The present article investigates teachers’ role, providing useful ideas to make the speaking lesson in EFL classroom as effective as possible. The responsibilities of establishing situations that teachers are charged with to promote communication in the target language are analyzed as well.
EFL teachers play a great role in organizing communicative activities. The main role of the teacher is to be facilitator of his or her students’ learning. The teacher is the manager of classroom activities. Teachers are charged with the responsibility of establishing situations likely to promote communication. The students are communicators, and they learn to communicate by speaking. In CLT, learning activities are selected according to the interests of the learner.
The goal of any language teaching course is, by and large, to enable students to use the language they learn in real-life situations. As stated in Freeman and Anderson, for teachers to succeed in this mission they must introduce authentic language in classroom; language functions together with the different structures through which they can be conveyed depending on different situations; and use the role-play technique where students are ascribed different social roles which they have to play in real-life situations.
It is clear that, with such principles, CLT methodology has marked a paradigm shift in the roles of both the learner and the teacher. Learners now have to work cooperatively and learn from their peers instead of individual learning, or from the teacher as highlighted in traditional approaches. They are now engaged in designing classroom activities and encouraged to develop a sense of “autonomous and life-long learning”.
Breen and Candlin summarized the roles of learners as follows:
“The role of learner as negotiator – between the self, the learning process, and the project of learning – emerges from and interacts with the role of joint negotiator within the group and within the classroom procedures and activities which the group undertakes. The implication for the learners is that they should contribute as much as they gain, and thereby learn in an interdependent way”.
Teachers, on the other hand, are now expected to act as facilitators, advisors and monitors during classroom activities. In other words, the teacher now is seen as “a guide on the side”; he intervenes only when students are facing some difficulties with either the content or the design of classroom activities. Instead of being the correct model of the target language and having a negative attitude towards learner’s erroneous output, the teacher now has to develop a positive tendency towards errors. They are considered an indication of learner’s language development. The teacher can rely on these errors to determine the learners’ level and design appropriate communicative activities accordingly. For these activities to be meaningful they must be based on real-life situations; they must also include communicative features namely: information gaps (i.e., activities where students seek to get a piece of information which they do not know), choice (i.e., activities where students have to choose the appropriate way to express themselves depending on the situation) and feedback (i.e., activities where students get feedback on their output). During classroom activities, teachers can also act as an independent communicator and be a member of the whole group.
Richards and Rodgers identified three main roles ascribed to the teacher within the CLT framework. The teacher is seen as a need analyst, a counselor and a group process manager. First, he is a need analyst in that he is required to determine and respond to learners’ language needs. This can be done either by individual conversations with students or by administering needs assessments. Second, the teacher acts as a counselor and a facilitator who is expected to exemplify the communicative process through the use of confirmation and feedback. Third, the teacher is expected to act as a group manager. CLT guidelines suggest that during communicative activities the teacher monitors, manages and advises students but never intervenes to correct or supply information gaps; this is done later when the focus is on accuracy.
Breen and Candlin summarized the roles of the teacher within CLT as follows:
The teacher has two main roles: the first role is to facilitate the communication process between all participants in the classroom, and between these participants and the various activities and texts. The second role is to act as an independent participant within the learning-teaching group. The latter role is closely related to the objectives of the first role and arises from it.
Widdowson observes that the “natural” way of acquiring a language is slow and inefficient and the purpose of language teaching is to make this process fast and simple. He suggests that language teachers need to assist learners by providing them with frameworks, patterns and rules to develop their communicative language skills. He recommends the use of lexical phrases in language teaching, as they are pragmatic and functional and have a clearly defined role, so they guide students in the flow of conversation and assist them in conveying meaning.
The teacher also has the duty of structuring classrooms in a manner that motivates students. He or she should focus on both extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. Discussing topics of genuine interest for learners is a useful tool for maintaining and increasing learner motivation. It is important that learners discuss topics of genuine interest to them while learning and practicing in English. The teacher is also charged with the responsibility of creating a conductive classroom environment. Learners’ communicative skills can be developed if they are motivated and provided an opportunity to express their identity and relate their feelings to the people around them. They should feel secure and valuable as individuals in their learning atmosphere because a secure learning atmosphere fosters growth of interpersonal relationships between learners themselves and between the learner and the teacher thereby making the class atmosphere safe, encouraging, and accommodating.
Hendrickson believes that CLT should include activities that are interesting to the learners and challenge their linguistic abilities while at the same time, capturing their imagination and motivating them to continue to acquire and use foreign language beyond the textbook and classroom. Language teachers should provide diverse, interesting and abundant communicative activities. Language teachers assist learners in developing their communicative ability and help them to express themselves and understand others in social settings.
It is observed that the communicative approach puts emphasis on listening, which implies an active will to try to understand others. In summary, the role of the teacher as one of listener rather than speaker comes out in CLT. The teacher should be a patient listener, and it is the basic requirement. Since teachers talk less and listens more, they become active facilitators of their students’ learning. The teacher sets up the exercise, but because the students‟ performance is the goal, the teacher must step back and observe, sometimes acting as referee or monitor. A classroom during a communicative activity is far from quiet. The students do most of the speaking, and frequently the scene of a classroom during a communicative exercise is active.
Because of the increased responsibility to participate, students may find they gain confidence in using the target language in general. Students are more responsible managers of their own learning. CLT enhances listening and speaking through interactive tasks such as role-play, public speaking, dictation, debates, among others. These activities imply learner-centered lessons where the learners perform most of the tasks leaving the teacher as a facilitator.
To sum up, teachers take an important part in developing students’ language skills through organizing communicative activities. They may act as facilitators, monitors, analyst, manager, motivator, and guide not fully controlling the activities, but giving directions when learners face difficulties.