Do the professional students need Teaching / Training in English Communication Skills? Dr VSV Laxmi Ramana

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1 Do the professional students need Teaching / Training in English Communication Skills? Dr VSV Laxmi Ramana Abstract The worldwide demand for English has created enormous demand for quality of language teaching materials and resources. Language and communication skills are recognized as the most important elements in the education of an engineer. Since its inception in the 1970 s communicative language teaching has served as a major source of influence on language teaching practice around the world. The question comes here whether the teachers at the graduation level should train the students to use the communicative competence or teach to get language proficiency. Does the communicative language teaching mean teaching conversation by giving less emphasis on grammar in a course or an emphasis on open-ended discussion activities as main factors of the course? Language proficiency includes spoken language fluency, written language fluency, regional dialects, technical terminology and professional jargon. This paper tries to establish a concept of teaching English language for engineering students to develop communicative competence for professional development. The students in technical institutions need to be trained in the skills that help them build a career in corporate world. Key words: communication skills, teaching materials language proficiency. 440

2 Introduction: Language and Communication Skills are recognized as important elements in the education of the modern engineer, including English for special Purposes. The insufficient level of communication skills instruction in engineering education generally serves to undermine the whole profile of the professional engineer.( Yourtseven, H.O., How does the Image of Engineering Affect Students Recruitment and Retention? : A Perspective from the USA Proc 4 th ULCEE Annual Conference on Engineering Education. Bangkok, Thailand. 2001,Pp, 62-65) Language proficiency includes spoken language fluency, written language fluency, Regional Dialects, Technical terminology and Professional jargon. Communicative competence includes the following aspects of language knowledge: - Knowing how to use language for different purposes - Knowing how to produce and understand different types of texts - Knowing how to maintain communication despite having limitations in one s language knowledge. It is vital that the students understand what is expected and what will be assessed ahead of time to facilitate education, learning and the generation of desirable characteristics, thereby delivering Formative(feedback) and Summative (Evaluation) assessment.(john, K V, Assessment of Communication Skills: Ratings of Videotaped Behavior Samples. Proc. Australian Communication Conference, Melbourne, Australia, 1996, Pp 67-74) In Engineering, one will often be required to write lab reports and technical reports. As these form a major part of one s assessment tasks, the ability to write clearly in correct academic English is important. This is not always easy, particularly for students for whom English is not their first language 441

3 The article tries to focus on the strategy of engaging engineering students into rich academic learning content, and therefore enhancing the appropriate practical knowledge and substantial employability skills. Rationally balanced, this combination is considered to be a functional model for training the engineer. Pedagogies: Since course organizers often fail to differentiate between English for Specific Purposes (ESP) or English for Academic Purposes (EAP), we need to be a little open minded when going into the area of teaching. The word method is used in various ways by different people in journals and Seminars, etc. It can be used to mean an approach which reflects a fullblown, carefully considered theory of learning or it can simply be used to refer to a class room technique for an activity. Any procedure used in the classroom will reflect some perceptions of how learning takes place. If we are to select methods appropriately, the teacher of English must remain sensitive to his students and alert to their linguistic, intellectual, social, emotional and professional needs. Research consistently has shown that traditional lecture methods dominate college and university classrooms. If more active methods are to be adopted, we need to better understand the nature of active learning. The term Active Learning is used to describe a classroom environment where the learner plays an active role in the information processing during a lecture. Professional Teaching Standards: The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) first developed its standards for "accomplished" teachers of English as a new language (ENL) in the late 1990s, and then revised them in Currently, there are over 1300 Nationally Board Certified teachers in English as a New Language using the NBPTS ENL standards as a framework. Both sets of standards' revisions reflect recent changes in the educational landscape for ELLs and their teachers such as accountability expectations and assessment requirements for ELLs, emphasis on academic language learning, expansion of ESL teacher roles, developments in technology and its application to education, research-based understandings of the nature of language and language learning, the role of language and culture in learning, and the role of advocacy in the education of ELLs. 442

4 Active learning instructional strategies include a wide range of activities that share the common element (Bonwell & Eison 1991). Active learning instructional strategies can be created and used to engage students in (a) Thinking critically or creatively, (b) Speaking with a partner, in a small group, or with the entire class, (c) Expressing ideas through writing, (d) Exploring personal attitudes and values, (e) Giving and receiving feedback, and (f) Reflecting upon the learning process Good teaching from a training perspective is viewed as the mastery of a set of skills or competencies. Experiencing teaching in a variety of different situations, with different kinds of learners and teaching different kinds of content, is how a repertoire of basic teaching skills is acquired. Teaching is not simply the application of knowledge and of learned skills. It is viewed as a much more complex cognitively driven process affected by the classroom context, the teacher s general and specific instructional goals, the teacher s beliefs and values, the learners motivations and reactions to the lesson, and the teacher s management of critical moments during a lesson. (Competence and Performance in Language Teaching by Jack I Richard, 11) Problems faced by the teachers: The Language teachers who have been working in professional colleges find it difficult to train the students in communication skills. The major reasons to be considered are: 1. The students have the opportunity to understand the subject in their mother tongue. Hence, it becomes difficult for them to come out their comfort zone. 443

5 2. The Examination system does not examine the language proficiency instead it tries to test the retention power of the students. Hence, the students are interested to mug up five questions out of eight and it becomes easy for them to pass the exam. 3. The language teachers paraphrase the textual lesson because he has to complete the lesson (which runs into pages together) in two or three classes. He cannot concentrate on language aspects of the lesson. 4. The students feel no challenge while attending the language class, because the language class does not test his proficiency or put a challenge to his knowledge. 5. The language lab hours become mechanical because the students do not have any challenge to test their proficiency. In many colleges the Multi media lab activities are theoretically tested. Training in Soft Skills: Engineering is a lucrative field where opportunities are wide open for professionals who are trained and skilled. However, the aspirants pay least focus on the soft skills required for a successful career. The scope of soft skills goes beyond just communication skills and personality-driven traits. They make an engineer stronger, smarter and prepare him for the unpredictable and changing circumstances he might have to endure. To list some of the soft skills, Creativity, Adaptability, Bilingual, Effective Communication, Team work, Time Management, etc., play a major role for an all-round development of a professional. Soft Skills have two parts. One part involves developing attitudes and attributes, and the other part involves fine-tuning communication skills to express attitudes, ideas and thoughts well. Crucial to successful work is the perfect integration of ideas and attitudes, with appropriate communication skills in oral, written and non-verbal areas. Attitudes and skills are integral to soft skills. Literature suggests that hard skills contribute to only 15% of one's skills success while remaining 85% is made by soft skills. Most employers these days want to hire, retain and promote persons 444

6 who are dependable, resourceful, ethical, self-directed having effective communication, willing to work and learn and having positive attitude. Strategies to be practiced: Education and Internet technology has made a deep impact on perspectives about teaching and learning. Technology, today, has revolutionized in such a way that the methodology use by educators to teach language has changed. In fact, the relationships between teachers and students have undergone a phenomenal change (Barad, 2009) [1]. ICT mainly acts as a visual tool to make learning more interesting. It deals with the pragmatic aspects of using ICT with the student community. The extensive use of web, internet, blogs, e-groups, SMSs, s, socializing portals, e-dictionaries, e-encyclopedia, power point presentations, webcasting, and audio-video, as teaching tools have been made in the classroom. The student community is to be motivated to make use of internet resources and smart phones to interact with the teacher. Effective teachers use different strategies to develop a sense of community among their learners, including using group-based activities, by addressing common student interests and concerns, by regularly changing seating arrangements so that students experience working with different classmates, by using humor and other ways of creating a warm and friendly classroom atmosphere, and by recognizing that students have both social as well as learning needs in the classroom. Give the language teachers a challenge to train the students to use the language for preparing a global engineer. He can introduce the Active learning techniques to train the professionals professionally. The curriculum prescribed by the university too should challenge the language ability of the student instead of assessing the retention power of the students. Even the questions too should test the ability to use the language Conclusion: 445

7 If the language tries to challenge the proficiency levels of the students, no professional student treats English language as just another subject. The language should introduce some literary aspects through which the students automatically understands and identify the situations and comes to know how to use the language accordingly. Along with the technical vocabulary, he tries to understand the importance of broad-spectrum vocabulary. The exam should test his language ability instead of his retention power. The student is not supposed to mug up the answer. The language curriculum should be framed in such a way that it should examine the students ability to write the short stories, expansions, abridgement of the large text into small, writing the Notices, Bulletin Boards, Memos, explain the designs, using figurative language, Idioms and phrases, Letters and s, cross word puzzles, Completion of incomplete texts, book reviews, etc. With careful reflection and planning, any teacher can integrate the language skills and strengthen the language teaching and learning. When the tapestry is woven well, professionals can use English effectively. 446

8 References 1. Bailey, Kathleen M The best laid plans: Teachers in-class decisions to depart from their lesson plans. In Kathleen M. Bailey and David Nunan (eds.), Voices from the language classroom (pp ). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2. Language Teacher Cognition, 2006 In Anne Burns and Jack C. Richards (eds.), The Cambridge guide to second Language Teacher Education (pp ). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 3. Language Teacher Education, 1933 (pp ). Amsterdam, the Netherlands: John Benjamins. Dewey, J. How wethink. New York: D. C. Heath.. 4. Angelo, T. A., & Cross, K. P. (1993).Classroom assessment techniques (Second Ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 5. Astin, A. W. (1985). Achieving educational excellence. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 6. Bean, J. C., Drenk, D., & Lee, F. D. (1982). Microtheme strategies for developing cognitive skills. In C. 7. W. Griffin (Ed.). Teaching writing in all disciplines. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, No. 12, San Francisco:Jossey-Bass. 447

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