Development and Assessment of a Foreign Language Curriculum for Primary Education in Turkey

Development and Assessment of a Foreign Language Curriculum for Primary Education in Turkey

Yasemin Kırkgöz (Çukurova University,Turkey)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3132-6.ch015
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Abstract

This study investigates Turkish primary EFL teachers' perspectives of the nation-wide initiation of English in primary grade two and grade three classes as part of a curriculum renewal process, and aims to gain an in-depth understanding of teachers' experiences in implementing the curriculum effectively. Following a discussion of the foreign language teaching in Turkish context, the first part of the study examines the process of designing the new ELT curriculum, giving an outline of curriculum objectives. Then, the research study is presented. After that, a questionnaire survey with Likert scale items and open-ended questions is employed to explore teachers' (n=250) perspectives of the new ELT curriculum and their experiences during the implementation process. Data were analyzed statistically and qualitatively. Results indicate that teachers have positive perspectives of the new ELT curriculum, yet they express some concerns about implementing it effectviely in young learner classes. Recommendations for teacher development and future research are made in the end.
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Introduction

As English has come to be seen as a lingua franca and a means of communication in the globalized world, a substantial amount of time, effort and resources have started to be invested in incorporating English as a compulsory subject from the earliest years of education in public schooling all around the world. Turkey is no exception to this trend. As a result of this interest in teaching English to young learners, many countries, including Turkey, have undertaken curricular reform in primary education.

According to Richards (2013), curriculum is “the overall plan or design for a course and how the content for a course is transformed into a blueprint for teaching and learning which enables the desired learning outcomes to be achieved” (p. 6). Fullan (2007) identifies at least three issues that are relevant to any curriculum reform: 1) the possible introduction of new or revised instructional materials such as a textbook; 2) the possible introduction of new teaching approaches or methodological skills and activities; and 3) the possible attempted alteration of beliefs, such as pedagogical values, assumptions and theories underlying any particular new policies. It is argued that these three components are essential in order for curriculum change to produce the intended outcomes (Rahman, 2014). Hence, the recent English Language Teaching (ELT) curriculum reform for primary education in Turkey involves changes in all these important components in an attempt to improve young learners’ communicative competence. Moreover, the curriculum document reflects a set of beliefs and values about what is considered to be educationally and developmentally worthwhile in terms of children’s immediate needs, their future needs and the wider society (Wood & Attfield, 2005).

In order to provide the necessary background to the foreign language curriculum in Turkey, firstly the previous primary and elementary ELT curricula that were introduced in 1997 and in 2005 successively are briefly outlined. This is followed by a short reflection of the process of the latest foreign language curriculum development for primary education in Turkey, and by relevant studies conducted in global and the local context. The methodology section of the study presents assessment of the ELT curriculum from the perspectives of the primary teachers, who are the actual implementers of the program. A survey questionnaire was administered to 245 primary ELT teachers across Turkey to find out the extent to which the teachers’ perspectives are compatible with the objectives specified by the curriculum. The questionnaire also intends to explore teachers’ experiences in implementing the primary ELT curriculum, and challenges they experience during this process.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Perceptions: Perception can be defined as a combination of knowledge and idea has gained as a result of having an experience in relation to a topic. To illustrate, teachers can have perceptions of a new curriculum after implementing it in their classes. Perceptions on a topic can be positive as well as negative.

Curriculum: The term curriculum can be considered as a framework or a design for action that comprises various elements including aims, objectives, content or subject matter, methods or procedures and assessment or evaluation. It includes approaches for accomplishing anticipated aims, proficiency level of the learners, a structure for guiding for its users so as to measure the expected objective, expected outcomes, guided experience, an instructional plan, cognitive/affective content and progress and assessment procedures.

Young Learners: Children roughly from the age of 3 up to 11 or 12 years old are generally viewed as young learners. Unlike adults, young learners display differences in physical, psychological, social, emotional, conceptual and cognitive aspects. In this study, young learners correspond to ages 6-9.

Classroom Management: It refers to the methods, strategies and skills teachers use to maintain a classroom environment that promotes students’ learning success. Classroommanagement is related to a process of organizing and conducting a class that includes time management, students’ involvement and engagement, classroom communication and discipline issues.

Assessment: In general, assessment refers to the way of evaluating, and documenting an educational issue such as learning progress, skill acquisition, or educational needs of students. In this study, assessment is employed in relation to primary ELT teachers’ perceptions of assessing the curriculum.

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