Teachers’ understanding of the communicative language teaching approach: The case of English language teachers in Thohoyandou
The Department of Basic Education insists that English as a First additional Language be taught using the Communicative Approach. The use of the approach has been spelt out in the national curriculum statement. However, the Communicative Approach takes many different forms as dictated by the competences being observed. In the curriculum statement, the theoretical underpinnings guiding the form of communicative approach to be used are not outlined. Instead only the features as in form of activities are indicted. From the curriculum statement, it could be inferred that the assumption is that teachers have a thorough knowledge of the approach. This then begs the question – how well informed are practitioners in relation to the theoretical underpinnings of the communicative approach? Are teachers aware of the different components of the communicative approach? This study then sought to uncover the knowledge that teachers of English as the First Additional Language or second language (L2) have of the Communicative Approach. Unless teachers understand the theories underpinning the CLT and its features claiming to use CLT for teaching could be rather problematic. The study employed both qualitative and quantitative approaches since five English First Additional Language teachers had to complete a questionnaire with both open and closed questions. Content analysis (directed approach) was used to analyse qualitative data while descriptive statistics was used for quantitative data analysis. The findings illustrated varying degrees of knowledge of the Communicative Language Teaching theory. None of the participants showed remarkable knowledge of CLT. It is recommended that the Department of Basic Education and Univen English Department mitigate and establish links with local high schools to ensure that teachers are empowered with CLT theories and practice.
Keywords: communicative competence, approach versus method, Grammar translation method, direct method, first additional language, second language