Action Research Template
The following template may be used for your action research:
Context of the Problem
English language is taking a very important part of our educational system, even though, learning a second language is not an easy thing because it involves many things like process , environment, teacher knowledge, students’ knowledge, strategies and, techniques among others. Most of the students, in different institutions have the same problems learning a second language , they understand the language when they listen to a song, a postscript, a speech or when they watch a video, a movie, series , and realities shows or when they read books, magazines, newspapers, advertisements among other information. Also, they are able to write letters, poems, stories, essays, etc. But, what happen with the speaking skill? Why are they not able to express their ideas, opinions, and feelings in their classes? Or what happen with the interaction in their classes?
Many years ago teachers tried to teach just grammar and they did not take care about speaking skill. However; nowadays teachers try to integrate the four skills in order to help students to learn better the language and at the same time with the intention that students will be able to produce the language by different forms. It is working well because some of the students that are learning English as a second language are able to understand the language and produce it in written form but most of them are not able to produce the language in a spoken form. According to Farroqui (2007), students from private schools have a higher level of English at the moment that they produce the language in a spoken form than students from public schools, he says that it is because in private schools the English is compulsory and students have to speak in English in all their classes, but what are the real problems that students face when they speak?
Students tend to have a lot of difficulties at the moment that they have to interact with someone else in the classroom using the English. According to Bare (2009), many English students complain that they understand English, but don't feel confident enough to join a conversation. He says that the most common problems that students have developing their speaking skill are the following translation, blocking and lack of vocabulary.
Most of the time when students have a conversation with some one else in English, they tend to translate everything from their mother tongue. So it provokes that students do not fluency while they speak because it is difficult to think, to structure and translate at the same time. In addition, some words in English have not the same meaning as in Spanish, so it can cause problems when students try to be understood by their classmates. Another problem is blocking, it occur when students get nervous expressing something in front of another person, it can be because they have lack of confidence. Maybe their pronunciation is not good. Finally, lack of vocabulary, it is one of the main problems according to Bare (2009), because students sometimes do not find the appropriate word for saying something or they do not know how to say it in English, so for them are difficult to communicate in this situation. However, we can find more problems that students have rising their speaking skill.
However; teachers and students can work together in order to avoid these problems, they just need to know exactly what are the main problems the have and some strategies that they can use in order to improve their speaking skill. According to Kayi (ny), it is important to promote speaking through different activities and in this way identify the main speaking problems that students have for working later on them. He suggests discussions, role plays, simulations, information gap story telling, and interviews, among others.
Contextualize students in real life situations is also a very good strategy that can help students to solve their problems they have developing their speaking skill. According to Johnson and Marrow (1981), students have to know how to do something. So teachers have to prepare students to survive in and out the classroom. Another important thing that teachers can do in order to improve the developing of speaking skill in students is to encourage them to participate during the classes. Most of the teachers just put attention to students that participate in every single class, but they do not put attention to students that do not participate in classes and also they do not do anything to encourage their students. According to Navarro (ny), students’ participation takes an important part in the developing of speaking skill because if we as teacher encourage our students in the classes they will not get afraid of speaking in front of the group or interact with someone during the class.
As son as the problems will be identified, teachers can apply different strategies according to what students need and what students want in order to solve these problems and make that students can be able to interact having a conversation with their classmates in English.
Method and Materials
In this study, I am going to use different methods according to what I need to know about students’ problems in developing their speaking skill in the classroom (having a conversation with their classmates and teachers). First of all, I am going to design a questionnaire. It is for teachers in Practica profesional Level 1; in which I am going to ask questions like what are the main difficulties that students present when they have a conversation in English?, what are some activities that they use in order to help students to improve their speaking skill?, in which areas, do they need to work more?, are the classroom activities meaningful for them in order to be better at the moment they have a conversations in English? , are the activities appropriate for their level? Do you try to contextualize students into real life situations?
After that, I am going to observe students during a presentation about their favorite artist. It can help me to identify what are the main problems that students have producing the language in a different way, focus my attention on different aspects. The aspects in which I am going to focus my attention are the following fluency, coherence, the correct use of the grammar structures, vocabulary they use during the presentation and the pronunciation. These aspects are going to be specified in a rubric.
For this research I consider important to know the students´ opinion because we as teachers perceive the things differently to our students. For this reason I decide to ask students some questions related to their developing of speaking skill. So I am going to design a semi-structured interview in order to cover this aspect. The interview will include some questions relate to the problems they have producing the language in the classroom and some strategies that help them to improve their speaking skill in the classes. I am going to focus my attention on what strategies they use and are meaningful to them for improving their speaking skill and the activities that teachers apply in classes for helping them to improve their speaking skill.
I am going to apply these instruments at the University of Aguascalientes, the first questionnaire will be applied to teachers from Practicas Profesionales; it will be done at the university (UAA) with 11 Teachers. The presentation will take place in the classroom and it will be from students in the Fomento class, level 1, with students from 18-21 years old; its purpose is to identify students speaking problems. Finally the interview will take place at the university with some of the students from Practicas Profesionales. Also, I will take into consideration previous speaking exams applied to this group in this semester.
Results and Data Analysis
Respect to the first questionnaire applied to different students teachers in Fomento, the most common difficulties that students have developing their speaking skill are fluency, lack of vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar structures. Most of the teachers (10 from 15) said that students have a lot of problems respect to these aspects. However; they mentioned that the most common one is grammar. They say that students have a lot of problems structuring sentences while they speak. In addition; they said that most of the students have problems with the conjugation of some verbs using the third person when they speak in simple present, also teachers restate that students have a lot of problems speaking in past, they said that students tend to speak in simple present when they try to express themselves in past.
The second most relevant problem that teachers could identify in their students was the lack of vocabulary. Teachers mentioned that students always tend to use the same vocabulary when they speak. Students use the same phrases and verbs all the time. The third problem that faces students while they speak according to the different teachers is lack of confidence. Teachers restate that students get afraid at the moment that they are in front of the group exposing a topic or talking about something in specific. Teachers said that some students have the vocabulary and they know very well the structures but at the moment the have to express something in front of the group they tend to commit a lot mistakes and they forget certain words.
Respect to the presentations and the speaking exams I could find a specific case that was Alejandra’s case. Alejandra is very intelligent and she knows structured the language and they know a lot of vocabulary. However at the moment she was in front of the group, she got nervous and she began to commit many grammar mistakes. Also she began to speak in Spanish because she forgot the word in English. Respect to the others students, 10 from 22 have problems with the grammar structures. 8 students from 22 have problems with the pronunciation of some words and the rest of students just read their presentations and they did not speak.
In the interview I could find that students’ opinions are not different to teachers’ opinions respect to the problems students have developing their speaking skill. 10 students mentioned that the biggest problem for them is grammar; they said that they have a lot of difficulties structuring sentences in order to make a dialogue or to have a conversation. 8 students said that their mayor problem is the confidence because they get nervous when they have to express something in front of the group. 4 students said that their problem was pronunciation because sometimes they tend to say the words as they write, so they mispronounced many words. In act these are the findings for this research.
Speaking skill is a difficult skill to work on because the types of activities that teachers use in order to improve it are not meaningful for students because they do not try to contextualize them into real life situations. In addition; even if the teacher contextualize them in real life situations, they will have problems like pronunciation, coherence, cohesion, fluency and in some cases students can be shy so they will have problems expressing what they feel. According to Bertram (2002), “Oral language is the greatest use of language and is the basis of communication”.
In this case restating the findings, some of the problems that I previously mentioned according to Bare (2009), lack of confidence, lack of vocabulary, fluency, translation and blocking were not mentioned neither fro teachers nor for students. Both of them were agree with the most common problems that students present in their developing of their speaking skill. Even though; others problems like lack of confidence, and lack of vocabulary were very mentioned for teachers and students.
The lack of fluency is a very common problem and this problem can involved a lot of aspects. Students maybe are not secure to stay in front of the group because they do not know how to pronounce something, they do not have fluency while they speak or just they are shy and they easily get nervous. In contrast; in most of the cases in this research, students mentioned that the lack of confidence at the moment they are in front of a group is because teacher in the different activities do not encourage to all students. They think that teachers have to try to integrate all students and motivate them to participate in each single activity in order to achieve that shy students can interact with the rest of the class. So in this way when they want to express something they will not be afraid of stay in front of the group. In addition; they will feel free to say wherever they want or feel respect to their life.
Another common problem in students was the use of grammar in speaking. Some of the students restated that is very difficult to conjugate the verbs in the different tenses. Some of them said that the conjugation of the third person with the verb in simple presents is kind of difficult. They already know that at the end of each verb they have to add an “s”, however at the moment they have to speak in present simple they get in trouble because they do not pronounce the “s”. Another aspect related to the grammar is the conjugation of the simple past. Students said that they already know the correct conjugation but at the moment they are talking, they tend to shift into simple present, they do not why but they have this problem. Also, students have problems with the pronunciation of some regular verbs in past because of the ending –ed.
Lack of vocabulary is another common problem in students when they try to produce the language in a spoken way. Some of the students mentioned that most of the teachers just teach them formal language and expression. However they do not teach them informal language like taboo words, slang words, contractions, reductions, phrasal verbs among others. Also students said that teachers do not pay much attention to the vocabulary, they said that teachers focus more their attention on the grammar part, so they want that their students learnt how to structured correctly at the moment they talk and they do not pay attention to the vocabulary that students use in order to communicate their ideas and feelings. For this reason students tend to repeat frequently the same phrases and the some expressions.
In addition they do not how to use phrasal verbs, contractions, reductions and slang words. So I think, that teachers have to teach students informal language because they will need it in a future when they travel to the United Stated or when they have a conversation with American people because in real life on the street, at home or with friend we do not speak formal language, we just use formal language with people that we do know or at work.
As a conclusion I can say that with this research I could prove that a big majority of the students that are learning English have different difficulties respect to the language, taking into consideration the four skills reading, writing, listening, grammar and speaking. However; the most difficult skill for most of the students is speaking. Most of the students consider very difficult try to work on the developing of their speaking skill because they do not have the opportunities to practice it as much as they want.
Also the think that the activities teachers apply are not meaningful for them because sometimes teachers do not contextualize students or push students to use the language in their own experiences or in real life situations. So they do not see meaningful the language because they do not think that they could use it in a future in order to confront the world.
With this research I could find that most of the students and teachers consider the lack of vocabulary, the lack of confidence, pronunciation and the use of grammar as the major problems developing their speaking skill. They say that teachers have to leave them practice as much as they can the language in different context, not just in situations related to educational environment. Also they think that teacher have to apply different activities in order to achieve a meaningful improvement in speaking taking into account students’ needs and wants. In addition; teachers have to consider real life situations when they teach.
Beare, K., (ny). Speaking strategies for English learner. Retrieved on http://esl.about.com/od/speakingenglish/a/speaking_hub.htm
Bertram, G., (2002). Effective communication: The importance of oral language in the school curriculum. Retrieved on http://englishonline.tki.org.nz/English-Online/Teacher-needs/Pedagogy/Speaking-strategies/Effective-communication
Farooqui, S., 2007, Developing speaking skills of adult learners in private universities in Bangladesh: problems and solutions, Australian Journal of Adult Learning, vol 47, no. 1. Retrieved on http://eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/search/detailmini.jsp?_nfpb=true&_&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=EJ797591&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=no&accno=EJ797591
Kayi, H., (ny), Teaching Speaking: Activities to Promote Speaking in a Second Language. Retrieved from http://iteslj.org/Techniques/Kayi-TeachingSpeaking.htm
Navarro, B., (ny),Improving Speaking Skill. Retrieved from http://www.encuentrojournal.org/textos/Navarro.pdf
Johnson K., & Morrow K., (1981), Communication in the classroom. Logman. Engalnd. Pp 49, 60-65.
- This is just a reminder to refer to this video before emailing me your final draft. If you have any questions about APA, come by my office.--Bnleez 22:00, 8 December 2011 (UTC)
- Make sure you clearly state your research questions and that the research questions pertain to your problem statement. Add your references also. --Bnleez 17:58, 5 November 2011 (UTC)
- Avoid subheadings in your Context of the Problem section but do include subheadings in your Method section. Also, begin adding more information to your Method section. --Bnleez 14:37, 2 October 2011 (UTC)
Note: For those taking Applied Linguistics for credit, please do the following:
- Copy and paste the template above as a subpage to your user page.
- Adhere to the following approximate word count per section...
- Context of the problem should be 800 words
- Method and Materials should be 500 words
- Results and Data Analysis should be 500 words
- Discussion should be 1,000 words that includes a 250-word conclusion.