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‘Different Courses, Different Outcomes?’
A comparative study of Communicative Competence in English Language learners following ‘Academic’ and ‘International Understanding’ courses at High Schools in Japan

FRASER, SUSAN,MARGARET (2010) ‘Different Courses, Different Outcomes?’
A comparative study of Communicative Competence in English Language learners following ‘Academic’ and ‘International Understanding’ courses at High Schools in Japan.
Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



In Japan, where the traditional focus of English teaching has been on knowledge of a foreign language as a system, increasing emphasis is now being placed on the ability to communicate internationally. Achieving competence in a foreign language may be the result of many factors including teaching methodology, instructional materials and personal motivation. This thesis examines how much communicative ability depends on classroom input, and how important other factors are in achieving success in written and spoken English.
Two different English courses currently offered in Japanese high schools – ‘International Understanding’ and general/academic – are examined, and their effect on communicative competence, language knowledge, motivation and attitudes to teaching and learning English are analysed.
Two groups of learners were traced throughout their 1st-year at senior high school, and their learning experiences are situated within the educational, and specifically English language learning, context of Japan, where the influence of societal pressures and public examinations conflicts with the need to learn English as a means of global communication.
After locating the research within the literature on communicative language teaching (CLT) and EFL policy and practice in Japan, a working definition of communicative competence is proposed against which to evaluate the communicative ability of the learners.
A mixed-method approach was taken to gather data on the teaching and learning process on the two courses, employing questionnaires, interviews, classroom observation and tests of written and spoken communicative competence and overall proficiency in English.
The findings demonstrate that those learners following the International Understanding course have generally increased their communicative competence as measured by essay and oral interview tests, and have improved their scores in an English proficiency test recognised in Japan as a marker of academic achievement, to a statistically greater degree over those learners following a traditional EFL course. Significant differences were also confirmed in motivation.
Although further research into similar specialist English courses is needed, this study provides one case in which the two opposing goals of ELT in Japan of communicative competence and academic achievement successfully converge.
The implications of the study are that with relatively small changes in teaching methods, yet substantial changes in teacher attitudes, the problem of communicative ability in Japan might be addressed.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Education
Thesis Date:2010
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:01 Jun 2010 11:50

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