This study was designated to investigate the effect of the communicative method
on the performance of secondary school students, in Oral English. The study
employed a true experimental design. One boys’ school in urban area of Enugu
Education Zone was chosen for the study. An intact class of 40 students was
randomly selected from the school. The students were randomly grouped into
experimental and control groups with each group having 20 students. The
treatment group was taught oral English using communicative method while the
control group was taught the same subject using the Conventional method.
Five research questions and five hypotheses guided the study. An oral
production test and observation were used to collect data on the students’
performance. The data were analysed using mean, standard deviation and analysis
of variance (ANOVA). The results of the study revealed that communicative
method significantly enhanced students ‘pronunciation of speech sounds more
than the conventional method. There is no significant difference in the use of
stress by the students taught with the conventional method and those taught
with the communicative method. There is no significant difference in the use of
grammatical words/expressions of students taught with the two methods. A
significant difference exists in the use of social conventions of speaking by
the students in the treatment group and those in the control group; and, the
students taught oral English with the communicative method significantly
performed higher than those taught with the conventional method.
Based on the discussion of the findings of the study, the researcher
recommended that oral English should be taught using the communicative method
as it is hoped that this method will help to minimize the present problems
which the students encounter in learning to communicate orally. The students
will be able to speak correctly by making full and proper use of the many
activities presented in the CLT method. In addition, teachers should endeavour
to provide opportunities for students to engage in group discussions. This will
enable the students to make frequent oral use of the language.
The limitations of the study and suggestions for further research are
Background of the Study
The teaching and learning of English language in Nigeria has a long history.
With the advent of the British in the country, English was designated a
socio-political and an economic language. Thus, the Nigerian constitution
(1999:55) states that “the business of the National Assembly shall be conducted
in English . . .”
Also, The Federal Ministry of Education, in the National Policy on
Education (2004;16), indicates that “the medium of instruction in the
primary school shall be the language of the immediate environment for the first
three years’ and ‘from the fourth year, English shall progressively be used as
a medium of instruction…” In the light of this, therefore, English became
a medium of communication in the country and the language of instruction in
educational institutions; thus, the interest in learning the language
increased. The imperative to learn the language was strengthened by the
introduction of the language as a vital subject of study in the formal system
of education especially in the secondary schools where it is a core subject.
Due to this, the secondary school students’ performance in the subject is
constantly monitored both by the school and the society at large.
For years now, the performance of the Nigerian secondary school students in
English language has deteriorated. World Bank Report of February, 2001, on the
quality of Nigerian university graduates, notes that poor mastery of English
language is one of the areas of degeneration in the educational system (Sunday
Guardian, March 2001). Most often, comments on the fallen standard are based on
the judgment that students no longer speak correct English. Many students have
been observed to converse in pidgin English and at times in their mother tongue
because they cannot express themselves adequately in the standard English
and Afangideh, 2005). For this reason, students ought to study
oral English, properly. Studying oral English involves not only the
learning of how to communicate orally in English but also to acquire the
ability to understand and evaluate what others say (Akeredolu-Ale, 2005)),
According to Mgbodile (1999), having competence in oral English is having the
ability to understand and produce:
the English sound system,
stress, intonation and rhythm,
correct grammatical usage of words, phrases and idioms,
different styles to suit different topics and various levels of
social conventions of speaking.
The production of sounds in English comprises two features; the segmental and
supra-segmental features. The segmental features are the consonants and the
vowels. These are individual sound segments such as /b/, /k/, /e/ and /i/ while
the supra-segmental features are stress and intonation. Knowledge of these
sounds is important for intelligibility in communication (Onuigbo, 2003).
Stress is defined by Gimson  as the acoustic energy which a speaker uses
to produce a syllable. There are three degrees of stress: primary, secondary
and contrastive stress but in this study, two degrees of stress shall be
recognized: stressed and unstressed syllables. In English pronunciation, stress
is very meaningful. A change in the stress pattern of a word may change
completely the meaning and class of the word. Stress is problematic to many
Nigerian students of English because the students’ mother tongue [MT] is
syllable-stressed while English Language is stress-timed.
Intonation is the rise and fall in the pitch of voice. This rise and fall is
important because as Onuigbo (2001) states, it makes the listener understand
the attitude of the speaker. Failure to make correct use of English intonation
may lead to a collapse in communication between native and non-native speakers
of English. This importance of intonation may be the reason why Elugbe (2004)
notes that students can not speak good English if they can not handle stress
An important aspect of speaking which is usually neglected in the teaching of
Oral English is discourse. Discourse entails that the students engage in
conversations or discussions, using language expressions they know. Ameh
(2002), citing Obanya and Dada (1983), indicates that one of the skills of oral
English which the teacher should teach his/her students is the ability to speak
correct sentences in the language for purpose of conversation, self expression
and interaction in day-to-day activities. To engage in discourse, the students
should know the social conventions of speaking. Social conventions of speaking
are unwritten existing rules and ways which tell speakers of a language that
language is used in socially acceptable ways to begin, interrupt and end
conversations without being impolite (Mgbodile, 1999).
teaching and learning of these aspects of oral English will lead to oral
English proficiency. Oral English proficiency is often an evidence of
competence in English as a second language (ESL). This is because most times,
students tend to write as they speak. Students who mispronounce certain sounds
or words write likewise. Thus, Elugbe (2004) states that the development of
appropriate basic language skills in the learners is the proper way of
preparing them for meaningful learning because every teaching and learning involves
oral communication. It is necessary, therefore, that the learner is made to
acquire this important tool. Unfortunately, more attention tends to be paid to
the acquisition of the writing skill while the oral skill receives little
observations of these writers are in line with the statistical reports (1998
and 2003) of English Language Chief Examiners of West African Examination
Council (WAEC). The reports indicate that mother tongue (MT) interference was a
major hindrance to good essay writing and that speaking and reading culture
have not taken root in our secondary schools. Several other reasons have been
proffered as the causes of this deterioration. They include the
non-availability of oral English teaching aids, lack of motivation (both for
the teachers and the students), the insufficient time allotted to English on
the school time table and the approach or method used in the teaching of the
subject (Otagburuagu, 2002).
There is a general belief that the method or approach adopted in
the teaching of English is contributory to the deteriorating performance of
students in spoken English. This has inspired a lot of research in English
Language pedagogy. Many writers are of the view that teaching method is very
necessary in the teaching of English as a second language (TESL). In his work,
Brown (2000) states that the use of a sole method or approach is inappropriate
for good language teaching and learning. He is of the view that teaching should
be based on a combination of different approaches to get the required results.
In the view of Bolunde (2005), the method used can affect the learner’s
achievement (positively or negatively), and that the method is a great weapon
that the teacher should employ in his or her professional duty of enhancing the
language ability of his students. Likewise, Richards (2001) observes that if
teaching is successfully carried out, learning will occur and that successful
teaching axiomatically implies good method application.
Teaching methods abound. They include among others the Traditional cum
conventional method and the Communicative Language Teaching Method (CLT).
The conventional method has its focus on the acquisition of vocabulary,
according to the prescribed rules of grammar which the learner should join to
form sentences. The method emphasizes more on the knowledge of the language
than the use. In this method, language learning is grammar–based; its emphasis
is on developing the ability to write, therefore, it neglects the development
of the speaking skills (Mgbodile, 1999). Azikiwe (1998) notes that in the
conventional method, the students learn the speech sounds like parrots. There
is the neglect of the communicative skills with virtually little or no stress
attached to accurate pronunciation and intonation (Baldeh, 1990).
In using the conventional method to teach oral English in Nigerian secondary
schools, the teacher devotes a full lesson to the teaching of the phonology.
The teacher spends 30-35 minutes of the lesson period teaching phonetic symbols
which the students memorize. Memorizing here is taken as a process of drilling.
The selected symbols are written in one column with the words in which they
occur in another column:
Teacher:/i/ as in sit
Student: /i/ as in sit
Teacher: /e/ as in pen
Student: /e/ as in pen
The students are expected to internalize the target symbols and words through
repetition, mimicry and memorization. Throughout the lesson period, little or
no attempt is made to provide relevant contexts or situations for oral
On the other hand, Communicative Language Teaching Method (CLT) is an approach
to the teaching of second and foreign language that emphasizes interaction as
both the means and ultimate aim of learning a language. CLT method can be
described as a set of core principles about language learning and teaching;
and, assumptions which can be applied in varying ways and which address various
aspects of the process of teaching and learning (Richards, 2006). According to
Brumfit & Johnson (2003) cited in Tomori (2007), CLT method is a reaction
against the view of language as a set of structures; it is a reaction towards a
view of language as communication; a view in which meaningful uses to which
language is put play a central part. It is a movement away from the teaching of
language where emphasis is on mastery of different aspects of grammar and
practice through controlled activities such as memorization of dialogues and
drills towards the use of pair/group work activities, role plays, project work:
kinds of classroom activities that best facilitate learning. It sees language
learning as acquiring the linguistic means to carryout different functions
(Offorma, 2004) in (Okoh, 2006). That is, its focus is on making the
learner acquire the ability to select and use appropriate language suitable for
specific situations such as when playing games or shopping. It emphasizes
speaking the language and using it to communicate in daily activities.
Communicative Language Teaching method sees language learning as a social event
which does not occur in a vacuum. The study of language should be in relation
to the situations in which it is used.
The method shifts
emphasis from linguistic competence to communicative competence. According to
Hymes (1966) in Otagburuagu (1997), competence is what a speaker needs to know
to communicate effectively in a culturally significant setting. Communicative
competence includes knowing how to use language for various purposes and
functions and knowing how to vary the use of language according to setting and
participant; that is, knowing when and how to use language appropriately for
written and spoken communication.
In CLT method, attempts are made to give learners of English as a Second
Language (ESL) the natural setting for them to grapple with communicative
activities so as not only to try to understand the message produced by other
speakers but also to produce their own ideas and meaning (Amusegham, 2007).
Thus, the communicative language teaching method emphasizes that language
learning should be based on situations. In other words, language teaching
should be geared towards using the language in real life and not only for the
Every language teacher makes use of one method or
another. Scholars such as Chomsky (1959) and Bruner (1960) have
propounded all the existing theories but teachers are still the ones that live
day-by-day with what happens in the classroom and know about the real needs of
the students; and therefore, they try to find solutions to the problems they
perceive in the class.
Generally, teachers want to know if a method is right and if applying its
principles could lead to the learner’s successful acquisition of the language
(Cristo, 2005). Like many other applied linguists, Whitehead (2005)
concludes that no particular method is in itself better than the other. It is
interesting to note that he also agrees that there is a broadly accepted method
– a communicative method – which incorporates many best characteristics of a
variety of approaches.
research works which have attested to ineffectiveness of the conventional
method l method include Osakwe (2000), Akabuogu (2002), and Igbokwe
(2007). It is, therefore, worthwhile to find an alternative method.
The basic qualities of the Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) method tend to
suggest that it is a method which will improve the performance of students in
efficacy of the communicative language teaching method in the teaching of
reading and writing is quite remarkable as the studies of many researchers such
as Igbenyi (1998), Wangweiping (2004), and Anizoba (2004) show. The impact of
CLT on oral English performance of students in Nigeria especially in Enugu
Education zone is not known and it is worth investigating. It will be
worthwhile to find out whether the success recorded in the other language
skills (reading and writing) would be the same in Oral skill.
has been observed that many Nigerian teachers of English employ more of the
conventional method than the communicative method in teaching. It is suspected
that the predominant use of the conventional method could be the reason for the
poor performance of the secondary school students in spoken English.
The aim of this study, therefore, is to find out whether there would be any
significant difference in the performance of students taught oral English with
the conventional method and those taught the same subject with the
Communicative Language Teaching Method.
Statement of the problem
Oral English proficiency is viewed as proof of productive English language
competence. Students’ poor communication ability creates the impression that
the standard of education has fallen in Nigeria. This is because every
secondary school leaver is expected to show an appreciable level of proficiency
in the speaking of the English language.
For years now, courses in oral English have been made an
indispensable part of the English language curriculum in secondary schools. The
school syllabuses are revised from time to time to provide necessary guides in
ensuring that adequate teaching activities in oral English are carried out.
Moreover, books on oral English are available to assist learners in the spoken
aspect of the language; yet, the performance of the students in oral English is
West African Examination Council (WAEC) Chief Examiners’ reports
(1998 to 2003) attest to the fact that secondary school students perform
terribly poorly in English language in general and oral English in particular.
The chief examiners note that mother tongue interference (MT) is a major
obstacle to good essay writing because speaking skills have not taken root in
secondary schools. The study of Mgbodile and Afangideh (2005) also confirms
that a majority of the students converse in pidgin English and at times in
their mother tongue because they cannot express themselves properly in the
standard English. It has been observed that students’ limited oral proficiency
hampers the quality of presentation of their academic (written) work. This
observation is noted in Mgbodile & Afangideh (2005). They stated that the
vocabulary of secondary school learners is very limited irrespective of the
fact that the ability to speak good English is highly of value in Nigeria.
According to them, students’ word choice is carelessly done; sentence structure
improper; tenses wrong and many other wrong language expressions which cause a
great confusion to the listeners and embarrassment to the students themselves.
There is a great need to find better strategies for improving
the students’ performance in the acquisition of linguistic skills especially
oral English. This need has led to the re-evaluation of the teaching processes
including the introduction and use of various teaching methods. Communicative
Language Teaching (CLT) method has recorded an immense success in the teaching
of reading and writing skills but it is not known to have been tried out in the
teaching of oral skills in Nigeria, particularly in Enugu Education Zone.
It has been suggested that the method used in teaching can affect (positively
or negatively) the students’ communicative competence, and so, it is suspected
that the inability of the students to effectively engage in communicative act
could be due to the predominant use of the conventional method by the teachers
instead of the communicative method. It has been observed that English Language
teachers use mostly the conventional Method irrespective of the theoretical
postulations of linguists that the Communicative Language Teaching [CLT] method
is better. It is, therefore, necessary to have empirical evidence on the
performance of students taught oral English with the two methods (conventional
and communicative language teaching methods) respectively to ascertain whether
any of the methods is better than the other in enhancing the students’ oral
The problem of this study, put in an interrogatory form, is What
would be the effect of the Communicative Language Teaching method on oral
English performance of secondary school students?
Purpose of the Study
The main purpose of the study was to empirically determine the effect of the
Communicative Language Teaching method on oral English performance of secondary
school students. Specifically, the study sought to
1. find out the comparative effect
of the conventional and communicative language teaching methods on the
students’ pronunciation of speech sounds.
2. examine the extent to which the
communicative language teaching method would affect the students’ use of
3 ascertain the effect of communicative
language teaching method on the students’ use of grammatical expressions in
4 find out the effect of the
communicative language teaching method on the use of social conventions of
speaking by the students.
5 ascertain the comparative effect of the
conventional and the communicative language teaching methods on the
students’ performance in oral English.
Significance of the Study
The study will be beneficial to students, teachers, external
examination bodies, educational administrators, authors and researchers. The
information that will be provided in this study will help to minimize or
eradicate the difficulties encountered by the students and teachers in the
teaching and learning of oral English because it will give the teachers a
direction as to which of the two methods is better and how to use it for
greater efficiency; and thus, enhance the students communicative competence.
Also, the study will provide information that will enable secondary school
certificate examination bodies such as West African Examination Council (WAEC)
and National Examination Commission (NECO) to see the need to reintroduce the
real test of oral English (Oral Production tests) in the Senior School
Certificate Examinations instead of limiting it to just objective test. Oral
English test ought to include a test of the candidate’s pronunciation but,
unfortunately, the present WAEC and NECO examinations on Test of Orals does not
clearly assess the candidate’s performance in the pronunciation of English
(Elugbe, 2004). Reintroduction of the real test of orals will bring in
seriousness to the teaching and learning of oral English in schools.
The findings of this study will equally be of immense help to
educational administrators because the administrators will be presented with
the necessary data on how to promote oral communicative competence in the
secondary school students. Authors of English Language textbooks will find the
study useful because it will help them to organize their texts to reflect the
requirements of the appropriate method in the teaching of oral English.
Hopefully, researchers in similar studies will find this work very
beneficial because it will provide them with information on methods and areas
to be researched on.
Scope of the Study
The study was carried out in the secondary schools in Enugu Education zone in
Enugu State. The SSII students were used for the study. The choice was made
because SSII students have spent four years in the school and have experienced
various aspects of the traditional method. The students are in the same zone
and so, there is a uniformity of scheme of work and time table. Also, the
choice was due to convenience and effective research control and
implementation. The focus of the study was directed to the performance of the
students taught with the two methods.
The study covered the teaching of the pronunciation of speech sounds and stress
with the conventional and communicative methods. It, also, looked at the use of
grammatical expressions and social conventions of speaking employed by the
students in group discussions.
following questions guided the study:
are the relative mean performance scores on the pronunciation of speech sounds
students taught oral English with the conventional method and those taught with
the communicative method?
2. To what
extent do the mean performance scores on the use of stress by the students
taught with the conventional method relatively differ from those of the
students taught with the communicative method?
What is the relative difference in the mean performance scores
of the students taught with the conventional method and those taught with the
communicative language teaching method in their correct use of grammatical
expressions in group discussions?
4 To what extent do the mean
performance scores on the use of social conventions of speaking by the students
taught with the communicative language teaching method relatively differ
from those of the students taught with the conventional method?
5 What is the relative difference in
the mean performance scores of the students taught oral English with the
conventional method and those of the students taught with the communicative
The study tested the following null hypotheses at 5% level of
is no significant difference in the mean performance scores as measured by an
oral English performance test of the students taught oral English through the
conventional method and those taught through the communicative language
teaching method on the pronunciation of speech sounds.
is no significant difference in the mean performance scores on the use of
stress by the students taught with the communicative language teaching method
and those taught with the conventional method.
is no significant difference in the mean performance scores of the students
taught with the conventional method and those taught with the communicative
language teaching method in the correct use of grammatical expressions and
idioms in group discussions.
is no significant difference in the use of social conventions of speaking by
the students taught with the communicative language teaching method and those
taught with the conventional method.
is no significant difference in the mean performance scores of the students
taught oral English with the conventional method and those taught
with the communicative language teaching method.