency identified on B1+ participants, the present project focuses on the implementation of teaching and assessment strategies that encourage students to develop their communicative competencies. The reason to focus specifically on these possible causes is that the diagnostic enquiry on faculty members indicated that it is necessary to boost up succinct teaching and assessment strategies to better enhance communicative competence of B1 + participants. Our first observations rendered that students who carried out the teaching and assessment strategies used in the present project eventually improved proficiency levels. It is also believed that the present research project may benefit other students’ competency standards.
Palabras clave
Gestión del Currículum , Foreign Language , Enfoque por Competencias , Formación de Profesores
Salmerón, M. L. (2021). Developing English as a foreign language communicative competence: a curriculum design for teacher training. (Tesis de maestría no publicada). Universidad Don Bosco, La Libertad, El Salvador, C. A.