Factors Responsible For Effective Use Of Speaking Skills In Primary School (A Case Study In Some Selective Primary Schools In Toro Local Government Area Of Bauchi State)

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Factors Responsible For Effective Use Of Speaking Skills In Primary School (A Case Study In Some Selective Primary Schools In Toro Local Government Area Of Bauchi State)


Abstract


The purpose of the study was to identify the factors affecting the acquisition of speaking skills in English amongst secondary students in Toro Local Government Area, Nigeria. Teachers use Standard English for instruction yet the learners find it difficult to communicate using Standard English and this is reflected when expressing themselves. The main concern was to identify factors affecting students‟ acquisition of speaking skills in English. The objectives were to: establish the instructional resources used in teaching speaking skills in English, establish the methods teachers of English use in the teaching of speaking skills, establish the common errors that students made when speaking in English and to identify other factors affecting the acquisition of speaking skills in English. The findings of the study were to provide teachers of English, students and the heads of English department with insights on the problems that students face in the process of acquiring speaking skills in English as well as help them improve their verbal communicative ability. The scope involved students from 5 public primary schools in Toro LGA, Nigeria. The research was guided by Krashen‟s theory of language acquisition and learning. Literature was reviewed as per the study objectives and a descriptive survey design was employed to gather information on the factors that affected students‟ acquisition of speaking skills in English. The variables under investigation were independent, intervening and dependent variables. The target population comprised 1210 students and 9 teachers of English out of which 4 were Heads of Department. In one school, a Hausa teacher was the HoD. The total population was 1219 respondents. The sample size comprised 3 randomly and purposively selected public primary schools, 137 form three students, 6 form three teachers of English out of whom were 3 were heads of the English department making a total of 145 respondents. Data was collected using questionnaires, interview schedule, observed schedule and a checklist then analyzed using the Statistical Package of Social Sciences (SPSS) program. The analyzed data were presented descriptively using tables, charts, graphs and percentages. The findings indicated that English course books, literary texts and the chalk board were the most available and accessible instructional resources in the schools. Teachers used few learner-centred teaching methods that enhanced students to speak English in the classroom. Role play was disliked by teachers as it was time consuming. However, in the questionnaires teachers indicated that they employed the method in teaching English speaking skills. Students made errors when they spoke in English. Students‟ acquisition of speaking skills in English was affected by their age of enrolment, lack of motivation and lack of practice. It was concluded that schools lacked variety of instructional resources. Age of enrolment in school affected acquisition of speaking skills. Teachers did not employ enough teaching methods that could give students opportunities to practice speaking good English. This would minimize the errors they made while speaking English. The researcher recommended provision of a variety of instructional resources and teachers to vary the teaching methods that enable students to acquire speaking skills in English successfully. Children should start school at the right age.


Chapter One


Introduction

1.1 Background to the Study

Language is very important in the daily lives of people since it is the means by which people communicate. In the school curriculum, English language performs a very vital role in the learning process in terms of the learners‟ proficiency in all the four language skills. For instance, it is the language of instruction in the Nigerian education system in all the subject areas except Hausa and foreign languages (FLs) like French (Kimemia, 2001). Speaking, therefore, as a skill is defined as the oral mode or the productive skill which is more complicated and which involves more than just pronouncing words (Iqbal, 2012). While speaking, people get involved in three major kinds of speaking situations and these are: interactive (discussion and dialogues), partially interactive (lecture) and noninteractive (sermons and speeches) speaking situations. Interactive speaking situations include face-to-face conversation and telephone calls, in which we are alternately listening and speaking. In this situation, one has a chance to ask for clarification, repetition or slower speech from our conversation partner. On the other hand, partially interactive situations involve giving a speech to a live audience, where the conversation is that the audience does not interrupt the speech. The speaker can nevertheless see the audience and judge from the expressions on their faces and body language whether or not he or she is being understood.

In the acquisition of a second language, speaking is a vital skill to master. In spite of that, according to Baker and Westrup (2003), in many countries, because speaking skills are not assessed teachers usually disregard the skill and focus on other areas of language learning features such as grammar or vocabulary. That was especially true in the case of English Education in Vietnamese high schools. However, in numerous colleges, students‟ ability to speak in English is appreciated and has become a criterion in evaluating linguistic performance. As a result, at the English department of Hanoi University, speaking English is a subject on the curriculum taught during the first two years.
Mistakes, therefore, should be welcome (Iqbal, 2012) in Communicative language teaching and in speaking activities like imitating, answering verbal cues and interactive conversation. Oral presentation of content should be practical and functional in real life. Appropriate feedback should also be provided, but one should not interrupt the communication process as this will discourage further verbal communication. In addition, both fluency and accuracy in the use of English should be addressed and strategies like asking for clarification, paraphrasing, use of gestures, and initiation of talk using words like; hey, so and by the way should be encouraged. Thus listening and speaking skills need a lot of emphasis in the learning process since these skills form a strong foundation in the teaching of English.


1.2 Statement of the Problem

The ability to speak fluently in English is the chief goal of many learners. Successful language communication through speaking and writing modes require constant practice. This implies that teachers of English need to examine the teaching of speaking as a skill by taking into consideration the content and methodology that would help learners learn to speak English (Floden, 1997). It is argued that speaking skills have not developed because they are not tested in certificates. The reason for difficulties in testing speaking being speaking skills involve a combination of skills which may have correlation or do not lend themselves well to objective testing (Kitao & Kitao, 1996). This, therefore, means that English language cannot be learnt by just mastering the rules of grammar or through the lecture method. Rather, English is learned through conversation and discussion in context. This is true because the main purpose of learning English language is to improve the four language skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing) to enable them use English language communicatively.

The perennial poor performance in English in the schools in Toro Local Government Area and the type of form four leavers who join universities and colleges has raised a lot of concern to the general public. Some can hardly construct a grammatical English sentence as evidenced in the application letters written for admission to various institutions of learning. However, as much as English language proficiency plays a vital role in the learner‟s day-to-day life, many students still perceive speaking in English a hard subject to learn. Speaking in English is considered hard to acquire, leading to poor performance in English and in other subjects that require English language proficiency to learn.

In view of the above arguments, proper attention needs to be given to factors affecting the acquisition of speaking skills in English among learners at the Primary school level. The essence of this research was, therefore, to investigate the various factors affecting students‟ acquisition of speaking skills in the English language.


1.3 Research Objectives

The specific objectives that guided the study were to:

  1. Investigate which instructional resources are used in the teaching of speaking skills in English.
  2. Establish the teaching methods used in teaching speaking skills in English.
  3. Establish the common errors that students make when speaking in English. iv. Identify other factors affecting students‟ acquisition of speaking skills in English.

1.4 Research Questions

The study sought to answer the following research questions:

  1. Which instructional resources are used in the teaching of speaking skills in English?
  2. Which teaching methods do teachers of English use when teaching English speaking skills?
  3. Which errors did students commonly make when speaking in English?
  4. Which other factors affect students‟ acquisition of speaking skills in English?

1.5 Significance of the Study

The findings of the study will provide teachers of English, Heads of English Department, students and administrators with insights on some of the problems learners face in the process of acquiring speaking skills in English and help them where possible. In addition, it will help teachers improve their teaching methodology with a view of bringing up students who are able to speak good English. This can be achieved through involving them in tasks like brainstorming, discussions and information gap. These activities will encourage students to speak English.

Moreover, the findings will help administrators appreciate the importance of students acquiring speaking proficiency in English. This will make them invest in speaking skills by providing teachers and students with enough and varied instructional resources to ensure acquisition takes place effectively. Besides, students will recognize that English is a very important subject. This will make them cultivate a positive attitude towards speaking in English thus facilitating the acquisition process.


1.6 Delimitations

The present research involved only public primary schools in Toro Local Government Area. The research was confined to Toro LGA and the information provided will be relevant to this area. Secondly, because of the nature of the study, only teachers of English, and students were sampled. The sample size for the study encompassed only three schools out of five schools in the district and a total of one hundred and thirty seven (137) form three students and six (6) teachers of English. Out of this number, two teachers were HoDs. In one school, there was only one teacher who was also a HoD. Also acquisition of speaking skills in English and not any other language skill was the area of investigation. Form three students in each of these schools filled questionnaires and were later observed during the actual teaching.


1.7 Limitations

The researcher faced a number of challenges while carrying out the study. The region, being inhabited by 99% nomadic people, delayed collection of data as some students transferred to other schools as they moved with their livestock. Early marriages also delayed the process as some of the female students left school to attend to their families while others got married then resumed school at a later time. Many of the male students, on the other hand, overstayed at home herding livestock or waiting for a well-wisher to pay school fees for them. Because of the sparse population, the researcher was forced to spend a lot of money and time travelling to reach the sampled schools.

Insecurity was another hurdle as the region is characterized with frequent inter-ethnic wars between the Toro LGA and neighbouring communities. This forced the researcher to seek the services of a local home-guard to ensure the data collection exercise was not interrupted. The harsh climate (hot) and terrain made the researcher collect data in the evenings because in the afternoons there were very few students in the schools. Also, mid-term breaks, continuous assessment tests and end of term examinations interrupted the process of collecting data. This forced the researcher to collect data at varied times both before and after mid-term break. Despite the challenges faced, care was taken to ensure this did not adversely affect the kind and quality of data collected.


1.8 Operational Definition of Terms

Acquisition:

Refers to using language for real communication.

Classroom Interaction:

Describes the form and content of behaviour or social interaction in the classroom that enhances the development of speaking and listening skills among learners.

Communicative Ability:

This refers to one‟s capacity to use a language both willingly and readily in various situations, forms and functions effectively.

Communicative Act:

The ability to use language to pass message.

Communicative Competence:

The knowledge of rules of a language and application of these rules in the context of speech.

Comprehensible Input:

Comprehensible input is the language input that can be understood by listeners despite them not understanding all the words and structures in the language. It is described as one level above that of the learners if it can only be understood (i+1).

Fluency:

This is the ability of having appropriate things to say in a wide range of contexts so that you do not miss words should a situation arise.

Language Lab:

Laboratory used to teach speaking proficiency (English) using English models therein.

Lingua Franca:

Language of wide communication.

Native Language:

The first language (L1) that a person has been exposed to from birth or within the critical period (father tongue/ mother tongue).

Repertoire:

A bank/ the much one knows in a language.

Standard English:

The approved British English used for communication.

Target Language:

The language learners are expected to use when speaking, English.

Target Population:

All the items or people under study. Also called the universe.


1.9 Organization of the Study

Chapter one focused on the background to the study was given in detail, statement of the problem, the research objectives, theoretical and conceptual frameworks and lastly the operational definition of terms while chapter two dealt with reviewing of related literature. Chapter three explained the methodology employed whereas chapter four dealt with the presentation and discussions of findings. Lastly chapter five focused on the summary of findings, conclusions and recommendations.


Chapter Five


Summary, Conclusions and Recommendations

5.1 Introduction

This chapter presents summary, conclusions and recommendations based on the findings of the study. The purpose of the study was to investigate the factors that affected students‟ acquisition of speaking skills in English. The specific objectives were to:

  1. Find out which instructional resources were used in the teaching of speaking skills in English.
  2. Establish the teaching methods used in the teaching of speaking skills in English.
  3. Establish the common errors that students made when speaking in English.
  4. Identify the factors which affected student‟s acquisition of speaking skills in English.

5.2 Summary of the Findings

i) Instructional resources used in teaching speaking in English

This study found that English course books, literary texts and the chalkboard were readily available for classroom use in the three schools. However, the instructional resources were inadequate, hence sharing the course books and literary texts between and amongst students served the purpose. This limited students‟ opportunities to maximumly interact with the resources since students were forced to share them. Newspapers though necessary for teaching speaking skills in English, were hardly available in the English departments in the schools where data was collected. Language laboratories provide students with opportunities to practice how to speak English because of the immediate correction and feedback given for improvement of speaking skills. In this study language laboratories were found completely lacking in the three primary schools while the radio and television inaccessible though available in the schools. This was so because teachers used them for entertainment in the staffroom hence inaccessible to students for use in practicing how to speak in English. Limited exposure to variety of instructional resources was found to hamper the acquisition of speaking skills in English by students in Toro LGA.

ii) Teaching methods used in teaching speaking skills in English

Majority of the teachers used teaching methods that enhanced the acquisition of speaking proficiency in English like group/pair discussions and debates. Dialogue was also employed though students disliked the method and in many occasions it was teacher initiated. Lecture method was also used to enable the teacher cover enough content on time as prescribed in the English syllabus. It was also used in situations where students failed to participate in the teaching and learning process due to lack of interest. Role play was not used completely by any teacher as the 40 minutes time allocated for English lesson was not enough for teachers to give students opportunities to participate.

iii) Errors students made when speaking in English

Findings of this study indicated that wrong pronunciation of words was one of the errors students made when they spoke in English. This happened in situations where a student made borrowed from their mother tongue phonemes. The vocabulary students used as well as the word order were directly borrowed from Toro LGA language which is very different from English. This made the direct translation from mother tongue erroneous. Students also had poor turn taking skills where they did not give each time to speak ending up in incomplete arguments and speech episodes. These errors hindered students from becoming fluent speakers of English as well as making them not to practice speaking in English due to lack of confidence.

iv) Factors affecting student’s acquisition of speaking skills in English

This was the fourth objective of the study and the findings indicated that the three schools had English speaking language policy though its implementation was dependent on the teachers‟ and students‟ willingness to adhere to the policy. The flexible English Language policy created a loop-hole for students to communicate in Hausa at times since Hausa was also one of the languages used though on some specific days only. Mother tongue influence affected students‟ English speaking skills due to lack of practice and enough exposure to English language through models and a variety of instructional resources which could be motivating factors. This made some students speak in vernacular especially when there was no close supervision by teachers. Use of vernacular was also attributed to the fact that the surrounding environment where the schools were set was composed of indigenous population which promoted the use of mother tongue as noted during data collection period.

Findings in the study indicated that some teachers taught while switching codes between English and Hausa. Teachers claimed that this was for clarification and students‟ better understanding. The use of Hausa language by teachers in illustrating concepts in the classroom further made it difficult for students to practice using English as they were forced to switch to the language teachers used.

Attitude also had an influence on acquisition of speaking skills in English. In the study, female students had a positive attitude towards speaking English. This made them enjoy speaking in English than male students. The male students‟ attitude was based on the assumption that, English language was a girls‟ subject. The time students were given to practice speaking English was insufficient because teachers had less time to engage students in dialogue, especially when the lecture method was used. Age also affected acquisition of speaking skills as students joined school late when they were too old to learn. This was the case because the students lacked a good foundation in the four basic English language skills that should be learnt at the elementary level in school. To get the effective acquisition of speaking skills in English to take place, all the above factors need to be taken into consideration.


5.3 Conclusions

From each of the research findings, the following conclusions were made:

i) Instructional resources used in teaching speaking skills in English

Acquisition of proficiency in speaking English can be achieved if students interact freely with variety of instructional resources because this helps improving their vocabulary for use. Practising speaking English is also vital as it enhances students‟ confidence in the use of the target language, thereby improving the students‟ speaking skills. From the HoDs, teachers and students, it was observed that the instructional resources that were available and accessible were the English course books, literary texts and the chalkboard. Other resources were the radio, television and language laboratories which were either inaccessible or completely lacking in the schools. English course books were inadequate since majority of the students shared course books and literary texts in the ratio 1:4 to compensate for the reduced number. Computers were available in one school though not properly utilized. There was lack of computer skills amongst some teachers to manipulate the devices for classroom use. It is through practice that students can gain enough confidence and vocabulary to use when speaking correct English in real speaking contexts. Practice, therefore, can only be successful if students are presented with adequate instructional resources which should be easily accessible to both teachers and students any time they need them.

This study found that there were neither sufficient nor a variety of instructional resources that could enable students to acquire correct English to be used in the spoken context.

ii) Teaching Methods used in the classroom

The methods teachers use in the classroom instruction can motivate or demotivate students to participate in the learning process. Teachers therefore have the duty of ensuring that the teaching methods used and the classroom environment are enabling for acquisition of speaking proficiency to be achieved. The findings of this study indicated that teachers used group/pair discussions and debates to teach. This was evidenced from observation during actual teaching. These learner-centred methods motivated the acquisition of speaking skills in English. However, there were cases where the discussions were poorly managed. In this particular instance, a teacher organized students for a discussion, gave them a discussion task and left students to do the discussion on their own. This made the activity unproductive since students needed guidance and direction which could have helped in monitoring the progress made and the language used. Students, therefore, ended up switching codes between English and Hausa and when things got hard to be expressed, they switched to their vernacular. From observation, lecture method was also employed especially in cases where students were not interested in the lesson and also when the teacher wanted to cover enough content in a 40 minutes lesson. This limited students‟ interaction and speaking English in context. The poor management of group discussions as a method of teaching did not give students enough practice as well as it inhibited students‟ exposure to speaking skills in English as students had the freedom to use any language they wished thus inhibiting their acquisition process.

These findings meant that teachers did not exhaust varieties of learner-centred teaching methods that could motivate students to use the spoken English. Students‟ interaction was limited to the teachers‟ tasks given in the classroom.

It is, therefore, imperative for teachers to vary the methods they use when teaching, while taking precaution not to use methods that would bore and disinterest students in English lessons.

iii) Errors students made when speaking in English

English is a second language to all learners who have the first language (mother tongue).

Any new language, when learnt as a second language has its rules and conventions to be followed. Errors made when speaking in English are as a result of learning to acquire a foreign language. For second language acquisition to occur, it has to be in an environment in which the nonnative speaker has easy access to speakers of the language being learnt. This implies that students in Toro Local Government Area should learn English under conditions of high language support (input) like teachers, parents and peers.

In this study students pronounced words wrongly, directly translated information from mother tongue to English and possessed poor turn taking skills instead of paying attention to one another. Acquisition is a continuous process just as learning. Therefore students should be exposed to variety of instructional materials and appropriate contexts for practice and students to be motivated for acquisition to be achieved. Teachers and parents in this respect have an obligation to ensure this happens by providing students the support they need. This, therefore, meant that students in this study did not read extensively English language materials as well as practice speaking in English in order to gather sufficient vocabulary to use when expressing themselves freely. It is professionally believed that practice makes perfect. This means that students need to do a lot of practice in speaking English, for them to achieve fluency in speaking in English.

iv) Factors affecting acquisition of speaking skills in English

Fluency in English is very beneficial to an individual both at personal, professional and international levels. There are many factors that come into play for one to successfully acquire proficiency in speaking English. The findings of this study indicated that the attitude of students influenced acquisition in that female students had a positive attitude towards speaking English than male students. A positive attitude is in most cases attributed to success. This implies that when students have a favourable attitude towards English, then, they speak the language with passion without necessarily being forced to. Male students‟ low affinity to speak English was as a result of a negative attitude which acted as a „mental block‟ to the acquisition process hence preferring Hausa to English. Attitude can be created and influenced. Therefore, it is the duty of the teacher to help students cultivate a positive attitude towards speaking English through the use of leaner centered teaching methods, motivating students who show commendable progress and also being a role model to be imitated. The teacher too as a role model should strive to use grammatically correct English. This has not been the case some instances. This implied that students speak in Hausa and mother tongue despite the strict English language policy in the schools. This inhibits the acquisition of fluency in speaking in English.

Motivation is key to effective teaching and learning process. Lack of motivation can hinder achievement of a set goal (proficiency in English). Findings of this study indicated that students were lowly motivated to speak English. Insufficiency of instructional resources used to teach speaking, use of teacher-centred methods like lecture, lack of interest by students; poor modeling and insufficient time for contextual use of English, demotivated students from becoming proficient. This therefore means that most students saw no need of speaking a language which they had to struggle so much, whereas there are simple languages like mother tongue and Hausa to be used.

Age affected the acquisition of speaking skills in English. The age at which students enrolled at the primary level was important as it determined what is to be learnt at what stage. Students in this study started school late when they could not grasp the essential skills needed in learning to speak well. This has made it difficult to speak good English due to a poor foundation received.

Code-switching was another factor which encouraged students to use Hausa more than English. Teachers were mixing the two languages when teaching and this made it easy for students to follow suit through imitation. However, this should have not been the case as teachers were supposed to set good examples by speaking in English.
Contextual use of language is important for practice purposes. For acquisition to take place, second language needs enough time for students to interact. Findings in this study indicated that teachers did not have enough time to help students interact with English for the learners to develop their speaking proficiency. This was due to teachers‟ use of teacher-centred methods like lecture discouraged the development of speaking skills.


5.4 Recommendations

Several recommendations were made from the findings of the study. They are directed to the teachers, school administrators, HoDs, students and parents. Nonetheless, more research can be done to help improve students‟ acquisition of speaking skills in English.

i) Instructional resources used in teaching speaking in English

Instructional materials are very useful in the teaching of English speaking skills and should be varied over time. Thus, the English course books and literary texts needed to develop learners reading skills should be availed adequately by the schools administration. They should also be easily accessed by teachers and students through HoDs for classroom use for effective instruction to take place. Schools administration should liase with teachers through the heads of departments to know the instructional materials needed for teaching through placement of requisitions. The HoDs should also conduct regular checks on the instructional resources available in the department to ensure they are well kept ready for classroom use any time when needed. They should also ensure their suitability at various levels of learning.

ii) Teaching methods used in the teaching of speaking skills

Apart from debates and discussions, teachers should incorporate other learner-centered strategies like storytelling, role play and dialogue. These strategies help in boosting students‟ confidence and minimize on mother tongue use. They should also enable students to be proficient in English language by using the language in context. All teachers in the school ought to serve as role models in speaking English and using English while teaching (except for Hausa and other foreign languages taught in school). Teachers should also help reinforce the English language policy in school. Curriculum developers, Nigeria National Examinations Council (KNEC) and the Ministry of Education (MoE) officials should consider re-structuring the English curriculum. This will pave way for the incorporation of testing of English speaking skills in the examinations to ensure that speaking skills are given enough attention. This will motivate students to struggle to be fluent as well as help improve students‟ attitude towards speaking skills in order to perform well in English oral skills. Teachers should take the responsibility of facilitators not providers to see that debates and discussions are conducted effectively through maximum guidance and supervision. This will also involve correcting students whenever they made errors.

iii) Errors students make when speaking in English

Students should be encouraged and motivated by teachers in order to develop self- drive to do wide reading of variety of reading materials like newspapers, educational magazines, articles and story books. Reading extensively will help students improve on their vocabulary when speaking English. Students should practice speaking English in school and at home instead of being forced to adhere to the language policy when in school only. Students to embrace turn taking when speaking. Teachers should also be role models to be emulated by students through speaking and teaching in English. iv)Factors affecting student’s acquisition of speaking skills in English
School administrators and teachers ought to strengthen the schools‟ English language policy in order to curb MT influence on the acquisition of English speaking skills. In addition, students also ought to be exposed to contexts where they can develop self confidence in themselves, for example, being encouraged to participate in debates and impromptu speeches. Also any slight improvement made by students in terms of proficiency should be appreciated by teachers and parents in order to further improve on this skill. Parents should be sensitized and encouraged to take their children to school on time when they are of age to start school. This will enable children to get a good foundation in the skills needed in life like speaking good English. On attitude, students should be sensitized on the importance of having good English speaking skills and be encouraged by teachers to practice speaking correct English.


5.5 Suggestions for Further Research

  1. A similar study should be done in schools in an urban set up to establish if the factors that affected acquisition of speaking skills in English in this study are similar.
  2. A study should be done to establish the effect of language policy on acquisition of
    English speaking skills among primary school students.
  3. Another study should be carried out to establish how Toro LGA culture influences acquisition of English speaking proficiency.
  4. A study could also be conducted to establish the effects of having speaking skills proficiencies on each of the four basic language skills, as well as grammar and vocabulary.

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