1 National Kaohsiung University of Applied Sciences (TAIWAN)
2 Texas A&M University-Kingsville (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2009 Proceedings
Publication year: 2009
Pages: 2673-2682
ISBN: 978-84-613-2953-3
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 2nd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 16-18 November, 2009
Location: Madrid, Spain
The widespread of use of English, as a primary or secondary language, contributes immensely to its achieving the role of an “international language” by means of the media and the fast-paced advancement of computer technology. As one of the four language skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing, oral proficiency has been one of the important goals in teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) and English as a Foreign Language (EFL) because it is important not only in communication, but also in reading and writing, which pave the path to academic achievement.
Phonological and phonetic awareness refers to knowledge of the meaningful differences and articulatory characteristics of the units of the sound system of a language. Such awareness, as related to oral proficiency, cannot be assumed with second language learners as with native speakers acquiring their mother tongue. However, it is reported to be a predictor of later reading success as early as in the pre-reader (preschool and kindergarten) stage. The differences between the sounds of target language and L1 often result in learners’ incomplete or inaccurate phonological and phonetic perception, leading to oral deficiency.
Due to historical factors and social circumstances, Spanish-speaking children in the United States have encountered difficulties in education. Lack of literacy skills and critical thinking strategy development are among the reasons for their low academic achievement. While developing oral proficiency is certainly one of the tools for these students to improve their academic performance, educational institutions also need to examine and evaluate the teaching interface such as curriculum, and teaching methodologies of the programs provided to these linguistically and culturally diverse students.
Previous studies have shown significant benefits of phonetic and phonological instruction on the oral proficiency of Spanish-speaking ESL learners. Cooperative learning models have been proven to be supportive, motivational environments which benefit ESL learners. Based on such research, the purpose of this study was to investigate whether cooperative learning structures could make a significant impact on subjects’ overall oral proficiency. This quasi-experiment with a pre-post test two-treatment, formed by expanding across program design investigated the oral proficiency of Spanish-speaking ESL students after phonological instruction in a cooperative learning setting. The oral proficiency was evaluated on criteria of articulation of individual target phonemes at both word and sentence levels. Seven consonants deemed difficult for Spanish-speakers of English were identified for this study. The sounds were grouped according to the phonetic or phonemic dissimilarity, absence, or allomorphic variation.
The results showed that phonetic and phonological instruction significantly improved subjects’ oral proficiency in both the Cooperative Learning and the Conventional Groups; however, the difference in improvement between these two groups was not statistically significant. Thus, the conclusion of the cooperative learning setting being a decisive factor in such improvement cannot be made in this study. The researchers present explanations for the findings and make recommendations for future studies in the development of oral proficiency among Spanish-speaking ESL learners.
oral proficiency, phonetic instruction, cooperative learning.