Exploring Bebines EFL Teacher's Perceptions of the Assessment of Speaking Skills in Two Public Schools of Abomey-Calavi

Scientific Study, 2016

17 Pages



1. Introduction

2. Problem statement

3. Purpose and Significance

4. Literature Review

5. Methodology

6. Findings

7. Discussions

8. Recommendations

9. Conclusion




The present study focuses on the assessment of oral skills during lifelike situations in normal classrooms in Beninese secondary schools. Quantitative data (questionnaire) was collected from 20 EFL teachers from two schools. The results show that teachers felt that it is difficult to assess oral skills, and the most common reason for this was the lack of time, which again was the cause of big class sizes and tight schedule. It also seemed that the assessment they do is not consistent, and that there are a lot of personal differences between teachers, and these differences influence their classrooms massively. When they did find time for assessment, teachers focused mostly on aspects of oral language such as vocabulary and pronunciation.

Keywords: oral skills assessment, everyday EFL classes, Benin, teachers’ perceptions, time.


La présente étude met l’accent sur l’évaluation des compétences orales lors de situations réalistes en situations ordinaires de cours dans les écoles secondaires au Bénin. Des données quantitatives ont été collectées à l’aide d’un questionnaire auprès de 20 enseignants d’Anglais de deux écoles. Les résultats montrent que les enseignants estimaient qu’il est difficile d’évaluer les compétences orales, et la raison la plus courante avancée a été le manque de temps. Elle est suivie de près par les classes surpeuplées et l’emploi du temps très serré au cours de l’année scolaire. Il semble aussi que les évaluations organisées ne sont pas toujours conformes et leurs formes varient d’un enseignant à l’autre. Cette variation influence largement leurs classes.

Keywords: Bénin, Anglais langue étrangère, perspectives des enseignants, evaluation des competences orales.

1. Introduction

Oral skills have not usually been emphasized in Beninese schools. This is because there are many barriers to its implementation: overcrowded classes and insufficient time being the main ones. Although it is important to promote the teaching of oral skills, it could be argued that it is not beneficial to split the language in parts, so that oral skills would only be taught in one course. As such, there is a clear need for better oral skills. But the means or the ways to achieve that goal are still unclear. This study explores, through EFL teachers’ lenses, the assessment of oral skills is done in Beninese secondary schools..

2. Problem statement

All teachers especially language teachers have certain preconceived ideas or beliefs about how best to approach teaching language teaching and assessing. They often come into a classroom conditioned by their previous educational experiences, cultural backgrounds, and social interaction, which may further shape their beliefs about teaching and testing (Johnson, 1992a; Richards & Lockhart, 1996; Smith, 1996). Since teachers bring and use their unique sets of beliefs to bear in situations and to make decisions related to teaching and testing, these beliefs are usually recognized as influencing significantly their actual teaching practices. Thus, there is a need of understanding teachers’ specific beliefs about the assessment of EFL oral skills in Beninese secondary schools.

The present study also stems from the fact that no research has so far been carried out to supplement information on how teachers’ beliefs affect their teaching and the kinds of thinking and decision-making that underlie their classroom assessment practices (Moon, 2000; Richards, 1998; Richards & Lockhart, 1996; Smith, 1996; Trappes-Lomax & McGrath, 1999) as far as the evaluation of oral skills is concerned. Furthermore, these beliefs are stable sources of teachers’ reference that show how such beliefs are built up over time, and are related to teachers’ theories of language, the nature of language assessment practices and their own roles as teachers (Johnson, 1992b; Richards, 1998).

3. Purpose and Significance

This study focuses on the assessment of oral skills during everyday life situations in normal classrooms in Beninese secondary schools, and not in test situations. More specifically, these aspects are addressed:

- How do teachers feel about the assessment of speaking skills in classrooms?
- How often do they evaluate students’ speaking skills?
- What do teachers focus on while assessing those skills?

A study of teachers’ views on the assessment of oral skills is a topic which has many interesting aspects:

- First of all, final exams in language courses are normally written and not spoken, so it would imply that evaluating spoken language has to be done during lessons.
- Secondly, it is also usually thought that, in secondary schools in Benin, the main emphasis is to get the students through final exams or national exams where oral skills are not often tested. This could mean that speaking skills are not that much emphasized during studies.
- Thirdly, assessing speaking in a normal classroom situation has some obvious problems, the main one having to do with time: how to assess the speaking skills of more than 50 students if the situation is not recorded, for instance? Creating equal test or evaluation situations during lessons is also challenging. Moreover, speaking, especially in classrooms, is a public action which might cause anxiety.
- The fourth point is that assessing speaking skills requires different kinds of exercises depending on what specific aspect is being assessed. This sets requirements for the exercises used in classrooms which, therefore, need to be versatile enough and teachers need to know that those exercises focus on rehearsing.

4. Literature Review

Testing plays a key role in any teaching program. In fact, the rationale for teaching is found in testing since it helps to establish the value of testees i.e. to assess their current level of competency as far as a part or the whole teaching and learning program is concerned. Testing is then a tool that accompanies all teachers by helping adjust their teaching strategies and methods. So, testing is part and parcel of teaching.

- Testing and tests

Testing has always proved difficult. These difficulties are about whether tests should be objective or subjective in their content. It is clear that most English tests contain both objective and subjective items.

Objective tests are easier to elaborate and give objective that is rational, mathematical results regarding the testees’grades. Most of the time, these tests appear in the form of Yes/No questions, multiple-choice questions, true or false drills or picking the right answer exercises. However, objective tests give way to guessing and do not give testees the opportunity to manipulate the English language.

Subjective tests, on their part, are very easy to design but difficult to evaluate. Although they definitely help testees make use of their true production capacities, marking them that is giving them grades remains fairly subjective. Therefore, there is a high probability of variation from one tester to the next. This situation is reflected in the difficulty of testing spoken English. Madsen (1983) explains that the testing of speaking is widely regarded as the most challenging of all language exams to prepare, administer and score. For this reason, many [ teachers ] don’t even try to measure the speaking skill. They simply don’t know where to begin the task of evaluating spoken language.

Just like Madsen, most teachers think that testing spoken language is a night mare. That is why many scholars have been researching the subject. Indeed, Oral skills and their assessment have been the focus of numerous studies. But most of them focus on assessing speaking in a test situation and not in a classroom situation (Knight 1992). Most of the studies also focus on investigating whether a particular test method is valid or not. One reason for this may be mainly because assessing oral skills requires time and equipment. These are usually quite difficult to organize in a normal classroom situation, where the whole lesson is not focused on oral skills, and therefore the class is not in a language studio or the situation is not recorded.

However, there are few recent studies relating oral skills in classrooms. Mäkelä (2005) has studied oral exercises in secondary school, and found that there are actually a lot of oral exercises in school books, and that students value speaking and listening skills highly. It is also found that teachers do a lot of oral exercises during lessons and that female teachers value oral skills more than male teachers.

- Nature of oral skills

Producing oral language combines and requires different kind of skills, and one usually has to come up with whatever one wants to say quite quickly. Time is one of the main differences between oral skills and written skills, where one usually has time to think and rewrite. Valkonen (2008) describes speaking skill as personal, socially gradable and sensitive to situations. So, it is always highly important to think about the speaking situation and the persons in it, while assessing speaking skills. Also, such considerations may be source of difficulties in overcrowded classrooms and complex social settings, which are not always visible for a teacher. Luoma (2004) points out several reasons why spoken language is different from written language, for instance the sound of speech, grammar, words and phrases. Spoken language also differs greatly in different situations, depending on whether the situation and the speech are planned or unplanned, formal or informal.


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Exploring Bebines EFL Teacher's Perceptions of the Assessment of Speaking Skills in Two Public Schools of Abomey-Calavi
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oral skills assessment, everycay EFL classes, Benin, teacher's perceptions, time
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Jean-Marc Gnonlonfoun (Author)Ida Tchibozo (Author)Regis Johnson (Author), 2016, Exploring Bebines EFL Teacher's Perceptions of the Assessment of Speaking Skills in Two Public Schools of Abomey-Calavi, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/352330


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