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Table 1.2 The content in the textbook “Speak Out, Upper- Intermediate” is difficult for me.

Table 1.2 The content in the textbook “Speak Out, Upper- Intermediate” is difficult for me.

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Tài liu lun vn s phm 10 of 63.

Table 2.11 I would like my teacher to use Socratic Seminars instead of

traditional methods in the speaking class.

List of figures:

Figure 1. Cyclical AR model based on Kemmis and McTaggart (1988)

List of abbreviations:


Action Research


English Language Teaching


English Foreign Language






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This chapter introduces the study by outlining the statement of the

problem, the rationale for the study, the significance and contribution of the

study, the research questions and purposes, the methodology adopted, and the

structure of the thesis.

1. Statement of the problem and Rationale for the study

Speaking is considered to be the fundamental skill to acquire. Nunan

(1991) states that for most people, mastering speaking skill is the single most

important aspect of learning a second or foreign language, and success is

measured in terms of the ability to carry out a conversation in language.

Lawtie (2004) explains why speaking skill should be taught in classroom.

The first reason is that many students equate being able to speak a language as

knowing the language and, therefore, view learning the language as learning

how to speak the language. Therefore, if students do not learn how to speak or

do not get any opportunity to speak in the language classroom they may soon

get demotivated and lose interest in learning. Second, speaking is fundamental

to human communication. If the goal of teaching language is to enable students

to communicate in English, then speaking skills should be taught and practiced

in the language classroom. Therefore, EFL learners’ speaking needs to be the

focus of attention in the EFL teaching contexts (Albino, 2017).

Speaking skill, however, is a difficult one to acquire because it requires

more than the knowledge of grammatical and semantic rules (Kang Shumin,

2002). It requires students to be able to communicate properly in social

interactions. Moreover, the process of teaching speaking exists some problems.

Lawtie (2004) states that there are three problems identified in speaking class:

(1) Students do not want to talk or say anything because they are afraid of

making mistakes or because they are not interested in the topic, (2) When


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students work in pairs or groups, they just end up chatting in their own language

and (3) When all the students speak together, it will be too noisy and out of

hand, sometimes the teacher loses control of the classroom. This may affect

teacher-student interaction in a negative way and make the lesson less


Moreover, training students how to communicate effectively is not

primarily emphasized. According to Gorkaltseva, Gozhinand Nagel (2015),

English in Russia, though being a compulsory subject at universities, was not

actually taught for the sake of verbal discourse and speaking English was not the

primary focus at universities. Similarly, in the Republic of Angola, Albino

(2017) claimed that English language was taught mainly for the purpose of










communication was still a big problem to concern because they could not

express their ideas fluently. Noomura (2013) asserts that the students were

passive learners; they were shy to speak English with their classmates. They

lacked opportunities to use English in their daily life. They lack motivation and

responsibilities for their own learning in the unchallenging English classrooms.

In Vietnamese context,

it is widely acknowledged that


communicative competence of Vietnamese learners is far from expectation at

the completion of university education” (Hao, 2017). Hong (2006) also shows

that “the poor quality of teaching speaking at a university in Vietnam results in a

large number of graduates who have difficulty with communicating English”.

Although the government has prioritized the goal that the majority of students

will be able to use English competently by 2020 and many teachers of English

have adopted a variety of methods to encourage students to learn English, it is

important to have appropriate techniques that can help students to participate in

the class more actively and develop their independent learning style. At Hanoi

Pedagogical University 2, it is necessary to have such techniques to help

students to improve their speaking skill when the goal of teaching speaking for


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second-year students is that students will be able to communicate at upperintermediate level. Among innovative approaches, the Socratic seminar emerges

as a promising alternative to encourage partnership between teaching, learning

and research in the field of the arts, humanities and social sciences (Blessinger

and Carfora, 2014, p.3).

2. Aims of the study and research questions

The study is expected to investigate the students’ perspectives on the use

of Socratic Seminar in speaking class. There is only one research question that

the research is seeking to answer:

What are the students’ perspectives on the use of Socratic Seminar in

speaking class?

3. Methods of the study

The methodological approach was action research using various methods

for data collection. There were two cycles in the study. In the first cycle, the

researcher implemented the Socratic Seminar into the speaking class. All

participants including teacher and students carried out their duties through four

stages: planning, action, observation, reflection. After the observation and

reflection, the teaching approach was revised to improve the lessons for the next

cycle. The tools for data gathering were questionnaires, group interviews, and

video-based observation. Two questionnaires were delivered to students. The

former was used to find out the cause of the low level in students’ speaking

performance while the latter was employed to find out their perspectives

towards the technique after trying-out strategies. A group interview was also

made after the completion of each cycle. All the lessons were video-taped to

describe what had happened in the classroom.


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4. Scope of the study

In this study, the researcher focused on how Socratic Seminar works in

only speaking skills. Regarding the participants, the researcher only chose one

class as a single case of the study.

5. Significance of the study

The study, once finished, would be a useful material for many readers.

First, the study offers readers an insight into the alternative pedagogical

technique which could be adapted into language teaching. Second, the study

could provide some recommendations thanks to students’ perceptions towards

the method. Last but not least, the study could serve as a reference material for

further research, anyone who shares the same interest can find the useful

information in the study.

6. Organization of the study

The paper consists of three parts as follows:

The Introduction section describes the

statement of the problem and the rationale for the

Part A


study. Then, it discusses the purpose of the study

and the research question. After that, the

introduction chapter introduces methodology and

scope of the study. Last but not least, the outline

of the study is presented.

Part B: Development

Chapter I

Literature Review

The Literature Review chapter lays the

theoretical foundation of the study. Also, a

concise review of related studies worldwide is

also presented.

The Methodology chapter details the



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Chapter II

Specifically, the participants, the instruments as


well as the procedures of data collection and

analysis will be discussed in details.

Chapter III

Action and outcomes of

research cycle one

This chapter details what the stages in the

first cycle, what had happened in the classroom,

what students thought about the new change in

the classroom.

The Action and Outcomes of Research

Cycle Two goes into detail how revised plan was

Chapter IV

made after reflection on the cycle one, what

Action and outcomes happened in the classroom after making changes,

of research cycle two what students thought about the new speaking


The Conclusion chapter ends the study by

Part C

summarizing the main points, discussing the


implications, showing the limitations, and giving

some suggestions for further studies.


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This chapter reviews the various definitions of Socratic Seminar. The

chapter also discusses the existent literature on Socratic Seminar in terms of its

roles on education and drawbacks. The chapter shows the relations between the

use of Socratic Seminar and speaking teaching. This discussion reveals the gaps

in research on the use of the technique, some of which this study has tried to fill.

To be more specific, the discussion shows that there has been a scarcity of

research on the use of Socratic Seminar in foreign language teaching in


1. Socratic Seminar

1.1 Definition

There are various definitions of Socratic Seminar (also known as Socratic

Circles). Lesley Lambright (1995) defines a Socratic Seminar as an “exploratory

intellectual conversation centered on a text”. According to Elfie Israel (2002,

p.89), “Socratic seminar is a formal discussion, based on a text, in which the

leader asks open-ended questions. Within the context of the discussion, students

listen closely to the comments of others, thinking critically for themselves, and

articulate their own thoughts and their responses to the thoughts of others. They

learn to work cooperatively and to question intelligently and civilly”.

Matt Copeland (2005)’s definition is that Socratic Seminar is “a

constructivist strategy in which participants engage in a conversation to

collectively seek a deeper understanding of complex idea”. Victor Moeller

(2015) identifies Socratic Seminar as an exercise in “reflective thinking”.

From all the definitions mentioned, it appears that the researchers agree

students play an active role in learning in Socratic Seminar. This seems to be in

line with the student-centered approach, which Vietnamese educators are

dedicated to implement in teaching context.


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1.2 The procedure of Socratic Seminar

Matt Copeland (2005) describes the procedure of Socratic Seminar as

follows :

1. On the day before a Socratic circle, the teacher hands out a short

passage of text.

2. That night at home, students spend time reading, analyzing, and taking

notes on the text.

3. During class on the next day, students are randomly divided into two

concentric circles: an inner circle and an outer circle.

4. The students in the inner circle read the passage aloud and then engage

in a discussion of the text for approximately ten minutes, while students in the

outer circle silently observe the behavior and performance of the inner circle.

5. After this discussion of the text, the outer circle assesses the inner

circle’s performance and gives ten minutes of feedback for the inner circle.

6. Students in the inner and outer circles now exchange roles and


7. The new inner circle holds a ten-minute discussion and then receives

ten minutes of feedback from the new outer circle.

The procedure may vary in each aspect, but the essence of the seminar

lies on the discussion-feedback-discussion-feedback pattern. Once students have

familiarized themselves with the structure of the Socratic seminar, teacher can

modify the discussion according to content, focus, and purpose.

1.3 Types of questions used in Socratic Seminars

Mortimer Adler (1948) classified three kinds of questions. He asked: “(1)

What does the author say? (2) What does he mean? (3) Is it true? Does it have

any relevance to you here today?” In 1956, Bloom categorized eight educational

objectives that used examples of questions for each kind of thinking:


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knowledge, comprehension, translation, interpretation, application, analysis,

synthesis, and evaluation. The researcher agreed with Moeller (2015)’s opinion

that it is not necessary to adopt Bloom’s classification into the classroom

discussion because it becomes obvious that translation, application, analysis,

synthesis can represent interpretation while knowledge and comprehension can

be put under the umbrella of knowledge. The questions thus can be categorized

into three types:

Factual question: A factual question has only one correct answer which

can be found from the text.

Interpretive question: An interpretive question has more than one correct

answer because there might be a wide range of opinions about the interpretation

in the meaning.

Evaluative question: An evaluative question used to ask ones to think

about their experience or values. Such questions sometimes would ask them

how they would act if they had a similar situation to the characters in the text.

1.4 Roles of Socratic Seminar in education

Thomas (2009) argued the importance of the Socratic Seminar as a

teaching technique that breaks the pattern of conformity and goes beyond the

traditional lecture and assessment curriculum. According to Matt Copeland

(2005), he shows that the use of Socratic Seminar could have positive effects on

students in terms of academic skills and social skills.

1.4.1 Developing students’ academic skills

According to Matt Copeland (2005), one benefit of Socratic Seminar is

that it “brings all the areas of curriculum and instruction together into a cohesive

whole”. He also states that the use of Socratic Seminar could foster students’

critical thinking, creativity, and critical reading. Moreover, students can develop

“a lifelong love of reading” (Matt, 2005) by repeatedly reading the texts and

analyzing the materials. Students could improve their speaking and listening


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skills when engaging in the discussion. Because of the way Socratic Seminar is

structured, students “learn quickly to improve their learning so that they hear

with their ears allows them to listen with their minds”. Also, students are quick

to point out when they are not listening to one another, which helps them to

understand the importance of listening skill to the success of discussion, then

they could find a way to solve it.

Instead of remaining silent during the class, they become “more active

and vocal learning participants” (Matt, 2005). Reflective thinking is also the

benefit students can gain when they are in a Socratic class. They can be able to

“mull over past experiences, assessing one’s own performance, and establishing

goals for future performance”. Adler (1982) shows that Socratic Seminar could

teach students “how to analyze as well as the thoughts of the other, which is to

say it engages students in disciplined conversation about ideas and values”.

1.4.2 Developing students’ social skills

Students can promote their team-building skills. As Lambright (2005)

says, “Socratic Seminar are team-building situation, through mutual inquiry in a

cooperative setting, leaders and learners alike apply knowledge, making

reasoned connections within themselves, with other group members, and with

the text”. Matt (2005) also indicates that students “are able to practice working

collaboratively on a problem from a common starting point.” Socratic seminar

is not only the way to understand the text but it is also the way to understand

people when “it guides students to develop respectful, tactful, and kinder

attitudes and behaviors” (Tredway, 1995) and it “encourages students to be

accepting of people, opinions, ideas that are different from their own.” (Matt,


1.5 Some problems might occur during the progress of a Socratic


Despite the numerous benefits of using Socratic Seminar in classroom, the

opponents of the technique argue that the technique might not be effective in


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elementary-level classes, which mostly ask students yes - no questions. As a

result, the use of open-ended questions in the class would be eliminated (Holme,

1992). Polite and Adam (1997) also show that the difference in expectations

between normal class and seminar class causes difficulties for some students.

Some students, moreover, prefer the traditional classroom setting to one where

the onus of learning is on them. Matt (2005) lists four problems arising from the

use of the seminar: (1) Socratic Seminar is also considered as time-consuming,

(2) The discussion, moreover, is often left without complete “closure”, (3) The

discussion also may arrive at conclusion with which the teacher is unfamiliar,

(4) The seminar appears “unstructured” to the uninformed observer.

2. Speaking teaching

2.1 Definition of speaking skill

New Webster Dictionary (1994) states that speaking is an act to express

ideas, feelings and thoughts orally, which is also known as oral

communication. Speaking is an interactive process of constructing meaning

that involves producing and receiving and processing information (Brown,

1994; Burns & Joyce, 1997). Its form and meaning are dependent on the

context in which it occurs, including the participants themselves, their

collective experiences, the physical environment, and the purposes for

speaking. Chaney (1998) defines speaking as “the process of building and

sharing meaning through the use of verbal and non-verbal symbols in a variety

of context”.

2.2 The importance of speaking skill

Of all the four skills, speaking skill plays an important role in helping

learners learn a foreign language effectively. According to Pattison (1992),

when people mention knowing or learning a language, they mean being able to

speak the language. It is also emphasized by Flohr and Paesler (2006) that “the

focus in learning a foreign language is on communication activities and


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