Developing communicative ESP reading skills : a study of methods of teaching English as a foreign language with emphasis on EST for students of the Faculty of Medicine in Iraq
This study attempts to get at some practical implications for the development of communicative ESP reading skills for EST students in science faculties in Iraq. While the title of this study suggests that the teaching itself may be the main topic, in fact, a very substantial amount of the thinking discussed in it is concerned with planning and realisation of potential. I have tried as far as I can to visualise the ESP operation throughout from the viewpoint of the country concerned, which means a constant awareness of its ideologies, its educational setting and the structure of its society,as these affect both national objectives and students' aspirations. The study comprises five chapters and a conclusion; and a substantial part of it is a fieldwork carried out in the faculty of medicine in Iraq. Chapter One is concerned with the history of the communicative syllabuses and the development of the communicative curriculum. It attempts to show how a realisation of a set of ideas such as notional/functional syllabuses, needs analysis and communicative language teaching came about. It also concentrates on the continuous change in the needs of our developing society, which implies that our methodological observations, commentary and recommendations should not be final. In turn our methods of teaching, research in language xvi analyses and language learning and, after all, the teaching profession needs to be re-assessed in order to cope with the disciplines relevant to the language teaching/learning process and to the learners' needs. The Chapter also discusses how linguists and language teachers, particularly foreign/second language teachers, have turned their. attention to the communicative properties of the language, its use and function, which in turn has led to the notion that the language teaching/learning process should, simply, involve a profound change in the profession towards the idea of communicative language teaching and towards concentration on the practical needs of the learner. The main thrust of Chapter Two is towards the analysis of the communicative functions of language and the implications of this for ESP. In fact, for the past few years, English for Specific Purposes has been a major developmental focus in the area of communicative syllabus design and materials production. The Chapter identifies some of the factors that characterise ESP and discusses some of the theoretical implications of an approach to EST which emphasises the communicative properties of language without ignoring the linguistic ones. It also emphasises the notion of preparing EST materials which should give priority to learners' needs and aspirations as well as taking the limitations of the educational environment into consideration. The taxonomy of ESP courses, nature of scientific English and approaches to EST materials analysis and production are discussed. Special concentration is also placed on EST teacher training and some xvii EST communication activities such as group-work techniques, the debate and the information gap activities. Chapter Three deals with developing reading skills in a foreign language for students of science and technology, with emphasis on reading for meaning. It examines the various skills required in effective reading and suggests classroom approaches and materials to develop and integrate them as well as to integrate reading skills with other language skills. It looks in detail at study skills which are adjacent to reading skills. Types of reading tests are discussed and some reading exercises dealing with authentic scientific reading texts are incorporated. Measurement and evaluation of students' reading skills are also touched upon. Actually, the huge amount of research carried out in reading skills recently indicates that the problem of developing reading skills has not been solved yet, but these efforts are mute evidence that a solution whereby an effective theory of reading instruction would evolve. Surely there is no magical vaccination which can be injected in students to make them efficient readers, but persistent and scientific efforts can. However, as the significance of reading skills in all subjects is increasingly being recognised, particularly in view of the demands of EST reading courses in EFL situations, it is essential to understand as objectively as possible the use of specific techniques and language teaching approaches which would be of use in fostering and developing reading skills for foreign language learners. xviii An effort is made in Chapter Four to assess the usefulness of a communicative approach intended to lead medical students to flexibility in their reading of medical texts. The Chapter deals with designing a communicative EST reading skills course for students of the faculty of medicine in Iraq. It sheds some light on some of the language needs of these students, delineates a step-by-step procedure for designing an EST reading skills course for them and shows the way in which the course was applied and the results were analysed and computed. Essentially, the approach adopted involved students in group-work activities to read and reflect on the results of their reading. The approach aimed at extending students' reading competence and developing their reading span. The fieldwork has shown that authentic and directly relevant texts to students' field of specialisation as well as communicative teaching techniques can improve the student reading skills, motivation and attainment to participate in classroom interaction at discoursal level. It has also shown that more work needs to be done as far as reading, listening, writing and speaking are concerned in the faculty of medicine. Chapter Five is mainly concerned with the prospects of the EST situation in Iraq. The Chapter commences by outlining various factors in the general academic, administrative and educational environment of EFL in Iraq xix which is thought to have affected the sample before university entrance. It also discusses the existing EST situation in the country and touches upon points of failure and success of the profession. It also suggests some implications for possible amendment. The conclusion calls for more detailed work to be done for the development of the EST course in science faculties in Iraq where English is increasingly becoming a 'library' language'. It thus calls for taking genuine steps to analyse EST students' needs, design effective EST programmes in Iraqi science faculties and provide them with well-trained EST teachers.