The students are ages 19 to 20 and are in their freshmen or sophomore year in the Osaka school of Science, and all of them have pretty much the same primary and secondary school English education. Some students have traveled outside of Japan to places like England and other Asian countries, and their proficiency level ranges from an high beginner to a high intermediate. The majority of the students can write and read well in English but speaking is a concern, as is typical for most Japanese students. I'll talk more about this subject when I describe the research component of this class.
About the Course
The focus of this class is science, which means it's an English for Specific Purposes class. The class is titled, "Community Language Skills." The goal of this class is to improve students’ speaking fluency and provide opportunities for students to practice their language outside of class.
The following are course goals for the Community Language Skills class: Improve your speaking, listening, reading and writing skills in English
- Build speaking confidence through interactions with English speakers
- Understand and explore features of the local community
- Practice teamwork and cooperation by working and communicating with team members
On-going Research: This class and its sister class, which is taught at the same time but in a separate classroom, are being studied through an action research assignment in connection to the instructors’ Applied Linguistic Research class at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. We have identified Willingness to Communicate (WTC) as the construct for the study and have asked the following research questions:
1) What are the students’ self-perceptions of their WTC?
2) What are the teachers’ perceptions of the students’ WTC?
3) How do we plan activities to encourage WTC among students in four different activity-settings: whole-class discussions, small group work, partner work, and individual work?
4) How do we manage activities to encourage WTC among students in four different activity-settings: whole-class discussions, small group work, partner work, and individual work?
5) What is the students’ apparent WTC in non-classroom settings?
6) Does student work appear to affect their WTC in non-classroom settings? If so, how?
7) Do students’ self-perceptions of their WTC correspond to the teachers’ perception of their communicative behavior inside of class?
8) Do students’ self-perceptions of their WTC correspond to the teachers’ perception of their communicative behavior outside of class?
In accordance with these research questions, we have created a research procedure established within the action research framework which cycles each week a set of procedures for identifying, improving, implementing, and reflecting on student performance, classroom environment, and teaching procedures that will improve upon the WTC. Therefore, WTC will also be the focus of the four teaching journal blogs I will write for my experiences in teaching this class and for the requirements of my class assignments.
To inform our research we are collecting data through needs analysis, a questionnaire, video recordings, student reflection blogs, teaching journals, and observations during field trips. The students have agreed to participate in this study and have each signed a consent form.
Please visit our class website to for a copy of the syllabus, student sample writing, and other interesting stuff: