A study on imrpoving speaking skill of the 1st year students of pre intermediate level at fpt univesity through group work

Until now, English has been considered very important in every field of each society such as: diplomacy, business, aviation, education and science and technology. Because of its globalization, English has become the crucial medium in communication. In Vietnam, since 1986, English has become very popular because there have been English-speaking people coming to, visit or work in Viet Nam. They come to Vietnam not only because they want to do business with the Vietnamese but also they want to get to know about the people, the cultures and explore the beauty of Vietnam. Specially, with the open-door policy, many foreigners have been attracted by Vietnam. Thus, English has been the key to Vietnam’s regional and global integration. English is used not only between the Vietnamese and foreigners but also between the Vietnamese and the Vietnamese. All this burns the desire of learning English in Vietnam. The demand for English training is promoted by an increasing influx of foreign investments from both English-speaking countries and non-English-speaking countries which needs English as a means of communication. Vietnamese people need to be able to communicate in English successfully and effectively. The lack of communicative ability in oral and other language skills in using English can put Vietnamese regionally and internationally in an inferior position both in politics and economics. In FPT University, English is a compulsory subject and certainly, every student knows that it will be important for their future job. They will use English at work. The students here opt for English due to their realization that a high proficiency in English will give them more opportunities for employment, let alone the possibility of going abroad for their further study in the exchange training program of FPT University and some Universities in Germany, Japan etc. Among the four languages skills, most students think that speaking is the most important in the first year of studying in FPT University. During the time of studying in FPT University, they will have to learn English for 3 semesters (each of which in university lasts for 13 weeks) include most English lessons. After the second year, they will learn the subjects almost with the English–speaking teachers and they will have to present their topic of study in English. Furthermore, after graduation the students will have to do business, negotiate with the partners in English to sell their products to them. To make these successfully, they must have a good ability of English especially communicating orally in it. For a long time, the language teaching and learning was based on the out of date methods which could not help the students speak fluently and communicatively. For over the past few years, Communicative Language Teaching method has been widely applied. As a result, the students’ speaking skill has been improved remarkably. This marked the beginning of the major change in the language teaching and learning at all levels from school to university. FPT University is a newly founded university (more than two years old) who also would like to innovate their teaching and learning. With this implied ambition, we expect that there will be many changes in the teaching as well as learning in FPT University. Here, the teaching of speaking skill is always emphasized. All the teachers here have been trying their best to help their students in learning English speaking skill well. However, the result has not met their expectation. Many failed their speaking test. When discussing in group, many students still use Vietnamese while others keep silent etc. In the speaking class, the 1st –year students have to do many speaking activities. Among them, group work-one of the key features of learner-centered orientation- have received more emphasis -because at the end of each semester, the students from the level of pre-intermediate on have to sit for speaking test which includes two parts: panel discussion and individual response. Much time has been devoted to group work activities because of a number of advantages they bring about. For example, group work can dramatically increase the amount of talking for individual students, encourage border skills of participation, cooperation and negotiation, promote learner autonomy by allowing students to make their own decisions in the group without being told what to do by the teacher, and free the teacher from her usual role of instructor-corrector-controller.

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PART I: INTRODUCTION 1. Rationale of the study: Until now, English has been considered very important in every field of each society such as: diplomacy, business, aviation, education and science and technology. Because of its globalization, English has become the crucial medium in communication. In Vietnam, since 1986, English has become very popular because there have been English-speaking people coming to, visit or work in Viet Nam. They come to Vietnam not only because they want to do business with the Vietnamese but also they want to get to know about the people, the cultures and explore the beauty of Vietnam. Specially, with the open-door policy, many foreigners have been attracted by Vietnam. Thus, English has been the key to Vietnam’s regional and global integration. English is used not only between the Vietnamese and foreigners but also between the Vietnamese and the Vietnamese. All this burns the desire of learning English in Vietnam. The demand for English training is promoted by an increasing influx of foreign investments from both English-speaking countries and non-English-speaking countries which needs English as a means of communication. Vietnamese people need to be able to communicate in English successfully and effectively. The lack of communicative ability in oral and other language skills in using English can put Vietnamese regionally and internationally in an inferior position both in politics and economics. In FPT University, English is a compulsory subject and certainly, every student knows that it will be important for their future job. They will use English at work. The students here opt for English due to their realization that a high proficiency in English will give them more opportunities for employment, let alone the possibility of going abroad for their further study in the exchange training program of FPT University and some Universities in Germany, Japan etc. Among the four languages skills, most students think that speaking is the most important in the first year of studying in FPT University. During the time of studying in FPT University, they will have to learn English for 3 semesters (each of which in university lasts for 13 weeks) include most English lessons. After the second year, they will learn the subjects almost with the English–speaking teachers and they will have to present their topic of study in English. Furthermore, after graduation the students will have to do business, negotiate with the partners in English to sell their products to them. To make these successfully, they must have a good ability of English especially communicating orally in it. For a long time, the language teaching and learning was based on the out of date methods which could not help the students speak fluently and communicatively. For over the past few years, Communicative Language Teaching method has been widely applied. As a result, the students’ speaking skill has been improved remarkably. This marked the beginning of the major change in the language teaching and learning at all levels from school to university. FPT University is a newly founded university (more than two years old) who also would like to innovate their teaching and learning... With this implied ambition, we expect that there will be many changes in the teaching as well as learning in FPT University. Here, the teaching of speaking skill is always emphasized. All the teachers here have been trying their best to help their students in learning English speaking skill well. However, the result has not met their expectation. Many failed their speaking test. When discussing in group, many students still use Vietnamese while others keep silent etc. In the speaking class, the 1st –year students have to do many speaking activities. Among them, group work-one of the key features of learner-centered orientation- have received more emphasis -because at the end of each semester, the students from the level of pre-intermediate on have to sit for speaking test which includes two parts: panel discussion and individual response. Much time has been devoted to group work activities because of a number of advantages they bring about. For example, group work can dramatically increase the amount of talking for individual students, encourage border skills of participation, cooperation and negotiation, promote learner autonomy by allowing students to make their own decisions in the group without being told what to do by the teacher, and free the teacher from her usual role of instructor-corrector-controller. Working as a teacher at FPT University for more than two years, the researcher is well aware of the importance of using group work to help improve the speaking class of the 1st year students. However, like many other teachers of English here, the researcher has also faced many challenges in organizing and managing group work during speaking lessons. Are the students getting out of the control? Aren’t they lapsing into their mother tongue? Isn’t the organization into group work good for some lazy and passive students? Are they participating in group work? Being aware of these challenges, the researcher and her colleagues at FPT University have decided to help the students to learn speaking skill and this is also the reason why the author of this study chose this area to do her research which is intended to make a modest contribution making speaking class of the 1st year students at FPT University effective and successful. 2. Aims of the study: This study is aimed at investigating the reality of the use of group work in the speaking class of the 1st year students at FPT University. To be specific, the aims of the study are: To clarify how group work is used in the speaking class of the 1st year students at FPT University. To find the factors that causes the difficulties for the teachers in their application of group work in the speaking class of the 1st year students at FPT University. To recommend practical suggestions for the possibility of group work in the speaking class of 1st year students at FPT University. 3. Scope of study To improve speaking skill of 1st year students at FPT University, the researcher intends to investigate the current situation of using group work in the speaking class of 1st year students at FPT University an then making some suggestion for improving it. 4. Research questions: This study is implemented to find answer to the following research questions: 1. How group-work is used in the speaking class of 1st year students at FPT University? 2. What facilitates and prevents the teachers from using group work in the speaking class of FPT University? 3. What recommendations for improvement are needed to make group-work successful in speaking class of the 1st year students at FPT University? 5. Methods of study In order to examine the situation of the study, this research used the following methods: questionnaire, class observation and informal interview is also included. The data collected from the questionnaire (both for students and teachers) and class observation will then be analyzed and generalized. 6. Design of the study The Minor Thesis is divided into three parts. The first part is the Introduction The second part consists of Literature Review, Research Methodology and Findings and Recommendations The last part is the conclusion. PART II: DEVELOPMENT CHAPTER I: LITERATURE REVIEW 1.1. Speaking skills and its related concept; 1.1.1. The importance of speaking skill in the classroom Among the four skills in learning English, speaking and writing are the productive skills. However, speaking is regarded as very important for language teaching and learning. Speaking is a bridge to reach other skills. Speaking helps learners to read better, to listen more effectively and write more accurately. Speaking is surely the most effective means of communication. (Ur, 1996) There are two most important reasons why speaking should be taught in the classroom. The first reason is speaking is a good source of motivation for students. Nunan (1991) points out, “success is measured in terms of the ability to carry out a conversation in the (target) language”. For the students who have ability to speak English eligibly, they want to speak English; they know to express themselves in English. Thus, they always speak when possible. But for those who can not speak English well, they do not want to speak in group. As a result, they may soon get de-motivated and lose interest in learning English. In addition to this, in the English speaking class, if the speaking activities are organized in the suitable way, speaking can have a lot `of fun and therefore can raise motivation in the learners. If the speaking is practiced successfully, the other skills can also be improved through speaking. For the second reason, nowadays, the demand for communication among people is really important. Without it, the life does not exist. For this, speaking always plays an important role in people’s lives. Speaking is considered as survival skill in real life (Ur, 1996; p 134) For the ideas above, speaking skill also plays the key role in foreign language learning and teaching. 1.1.2. Types of classroom speaking performance According to Brown (1994), there are six categories relating of oral production: Imitative: which accounts for very small portion of speaking time in the speaking time when learners are practicing an intonation contour trying to pinpoint a certain vowel sound, etc Intensive: includes any speaking performance that is designed to practice some phonological or grammar aspect of language. Responsive: is short replies to teacher or student initiated questions or comments. These replies are usually sufficient and do not extend into dialogue. Transactional (dialogue): is carried out for the purpose of conveying or exchanging specific information. Conversations, for example, may have more of a negative nature to them than merely responsive speech. Such conversation could readily be the part of group work activity as well. Interpersonal (dialogue): carries out more for the purpose of maintaining social relationship than the transmission of facts and information. These conversations are a little trickier for learners because they can involve some or all the following factors: a casual register, colloquial language, emotionally changed language, and slang etc. Extensive (monologue): Finally, students at intermediate or advanced levels are called on to give extended monologues in the form of oral report, summaries, or perhaps short speeches. Here the register is more formal and deliberative. 1.2. Group-work in a speaking lesson Definition and description of group- work Student-based group work (also known as team work) has become an integral part of studying at FPT University. This mode of teaching has primarily arisen in an attempt to capture many of the benefits associated with collaborative activities (namely peer learning and graduate attribute development). What is really group work? According to Adrian Doff (1988: 137), group work is a process that “the teacher divides the class into small groups to work together (usually four or five students in each group), as in pair work, all the groups work at the same time.” When working in small groups, the students can be assigned with many kinds of tasks such as discussion, role-play, and presentations which help the speaking activities successful, varied and motivated. It can be clearly seen that group work is a cooperative activity in which the students work at the same time, sharing ideas and responsibility and independently have their own ideas which contribute to the group work’s success without every minute observation from the teacher and other students. The advantages and disadvantages of using group work in the classroom. Advantages Clearly, group work can increase the student talking time, which increases the speaking skill. In other word, group work helps improved communication. The students who have little chance to talk to each other now can share ideas, become close in the short time and above all solve the common problem assigned by the teacher. Besides, working in groups helps students to produce greater output. Simply because of the number of people involved, each with different experience, knowledge, points of view and values, a larger number and variety of ideas can be given.   Moreover, the exchange of the ideas in the group can act as a stimulus which will encourage individuals to give more ideas, more opinions and therefore contribute more to group work activities. In addition to this, group work helps to reduce bias. The shared responsibility in a group in coming to decisions can encourage individuals to explore seemingly realistic ideas and to challenge accepted ways of doing things. Individual biases and prejudices can be challenged by the group, forcing the individual to recognize them. Group pressure can also encourage individuals to accept that change is need. Finally, students’ group work frees the teacher from the usual role of “an expert who always lectures” and allows him/her to walk to each group, to guide, to answer questions from students or to encourage students to work actively. (Harmer, 1999:116) 1.2.2.2. Disadvantages: One obvious disadvantage is the noise made by the group who have a big argument on the problem or by the group who are so excited about working with one another. It is hard for the teacher to control these kinds of groups. This can distract the other groups. The very bad effect of working in groups is that many passive students or lazy students let their friends do everything provided that they still have their names in the group’s result. Working in group can cause competitions. Most students working in a group unconsciously perceive the situations as a competition. This generates a destructive behavior and drains the creative energy of the group. For example, we often perceive disagreement with our ideas as a put-down. The natural reaction is to regain our self-esteem, often by trying to sabotage the ideas of those who disagreed with us. Instead of looking for ways to improve their ideas we chose to destroy them. Eager to express our own ideas, we may totally ignore what others suggest. Power-seekers may use ploys such as highlighting flaws in others' arguments, barbed questions and displays of expertise to show their supremacy. These types of behavior create an atmosphere which is incompatible with effective problem solving. Another disadvantage is that working in group is a relatively slow process compared with working alone. It requires individuals to come together at an assigned time, usually for about a long time, and this can cause organizational problems. It is really time-consuming. It is not only time-consuming for the students in group but also for the teacher. The teacher needs more time to organize the group work and control all the members in the group let alone the unsuitable students in groups which makes the class in disorder. To conclude, although there are some disadvantages of group work, the advantages still outweighs. Learning from each other in small groups is much more effective than from the teacher alone. (Harmer, 1999:116) Group formation Small groups or learning teams can be formed in three ways: randomly (counting off or by seat proximity), teacher-selected, or student-selected. Random group assignments avoid cliques and ensure that students interact with different students throughout the semester. Once you know your students fairly well, teacher-selected groups can be useful for pairing weak and strong students, students with common interests or shared learning styles, etc. According to I- Jung (2004), frequently employed grouping methods include random, student-selected and teacher-selected groupings Random grouping Random grouping is often used for in-class activities because of its convenience and readiness that is random grouping is a way including collecting and gathering students ignoring any differences among students in terms of their language level, learning style, interests etc. With the seating arrangement, fixing the numbers, using playing cards, or distributing the card of different categories, random grouping is established. For the class of different levels, random group can be used to narrow down the gap between the students of different levels. 1.2.3.2. Student-selected grouping: Compared to random grouping and teacher-selected grouping, student-selected is preferred. Knowing well one another or getting on well with each other can help the students take part in the activities assigned well. They can have more talking, making more performances and making the group work activities very interesting. However, student-selected grouping can result in making so much noise because of too much socializing. This can distract the group activities. 1.2.3.3. Teacher-selected grouping Compared to random grouping and student-selected grouping, teacher-selected grouping is a more time-consuming one. The reason is that the teacher has to take students’ preferences into consideration, also the learning style, the activeness etc to help the students who are at the lower levels to keep up with the better students. This kind of grouping can help peer tutoring which is really the most effective way of learning from one another. 1.2.4. Group –size Group size is very flexible depending on many aspects such as task type, the time available, the class and how skillful the group members are? How big the group should be? The smaller the group is, the more chance each member has. The fewer skills of managing the teacher need to have. However, when the group is small, there will be a lot of small groups in the class. This also leads to the lack of time for them to give report to the class. So how many members in each group is enough? Many authors have suggested that three to five in one group can be the best number. Four-member group is suggested by Honeyfield (1991), I-Jung (2004), Ngoh (1991). Four members in a group might lead to more interesting and challenging tasks, with a wide range of opinions being expressed, and more negotiation required for the group members to reach an agreement. Six members in a group should be the maximum number. (Honeyfield, 1991; I-Jung, 2004). It can clearly be seen that four is the optimum size to manage students learning. It allows a good range of experiences and individual contributions. 1.2.5. Teacher role in group work In Communicative Language Teaching, the teacher has the roles of a guide, an instructor, an organizer, an assessor, a prompter and a participant (Hammer, 1991). When carrying out group work, even though the students are more independent, the teacher still plays an important role in conducting( designing) the tasks, analyzing the need. The teacher will be of great help for the students as the group members interacting with each other as well as helping them with the difficulties. According to Cross (1992:54), the teacher is the manager of an activity who must plant it, organize it, start it, monitor it, time it and in the end conclude it. The teacher in the group work activities is not the free one but the one who is active with assisting, supervising and monitoring…the group. The teacher is not only at the beginning or the end of the learning process but from beginning to the end of it. The teacher is: - activity selector: This is very important because the teacher has to create activities that fit the students' skills and abilities, assign group tasks that allow a fair division of energy as well as set up "competitions" among groups. - instructor so that the students will be not misleading. - performance controller. While the stud

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