Arab World English Journal (AWEJ) Volume 10. Number 1. March 2019 Pp. 399- 401
Researching Speaking: Teaching and Assessment
Author: Rastislav Metruk, Ph.D.
The title of the book: Researching Speaking: Teaching and Assessment
Year of publication: 2018
Place of publication: Olomouc, Czech Republic
Publisher: Palacký University Olomouc
Number of pages: 100
Reviewer: Yevgeniya Karpenko
Speaking is probably the most difficult skill to teach in foreign language education. Teachers are aware that the amount of time and resources needed to develop learners’ ability to communicate fluently is larger than in any other language skill. Of course the difficulties vary according to learners’ origin, the first language, age, out of class input, and other aspects (Keith S. Folse, 2006). There are many books which can help to cope with the difficulties in teaching speaking. As an English language teacher and lecturer, I would often choose some chapters from books such as Keith S. Folse (2006) “The art of teaching speaking”, Christine C.M. Goh and Anne Burns (2012) “Teaching speaking: A holistic approach” as both are intended for teachers and prospective teachers of English who require full understanding of teaching speaking and for students of linguistics, who would like to continue education in magistracy and become teachers of English and thus need to acquire an understanding of teaching speaking. However, as in the process of teaching speaking, assessment is the final step where the learners get feedback of what they have been taught and how much they have learned, the evaluation and guiding learners to excellence in speaking should also take into account the origin of pupils and the specific difficulties they face on their way to mastering speaking skills. The books mentioned have been written with an audience of mainly native speakers of English in mind and don’t touch on many issues that learners who have learned English as a second language want and need to know about – questions and problems that may not occur to native-speaker teachers and students.
The book by Metruk R. “Researching Speaking: Teaching and Assessment” has been written with special consideration of the needs and interests of Slovak speakers of English. The approach of this book is a little different to previous similarly practical books on teaching speaking skills for teachers in that the underlying theory and activities suit Slovak learners and it does make the whole topic very accessible for both Slovak teachers and university students. Designed for Slovak university students working alone as well as for classroom use it provides analysis of the current approach of assessing learners’ English-speaking skill and how far this approach helps learners develop their English language speaking skills.
The monograph examines speaking skills from two standpoints: teaching and testing, its primary objective is to develop new holistic and analytic scoring scales for the purposes of evaluation of English spoken proficiency of EFL learners at B2 and C1 levels. The preface with notes facing the theory explains how the book is organized. All 4 units can be used independently of each other. The examples and tasks in each unit lead students from theory to practice in teaching speaking. The first two parts of the book give an overview of what fluent speaking means for an English language learner, the structure of speaking skills and some practical tips. The next two parts then show how to turn these ideas into a functional framework for assessments.
Parts one and two are an overview of research into speaking. There is information on the Communicative Language Teaching – its components, principles, characteristics, content, and teachers’ roles, and information on how to teach speaking skills; speaking subskills, the importance of pair work and group work, feedback, etc. There are also detailed summaries of the features of pronunciation and intonation. This is then followed up with what facts conversation analysis can tell us about how competent, fluent speakers communicate.
These two chapters can serve as a good entry level introduction to and as a good review of the many aspects in teaching speaking. These parts could be used by a university as part of an English teacher training programme, or by individuals interested in introspective thinking about their own teaching methods. It is certainly a good reference for anyone interested in speech production and effective activities in teaching speaking. In this respect the author emphasizes that while choosing teaching activities for the classroom the teacher should keep in mind that natural setting and lifelike activities seem to be more suitable in comparison to classroom where learners are intentionally and consciously exposed to speech situations. (Metruk R. (2018) Researching Speaking: Teaching and Assessment, P.15).
Parts three and four detail the process of assessment, the differences between formative and summative types of assessment, test formats, and ways of evaluating the spoken proficiency of EFL learners. Here several examples of holistic and analytic scales along with the assessment criteria are described and addressed and new holistic and analytic scales are introduced and justified. The author notes that “Teaching and assessment of speaking skills should not be regarded as two separate notions as they are inextricably connected and mutually dependent” (Metruk R. (2018) Researching Speaking: Teaching and Assessment, P.79). It starts by showing how to implement the existing types of assessment for classroom speaking. Each type of assessment along with its peculiarities is explained. This then expands into how to teach and assess speaking while taking into account the constraints of the classroom/teaching environment and student needs.
This book is an excellent introduction to, or review of, the basics of teaching speaking together with some useful activities to use with students for in-service training sessions. The book contains wealth of ideas and the terminology related to the area of teaching and assessing speaking, as well about learner-related issues regarding pronunciation and the practical aspects of teaching speaking in the classroom. The book is also non-dogmatic in its opinions. It certainly doesn’t profess to be the final word on how speaking should be taught and assessed. Rather it tries to make sense of the conflicting information that overwhelms many teachers.
Reviewer: Yevgeniya Karpenko, PhD, associate professor of the English language and primary ELT methodology department, Zhytomyr state Ivan Franko university, Ukraine.
ReferencesKeith S. Folse (2006) The art of teaching speaking. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. 296C.C.M. & Burns, A. (2012). Teaching speaking: A holistic approach. New York: Cambridge University Press.Metruk R. (2018) Researching Speaking: Teaching and Assessment. Palacký University Olomouc.