Oral language education: voicing teachers’ experiences and considering perceptions and practices
To contribute to our knowledge of oral language education, this study examined how the personal and professional experiences of teachers can help us to understand the relationships between teachers’ perceptions of oral language and oral language teaching practices. Insight was sought from teachers in two school districts in British Columbia through a mixed-methods approach. The survey responses of 105 elementary and secondary teachers provided quantitative statistical data. In addition, interview stories shared by 5 educators revealed compelling qualitative evidence. Narrative inquiry was used to draw understandings from the interview stories with reference to the survey data and reflection on the researcher’s own personal and professional oral language story. This research gives a voice to teachers’ speaking and listening experiences and begins to explore the shared story of oral language education in British Columbia. While teachers’ interest in and engagement with oral language education were found to be strong, a pervasive lack of personal and professional training and relatively minimal direct instruction and formal assessment practices to support learners’ speaking and listening skills development were apparent. Perceptions of the importance of oral language education were observed to vary and be dependent upon a number of factors. However, teachers shared a common view that oral language deserves our attention because of the value these skills hold for students’ success with other curricular expectations. It appears that further study of effective oral language instruction and assessment would benefit educators and learners alike.