Leeds Beckett University
WhatIsTheSpeakingSkillAndHowCanWeTeachIt-WROBEL.pdf (9.03 MB)

What is the Speaking Skill and How can we Teach it

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posted on 2023-01-19, 16:28 authored by Katarzyna Wrobel

The main aim of this thesis was to research how to improve the way speaking is taught in a language classroom in secondary technical schools where students are mainly oriented towards vocational subjects. This aim emerged from a perception that speaking is regarded as inferior to other language skills. 

The research question investigated in this thesis is: 

What is the speaking skill and how can we teach it in a Polish secondary school context?

To address this question the researcher examined the following aspects of the teaching and learning process: materials used during language lessons; types of activity and task used by teachers when they work on the skill of speaking, and teachers’ and students’ preferences in teaching/learning a foreign language. The researcher was also interested in how and when students are assessed.

The research data presented in this thesis were collected based on mixed methods research. To investigate the way speaking skills are taught in the classroom, the researcher designed questionnaires for teachers and students. The answers to the research questions were collected from students’ and teachers’ perspectives. Apart from questionnaires the researcher used lesson observations to obtain a wider picture of the language classroom. Additionally, the Communicative Orientation of Language Teaching Observation Scheme (COLT) was used to research the communicative aspects of lessons observed. In this way triangulation was achieved.

The data collected from surveys and observations show that coursebooks are the main source of materials used in classrooms. In spite of declarations from questionnaires that they enjoy teaching speaking the most, teachers most frequently use individual work and whole class work, which was also indicated by students as their favourite. The task that is most frequently used for practising the skill of speaking, as declared by teachers in their questionnaires, are dialogues, which are either read aloud from books or written down and then read. The research, based on students’ answers, shows that students associate speaking with any activity in which they are asked to say something aloud in a foreign language, e.g. reading homework or reading texts from books.

Teachers’ and students’ preferences in learning/teaching the language also differ. Students made it clear in their answers that the most important aspect of learning the language is to be able to communicate in a foreign language in different aspects of life (communication with other language users, work opportunities). From the teachers’ point of view students need examination preparation the most. As far as assessment is concerned, the research shows that teachers rarely or never assess their students for spoken performance. If learners are assessed, it is based on teacher’s subjective feelings, not against clearly defined criteria and assessment is impressionistic.

Research results show that teaching the speaking skill is an area that needs attention and development. It should start with changing teachers’ attitude to speaking as a language skill. This can be achieved by modifying training at college/university.

Later on, during their professional career, teachers should constantly be provided with support and training in methodology, materials development and assessment of oral performance.


Qualification name

  • PhD


Timmis, Ivor

Awarding Institution

Leeds Beckett University

Completion Date


Qualification level

  • Doctoral


  • eng


Leeds Beckett University

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