Education System in Saudi Arabia
Up to the first part of the 20th century, people received formal education in Qur’anic Schools and mosques where they obtained writing and reading skills based on reading and reciting Qur’an (Mitchell & Alfuraih, 2017). It was not until 1930 when the first public school appeared in the region (Bowen, 2014). Thirty years later, girls also received an opportunity to gain formal education, and the first girls’ school were established (Alsuwaida, 2016). Due to the cultural conventions and religious beliefs, formal education for girls met fierce opposition since people believed that only home could be regarded as a safe place for females whose honor had to be protected (Alsuwaida, 2016). Moreover, there was also quite a strong belief that girls’ education was senseless. Alrashidi and Phan (2015) claim that in the second half of the 20th century, public opinion on the matter changed radically making formal female education a popular trend in the Saudi population.
Modern education in the kingdom is segregated based on learners’ and educators’ gender (Alrashidi & Phan, 2015). Educational segregation by gender remains a characteristic feature of a few countries in the world, including Saudi Arabia. Adherence to the same-sex schooling approach is mainly associated with Islamic conventions and beliefs, traditional values, cultural norms, as well as social peculiarities (Alrashidi & Phan, 2015). It is noteworthy that this segregation is based on the use of different educational facilities. As far as the stages are concerned, males and females both go through primary, intermediate, and secondary levels. The curricula are also very similar with slight differences made to cater to the needs of both genders (Alrashidi & Phan, 2015).
Saudi Arabian students receive free public education through preschool, elementary, middle, high school, and higher educational levels (Mitchell & Alfuraih, 2017). In the first part of the 20th century, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) could be characterized by rather a feeble educational system that included 12 educational establishments with seven hundred enrolled students. Alamri (2011) stresses that after the discovery of oil in the country in 1938, significant transformations started taking place in the educational system of KSA. By 1950, 42,000 students attended 365 schools, although these educational opportunities were only for males. To manage the system that covered such a considerable population, the Ministry of Education (MoE) was founded in 1954 in the kingdom. This institution is responsible for building educational facilities and their proper maintenance and renovation, the improvement of curriculum, training, and development of educators, as well as the provision of educational services to older people who are illiterate (Alamri, 2011). The primary objective of the Ministry is the management of female and male education. As mentioned above, school education includes such stages as pre-school, primary (from grade one to grade six), intermediate (from 7th to 9th grade), and secondary (from grade 10 to grade 12) (Alrashidi & Phan, 2015).
In the KSA, Islam is the core of education as the primary purpose of the educational system is to ensure a complete and accurate understanding of Islam providing young generations with the place of this religion, its relevance, and meanings, as well as a range of skills necessary to contribute to the development of the country (Ministry of Education, 2019). According to the Ministry of Education (2019), young people should be equipped with skills to contribute to the economic, social, and cultural development of the nation. Regarding students’ linguistic development, the educational system aims at “furnishing the students with at least one of the living languages, in addition to their native language, to enable them to acquire the knowledge and sciences of other communities and to participate in the service of Islam and humanity” (Liton, 2012, p. 131). English was the first foreign language to have been studied at Saudi schools as it enabled students to benefit from the scientific and social advancements and achievements of other cultures, as well as introduce their traditions and national achievements to other nations (Liton, 2012).
History of Development of EFL Teaching and Learning in Saudi Arabia
The English language as a part of the curriculum was introduced in Saudi schools in the late 1950s (Alrashidi & Phan, 2015). It is noteworthy that English became a means of communication in some spheres of the country’s life in the late 1930s when oil was discovered. However, it was not until the 1950s when the Saudi government decided to include this language in schools’ curriculum. Alshahrani (2016) notes that English was a part of the syllabus at intermediate and secondary levels when it was one of the compulsory subjects. Up to the 2010s, English was not taught at the Saudi elementary school due to the concerns regarding children’s ability to learn several languages without harm to the mother tongue (Alrashidi & Phan, 2015). However, globalization and current international trends influenced the position of the Ministry, and in 2014, English was included in the curriculum at the elementary level that includes fourth graders who are 10 years old (Mitchell & Alfuraih 2017). The students of grades four to six have two 45-minute classes of the English language every week. Intermediate- and secondary-school students have up to four 45-minute English classes each week (Al-Seghayer, 2014).
The transformations in English learning and teaching in Saudi Arabian education have been closely linked to the changes in the social and cultural life of the nation. The purpose of the learning process was traditionally associated with enabling students to read literary texts and develop culturally. However, present-day English learning aims at the development of skills necessary for communication (Alsudais, 2017; Rahman, 2011). To address learners’ needs, teaching practice has also evolved and underwent various modifications regarding curriculum, teaching methodology, and the content of teaching practice. Hence, it is essential to trace the central peculiarities of the development of the KSA educational system to fully understand the changes that have occurred in the area. The evolution of Saudi education has gone through three major stages.
During the first phase, people had learned English in some parts of the country before 1944 (Al-Seghayer, 2011). The EFL curriculum in the KSA was established as far back as 1950 (Al Hajailan, 2006). Learning was a lasting process with the primary purpose of teaching students to read, write, translate, and use grammar correctly. Al Hajailan (2006) states that the most common teaching approach used in Saudi schools at that period was the Grammar Translation Method (GTM).
The core objective of the GTM is to teach students to read literature in a foreign language (Kong, 2011). To address this goal, students are provided with texts to learn grammar rules and vocabulary through the translation of words, sentences, and texts. Kong (2011) emphasizes that the measurement of student’s performance is their lexical and grammatical accuracy. Teachers’ role in the classroom is that of an autocratic leader whose authority and instructions are addressed accurately and immediately, and students’ role is to read and memorize texts, as well as listen to their teacher attentively (Natsir & Sanjaya, 2014). Natsir and Sanjaya (2014) draw parallels between Saudi educators’ adherence to the Grammar Translation Method and the initial stage of language learning that was prevalent during the classical period of English teaching development in other countries of the world.
It has been acknowledged that GTM is an effective tool for those interested in English for academic purposes or reading literary works, while it is inappropriate for people interested in the language as a communicative tool (Kong, 2011). This approach fully concentrates on the written language, so speaking skills are almost completely neglected. Due to this considerable limitation, in the early 1960s, the Grammar Translation Method faced strong criticism as educators stressed that students were completely incapable of using English outside the school environment (Al-Seghayer, 2011). As a result, policymakers and educators worked on the development of strategies and methods aimed at the development of oral skills.
The second phase of the development of EFL teaching practice in Saudi Arabia started in 1960 (Alhajailan, 2006). This stage was characterized by a substantial focus on students’ oral skills, so the textbooks were designed to address the corresponding goals. The textbooks were utilized at intermediate and high school as EFL was incorporated into the curriculum at these educational levels. The prevalent teaching approach at that phase was the Audio-Lingual Method (ALM) (Al-Khairy, 2013).
The ALM was developed as a response to the limitations of the GTM to put oral language to the fore instead of focusing on written English (Richards & Rodgers, 2014). According to Al-Khairy (2013), the wide use of the ALM was associated with the focus of behaviorism in teaching practice at that period. This approach implies the prevalence of tasks involving students’ memorization of language patterns and the production of language, which mainly occurs without thinking or consideration. Practice exercises (with the focus on patterns) and drills aimed at the development of habits in students, which, in its turn, is thought to lead to better learning (Al-Khairy, 2013). One of the characteristic features of this method is the prevention of errors that distort the formation of correct habits (Richards & Rodgers, 2014). Richards and Rodgers (2014) stress that educators using the ALM correct every mistake immediately to ensure the creation of target habits. Al Hajailan (2006) argues that at that stage of EFL development in Saudi Arabia, students performed tasks based on drills, related to memorizing, repeating, and analyzing short dialogues (with the focus on grammar).
The ALM was commonly utilized as a primary approach in Saudi teaching practice for four decades, but it faced substantial criticism in the 2000s (Brown, 2014). Brown (2014) names one of the central arguments against the use of this method, which was its “ultimate failure to teach long-term communicative proficiency” (p. 75). It became apparent that drills and acquired linguistic patterns did not contribute to the development of effective communicative skills in students (Al-Seghayer, 2011; Rahman, 2011). It was acknowledged that the use of the two methods considered above was ineffective since students were unable to participate in real-life communication or even understand basic oral communication (Al-Seghayer, 2014). Both methods could not cater to the needs of learners whose skills remained limited and rather inappropriate for use outside the classroom environment.
The third phase of the development of teaching practice in Saudi schools started in 2008 when the Saudi Ministry of Education launched a new program for EFL that went under the name Language Development Project (ELDP) (also referred to as the Tatweer Project) (Mitchell & Alfuraih, 2017). The project was designed for a five-year period (to be realized from 2008 to 2012) and aimed at improving English learning, as well as English teaching practice, across the country. The ELDP has been implemented in close collaboration between Saudi MoE and such EFL/ESL textbook publishers as Macmillan, Pearson Longman, McGraw Hill, and Oxford University Press.
In 2013, the Ministry of Education developed the “English Language Curriculum for Elementary, Intermediate and Secondary Schools in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Grades 4 – 12 for 2014 – 2020” (Mitchell & Alfuraih, 2017, p. 320). The collaboration between the MoE with its new curriculum and Tatweer Project resulted in the creation of learning materials that corresponded to the goals and aims of both initiatives. The textbooks and other materials were designed to ensure learners’ communicative competence or, in other words, students’ ability to utilize language rules for communicative purposes (Hymes, 1972). Communicative skills are developed through the integration of the four language skills (speaking, reading, listening, and writing) into the effective sequence of tasks and activities that advance student’s skills and competence enabling them to communicate using the language outside the educational setting. Since the major purpose of this research is to explore Saudi English teachers’ perspectives regarding the utilization of the communicative language teaching (CLT), it is critical to understand the central aspects of the method with the focus on the form, concepts, activities and stakeholders’ roles. This understanding will become the basis for my analysis of the results of this study.
Communicative Language Teaching
Definition of Communicative Language Teaching
In general, CLT is understood as a way of teaching that requires the use of language as a means of communication. The CLT method has been introduced and noted as significant in many respects in the literature (Harmer, 2015; Littlewood, 2014). In addition, CLT is recognized as an approach to foreign language learning that gives pride of place to communicative competence for meaningful communication (Richards & Schmidt, 2013). Therefore, CLT promotes communicative competence over linguistic competence by focusing on practical, authentic, functional fluency in a variety of contexts through active, authentic, cooperative, learner-centered activities in a language-rich environment (Brown, 2014; Harmer, 2015).
History of the Communicative Language Teaching Method
For many years, grammar-based teaching methods that focus on the structure of the language have been the primary vehicle for teaching EFL (Richards & Rodgers, 2014). This structuralist philosophy is connected to the behaviorist tenet that to properly use a language, it is necessary to master linguistic rules. Conversely, the CLT approach was conceived from the British language teaching tradition as an alternative to the structuralist method that proliferated during the 1960s (Richards & Rodgers, 2014).
Based on the notion that language is a communication system, the CLT approach has evolved since its inception in the 1970s as a way to build upon the communicative competence of learners (Richards & Rodgers, 2014). According to Hymes (1972), who coined the term communicative competence, spoken and written language are rooted in specific social contexts that are dictated by social norms and expectations. Therefore, learners must understand the functional and practical applications of grammar to use language appropriately in various situations.
As part of the evolution of CLT, Hymes (1972) modified linguist Chomsky’s view of the two-dimensional nature of language acquisition from “grammatical competence” and “grammatical performance” to “communicative competence” and “communicative performance.” With this, the emphasis is that the nature and purpose of language is communication, and therefore, communicative competence “enables us to convey and interpret messages and to negotiate meanings interpersonally within specific contexts” (Brown, 2014, p. 206).
Extending these ideas, Canale and Swain (1980) theorized that communicative competence consists of four components: grammar competence, sociolinguistics competence, discourse competence, and strategic competence. Grammatical competence is related to an in-depth awareness of the structural, linguistic aspects of language, including sentence structure, vocabulary, and spelling, which focus on the literal meanings within communication situations. Sociolinguistic competence is based on the comprehension of the sociocultural context within which communication occurs, including the settings and the purposes of the communication situations. Discourse competence relates to how the participants interpret the specific language and determine the overall meaning, often through inference, of the communication situations. Finally, strategic competence entails the use of both verbal and nonverbal strategies to initiate, maintain, repair, redirect, or terminate the communication situation (Canale & Swain, 1980).
As part of this pedagogical shift, instruction for second languages and foreign languages began to focus more on the functional, pragmatic aspects of language acquisition and usage (Littlewood, 2014). For this reason, the CLT approach has necessitated changes to language curriculum and instruction by moving away from teacher-centered, lecture-based strategies and toward a learner-centered approach that puts students’ goals, needs, and abilities at the forefront of authentic activities designed to build communication skills. Despite the need for significant changes, the CLT method is today at the forefront of foreign language instruction in many nations around the world (Littlewood, 2014). In terms of the present study, communicative competence can be referred to as students’ ability to employ the English language to receive and send messages in a variety of communicative situations.
Principles of Communicative Language Teaching
The CLT approach to foreign language instruction is built upon underpinnings from several interrelated principles. On a basic level, the fundamental principle of CLT is to teach the target language as a means of communicating with others (Brown, 2014). To provide a greater level of detail, Harmer (2015) stated that CLT is concerned with what to teach, placing more emphasis on functional language use than on structural use, and with how to teach it by creating meaningful, authentic activities for students to practice communicating with others as a way of building their practical language knowledge and skills. To do this, teachers must provide students with consistent, regular interactions with each other in the target language. Brown (2014) highlighted the importance of fluency and accuracy in CLT classrooms, two reciprocal aspects constituting communication. In some situations, fluency leads the communication dynamics to keep students engaged in using language meaningfully.
Building on these ideas, Richards and Rodgers (2014) asserted that CLT classroom activities should be highly interactive, giving students multiple opportunities to practice how to start, continue, and end conversations; develop meaning in collaboration with others; take turns communicating; use conversational routines and expressions; take on different roles and styles of communication; negotiate task completion; share information; and provide inputs and outputs that are both meaningful and comprehensible in the target language. As such, small group activities are the primary vehicle for developing students’ practical language abilities using the CLT approach (Richards & Rodgers, 2014).
Larsen-Freeman and Anderson (2011) viewed the principles of CLT about the roles of the teacher, the learner, grammar, errors, and activities. Teachers take on a secondary role while engaging learners in communication processes with each other, but teachers also serve as co-communicator with students, determining individual students’ learning levels and specific needs. In this environment, students must take ownership of their learning by actively and regularly communicating and negotiating to mean. Grammar in CLT classrooms is considered an implicit tool for context-specific communication, with more attention given to meaning than to accuracy. Errors are expected when students learn a foreign language, so teachers respond to errors by offering feedback to develop communicative competence. Special care is given to designing cooperative learning activities that include games, problem-solving, and role-playing, during which students have a choice over the vocabulary they use to bridge information gaps (Larsen-Freeman & Anderson, 2011).
The features and concepts mentioned above aim at ensuring the development of communicative competence, but they are associated with different approaches to the attainment of this goal. As a result, scholars now differentiate between the weak and strong versions of communicative language teaching (Howatt, 1984; Holliday, 1994; Ellis & Shintani, 2013). For instance, Howatt (1984) states that the weak version of the CLT is linked to the synergy of structural language elements and communicative components. In simple terms, this version of the teaching method exploits conventional accuracy-driven instruments to teach communicative skills. Holiday (1994) argues that “teachers who have been used to the lesson structure of the presentation, practice and production in the earlier “structural approach” find this version, easier to understand and adopt than the more mysterious strong version” (p. 170). According to Ellis and Shintani (2013), the weak version of the CLT is mainly associated with the functional and social aspects of communicative competence.
At the same time, the strong version of the teaching practice concentrates on fluency as a method to achieve effective communicative skills and enhances learners’ use of English for real-life communication rather than the exchange of ideas and structural elements in a controlled manner. Ellis and Shintani (2013) also note that “the strong version is predicated on the principle that classroom language learning will proceed more efficiently if it occurs similarly to “natural” language learning” (p. 43).
These principles became the background for the development and implementation of EFL policy in Saudi Arabia and the creation of course materials. According to Rahman (2011) and Alsudais (2017), English course materials used in the KSA are deeply rooted in teaching language skills necessary for communication, which is the primary principle of the CLT. Alsudais (2017) adds that EFL course materials in the country include diverse (conventional and communicative) activities designed to enable learners to integrate the language in their daily communication through the use of four language skills. Another important feature of the course materials is their use of authentic texts, which ensures the provision of the necessary practice of language in the way it is employed by native speakers in the natural context. The development of communicative skills in learners helps in building their competence and ability to use English in their real-life settings (Alsudais, 2017). Another peculiarity of the CLT exploited in Saudi Arabia is the role of the teacher who is regarded as a facilitator of the process, where learners are active agents using provided materials.
Impact of Communicative Language Teaching Method on Teaching English as Foreign Language
Since there are many foreign language methods and communicative language teaching is currently the required method to apply in EFL classrooms, it is important to discuss its impact on teaching the English language. Several studies found communicative language teaching method is a better approach to use for teaching foreign languages comparing with another traditional method (Kapurani, 2016, Giao, & Hoa, 2004, Ahmad & Rao, 2013). For example, the study implemented by Kapurani (2016) compares the outcomes of using the recent interactive student-centered (based on the principles of the communicative learning teaching method) and the conventional approach (the audio-lingual method). In this empirical research, the ALM was employed in the control groups while the CLT method was utilized in the experimental groups. The findings indicate that the CLT approach enhances students’ communicative competence and improves the acquisition of language. This method also has a substantial positive effect on learners’ motivation and their socialization while emphasizing the teacher’s role in the process. Kapurani (2016) emphasizes that the CLT method was instrumental in achieving students’ accuracy and fluency, as well as developing effective professional relationships, due to the enhancement of communicative skills in combination with the focus on vocabulary and grammar.
Ahmad and Rao (2013) came to similar conclusions in their experimental study that explored the effectiveness of the CLT approach compared to the Grammar Translation Method. It was found that the communicative approach was considerably more effective than traditional methods in EFL teaching. The results of the conducted experiment suggest that students improve their communicative competence under certain conditions. The activities based on the CLT methodology proved to help learners to reproduce the English language appropriately and correctly. Moreover, students were more motivated during grammar lessons that employed the CLT instruments as compared to their peers in classes where traditional tools were employed.
A substantial bulk of research provides evidence of the benefits of the incorporation of CLT concepts into Saudi EFL classrooms (Efrizal, 2012; West, 2016). Efrizal (2012) evaluated the effectiveness of CLT in teaching communicative and speaking skills. It was concluded that the majority of learners had a positive perspective concerning the use of Communicative Language Teaching methodology. Their confidence in their mastery of the language led to their willingness to share ideas in English during lessons and overcome their fears or shyness. Learners’ motivation improved considerably, and students were eager to express their views on various topics during classroom discussions. Efrizal (2012) argues that before the participation in the study, EFL learners were not motivated to speak the language, had limited vocabularies and communicative techniques insufficient to express ideas properly, and felt nervous when they had to speak English in the classroom setting. However, these issues were addressed, and students became active speakers during classes due to the use of CLT. The study results indicate that teachers should be encouraged to employ student-oriented methods when teaching EFL.
Another perspective was examined in the study implemented by West (2016). The researcher explored students’ outcomes of the implantation of the CLT principles into English textbooks. West (2016) aimed at evaluating the effectiveness of the approach in practical terms. According to the findings of the research, the use of CLT contributes to the development of students listening and speaking skills naturally. West (2016) also suggests that teachers should create communicative activities, which will lead to the establishment of a relaxed and friendly atmosphere that is pivotal for the effective learning of English.
The incorporation of CLT in teaching writing skills also received certain attention in academia. In his study, Philip (2016) examined the impact of CLT on the improvement of writing skills in EFL students. The researcher aimed at describing the educator’s role in the process of language skills development in students. Philip (2016) states that communicative language teaching contributes significantly to the improvement of language skills in learners. It was found that teachers were the facilitators of students’ acquisition of language skills. Some of the most effective activities proved to role-play, pair work, and learning games (Philip, 2016).
Uzoma and Ibrahiam (2018) investigated the utilization of CLT in teaching writing and reading skills. The focus of the study was on the comparison of CLT and ALM in terms of students’ performance in reading and writing. The experimental research included 644 students who studied at eight schools, and the participants were divided into four groups. Students taught within the scope of CLT displayed better performance compared to their peers trained with a focus on traditional methodology. Uzoma and Ibrahiam (2018) conclude that educators should exploit CLT to help students to develop their reading and writing skills. It is also recommended that teachers should be properly trained to be able to use the CLT approach in their classrooms.
Since all the previous studies have demonstrated that implementation of the CLT method successfully makes a change on students’ skills and improve their English language competence and these studies encourage EFL teachers to us communicative language teaching method in their classroom, therefore it is important to examine teachers’ attitude regarding communicative language teaching. Because these teachers are responsible to apply this method in their classroom and play important role in this practice shift. As teachers are agents of change.
Teachers’ Attitudes Toward Communicative Language Teaching
Reviewing and discussing the research related to teachers’ attitude of CLT provides insight into teachers’ decisions and instructional practices, while also helping to understand how teachers’ attitudes can influence the level of CLT implementation in classrooms. Teachers’ attitudes toward CLT have been investigated in different countries as an important factor in understanding CLT implementation. This study aims to examine the teachers’ attitude toward Communicative Language Teaching method. The concept of teachers’ attitudes is related to positive or negative effects that shape their practices. So, teachers’ attitudes are a crucial element in determining a positive or negative view toward CLT, and they have implications for CLT implementation in classrooms (Borg, 2001). Consequently, teachers’ attitudes play a vital role in CLT, consciously or unconsciously (Borg 2003 and Borg 2001).
Several studies have shown that many teachers hold a favorable attitude toward all CLT principles (Lashgari, Jamali, & Yousofi, 2014; Mondal, 2012). The study by Mondal (2012), aimed at examining EFL teachers’ attitudes toward CLT. The researcher observed that Bangladeshi college instructors held favorable opinions of all CLT principles because they believed that CLT made teaching English more meaningful. Teachers stated that CLT helped students to understand the grammatical rules and use them for communication.
The instructors believed CLT gave students opportunities to practice using the rules in actual conversations rather than passively attempting to absorb and regurgitate the information outside of a meaningful context. As a result, they regularly utilized CLT principles in their EFL classroom instruction. So, these positive attitudes affect their practice. (Mondal, 2012). In Iran, Lashgari et al. (2014) found similar results. EFL teachers, in general, had a positive attitude about the fundamental aspects of CLT. The study participants believed that students were not only able to develop a greater level of communicative competence but also managed to improve their understanding of grammatical concepts through meaningful participation in language-rich activities. There was not much contrast between participants beliefs toward CLT and their practical practices in the classroom. Teachers’ attitudes had a positive effect on their practice (Lashgari et al., 2014).
However, some studies have indicated that teachers have a positive attitude toward the CLT principle, but their beliefs do not affect their practice in the EFL classroom (Karavas-Doukas, 1996, Coskun, 2011). For example, Karavas-Doukas (1996) evaluated 40 teachers’ perspectives regarding the use of CLT at private language institutes. The findings obtained with the help of attitude scales indicate that teachers believed that CLT was effective, but they hardly employed the approach in their practice where traditional methods prevailed (Karavas-Doukas, 1996). Coskun (2011) also implemented a qualitative study examining educators’ attitudes towards CLT. The researcher explored the perspectives of Turkish teachers towards such elements of CLT as group and pair work, accuracy and fluency, educators’ role, and error correction. It was found that the majority of teachers held a positive view of these components, but this had little effect on their daily teaching practice.
Other studies have demonstrated that some teachers have a very strong positive attitude toward group work as collaborative learning, a specific CLT principle. These teachers believed that group work is important in EFL classes because of the multiple opportunities students have to use the target language authentically with their peers as they develop more cooperative relationships (Jafari, Shokrpour, & Guetterman, 2015; Siddiqui & Asif, 2018). Jafari et al. (2015) conducted a mixed-method study that explored Iranian English teachers’ perceptions of the CLT approach. Many of the teachers showed held favorable attitude in general toward CLT and strong positive attitude toward group work in particular. They specifically mentioned how they found partner and small group activities to be useful. These teachers stated that the sheer number of instances in which students could practice the target language with each other and with the teacher provided an advantage that was not possible with more traditional EFL teaching approaches.
Because teachers were encouraged by the productivity of the student-centered CLT approach, the researchers noted the likelihood that these teachers implemented CLT principles in their classrooms. The study also examined the relationship between the teachers’ training attendance and their attitudes towards CLT. The educators who took part in the workshops and seminars had the highest average score of the positive attitude towards CLT, while those who did not participate in such activities had the lowest scores. It found a positive relationship between the teachers’ professional training attendance and their attitudes towards CLT (Jafari et al., 2015). Similarly, Siddiqui and Asif (2018) found that many English professors at a Saudi university considered group/pair work and communicative activities more favorable. They believed that this approach encourages learners to use the target language and helps to promote real communication. These beliefs affected the teachers’ application of CLT principles in their classrooms and they prefer to utilize CLT in their EFL classroom instruction (Siddiqui & Asif, 2018).
Other studies have shown that many teachers demonstrate a very strong positive attitude toward the teacher’s role and grammar role in CLT and effect of the gender on their attitudes (Anani Sarab, Monfared, & Safarzadeh, 2016, Al-Mekhlafi and Ramani, 2011; Chang, 2011). Chang’s (2011) mixed-method study, conducted with 55 teachers from Taiwanese colleges, aimed at investigating EFL teachers’ perceptions about CLT. The findings indicate that the educators displayed apparent CLT-based perspectives associated with the teacher’s role and the importance of grammar. The researchers also claim that teachers believe in learners’ ability to learn while the educators’ role is that of a facilitator rather than the central figure in the classroom. In addition, it was reported that educators have a negative attitude towards conventional grammar activities that involved students’ memorizing specific rules. Teachers valued the CLT approach due to its contribution to students’ understanding of grammar concepts and structures and their ability to employ this knowledge for communicative purposes. Furthermore, the teachers believed that, in many ways, CLT methods are more interesting, which makes learning a language more effective and enjoyable and, in turn motivating students to improve their communication skills (Chang, 2011).
Al-Mekhlafi and Ramani (2011) also investigated the attitude towards CLT among teachers and found that Omani educators had a slightly favorable attitude towards this approach. The most valued CLT principles among the participants were related to educators’ role and group or pair work. The participants expressed their beliefs that teachers are facilitators of the learning process. The teachers stated that it was ineffective to teach various language elements separately or directly, but it was beneficial to teach the necessary components through their incorporation into diverse activities and encouraging students to become active learners collaborating effectively. Al-Mekhlafi and Ramani (2011) made a valuable observation stating that female and male educators had rather different views on the ways CLT was employed. For instance, male teachers had a more pronounced positive perspective concerning communicative methodology, especially concerning the role of teachers and error correction. However, Farooq’s (2015) study was concluded in Saudi universities. The researcher found that Saudi female teachers have a strong positive attitude and interest toward CLT than males to improve the communicative competence of their students. Thus, they preferred to implement it in their classroom with undergraduate students.
The aforementioned research findings indicate that many EFL teachers display a favorable attitude toward CLT principles, which seems to indicate teachers’ willingness to shift their practices to a more communicative paradigm. However, several studies have also identified some negative attitudes toward some of Communicative Language Teaching principles and misalignment of teaching practices with the principles of CLT (Sanderson, 2013 Amin, 2016, Jabeen, 2014). For stance, there are teachers have shown unfavorable attitude related to the group/ pair work in Communicative Language Teaching. (Amin, 2016, Jabeen, 2014). The study aims at investigating the way teachers from the Preparatory School of Eastern Mediterranean University employed CLT in the educational environment. To evaluate educators’ attitudes, Evdokia Karavas-Doukas’s attitude scale was utilized regarding participants’ opinions on group work, grammar relevance, learners’ role, and error correction. The findings suggest that teachers have mainly negative perspectives concerning some components of CLT. The CLT method elements evoking positive attitudes include error correction, grammar importance. Primary school teachers place a large value on students’ fluency and accuracy. Teachers’ negative views are related to group work and the empowerment of learners.
Jabeen’s (2014) study of secondary teachers in Delhi showed how a significant proportion of the participants emphasized the importance of teaching grammar rules directly. The teacher’s attitudes toward some of the CLT principles as group work/ pairs work and role of the grammar were not positive; they believed group work does not help students to learn English and they preferred individual work, which was quieter and more orderly. Their attitudes affected their implementation of CLT (Jabeen, 2014).
Studies are showing that some teachers believe in using direct instructional methods and repetitive practice through drills for teaching grammatical rules, which conflicts with the CLT principle of refraining from direct grammar explanations in the CLT classroom. For instance, according to Wong and Barrea-Marlys (2012), some American professors are steadfast in their belief that grammar instruction is necessary for students to be able to speak and write properly in the target language. While the participants were generally supportive of engaging students in communicative methods, their unfavorable attitude to the grammar role in CLT and insistence on explaining grammatical and linguistic concepts to students affected their implementation.
Other studies have revealed unfavorable attitudes related to the role of error correction in Communicative Language Teaching. Raissi, Nor, Aziz, Saleh, and Zainal (2013) found in Malaysia some participants consider CLT principles to be effective in encouraging students to speak in a tourist-oriented environment and showed a favorable attitude toward some of CLT principles. Nevertheless, the findings of the study diverged from the principles of CLT concerning the error correction role because more than half of the participants have shown unfavorable attitudes and believed that error correction is an essential stage of language learning. So, the participants focus on error correction in their classrooms. (Raissi et al., 2013). Sanderson (2013) explored the views of EFL teachers at subsidized, public, and private high schools located in Iquique, Chile, towards CLT. Attitude scales were given to 58 participants who displayed mainly positive views regarding CLT principles (associated with group and pair work, learners’ role, grammar relevance), but negative opinions were linked to error correction. Also, it indicated that participation in professional development influenced positively teachers’ attitudes toward CLT (Sanderson, 2013).
After discussing this theme, teachers have demonstrated various attitudes toward the Communicative Language Teaching method. These attitudes could influence teachers’ practices. Thus, since these CLT principles are integrated recently on Saudi English Language books, it is important to understand teachers’ attitudes regarding these principles which may affect their practice.
This paper provides insights into the development of Communicative Language Teaching and its adoption as the formal EFL instructional approach required by the Saudi Ministry of Education. This level of reform has necessitated significant changes to teachers’ pedagogy and practices given that more traditional, teacher-centered strategies have proliferated in classrooms throughout the KSA. To date, the full implementation of CLT principles has not yet occurred in the Saudi context. The discussion and review of the literature offer a variety attitudes in relation to CLT, including its defining characteristics, history, principles, teachers’ attitude toward using the Communicative Language Teaching method which could affect their practices.
As the review of the literature shows, teachers across the globe harbor a variety of attitudes regarding CLT methods, including both positive and negative attitudes about the CLT approach. Some teachers have shown a positive attitude towards all CLT principles and believed in the effectiveness of the meaningful, authentic activities that helped students to understand grammatical rules and get opportunities to practice these rules. These attitudes affect their practices in the classroom positively (Lashgari, Jamali, & Yousofi, 2014; Mondal, 2012). At the same time, some teachers have a positive attitude toward the CLT principle, but their beliefs do not affect their practice in the EFL classroom (Coskun, 2011). Additionally, teachers have demonstrated stronger positive beliefs to group work as collaborative learning, teacher’s role, and grammar role than other CLT principles, and these beliefs affected the teachers’ application of CLT principles (Siddiqui & Asif, 2018; Jafari et al., 2015; Chang, 2011).
However, several studies have also identified negative attitudes toward some of Communicative Language Teaching principles (Sanderson, 2013; Amin, 2016; Jabeen, 2014; Wong & Barrea-Marlys, 2012). These studies have revealed unfavorable attitudes related to the role of error correction and the role of grammar in Communicative Language Teaching. They believed that error correction and grammar instruction are necessary for students to be able to speak and write properly in the target language (Sanderson, 2013). Some of them have shown negative attitudes regarding group work since they believed group work is not effective to help students learn English (Amin, 2016, Jabeen, 2014). These negative attitudes to CLT principles have affected their implementation in the EFL classroom.
This literature review revealed differences in teachers’ attitudes towards the Communicative Language Teaching method that highlights the need for further investigation into teacher attitudes. The reviewed studies were generally conducted in different EFL contexts, including studies from Iran, China, Bangladesh, Taiwan, and other countries. Although several studies in various countries have already investigated teachers’ attitudes toward the Communicative Language Teaching method, very few studies have focused on a Saudi context. Of the KSA studies, most have been conducted at higher education levels (Al Asmari, 2015; Farooq, 2015), thus there is a lack of research into K–12 teachers’ attitudes toward the Communicative Language Teaching method, particular into elementary teachers. This dearth of information limits the possibility for significant, research-based educational reform that is necessary for increasing KSA students’ English communication proficiency in speaking, listening, reading, and writing and for improving English language teaching practices. Thus, studying teachers’ attitudes is essential to facilitate and increase the implementation of CLT in the classroom.
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